December 29, 2009


Large gatherings or small dinner parties are both great options for New Year's Eve. But either way, it's the perfect occasion for all things jazzy — great music, a superb cocktail and other delicate delights. Here are a few suggestions:

Happy Hemingway Cocktail

A great way to start the evening is this refreshing little champagne cocktail that's a take on the Hemingway Daiquiri and is featured in the book 101 Champagne Cocktails.
2 oz grapefruit juice • 1 oz light rum • ½ oz maraschino liqueur • ½ oz simple syrup • dash Angostura bitters • 1½ oz champagne | Shake all but champagne vigorously with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Top with champagne and garnish with a grapefruit or lemon twist. Of course, have plenty of champagne on hand {NYTimes picks under $40}.

Kick off cocktails with the soundtrack from the movie An Education including 60s pop songs performed by Mel Tormé, Juliette Gréco, Duffy, Percy Faith, and many others.

photo courtesy of Marin magazine

I love oysters and shrimp for any party especially New Year's Eve. For fresh, cold oysters [have your fishmonger shuck], serve with a traditional Mignonette [House & Garden recipe 1964].

Antique Oyster Plates are elegant to use for parties. This early 20th-century oyster plate can be found at Linda Horn and there are always hundreds available on ebay.

For shrimp, I pick the Barefoot Contessa's Roasted Shrimp with traditional cocktail sauce. I also love cold shrimp with a spicy Shrimp Remoulade from Peter Feibleman [Eating Together with Lillian Hellman]:

Shrimp Remoulade
Serves 6

1/4 cup strong mustard [Maille dijon]
2 Tablespoons paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup tarragon vinegar
1 and 1/4 cups olive oil
1 and 1/2 cups finely chopped scallions
1/2 cup parsley
1/2 cup celery, finely chopped
3 lbs of shrimp, cleaned

Combine the mustard, paprika, cayenne pepper and salt. Beat in the tarragon vinegar. Add the olive oil and whisk until thick. Add the scallions, parsley and celery. Cover and let it rest for 4 hours. Boil shrimp and cool. Serve the shrimp cold on lettuce with the sauce on top.

And of course, some Blini with Caviar and Crème Fraîche. You can find a good blini recipe on the William Sonoma website (make a day ahead). Caviar also available from William Sonoma and so is this recipe if you prefer New Potatoes with Caviar.

Soufflé photo courtesy of World on a Plate

For a smaller dinner party, follow appetizers with a perfect Soufflé Au Roquefort from The French Market cookbook. If you are hiring help for your party, this would be a great time to use them. Otherwise, grab an apron and take a kitchen break with some friends.

Roquefort Soufflé
Serves 6

4 Tablespoons of unsalted butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons milk
5 ounces of Roquefort, mashed
4 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
Freshly grated nutmeg

Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a 6 to 7 cup soufflé dish. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, remove from the heat, and whisk in the flour. Gradually whisk in the milk. Return to the heat and cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce comes to a boil and thickens. Remove from the heat. Whisk in the Roquefort, then the egg yolks and nutmeg. Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Stir one-quarter of the whites into the Roquefort mixture, then add to the remaining whites and fold together. Pour into the soufflé dish. Bake in the center of the oven until puffed and golden, 35 to 40 minutes. Serve at once.

NOTE: My cheese shop did not like the looks of their Roquefort. I used 3/4 Great Hill Blue and 1/4 Gorgonzola... sublime!

Serve soufflé with a salad of organic greens and My Dog-Eared Pages Vinaigrette:

2/3 cup of the best quality Extra Virgin [first cold-pressed] Organic Olive Oil
1/4 cup or less of rice wine vinegar [Marukan Lite] the lite tastes much better, or red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove smashed
1/2 a fork of Maille dijon
sea salt to taste (be generous)
small squeeze of fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

Put in jar and shake. Serve mildly chilled over fresh greens. Don't drown the greens!

For dessert, serve a mix of sorbets or ice cream from Jeni's with Lark Fine Foods Salted Rosemary Shortbread.

Wishing you a very Happy New Year!

December 21, 2009


drawing by artist Mark H. Dennis

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Thank you so much for your support and I look forward to seeing you in 2010! If you still have last-minute shopping to do, see the post that follows! All best to you, Barbara & Billy

December 9, 2009


I have been hunting and gathering these holiday gift ideas for a couple of months. I am sure you will find something here for everyone on your list—from nieces to boyfriends to best friends, and more. Wishing you a wonderful holiday filled with joy + inspiration. Happy present hunting!

