Monday, January 26, 2015

HOW TO RENOVATE YOUR LIFE LIKE YOU WOULD RENOVATE YOUR HOME | CHOOSING TO DO LESS WITH MORE


Photos by Gabriela Hansen

As designers, we’ve all encountered more than a few clients who have a case of budget blindness. They’ve worked really hard and dreamed forever about what they would like to do with their house. They’ve saved and they’ve saved and they are finally in a place where they are ready to pull the trigger and SPEND on their space. And because those dollars are hard come by, they might as well be millions.

But the thing is, most often they’re not.

And when the budget blindness leaves you feeling like the WORTH of what you’ve got to spend exceeds the actual VALUE of what you’ve got to spend, well, you can be tempted to spread it out thinly like the last bit of peanut butter from the bottom of the jar onto a piece of dry toast. Never pretty. Never satisfying.

I’ve had this conversation many-a-time with clients over the years, though never quite like I’ve expressed it here. It usually begins with understanding the project scope, then understanding the allotted budget, then gently helping them align their budget reality with the work they can actually get done.

DO LESS WITH MORE


One of the things I always tell a client suffering from budget blindness is that they’ll never be satisfied doing a partial job on all the rooms in their house. Better to focus on one space and do it well and then save to do the next one. It may seem counterintuitive, but do less with more, I always say.

It’s in part a psychological thing: the finished space brings such clarity, beauty and inspiration that it fuels the process of getting the next one done.

It’s in part a legacy thing: a good quality renovation will outlast any design smoke and mirrors you might try to pull off cheaply.

And it’s also a sanity thing: it saves you from the mega-stress of getting midway into your project and hitting the inevitable “surprise” without the cash-in-hand required to fix the problem. It’s always best to leave margin. Order more tile than you need. Plan for it to take longer than anyone says it will. Budget for 10-15% overage on costs. And expect the unexpected.

AS WITH DESIGN, SO TOO WITH LIFE


Photo by Gabriela Hansen

Here’s the thing: I’ve secretly had a kind of budget blindness of my own for many years. Not as it relates to renovating my house, but as it relates to renovating my life. I’ve wanted for far too long to be all things to all people: a loving and supportive wife, an amazing mama, a really great friend, a successful entrepreneur, a creative, a maker, an innovator, a world traveler, a fit, healthy, happy, beautiful, spiritually mature, compassionate and inspiring woman.

Oh yes, and balanced.

I mean, it’s kind of funny when you read that last word, isn’t it? But it’s sincerely and earnestly been on my list, precariously perched at the top of my pile of goals like a pile of rocks that have truthfully been ready to topple over at any moment.

I want to do it all. I want to be it all. But what I am realizing is that this is really just a serious case of budget blindness with my life. As they say, you can do it all...just not all at once.

OK, so let's get really real here for a hot minute. I'm not in a position where I can just stop being a wife and mama and contributor to the world and do nothing but focus on my own personal development for six months to a year {although we all fantasize about that sometimes, don’t we? My version would definitely involve time on a vineyard in France somewhere. Because wine.}. I mean, it would make for a quirky narrative, but real life doesn’t work like that.

Still, I don’t want to do a partial job on all of the many rooms in my life at the sacrifice of excellence and true beauty. So how can I do such an inspiring job in each of the mental, emotional, spiritual and physical spaces of my life that it fuels me to dive head first - with passion and purpose - into the next one, knowing that I can accomplish something profoundly beautiful if I allot the right budget and time to it?

START WITH A SOLID FOUNDATION


Photo by Gabriela Hansen

Perhaps it’s less about renovating and more about laying a great foundation like you would with a new house. When I know that my health and key relationships are in a happy place, I can increase my capacity to take on more knowing I’m on solid ground.

Like my design clients, I’m learning that my time and energy budget - though hard come by - is smaller than I’d like it to be. I can try to fight it all I want, but I'm still just one woman with boundaries and limitations. The best thing I can do is learn not to spread myself out like remnant scraps of peanut butter desperately trying to cling to the edges of my proverbial piece of toast. I’m learning that sometimes I have to take it one life project at a time by laying a great foundation and then building into the other rooms of my proverbial house from there.

