Tag Archives: Valentine’s day

Seriously Sexy Rooms

Photo of Sophia Loren via Full House

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner here are a few deliciously romantic rooms that are sure to get you in the mood for love. Whether you’re looking to add a little sex appeal to your master bedroom or some luxe touches to your living room, you’re sure to find some inspiration in these gorgeously stylish interiors.

via Rue Magazine

There is something so easy yet so inviting about this beautiful living room. Luxuriant curtains, perfect proportions and cultivated symmetry give this living room some amazing wow factor. This would be the perfect place for a late night rendezvous, or just lounging on a Sunday morning.

via Elle Decor

Leave it to fashion designer Anna Sui to create a room dripping with opulance and glamour. This photo is of her Manhattan apartment. Love the overload of pattern and the glossy black furniture.

via desire to inspire

This bathroom has my heart going pitter-patter. The muted pink claw-foot tub is simply beautiful and all the faded wood is so cosy and romantic. I can’t imagine a more perfect place for bubble baths for two.

via The Paris Apartment

I think I’ve found one of my new favourite design inspiration blogs, The Paris Apartment has me dreaming of a romantic Parisian getaway. Now if Cupid could just send a couple plane tickets my way I would be forever in his debt.

Dylan Thomas via The Paris Apartment

Old world charm and simple feminine touches are what make this room so dreamy. Who would have thought an old faded rug and a tattered chair could be so sexy? Great decorating tip to take from this bedroom is to hang something silky and luxurious like a negligee or antique dress on a wall or over a piece of furniture; instant boudoir glamour!

Posted in Design | Tagged , , ,

Chocolate, better than…

It’s Foodie Tuesday!  This week it’s all about chocolate for your Valentine.

Pierre Marcolini, one of the world's top chocolatiers, his violet chocolate truffle is easily the best thing I've ever tasted.

People, women especially, can be passionate about their chocolate.  Long considered an aphrodisiac, there’s mounting evidence that it is indeed a panacea for the heart and soul. So it’s no wonder chocolate has become part of the courtship ritual and a perfect food for Valentine’s Day, whether presented to your beloved,  or a sweet treat for your kids, office mates or your special self.

Here are some easy chocolate recipes, a few ideas to personalize store bought creations; and, as though you need more convincing, the good news science about chocolate’s health benefits thrown in.

No time to bake, but still want to lend your gift a personal touch?  Here are a few sweet ideas:

Make Your Own Chocolate Wrapper

The internet seems crazy for personalized candy bar wrappers.  You can order them singly or in bulk from places like WhimsyWraps.com, personalizing with your own note, even photos.

Or get in touch with the craftier you and go with Martha Stewart’s handmade version (she has a free template!), which includes your handwritten love note on the inside.  Sweet to send in your kid’s school lunch, for some lighthearted embarrassment (you know they secretly love it!)

Personalize a Box of Truffles

The only thing better than chocolate are the lovely notes you'll include beneath

Add a note of affection under each truffle.  Or make it a lottery: each truffle eaten will reveal a romantic promissory like, uh, “sleep in, I’ll get the baby”.

To Do:  Cut rounds (or squares) of a pretty card stock paper that can be hidden beneath each truffle and address as appropriate (hint: it you’re worried that the chocolate may melt and ruin your love notes, just top each note with the same shape cutout of wax or parchment paper).

Chocolate Ganache Layer Cake

Mmmm.... Photo via Grant Miller Media

This is a great no fail recipe from Epicurious. Doesn’t need altering, though some of the many reviewers comment an extra egg yolk gives you a moister end result.

For cake layers
3/4 cup boiling water
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process, preferably Ghirardelli)
1 teaspoon instant-espresso powder
1/2 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups packed dark brown sugar
4 large eggs

For ganache filling and glaze
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
20 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), finely chopped in a food processor

Make cake layers:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 3 (7- or 8-inch, 2-inch-deep) round cake pans and line bottoms with rounds of wax or parchment paper. Butter paper and dust pans with flour.

Whisk together water, cocoa, and espresso powder until smooth, then whisk in milk and vanilla.  In separate bowl sift together flour, baking soda, and salt.

Beat together butter and brown sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until fluffy, then add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture and cocoa mixture in batches, beginning and ending with flour and mixing at low speed until just combined.

Divide batter among pans (about 2 1/3 cups per pan), smoothing tops. Bake in middle of oven until a tester comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes for 7-inch pans or 20 to 25 minutes for 8-inch. Cool in pans on a rack 30 minutes, then invert onto racks, remove paper, and cool completely.

Make ganache while cakes bake:
Bring cream to a simmer in a 3- to 4-quart saucepan and remove from heat. Whisk in chocolate until smooth. Transfer ganache to a bowl and chill, covered, stirring occasionally, until thickened but spreadable, about 4 hours. (If ganache becomes too thick, let stand at room temperature until slightly softened.)

Assemble cake:
Arrange 1 layer on a cake stand or plate and spread 2/3 cup ganache evenly over it. Top with another cake layer and 2/3 cup ganache, spreading evenly, then third cake layer. (Chill ganache if necessary to keep at a spreadable consistency.) Chill cake until ganache filling is firm, about 1 hour. Keep remaining ganache at a spreadable consistency, chilling when necessary.

Spread a thin layer of ganache over top and sides of cake to seal in crumbs, then chill 30 minutes. Spread remaining ganache evenly over top and sides of cake.

