I just wanted to take the time today to let you all know how grateful I am for all of your kind words, your likes, your follows, and shares. The Design Diaries means a lot to me. It is a collaboration of all my hopes and dreams, gifts and talents, loves and passions! I am so happy to be sharing it with you everyday, and my dedication to what I do is driven by an unwavering self-determination.
If you love it, then stay tuned! There is so much more up my sleeve for this blog, so join me in the ride of self-exploration, and self-discovery. There is more to all of us than meets the eye, and I welcome the mystery. We have a great thing going together, and I can’t wait to see where it takes us! Words can’t express my thankfulness for your continued support. Happy Saturday everyone!
Wouldn’t it be something to go back in time to experience communication with people all around the world in letter form again? I think it was the best mode of correspondence between two people, making handwritten words better defined, and personalized. When you received mail back then, it made you feel so special. Your name and address were printed on the front, which made the envelope exclusively yours. The address in the top corner, or on the back gave you an inclination as to whom the letter was from. Lastly, the more exotic the stamps, the further away the envelope had travelled from. It was exciting to imagine how many people participated in the travel of your letter, and the miles of sea or land that extended between you and the writer. Handwritten letters were absolutely amazing!
Do you know what? We should revive them! Yes, I know that there is a more efficient way to send messages to those you know these days, but what if we took the time to write? Taking the time to put pen to paper is a beautiful way of conveying your true feelings for those you write to. I believe that there are steps to writing the perfect letter, which I will share with you:
Choose the perfect stationary for the letter you write. If you are writing about good news like a wedding announcement, or a new baby, the paper’s design could tie into the theme. That way, you set the mood and tone of the message.
Use a special pen that enhances your penmanship. Having a letter written out in gorgeous handwriting will make anyone’s day shine brighter. Even if your penmanship skills are not the best, neat printing can still be attractive with the right pen.
Interesting topics to discuss include: Good news, big changes, starting projects, or even new relationships and love. The good thing about letters is that they are well thought out words that were given much consideration. They also cut to the chase, with the biggest, and most exciting topics of discussion in your life. Juicy read, isn’t it? Lol.
Pictures, trinkets, or anything small that the recipient would enjoy, could always be added to the envelope as a treat. I love the little surprises!
Stamps! Choosing the perfect stamp could be the most exciting, as there are many to choose from. Did you know that you could go online and personalize them to suit your taste? Sounds like a whole other blog to me!
At a time such as this, I suggest that we even broaden our list of writing pals in the world, who you know would truly appreciate a letter in their life. It could be the perfect way to reach out to others to let them know that there is someone in the world who is thinking of them now. If you knew that it brought tears to a person’s eyes that you sent words of encouragement, wouldn’t it be worth it for you to pick up the pen? Think about it this weekend, as we find new and innovative ways to socialize with each other. Lots of love to you tonight. Happy Friday everyone!
I am officially craving sugar! It has finally hit me like a ton of bricks and I am losing my mind! My favourite is peanut M and M’s, but I don’t mind a few Lindt chocolate balls, or a handful of Ferrero Rochers either! I love the chocolate that is a hard exterior, but flows when you crack the shell. Luckily, I can do without candy, minus the Skittles, which has always been a childhood favourite. Allow me to take a trip down memory lane, as I remember the love I had for the double-flavoured nerds in the box that you would empty into your mouth, that crunch like rock candy. What about Fun Dips powdered candy with the edible sticks? Or, Popeye candy sticks that we used to pretend to smoke like cigarettes?
Okay, I know I’ve gone overboard, but the sugar craving is real! I’ve been researching naturally sweetened baked goods, and have come up with another recipe I’d like for us to try:
Easy Baked Cheesecake (Vegan + GF)
1 cup raw cashews*
1 cup coconut cream*
8 ounces vegan cream cheese* (Trader Joe’s brand, or Toffuti)
Add raw cashews to a mixing bowl and cover with boiling hot water. Let rest for 1 hour (uncovered). Then drain thoroughly.
