Get CreativeSips, Sweets & Snacks

Tea and #RAOPxStudioB (wow that’s a mouthful) go way back- in fact we almost always work together over cups of piping hot tea! A few years ago I had the pleasure of taking a job at Sloane Fine Tea Merchants, a local company with a lot of heart and SO much knowledge about tea.

If you think tea is simply those little squished bags of Red Rose hanging out in your grandmother’s cupboard, you’ve got a lot to learn. Working in the world of tea constantly surprised and enchanted me, and as I shared my newfound facts with Paige she only found herself more and more interested as well. That said, both of our knowledge combined doesn’t even come close to more than the tip of the iceberg. If you want real tea expertise, you have to turn to Hoda Paripoush, founder of Sloane Tea.

Hoda has experience in perfumery, which makes her uniquely suited to create the most magical teas in all the land. After travelling the world visiting tea estates, she launched Sloane right here in Toronto. One of the few tea companies that blends on Canadian soil and directly trades with ancient tea estates, I’ve never met anyone who “gets” tea quite like Hoda.

So if you’re ready to learn about proper tea steeping times, the difference between Oolong and Green Tea, the definition of Camellia sinensis chinensis and more, cozy up with a cup of your favourite blend and keep reading!

Scroll down for Hoda’s tea 101 and tips!



Where does tea come from //

All tea, be it black, green, oolong, or white tea (and even some other types) come from the same plant: camellia sinensis. The plant was originally discovered growing in China, and was later cultivated in other parts of Asia. There are two subspecies of this plant: the Assam varietal (Camellis sinensis assamica) and the China varietal (Camellia sinensis chinensis). Grown in India, Sri Lanka and in other parts of the world, the Assam varietal produces larges, bold tasting leaves. The China varietal, cultivated in China, Taiwan, Japan and in parts of Darjeeling produces smaller leaves with a more delicate flavour profile.

What makes different types of tea //

The difference between types of tea is the state of oxidation. A black tea, for example, is fully-oxidized and undergoes a complete firing/baking process- hence why it is darker in colour. That being said, each tea type has a most unique and distinct flavour, with a variety of differences within each tea type. I highly encourage people to try tea types that they may not have tried previously, or even teas that they may have tasted before but were not fond of. Just as your palate changes with time, your experience will change as well, especially if you had a tea that was not properly prepared the first time. There is no end to the types of tea flavours available, so the more you explore, the larger your repertoire of fine and favourite teas will be!

Black Tea = fully oxidized

Oolong Tea = partially oxidized

White Tea = un-oxidized

Green Tea = un-oxidized

How to properly prepare each type

No matter what type of tea you are purchasing, you need to become very clear on the proper preparation methods. I say this because even if someone purchases one of the worlds most exquisite teas, if the crucial factors of water temperature and steeping time are ignored, then you can take an extremely high quality tea and ruin it very quickly.

Some teas require boiling water (such as black and herbal teas), some less than boiling water, and all need to be steeped for a different length of time.

When preparing a traditional black tea, the process is as such:

1. Warm the teapot with hot water.

2. Fill the kettle with freshly drawn water and bring it to a boil. Water that has been double-boiled will affect the taste of the tea.

3. Measure one rounded teaspoon of tea into the teapot for each person, and one extra spoonful of tealeaves “for the pot”.

4. Remove the kettle as soon as it boils and allow it to come off the boil for a minute or two.

5. Pour the not-quite-boiling water onto the leaves and leave to steep for 4-5 minutes.

6. Serve in fine bone china cups as the delicacy of the cup does seem to enhance the delicacy of the tea within.

7. Add a splash of milk or a slice of lemon to taste.

As green tea is un-oxidized, caution must be taken when steeping it as over-steeping the tea produces a bitter cup. As well, green tea is not to be steeped in fully boiled water, as too hot a temperature will also produce a bitter cup. Less than boiling water is what is ideal when preparing green tea, as it is with white and oolong teas.

