Michael Smith’s Family Meals and GIVEAWAY


Making a meal that your ENTIRE family will eat and enjoy can be a real challenge, as I can tell you from first hand experience. When you succeed, it feels like the greatest achievement ever! Even famous and creative chefs like Michael Smith feel this way.

With his new cookbook, “Family Meals”, Michael wants to help the average home chef get it right every time. He shares one hundred recipes straight from his families kitchen to help every family eat right and well in spite of their busy lives.

He shares breakfast ideas (huge for me), lunchbox meals, cook ahead meals and slow cooker meals to name a few, all with the hope of helping the average Canadian family get out of their food rut and get a bit more adventurous without spending more time in the kitchen!

My husband and I decided to test drive his recipe for Nacho Burgers last weekend.

We found that we had most of the ingredients in our pantry already so all we really needed to pick up was ground beef and buns!

photo 1

After very simple and quick prep, the burgers and buns hit the BBQ and in a few minutes.. voila!

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The verdict from the family was AWESOME- the recipe is super simple and straightforward and easily adaptable for my pickiest eater without having to make him a different meal.  The tortilla chips were a unique touch and adding spices to the buns is genius!

I think that they turn out very well and even looked like the photo in the book!

Nacho Burger

Penguin Canada has kindly offered a copy of Family Meals by Michael Smith to one of my readers! Please enter via the Rafflecopter widget below (Canadian Residents Only Please)

a Rafflecopter giveaway


* All professional photos used with the permission of Penguin Canada

What I Wore- The North Fork

Our family road trip (see previous posts here and here) was so much fun and one of the highlights of the trip was our visit to a friend’s country house in Orient, New York, on the north fork of Long Island (across Paconic Bay from the more famous, more crazy Hamptons). While we were there, the Oysterponds Historical Society had their annual summer fundraiser. I was thrilled to find this DVF dress at Woodbury Commons, an outlet north of NYC, to wear- and it was perfect for the event! I felt completely at ease with the creative and interesting movers/shakers of the North Fork, including the President of an iconic fashion retailer (I won’t say who!)

What I Wore- A Little Bit Gatsby #1DSCF1736

What I wore- A Little Bit Gatsby

Dress- DVF (Found at an outlet; love this one)

Shoes- Just Fab

Bag- Deux Lux via Barney’s New York (uber luxe version)

Sunglasses- Forever21


Our friend in Orient has two amazing guest houses on her property that are for rent between the beginning of May and the end of October. Check them out on VRBO! I cannot say enough wonderful things about this little town!

Linking Up With:

Trend Spin Linkup
Stylish Tuesday
Style Sessions
Style Swap Tuesdays

Movies to get excited about this autumn!

I love movies. I grew up around films as the daughter of a film editor and I have worked on films myself for over a decade. Here are some of the movies I am looking forward to seeing this fall. I start with Maps to the Stars, the most recent film I worked on (so, yes I have already seen it many MANY times)!

Maps to the Stars (release date TBC)


Gone Girl (October 3)


Dracula Untold (October 17)


Birdman (October 17)



Foxcatcher (November 14)


The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part One (November 21)


Autumn Style with Old Navy

I had a chance to get a sneak peek at what’s in store for women at Old Navy this fall! The Look Book is full of cozy yet polished looks featuring a mixture of sporty pieces, denim, patterns and layering!

Here are some of my favourite pieces that will help you transition to the cooler weather to come!

Old Navy Fall 2014


Do any of these pieces strike your fancy???


Some of these pieces are available now! See them and some of my other faves by clicking below!

