Father’s Day Gift Guide

Father’s Day is coming up on June 21 and unlike other sites that run their gift guides a week before, we wanted to give you ample time to suss out the perfect gifts for the dads in your life. Here are some of our favourites:

From Beth-Anne

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This is a luxury item that dads are unlikely to splurge on for themselves but if they are a music lover nothing compares. Whether they are used for intense workouts at the gym, running outdoors or walking to and from the office, these Bluetooth-enabled earphones are unbeatable. Powerbeats™ 2 Wireless earphones are available at Indigo, $219.95.

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I saw Dan Buettner featured on a popular news magazine show. He was visiting the Greek island of Ikaria, interviewing inhabitants and experts alike on the secrets to a long, healthy life. While the wisdom may not be surprising, it’s worth giving Dad the blueprints to longevity! The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons For Living Longer from the people who’ve lived the longest and The Blue Zones Solution: Eating And Living Like The World’s Healthiest People by Dan Buettner available at Indigo $12.24 and $21.05.

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I like giving t-shirts. Among my favourites are the ironic ones from places like Drake General Store or the city-scapes I found at the One of a Kind Show. We featured this shirt for the hockey-lover as part of Giving Guide in December and it was a favourite of our readers too. What do you think about this one from ebollo on Etsy? Not sure it would get much wear, but the message is indisputable!

I love the idea of giving experiences. For Mother’s Day, we went for a fancy-schmancy French dinner (no sweaties allowed!) and the boys truly impressed me with their manners (there may have been some threats uttered before we left the house) and the memory will stay with me much longer than anything material ever could. If the dad in your life is completely stressed out, get him a pass to a Restorative yoga class. The pace is gentle, slow and more relaxing than any massage, plus it’s good for him! The Culture Pearl has her finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the city.  Recently she wrote about her experience in a skydiving simulator but if that’s not his thing, a luxury car rental for the day may be!

From Nathalie:

You could have knocked me over with a feather when my brother told me about his date night spent painting a picture.  I had never heard of social painting, but I would have bet money he’d be the last person to do something like that.  He did, and he loved it.  Social painting is a guided lesson in painting in a group setting with cocktails and music and fun.  So, whether the dad in your life is artistic or not, look into a painting party.  Art Tonite has weekly sessions in various locations around Toronto.

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My boys paint ties for their dad every year.  It takes a special kind of man to wear these proudly, and my husband is one of them!  He gets lots of compliments.

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Real Canadian Superstores has some great gear for dads, like a portable bbq, perfect for camping or tailgate parties.  It folds up for easy transportation and storage.

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I love the idea of these solar powered Mason jar lanterns for the Green Dad, available from Home Depot.  They look great in the daylight, too, as they are silvered and glitter in the sunlight.

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From  Carol

A unique and sure-winner for the beer-loving man, give him the gift of home brew!  Brew North is Toronto’s newest and best home brewing supply shop, carrying all the equipment, ingredients, and kits needed to make a really good beer whether you’re a novice or experienced brewer.

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And for more culinary delights, how about a taking a class on cheese tasting?  Enter night school for cheese fans at the Leslieville Cheese Market.  Fun, delicious, and perfect for a special night out.

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It’s Shower Season! Top Baby Gifts You Need To Give.

Last week I wrote about my nephew’s impending arrival. Thank you to everyone who gave their two cents on which print to buy for his nursery. I am close to deciding, so if you haven’t had the chance to weigh-in, click here. The print I decide on will be posted to our Instagram page in about 10 days.

Having a baby in the springtime seems poetic. Birth and renewal of life are everywhere in nature and evident among us humans too, as mothers and young children reclaim the parks and sidewalks. I had my middle son on April 1, and fully appreciated the warmer weather and the longer days.

In anticipation of the newest addition to our family, I am co-hosting a baby shower for my sister-in-law. In just a few short years the number of products for baby has exploded exponentially! I know that there are many gimmicky products promising mothers everything from easy diaper changes to silent nights and as a seasoned mom, I tend to roll my eyes at many of them. There are products that all moms claim they couldn’t have survived the baby years without. For me, it was the bouncy chair. I wish that I had the foresight to put one on every floor of the house. I always thought that I would carry my babies in slings and carriers but alas, my dream was shattered when not one of them liked being carried in such a way. Go figure, they had distinct likes and dislikes from the very beginning!

