Monthly Archives

May 2007


Book review: Dishing with style has all the ingredients for easy entertaining

Dishing with style by Rori Trovato :: cooking book

I received Dishing with style by Rori Trovato for my birthday from a modish girl friend and her husband. She knows that I prefer cooking books with lots of beautiful pictures. I am visual girl after all.

I read the book this morning. Wow, Dishing with style fits like a glove into my entertaining philosophy. And more importantly, the book delivers on its promises.

The chef and food writer Rori Trovato started up this project by acknowledging that no cooking book on the market:

teaches you how to do the one thing that has the greatest impact: to combine great-tasting food with great-looking food, to make guests say “Wow” as soon as they sit at the table, and then again when they take their first bites.

One thing that differentiates Dishing with style from other cooking books is the fact that:

Nearly every recipe includes two stunning options for presenting the dish to your guests. One is more casual, often family-style, perfect for Sunday suppers and backyard get-togethers. The other option is more elegant, usually served in individual plated portions, for dinner parties and more formal affairs.
– these are two excerpts from the publisher text

Cleary if you are looking for food presentations that you can easy reproduce at home, take a look at Dishing with style. Rori Trovato encourages her readers to think outside the box and to experiment new ways to plate the food. Nothing is revolutionary but the book is actually stimulating. View this book as a source of plate inspirations that you can adapt to your own dinnerware, cooking skills and budget. Use the book as a tool to freshen up your party themes and even push you to try new entertaining styles.

If the latest culinary artistry is what you are looking for, you will be better served with a book like Working the Plate: The Art of Food Presentation by Christopher Styler. Make sure to read the user’s comments on to know what you are getting yourself into. Culinary artistry requires lots of tools, perfect techniques and times on your hand.

If you want culinary artistry, I suggest to most people that they go out to a top notch restaurant where they can enjoy a unique dining experience with their friends. Or you can hire a chef at home for one night that will even clean everything up before he leaves.

For my part, I am satisfied with a book that shows me how to make impressive plate ideas and recipes that leave me time to have fun with my guests. What are you looking for: culinary artistry or easy to do stylish dishing?

Buy online: Dishing with Style: Secrets to Great Tastes and Beautiful Presentations


Recycling the best wedding details from m. writes for an alumni reunion


details of a wedding day on m.writes blog

My husband and I both have our alumni meetings one week apart. He will go to his high school reunion. Mine is with my fellow friends of the actuarial department of Concordia University.

Before I became a designer, I was surrounded with probabilities and expected values. I got tired of it pretty quickly due to the lack of visual stimulations. At university, we had fun together and I can wait to see the entire gang after all these years.

Anyway, I saw on m.writes blog the details of the wedding of a friend of Marta. I collect the details that I deem perfect for a school reunion or a club event. The vintage photo book is such a hot idea that I must borrow it. Renting a photo booth makes it possible to fill up the book right away with different shots.

If you have a relatively small group or you can get a hold on many helping hands, it is feasible to hand make a copy for everyone. If you are a little bit crafty, I encourage you to try it. The reminiscences book will gather the then photos. Empty pages can be filled with new photos at the party.

That is where the photo booth rental comes to play. Each book can be unique this way. A photo booth adds nostalgia to the ambiance. Otherwise, schedule a photo shot and just finish the book later. Since they are widely available, you can easily set up a photo printer on site for digital photography. Make provisions of photo corners or double-sided tape for people to complete their memory book.

Other nice details that worth a mention is the way the couple photos are displayed in a gallery style near the flowers. The coffee and tea table looks sophisticated and modern. Both are so easy to reproduce. I love it when I see great inspiration pieces like these.

This wedding shows that you do not need extravagant things to make an event beautiful and remarkable. The secret is to tastefully display the bits and pieces in an out of the ordinary way. Everything is in careful planning and in putting extra efforts in the details.

Thanks to Marta of m. writes blog for sharing this happy event with all of us. I hope her and my posts will inspire you to host stylish parties more often. Or you can become a member of the organization committee for a social event in your community and put these ideas to good use.

