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I've done blog posts based on books from blogs and posts based on diet books, and now as various forms of media continue to mesh and morph into one another, I'm addressing cookbooks based on recipes from magazines.

First up, from the good people at Good Housekeeping, we have Grilling (2011 Hearst Books). The magazine is known for dishing out handy everyday information to millions of Americans each month, and this grill-focused cookbook, full of 275 triple-tested recipes, is no exception. It all starts with an overview of various types of grills (be it gas or charcoal), plus tips on flavouring your fire and choosing the best tools for the job (instant read thermometers, fire starters, grilling baskets and the like). From 25 different burger recipes to a whole chapter on rubs and sauces, all of the recipes are quick and doable — and that Orange-Chipotle Salsa is calling my name. This book has the Amy Rosen stamp of approval!

Fine Cooking is a magazine I inherently trust; they've got great ideas, lots of new twists on old favourites, and while often times their recipes aren't quick and easy, the end results are always deliciously praise-worthy. Their new book, Fine Cooking In Season (2011 Taunton), is a guide to whipping up the season's best offerings at their peak. For instance, springtime means an asparagus, goat cheese and bacon tart, or sautéed fiddleheads with morels, while summer leads to grilled chicken breasts with green olive relish and late summer's bellini pops. I've never tried making sautéed stinging nettles before, but I may finally get up the nerve this spring, thanks to In Season's tasty looking nettles with shallots.

And finally, not so much a cookbook as a colourful treatise on how to grow and produce all that you can in your own backyard, Sunset magazine's The One-Block Feast (2011 Ten Speed Press) dishes out garden plans for four seasons. Plus, it offers tips on how to make your own wine (and labels), various cheeses, vinegars, how to own a dairy cow, how to dry chilies, can tomatoes, raise honeybees (and make honey), how to forage, raise chickens, and on, and on. Though our long cold winters won't let you do a bunch of the projects aimed at Sunset magazine's largely western audience, there are dozens of doable ideas and 100 great recipes (using ingredients you may have grown yourself), making for an inspiring read. In fact, I may just make some homemade ricotta and spread it over homemade buttermilk crackers topped with just-picked fava beans tonight.

See more cookbook recipes.

Photo credits:
3. Ten Speed Press

Having just put our June issue to bed, I was inspired by the numerous creative family spaces we featured on our pages, like the modern home of designer Ashley Botten and photographer Chris Wahl on page 64. (The issue will be on newsstands on May 9th.) I had the pleasure of interviewing Ashley for our Online TV show, too (check back for it May 9th). There's an interactive and playful quality to their home, which you know her two kids enjoy, and yet they didn't sacrifice style in the least. Fun for everyone!

Here are a few more creative family spaces and clever kid-friendly ideas:

I worked with photographer Ted Yarwood on capturing this screened-in porch at a Georgian Bay cottage many, many years ago and it still looks sharp. With 270 degree views of the outside, it is a perfect summer playroom. White painted floors and furniture always look great — plus, who doesn't love an exposed vaulted ceiling? But the standout is those mix-and-match traditional armchairs covered in the same upbeat turquoise vinyl that stands out against all that white. Practical and striking.

My dear friend John Tong, who is one of the partners (with my hubby and their other partner Paul Syme) at the Toronto design firm 3rd Uncle, is a master of playful spaces. He's a bit of a kid himself, and he and his wife Anne have three super kids: Uma, Luca and Maeyel. This is the courtyard space he created by purchasing two industrial buildings and transforming the old driveway between them into this mod, private space, totally tucked away from the urban life on the other side of the high walls.

He painted the entire north wall Mediterranean blue for a big blast of upbeat colour. The ten foot long dining table is actually two side-by-side Ikea picnic sets (sadly discontinued) broken up by a pair of original Eames fiberglass bucket chairs at each end and vintage turquoise vinyl office chairs on the far side — all practical outdoor and kid-friendly choices. The dining area sits under the old rafters — vestiges from when the building used to operate as a warehouse. It's this deconstructed structure that makes this space so intriguing, especially with kids' swings suspended from the I-beams. The raised platform at the back of the space gives the courtyard some dimension and a place for the kids to put on plays and performances. Who said city living isn't kid-friendly?