Jonathan Adler Playing Cards in luxe lacquer box with sporty stripe $68

A-peeling anagram game that drives you bananas! And, all this fun for $19

Elegant ferns + lively leaf monoprints from artist Jane Parkes, in simple white wooden frames $160 each. To buy, please email:

I love Les Indiennes fabric and sketchbooks with indigo block-print, hot pink spine and page marker, with orange inner cover. In four sizes from $20 - $39

Playful Pixel Colored Pencils from Fred Flare. 12 colored + 1 no. 2 for $10

Indian Chief Letter Clip made of hand-cast bronze is the perfect stocking-stuffer for $10

Organic-shaped tumbler by Alex Marshall for hot or cold drinks or your pens + pencils! 3.25" w x 4" t for $24

Wonderful small works on paper by artist, Harry Stooshinoff. From $20 - $50

A Year in the Country boxed set of Beekman 1802 soaps. 12 bars of bliss capture the fragrances of a year spent at Beekman farm. $64

Cloth-bound classics from Penguin Library at Anthropologie. $20 each

Ali Top spinning from Design Within Reach for ages 6 + up. $29.75

Beverly Hills Hotel Table Reservation Decoupage Tray, 6" x 6" and backed with felt. $70

Every morning, I make a full carafe of Earl Grey in this festive red Alfi Carafe. I love it and it comes in silver and bright blue too! It's $68 and is available at

These rare and wonderful retired Royal Navy [Blue Badge] soup bowls were made in the 1960s by Wedgewood and others. Perfect for cold-weather soups and enlisted sailors!
From Deutsche Optik. 10" x 1.5" for $21 each

This handsome, worn and retired silver-plated sugar bowl from the British Royal Navy is stamped: British Commonwealth 3.5" x 6.5" $49 ea

Also retired from the British Royal Navy is this great looking creamer stamped: British Commonwealth 3.75" x 5" $42 ea

A great addition to the library of any chef is Stephane Reynaud's French Feasts: 299 Traditional French Recipes for Family Meals and Gathering. Hardcover $26.40

The perfect pick this season for decorating lovers is David Hicks: A Life of Design by his son Ashley Hicks.
"The Hicks book is THE book of the season." ~ Stephen Drucker, Editor in Chief, House Beautiful. Hardcover $40.95

Bicycle Notes for pedaling enthusiasts in café au lait from fine stationer William Arthur. 10 per box for $18

Chic + Sporty Tennis Notes in aqua blue from fine stationer William Arthur. 10 per box $18

To hold your stationery or your toast! English silver-plated toast rack from Eddie Ross, $75

Berber Pouf from ABC Home is made with organic wool from antique carpets by women in the Atlas mountains of Morocco. This size is 20" x 20" x 10" and is $165

This delightful Needlepoint [Odalisque] was adapted from a collage by artist, Jane Parkes. It comes as a complete kit with pearl cotton thread [unframed]. Size: 12" x 16.5" for $166

These cozy-fabulous slippers are molded from one piece of thick wool-felt with a suede sole. They come in great colors. This blue is called kingfisher - also in blood orange and iris from TOAST U.K. for £49

Colossal Cable Throw from Anthropologie has large cozy twists and is grand enough to get lost in for $99.95

For everyone too busy to bake cookies, head right to Lark Fine Foods. We love Salted Rosemary Shortbread with sorbet and gelato for dinner parties. And, the Cha-Chas, the Coco-Locos... so yum! Gift packs $21 +

Perfect with or without cookies... Java Dessert Plates from Home, James! These fabulous ikat-printed plates are 9" diameter. Set of four is $116

If you are a little down these days... dive right-in and stir your soul with this compilation of emotionally deep American music—rooted in country sounds. Caitlin Cary and Ryan Adams sound so good! Others too.

In a year that has been tough on print magazines, give C California Style to a friend. She'll love it! And, while you're at it, tell her about new digital Lonny. They are two great magazines!

Designed by Assouline and made by Cole Haan, this unisex Bookbag is perfect for carrying books or a laptop. Red, brown or black leather for $450

Sierra Cedar Soap combines spicy leaves of Sierra cedar with organic oils and golden jojoba. The woodsy aroma makes it the perfect stocking-stuffer for your guy. $5.10 per bar

I flipped for Flip Video last year... they are a must-have on anyone's list. My Flip comes along on all dog walks and bike rides. They are fun, easy-to-use and you can customize your Flip with your own photo, too! Starting at $149.99

This 100% cashmere scarf is a tad pricey but too lovely not to include with small zip pocket from Hermes. 8" x 86" of warm bliss at $680

Red Wing Shoes recreated this Iron Ranger boot exclusively for J. Crew, inspired from a vintage 1953 ad. That was when they reached their mid-century mark [Red Wing was founded in 1905]. Tradition in dark brown Muleskinner leather. $298

PS... my fashion PR friend Homer knows they're even better with red laces.

