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I'm happy to report that I can finally check the Calgary Stampede off of my life "to do" list. Having just returned from the 10-day rootin' tootin' Western extravaganza (this year's annual Stampede runs from July 8-17), I now understand why it's known as the "Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth".

The whole of Calgary is transformed for the Stampede: Hay bales and wooden fencing line downtown streets along the parade route, and free pancake breakfasts are a daily event. I had one at Rope Square, where people lined up down the block for flapjacks and bacon hot off the griddles. Meanwhile, clowns, mascots, impromptu hat-stomping competitions and old-fashioned gunslingers made the wait times go faster. These pancake breakfasts are held around the city during Stampede and are sponsored by corporations, community associations and even the CBC.

The Calgary Stampede Rodeo is the raison d'etre for the Stampede, and I cannot begin to describe how brave these cowboys are and how white-knuckled I was as I watched them compete in Bareback, Bull Riding, Barrel Racing, Saddle Bronc, Steer Wrestling and Tie-Down Roping. I must have shouted "Oy vey!" at least 202 times, especially during my behind-the-scenes Chute Tour, a rare up-close-and-personal look at the bucking chutes while the cowboys prepared to ride some of the toughest bulls and broncs in the business, just before those gates flung open. Heart-stopping!

When not watching bucking broncos and eating midway vittles, I had some really great food in Calgary at the growing number of rustic, field-to-table spots, including Home Tasting Room, where the fresh oysters and seared steak salad were as lovely as the Oregon Pinot Noir. I also enjoyed snacks at Charcut in the Le Germain hotel, especially Top Chef Canada finalist Connie's warm breadsticks with homemade mustard and pickled vegetables, and tuna conserva. Finally, brunch at Big Fish (you can only eat so many pancake breakfasts) meant a heaping dish of fresh shrimp-stuffed omelet with baby potato hash.

My final night in Calgary I took in the Chuckwagon Races and Grandstand Show as the sun dipped oe'er yonder and the rain suddenly came down in buckets (don't worry about me — I was tucking into AAA Alberta beef while dining in the Clubhouse Dining Room and watching the show from the reserved seats that come with the table.) As Chuckwagons roared across the finish line and the stars came out, a high-energy outdoor stage show featuring hundreds of singers, dancers, and musicians wowed the audiences, before the night closed out with fireworks.

In other words, it's a totally exciting time to be in Calgary, pardner.

P.S. They made me wear the hat.

Photo credits:
1-6. Amy Rosen

Last week I attended a press event with colleagues Meg Crossley and Amy Rosen. Krups planned a themed "In The City" event that took us to three locations over a few hours and showed us great appliances at every stop.

Our day began at Dish, here in Toronto, where we threw on aprons and rolled up our sleeves. We participated in a brunch-style cooking class and used Krups appliances to execute various tasks.

Team House & Home got busy making crêpes. These nonstick All-Clad pans were a dream.

Here are Amy and Meg hard at work.

And me flipping the pan to turn the crêpe. I got the hang of it eventually.

Amy then got busy on the maple coffee whipped cream, using the new Krups immersion blender.

After everyone completed the components for their dishes, the chefs plated the recipes.

Amy had to run to the airport (she was heading to the Calgary Stampede), but Meg and I hopped into the waiting limo and went on to see new Krups coffee products and a beautifully designed new line of Krups appliances.

I had to take this photo — what a way to travel on a hot Friday afternoon!

At our last stop, I was thrilled to see the new line of Krups Silver Art products that I had admired at the Interior Design Show show in February. I was blown away by the designs when I originally saw these prototypes at the show. I was equally impressed seeing them in person. The styling is so chic and right on, with the subtle wood detailing. Well-priced and very well-designed, this collection is sure to become a new kitchen classic.

I love love love this coffee maker with thermal carafe.

If you need an electric kettle, this one is it! It's so gorgeous, you won't want to tuck it away. The wood trim on the bottom and handle is so good-looking.

Another new classic, this two-slice toaster with bun warmer rack has six variable browning settings and a bagel reheat and defrost.

The new pump espresso machine has tamp technology and 15 bars of pressure to ensure every espresso is just perfect.

This new citrus press also converts to a pitcher so the piece can go right to table — clever!

All these products are currently available at Sears (in store and online) and will roll into other stores in the fall.