So this year, I’m committing to renovating my life like I would renovate my house. I’m going to spend my “money” on paper before I spend it in real life. I'm making realistic time and energy budgets and getting super clear about what resources I actually have to spend before I commit to spending them. And I'm getting really focused and honest about which “rooms” of my house need the most attention. I'm also intentionally leaving margin for the unexpected so it doesn't take me down when it happens. Because if there's one thing I've learned over the last several years, it's that the unexpected is going to happen.

HOW "NO" CAN LEAD TO "YES"


Photo by Gabriela Hansen
Interestingly enough, this has already meant getting way better at saying “no.” In fact, I’ve already turned down three really big and very exciting opportunities in 2015. Guys, it was hard. They were totally opportunities that I would have said “yes” to if I wasn’t being really honest about my time and energy budget and my commitment to renovating my life with excellence.

AS WITH LIFE, SO TOO WITH DESIGN


Renovating, building, designing and decorating all require a solid "no" to get to a great "YES!," don't they? Without the ability to say "no," our houses and our lives would both lack a focal point. What we edit out in design is just as important as what remains. Beautifully designed rooms have a clear focal point, and the same goes for life.

I'd love to keep letting you in on my renos as they unfold - the figurative and the literal ones. And in the meantime, I'd love to hear from you! Do you suffer from budget blindness - with your home or with your life? I’d love to hear about how you’ve been taking your blinders off and completing amazing renovations by choosing to do less with more.

xo
s.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Crème Brûlée Croissant French Toast | The Perfect New Year's Day Brunch!


I love traditions, especially when they involve food. One of our fam favourites for years now has been to wake up on Christmas morning, opening stockings and then feast on this total decadence. The time it takes to bake is about the same amount of time it takes to get through unwrapping all those little treasures stuffed into that knitted sock, so it's perfect. But let's not kid ourselves, friends. This is totally dessert for breakfast. And you know what? On Christmas morning that seems just about right to me.

{Side note: This is clearly not a gluten free recipe, and I don't actually eat it myself. I've made a gluten-free, eggless version for myself the last couple of years but it's...errrmm...not so photo-worthy if you know what I mean. Truth is, most of my enjoyment comes from the groans of glory coming from my guys as they eat theirs.}

Confession: This IS the perfect New Year's Day Brunch dish, but I have NOT styled a perfectly pretty table to present it to you. I had planned on taking the holidays off with my family to just relax and connect, but when so many of you saw my Instagram photo and asked for the recipe, I knew I had to oblige. So without further ado...


Here is my recipe for:

Crème Brûlée Croissant French Toast

INGREDIENTS:

1 stick unsalted butter {grass fed is ideal}
1 cup maple syrup
1 1/2 cups whipping cream {Have I mentioned this is not a "start your diet today" kind of dish?!}
2 eggs
2 TBSP ground chia seeds
1 TBSP cognac {optional}
4-6 flaky croissants, the size will determine the number required {the ones at Colette in Toronto are as close to Parisian as it gets 'round these parts, so head there if you can when picking up your supplies. You'll want to stay for brunch, trust me!}

METHOD:

Add butter and maple syrup to a saucepan and bring to a gentle boil until thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. Pour into the base of a 9x12 baking dish.

Cut the croissants in half and line the pan with croissants {cut side down} so as to absorb the caramel sauce. Cut small pieces to fill in the gaps after you've layered in the whole pieces so that the entire dish is completely covered in croissants.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the cream, eggs, ground chia and cognac. If you don't want to use chia {or you don't have any} just use 2 more eggs. And if you want to go totally eggless, just use 2 more TBSP of chia and skip the eggs. See? Options.

Pour the cream mixture evenly over the top of the croissants and cover with cling wrap. Refrigerate overnight. In the morning, preheat the oven to 350˚F and bake for 30 minutes. Cut into slices and serve with fresh fruit, bacon and really good coffee. It is New Year's Day, after all!

