Monday, January 31, 2011

Cookin' it in the Kitchen with B

After Kerry's post last month about our little Christmas feast with her family, there were a couple of requests for the lasagna recipe with bechamel sauce. We figured... our readers want it, our readers are gettin' it!


The whole idea to this dinner party, was to keep it informal so that people could serve themselves. I came up with the idea of lasagna and I didnt want to just use a canned sauce and generic recipe (that would have been too easy since I was also in the middle of laying the tile and grouting the front entrance). I found my favuorite italian chef's recipe on foodnetwork.com and decided to run with it. 


First I started off with her recipe for a basic marinara sauce....


1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 small onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 (32-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
2 dried bay leaves


In a large pot, heat the oil medium-high until it just starts to smoke. Add the onions and garlic and saute until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the celery, carrots, and 1/2 teaspoon of each salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bay leaves, and simmer uncovered over low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour. In the mean time you should be able to grout and rinse 75 sqare feet of tile...Remove and discard the bay leaf. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper, to taste.


Once the sauce was made and the front entrance tile was drying I started putting together the rest of the lasagna. I began with the bechamel sauce;


5 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus 2 tablespoons for the lasagna
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk at room temperature
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/2 cups of the marinara sauce
Season with Salt and pepper

In a 2-quart pot, melt 5 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. When butter has completely melted, add the flour and whisk until smooth, about 2 minutes. Gradually add the milk, whisking constantly to prevent any lumps from forming. Continue to simmer and whisk over medium heat until the sauce is thick, smooth and creamy, about 10 minutes. The sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of wooden spoon. Remove from heat and add the nutmeg and tomato sauce. Stir until well combined and check for seasoning. Set aside and allow to cool completely.

While the sauce was cooling, I moved onto the tasty cheesy, meaty pasta dish itself.1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound ground chuck beef
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 pounds ricotta cheese
3 large eggs
1 pound lasagna sheets, cooked al dente
2 packages (10 ounces each) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
3 cups shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan


Directions
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
 In a saute pan, heat extra-virgin olive oil. When almost smoking, add the ground beef and season with salt and pepper. Brown meat, breaking any large lumps, until it is no longer pink. Remove from heat and drain any excess fat. Set aside and allow to cool completely.


In a medium sized bowl, thoroughly mix the ricotta and eggs. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.


Into the bottom of a 13 by 9-inch baking dish, spread 1/3 of the bechamel sauce. Arrange the pasta sheets side by side, covering the bottom of the baking dish. Evenly spread a layer of all the ricotta mixture and then a layer of all the spinach. Arrange another layer of pasta sheets and spread all the ground beef on top. Sprinkle 1/2 the mozzarella cheese on top of the beef. Spread another 1/3 of the bechamel sauce. Arrange the final layer of pasta sheets and top with remaining bechamel, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Cut the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter into 1/4-inch cubes and top lasagna.


Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place lasagna dish on top, cover and put on the middle rack of the oven and bake until top is bubbling, about 30 minutes. Remove cover and continue to bake for about 15 minutes.


I made two trays with this recipe and put one in the freezer for a later date. The one lasagna served 8 adults along with the two rotisserie chickens we also made.

It was most definitely a hit among our guests, and a recipe we would no doubt use again. What's your favourite go-to recipe when hosting an informal dinner party with family and friends? We're always open to trying new ones!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Fancy Friday Love

We're nearing the end of January, which means another month of winter behind us. Unfortunately, February can be just as cold, grey and depressing around here. So why not keep it bright and happy with some fancy finds?

I may just always start my Fancy Friday love with some beautiful rooms from Erin! How sweet is this little boys room that she shared last week? Love the combination of the soft grey, light blue and white. As cold as those colours are - it still seems like a cozy little toddler space, with room to grow! :)


Janice picked the perfect light fixture for her fabulous dressing room!


Every woman should have a great space like this to get ready in... as well as a selection of clothing that impressive!