What I Wore- High-Waisted

I have been checking out the whole high-waisted cut off denim look that has been everywhere this summer and wondering if I could pull it off. A few weeks ago, the family and I were at the Junction Flea and there was a booth selling vintage Levi’s cut offs and these ones fit me perfectly! I have to say that I love how binding they are but it takes some getting used to wearing pants that go over your belly button!
What I Wore- High Waisted #2

What I Wore- High Waisted #1

Jeans- Vintage Levis via The Junction Flea (similar)

Sweater- Michael Kors via eLuxe

Booties- Just Fab

Necklace- Expression via The Bay

Bag- Indigo

Sunglasses- Karen Walker

On Wee Man – Long Sleeved Teeshirt from Crew Cuts

Linking Up with:

Vodka Infused Lemonade

What I Wore- Road Trippin’

We have been road trippin’ for the last week and we have been having so much fun; hanging out with friends and family in New York state and sightseeing in NYC…. and of course shopping. This state has some of the best outlet shopping and we took full advantage! I picked up this tee-shirt, sweater and shoes at Woodbury Commons, which is amazing and enormous. If you are in the NYC area and driving back to Canada, I highly recommend that you make a stop. Be warned-  this is for the serious shopper only!

What I Wore- Road Trippin' #1

What I Wore- Road Trippin' #2

Tee- James Perse (similar on sale!)

Sweater- Gap (similar)

Shorts- Smart Set

Shoes- Converse

Backpack- eLuxe (currently available in black)

Necklace- Make Magic Not War

Sunglasses- Karen Walker

Linking up with:

Stylish Tuesday
Style Sessions
Style Swap Tuesdays

What I Wore Wednesdays

Jennifer Fukushima Fall/Winter 2014 Collection


It is always so much fun when I am introduced to a Canadian designer so I was excited to learn about Jennifer Fukushima

Jennifer studied at Ryerson University in Toronto before working for such interesting and well-known local labels as Preloved, Peach Berserk and Fashion Crimes as well as her own previous label Paper People Clothing.

Her new eponymous line is a stylish and ecologically conscious cut and sew knitwear collection that is perfect for autumn! The knits are soft, beautiful and made in Canada! As with most lines that don’t outsource their production, Jennifer’s pieces are not inexpensive but I was able to see the breakdown of the cost and it is very reasonable and without a large profit margin. As a fan of sustainable transparency, I adore the detail she provides on her site and in her publicity materials about her business practices. I hope more companies, both big and small, endeavour to do the same in the near future.

Her piece will be available for purchase through her site as of August 1st and pieces will be sold at Fresh Collective in Toronto from the middle of August. Jennifer can also be found at various shows around Toronto this fall- get a complete list here.

Here are a few of my favourite pieces from her new collection.


Clockwise from top left:

Cordifolia Print Cardigan

Apiomorpha Tunic

Velutina Pullover

Persimilus Infinity Scarf

Sylvatica Gauntlets

Check her out of Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest

What I Read- July 2014


Bones Don’t Lie by Kathy Reichs (Via Netgally. Release date is September 23rd 2014)- I adore the Temperance Brennan novels and this novel was right on form- an engaging and suspensful manhunt very personal to Dr, Brennan. If you have never read this series, be warned: this Temperance is not the Temperance of the TV show “Bones” although the show was inspired by the novels. Start at the beginning of the series and enjoy!


Night of A Thousand Stars by Deanna Raybourn (via Netgalley, Release date is September 30th 2014 )- Set in and around Damascus in 1920, this book is an offspring of Raybourn’s Lady Julia Gray series and follows her niece as she investigates the myserious disapearance of the handsome curate who helped her escape her wedding from a boring nobleman.


 The Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin (via Netgalley, Released July 29th 2014)- This Victorian era novel revolves around a love triangle between a British heiress, her army beau and Sisi, the Emperess of Austria. It is a wonderful histrorical piece of fiction loosely based on true events of the time and while I enjoyed it, there was far to much detail about fox hunting….. yawn (and eww)


Wild by Cheryl Strayed- I really wanted to read the book before I saw the movie and I am so glad that I did. This book was mesmerizing. The reader feels that they are hiking the Pacific Coast Trail on the search for peace and redemption right along side of her. A must read.

Topbox Review July 2014 – Benefit They’re Real

Topbox Review July 2014- Benefit They're Real!

