Thursday, December 31, 2009

raise a glass

i hope you all have plans to do whatever it is you want to do tonight...a while ago, i vowed to never feel new year's eve pressure...know what i mean? it's one of those holidays that i think we all feel is expected to be full of impossible fabulosity. but really, i see it as a big, beautiful arch. on one side, it's the year that was, and on the other, the year that is yet to come.

even though i don't think any pressure is in order, there's no reason you can't do what you want in style. i love some of these ideas as quick fixes for high-impact style. okay, maybe the top picture isn't exactly "quick," but it's fabulous enough to make up for it. here are martha's instructions on how to make these streamers using leftover giftwrap. you could also line trays with the giftwrap, as shown above.

for an easier option with leftover holiday supplies, you could use fishwire (or thread, let's be serious)and hang ornaments from the ceiling or archways (watch peoples' heads on this festive eve).

by now, most have already done their shopping for tonight, but there are still ways you can be clever with the smallest details, which are often the ones most noticed. i love the spanish tradition of eating a dozen grapes at midnight to predict the sweet and sour months in the coming year. martha's take on the idea of putting grapes on skewers in deep glasses of champagne is the perfect little touch. also, the idea of a little curl of orange or lemon rind just dresses up a glass of bubbly in a colorful and memorable way.

another interesting way of using up your holiday tissue paper is by wrapping varying numbers of layers of the same shade around hurricanes to create this cool gradated effect. here are the instructions.

i hope your night sparkles and glows, and that you're ready for all the best to come your way in 2010.
all photos from

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

yes please!

how covetous are these faux-fur duffels from pottery barn? i so want one. don't they look like just the thing for a trip to a hotel like the one below? i could just see checking in with my apres-ski vibe (though in truth, it would be more like sans-ski for me).

or someplace like this, the banff springs fairmont.

as if the settings weren't gorg enough, i think the faux-fur duffel would just seal the deal. and i feel i'd be doing you a disservice if, while we're on the topic, i didn't share with you the view, ever-so-faintly visible, out the window of charlotte moss's aspen home.

and did i mention her deck in the sky?

i mean REALLY.

photos from,,,,,

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

little burst of love

remember a while back we talked about the idea of mini-arrangements as little parting gifts and/or placecards? well look at these totally adorable ones i came across on the incredibly gorgeous blog, {frolic}. not only does one of these incorporate succulents (and you know how i feel about them), but i love the unique containers they're presented in.

i would be totally delighted to receive something like this at a dinner party, a luncheon, a wedding, a shower...maybe even on new years eve as a little breath of green life in the cold winter. wouldn't you?

all photos from frolic

Monday, December 28, 2009

double-decker glam

we finally have a sweet spot in our new home! i am perfectly pleased with exactly one corner of the apartment, and it's no surprise that it involves a bar cart, one of my favorite types of furniture. it actually has nothing to do with the liquor, and more to do with the sort of retro perfection of the thing. i had been wanting one for a while, and ended up spotting this one on clearance at homegoods for $25. it had a couple small cosmetic flaws, but with one side facing the wall, it's no problem.

i love how there are often two levels to bar carts and how they tend to hold an interesting array of items, creating an ever-changing vignette. as well as they function holding actual liquor and bar accessories, they have an array of other uses that just delight in almost any space.

above is the one in my parents' house that i have always loved - it was in my mom's house when she was growing up and she continues to put it to good use, changing it seasonally and as new trinkets rotate through.

here are some pictures i've collected of other bar carts that inspire the same feelings in me.

this one was featured in veranda and is perfection:

here's a closer look at that one - it's the hanover bar cart from restoration hardware and is sold out - not surprising. it's all that a bar cart should be. the scale and materials are just pitch-perfect.

here's another great one from restoration hardware which is not sold out yet, the duncan bar cart:

here's one featured in lonny magazine from long-lost love domino's editor deborah needleman:

this is from thom felicia:
and this is the gorgeously detailed cosmopolitan bar cart in polished nickel from william sonoma home:

isn't it amazing?

if you've been clicking around, you're learning what i did when i started coveting one - that this kind of glam doesn't come cheap. the restoration hardware ones hover between $550 and $700, depending on sales, and the william sonoma home one is $1400. many of the others you can find are antiques, and either happily nestled in someone's home or for sale in antique stores for a pretty penny.

the most affordable ones i've seen are made of wood and are painfully big-box store looking, even press-board like -- to me, a searing betrayal of the cosmopolitan mod-ness of the whole look, like this one, available at home depot.

no. just no. i feel like if you're going to go with something wood, go with a whole different thing. forget the cart idea, and just go with a big, rustic bar, like the markham console bar from pottery barn which i've always loved:

and even this cart, which has the right idea with metal and glass, just gets it wrong. it's proportions are off, the frosted glass looks like office furniture, and the big black wheels are utilitarian and just so, so wrong.
you can see why i jumped at the idea of one at $25.

for a different take on it, i like this butler tray and stand from west elm. it's a great, lower-cost way of getting the look of a bar cart.

for now, for $25, i'll face the broken piece to the wall. but i'll stay on the lookout for more in this furniture genre which can be used with amazing style in any number of rooms - dining room, living room, bedroom, bathroom, get the idea.

all non-original photos from linked sites

Friday, December 25, 2009

comfort and joy

i love the way wreaths announce themselves. they're an indication that the home that lies inside is one that welcomes the holiday season with love and spirit. and comfort and joy. i hope today is full of all those things, whether you're celebrating christmas surrounded by loved ones and homemade goodness, or surrounded by loved ones and chinese food (jews in the hizzy).

