Kitchen Essentials: A Chef’s Knife and Paring Knife

For anyone who cooks at home, a Chef’s Knife and Paring Knife are kitchen essentials and absolutely worth the investment. My knives of choice are the Wüsthof ® Classic 6″ Chef’s Knife and Wüsthof ® Gourmet 3″ Paring Knife that I have had since 2010 and still love today. Despite cooking since childhood, I signed up for a knife skills cooking class at the LCBO in Toronto. In one evening class, my friends and I were lucky enough to learn beginner knife skills, enjoy the fruits of the our labour and were gifted with a few Wüsthof ® knives to take home. The LCBO still runs these classes at the Summerhill Toronto LCBO Stores and other locations throughout Ontario. If this is something you are interested in, sign up for their LCBO Taste and Experiences Guide to learn about future classes. The LCBO also has a number of great cooking classes with wine paring too. I highly recommend taking one if you are looking to expand your own culinary skills. It is a lovely way to spend an evening.

If you are already a knife pro and looking for an upgrade, definitely check out the Wüsthof ® knives which are sold in Toronto at Crate and Barrel Yorkdale Shopping Centre, via their website and at Russell Hendrix Foodservice Equipment. I love mine.

Happy chopping!

Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The Tiffany’s Elsa Peretti® Open Heart Pendant is absolutely one of my favourite jewellery pieces. I purchased mine for myself 13 years ago and it is a treasured piece I wear almost everyday. I love its simplicity and beauty. If you are looking for a lovely present for you or a beautiful woman in your life, one may love this beautiful open heart in a little Tiffany blue box.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

💗

My Best Nine 2017 Simple Joys

My own creation of my Best Nine of 2017 is one that I feel truly reflects this past year. While nothing particularly monumental or noteworthy happened this year, there were many memorable moments along the way. I love all my visits with my little nephew. He has such a happy, energetic and fun little personality and challenges me with all his WHY questions. I loved that I had many opportunities to learn something new. A definite highlight was the opportunity to celebrate Finland 100 through my Finnish Architecture and Design Course at U of T including a behind the scenes tour of Toronto City Hall. I learned a bit about Emergency Preparedness as a volunteer at Toronto Pearson’s annual exercise. My volunteer role allowed me the amazing opportunity to attend a Train the Trainer session for two Cleveland Clinic program. I also contributed to many different initiatives in my volunteer role which hopefully will help many patients and their families in the future. I loved that I got to meet Bobbi Brown as I love her beauty philosophy – Be Who You Are. I enjoyed exploring and photographing University of Toronto and other areas of our city I don’t often get to. A definite highlight for me was the experiencing the incredibly inspiring Invictus Games. I was totally in awe of the competitors and loved seeing our city come out to cheer on every single one of them. It was an amazing experience I will never forget. I was also pretty excited that I saw Prince Harry on two occasions after seeing Princess Diana on her first trip to Canada in 1983 and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in London in 2013. A full circle moment for me as they all are an inspiration to me on the importance of kindness, giving back and helping others. I am thankful for all these simple joys and many others I had throughout the year and grateful to everyone who follows along as I simply go about my everyday. Wishing you all a 2018 filled with many simple joys of your own. 💗

100 Years of Finnish Design 

In 2017, Finland celebrates 100 years of independence and last Thursday evening we were lucky to explore 100 years of Finnish Design at home in Toronto. The University of Toronto Finnish Studies program along with the Embassy of Finland in Canada hosted leading Finnish Design expert Professor Pekka Korvenmaa from Aalto University in Helsinki, Finland. The evening was an enlightening and entertaining insight into Finnish Design that I was privileged to attend.

Finnish design dates back to the 1870’s Industrial Revolution and Paris World Fair of 1900 when design was simply known as crafts including simple birch wood, plywood, textiles, rugs and ceramics. As Finland became an independent nation in 1917, their design was impacted by economic factors as well as the decisions of the middle class housewives and available talent. To this day, Finland has a great number of women at the forefront of their design. 

Marimekko has featured many female designers including Armi Ratia and Maija Isola since its inception in 1951 and remains a staple in Finnish design until this day. Their colourful prints are well known throughout the world. Their stripped Jokapoika shirts are still made today and the Unikko Poppy print is now seen in a multitude of colours. Even First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy wore a Marimekko dress for its simplicity as her fashion choices had been seen as excessive to the American people. This fashion statement made the brand an immediate hit in the United States. 


