Create The Perfect Floral Centerpiece In 7 Easy Steps!

William Ashley Secret Garden Floral Affair Event by Iittala and Alice's Table
William Ashley Secret Garden Floral Affair Event by Iittala and Alice’s Table

I’ve always wanted to learn how to make a beautiful floral arrangement and, this weekend, my wish came true!

As a blogger, I get invited to events throughout the year, but I knew that the William Ashley Exclusive Floral Event would be special. For one, the setting was the new William Ashley customer experience showroom on Toronto’s Mink Mile. With high ceilings, plenty of natural light, and a tea lounge, the new space was perfect for the Secret Garden affair.

The second reason this event was special is that it was hosted by Alice Rossiter Lewis. Alice is the founder of Alice’s Table, a Boston-based business that provides starter kits and support to ‘executives’ who in turn run their own floral parties. Earlier this year, she appeared on Shark Tank and left with investments from both Mark Cuban and Sara Blakely. Alice’s energy is contagious, the pace is perfect, and the end result is a gorgeous and fragrant centerpiece.

Alice Rossiter Lewis of Alice's Table
Alice Rossiter Lewis of Alice’s Table

On Saturday afternoon, I rode the escalator to the second floor of William Ashley’s Bloor Street location and walked past the soft teal chairs in the bright and cozy customer lounge. At the long coffee bar, I enjoyed my English Breakfast Tea in Herend’s Royal Garden teacups (the same pattern gifted to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge) and admired the long table that was set up for our event. What an inspiring spot, amidst crystal vases and tableware, for an afternoon of floral arranging.

At each blogger’s place stood a 6 inch Kastehelmi vase made by Iittala, the Finnish design house. The Kastehelmi collection is distinguished by raised droplets, named after the Finnish word for ‘dewdrop’. Oiva Toikka, the designer, cleverly added these droplets to hide joint marks and lines. We put on our aprons and got ready to fill our beautiful vases.

As Alice took us through the steps of building our own bouquets, we chatted about each other’s social media accounts and our love for creating content. Bloggers being bloggers, we had our cameras out, taking lots of photos and videos. It’s what we do, and documenting our every move feels most comfortable among fellow bloggers!

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At the end of the afternoon, we all walked away with a sense of pride, a feeling of accomplishment, and the confidence to re-create another flower arrangement in our very own Iittala vases whenever we want.

Here are Alice’s 7 easy steps to create your own centerpiece:

Step 1
Prepare the vase. Using Oasis brand clear floral tape, make a tic-tac-toe board across the top and side of the vase for flowers and greens to rest against. Add room temperature (not cold and not hot) water so that the cut flowers can go into water immediately. If you have floral food, use it, otherwise change the water in the vase every day.

The Iittala 6-inch Kastehelmi Vase
The Iittala 6-inch Kastehelmi Vase

 

Step 2

Start with a base of greens. We used seeded eucalyptus leaves, but any small greens will do.

Step 3
Add 2-3 football mums. By starting with the largest flowers, you create a fill in the base of the arrangement. Make sure to remove any leaves that would be under water – or bacteria will form. Place these flowers in the centre so they lean to the sides of the vase.


Step 4
Add 5 roses. Strip the roses with a rose stripper and remove the outer 2-3 guard petals that have been protecting the flowers from fully blooming; blow on the roses to get them started on opening.

At the William Ashley Secret Garden Floral Affair
Step 5
Add 2-3 spray roses in between and slightly below the mums and roses to create a lateral layer. Each stem of spray roses will give you 2-3 smaller sections that you can use.


Step 6
Use 2-3 large stems of wax flowers, cut into smaller stems, to finish off the bouquet and fill any gaps in the arrangement. These wax flowers come in many colors and last a long time.

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Step 7
Step back, admire your work, and make any adjustments!


