{PHOTOGRAPHY: fake it ’til you make it kitchen background}

DIY: fake kitchen photo background / The Sweet Escape

I’m gonna let you in on a secret. I don’t really have a marble countertop or white subway tile backsplash in my kitchen. Shocking, I know. Today I have a little photo blog tip for you. It’s not rocket science but sometimes it’s nice to see the behind the scenes and really see how easy it can be to fake it. Sometimes faking it is bad (dirty mind comment here) but sometimes you worked really hard on something and you just want to show it off and not have your 1970′s green tile pattern distract from it. You too can have a this beautiful kitchen for a the low price of $27 + applicable taxes.

Read More →

{ENTERTAINING: summer rooftop wine & dine}

Summer wine & dine on the patio / The Sweet Escape

I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to host a fab rooftop summer event. There may have been a little bit of a delay getting the patio up and running this year but the lights are hung and the flowers are blooming so we’re in business. The first order of business was hosting a wine & dine get together with some great ladies. I wear so many creative hats these days and I really can’t choose what I love most. I get so much joy pulling together an event. I especially enjoy the smaller events because you can put even more effort into the details. Flowers, food, decor, yes, yes and yes. Add some Chardonnay and you’ve got yourself a party, which is exactly what we did.

Kendall Jackson Wine event 10

photos by Lynda Felton

I decided to keep things relatively simple in the decor dept. The patio kinda speaks for itself so I just went with some flower stems in bright summer colours and a grouping of vintage bottles over a cheerful yellow lace tablecloth (thrift store score). It made for a lovely centrepiece.
Summer Wine & Dine on the rooftop patio / The Sweet Escape

The flowers were pretty but people came for the wine & dine part…and to see me of course. This event was generously sponsored by Kendall-Jackson wines and the perfect backdrop to try their popular Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay. If you can’t go to California, bring California to you that’s what I say. The wine is made from 100% Jackson Estates Grown grapes grown in their vineyards along the coastal regions of Monterey County, Santa Barbara County, and Mendocino County.

Summer Wine & Dine on the rooftop patio / The Sweet Escape

I really wanted this to be a true pairing so I put a lot of effort into making appetizers that would highlight the wine. The Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay is an especially food-friendly wine and pairs well with avocado, peaches, mango, mild cheeses, apples, shrimp, and potatoes amongst other things but those are the ones I decided to focus on. It was a bit of an experiment because a) that’s a bunch of different flavours and b) I’ve never made any of these recipes before. If I was in science class I think I would’ve gotten an A on this experiment.

Summer Wine & Dine on the rooftop patio / The Sweet Escape

What your eyes are feasting on (clockwise from top left) is avocado hummus, ricotta & grill peach crostini, mini apple crisps, and spicy shrimp & mango with basil. Below was the star of the show, a potato rosemary garlic pizza which also used chardonnay in the recipe, which you can find over on the Kendall-Jackson website. Stay tuned for some of the other recipes coming soon. The Chardonnay had creamy tropical notes and paired perfectly with the food.

Summer Wine & Dine on the rooftop patio / The Sweet Escape

Summer Wine & Dine on the rooftop patio / The Sweet Escape

photo by Lynda Felton

Summer Wine & Dine on the rooftop patio / The Sweet EscapeThe wine, food and good company made for a perfect evening of catching up, swapping stories and what summers are all about. It was a patio full of happy guests with full bellies and (re)filled wine glasses.

Summer Wine & Dine on the rooftop patio / The Sweet Escape

photo by Lynda Felton

Summer Wine & Dine on the rooftop patio / The Sweet EscapeIt’s not California but the view wasn’t bad either.  I love how in the summer we are so much more open to being social and easy going about forgetting our schedules, especially on school nights. 
Summer Wine & Dine on the rooftop patio / The Sweet Escape

I highly recommend trying the Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay for your next summer shindig. Check out the vintages section of your local LCBO or wine store for a bottle. Try some new recipes to match or just some fresh bread and cheese for the perfect summer snack.

summer rooftop wine & dine / The Sweet Escape

The wine, good conversation and some warm dessert took us into the evening. In fact we came up with the saying “Chardonnays and Chardonnights”. Aren’t we just hilarious?!

summer patio wine & dine / The Sweet Escape


This post was generously sponsored by Kendall-Jackson Wines but all the opinions, creative concepts and content is my own. 

