Category Archives: HOUSE & HOME

Hosting a “Special-Diet-Friendly” Holiday Dinner

December 14, 2015


It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Time for family dinners and dinner parties! When it comes to these special meals, in addition to setting my holiday table with festive decor, I’m also considering how I can make food that I can enjoy with everyone else this holiday season, even with my dietary restrictions. It can be hard to know what to make when “the classics” are all full of butter, cream, eggs, and breadcrumbs. Here are a few of my personal suggestions for hosting a special-diet-friendly holiday dinner! 

Christmas Tablescape |

Before we get into the side dishes, we need to talk about the tablescape. If you’re hosting Christmas dinner, brunch or some kind of get-together over the holidays, setting your table to match your meal is a must! By the time I get my menu organized and food prepped I barely have time to think about creating a fancy tablescape. It needs to be simple and reflect my minimalist tendencies. My white linen table runner and vintage brass candle holders always lay the foundation. I start with them and add a few simple pieces to “jazz it up.” To bring a little the wintery outdoors in, I decided to go with dove grey linen napkins and layer they beneath small bunches of greenery. I included a small twig, holly and winter greens and tied it in a bow with off-white cotton ribbon. You can snip greens from a forest walk or your backyard or pick up a small variety bouquet for less than $12 at a flower shop, the grocery store or even Costco!  I used the same twigs from the mini bouquets to weave between the brass candle holders to create a simple centrepiece. Simple, easy and incredibly affordable! 

Christmas Decor - Dining Room Tablescape |

These dove grey linen napkins by Lost in Linen have me seriously swooning! They are the most beautiful cool colour and feel luxurious, modern and rustic all at the same time! I can’t wait to use them again and again and again. I highly recommend adding a set of good quality linens to your tablescape and the quality of Lost in Linen is among the best! You can find these napkins, in this dove grey and other gorgeous colours, here


White and Grey Linens, Gold Cutlery |

These animal magnets serve double duty in our home! I use them to hold up notes and pictures on my magnetic board and fridge, but they also make perfect placecard holders for your dinner party! Clark used his pen skills to write out our guests names and we stood them upright at the back of each place setting. I thought these woodland animals would be perfect for the holiday season! You can also find safari animals, dinosaurs and tons of other animals! You can find them in almost any colour, here.  

Gold Animal Magnet Placecard holders |

Now for the holiday side dishes! I have a few vegan and gluten free options for your holiday meal! Vegan doesn’t just mean there’s no meat; it means there are no animal products at all. Since I can’t eat dairy or eggs, I find the best way to search for new recipes is to simply identify myself as vegan. So, if you have someone who is dairy-free or egg-free, these recipes will work for them!

I’m confident you can create an outstanding holiday meal that is special-diet-friendly by adding a few side dishes to your existing turkey or ham! 

These are my tops pics for a special-diet-friendly holiday dinner: 

Roasted Cauliflower & Chestnut Stuffing {Gluten-free & Vegan}

This stuffing alternative has all the flavours you’d expect from a traditional stuffing recipe and the chestnuts even add in a “meaty” texture. So good! I made this recipe for our last holiday themed dinner party and my friend, who has tried a plethora of my “special” food commented, “This is my favourite thing you’ve made to date!” Win! You can find the recipe here. 

Vegan and Gluten-Free Roasted Cauliflower Chestnut Stuffing Recipe

Sweet Potato Casserole {Gluten-Free & Vegan}

I made this casserole for Christmas last year, and my sister, who doesn’t have any dietary restrictions at all, just messaged me asking for the recipe. It’s that good. My brother in law downed the leftovers the next day! That’s when you know you’ve found a winner, it’s even first pic on day 2. You can’t go wrong with this one! Find the recipe here

Sweet Potato casserole

Pomegranate Cranberry Sauce {Refined Sugar-Free, Vegan, Gluten-free}

I’ve never been a huge fan of cranberry sauce. At least I didn’t think I was. That’s because my whole life I thought cranberry sauce came from a can; I had no idea how delicious it can taste when you make it from scratch. And it’s extremely easy to make!  We love this pomegranate cranberry sauce with hints of orange! You can find the recipe here

pomegranate cranberry sauce8

Quinoa, Fennel and Pomegranate Salad {Gluten-free, Vegan}

This salad add ls a punch of proteins for non-meat-eaters but is a nice bright salad for the rest of your dinner party as well. And, if you’re making the pommeganate cranberry sauce, here’s a hint of flavour repeated with the pomegranates! You can find the recipe here

Quinoa Fennel and Pomegranate Salad

Roasted Carrots with Green Tahini Sauce {Gluten-Free, Vegan}

I am guilty of using tahini sauce to make creamy sauces on the regular. I love the nutty flavour and it’s a great way to get that creamy consistency without the use of dairy. I also love roasted carrots! You can find the recipe here. 

roasted carrots with green tahini sauce

These are a few of my go-to sides! I’d love to hear what you make to ensure all your loved ones can eat! 


