Best Summer Appetiser {Endive Boats}

best summer appetiser

As invitations to summer BBQs start rolling in, I find myself turning to this go-to favourite to bring as the perfect appetiser / side dish / whatever.

It’s light, refreshing, and super easy to throw together.

What You Need
Boursin cheese (any flavour, but I like basil)
endives
pecans
honey

What You Do
Slicing off the root of an endive, start peeling away the leaves. You will need to keep slicing at the root-end to be able to gently remove each layer. I like to keep the leaves all about the same size, so I’ll only use the first few layers of four or five endives (and save the rest for salad).

The rest is pretty basic; spoon on the Boursin, top with a pecan, and drizzle with honey. Voila!

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There is so much yum going on with these. The spicy of the endive balanced with the creamy of the cheese, plus the earthy flavour of the herbs and the double-shot of sweetness from the pecan and honey. They are also pretty and easy to eat.

I’m sure there are dozens of equally delicious variations (I’m thinking cream cheese + smoked salmon + dill, or goat cheese + pomegranate + black pepper, et cetera) so have fun and don’t stress about what to bring to your next BBQ. Just get out there and start enjoying summer!

Kitchen Excuses

I’m not sure what excuses can be made for how long it took our kitchen renovation to be done. We started last last November, like not the mostly recently passed November -the November before that, and didn’t finish up completely until only a few weeks ago.

It would have been one thing had we ripped it all out and started from scratch, moved around electrical and plumbing, or torn down a wall or two, but our plans were modest! Over a year to paint, change out the light fixtures, replace the counters and appliances, and lay a new floor right over the old one? Not cool lifestyle blogger, not cool.

before and after 2before and after 1

I mean it looks good, but a year and a half!?!

To be fair, there were unexpected delays. The counter top installation left huge scratches in my painted back splash adding a whole new project of covering it with adhesive tiles. My calculation was off on the tiles so I got half way through the job before realising I needed more, which then took a few weeks to come in.

I fell in love with a fabric and just HAD to have it made into Roman shades even though I had painstakingly cleaned every single panel on the old perfectly good blinds. We were also interrupted by projects like the Basement Makeover, sparked by water damage, and the Backyard Makeover, sparked by nice weather and a desire to be outside.

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Mainly though, we simply ran out of steam when all the big work was done and left things like “nail up the trim” and “touch up the paint” on the To-Do List month after month. It IS done however, and only now while putting this post together do I really see what a transformation it has been.

Green rotten counter tops are replaced with grey Wilson Laminate Soapstone purchased and installed by the Home Depot. We upgraded to a square edging so that it would look more like poured concrete. The sink and faucet are from our local Costco and were terrifically affordable buys. I like the black granite sink that is fathoms deeper than the old one, and the high arc faucet is both useful and aesthetically pleasing.

virtual-tour-208535-26The green linoleum floor got a quick coat of primer and then 12″x 24″ Allure vinyl tiles placed over it. I was very pleased with how well the floor project went; the peel-and-stick installation process was a breeze! The tiles being grout-able meant that the resulting floor looks almost like real tile, just much softer and forgiving. I can drop almost anything and it wont break. It is however easier to scratch, so be extremely careful moving heavy things across it (like refrigerators!). Also, don’t slop a bucket of water over it when washing. Water sitting in between the tiles will tend to discolour the grout. Just dry it a titch after washing, or use a steam mop.    virtual-tour-208535-28

To further justify the length of time this project took, I will note that although the changes were limited and easy to implement, the transformation is actually quite dramatic. These craft-like jobs (floor stickers, wall stickers, painting, a little simple wood-working) made a big difference in updating the aesthetic of the space. So a small job with a big impact can take a big-job amount of time … squared. Right?

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Time well spent I guess, a lot of time, but well spent.

 

 

The Ultimate Before & After {pre-sale!} Home Tour

We are moving! After almost 4 years in our first home together, we’ve decided that a big house in suburbia isn’t the lifestyle we want. We’re looking to downsize significantly and lead a lower-maintenance life. To do that, we need to sell (!) and for the last 18 months or so, all our efforts have been geared towards that goal. The hardwood floors, the bathroom makeovers, basement refinishing, all the painting and landscaping have been an endeavor to make our home more desirable.