{GOOD EATS: strawberry freezer jam & printable labels}

Strawberry Freezer Jam Recipe / The Sweet Escape

I haven’t been strawberry picking in ages! I was at my local market and saw the (pricy) Ontario picked strawberries and thought it would be a good reason for me to get away from the computer and enjoy the beautiful summer weather. So here’s the thing about strawberry picking – it’s really only worth it if you have your own bucket/basket and if you want a lot of them. I’ll be honest, I ended up spending more than those pricy ones from the market but it was about the experience and enjoying the summer. Don’t give me that look. So what do you do when you have a bunch of strawberries? You make jam! It’s a great way to take advantage of your local strawberries at their best and freeze for later. Freezer jam is also super easy, bonus!

Strawberry Freezer Jam Recipe / The Sweet Escape

Strawberry Freezer Jam Recipe / The Sweet Escape

No secret recipe here people, I used the recipe from the CERTO pectin box for this. I figure they make pectin, they MUST know what they’re doing when it comes to jam. What’s great about freezer jam is that you don’t have to do all that labour intensive sterilizing and sealing the jars. The downside is that they don’t keep as long (3 weeks in the fridge, 3-6 months in the freezer). But this jam is so delicious it won’t be around for long anyway.

STRAWBERRY FREEZER JAM RECIPE (from CERTO)
•  2 cups prepared fruit (buy about 1 qt. fully ripe strawberries)
•  4 cups sugar, measured into separate bowl
•  1 pouch CERTO Fruit Pectin
•  2 Tbsp.  fresh lemon juice

Strawberry Freezer Jam Recipe / The Sweet Escape

Rinse clean plastic containers and lids with boiling water. Dry thoroughly.

Stem and crush strawberries thoroughly, one layer at a time. Measure exactly 2 cups prepared fruit into large bowl. Stir in sugar. Let stand 10 min., stirring occasionally.

mix pectin and lemon juice in small bowl. Add to strawberry mixture; stir 3 min. or until sugar is dissolved and no longer grainy. (A few sugar crystals may remain.)

fill all containers immediately to within 1/2 inch of tops. Wipe off top edges of containers; immediately cover with lids. Let stand at room temperature 24 hours. Jam is now ready to use. Refrigerate up to 3 weeks or freeze up to 1 year. Thaw in refrigerator.

Strawberry Freezer Jam Recipe / The Sweet Escape

And because I love you so much I designed these adorable lid labels if you wanted to give your jam as a gift. Just print on paper and use as an insert between the two lids. I also couldn’t resist and spray painted the lids blue. Hello?! Why don’t they have jars with different colour lids to buy?

Strawberry Freezer Jam Recipe / The Sweet Escape

Strawberry Freezer Jam Recipe / The Sweet Escape

Download your strawberry jam labels here.


Strawberry Freezer Jam Recipe / The Sweet Escape

Now all you need is some fresh bread to toast, or croissants would be even better and slather with your homemade jam, enjoy!

If you liked this recipe, you can find more in our Good Eats section.

{PHOTOGRAPHY: my favourite blooms}

Sweet Escape Flower Story

It’s been awhile since I’ve worked on a project that is nothing but creative and beautiful – no makeovers, no purpose, no stress, just creative bliss. Flowers are a popular styling tool and accessory. They make any photo or scene softer, realistic, add some colour and they’re just pretty. Today they aren’t just an accessory, they’re the star of the show. I often have flowers laying around after a photoshoot, it’s a good perk of the job. Recently I had a bunch including my all-time fav flower, rununculus, and decided to capture them in all their beauty. I worked with my talented photographer friend Maya Visynei and we set up shop and just played at her studio. Lots of bold colour and bright light. The results make me so happy.