When I was a kid, I loved the idea of secret doorways and passages — they could transform a regular house into a magical treasure hunt. Architects Christine Ho Ping Kong and Peter Tan of Studio Junction designed their modern Toronto home with their two kids in mind by including a few of these special passages. This is the home's principal bedroom (and kids' jumping ground), but it connects to the children's bedroom to the right through a sliding Japanese-style shoji screen (where Abbe is running through) so that the parents can keep an eye on the baby. Once the kids are big enough, the screen will stay shut and the room that the kids share will be divided with pre-planned sliding doors on a ceiling and floor track. Drawers and cupboards faced in Douglas fir hide a multitude of toys, clothing and clutter and lend the space an almost boat-like feel, like sleeping in the hull of a ship.

If you haven't seen Mary Randolph Carter's book, A Perfectly Kept House is the Sign of a Misspent Life (2010 Rizzoli), run out and get a copy. If nothing else, it will help you relax about having everything in its place so you can enjoy your home more. One of my favourite ideas in the book was this muslin Biedermeier-style sofa covered in kids' scribbles and doodles in indelible ink. It's totally interactive and the result resembles a graffiti art installation. And that branch and Christmas lights chandelier is superb as well.

Also from Mary Randolph Carter's book, this photo shows how easy it is to designate a space for kids' art. It's so important to have an area where children's creations are on display. Stagger simple narrow shelves like they did here and combine a variety of objects for added interest. Place single pieces low where kids have a good view, and more delicate groupings higher up.

Pillows are always fun for kids to play among. This pillow-filled reading nook (from the same book), looks super cosy and it has been personalized with a piece of foolscap school paper enlarged as art. I love how they've even replicated the hole punch down the left side.

This unique and colourful entryway is from the home of jewelry designer, teacher and mother of three, Liz Kingstone, whom I mentioned in my June editor's letter. Her entire house is filled with creative and kid-friendly decorating ideas. These front hall stair treads painted in bubble gum pink give a wow first impression. It looks super funky and works because of the unifying white walls and warm wood floorboards.

Liz also cleverly created an extra wide daybed for her boys' room (that they like to use as a trampoline) by placing two Ikea platform beds back-to-back. They fit perfectly along an entire wall so they look built-in. And she personalized them by painting each of the drawers a different colour and adding mix and match bedding (plus a striped carpet) for a relaxed, eclectic look.

This photo is from the book Children's Spaces from Zero to Ten (2008 Ryland Peters & Small) by Judith Wilson. Vintage finds — like this industrial storage unit reminiscent of school lockers — are perfect for adding character to a room full of standard children's furniture. Of course you can't go wrong with a pair of framed Tintin posters for European flavour and a big splash of colour. And a plate rail running around the top of the room is perfect for turning kids' books into art and displaying family photos in colourful frames.

For more inspiration, check out our Kids Rooms: 18 Designs photo gallery, or learn tips for Organizing Kids' Work & Play Spaces.

Photo Credits:
1. House & Home December 2006 issue, photography by Ted Yarwood
2. House & Home June 2010 issue, photography by Stacey Brandford
3. House & Home January 2009 issue, photography by Rob Fiocca
4-6. From A Perfectly Kept House is the Sign of a Misspent Life (2010 Rizzoli) by Mary Randolph Carter, photography by Mary Randolph Carter
7-8. Wish Winter 2009 issue, photography by Michael Graydon
9. From Children's Spaces from Zero to Ten (2008 Ryland Peters & Small) by Judith Wilson, photography by Debi Treloar


Suzanne Dimma

One of the things I love most about our new (old) house is that it's in pretty much original condition. When people live in and renovate a house several times over the years, you end up having to undo lots of things you don't like. With an original shell, you can make those changes yourself ― for the first time ― and get what you want.

Our kitchen was from the 1950s, complete with solid wooden cabinet doors and less-than-solid plastic tiles in red and yellow. We began chipping the plastic tiles off one night after a "house warming" barbecue with the family. My Mom brought over a favourite (and expensive) paring knife which I used to pry at the plastic tiles. Hey, I didn't know it was expensive at the time! The knife worked well but didn't survive the beating.