Via: details of their day on m.writes blog


Men-only Baby shower + Father’s Day Gift Idea: Dad Diaper Bags

Dude Shoulder Diaper Bag

The newest trends towards men-only baby shower party and the even more popular parent baby shower party has contributed to the popularity of the dad diaper bag in the wish list.

Modern dads take care of their babies. But& men do not want to be seen with a female design diaper bag. So why not give a truly masculine diaper bag to the father to be.

I came across these dad diaper bags that are on sale. Available in camouflage or black color, this stylish shoulder diaper bag comes with a super comfy strap that goes across the chest with a padded back for extra comfort.

A padded changing pad, two handy clips for keys and a cell phone holder adds practicality to this bag. The Dude Shoulder Diaper Bag is currently on sale at for $39.95, a $20 savings.

A Brand from Two Dads

If you are looking for something even better, then check out the DadGear product lines. DadGear is born out of the mind of two dads to be who realized that the diaper bag market felt short of father expectations.

DadGear worked hard to ensure that their products don’t look like diaper bags because this is not what men want. Their collection looks like normal backpacks, messenger bags and sport bags on the inside. The difference is in the inside. The bag interior is cleverly made for carrying around all the baby gear with lots of easy access features.

DadGear messenger diaper bags

I found a video on that let’s you experience the fantastic features of DadGear messenger bags. Take a look; you will see what is so great about these man diaper bags. The Billboard messenger bag series is eco-friendly too. Recycled highway billboards become the bag material so each one is unique.

Women looking for the DadGear clever design diaper bags can find a female line at; so we do not have to be jealous. The line is more of hard core styles than on the pretty side. When you are wearing cool jeans or going to meet your snowboard buddies, these are the kind of diaper bags, a mother should bring.

Going back to the Father’s Day gift ideas, the most innovative products are certainly the DadGear Diaper Vest and the Cargo Jacket. Take all of the functionality of their diaper bags and incorporate them into a stylish fleece piece of clothing and these are what you get. The Vest and Cargo Jacket are perfect for the short trip and for older babies.

I am just starting the gifts section on my blog. I will give you more gifts ideas for the celebrated person, the hostess and the party favors. So come back to see what I dig up.

Link: Dude Shoulder Diaper Bag at
Link: Store listing for the DadGear collection – click on International for Canadian listing
Link: Video on the Billboard messenger diaper bag on
Link: Web site of DaisyGear – the female side of DadGear


David Rocco’s Dolce Vitae soundtrack hits the stores June 12th, 2007

DRVD soundtrack

Fans of this cute Canadian-Italian male will be pleased to learn that a David Rocco’s Dolce Vitae CD will be available in stores across Canada June 12th, 2007. If you get the deluxe CD, you get is over 50 pages of photos from the TV series, 17 track hits and selected featured recipes. The standard CD includes 17 track hits.

If you love good food and traveling, you are missing something worthwhile if you did not watch David Rocco’s culinary adventures in Florence and Sicily. The reruns of season 2 are currently playing on Food TV Canada if you want to catch on.

I am a fan of David Rocco; he is so adorable on camera. Like I said on a previous post, his show is different from the typical cooking shows. David Rocco and his wife Nina produced the show in a more entertaining format. We get lots of awesome scenery videos on top of recipes. David Rocco’s Dolce Vitae TV series celebrates the Italian way of enjoying life.

There are several projects going out with David Rocco. Before the CD hits the stores, the launch of his revamped personal website will take place on June 4th, 2007. A cooking book is also in the making. I saw on that the book is scheduled to be out by February 2008. I can not wait!

+ David Rocco’s Dolce Vita Soundtrack – $17.99 CAD for the standard CD
+ Web site of David Rocco
+ TV schedule of David Rocco’s Dolce Vitae TV series on


Kids’ rooms are a part of better entertaining

kids\' room portfolio of New York interior designer Amie Weitzman

The first rule when you having guests over at your house is to have a clean, well presented house.