Proper storage of tea is also of crucial importance, as it helps to maximize the shelf-life and freshness of tea. The oils in tea are highly volatile, and as such, they easily absorb surrounding odours. Hence, you need to store your tea in a space that is separate from your spices and items heavy in scent. In addition, the tea should be stored at room temperature in a low humidity environment, and away from direct light.




Perfect pairings //

When it comes to pairings, it’s often a matter of preference. However, with milk specifically there is good reason for adding the milk last. If you are drinking an unfamiliar tea, it is easier to judge the correct amount of milk to add once you have seen the strength and colour of the tea. On the other hand, pouring the milk in first means that the fat in the milk emulsifies in a different manner when the tea is poured, which alters the flavour of the tea, providing for an even more creamier flavour. It also cools the tea slightly to a more acceptable drinking temperature.

However, milk is really only to be added in black tea, but not in all black teas. Darjeeling black teas, specifically, should never be paired with milk as it’s the equivalent of adding ice in your wine. Darjeeling tea is so delicate and refined in flavour that the addition of milk washes out the nuances of what makes it unique.
Green, oolong and white teas should always be savoured straight- without the addition of any milk products. Herbal teas, though they should be enjoyed without the addition of milk can often be paired with honey and other natural sweeteners (depending on preference). Personally, I don’t add sugar into my tea but I can never resist the pairing of a sweet biscuit or scone with the trimmings.

The difference between tea bags and whole leaf/loose leaf //

The world of tea has come a very, very long way since it’s discovery, as have teabags. Though the charm of loose leaf tea will always remain, the innovation of the pyramid tea bag has made it so you can still enjoy the beauty of exceptional loose leaf teas with an incredible amount of convenience. Quality does not have to be compromised for convenience. At Sloane Tea, we use the exact same tea in our whole leaf sachets as you experience in our loose leaf tea caddies. The pyramid shape of the tea bag allows us to fill it with a fine variety of full premium tea leaves and exotic ingredients such as herbs, flowers and real fruit pieces. It’s innovative design allows for optimal flow of the ingredients into your cup, creating a consistent infusion every single time.

Fun tea facts //

The origin of tea is infused with a fine blend of fact, myth, and ancient concepts of spirituality and philosophy. According to an ancient Chinese legend, the story of tea was born over 4700 years ago when a fortuitous blunder caused a few dry leaves to accidentally fall into a pot of boiling water that was being prepared for emperor Shen Nong in the hills of China. The emperor enjoyed drinking the infused water as it had a most unusual and delicious flavour. He felt so immensely invigorated and refreshed, and as he was a skilled scientist and ruler he set out to further research the plant whereby he discovered tea to possess medicinal properties.

Since that time, through exploration, discovery and experimentation, tea has exploded into the most widely consumed beverage in the world, second to water. It is a world that has become so very vast and specialized- just like that of fine wine.



Get Creative

Welcome back weekenders! You may have noticed we took a little break from the #pastelcraftclub series last week, but we’re oh so happy to be back just in time for the impending seasonal shift. That’s right – cozy Fall DIY’s are coming soon, and we thought it was only fitting to do a roundup of some of our favourite summer 2016 projects as a farewell to the sunshine.

From fruity furniture to hand-labelled panties, we think this list has something for everyone, and we highly encourage you to try all 6 projects if you feel inspired…

See you in two weeks for some brand new pastel DIY fun!

1. Day of the Week Panties by Studio DIY //

This project is a bit more complex than we’re used to, but the results are way worth it. Who else grew up obsessed with their day of the week panty packs?

2. Five Minute Chic Bento Box by Sugar and Cloth //

There’s nothing better than a perfectly packed lunch, and these bento boxes are so charming and SO easy to make that we simply couldn’t resist falling for them.

