Categories
Holidays Lifestyle Travel

Our Evening at the Toronto Distillery Winter Village

Another holiday festivity checked off the list! We visited the Toronto Christmas Market, now known as the Distillery Winter Village. An annual family tradition – filled with lots of photo-taking, good food, yummy drinks and the usual chilly weather. Though, definitely not as cold or busy as years passed.

We went on a weekday after 5pm and was able to walk right in (after our proof of vaccination, of course!). But no line, and no hassle. A few years ago I remember waiting around the block just to get in and we had a TICKET! Thankfully this year, parking and entry was a breeze.

Though it was still a little too busy to bounce around from booth to booth with a group of 8, we managed to grab a bite to eat at the Mill Street Brewery and enjoyed some sightseeing, hot chocolate and hot donuts — basically tiny-toms but make it festive. We had cinnamon sugar (of course) and ginger molasses.

The red and gold decorations are my favourite, sometimes they’ve done the blue and silver, but it feels good to see the traditional colours this year. Something about this Christmas feels like it should be traditional. I definitely zero’d in on the red, plaid and gold at home, so I’m right there with the traditional decor. Next year we’ll be switching over to coloured lights! It always reminds me of my childhood. What’s your preference?

Whether you’re visiting the food, getting some Christmas shopping done or just enjoying the scenery and holiday atmosphere, it’s definitely worth the visit!

Overall, everyone was super respectful of space and it was great to have room to take photos in front of the tree. We had so much fun laughing with our family – and also strangers passing by! We had our very first photo-bomb of the season. Truly, the spirit of the holidays and just being back around people and being somewhat “normal” was refreshing.

Are you planning a visit to a Winter Village in your community? Let me know below!

Categories
Holidays Inspiration Lifestyle

25 December Bucket List Ideas to Make the Most of the Holiday Season

As excited as I am every year for the holidays, it can be overwhelming and emotionally challenging when you’re dealing with loss of loved ones. Pangs of excitement and sadness all at the same time. What I try to remember is that they would have wanted me (and you!) to enjoy it and live life to its fullest – to spend and treasure time with family and friends.

All of the decorations and bells and whistles are incomparable to the true meaning of Christmas: to spend time with the ones you love – family, friends, your community, your furry pet. So whether you’re going through a tough time this season or just excited to get the holidays started, here are 25 holiday bucket list ideas (many of which I’ll be checking off my list this season) to get you in the Christmas spirit.

Be Merry To Do List:

1. Visit a local community ice-rink and skate

2. Make your own Hot Chocolate and snuggle up to watch a Christmas movie.

3. Can’t be with friends and family in person? Schedule a virtual Gingerbread House making party!

4. Learn to bake your family’s tried and true recipes so that you can pass it down for generations!

5. Visit an outdoor Christmas Market.

6. Purchase a gift from a small business.

7. Buy an advent calendar – you deserve a festive treat everyday leading up to Christmas!

8. Pour a cup of Peppermint tea, snuggle up with a blanket, journal about what you’re grateful for presently, reflect on the last year and dream of what you want in the future.

9. DIY your Christmas wrapping paper. I LOVE a good potato stamp and some craft paper!

10. Go through your winter clothing and donate jackets and cold weather accessories you no longer wear to a local shelter or clothing drive.

11. Sing Christmas carols with family and friends. The best way to spread Christmas cheer is sing it loud for all to hear!

12. Send Christmas cards, whether you make them yourself or purchase them, it’s the thought that counts! Bonus – print out photos of you and the recipient, it makes them even more special.

13. Make a playlist of your favourite Christmas songs!

14. Put together a small self-care pamper kit and gift it to someone who needs it.

15. Watch your favourite classic holiday movie – Elf takes the cake for me!

16. Bake Gingerbread cookies and decorate them with family.

17. Go on a drive or a walk around your neighbourhood to see those Christmas lights.

18. Take family photos! Whether you set up your iPhone and tripod or get them done professionally.

19. Plan a festive day-trip or let the planning be done for you with Guess Where Trips.

20. Wrap your Christmas gifts while watching your favourite Hallmark Christmas movie (can you choose just one?).

21. Go through old family photos and organize them into photo albums.

22. Learn about your family’s ancestry and heritage with your parents or relatives.

23. Make a homemade gift, whether it’s food or a craft, it’s the thought that counts!

24. Try out a new cozy dinner recipe from scratch and pair it with a festive cocktail.

25. Plan a holiday get-together with family and friends and play some festive games.

What is one thing on your holiday bucket list you can’t wait to do this year? Let me know if the comments below 💌.