On the style front, families with young kids have a harder time making it a reality. With both parents working, kids are often allow to play anywhere in the house. Parents and children naturally want to pass more time closer together. But having toys taking over the living room is no way to entertain.

The best thing to do is to design fabulous kid rooms with defined play area. You do not necessary need a larger home to do it although having more square footage always helps. I believed that with good planning and creativity, you can always find a solution.

Mothers put lots of efforts in creating fun bedrooms for her kids. My mother liked to redesign my bedroom every two or three years and I cherished these memories. But nothing beats the work of professional designed kid rooms.

Play rooms by Amie Weitzman

Design to inspire, an attention-grabbing blog that introduces us to the work of great interior designers, wrote about the kids’ room portfolio of New Yorker Amie Weitzman. I share some of her projects with you.

The pink playroom with the orange rug is awesome. This is the right style for me. The fabulous color palette is vibrant and girlie at the same time. I am a huge fan of chalkboards. My parents had to replace my large chalkboards a few times because I played too much with them. The chalkboard paint that is widely available now provides so much more design opportunities like making a chalkboard table or dresser.

Tricks of the trade

Amie Weitzman used another of my favorite design feature in the pink and orange play room: the wall sliding doors. The closet neatly keeps the toys organized. The higher shelves can store stuff other than toys or accessories for special activities.

If you are really short on space, you can use a hallway on a lesser traffic spot. It will not create the prettiest kid room in the world but at least, the rest of the house stays neat. If you check it out carefully, you will see that this atypical kid room configuration fit several playing areas. That is why hiring an excellent interior designer is a sound investment.

What I like about the hallway kid room is that the children drawings are kept out of the fridge. As a designer, this is one of my pet peeves. I applauded the large framed magnetic board that Amie Weitzman put for that purpose. It is an idea that I encourage you to steal. Finally, the last picture cleverly demonstrates that a small playing area can be included in small bedroom. Like they said on design to inspire, kids’ rooms rule!

I am interested to know how having young children has changed the way you entertain?

Link: Web site of New-York-based Interior designer Amie Weitzman
Via: Kids’ rooms rule! published on design to inspire blog

CAKES + desserts FOOD + DRINK

Whimsical wedding cake toppers by Weddingstar

wedding cake toppers by Weddingstar

I want to share a smile or two with you. This is not really about at home entertaining but we are around the wedding season. I came by these comical cake toppers by Weddingstar today.

Whether you are a fan or not of bride and groom cake toppers, you have to admit that these ones are funny. I will never go for a comical formula myself but everyone has their own idea about what is the perfect wedding.

My wedding was about the Duchess-Empress Sissi (you know the one played by Romy Schneider) spirit: classical music, princess dress, a five-star dinner setting and a choreographed Viennese waltz for the first dance. My wedding cake was a sophisticated three-tiered ivory cake decorated with trios of creamy white roses sculpted in fondant. Frankly Considering the choices available at the time, my cake design was better off without a bride and groom cake topper.

If you want a bride and groom cake topper, take a look at Weddingstar’s collection. The Reaching Bride and Helpful Groom cake topper and the Sitting Bride and Groom are sweet. The Golf Fanatic Groom and Exasperated Bride cake topper is hilarious. The Couple with The Groom “Taking a plunge” can be an inside joke.

Most of the Weddingstar’s selection is available in ethnic and multiracial models. Yes, you can mix and match the bride and groom. Beside the comical ones, other varieties are traditional, unique look and based on a theme. The Beach bride and groom cake topper wears a little bit less formal clothes and naturally, they are barefoot.

Intrigued, I continue my search. Western (cowboy) weddings are well represented; I did not know they were so popular. But I do not really follow the casual wedding scene. On The Knot online store, I find a cake topper for the bride who marries a Marine. After all, many women love men in uniforms, why not exhibit this fact?