3. 3 Tiered Copper Planter by A Bubbly Life //

We can’t get enough of greenery right now. Plants everywhere please! This staircase-like planter stand is a simple yet elegant way to showcase your favourite potted plants, plus it’s super affordable to make.


4. Fruit Shelves by A Bubbly Life //

Feeling fruity? Us too! Why would you even bother having a normal shelf in your home when you can have one that looks like a fruit slice?! Total no brainer.

5. Romantic Bath Salts by Glitter Guide //

Floral baths are a year-round indulgence that we simply can’t live without, and this concoction is the perfect way to instantly up your bath time game (plus they make a great gift!)

6. Word Embroidery by A Pair and a Spare //

Clothing is getting wordy this season, and we’re all about it. We sense a serious embroidery addiction coming on… Collars? Jeans? Socks? The possibilities are limitless!

Imagery by Paige, words by Alyssa.

Get Creative

Paige and I are both massive fans of watercolour art work, but neither of us have ever really been able to perfect it on our own. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve tried! That said I’ve never really ended up with anything I actually like all that much.

Luckily, I have an artist for a room mate.

Johanna (aka @blousesandhouses on Instagram) has been drawing and painting all her life, and it’s truly a treat to watch the magic come out of her paintbrushes. She’s always working on something new, perfecting a difficult technique, or painting over something old to master something different. She’s so truly talented, but since creating comes so easily to her I assumed it was something us “normal” people wouldn’t be able to replicate. When Johanna offered to do a watercolour 101 tutorial with us for the #pastelcraftclub I was extremely doubtful that I’d actually learn anything, but decided to give it a shot.

It turns out watercolour painting is actually a fairly forgiving medium, and as long as you’re able to draw a semi decent shape from a reference photo and stick to a sort of “paint by number” system, you’re likely to end up with something cute! Johanna picked a super simple gem shape and shared all of her favourite texture techniques with us, and by the end of the lesson Paige and I were both pretty confident we could make gems of our own (though Johanna’s actual super intricate crystal paintings are still a bit out of our skill set!)

Scroll down for Johanna’s tips on watercolour painting like a pro!




Supplies //

A simple reference image
Watercolour paint
Cold pressed watercolour paper
Watercolour brushes
Toothbrush or old paintbrush
Iridescent watercolour medium (optional)

Instructions //

To start:

If you don’t feel confident in your abilities to draw your crystal shape, don’t worry! There’s a trick to help you!


Print your reference image to the size you’d like you’re final painting to be, on regular bond paper.
On the back of the image, where the points are – colour a fine even layer of graphite.
Tape the reference image graphite side down onto your watercolour paper.
Using a sharp pencil make indents where the points occur onto of the reference image, this pressure causes the graphite underneath to transfer. Now peel up the image and use a ruler to connect the dots! Don’t worry about pencil marks you can erase them at the very end.


Now that you have your basic shape drawn out:

You’ll need to identify 3-4 values of your shape: Darkest to Pure White.
In watercolour, pure white is always represented by the paper itself, not white paint. To create values with watercolour start with the pure pigment whether its from a tube or a palette. Pure pigment mixed with a bit of water will be your darkest value, add more and more water to create the lighter values. Unlike paint, water is the only thing added to watercolour pigments to lighten them – not white pigment! Use a test piece of watercolour paper to make sure you’re happy with your value scale.


Identify your values in your reference image, I recommend taping off or using Masking Fluid (Frisket) on the sections you wish to leave pure white.

Now move on to your darkest valued sections. Use tape around the outside edges of the section and lay down a wash of the darkest value. Repeat on any other dark sections and allow to dry.



I used a technique called Wet on Wet for my mid-values. Paint in with pure clean water the section you are working in – making it damp with a slight puddling effect, make sure to stay inside the lines. While the paper is quite damp dip the tip of your brush into the dark value and place the pigment into the wet paper – you’ll see the pigment quickly be sucked up by the water and spread across the area. Move the brush around adding more pigment and water until you see the desired effect, allow to dry completely.



