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Twice in the Toronto Star | Sharing Potluck and Entertaining Tips

my article for the toronto star

Yesterday, for a great day for me. I wrote an article of the printed edition of the Toronto Star about how to Make potlucks stylish. You can read my article online at I wish I could show you the printed version, which has my picture on it but a mishap at the newspaper stand here in Montreal meant that I was unable to grab a copy yesterday. Do not worry, my dear friend Eden Spodek of Barganista is sending me two copies.

live chat about holiday entertaining on the toronto star

After that, I was interviewed during an one-hour live chat by the public and Jane Van Der Voort of the Toronto Star.


Holiday Wreaths and a Charming Bouquet

hobby wreaths by julie mulligan

Julie Mulligan reinterpreted with those wreaths an ancient tradition that links a family status or profession to the floral arrangement at their front door. Julie created wreaths that reflect a person’s profession or hobby. With many people wanted to hang something else that a wreath on their front door, I think this is a wonderful concept.

holiday wreaths and charming bouquet

Another way to differentiate your front door from the neighbors is to group vertically 3 wreaths. Make sure to select wreaths that are proportional to the height and width of your door.

The Green Pear and Berry Wreaths mix well with Martha Stewart Charming Holiday Bouquet.  The bouquet will not interfere with the conversations. Count 1 bouquet per 4 guests. You can alternate the bouquet and a candle pillar.  If you can start with a pillar candle, will save money in requiring say 3 candles and 2 bouquets.

+ Julie Mulligan‘s blog at 1-800-Flowers
+  Green Pear and Berry Wreath on sale at $19.95,  set of 3 on sale at $54.99 USD
+  Martha Stewart Charming Holiday Bouquet $39.95 USD


Simpler Croquembouche by Martha Stewart

Martha\'s famous Croquembouche

The croquembouche is a classic French dessert that kept all its appeal. This year, Martha Stewart thought of a way to simplify it for us. Part of difficulties of making your own croquembouche is definitely the assembly of the pyramid of cream puffs. She cut it in half.

A Twist on the Classic Recipe

I would even suggest that you split it further and made four smaller ones instead of two croquembouches. You can use them as you centerpieces on your Christmas table. But it may seem like you are torturing for your guests if they need to wait until dessert. For that reason, you could use transform the recipe into a savory dish. Use a salmon mousse or paté as your filling. As long as you get a sticky glaze to glue the cream puffs together, you should be fine. Do not tell your guests that it is savory until they sit oat the table.

+ photos: Martha’s Famous Croquembouche recipe


My Lilac-Blue Mashed Potato Recipe

blue mashed potatoes prepared with fresh herbs and served with bison

I cooked that meal last night for dinner. I am showing you because I used a type of potatoes I never seen before. You probably noticed that grocery stores are carrying more and more types of potatoes. With 4000 types of potatoes, it seems appropriate that we explore new ones.

One of the gourmet potatoes is the All Blue potatoes. In Finland, they serve it mashed with sour cream. The purple-blue flesh has a mild, slightly sweet flavor with a subtle hazelnut taste. This potato is versatile since it is very good mashed, steamed and boiled. The minute I saw it, I thought that the All Blue potatoes could be a special addition at the Christmas table of anyone who embraces the lilac trend (winter) this Holiday season.

My Mashed Potato Recipe

No need to find this specific potato, you can use any potato fit to be mashed with my recipe. I transformed my mother’s recipe over the years to include my love of bay leaves and fresh herbs. You get pleasing texture if you heat your milk.

  • You cook the peeled potatoes on salted boiling water with 1 to 3 bay leaves – it depends of your taste.
  • In the meantime, warm a cup of milk – you may pour a little less in your potatoes but I prefer to be ready. Once the milk is hot, drop 3 whole bay leaves, put a cover and infuse for 15 minutes. Then, filter the milk with a fine strainer.
  • I dry the drained potatoes with a tea towel before putting them back in the pot
  • Add the warm milk slowly as you manually mash the potatoes. I believe that you get the best results with a potato masher. I use a strong wire potato masher.
  • Cut about 3 ounces (100 grams) of salted butter in small pieces. Spread over the potatoes, put freshly ground pepper to taste. Mix well. Adjust the seasoning.
  • I add 1 to 2 tablespoon of freshly cut herbs that I finely chopped. Which herbs I use depends on my main dish.

Grilled bison medallions were the main dish. Therefore, I select fresh marjoram because it goes well with red meats.


Bone and Cozy Cups by PMO Design

kiosk of pmo design at souk at sat

Last weekend was the seventh edition of Souk @ SAT. Every year, it is a chance to discover fantastic designers and artists. The smart thing about the Souk is that they rotate the exhibitors. Therefore, you do not see the same things year after year. The kiosks are simply made with one or two low white tables on which each exhibitor nicely displays their products.

Beautiful and practical cups

pmo design small bone and knitted cozy cups

I was looking for a porcelain or ceramic cup with a knitted cozy to drink my tea, a cappuccino and a small hot chocolate for a while now. There was always something that I did not like until I saw those.

