Toris Design Box

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July 2021

    Slow Cooked Beef Stew

    Slow-cooked Beef Stew is a Fall special in my house. The house fills up with the tantalizing aroma of cooking.  My daughter loves it. Having said that, there is no rule that says one may not cook beef stew in the middle of summer, right?  So I decided to make it over the weekend. Since we’ve been having the kind of hot summer that sends one into a stupor, so digging up the recipe, shopping for ingredients, the preparations etc., revived me.

    Tip #1

    The trick to a really great Beef Stew is to simmer for a long time and there is simply no workaround to slow cooking.  Beef cuts can become tough and chewy if cooked quickly. However if the meat is allowed to cook slowly, the fat within melts to tenderize the meat. Besides which, it also add tons of flavor and body to the broth.

    Cut of Beef

    Tip #2

    Nonetheless, if you are like me and the idea of slaving over a hot stove for long hours does not appeal to you, but you do enjoy feeding your flock good home cooked meals, do what I do. Use a slow cooker.

    Ingredients –

    • Beef Cubes – 2 Lbs.
    • Chick-Pea Flour – ¼ cup
    • Sea Salt – salt to taste
    • Ground Pepper – to taste
    • Onion – 2
    • Garlic – 4 garlic cloves
    • Cinnamon sticks- 1
    • Cloves – 2-3
    • Cardamom – 1
    • Bay Leaf – 1
    • Carrots – small 5-6
    • Celery- 8-10
    • Potato – 1
    • Beef Stock (Low Sodium) – 1 can
    Beef stew

    Directions –

    Prep –

    1.  Chop the onions into quarters
    2.  Mash the garlic cloves with the back of a knife handle to take off the skin then chop finely.
    3.  Dice the potato into quarters
    4.  Chop the carrots into thick rounds
    5.  Thickly chop the celery
    6.  Mix the chickpea flour, sea salt, and ground pepper in a large mixing bowl;
    7.  Add the beef cubes.
    8.  Toss them in the flour to coat;
    9.   Next, roughly mash the cloves and cardamom in a marble mortar and pestle –

    Cooking –

    Step #1

    Heat a skillet over medium heat and add 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil. Sauté the bay leaf till it begins to turn brown add the cloves and cardamom.

    Step #2

    Then add the meat and sauté till it turns brown and gets a slightly crispy crust;

    Step #3

    Transfer the meat from the skillet to the slow cooker.

    slow cooked beef stew

    Step #4

    Now add onions to skillet, cook onion for about 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another 1-2minutes;

    Step #5

    Transfer the onion-garlic mixture to the slow cooker. Add the rest of the ingredients to the slow cooker and stir to combine. Cover the cooker, turn it on and allow to cook for 4-6 hours ;

    Step #6

    Garnish with fresh finely chopped herbs – thyme and chives – if you want.

    Step #7

    Serve with steamed rice or toasted garlic bread or just some oven warmed deli-fresh bread rolls in a bread basket. Bon Appetite…!

    Bowl of beef stew


    I first saw a version of this recipe on and tried it. However over the years one has been adding to it, tweaking it to my family’s taste and now they swear by Mom’s version of it….or so one would like to believe 🙂

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    The Many Myths of Decorating

    Thanks to a plethora of decorating shows and reality TV which sometimes oversimplify design tasks rather than present a real life picture due to lack of screen time etc., among the many myths of decorating tossed around these days, the following are a few of Tori’s favorites:

    Myth # 1 – Accessories Come Last When Budgeting for Your Home Decorating Project –

    WRONG:  Tori says – Accessories are essential in that they “finish” a room and spell the difference between blah….bam! Do not wait until the end of the decorating process to start buying accessories.

    Myths of Decorating  - accessories come last - Toris Design Box

    Keep your eyes open from the start. Attend flea markets and estate sales, where there’s a chance you might score a deal. Use your own treasures and collections to personalize your space. Include antiques, if you own any, even if you live in a contemporary space.