In the meantime, preheat oven to 350 degrees F (176 C) and line a standard loaf pan (or 8×8 inch baking dish // adjust number/size of pan if altering batch size) with parchment paper. Set aside.
Add oats, almonds, sea salt, and coconut sugar to a high speed blender and mix on high until a fine meal is achieved.
Remove lid and add melted coconut oil, starting with 4 Tbsp (60 g // amount as original recipe is written // adjust if altering batch size) and adding more if it’s too dry. Pulse/mix on low until a loose dough is formed, scraping down sides as needed. You should be able to squeeze the mixture between two fingers and form a dough instead of it crumbling. If too dry, add a bit more melted coconut oil.
Transfer mixture to parchment-lined loaf pan and spread evenly to distribute. Then place parchment paper on top and use a flat-bottomed object, like a drinking glass, to press down firmly until it’s evenly distributed and well packed. Let it come up the sides a little, otherwise it can be too thick on the bottom.
Bake for 15 minutes, then increase heat to 375 F (190 C) and bake for 5-10 minutes more, or until the edges are golden brown and there is some browning on the surface. Remove from oven to cool slightly, then reduce oven heat to 325 degrees F (162 C).
Once cashews are soaked and drained, add to a high speed blender with coconut cream, vegan cream cheese, arrowroot starch, vanilla, maple syrup, coconut oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, and sea salt. Blend on high until very creamy and smooth, scraping down sides as needed.
Taste and adjust flavor as needed, adding more lemon juice for acidity, lemon zest for tartness, salt for flavor balance, and maple syrup for sweetness.
Pour filling over the pre-baked crust and spread into an even layer. Tap on counter to remove air bubbles.
Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until the edges look very slightly dry and the center appears only slightly “jiggly” but not liquidy. When you shake it, it will have some give to it, but it shouldn’t all look liquid – only the center should jiggle.
Let rest for 10 minutes at room temperature, then transfer to refrigerator to let cool completely (uncovered). Once cooled, cover (waiting until cool will prevent condensation) and continue refrigerating for a total of 5-6 hours, preferably overnight.
To serve, lift out of pan with parchment paper and cut into bars or triangles. (I carefully cut off the very end pieces because they weren’t as creamy as the center pieces.)
Enjoy as is or with coconut whipped cream and fresh berries. Store leftovers in the refrigerator, covered, up to 3-4 days, though best within the first 2 days.
*If you can’t have cashews, the next best thing I can recommend is subbing either macadamia nuts,or upping the amount of coconut cream to 1 1/2 cups and supplementing with 3/4 cup extra firm silken tofu (amounts as original recipe is written // adjust if altering batch size). I have not tested the recipe this way, however, and cannot guarantee the results. *My favorite coconut cream is Trader Joe’s brand. I highly recommend coconut cream over full-fat coconut milk. But if you can’t find coconut cream, buy a couple of cans of full-fat coconut milk and scoop off the top cream. *I would not recommend trying to substitute the vegan cream cheese for anything else. It’s essential to get that creamy, cheesy texture in this recipe. *For all other substitution questions (including oats and almonds), see our Recipe FAQ.
Nutrition (1 of 8 servings)
Serving: 1 slices Calories: 534 Carbohydrates: 37.4 g Protein: 8.6 g Fat: 41 g Saturated Fat: 22.3 g Trans Fat: 0 g Cholesterol: 0 mg Sodium: 230 mg Potassium: 381 mg Fiber: 3.5 g Sugar: 21.9 g
*Recipe taken from minimalistbaker.com
I’d like to point out that the cheesecake is both vegan and gluten-free, which are both a plus. This cake is also the better option for diabetics (always in moderation). The excitement is mounting to give this cake a try, as I am on my way to a severe sugar crash and burn! I will most definitely need the better dessert option as a pick-me-up. Let’s hope this works out for all of us, and that it becomes your better option as well. Pictures will be posted this weekend on my “At Home”segment on Sunday. Until then, take good care of yourselves, and enjoy the night. Happy Thursday everyone!
