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Once in a while you stumble upon images so beautiful they take your breath away. The design landscape is cluttered with so many photos and projects and opinions and trends, that when you see work like Amy Merrick's flower arrangements, you just stop and appreciate. Amy's styling is all about the simple beauty in nature, carefully coaxed into splendor by the hands of an artist.

You may know her from her work on design*sponge, or her charming blog An Apple A Day, or her floral designs for former employer Saipua in Brooklyn, New York. Amy has just launched a new website,, and it is full of such lush beauty I just had to share it with you!

Influenced, I think, by the famous 20th century British florist, Constance Spry, Amy incorporates fruit, berries and natural elements with flowers, ferns and foliage to create romantic arrangements like these.

Images on Amy's blog feature her family's charming country cottage in New Hampshire.

Some images are light and springy...

... and some are dark and moody. All are absolutely beautiful and will give you a breath of fresh, inspirational air. You may never look at flowers, fruit — or even weeds for that matter — in the same light again.

Be sure to check out Amy's gorgeous site soon!

For more inspiration, see our Easy Flower Arrangements gallery.

Photo credits:

Cookies!!! Yes, the sugar is still coursing through our veins since Marian from Sweetopia delivered some of her delicious sugar and gingerbread cookies to the H&H office. Marian would never call herself a pro, but her baking and decorating skills say otherwise. As an avid food blog reader, I had already been following her Sweetopia blog, so you can imagine my excitement when I got my hands on some of her treats. Here are a few shots of what the H&H girls and I devoured:

Let's begin with her sugar cookies. Buttery, thick and lightly crumbly, these were bliss. The thick layer of royal icing makes these cookies extra sweet — perfect for those with a serious sweet tooth. Marian's royal icing skills can be seen on the round cookie's delicate grid pattern — I can't even draw a line this straight with a pen! Her blog has a whole section on cookie decorating tips, so maybe I'll try making these myself!

This shot shows you how intricate some of these designs can get. And you may not notice in this photo, but the teapot cookie is the size of a small plate — perfect for sharing. If you're a die-hard cookie decorator, you can get fancy with edible ink images, which is how Marian achieved the floral details on the teapot and cup.

This box was filled with fresh Christmas gingerbreads. This is a recipe you'll want to try if you like a thick chewy gingerbread loaded with fragrant spices.

This photo from her blog shows that any theme goes. Don't let cookie cutter shapes limit your creativity — a round cookie is the perfect base for any icing decoration. These nautical-themed snacks are perfectly on-trend with our Cape Cod gallery. Cape Cod-themed backyard party, anyone?

For those of you looking for baking and decorating tools, most specialty baking stores sell them, but I recently found out that DeSerres offers a range of cake decorating tools, and with several locations across Canada, you know where I'll be during my lunch break.

If you're all about baking sweets, you'll find more recipes and information about cupcakes, cakes and gingerbread houses on Sweetopia. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to finish up these cookies before the rest of the office sees them.

Love frosted cookies? So does Suzanne Dimma! See her favourite recipe here.

And for more delicious cookie recipes, search our food section.

Photo credits:
1-3. Leslie Williams
4. Sweetopia

My twelve-year-old niece is on summer holidays, and she's been working hard at redecorating her room. She's gone for all-white walls, white oak laminate floors and is going to add pops of colour with her accessories and possibly an accent wall (but she isn't sure which colour yet).

I thought I would share a few of my favourite kid's rooms we've featured over the past few years. What I like about these is that they have elements with staying power: old painted bed frames, built-in storage, and even a pair of HBC blankets. These things can stay in the room while you change out smaller things as they get older. More economical!

For more inspiration, see our Trendy Kids' Bedroom Ideas photo gallery.

Photo credits:
1-2. House & Home June 2006 issue, photography by Mark Burstyn
3. House & Home November 2009 issue, photography by Stacey Brandford
4-5. House & Home March 2008 issue, photography by Donna Griffith
6. House & Home March 2008 issue, photography by Kim Christie 


Cameron MacNeil

Boy oh boy did the good folks of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia ever roll out the red carpet for me. My recent weekend visit to the small town (population of about 7,000) that was far too short and far too fun, began with a Saturday morning visit to the bustling Yarmouth Farmers Market on Hawthorn Street, which moved into rustic-chic new digs in June. All of the vendors put together a massive welcome basket for me — everything from homemade ketchup to a giant challah to organic lettuce, and even a coupon for a free crêpe. Talk about small town hospitality!

I didn't want to fill up too much though, as I was scheduled to be one of the judges at the Annual Cook's Chowder Cook-Off that afternoon, a blind taste test of creamy seafood chowders from a bunch of restaurants in the area. (Cook's, the sponsor, is a local dairy producer). My fellow judge was Emily, from Taste of Nova Scotia, an association that promotes all the great local producers and products of the area. After much slurping, we had a tie for first and second and even third place, so after triple tasting all the chowders, Emily finally saw things my way (heh heh) and we had our winners. The crowd on that sunny July day was almost as thick as some of those delicious chowders, and they enjoyed bowlfuls of it too, along with the fresh lobsters, scallops and other great shellfish being shucked and slurped on the wharf, all part of the annual Seafest celebrations.

Admittedly, after all of that chowder I was beyond stuffed, especially since I unwisely indulged in a heaping plate of deeeelicious fried clams at Rudder's (they placed 2nd at the chowder cook-off) minutes before the competition.

