The last of my gift guides concerns things to hang on the wall (conventional and not), or at least hanging on a wall. A few old recommendation that has stod the test of time.
- A visit to a museum. Paying the admission and possibly a lunch in a nearby café is a wonderful gift. As the giver you should be active, have a few suggestions on hand and try find something that the person getting it likes. But you are giving the gift of it actually happening, so many people say that they wish they saw more of their own towns and this is how.
- Maps. Everyone likes map, it’s a fact. The do make great art, those “scrape the countries you have visited” ones are good fun even for fuzzy dad (i.e. mine. He liked his a lot I think). Old maps give off that Indiana Jones-vibe whilst new maps can be a great way to inspire travels to come.
- Photographs. Do that thing and turn someones Instagram feed into a poster or or a wall hanging calendar.
- Cat-calender. Speaking of calendars not a year will pass without me recommending various calendars or cards that you get when you donate to charity or that you buy to support a cause.
- Light boxes. You know the kind of thing, a white plastic box that lights up from within, you get a bunch of letter with it, and you can create your own message. They come in all sorts of sizes nowadays, but still very nice. I wouldn’t mind one myself actually.
- Voucher to get something framed. Hands up all of you that have a poster or painting at home that needs a frame before you can hang it up, and have had so the last three years. It’s one of those things. I had a good stretch when I made it happen, but it is easily to forget. And everyone around you is pretty much the same I hazard. It can mean getting an expensive customs fram, or getting three matching ones from IKEA because three of those Andy Warhol quote-posters look so good together (everyone buys them at the Modern Museum; it’s law here).
- An oriental carpet. I love hanging carpets on the wall, I hope it makes a return in interior design and will lobby for it. If the recipient doesn’t want to put it on the wall they can lay in on the floor.
Let’s talk Christmas decorations for a second. I have a few bits and bobs that has accumulated over the years; I sometimes go for the more is more look with everything I have in the tree, sometimes just a few things. But you don’t have to be limited to what the shops are telling you are Christmas ornaments; whether you are short on time or big on creative tree decorations, here are a few things that make great Christmas tree decorations, although that’s not necessarily what they are intended as.
- Holiday cards. This just occurred to me the other day, to take last years Holiday cards (saved to remember who I should send to; sent out of “The school of Nana”), use a glass to draw a circle, cut that circle out, punch a hole and out some string through it som I could hang it in the tree. I’m sure someone has thought about this before but I haven’t seen it. One card I chose to follow the shape of the print because it was so pretty but in general this is dead easy. I messed up a few because I punched the hole to close to the edge, be careful with that.
- Origami cranes. One year I folded a bunch of origami cranes in what paper and put in the tree. Very minimalist chic. Cranes are the only thing I can fold but I imagine other shapes would also be cool.
- Bows. Get thee a bunch of ribbon and just cover the tree in bows. Tying them around the branches is super easy and very stylish.
- Candy canes, cookies and candy. In short; things you can eat. I like the idea of telling guests “just help yourself to a little treat from the tree”. I usually don’t use the words “cookies” or “candy”, I did that for the alliteration, I mean gingerbread and nice chocolate in wrappers (some of those come ready with string to hang them up).
- Childhood trinkets. I thought of this the other year, how easy and fun it was to combine small childhood toys and trinkets with some gold ribbon and hang in the tree. One of my better ideas frankly.
- Playing cards. I saw this when I was out and about recently and I cannot get over it. So so brilliant.
- Crystals from a chandelier. You know how in antique shops and in flea markets they have these big boxes of crystals from old chandeliers that you can buy? Those are ever so useful and loads of nice things can be made with them actually (I’m forever about the up cycling) but having a handful to hang in the tree is a good idea, it is ever so pretty, the light obviously bounce of them like they were made for, like icicles.
Sorry about the lack of pictures, you will have to use your imagination. Trying to give you a few ideas at least.
- Actual hangers. When I moved away from home many years ago I started getting IKEA hangers, the sturdy wooden kind, and have added to them little by little. I have all matching hangers, and it makes me feel like I have my shit together. And they also keeps my clothes in good knick. Having good hangers makes dressing easier that way.( That my closet is overstuffed is another problem; the hangers are all that). Try IKEA or those velvet clad, sleek plastic ones; had I started organizing my clothes today that is what I would go for as they take up very little space.
- Cashmere socks. I’m obsessed with cashmere, I know. I also live in fear of cold feet, and I’m not the only one. Give someone you love the gift of warm feet this Christmas.