I have a complete fascination with throw pillows! If you ever want to give a space a lift, pillows are a fantastic way to achieve it. Colours and patterns throws a curve of interest, while sizes and textures work the overall appeal. Not to mention the comfort that it adds, making a house a true home. Are throw pillows only found at home? Absolutely not! But, they are a welcomed addition to any seating arrangement.
Pillow covers are versatile, and gives you a more inexpensive way of changing the look without spending a ton. Sewing them yourself could prove to be the most unique, and budget savvy way to go. Imagine that your Christmas plaid pillows are laid out beautifully to compliment the tree in the winter; only to zip up your floral pattern covers in the spring. Summer rolls along, and your pillows vibe in bright yellows and tropical greens; followed by your deep, rich colours of a whimsical fall season. Gorgeous, right? Well, here is a simple process of making this concept come to life.
MEASURE YOUR PILLOW INSERT.
1. MEASURE YOUR PILLOW FORM AND CUT OUT THE FRONT PANEL OF YOUR PILLOW COVER.
CUT OUT THE BACK PANELS OF THE PILLOW COVER.
2. CUT OUT THE FRONT PANEL OF YOUR PILLOW COVER – ADD 1 INCH TOTAL TO THE WIDTH AND HEIGHT FOR SEAM ALLOWANCE AND CUT OUT THE MATERIAL.
SEW THE SEAMS OF THE BACK PANELS.
3. TAKE THE LENGTH OF EACH OF THE PANELS THAT WILL BE OVERLAPPING AND FOLD THE SEAM TWICE TO CREATE A SMOOTH SEAM. SEW THE SEAM ON BOTH BACK PANELS.
SEW THE FRONT AND BACK PANELS TOGETHER.
4. PIN THE BACK PANELS TO THE FRONT PANELS WITH THE RIGHT SIDES FACING INWARD. THEN SEW AROUND THE ENTIRE PILLOW COVER. I BACK STITCHED OVER EACH OF THE SEAMS FOR DURABILITY. TURN IT RIGHT SIDE OUT AND PUT THE PILLOW INSERT INSIDE.
*Directions taken from tatertotsandjello.com
This really looks like a lot of fun to do, and I’ve been dying for a reason to dust off my sewing machine. If you happen to try this, please share pics with all of us at the bottom of the screen. It would be awesome to make a collage of images that we all contribute together. Until next time, happy Wednesday everyone!
So, I’ve been binge watching this interesting series on Netflix called, “White Lines.” In a nutshell, it’s about a woman named Zoe from Manchester, England who goes to Ibiza, Spain to investigate the murder of her brother. I have to warn you, it is a bit racy, with sex, drugs, and language, but the story is pretty exciting. Anyway, in one particular episode, Zoe’s dad happens to be in Ibiza with a local investigator, putting clues together about his son’s death, when a woman comes to join them with a basket of food for a well-deserved break. In this basket, she pulls out a cold soup called, “Gazpacho,” which is Spanish dish that I have never tried before.
I got to thinking that we should definitely try this recipe out to see how it tastes. The soup looks very simple, and no cooking over a hot stove is involved. All you have to do is blend ingredients and refrigerate! Doesn’t that sound like the perfect meal on a hot Tuesday night like this one? Let’s take a look:
2 pounds ripe roma tomatoes, halved and cored*
1 small (1/2 lb) cucumber, peeled and seeded
1 medium green bell pepper, cored
1/2 small red onion, peeled
2 small garlic cloves (or 1 large clove), peeled
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly-cracked black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 thick slice of white bread, soaked**, crusts removed
optional garnishes: homemade croutons, chopped fresh herbs, a drizzle of olive oil, or any leftover chopped gazpacho ingredients
Combine all ingredients together in a blender or food processor. Puree for 1 minute, or until the soup reaches your desired consistency. Taste and season with extra salt, pepper and/or cumin if needed.
