Valentines Day Gift Edition

With Valentine's Day just around the corner, I thought that I would get you thinking about that special someone in your life who perhaps deserves additional doses of love thrown at them for no particular reason. Look, I'm not one for commercial holidays, and no one is forcing your hand to buy luxurious things for your loved one. But should you wish to make somebody in your life feel extra special during any part of the year (and not just mid February) here are some ideas on how to do just that, and that doesn't mean spending a fortune or going to a spa and buying a crappy bouquet of red roses.

(image courtesy of Kinfolk)

Sausage Making Class - Nothing says true love like making sausages. Actually that's probably the first time anybody in the history of the world has ever said that, but I can assure you, making sausages with your loved one is actually quite fun. The Healthy Butcher is a butcher shop in Toronto who specializes in local, organic and 100% grass fed meat and organic produce. They also host a series of classes throughout the year, teaching everything from knife skills to fish basics to creating your own charcuterie. Their most popular class however is sausage making, where you get to spend over two hours building flavors just "encase" you want to make your own sausages. Yeah, I said it. The best part is that you actually make a LOT of sausages, so many in fact that you will go home with a giant bag of them which will surely impress your friends and family. Classes are $80 per person (they've definitely gone up since I took my husband five years ago) but are totally worth the splurge for a fun night out.

Eclairs - Nügateau is Toronto's newest desert destination (sorry Nadège, don't be upset because I still love you) and it is a real pity if you haven't been there yet. Located near the corner of Queen and Palmerston, this shop deals strictly in eclairs, and presents them in the most beautiful way. With a ton of flavors to choose from - think lemon meringue, maple bacon, raspberry, pistachio etc - you will probably want to grab a mixed box of six for you and the one you love.

Photo Book - If you want your significant other to shed endless tears of happiness, all you have to do is make them something. And by something I mean a carefully edited book of your most important photographic memories, not a random scrapbook of old love notes and movie stubs. Although on second thought, that actually sounds really romantic. In any case,  Blurb helps you to build your own custom photo book that looks pretty professional.  You get to choose the size you want (anything from 7 x 7 inches to 13 x 11 inches), and you have several options for the front of the book, including going with an image wrap, soft cover or a dust jacket. I personally prefer the image wrap in a 12 x 12 inch format. You can build a standard book online, download their software to make it a tad more customized, or you can go all out and hire one of their professionals. Prices start at $30 for 20 pages.

Cheese Boutique- Things are about to get cheesy's a possibility anyways. Whether you choose to go solo or with your date, give yourself at least an hour wondering around this glorious cheese emporium that's located on the outskirts of High Park just off the Queensway. You are bound to stock up on lots of treats which will enable you to make a delicious little spread, which you may want to have with a nice bottle of wine and a toasty fire.  I suggest you buy at least 3 cheeses and build yourself a nice little charcuterie board with other fixings. They also have an amazing selection of canned goods, hot sauces, prepared foods, and not to be missed Chocolates X Brandon truffles from former Bar Isabel chef Brandon Olsen, who is about to open his own little chocolate shop in Brockton Village.

Coffee Mugs - I'm assuming that if you are reading this blog you are probably a grown up. Maybe you aren't, you know, like actually grown up, but physically, you probably at least embody the body of a grown up. Does that make sense? And most normal grown ups like a good morning cup of coffee, because it's really the world's most perfect beverage. To truly enjoy that warm, soothing, wake you up cup of coffee you could put it in a regular mug, but when you are a grown up, why not treat yourself and your loved one to two lovely ceramic mugs like this one? Yes, a mug that costs almost $60 is kind of expensive, but it's so pretty with it's blue speckles, and has such a nice weight to it, plus if you use it everyday I think it's totally worth the expense.

Roros Tweed Blanket - This 100% pure new wool blanket from Norway is hands down the best blanket I have ever owned. It's so highly superior to anything I have ever snuggled under, I really can't imagine using another blanket, ever. It was a Christmas gift from my husband (he got it in electric orange and purple), and it's definitely one of the best presents I've ever gotten.  It's warm and cozy, and guaranteed to bring you two together, in a very literal way.

