Holiday Casual Party Sparkle

What to Wear for a Casual Holiday Party

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I always found that dressing for a fancy, semi-formal holiday party was easier than dressing for a casual holiday party. Over the years, I amassed dresses with sparkly trim and shimmery fabric, red ones, black ones and even gold and silver ones. My challenge was with dressing for a casual event such as a kids’ holiday party or a small afternoon get-together. This was always the point where I tried on several outfits, left a pile of clothes on my bed and generally wasn’t happy with what I came up with. I always want to “put my festive on,” but also feel comfortable with people who are wearing jeans or a nice dress. I also want to be comfortable and warm (living in the far north and all). In the last few years I have developed a formula: sparkly shirt, comfortable stretchy pants (think ski chalet pants), a dangling necklace and shiny riding boots. I never feel out of place, I stay warm, my feet stay dry and I have just enough bling on to feel like I’m getting into the spirit of the holidays. So the next time you feel like you’re at a loss of what to wear to a casual holiday lunch or your child’s holiday party, try this combination – Sham Style

  1. Gold Michael Kors Sweater
  2. Silver Grey Autumn Cashmere Sequined Cardigan (you can find an equivalent here)
  3. Matsu Silver Necklace
  4. TwoA Silver and Grey Necklace
  5. Paige Denim Skinny Pants
  6. Aquatalia Riding Boots

I’m interested in hearing your biggest wardrobe dilemmas. Please feel free to leave a comment and let me know.


Written on my Microsoft Surface RT with purple backlit keyboard

All pictures taken with my Nokia Lumia 1020 Camera Phone


Life is What Happens between Sleeping and Work

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Relax, enjoy your friends and family – Happy Holidays!

Lately, I have been working hard – evenings, weekends, getting up early in the morning. The harder that I seem to work the larger the work has become and I feel like things fall through the cracks, especially at work. I have been known to be tired and/or grumpy. I’m also a teeny, weeny bit of a perfectionist. The result is that sometimes I feel like the more work that I do the less I seem to get done. Then it hit me:  Life is what happens between sleeping and work. And having a life results in a great sleep and doing great work.

This doesn’t just apply to your job, but also at home. I always try to have hot appetizers ready the moment the guests walk in the door, dinner prepping and everything ready to go. I also strive to produce “the perfect meal.” Last Saturday, we invited our good friends C and G and their two lovely children over for dinner. What I had forgotten was that we were supposed to be attending a Christmas concert that my son was in that very afternoon. Not much time to prep.

The Christmas concert was excellent and raised money for a great charity called Out of the Cold which raises money to support homeless programs. When we got home it was 3:30 and I still had to pick up a few things. Needless to say, when my guests arrived I was still browning the meat for the stew, the appetizers weren’t made and I hadn’t started the kids meal. You know what? My guests didn’t seem to care. They helped with dinner. We had appetizers by 6:00. Kids dinner by 7:00 and the adult dinner at 9ish. We had great conversations, lots of laughs, good food and wine and horsing around with the kids afterwards. It was a great evening!

Coincidently, just after I wrote this, I read an article in the New York Times with a similar theme written by a fellow Canadian, Corey Spintz. Although “In the End, it’s not about the Food” advocates prepping in advance (I’m sure that Corey would have cringed at the disorder my guests arrived to J), the key message is that when you invite guests over spend your time with them, treat them like family and make them feel special.

So, the next time you think that you have to get everything ready and perfect before your guests arrive, remember they’ll probably have just as much fun if everything is not perfect. You, however will probably be more relaxed. Pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy your guests – Sham Style!


Written on my Microsoft Surface RT with purple backlit keyboard

Picture care of Microsoft Word Clip Art.


Roast Chicken Dinner on a Cold December Day in an Hour

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My family loves roast chicken. Crispy skin, juicy chicken, the smell infusing the entire house. To me there is nothing better for Sunday evening dinner, especially on a cold damp December day. The only issue with making an entire roast chicken is that it takes a while to make. When you’re running around shopping for Christmas, decorating the house and doing everything else that you need to do during this busy season, you just don’t have time to whip up a roast chicken. This recipe can be done from start to finish in one hour. Not only do you get beautiful roast chicken with crispy skin, you get wonderful caramelized carrots and delicious roasted potatoes that are infused with the chicken drippings. It’s quick enough that you could even do it on a week night. I always make at least one extra piece of chicken and slice the breasts off the bone. All of the remaining meat goes into the freezer and can be easily pulled out on another night for chicken soup or a chicken pot pie.