Tips

  • Buy the largest flowers you find to fill the vase, such as mums, hydrangeas, and dahlias. These give you the best bang for your buck as they take up a bigger area of the arrangement
  • When buying flowers, touch the heads and where the blooms meet the stems. A firm flower means it is fresh and full with water
  • Cut all flowers at a 45 degree angle to expose the most surface area to water, and so that the stems don’t sit flat at the bottom of the vase
  • Fill the vase with water before you cut the flowers because they start ‘scabbing’ or closing off, as soon as they’re cut
  • Use baby’s breath instead of wax flowers if you prefer
Floral Centerpiece in the Iittala Kastehelmi vase
Floral Centerpiece in the Iittala Kastehelmi vase

I hope these photos and simple steps inspire you to make your own masterpiece soon!

How comfortable are you making a floral centerpiece on your own

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10 Simple & Easy Kitchen Tricks From Henckels Knives

 

Tomato Bruschetta

Last week I had an amazing day with the Henckels & Staub product knowledge team, at the beautiful Miele Experience Center in Vaughan.

At the Henckels' Knives Event at the Miele Experience Centre, Vaughan, Ontario
At the Henckels’ Knives Event at the Miele Experience Centre, Vaughan, Ontario

Along with the Kitchen Stuff Plus team, we saw close-up product demonstrations by 5 chefs and a sales manager — all while preparing our own delicious lunch!

My favorite part was learning some food prep secrets from the chefs while trying out the different knives and cookware. I was on the team that made Tomato Bruschetta and Grilled Ratatouille Crostini and I very quickly realized that having the right knife, sharpened, could easily save me about 20 minutes a meal!

Tomato Bruschetta
Tomato Bruschetta

Here are some of the insider tips and tricks that I learned:

Pro Tip #1
The three most useful knives in any kitchen are a paring knife, a chef’s knife (can be a 6, 10, or 12 inch blade), and a bread knife. Continue reading

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Here’s Why (I Think) I’m Going To Be Okay On University Drop-Off Day

Here’s Why (I Think) I’m Going To Be Okay On University Drop Off Day

Our oldest is going off to university the first week of September, and, admittedly, I’ve been a bit of a hot mess over here. I’m not ready for my daughter to leave the nest. Some days are good, others are not so good. My heart is sad and heavy, but my thinking is more along the lines of ‘it’s going to be okay’. Over the years, I’ve heard many parents talk about their experience, listening intently because I knew my turn would come. It has.

I spent the last months of my daughter’s senior year thinking about missed opportunities of being together, yet also understanding that a teen’s school and social life can take precedence. Sometimes I felt guilty about how I could’ve parented her differently as a kid. And, sometimes I just cried a lot.

When we first found out we would be parents, my husband said it best: ‘we’re going to have a visitor for 18 years!’ I was impressed with how insightful he was about raising kids and then letting them go. I’m a bit slower about accepting and understanding my role, but time has been the perfect teacher.

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7 School And Work Lunches Approved By My Daughter And Husband

7 lunch ideas for Back to School
7 lunch ideas for Back to School

(This post first appeared on the Kitchen Stuff Plus website, on August 7, 2018. You can read that post here and follow the hyperlinks there to learn more about the highlighted products.)

After meal planning and making lunches for many years, my family and I have decided to shake things up for our upcoming back to school and work routines: we’re eating more fruits and vegetables and trying out different food combinations and ingredients.

Recently, I sat down with my high school daughter, who prepares and takes lunch every day, and my husband, who brings lunch to work a few times a month, to discuss new and fun ideas.

My daughter tested these lunches when she was at her summer day camp job and my husband enjoyed the leftovers from the photo shoot – yup, all the meals got a thumbs up!

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What I’m Sending To University With My Daughter This Fall

 

Getting ready for back to school with Kitchen Stuff Plus
Getting ready for back to school with Kitchen Stuff Plus

(This post first appeared on the Kitchen Stuff Plus website, on August 1, 2018. You can read that post here and follow the hyperlinks to learn more about the highlighted products.)

Although it’s going to be very hard to say goodbye to my oldest daughter when she goes off to university in September, it makes me feel better knowing she’ll have what she needs to make her dorm room feel a bit like home.

When we looked at the Kitchen Stuff Plus website, there were many room décor and snack accessories to choose from! We chose items that are reusable and environmentally friendly, conducive to healthy eating, and durable – so she can still use them when she eventually moves off campus.