    Myth # 2 – Decorators Know How to Make Cheap Look Like a Million Bucks –

    WRONG: it’s all about balance and about observing the rules.  Decorators know how to mix and match cheap with a million bucks (manner of speaking) to dress up a room, but do not be fooled by tall claims.  Discount-store items will never look like designer furniture, neither will they be as well-built or last as long as the real deal. 

    Learn about the Many Myths of Decorating  - Toris Design Box

    In decorating as in life, you get what you pay for.

    Myth # 3 – Save a Bundle by Hiring Cheap Labor or DIY With the Help of a Friend or Cousin –

    WRONG: Well, of the many myths of decorating, this one’s only partially right, because maybe you can save a bundle…but it shows…in the outcome. 

    Tori says, never scrimp on labor. Always use a licensed contractor, with good referrals who is able to deliver your project with in a timely manner without the added cost and hassle of having to “re-fix” mistakes. The talent and experience of the people that execute your project are what makes the difference.

    Myth # 4 – Spend Big and You Cant Go Wrong –

    WRONG: Don’t pick the most expensive fabric or furniture item. You can save money on fabric that functions well, is reasonable and durable. However, make sure, the only reason you buy a specific furnishing or furniture is not because it is “reasonable” because then it will look just that….. “reasonable” not chic!

    Learn about decorating myths and how to avoid them - Toris Design Box

    When buying furniture I do advise buying the best you can afford, but nowadays, consumers have access to more furniture options at a range of prices, thanks to the Internet. However, buying before you have a color scheme planned out or have created a furniture layout or master room plan – buying “blind” as I call it – is tricky.  Try to find middle ground between low-end furniture (it’s cheap for a reason) and the stuff you see at designer showrooms.

    Myth # 5 – Saving Money Means Sacrificing Quality –

    WRONG: It doesn’t necessarily.  Not unless your idea of saving money means settling for a particleboard desk or cabinet.  Consider looking for a good quality used/re-purposed items at a thrift store, antiques shop or flea market.

    One myth of Decorating is save money sacrifice quality - Toris Design Box

    More often than not, you always get more value in vintage  says Tori. The quality will be better, and you can paint it or refinish it yourself, or send it out for professional restoration.

    Myth # 6 – Splurge on Living Room & Dining Room and Scrimp on Bedroom & Family Room –

    WRONG: Don’t! If you’ve decorated the public spaces of your home, walking from these well designed areas of your home into the rest of the house with its underwhelming decor or cluttered and disorganized private spaces will bring you down. Don’t put off decorating these, unless you are planning to decorate those less public rooms at some point  in the future, sooner rather than later. 

    White Kitchen - DIY or hire a pro - Toris Design Box

    The idea is to first, decorate the rooms that you spend more time in – those would be your bedrooms and family rooms, rather than the formal Living Room and Dining Room which you may only use once or twice a year. Nevertheless, the overall objective is to decorate the whole house. Otherwise, as you move about the house, the disparity of the different “class” of rooms will make you feel tired and anxious to “get started”.

    Myth # 7 –  Decorators Use Items That Will Only Work in Your Current Home –

    WRONG:  Sometimes, that is.  This one depends on how long you will be staying in your current home. have your designer work with you on that.  Statistics show Americans change houses more than they do furniture and furnishings.

    If you don’t plan to remain in the home for long, you would do well to find a decorator that will advise you on how best to invest in things like window coverings, wallpaper etc., or offer tricks and tips to purchasing items that will go with you when you move. Among the many myths of decorating is this one I hear from time to time – that designers are not adjustable to that fact. Wrong again!

    A designer that chooses unique yet normal-size furnishings that can work in a variety of settings — not items scaled to that particular home is the one to go with. Among the many myths of decorating it is generally accepted that TV shows will show us what the current trends are so that we may duplicate it to get a cool look for our home. Untrue! It is a mistake to go for what you see on TV without fully assessing what your house needs and what your requirements are. One example of what not to do – no matter what they show on TV – avoid buying oversize sectionals, corner cabinets or towering armoires just because they look good on TV. They might not fit in your next home — or make it through a doorway or elevators.