I may not have loved our kitchen when it was yellow, but I sure do love this sunny kitchen (and that fantastic window treatment) that was shared on Create Girl (via Better Homes and Gardens). Doesn't it just scream spring time?


Earlier this week, this home was highlighted on {this is glamorous}... and is it ever glamorous. My true dream home really! Head on over to the blog to check out some comparison photos of the home in the listing, and how it appeared in some publications... very neat!


This has to be the BEST idea ever for a wedding (via The Sweetest Occasion)...



Sharstin did a great post the other day full of beautiful and inspiring things. It was in this post that I discovered Joyfolie, and I'm now dreaming of all of the beautiful things I can buy if we have a sweet little girl this summer...




Another pretty low key weekend for us. This afternoon I'll be heading to IDS11 with a classmate for a school assignment (rough, I know) and I'm hoping to get to run into some of my favourite blogging ladies that will also be around. Should be a great time!

B's almost done the trim work in the front entrance, so keep an eye out for that update soon (it's looking awesome!). There are some other projects that I also hope to get moving at home this weekend, but for the most part we're keeping it simple and hopefully relaxing (December was nuts, I figure we deserve a few quiet weekends). Hope all your weekends are great! More fancy to come on Monday!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Perfectly Imperfect - Crystal's Condo

Another Thursday afternoon, which means another Perfectly Imperfect space! Today Crystal from Major Gal is here to share her own personal space with us! Crystal is a fellow Torontonian who I met through the blog world / Twitter, and she is an incredible writer and an absolute sweet heart! Her blog always has fun posts, that always make me think and brighten my day,so if you haven't been by her blog yet - make sure to check her out! It's only fair. After all, she is inviting you into her condo!

I’m by no means an interior designer. I know what I like. I appreciate solid design and I marvel at spaces I consider gorgeous. Do my finances match my taste? For the most part, not even close. Every so often though, I find a gem at a great price. I have a lot of “gems” or things other people would consider clutter. My condo is small, but it’s in downtown Toronto, has a gorgeous view and when I was hunting, it was one of the few places that had parking and would allow me to bring my dog, Gigi with me.





This space if perfect for me. It’s a mixture of new and old. Of bargain and glamour. Of texture and function. It’s small and it’s covered in things that make me happy when I look at them. Magazines are usually scattered on my hand-me-down Ikea coffee table.


Bottles of nail polish and hair elastics are always within arms reach and the throw pillows I bought from Walmart are usually on the floor. Gigi is either perched atop a pillow on the couch or she’s “nesting” in the leather sofa and throws the pillows on the shag rug.


It’s part of her ritual and because I’m such a routine person, I get that she has to do this several times a day. She burrows through pillows whenever she sees them and because I find throw pillows are a great way of adding colour to a space, she has ample opportunity to burst through stacks of them when she’s at my place or at my Dad’s house.


I like girlie stuff. I’m trying to get all the shine and sparkle decorating out of my system now while I’m living alone in what my boyfriend calls the “pink palace.” It doesn’t look like Hello Kitty threw up in my condo, but it’s definitely got more glitz than my boyfriend’s place. When we take the plunge and cohabitate this fall some of my more feminine items will likely find a new home in a spare room or (gulp) a box in the storage unit.


I’m big on candles and I light them every day. I got these great fake crystal candle holders at Home Sense this summer and I adore them.


Something I also love: California. When BF spotted the huge mixed media Cali print above the TV at Urban Barn this summer, he knew I had to have it and I’m thrilled that he loves it also. That’s one thing I know will have a prominent place in our shared abode.


I’ve got a lot of stuff and although I try to keep it neatly organized and displayed in a visually appealing way, I know that not everyone considers the spines of books “d├ęcor.” I stack my books according to jacket cover. I like sorting most things by colour actually. My closet – although not my current closet as my condo has a major lack of storage – is organized by article of clothing, sleeve/skirt or pant length and colour. Colours go lightest to darkest. I like seeing a colour progression when I look at things. I also had all my crayons neatly displayed in the same fashion when I was a little girl. Maybe I was always this anal about colour…

This space is imperfect because it’s small, but it’s perfect because it’s lived in every single day and the leather couch from my Dad’s basement is comfortable. I’m using every available square foot and I’m trying to find a home for every piece of furniture, picture frame, candle holder, etc I’ve collected through the years. It’s crowded, but it’s all mine.

