Archives for October 2016


House Tour – Pretty & Pastel Mountain Home

A mountain home does not need elk chandeliers and Tyrolean accents to be deemed alpine. A modern retreat with a relaxed tone is the ideal way to come home after kicking snow from the grooves of your boots. Using a color palette of chalky pink, blue and gray, padded with an abundance of textiles and natural light, restorative exhales happen without having to take a yoga class in this Calgary home designed by Aly Velji Designs. The residence clearly has the imprint of an expert who deftly blends style and function but loaded with personalized detailing.

A calming color palette and soft accents warm up this Calgary residence.

A calming color palette and soft accents warm up this Calgary residence.

Pretty and pink is not just for a girl’s room with ballerina bedding and shag rugs, it is also very grown up. The palette compliments the sophisticated, warm style where the right details support the designer’s mission. Pillows, novelty boxes and accents don’t have that peel-off-the-price-tag newness. The rooms show a thoughtful gathering of appointed pieces that balance design and functionality with a gentle spin.

Velji found that the home’s basic elements were in place but needed a decor eye to create a story. “The entry was lackluster, so we added the zebra rug and the custom photo wall for some interest. Bespoke pillows for the dining room, accessorizing the mantle, adding in a few key pieces of furniture really brought the space some cohesion,” he says.

Adding a photo wall, zebra print rug and the right touches of style the entry.

Adding a photo wall, zebra rug and the right touches of style the entry.

In the bedroom they added customized molding, bedding, powder blue drapery and wallpaper to the back wall to create a focal point. A vintage light fixture secures the room as a one-of-a-kind space.

In the family room navy and cream connect to delicious patterns and texture through the fabrics and accessories. A customized sofa and ottoman provide comfort that support the scheme.


An attention to prints and customized pieces create a designed family room.

Aly Velji Designs spills on how to soften a space through accents:

Softening a space can be as easy as adding pillows, window coverings and tactile furnishings. Softness is often associated with feminine rooms however every space needs soothing notes no matter how modern or masculine a design.

An appreciation of color, fabrics and an edited display soften a room.

An attention to color, fabrics and an edited display soften a room.

Designer tricks to create a styled look:

We style every space with many accessories. We love to work with the client’s belongings and mix them with new pieces to freshen the look. The key to a well-styled space is all about the details. We tend to bring in more than we need and edit. It takes awhile but you know when you have it just right.

Bring in a lot of pieces to style then edit.

Bring a variety of acents to style then edit.

How to make pastels work in a grownup home:

It is all about how you use certain colors, make them grownup, and what you pair them with. We added soft pastel tones in this space but mixed them with more neutral colors and heavier furnishings like the dining and coffee tables. These two elements help ground each space and create a more sophisticated vibe.

Combine heavier pieces with soft colors to neutralize a look for adult living.

Combine heavier pieces with soft colors to neutralize a look for a modern retreat.

In the know trade/designer secrets:

Install custom panels for window coverings rather than full wall-to-wall drapery. This will add softness to your space and keep you on budget.

A mix of pillows with customized fabrics is a designer-approved splurge.

A mix of pillows with customized fabrics is a designer-approved splurge.

A flat weave rug adds pattern and color and is more cost effective than a hand-knotted wool carpet.

Mix it up:

  • Mix your metals.
  • Mix floral patterns and textures to create a pulled together look.
  • Mix your design styles
  • Mix and match your pillows. Splurge on a gorgeous must have fabric for custom pillows and mix them up with ready made throw cushions.
A mix of elements create a look.

A mix of elements create a look.

Photography by Bookstrucker Photograpy

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Simple Chili Recipe

Chili and I go way back. What was once designated as the only lunch option from base mountain restaurants has become a cool weather staple. As we experience the transition from summer to fall, the palette makes the transition from salad weather to chili weather. Now that embers shoot from old stone fireplaces and mini tornadoes of leaves skim the roads, I find that I am pulling out my spicy seasonings and the big cooking pot that will feel the simmer of the stove for half the day.

Prepping chili spices and beans for this autumn meal staple.

Prepping chili spices and beans for this autumn meal staple.

As with most dependable recipes, I will deviate from the basic ingredients with whatever looks good at the market.

Basic Chili

Serves 5


1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

2 gloves of garlic

2 medium carrots, diced

1 small red pepper, diced

3 lbs. lean ground meat

1 ounce Italian stewed tomatoes

1 chili seasoning pack

1/2 cup red beans

1/2 cup black beans


Drizzle olive oil into a large cooking pot and simmer garlic, pepper and carrots till soft.

Add meat and break up until brown with a wooden spoon, then add beans.

Add seasonings and tomatoes. Stir until blended.

Turn heat to low and cook for 15 minutes.

Serve with sour cream, fresh cilantro and bread.

