The Cool House: holidays
Showing posts with label holidays. Show all posts
Showing posts with label holidays. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Modern Mother's Day Gifts

Did you know that it's almost Mother's Day? A marketing opportunity like no other that is celebrated all around the world (albeit on different days)? Although I don't do Hallmark holidays, it seems everyone else does so here's a few ideas for gifts for Modern Moms.

Exclusive New York emporium Moss has some fab suggestions for the design savvy including Kiln, enamel bowls and platters in half a dozen different colours from designers Elissa Ehlin and James Leritz. They are simple, yet vibrant and modern. Price range $85-$315.

DWR has a fun lamb-shaped bar of soap made of sheep's milk $12, and something I would definitely want as a winter gift: a hot water bottle with an alpaca cover. Snuggly!


From Design Public a really cute and unusual idea: Octopi Cups by design group Cake. In white on black or black on cream, they'd make great toothbrush holders for a stylish bathroom, too. $18 each.

In case you need to know, here's what I would NOT love to receive on Sunday: a homemeade Oreo cake; warmed frozen croissants (especially a year's supply thereof); a personalized entertaining and recipe journal. Avoid here at all costs, you do not want to see my face if you have rush-shipped me their best selling Mother's Day gift: an All-Clad Waffle Maker!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

All Fall Down

We weren't planning on taking the tree down until Sunday but it had other ideas. I'd just finished cleaning up from New Year yesterday morning when I heard the crash. No animals were anywhere near the tree when it fell to the ground so we can't blame them and I closed off the room pretty smartly so they wouldn't get cut paws from the shattered ornaments. Lessons for next year: Make sure the tree is centered before you decorate it and keep it well watered; the poor thing was bone dry. Surprisingly though, it had lost hardly any needles until it hit the floor; it looked as fresh and green as did when we dragged it in two weeks ago. The tree ornaments, however, didn't fare so well. In the end we lost most of the hand-blown icicles, all the red glass ornaments and a couple of the hand-painted ones. I was amazed the whole lot didn't smash but we'll still be looking at a couple of dozen replacements next year.

We removed the rest of the decorations at the same time. The house is pretty bare now but the Satellite bowl looks good in its new home.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Knock Out

Nothing says holidays like a couple of polar bears sparring. From the best holiday windows in New York this year at Bergdorf Goodman. The full fantastical selection is here and here. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Xmas Buenos Aires Style

From the famous Galerías Pacífico, a shopping mall in a Beaux-Arts building in Buenos Aires. More photos of the murals and spectacular glass roof here.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Madness

The thing about having your end-of-year celebration at Solstice is you forget other people still have a few days of crazy left before their Happy Holiday moment. I ran to the pharmacy and was amazed to find four cars in front of me fighting over one space that was partially blocked by a UPS truck. When I got into the pharmacy there was a line. Trust me in the backwoods of Long Island that pretty much never happens. I couldn't understand what was going on until the pharmacist handed me my purchases and wished me a Merry Christmas.
I never, even back in the old days in the old countries, understood this manic urge to get out and join hundreds of others stockpiling essential supplies. After all, the shops will be open again on the 26th, won't they?
Anyway, it's cold again and we've had the big blowout meal so I've made an enormous pot of Split Pea Soup with the leftover ham bone, with that and the dried fruits we'll be good until normality returns on Friday. Merry Midwinter!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Incredible Inedible Gingerbread House

I sent out all the Gingerbread House cards to friends with children and a couple of big kids I thought would appreciate them but secretly I really regretted not keeping one for us, I wanted to play with stickers, too. Well, thanks to a kind neighbor we received one of our very own and as I didn't have a five-year old handy I decorated it myself. I don't think you can tell, can you?

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Aftermath

There are no good before shots of the decorations and certainly no during photos - too busy greeting, eating and drinking - but sufficient to say we had a rollicking good time, and I hope the guests did too. I snapped these afterwards while The House Elf, aka The Guy, was collecting glasses and bottles from various corners.

The baked ham, sliced venison (a gift from a guy with a gun) and Swedish meatballs disappeared, the salt and pepper prawns were a hit. We did serious damage to the seasonal cheeses: Stilton with walnuts and dried fruit, chevre rolled in cranberries and honey drizzled blue cheese. The ice cream and half the Solstice cake vanished, too. Friends brought more food, choux pastry puffs, shortbread, cookies, dried fruit and a white chocolate and banana gateau.

Although I make a lot of the food myself, to make life easier I outsource the finickety things. Trader Joe did sterling work as always. A few of the favorites: Spicy Almonds, Cheese and Ham Puffs, Raspberry Brie Filo Rolls and on the sweet side, Belgian Chocolate and Almond Tart, Fruits of Fancy (Turkish Delight with Walnuts) and Snowflakes (yoghurt covered pretzels). One non-edible product got a big thumbs up - Trader Jacques' French Liquid Soap, a little whiff of French perfume for less than $4 a bottle. You can't beat that, can you?

