Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wednesday Yummies: Healthy Mac 'n Cheese

In an effort to get more organized for the chaotic hour between daycare pick-up and after dinner,I decided to plant myself in front of the stove last Sunday afternoon and cooked up a storm. My big guy helped mix and measure and one of the recipes we made was from Jessica Seinfeld's (Jerry Seinfeld's wife) cookbook "Deceptively Delicious". Her cookbook is filled with yummy recipes with hidden veggies! Not only are they yummy, but they're healthy.

This was a big hit in our house last night with the kids and Mr. Fix-it. I doubled the recipe and froze half.

Homemade Macaroni & Cheese (with hidden cauliflower)

1 1/2 cups elbow macaroni or spirals
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup butternut or cauliflower puree
1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
1/4 cup reduced-fat or nonfat cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon pepper


1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the macaroni and cook according to package directions until al dente. Drain in a colander.

2. While the macaroni is cooking, in a large saucepan, over medium heat...add the oil, then the flour, and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture resembles a thick paste but has not browned, 1 to 2 minutes.

3. Add the milk and cook, stirring every now and then, until the mixture begins to thicken, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the vegetable puree, Cheddar, cream cheese and seasonings and stir until the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth. Stir in the macaroni and serve warm.

You could add breadcrumbs to the top and bake in the oven but I knew my babes wouldn't go for that part. For the cauliflower puree, I just cooked a bunch of cauliflower in the microwave, added it to my food processor (with a bit of water) to get it that "baby food puree" consistency.

Voila! An easy, hearty, healthy and good weeknight meal for your family. From our table to yours.

Keep it Beautiful.

Monday, November 26, 2012

10,000 HITS Celebration Dance

Happy Monday everyone!

I'm very excited to report that Keep it Beautiful has had over 10,000 hits since it started in May!

This little blog is a growin' and I'm having a great time sharing it with you. Stay tuned for lots of holiday tips, tricks, DIYs and love. AND...we have lots of fun things planned for the new year! Thank you all for growing with Keep it Beautiful the last 6 months!

Keep it Beautiful.


Friday, November 23, 2012

Fab Friday! Pottery Barn, William Sonoma & West Elm Holiday LOVE!

A few weeks ago Pottery Barn, William Sonoma and West Elm sent me their holiday sneak-peak products to check out. Who doesn't walk into these three stores and feel their heart beat just a little faster? Their products are beautiful, their food is delicious and how they display everything is just dreamy.

Here is some eye candy to be googly over and I hope it inspires you to do some holiday shopping, check out their websites and feel inspired for the holidays. I know I do.

Let's start with Pottery Barn shall we?

Pottery Barn’s assortment of ornaments this year ranges from elegantly glamorous to worldly and whimsical:
Silver & Gold Mercury Glass Oval Ornament
Crafted of handblown glass with a silver antique mercury-glass finish

Eiffle Tower Tree Topper
Crown the tree with a glitter-encrusted Eiffel Tower, a grand holiday statement for the seasoned traveler

Woody Car Glass Ornament
This nostalgic, glitter-trimmed woodie car carries a bottlebrush holiday tree atop its roof.

Florentine Angel Jewel Salad Plates
A richly colored Florentine pattern on these stoneware plates lets them layer beautifully with other pieces to create a festive table setting.
All available at: Pottery Barn, 855-860-1079,

Here are some festive ideas from Williams-Sonoma’s holiday assortment including some delicious candy fun!

12 Days of Christmas Salad/Dessert Plates
Based on original watercolor illustrations by French painter Marc Lacaze, each plate depicts a verse from one of the 12 days with its famous gift, from drummers drumming to the famous partridge in a pear tree. A gold-toned numeral and detailing add a festive touch. Crafted of durable earthenware, each piece has natural variations in shape, which adds to its artisanal style. Adorable.

