Saturday, September 6, 2014

Four Fabulous Reasons to Join Me at Blogpodium!

In just one short week, hundreds of Canada's brightest and best bloggers will gather at the event of the year for reigniting our blogging fire: Blogpodium. For all the summits and conferences and gatherings that happen south of the border for American Bloggeratti, Blogpodium is really the it conference for those of us in the great {and, thank God, not-yet-white} north.

"Why should I be there?" I hear you asking. Here are four fabulous reasons to join me at the table:

1. Relationships In Real Life

Last year I sat around a lunch table with a group of amazing and inspiring women from across the country and inadvertently landed right next to the lovely Lisa Canning. We compared pregnancy notes {we were both pregnant at the time} and dished about life as interior designers and what our goals were for our blogs. It was so wonderful to connect with someone who was experiencing a lot of the same joys and challenges I was facing, and we've kept in touch since then!


The internet can be a lonely place, loves. Even though we may be connecting with tens of thousands of people with our posts, we don't get to connect over coffee most of the time. And I don't know about you, but relationships are my oxygen, my fuel and what reignites in me a desire to inspire and create meaningful content. After all, if it's not for meaningful connections with real people then who is it for? So come and put faces to names and meet new kindred spirits. You'll be glad you did.

2. Inspiration and Collaboration

This is a phenomenal opportunity to hear people's stories and learn from their successes. Not just those with a mic, but also those sitting right beside you. The world of blogging is an ever-evolving medium, and having the opportunity to be a part of the conversation about where we've come and where we are going helps to shape it for the better...for all of us. And who knows? You might just find someone you want to collaborate with - on a series of posts, on a project or as a peer mentor. Come open and ready to both give and receive.

3. Brand Relationships

I am duly impressed with the fruitful efforts of the Blogpodium team in engaging with fantastic brands. They continue to aim higher and work harder to provide an environment for you to see and be seen so to speak. From the market-like environment of the breaks to the targeted breakout sessions, this is a brilliant opportunity to connect with brands that really understand a mutual win mindset.

4. Flat-out Fabulous Content

It is so easy to create noise and fluff in a world that is already cluttered with the DIY-how-to-become-an-internet-sensation-overnight-glitter-glue of social media. That is NOT what you will find here. From marketing experts educating you on SEO and how to architect brand partnerships to photography and vlogging workshops, you will be taking notes, picking up business cards and making the connections you need to propel your platform forward, loves. The keynotes will inspire you, the breakout workshops will equip you, and together it will fuel you for a fabulous finish to 2014 and a fresh start for the New Year ahead!

So here's to making connections, learning, growing, and shaping this fun and fabulous world together as we get our inspiration on. I hope you'll join me!


All photos by the fabulous Annawithlove Photography

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Announcing The Babe

I am long overdue in sharing our newborn photos with you, so in the spirit of Throwback Thursday, I'm playing catch up today! The truth is, I don't think cuteness has an expiration date, and there is a serious overload of cuteness in what our dear friend Gabriela Hansen captured here, friends. Yes, I'm biased, but oh my heart! Looking back I still swoon and turn into a puddle of mama-mush at the site of my sweet newborn babe, and I had the hardest time narrowing it down to just a few photos to share with you on here. I mean, just look at those precious little feet!

He looks so tiny and delicate in those early days, doesn't he? I absolutely love this shot {below} of his big brother tenderly kissing his forehead as Tate fusses and reminds us all who's in control. You're surrounded by love, little man. It's all good.

Noah truly is an ah-MAZE-zing big brother, loving Tate and paying such thoughtful attention to his needs. And yes, even changing diapers! {Hi fives for that mama win!}

As you can see above, Noah's got the "big bro glow" and it hasn't faded yet. Such a gift...

...As is the sight of my love holding our second born baby boy in his arms. There's nothing like the bond between a dad and his boys to melt the heart of his wife. {Graham would have been featured in more of these photos if he hadn't been working! Love that man. SO much!}

As you can see, we are pretty seriously smitten. It's for real, folks. This little guy has my heart.

We couldn't keep all that goodness to ourselves, so working with Minted we created this very special birth announcement to share with our family and close friends.