The perfect cashmere cap for guys or girls from J. Crew. A classic cold-weather staple in heather-nickel, navy or black for $48

I love this Hermes-orange Bolide travel case in cotton for guys or gals. Available in five other colors from Hermes. $310

Christopher Brosius has been described as one of the most innovative perfumers of the 21st Century. His shop, CB I Hate Perfume is full of perfumes created from exact experiences like Burning Leaves, At The Beach 1966, Mr. Hulot's Holdiay and many more. My pick is Tea Rose. Each fragrance is available in 2ml travel sizes for $10.

A great duo—Town & Country editor-in-chief Pamela Fiori's In The Spirit of Capri, and a pair of world-famous Amedo Canfora sandals handmade on the isle of Capri.

For the best winter skin and a great gift for your BFF, Trilogy Booster Capsules. Each capsule is full of antioxidants, Omegas, Co-enzyme Q10 and healing Tamanu oil. $45 for sixty [apply to skin]

This is a vintage-style Hermes silk twill scarf called Finish, and is part of the Scarves 70 line from Hermes. It's hand-rolled silk and is 28" x 28". $295

Kate Spade Idioms—A Bowl of Cherries is the secret message inscribed on the inside of this popping purple and red enamel bangle. $98

This elegant silk cartwheel RUFF No. 1 [I heard you call my name in a dream] is reminiscent of Abbie Cornish's costumes in Bright Star. A romantic addition to holiday looks. $148

Where the Wild Things Are... Judith Outdoor Vest from Opening Ceremony in reversible faux-fur. $415

Paynes Prairie Necklace is handcrafted from discs of horn on a silk cord with toggle closure. From Anthropologie for $298

Beetle Cuff from Vivre. This hand-inked and hand-finished entomological rendering was crafted to resemble real ivory scrimshaw. Made of resin. $170

Embroidered Flower Bags are fun and make great gifts for teen girls. A tad more refined than the typical boho barrel bag. Note: blue is more of a deep turquoise in person. Great price from Wisteria $29

Large knits are so fun to wear and now easy to make thanks to concept-store Wool And The Gang. Perfect, ready-to-knit kits—this Zion Lion Hat kit is available in ten colors for $85

Christmas-y fun Swedish Clogs in shiny Spruce Green and Burnt Orange patent leather by Sven. $123

Karen Allen Cashmere Ribbed Fingerless Gloves are this seasons pick in fun color combos for $80

Womens Mexican-inspired cotton onesie by M.I.A. for Opening Ceremony. Great for layering. $120

Two teen treats from Coach: Pop C small wallet with metallic leather trim and embossed Poppy plaque logo. $78. Holiday Pave peace sign ring $78

Burton snowboards—Custom V-Rocker Smalls for girls and boys [top + bottom]. Awesome to the maximus. Starting at $249.95

I saw one of these minimalist Cardboard Casas at a museum recently and kids were so amused by it. Doors and windows open wide! Around-the-Corner Playhouse $58

Atsuyo et Akiko jewelry for kids from Nonchalant Mom. Pink string with bunny charm and Orange string with feather are stretchy for easy on-and-off. $16

Adorable Benk collection mittens handmade with love in Amsterdam. Aqua, orange and gray. $38

Je t'aime pillow with flourescent orange or pink type, also from Atsuyo et Akiko at Nonchalant Mom for $64

This tiger cub is made from chemical free materials to protect baby and the environment. Made by hand in the Philippines. Proceeds are donated to wildlife organizations! 12.25" h from ABC Home for $65

Metal Speedcar Racer modeled after classic speedsters from the 1930s. Perfect present for energetic toddlers. Chic color and graphic details. Assembly required. $102

Barbour quilted winter dog coat with classic Tartan lining. Cord collar folds forward for extra warmth. $55

This perfect handwoven, Shaker-style Pet Basket in a dome shape creates a cozy haven for cats and small dogs. Removable fleece lining. Design Within Reach for $114.75

In the spirit of the holiday and with a deep love of all dogs... particularly my dachshund Billy, I'm including this link to Dachshund Rescue of North America.