Holiday RED Bridesmaids

I’ve been to one winter wedding, and it was totally beautiful. I was a bridesmaid in a long silk purple dress, the ballroom was filled with elegant tapered candles, and the bride and groom shot some stunning portraits in the snow.

As part of my wedding-withdraw, I find myself imaging different versions of my wedding in every situation. Most recently;  an elegant holly and mistletoe decked soiree celebrating love and the festivities of the Season. Featuring a set of these bridesmaid dresses from J Crew.

Holiday Red
J.Crew Floral Lace Shift / Cathleen / Alexa / Tinsley / Elsa / Pamela dresses in Poppy

These would be stunning on any set of women, and the girls would love having a bridesmaid’s dress that can do double duty at the office Christmas party.

 

Holiday Prep Cooking Day

How to Make Five Recipes in One Day

As promised in my Christmas Pledge, I spent yesterday locked in my kitchen, making 2 appetizer and 3 cookie recipes to freeze in preparation of the Holidays. I made:

  • Stuffed Mushroom Caps
  • g
    Gougères
  • mm
    Mint Meringues
  • goc
    Ginger Orange Cookies
  • gb
    Gingerbread

To make the most of my day, I scheduled these recipes into 12 steps that make the most efficient use of my mixer, oven, and freezer time.

Step 1 {Prep your unique ingredients}
Measuring things like flour and sugar is easy to do as you go, but chopping and softening butter needs to happen now. 

Stuffed Mushroom Cups: Finely dice 120g pancetta, ⅓c red pepper, and ¼c red onion, mince 2 cloves of garlic, shred ½c Cheddar cheese, remove stems from 50 mushrooms and finely dice the stems.

Gougère: Cut up 1 stick of butter. Bring 5 eggs into room temperature, and grate 1 ½c Gruyère cheese.

Mint Meringues: Separate 3 egg whites and leave them at room temperature.

Ginger Orange Cookies: Take out ½c of butter. Finely chop ½c crystallized ginger and 2 tsp orange peel.

Gingerbread: Take out 1 ½ sticks of butter to soften at room temperature.

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Step 2 (Prep the Mushroom Caps}

Stuffed Mushroom Caps: Heat oven to 400°F (200°C).  Place mushroom caps, hollow side down, on parchment paper-lined or greased rimmed baking sheet. Spritz with oil.

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Step 3 (Start the Ginger Orange Cookie Dough while Mushrooms cook}

Stuffed Mushroom Cups: Bake in oven until slightly softened, about 8 minutes.

Ginger Orange Cookies: In a large mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high-speed for 30 seconds. Add ¾c granulated sugar, 1½ tsp baking powder, and ⅛ tsp salt. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally.

Step 4 {Finish the Ginger Orange Cookie Dough while Mushrooms cool}

Stuff Mushroom Cups: Remove mushrooms from oven and let cool.

Ginger Orange Cookies: Beat in egg and the 1 tbs milk until combined. Beat in as much of the 2c flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour, the crystallized ginger, and orange peel. If necessary, knead dough until it comes together.

Divide dough into three portions. On a lightly floured surface, shape each portion into a 7-inch roll. Spread sugar on the work surface and roll each log in sugar to coat. Wrap each roll in waxed paper or plastic wrap and freeze.

orange cookies

*** Now is a good time to clean up your work surface. Wash the measuring cups that you will need again and give the counter-tops a good wipe. Make yourself a cuppa tea. ***

Step 5 {Make the Mushroom Stuffing} 

Stuffed Mushroom Caps: Drain off liquid. Place, hollow side up, on clean foil-lined baking sheet. In nonstick skillet, cook pancetta over medium heat until crisp, about 5 minutes. Drain off fat. Add red pepper, onion, garlic, mushroom stems, salt and pepper to skillet; cook, stirring, until onion is softened, about 4 minutes.

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Step 6 {Start on the Gingerbread while Pancetta cools} 

Stuffed Mushroom Caps: Let pancetta mixture cool.

Gingerbread: Whisk 6 cups of flour, ½ tsp baking powder, 4 tsp ground ginger, 4 tsp ground cinnamon, ½ tsp ground cloves, and ½ tsp salt together thoroughly.