Stockmann‘s department store – also known as Harrods of the north – became a paradise of consumption and Finnish design. On my first holiday to Helsinki in the late the 1980’s, I remember visiting it with my Mummi and returning home to Canada with a skirt and sweater purchased from there. It has continued to be a stop on my two subsequent trips to Helsinki. A beautiful store filled with many beautiful things as well as a beautiful building too. 



To this day Alvar Aalto is Finland’s most famous Architect and Designer. One of his most famous furniture pieces was turning a piece of plywood into a stunning and aesthetically pleasing chair to sit as well as admire.

Aalto used textiles, glass and ceramics and made them into functional pieces at an affordable price. They were intimately tied to social democracy in Finland and made design accessible to all. One such piece of Aalto’s was his well known Savoy vase by iittala. Symbolic of the Finnish middle class, it brought beauty to enhance everyday life. Most households owned one. I am lucky to own two yet still hope to own a big Savoy vase one day. Definitely one of my favourite pieces as it reminds me of the nature and lakes of Finland. 

Finnish design is all about practicality and functionality and how modern design can serve the family. From stackable dishes by Arabia Finland to maximize space to the dish drying rack to simplify household duties. All my Finnish family have one in their homes. Truly smart Finnish design.

Arabia Finland was a leader in dishware and China and people flocked to Helsinki for it. Designer Kaj Franck tried to introduce melamine dishware but the interest was not there. People had strong emotions about how they wanted to eat and drink and they simply desired to use china, ceramics and glassware. I now am lucky to have my parent’s Arabia Finland wedding china – a discontinued pattern called Valencia – which I cherish dearly. In 2015, I travelled to Finland and stayed in an area called Arabianranta – just steps from the original Arabia factory. A fun fact I learned from Professor Korvenmaa was that Arabia Finland gained its name from the name of the lot it sits on – Villa Arabia. While I have visited the retail store, the Iittala and Arabia Design Centre is definitely top of my list on my next holiday to Helsinki. 


 
In the 1960’s, plastics became a material of choice. Many people know the company Fiskars but very few likely know it was a Finnish company. They took the heavy and expensive tailor scissors and used a less expensive material to make them an incredible piece of technology and design. The Fiskars scissors are used in many households throughout the world and are the iconic household scissors that sold by the billion according to CNN Style. 

Finnish design always focused on the need for domestic items. A place to eat, somewhere to sleep and something to wear. Finnish nature has also played a backdrop for much of its design. Comparisons are often made between Japanese and Finnish Design. Japanese design was all about minimalism and asthethics. Finnish design was about being functional. Incredible how that goal of being functional has led to incredible aesthetically pleasing and beautiful design.

When Professor Korvenmaa was asked about comparing design to other Nordic countries and beyond, he used this insightful quote – “When you are a fish in the water, you don’t contemplate the water.” While Sweden and Denmark focused on beauty and Great Britain and France focused on design for the elite, Finnish design was for everyone. 

Intrigued to learn about Finnish Design, you may wish to read his book: Finnish Design: A Concise History. Kiitos Professor Korvenmaa for all the incredible new insights into Finnish Design. I am excited to return to Finland again soon to explore more about the design I have grown up with and still absolutely love today. 

Scarves: My Everyday Accessory 

“Put on a sweater and really great sneakers with a big scarf, and you’ll look so stylish. For me, they are an everyday essential.” ~ Meghan Markle

Ms. Markle and I share the same style philosophy. Scarves to me are not just a piece to keep me warm but an essential year-round accessory. I absolutely love them and always seem to have one (or more) on me at all times for warmth or something stylish. I wear them with my casual outfits, with coats as well as with dresses and skirts to work. They add the perfect pop of colour to my neutral wardrobe of black, navy, grey and white. A scarf can be a great way to change an outfit, test out a new colour palate in a safe way, keep you warm and there are plenty of options at various price points for all seasons. Depending on the size, it may also be used as a shawl too. If you are looking to add something new to your autumn wardrobe, a scarf may be the perfect investment to make your old outfits new and exciting again.