Refrigerate in a sealed container for 4 hours, or until completely chilled.
Serve cold, topped with your desired garnishes.
*To core your tomatoes, simply scoop out and discard the seeds and any tough white core.
**To soak your bread (which will make for better blending), I recommend running it under the sink for a second to soak it with water. Then just ring it out completely, and add the bread to the blender or food processor.
*Recipe taken from gimmesomeoven.com
Apparently, this soup could also be served as a nice tall drink with ice. There are many different ways to make this soup, and many ingredients you can play around with. I recommend that you go all out and have a Spanish night, filled with all the Gazpacho you could eat, and a good head start on the series. Enjoy your “looks like summer” evening. Happy Tuesday everyone!
Hello, and welcome to another Monday. I thought we could talk about the importance of “champagne” taste on a “beer” budget. For those of you who are not familiar with the phrase, it means to have an expensive look on a modest budget. When considering a space, you want to map out the look you are going for by finding pieces that intrigue you. The price doesn’t matter at this point, but we are simply bringing a room together visually. From there, the real fun begins! Finding products that are the same look, but for a way better price, can be both exciting and rewarding. Try to imagine the space below with the following items. Let’s see how much money you can save:
The Home Office Space
Isn’t it amazing how close you can come to the look you want for less? I can’t deny that it takes some patience and a lot of effort, but in the end, you will be happy you did your research. With all that money we were able to save on good deals, we could easily start another home project! I hope you have a fabulous time finding deals that make you do a happy dance! Happy Monday everyone!
I have been a little quiet for the last few days, due to really bad seasonal allergies. I have been on antihistamines that have made me feel like I could sleep for 8 hours at any given moment, but without them, I would be an itchy, watery-eyed mess! So, I choose to take the lesser of the two evils, but here is the kicker; I have never had seasonal allergies before! This is why I didn’t know about the different types of allergy medications that are out there. I simply picked up the first thing I could find that could give me relief, and it definitely put me in a trance! Lol. Only me.
I have been trying to give up refined sugar to the best of my ability, for health reasons. What I realize is that our bodies are all different, and everyone reacts to foods in different ways. “Luckily” for me, my body does not do well with sugar, even though I am the baking queen! Go figure. The stress of not having that sugar in my system has totally corrupted my mind, to the point where every thought ends on a sad note! Lol! This too shall pass, but the journey has been quite intense. Anyone have any suggestions on how to battle cravings? I’m trying to find new and innovative ways to live without refined sugar. It would be interesting to hear your advice on the matter.
Has being “quarantined” for an extended period of time, made you obsessed with what your home looks like these days? Obsession has taken on a whole new meaning for me; constantly fixing the throw pillows so they sit upright perfectly on the couch, or mopping the floors to keep that squeaky clean shine. I throw a fit when the kids leave a dish in the sink, or shoes at the front door. Is this normal? Should I get out more? I’m tired of seeing the flaws of my home, and I think it’s time to put the paint can down and enjoy the sun! If I continue on like this, they will have to pry the yellow cleaning gloves off my hands, and ship me out of the country in a box marked, “Fragile!” Thought I’d make you laugh today. There was no real agenda for me today, even though I worked around the house like a dog! Enough is enough! I want fun! Don’t you? Let’s go for it this week! It’s supposed to be a gorgeous one. Enjoy yourselves, and don’t work too hard. Happy Sunday everyone!