Categories
Food & Drink Holidays

At Home Starbucks Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha…aka Christmas in a Cup

Every November it’s my personal tradition to kick-off the holiday season with a Venti Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha – it honestly brings me so much joy. You can call me peppermint candy cane obsessed, or anything peppermint for that matter.

Now that I’ve been working from home for the last almost 2 years now, and wanting to capture that same special festive drink (oh, and getting a Nespresso for my birthday this year), I researched, enlisted help from my equally Starbucks-obsessed sister, and together we concocted the perfect at home Starbucks dupe.

I’m trying to lower my intake of dairy, so I opted to try this with Oat Milk and it turned out great! Definitely worth the swap if you’re looking for a dairy-alternative.

You can watch the video on my Instagram Reels below or jump to the recipe underneath. ✨

Here’s what you’ll need:

How to make it:

  1. Heat your milk (either with an electric frother, over the stove or (the lazy way) in the microwave, then make it nice and frothy.
  2. Brew your espresso (I used a separate cup).
  3. Add the peppermint syrup and white chocolate syrup to the milk.
  4. Add the espresso to the milk.
  5. Add any fun toppings that you desire!

❤️💚❤️💚

Enjoy!

Categories
Fashion Holidays Style

Cozy Casual Outfit Ideas for the Holiday Season

My favourite time of the year to style clothing is during the fall and winter seasons. Give me all of the layers and all of the cozy knits because I have literally never met a denim and sweater combo I didn’t love! When I worked in retail, it was all about layering, not only for the KPI reasons (that’s retail lingo for more layers = high average transactions and units per transaction lol), but because layering really elevates an outfit.  

So, to bring back my love of clothing and styling to the blog, I wanted to share some casual and classic, go-to winter outfits that I’m loving for this upcoming holiday and winter season! 

Christmas Market Outfits

Cozy Work From Home Outfit

Holiday Shopping Outfits

Winter Walks and Adventures

Winter Date Outfits – Day or Night

Festive Holiday Get-Together

I also want to highlight here that you DO NOT need to purchase a new wardrobe every season because it’s trendy. Purchase items (whether on a budget or not) that are good quality and that you truly love. I can’t tell you how many items I’ve donated the next season because I’m over them. And quite frankly, that’s wasteful and I’m really trying to be more mindful about that! Hot Tip: keep an item in your online cart for 24 hours before you purchase (and don’t look at the “you forgot something in your cart” emails they send you to urge you to buy). If you still can’t stop thinking about it and you know that it’s going to be versatile in your wardrobe, then go ahead and splurge.

Instead of being angry that the cold, snowy winter is coming (spoiler alert, it’s my favourite season), think of all the cute outfits you get to create! What are some of your favourite outfit combinations for the cooler winter months?

Categories
Gift Guides Holidays Lifestyle

Work From Home Gift Ideas for Her

What do you get the woman in your life who buys everything herself? Any of the above items that will make her every day, work from home life a little more cozy and a little less stressed. I definitely love working from home and would personally love any of the gift ideas listed above! I’ve even added a few of them to my list 😉.

Here are some of my top picks from the list:

Stress Release Relaxation Kit

Saje Natural Wellness


What are some of your wish-list items this year? Do you find gift guides like this helpful? Let me know below! Happy Shopping!

Categories
Decor Holidays

Plan For Christmas Decorating With Me

My favourite time of the year (and I’m sure a favourite for so many others) is basically here! Each year I love to change up the theme and colour story, it usually doesn’t stray too far from a classic, traditional Christmas look, but lately I’ve been really gravitating towards more organic, wood, neutrals and pops of red plaid. Before I even bring my Christmas decor out from storage, I always head to Pinterest for inspiration. I’ve created a new board every year for the last 5 years and I use those inspo photos as a guide when planning out the current season. Because I tend to decorate in the same types of colours, I’m able to easily swap out ornaments and decor pieces to match the vibe I’m going for – without breaking the bank before all of the holiday gift giving (or purchasing) even starts.    