I can't say enough about how impressed I am with Minted. I've worked with them twice now and they have totally exceeded my expectations each time. From the high quality of the extra thick, matte card stock to the customization with designs created by indie designers to the proof process to the customer service and super fast shipping, I am a fan. Simply put, they are my kind of people.

And they are your kind of people too, because in the spirit of generosity Minted is offering readers of The Curated House a 10% discount AND free shipping on any orders from now until May 21st when you use the code CURATED10FS at checkout! Translation: It's time to set down that cup of coffee and go check out all they have on offer! Not only do they do birth announcements and invitations and printed paper goods of all kinds, but they also have an amazing collection of limited edition art prints which is exactly where I would be heading if I were you!

I do plan to share much more with you in the coming days, including Tate's nursery and Noah's pied-à-terre and more about our birth story {the early days}. But for now, our pace is being decided by the sweetest little dictator I know.


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Our Birth Story

It has been almost 12 weeks since the arrival of our sweet baby Tate, and oh, have we been savouring him! I can hardly believe how fast the time has flown. Cliché, I know, but so true. I've thought of you all so often and have wanted to catch you up on things around these here parts, but the little man has taken top priority and that has meant not having my hands free much. I've also been trying to be gentle with myself by prioritizing healing and recovery. And let's be honest, the sleep deprivation also meant not having my head free much, at least not in a coherent sort of way!


I want to share Tate's birth story with you, especially for all you mamas-to-be. And I want to start by saying this: Any way you have a baby is amazing. I mean, you carried, nurtured and grew another human life inside you for 10 months and then it came out of you and greeted the world with tears and cries and wonder. That is a miracle. And whether you had your baby at home or in an ambulance at the side of the road or in the hospital by c-section doesn't matter. What matters is that your baby is in your arms and you love them more than your beating heart can contain.

It's always been strange to me that motherhood could be a competition. I noticed it keenly after Noah was born - women comparing birth stories and their babies' milestones and achievements like they were accolades. I didn't like it then and I don't like it now. So sharing my story is not my way of giving you something to compare against, because comparison is the thief of joy. It is my way of letting you into my world and {I hope} encouraging you, all with the knowledge that we are each unique and that's a good thing.


I think every mama-to-be lands on some kind of a birth plan before the big day. I really came to my birth plan for Tate by way of my experience of giving birth to my gorgeous 9lb 4.5oz Noah. Having watched an amazing piece on a news program showing women giving birth without drugs and in quite a calm state, all by preparing mentally for the process of birth, I had done a lot of reading about the fear-tension-pain cycle. The basics are this: the more afraid you are of something the more your body will tense, and the more tense your body is the more intensely you feel pain. That intense pain causes you to be afraid and tense up, and so goes the cycle. I knew I didn't want that if I could help it.

So I coached myself as if I were an athlete preparing for a big race. Each night, I reminded myself that pain in childbirth is normal. Whereas pain in regular everyday life is usually a signal from the body that things aren't right, in childbirth, pain is a signal that your baby is coming to you. Pain signals something beautiful happening, and your job is to embrace the process. I told myself that the more I embraced the process of childbirth and the pain that comes with it, the less I would resist and the faster I would have my baby in my arms when the time was right.

I mentally walked myself through the 3 stages of labour and what would happen in my body. I visualized my happy place {the ocean and beach in Turks and Caicos} and I had a mantra that grounded me more than anything else. I did that mental work every night for about 3 or 4 months before my due date, and Noah's birth was pretty incredible. Two and a half hours of active labour and twenty minutes of pushing later, I was holding my beautiful baby boy in my arms. I literally felt like I'd run a race and won!

Noah was born in the hospital, and there were aspects of that experience that I didn't enjoy, so I decided after some serious deliberation that I would prefer to have Tate at home, an option for me because I worked with midwives this time around. I really can't speak highly enough for these amazing women. To be a midwife is not just a career, it is a calling. Their round-the-clock commitment is remarkable, and they are not just practitioners. They are your partners. They are your cheerleaders. They are your caregivers. I'm so grateful I made the choice to work with them. The care I received from them was truly exceptional, before, during and after Tate's birth.


I did a lot of the same things in prep for Tate's birth that I did for Noah's {lots of prayer and positive thinking}, but I was more relaxed about it because I had such a positive experience to build upon. I had used the tub at the hospital to get through labour with Noah and I knew I wanted to be in water again with Tate.