Another technique that lends itself well to painting gemstones & minerals is the salt technique! Lay down an area of quite damp colour (one of your middle values) wait a few seconds and sprinkle a tiny bit of salt over the area – Each crystal of salt chases away the pigment to make a lighter area beneath it. Allow to dry completely before brushing away the salt.


The last technique can be used to fill in the mid-light values – Splattering! Again, tape off the outer layers of the section you’d like to fill. I use pieces of paper in addition to make sure splatter stays off the rest of the painting. Dip an older paintbrush or old toothbrush in your darkest value, Use your fingers to flick the paint onto the painting – Try experimenting on your test paper first! Continue until you’re happy with the value.



You can continue this splatter technique by taping off different areas of your painting and layering splatter on top of other techniques. You can also start to add other colours this way, I used a hot pink on the bottom half here. Layer as much as you’d like until you’re happy with the outcome.


Finishing details:
When everything is dry remove all the tape, use an eraser to erase any visible graphite lines and brush away the salt.
With a small watercolour brush, use your darkest value to straighten up and lines and add details.

I used an Iridescent Watercolour Medium over the highlighted parts to catch the light.



Ta-Da! You made a watercolour painting!

You can check out Johanna’s work here

Dear DiaryGet Creative

The word “renovation” tends to come with a degree of negativity to it. Personally disaster zones and shelves ripping out of walls come to my mind, and there’s no shortage of tales concerning projects that were scheduled to take a week stretching on for years. When I decided to renovate the bathroom in my rental unit – an idea that snowballed from a wish to upgrade to beautiful golden Delta faucets – I made the same mistake so many had before me: I thought my renovation would be different.

It all started out as a total dream. As previously mentioned I picked out the most delicious shiny gold faucets for my shower and sink from Delta, and of course I couldn’t resist a towel bar and toilet paper holder as well when I saw how perfectly they matched as a gleaming set. Seriously, this gold hardware was enough to make me want to redo the whole room – so elegant and royal!

Next Jo and I took a field trip to the Ciot showroom to pick out new tiles, a must considering our old tile and grout was cracking and crumbling with each shower we took. We had the most wonderful time exploring all of the finishes and learning about different types of marble, and in the end we were able to fit floor and wall tiles into our budget (thank goodness for marble-printed porcelain!)

Of course a room can’t feel fresh without a new coat of paint, so we turned to CIL for an elegant yet subtle update. We were immediately sold on the “bathroom and kitchen finish” (easy to clean and mould-resistant), and colour-wise we went with “Barely Blush” and “White on White”.

Last but not least we picked out a new sink to match our new Delta sink faucet and offer us more space to organize all of our beauty products. We went with this super cute vanity unit from Canadian Tire and it literally doubled our storage space. Win!

A new white shower curtain rod here and some candles there (Currently obsessed with TOCCA and Paddywax’s Library Collection) and we were ready to get things underway. Unfortunately that’s where we ran into speed bumps.

We decided to work with an app (which will remain unnamed) that helps match contractors to projects, and we immediately matched with a company who could come in the same day the tiles arrived! Score! The team of two arrived a few hours late, which didn’t bother us much, and told us they would likely finish the project in under ten hours. Score again!!!

Five days, two 3am stop times, and endless tears later, the construction duo informed us that they had accidentally destroyed all of our tiles. More tears, more panic, and a angry version of myself that I never wish to see again followed, and ultimately the team simply left. The app sent another contractor to survey the situation, and we were told we needed to start from scratch. All new tiles needed to be installed, plus demolition of all the botched work. The app would only pay for the demolition and the new tiles.

Before //






I was a MESS. As someone who takes a lot of pride in their home and never leaves a project unfinished, this was a total disaster. How could my fun little reno have gone SO wrong?!