Keep reading if you want to see my inspiration for this year and some tips on how to plan out your Christmas decor for this season! Plus an inexpensive haul of items I purchased from Homesense, Marshalls and the Dollar Store! I was shocked at the quality of these pieces! 

Start with finding inspiration

You guessed it – the first step is all about gathering images, songs, magazines (do people still read those?), articles, blog posts, YouTube videos – you name it! For me, I’m drawn to something new each season, or a different take on a design I’ve already done in previous years. I always think about how I want my home to feel during the holidays and what colours, and accessories will help bring that feeling to life.

Take inventory

While my retail days of inventory are over (thank goodness), it’s still a very wise decision to take stock of what you already have and then compare it to your inspiration for this season. Not only will this help to save money, you’ll also be helping to save the planet by reusing your decor. It may be a great time to go through and donate items you know you won’t want to incorporate in your decor even after this year or put them up on Facebook Marketplace to go towards funding some new pieces. 

Do it yourself

Before you head to the store to purchase your new decor pieces, ask yourself if there are any DIY’s you’d love to do. Maybe there’s a couple of items you already own that just need a little love? I love crafting during this time of the year (see my post about DIY gift tags from a few years ago!). It can be a fun activity that you do with your friends and family over some hot chocolate and baked goods – especially since we didn’t have the chance to do this in person last year. 

Fill in the gaps

Now that you know what you have and where you want to take your design, it’s time to fill in the gaps. Be mindful about what new items you want to incorporate into your decor. Are these pieces that you’ll be able to have for years to come? I’ve really tried to become more thoughtful in my spending habits and add items that I absolutely love and will be able to cherish for longer than just one season. Take a look at thrift stores and Facebook Marketplace for yourself! You never know what treasures you’ll find. 

Clean it up and map it out

Now that you have all of your items and your theme ready to go, this is a great time to map out where you want your big ticket items. Aka your tree, any wreaths, garland and large decor items. If you’re decorating multiple rooms, place your larger items in their homes first and then add in the smaller decor. This includes figuring out what items or pieces of furniture you will need to take away or move to different rooms. 

And last but not least, clean! A crucial first step before you decorate. Give your opens shelving a dusting and anywhere you plan on decorating. While you’re moving items around to clean, pull out the decor accessories that won’t work during the holiday season and store them away for after Christmas. 

Check out my Affordable Christmas Decor Haul here: 


I can’t wait to show you how our decor turns out this year! What is your go-to colour scheme for Christmas? Are you team red and green or gold and silver or candy-land or..? The combinations are truly endless. Let me know in the comments below some of your inspiration for this year! 

Categories
Crafts Holidays Inspiration Mindfulness Wellness

The Best Hobbies for Stress Relief (And They Make Perfect Gifts)

During the last few years and in the midst of a pandemic, I found myself so wrapped up in work and stressing about what was happening in the world that I somehow lost my “play”. At the end of the workday, without any social activities, or the regular routine, I found myself burnt out. But I couldn’t figure out why or even how? In my head, it didn’t make sense. I’m not commuting any longer, I’m not socially drained or going out late at night (lol as if I did before the pandemic, but you get what I mean), so what gives? Short answer? I didn’t have a way of effectively managing my stress. Sure, I love yoga and meditation, but those also seemed like tasks that I needed to complete. 

Enter: crafting. Some of my fondest memories were summers spent at my grandparents house knitting, painting, woodworking, sewing, making cards – you name it. We kept busy by being creative and taking time to learn new skills – for fun. With no purpose other than to create. I wanted to pick back up the hobbies that brought me so much joy and as a way to remember my grandparents to stay connected to the memories that I hold so dear. What I didn’t anticipate was the stress relief it would provide. After doing more research, I found that having leisurely hobbies is actually linked to lower levels of depression.

So, my question to you: when was the last time you tried something new for the first time, just for fun? Get on YouTube, watch some video tutorials (there are so many helpful channels with exactly what you’re looking for) and get started! 

Here are some of the best hobbies to try for stress relief, especially as the weather gets colder here in Canada! Plus, they make the perfect gift for those in your life who love to get creative. P.P.S. All of the shopping links are from Canadian Small Businesses on Etsy

1. Embroidery

There are so many helpful tutorials online, plus many of the beginners kits have detailed instructions, plus all of the materials and tools you’ll need! This is on my list for my next crafting project.