Step 7 {Stuff and finish the Mushroom Caps}

Stuff Mushroom Caps: In bowl, stir goat cheese with Cheddar cheese; stir in pancetta mixture. Spoon heaping tablespoonful into each mushroom cap. Freeze.

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Step 8 {Finish the Gingerbread}

Gingerbread: Beat butter and 1 ½c brown sugar together until fluffy. Add the 2 eggs, 1c molasses, and 1 tbs of water and beat until well combined. Beat half of the dry mixture into the mixer until blended and smooth. Add the remaining flour mixture and then knead the dough until firm and manageable, but not dry. Add more flour if the dough is wet. Divide the dough in 2, and place each half in a zip-top bag to freeze.

gingerbread

Step 9 {Make the Meringues}

Mint Meringues: Preheat oven to 200°F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside. In a large mixing bowl beat egg whites, ¼ tsp cream of tartar, ¼ tsp peppermint extract, and ⅛ tsp salt with an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form (tips curl). Gradually add ¾c of sugar, about 1 tbs at a time, beating on high until stiff peaks form (tips stand straight).

Using a Q-tip, brush stripes of red food coloring on the inside of a decorating bag fitted with a star tip. Carefully spoon egg white mixture into decorating bag. Pipe 2-inch stars 1 inch apart onto the cookie sheet.

meringues

Step 10 {Make the Gougères while Meringues bake}

Mint Meringues: Bake 2 hours, rotating sheets top-to-bottom-and back-to-front once or twice during baking time.

Gougères: Bring ½c whole milk, ½c water, butter, and ½ tsp salt to a rapid boil in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan over high heat. Add 1c flour all at once, lower the heat to medium-low, and immediately start stirring energetically with a wooden spoon. The dough will come together and a light crust will form on the bottom of the pan. Keep stirring with vigor for 2 min to dry the dough until very smooth. Turn the dough into the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.

Let the dough sit for a minute, then add 4-5 eggs one by one and beat until the dough is thick and shiny, ensuring each egg is completely incorporated before you add the next (do not add the 5th egg if your dough is already a shiny smooth deep yellow). Beat in the grated cheese.

Using about 1 tbs for each gougère, drop or pipe the dough from a spoon onto the lined baking sheets and freeze.

gougère

*** While the meringues are still cooking and everything else is getting nice and frozen, clean up the kitchen and take a little breather. You are almost done! ***

Step 11 {Finish the Meringues} 

Mint Meringues: Transfer cookies to a wire rack; cool.

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Step 12. {Package & labeling}
Make sure everything is packaged in airtight wraps/bag/containers and label with the following instructions:

Stuffed Mushroom Caps: Bake from frozen on baking sheet in 375°F oven until golden, about 17 minutes.

Gougères: Bake from frozen on lined baking sheet placed in  a 425°F oven, immediately lowering to 375°F for 12 minutes. Rotate sheet and bake for another 12-15 minutes or until gougères are golden, firm, and puffed. Can be served warm or cooled.

Mint Meringues: Thaw and enjoy.

Ginger Orange Cookies: Thaw until slice-able, preheat oven to 350°F. Cut into ¼” slices and place on cookie sheet. Brush lightly with milk and bake for 8 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Cool and enjoy.

Gingerbread: Bring to room temperature, preheat the oven to 350°F. Roll out dough and cut into desired shapes. Bake for 11 to 15 minutes or until light brown on greased cookie sheets. Cool before icing.

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And now I’m ready for the Holidays. Unexpected guests? No worries, I’ll just pop in these appetizers. Crazy snow storm? Cool, I’ll just bake these cookies and we’ll bunker down. Bring it on December!

Kitchen Update: How We Turned an Ugly Awkward Space into a Wine Cabinet

Every kitchen has a story. Ours is that once upon a time, a very long time ago, it was a new kitchen. As time went on it got old, very old, and one day the previous owners decided to make it look new again. They installed new doors and laminated the fronts, which was great. Sort of. Great except that, because the cabinets were so old, none of the doors fit properly and the tiny cabinet above the microwave was so small that doors did not exist for it at all.

above-the-microwave

And so it was left open and awkward, a collecting spot for knick-knacks, dust and a healthy helping of grease.

dust collecting

Covering it up wasn’t an option, as we needed access to the microwave plug, and even after searching all the land, doors seriously did not exist. So the current owner (me) applied the age old adage that goes something like:

When life gives you lemons, or weird open cabinets, you make a wine shelf!

wine shelf!