Clothing & Shoes Storage

Non-slip hangers and underbed storage containers
Non-slip hangers and underbed storage containers

These velvet-covered hangers ensure clothes stay put without sliding to the bottom of the closet. Because they’re all the same, the closet will look more organized and aesthetically pleasing.

For shoes, we chose an under bed container to hold out-of-season shoes and an umbrella.

Bath Accessories & Toiletries

Dark towels and a shower caddy are practical
Dark towels and a shower caddy are practical

We went with navy towels because they’re easier to keep clean-looking! A shower caddy is a must, à la sleep-away camp.

Keeping beauty accessories tidy
Keeping beauty accessories tidy

For holding makeup and hair styling accessories, this flat plastic container with high sides is perfect – she can move the bin around and then store it under the bed when it’s not in use.

Coffee & Water Bottles

Double tumbler perfect for hot and cold beverages
Double tumbler perfect for hot and cold beverages

We opted for two types of mugs, in two different sizes. We love that both containers can be used for hot or cold liquids and foods.

Travel mug with handle is perfect for students on the go
Travel mug with handle is perfect for students on the go

The smaller mug with a handle is just right because she can easily hold it and reach into her backpack for other things. And, both containers are wide-mouthed and easy to clean – yay!

Coffee Station 

In-room coffee station
In-room coffee station

My daughter is someone for whom writing comes at crunch-time, meaning late night studying. Having an electric kettle on hand means she can make coffee and tea in her room.

She also picked out a rose gold colored coffee press and an electric milk frother. She’s very excited about sharing lattes and drinks with friends while enjoying the usual fun conversations that come with dorm living.

Rose-colored coffee press and monogrammed mug
Rose-colored coffee press and monogrammed mug

By the way, we’ve been making iced lattes every morning at home for a few months now and one of our tricks is sweetening the drinks with simple syrup (recipe below). This reduces the need to store sugar in the dorm room, not to mention keeping ants at bay!

To quickly make a latte, pour coffee into a tumbler, add syrup to taste, and then pour in the milk – usually no spoon is needed for mixing!

Jars For Storage and Snacks

Jars for desk accessories and snack storage
Jars for desk accessories and snack storage

Keeping snacks such as nuts and chocolate in glass jars or plastic containers is neater, sanitary, and more conducive to having dorm-mates drop in for a chat and a snack.

We also liked this set of 3 mason jars in a caddy for storing markers, pens and pencils, coffee utensils, and reusable stainless-steel straws.

Himalayan Salt Rock Lamp

Himalayan Rock Salt Lamp
Himalayan Rock Salt Lamp

When my daughter saw this lamp, she loved it for various reasons. It gives off a warm, zen light, setting a calm mood for the room. And, the negative ions it emits help manage dust and odors.

Packing up for university is still a few weeks away, but getting these items ready is making the upcoming university drop-off feel like it’s going to run a tad more smoothly!

Simple Syrup

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
Drops of lemon juice

Place the sugar and water in a small pot and bring to a boil. Simmer for a few minutes, adding the lemon juice a minute before you remove the syrup from the heat. Store in a closed jar, at room temperature.

What tips do you have for helping a student get dorm-ready?

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This post was sponsored by Kitchen Stuff Plus. All opinions are my own. A special thank you goes out to Sophie and Joanna for helping me with understanding dorm life needs today!

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Tahini Freezer Fudge

No Bake Salted Tahini Cookie Dough Fudge
No Bake Salted Tahini Cookie Dough Fudge from Ambitious Kitchen

Have you ever tried freezer fudge? It’s easy, quick, and no-bake — and, it’s my new favorite fudge.

I’ve always loved fudge: the texture, the bite-sized pieces, and the sweetness. And, I’ve made lots of fudge using condensed milk and chocolate, or using cream and butter and icing sugar. But, this freezer fudge, made with coconut oil, is just so simple and fast to make that I had to share it with you.