One of the things I didn't like at the hospital was that they made me get out of the tub and walk across the hallway when I was 9cm dilated and ready to push! I so wanted to just push Noah out in the water. The buoyancy was so gently supportive of my body. Knowing how much I love the water, we decided to rent a large birthing tub for Tate's birth plan. It was delivered and set up in the nursery about 3 weeks before his due date.

As you probably know by now if you follow me on Instagram or we are connected on FB, after being told by the midwives that they thought he would be coming early, Tate decided to keep us all on our toes and hang in there an extra 6 days past his due date. We all agreed that given how fast Noah had come, I should call them a bit on the early side if I thought I was in labour.

After 3 false starts over the previous weeks {only one of which I called the midwives for}, I knew for sure we were in business on the morning of January 16th when the contractions were relatively consistent at 8-10 minutes apart. I was still calm and able to talk {don't believe what you see on all those TV dramas!}. The contractions were still more like bad cramps, but I knew I was in pre-labour, so we called our midwife Dana and she came by the house at around 8:15am to check me and see where we were at. Her plan was to then go and see her clients at the clinic for the morning and come back at around lunchtime.


Needless to say, Tate had other plans. By the time Dana had finished checking me, I'd kicked into active labour with contractions coming way faster. It was obvious that Dana wasn't going anywhere. Graham had already been filling the tub with warm water, so I got into it pretty quickly and used the water to soothe my body and sort of swish my way through each contraction. Graham was amazing, placing cold washcloths on my forehead as things heated up.

And heat up they did! My second experience of labour was definitely more intense than the first. Being at home, I allowed myself to be a bit more vocal about it. I'm so glad it was a Thursday and Noah was at school! The transition phase was really hard {as it was with Noah} and then it was time to push. I think Tate would have come out faster if it wasn't for the fact that he was holding his left fist up by his temple. Talk about strong and determined! It must have taken a lot of willpower to keep his hand up there while being squeezed out of the birth canal.

I found myself wanting to push but recoiling from the pain. His little fist up there meant that there was a lot more circumference coming through all at once, and I could feel myself tearing. In the end, I just breathed past the pain and after about 15 minutes of pushing, out he came. The world changed at 10:39am with the introduction of Tate Michael Alexander Walker - all gorgeous, peaceful and perfect 8lbs 8oz of him!

He and I each wound up with our own war wounds as a result of that determined little fist of his. I tore quite badly and he wound up with a little cyst on his head where his fist had been pressing into it. All that was nothing compared to having him safe and here in our arms, though! All I could do was keep saying "Hello! Hello, my love! You're here! We did it!!" I cried, but only the good, salty-sweet kind of tears. There were a lot of answered prayers all wrapped up in Tate's birth story.


I'm so grateful to the midwives for their gentle and loving approach. Letting me bond with my baby was top priority after he was born, so Tate lay on my chest for about an hour skin-to-skin as soon as I was out of the tub {yup, even while I was getting my stitches - he was my perfect distraction}. I also got to take a hot shower in my own bathroom and lay down in my own bed right away. And I got to totally forego the horrors of hospital food, eating a delicious and nourishing meal that we had prepared ahead of time. I know home births aren't for everyone, but it was totally the right choice for us.

Tate was truly so calm and peaceful after his water birth. He let us know when he was ready to try nursing for the first time by actually working his way towards the source. Babies are such breathtaking little miracles! The experience of nursing him for the first time didn't feel forced or clinical like what I had experienced with the nurses at the hospital with Noah. Don't get me wrong. It wasn't like the clouds parted and the heavens descended or anything, but it was a quiet, connected and special bonding moment. I felt supported and safe in my own little home.


Graham went and collected Noah from school at around lunchtime so he could come home and meet his sweet new baby bro, and Noah actually snapped the first photo we have of Tate {above} with Graham's phone! Noah was grinning ear-to-ear and beyond excited to meet his baby brother after so much anticipation and such a long wait.

We basically just snuggled in bed all afternoon, called and emailed friends and family, shared a quick "he's here!" FB update....and then we slept...


There's more to our story that I'd like to share with you in the hopes that it might be encouraging or helpful, but that will have to wait for next week's post.

For now, snuggle up with the ones you love and tell them how much they mean to you.