Here's Sara giving the demolition a try...

Worked like a charm!

Oops! Sorry Mom.

With the tile gone, we were pretty sure we wanted to freshen the space up with lots of white. I was inspired by kitchens like these:

I love the subway tile in this Steven Gambrel project. I also love the dark grout, but would it be too trendy for our little old house?

This Ina Garten kitchen from House Beautiful has a really nice feeling, too. So classic and fresh, don't you think?

Of course I've always loved this Turkey Hill kitchen by my decorating idol Martha Stewart. The copper pots became an obsession of mine last summer. I also love the look of brass pulls instead of nickel. And a big stainless steel stove has always been a dream...

American food icon Julia Child (and the recent movie about her life) was another influence. The movie-set kitchen was so friendly and utilitarian. Plus she, like me, loved blue willow plates, so I knew we were on the same wavelength. Plus, more copper!

I was also inspired by some U.K. designed kitchens, like this one from House to Home, and the idea of cabinets painted in a fresh colour instead of plain white. I'm always the editor complaining that no one in Canada uses colour on their cabinets, but am I brave enough to try it myself? Can I put my money where my mouth is?

Watch the video tours to find out!

Missed my before shots? Check out our main floor and second floor.

Photo credits:
1-3. Michael Penney
4. Country, Hamptons, Steven Gambrel
5. House Beautiful
6. Turkey Hill,
7. 2009 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. and Beverly Blvd LLC, from Country Living
8. House to Home

It's been trendy to tear down walls in small Victorian homes, allowing light to flow though and families to share the wide open space. I love the idea, although I sometimes wonder if the lack of privacy (and the cost of heating) would become bothersome in the long run.

To help you visualize this dilemma, here are a few inspiration photos of open, lofty spaces, followed by smaller, closed-off rooms:

Open-concept living makes for bright, spacious rooms, but noise and cooking smells get around fast. As the alternative, check out these cosy, closed-off spaces:

Closed rooms are more private, but aren't always the best for entertaining. However, I do like that each individual room can have its own decor style — which is difficult to pull off in a space without walls or doors.

Seeing as I haven't lived in a true open-concept space, it's difficult for me to judge, so I leave it up to you — what do you prefer, open-concept or closed rooms?

Photo credits:
1. House & Home, photography by Virginia Macdonald
2. House & Home, photography by Robert Lemermeyer
3. House & Home, photography by Virginia Macdonald
4. House & Home, photography by Michael Graydon
5. House & Home, photography by Donna Griffith
6. House & Home, photography by Chris Tubbs

Chic clothier and furniture retailer Anthropologie is doing their part for Earth Day this April 22nd. Their four Canadian locations (see below) will be displaying cork installations in their windows, showing that the renewable material can be used for more than just preserving a shiraz. Each store will have a unique installation made from tens of thousands of recycled corks, only sharing in common natural cork as the main material.

To emphasize the importance of repurposing and recycling, the installations will be available for "adoption" after Earth Day in exchange for a contribution to the Cork Forest Conservation Alliance (CFCA), the organization behind the concept for the windows. Any remaining cork will be returned to the CFCA and recycled through their Cork ReHarvest program.

In addition to their eco window displays, they are offering cork repurposing workshops to customers and kids at the Calgary location tomorrow from 12-2 p.m. So if you're in the area, stop by to craft your own cork animals or planters (above), and pass the green gene onto kiddies. All Calgary workshops are free of charge.

In the spirit of Earth Day, I've rounded up some eco-conscious finds from Anthropologie that will add a bit of green to your home.

Their High-Minded Chandelier is handcrafted from recycled encyclopedia pages. Keep it out of the bathroom because of the moisture, but it would look great in a dining room or home office.

The Wormly Sofa is made from recycled wool upholstery, and the seat is handcrafted in South Africa by Casamento, a company that uses natural fibres to create eco-friendly, non-allergenic furniture. I love that the tufting on the back is scattered leaves instead of neat and tidy buttons. I'm usually drawn to symmetry, but the asymmetrical back cushions leave me wanting to mix things up a bit.