St.Nick Jacquard Tablecloth
A holiday tablecloth that depicts Santa and his sleigh flying over snowy rooftops on a starry Christmas Eve. This wonderfully detailed scene is woven on a Jacquard loom, a device that debuted in France in 1801 and allowed weavers to reproduce elaborate designs. Cool!

Williams-Sonoma Hot Chocolate
A custom-blend of Guittard’s finest bittersweet and milk chocolates. The chocolate is made into delicate shavings that melt luxuriously into hot milk resulting in a world-class beverage with a smooth, mellow body, exquisite aroma and a perfectly balanced chocolate flavor. Yummy! A little Bailey's in there might take it to the next level ;) Just sayin'.

Williams-Sonoma Confections including Chocolate Filled Peppermint Snaps
A bite-sized version of a holiday classic, these peppermint confections wrap a crisp, flat peppermint candy square around a thin bittersweet chocolate center. In the grand candymaking tradition, they're handcrafted, right down to the signature hand-striped detailing.

All available at: Williams-Sonoma, 855-860-1081,
We can't forget West Elm...

Felt Snowflake Ornament
Handmade by artisans in a village outside of Kathmandu, Nepal
Available in pristine white or colorful red. Made of 100% wool.

ConfettiSystem Geo Glass Ornaments and Garlands
Created in collaboration with ConfettiSystem, stogether from shiny folded triangles in vibrant hues, this garland sets a festive mood. Use it to trim your tree, wind around a banister or hang from the rafters.

Snow Globes
Add a little snowy fantasy beside a sofa, on a desk or as a stocking stuffer
All available at West Elm

There you have it folks, a little touch of holiday fresh.fabulous.sophisticated beauty to start off your weekend!

Keep it Beautiful.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Wednesday Yummies and Update: Delish and Easy Pasta!

Happy Wednesday!

Well, first I'm happy to report that the fireplace is DONE! Well, pretty much. We still need to tile the surround (although I'm kinda diggin' the look of the brick!) and need to find a perfect mirror for the upper piece. However, I'm in fireplace HEAVEN! If I do say myself, she's a beauty. It all came together and is the focal point of the room that we were looking for. PHEW!!

I'm going to borrow a friend's camera to take some proper "after" shots so you can see the big reveal. Stay tuned!!

Also...gourmet dinner on Sat night...the food was fab! You should definitely use any one of those recipes if you are looking for something fresh.fabulous.sophisticated to serve at your next dinner party.

As for tonight...need an easy yummy dinner idea? This was on our dinner table last night and it's super delish and easy! Its pasta with spinach + goat cheese + sundried tomatoes = heaven in my mouth!

Fresh Spinach
Sun Dried Tomatoes
Light Sour Cream
Goat Cheese
Pasta- whatever you like or have around- use whole wheat as a way to up the fiber factor!
Parmesan+Romano+Asiago Cheese blend (or whatever you have on hand)

Boil Pasta
1. Heat EVOO ( about 3 Tbsps) in a skillet
2. add 2 Tsps of minced garlic
3. Add spinach ( about 3/4 of a bag or if you love spinanch, add it all. It widdles down to nothing).
4. Add S+P to taste
5. Chop sun dried tomatoes (if you love 'em, add lots) or you could use fresh tomatoes and add them to the spinach mixture
5. Add about 3/4 cup of the hot pasta water to the spinach mix once the pasta is done cooking
6. Add about 1/2 cup -3/4 cup light sour cream and stir in the mixture
7. Add creamy goat cheese to mixture, I used about 2-3 tbsp worth

Once all the sour cream and goat cheese is melted together with spinach and sun dried tomato blend add the pasta and combine all together. Sprinkled the Parm/romano/asiago blend and some ground pepper to top it all off.

Get in my belly! Is it too early to eat my leftovers for lunch?

Keep it Beautiful.

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Friday, November 16, 2012

Fabulous Friday! DIY: Mantel Facelift step-by-step (in progress)

One of our "to-do" list projects this year is re-facing the fireplace. So, while my mum was visiting last weekend we took advantage of hitting RONA all-by-OURSELVES! NO KIDDIES! It's so much easier to create a mantel design and choose from hundreds of different moldings solo.