Big thanks to Crystal for inviting us all in for a sneak peek of her place! I'm loving that it's girly and pink, and I so wish I had, had a place of my own to girl up before B and I moved in together! Even that beautiful shot of the Toronto skyline that you captured has gorgeous pinks and purples that coordinate with your condo! You and your adorable Gigi are welcome here any time!

Make sure to come back next Thursday because Shannon from 8foot6 will be here sharing her pefectly imperfect space! I know... are you shocked that she had an imperfect space in her home? I was!

The Final Decision

Thank you ALL so much for your feedback on yesterday's post! For the most part it seems we've got it right... maybe a tad longer and narrower, which is what I had been thinking too. We'll just have to measure where we were, and then see how close we can get when buying a canvas! Thanks again - I appreciate all your help!

Today I wanted to talk about one of the least blogged about spaces in our home. The little reading nook that B has created for me in the basement. B created it using some over the fridge cabinets from Ikea (inspired by Aubrey + Lindsay), and nestled it between the basement stairs and our bathroom.



The only difference between October and now, is that there is less stuff piled on top of our foam pad. I've been agonizing over finding the perfect fabric, and then, just the other week, I found it! I ordered a sample from Tonic Living, and when it arrived I knew it was perfect! Even B agreed it was great (he didn't exactly say that as B doesn't get excited about fabric, but he said "okay"... which is pretty much the same thing to me)! Just to be sure, I checked it out in the basement against our walls (Sarah Richardson's Pearl), and again, we had a match!
I wasted no time at all and ordered 4 yards of fabric on Monday so that we (and by we I mean myself and my Mom) can get rolling on the seat cover. Customer service was SO GREAT! There was an issue when my order was placed (that I wasn't even aware of) and I got an email making sure I wanted to place my order. Everything was confirmed and completed the same day and my fabric was in my hands by YESTERDAY! Incredible right? Love Tonic Living!

Anyway, so why was this fabric "the one"?


I loved all of the colours in it - the yellow, green, blue, white and brown was perfect. I could use so many colours to finish decorating the basement (and I'll have so many options for pillows), plus it's kind of playful for a space that will soon become a play / hangout area for us and the little peanut.
I'm also in love with this sign from Old New Again, I'm just not sure I'm ready to pay $54 for it! Maybe a DIY project to tackle with the scroll saw B picked up for me a while ago off craigslist (and I have yet to use).

I just cannot wait to have my own little space to curl up with a good book or magazine, and snuggle into some beautiful throw pillows (that I still need to find)... or maybe just curl up with the peanut and read he / she a book!

Do you have a special space that you like to curl up to read and / or relax? What makes it so special to you?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Living Room Artwork

Recently, the lack of artwork hanging in our home has been getting to me! I am longing to finally have some pretty pieces up, and I've got B on board, as I have decided to go the DIY route. The one spot that bothers me the most is just to the left of the couch (if you're looking at it), between the built in bookcase and the pass through... see it below with a drastically undersized frame hung (which I have since removed as it clearly looked ridiculous).


Our plan was to use painters tape to find the perfect size of artwork that I want to hang here. So exactly is it that I plan to hang there? A personal piece of artwork that I plan to paint myself... and this is my inspiration...


I originally posted about this piece back in October after spotting it over on Oh Happy Day! I'm loving the way it looks and think that doing something similar with some grey's, white's and yellow's would be fantastic... maybe some blue, as well? I have some options to move forward with creating my artwork that I'll get to later, but first, I need your help...

When I got home from work last night, B grabbed some painters tape and we taped out an area that we thought would be good for the canvas, and this is what we came up with...