It was a really easy project. The Mr. and I took some measurements, cut two planks of wood to length with 45° edges, slapped on some white paint, glued it all in place and voilà! a wine shelf was born.

diagram

I am floored every time I look at it … maybe because I’ve had too much wine, but. Shut up. I used to lay awake at night wondering what to do with the awkward ugly space above the microwave (a symptom of not enough wine), and now I’m actually happy it was there.  A wine shelf in the kitchen is a dream come true for this fairytale princess, and it really looks like an intentional built-in element of our kitchen.

diy wine shelf

It looks even better with wine in it.

wine

 

Can’t wait to show you how the rest of the room is coming along. Keep an eye on the Instagram feed to the right for sneak peeks!

MY Christmas Shopping List

I’ve taken the Christmas Pledge and have dutifully gotten to work having all my presents purchased and wrapped by the start of December. But as I make my lists and research gift ideas, I invariably end up finding loads of stuff I want for myself. Greedy greedy girl.

So if you just happen to be shopping for me, or (more likely) someone like me … a 20-something eco-warrior, animal lover, cat mom, science nerd, health nut, crossfitter, foodie, wino, hostess with the mostest, book-worm, shopaholic, chatter-box, blogger, newlywed … then you’re in luck! here’s what’s on my Wish List this year:

Starbucks Gift Card -$5

star

A Starbucks has recently opened up in my office building and I am officially addicted. I literally have a gold card of addiction-authenticity to prove it. A gift card in any denomination would be greatly appreciated.

UMBRA Ring Holder -$10

ring

For an adorably safe spot to place my new wedding band while it’s not on my left third finger.

Godiva Truffles – $10

godiva

Decadent and delicious. And I’m a chocoholic (I should add that to the above description of myself).

Cat Paper Clip Holder – $15

cat

Three reasons; 1. it’s a cat, 2. it provides a useful function on my desk, and 3. hilarious juvenile pun. Pussy magnet! Get it?

The “Food Lover’s Guide to Wine” – $20

book

This is one of the best ever food books, and quite honestly sounds like it was written for me. Help in the kitchen, at restaurants, AND at the LCBO … what can this book not do?

Gold Dot Double Walled Traveler Mug – $25

mug

I told you I was addicted.

A Ukulele – $30

uke

Because Audrey Hepburn sang Moon River in one of the most beautiful scenes of cinematic history … and every girl secretly wants to be Audrey Hepburn.

A Cucina Duo – $35

duo

To celebrate our mini Kitchen makeover, this hand-care duo would both look and smell amazing next to the new sink.

Swarovski Crystalline Pen -$35

pen

To keep in my purse to be both incredibly elegant and prepared every time the need for a pen arises. Like an Audrey Hepburn boy scout.

Red Chanel Lipstick -$40

lip

Something I would never spurge on my self is an expensive lipstick. And isn’t iconic Chanel red just a Holiday classic? Yes. Like an Audrey Hepburn Christmas angel.

Kate Spade New York Cueva Rosa Studs – $50

studs

Audrey Hepburn would have loved these! So pretty and sparkly, I would wear them right away for New Years Eve. Also, I’ve already bought a bunch of people Kate Spade stuff so now I’m really jelly.

Custom Pillow Recreations of my Cats – $60

cats

Because I’m obsessed with my cats. Obviously.

Veuve Clicquote Brut Champagne – $70

veuve

Although I wouldn’t say no to a bottle of anything, Veuve is my all time favourite. I can’t promise I will save it for a special occasion, I’ve been known to make a Wednesday a special evening celebrating a good song on the radio.

Ticket to “The Handmaid’s Tale” performed by The Royal Winnipeg Ballet at the NAC -$80

balet

Loved the book by Margret Atwood and would be thrilled to see a dance interpretation of the story performed by such a talented company. 