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How Colorful Tableware Changes Your Outdoor Dining Experience

 

Simple Steak Dinner on Tableware from Kitchen Stuff Plus
Simple Steak Dinner on Tableware from Kitchen Stuff Plus

(This post first appeared on the Kitchen Stuff Plus blog, on July 19, 2018)

It’s amazing how a set of outdoor tableware can change how one feels about eating outdoors. I recently won a flatlay contest sponsored by Collective Influence, a blogger/influencer association, of which I’m a member, and Kitchen Stuff Plus, one of southwestern Ontario’s leading kitchen and homewares stores. The prize was this beautiful tableware set for eight that my family and friends loved using this past weekend.

Outdoor Tableware from Kitchen Stuff Plus
Outdoor Tableware from Kitchen Stuff Plus

The tableware is called the Madrid and it’s part of the Blue Sky collection. It’s made out of BPA-free melamine that won’t mark when you use a steak knife on it like we did this weekend! It’s light-weight, dishwasher safe, and the perfect size for a bbq meal or just lounging around at home or in nature. The dinner dishes are the same size as indoor plates but the side dishes and bowls are slightly larger. These larger side dishes and bowls can be used as extra dishes when you have more guests. Continue reading

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Roasted Corn Black Bean Salad That’s Perfect For Summer BBQs

Roasted Corn Black Bean Salad
Roasted Corn Black Bean Salad

Sometimes I come across a recipe that I keep making over and over, like this Roasted Corn Black Bean Salad from Rose Reisman. I’m sharing it because I make it a lot in the summertime!

I saw this recipe in our local paper years ago and thought I would try it because it sounded perfect as an accompaniment to barbecued meals. It’s made with mangoes, black beans. sweet peppers, corn and coriander – all some of my favorite ingredients. The coriander is part of the dressing and the more you use, the better the salad tastes. If you have an herb garden and grow coriander, then you’ll love this salad because you likely already have this herb on hand.

Roasted Corn Black Bean Salad
Roasted Corn Black Bean Salad

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Cookie Butter Chocolate Oatmeal Cups – And, They’re No-Bake!

 

Cookie Butter Chocolate Oatmeal Cups Made With Penotti Cookie Notti
Cookie Butter Chocolate Oatmeal Cups Made With Penotti Cookie Notti

I love to bake, a lot, and recently I’ve been experimenting with cookie butter. I discovered cookie butter about a year ago and I’ve been busy developing new ways to bake with it.

Cookie butter is a spread that’s been popular in Europe for many years and is now available and gaining popularity in North America. Made primarily from speculoos cookies, cookie butter looks like and has a similar consistency to peanut butter.

When I did some reading on the origins of cookie butter and speculoos cookies in particular, I realized that I practically grew up on these cookies! Speculoos, or speculaas, cookies are a Belgian spiced shortbread cookie that are popular year round in Europe. You’ve probably seen them in old-fashioned type tins around the holidays and you may have seen them in the cookie section of your grocery store. Speculoos cookies are brown in color, crunchy, and often have a caramel flavor in addition to hints of cinnamon. In Europe and the Middle East, these cookies are served as tea biscuits and used for baking – they’re consumed and enjoyed all year round.

Speculoos Cookies
Speculoos Cookies

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3 Things I Know For Sure About My Anxiety Journey

As someone who suffers from anxiety on a regular basis, I’ve noticed there are three things that have been consistently true about this mental illness: each anxiety journey is personal, it changes over time, and talking about it helps.

When I shared my personal anxiety journey with you in a post on Bell Let’s Talk Day, I mentioned that I would post more on living with anxiety. I have a lot to share.

Anxiety is a personal journey

The first point I’ve noticed about anxiety is that it’s a personal journey.

As the stigma around mental illness is slowly being lifted, more and more people are talking about having anxiety, and no two stories are alike. This was a big a-ha moment for me, because when people would open up to me, I wanted to help. I know what it is to suffer, and I want to share my experience. But, you can’t really give advice to someone else because of the nuanced thoughts and behaviors around each person’s experience.

Each anxiety journey is unique. I took two Cognitive Behavior Therapy classes, which worked really well for me, and it was in the second one that the mental health professional would specifically remind us not to say ‘you should do x, y, or z’ to anyone. We had to use words like ‘for me, this worked’ or ‘I found this helpful in this situation’. At first that bothered me because I had to check myself a lot, but I soon understood. Each person’s story was completely different.

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