Mini Heart Shaped Chocolate Banana Cakes

Image via ThisNext.com

I love the marriage of chocolate and banana.  I’ve been turning a simple banana chocolate bread/cake recipe into mini layer cakes and topping it with a dark chocolate ganache.  This recipe will make 2 layer cakes (depends on the size of your heart pans though)  and the a banana loaf:

For the cake
3 cups flour – 2 cups unbleached all-purpose, 1 cup cake and pastry
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
4 eggs at room temperature
1 1/2 cups of granulated sugar
1 cup butter/vegetable oil (I usually do half of each)
2 1/2 cups coarsely mashed bananas (using a fork works well)
1/3 cup of sour cream (or creme fraiche)
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup dark chocolate – chips or baking chocolate chopped, fair trade preferred

Use the Dark Chocolate Ganache recipe from above.

Preheat oven to 350F and butter and dust your pans with flour.

Sift together flour, baking soda and salt.  With your electric mixer beat eggs and sugar on medium-high speed until thick and pale; reduce speed to low and add butter/oil, then bananas, sour cream and vanilla. Fold in chocolate gently.

You’ll have to keep an eye on these in the oven.  The loaf bakes in about an hour (tester should come out clean, save for the melted chocolate); the mini cakes will take much less time given smaller pan size.  Check on these periodically after 25 minutes.

Once they are ready, let cool completely.  Remove heart shaped cakes from pan and shave flat using a knife or dandy cake shaver.  Layer cakes using thin layer of ganache as glue and then cover entire cake with a layer of ganache. Voila!

My Chocolate Oatmeal Coconut Cookies

Photo courtesy Tim Bourgette

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar (I mix half each of granulated and brown)
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup dark chocolate chips, fair trade preferred
1 cup shredded coconut (sweetened)

Preheat oven to 350F. Whisk dry ingredients together.  With your electric mixer cream butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla. Add flour mixture and beat till just combined.  Add oats, chocolate, and coconut and mix till just combined.

Drop dough rounds onto prepared baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between cookies and bake about 15  minutes (check them at 15 minutes.  Time will vary based on cookie size and your oven).

And Finally the Science

While the recipes above aren’t exactly diet foods, you can feel great about the fact chocolate’s good for the heart – studies show that it may lower cholesterol and blood pressure and decreases your chances of developing heart disease generally.

So evidence is stacking up that chocolate – the dark unprocessed stuff – can be part of a healthy diet, thanks to the antioxidant properties of its flavonoids (also found in red wine and berries and green tea)

Additionally, the BBC recently reported on a study that melting chocolate in your mouth produced an increase in brain activity and heart rate that was more intense than that associated with passionate kissing.  The effects also lasted four times longer once the activity ended.  So if you’re away from your valentine this year, sending along a box of chocolate can be an intimate act itself.

Desperately Seeking Valentine

floral arrangement

Image from personalisedgreetings.wordpress.com

Whence came the sighs and daydreams of red roses and chocolates? Whose bright idea were the candlelit dinners and heart cutouts? Was the trendsetter a man named Valentine?

As part of whining over my perennially unattached state, I tend to indulge in wallowing and grouching this time of year. To counteract this tendency I thought I’d look into the man behind the red paper hearts. He’s got a day named after him, a day so many look forward to, and yet hardly anybody talks about him at all. He’s like a wallflower in his own party! So I thought I’d pay him a little attention this year, and bring him back to the celebration.

Valentine’s Day is the memorial of Saint Valentine–or more correctly, saints named Valentine. There are at least three of them, all martyrs for the faith, all commemorated on February 14. But only one of them is said to have been put to death on this day: Valentinus, a priest in Rome, imprisoned for helping Christians escape persecution. Legend has it that he was also detained for performing marriage rites for couples, because the then-Emperor Claudius II had the notion that wedded bliss was detrimental to the quality of his military, and so prohibited it. After continuous refusals to renounce his faith in order to avoid execution, Valentine was beheaded on February 14 around the year 270.

A print of St Valentine's

A woodblock print of St. Valentine of Rome found in the Nuremberg Chronicles

A painting by medieval artist Bartholomeus Zeitblom depicting 2 scenes of St Valentine performing miracles

A couple kissing outside the Basilica di San Valentino in Terni, Italy. Photo by Daniele La Monaca.

Porta del Popolo. This gate in Rome used to be called Porta Valentini, after St. Valentine. Photo by Elizabeth Carrow.

Though he was said to be a proponent and defender of marital love, and he himself was a model of passion and love–albeit another kind–and fidelity unto death, just like all the other Valentines, such acts of love and sacrifice are still a far cry from jewelry, candy and lace-trimmed confessions of affection.

It turns out that the man behind the mating rituals associated with this day wasn’t named Valentine at all, but Geoffrey Chaucer. Yes, he of Canterbury Tales fame. The association of St. Valentine with gooey sentimental love was first recorded in a couple of lines from one of his poems, The Parliament of Birds and it goes:

For this was Saint Valentine’s Day
When every bird cometh there to choose his mate.

This started the ball rolling on Valentine wooing, which has evolved and escalated to the exuberant excess in the Valentine’s day practices today.

So here’s to all you Saints Valentines, especially you from Rome! May we who live now love as heartily as we enjoy the truffles and trimmings.

The familiar decadent Valentine treat. Image from wasiniluxuryhomes.blogspot.com

An adorable Valentine print by RoccocoCo in etsy.com

It’s not such a big leap that Cupid became linked to Valentine’s Day, because he is after all the Roman god of Love. Figure drawing of Cupid at the Henry and George Courbould Gallery of Antiquities, British Museum.

Statue of Cupid in the center of The Temple de L'Amour. Photo by Una Uu.