Tips to Hosting A Stress-Free Dinner Party + Our Latest Dinner Party Menu

September 23, 2015


When Clark and I moved into our new place a few months ago, we knew we wanted to use our space to host our friends more. We now have the space for a larger dining room table (you can see our dining room here), and with my dietary restrictions sometimes making it difficult to eat out, hosting friends for dinner seemed like the best idea!

The thought of having a real “grown-up” dinner party sounded fun (I mean, we are in our 30’s), but I knew I didn’t want to spend the whole night in the kitchen, even if it is open to the dining area. I wanted to talk and laugh at the table with my friends! I was determined to figure out how it could be done! Here’s what worked for me


Start with a group of 6-8, including yourself. It doesn’t have to be big. I think 6 is a perfect number for an easy, stress-free party. You dinner party doesn’t need to be 12 people, and if there are more people you’d like to invite, just have two small parties instead of one big one! It’s much easier to manage! We invited two other couples, our friends Matt and Amber, Zach and Megan. 

Dinner Party Guests


When I started to plan our party menu, there were a few things I needed to keep in mind: 1) It needed to be “aqua-vegan” for me and gluten-free for my friend Megan. 2) I wanted to take advantage of local seasonal produce and play on Fall flavours 3) As much as possible needed to be able to be prepped ahead of time so the day of the party it could just go in the oven (I had to work until 5pm and the party started at 6pm). 4) The dishes needed to be easy to cook, so I could just throw them in the oven and sit with my guests.

Here’s what I decided on for our menu:


VIRGIN APPLE CIDER GINGER MIMOSAS (from In Sonnet’s Kitchen) – the recipe we used (here) called for orange juice and clementines, but to go with our fall theme, we subbed the orange juice for apple cider from a local orchard, and the orange slices for fresh, local, thinly sliced apples. We sliced the ginger and apple before hand (toss apple slices with a little lemon juice to prevent browning) to make the drinks fast and easy to assemble when guests arrived. 

Virgin -Ginger-Mimosa


SWEET POTATO & CHICKPEA SALAD WITH CRISPY SHALLOTS & LEMON TAHINI DRESSING (from The Simple Veganista) – the recipe (here) was delicious. I made the dressing the night before and just tossed it in the blender to smooth it out right before the party. I also chopped the sweet potato and rinsed the chickpeas and stored them overnight in the fridge so I just had to toss them with oil, salt and pepper and slide them in the oven. I also sliced the shallots, so I could just thrown them on the stove when it was time to cook them. 

Sweet Potato and Chickpea Salad


ROASTED PUMPKIN WITH BLACK RICE & TANGERINE TAHINI SAUCE (from My Darling Lemon Thyme) – the recipe (here) was really simple. I made the sauce the night before and also pre-chopped the pumpkin and parsley. 

Roasted Pumpkin with Black Rice

Salmon with Almond Caper Garnish


OVEN BAKED SALMON WITH TOASTED ALMOND PARSLEY & CAPER SALSA (from Food Network) – the recipe (here) was fast and really easy to make. I really love the “salsa” garnish! The almonds and capers gave it such a great flavour that brought the whole dish together! I pre-cut the salmon fillets and pre-made the salsa beforehand. Because it only takes 12-15 minutes to bake, it a great 2nd course that won’t keep your guests waiting!





CIDER CARAMEL APPLE CRISP WITH VANILLA COCONUT ICE CREAM (from One Lovely Life) – the recipe (here) is one of the better vegan apple crisp recipes I’ve tried. I made this entire dessert before hand and just popped it into the oven to bake while we were eating dinner! It doesn’t get much easier than that! I also made a really simple coconut milk ice cream by mixing coconut milk, vanilla extract, maple syrup, and almond milk, which was the perfect compliment to the apple crisp. 

Caramel Apple Cider Crisp


When it comes to minimizing stress and maximizing time with friends, organization is key. Make a quick list of each course and what still needs to be done for each. Note the cooking temperature and times as well as any garnishes you need at add. I also kept my Ipad handy to refer to pictures when it came to plating. I made a few quick notes to keep myself organized while the night unfolded:

30 minutes before party: Slice ginger and apple for drinks. Toss sweet potato and chickpeas in olive oil, salt, pepper and chili powder and bake in the oven for 30 minutes at 400. Cook black rice on stovetop.