Friday, January 10, 2014

Project Nursery Update | Art Grouping #1

With the bones of the room just the way I want them, it's time to get on to the one of my favourite parts: the art! I have so enjoyed curating the art groupings for this nursery. I wanted the art to mark the space with a sense of joy and delight, not to mention a healthy dose of whimsy. This is the grouping that now sits over the change table. Here's what it looked like all laid out on the change table itself before we installed it:

And here's how we installed it, along with a bit of the story behind each piece!

The central piece is by far the most storied. It just happens to be Graham's favourite bear from when he was a little boy. This bear was/is undoubtedly besties with the Velveteen Rabbit, because his formerly velvet paws were rubbed raw by Graham's sweet little baby hands. Seriously, just picture that for a moment. Cue heart melting. I swoon at the sight of his roughly stitched patches, matted fur and cock-eyed smile, especially knowing that he comforted my man when he was just a little man! This bear has seen some really good lovin' in his time.

I commissioned my furniture maker to craft the beautiful natural walnut shadow box for Graham's bear to nestle into, and I love the way it turned out. Because the solid wood shadow box is heavy, we put two anchors into the wall and drilled screws right through the back of it, hiding the mechanics with a simple board that I covered in a piece of blue and cream abstract modern linen from Kelly Wearstler for Kravet. I love the modern backdrop it creates for Graham's vintage snuggler. A sweet little nest for this very "real" bear to call home.

Once the central piece was installed, we moved on to installing the two whimsical wood prints from Big Bear's Den that I picked up at this year's Christmas One of A Kind Show. I once again had my furniture maker craft the frames for these two little lovelies {which he then generously gave me as a Christmas gift! People are so kind!}. I'm thrilled with the result and love the way the walnut frames create a sense of warmth and connect with the wood on the change table/dresser. He made the frames to be installed with a wood block cleat on which to hang, and I love how stable this makes them. {See Graham installing the wood blocks above.}

The piece on the right says "wisdom begins with wonder," and I don't know about you, but I could use more awe and wonder in my daily life. I also think babies - and kids in general - are an invitation to be present and utterly mesmerized by simple beauty, observers of the oft-missed wonders in the world around us. It's a good little mantra for life, really!

From there it all came together rather perfectly with a few final pieces, as you can see below:

TOP RIGHT: A dollar store DIY of mine, simply mounting two feathers in a shadow box frame on a remnant piece of oyster coloured shagreen wallpaper. {Total cost: $1.50}

BOTTOM RIGHT: The most charmingly debonaire faux taxidermy rabbit from Felt Factory, which I also picked up at this year's One Of A Kind Show. I simply couldn't leave that booth without bringing one of her sweet woodland creatures home with me! It was love at first sight.

BOTTOM LEFT: A gorgeous piece by printmaker Emma Nishimura from Art Interiors, floated on top of a heavy piece of watercolour paper in a simple but lovely black shadowbox frame. I've secretly been coveting this piece for a long time and LOVE how it connects with the birds in flight on the drapery panels. I also love the sophistication and refinement of this delicate print.

TOP LEFT: These bocce balls are also from Art Interiors. I've actually owned this piece by artist Erin Vincent for a few years now. It used to sit on a bookcase in another room in the house, and I have to take this opportunity to once again make a case for the value of buying smalls. {I know, I'm a broken record!} But really, you can rearrange smalls endlessly, reinventing the look and feel of a room simply by moving around the art. I love the sense of play this little piece infuses into the overall look of this grouping, and the fresh pop of colour is quite welcome.

Overall the grouping is rather soft and gentle. A little bit sophisticated, a lotta bit whimsical, and it totally makes me smile. With each addition to the room I have the growing sense that I'm really going to enjoy spending time in here. It's a good feeling.

I promise to show you more photos of this grouping above the finished change table below. I'm thrilled with the beautiful change table topper that Graham made for me. It's simple, good looking and super functional. As if he hadn't already, Graham has quite firmly planted himself at the top of the super-husband list for life around here by making it. I am seriously so grateful for all of his talent and hard work!

And of course, there's also the art grouping on the panelled wall that sits above the crib to show you...and the crib itself...and the rug and the chair and the ottoman...and the baby. Oh yes, that small matter of meeting the petit oeuf for whom all of this has been created! I'd say he's the biggest reveal yet, wouldn't you? All in good time {she says calmly while secretly thinking "soon, I hope!"}.