Moms, what would you add to the “must-have” list for baby’s arrival?  Leave a comment.

I have rounded up a few of my favourite baby gifts from the tried and tested to the shiny and new.

When I buy a baby gift, I often stick to the registry for the basics: things everyone needs and everyone has a strong opinion about. Glass bottles vs. plastic? Sippy cups? Pacifiers? Better stick to what mom-to-be wants. No new mama wants to be returning anything in the days after baby is born.

I also like to splurge on fun things that parents aren’t necessarily going to buy for themselves. This “bear skin” rug from Pottery Barn Kids is a perfect example of a play mat that can be plopped down anywhere in the house for little one’s tummy time, and it’s just really cute, right?

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I was shocked by the amount of laundry baby produced when I was a new mom. In particular, it was the mountainous number of receiving blankets covered in throw-up and spilled milk. I like these Aden & Anais classic swaddle blankets that are 100% natural cotton muslin.

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Sophie the Giraffe. Need I say more? Worth every cent of her $30.00.

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Hooded towels are undeniably cute, but I prefer classic monogrammed towels that can be used for many years. These towels from Pottery Barn Kids, were gifted to me at my baby shower more than 8 years ago, and they are still in rotation.

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Speaking of gifts that grow, Skip Hop makes diaper bags that are stylish, functional and will be used long after baby is out of diapers.   The Duet 2-in-1 Diaper Tote and the Out & About are perfect examples of bags that work for storing diapers, quick changes and extra bottles, but their sleek design and sophisticated colours will transition nicely to a carry-on, an overnight bag or a gym tote. In celebration of baby shower season and Skip Hop’s new must-have diaper bags, from April 6-13, buy any Skip Hop item from Indigo and get a Skip Hop accessory at 25% off.

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It seems impossible that baby, who is so tiny, will soon be eating foods at the table. Also by Skip Hop is a collection of colourful melamine plates, utensils and food storage containers.

Books. Books. Books. I love giving books. Recently as a baptismal gift, I bought 20 of my favourite childhood books. Inside each book I wrote a note. For example, I bought Alexander and The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day and inside the book I wrote, My Dearest Katherine: Because we all have terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days. Just remember that you are so very loved!

I also bought Fancy Nancy and wrote: My Dearest Katherine: Because sometimes being fancy is fun!

It’s my favourite gift that I have ever given and I hope to give it again very soon.

There are also gifts to be treasured. Among my most precious are handmade blankets and clothing. I wish that I had the skill to craft something for my nephew because it’s these gifts that I am most moved by. Somethings can’t be bought; if you have the skill, use it!

Be sure to follow us on Instagram for snaps from the baby shower. You’re not going to want to miss it!

For Your Calendar: The Baby Time Show Prenatal to Preschool comes to Mississauga’s International Centre, Hall 5 from April 24-26. For more information, including ticket prices, visit their website.

Gifts for Her

Here’s what we are crushing on and hoping to see under the tree!

From Nathalie

I’m all about books and one of a kind crafts.  And anything with images of houses.  Especially these.  Made by Stoneware Studio.  Again, all I did was enter “houses” into the search box at Etsy.  It’s a playground out there, I tell you.

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If there is a woman on your list who loves her nails done right and likes a little sass with her spa, check out this new line of nail polishes from Trust Fund Beauty.  With shades like What’s a Budget?, this package has humour and good looks.  This is Kiss Kiss Darling.  Perfect for the holidays.

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I think manicured nails look wonderful wrapped around a tumbler of scotch, and I don’t think that the guys should get all the booze.  I’ve grown to love a really peaty scotch.  (Check out this website that tells you how to pronounce the names of various types of scotch.  So funny.)

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I also don’t think that the guys and the kids should get all the gadgets.

