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#HowIHygge: Holiday Gifting with Christiana

December 14, 2016

Earlier this week we showed you how Aimee does holiday gifting, with a little help from our new àplat culinary and wine tote bags. To continue our love affair with all things holiday gifting, Christiana shows us how to choose - and package - the perfect holiday gifts that everyone on your list will love.

Hygge & West: What are your tried-and-true tips for making any holiday celebration - big or small - more hygge?

Christiana Coop: These will sound pretty basic, but adding candle light or lighting a fire is by far the quickest and easiest way to make any gathering feel more intimate and cozy. Serving drinks and food in lovely glasses and dishes immediately elevates any gathering to make it feel special, I think. My mom has collected some beautiful china and crystal from England over the years and always brings it out during the holidays, which makes our meals even more festive. Plus we can always have a good chat while washing the dishes by hand after.

H&W: Gift-giving is like hygge for the soul. What are your tips for choosing the perfect gift?

CC: For the men in my life, booze is usually the answer. Otherwise I generally only give gifts that I’d want to buy for myself. Not sure that’s actually the best approach, but for my closest friends and mom it seems to work. When I was in law school, my mom came to visit and we had an extra long day out in the city. It had been raining so I remember us both being cold and tired by the time we got back to my little studio apartment. I ran a bath for her with my favorite bubble bath, lit a candle, and brought her a glass of wine, just how I like it. She still mentions how much she loved that bath.

So this year, I put together an updated gift bag of my favorite bath things. I choose a festive looking and very tasty Sangria, rose bath gel from Molton Brown, and a small H&W candle.

Then I tied everything up with some green ribbon and a candy cane.

Now if only I could gift it with some coordinating wallpaper, Jungalow style! 

H&W: What are you most looking forward to about the holiday season this year?

CC: I’m heading home to New Mexico for Christmas and can hardly wait. Christmas in NM is so full of traditions for me. I love going to Santa Fe to see the plaza in holiday lights, eating green chile when it’s cold outside, and strolling to see luminarias in my neighborhood.

David, Christiana's nephew, showing off a Christmas tree in Belize last year

Introducing Eli, Christiana's nephew, to the perfect vacation junk food combination

But Christmas is still the most fun seen through the eyes of my nephews. I spent some time with them last year in Belize for the holidays, but this year they’re heading to NM as well, and I truly can’t wait to just spend time with them. And then for New Years, I’ll be heading to New York to meet up with my boyfriend, Joe, and his kids. It’s their annual tradition to spend a week in NYC every year between Christmas and New Years and it’ll be my first time joining in. I’ve never been to NYC during the holidays, so it should be lots of fun – holiday windows, Central Park in the snow, Broadway shows, cozy cafes…

H&W: Do you have any New Year's resolutions?

CC: I really, really want to cook more. Does two recipes a month sound doable? Baby steps. I know, it’s so pathetic. One recipe I’ve made several times, so I'm confident enough to gift it, is Tartine’s savory bread pudding. I made it this year for Joe (and his dog Calum may or may not have gotten a few nibbles…). The hardest part was getting to the grocery store to pick up all the ingredients.

 

Here’s the recipe. Honestly is it so good… and basically fool proof! I did bacon instead of smoked ham. Just something to consider :)

Bring this to brunch in an àplat tote and you’re sure to be a hit! At least according to Calum.

Bonus points if you pack up Bloody Mary fixings to go along with it!

And don’t forget salt for the rim and a squeeze of lemon.

Christiana's mom and dad in New Mexico

H&W: What's your all-time favorite holiday movie or song?

CC: A Christmas Carol, the one with George C. Scott. I’ve watched this practically every year since I can remember. First just on TV with the pledge drive breaks, then a recorded version that you’d have to fast forward through, then we upgraded to a VHS, then a DVD… it never gets old! My favorite song is “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” by Bing Crosby. I’ve actually been fortunate enough to spend every Christmas with my parents, but I remember my dad telling me how he used to listen to this song when he was in the Navy and wished so much that he was back home in Iowa with his family. I think it’s my favorite song because it reminds me of him and makes me feel so grateful that we can all be together.

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Cities Toile Nursery

December 13, 2016

Take a few moments with us to tour this gorgeous Cities Toile nursery. We're in love.

Designed by Haley Weidenbaum for Homepolish, you can read more here.

