Tuesday, July 23, 2019

book inspiration - california wine country

As promised, this will be the first post in a small series on what inspired me as I flipped through some old, "dated" decorating books at the cottage.

The first book is
California Wine Country
Interior Design, Architecture & Style
(see photo above for sources for all photos)

Now, before I get into this series of posts, I need to preface that while some of these books did inspire me in some ways, these are not books that I would go out and purchase to read and reread. Most of the rest of the content is not to my personal taste. But I love finding pieces and looks that, even years later after being styled, are still timeless and beautiful, and that's what I'd like to share.

I think this is the perfect slipped armchair. A nice high back with low arms, a relaxed white cover, comfortable but upright, perfect for at a desk.

Also, those wide plank floors are stunning.

I also loved this chair in a ticking fabric with matching ottoman. I like how it looks with the natural rug. This would be something I would put in one of the boys' rooms for reading.

I loved this little desk with it's books shelves and library lamp. And I loved the dramatic windows and dark, moodly floors. And that checked backing of  the chairs adds pretty contrast.

This bathroom was beautifully imperfect. The tub is more a lovely piece of art than a functional piece. And I just love that little bamboo table!

And this! Oh this was just perfect. The most inviting bed, the contrast of the rusty iron, the canvas tent in the most beautiful shades of soft green of course, the view.

Not to mention lovely artwork and antique rugs...

I also loved the warmth of this little kitchen sink, overflowing with a bucket of roses and peaches and fresh rhubarb. I'm always a fan of open shelving.

And from what I'm pretty sure is another part of this same kitchen, this perfect little display of fresh vegetables. So, so simple and yet so beautiful.

And these chairs! They are stunning, and so much more so grouped en mass like this. I love them in a row on the porch.

I also liked the simple stylings of this sunny kitchen. The cake plates out, the copper pots hanging, bright windows.

I can't think of a more perfect place for dining Al Fresco. That brick fireplace is beautiful, and I always love a round table with pretty glassware.

Finally, the texture these wood paneled walls adds to this space is so interesting. I love the dramatic table and the simple bistro-like chairs. And of course the gorgeous pine doors!

Sunday, July 21, 2019

in the garden - the first hydrangeas

Our Oakleaf and Endless Summer hydrangeas at our front entrance have started blooming.

This is our favourite spot to sit in the morning with our coffee, and in the evening, once the kids are in bed, with a glass of wine.

The Endless Summer variety is called Blushing Bride, and they're white with just a hint of pink as the blooms are fully opened. The continue to bloom through the summer (hence their name). This is the first year they have really established themselves, and had lots of blooms. I do give them a little extra water when it's really hot with little rain, otherwise they can look a little wilted.


Beside them are the Oakleaf hydrangeas. Their blooms are massive, and the leaves are a really interesting shape (like a giant Oak leaf). They take on a more rust-colour as the summer ends, which is pretty for Fall.

Now is a great time to buy them at a reduced price, though it's really ideal to plant them in the Fall or Spring. If you're local, Ridgeview Garden Centre in Grimsby is closing and all of their shrubs and trees are up to 80% off. I picked up a couple of Hydrangeas for in pots by our door, and a few Boxwoods, and they were all 30% off. In the spring, Vermeer's in Fonthill also does a big Earth Day sale, and all of their previous year's perennials are (I'm fairly certain) 50% off.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

a harry potter themed birthday

Whenever I post some photos from a party we're having or entertaining in general, I get quite a few messages for more details. So in a rare moment of preparedness (that's a word, right?), I have put together a very basic post going over a general "formula" I use and tips I have for throwing a themed birthday party.

In general, I keep a stock of very neutral party supplies on hand, at all times: kraft wrapping paper, neutral ribbons, white balloons and streamers, plain stationery, kraft or cream paper cups and plates etc... 

It can get really expensive buying all of those items for every single party, and what I've found is, in the end, you always have lots leftover. And chances are, they won't co-ordinate with the next party anyway. Having these already on hand also means one less errand to run.

Next, depending on the theme, I try to incorporate a few details without going overboard. For example, given this was a Harry Potter theme, I went with some gold Galleons, golden Snitches, and pretended the letter was coming out of the fireplace like in the books.

None of those took longer than a few minutes to do, but he loved those details!

In our family, our kids wake up to their gifts being set out in the living room (and most years, some decorations). But, I always save one gift for them to open during the party. We don't encourage the kids to bring gifts as honestly, our kids have enough stuff, and in the past, friends have almost missed out because they didn't want to show up without a present. If I have one set aside, they still get the whole opening your gifts experience, but it's not the main focus. They get spoiled enough by grandparents and their aunties!

Then, party wise, I stick to one small themed table. It adds enough to make it fun and personal, but it doesn't take long to set up and it's quite inexpensive.