Beth-Anne and I had a tour of the new Blacks store at Yonge and Eglinton today, and we got a demonstration of this super-fun printer.  The Fuji Instax Printer ($199) allows up to eight people to wirelessly send photos to print, and out pops a little photo that develops in front of your eyes.  So much fun for a party, shower, or family gathering.

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After meeting Avery Swartz from Camp Tech, who helped us with some issues with our blog, I’m feeling a lot more empowered to experiment, play and learn with and about my devices.  The folks at Staples very kindly sent us this Samsung Galaxy Tab.  I am very excited to have gadget of my own!  I have big plans for this baby.  I do all of my blog posts at my desk and from my computer, because my phone is way, way, way too small for my aging eyes the vast scope of my creativity.  This should help a lot!

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From Beth-Anne:

I never seem to have enough totes and this sequin and linen maple leaf design from Indigo appeals to my Canadian spirit.  Indigo, $49.50.

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I love this mug so, so, so much because reading is sexy! Maybe someone ought to pass the message along to some of today’s pop-starlets that booties are out and bookmarks are in! Indigo, $10.00.

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I have been following Carrie Synder’s blog for years and loved her critically acclaimed book The Juliet Stories so when Girl Runner came out, I was anxious to get my hands on a copy.   Nominated for awards and praised by her fans this book is the perfect read on a snow-stormy day.  Need more convincing?  Read Nathalie’s review here.  Indigo, $19.76.

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Not everyone is a fluffy slipper kinda gal, so if you prefer a more glam look, these Ruby & Ed velvet bow ballerina slippers in dusty plum do the trick.  Town Shoes, Ron White and Shop Vincent, $70.

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Coffee table books can add an element of decor to your home, but if they are not absolutely enchanting, what’s the point?  Vogue and The Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute: Parties, Exhibitions, People is full of glamorous celebrities, trendy fashionistas, stylemakers and icons.  Eye candy and inspiration! Indigo, $37.95.

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Personalized stamps appeal to anyone who loves stationery and/or organizing.  For the baker, the book collector and the monogrammed obsessed these personalized stamps go far beyond the standard return address stamp.  Available in a variety of styles, colours and fonts.  Pretty In Ink, pricing varies.

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Canadian jewelry designer Jenny Bird has caught my eye.  Her designs are reminiscent of ancient times and reference powerful goddesses and rulers, and a departure from the dainty pieces and glittery statement necklaces that dominate the boutiques.  Wear a Jenny Bird and feel bold, feminine and graceful. Jenny Bird, a variety of styles and prices.

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Bill Baker, the creator of Consonant , truly cares about what we’re putting on our skin.  His passion and commitment to creating safe and effective skin care is evident in his un-ending desire to learn more and improve upon his award winning formulas.  Start the new year off right and remember Consonant’s philosophy: what goes on your body, goes in your body.  Consonant’s Healthy Skin Detox For Face, $99.00. 

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The Mophie, a mobile battery pack to extend the daily life of your smart phone is the ideal gift for the social media junkie.  Available in a variety of colours but it’s this champagne colour that has made my wish list.  Mophie, Prices vary.

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A great gift for the cottager or the city dweller.  These hand-made vintage style map prints on pillows with 100% down-filled inserts are available with maps of Muskoka, Prince Edward County, Georgian Bay, Toronto and more.  County Cupboard $69.99.

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Don’t forget to stuff her stocking with all sorts of baubles and treasures.  Be sure to add Make Up Forever Artist liner.  The colour palate covers the range from basic black to deep plum.  Sephora, $24

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Gifts for Him

From stocking stuffers to big ticket items, here are some fabulous gift ideas for the men on your list.

From Nathalie:

One word: cufflinks.  My beloved loves to wear the cufflinks that “the kids” give him every year.  Each boy chooses a theme from the year: hockey, soccer, Lego, camping, maps, a special trip, bike chain links, a symbol of their name….  The possibilities are really endless.  Etsy and The One of a Kind are my go-to sources.  These are a favourite:

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Personalized gifts.  Last year, we gave my father-in-law and my four brothers-in-law a puzzle made from a photograph of the family cottage.  Each family got a different image, but the theme was the same: this is a place that brings us together and holds special memories.  Some of us got engaged there, some of us got married there, all of us have loved being there.