Make enough for leftovers, which tastes even better the following day.

Make enough for leftovers, which tastes even better the following day.


All-clad pot:

Casserole dish:

White chili bowls:

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6 Steps to a Styled Thanksgiving

Whether it’s the autumnal decor or calendar blotted with competing plans, rumblings of Thanksgiving are happening in our household. We may eschew a trip to avoid the holiday chaos, which leaves our home as the natural destination.

The setting in our former home, which mixes traditional with today's flare.

The setting in our former home, which mixes traditional with today’s flare.

1. Submit Seasonal for Holiday

Unless it’s vintage, decorating with turkeys and pilgrims is the same as assuming a Parisian flat crammed with Eiffel Tower trinkets. Let the mood of the season inspire your setting. Focus on personalized details over an expected annual setting. While this may be rebellion from when I had to polish the silver from my childhood holidays, you are sure to earn more ohs and ahs by tweaking tradition.

Mix up the details with color and an assortment of interesting pieces.

Mix up the details with color and an assortment of interesting pieces.

2. What to Serve?

If there is one holiday where you should not deviate from the traditional menu it’s Thanksgiving. Being served a rack of lamb over turkey and stuffing could cause a boycott from your guests. This is not the intention of a true hostess. Even if you don’t like mashed potatoes and gravy your palette craves traditional foods on the last Thursday of November. In fact, we can safely assume what Americans will be eating on Thanksgiving. The trick is supplement with a variety of choices like apple cider donuts for breakfast if you have overnight guests and pumpkin bread and corn muffins.

Morning apple cider donuts kick off the culinary celebration.

Morning apple cider donuts kick off the culinary celebration.

Serve a mix of breads and muffins.

Serve a mix of breads and muffins.

3. Setting the Table with Pizzazz

While formal dinnerware is great for newly marrieds who want to showcase their matrimonial goods, I prefer simple white dinnerware and weave in current accents. Working with a color scheme of gold, autumnal colors and touches of blue for a personalized note through accessories like the table runner, banners, floral centerpiece and drinking goblets.

4. In the Details

Bring in details that both cater to guests and show style, like a bouquet of barber striped straws in complimentary colors, salt cellars filled with seasoning and colorful paper napkins secured with holders to minimize cleanup.

5. The Kid Table

Set a toned down, more jovial version of your decor’s theme with the children’s table. Delineate the kid area with a holiday banner. Add leaves, colored pencils and paper for a playful touch, along with a Thanksgiving box and have young guests write what they are thankful for. Children can guess the writer and take turns reading. Chalkboard placemats occupy moments of lull. Edible centerpieces, such as a turkey pineapple or melon with feathered fruit skewers, is a whimsical and healthy addition.

6. Sweet Options

While customary pie may get the most rounds of helpings, add other sweet choices to your dessert selection, such as candy apples with a sampling of tea, coffee, cinnamon hot chocolate and warm apple cider.


Barber stripes paper straws:

Tassel garland:

Fall bunting:

Give Thanks banner:

Burlap runner:

Autumn Thanksgiving leaves: $12.

Cocktail napkins:



Gold placemats:

Chalkboard placemats:

Wooden cutlery:

Candy apples:

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Obsessed – The Breton Shirt

Aside from a mini fridge jammed in my dorm room closet not much has changed from my college casual wardrobe. Take my shelf of stacked Breton shirts. While it may look like an obsession, if you ration one new shirt per year/per weather permitting days worn, you could peg me as thrifty.


So why does the shirt with so many names* garner coveted closet space? For the same reason I love true classics like a Chanel boucle or Birkin bag but without the cost. Classics never fade, as spotted from Picasso to girlish tomboys like Kate Hepburn and Kate Middleton.ns-web

The look has range too, noted in the classic sporty look generally associated with jeans, or pair with a fun skirt and ropes of jewelry hung from your neck and you can outfit yourself like those pansexual models who nail personal style.


* Breton shirt monikers: Breton, minquiers, marinière, nautical stripe, and French sailor’s shirt.

Add some stripes to your closet with authentic options:

  1. Heavyweight Breton. 2. L.L. Bean French sailor shirt 3. Boden Breton 4. Joules Cornwall sweatshirt 5. Saint James unisex 6. Petit Bateau sailor sweater 7. Marinière crazy stripes 8. Huitriere shirt
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Got Milk? Maybe Not – Choosing the Best Dairy and Non-Dairy

If I didn’t become undone from managing deadlines and trying to out pumpkin neighborhood doorsteps, shopping the milk aisle adds to my failure in the quest to become a competent mother.

Which milk? Navigating the best dairy and nondairy options.

Which milk? Navigating the best dairy and nondairy options.