I've spared you the worst of the clean-up, the glasses, empty and half-empty bottles and plates on the sink side of the kitchen. Those bottles on the island are gifts from the partyers and in the big Le Creuset, the remains of the gluhwein we drank to keep out the fast-falling frigid air.
This morning we breakfasted on wonderful leftovers - awesome curried prawn puffs (courtesy of the Awesome Designer) and Buckwheat Salad (from our Buenos Aires-loving South African friends) - while resisting the temptation to heat-up the leftover gluhwein. It's 13 F out there but it's still a work day.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Solstice Tree

Sometimes I can be a tad sarcastic about life in the 'bay but I can't fault our local firefighters. Knowing we would miss the annual tree sale while in BA, we gave them a handful of dosh and asked if they'd pick out a 7'-8' tree and deliver it. When I got home there was a huge tree hidden around the side of the house (in case of tree thieves, I suppose) but I didn't realise how fantastic it was until The Guy came home from Sao Paulo and we were able to erect it. Thanks Halesite Fire Fighters.

We finally decorated it this morning. Yes. I know it's leaning left but don't you think that's appropriate in this house? Anyway it's very festive, just don't call it a Christmas tree!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Gingerbread Blueprints

Remember this? Did it inspire you to make your own, knowing no matter how it turned out it could never be as bad as that one. Perhaps you yearn to build your own home? Why not give it a trial run in relatively cheap gingerbread dough first? Would you choose a modern house, a Cape Cod Cottage or Bungalow style perhaps? There are 12 designs to make your Gingerbread House more personal in The Gingerbread Architect by Susan Matheson & Lauren Chattman, and maybe inspire your home renovations, too. Have fun.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Perpetually Merry Modernist Tree

The Richard Babcock designed Possibilitree from DWR: Limited. Only seven were available and they seem to have been snapped up quickly. DWR:Limited is just what the name suggests - a limited run of items, vintage and modern, with a different one available daily for the next three weeks. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Calorie-free Gingerbread House

Do you think I'll make a better Gingerbread House with this holiday card and its stickers?

With luck it may end up like this. Lots and lots of luck, that is. And a steady hand. Hmm, don't hold your breath. I think I'll just send them out.
Available from MoMA at a huge discount if you buy any three packs of cards and are a member.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Cake or pity? is having a Home for the Holidays Contest, with a real live prize, so I was flipping through my photo files to get inspiration for this year's holiday decorations when I happened upon this gem from our first end-of-year holiday at The Cool House back in 2004.
No, a two year old did not produce this monstrosity, I did it all by myself. What's worse, I used a kit. Deeply, deeply sad.
The houseblogs competition ends Wednesday November 19 2008, so get yourself over there quick if you want to enter. Me? I'm off to hang my head in shame.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


This afternoon I made Stollen, a non-traditional recipe* without marzipan or glacé cherries, which I hate.

I was going for just one loaf but I could see by the amount of risen dough that this was going to deliver many loaves.

In the end I shaped it into five equal amounts, one to eat now and the rest to be frozen or given away.

I glazed them with lemon icing, which made them shiny, but I think I'll give them another coat when they cool down so that it will look more like snow on top.


1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/2 sticks butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 pkgs dried yeast
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup candied golden raisins
1/2 cup candied citrus peel
1/2 cup slivered almonds

1 cup sifted confectioner's sugar
I tblsp lemon juice

Heat milk until almost to hot to touch. Add sugar, butter, and salt, and cool to lukewarm. Add 2 whole eggs, and 2 yolks. Mix.
Add to flour and yeast. Mix, knead (I use a mixer with a dough hook) and let rise until doubled in size.
Mix in cardamom, raisins, peel, and almonds. Knead. Cover and let rise again.
When risen, cut into 4 pieces. Roll each into an oval, fold in half lengthwise, butter all over. Put on greased baking sheet, cover, and let rise until doubled.
Bake at 375 degrees F for 25 minutes.
Remove to rack. While still warm mix confectioner's sugar with lemon juice and spread over Stollen.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Don't forget your breakfast

Happy Dag van de Sint!
Tonight in the Netherlands and tomorrow in Belgium is the time when all good children get their presents fron St Nicholas (Sinterklaas) and bad children get a whip from Black Pete's (Zwarte Piets) switch.
I usually don't start any Xmas shopping, baking (except for Xmas pudding) or decorating (except for the wreath) until we've done Sinterklaas, but as there are no children in the house this year I began early. To celebrate I made some speculaas. You would not believe how good the kitchen smells with the butter, molasses and spices.

I also collected holly, spruce, fir and pinecones and made some decorations for the light posts on the drive.

And finally, a reminder that a hearty breakfast sets you up for the whole day, here for your audio/visual pleasure is DJ Nicky & Ontbijt Piet with a special Sinterklaas version of "Jump de Hele Dag": "Vergeet je Ontbijt Niet" (Don't forget your breakfast) courtesy of Verity in Brussels. You have been warned!

Sunday, December 02, 2007


The first snow of winter. Good thing I spent a few moments yesterday putting out the snow poles. It's too light to plow but the ground is getting pretty frozen now and those things will be difficult to "plant" in a few days. We also put up the exterior tree lights so it looks pretty at night time.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Outdoor decoration

Autumn 2007, Vineyard Rd
I gave my neighbor a huge bag of pine cones from that giant fir tree in the photo, and we clipped some Hinoki (False Cypress) and Holly (in foreground of photo) from the front of the yard. She provided the bows, wrapping and expertise and made this beautiful mail box cover. Isn't that awesome?