Booze.  You can be literal or figurative with this.  It does not have to be hackneyed.  Wondermade makes handmade marshmallows in Bourbon and Guinness flavours.

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Check out these awesome Canadian coasters made from upcycled beer bottles.  $42  Rebeer by Artech Studios.  (Do you see the joke??  It’s Canadian.)  They make all kinds of fun things out of recycled beer, wine and booze bottles.  Meeting Jennifer Wanless-Craig and Terry Craig was a highlight of attending the OOAK show.  Fun people, fun gifts.

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From Beth-Anne:

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For any hockey lover Gordie Howe’s autobiography Mr. Hockey is sure to be a hit.  Indigo, $19.00

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Make fitness a priority in the new year with the Fit Bit that counts your steps and tracks your calories.  My favourite feature is the sleep tracker . . . or in my case the “lack-of-sleep” tracker.  Available in a variety of colours including this gun metal at Indigo, $99.95.

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Barware is always a fun gift because it’s something you rarely buy for yourself.  These Woodland Animal lowball glasses (set of 4) are available at Indigo for $38.  If the Canadiana theme isn’t your guy’s thing, the On the Rock Glass and Ice Ball gift set, for $39.50, is a more classic option.

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Or to heck with the glassware and go straight for this flask for $25.00 (Indigo) with a quote by American author F. Scott Fitzgerald.

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Wine may be more your guy’s thing, and the Corkcicle, an artificial icicle is inserted into the bottle to help keep the temperature just right.  Indigo, $25.00.

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The curse words may not be everyone’s taste but the final dishes in this book don’t disappoint!  Indigo, $18.77.

Cufflinks are a fail safe gift but these are anything but hoo-hum.  Handmade of vintage watch movements the Time In Fantasy Longines Steampunk Cufflinks are eye-catching, whimsical and at $98.12 the right price!  Etsy.

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How about these one-of-a-kind numbered bicycle prints from Etsy’s Bicycle Paintings, now also offered at Frank & Oak… perfect for the cyclist in the house.

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For the guy who hits the gym after work, the Cote and Ciel Isar Rucksack Twin Touch is the perfect bag.  The asymmetrical design includes a padded external document compartment and two internal pouches.  Available at these boutiques across Canada for $272: Etoffes, Montreal; J2 Fashion, Burnaby; Lev Boutique, Calgary; UN Luggage, Winnipeg; Nomad, Toronto; Zane, Toronto.

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From Carol

Almost every man is on the hunt for the perfect shave, and Toronto’s Crown Shaving Co. has stepped in to help by creating a line of quality personal grooming products targeted specifically to the men in our life.  Its distinctively masculine (okay, black) packaging calls out to “vagabonds, gentlemen and ruffians”.  You’ll also feel great knowing that these products are made with natural and botanical ingredients, and are free of alcohol, artificial colours and fragrances, sulfites and parabens.  Available at Little House in the City.

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For your favourite handyman, Leatherman multi-purpose tools are pretty much perfect.  There are many versions to choose from, which can accommodate a wide range of budgets.  They invite so much possibility, I kind of want one.

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For the explorers and adventurers out there, both of body or spirit,  The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition by Caroline Alexander is pretty much a sure thing.  With this kind of real life drama, how could this book not be destined to amaze and awaken the imagination?  I’m gifting it to my husband.

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Decorating Your Home for the Holidays

It may seem early to our readers around the world, but in Canada the day after Halloween marks the unofficial start of the holiday season. Gift guides and wish-books from retailers arrive in the mailbox, and the windows of shops are decorated with garland, glitter and the occasional tree. Even Starbucks has replaced their white cups with their traditional, red holiday ones.

We’ve barely put away the ghoulish masks and spooky ghosts and my boys are asking when we’re going to put up the Christmas tree. I try to be all zen about it and remind them that the holidays are weeks away but there is no denying that those weeks are going to pass in the blink of an eye and the bulk of holiday happiness resides squarely upon my shoulders.

So whether you celebrate Christmas or just like to create a cozy home for winter, here is a round up of my favourite items from Indigo, President Choice Home and The Home Depot.