I have to take just a moment to reminisce with you about 2014. If I were to sum it up in one word, for me it would be beautifully unexpected. OK, so that's two words. But if I had just said unexpected that wouldn't have quite captured it. Tate was the most beautiful surprise we could have asked for and he's completely changed our lives for the better. He's been a bit like a "restart" button after some really hard surprises with family and health. And so as I head into 2015 I'm celebrating the beauty of the unexpected as I see it crawling around my living room and cruising furniture getting ready to walk.

Seems like a bit of a metaphor to me.

If you've had a hard year - if some of your unexpected's have been less than beautiful - I feel you. But our dreams, our potential and our futures are all bright, friends. Their beauty hasn't faded, and just like Tate, my gut tells me they are on the verge of getting their feet underneath themselves and not just learning to walk,  but learning to run.

Look out, 2015. Here. We. Come.

xx
s.


Monday, December 8, 2014

Gifts With Heart: Your Curated Gift Guide to a Compassionate Christmas | The Citizenry


You know that moment when you feel like you've found your people? They share the same love languages, the same aesthetic, they're passionate about the same things you are, and when you look at what they are all about you keep saying "Me too!" Yeah. That.

The folks at The Citizenry are my people.

A brilliant marriage of beautiful design and compassionate purpose, with The Citizenry's collection, neither is compromised. Each makes the other more beautiful. And together, they leave you utterly inspired. That's why I am beyond excited to feature them as a part of my Gift Guides for a Compassionate Christmas.




By personally traveling to each artisan country and using only local materials, the team at The Citizenry has created sustainable relationships with their artisans. And by selling directly online, they're able to offer handmade goods - crafted with the highest quality materials - at more reasonable prices than traditional luxury boutiques.

I love the philosophy behind their name: THE CITIZENRY.

"We set out to build a company that celebrates the people behind our products. Our name is a reflection of the collective of individuals – artisans, designers, and dreamers – who rally together across cultures and continents to craft our collections. The Citizenry is our way of sharing these stories and products with you."

The designs are so beautiful that you'd love them without that backstory, but knowing the beautiful process behind the products makes them the kind of treasures you can happily share stories about at dinner parties for, like, ever.

As a designer, I'm in love with the entire collection. The modern aesthetic and their use of wood alone had me at hello. And that butterfly chair with the copper frame? Come. On. Needless to say, you will not go wrong in choosing a gift for the design lover in your life from their collection.

To sweeten the deal, they've offered a couple of lovely little perks for my readers:

1) They always offer free shipping within the continental US, but they have happily offered a code for free international shipping on all orders (including rugs and chairs!!) for my fellow Canadians. Use code: FIRSTCLASSTICKET

2) Free gift wrapping on an unlimited number of items. Click here to add gift wrapping, and then use code WRAPPEDWITHLOVE at checkout and the $5/package gift wrapping costs will be removed! Easy peasy and delivered right to your door with the proverbial bow on top.

I hope this makes giving gifts with heart a little easier for you this year! I truly believe the most beautiful gifts are ones that don't compromise on either the process or the product.

xo
s.

P.S. A little shipping/shopping nitty gritty for you below:

USA, to deliver on or before Wed, Dec 24… 
Standard/free: Order by Sun, Dec 21 (midnight CST)
Express 2-day: Order by Mon, Dec 22 (midnight CST)

INTERNATIONAL, to deliver on or before Wed, Dec 24...
Standard for all countries, excluding Canada and Mexico: Order by Sun, Dec 14 (midnight CST)
Standard for Canada and Mexico: Order by Wed, Dec 17 (midnight CST)

Express: contact support@the-citizenry.com


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Gifts With Heart: Your Curated Gift Guide to a Compassionate Christmas | Far & Wide Collective


There's been a resurgence in the social consciousness of late; a reawakening to the value of unique items that are handcrafted by artisans who are truly valued for their work. I think we are realizing once again that the story behind the products we purchase matters. The people behind the products matter. And in our globally inspired world, those stories are often stories of people from the other side of the world.

The founder of Far & Wide Collective, Hedvig Alexander, has done a brilliant job of bringing her artisans stories to life as she curates the products that make up the collection. Her passion is empowering and honouring the makers while bringing beautiful products to the North American market. That is why the Far & Wide Collective makes for a perfect feature in this year's Curated Gift Guides for a Compassionate Christmas.

