Afer a long cold grey winter, it’s so tempting to get carried away with all the pretty spring flowers. Trouble is, tulips and daffodils don’t last very long. I adore the look of blue hydrangeas, but temperature fluctuations at this time of year mean they often die. I’m a gal who needs bang for her buck. So, if I’m going to spend anything, I want to enjoy my plant containers for months instead of weeks. That’s how I justify splurging on winter and summer pots like the ones I’ve shared with you on this blog. So, the only time I ever go to the effort of making spring planters is if they can be cheap and/or easy (prefereably both). If you want more fab photos and info on the elements I used, click ‘continue reading’ (below). Or, if you just want to see the video demo of how simple these babies are to make, here’s the link to michelleswalnutkitchen easy spring planter demo. Continue Reading
GET READY FOR WINTER…AND I’M NOT TALKING COATS, HATS & MITTS
Appreciating the beauty of this season is easy after a fresh snowfall. But, on those ugly, freezing, slushy grey days, I need a dose of PRETTY! So, part of MY preparedness plan for the drudgery of these cold months is to indulge in beautiful winter planters. Don’t laugh! It’s a splurge that makes me happy and warms my heart. When I see 2 pretty winter containers flanking each side of my front door, it’s the best welcome home hug I can think of.
Winter planters are THE best welcome home hug PARTLY because the window right beside them is where my dog Woody is always perched!
There are tons of beautiful, affordable pre-made winter pots out there. But, I’m a sucker for those extravagant planters in the fancy neighbourhoods done by high-end florists. Unfortunately, they are WAY out of my league in terms of the price tag. So, my compromise is to make them myself! I love channeling Martha Stewart! It’s great to be outdoors, nice to be creative and it is satisfying to know you saved money by making it yourself. The end result isn’t always perfect, but perfection is overrated. Continue Reading
As much as I love travelling and going out (especially to dinner), I’m a homebody. One of the simple pleasures for me is getting my hands dirty in the garden. Hey, can you blame me? I worked on a fair share of gardening shows at HGTV for over a decade. My son, Alex and I are experimenting for the first time since he was a little boy. We planted some vegetables together on Mother’s Day. Fingers crossed that the raccoons, squirrels and abundant shade don’t lead to their demise! What I haven’t done until now, is plant my summer flower garden pots. Every year I like to try something new. I’m SO thrilled with the way they turned out that I just had to share what I did!
It’s a great creative outlet to choose the combination of flowers and greens. Before I commit, I usually scout around the neighbourhood and take pictures of planters I like. I also make a trip to the garden centre to scout out prospects and to get inspiration. As with any design choice you make inside OR out, when selecting the plant material for your garden pots, it’s important to factor the colours surrounding the exterior of your house. Choose plants that are complementary to the existing shrubs, trees and flowers, as well as the roof shingles and paint trim of your windows and doors. For me, the biggest challenge is working with the colour of the orangey brown bricks of my house. I’ve always been partial to blues and purples. In the spring I love the lilac hue of Phlox and lighter violet blue pansies. For summer, though it’s not always easy to find those calming colours. Continue Reading
IN THE WALNUT KITCHEN, THE VITAMIX BLENDER REIGNS SUPREME!!!
I’m a convert. I admit it. And I’m here to spread the gospel. I never could understand what the fuss was about when it came to high-end blenders. Anyone I knew with a ‘Vitamix’ (or archrival brand: ‘Blendtec’) sang its praises. Why? I’d ask myself. It’s just an appliance. But, this is not just any kitchen accessory. It’s a power tool for your meals. I can honestly say that since I splurged on this pricey piece of kitchen equipment, not a day has gone by that I haven’t used it. For what? Besides making nut milks like this homemade almond milk recipe, I use this high power machine to make my breakfast smoothie EVERY morning. It’s a great gadget that helps me be healthy. (Check out my recipe for a healthy green smoothie here)Continue Reading
MASTERFUL JEWELLERS DON’T JUST CREATE BEAUTIFUL ‘OBJETS D’ART’
THEY ALSO CRAFT THE WAY WE CHOOSE TO EXPRESS OURSELVES
Jewellers enable us to be chameleons.
From one day to the next, I love that I can be:
Bold, colourful and fun
Fierce, edgy and cool
Elegant, classic and demure
Fashion is a creative way to make a personal statement and hey, what girl doesn’t love the chance to do so with jewellery? Especially since it’s also THE best way to finish off an outfit and elevate it from good to GREAT!
Jewellery doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg! Since Valentine’s Day is almost upon us, remind that ‘someone special’, or better yet, love yourself enough to spoil yourself!!! Not sure what to get? Hold onto your hats! Let’s take a trip around the world so I can share my all-time favourite jewellers with you.
First stop, New York where 25 years ago, Alexis Bittar was hawking his hand carved jewellery on the streets of Soho. Today, he is described as “One of the Greatest Jewellery Designers of the 21st Century”. Most famous for his colourful Lucite collection, his jewellery is sold worldwide (including here in Canada at Holt Renfrew). It has been featured in EVERY top fashion magazine, and umpteen celebrities including Cameron Diaz, Lady Gaga, and Michelle Obama have been photographed wearing it.