So, off I went, walking the tidal flats, driving through picturesque landscapes, and visiting the Yarmouth Lightstation — home to Denise Nickerson's amazing bread pudding with caramel sauce.

I eventually ended the day aboard a slow-moving lobster boat that had been transformed into a shining beacon of lights and fireworks for the "Parade of Lights" on the town's waterfront, which began at dusk and lasted until late, part of the year-long celebrations for Yarmouth's 250th birthday.

Like I said, boy oh boy, did I ever have a great weekend. And did I ever eat well. From Saturday night's traditional slow-cooked beans and bread, to the local specialty, creamed lobster, to the indigenous potato and chicken rappie pie at Helen LeBlank's Red Cap restaurant (in her family she's known as the queen of rappie pie). Though I ate just about as well as a person can, it's honestly the kind people of Yarmouth who will bring me back again: They were the true local delicacy.

For a taste of Yarmouth you can make at home, here's an easy oatmeal bread recipe by Yarmouth caterers chef Gary Kent and Madeleine Daues.

Yarmouth's Homemade Bread

(makes 2 loaves)

1 tsp dry active yeast (1 package)
1/4 cup warm water
1 cup rolled oats
2 cups boiling water
1/2 cup molasses
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
6 cups all-purpose flour

Step 1: Preheat oven to 350°F.

Step 2: In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the 1/4 cup warm water and let sit undisturbed for 5 minutes.

Step 3: Into a large bowl add the oats, molasses, oil, salt and boiling water, mix together, then add half the flour, followed by the yeast mixture, and then the remaining flour. Blend together.

Step 4: On a floured surface, kneed the dough for 5 minutes and then form into a ball. Let sit to rise, covered on the counter with a tea towel, for 1 hour, then punch the dough to let the air out.

Step 5: Grease two loaf pans and shape dough into two loaves in prepared pans. Let sit in pans to rise for another hour, then bake for 50 minutes.

Can't get enough of the east coast? Check out our Best of the East photo gallery!

Photo credits:
1-9. Amy Rosen

We all have guilty pleasures here at the office. One of the gals absolutely loves real fur, while another gets girly over feathers. I secretly love leopard print (often printed on cowhide, brushed cotton or velvet). As with all our guilty pleasures, the reason we feel embarrassed by them is because so many people do them badly. How not to wear leopard print: Google Edith Prickley for a reminder.

Of course leopard print comes around every ten years or so and sticks for about three. We are on the tail end of its run now but I am happy to know that it will still be here for fall 2011, if runway shows are any indicator.

The key to leopard print is moderation, whether in fashion or home. And moderation doesn't always mean small scale. In fashion, it can be one fabulous coat or a small handbag. In homes, it can mean one big sofa, or a small cushion or throw. I think designer Charles Spada hit the right now in design with his French Chateau sofa. The leopard print is a showstopper, but there is only one thing in leopard. And so many other lovely and subtle things to balance the bold print.

Of course I would love to have this Yves Saint Laurent handbag from 2008 (left), but since it's sold out, and far out of my price range, I opted for a cute vintage one (right) on Etsy instead. And sorry for you others out there who secretly love leopard print, this bag is marked sold.

For more animal inspiration, see Kathryn Bala's blog post on spots.

Photo credits:
1., photography by Stan Wayman
2. Blugirl Fall/Winter 2011
3. Boxwood Terrace blog
4a. YSL Majorelle Leopard-Print Bag, Neiman Marcus
4b. Etsy

For years now I've been wailing and complaining that no affordable retailers have been offering sensibly priced 'global' decorating staples. You know, those block print cushions, suzanis and ikats we all love? The ones that can cost an arm and a leg?

Well, West Elm must have heard my griping because this season they've got a ton of global decorating items to choose from. Even just one will liven up your space with earthy, saturated pattern and style.

Here are my faves:

The new Tribal Jute Rug feels like it was just carried back from some far-off land and has a pleasing mix of warm colours and classic black. The jute material keeps it organic and textural.

West Elm always has great, large-scale baskets including the Ikat woven collection with black and white stripes. Perfect for firewood or laundry.

The Kantha quilted throw collection has tons of amazing colour and texture and would wake up a basic sofa instantly!

The hand-blocked Jaipur collection of bedding comes in this tomato-red colour or a soft grey. It's priced really really well for such beautiful handmade work.

The Organic Carved Circles Duvet Cover in this luscious mustard colour can feel both global and modern at the same time. I love it paired with these taupey walls and traditional details.

The Kantha collection of hand-quilted cushions are made from repurposed saris. How lovely are these?! Each one has a unique history and will add a soulful layer in your home.

Actually, West Elm has lots of block printed cushion covers in many shades. There's everything from blue to green and yellow to neutral! Take your pick and save tons of cash!

These Hammam Soap Dishes would add Turkish bath style to any boring bathroom for only $6!!!

And the Bubbles Ceramic Stool would make a perfect perch in the bathroom or a side table in a living room. Organic and exotic, this stool is right on trend and so affordable.

The Naturalist bowl collection is great for setting the table or even better for a vignette on a coffee or side table. Viewing these gorgeous global patterns from above shows off their best side.

Or for a cleaner, easier to swallow hit of the global trend, these Modernist bowls and mugs will add some cheery colour to your kitchen.

Thank goodness we can all get in on the lush global look without breaking the bank at the boutique — or travel agency!

To see global style at its best, tour through designer Karen Cole's home.

Photo credits:
1-11. West Elm

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