UGG Dakota Moccasin -$100

ugg

Sure, it’s a little pricey for lounging around the house, but I do a lot of lounging. I might as well have some cozy-chic style with these luxurious, über-soft suede and a sheepskin slippers.

Fossil Gold-Tone Bracelet Watch – $110

watch

I’d like to start wearing a watch and I think the traditional face of this one coupled with the elegant link bracelet  is really nice. Also I’m still way into gold.

Reebok CrossFit Nano 4.0 – $120

nanoTo complement my Lift shoes and save my running shoes for … running. Size 9 if anyone is actually wondering.

Hudson’s Bay Caribou Throw -$150

throw

I’ve always wanted to own some piece from this line of Canadian heritage. The throw is 100% wool and would be oh-so-cozy on the upcoming Northern nights.

Vanity Licence Plate – $250

blog plate

Maybe not of the blog (although I love you, you crazy followers you) but some quirky spelling of my new married name would be nice. Could be a couple-gift for the Mr. and me?

 MAC Book Pro -$1500

pro

Um yeah. There is only one man on Earth that would get me this. This not-hand-me-down laptop that has a battery life and sound (yes, that’s how bad my current computer is -> no sound and has to be plugged in all the time). This powerful piece of technology that would allow me to take this blog to a whole new level. This portal into the on-line world that is also a tool for me to create and contribute something beautiful to it. This all-inclusive pass to sitting in Starbucks for hours on end getting free refills of tea! OMG pretty please Santa Clause?

 

 

Subtle eh?

And now, because you’re craving it:

Kitchen Makeover Plans

Woohoo we are fixing the ugly kitchen! I like the big window, the layout, the pantry, and the gas range, but I have HATED everything else about our kitchen from the moment we bought the house. Hate is a strong word and I don’t use it lightly. But the green floors, rotten counter-top, leaking faucet, older-than-me dishwasher, and the fluorescent light all combined to make up a room I really couldn’t stand. There was even a green-and-white checkered back splash that I immediately painted over; here.

Now we are finally paying some attention to the space, updating what we can while keep costs as low as possible.

We found a set of almost-new appliances on Kijiji and are getting them next week! They will launch the room into the present and I’m looking forward to having a regular sized fridge that doesn’t stick out so much from the counter, and a dishwasher that doesn’t sound like a train. We are also going to update the faucet and sink, the ceiling lights, and do something with the awkward space above the microwave.

plan 2

The counter-tops are not only ugly but rotten around the sink and need to be replaced. We’d love to do granite but it’s just not in the budget … so laminate it is! Actually there are some really nice looking options in the big box stores, and anything is better than green.

The part I am MOST excited about is the floors. To save the cost and hassle of pulling out the old vinyl sheet and laying new subfloor, we are installing vinyl tiles. These can go right over the old floor and seem super simple to install. They are also groutable, so should give the kitchen a much more modern look. And, as always, we will paint the walls grey.

plan 3

We’ve already gotten started and are making good progress. We should be ready for the appliances next weekend. I cannot wait for it all come together and show you when its done!

The Christmas Pledge!

Karen, over at the Art of Doing Stuff blog, posted her Christmas pledge today. I have followed Karen and taken her pledge for a few years now and am firmly in the YES camp. This is a great idea! Actually its genius, like Karen.

Basically you swear upon the internet that you will get everything done for the Holidays before December hits.  You make a list of what needs to be done and a schedule for when you will do them. Here’s mine:

pledge

This way you get to spend the magical days before Christmas actually enjoying the Season. Instead of the time-pressured shopping, wrapping, cooking, decorating,  hair-pulling marathon, you could:

  • build a snowman
  • make snow angels
  • sip wine and sing carols
  • visit friends
  • go to parties
  • stay up late eating milk and cookies
  • cut down your own tree
  • make decorating the tree a fun evening involving eggnog
  • roast chestnuts {preferably on an open fire}
  • volunteer
  • go tobogganing / skating / snowshoeing followed by hot chocolate
  • see the Santa Claus parade
  • watch Christmas movies cuddled up under blankets
  • catch the TV Christmas specials
  • get family pictures taken / take pictures with Santa
  • get a massage/manicure/facial, whatever makes you feel pampered!
  • decorate a gingerbread house
  • walk the neighborhood admiring neighbors lights
  • and more!