Marines cake topper at The Knot

But I fail to grasp what goes on the mind of any bride to be that opts for desperate figurines like “Oh No You Don’t” or “Now I Have You” that I find at The Knot. It can be funny for a bachelor party to have a little laugh at your mate. (crossed out on June 6) But showing no shame on your wedding cake seems to indicate a doomed marriage in the first place. I do not get it!

update on June 6: Like I said earlier, I am not used to the idea of a funny wedding. I see many searches for the comical wedding cake toppers. Maybe some of you can explain your attraction to this style. Do you really put it on your official wedding cake? Is it a joke the bride maids play on the couple? I want to grasp that concept.

On a final note, Weddingstar sells lovely brush silver monogrammed cake toppers. The monogram letters can ornate lots of decorations from centerpieces, guest book table to buffet tables and more. Not just for wedding, the monogram topper can replace the numbers on an anniversary or a birthday cake.

So tell me, what are your thoughts about wedding cake toppers? Did you have one at your wedding? What is your favorite style?

Link: Wedding cake topper on the Canadian store of Weddingstar
Link: Wedding cake topper on the USA store of Weddingstar
Link: Wedding cake topper on The Knot online store

+ Your avatars as wedding cake toppers
+ Fresh Ideas for Wedding Cake Toppers
+ Unique cake toppers by Chapeau de Gateau


Stock up the essentials for voguish beach parties

Crate & Barrel outdoor living collection

This hot and sunny day inspired me to write about party essentials around the pool or at a lake. I am taking about sophisticated party scene that you can set up at home. The look I am going for is part boutique hotel, part exotic vacation.

With design oriented stores for the masses getting almost the norm lately, it is possible to create a fabulous outdoor space on a small ordinary budget. I went to Crate & Barrel to dig up the inspiration shots. I love their collections.

Natural materials are a must for beach parties. Wood is instinctively associated with the beach. You want things that passed the Test of Time.

The furniture shown here is made of eucalyptus. If you like the eucalyptus aroma, hide some foliage under the bar just to tease the nose when you are near.

Basically what you need for a voguish beach party is a high bar table, large jars filled with prepared cocktail mixes, one or more galvanized party tubs and nice outdoor dinnerware. Filled jars and party tubs allow you to have fun with your guests. Get some bamboo service trays and bamboo dishes to add an exotic touch.

The low hardwood table on the left top corner is so fun. This is a collapsible table that you carry in a bag. Resort to your patio table for the buffet. Get several collapsible wood tables; they are only $39.95 at Crate & Barrel. These low tables create an elegant picnic atmosphere.

Complete it all with a few extra picnic blankets which can double as ground table for when you are entertaining larger group. The Sausalito Stripe Picnic Blanket, available at crate & barrel, fits perfectly for the Table in a Bag. Having cushions is more polished but people can also sit on their towels.

Having several pre-arranged tote bags for your guests is the ultimate gesture. You can put sunbathing towels and sun lotions that your guest may use at will during their stay. Live the bag empty if your guests bring their own stuff. I you want to be fancy lay the tote bag in a cute way on a table near the pool or beside the changing room.

Chinatown and Dollar stores are good sources where to get tote bags for cheap. Look for end of line or annual sales helps to reduce the acquisition costs. I would not lessen the quality of the sunbathing towels as the best ones will last for such a long time. Buy your towels all at once so they look the same. We are going for the polished look after all.

Make up a color scheme for your beach party bits and pieces before buying anything. You can mix and match colors for your towels but do not use more than 3 colors/patterns in total. To achieve the boutique hotel look, one color or pattern is the way to go. Medium shades will look clean for the entire duration of your event. If you prefer pale tones, use medium or patterned towels at least for children. Think about having smaller towels for young children. For a distinctive look, children can have their own patterns or colors.

Even if you do not do the tote things, there will always be people that forgot to bring something. So have spare bottles of sun lotions, a pair or two of cheap sunglasses plus a couple of sun hats. Never underestimate the sun especially if you are on water all day. A good host makes sure that everyone is protected against the risk of insolation.

Tell me, how do you design your beach or pool party? What are your best pool party accessories?

Link: Summer 2007 outdoor trends at Crate & Barrel


How to cheer up a monochromatic tabletop?

