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ALL occasions GIFT IDEAS

A delectable indulgence with Christopher Elbow

artisanal chocolate by christopher elbow

After a visit to the fantastic gallery style shop Rose and Radish in San Francisco, I spot one or two street corners later another retail delight for the senses. This time, it was the shop of the artisanal chocolate maker Christopher Elbow located on Hayes Street.

It was the fashionable design of the store that first caught my eyes from across the street. As I looked further, I realized that it was a fine chocolate shop.

I am passionate about fine chocolate so I could not passed by this opportunity. The red featured wall, dark brown wood and the white décor of his retail place pleased me. The packaging evokes modern luxury.

About the Chocolate

These decadent pieces are hand-crafted one at a time. The modern patterns are amazing. The chocolate decorations are created using sprays, templates or hand painting techniques. So each piece is unique.

My husband and I ate our box of 9 pieces for dessert two nights ago. They taste as good as they look. We tasted:

  • Caramel with Fleur de Sel
  • Madagascar
  • Ecuador
  • Persian
  • Fresh Lime
  • Rosemary Caramel
  • Strawberry-Balsamic Caramel
  • plus two identical rounds pieces that were delicious but that I cannot find the names

This is an artisanal chocolate with no preservatives made in small batches. It must be eaten within 2 to 3 weeks. They were enough customers while I visited the shop to not worry about the freshness of what you buy. Finally avoid storing any fine chocolate in the fridge to preserve their full flavor.

Christopher Elbow had a special packaging for Christmas but I did not see anything for this upcoming Easter. It is sad!

A Design Idea to Take Home

I want to point out a clever design element of the lounge area. Between each seat, a small table rest on the couch so you can put your drinks and plates. There is still small lighted coffee table but the place was packed and it seems that almost everybody prefer the raised tray on the cough.

Gift ideas

For a hostess gift, especially if you go to a house with kids, you can bring a tin box of hot cocoa. I suggest the Venezuelan Spiced Drinking Chocolate, a dark chocolate blended with chilies and spices to create a cup of rich.

The Chocolate Covered Nuts sounds pretty good to. You have the choice of almond, hazelnuts and spiced almonds.

Where to buy: Christopher Elbow Artisanal Chocolate

ALL occasions GIFT IDEAS

Mid-century miniatures for the collectors

miniatures by vitra

I am huge fan of mid-century furniture but the style does not fit with my current décor. One way to incorporate them into any home is through a collection. Vitra made exact replica in structure and materials of the mid-century classics reduced at a 1:6 scale.

Collections bring character to a room. If you display them cleverly, they act as conversation pieces. With chairs, you can let your imagination guide you. You see the Arne Jacobsen EGG chair sitting on a tray. The chair even swivels on its base.

If you are a fan of the museum look or you live with a cat or dog, why not get Lucite Vitrine Display Boxes at Miniature Chairs to protect the miniatures from dust and finger prints.

Buying tips

Each miniature comes handsomely packaged in a wood box with an informational booklet about the chair. A miniature costs $130 USD and up.

Vitra miniature chairs are available in several design stores. Canadian shoppers will be happy to know that Gabriel Ross has a huge selection and the prices are almost at pair.

For Americans, Miniature Chairs seems to have the largest selection. Unica Home also carries other brand miniatures, not just the Vitra chairs. You can find a mini Graves kettle for Alessi,a bonze gold stool miniature by Philippe Starck.

Furnishing a modern doll house

Why not furnish the Villa Sibi modern doll house with all these cool miniatures furniture and accessories? My husband knows that this is a dream of mine. I am waiting to find the right spot for it first; a spot that my cats could not reached.

For children who visit you during the holidays, get the Bauhaus Model House on sale at $20 at Miniature Chairs and let them play in style.

Note: The Free Form Sofa designed by Isamu Noguchi is not available in miniatures but I enjoy the organic form.

For Americans: DCW Plywood Chair by Charles and Ray Eames at Miniature chairs – price: $140 USD
For Canadians: Vitra Miniatures Eames DCW at Gabriel Ross – price: $160 CAD
Buy online: EGG by Arne Jacobsen at Miniature Chairs – price: 375 USD
Buy online: Vitra Mini Le Corbusier Lounge at Design Within Reach – price: $395 USD
Buy online: Vitra Miniatures Nelson Marshmallow Sofa at Gabriel Ross – price: $684 CAD
Buy online: Vitrine Display Boxes at Miniature Chairs – starts at $44 USD for a 4 inch box, up to $248 for a 12 inch box
Buy online: Vitra Mini – Eames LCM Chair at Design Within Reach – price: $170 USD
Buy online: Vitra and other miniatures at Unica Home

ALL occasions GIFT IDEAS

Double-Take: a retrospective of Bettina Forget’s paintings

bettina forget\'s double-take retropective

To make your dinner party more special, think about adding a little field trip.

Tips on how to entertain your guests

Visiting a small art exhibition in a private gallery forms an ideal activity because it does not take too long. They occur all the time so you get no problem finding one at the last minute.

You can invite your friends for a casual dinner at your place or if it is still early, stop for a drink at a cool bar before dining.