From baskets to jewelry and accessories to art prints and home décor, there is something for just about any lover of beauty on your Christmas list!




I hope you're feeling inspired to give gifts with heart this year! Empower an artisan across the globe and tell a story of hope while sharing beautiful treasures with your loved ones this season.

xo
s.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Gifts With Heart: Your Curated Gift Guide to a Compassionate Christmas | Ten Thousand Villages


It's December 1st and that time of year again! The time when we scour the globe in search of that perfect something that will light a spark in our loved one's eye and make them feel treasured. Honestly, gifts are my top love language {tied with words of affirmation} so I really value the opportunity Christmas brings to shower love on my special people this way.

For me, the best gifts are gifts with heart - gifts that are thoughtful, meaningful and personal. But gifts with heart can also be gifts with a compassionate conscience.

As you all know, I'm beyond passionate about the process behind a product, believing that the way something is made can contribute {positively or negatively} to its true beauty. If a product is made in a way that honours the people and planet involved in its creation, then it has true and lasting beauty. Conversely, if a product is made in a way that abuses people or the planet, then any outward beauty it may hold isn't authentic.

That's why I'm thrilled to shine a spotlight on Ten Thousand Villages today for my first Curated Gift Guide for the season. Ten Thousand Villages is all about authentic beauty from the inside out. They are one of the largest and most experienced fair trade retailers in the world, which could bring with it some hefty buying power. But rather than negotiating for the lowest possible price from the artisans they work with, they pay fair prices as set by the artisans themselves and reinvest company profits to support education for the next generation, food security, community development and the creation of more employment and leadership opportunities. Now that's a beautiful process.

Oh yes, and the products? Gorgeous! Just take a look at my Curated Gift Guide from Ten Thousand Villages this year.



I recently popped in to visit our Oakville location and was blown away by how many incredible finds were there waiting for me. So much beautiful craftsmanship, so many beautiful stories behind the products! And so many meaningful gifts waiting to be given.

The line up of products is so extensive I could never feature it all, so why not pop into a local store or visit them online and get your shopping done without ever getting out of your jammies? No one will be the wiser, and they'll be feeling the love when they open their gorgeous gifts with heart.

xo
s.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Thanksgiving-Inspired Homemade Baby Food | Baby Brezza


I don't know about all the other mamas out there, but transitioning Tate to solids has been  s  l  o  w. Seriously, I joke he is a part of the slow food movement. It's totally foreign to me because Noah was always a great eater. But Tate? Tate has chosen his own pace and his own timing, as he seems to do with many things.

Of particular challenge has been finding proteins we can get into him. The store bought baby foods with protein are just plain nasty - they stimulate his gag reflex in about 5 seconds flat. Honestly, I can't blame him! I was beginning to wonder if we would ever get over this hurdle together...until recently when I received a Baby Brezza. With the technology to make finely puréed, organic baby food right at my finger tips I found myself suddenly at an advantage in this mealtime game of chicken.


Sorry, bad pun.

Anyway, armed with my Baby Brezza and the steely determination of a loving mama, I found inspiration in my Thanksgiving stuffing recipe and set about winning this little battle. Turns out it wasn't mealtime {or protein} that was the problem so much as the food just needed to taste good. Go figure! I can handle making things taste good, and the Brezza can handle steaming and purée-ing things to a baby-approved fine texture, so together we are kind of unstoppable.


Here's what I did:

I started by sprinkling some dried herbs on an organic chicken breast and sautéing it on high heat very quickly just to brown it slightly. My goal wasn't to cook it, because the Baby Brezza fully steam cooks the food for you. I just wanted to give it some flavour, and a bit of caramelization on meat is pretty much magic, right?

I then sliced the chicken breast up and added:

1/4 c. organic pumpkin purée
1/2 an organic fuji apple
5 organic dried apricots
The teeniest touch of salt


I clicked the Baby Brezza into place {this requires a firm hand} and hit the steam + purée button and then chose the 25 minute cycle to ensure that the chicken would be fully cooked. I pressed the round green button and walked away.