Martha Stewart's Wedding magazine

I said it before but let me repeat the principles behind successful design. What you need to do is to create several depth levels and to guide the eyes towards your focal points if you wish to achieve a divine mood.

When I was at interior design school, they teach us how to design monochromatic rooms that look amazing. The best ways are to use play with textures and several hues.

To help you grasp the concept I am showing a red table design taken from Martha Stewart’s Wedding magazine, The Magic of Color edition. Do not get me wrong, that table look fine but by implementing a few small changes we can achieved a more striking look.

The bones of the red table palette are sound. Each element taken separately looks exciting. It is when you put everything together that you discover something is missing for a total Wow factor. You will find that it is often the cases.

The current red palette design missed on a great opportunity to play more with textures and tones. Things look too much similar. The center runner section seems to be a big chunk. With no focal point, you can hardly distinguish the objects even at close range.

details of the red tabletop by Martha Stewart's Wedding

To be fair to the Martha Stewart’s Wedding staff, deep crimson and black cherry are hard to capture on photos. Red offers a narrower range of shades to play with if you do not wish to switch over the reddish pink hues. If you are new at designing a monochromatic scheme, start to experiment with greens. I will show you later this week a top-notch example from a wonderful florist I discovered over the week-end.

First, the red tabletop can be improved by interlacing little spots of greenery inside the flower arrangements. A talented florist can easily fix that for you. The votive candle holders could have been a softer red or even a burned orange to act more as a trail delimiter. Matching the ribbons hanged on the lanterns to the votive holder color will intensify this trailing effect.

If you are willing to deviate from the monochromatic scheme, sage or olive colored glass votive will add more interests. Putting beside a complimentary color will made the reds pop more.

pink festive  tabletop by Martha Stewart's Wedding

Since I am looking for more textures, my preference goes for a translucent runner or a taffeta runner with an alternating transparent and opaque line pattern. Opt for textiles that symbolize festivity.

Finally I want to show you a table that proved that there is no need to overcrowd the center of your table. I find that tables are often too crowded with decorations in large scale celebration events.

The pink tabletop published on that same Martha Stewart’s Wedding edition is divine. The runner section is a masterpiece of simplicity. This is a sophisticated look that everyone can easily reproduce at home. Borrow it for your next dinner party. It is suitable for indoor and outdoor parties.

The key design idea behind the pink tabletop is repetitions of distinct yet similar elements. The arrangement is lay in a line to form a classic pattern with modern vibes. What make it works is that we got several sizes of decorative items in a two-step alternating plan. You got trio of floating candles followed by 2 bowls of flowers (roses and peonies) followed by one large candle sphere and so on.

Try out different ways to set up your table just for fun. By practicing ahead of your party, you will be able to determine what you need to complete the look. And you will be ready for an impromptu dinner party. Do not be shy to discuss here how you set up your monochromatic table. I like to hear your viewpoints.

Link: Martha Stewart’s Wedding magazine – all photos from The Magic of Color edition displayed until July 30, 2007


Having a small lot is not an excuse for not designing your outdoor space

Kirk's Narrow Australian Terrace

The outdoor season is finally here. I can safely claim that most of the people living in the north side of North America is cleaning up, putting flowers and shopping for outdoor furniture this week end.

Most city dwellers have smaller gardens. Even the new house developments in the suburbs have small backyards. But do not sell it short because a small backyard can look amazing.

I first grabbed this concept when I moved to my current house. My next-door neighbors are studio renters. But they got a 250 square feet terrace. Many have set a full room outside before the concept of outdoor living rooms became popular. They did it out of necessity, the terrace almost double their living space.

Last year, I watched with envy The City Gardener hosted by Matt James. This is one of the best British gardening TV series from a design perspective. I was stunned by how much you can accomplish in small, often awkward shaped backyards.

Matt James knows how to create havens in the most unlikely of spots. Matt shares his savoir faire with the audience. Throughout the three seasons that the show was running, Matt’s fresh approach to gardening was always inspiring.

courtyard of Kirk Lenard

Then I ran into a 10 feet wide house in Australia. Many of you will say that it is impossible to entertain a dozen people in such a tiny space. Kirk’s Narrow Australian Terrace shown on The Apartment Therapy NYC is such cleverly designed that he proved us wrong.