5 minutes before party: Cook shallots in olive oil on medium heat for 5 minutes (place on paper towel until served).

Appetizers: Plating order: Mixed Greens, sweet potato & chickpeas, crispy shallots, lemon dressing, pumpkin seeds. Prepare Main Course: Toss pumpkin with olive oil, salt and pepper and bake in the oven for 30 minutes at 400. Clear plates and put salmon in the oven for 15 minutes at 450.

Main Course: Plating order: Black Rice, pumpkin, tangerine sauce, parsley, salmon, almond salsa. Prepare dessert: Bake apple crisp for 50 minutes at 375. 

As long as you know what you need to do at each course, you can rest easy and have fun!



There’s really no need to create elaborate tablescapes with expensive centrepieces, although, if you’re good at that, go for it! If you’re like me and your pass time isn’t arranging floral displays, focus on the food and the friends and create a simple, but beautiful, setting for the evening to unfold. I set our concrete table with a simple white linen table runner, vintage brass candle holders that I picked up this summer for $4 at a garage sale, and a few branches from the willow tree behind our condo. So simple. So beautiful. Sometimes less is more!

Simple Table Settings

Hosting a dinner party might be less work than you think! So go extend an invitation and spend more time with the people you love without spending all your money on a restaurant bill. The total of our dinner bill was easily less than $50 for all 6 of us!


Built-Ins to Hide Your TV

September 19, 2015


A few months ago Clark and I moved into a new-build condo. It’s so fun to move into a new place! Everything is fresh and clean and new! But along with that comes boring plain walls, basic finishes, and a very blank slate. We decided the first area we were going to tackle was the main living area, which included the dining room and living room, because that’s where we spend most of our time! (You can see our dining room makeover here.) 

The wall had an existing ledge about a foot of the ground and an electric fireplace on the right side. The electrical for the TV was already installed on the left side, but I was really struggling to find a way to make the wall come together. 


Our place isn’t huge, in fact it’s 1000 square feet, so the living room needed to function as our main hang-out space, reading area, movie watching space, and entertaining space. I knew I didn’t want the TV to be the focal point of the room, but I couldn’t figure out what to do. Then one day it hit me, “why don’t we hide the TV??!” And that’s just what we did!

As I shared my vision with Clark, he drew up pictures and pitched the idea to our friend Evan, who’s a little more handy than Clark. We made plans for Evan to come visit for a few days from Vancouver Island, and our dreams of built-ins in to hide our TV started to take shape! The guys spent about 24hours together building, painting, and singing and dancing to Dance Mix ’93, but when they were finished, this was the result! 

built-ins before and after

Great job guys! They were able to take my vision and make it appear right before my eyes. The projects started by purchasing  4 – 12″ x 30″ white doors from ikea that would create the bi-fold doors. The biggest job was constructing the vertical partition that would separate the TV side from the fireplace side, then building the shelves that would go above the TV. 

Built ins to hide the TV

When it was all in place they attached the doors and added used magnetic latches to keep the doors closed when it was time to hide the TV. We mounted the TV on a mount that come out from the wall about a foot so it’s easy to see from any part of the room, but it also works just fine when it flat against wall too!

Built ins to hide the TV

I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out! It really helped to make the space multi-purpose and I think it provides a great focal point for the room!

Builts in - doors opened and closed

I also love having shelves to collect and display some of my favourite little things! It really helps to make it feel personal. 

Built ins to hide the TV

We never could have pulled this off without the help of our friend Evan! Evan, you’re the best! Thanks for your friendship, expertise and willingness to make my vision a reality!

Sources: Doors  |  Knobs |  Hinges (similar) | Magnetic Latch  |  Poufs | Swivel TV Mount 


September 1, 2015



Clark and I recently moved into a new condo and we’ve been working hard to take it from a plain builder-basic space, to a home that better reflects our style and personalities. We didn’t want to spend thousands and thousands of dollars for a huge reno, so we knew we needed to be creative in our approach! I had a vision for a wall in the dining room that was clean and simple, but I wanted something a little more interesting than a simple, painted wall. I settled on a grid created with simple trim and I was convinced we could do it ourselves! I mean, why not! Right?

This probably seems like a relatively simple project, but for two people who don’t own a single power tool  (well, that’s not entirely true, we do own one drill)  it might be a bit more challenging! Determined not to let our lack of power tools stop us, we developed a plan!