25 minutes later I came back to perfectly puréed, actually tasty, totally healthy baby food. Yes, I did try it myself and yes it was indeed quite yummy. But the proof's in the pudding, as they say, and Tate was the ultimate taste tester.



The great news is, he approves! Such a huge relief to feel like I can get balanced nutrients into this sweet little nugget. I'm still experimenting with recipes, but my creativity is really the only limit. I'm sure it goes without saying that the Baby Brezza would make a really thoughtful gift for any parents-to-be on your Christmas list. And if you are a mom struggling to get your little one to eat their protein and greens, don't wait! Just pick one up for yourself right here.

Three cheers to winning that mealtime battle! Baby steps, right?

xo
s.


*Many thanks to Baby Brezza Canada for sending me this little baby mealtime wonder!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Inspiring Art, A VIP Party + A Giveaway!

Heads up, art lovers. There's a new kid on the curator's block, and she's all kinds of amazing. Friends, meet Alessandra Salituri of Citizen Atelier.


The most inspiring adventures are always born out of passion, and that is most certainly the case with Citizen Atelier. Alessandra spent countless hours visiting galleries and pouring over portfolios before curating her Montreal-based collection. And I think you'll agree, the art she offers is entirely chic, edgy, feminine, fashion-forward and totally my cuppa. In fact, she has included some of my favourite contemporary artists in her collection.

ANGEL I (left) and ANGEL IV (right) by ZENA HALLOWAY
I can't tell you how much I want one of Zena Halloway's Angels. Etherial. Dreamy. Feminine. Dramatic. Perfection.

And wouldn't it pair perfectly with one of Ashley Woodson Bailey's stunning florals? They are both moody and uplifting all at once {how is that even possible?}. Strong yet soft and somehow mysterious.

ALEX by ASHLEY WOODSON BAILEY
COOGEE WAVE by GRAY MALIN
Gray Malin's art just makes me want to go on an adventure and enjoy my life. Seriously. All of it. And that's the best kind of inspiration to have hanging on your walls if you ask me.

Remember Jenny Andrews Anderson? Yep, she is a part of Citizen Atelier's stellar line up as well.

BREAK by JENNY ANDREWS ANDERSON
As if Alessandra's twin-sister-taste in art weren't enough to make me love her, she's coming to town. She's not just coming to town, but she's kind of moving to town, because she's opening up her first bricks-and-mortar presence in partnertship with the gorgeous Black Rooster Decor. And naturally, she's having a coming-out party to celebrate. Think VIP, invite-only kind of scene, rubbing shoulders with the who's-who of design and shelter publications all right here in Toronto this Wednesday night from 6-9pm.

And here's the best part: One of you lucky art lovers can win the chance to get your name on the exclusive invitee list for said party where you can hang out with me and Alessandra while taking innumerable selfies and sipping something fabulous. Oh yes, and that is also when and where you will personally receive your choice of a small print from Citizen Atelier artist Georgianna Lane. Just feast your eyes on these beauties!

SPARKLE by GEORGIANNA LANE
VERSAILLES CHANDELIER II by GEORGIANNA LANE
VERSAILLES CHANDELIER I by GEORGIANNA LANE
VERSAILLES CHANDELIER III by GEORGIANNA LANE
VERSAILLES CHANDELIER IV by GEORGIANNA LANE
Who doesn't need a touch of Parisian magic in their home? Georgianna's prints are the perfect way to make that happen.

So how do you make sure you are the one to party like an art lover and walk away with the print to prove it? 3 easy steps:

1. Follow @citizenatelier and @thecuratedhouse on Instagram
2. Sign up for my email list in the right side bar
3. Pin your favourite Georgianna Lane print above to Pinterest with the hashtags #citizenatelierXthecuratedhouse and #artgiveaway

That's it! 3 easy steps to truly the most exclusively delightful invitation and gorgeous gift of the week, so hop to it, darlings! Just let me know about all your social media love in the comments below, and we will announce our lucky winner on Wednesday morning. Can't wait to see one of you at the party!

xo
s.

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