The secret of a great event is to have several activities and moving around. When you do that, you always feel that the night was more exciting. Plan for activities that are nearby and that are easily accessible by everyone.

If you invite people who do not know each other, the opening activity acts as an ice breaker. The conversation will be livelier at dinner.

About the Double-Take exposition

Bettina Forget is an adorable talented artist. We went to her latest vernissage last Wednesday. I mixed pictures taken by my husband with some of her own to give you an idea. If you are looking for more significant Christmas gifts, consider paintings. For collectors and home décor fans, paintings can be at the top of their wish lists.

For this retrospective of her work, Bettina Forget has selected pairs of paintings from her various series dating from 2000 – 2007. Featured are paintings from her Weather Diaries, Helios Series, We are Stardust Series, and the Neutron Star Series. The exposition is held until Tuesday, December 4, 2007 at Visual Voice Art Gallery.

Visual Voice Art Gallery
372 Sainte-Catherine Street West, Suite 421
Montreal, QC
View maps

Bettina rents the front section of her studio to other artists so they can expose their art works. If you want to easily keep track of the vernissages at her gallery, Bettina has a group on Facebook.

Learn more: Visual Voice Art Gallery
Blog: Inside the Artist’s Studio – blog of Bettina Forget

ALL occasions GIFT IDEAS

Feeling cozy under the Christmas tree


Every year, Second Cup introduces a new holiday gift collection. Their catalogue is small and reflects trends. This year cozies and knitted bags share the spotlights.

If you are good at knitting and have the time, you can make your own. I am sorry that I did not find a pattern draft online but I guess it is not too hard to make if you have a teapot with you. Otherwise, make a gift set with a few mugs or a teapot from Second Cup, each with a removable cozy.

The cozy for the travel cup is more for aesthetic purposes but it looks so comfortable. If the gift recipients do not carry their own cup, why not knit a cozy for disposable cup? At least, there will be one less thing that they will throw away. And it is easy to carry in your purse all the time.

For wrapping your gifts, Second Cup proposes cute knits bags and fake leather magazine baskets. Because people will reuse the containers in their everyday life, these options are eco-friendly.

Learn more: Holiday catalogue at Second Cup

ALL occasions GIFT IDEAS

Digging a new North American source for the folding flower vase Vazu

Vazu vase: foldable and reusable flower vase

While shopping online at Gone Shopping earlier this week, I get my hands on the Vazu flower vase that I spoke earlier.

Three patterns are available for $10 CAD at Gone Shopping, a Canadian online retailer. They ship to Canadian and American addresses.

I received my package today. After inspections, Vazu is well-made and cute. Basically with Vazu, you can bring a bouquet in a vase without worrying of breaking the vase. Ideal for a simple housewarming party or a hostess gift. The vase is reusable.

Buy online: Vazu vase collection at Gone Shopping

+ Montreal-based TOMA expandable flower vases
+ Expandable flower vase at Plastica of Los Angeles
+ Christmas Vazu Collection at Vases by Vazu

ALL occasions GIFT IDEAS

A stylish teacher note pad by Bonnie’s StylePress

Teachers are special note pad by Bonnie's StylePress

It is back to school time again. Parents of young children often give a little something to the new teacher of their child. It is a wonderful idea.

You can send homemade cookies. But I think you will make an even better impression by sending this remarkable Teachers are Special note pad. It will take you no time since the pad is already wrapped in a cello bag with a red grosgrain bow. You just need to slip in your mom & dad calling card under the bow.

An interview with Bonnie Marcus done by All the Best reminded me of this fabulous stationery. I always like the design of Bonnie’s StylePress, dba Bonnie Marcus & Co. And it seems that I am not alone since you can found her stationery in over 1,000 retailers around the world, including Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s, Barneys New York and Kate’s Paperie.

Bonnie Marcus won American Express 2006 “Make Mine a Million Business” contest for women entrepreneurs. She regularly mentors other women looking to start their own business while having time to be a mother. Bravo Bonnie!

Introducing a stylish blog

The blog All the Best was founded in January 2007 as an online guide to stylish living. The editor is a native Texan woman now living in the United Kingdom. Daily posts range from design, wine, shopping, travel, fashion and art. Take a look; this is a blog you will probably enjoy.

Learn more: Web site of Bonnie Marcus & Co. StylePress
Via: Interview: Bonnie Marcus published on All the Best blog

ALL occasions GIFT IDEAS

Another source for expandable flower vases at a Los Angeles retailer

Expandable Flower Vases available at Plastica

For my readers in the United States I got a good and a bad news. The good news is that I dig up a source in the United States for a flat pack flower vase similar to the Vazu vases I spoke about last week.

The patterns are cool and lively. These nicely shaped vases are made in Japan. They seem to be as strong and durable as Vazu.

Plastica is a hip boutique filled with unique items from around the world as well as products by local designers. You can get these expandable flower vases at their boutique located in Silverlake, Los Angeles or buy it online.

The bad news is the price. This brand is twice as expensive as Vazu. Being made in Japan partially explains why it costs more. But at $26, it is still affordable; you just have to spend less on flowers for your housewarming gift.