So the next time you don’t think that you have enough time for roast chicken, think again – Enjoy a family meal in an hour – Sham Style.


4-6 Chicken pieces (I prefer breasts but you could use thighs and drumsticks as well)

2 bunches of fresh carrots (the kind with the nice green stems on top)

15-20 new baby potatoes

2 tbsp grape seed oil

1 -2 tbsp Steak Spice (I use Barbarians)

2 tsp Flakey Sea Salt (such as Maldon)



Large roasting pan

A rack that can sit on top of the roasting pan


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the baby potatoes in half, quarter the carrots by slicing them lengthwise and in half. Leave a tiny bit of the stem op top to achieve the rustic look. Toss the carrots and the potatoes with 1 tbsp of the grape seed oil. Season with them with 2 tsp sea salt and a good dash of pepper.

Place the rack on top of the roasting pan. Run the skins of the chicken pieces with the remaining grape seed oil. Season very generously with steak spice (it make look like a lot, but this is what makes the skin crispy).

Bake in oven for 25 minutes. Open oven, remove rack with chicken, toss the potatoes and carrots and place the rack back on the roasting dish. Roast for an additional 20 minutes (45 minutes in total). If your chicken pieces are on the small side, check the temperature after 35 minutes. The skin should be completely crispy and the breast meat should register 170 degrees with an instant read thermometer.

Take off the rack with the chicken and place on a cutting board. Tent with foil. Toss the potatoes and carrots again and let them continue to roast while the chicken rests (approximately 10 minutes). I slice off the breast the bone and save the bones and remaining meat for chicken soup or pot pies. Serve with any kind of wine (Chardonnay or Pinot Noir are good choices).

Written on my Microsoft Surface RT with purple backlit keyboard

All pictures taken with my Nokia Lumia 1020 Camera Phone


Buttery, Puff Pastry Spirals: Guaranteed to Please

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These puff pastry spirals are my go-to appetizer for company. I serve them right out of the oven when the cheese is still a little gooey and the puff pastry melts in your mouth. They’re super easy and you can really fill them with whatever you have on hand. The ones below are made with Manchego, which is a hard, Spanish goat’s cheese, and Serrano ham. However, I have made them with gruyere and prosciutto, parmesan and prosciutto, bacon and cheddar, sundried tomatoes and fontina, the combinations are really endless. If you want them to look super elegant, you can make Palmiers instead of spirals, the concept is pretty well the same. These are great with Prosecco, white wine, red wine or even a rosé. So the next time you’re rushed to put an elegant appetizer together for company, give these a try. I’d love to know what unique fillings you come up with. Enjoy with good friends and wine – Sham Style.



How to Make

10 minutes of prep, 12-15 minutes in the oven. Serves 4.


Puff Pastry (I use President’s Choice as it’s already rolled out for you)

1 tbsp smoked paprika

4-5 slices Serrano Ham

½ cup grated Manchego Cheese

Defrost puff pastry but make sure it’s chilled. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lay puff pastry out with the long side facing you. Sprinkle with smoked paprika, followed by shredded cheese, leaving a ½” border around the edges. Cover cheese with slices of Serrano ham. Starting from the long edge farthest from you, tightly roll the puff pastry toward you. Press the seams of the pastry into the roll. If you find that it’s not sticking, use a little egg wash on the seams to make them stick. Alternatively, you can make Palmiers:

Refrigerate the roll for 5 minutes. Take the roll out of the fridge, and place on a lightly floured surface. Cut the roll into 1/2″ disks and lay the spirals on a silpat lined baking sheet. Bake in oven till crisped and golden, about 12 to 15 minutes. Take out of the oven and move to a serving platter. Serve immediately.


Written on my Microsoft Surface RT with purple backlit keyboard

All pictures taken with my Nokia Lumia 1020 Camera Phone


Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms: Steak for Vegetarians

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There’s nothing like a vegetarian dish that satisfies the need for veggies and also the most ardent carnivores. These mushrooms are as good as steak and have all the flavours of a bistro steak dinner: blue cheesy goodness, meaty portabella mushrooms, wilted spinach and a tangy balsamic glaze. You’ll completely forget that you aren’t eating any meat. The best thing about this recipe is that it’s easy enough to make on a weeknight and elegant enough for company. Serve these to a vegetarian and they’ll never feel like a second class citizen. Enjoy with a nice, robust red wine – Sham Style!