A wood burning fireplace was a "must have" for us when we were searching for our current home. We longed for the crackling wood burning fireplace that reminded us of when we were little. Love it!

When we purchased the house, the fireplace looked like this:

YIKES! It was painted royal blue with layers of wallpaper for its surround. Oh my.

We removed the wallpaper and painted the entire thing white. So up until a few days ago, this is what it looked like:

I really like it but I felt like it needed to be the statement piece in the living room and wanted something bigger. So, in comes the latest DIY.

Mr. Fix-it and I had an idea in our head, we just needed it to come to life. We drew a few sketches out and headed to RONA. There are tons of moldings to choose from and we essentially had to "create" it in the store by laying out the pieces in the aisles. It took us a good 1-1.5 hours to decide what we wanted but we decided to reface the mantel from floor to ceiling to make it feel like a custom piece. That meant, new tiles on the hearth to crown molding at the top.

So, here we go...all items removed...

In the above picture, the hearth tiles are glossy black. When we moved into the house, these tiles were a pinkish beige. TIP: If you are looking for a quick fix that will update your hearth and give it a classic look...just give the existing tiles a sand and paint them glossy black. Looks fab!

Once you have all your materials (wood, mouldings, tile etc) make sure you have the accurate measurements. This is Mr. Fix-it measuring the new top piece of the mantel. We chose a larger piece of wood to extend the mantel out.
Starbucks required! - Did you know their holiday cups are out now...It's beginning to look alot like Christmas ;)

Next step: To make the mantel bigger, Mr. Fix-it created a "box" around the existing mantel.

We also wanted to create a "box"/moulding around the edges of the top part of the fireplace. The wood was measured, cut and nail gunned into the wall. 'Scuze the photo quality, it was dark outside and my lens appears to have some fingerprints on it. Hmmmm.

A good tip to remember when drilling in screws, is make sure you use flat heads and drill them right into the wood so they sit in the wood and create a flat surface. All you have to do after is fill with wood filler.

Next step: Fill in all the seams and nail heads with wood filler. This product is your best friend when you want to hide seams and nail/screw marks. It looks goopy and scary at first but once it dries you just give it a good sand (Mr. Fix-it used his electric sander for the mantel and hand sanded the box at the top of the fireplace) and it will be perfectly smooth and you won't know it's not all one piece!

Next step: Crown Moulding. Have you ever installed crown moulding before? We had never and yikies...not the easiest thing to do. Especially when your ceiling and walls aren't straight to begin with! There were definitely some "non repeat" words that came out of Mr. Fix-it's mouth when he was trying to cut the angles for the two corners perfectly, but after a second trip to RONA to get another piece of moulding, some good solid wood filler action and a coat of's starting to come together.

On Monday, we took a trip to EuroTile & Stone (they have beautiful tile and a gorgeous showroom) to buy our tile. I wanted something slate-like for the hearth and something glass and shimmery for the surround. Of course we had to fall in love with one of the most expensive glass tiles, but...HEY! Sometimes you have to splurge for beauty right?

Tile in hand, we left the store having never tiled before on our own. We borrowed my Dad's wet saw and Mr. Fix-it got started: measuring and cutting. I suggest cutting the tile outside, in your garage or your basement. The water flies and Mr. Fix-it was a dirty mess! This was a total trial and error process for the both of us but the cutting part was pretty easy.

Old tile came up really easily with a crowbar.

Starting to place the new tile:

Soooo, that was as far as we had gotten on Monday night. Tuesday night (after the kiddies had gone to bed), we laid down all the tile and realized that:

1. Mr. Fix-it cut the tiles beautifully...BUT...didn't leave much room for grout. So we had to really shimmy them ever so slightly to get even lines for grouting. It was a good thing we wanted tiny grout lines because we didn't have much wiggle room. Most people use these to space out your tiles:
TILE SPACERS (little "x"s that you place in between the tiles to ensure they are all even).
But the salesperson at the tile store suggested using coffee stir sticks to get the tiny lines. Huh!