The Splayer Sofa is handcrafted from raw cotton and burlap, and illustrates what Suzanne Dimma was on to for 2011's "new vintage" trend. The worn, theatrical look may not be for everyone, but it suits this rustic space perfectly, don't you think?

The Tightrope Coffee Table's seat is woven from brightly coloured recycled ropes — adding crafty style to the traditional shape of the mango wood legs. It would cheer up a safe 'n simple sofa as a coffee table, or add eclectic charm to a cottage entryway as a bench.

This hippy-chic trivet is backed with cork, making it practical and eco-conscious. Serve up your Easter dinner dishes on a few of these — a quick way to add some colour to your spread.

Their Tall Pinched Vases and Rainy Window Glasses are blown from recycled glass. These soft hues are perfect for spring.

So if you're in Calgary, Edmonton or Toronto, pass by to check out the window displays, or stop in to shop their eco items! Addresses below:

Chinook Centre
6455 Macleod Trail SW

West Edmonton Mall
8882 170 Street

80 Yorkville Avenue

Shops at Don Mills
19 Clock Tower Road

For more eco inspiration, see our Green Design photo gallery.

Photo credits:
1-5. Anthropologie
6. High-Minded Chandelier, Anthropologie
7. Wormly Sofa, Anthropologie
8. Splayer Sofa, Anthropologie
9. Tightrope Coffee Table, Anthropologie
10. Into The Jungle Trivet, Anthropologie
11a. Tall Pinched Vase, Anthropologie
11b. Rainy Window Glass, Anthropologie

I have a really bad habit of rushing out the door every morning and forgetting something, or consciously leaving behind my cell phone because it’ll take too long for me to remember where I put it. But, I'm getting better these days as I've given each of my belongings a "home" so I won't misplace them. I've designated a zippered pouch for USB cables, and a trunk for all my yarn. Trays have become my most preferred organization tool, though. They work in every room and every style, and allow you to keep oft-used items in view, while keeping things tidy.

Placing a tray within a tray creates a layered look. Corralling various perfumes together brings some order to a bedroom dresser.

These porcelain dishes from West Elm are intended for soap, but can be used for other things, too. Rest your jewelry down in the same spot every day so you won't have to go hunting for that tiny piece that may have rolled off somewhere.

Anthropologie's delicate-looking Saguaro Tray and Tuscan Evening Tray both have nice little details, making them perfect for jewelry.

The brass Fez platter and tray from West Elm remind me of the trays we use at home to serve sweets during the holidays. Use them to keep votive candles and matches in one place, or to gather accessories.

Clear acrylic trays are very popular, too. Grouping pretty stationery together on a desk means you'll see what you have available to use at any given time.

To customize a tray, line it with wallpaper or fabric for a hit of colour, or even paint the inside a contrasting shade. These large acrylic ones by Jonathan Adler feature graphic prints.

Placed on an ottoman (or pouf!), trays become resting spots for drinks and miniature vases. How lovely is this look!? The napkin protects the tray, and the handles make it easy for moving about. Cuppa tea, anyone?

You can easily create a minibar set-up on a console table in a dining or living room.

This oversized rattan tray from Pottery Barn is large enough to gather all your food and drink supplies for a patio. Arrange a tray before guests arrive for easy entertaining. Sturdiness and handles are both a must for trays that you plan to carry.

When not in use, trays can be stacked, like Jonathan Adler's Carnaby Nesting Trays, available in multiple prints. His Hollywood Divided set is intended as dinnerware, but you can also place other objects inside. If you plan to place food directly on a tray, it's a good idea to find out whether it's food-safe first.

Trays are fairly versatile and can eliminate arguments about who had the TV remote last, cut the time spent worrying about where you placed a piece of jewelry, and tidy up dumping grounds for keys and mail. So why not pick some up?

For more organization ideas, visit our Storage & Organizing section, and read about decorating with apothecary jars.

Photo credits:
1. Lonny June/July 2010, photography by Patrick Cline
2. West Elm
3. Anthropologie

5. Rue Magazine

6. Jonathan Adler
Lonny June/July 2010, photography by Patrick Cline
8. Lonny August/September 2010, photography by Patrick Cline
9. Pottery Barn
10. Jonathan Adler

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