I personally opted for neutral Lucite pieces which I thought were more practical than going for colour. I love the luminosity of the Lucite and have a couple of pieces adorned with Swarovski crystals which are so sparkly and perfect for a more dressy look. The plain lucite looks great with jeans and a t shirt.
Next stop, Tel Aviv, home of Jeweller Ayala Bar. Her handcrafted mixed media jewellery combine Swarovski crystals, glass, textiles and assorted metals that all come together to create a rich mosaic and a unique hippie style.
Next stop, Madrid where “Uno de 50” was created in the late 90’s by a group of designers looking to produce jewellery that merged ‘tradition and modernity’. Today the jeweller is SO successful that they have franchises in over 40 countries including two locations that recently opened here in Toronto.
Although these photos probably don’t do it justice, I love this modern chunky necklace called “The Jellyfish” especially because I got it on a special girls’ trip to Vegas with my lovely sisters-in-law Debbie and Cheryl. Every time I wear it, I’m reminded of them AND I’ve received so many compliments on it.
I’ve saved the best for last. Not just because I’m a believer in supporting local artists, but this jeweller has been a staple in the Toronto scene AND in my personal collection for as long as I can remember. Her passion and love for her craft is evident in every handmade masterpiece she makes. It’s no surprise that her jewels have been featured in various magazines and worn by a very large and loyal clientele as well as celebrities. Check out these pretty babies!
I wanted to give Beth Godfrey a shout out because she also happens to be a great friend who has been so generous with her jewellery to SO many charities and with her pals like me.
Heck, she even named a pair of earrings I love and wear all the time after me! Beth Godfrey’s jewellery is very wearable, feminine, playful and best of all, AFFORDABLE and is a great way to express your personal style. Links are below.
Check out Beth Godfrey’s site and put your name on the mailing list so you can be informed of local trunk shows, special sales and promotions. Subscribe, follow her on Instagram or e mail her directly to book an appointment. Happy Valentine’s Day and Happy Birthday Beth! Here are all the links:
And that’s why THIS is the season to go all out on your containers with something pretty
They really do bring a little warmth and sunshine your way every time you walk in and out of your home during the frigid months. Or, at least they do for me.
So, if you haven’t already got your outdoor pots planted, then rush out this weekend while the weather is still mild!
We are all busy, especially at this time of year, but since there are so many options, there’s no excuse! The easiest, (but not necessarily the cheapest OR most attractive option) is obviously to pick up a pot that has already been arranged. BUT, if you want to enjoy a creative and meditative exercise, why not try making your own pots the old fashioned way! Creating something beautiful is fun, easy and so satisfying. I like to do something more elaborate for the front door and something simple in the back.
SIMPLE 5 MINUTE BACKYARD CONTAINER (easy peasy!)
Large Leaf Boxwood 26 inch round wreath
Copper LED bundle Lights
For this traditional cast iron pot, you don’t even need soil! Place the wreath around the circumference of the planter. It literally took me 5 minutes to wrap the lights around the sphere. Then, place the sphere on top of the wreath and voila! Done!
I didn’t want to go to the expense of buying outdoor lights, so instead I got the indoor battery powered variety. To protect it against the elements, I placed the battery pack in a Ziploc baggie and then placed it in a plastic container so no moisture can get in. I just turn it on manually when I want to light it up. So pretty at night!
Tip: Save your grapevine sphere, pine cones, logs, coconut shells etc. They are expensive and should be recycled every year. You can add new things to your collection slowly.
DECADENT FRONT DOOR CONTAINERS
Triple Mix BC Cedar stems
Square boxwood wreath Pine cones
Magnolia Tips Tall branches or birch logs
Leyland Cypress stems Coconut shells
Fill your container with Triple Mix, place the wreath around the circumference of the container and start by placing your tall branches or birch logs in the centre to anchor the arrangement and give it height. It’s good to use an odd number of branches or logs. Since logs are big, I’d use 3, but since my branches were thin, I used 5.
Then start filling above and below the wreath. Use, the taller, sturdier BC Cedar and Cypress stems in the centre around the tall branches(or birch logs), and use the smaller droopier stems below the wreath so they drape down. Be sure that everything you place in the pot is firmly planted in the soil.
Then, take the magnolia tips and place them at the base of the tall branches and fill in the gaps around the wreath. I like to showcase the brown part of the leaf instead of the green part for contrast. Then fill in any remaining gaps with more greenery.
Finally place the pine cones and coconut shells at strategic points in the corners and centre. Once the arrangement is full and you are satisfied, spray it with Wilt Pruf which reduces the loss of moisture and will enable the greenery to last until the end of winter. (although don’t use it on silver fir and juniper berries because they will lose their colour). It’s crucial to water your pots well until the temperatures dip and the earth freezes. Once it freezes you don’t have to water it anymore. That’s it!
As we get further into the deep freeze, with snow and icicles forming, the plant material in your containers take on a different look and shape.
It’s just another way to embrace and celebrate the beauty of those winter months.
Okay… the hottest thing in my walnut kitchen is …… the Alessi ‘Bird’ Kettle
It’s also one of the coolest things. You’ll notice in the photo on my home page, it’s front and centre on my stove.