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Project Nursery Update | Getting the Bones Right | Wall Paneling, Paint Colour + Curtains

You may remember my post from a few weeks ago on where to start for inspiration when decorating. The advice I shared in that post really does apply to almost any room in the house {save kitchens and bathrooms}, but the nursery is a lovely example. Working with this gorgeous rug and incredibly charming and slightly whimsical Thom Filicia for Kravet fabric, I knew we were off to a great start.

The mood I wanted to create in the nursery was something of a quirky elegance; a whimsical sophistication. I knew I wanted a quiet colour palette to soothe and calm both baby and me, so the grey and cream colour palette offered the perfect place to start.

To up the sophistication factor, we opted to keep the walls very simple while still making a statement. Enter one of my favourite go-to wall treatments: paneling. Some applied moulding added to the new baseboard and crown give this room a sense of "bones" and presence without working too hard. It creates just the kind of elegant backdrop I want for the kind of new eclecticism I envision.

Sherwin Williams very generously provided me with my all-time favourite go-to paint for the walls, ceiling, baseboard and trim: Creamy 7012. The walls, paneling, crown and ceiling were all painted flat, but the baseboards, casing and doors are done in a semigloss. I love this colour because it is a warm white without being yellow, and yet it has more depth to it than some of the other go-to warm whites commonly used. Even better, we used Sherwin Williams' Harmony VOC-free paint to ensure a happy, healthy environment for the sweet babe.

{Side note: I wanted to see the floors sanded and stained in the nursery to match the floors in the rest of the house, but the time and effort required as well as the fumes it would have produced nixed that decision. Another project for another time.}

Once the painting was done it was time for the custom curtains to go up. I can't begin to tell you how much I  l-o-v-e  these drapery panels! The Thom Filicia linen fabric - an incredibly generous gift from my kind and lovely friends at Kravet - is both lighthearted and elegant and will transition through many years of living. I would happily use this print in a living room or a grown-up bedroom just as much as a nursery, and I love the sense of freedom connoted by all the birds in flight. I have no doubt we will be living with these gorgeous linen panels for many years.

Working together with the feature wall of books and art in the reading nook, things are really starting to feel inspired. I just know I'm going to enjoy spending countless hours in here with my little one!

There is still more artwork to be installed, and of course the rug, crib, chair and ottoman need to be put in place, so stay tuned! More sneak peeks ahead...


Monday, January 6, 2014

Project Nursery Update | Creating a Feature Wall with Books + Art

"Children are made readers on the laps of their parents."
Emilie Buchwald

I am a huge believer in the power of reading. Reading empowers, inspires, educates, enraptures and engages minds of all ages. Reading keeps us thinking, dreaming, imagining...reading has the power to transform, and reading together with our children allows us to create memories and a bond that will last a lifetime. It also sets them up for school with a natural love for language that is truly invaluable.

All this explains why my plans for the nursery were very much designed around where and how to create a feature wall of favourite books, and I'm truly delighted with how this little project has turned out!

The inspiration started with my favourite book publisher, Chronicle Books. I created a wish list of inspirational favourites featuring art and heart, whimsy and story in the way only the Chronicle Books library does. To my utter gratitude and amazement, Chronicle sent me all the books I had on my wish list as a generous gift for the nursery! It felt like Christmas morning opening the box to discover these charming and delightful volumes.

We bought three of these simple picture rails from IKEA to create the feature wall. Given that they come in a lacquered bright white, we started by painting them with a high-adhesive primer and then used my favourite trim colour - Sherwin Williams Creamy 7012 - to soften them and tie them in with the rest of the room.

To me, books are an indulgent opportunity to escape. They transport us into the adventure of our own imaginations through the imagination of the writer, taking us to quirky and delightful, familiar and foreign places, awakening our senses along the way.

"Children must be taught how to think, not what to think." 
Margaret Mead

I decided to play with this theme of travel and adventure for the top picture rail using art and two decidedly charming and debonaire French plushies. You may remember these plushies from my registry post awhile back? Well, a globe-trotting artist friend of mine just happened to take a trip to Berlin {from whence they hail} and graciously served as our "immigration and naturalization companion" for these two sweet little characters who came home to play with us. 