Photo credits:
1-8. Morgan Michener
9. KT 600, Krups
10. BW 600, Krups
11. KH 754, Krups
12. XP 4600, Krups
13. ZX 800, Krups

What to do if you've got great style and no money? How do you create the living space of your dreams when you've got to be frugal and realistic with your pocketbook? If you're just starting out and need to fill, for example, your first living room, might I suggest these affordable finds?

Let's say this is your "before" shot. A sweet apartment living room in Toronto's beaches neighbourhood, with lots of detail and character. You're off to a good start!

The search begins with the biggest investment piece — a sofa. I found this one for under $750 at Guff! Its classic shape and neutral, fresh colour allows us to go in any direction we want with the other colours and pieces.

Next, we need some chairs. I found these perfectly scaled bergere chairs at a hotel liquidator in Oakville for only $55 each! They're small enough that they won't take up too much room and can easily be moved around to suit different seating arrangements. Plus, with open legs and arms, your eye sees right through them, keeping the space feeling open and large.

But that upholstery has to go! I'd go for a few yards of this punchy grassy-green and watermelon coloured ikat from Designer Fabrics in Toronto. Since you wouldn't likely need more than six yards for two chairs, and it only costs $17 per yard, you'd have your fabric for about $100. Upholstering two chairs might cost $700, so add it all up and you're looking at about $900 or around $450 per chair, which is still pretty reasonable.

To hold the TV, stereo, books, DVDs and everything else you have to hide in a small space, I'd opt for a handsome armoire like this one from the same hotel liquidator. I'd try to buff up the wood with sandpaper and keep it natural along with the tarnished brass hardware for a substantial, traditional note in the room. At $105, it's the deal of the century!

For occasional tables, I'd opt for a mix of old and new. These marble topped end tables are a steal at $113 each from Funk & Gruven A-Z in Belleville, Ontario. I would keep the marble as is and paint out the base of the tables, probably in a chalky poppy seed grey colour, highlighting the texture in the carved Greek key design.

For the new component, I'd head over to Ikea for this $90 modern waterfall-style coffee table. Clean, simple and lets the more ornate side tables do the talking.

We'd want to marry the whole grouping of furniture together and add an organic note with a jute rug like the Vejen from Ikea — again, under $200.

When it comes to lighting, I think throwing off expectations and going for something slightly industrial would be interesting. These black metal lamps from Bowring are under $50 each and would look fantastic on either end of the sofa.

With the green and watermelon ikat fabric on the chairs, it's time to pick a wall colour. White would work of course, but I'd go for something daring and handsome. Maybe even faux lacquer the walls (using high-gloss paint) in a yolky-yellow hue like Babouche (223) from Farrow & Ball.

Then I'd repeat the fabric's pink with some simple solid cushions from Crate & Barrel on the neutral sofa.

Over the sofa I'd hang this round detailed mirror from Captain's Treasures Antiques and paint the frame white.

Then I'd add some of these plaster-looking plaques from West Elm (on sale now!) in a loose, free-form drift over the sofa. So, maybe one big mirror and three plaques; two on one side, one on the other.

Here's a snapshot of the whole scheme together. Fun right? It's classic but cheeky, tailored, yet fresh.

Here's the budget breakdown:

Sofa: $745
Chairs (all in with fabric and reupholstery costs): $910
Armoire: $105
Carrera side tables: $225
Coffee table: $90
Rug: $180
Pair of lamps: $80
3 gallons of paint: $120
3 cushions: $75
Mirror: $95
3 plaques: $80

Grand Total: $2,705

Not dirt cheap, but certainly a really great price for a sophisticated and fully furnished space like this. Now all you have to add are some fresh flowers and call it a day!

See another Colourful Apartment Makeover I did for some friends of mine with a tight budget.

Photo credits:
1. Viewit.ca
2. Guff
3, 5. Moveline Liquidations
4. Peyton Ikat, Designer Fabrics
6. Funk & Gruven A-Z
7. Expedit coffee table, Ikea
8. Vejen rug, Ikea
9. Union Metal Task Lamp, Bowring
10. Babouche (223), Farrow & Ball
11. Nolan Magenta 20" pillow, Crate & Barrel
12. Captain's Treasures Antiques
13. Stray Dog Sea Life Plaques, West Elm

With warm weather at its peak, I've been spending quite some time near Toronto's waterfront, watching folks sailing nearby. I love boats — or should I say yachts!? They are a hot commodity and are often decked-out to resemble seaside resorts. I was perusing the internet, daydreaming of a voyage at sea, when I stumbled across these luxury vessels.