Not convinced? Give it a try! No one will know if you don’t get everything done in November, but I promise that you will have a better December just making a start now.

Why You Should Have an Engagement Photo Shoot {and some pics from mine}

Trust me. People actually do want to see the pictures.

I had always loved browsing the engagement photo galleries of my friends on Facebook. Even distant acquaintances I hadn’t spoken to in years; it was a joy to see high quality photos of them looking happy. But when it came down to my own engagement, the thought of spending money on a photographer to take casual shots of my fiancé and I felt amazingly narcissistic.

But then I got over it. I found that my real-life friends were very keen to see happy cutesy pictures of Liam and me; just as I had been/would be keen to see theirs.

To further justify ourselves, we had the best photos from our shoot turned into a photo-book that doubled as a guest book at the wedding. People absolutely loved browsing the pictures during the reception. Now when we flip though the book, it’s not just pictures of us, but the notes of best wishes and love from our family and friends. 2d90b-dsc_5899

It’s surprisingly romantic.

How could it not be? You’re engaged, thrilled about the wedding and life with your partner, and then you are told to cuddle, hug, kiss, and outright canoodle as much as possible. Our photographer kept saying “Seriously, you guys can’t get close enough” and Liam would hold me tighter, I’d rest my head on his cheek, we’d stare into each other’s eyes. At first it felt a bit much, but for heaven sake this was our engagement! A public declaration of love and commitment is literally what the whole wedding thing is about.

romantic

It’s great practice for the wedding day.

I’ve never been camera-shy, you can ask anybody, but Liam was more than a little worried about being photographed. The engagement shoot was a great way to get comfortable in front of a camera, as well as get use to the poses and directions from the photographer. We also picked up little tricks like keeping your fingers just a little bit apart for a relaxed looking hand. Your photographer is likely a pro, and working with them on getting great shots will be a lot less stressful on a day that’s not the most important day of your life.

hand placment

It’s an (other) opportunity to express yourself as a couple.

Our wedding was an expression of who we are as a couple; modern, classic, elegant, travel lovers with a modern classic elegant destination wedding. But we also love canoeing, roughing it in the wilderness, and being silly. We used our photo shoot to express that.

express yourself

It gets everyone excited for the wedding. Including you. 

Most of my engagement felt like a weird waking dream. Internally I was excited, nervous, and very preoccupied with both the planning and the fact that I was about to embark on the greatest journey of my life. But of course the rest of the world just kept spinning like it was nothing. When our photographer posted 9 “sneak peek” pictures from our shoot on Facebook, the overwhelming amount of likes and comments from friends was incredibly reassuring. People said that they couldn’t believe how close the date was getting, how happy we looked, and they started asking questions about what the wedding would be like. Even members of our gym were coming up to us to talk about it! The public announcement made, it was as if the flood-gates were open. Yes my wedding is a big deal. Yes other people care about it. Yes this is exciting! ring

It’s an opportunity to commemorate a special place. 

The cottage has been in my family for almost 50 years, I grew up spending my summers there. I joke that Liam started dating me for access to it … and he’s never outright denied that. He loves the lake and the woods as much as I do and it’s become a special place for both of us. The cottage didn’t work as an actual wedding venue, but using it as the location of our photo shoot meant that this special spot was part of the whole wedding experience.

dock

You get to know your photographer.

Our photographer, Christine Aubrey, was recommended to me  by a long-time friend. We hired her after two e-mails and a brief look at her website -and that could have been it. She would have shown up to our reception, done great work and we would later have some fabulous pictures. But because we spent one lively afternoon together during our engagement, when she arrived at our wedding reception we hugged her like a friend. We offered her a drink, told her to eat some food, and treated her like she was another guest …  much nicer than having a stranger awkwardly walking around with a camera.

Liam and I both felt very comfortable asking Christine to take certain pictures of guests or small DIY details, where we might not have felt as at-ease had we not known her. A real professional will always do a professional job, but we certainly got more out of the experience having gotten familiar with our photographer during our engagement photo shoot. She also got to know us a little too, and I’m sure that will be reflected in the reception photos. I can’t wait to see them!

Christine-Aubrey-Logo2