These Frenchies - from the brilliant Berlin maker Nicole of Nikoki - add a sense of whimsy and charm that makes my heart truly happy. For now they will stay safely on the top rail of this feature wall until our future world traveler is a little older when we will no doubt have countless picnics with Pierre Le Bear and Jean-Luc {an elephant who hails from Provence} complete with baguette and red wine and much merriment and adventure.

The art is a mix of 3 pieces that I have picked up along my travels. On the right, an oversized postcard we picked up on our last trip to England on a visit to the London Eye. Floating it over the mat in a simple frame from Pottery Barn elevates it to the status of display-worthy, and I love the sketched simplicity of it.

In the middle is my favourite piece in the trio, a Paris print that I found on Etsy, hand painted and then printed by the lovely and very talented Kim of Albie Designs. After I had purchased the print through Etsy, Kim blew me away with her unexpected generosity and refunded me the cost of the print as a gift for the nursery!! Kind and amazing people are everywhere, and it is such a delight to have been blessed by one such soul in the very talented and incredibly kind Kim.

On the left, a hot air balloon print that I bought at a liquidation warehouse for $5 {for two!} rounds out this little grouping and says "let's fly away together." I hope we will travel the world in real life as a family as this little man grows up, but I know that no matter what, we will be travelling the world together through these inspiring books and countless hours spent reading in this sweet little corner of our universe.

All that is left to complete this charming little nook is the swivel-glider chair from CR Laine, which is on its way! I can't wait to get that in place and - more importantly - to be holding our sweet baby boy in my arms and whispering inspiring stories and fabulous adventures into his ear for years to come.

There are many more updates to share on the nursery as things really are coming together. Assuming he holds out a bit longer I will share more with you very soon!


Saturday, December 28, 2013

Foodie Friday | Chateaubriand with Port and Red Wine Sauce | The Perfect Festive Meal for Your New Year's Eve Fête

We made it! My goal of getting through Christmas without having this baby has been achieved, and I am so grateful. Just a few more days and we will also cross the finish line to having this baby in the New Year! I may have no control over these goals, but it still warms my heart to be getting closer to achieving them! I'll say it again - I'm grateful.

One of the reasons I'm grateful is that I was able to make this special Christmas dinner for my family again this year. Food really is a love language, especially to my sweet 10-year-old boy. Noah looks forward with genuine anticipation to the decadence of this very special meal every Christmas.

I say decadence because beef tenderloin is the most expensive cut of beef you can buy, which is why we save this for very special occasions. But it is so worth the wait. Like melt-in-your-mouth, make you moan kind of worth the wait.

I'm going to share the sides with you as well, because it makes for such a nicely rounded plate. This year I made Roasted Root Vegetables with Bacon and Thyme as well as our classic Cauliflower Purée and the overall meal was fantastic. But let's start with the pièce de résistance.


3 inches of beef tenderloin per person
olive oil
salt + pepper

I recommend making the vegetables and the sauce first and leaving the beef until right at the end of your cooking time as it really doesn't take long and you do not want to overcook it. Order of operations and timing make this meal so much better! For me I start with the veggies, move to the sauce and make the beef at the very last.  The beef really is the easiest part of this meal, and here's how you make it:

Preheat the oven to 450˚F. Add 1-2 Tbsp of olive oil to an oven-safe pan. Season the beef tenderloin with salt {I use Maldon} and lots of freshly cracked pepper. Heat the oil on the stove top until it is rippling but not smoking and then brown the meat quickly on all sides. Place a meat thermometer in the centre of your cut of beef tenderloin and transfer into the oven. The amount of time required will depend on the size of your cut of beef, but for a nice medium-rare you will not want to cook it past 135˚F. Remove from the oven and pull out the meat thermometer. Place on a platter and tent with tinfoil for at least 10 minutes.

Once all of your sides and sauce are finished and you are ready to plate, remove the tinfoil and slice into 1/2" pieces. I usually aim for 3 thick slices per plate and often leave the end pieces as "leftovers" as they are not as tender. Or should I say, the end pieces are the "extras." There are rarely leftovers with this meal...I mean, who am I kidding?


