Monthly Archives

March 2010

ENTERTAINING PARTY ideas + decor

Lava Lamps

lava lamps at jello bar in Montreal

lava lamps at jello bar in Montreal

I like this picture taken by my husband last night at YULBiz, the monthly meetup of Montreal’s bloggers and social media crowd. It looks so festive. I prefer the 52 oz Lava Lamp, also called the Royal, to the original model. These are the 52 oz Lava Lamps.

If you buy lava lamps, turn on the lamps in the afternoon for an evening party. It takes 4 to 6 hours until you get the best effect.

SOURCING:
+ Lava Lite 52 oz Lava Lamp – Yellow/Purple/Silver $28.99 USD at Amazon.com

ENTERTAINING EVERYDAY entertaining

Family Dinner Menu

family meal menu :: lemon and thyme chicken and lime pie on sweet paul

roasted carrot and fennel soup on sweet amandine

I usually serve uncomplicated, tasty meals when I have friends over. I believe it is best to cook dishes that everyone will enjoy. A simple recipe can look very appealing. A simple look at the photos on Sweet Paul will convince you, if you are not sure.

family meal menu :: lemon and thyme chicken and lime pie on sweet paul

The next time you host a casual dinner, invite old friends to kitchen like:

+ a light puree soup. Jess of Sweet Amandine told us that the fine taste of the Roasted Carrot and Fennel Soup comes from the flavors and textures of its starring ingredients.

+ a rustic chicken recipe that you cook in one dish. You cannot go wrong with a Lemon and Thyme Roast Chicken. Paul of Sweet Paul suggest to serve it with your favorite green salad.

+ For dessert, I selected the Lime Pie, also from Sweet Paul. Both photos are by Ellen Silverman

ENTERTAINING HOLIDAY decorations

Retro Mama’s Sewing Projects: Easter Eggs, Pincushions and Plush

learn how to sew your own fabric easter eggs :: tutorial by retro mama

learn how to sew your own fabric easter eggs :: tutorial by retro mama

Kim Kruzich of Retro Mama wrote an well-documented tutorial that will teach you how to make your own Fabric Easter eggs. She provided useful tips to make this sewing project a success. If you make your own, share your photos on her Flickr group.

More Sewing Patterns

pear pincushion and owl softies sewing pattern by retro mama on etsy

Kim also has an etsy shop where she sells her creations and her sewing patterns. I particularly like her pear pincushions and the super adorable owl softies. She has a great eye to style her product photos.

SOURCING:
+ Fabric Easter Egg Tutorial on Retro Mama
+ PDF Sewing Pattern for Plush Pear Pincushion, Ornament, and Pillow by Retro Mama $10 USD on Etsy
+ PDF Sewing Pattern Stella and Stewart Owl Softies by Retro Mama $8 USD on Etsy
+ via My Design Folder

ENTERTAINING PARTY ideas + decor

Inspired by Ink & Peat

ink and peat :: store view

ink and peat\'s floral arrangements for a modern garden

It has been a while since I visited Housemartin, the blog of the owner of Ink & Peat. I admire Pam’s floral arrangements since her beginning. She caught my heart again with her modern garden arrangement that cleverly mixes a variety of orange and green flowers.

ink & peat :: store view

Not every party requires a theme. But it helps to get plan a fabulous event. When you are not inspired, visit design stores that you love for clues to stimulate my creativity. Take the visual merchandising at Ink & Peat. I love their merchandise and how they display everything in the store. It provides all the clues that you need to create a fabulous table. You get the mood and what style to look for.

When you walk to a store and their displays astonished you, take notes on how the colors are distributed. Building a color scheme is not just about putting the right colors together. It is mostly about how much of each and how do you spread the colors. Then, you can adapt the key elements to get a look that you will be proud to share with your guests.

+ Interior views of Ink & Peat
+ Modern garden on Housemartin

HOME + GARDEN KITCHEN design

Design Tips for the Perfect Pantry

open shelf pantry :: emersonmade's house tour on design*sponge

open shelf pantry :: emersonmade\'s house tour on design*sponge

An open-shelf pantry is practical as it provides easy access to the containers. Moreover, you can see what is available, which may inspire what to cook for dinner. On a style note, nothing beats the look and feel of rows of identical jars and baskets for a Wow factor. I feel relaxed and in control looking at this neat and beautiful sight.