As we were gathering the information needed to put our house on the market, I came across the original listing pictures from when we purchased. The changes we’ve made over the years are pretty remarkable and make for some very dramatic Before & Afters:

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We have certainly come a long way! Hopefully our personal touch, not to mention the hours of hard work and no small amount of money, we’ve put into the place is appreciated by potential buyers. This is a great house, and has been a fantastic home to us, we’ve just fallen out of love with it and are ready to move on to a new chapter.

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Thanks to our Realtor Sandra Monsour
And our Designer Allison Ross
for helping us get our home looking so fabulous

Ready to POP Baby Shower

Today I’d like to share a Baby Shower I threw for my sister-in-law about a month back. She welcomed her beautiful healthy son into the world earlier this week and Liam and I are just ecstatic for the new family.

The Invitation & Theme
“Ready to Pop” was a wonderful theme to work with right out of the gate. It was easy to find balloon decked stationary; I chose a vistaprint.ca design that is cheerful and gender neutral. We knew the baby was a boy, but as this was a coed shower, wanted to keep everything as inclusive as possible. We held the party of about 30 guests in our home for a fun and laid-back affair.  invite

Food
The most import part of any gathering! Everything served fitted with the theme:

Popcorn Shrimp w. Thai chili sauce
Popcorn Chicken w. plum sauce
Jalapeno Poppers w. queso
Salad with Poppy-seed Dressing
Pancetta & Cheddar Popovers
Pesto & Chive Popovers
Pop-Tarts
Snap Crackle Pop Rice Crispie Treats
Cake Pops*food

*full disclosure: these are Tim Horton’s Timbits. The local bakers wanted about $3 per cake pop! Sorry, that was not in the budget. But for $10, some drizzled icing and a lollipop stick, these impostors looked great and tasted like good old-fashioned Canadian deliciousness.

Games and Activities

Ready to Pop
To get everyone loosened up, we handed out mini-helium balloons + tooth picks,  counted down together and POPPED! One balloon contained confetti, which burst all over the winner of a fabulous door prize.

Diaper Thoughts
Guests loved writing funny messages on the bums of newborn diapers. The new parents should appreciate the late-night comic relief as well. An instructional sign told guests to “pick a diaper and write on the BOOTY, something to take their minds off the DOOTY“.

Potty Pong
Like beer-pong, but with training-potties. Particularly enjoyed by the gentlemen. games

Baby Amuse-Bouche
A blind taste-test of various baby food. I was ruthless with this one and included flavours like corn, beef, and turkey. Muhahaha!

Pop Quiz!
We challenged our guests to a surprise round of baby trivia. Free French and English downloads available here and answers here.

Decor and Other Stuff
Balloons were obviously the decoration of choice for this party, and I scattered bunches of them around the house in colours pulled from the invitation.

A wooden train-set played centerpiece, winding around small arrangements of seasonal button mums, and is now a bonus gift for the baby! Simple cut tulips in tall glass vases also helped create that spring-time feeling.

Adults enjoyed a “Pop, Clink, Fizz” Mimosa bar and “Pop a Cold One” beer bucket. Kids loved the popcorn machine.

Favours were an assortment of “pop” candy, including blow-pops, ring-pops, pop rocks, and Popeye cigarettes.

For a guest-book, people left messages in the Dr. Seuss book Hop on Pop. How more on the nose could this theme be?details

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There was of course a hearty round of gift-opening by mum and dad-to-be and the customary “oooo”s and “awwww”s from spectating guests.  gifts

It was a wonderful party -to plan, execute, and attend- and a pleasure to meet the friends and family of a couple who have brought a wonderful little bundle of awesome into all our lives. guests

(also, our new hardwood floors look fantastic!!!)

No Doors No Floors No Problem

Although I have not been posting at all lately (sorry) we’ve been very busy since our bathroom makeover. Busy getting new floors! Our house was a hodgepodge of irreversibly dirty carpet and three different laminate flooring (not including the laminate we installed in the basement). We decided to unify everything with quality, easy to clean, durable, beautiful, timeless hardwood floors.