4 large portabella mushrooms

½ a French Stick (roughly 2 cups chopped)

1 cup vegetable stock

2/3 cup blue cheese (I used Bleu D’Avernge but you could use any creamy blue)

1 tsp fresh Thyme

1 tablespoon fresh chives

1 shallot, finely chopped

1 tsp olive oil (for shallots)

1 tbsp olive oil (for mushrooms)



Balsamic Glaze

1 cup vegetable stock

½ cup balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp butter


1 container of fresh baby spinach

1 tbsp olive oil

½ tsp sea salt

Pre-heat oven to 370 degrees. Cut the French stick into small crouton sized chunks. Add thyme and chives. Add 1 cup vegetable stock and toss the bread croutons with the herbs and stock. Finely chop the shallot. Heat a tsp of oil in a small pan and sauté the shallot until it is translucent. Add the shallot to the bread crumb mixture and mix thoroughly.  Add crumbled blue cheese to the bread mixture.

Wash the portabella mushrooms and gently dry with a paper towel. Next you want to remove the gills from the portabella mushrooms. The gills will stain your stuffing if they are not removed. To remove the gills, use a small, slim very sharp knife. Turn the mushroom upside-down. From the centre of the mushroom, slide the knife under the gills and run the mushroom as you continue to slide the knife under the gills. Once you have gone around the circumference of the mushroom, more your knife out to the outer edge of the mushroom and score the outer rim of the mushroom. You should be able to simply remove the gills with your fingers.


Rub the mushrooms with olive oil and season with salt and pepper and place in a roasting pan. Stuff the mushrooms with the bread mixture. And place the roasting dish in the pre-heated oven for 20-25 minutes. Bread crumps should be golden when ready.

In a small pot simmer the vegetable stock until reduced by half. Add the balsamic vinegar and reduce the heat to low. Cook until the vinegar mixture starts to become syrupy. Add butter and remove from heat. Allow to cool slightly and pour the glaze into a squeeze bottle.

3 minutes before the mushrooms are ready, heat olive oil in a large frying pan. Gently wilt the spinach and season with sea salt.

To Plate

Place the spinach on the plate in a circle slightly larger than the mushroom. Remove the mushrooms from the oven and place on the spinach. Sprinkle balsamic glaze around the plate and over the mushrooms and spinach.

Serve with a nice red wine.

Written on my Microsoft Surface RT with purple backlit keyboard

All pictures taken with my Nokia Lumia 1020 Camera Phone


Fondue for 2 on a Cool, Nippy November Day

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Last Friday was the type of Fall day that I love. My backyard was covered with a blanket of leaves, the sun was shining, the air was cool, verging on cold – it had fireplace and comfort food written all over it. Usually we are so bagged on Fridays after a long week at work that we order in Italian food from our local Italian restaurant that makes food that tastes like Nona’s. However, I decided to do something a little different – Fondue. Hot, melty, winey cheese, crusty bread, healthy veggies, goes well with wine – cozy goodness. Welcome to the seventies – Sham Style!

(No burnt orange shag rugs or harvest gold appliances were used in the making of this recipe).



1 tsp dry mustard powder

¼ tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

1 tbsp cornstarch

1 garlic clove peeled

1 cup grated gruyere cheese

1 cup grated Swiss cheese (Jarlsberg)

½ cup dry white wine

1 tsp lemon juice

½ tbsp Kirsch

Sprinkling of nutmeg

Whatever you want for dipping:

These are my suggestions for dipping. What are your favorite dippers?

French bread

Pumpernickel bread

Steamed Fingerling potatoes

Granny Smith Apples

Cherry or grape tomatoes

Steamed Cauliflower

Steamed Broccoli

Cornichons (little French cocktail pickles – these are must!)


Grate cheese and toss in cornstarch until all of the cheese is coated with cornstarch. Cut garlic in half and use garlic halves to rub the pot that you will be heating the fondue in. Heat wine and lemon juice in a heavy pot (cast iron would work) on medium till it simmers. Add cheese by small handfuls and stir continuously until all of the cheese has melted and is fully incorporated. Add mustard powder, cayenne and grate nutmeg over sauce. Stir to combine. Add Kirsch and stir to combine. Pour fondue into fondue pot and keep the flame on med-low. Serve with whatever dippers you want.