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I love these copper mule mugs. They add sparkle and shine to the table and can be used at any festive meal.

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These Woodland Cabin napkins are reminiscent of Kurt Cobain and the grunge era, but there is something undeniably Canadian about this print.

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Cake plates are my new favourite tabletop accessories. Last month we did a post on DIY flower arrangements and used this wooden pedestal as the focus point. Additionally they are a great way to display ornaments, treasures and of course desserts.

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medium marble and wood pedestal Dessert plates are an inexpensive way to add whimsy to a table. These ribbon plates are less than $35 but if you wanted to choose something with more longevity, consider the New Year’s Eve Countdown plates that could do double-duty for a birthday celebration.

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Snow globes have come a long way from tacky tourist souvenirs. These globes would standout on any mantle or atop a stack of books arranged on the coffee table.

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Last year I bought some festive pillows on a whim, successfully transforming my living room into a Christmas-y nook. Santa is not for everyone, but these current designs have staying power and will last long past his visit.

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PC Home

I was amazed to learn how much of the PC Home line is designed in Toronto. The creative minds behind the 2014 Holiday collection were on hand to answer questions at the holiday preview and to be honest, I was impressed by both their ingenuity and their desire to create products for every day life. They get that people are clumsy and Waterford crystal chips. They understand that Santa mugs are irresistible to little hands. Above all, they understand that we want beautiful, functional design for our home at a reasonable price.  All the items here are available at Real Canadian Superstore and select Loblaw banner stores.

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My sister-in-law does a cookie exchange with her friends every year and this tin would be ideal as the chalkboard surface allows for the giver to write a message on the lid.

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My most favourite holiday accessory is this faux crystal glassware set. The bowls and the glassware are so well crafted you’ll be amazed when you discover it’s plastic! So stop worrying about chipping your finery, lay this out for Christmas dinner and pull it out again come patio season.

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PC Home outdid themselves when it comes to ornaments.   Beautiful colour palates from muted pastels, to icy jewel tones and classic holiday. For the price, I’ve seen nothing comparable. IMG_1296 IMG_1310

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Usually I am opposed to chotchkies but the holidays are the time to bring them all out! Go hog-wild! Clutter-up them surfaces! These are a few that I am clearing space for this year.

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But it’s this tree that has me trying to reconfigure my living room.  Imagine two of these book-ending a sleek, modern fireplace. . . .hmmmm, maybe it’s time for a new fireplace.

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Sadly, I am not on the payroll so I didn’t receive a penny for these recommendations. However, I was invited to their holiday preview events and they were a lot of fun! For more images of what’s new and in stores, follow 4Mothers on Instagram.

How-To: Fall Tablescapes Made Easy

Toronto has a plethora of great restaurants. Whatever you’ve got a hankering for; chances are you can find it among the city’s thriving foodie scene. In the past few months I have eaten out a lot and with November looming and the holiday parties about to start, I want to change gears, simplify and return to the “dinner party”.

I love eating at friends’ houses and hosting at ours as much as I do patronizing Toronto’s finest restos.   It’s fun to play the host, decorate the table and fuss with the menu. My partner-in-crime is a fabulous cook (thank goodness one of us is!) and so while he handles everything in the kitchen, the table is left up to me.

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Here’s my take on a casual dinner setting. I never buy “all new”, instead I prefer to buy versatile pieces to add to my collection and re-purpose what I already have in my cupboards. The napkin is 100% linen and adds some whimsy to the table. Ideal for Thanksgiving, but it works for any meal because aren’t we always thankful to break bread with loved ones?

The chalkboard napkin rings work double duty as place cards and writing the guest’s name is the perfect job for little helpers.

I love fresh flowers on the table, but we all know the cost of larger arrangements can quickly burst the budget. A trick that an event planner once taught me was to create several smaller arrangements using cheaper flowers (think mums, carnations, baby’s breath, daisies) for the bulk of the display and then add a few stems of a more expensive bloom. Baby food jars, mason jars, small glasses are all easy, affordable vessels that can be dressed up with spray-paint, ribbon, twine or left as is. I am crushing on these green mason jars!