Sweet Escape Flower Story

flower story by The Sweet Escape flower story by The Sweet Escape flower story by The Sweet Escape flower story by The Sweet Escape flower story by The Sweet Escape

Here’s a little behind the scenes peek. A floral & photography playground.

behind the scenes

I know it’s cliche but don’t forget to stop and smell the flowers every once and awhile…..and even snap some photos. They are so pretty to revisit or create something beautiful.

 

Photography: Maya Visnyei
Art Direction & Styling: The Sweet Escape

 

{TRAVEL: Summer in South River}

Summer in South River / The Sweet Escape

Summer Mondays are just the worst aren’t they? Weekends are so precious in the summer months and it feels so good to soak them up. Then comes Monday. Ok, ok, let’s try and be positive here people. Let’s reflect on all the good stuff we did this past weekend and let it get us through this Monday. I spent the weekend on Eagle Lake with some good friends, Just Beyond Heaven’s Gate in the small Northern town of South River. It’s become a bit of a tradition and even though there’s a few extra little people running around and earlier bed times then years ago, some things never change.

Read More →

{ENTERTAINING: time for a summer watermelon party!}

Doesn’t watermelon just equal summer? Sure you can get pretty much any fruit all year long nowadays but you know summer has arrived around these parts when the watermelon is so colourful and tasty. It’s packed with refreshing goodness, yum! There’s also about a million ways you can be inspired by this treat. How about hosting a watermelon themed summer party?  Fill your table and space with pink and green and enjoy!

Watermelon Party Ideas / The Sweet Escape

Watermelon Party Ideas / The Sweet Escape

TOP TO BOTTOM:  watermelon bomb / watermelon krispie treats / printable ice-cream cone wrappers / watermelon kiwi popsicles / watermelon pinata / watermelon fruit grill / watermelon cooler / watermelon slushie / watermelon salsa / tacos with tequila soaked watermelon

{GOOD EATS: pistachio pudding popsicles}

How do you cool off on a hot summer day? If you don’t happen to have a pool to jump into or a sprinkler to run through the next best thing may be an ice cold popsicle. You also don’t have to bare it all in swimwear to eat a popsicle. That may be a plus or a minus, depending on you.

pistachio pudding popsicles / The Sweet Escape

One of my all-time favourite cold treats is Italian gelato. Not only is it delicious but it’s very nostalgic for me. I have memories of going for weekend gelato with my dad. My favourite flavour was always pistachio. Yum! When I saw that there was such thing as instant pistachio pudding a light bulb went off and I decided to turn my favourite gelato flavour into a refreshing popsicle.

Pistachio Pudding Popsicle / The Sweet Escape

So this is definitely a cheaters recipe version in case you didn’t pick that up with the instant pudding part. Here’s what you’ll need:

PISTACHIO PUDDING POPSICLE RECIPE:

• 1 pack of JELLO pistachio instant pudding
• 2.5 cups of milk (.5 more than the instructions ask for)
• 1/2 – 3/4 cup green pistachio crumbs
• popsicle sticks
• popsicle mould

* makes 4-6 popsicles depending on your moulds

These are so simple it’s a bit embarrassing.

• First make the instant pudding according to the directions with an extra 1/2 cup of milk just to make the popsicles a little less pudding-like and a bit firmer to hold up in the heat.
• pour the mixture in your popsicle moulds leaving about 1/2″ at the top and let the pudding set for 5 minutes.
• stick in the popsicle sticks.
• blend up the pistachios in a mini blender until they are chunky crumbs and sprinkle at the top of each popsicle, which will be the bottom when removed.
• place in the freezer for at least 3 hours to harden then enjoy!

Pistachio Pudding Popsicle / The Sweet Escape

Wait! There’s more summer ice treat goodness. Check out some of these delicious treats from a few of my blogger friends. You have inspiration to keep you cool for the rest of the summer.