- Nice bathrobe. A rather classic gift, but useful. There are terry cloth robes for huge amounts of money, or rather cheap ones. Muji has a nice white one in that sort of waffle cloth, the high street has some really sexy ones in bold prints if you want to go down that lane. Think about the recipient and choose accordingly. I would also suggest looking at museums, I know the Museum of south-east Asian art here has some lovely kimonos.
- A nice brooch/pin. May be something that would have been a better in the “on the Vanity gift guide” but I’m throwing it in here (I forgot). They work for all sizes, come in many different styles and can be used endlessly. Don’t by the expensive little thing with gemstones, go for the slightly bigger thing with paste. Second hand shops/antique shops are good places to look.
- Cedar or lavender balls/bags/squares to keep away moth. If you can think about buying some from places like Santa Maria Novella or The White company but again Muji can be your friend here. Probably not a great gift all on its own but with some Cashmere socks? Taking care of your clothes is mentioned in all the Style books.
- A book about style. Speaking of which; a book about style is a good Christmas gift. There are at this point both big coffee table books with pages and pages of pictures of well-dressed people, and smaller books full of very practical advice. Both categories are nice to find underneath the tree. Do make sure to write a little greeting in the book, that personal touch matters.
- A shoe polish set. I’ve included this in gift guides before but it is the kind of thing for which there is a never-ending need. Buying shoe polish is very necessary but also the kind of thing that is too easy to forget. Same with sneaker cleaner.
This category is for more than foodies, almost everyone sits down at a table from time to time. So here are a few suggestions for preparing food, setting the table and what to do when the plates are clean.
- A bamboo steamer. Just after Christmas everyone swears they are gonna start living healthier, and then a steamer is a good thing to have for things like broccoli (eaten as steamed it retains more nutritional value, and taste crisper although i still like to roast it). Dumplings are also excellent food to have in the freezer and steam when time is tight. It really is some of the best fast-food. These can be found at the Asia Supermarket.
- Le Creuset cocottes (mini-pots). Both for preparing food in, serving in and eating from I swear by my Le Creuset mini-pots that I got as a Christmas present myself. It took me a while to start using them but I haven’t stopped since. Very convenient, a colorful addition and as affordable as Le Creuset will ever be.
- Nice napkins. Stop using paper napkins, reduce waste and have a little elegance in your life.
- Steak knives from Laguiole. These are unparalleled, and for life.
- Cheese board and port. In Stockholm I would suggest going to Androuet and letting them help you put something together and recommend a port (or maybe recommend a wine). I say bring back the cheese tray, don’t skimp on the crackers you hear! It is a nice gift to get as it give you something to eat on New year, or enjoy in the bleak mid-Winter post holiday.
- Tea from Kusmi. Tea is a nice and safe gift, I think Kusmi makes some of the best and the tins are so pretty too; I suggest going for the classics in the collection like Prince Vladimir or Anastasia. Marriage Frères is always an option if you can get it; expensive but very good tea. I still think often about the lovely “Casablanca-blend”.
- Boardgames, Jenga or a 1000 piece puzzle. How about a little post-dinner entertainment? I own a lovely backgammon set but don’t know how to play. A nice gift to me would be to teach me (and possibly print me some instructions). But in general I think that board games and puzzles are great things to do with family and something like Jenga is fun for everyone as it is easy to understand (even cats can join in apparently) and why not buy something like that?
This one is directed more at the females, and it is what it is. I always want to think that my gift guides are more about a type of person than a gender but in this case it is weighted towards one of them. Not that I have anything bad to say about beauty products for men; Bulldog usually has nice sets this time of year, as do Kiehl’s (and many men need a bit of moisturizer). To say nothing of the coolness in buying classic things like cufflinks/shaving sets with brush and razor for the man in your life. Below however are a few gift recommendations for the ladies.
- An actual vanity. I have my eye on auctions because old furniture tells a story and are good value. Now that everyone and their mother has bought themselves a cool vintage bar cart I predict that vanity tables will be the next hot thing, so get them now. Whether is a voluptuous art deco thing or a sleek 60s table that hits that minimalist soft spot, it does scream “self-care” and “me time”. What I hear so many people complain about is the lack of ritual, that little space in time to mentally prepare and focus on the inner. Well in my view, sitting at the vanity for a bit is just that, and putting on the make up in the bathroom is a bad idea because the lighting is never not shit. I keep coming back to an episode in a biography about Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in which (according to my memory) he called out to her from the other room “What are you doing” and she replied “Oh, I’m sitting at my vanity, just playing with my jewelry”. Goals AF.