Don't you just love crappy quality photos because of the lack of daylight? Seriously - these were taken at 7pm... just frustrating (okay, I could also adjust the white balance on my camera... I'm just too lazy).

Of course, the final canvas may be a bit larger or smaller, depending on what size canvas I can find. What I want your help with is deciding if we've got the size right (roughly), and do we have it hanging in the right spot?

I didn't want it to line up directly with either the top of the pass through or the top of the bookcase, and I wasn't too sure if it should go much lower. What do you think - have we got the size about right? Should it go lower? Maybe just something longer? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Dream Home - With a Little TLC

There were no reader requests for this weeks Dream Home series... but I'm okay with that, because I was able to indulge myself once again! For quite some time, I've been bugging B to plan a trip to Quebec City (we're seriously hoping it will happen this spring before the peanut arrives), so for today's Dream Home, I decided to find something in this gorgeous Canadian City. I tried to switch things up a little in my search, but when all else failed, I ended up going with my most trusted website, Sotheby's Realty. The home I found is listed for $4.25M Canadian, and would be the perfect home for B and I.... if we were millionaires. The house isn't "perfect" in these photos - but the bones of the home are gorgeous, and with a little TLC and elbow grease, it could surely be a stunner.

According to the listing, this home was constructed in 1932 and is located on Quebec City's "most prestigious avenue". The avenue may be prestigious... but the curb appeal could definitely use some work...



I won't even go into the list of things that need to be done to liven up this gorgeous home - they're quite obvious if you ask me. What I will draw your attention to is the size and amount of windows in this home! Wait until you see them from the interior...


This little entry way is just stunning (if you lose the unecessary lace curtains). I'm picturing a really great wallpaper to replace those outdated florals, or maybe a really bold colour. The woodwork is fantastic, and how about the glass around the doorway as well? That trim and glass work is repeated throughout the home too!





PLEASE, look at those gorgeous pocket dooes, and the size of those windows! I don't know if the rooms are ACTUALLY that huge, or if they just look that way because of the wide angle lense that was used, but the windows would make up for tiny rooms. I would probably even try to get that couch and those chairs included in the sale!



The size of this dining room is impressive and that wainscotting and the beams on the ceiling are just killing me. I can see some seriously fantastic Thanksgivings and Christmas dinner's served here.

Let's take a quick stroll of up the fabulous staircase...




I know it could use some work, but those fireplaces and those fabulous huge windows upstairs! If only we had that much natural light in our tiny home. I'm suddenly craving a huge house with lots of wall space and fantastic windows! PLEASE!

The listing includes a few more photos of some outdated rooms that could be so much better, but these ones hold all of the details that really had me swooning. Can you picture how beautiful this home could be with just a little TLC? If you're interested in checking out more on the property, you can find the listing here.

Where do you dream of calling home? Or is there a particular style of home you're looking for in your own neck of the woods? I'd love to search out some beautiful (or in some cases, not perfect) both near and far - so send me your requests, and I'll see what I can dig up!

Nursery Inspiration

We're still quite a few weeks away (at least) from finding out the gender of our little bundle of joy, but this hasn't stopped me from hunting down some lovely inspiration for our nursery to be! The space we will be using is currently used as our bedroom... here's a few photos of the space from when we first moved in, and a peak at what it looks like at the moment...





It's a decent size space for a little peanut, and will definitely seem a lot bigger once our queen size bed and large dresser are out.

We've already got a pretty polka dotted and stripped, brown and white bedding. I know I want some bright colours to go with it, but I haven't settled on a final choice yet (and probably won't until well after we know the gender. Below are a few nursery's I came across during my searches. I set each aside in my inspiration file for different reasons; colour, style, certain aspects...
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At this point, who know's where I'll end up... I have so many ideas, and I'm so excited to get to decorate this new space in our home.

So here's the question I pose to you - what colour schemes (including brown) do you like for boys and girls. I'm always open to new suggestions, and I'm sure that some of you will offer up ideas I haven't yet considered.... Thoughts?
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