Here’s the story – It was a toss up when it came to kettles – which kettle to get, Alessi’s first kettle, the Richard Sapper ‘Whistle’ kettle that came out in 1983, or Alessi’s Michael Graves ‘Bird’ kettle that was introduced 2 years later? Both were instant classics for Alessi, the nearly one-hundred year old Italian kitchen company that specialized in high-end utensils and gadgets.
I have to admit that I preferred the rounded design of the Sapper kettle, and actually secretly still do, but the deciding factor was two fold, the ‘Bird’ kettle actually has a top you can pop off so it can be cleaned (the other does not). And secondly, my brother Robert and sister-in-law Tomoko actually had the final say because they gave us a housewarming present and it happened to be the ‘Bird’ kettle. So, obviously, it was the ‘Bird’ that was meant to be in my walnut kitchen. And I’ve loved it ever since.
First cool thing – the red bird actually sings when the water boils, though I have to say it’s not exactly the beautiful tweet of a red-crested sparrow – more like a high-pitch scream of a 3-year old.
SPOILER ALERT – the plastic bird did meet its maker – it melted over a hot gas stove, so be prepared to replace it (about a $15 part).
Cooking is an even greater pleasure when you have a good set of pots and pans
Did you know that many of the most famous eateries in the world almost exclusively use All-Clad? – like Daniel Boulud’s signature restaurant “Daniel”, and Danny Meyer’s “Gramercy Tavern” and Thomas Keller’s “French Laundry”.Over the years I’ve experimented with many different brands of pots and pans, and some I still really like. My favourite was purchased at the Bonnie Stern Cooking School when it closed its doors. It’s a brand called Sitram from France, but I have never been able to find it anywhere since then! Recently, I donated some old cookware to my son Ben who needed to stock his own kitchen. Lucky me! Now I had a great excuse to refresh my equipment!
My All Clad roasting tin rocks!
All Clad TK Collection
Stacks for easy storage
I did some research and found myself honing in on All-Clad. I have made good use out of my All-Clad roasting tin and a few different sized Saute/Frying pans. They are technically great because of the way they consistently and predictably distribute heat.For a long time, I had been admiring All-Clad’s TK collection which was inspired by Chef Thomas Keller. I love the look of the brushed stainless exterior, they have universal lids which makes them easier to store, and flared edges for drip-free pouring.
I know good kitchen equipment is a good investment, but the problem is that they are a small fortune! After keeping an eye on those babies for over a year, they finally went on sale and I decided to give a few pieces a try.I’m happy to say, they’re terrific. Depending on what piece you get, they have a 5 ply stainless or copper core or 3 ply with a stainless core. Technically the heat is distributed evenly which is great for sautéing, braising and pan roasting. So, if you are in the market for a kitchen splurge AND, if they go on sale, I would highly recommend them. Let me know what your favourite cookware is. And also let me know if you find Sitram for sale.
Apart from a hefty bank account and a huge fan base, what do Beyonce, Manolo Blahnik and Karl Lagerfeld have in common? Answer: A passion for a French luxury brand called Diptyque.
I’m certainly not rich or famous, but, a few years ago, I splurged on this very brand and fell in love.
Founded in 1961, the perfumer, Diptyque is famous for its scented candles. If you are one of those poor souls who is sensitive to perfumes, my heart goes out to you because these jewels provide a sensory bundle of joy. There is nothing more healing and restorative than a room filled with the delicately balanced fragrance of a Diptyque candle.
Made by hand in a 12 step process, the candles are world renowned for their all natural scents inspired by nature. Of the 50 intoxicating candle varieties they create, the ‘Baies’ scent which was first introduced in 1983 has a near cult like following. I confess, I’m part of the cult as it’s one of a handful of scents I’ve enjoyed.
The blend of blackcurrant leaf and Bulgarian rose that characterises the ‘Baies’ fragrance is how Stefano Pilati (of YSL) preps his studio before a visit by Vogue editor Anna Wintour. At least I’m good company!
Diptyque is in the enviable position of not needing to advertise because so many superstars in the entertainment and fashion worlds embrace their products. Get this, when Tom Ford designed for Gucci, he had the ‘Figuier’ candle throughout the brand’s stores, his offices AND his home so the ‘soothing scent of sun-warmed fig trees and white cedar’ was with him everywhere he went. And I thought I was obsessed.
Victoria Beckham used 60 of their ‘Figuier’ candles for her fall 2012 fashion show! You can’t buy that kind of publicity.
My favourite Diptyque candle is Figuier. Related to this scent is an Eau de Parfum or Eau de Toilette called Philosykos which is on my wish list down the road. But I digress….
I know that for some of you, fragrances can be migraine inducing, and trust me, I’m sensitive too when it comes to cheap potent perfumes, but these candles are worth a try if you want to spoil yourself or someone special in your life. Diptyque candles are a small fortune, but they are one of the many beautiful things that bring me peace, joy and enhance the quality of my life. I hope you get a chance to enjoy them too one day. Tell me if you are a fan and what your favourite scent is. I’d love to try some more myself.