Written on my Microsoft Surface RT with purple backlit keyboard

All pictures taken with my Nokia Lumia 1020 Camera Phone


Smoked Salmon Paté (for those liver haters)

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Unfortunately, my husband hates liver. It’s not that he doesn’t care for it, he absolutely loathes it. However sometimes you just feel like some crusty bread and paté. This is my solution. Smokey, briny and spreadable, this paté would be great for a special occasion, but is easy enough to make anytime. Hope you enjoy it – Sham Style!


2 tbsp finely chopped shallots

2 tsp olive oil

2 tbsp coarsely chopped chives

2 tbsp coarsely chopped dill

6-7 slices smoked salmon coarsely chopped

4 tbsp crème fraiche

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp capers

Sauté the shallots in olive oil on medium heat until they are translucent (avoid browning shallots). Set pan aside and allow to cool. Chop chives, dill and smoked salmon. Place chopped salmon, dill capers and chives in a food processor. Add shallots to food processor as well. Pulse until mixture is fully incorporated and somewhat chunky. Add crème fraiche and pulse to incorporate. Add lemon juice and pulse to incorporate. Mixture should resemble a course paté. Remove to serving dish and let chill for ½ hour or more. Paté can be refrigerated for up to one day. Garnish with dill and serve to toast points or crostini.

Written on my Microsoft Surface RT with purple backlit keyboard

All pictures taken with my Nokia Lumia 1020 Camera Phone


Beef Wellington – Anything in Puff Pastry is Good

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Beef Wellington is one of those dishes that tends to intimidate most people. It is one of Gordon Ramsey’s signature dishes. These little beef Wellingtons are much easier to make than the large ones. They also look incredibly elegant and are perfect for a dinner party. They can be made ahead of time and then just baked in the oven before serving. I like to use President Choice Puff Pastry. It’s super convenient as it’s already rolled out so that it requires less work. The traditional Beef Wellington is made with liver paté, but given the many liver haters I know, I make these without. Feel free to add a tablespoon of liver paté with the duxelle (mushroom mixture), if you wish. Some people also choose to wrap the beef in prosciutto in order to ensure that the pastry does not become soggy, however I find that if you dry the beef before and after you sear it, the pastry does not get soggy. This is a dish that came to popularity in the sixties, so don your best black sheath, black pumps, pearls and enjoy Sham Style!

Serves 4



12 cremini mushrooms, stems removed, very finely chopped (I chop mine in my Cuisinart mini food processor)

½ tsp salt

1 tbsp olive oil

2 tsp chopped, fresh thyme

1 shallot very finely chopped

For Wellingtons:

1 tbsp grape seed oil

1 tbsp sea salt

1 tbsp. freshly ground pepper

4 tbsp Boursin (divided)

1 sheet puff pastry

4 beef tenderloins (1 ½ ” thick)

1 egg

1 tbsp water

Mushroom Sauce:

½ cup red wine

½ cup beef stock/broth (low sodium)

1 sprig of thyme


Removes the stems from the mushrooms and finely chop. I do mine in the food processor. Your mushrooms should look like this:

Squeeze the chopped mushrooms in a paper towel to remove any moisture. Add mushrooms, salt, thyme and shallots to a sauté pan. Sauté on medium-high until all of the moisture from the mushrooms has been evaporated – this really important as you want your puff pastry to be crispy, not soggy. Allow duxelle to cool.

Meanwhile, pat the filets until completely dry, rub beef filets with grape seed oil and season with sea salt and pepper. Heat a cast iron pan on high until a drop of oil sizzles. Add filets and brown on all sides for no more than 4 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.

Deglaze the pan with the wine until it becomes syrupy. Add beef stock and any left-over duxelle. Add the sprig of thyme. Reduce the mixture on medium-low until much of the liquid has evaporated. Remove sprig of thyme before serving.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out puff pastry sheet until it is 1/8″ thick. With knife remove excess pastry so that you have an even rectangle. Save scrap pieces. Divide into 4 squares. On each square put a heaping tsp of the duxelle (mushroom mixture). Top with a teaspoon full of boursin.

Remove string from beef (this is really important – I always forget to do this and am running around the table with scissors during dinner removing the string from my guests’ wellingtons), pat the beef dry again and place on top of the duxelle cheese mixture. Pull pastry around the beef and pinch pastry to ensure that it is completely sealed. Remove any excess pastry. Gently turn over and score with a sharp knife. Repeat with remaining filets and pastry squares.