From Left to Right they are:

Lemon Lime Popsicles by Northstory

Coconut Popsicles by A Pretty Life in the Suburbs

Pistachio Pudding Popsicles by The Sweet Escape

Watermelon Mint Paletas by Satori Design for Living

Salted Caramel Ice Cream Pops by Echoes of Laughter

Homemade Fudgesicles by Craftberry Bush

6 Cool Summer Treats / The Sweet Escape

{DESIGN: Sarah Richardson on Paper + Giveaway}

When Sarah Richardson calls, you answer. I recently was invited for a visit to her downtown design studio to preview and chat about her new stationary line that she created exclusively for Hallmark Canada. I was like “let me check my schedule and think about it”.  Yeah right, the graphic designer part of me jumped at the opportunity. I wear many hats these days but journalist isn’t one of them so the thought of a one-on-one interview was a bit intimidating but luckily that didn’t last long with Sarah.

photo 4

photo 3

I had my little list of wannabe journalist questions and my iPhone recorder ready but I didn’t even get the chance to use them because Sarah whisked me around the studio chatting and showing me all the different pieces of the line and where some of the inspiration came from. The collection is made up greeting cards, stationery, journals and everything you need to wrap a present for someone special. This was a major labour of love for Sarah. As in she literally was sitting behind a computer designing, picking fonts and driving everyone crazy (in the most loveable way) with her attention to detail.

Sarah Richardson Stationary line / The Sweet Escape

Photo by Mike Palmer for Roaming Focus

Sarah Richardson Stationary line / The Sweet Escape

Photos by Mike Palmer for Roaming Focus

The collection stays true to the classic style and fresh colour palette that Sarah Richardson Design is known for along with some brighter and bolder versions for the more fun and light hearted greeting cards.

photo 1

photo 5

If you’re a fan of her fabric line for Kravet you will recognize some of the patterns that translate beautifully to paper like this desktop notecard set. These cards are beautiful on their own but if you want to add a custom touch, how about a little watercolour over those flowers?

Sarah Richardson Stationary Line for Hallmark + Giveaway / The Sweet Escape

The designs are meant to be timeless and unseasonal so unlike your white jeans, they are perfect for pretty much any occasion.

Some other interesting questions and facts….

I asked Sarah who was the first person she sent one of her cards to? The day she got them in her hot little hands also happened to be the day that a valued employee of 6 years was leaving (sad) so she received the first thoughtful note.

I also asked which couple, present or past would she like to see writing love notes on her stationary? Her pick is Will & Kate, which is perfect! Although I do get a giggle out of picturing Beyonce leaving a note for her boo Jay-z on beautiful pastel blue floral note card.

On a site note we discovered that we were both completely mislead by our guidance counsellors – she wanted to be a graphic designer and was told she needed to take chemistry and I wanted to be an interior designer and was told I would need to take physics. Needless to say I think we both did ok (ummmm, so maybe she’s a wee bit more successful than me) and have a healthy dose of each creative outlet in our lives.

It was super important to Sarah to make this collection beautiful but affordable (see labour of love description above) so the prices range from $1.99 – $29.99. You can find the whole collection available at Hallmark Gold Crown stores across Canada.

For a few lucky readers, you can get your hands on a piece sitting pretty at your computer. The Sweet Escape is giving away 3 individual Sarah Richardson Design for Hallmark card sets. (PSST: the butterfly set is a double pack!). See below on how to enter.

*** THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED ****

Sarah Richardson Stationary line/ Thank You card giveaway / The Sweet Escape

{SHOP LOCAL: Shopgirls Boutique}

This post is dedicated to you and all your lovely lady lumps.

A few weeks ago I got asked if I would like to come and get my bootie fitted for a pair of Yoga Jeans at Shopgirls Boutique. I had heard of both Yoga Jeans (Canadian made by Second Clothing) and Shopgirls but hadn’t had the pleasure of checking either out yet so this was a perfect opportunity.

