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.
filed under: #HowIHygge