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#HowIHygge: Holiday Gifting with Aimee

December 12, 2016

Aimee's seriously cute kitten, Mikko, helping with tree-trimming

There's so much to love about the holidays - from the festive decor and the soul-satisfying food, to the boozy parties and the jolly songs. But our favorite part, hands-down, is the gifting. As our friend Shujan of àplat reminds us, the moment of reveal, especially when presenting a gift, is one to be savored. We were so inspired by Shujan that we each created a short how-to for creating those special moments in your holiday gift-giving this year.

Hygge & West: What are your tried-and-true tips for making any holiday celebration - big or small - more hygge?

Aimee Lagos: Great food and holiday music! I love to cook, and holiday celebrations are a great excuse to make favorite dishes. Some of my go-tos for gatherings are the Momofuku's Bo Ssam, my mother-in-law’s enchiladas, or paella – dishes that can feed a crowd easily, and that everyone seems to love. And holiday music is a MUST! My favorites are Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Christmas or A Very Special Christmas Vol. 1 – both are fun, festive, and slightly non-traditional.

H&W: Gift-giving is like hygge for the soul. What are your tips for choosing the perfect gift?

AL: Lately, I’ve been trying to give experiences rather than things. We’re attempting to streamline the amount of stuff in our house, so I’m trying not to contribute to the same problem in friends’ and family’s homes! I love sending gift cards to restaurants or fancy ingredients for a great meal or cocktail. I try to think of something that the recipient would really want, but wouldn’t splurge on for themselves. The best gifts show that you know the person well and have made an effort to find something that they would truly appreciate. 

H&W: What gift are you most excited to give this year?

AL: We went to Paris for Christmas the year before last, and one of my favorite things was vin chaud. There is honestly nothing better than strolling the streets of Paris, all decorated for the holidays, with a cup of hot wine in your hands. So, I thought a great gift would be to recreate that, sans the Paris part.

I bought these adorable little jars, and put cinnamon sticks, allspice, cloves and a couple anise seeds in them.

Then, I got an inexpensive bottle of French wine, and a classic Stanley thermos so you can take the drink with you on a nice winter stroll.

Using our àplat Vertical Wine Totes makes the entire thing portable and beautiful, and for the piece de resistance, a little Eiffel tower as a nod to my inspiration for the gift!

My mom used to make wontons for special occasions, so I enjoy bringing them to potlucks, or just dropping by with them as a surprise treat. I’m not really big on following recipes, but here’s roughly how I do it:

Take ground pork and add chopped water chestnuts, scallions, finely minced ginger and garlic, salt and pepper, and one egg to help it bind together. Mix this really well so that the ingredients are well distributed throughout the pork, then let it sit for a couple minutes so the flavors can meld a bit. I just use grocery store wonton wrappers, though if you were feeling ambitious, you could make your own. Put a little less than a teaspoon in the middle, then spread a small amount of water over two of the edges and seal them up, making sure to get as much air out as possible.

Aimee's adorable, though unreliable helpers, Winter and Wade

Depending on how many you’re making, this can be a bit time consuming, so get people to help! My helpers couldn’t be trusted not to eat the filling, so I did this batch on my own, but usually I get my boys to help out, and Christiana’s also been known to jump in and seal wontons like a boss.

Then, heat up some oil and fry them till golden brown. I also make a sauce to go along with them which is just finely minced ginger, scallions (just the green part!), one part soy sauce to two parts rice vinegar, a bit of sesame oil and honey to sweeten it up (add to taste).

To make it feel more gift-worthy, I bought a pretty wooden bowl and a little marble bowl for the sauce, and then used our àplat Culinary Tote to package it all up!

Bring the sauce in a container with a lid, and then add when you’re ready to eat. The great thing about these is that they keep really well and they heat up quickly on a cookie sheet in the oven (don’t microwave them!).

H&W: What are you most looking forward to about the holiday season this year?

AL: Having uninterrupted time with family and friends. My husband and I both travel a good amount for work, and our boys are so busy with school and activities that we don’t have as much time together as I’d like. My parents and sister are coming and I can’t wait to just sit around the table and visit for hours. We usually travel for the holidays, but this year we decided to stay home and relax!

H&W: Do you have any New Year's resolutions?

AL: I haven’t done resolutions for the past few years because they felt like too much pressure, but I definitely look at the new year as a time to reset and focus on improving things that are important to me. Oh, actually, I do have one – start practicing the ukulele regularly again!

H&W: What's your all-time favorite holiday movie or song?