It is no secret thatI love Benefit and They’re Real! is one of my all-time fave mascaras. I received the Benefit box from Topbox this month with several new products from the They’re Real! line!

They’re Real! Mascara- I adore this product. I love the way my lashed look long and super dark when I use it.

They’re Real! Push Up Liner- I am pretty terrible with eyeliner and with creating a cat’s eye look so anything that can help me out is good. This liner is a mix between a liquid liner (the tip is the same shape) but it is actually more of a gel pencil in terms of the product itself. It goes on really dark and literally doesn’t budge until you use….

They’re Real! Eye Makeup Remover- This is a necessity if you use the liner. It is creamy rather than oily and works like a charm.

Stay, Don’t Stray- This cream eye shadow base help keep shadow where you want it all day long.

Have you tried any of these products? Are you interested in them? Hit the comments!

Demystifying the role of the Architect in home renovation!

As you know we are in the thick of a home renovation at the moment and it is going really smoothly. You hear horror stories about projects going wrong and I think the reason we are having such a great experience is because we hired an expert! Barbora Vokac Taylor, our architect, designer and friend kindly agreed to answer some questions about what being an architect entails and when and why it is important to involve one.

When you started University you were considering Medicine? What made you decide to switch tracks so drastically and become an architect?

I just kept searching for ways to be creative in what I was doing. I was studying to ultimately go into Biomedical Engineering for prosthetics design and it hit me:  what I wanted to do was design. 

I really enjoyed first year in the Science programme because it was a mix of all of the core sciences and maths but when I had to choose just one as my major, I got stuck. The more I tried to answer that question, the closer I got to realizing that what I really wanted was to work creatively but with purpose and function. That’s how I came around to architecture. My father is an architect, so I had an idea of what the profession entailed. I love what I do. 


What exactly does an architect do?

Great question! 

In an abstract sense: What our firm strives to do is to work as our client’s advisor throughout the design and construction process. I recently had a client meeting and our client said “What we want is to work collaboratively to achieve a vision … but we don’t know what our vision is – so we need you to help us with that too.” I thought that was perfect. It’s exactly what we do and it’s what we excel in. We help our clients define a vision based on their needs and desires. We then problem solve to help realize that vision to it’s full potential.  

Formally, Architects are trained professionals who are qualified to design and provide advice – both aesthetic and technical – on built forms. We help define the overall priorities and vision for the space and describe it graphically. We prepare the necessary construction drawings, source key materials, assist in applying for the necessary permits, provide general review during the construction process and work with the general contractor to manage unexpected issues, delays and choices along the way.


 When is an architect required?

It depends on the project type and size. I would recommend reaching out to an architect to discuss your specific project and have them advise you. Most architects will meet with you for a free consultation. You may even be able to determine this over the phone. 

In terms of small residential renovations/additions – I advise my clients to get professional help for budgets in excess of $25 000. It’s a big investment – it’s worth it to have someone knowledgeable to advise you. 


How much education is required to become an accredited architect and designer, as you are?

To become a licensed architect in Ontario you need to have successfully completed specific educational requirements, several years of supervised experience, and extensive examinations. 

I completed a BSc(Arch) and a Masters in Architecture in five and a half years. I interned for seven years prior to earning my licence and I wrote the ARE (Architect Registration Examination), which, in total, was about thirty five hours long – but not in one sitting! 


What type of architecture work do you specialize in?

Most of our projects, in terns of volume,  is single family residential – renovations and new build. We also have extensive experience in hospitality, interiors, multi-unit residential, small scale institutional and large scale institutional. We really work on a wide range of occupancies. We’ve completed or, are currently in the process of completing: a yoga studio, an office interior, a new build single-family home and a couple of residential renovations. We enjoy working on projects where our clients are the end users the most.


What do you look for in vendors that you work with on projects, such as contractors?

Referrals go a long way, particularly from peers that share the same standard of quality that we do. We strongly recommend working with contractors that have successful experience in the style that we work in with good references and we prefer to work with ones that we have successful experience with in the past. Construction is highly collaborative and you really want a team that wants to work together, is  experienced, professional, fair and has the motivation to do great work. 