Once my son was born I knew to breast feed and even surpassed fourteen months of feeding and pumping, which did more than toughen my nipples. It was a year I became the ultimate woman and not in the fun way. Our refrigerator was exclusive to organic and we made the switch from whole after Luc turned three. Then on a health segment I caught on a rare viewing break from “Peg and Cat,” a medical expert said cows were evil. Thus almond milk added more bulk to my grocery bag. Then almond milk reportedly contains few almonds. The confusion continues when you freeze your nose from staring at four refrigerated displays of milk cartons and all its percentages, hormone free, lactose free, soy, almond, cashew, coconut, rice and even hemp, which I thought was the basis of an environmentalists’ wardrobe. I check my phone’s health app but no one will put in writing what I should buy. The store clerk pays my questions with a glance more in line with people who kick pigeons. Thus we bring in Eliza Whetzel, RD to expertly skim the issue of digestible dairy and nondairy options.



Understanding the best choice from the many milk and non dairy options.

Eliza Whetzel, RD expertly reviews digestible dairy and nondairy selections:

What kind of milk should I be drinking?

This is a question I receive on a daily basis from clients. Up until a few years ago, cow’s milk was the only option unless you had access to alternative natural-food stores. Now even your corner Starbucks stocks the gamut.

To answer simply, your dairy (or nondairy) choice is individual, and there is not one right option for everyone. Below I break down pros, and potential cons.


Got milk? Dairy milk gets a bad rap these days, but it remains a great source of nutrition. Cow’s milk comes in many forms, such as whole or skim. Here’s the real skim on the moo.

  • Whole milk: Whole, or full-fat, milk is high in protein, fat, and a great source of vitamins and minerals including calcium, B12 and riboflavin. Full-fat milk promotes satiety, blood sugar control, and helps the body to absorb fat-soluble vitamins including A, D, E and K, which are crucial for bone health. It may seem counter-intuitive, but full-fat milk may also help maintain your weight.
  • Skim milk: Skim milk is essentially watered-down whole milk. When the fat is removed, the nutrient profile of the milk declines, along with taste. To compensate for this bland taste many companies will add sugar.
  • Organic + grass-fed vs. conventional: Many conventionally raised cows are pumped full of hormones to increase their milk production and are given antibiotics to stave off the disease created by inhumane living conditions. Not to mention, you probably don’t want to drink herbicide and pesticide residues or GMO ingredients that are typically in the feed of conventional cows. Milk from grass-fed or pasture-raised cows have higher omega-3 content and lack the hormones that have been linked to cancer, hormonal issues including fertility complications and mood swings, and acne.

The Skim: If you do dairy, stick to full-fat milk from organic, grass-fed sources.


Milk is a fluid substance rich in protein and fat produced by mammals for the nourishment of their young. This primary source of nutrition is essential for infant mammals, but the question remains, should we drink it as we grow up? Lactose intolerance and symptoms vary but according to the National Institute of Health, approximately 65% of the human population has lactose sensitivity after infancy.

Why does this happen? As humans grow older, they lose the ability to digest lactose, the main sugar found in dairy products. Lactose is normally digested by lactase, an enzyme produced in the small intestine, but production of this enzyme decreases with age.

The solution to a lack of lactase? Add the lactase enzyme to lactose-free milk and, voila, lactose-free milk. The milk is ultra-pasteurized to ensure that the enzyme is inactive. This process changes the consistency and taste of the milk product, and extends the shelf life.

The Skim: There are some great organic, lactose-free milk products; however, you may want to try a non-dairy alternative.


Among my clients, there’s a general consensus that nondairy milks are “healthier” and more nutritious than dairy products. There’s also a belief that all non-dairy milks are created equal–none of this is true! Many non-dairy milks are lower in protein and are fortified with calcium and vitamin D to mimic levels in cow’s milk. Here’s the breakdown:


The Pros: Almond milk is simple to make, simply blend almonds and water. It’s a great source of vitamin E, magnesium, potassium, and low in calories as long as it’s unsweetened.

The Cons: It’s low in protein, and may not contain adequate amounts of calcium unless it is fortified. Many brands contain carrageenan, a preservative that acts as a thickening agent and stabilizer, which may lead to digestive issues and skin rashes.

The Skim: Choose brands that are carrageenan-free such as 365 Whole Foods or New Barn or make your own.


The Pros: Soymilk is super accessible and provides similar amounts of protein as dairy milk.

The Cons: Soy is one of the most genetically modified crops. This alone is alarming, but add multiple fillers to these beans and some water, and you get soymilk. Soybeans also contain high levels of phytoestrogens, which mimic the body’s natural estrogen hormones. Soy consumption has been linked to thyroid and other endocrine disorders, as soy contains harmful goitrogens. Furthermore, soy allergies are very common and may cause people to have a tough time digesting soymilk.

The Skim: There are better non-dairy options. I recommend avoiding soymilk.