The Bone and Cozy cups from PMO are well designed. The cozy is knitted with acrylic, which means that it goes in the washer and dryer. The form of the cup rim minimizes the cleaning. The cozy stays well in place. The exterior over the section covered by the cozy is a little bit abrasive. The bone cup goes to the dishwasher and is microwave oven safe. I used it for two days now. It is very comfortable in your hand. It is everything I ask you. A large version of Bone & Cozy is also available.

If you do not wish for a cozy, although I do not know why you will want to miss on this awesome feature, the Bone cup is available by itself. In that case, the exterior is all glazed.

Creamy Oga

pmo design products

Beside cups, PMO produces fun salt and pepper shakers. each set is made of a tall salt shaker with a short pepper shaker. But sizes and forms vary. Therefore, each pair is unique.

+ Bone and Cozy cup small $20 CAD, 3 for $55 (price at the Souk)
+ Bone small cup $12.50 CAD
+ Creamy Oga $20 CAD for the set


Exploring More Color Schemes for the Holiday

blue and brown holiday decorations :: better homes and gardens

The Blue and Brown palette first caught my eyes on Better Homes and Gardens. You have to admit that the chocolate table looks inviting. The ball ornament is a do-it-yourself project. You simply dress up plastic foam ornaments with scraps of blue and brown fabric. Add silver ribbons and a few beads for elegance.

romantic pink holiday decorations :: better homes and gardens

If you wish for a girlie holiday decor, you may get inspired by the romantic Pretty in Pink holiday theme. If you are looking for a younger, fresher version, simply use modern dinnerware. This is the right occasion to serve Rosé Champagne to your guests.

+ Glamorous Globes
+ Treat Your Sweeties
+ Crystal and Pink
+ In-the-Pink Mantel


The Making of my Christmas Tree

tips on how to design a christmas holiday tree theme

It has been 6 years since I made a Christmas tree at home. But this year, I was unable to resist the urge to deck my home with a festive tree. It also meant that I needed to come up with a brand new Christmas theme.

The Design

The craftsy animal ornaments were my starting point. Except for the touch of red, they are neutral. I took hints from my home decor, revisited the tree ornaments I already owned to make my own version of the 2009-2010 Christmas trends. I mixed the elements of two trends: comfort and winter. It works because I analyzed what was common to both to design my own theme.

designing my christmas tree theme

To repeat the blue accents on my room, I spread a dozen of night blue Christmas ball ornaments. I did the same by limiting the number of red ornaments. Everything is based on metallic colors, with gold and silver at the center stage. I also use plenty of white and clear glass ornaments. The winter trend calls for lilac, which would not go with my home decor. Therefore, I used copper instead.

pine garland backdrop for my holiday tree

My tree sits next to my airy staircase. Putting a pine garland on the handrail was essential to ground the tree in the space. I kept the garland bare to not compete with the tree. I simply dressed it up with an ornament on which there is a Christmas tree illustration. That is enough to make a statement.

I ordered a few animal ornaments and skating ornaments from Crate and Barrel. This will put the finishing touch. I cannot wait to see it complete.

Being Creative with the Tree Topper

my christmas tree topper

It soon became obvious that the usual Holiday tree topper would look funny on my tree. For a while, I thought of leaving empty the top branch until I rediscovered my red bird ornaments. They added the touch I was looking for. The best part is that they are inexpensive ornaments that I kept over the years. I think they were the first Christmas ornaments I bought after university. I am glad I did.

Things to Know to Select the right Christmas lights

I upgrade to the LED lights. You have the choice between Warm white and Pure white. Think of the color of your walls before purchasing yours. Warm white lights coordinate with the warm tones of my walls. A pure white light will clash with my decor. Instead of going for my usual choice, the mini-lights, I switched to the C6 strawberry lights to compliment my theme.


Do you Know Your Tableware Symbols?

symbols for tableware use dishwasher freezer microwave oven

You often see those symbols on plastics. Sadly, it is easy to misinterpret them. It happened to me the other day when I bought the eiPott egg cups. Buying dishwasher safe tableware is a must for me. Therefore, I am a little bit disappointed of my purchase.

People often confuse the cup and fork symbol for the dishwasher safe symbol. The thing is that there is not universally approved symbol for dishwasher safe. The cup and fork means that the material is safe for food use.

It is strange that this area of the food industry has no standards. The use of symbol on products eliminate the need for language translation. Sometimes, the instructions are written on the packaging but not on the item. Do the brands expect us to recall the product care for every item we purchased. In fact, I only bought dishwasher safe tableware to not have to remember which one is safe, which one is not.

I hope this will help you make good purchase decisions.


Learn Food Styling on Still Life With

before and after food styling by Still Life With

I find fascinating the world of food styling. How they elevate food to be very appetizing. You can learn tricks of the trade by reading Still Life With.

Let’s face it, not every food looks great. But it does not means that they are not delicious. In one lesson, you learn how to turn an non inspiring molded salmon pate into an appealing food photo. When you are confronted with this situation, Still Life With told us to show just a little of the food and to surround it with beautiful things.

food styling and photography Workshop

And if you are persuaded that professional food photography is a lot of work, look at this picture that illustrated a typical food styling and photography session. Photographers with their assistants and stylists work together to create these stunning pictures that we see in the magazine. Read the details of a master workshop with Francine Zaslow and Deborah Jones.

There is a lot more to learn on Still Life With.

+ photos: Still Life With