My glassware is a mason jar with a handle and instead of a traditional wine glass I opted for a terra cotta wine chalice.

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I swapped out my everyday flatware for a gold set that works well with this ivory plate and matching “thankful” bowl. I like the weight of this dinnerware – it’s rustic and reminds me of the harvest.

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To increase the “wow factor”, I traded the dinnerware for a bone white plate and an inexpensive gold charger from the party store. Here’s a tip: share! My sisters-in-law and I shuttle serving dishes, chargers and linens back and forth from each other’s house whenever one of us is hosting a dinner. It cuts down on the cost, and you can have more fun setting the table.

The stem-less wine glasses go well with these liqueur ones that add a pop of colour to the table. Indigo has a collection of reasonably priced linen napkins in a variety of colours. This barn-red reminds me of the autumn leaves but will work on a holiday table too.

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For a centerpiece I took a pumpkin from my son’s collection (where does he keep getting these from?), a pinecone from our Christmas stock and a stem of hydrangea. I grouped them together on a white cake plate for a more polished look, but I really like how the cluster looks earthier on this wooden pedestal.

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My grandmother’s china is one of my most favourite possessions and it has taken me a long time to get over my fear of shattering a plate. Every time I use it, I think of her and I know that she wouldn’t want me to keep it the cupboard like some sort of shrine, so I use it. I am sure there will be a day when a bowl gets chipped, and I am sure that I will feel a pang of sadness or guilt, but at least the set is being used.

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Here’s a more glam setting complete with a silver charger and matching napkin ring. My best Waterford crystal red and white wine glasses (not many have survived the ten years since my wedding registry) and champagne flutes (that I trekked home from a European back-pack adventure more than 12 years ago).

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Instead of a cake plate, I used the same cluster and placed in my great-aunt’s crystal bowl – that usually holds oranges on the kitchen table.

Here are some tabletop accessories that would make a nice addition to any collection.

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Linen napkins from Madderroot via Etsy

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Linen napkins from RecoverMeDesign via Etsy

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Linen napkins from Rosyeco via Etsy

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Copper napkin rings from Indigo

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DIY Hand-dotted glassware via 4Mothers

Thank you Indigo, for sending over the plate, bowl, gold flatware, linen napkins and wooden pedestal. We sure do love your store! Indigo didn’t pay me to write this post or to use their products . . . yup, I just really like ‘em.

It Really Is The Best!

This whole cooking-thing is pretty new to me.  Now that all three of the boys have enormous appetites and are slowly eating us out of house and home, I have had to step up my game and become a savvy grocery shopper and expand my measly cooking repertoire.  It is a challenge for me because I am a picky eater (picky about everything: mixing textures, flavour, taste . . . I insist that I am genetically programmed to gag at the first whiff of steamed broccoli).  That being said, it is a great fear of mine to pass on this “pickiness” to the boys.  Since becoming a mom I have added many, many foods to my “approved” list and have found that (insert shocked gasp) I actually like a lot of things I thought that I didn’t like!  Who knew?!

That Dr. Seuss was a wise, wise man.

And it’s sorta embarrassing when the kids have a more refined palate than their mother.

But I do like tomatoes.  I really like onions.  I really, really like things that are super easy to make and that taste good.

Fall is my favourite time of year because of the crispness in the air.  I love nothing more than having belly warming food after coming in from walking the boys home for lunch. Or driving like a maniac through the neighbourhood in order to eat a healthy lunch during their lunch “hour”.

Being the Indigo addict that I am, when I read this recipe for the Best Ever Tomato Soup, I knew that I had to try it.  Be warned, it’s delicious and your house will smell warm and inviting the minute it starts bubbling on your stove.  It will smell so good that you may have to pretend you’re not home when the neighbours start banging on the door.

And it’s the perfect mate to grilled cheese.

This recipe is NOT MINE because I would never, ever do that to you.

This recipe belongs to Indigo and so does the above graphic.  If you click here, you’ll find the perfect soup bowls to serve this in . . . unless you’re me and pour it over grilled cheese.

And for all of you visual learners, here you go: