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A Handpresso for Father’s Day

handpresso wild outdoor set with a portable espresso machine

handpresso wild outdoor set with a portable espresso machine

For the April 2010 episode of On Est Ensemble where we had the former professional soccer player Nick de Santis as the star guest, I introduced a portable espresso machine.

I selected  the outdoor set by Handpresso because it contains the very essence of the nomadic espresso: the portable espresso machine called Handpresso Wild working with E.S.E. pods, 4 unbreakable cups, a 300 ml thermos-flask in stainless steel to have hot water always close to hand, and 2 small napkins. All that store neatly inside a small carrying case. Imagine the bright smile on the face of your dad if you show up with this kit on Father’s Day.

A Funny Moment of Web TV

But when you are recording live, things do not always as good as planned. It happened to me on my last design segment for On Est Ensemble.

The researcher for On Est Ensemble tried the Handpresso Wild before the show with success. In fact, he told me that it was easy to use. Therefore, I did not expect a miss in front of the camera. We thought that if I simply watched the tutorial video and had a look at the machine before the show, I will be alright. But making a delicious espresso with a machine that you never used before while recording a live Web TV show is not as easy as it seems. Many factors influence the quality of the coffee you produce with a manual machine. But it is also what allows the quality of a barista to shine.

My demonstration assured me of one thing. I recommend to give the Handpresso Wild only to an active person who does not mind a little exercise. To pump the machine to 16 bar requires more stamina than I imagined. Just watch the video of my design segment. There is no need to understand French to see what I mean. If you speak French, I am sure that you will laugh.

What is the right technique?

When it is done right, the coffee drops more quickly than on my design segment. This is the principle behind the espresso. Since the show, I learned what were my mistakes in handling the Handpresso Wild. So I suggest that you:

  • Go a little bit over the 16 bar mark. This way, you will make sure that you have enough pressure when you hit the press button
  • Use very hot water. Ours was not hot enough
  • Watch the .How to Use the Handpresso Video

If your coffee is dropping slowly like mine, you did something wrong. Start again. Like anything else in life, practice makes better. You can buy the Handpresso Wild machine separately. A portable espresso machine is very appealing if you live in a small space or do not wish to allocate space on your counter for the big machine.

+  Handpresso Wild ESE Pods or Dome (Ground Coffee) Version $145 CAD
+ Handpresso Outdoor Set $245 CAD – link to place an order online in Canada
+ In the States: Handpresso Wild Outdoor Picnic Set on sale at $179 USD, reg. $219  at
+ See the entire show at On Est Ensemble


Give Luck. Give Love. Give Joy.

gift love fabric gift wrap at chewing the cud

gift luck fabric gift wrap by chewing the cud

Chewing The Cud has a collection of fabric gift wraps with lovely messages. Give Luck seems to be only available in blue. It is a shame since I like it in yellow.

gift love fabric gift wrap at chewing the cud

The yellow and grey pattern of Give Love is freshly modern. This is probably my favorite.

gift joy fabric gift wrap at chewing the cud

The fuschia and lime pencil drawing style of Give Joy will appeal to recipients of all ages.

Each 28×28 inches fabric wrap costs $12. They are slightly smaller than the traditional 90 cm square furoshiki, which means that you will probably not be able to carry two bottles with a single cloth. But otherwise, you should be able to wrap a fair amount of items.

+ Fabric wraps at Chewing The Cud $12 USD


Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

silhouette family portraits and handmade soaps as mother's day gift ideas on etsy

silhouette family portraits and handmade soaps as mother\'s day gift ideas on etsy

Think about family portraits and little things that give her time for herself for this Mother’s Day. They might be the most original gift ideas but you are certain that it will please her. On those categories, I suggest:

terry bath scrubber and mitt for a mother\'s day gift ideas

+ Custom Personalized Family Silhouette Print that you will take the time to frame $22 USD by Nella Designs on etsy
+ Moroccan Mint Square-Glycerin and Goat’s Milk Soap $4 USD by KcSoapsNmore on etsy
+  Terry Bath Scrubber and Bath Mitt $15 USD and $9 at Pottery Barn


Furoshiki Making (wrapping cloth)

furoshiki techniques

furoshiki techniques

The art of furoshiki making has been across Japan since centuries. Furoshiki is often presented in Western countries as a gift wrapping alternative. But really, furoshiki making is used to carry around any everyday objects.

I had the chance to learn how to make wrapping cloth at the Edo-Tokyo museum in Tokyo, Japan. It is not complicated once you know the steps.

Demo of Water Bottle Carrier

Making a Small shopping bag

How to carry two bottles with a large cloth

How to carry books in a cloth

+ photo: Furoshiki technique chart on Instructables


Tea Bag Cookies as Party Favors

tea bag cookies as seen on frost me

tea bag cookies as seen on frost me

An adorable idea for a party are those tea bag cookies made by Kimberly of Frost Me. To reproduce, prepare your favorite shortbread cookie recipe, cut the top edges of a rectangular and punch a hole at the top. Kimberly used a round icing tip to punch the hole. When the cookies are cold, dipped then in chocolate.

The tea tags she created were perfect for a birthday. Design yours to fit with your theme.

Ideas to Gift Wrap Your Cookies

gift wrapping with cellophane bags

You could fold a piece of wrapping paper into an envelop to get a one-of-a-kind party favor, or fill a food-safe clear cellophane bag that you decorate. Get inspired by these easy gift wrapping techniques from Paper Source.

+ photo: Frost Me
+ photos of cellophane bags: Paper Source

ALL occasions GIFT IDEAS

Nature’s Tale Soap Tins

Nature's Tale Soap Tins at anthropologie

Nature\'s Tale Soap Tins at anthropologie

The tin box of the Nature’s Tale Soap Tins collection is so adorable that I would repurpose the tin box for something else. This Portugal soap collection is available at Anthropologie in four scents: Eucalyptus and Aloe, Orange Blossom, Lotus Flower With Sugar and Desert Rose & Pomegranate. They all look tempting. We always need a reserve of generic, gender-neutral presents for last minute gifts. This could be it.

+ Nature’s Tale Soap Tins $12 USD, $14 CAD


MarieBelle Chocolates’ Blue Box for Valentine’s Day

mariebelle chocolates signature blue and brown boxes for valentine's day

mariebelle chocolates signature blue and brown boxes for valentine\'s day

If you are not ready or if you already gave her the Tiffany blue box, here is another signature blue box that will please her this Valentine. I like the drawings on the artisanal chocolates. It is common these days to see design like the chocolates made by Christopher Elbow. The MarieBelle chocolates gain points for being more cheerful and adorable.

You can buy it online from MarieBelle Chocolates or find at a retailer near you that carry the collection. I spotted this gift idea on Parcel Post, the blog of Urbanic Paper, a boutique in Venice, California. I wish to leave a message to my dear husband. I saw on the store listing that it may be available at Indigo.

A must-go in SoHo

mariebelle chocolates retail space :: cacao bar and tea salon in soho, new york

I noted on my agenda a visit to the Cacao Bar and Tea Salon that is inside their retail space in SoHo. Their line of hot chocolate seems awesome and many rave about it. Another idea is to sit down for a nice cacao at their Parisian style salon. It is on the pricey side but indulgences are in order on Valentine’s Day.

+ MarieBelle Chocolates


Matcha Green Tea Shortbread Cookies by Tea Aura

tea aura's matcha green tea shortbread cookies

matcha green tea shortbread cookies by tea aura

I enjoy shortbread cookies because they are not too sweet. I bake my own but I also like to try gourmet shortbread cookies. After all, they come handy when you are in a hurry. My latest find is the Matcha Shortbread cookies from Tea Aura, a small brand located in Toronto. I could not stop eating these leaf shaped cookies with my herbal tea the other night.

tea aura\'s matcha green tea shortbread cookies

Susan Ho, the owner of Tea Aura, created 5 flavors up-to-date. Her shortbread cookies are made with butter, premium loose-leaf teas and without added artificial colors or flavors. Besides Matcha Green teas, the other flavors are Earl Grey, Rooibos Chai, Chocolate Mint and Lavender Currant. The latter is supposed to be popular.

To save time, I would stock a few since bringing two or three boxes make a delicious hostess gift. You can find the tea Aura’s cookies at selected grocers and specialty shops across Canada and at selected places in the United States. Check here to find a retailer near you.


Griffin + Chilewich Elan Form iPhone Case

griffin elan form chilewich iphone case

griffin elan form chilewich iphone case

Last November I received an email announcing the new Elan Form Chilewich Case for iPhone 3G and 3GS. I like the placemats from Chilewich. Therefore, I was intrigued by their design. But not long before, I bought a Paul Frank Julius silicone case that got too big after a couple weeks of usage. For that reason, I wanted to give a thorough test drive before introducing the Griffin + Chilewich case.

I love it! It looks great and it stays in place. I selected the light grey, which I think is more feminine than the gravel (dark grey). Do not worry about the pale color. The outer layer is covered with the same woven vinyl that Sandy Chilewich designed for her placemats. If you are looking for an iPhone case, this is one you should consider.

The Griffin + Chilewich Collection is available at the Griffin website, the Apple Store, and the MoMA Design Store.

Griffin + Threadless Collection

griffin + Threadless iphone case

But Chilewich is not the only design brand that collaborates with Griffin. Threadless is another one. You can add original art from the Threadless community of designers to smooth, sleek shells designed by Griffin. So far, only one pattern is available in the Griffin + Threadless Collection.

+ Griffin Elan Form Chilewich Case for iPhone 3GS – Light Gray $39.95 USD
+ photos: Griffin Technology’s Co-op Initiative


Cutest DIY S’mores Kits

making your own s\'mores kits by daisy chain

Look at the beautiful execution of the holiday bake gifts done by Amber of Daisy Chain. I like her attention to details. She assembled her own s’more kits that fit into a canning jar. The kit  includes the ingredients and twigs for roasting. The biggest task is to design and print nice custom labels. It is a great idea that will please everyone. Who can resist s’mores?

+ photos: Daisy Chain


Easy to Made Muslin and Burlap Gift Bags

gift wrapping bags made of burlap and muslin by maya made

How you wrapped your gifts makes a statement. People are exploring new ways than the predictable paper gift bags. For small items, I really like what Maya Made did with her rustic gift bags. Maya Donenfeld likes to recycle materials for gift wrapping, whenever it is possible. Her gift bags take literally 2 minutes to make with a sewing machine. She continued with the natural look by printing her own gift tags on kraft paper. Get the instructions on Maya Made. Lovely!

+ photo: Maya Made
+ via Julie_adore on Twitter