The Pros: Rice milk is a great choice for those that have allergies to dairy, nuts, and soy.

The Cons: Rice milk is devoid of any great nutrition properties, and is particularly high in calories, overall carbohydrates, and sugar. It has a naturally watery product, so additives such as gums and starches are often added to create a more “milky” texture.

The Skim: If you can’t have dairy, nuts, or soy, it’s a good option. Otherwise, I don’t recommend rice milk.


The Pros: Coconut milk made by blending lauric-acid rich coconut fats and fibers with water, creating a great source of healthy saturated fats and medium chain fats. These fats are heart-healthy and create a creamy, rich liquid.

The Cons: Coconut milk is low in protein, and many products contain additives such as sweeteners and carrageenan. Watch out for the BPA in canned versions.

The Skim: It’s a great nondairy option, just be sure to choose high-quality brands with less additives such as So Delicious.


The Pros: Made from seeds derived from the cannabis plant, hemp milk contains healthy omega 3 and omega 6 fats, as well as iron, phosphorus, vitamin B12, vitamin D, and magnesium.

The Cons: Many versions of hemp milk contain a ton of added sugar and fillers.

The Skim: This milk is great for vegans, who are generally deficient in B12, or those who are allergic to tree nuts, soy and dairy.


And what are all those other ingredients on the label?

Carrageenan: A non-digestible polysaccharide that has been extracted from red edible seaweeds, used to thicken, stabilize and emulsify products such as non-dairy milks. Carrageenan may lead to inflammation in the body and digestive distress.

Artificial sweeteners: Synthetic sugar substitutes that are many times sweeter than sugar, but add no calories or nutritive value. These sweeteners may be hazardous to your health, but they are definitely hazardous to your waistline, as they may increase sugar cravings.

Soy lecithin: Soy lecithin is an emulsifier that lends a smooth, uniform appearance to products, and is recognized as GRAS (or Generally Recognized as Safe) by the FDA. It is a byproduct from soy, and has all of the same related issues as soymilk (GMO, soy allergies, phytoestrogens). This product is ubiquitous, and generally used in small amounts, but it’s good to be aware.

The Skim: If you have a dairy intolerance/allergy or just prefer nut milk, rotate your milks and choose organic when possible. Check labels so that you can avoid additives such as carrageenan, or make your own milk at home!

The Full-Fat: Bottom Line

Rotate your milks: Variety is key, whether that means drinking organic, grass-fed dairy milk in your coffee or putting carrageenan-free almond milk in your smoothie!

My current rotation includes a mix of carrageenan-free almond and coconut milks and organic, grass-fed, full-fat dairy. Bottoms up!

Read the label, understand the best ingredients, for the best milk on the go options.

Read the label, understand the best ingredients, for the best milk on the go options.


Golden State rocks glasses:

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Get Stitched – Shop the Latest Needlepoint Trends

Don’t feel like you are snagging Grandma Lou’s look, needlepoint accessories are anything but frumpy. Once designated to Victorian footstools and preppy pillows with saucy quotes, the latest selections have a cool and at times irreverent update.

The Smathers and Branson Caddyshack belt has a whimsical take on a classical design.

The Smathers and Branson Caddyshack belt has a whimsical take on a classic design.

  1. Bonefish watch band 2. Mermaid shoes 3. American flag cufflinks 4. Cocktails coaster set 5. Jonathan Adler pillow 6. Zigzag key fob
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High IQ Foods – Simple Fall Vegetables

Living in a four-season climate and it’s impossible not to be affected by the change of weather. While I will spare you on the autumn evolution of a leaf or cheery Halloween décor for other stories, our palette experiences its own transformation. Eating leafy salads and popsicles patterned with chunks of fruit is as out of sync as wearing a cocktail dress to a football game.

Our farmer’s market and produce aisles are losing the peaches and nectarines while root vegetables take over, emitting their earthy glow. While I choose a sampling of anything fresh, when it comes to meals I simplify. Even the act of washing and cutting an additional food are minutes taken away from something useful like the luxury of blow drying my hair.

I also choose high IQ foods, which is more than nutritional value as I can devour an entire bag of grapes and still feel hungry. The more vegetables and high protein foods consumed equates to smart eating, which parlays into energy levels, good health, and how you feel.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts and New Potatoes


Roast until golden brown.

Roasted until golden brown.


10 ounces Brussel sprouts (around 16)

Three medium sized new potatoes

1 tablespoon chimichurri blend spices

1 cup couscous

1 can of black beans


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly steam Brussel sprouts and potatoes. Add Brussel sprouts to roasting pan and halved potatoes. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with spices. Cook for 15 minutes. Serve on a plate with couscous and black beans.

Serve with couscous and black beans for a substantive meal that welcomes most food groups.

Serve with couscous and black beans for a substantive meal that offers most food groups.

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