Usually we like to DIY our projects but thought the installation of such an expensive product merited some professional help. We hired a contractor who is doing a fantastic job and is wonderful to work with. Still, being a hands-on type of couple (who likes to save money), we are doing all the demolition ourselves as well as giving the entire house a fresh coat of paint. We spent a very unromantic Valentine’s Day dismantling furniture, ripping out the ratty old floors, and eliminating the last of the peach walls. Ah l’amour.   IMG_3883

Over the last few weeks we’ve been living with piles of boxes, scattered furniture, bare floors, door-less closets, and worst of all; a television in the bedroom. I hate falling asleep with the TV on, and let’s face it, there are better things you can be doing in bed at night! Reading, obviously.

Liam loves it and feels like we are living in a poorly finished hotel. The cats are also enjoying the new (temporary!) set up, probably because there is much more room for them on the bed than on the couch. Even I have to admit that sometimes, after a long day of trim painting and furniture shifting, it is kind of fun to snuggle up in bed and Netflix together.   IMG_3978The project is about 30% done at the moment and we estimate it will make the house look 3000% better. But you won’t see more until it’s completely finished for the big reveal. For now enjoy these sneak-peaks of the new room colours (grey, what else?) which already make everything look so much nicer in spite of the mess. It’s not easy living with everything literally turned out and upside down, but there are moments of joy in the novelty and deep down we know it will all be totally worth it.

 

 

 

 

Happy New Bathroom

I didn’t have time to post this upon completion, as that was literally hours before our big Christmas Eve dinner party. But, by some Christmas miracle, our guest bathroom was finished in time for the Holiday, and it looks fantastic!

The hardest part of this project was cutting the bamboo counter top. None of the big box stores would do any cuts for us as they are afraid of this hardwood damaging their so-called power tools. In the end we accomplished very clean cuts using a circular saw fitted with a finishing blade (60 teeth). As with our Laundry Room counter, we taped under the cut lines to prevent splintering, this was especially important for the bamboo which splinters easily. For accuracy, we used a large plank of wood as a guide, as seen is this very helpful video.

The cuts were so true that we were able to use one of the counter pieces as a back splash, which is simply glued down with construction adhesive. All the edges and cracks are filled with clear silicon caulking, and the counter surface itself is sealed with mineral oil. I am in love with the naturally rich look of the bamboo.

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It wasn’t in the budget to replace the vanity, so all the doors and drawers got sanded down and re-finished with a cream enamel paint. It’s hard to photograph, but there is a nice sheen to the vanity now. The hardware also got replaced to help update the look.

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Installing the sink and faucet wasn’t bad; just a few trips to the store for the right pieces to upgrade the shut-off valves and the p-trap. Time will tell if everything is water-tight, but so far so good!

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The electrical stuff came together fairly easily. The pretty new light fixture is much brighter than the old one, and all the beige switches got replaced with white ones. Remember to use GFCI outlets around the sink!

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The toilet was obviously replaced, as was the wall cabinet above it. A new shower curtain covers the ugly old tile surround I wish we could replace … but as this guest shower gets used very rarely, it isn’t much of a priority.

 

Overall, we made a vast improvement over the moldy, run-down little bathroom this used to be. It is incredible what the pressure of a tight dead-line can do. And now we have a happy new bathroom for a Happy New Year!

before and after

toilet before afterSee my previous post for the shopping list for this room.

 

{Christmas Rush} Guest Bathroom Reno Plans

Just because the Christmas rush isn’t stressful enough (sarcasm) Liam and I have decided to renovate our main bathroom before we host over 30 people to a sit-down dinner on December 24th. The good news is that we had been mentally planning this particular project for a while, so had already stockpiled the materials. Inspired by the beauty (and relative cheapness) of a bamboo counter top, I decided on an earthy wild-child look for the room.

 

guest bath plans
Shower Curtain / Wall Cabinet / Toilet / Rug / Light / Mirror /  Sink / Bamboo Counter / Art / Slate Tray / Towel Ring / Door Handle

The bad news is that with less than two weeks until Christmas, our bathroom looks like this:

bathroom during candy

Festive! We keep telling ourselves it will be okay because we have a plan. Its pretty simple; just some painting, plumbing, and minor electrical work, nothing complicated … eeek!

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So yeah, we have some work to do!