What to Consider Before You Build

Shallow shelves work best because you want easy access to everything. Try to avoid to pill jars over the others like you can see on the photo with the smaller jars. Instead, add a shelf, even if it breaks the symmetry. Make an inventory of the items you stock most. Set up your pantry to cater to your needs but design for flexible storage as your needs will evolve over time.

Adding a pantry can help you to achieve the look you want in your kitchen. Make a list of things that could go in the pantry instead of the kitchen. I always find that the wine fridge takes precious space in a kitchen. Why not wine fridge in the walk-in pantry and buy good wine bottles with the money you save on the fridge finish.

Small appliances like the yogurt maker could run from the pantry. Plan well the placement of your light fixtures and electrical outlets. A motion sensor lighting system is a nice add-on.

Kitchen Space Planning

The most important thing is to design for the way you live. How do you cook at home? How many cooks are in the kitchen at the same time? Explore the traffic flow within the kitchen and with connecting rooms.

the perfect pantry and kitchen space planning

Looking at open-air pantry of Emerson and Ryan featured on Design*Sponge made me think about how I would build mine. I imagine my perfect pantry as a huge walk-in closet where I store food and odd tableware, instead of clothes. I feel that the most practical location would be behind the main kitchen wall.

It is a fact that a dark, dry pantry preserves the food better. But when you are cooking, you may want to leave the pantry door open. If there is no window and no direct light, maybe a door is not necessary. Plus, you have to consider at which frequency you replace the food. I would use my kitchen pantry for short time storage.

Many options are available. What are your design tips? For you, a walk-in pantry is a must or a splurge?

MORE:
+ Sneak peak at Emersonmade’s house on Design*Sponge
+ via Apartment Therapy San Francisco

ENTERTAINING HOLIDAY entertaining

Easter Mood Board

easter mood board in muted pastel colors

easter mood board in spring muted colors

Muted Spring colors may be the starting point for your Easter tabletop. I first discovered the invite, which seems to dictate a classic elegant look. But I prefer to create an unexpected design. The washi tape decorated vases crafted by Elizabeth Goodman of To be Charmed bring the simple, modern touch that I was aiming for.

Do not be afraid to throw an unexpected punch of colors. Here, the saturated Easter eggs take center stage. They were done using a different technique than the food coloring dyed Easter eggs. Pam of Gingerbread Snowflakes dyed her Easter eggs with Kool-Aid. She explained on her blog the dos and don’ts of using Kool-Aid to dye your Easter eggs. Expect best results with orange, lime, berry and strawberry flavors and a few misses.

Useful and Beautiful

gourmet tea tins as party favors

Look for elegant tea tins as a way to enhance your table design. You could display them in a long row as a part of your centerpiece vignette. It feels more special than the classic tea box.

TO GET THAT LOOK:
+ Decorated Eggs invite on Evite
+ Counting Bunny Clock $30 USD by Decoylab on etsy
+ Color Easter eggs with Kool-Aid on Gingerbread Snowflakes
+ Vases with Japanese washi tapes on To be Charmed
+ Harvey & Sons Gourmet Tea Tins $30 for 4 boxes
+ Favor Tin with a Personalized Side Label with Polka Dots $20.30 for 10

ENTERTAINING HOLIDAY decorations

Stylish Easter Eggs with a Patchwork Effect

patchwork effects on easter eggs styled by suzonne stirling

patchwork effects on easter eggs styled by suzonne stirling

Craft stylist Suzonne Stirling made those elegant and creative Easter eggs for Family Circle. She didn’t want to do another story about how to dye Easter eggs. Suzonne turned her attention to the popular washi tapes and textiles. And the effect is superb.

easter eggs decorated with washi tapes by craft stylist suzonne stirling for family circle

Her patchwork effects look fresh and stylish. A craft project that is worth exploring, for sure!

MORE:
+ Gorgeous Easter Eggs and Spring Crafts
+ via Urban Comfort : the blog of Suzanne Stirling
+ photography by David Prince for Family Circle, April 2010 issue

FOOD + DRINK RESTAURANTS

Foodies at Cabane à sucre Au Pied de Cochon

cabane a sucre au pied de cochon :: maple banana split

cabane a sucre au pied de cochon :: maple banana split

For the second year in a row,  I am one of the lucky ones that got a chance to eat at the Cabane à sucre Au Pied de Cochon (Pied de Cochon Sugar Shack). I went with a group of almost 25 foodies this year. It was something to see that many cameras on a table at the same time.