Enter R&B Group (que the superhero music!) This team came in, laughed for a bit in pity at the horrible original outcome, then tore it all out and started from scratch. They worked quickly, and the end result was nothing short of perfect. It was truly a pleasure to have them in our home, and I am pretty sure I’ll never even considering hiring someone else. THANK YOU RICARDO AND BRUNO! You can get in contact with them here if you have a project that you need help with:

So what did we learn? I mean other than gold faucets automatically make everything prettier and marble tiles beat all other tiles? We learned that if you want your renovation to be quick, easy, and painless, you need to hire the right people to help you! It was literally night and day between the first team and R&B Group, and when Ricardo and Bruno rolled up with photos of their past work and a reasonable quote for how long the job would actually take (about a week btw) we realized how unprofessional the first guys had really been.

And now, the moment you’ve been waiting for: meet the new #RAOPpowderroom!

After //










Special thanks to:
Delta Faucet
Ciot Tile
CIL Paint
R&B Group
Canadian Tire

In love with my gold bath rack? Get it !

This post was sponsored, but all opinions are my own. To inquire about sponsored posts, please email

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Get Creative

Festival season is here, and you know what that means? It’s time for flower crowns to shine! A fresh bouquet of flowers on your kitchen table can bring life to an entire household, but there’s something extra special about donning fresh seasonal florals on your head. The sweet scent that drifts around your head as the summer day drifts lazily into a starry summer night- there’s just nothing quite like it.

When it comes to flower crowns fresh or faux, there’s no one quite as wonderfully talented as Shelley, aka Lady Hayes. Momma of the cutest little Toronto family you ever did see, Lady Hayes has become a go-to for weddings and festival fashion alike, and Paige & I never grow tired of swooning over her flawless work.

When dreaming up the concept for the #pastelcraftclub series Shelley immediately came to mind, but considering she had just given birth to her second adorable baby girl we assumed she’d need a lot of time before she’d be ready to participate. As luck would have it, we assumed wrong.

Shelley invited us into her beautiful space and showed us step-by-step how to work ordinary fresh blooms into a floral crown fit for a queen, all with two babies running around and cups of imaginary tea in her hand. It was a little bit like living within a Disney movie, and we were half expecting little birds to swoop down and tie the ribbons when the crown was all done!

Scroll down for the full DIY




You’ll Need //

Fresh Flowers
Stem Wire
Floral Wire
Floral Tape

Notes: When picking flowers I like to choose a variety. My typical shop includes… Leafy greens, small filler (like wax flowers, baby breath etc), small blooms and large blooms.

Step 1 //

Wrap one piece of stem wire with floral tape. Bend each end to create a loop and secure with floral tape.

Step 2 //

Now the fun part! Create what I like to call a baby bouquet! Snip a piece of your greens, add a piece of filler, and a smaller bloom. The stems should be about 2 inches in length. Bundle them together and hold the stems along your pre-taped stem wire. Secure with a 5 inch piece of tape wrapping tightly along the wire and stems. Continue building a variety of baby bouquets along your stem wire until you get 3/4 of the way down. Mix up your selections as you go to.

Step 3 //

Once you get to the 3/4 mark on your wire stop. Turn your wire around and begin building along the opposite end. Keep going until you have about a 1.5 inch space between both ends.





Step 4 //

Choose a larger bloom and snip off stem leaving 1/8 inch of stem. This will be the fuller side of the crown. Take an 8 inch piece of floral wire and pierce through the base of the bloom pulling it all the way through. Pull the wire until both ends are equal in length. Fit the bloom into the 1.5 inch space and secure the flower by wrapping the floral wire around the stem wire.

Step 5 //

Cut two pieces of ribbon 1 metre in length. Take one piece of ribbon and thread through the loop of your stem wire. Pull through until both ends are equal in length and tie a knot. Repeat.

Step 6 //

Now bend your crown to create an arc and hold against your head near your hairline. Secure on your head by tying a bow with your ribbon.

Step 7 //

Go be awesome!