Now, when I talk about a "formula", what I really mean is, each party has the same basic details:

- No more than two hours.
- No more than 5 friends - this is enough to feel like a group, but not so many that they break off into smaller groups and that always leads to trouble. Kids get left out, things get out of control...
- Food consists of a birthday cake, a couple themed treats (often a super easy version of sugar cookies in which I just decorate store-bought shortbread rounds), and pizza. I used to try to come up with themed food, but it's a lot of work and you know, kids just like plain old pizza.
- Each child gets a party favour to bring home, but nothing expensive.

It also means that no matter the theme, each of our boys gets them same sort of party. We have other birthday traditions too, like a family activity, and a meal out of their choice as family, so it's not all about the party.

I also bake my own cake, which is a lot cheaper than ordering a themed cake. I've recently discovered a one-bowl chocolate cake recipe from Nine + Sixteen that's super easy to throw together and the best cake recipe I've found to date. And what's more, it actually tastes even more delicious a couple days later, so it's perfect for making ahead of time.

You can find the recipe here.

To add a bit more detail to the theme, I simply printed off a couple images from google (like this daily prophet paper and the wanted wizard poster).

Some hand-lettering on chalkboards that I already have is another great way to add to the decor without spending anything.

Then for the entertainment (a term which I use very loosely), I plan two games. One usually involves searching for something I've hidden, and the other, something to keep them active and pass time. This is really more for keeping the kids occupied so chaos doesn't break out. For this party, we set up a very basic version of Quidditch for the kids to play, and then I hid golden snitches around the gardens for each of them to "seek".  For our oldest's Fortnite birthday last month, they all brought water guns and had a water fight, and I hid a loot llama filled with gum.

For the Quiddich game, I bought two large hula hoops  ($2 each) from Dollarama (our version of Dollar Tree) and covered them in black hockey tape. Instead of brooms for the kids to ride, I bought two packs of bamboo garden stakes from Dollarama as well ($2 for a pack of 6).

They loved finding the snitches.

The favour bags for this included Bertie Botts beans (or a small bag of 50-flavour mixed Jelly Bellys from Bulk Barn),  a few chocolate Galleons, also from Bulk Barn, and a golden Snitch.

I found the idea for the Snitches from Pinterest. I bought three-packs of Ferro Rocher chocolates ($1 each) from Dollarama, removed the extra sticker and wrapping so it was just gold foil, and then glued a knotted piece of ribbon on top, that I cut to look like wings.

And the birthday cake always makes me laugh. I make one every time, because we light candles and sing happy birthday, but most of the time, only a couple kids have a small slice. I'm not complaining though! We don't mind some left over birthday cake.

Also, I should mention, once our kids are a bit older, usually by the time they're five or six, they are allowed to choose a theme (with a little guidance). It usually required me to step out of my comfort zone a bit, but they're happier because it's what they wanted.

I think that's plenty  of detail for you!

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

the perfect picnic (and picnic basket)

We spent last Sunday up in Muskoka, cottage country just a couple hours just North of Toronto.

To make the trip worth while, we thought we'd spend part of the afternoon at the lake. And what could better suit an afternoon at the lake than a picnic lunch?

I bought this picnic basket a few years ago from Homesense. I liked that it had a simple linen-coloured inside and plain white dishes. I have it out on display, but I've only used it a few times. Wanting something kind of special, I cleaned it out and packed a really easy going lunch. Something that I could make ahead of time, that could transport easily and was perfect for nibbling on through out the afternoon.

The basket comes with four little mugs and plates, I just threw in some cutlery and a couple napkins (these from Everyday Occasions).

Also a square table cloth that I don't mind putting out on the grass, and pillow or two (outdoor so they can be cleaned if need be).

And while I love the romantic idea of eating out of pretty paper take out containers, these clear glass Pyrex ones are much more functional (not to mention less waste).

I found these earlier this year at Target - glass and plain white lids, I didn't realize how excited I could get over storage dishes.

On the menu:
Turkey Club Sanwiches
A simple Arugula Salad
(vinaigrette on bottom so as to not wilt greens)
Watermelon and Cherries
Cookies, Chocolate and Italian Nougat

For the sandwiches I just take a baguette, hollow it out a tad, put generous amounts of mayo and Dijon mustard on either side, and then layer Arugula, thick-sliced Turkey breast, bacon rashers, and cheese.

The baguette is a sturdy enough bread that it doesn't go soggy overnight (not adding tomato helps), and yet with a good amount of mayo, it doesn't dry out either.

Simply wrap the sandwiches in paper and tie with a bit of twine.

Now, for the sake of the photo, I have the sandwiches in here, but I actually put them in a lunch bag with some cold packs to keep them cool. Nothing else needed to be kept cool so the rest could stay in the basket.

We ate in the shade of the pine trees, watching everyone lounge on the beach and cool off in the water. Jude chatted happily away to us before running off, trying with great effort to catch a seagull who would let him get close enough to believe it might just be possible. Then we did a little shopping before returning on our way home, with all the boys, to take a quick dip in the lake.