Christmas is around the corner in these parts, although that is not the case everywhere. With the last few days of preparations, and influx of friends from out-of-town and a distinct need not to sit in front of my laptop all the time, I will leave you with a picture from Christmas last year and go join in on the actual celebrations.
I wish you all a lovely weekend and a Merry Christmas if you celebrate it, and return with book reviews, cocktails and everything else on the 27th of December.
Having published all I have in terms of gift guides (On the wall, On the go, On the table, On the vanity, On the hangers and On the bar cart) in addition to what is on my mind and plenty of encouragement to listen to Wham’s “Last Christmas”, I give you a few more Christmas time ideas because I get the impression that people are having a hard time getting into the Christmas spirit this year. Yes; it’s been a rough year for us all, when someone gets in touch it is rarely to say “good tidings we bring, to you and your kin” but rather “did you see that Trump tweet?”. Joy to the world is needed sorely, and remember what John and Yoko sang “war is over, if you want it”.
- Kiss under the mistletoe. I was eyeing gifts at Papier.com and saw that they had put up this pretty spectacular craft of a mistletoe in paper. I will try to make one myself.
- Binge the series “Dickensian”. BBC did us all a favor the other year by putting all of Dickens stories in a pot and stirring it. Out came a crime drama, where Marley has been killed, inspector Bucket is on the trail and a slew of characters well-known from the books pass by in no particular order. A lovely thing to watch, jolly good fun. I’m five episodes in and I still have no idea (wouldn’t mind framing Fagin for it though).
- Read “An almost perfect Christmas” by Nina Stibbe. In the book Stibbe worries that the book itself might become a “bulker upper” i.e. that little thing you buy to make a presents “a little more”. She shouldn’t worry, I’m sure this will become a classic stocking stuffer, because it is the perfect thing to dip in and out of during the Christmas holiday, reading aloud to friends and family, but it will not remain unread and gather dust somewhere. A few little shirt stories of fiction, a few real life dramas and a section of gift giving. So much of thus book is funny, because it is true.
- Snaffle on some gingerbread. They have released a limited edition of gingerbread with licorice. It is divine. I’m gaining weight and don’t care it’s so good. If you can get it, get it!. Otherwise those almond specula’s from Jules Destropper are the divine.
- Avoid Band Aid’s “Do they know it’s Christmas” at all cost. Yes, all over Africa they know it’s Christmas. Partly because the Catholic Church has been very active in recruiting new members to their church on that continent, the rest have a religion that doesn’t celebrate the birth of christ (if a religion at all; atheism is winning ground everywhere thankfully) so they don’t care. I’m still waiting for the high-life remix of that song, or some cool rappers from Kenya doing a version called “Do they know it’s Kwanzaa?”.
- Hope that your jewish friends invites you to celebrate Hanukkah. It’s the festival of light, and weirdly named and very tasty jam filled donuts play a role in the celebrations (and chocolate coins!!). I brought kosher wine and a good mood, and I invite them to my house right around now so they can enjoy a Christmas tree.
- Get a tree. It is a luxury, and I’ll be stepping on needles from it until midsummer but it does bring such joy. The smell of it, the look of it, the joy of it.
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?