AL: Elf is my favorite holiday movie – it’s just so unabashedly sweet and hilarious at the same time. Plus, I’m a sucker for anything involving New York City at Christmas time. And my all-time favorite song is Little Drummer Boy because it was my Grandpa Ed’s favorite Christmas carol. It reminds me of him and how he embodied all the wonderful qualities (generosity, family, joy, gratitude) of the holidays year-round.

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Trending Pretty

December 08, 2016

We love these trend boards that include some of our wallpaper created at the Fall Design Trend event in Minneapolis hosted by Cambria. The above photo (including Aja wallpaper) was taken by LAB @LABMPLS at the Cambria Fall Trend Session at LAB. And the below (with our Wood wallpaper) is by @LARKANDLINEN - one of the bloggers that attended the Cambria Inside Innovation Summit.

So pretty!

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Oh What Fun!

December 02, 2016

Melissa over at The Faux Martha decorated for the holidays just perfectly (by including some of our wallpaper of course...)!

We are in love - so hygge! You can read more here :)

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Pattern Players: Shujan Bertrand of àplat

December 01, 2016

 

It's no secret that we think pattern makes everything better - your home, your wardrobe, and especially your gifts. That's why we're so excited to have just launched our àplat x H&W culinary totes - the perfect (patterned!) present for the host(ess), chef, or wine lover in your life! 

Shujan Bertrand is the founder of àplat and the creative mind behind these chic, modern, and eco-friendly reusable bags, as well as a fellow pattern enthusiast. We caught up with her to learn more about the inspiration behind her totes, the French notion of the "art of living," and why the moment of the reveal is just as important in food as it is in gifting.

Hygge & West: Tell us a little bit about your background, your business, and what inspired your totes.

Shujan Bertrand: I am an industrial designer with 20 years of experience in California, Milan, and Munich. I’ve spent the majority of my career designing consumer electronics and lifestyle products. After having children, I purposely moved away from technology and began to focus on soft goods and furniture design. I was approaching my third year at Coalesse/Steelcase when I had the idea for a tote collection.

The first tote in the collection was the à fleur bouquet tote. I was on my way to Renee Zellweger’s gallery opening of Summer School in San Francisco. I wanted to gift her a bouquet so I made a quick stop at Bi-Rite to hand pick some flowers. Much to my dismay, the cashier over-wrapped the once lovely arrangement in paper and cellophane. Not what I had in mind. I felt that the flowers deserved more respect and it actually no longer felt like a gift. This was my moment of insight: that a bouquet should be quietly seen and well dressed. It should also be cherished and reusable. That evening, I began to sew prototypes of what I thought a bouquet tote should be and shared the design idea with my husband and his parents who were in town from France. After brainstorming over coffee, I felt that something good, something new was emerging. The notion of designing a product that would elevate the moment of reveal experience to a higher level, of sharing quality things that we eat and gift was very exciting. Within a few days, not only did I design the fleur tote, I was so inspired that I also designed the complete collection of wine, food, bread, and garden totes. I continued on with my daily corporate life but spent nights and weekends refining the design and searching for a brand name. It was a tie between Sac a Tout (tote for everything) and Aplat (for dishes, is flat, or color swatch).

I finally found the courage to share my idea and designs outside of my family and the first person I could trust and think of who would give me honest feedback was Cathy Bailey, owner and creative director of HEATH Ceramics. She gave me the opportunity to put 100 àplat totes on HEATH shelves within 6 months. From March to September 2014, I held a corporate job while trying to build the brand and get it manufactured with all the core values that I still hold true to this day: zero waste, organic cotton, made in small batches, local, reusable, and reliable.

H&W: Your website mentions your connection to France. Can you tell us a little about that and how life in the U.S. differs from life in France, specifically when it comes to eating, gathering, and socializing?

SB: The French notion of the “art of living” is truly a way of life in my husband’s family. My French husband and I lived and designed in Italy and France for several years before returning to San Francisco. I designed àplat with great fondness and in memory of that happy time and in homage to my family lifestyle there. I often observed rituals of deliciously cooked meals paired with good wine along with great company that my family enjoyed all year round. I guess you can say my life was forever changed once I met my husband, followed by my move to Europe, where I experienced first hand l’art de vivre.

My in-laws' home in Nice, France—which they built from scratch—is perched on a small hill overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. They have a small fruit and vegetable garden that they pick from seasonally. In the summers, the lavender in the garden is harvested to make sachet pouches and the home is always filled with friends and neighbors who visit to eat and drink homemade wine. Every member of the Bertrand family started their personal wine collection at an early age, and it’s stored in the basement cellar. Each bottle has a special story of where it came from, and when it is finally opened that story gets shared. You may call this old fashioned, but for me, it was totally refreshing and new. It was utterly beautiful and I was in love.