By putting his dining room beside the fully-retracting doors that leads to the courtyard, Kirk can comfortably host a sit down dinner event for 10 persons. I am sure he can squeeze twelve if he needs too. Very impressive!

For more inspirations, design to inspire wrote a story about MyLandscapes by Amir Schlezinger. Based in London, MyLandscapes is a company that specializes in rooftop patio spaces. Be prepared to be carried away with delightful pictures. This is outdoor urban living at its best.

MyLandscapes by Amir Schlezinger

I am sure that your lot is wider than Kirk’s house in Australia. I invite you to take a measuring tape, to think outside the box and to try out countless layouts. Ask your friends for advices and their opinions. Go visit the garden centers in your region.

If you concentrate your efforts on better planning and designing your space, I am sure you can create something incredible in your small backyard. There are no more excuses for not having a great outdoor space.

Link: reruns of The City Gardener on
Link: MyLandscapes on design to inspire blog
Via: Small Cool Extra: Kirk’s Narrow Australian Terrace published on The Apartment Therapy NYC


A little talk about what I am working on


Brunch is one of my favorite meals because it fits my lifestyle during the week ends. This extract from Wikipedia nicely puts why I got a love affair with brunch.

Brunch is also somewhat a fancy morning-noon meal. It serves as a replacement for breakfast, usually eaten when one rises too late to eat breakfast. Brunch is typically served beginning in the 10:00 a.m. hour, and continuing through early afternoon.

I host a brunch at home every now and then. With many of my friends having babies, inviting family and friends over for brunch may become more popular than my late dinner parties.

My repertoire is full of incredible brunch recipes. What I am looking for right now is to find fresh ways to present classic brunch recipes.

So far, I am working on an amazing muffin presentation. I promise you a sophisticated look that can be achieved in a flash. A breakfast verrine is also in the making. I will tell you how to make my fabulous muffins and verrines as soon as I completed the finishing touches.

July 17, 2007 Update:
My muffin presentation is at last published. Click here to have a look.

Link: Brunch on Wikipedia


An ode to stylish presentation by Papered Together

stylish presentation by Papered Together - letterpress stationary

Your mom may have told you that look does not count, but in reality it is not true. People judge you on the way you dress, the way when you set your table and the way you wrap your gifts. First impressions are important. People usually notice that you are doing a little bit extra.

Papered Together is known for creating amazing letterpress cards and stationery. I bought an eye-catching letterpress card for my mom earlier this month. Another thing that this small Minneapolis design business has mastered is the art of packaging.

They did not just deliver my card. I got a complementary letterpress coaster plus a tag nicely tied on top of my card. A handwritten thank you note completed the package. This clearly falls into the art of entertaining at its best. You see right away that you are dealing with design people. There is that little touch, ce je ne sais quoi.

But do not think for a moment that throwing a party does not require any marketing skills. You compete with leisure activities and already filled schedule. Doing something extra and putting attention to details can make a difference because it shows that you care. And in some way, being surrounded by pretty things makes us feel even better.

To keep it simple, stock up a few gears. If you have a few decorations, craft supplies or wrapping materials on hand, you can try your design before your event to see how you can assemble all the pieces. And your stash comes handy when you are hosting an impromptu dinner.

Take some ideas from Papered Together as an inspiration for dressing up your next party favor. A packaging does not have to be complicated to impress. What is important is to create something that you do not see all the time. The attention to details and the beautiful design in Papered Together’s delivery package delighted me.

Papered Together makes it a habit to create fantastic packaging. I am not alone to highly grade their style. While searching for the experience of other customers, I spotted that A Browner Brown also wrote a post about their cute packaging. Like I was telling you, a stylish presentation never goes unnoticed. This is true for invites, gifts and parties.

Link: Web site of Papered Together
Link: Papered Together on A Browner Brown blog