1 Tbsp olive oil
6 cloves garlic, chopped
6 shallots, chopped
salt and pepper
1 sprig of fresh rosemary, removed from stem and chopped
1 sprig of fresh thyme, removed from stem
3 cups good Port
3 cups dry red wine {I used Bonterra's Cabernet Sauvignon}
2 cups organic beef broth
2 cups sliced Shiitake mushrooms, washed and sliced
Knob of butter
1/3 package bacon
1 Tbsp butter at room temperature
1 Tbsp Cup4Cup flour

The instructions for this portion of the meal really cross over into the making of the Roasted Root Vegetables as well as I cook the whole package of bacon together in a 350˚F oven for 10-14 minutes until browned but not crispy. Remove the fat and drain the bacon on some paper towel. Once the fat has drained off, chop the bacon roughly into 1/2" pieces and set aside.

In a large pan, heat the olive oil and add the garlic and shallots, sautéing over med-high heat until translucent. add a generous pinch of salt, cracked pepper and the fresh herbs, port, red wine and beef broth. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes or until the liquid has reduced by at least half. Strain out the garlic, shallots and herbs and return to a saucepan.

Once the beef has gone into the oven, heat a small sauté pan and add the washed and sliced Shiitake mushrooms, cooking until the edges are golden and caramelized. Add the shiitake mushrooms and 1/3 of the cooked and chopped package of bacon to the reduced sauce and bring back to a boil. When the beef comes out of the oven, mash together the 1 Tbsp of butter with 1 Tbsp of Cup4Cup flour until they are well combined and add to the simmering sauce to thicken. Turn off the heat under the sauce once it has thickened and cover to keep warm.

OK, up next one of my favourite new twists on a classic. A friend was telling me about her early Christmas dinner menu for her family gathering and roasted root veggies were on her list. It inspired me to reinvent them a bit for this meal - nothing extraordinary, just a different twist on what I've done in the past - and I really love the results. I honestly feel like I could eat this side dish as my main meal for lunch every other day through the winter months and be totally satisfied. So yummy. So comforting.


6 small beets or 4 large beets
1 bulb of fennel
1 large parsnip
4 large carrots
2/3 package bacon, cooked and roughly chopped into 1/2" pieces
6 sprigs of fresh thyme, removed from stem
olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
salt and pepper

Texture is very important to me with food. I don't like having one part of the dish undercooked in comparison to the rest, so I start this side dish by roasting the beets on their own {skins on} in a 375˚F oven for 30 minutes. Pull them out and let them cool and then peel and chop them. Meanwhile, peel, prep and chop up the fennel, parsnip and carrots. In a large sauté pan, heat 1-2 Tbsp olive oil and add the garlic, fresh thyme, fennel, parsnip and carrots as well as a generous pinch of salt and freshly cracked pepper.

{Side note: remember that game you used to play as a kid with grass that had gone to seed? You'd ask a friend "tree or bush?" and your friend would guess which one it would become before you ran your fingers up the stem to gather the seedy fronds on the end? Well that's the easiest way to get the thyme off the stem as well.}

Cook the veggies quickly on a high heat until the edges start to brown slightly. Remove from heat and add chopped beets and the remaining 2/3 of the package of bacon. Spread out on a baking sheet and return to the oven at 350˚F for another 30 minutes until the veggies are caramelized and gorgeous and the bacon has crisped up. Finish with another generous pinch of good sea salt like Maldon.

As a side note, I throw the veggies back into the oven right at the end after the beef comes out, but with the oven turned off. This warms them back up again right before serving without overcooking them and makes the most of my little waltz of counter and oven space in the kitchen.

Next up, plating! Once the beef has been sliced you want to move quickly, starting with the cauliflower purée.

Add the succulent and tender Chateaubriand on top of the cauliflower purée {or on the side if you're a "no touchy" kind of foodie} and top with the gorgeous port and red wine sauce. Finish the plate with the roasted root veggies and some sprigs of fresh thyme for garnish and ENJOY!!!

This really does make an incredible meal for New Year's Eve, perfect savoured with good friends, good wine {Chateauneuf du Pape is amazing with this dish} lots of laughter and thoughts of all the treasures that the next 365 days might hold. I don't know about you, but I'm feeling quite excited for 2014!

Wishing you all a warm and happy weekend with the ones you love.


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