2. Knitting

My grandmother taught all of my sisters and cousins how to knit when we spent time at her house up north during the winter and summer breaks. I only hope to be as great at knitting as she was one day!

3. Puzzles

How beautiful to be able to frame a puzzle that you’ve spent so long working on!? Whether for yourself or a gift – this is a great leisurely hobby. This one is my favourite from Fits Puzzles.

4. Watercolour

Okay, this has been by far the most rewarding hobby I’ve started the past few months. And I’m currently making my own Christmas cards with watercolour! It started off rocky, but I kept practicing and started following tutorials (like the one below) and slowly started to get it. There’s something so satisfying about mixing colours together and creating something that I’ve never been able to do before.

5. Colouring

A classic! There’s so many fun adult colouring books now and a pretty inexpensive hobby to pick-up.

6. Bullet Journaling

Take a regular journal to a whole new level. There are so many page variations you can do, from themes to favourite books to mood trackers. The choice is all yours! Pinterest and YouTube are great sources for inspiration.

7. Paint by numbers

This is one I haven’t tried yet, but have given paint by numbers as a gift and the response was positive! Painting made straight forward, and kits (like the one above) gives you everything you need!


Happy crafting! 🧵 What hobby are you most excited to try? What else would you add to this list? Let me know in the comments below!

Categories
Crafts Holidays Life with dogs

7 Last Minute DIY Halloween Dog Costumes

Halloween is right around the corner – no literally – only a couple more days until the spooky day! Do you have a costume yet?  I have loved dressing our dogs up over the years, and enjoy creating quick and easy DIY costumes for them to wear on our walk around the neighbourhood on Halloween evening. Plus, it always makes a good photo-opt! 

Whether you’re crafting your own costume for your pup, or buying a last minute costume from your local pet store, here are some of my favourite looks for the spooktacular night. 

Beanie Babies

Red golden retriever dog dressed as a beanie baby for halloween at Toronto Dog Mom halloween event.

The 90’s girl inside me absolutely LOVED this idea when I found it on Pinterest. It was so easy to recreate and highly recommend – everyone loved it. 

Sushi 

Talk about an easy to put together look! Not sure how long this would stay on with my two dogs, but definitely worth the photo! 

Pennywise 

I mean, perfect for if it’s raining outside too! Grab a balloon and you’re ready to go. 

Ghost

Have an old white sheet hanging around? Turn it into a cute ghost costume. Works for humans too! 

Mummy

While this may not stay on the longest either, it’s super cute and super simple. 

Dobby

Lab dressed as Dobby from Harry Potter for Halloween with a sign that says "Free Dobby".
Source: https://pin.it/1o9e6we

This is what our Koda girl is going to be this year! Super easy and we purchased a t-shirt from the dollar store and tacked a sock onto the front. 

Chewbacca

Couple and their dog dressed in Star Wars Halloween Costumes as Princess Leia, Hans Solo and Chewbacca.
Source: https://pin.it/4PFPwNL

And this is what our dog Ace is going to be! So simple and so accurate with his red fur and chewy-like growl. 

Don’t forget to always measure your doggo before making anything and ensure they’re comfortable, whatever it is you’re dressing them up as! 

Have a safe and Happy Halloween! 🎃👻

Categories
Holidays

Gingerbread Cookie Recipe

I had never really been a fan of Gingerbread anything (sorry!)…I always found the spice was a little too nice and it never really tasted that good. I’m realizing as I’m getting older (sigh) that my taste-buds are changing and things I never used to like, or be drawn to, I’m giving another try – and liking them! To my surprise this Christmas season, Gingerbread Cookies happened to be one of those things.

Follow along to see some snaps on making and decorating the Gingerbread Cookies! The recipe below was adapted from Gimme Some Oven. I didn’t include the icing sugar recipe, since I prefer to use the already pre-made and pre-coloured icing from the grocery store or bulk barn!

A very special thank you to @MagicInColours Photography for the great shots! You can follow her on Facebook to see more of her work or if you’re in the GTA and want some shots taken – get in touch with her there!