2. Mr. Fix-it nearly killed himself trying to cut the metal kick-plate piece that goes around the tile. The metal broke off while he was sawing and parts of his saw went flying. So we're halfway through the project and he has two bloody thumbs. Hmmmm.

So, we ditched the metal kick-plate. The tile does sit a little bit above the hardwood but c'est la vie! I'm diggin' it.

So, I have zero pictures of us applying the adhesive to the tiles or spacing out the tiles because, to be honest...the whole process was a little stressful! I was so worried the tiles were going to stick so quickly we were working like mad to get them perfect.

Now that it's done, they are looking beauty and we realized it wasn't that difficult but I would suggest maybe starting your first tiling project with something that isn't a focal point in your room! Phew!

We also decided Tuesday night that the beautiful glass tile we purchased for the surround just may prove to be too difficult for us to install on our own. We've tried to think of many ways to cut the glass perfectly but because it's such a small area, we would be wasting so much tile and we're worried the saw is going to shatter the glass :( SOOOO...good-bye gorgeous glass tile and back to the drawing board to find something new. Even for DIY junkies, we had to admit defeat.

Wednesday night: The tile was grouted. Again, this is new territory and again I have zero pictures of this process. I promise to take photos and do a thorough Tiling DIY when we tile our bedroom ensuite. Promise. This time was a learn-as-we-go. It was actually pretty easy and fast. The longest part was continually cleaning off the tile.

Thursday Night: Mr. Fix-it attached the wood to the front and sides of the fireplace, added some wood fill and caulked the top portion (crown moulding and box).

Sooo..remember Wednesday's post? Wednesday Yummies: Gourmet Night! Well that's tomorrow night! Our house is totally upside down and there is dust everywhere. So we need to to keep moving. It's a P.D. Day at school so the kids are chillin' with Mr. Fix-it for the day. While the babe sleeps, he and our little guy will continue with some serious sanding. Then its time for more priming and paint! Tonight, I'll be cleaning like a mad woman. Doesn't that sound like the perfect Friday night activity?! And, I can't even have a drink!

It's coming together!! Yeah.
The brick is where the new tile will be added.

I'm excited for it to be finished and can't wait to show it to you.

Have a fresh.fabulous.sophisticated weekend.
Keep it Beautiful.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wednesday Yummies: Gourmet Night!

Do you love to host dinner parties? Ever taken part in a "Gourmet Group"? About a year ago we started a gourmet group with three other couples. Essentially the way it works is each couple takes turns hosting. The host is responsible for creating a delicious menu (with recipes that you wouldn't normally cook on a that require extra time and love). The host assigns each couple with a course along with the recipe. The host is responsible for cooking the main course and each couple brings along their dish the night of the party.

Its a great way to get together with friends, enjoy delicious food and try new recipes. It also provides a full menu for your friends to have on hand in case they want to use it for entertaining with others.

Oh and of course, you can't forget the vino...each couple brings a bottle and usually we have lots of empties at the end of the night ;)

Mr. Fix-it and I are hosting this weekend. Here is our menu with the recipes if you're looking for something fresh.fabulous.sophisticated to serve to your dinner guests.

Appetizer - Marinated Goat Cheese with Oven Roasted Tomatoes

First Course - Butternut Squash and Pear Soup

Main Course (Mr. Fix-it and I do this course) - Roasted Prime Rib Au Poivre, Brown Butter & Scallion Mashed Potatoes, Oven Roast Garlic Tomatoes with Garlic Chive Soft Cheese (there is no recipe for this, its in my head. Essentially you slice tomates about 1/4 inch thick. Cut "Boursin" cheese in slices and place on top of the tomatoes. Place under the broiler for a couple of minutes until melted. Yum).

Dessert - Chocolate Blood Orange Tart


Keep it Beautiful.

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