One of the most common renovations that people want to do are kitchens, bathrooms and extensions? What tips do you have for people to help them get a handle on the scope of the work they want to do?

Start gathering data. 

1. Start love/loathe files : clip Magazine and newspaper stories and now it’s so easy with Pinterest and Houzz. Just get on there and start hunting around for spaces that appeal to you. If you like someone’s style, start following them – those posts can then lead you to more options and so on. 

2. Be critical about your space – What do you like about it? What don’t you like about it? What works? What doesn’t? Quite honestly, sometimes we consult with clients and we just move some furniture around, get rid of stuff they don’t use and we’re halfway there. 

3. Be open to suggestions but have a single vision. Just because your sister has good taste and she likes something, doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily the best option for you. Design isn’t about making stuff look cool – it’s about planning space so that it enhances your life. Although … if you wanted your sister to come over and cook more often, you could take her pointers on her preferences in the kitchen :)

4. Research. Ask around – who has done renovations in a style that you like? How long did it take? What was the approximate cost/square foot? What was their experience? What lessons could they pass on to you?


In any project, unexpected issues come up, such as time delays, extra work requirements. How do you prepare your clients for the unexpected?

You have to plan for the unexpected. We try to prepare our clients for tough decisions that need to be made quickly and advise them to put aside approximately 10% of their construction budget as a contingency fund. We are there to advise our clients, to weigh the pros and cons and help them make informed decisions. Renovations tend to have more surprises, but you always have a choice. For example, on your project, we opened something up and found something we didn’t expect. We had the opportunity to improve it – and it was your choice to do so or not.  Your contingency fund meant that you had some funds available to do this. Or alternatively, you realize that you wish to add something to the project that at first, you didn’t think was important. There’s some money set aside for those late-in-the-process realizations/opportunities. 


What are your favourite design stores?

I adore the Conran Shop in London. I think Terence Conran is the bomb. He makes great design feel easy. There is also a very inspiring lifestyle/concept store in Paris called ‘Merci‘ that I quite enjoy visiting. 

In Toronto (and I am strictly speaking in stock – I can’t say that I vouch for service here) but there are loads of great stores now with great, accessible design. 

I like to mix high and low – so I’m not above suggesting IKEA. I think that Quasi Modo and Klaus by Nienkamper have very nice collections as does KioskDesign within Reach is also great for classics. On the more affordable side, I’ve also found some great pieces at EQ3, Crate&Barrel and West Elm recently. In terms of high-end showrooms, B&B Italia, ItalInteriors and PlanB are wonderful options. 


What inspires you on a daily basis in your life and work?

I would say people. I like to people watch. That sounded creepy – but it wasn’t meant to! I like to observe how people use and interact with spaces – both designed and everyday. I read a lot – both periodicals and on the web. 

I also make a very strong effort to seek out and study successful spaces, both in the city and abroad. I try to travel at least once a year on a ‘Design Pilgrimage’ – I make it a point to research projects and visit them. I was in Montreal for a week in May and came back totally refreshed and inspired. My husband often travels for work – so my and son and I get a few opportunities as stowaways and go exploring that way. 


What makes a project successful?

In a line: clear expectations and good communication. And right them down! (Ok. that was three things in two lines.)

Having clear agreements so that everyone knows their roles in the process is key. My husband has a saying “Good fences make good neighbours” and I have found that to be the case.  

Ask questions and participate. No one expects you to be the expert and we know that you may have probably not done this before – but if you’re not sure, ask. 


What makes a great project?

A great client.


What make s great client?

A great client has a vision – not necessarily an idea of what the project will look like – but as in a goal and/or aspirations that help define the project. They are honest and timely in their communication. They also respect the the skills and expertise of their team, they are flexible, open-minded and have high expectations for success in the final outcome. 


Barbora Vokac Taylor Architect Logo


opt4b copy-crop