Customized Stationary - Buying your own customized stationary seems a bit indulgent, but it is such a nice gesture when presented as a gift. Anything customized basically says "hey I took the time and effort to make something personal" and makes everybody feel special. I love Rifle Paper Co. and really love this little company that has grown into a massive stationary powerhouse over the last few years. For our wedding, I ordered a customized print that features an illustration of my husband, myself, our dog, and our wedding date. It's hanging in our living room and it's such a nice reminder of our wedding day. Plus we ended up getting thank you cards made from the same print, so our guests received it as a little keepsake. So why not get your loved one a notepad or some business cards that they will be proud to hand out to colleagues? They will always think of you when they see it and make them feel like real professionals.

Terrarium - Everybody loves air plants and succulents, but if you don't have a green thumb, why not ask the experts at Crown Flora to make you a terrarium. These guys made my flower crown and wedding bouquet, and yes, one day I will get around to sharing some photos from the day. You can spend a little or go all out and splurge, but I guarantee you your date will be happy no matter what you spend.





Holiday Countdown - Gift Edition Part 3

With Christmas less than ten days away, I hope that the final push to finish up your holiday shopping has not crushed you just yet. To make things a tad easier, I'm providing you with another edition of my curated collection of gifts, this time for the City Sophisticate. She's a stylish woman in her late 20s to mid 30s, a young professional that knows what she likes and what she wants, and who prefers unique, feminine and thoughtful finds that are luxurious but still practical enough to use everyday.

Buy her any of these gems, and you will probably be in her good books forever.

1. Woodlot Re-charge Package - $59 - This lovely Canadian made toxin free bundle includes a coconut wax candle, a nourishing soap bar, and mineral bath soaks. Everything is made out of rosemary + peppermint essential oils, and this little set is the perfect way to help her relax and recharge during the holidays.

2. Ilia Multi Stick - $34 - For the girl on the go, who doesn't need a lot of makeup, nor does she really want to put it on anyways. This magic stick comes in six unique shades, and works on cheeks, eyes and lips, providing a sexy but subtle hint of rosy shine that will enhance any winter complexion.

3. Ring Dish - $32 - This gorgeous little handmade ring dish is made out of porcelain and features a delicate gold rim. Each dish is one of a kind and will look right at home holding her favorite jewelry on her nightstand or dresser.

4. Stone Morter & Pestle - $272 - Almost too pretty to use, this Tom Dixon Morward white marble and brass set is sure to become a family heirloom.

5. Lady Bag - $1350 USD - Mansur Gavriel has been on the top of my wish list for the last couple of years, but only now can you find this extremely hard to find label in Canada. It's currently sold at Holts, and I'm kind of fearful because once things are no longer rare, my deep lust and attraction can sometimes go away. However, this chic carryall shouldn't worry, as it's essentially the perfect IT bag. It's totally sexy and naked, roomy enough for everyday use, and it comes in six colorways.

6. BarreWorks - During any gift giving season, I beg you to never give a girl a gym membership. Unless it's what she wants, trust me, just stay away. But BarreWorks is totally different. With two locations in Toronto, this is a super on trend fun ballet inspired workout that I think any girl would probably be quite happy to get. You can purchase a 5 class pack ($95) or a two weeks of unlimited classes for $40.

7. Lip Gloss - $42 - This has to be my favorite lip gloss ever.  I love that it's all natural, glides on without all that gunky mess, and it provides me with a youthful shine that stays on for hours. Well worth the hefty price tag.

8. Drop Earrings - $1805 - I've never been a big diamond fan, but these drop diamond earrings with a rose gold finish are modern classic. While extremely gorgeous, they are subtle enough to wear everyday.

9. Pillow - $212.50 USD - This luxurious Molto dual sided pillow from DWR features cashmere wool on one side and cotton velvet on the other, each with a slightly different look and feel.

10. Sweater Coat - $595 USD - This simple oatmeal Yak sweater coat from Jenni Kayne is exactly the kind of thing you want to throw on during a cold day. Unfortunately, they don't deliver to Canada, but when there's a will, there's a way...