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Ingredients:

Gingerbread Cookies Recipe:

  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • Icing + Sprinkles/Decorations

Directions:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda, cloves, salt and nutmeg. Set aside.
  2. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together for 2 minutes on medium-high speed until light and fluffy.  Add in eggs and molasses, and beat on medium speed until combined. Reduce mixer speed to low, and gradually add the flour mixture until just combined.
  3. Divide the dough into two equal portions, and form them each into a ball.  Then flatten each ball into a 1-inch thick disk, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
  4. Heat the oven to 350°F.  Unwrap the dough and place it on a large, lightly-floured hard surface.  Use a floured rolling pin to roll the dough evenly until it is approximately 1/4-inch thick.  Then use your favorite cookie cutters to cut out your desired shapes, re-rolling the dough as needed to cut out more.  Transfer to parchment-covered baking sheets.
  5. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.
  6. Once the cookies are room temperature, DECORATE!

 
Don’t have the time to whip up this recipe? Check out my fast (and easy) holiday baking favourites here!

Merry Christmas!

lxiv

Categories
Holidays

Best Holiday Baking Recipes

I don’t know about you, but my sweet tooth comes out in full force during the holidays. There’s something about making homemade sweet amazingness baked goods that just puts you right in the Christmas spirit. Here in Toronto we have about a foot of snow on the ground and we’re expecting more this week, so it just feels so right when you have a cup of hot chocolate and a couple (4+) sugar cookies to snuggle up on the couch with.

This holiday I actually have the time to bake since I am no longer in the retail industry. To be honest, Christmas is WAY less stressful and I am actually able to spend quality time with the people I love and do fun and festive activities! Christmas is also way less stressful this year because both Adam and my family decided to do “secret” Santa for all of our gifts. You can probably guess why secret is in quotations…it’s never really a secret by the end of it – especially when you want to get gifts that people will actually use/like. Not only are we doing this as a money saving option, but we’re making it more about what Christmas is truly all about; spending time with people you love versus spending a ton of money on gifts!

With that being said, don’t show up to your holiday outings or quality time with friends and family empty handed! Below is a round up of my top 5 favourite (and easy) holiday recipes that you can make for your holiday gatherings. Some have a few more steps to them, and others you can whip up last minute and it will still be amazing!

1. Gingerbread Cookies.

Stay tuned for a blog post on this one soon! This recipe is SO simple and the cookies turned out amazing! Screen Shot 2017-12-17 at 9.23.38 AM

 

2. No Bake Peanut Butter Balls

I’ve made these without the graham crackers that this recipe calls for and it still tastes amazing, so if you don’t have that ingredient handy in your cupboard, I wouldn’t sweat it!

Screen Shot 2017-12-17 at 9.27.48 AM.png

 

3. Three Ingredient Cookies and Cream Fudge

I posted this recipe last year on my blog for the #12DaysOfChristmas series. This is my ultimate favourite recipe. It takes no time at all to make. Just be sure to factor in the time it takes to place harden in the freezer!

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4. Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies

The mix of shortbread cookie and chocolate is the best combo ever. Here are two different versions because I love the idea of using Hershey kisses that are pictured below,  but I don’t love the recipe that was used… cornstarch is 100% not the right ingredient for this (in my opinion). I use Martha Stewart’s version and it turns out amazing! Be sure not to over cook this recipe, I put them in the oven for the shortest time and trust me – they are done even if they don’t quite look it! PS. I’m loving the interactive elements on Martha Stewart, where you can actually check off each ingredient and steps as you go through the recipe.

Screen Shot 2017-12-17 at 9.37.45 AM

5. Sugar Cookies!

Of course, this classic make the list! Sugar cookies aren’t as difficult as you think! This recipe even shows you how to decorate your cookie like a pro! No royal icing required.

Quick tip: I use the already made icing, I found them in huge tubes at Bulk Barn and Walmart this year and they are so easy to work with. If you want to do details though, I would probably stick to the real deal, but this was easy for flooding the cookies!

Screen Shot 2017-12-17 at 10.54.13 AM

 

What’s your favourite holiday baking recipe? Have any that you must make every holiday season? Let me know in the comments below!

Stay connected with me on social media to get even more inspiration! 

Instagram: @stephhdavis
Twitter: @stephhdavis

Merry Christmas!
lxiv