I was from a different world - born and raised in Manhattan Beach, CA - and now, everyday routines take on new meaning, and those things I once thought mundane suddenly felt like art and poetry.

There are many types of tart or pie carriers out there, but the ones I admired most were my mother-in-law’s. They were made by her mother using old linens. An additional source of endless inspiration and admiration were the bread bags and pouches found in every French kitchen, along with the crates and baskets used to carry wine. These are products that have been around for ages—I simply brought them together, made them accessible, and created the àplat collection of culinary totes. This is why I say that àplat originated in France as it was inspired by the life of my husband’s family, and is deeply rooted in a culture of family and friendship, where socializing is a way of life and where generosity is a daily ritual.

H&W: We're so excited about the totes you've created using some of our favorite H&W patterns. Please tell us what attracted you to each pattern/colorway and why you think they work for your bags.

 

SB: I am so excited about this partnership. It couldn’t have been more perfect! The collaboration with Hygge & West was exactly the type of partnership I was looking for. A textile brand that had tasteful design sensibilities and with two women who are delightful and easy to connect with.

The final colored patterns Foret, Otomi, and Diamante were my top choices from our sampled prototypes. I instantly loved the Otomi because of its bold and festive look, and was drawn to Foret for its perfect combination of playful and sophisticated design. Lastly, I think Diamante in Gray really speaks to designers who love subtle accents of design.

H&W: How do you see your totes - and specifically the ones designed with H&W - being used, and by whom?

SB: I really think they make a lovely gift: perfect for the holidays, wedding party gifts, and executive gift baskets.

My favorite gift pairings:

Culinary Tote - good cookbook and a loaf of warm bread gifted inside the tote

Vertical Wine Tote - modern stocking under the tree filled with artisanal food and wine

Horizontal Wine Tote - a good bottle of whisky with 3 bitters and a few tools for mixing

H&W: You often talk about the "moment of reveal." Why is that so important both for food and gifts, but also other aspects of life, such as in the home?

SB: My designer approach has always been focused on the user experience, design, and emotional connections. As a designer, presentation is everything.

Personally, I’ve always tried to show respect and care to the person I’m offering good food, wine, or a gift to by presenting it well. The “moment of reveal” then becomes a memorable one - an experience that inspires more moments of togetherness.

In my culture, you always offer the finer things with two hands as a sign of respect. You pour your wine with the wine bottle label facing up and in line of site, not turned bottom or sideways.

The àplat tote is also meant to be left behind, to inspire the person who it was left with to have their own moment of reveal with someone else and so on and so forth; sort of like an àplat chain. Entertaining becomes much more inspiring and meaningful this way.

H&W: 'Hygge' is a Danish word that loosely translates to 'cozy.' Where and how do you find hygge in your life?

SB: My Hygge moments are many and I try to incorporate them throughout my day.

What comes to mind first are my children. Hygge, to me, means warm cuddles and hugs from my sleepy kids in the morning. It also means cooking for the family everyday. A quick coffee with a friend is very hygge as well.

At the factory, I hygge my time with the women who sew there. When I sew prototypes at the factory, I get a lot of hygge time that really delights me.

I’m also part of a wonderful supper club that meets every quarter where we cook food from around the world. Perhaps the ultimate hygge is in the company of this great group of friends sitting at a long table with our kids. We can count on a long night of plates and glasses softly clanging, food and wine being passed along, and personal stories being shared with belly laughing in between.

H&W: If you could cook a meal with any person - real or fictional, dead or alive - who would it be and why?

SB: What a fun question! Well, first I’d have Blaise, my husband, by my side and together we’d cook with Barack and Michelle Obama. I don’t have a political bone in me so the conversation wouldn’t be about global affairs, rather it would be more philosophical in nature. We’d talk about the meaning of life, diversity, spirituality, parenting, and things that could inspire an amazing, bright future. And I like the thought of cooking, eating and drinking with them casually. I like to imagine that towards the end of the evening, Blaise and Barack are in the kitchen wearing their aprons while Michelle and I are huddled in a corner sipping our glass of wine, laughing and chatting away about everything and anything.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

November 23, 2016

We're heading out today (Aimee to her family cabin and Christiana to Tokyo), so just wanted to wish you a very happy, safe, hygge-filled Thanksgiving! Hope you're able to enjoy time with family, friends, and, of course, lots of pie!

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