Have I ever told you about the easiest bread to make on the planet? You don’t even need to knead it or rise it! It’s a little something I like to call “Monkey Bread” and it is super fantastic! Yes, I believe I used two adjectives back to back, but I wanted you to understand how yummy this bread really is! I’ve made it for a few dinner parties, and it was an absolute hit! This bread could be a great side for chili, cut into squares and served as dinner rolls, or part of a delicious breakfast . Monkey bread could be sweet or savoury too! This one happens to be a cheesy jalapeno delight! It’s all up to you, but you can’t go wrong when you serve this to your hungry guests. Take a look:
Big Ray’s Mexican Monkey Bread
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 (16.3 ounce) package refrigerated buttermilk biscuit dough, separated and each portion cut into quarters
1 ¼ cups shredded Cheddar cheese, divided
¾ cup jalapeno pepper slices, divided
¾ teaspoon dried parsley flakes, divided
¼ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Step 1 Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Prepare a 9×5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.
Step 2 Pour melted butter into a small bowl. Dip each piece of biscuit dough in melted butter to coat.
Step 3 Arrange enough of the biscuit dough pieces in the bottom of the loaf pan to form a single layer; top with 1/2 cup Cheddar cheese, 1/4 cup pepper slices, and 1/4 teaspoon parsley. Repeat layering once and top with remaining biscuit dough pieces, pepper slices, and parsley flakes.
Step 4 Mix remaining 1/4 cup Cheddar cheese and mozzarella cheese together in a bowl; spread over the top of the ingredients to cover.
Step 5 Bake in preheated oven until golden brown, 40 to 45 minutes. Cool bread in pan for 5 minutes before inverting onto a plate to serve.
*Recipe taken from allrecipes.com
I’ve made this bread a million times, but I have to say that I prefer using Bisquick biscuit mix, instead of Pillsbury. I find the salt content to be higher in the Pillsbury mix, which takes away from the flavour. If you have a biscuit mix that you swear by, you should go for it! This is all about trial and error, so you do what makes you happy and see how it turns out. I hope you all consider using this recipe as an alternative to regular baking from time to time, as it might help the issue of our shelves being bare of the baking essentials;) I don’t know about you, but I can’t find baking soda, baking powder, or yeast! Has everyone gone into a baking frenzy??? If so, I’d love to see what is coming out of your oven! Please share pics of your creations, and I may let you off the hook for being a rising agent hoarder! Lol. I’d better end this now before it gets ugly:) I love you all! Happy Thursday everyone!
This week on “Do it Yourself Challenge,”we are hitting the outdoors once again, to make our very own front door pots! They are a lovely accent piece to your front entrance, and easy to maintain. There are many different styles to choose from, so you have to decide if you want something whimsical, colourful, rustic, or even elegant to be a representation of your home. I found a few ideas that might get you thinking about what would best suit your style. Take a look:
Lovingly pruned trees in pots are a real sign of elegance: a visitor can find them all over the grounds of Versailles. These little trees which flank a door with a lion head knocker are enlivened with nearly identical plantings of bright purple asters in antiqued planting boxes on a black and white harlequin front stoup. (homebnc.com)
Ferns have always had an elegance about them, especially when more than one type are planted together. One interesting mix is the delicate maidenhair fern with the more robust Boston fern. The two rectangular pots here have a matching arrangement of ferns and blue hydrangea to add pops of blue-lavender to the shades of green. (homebnc.com)
Give your home a rustic, natural vibe by flanking the front door with these log-style planters. Tall and graceful, they make the perfect place to display flower plots or leafy greens. The cement resin composite material is tough enough for outdoor use — there are even built-in drainage holes to help keep your plants healthy. The bark detailing creates a realistic look, and the durable materials need no maintenance. (homebnc.com)
A trio of pots makes for a joyful grouping on the front porch. Te largest, made of terracotta, holds violas and a topiary frame on which ivy is trained. The second largest has a classic, cast iron look and is filled with petunias and a wrought metal sculpture. The third, a simple crockpot, is planted with cascading impatiens and gloxinias. (homebnc.com)
Searching for the perfect flowers, shrubs and pruned trees at your local nursery, is the first step in putting together the potted plants of your dreams! You can get really creative with some pots by painting them, or reusing older pots you may have had in storage. For pruned trees and shrubs, always find out how much sun it will need, and whether it can bear the winter months outdoors. Otherwise, you may have to bring them indoors for the colder seasons. Good luck with planting this week! The weather seems to be in full cooperation with gardening, so we had better take full advantage. Happy Wednesday everyone!