- Scented candles. It is the little black dress of gifts, a good quality scented candle. Either expensive or hard to get i.e. something that the recipient wouldn’t buy for him or herself. I will say that “Treehouse” by Byredo is appreciated by many men. My own experience with Overrose left a little to be desired but those pink containers are covetable and I don’t judge. Ciré Trudon can do very little wrong and you know I love Diptyque. Jo Malone is good if you can get it, my respect for L:A Bruket is increasing with every product of theirs I try. And Le Labo is amazing, the Santal candle is everything.
- Sample kit from Le Labo. Speaking of which, I’m on a bit of Le Labo tip. Not 100% about all the products that I’ve tried but when they get it right it is so right. Perfumes is tricky buying for someone else, so a sample kit is a good idea. Find it here.
- Good brushes for the hair. Mason Pearson is still the gold standard. A tangle teezer is a good idea for everyone who has hair longer than the ears. Best given with some nice shampoo and conditioner. If you are giving MP you do not need anything else really.
- Good brushes for make-up. With the risk of being a bit repetitive having good brushes when applying make-up makes all the difference. It is truth universally acknowledged that those applicators that are included in many eyeshadows, blushers and powers are inadequate. With a brush from say Laura Mercier (the Laura Mercier Pony brush is all that) or Mac (some very good sets available) the putting on of any products is simplified.
- Sisley black rose mask. Or anything in that series. Just putting that one out there.
- Personalized stationary. Maybe correspondence is better handled from a proper desk but I can easily conjure up the image of a woman, taking of her make up and jeweler, writing a little “thank you” while the memory of the evening is still fresh. That sort of thing. I do like that image, let’s try to be a bit classy in 2018, pay attention to other people, be thankful, make memories. I suggest getting something from Papier because personalized is king.
Additional tips; creme d’abricot from Dior for nails and hands, Pretty Honest by Sali Huges for the know how on beauty.
First of all let me offer you one of my reflections about alcohol and Christmas; it’s not the best of combinations. I love Christmas and all the flavours and find it endlessly inspiring, and cocktails is often the result. So here I offer up a few suggestions, and I do so early in the season as it is the kind of thing that is best enjoyed with friends. Making slightly more advanced cocktails is usually a good way to keep people from drinking too much, or at least people act a little better when they drink in my experience. But when the actual holiday comes along, when it’s time to sit down to a family dinner, then alcohol is probably the last thing you need in that potent mix of rich foods and racist relatives (everyone has a racist uncle it seems). If you are on a diet, or just don’t want to gain weight then chosing water over wine is an easy way to cut calories, if you can live with the questions. Sadly people who don’t drink alcohol get their sanity questioned. Like any kid has ever wanted drunk parents for Christmas.
That said, people do drink and I would like to offer a few nice things, and I tried to make these fairly universal i.e. not dependent on weird Swedish seasonal ingredients.
- Saffron tonic (to be mixed with gin, vodka or white wine based glögg). This is a staple in my home and on the blog. No surprise to anyone but let’s go though it again. You take a small (0.5 dl) bottle of generic tonic like Schweppes and the bottle MUST HAVE A SCREW ON CAP! You also need proper saffron threads, they usually come in a tin or jar. A little harder and more expensive to buy initially but oh so easy to use (and higher quality. You get what you pay for). Then you screw off the cap, add a few saffron threads, screw the cap back on, and let it sit in the fridge for about 30 minutes. You’ll have a yellow tonic with a lovely flavor, proceed like you would a usual G&T with ice and such. As the tonic has a bit of a bite it make a good non-alcoholic alternative just on its own with ice and a slice of lemon. Very grown-up taste.
- A “Fairytale of New York”. This is a twist on a New York sour that I make this time of year, and I’ve named it after the classic, and brilliant, Christmas tune by The Pogues. It does require cold Glögg or left over mulled wine. Usually it is made with red wine and I replace that with the Christmas tipple. Instruction can be found here.
- A riff on something I drank once. At a bar in Stockholm you can have this drink with dark rum, dry vermouth and coca-cola syrup and smoke. Something that tastes really good is 4 cl of dark rum, 2 cl of dry vermouth, 1.5 cl of syrup made with gingerbread spices and 1 drop of liquid smoke. The syrup is made by mixing 2 dl of sugar, 2 tablespoons of finely ground gingerbread spices with 1,5 dl of boiling water, and whisk until all the sugar has dissolved. Let it cool before transferring to a clean jar, store in the fridge (it will keep around two weeks).
Three very simple things, each trying to pick up on an element of the Christmas palate. Given that Byredo makes three seasonal candle every year, three seasonal cocktails seemed apt. You do not need seven. No really, you don’t. That is not what this holiday is about.