11. Scarf - This stunning scarf is made from 100% crape silk, and is produced in very limited quantities in the EU. Lucky for us, you can purchase it in store at Ewanika or have it shipped to Canada.

12. Watch - $189 USD. A classic minimalist watch in rose gold and grey leather. You can purchase it online or in store at Likely General.




Holiday Countdown - Gift Edition Part 2

This gift collection is created for the young professional man, living in the big city, working away in some media world capacity (because that's apparently the majority of dudes I know). The guy who likes nice things yet won't often splurge on himself, but who deserves it nonetheless.

It doesn't matter if you are the wife, girlfriend, mother, or sister who is bestowing any of these gifts upon the 20 to 30 something year old man in your life, because all of these are pretty safe bets. Trust me, he is probably in dire need of some of these things anyways.

This list is really just a start, because I could have kept on going with some other must haves and luxuries like a timeless leather belt, a minimalist leather wallet, black cashmere gloves, a plaid scarf, a canvas laptop bag, a real shaving kit, a proper matching pajama set, a double set of high quality white sheets to have on the go, a chefs knife, sea salt collection, a set of matching white towels, a classic watch, quality chocolate from Mast Brothers, a smoked wood chip kit for the BBQ, or perhaps a subscription to a weekly organic food box or monthly butcher delivery service.

Just remember, giving a gift to the male in your life doesn't automatically have to require a trip to Best Buy. Although, there's some really cool shit at Best Buy as well :)

1. Muttonhead Camping Hoodie - $136 - This classic hoodie is made in a sweatshop free factory in Toronto. This dual layer camping hoodie is 100% waterproof and lined with a super soft fleece. It functions like a hoodie but has the warm protection of a jacket, perfect for our unpredictable Canadian weather.

2. Dillon's Bitters - $16.95 - I know very little about bitters, except that it's a thing and I should figure it out already. Most guys will want to experiment with some of these flavors, so why not give a collection for the budding mixologist in your life. Dillon's Bitters are made local in Beamsville Ontario, and you can find them for sale in specialty food stores across Canada.

3. Chemex Coffeemaker - $62.95 - This six cup coffee maker has been a classic since 1939 and even holds a place in the permanent collection of The Museum of Modern Art. This little glass marvel makes a bitter free tasting cup of coffee in less than 4 minutes and makes you look like a professional at home barista.

4. Limited Edition Military Blanket - $249 - This 100% wool blanket is an instant classic that will not only look great in the home but also keep him warm for the next 50 years.

5. Møller Trolley - $1725 USD - This beautiful solid wood walnut trolley can serve as a bar, side table, or even a printer stand. A classic piece of furniture he will treasure forever. 

6. Beard Tonic - $27 - Let's be honest. Most men aren't into grooming, even though the rise of the metrosexual would have us believe otherwise these days. Most men scoff at the idea of applying moisturizer on their face, let alone face oil. But sadly, our male counterparts are living with cracked, dry, and flaky skin that needs some nourishment. Beard oil is not just for the beard, it's really to help repair his dry skin underneath all that hair.

7. Large Ice Cube Maker - $11.95 - This is a great gift for a guy who likes to drink whiskey, yet these large cubes are a perfect addition to any cocktail. 

8. Alpaca Duvet - Nice duvets are a luxury item that most guys won't get themselves. This one is made in Canada, and instead of using feathers or down, it features 100% Peruvian Alpaca fiber. As the store states on their website "Alpaca fiber is warmer, lighter yet stronger than wool and resistant to saturation that is nearly water-repellent. It is also lanolin free making it hypoallergenic" -- perfect for the guy who gets sniffles or allergies throughout the year.  This duvet will also help regulate body temperature and is suitable for sleeping underneath year round. Call the store directly to inquire about pricing.

9. Jasper Oxford Shirt - $55 - This Frank & Oak slim fitting shirt in 100% cotton is a wardrobe staple. Plus this light grey color feels fresh and will work with any hair color or skin tone. Perfect for all seasons.