Are you feeling pizza tonight? I’m not talking about the pizza you pick up the phone and order in for, but the real deal! The one where you start the dough, let it rise, and prep the toppings, pizza! There is nothing better than a homemade, melt in your mouth, cheesy pizza, with your favourite toppings that come straight from your refrigerator! But, what is a true Italian pizza? It is much like a personal pizza, with fresh herbs and homemade sauce, and a mozzarella that makes you sing in Italian! You throw the pizzas into a stone oven for baking perfection, and “Eccolo!”(there it is), you have yourself a pizza straight from the buzzing streets of Naples!
Some of us may not have homemade sauce ready to go. That’s okay. We get the bottled stuff that will work just as well with a few fresh cut herbs sprinkled on top. If you are interested, you will have to make your sauce while you prep the dough. Here is a pizza recipe that I make at home all the time,and my kids go bonkers for! Never a slice left by the time we are done dinner. I have to warn you, I don’t have a stone oven, and I’m not Italian either! Big surprise, I bet! This may alter things a bit, but I think I can still pull it off in my own special way;) We will have authentic pizza tonight, but authentically Lisa’s.
1 1/2 cup flour
2 1/4 tablespoons of yeast
1 teaspoon of salt
2 tablespoons of sugar + a tsp (for yeast)
1/4 cup butter (or margarine)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
(anything else you love!)
Bottled pizza sauce
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 28oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 6oz. can tomato paste
1/2 Tbsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
Freshly cracked black pepper
1 pinch crushed red pepper (optional)
Put yeast into a 1/4 cup of warm water, along with a teaspoon of sugar. swish it around so the yeast and sugar dissolve. Cover with a small plate and wait for it to rise.
In another bowl, add flour, sugar, salt, butter, olive oil, basil and oregano flakes. Mix with your hands until the ingredients are incorporated. The dough should look grainy.
Add the yeast to the flour mixture once the yeast has risen to touch the bottom of the plate, and mix with hands until incorporated. Add warm water gradually until the flour becomes mushy. Add a little flour to stabilize the mushy dough and kneed into a soft, dry ball. Cover the ball with a clean cloth and let it rise.
Meanwhile, chop up your vegetable ingredients and get your sauce ready…
Add the olive oil and garlic to a sauce pot and cook over medium heat for 1-2 minutes, or just until the garlic is soft and fragrant.
Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, salt, basil, oregano, some freshly cracked pepper (10-15 cranks of a pepper mill), and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Stir to combine.
Cover the pot, allow the pot to come to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low, and let simmer for 15 minutes minimum, or up to 30 minutes
Once the pizza dough has risen, beat it down and kneed it back into a ball. Take the rolling pin and roll it out into an inch thick circle, big enough to fit your pizza pan. Roll the circle up in the rolling pin from its edges, then roll it out on to the pizza pan. Spread a few tablespoons of your sauce on the inner part of the pizza, leaving the crust area sauce-free (bottle your extra sauce for next time). Sprinkle fresh chopped basil, then mozzarella cheese. Add the rest of your favourite toppings and put into the oven to bake between 375-400 degrees celsius. Keep watch as it bakes, and be prepared to turn it down to 350 if it looks like it will start to burn. It should be in the oven for 30 minutes.
*Sauce recipe taken from budgetbytes.com, pizza recipe is mine!!
Best dipping sauce for those who love a good dip for their slice? Renee’s Caesar dressing will do the trick! Enjoy your pizza night! Happy Tuesday everyone!