    Myth # 8 – Hire a Designer/Decorator and Nothing Will Go Wrong –

    WRONG: Even the best plans can go awry. With over a decade of working as a designer I myself have run into projects where there were a fair share of surprises. Of the many myths of decorating, I would like to dispel this one by asserting – the difference is hiring a designer and hiring the right one with training and experience. Above all, be a girl scout and follow the scout motto – be prepared! Also always include a little cushion in your budget whether you are working with or without a professional designer.

    Learn about the Many Myths of Decorating  and how to avoid them - Toris Design Box

    Image credits – pic of accessories courtesy | image of designer living room courtesy | image of blue bedroom courtesy | image of modern living room with vintage piano courtesy | pic of white kitchen courtesy |

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    6 Best Dressed Desks While WFH

    6 best dressed desks while WFH

    Industrial Tanker Desk

    The first choice on my list of 6 best-dressed desks while WFH – is also the desk in my own home office. It is a red circa 1950 Tanker Desk in fire engine red. One that I have sat at every day while working from home. It is big on fun and makes work a breeze. It keeps me cheerful on days when my to-do list seems never-ending – which is almost every day of the week 🙂  What’s more, it even has a spacious file drawer so one can happily avoid the additional clutter of a rolling file cabinet in the office and still stay organized.

    6 Best Dressed Desks While WFH

    Traditional Vanity Dresser Desk

    When we lived in Santa Monica, in my daughter’s bedroom lived a white farmhouse chic Vanity Dresser that I bought for her when she was a little girl. She and I had a lot of fun re-finishing it in silver, as a fun craft project.  The three drawers provided ample room to keep pens pencils notepads and all other work paraphernalia out of sight yet still close at hand. With a large 3-part folding mirror a luxury vanity or dresser can do double duty as a fashionable lady’s dressing table as well as a very fancy desk. Move over Ms Miniver, design trends are changing.

    6 Best Dressed Desks While WFH

    Chinoiserie Secretary Hutch

    I am still looking for a Chinoiserie Hutch desk in black lacquer finish that does not look dated. One that I can fall in love with every day. Haven’t found it yet. Nevertheless, the hunt goes on. The kind that has a bunch of cubbies and cabinets for ample storage for everyday items along with deep drawers to store floor plans and design boards

    6 Best Dressed Desks While WFH

    Modern Corner Desk

    One has also been on the lookout for a Corner Desk that is not too overpowering and not too droll-looking. A modern non-generic incarnation of the ubiquitous modular desk system. The slightly more sophisticated version of the everyman desk that dots the office landscape here and around the globe.  

    6 Best Dressed Desks While WFH

    Antique Gate Leg Table

    In my erstwhile Corona del Mar studio, my Design Assistant and I would sit around an antique Gate Leg conference table from England while brainstorming ideas for design concepts on client projects. I have also designed a home office for a client with Tulip Chairs around an antique William & Mary Gate-Leg Table for a bit of fun contrast. This is a version of a library table or a conference table for the eclectic home office of a design-conscious individual with varied tastes. 

    6 Best Dressed Desks While WFH

    Art Deco Lucite Waterfall Desk  

    Last but not least on my list of 6 best-dressed desks while WFH in 2021 is a clear acrylic Waterfall Console Table slash Desk. It can easily blend into a range of room styles from Mid-Mod to Art Deco. It gives the room not only an airy lightness but also makes it look sleek and spacious – a posh home office.

    6 Best Dressed Desks While WFH

    Picture credits – Image of grey Tanker desk courtesy Etsy | Mint green Vanity desk – courtesy Frontgate | Image of Secretary Hutch courtesy Town and Country | Modern Corner Desk courtesy  Trenduhome | Gate Leg Table image courtesy Flickr | Lucite desk image courtesy Clearhomedesign

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