10. Duffle Bag - $424.99 - For the man who goes on business trips, weekend getaways or who frequently hits up the gym. His old ripped apart hockey bag won't cut it, but this Filson Duffle in Otter green says he's a fully grown up man. Water repellent with two way brass zippers and leather pulls.

11. Fair Isle Socks - $38 - These socks are comfy, warm and say Christmas. Great as a stand alone gift or a stocking stuffer.

12. Sweatpants - $150 - Every guy needs to have a nice new pair of sweatpants. Please. Do it for me. Or you. Or them. It doesn't matter as long as they have a pair of new sweatpants. If they are still wearing the same sweats from high school or college, this should be the first thing they receive this year. This pair from Naked & Famous is clean and classic and made from 100% cotton.




Holiday Countdown - Gift Edition Part 1

I am such a sucker for putting together pretty gift sets. It's probably one of my favorite activities, and if I had to choose my dream job, it would probably be assembling beautiful gift packages for really, really, REALLY rich people.

For the next couple of weeks, I'm going to be putting together some holiday shopping ideas for those unique people in your life who may have stumped you this gift giving season. But since this blog is all about fantasy, I apologize if some of my finds are a tad expensive. I'm not saying you have to rush out and buy any of these things, but in my dream world, if I had endless amounts of money, and could spend it on others (in very frivolous ways), this might be it.

First up, this collection of finds is for the baker or taste maker, the person who practically lives in their kitchen but dreams about moving to Italy or the south of France, the one who loves to whip up their own jars of pickles in the early fall, and who generously spends all day making pasta by hand.

1. Kitten & Bear Jam - $12 - This local Toronto store makes jam in small batch quantities by hand, and they do not use any preservatives or commercial additives. As the shop states, all of their items are "made in the French confiture style in traditional hand-hammered copper preserving pans, they stand apart by their exquisite texture, interesting ingredients, and subtle balance of flavours." Since this spot is right around the corner from me, I indulge in their freshly made scones more frequently than I would like to admit. If you have never been there, for the love of god, go immediately. Each scone purchase comes with your choice of seasonal jam and clotted cream, and once you open up the heavenly warm scone in your hand, dollop on some topping, and feel the buttery richness in your mouth, you will never be the same. You can shop in store or online.

2. Herriott Grace - Rolling Pin - $70 - I am a massive fan of Herriot Grace. This father daughter duo create spectacular wood carved pieces that you will treasure forever. Made in Vancouver and available online.

3. Mjolk - Onion Basket - $60 - A large bamboo handmade basket, perfect for storing fruit or onions on the counter. Made by an artisan in Kyoto Japan. Available in store and online.

4. Rough Linen - Apron - $50 - A classic rough linen Belgian waiters apron, perfect for protecting your clothes on days when you have hot soup bubbling on the stove. Made in the US but ships to Canada.

5. Mjolk - Cast Iron Pan with Handle - $320 - Crafted by Japan's most important industrial designer Sori Yanagi. The stunning black pot features curved edges for easy pouring. Available in store and online.

6. Coolican & Company - Palmerston Stool - $490 - I first spotted Coolican & Company at IDS a few years ago. I instantly fell in love with their superb craftsmanship and incredible attention to detail. They have a small line of furniture and accessories, and this lovely handcrafted white maple stool is the perfect place to perch your tired legs when peeling a bucket of potatoes. Available online, contact the shop directly.

7. Elte - Picardie Tumbler - $2.96 (each) - These classic ribbed tumbler glasses are a standard in French bistros and are made of shatter proof glass that can withstand both hot and cold beverages. All that and coming in at less than $3, what's not to love?

8. Chapters Indigo - A Kitchen in France: A Year of Cooking in My Farmhouse - $34.49 - Famous food blogger and former model Mimi Thorisson welcomes us into her own kitchen in France. You will find spectacular photography featuring beautiful ingredients and seasonal family style meals. You can purchase this book online for 25% off, or in store at regular retail price.

9. L' Atelier St George - Pallares Solsona Kitchen Knife - $35 - A practical knife for daily use, yet so pretty that it will made food photographers salivate. Made in Spain, available for purchase in store and online.