La Cabane à sucre Au Pied de Cochon is a gastronomic restaurant version of the typical sugar shack. Martin Picard integrated the traditional ingredients that we associate with sugar shack in Quebec in his signature cooking style. And I like the fact that you can drink good espresso, a latte or get a Kusmi tea.

I also made a video of our meal. You will see the ambiance.

The Food

The menu slightly changed from last year. I welcome a few additions. At last, they served maple taffy (tire d’érable).  Your meal starts and ends with Wows. As you can imagine from a restaurant by Martin Picard, you will get plenty of food, pork and foie gras. We went at the first service, which is at 11 a.m. They do four services at day.

The Tourtiere is an extra but you will be very sad if you do not take it. It is the best pork pie I ever eat. Plus, you can buy one to bring home. The pork, lobster and foie gras stuffed cabbage head was a hit. But overall, the weakest link of the meal were the main dishes.

Since the first course was filled with wonderful recipes, it gave my stomach a rest. We needed room for the tasty and rich desserts! The Maple Ice Cream Banana Split made a return to the satisfaction of everyone. You will not want to miss the rich maple cream mille-feuilles  and the pancakes served with hot maple syrup.

What is my verdict?

I want to go back next year. I wish to thank Evelyne of Cheap Ethnic Eatz for organizing it. She put us on the waiting list for a reservation last August. La Cabane à sucre Au Pied de Cochon is so popular that they are booked for the entire season. You have to wait next year for your tasting.

+ Cabane à sucre Au Pied de Cochon Sugar Shack adult $49 CAD, kids from 3 to 12 yrs old $15
+ You can revisit the video of last year

FOOD + DRINK FOOD presentation

My New Camera: a Nikon D5000

nikon d5000

nikon d5000

We finally did it! I was long due for a new camera. I dreamt of a flash since my house does not receive a lot of natural light. Plus, I often take food pictures when I am cooking dinner. I never developed the reflex to make actual shooting session, probably because I did not have the proper equipment. I do not aim to become a professional photographer. I simply want to create pictures that look great for my blog.

With the trip to Japan, it seems like the right time to upgrade. My husband got his new lenses and I got my flash. I want something that is fairly easy to use and not too heavy. This is why we opt for the Nikon D5000 with a SB-600 flash. When we got home, we found out that the camera has a Food scene setting.

First step

I took this picture to test the food setting while I cooked dinner last night. I am glad that I see a definitive improvement. The colors are more vivid that what I used to get with my old camera.

tropical fennel salad

But there is a lot more that I need to learn to produce stunning food pictures.

Next step

Styling and photography is the ultimate frontier. I know that I am not alone who would like to improve their skills. To get you started, explore the tips and techniques provided on

For one thing, I will see how I can set up a small photo studio in my home. And do not forget, practice makes better.

SOURCING:
+ Digital SLRs at Amazon.com

FOOD + DRINK RECIPES + menus

Exquisite Poached Eggs with Shiitake Mushrooms

Poached Eggs with Shiitake Mushrooms, Wilted Arugula and White Truffle Cream by Viviane Bauquet Farre

Poached Eggs with Shiitake Mushrooms, Wilted Arugula and White Truffle Cream by Viviane Bauquet Farre

Write down the Poached Egg with Shitake Mushrooms, Wilted Arugula and White Truffle Cream recipe if you host the Easter brunch or for Mother’s Day. It is totally sublime.

I discovered the exquisite talent of Viviane Bauquet Farre earlier today. She blogs at Food & Style.  I tweeted yesterday morning about a lovely side dish she made: Roasted baby red potatoes with lemon and bay leaves. I went back last night. This is when I spotted her Poached Egg recipe. The presentation is awesome. Viviane used a cookie cutter to get this clean look.

+ photo: Food & Style

CAKES + desserts ENTERTAINING

Dessert Table at Twestival Montreal 2010

dessert table at twestival montreal 2010

It was not only great live entertaining at Twestival. My favorite sweet treat suppliers participate at the events. I only ate one marshmallow lollipop of Kréavie.

macarons from point g twestival montreal 2010

The macarons from Point G came with their cutest eyes. Clever Cupcakes‘ Twitter birds were superb. Next time, I will take a light dinner to leave me room for dessert.

clever cupcakes at twestival montreal 2010

SOURCING:
+ Photos by Eva Blue  – dessert table, macaronscupcakes
+ Clever Cupcakes
+ Point G