Here’s what we used to complete this DIY project:

  • pre-primed white trim 
  • hammer
  • 1 1/2 inch nails
  • wood filler
  • level
  • hand saw
  • miter box
  • measuring tape
  • sanding block or sand paper

DIYTRIMWALL- toolsneeded

Here’s the step-by-step instructions we followed:

  • Decide on the grid pattern you want. I recommend drawing it out on paper first.
  • Your first piece of trim should go along the entire length of the wall at the very top (this is assuming that you already have trim along the bottom – if you don’t have trim along the bottom, put trim there too.)Use your saw and miter box to cut to exactly the right size. Place it flush against the ceiling and use the nails and hammer to attach it to the wall.
  • Next measure from the bottom of the top piece of trim to the top of the bottom piece on the far left side of the wall, and the far right side of the wall. (Did you catch all that?) Cut it to size and again, nail and hammer away! This should create a box framing the entire wall.
  • Next add the vertical trim. You might need to put those math skills to good use here to figure out how far a part each piece should be. It’s totally up to you! We added 5 vertical pieces, each with a 21.5 inch space between them. Make sure you use your level here!
  • Next you’ll add the horizontal pieces. We decided to create a square, rectangle, and square, which meant that we cut 2 21.5 inch pieces per vertical box. 
  • Once your grid is in place you’ll need to use the wood filler to fill the nail holes and any small gaps in the trim seams. Once it’s dry, sand it smooth and paint in the colour of your choice! (We used Benjamin Moore Cloud White)

DIY Trim Wall

Here’s our plain wall before, and the trim wall after! Such a transformation! I LOVE it!


In addition to our dining room wall, we also decided to do the small wall inside our front door. Because we don’t have a ton of storage in the condo, hooks inside the front door seemed like the best option to catch our bags and coats. We found these 3 brass and leather hooks at anthropologie, and I love how they work in the space!

DIY Trim Wall

Here’s a closer look at those hooks!

Coat hook

In the dining area we changed the light fixture, and styled the space around a Craigslist find, this ridiculously heavy, 72 inch concrete table! Our existing chairs and the bench we had in our front hallway of our old condo worked perfectly! The brass candle holders were a $2 garage sale score. 

Dining Room with DIY trim wall

I was so rattled when I discovered that this place didn’t have a linen closet! It must have been some kind of design flaw, but there was literally nowhere to put towels and linens. Since the main bathroom was just to the right of the dining area, I thought a sideboard could work to house the extra towels. 

Wood Cabinet

This cabinet serves double duty. It’s the perfect place to drop our keys etc, and it works perfectly to hold all our guest towels! Also, how awesome is that 20 x 30 picture of Clark and I above the cabinet? Luke Liable is a photography genius. 

Wood sideboard cabinet used as linen closet

There are still minor things we need to finish, but this is the front entryway and dining area of our new place! What do you think? Not bad for no power tools, right?

DIY Trim Wall

Now, who’s coming over for dinner?

DETAILS: Light Fixture (Anthropologie) | Brass Candle Holders (Yard Sale Find $2) | Concrete Table (Craig’s List) | Bench (HomeSense | Chairs (Home Outfitters) | Entryway hooks (Anthropologie) | Wood Cabinet (HomeSense)



December 7, 2014


Christmas Wreath

I love Christmas, but I have to admit, my Christmas decorations are pretty minimal. We put up a tree and hang stockings but aside from that, Christmas comes to our house in spirit, not decor.

The exception the last 2 years has been our Christmas wreath! It’s become a new Christmas tradition for us to make a holiday wreath from greenery from a local nursery. I was surprised how easy it was, and how great it looks! Not to mention, you can customize it suit your decor.

Here’s how you can make one for your home!

1. Pick up a basic grape vine wreath. You can usually find these at your local craft store, or you order one online here

Christmas Wreat

2. Stop by a local nursery and buy a bundle of greenery. We asked them if they had any lose scraps and scored this whole box of cedar, silver fir, pine and holly for $8.

Christmas Weath


Christmas Wreath

3. Cut off branches about 8 – 12 inches long and weave them into your wreath. It should hold on its own without fastening it with anything, but if you’re struggling to get them to stay in the spot you want, use a little wire to hold them in place.

Christmas Branch

Christmas Wreath

4. Only go about 3/4 around the wreath and let the last few branches swoop out a little bit.

5. Add a ribbon to hang it, or attach a small wire to the back to hang it from a nail.

Christmas Wreath

Christmas Wreath

Once the season is over, pull out the dried up greenery and use the wreath base again next year!

Merry Christmas! 

I’d love to hear how your DIY Christmas wreath turns out!