Buy online: Expandable Flower Vases available at Plastica

+ Digging up a North American source for Vazu

ALL occasions GIFT IDEAS

Montreal-based TOMA is another brand for expandable flower vases

Flower vases by TOMA

My friend Mélanie commented an hour ago about these vases on my blog. Her tip was so interesting that I decided to highlight this product right away.

The vases from TOMA display interesting illustrations. You can choose between a fern, blue grass, a Japanese proverb, red fish, kitchen utensils or a face with a heart (better for Valentine Day).

The comparison

They cost less than the Vazu vases that I presented yesterday; $4 CAD for a small vase, $5 for a large vase. From the pictures, these vases seem to look more plastic, a little bit less refined than Vazu. But for the price, I cannot complain. Where else can I easily carry my flowers in an original vase for an extra $4. And this product is more widely available in stores.

Several florists in Canada and the USA carry the line. You can grab everything in one stop. Check out the “Where to buy” section of TOMA’s Web site to find one near you. You can also buy directly online from TOMA.

One tip when you bring flowers as an hostess gift

It is more thoughtful and practical to bring flowers in a vase as a hostess gift or a housewarming gift. The host of an event has already many things to care of so make it easy for him / her to receive your gift.

TOMA is also an outgrowth of Thomas design+communication, which began using objects as part of its communication strategy several years ago.

Buy online: Expandable flower vases by TOMA

ALL occasions GIFT IDEAS HOSTESS gifts

Introducing an expandable flower vase named Vazu

Vazu flower vase by T.H.+E. Design Group

This post is about an innovative product that makes an affordable hostess gift or housewarming gift. This does not mean that you cannot just bring a couple to your home.

Update August 22, 2007:
Stop by the florist to get fresh flowers and your hostess or housewarming gift is set. I appreciate the fact that I can bring the vase with a bunch of flowers without having to carry a heavy lift. And there is no chance to break the vase either. (Thanks to Eden – see comments).

A one of a king flower vase design

Vazu is a flower vase like you have never seen before. What is so special about Vazu is that it is thin as a paper sheet when it is flat. And do not be fool by how little it weights, this flower vase is strong and durable.

Once you filled it with water, the transparency and glossiness of Vazu resembles a glass vase. The first collection of Vazu contains 16 models in three different shapes. The arrays of patterns mix modern and classic designs. Vazu is the design of T.H.+E. Design Group located in Israel.

Sold for $12 CAD at The Water Shoppe in Toronto, this expandable plastic vase enables you to carry around flowers without a leak. At this price, you can afford to use them as the vase centerpieces for a large family affair event.

My dose of Sweet Nothing

I discovered Vazu via the Sweet Nothing newsletters. Since Joanna Track launched it in June 2004, subscribers to have received a daily fix of trend spotting lifestyle and shopping guide in their inboxes Monday through Friday. There are five editions: Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver and Sweetmama.

Learn more: Web site for the Vazu flower vase designed by T.H.+E. Design Group
Learn more: Web site of

+ Montreal-based TOMA expandable flower vases
+ Expandable flower vase at Plastica of Los Angeles
+ Christmas Vazu Collection at Vases by Vazu

ALL occasions GIFT IDEAS

Simply clever Reisenthel shopping bags brings colors to my world

Even if I wasn’t there, I have to agree with the Chicago branch of Apartment Therapy the best of the 2007 International Home and Housewares Show was Reisenthel. I based my assessment on the reports I read today from other bloggers.

The TreeHugger in me was looking for sleek, urban and light weight shopping bags. I do most of my grocery European shopping style which means that I do it every day. I do it like this because I eat what I am craving for and I get fresh ingredients. Living in the heart of city makes it possible. Three grocery stores plus a few specialty stores are at walking distance between my work place and my house. I just grab what I need when I go back home.

With their colorful and simply clever products, Reisenthel convinces me to act right away. I began my search on where to buy online the Orange Reisenthel Carrybag, a collapsible tear proof polyester and sturdy aluminum basket. I find it in a Canadian store, even better. The Reisenthel Carrybag costs 65 dollars CAD. I also spend 13 dollars on a Lime Reisenthel Bottle Bag. I can carry 9 bottles with it. The Bottle Bag will be practical on the patio this summer. I will look neat when I return my recyclable bottles to the store.

I will follow up when I receive them. is where I got them. Shipping on Canadian orders is free if you spend over 79 dollars. Shipping costs 15 dollars for the USA.

Chicago – Apartment Therapy says that Reisenthel products are available at The Container store but none were on their Web site. Maybe, they got them on stores. If you know, can you write a comment?

Chris of The Kitchen – Apartment Therapy made another interesting report and gave us links to more news on the 2007 International Home and Housewares Show. The Kitchen – Apartment Therapy talks about a lunch box that sounds intriguing.

+ Web site of Reisenthel
+ Reisenthel collection available at
+ Live from Chicago: Home & Housewares Show Report II on The Kitchen – Apartment Therapy
+ Via Best of the Home and Housewares Show: Reisenthel on Chicago – Apartment Therapy