Shop Local: Shopgirl boutique Toronto / The Sweet Escape

Shopgirls is a clothing & accessories boutique that carries all Canadian designers and proud to be experts in celebrating the female form and helping us all rock the body that we got. Their main motto is to shop for your shape and that size ain’t nothing but a number. It’s all about highlighting your best features ladies!

First up the ladies at Shopgirls will help you figure out your shape if you’re not sure. Once you know your shape you can stop fighting it and start dressing for it. You can just call me Ms. Inverted Triangle. Hot.

Shop Local: Shopgirl boutique Toronto / The Sweet Escape

Next let’s get to what brought me to Shopgirls and what they are known for. Yoga Jeans. Who doesn’t love a nice fitting pair of jeans? Dress ‘em up, dress ‘em down, they are a wardrobe staple. Imagine a pair that fits like a glove, doesn’t cut off your circulation, doesn’t give you muffin top AND makes your assets look fine? Welcome to the world of Yoga Jeans.

Shop Local: Shopgirl boutique Toronto / The Sweet Escape

No they are not jeans specifically made for Yoga but (don’t quote me on this) I bet the name comes from the fact that they are so comfortable and flexible that you COULD wear them to do yoga if you wanted. They are made with a 4-way stretch – think north, south, east, west so they stretch to fit your curves without stretching out. That’s why they look so damn flattering on most people. Did I mention that they make your assets look great?

Shop Local: Shopgirl boutique Toronto / The Sweet Escape

Shopgirls has the biggest selection of Yoga Jeans in Canada and has happily fitted over 5000 bums since they opened in 2007. Regardless of your size, I guarantee that the ladies at Shopgirls will find a pair of Yoga Jeans that make you look and feel even better.

Shop Local: Shopgirl boutique Toronto / The Sweet Escape

The Parkdale boutique also has a really well curated stock of clothes and accessories from a selection Canadian designers. If you’re looking for something a little unique and like to invest in local talent you definitely have to check out the racks at Shopgirls. If you can’t make it to the store, check out their online shop where you can shop by shape to help nudge you in the right direction.

Shop Local: Shopgirl boutique Toronto / The Sweet Escape

The store is also packed with great jewellery & accessories. Pick something up for your new outfit or a unique gift for a friend. shopgirls toronto 8

Shop Local: Shopgirl boutique Toronto / The Sweet Escape

If you like what you see and you want more then check out their great newsletter called The Good Stuff. It’s filled with style tips and trends for every size delivered directly to your inbox. For those in Toronto, or making a trip to the city soon, stop by in person (see map) to check out the amazingness of Yoga Jeans and some other stylish additions to your wardrobe.

{BEFORE & AFTER: patio planter makeover}

I’ve been getting a bunch of interest in this before & after from last year’s Patio Beautification project so I thought it was worth a re-visit. In Canada it can be hard to justify spending a bunch of money on an outdoor space because the season is so short and many people don’t have proper year long storage for their outdoor pieces. That’s the case for me anyway. The result is a bunch of really sad mix matched and weathered planters. I decided that instead of buying new ones (not in the budget) or tossing them I would give my sad, sad looking pots a makeover. Oh spray paint and painters tape how can I express my love for you?

Patio Planter Makeover / The Sweet Escape

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:
• some old (or new) pots
• spray paint in your favourite colours & gold
• painters tape
• plastic bags to cut up
• drop sheet
• (optional but helpful) some sort of pedestal or table that you don’t mind getting painted
 
First – pick up a few of your favourite colours of spray paint as well as a bottle of gold. 
 
Set up your drop cloth and start spraying. I suggest a calm day with no wind. You’ll likely need at least two coats to cover nicely.
Give them some time to dry (I left them for a day) then use your painters tape and cut up plastic bags to tape off your geometric shapes. I stuck with triangles.

Once you have them all taped up it’s time for a little gold to make them look rich. You’ll end up with something like this. Give them two coats for good coverage. Then let them dry to the touch but not overnight because that green tape can end up taking some paint off with it if you leave it on too long.

Then comes the best part – carefully remove the tape and check out your new, modern, geometric, colourful and awesome pots!