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. Wisk egg in a small bowl and add the water. Wisk to combine. With a pastry brush, brush the beef wellingtons with the egg wash. Use any left-over puff pastry and cut out leaves, letters or whatever you want to use to decorate the wellingtons. Affix to the wellingtons and brush again with egg wash. Place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat. Refrigerate the wellingtons for 10 minutes. Roast in oven – 15 minutes for medium-rare, 18 minutes for medium and 22 minutes for medium-well. You can also use a meat thermometer to test for doneness. 120 degrees for medium-rare, 130 degrees for medium, 140 for medium-well.

To plate, put a little of the mushroom mixture on the plate in a circle. Top with beef wellington. Artfully arrange with sautéed beans and Parisian potatoes.

Written on my Microsoft Surface RT with purple backlit keyboard

All pictures taken with my Nokia Lumia 1020 Camera Phone


Caprese Crostini Recipe: A burst of summer flavor anytime

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Basil, Tomatoes, Bread

Made these the other night. These little nibbles explode with flavor in your mouth. I like to make these when I’m craving a taste of summer, but the weather and seasons aren’t cooperating. They aren’t overly complicated to make, but it does require a little planning ahead, as the tomatoes are oven roasted. It’s basically crostini, a slice of buffalo mozzarella, a basil leaf topped with an oven roasted tomato half. Ha! Now that I think about it, these would be a great Christmas appetizer. Easy, elegant – Sham Style!

I would love to hear from you, what is your easy, elegant go-to appetizer?

Caprese Crostini

Serves 4

8 small hothouse tomatoes (I like to use the Campari tomatoes)

½ cup olive oil

1 tsp kosher salt

16 basil leaves

1 ball fresh buffalo mozzarella

16 slices of French stick bread

Balsamic vinegar for drizzling


Pre-heat oven to 380 degrees. Cut tomatoes in half and sprinkle with salt. Let rest for 5-10 minutes. Gently pat the tomatoes with paper towel, removing excess liquid. Place tomatoes in a ceramic baking dish with cut halves facing up. Drizzle tomatoes with olive oil and place in pre-heated oven. Roast for 10 minutes and then turn the temperature down to 250 degrees. Roast for 2 hours. When finished, the tomatoes should look like juicy sun-dried tomatoes. Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, using a pastry brush paint the bread slices on both sides with remaining olive oil. Heat a grill pan to high and toast bread on both sides in the grill pan, adjusting temperature as needed. While bread is toasting, slice buffalo mozzarella into thin slices. Half slices of mozzarella in half to double the amount.

Place the toasted bread slices on serving platter. Top each with a slice of mozza. Top mozza with one basil leaf. Place the tomato on the basil. Drizzle crostini with balsamic vinegar.

Enjoy with wine – red, white or Prosecco would work.

Written on my Microsoft Surface RT with purple backlit keyboard


My Favourite Things

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I have lots of clothes…probably way too many clothes. There are lots of items in my closet that I only wear for business or only wear occasionally. But I do have my go-to items that I wear all the time – here are the things that I couldn’t live without.

Majestic T-Shirts

Made in France from soft cotton and linen, these are the lightest t-shirts you will ever buy. These are the t-shirts you will wear when it’s so hot, you really don’t feel like wearing anything at all.

Autumn Cashmere Sweaters

Cozy cashmere that never pills and wears terrifically. I have 6 year old Autumn Cashmere sweaters that I still wear and that still look brand new.

Black Sheath Dress

I have worn this to Office Christmas parties, funerals, weddings and work meetings. Dress it up with a well-tailored blazer or make it casual with a little cardigan. For a basic, inexpensive black sheath, check out Ann Taylor.

J Brand Super Skinny Black Jeans

So comfy, wearing these J Brand jeans is like wearing sweatpants. They look great dressed up with heals or tucked into riding boots with a cozy sweater.

Tilo Scarves

Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall. I use these Tilo scarves for everything from a blanket on planes, to an evening wrap, to keeping the wind off my neck.

What are your favorite, “can’t live without” items?

If you’re interested in where you can purchase these fabulous brands, check out Carriage Trade in Toronto.

Written on my Microsoft Surface RT with purple backlit keyboard