This Dutch-designed yacht with teak floors and modern furniture has windows that open up for an indoor-outdoor experience. With a view like that, who needs art?

Patio furniture and white linen uphostery looks perfectly breezy on fashion royalty Alberta Ferretti's yacht. I can only imagine all the A-listers who have lounged here during the Cannes Film Festival.

You can't go wrong with nautical stripes! The large banquette and pedestal tables give the Lady Elizabeth III a glam bistro vibe. I wonder how they keep the glossy white deck so perfectly pristine?

I wish I had more information on this vintage boho-chic yacht, but I found it on Pinterest without a source. This look reminds me of Roche Bobois' MahJong Couture collection. If you can afford a yacht, you might as well splurge on sofas, don't you think?

You might not have a boat, but you can still enjoy high-sea style on your patio with these nautical themed West Elm cushions. At around $20 each, you can put the money you saved toward your yacht fund.

 

Don't be fooled, this kitchen isn't floating on the open sea. It's a yacht-inspired kitchen! The classic white-on-wood cabinets and shelving, combined with blue floors, is reminiscent of traditional boats. And for an authentic touch, the designer replicated details he saw in an old 1920s yacht photograph to create the wooden grills on the cabinets.

After poring over this gorgeous kitchen, maybe I'll just live the yacht lifestyle on solid ground!

Not enough nautical for you? Check out these articles and photos, too!

Photo credits:
1, 2. Architectural Digest, photography courtesy of Feadship
3. Habitually Chic tumblr
4. Architectural Digest, photography by Kim Sargent
5. Pinterest
6. West Elm
7. House Beautiful, photography by Christopher Baker

Doing laundry isn't always the most enjoyable task, but adding creative storage options and personal touches makes it less boring. While searching for ways to make my own laundry room more interesting, I came across a few I like:

Lining up several black storage boxes creates a unified, tidy look. A clothes rack beneath the shelf is handy, too.

A deep apron sink would be nice to have. I love the clothespin mobile and lower open shelves.

This laundry room looks a bit like a little kid's play set. Baskets to sort clothes by colour are handy and save time sorting.

Talk about maximizing a small space! This closet neatly fits stackable laundry appliances.

Large wicker baskets are always a useful storage option.

I like the teal colour of this cabinetry, and the spindles between the appliances. Which room is your favourite?

Shelf space, storage baskets, an ironing board and a place to hang clothes to dry are all practical elements to include in a laundry room, and accents like flowers and artwork will help make the room more personal, too.

For more laundry room inspiration, check out this photo gallery.

Photo credits:
1. Better Homes and Gardens
2. Hus & Hem via Designspiration SK
3. Honey and Lace via Pinterest
4. Via Pinterest
5. Martha Stewart
6. Southern Living, photography by Charles Walton

I arrived home later than planned, was expecting people over for drinks, and had to whip up some tasty snacks in under an hour. With few ingredients on hand and even less effort, I decided to go for a theme that was hardcore retro, dishing up spicy deviled eggs, onion dip, veggies and chips, and this super fast spinach dip. Everyone gobbled up the treats like it was 1950 all over again, which just goes to show that a little mayo and a lot of nostalgia is a winning combination.

Quick Spinach Dip

(makes about 2 cups of dip)

One 10-oz. package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1/4 cup of canned water chestnuts, chopped
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
2 green onions, chopped
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp dried dill
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
2-3 oz. Asiago cheese or another mild, melty cheese, cut into small cubes

Step 1: Preheat oven to 425°F.

Step 2: Squeeze handfuls of thawed spinach between hands (into the sink) to get rid as of much moisture as possible. Add spinach to bowl, and mix well with all remaining ingredients except the cheese.

Step 3: Just before baking, dot top of dip with cheese and bake for 8-10 minutes or until hot and lightly browned. Serve warm with veggies and slices of baguette or crackers.

For more delish party dips, try a Creamy Artichoke Dip or White Bean Dip.

Photo credit:
Amy Rosen

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