merry christmas.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

honey gift files...11th hour

okay, so it's christmas eve day...and everyone's done shopping, wrapping, etc. but IF by some chance anyone has a "friend" who still needs to do a little buying, i have some last-minute, mall-free suggestions that don't smack of last-minute gifting.

at the supermarket (most are open until 6 today but closed tomorrow)

gourmet basket (combine a few or all of these items in a basket or nice gift bag)

1 or 2 packages nice pasta
jar of pesto
jar of garlic cloves
tube of tomato paste
nice spice jars of oregano, basil
basil plant (from produce section)
oven mitts/dishtowels from kitchen aisle (can use these to line the basket)


you could do something else really cute with ingredients that bakerella featured recently - take a look here. they're called cowgirl cookies and involve layering the exact ingredients for "cowgirl cookies" into mason jars, which you can get at most supermarkets (on sale right now, since canning season is over).

then the small label (which bakerella gives you a PDF of) affixed to the bottom of the jar tells the recipient to combine the contents of the jar with vanilla extract, milk and butter, and bake. of course you don't have to go with the "cowgirl theme," you can choose whatever colors you want, and use whatever fabric or paper you want to create the motif.
my friend made hers (below) at 6 in the morning on the day she gave them. now THAT's talent. i can just imagine throwing flour and oatmeal into jars at that time. and the best...her male boss, upon receiving his jar, excitedly said "so i just put the whole jar in the oven?" UH OH. better get out the fire extinguisher.

what i like about having this idea in your back pocket is that it's something you could really do for any occasion, and you can really just use different color M&M's to denote valentine's day, christmas, halloween, easter, etc. i've heard of this idea before, but it's never looked so cute and attentive to detail before.

also at the supermarket, you can pick out a magazine your recipient would like and buy them a copy and sign them up for a year's subscription. then you can give them the magazine gift-wrapped with a note telling them they'll be receiving a year's worth of issues on you! this is a GREAT last minute gift idea for all occasions. most supermarkets have decent book sections near the magazines, so there's always that idea too.

the other good find at a supermarket is the floral section. you can easily get a plant or bouquet and be done right then and there. one suggestion i have about taking those gifts up a notch is to remove any sign of mass-production - you don't need for it to LOOK like it came from a supermarket even if it did. my advice is to remove any cheesy tags or sticks with santa on them - those are a dead giveaway.

if the florist isn't there to wrap whatever you're getting in the tissue and ribbon color of your choice, i would buy whatever color you'd like (tissue paper and ribbon) and spruce it up yourself. in most cases, you can just carefully remove the plastic wrap and place the tissue paper inside it, and then rewrap it so you see the tissue through the plastic. it's a much nicer look. see here for some arranging ideas. you could also put the arrangement into a simple vase for a lasting component of the gift.

if you're really looking to kick it up a notch, you could get a flower or plant of the month subscription and put a note inside the flowers or plant you give telling them what they'll be receiving. note: even if the florist isn't there at the time, you can usually get the little florist message cards on the counter. extra note: subscriptions don't have to be for a full year - three or six months is a very lovely gift.

side note: "of the month clubs" are a great option. they have them for pretty much anything and you can do them online at the very last second, just jotting a note in the card about what they're to expect!
at the pharmacy (most are open until 6 today but closed tomorrow)

the best bet at the pharmacy is a spa or beauty themed idea. in my opinion, though, you have to pay attention to that "gift set" look, where something just looks like it all came stitched together for $19.99. even if it does, it doesn't have to look that way, and some careful tweaking can make all the difference.

in the case of the sets that have slippers, robe, neckwrap, etc. i think the key is to remove them from the hard or crinkly plastic package and present them the way you would if you bought each item separately, so in a gift bag or gift box. it immediately makes the gift seem nicer -- so much is in the presentation. same thing with if you decide to go with one of those sets that has all the bubble bath and creams...separate them and pack them as if you bought them separately.

another good thing you can find at drug stores is cosmetic cases - but again, be watchful, as they often come three in a set, attached by small, cheap stitches. in some ways, it's nicer to detach them and just give one or two of them - the largest and the smallest. OR you can give just the largest with some beauty products inside - a couple nail polishes, nail file, hand cream, lip gloss, etc. don't think of it as how much stuff you can pack in, think of it as what would make the most sense as a gift - i always try to think in terms of related items.

you can also achieve the book or magazine gift ideas from above.

all around town

gift certificates are a great option which can be gotten pretty much until the bitter end, as most restaurants are open for christmas eve and christmas day, and would be glad to sell you a gift certificate. a nice lunch or dinner out is a welcome gift to anyone, especially after spending all their money on holiday gifts! you can also do gift certificates online almost anywhere and print them out right then and there and enclose in a card.

wine or liquor - i wrote more extensively about this idea last week, but another good option for last minute.

cold, hard cash - what is there to say, really, other than "yes please"? the best way to give cash is in crisp bills - the bank (most are open today but closed tomorrow) or ATM machines are the best since crumpled bills do not a nice gift make.

and if all you're left with is a convenience store open in your area tomorrow - you can go the scratch-off route, sometimes the flower route, or a visa or mastercard gift card some of them carry (avoid the amex gift cards, as they carry a fee). most convenience stores also have DVD's and some random assortment of phone cases, gadgets and winter warmth accessories. and my other piece of advice - get a head start next year :)

all kidding aside, happy giving and receiving...and now put down the wallet and the blackberry and enjoy the holiday.

photos from,,,,,,,
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