Get your home ready for the holiday season with these helpful tips & tricks.
The holiday hustle can make the season seem daunting. The Moody family has some tips on how to make it exciting once again.
When November hits, the pressure is on for any busy family. The real challenge, however, is keeping the holidays as fun and stress-free as possible. Despite hectic careers, hockey tournaments, theatre performances and family gatherings, Surrey, B.C., designer Lisa Moody of Grapevine Designs tackles this feat with panache, along with her husband, Ron, and their kids, Svea, 14, Eston, 12, and Eli, 9. Here, we get a glimpse into their stylish 6,900 sq. ft. home, plus a few of the festive traditions that make Christmas especially merry for the Moody clan.
Homeowner and designer Lisa Moody made this advent calendar garland 10 years ago by combining her kids’ stray socks with some Christmas-themed ones bought on sale after the holidays.
“There will be a day when I’ll have a formal Christmas tree,” says Lisa with a laugh. But when three kids are contributing to the scheme, bright, fun colours and childhood mementoes reign for now.
“We decorate our faux tree at the end of November. It’s nice to get the decorating done early so we can enjoy the season longer.”
The kids (from left), Svea, Eli and Eston, hang out with Lisa (far right) and enjoy Christmas treats in the dining area. The simple modern table and chairs are durable, practical choices for family mealtime.
Lisa packages presents using plain white kraft paper jazzed up with colourful and patterned ribbons as well as left over scraps of holiday gift wrap.
The fireplace, which has a soaring marble-clad surround, is a focal point for the family during the holidays. Can you spot the Elf on the Shelf? It sits in one of the the built-in maple cubbies and is the origin of many hilarious holiday shenanigans.
The Moody home is the place for family parties during the holidays, and the island in the kitchen, with its yellow wooden stools, is where everyone gathers.
“When a big dinner party seems too overwhelming, we’ll have friends over for cocktails and snacks by the fire.”
Lisa hosts a Christmas party for the kids and their friends. This year, they’re decorating gingerbread cookies and enjoying hot chocolate in festive mugs with marshmallows, candy canes and chocolate chips.
Buying guide: The truth about thread count
Is there anything better than sliding into a bed laden with good quality sheets? At the end of the day, I can't wait to stretch out under my fresh, soft covers and nestle my face into a good cotton-covered pillow. We spend a third of our lives in bed so quality sheets are key, but how do you get quality for your money? There's no doubt that most consumers believe the higher the thread count, the better the quality, but this isn't entirely true. With the help and expertise of Joanna Goodman, owner of Au Lit Fine Linens, we expose the truth about thread count and what it takes to find quality bed sheets.
What is thread count, really?
Simply put, thread count is the number of threads woven into one square inch of fabric. This number is based on the threads woven horizontally ("weft") and vertically ("warp"). Extra threads can also be woven into the weft threads to increase the thread count. These added threads are called "picks" and are added in the overall count, which is how some sheets end up having thread counts in the thousands. This is why the idea that high counts equal better quality isn't really accurate. Consider this: Joanna says most weavers will say the maximum number of threads that can be woven into one square inch of fabric is 500 to 600. Though the number is arguable and, according to Joanna, "depends on the mill you deal with," it gives you an idea of where the line is between single-ply, unpicked weaves and ones that add threads here and there to bump up the count.
What to look for when buying sheets
Joanna lists three things to look for on the label: if it's Egyptian cotton, where it's woven and, lastly, the thread count. While thread count is a bit misunderstood, the buzz around Egyptian cotton is true. "The very best cotton in the world is grown in Egypt. So Egyptian cotton will be of a better quality," Joanna says. She also recommends pima cotton, which is grown in America, "though not quite as exceptional as Egyptian." When it comes to weaving, however, she swears by the Italians as being the "master weavers of the world" due to their "long tradition of weaving" and use of the best Egyptian cotton. Be sure the label says 100% or pure Egyptian cotton though, otherwise it may only contain a small percentage of the good stuff. As for the thread count, look for a minimum of 200. From there, it's all about preference!
What to avoid when buying sheets
Joanna's one key piece of advice is to watch out for extremely low priced, high thread count sheet sets. A complete sheet set with a high thread count for $100 or less is probably not the dream bargain you think it is. As Joanna believes, "you always get what you pay for." The price tag for bed linens will vary depending on the sheet size and what items you're buying, such as a duvet cover, sheet sets, or pillowcases. "A superior quality 200 thread count queen set (including flat, fitted, two pillowcases), made of Egyptian cotton and woven in Europe, could retail reasonably for about $150-$250," says Joanna.
What do you prefer?
After going through the quality checklist, go with what feels best for you. If you're looking for a durable linen, Joanna recommends any percale from thread count 200 to 800. Percale is any cotton woven with a 200 thread count or higher and will be more durable than a cotton satin of the same thread count. It's also less likely to pill than cotton satin because it has a denser weave. Love the feel of a cotton button down shirt? Joanna advises a crisp, dense 200 thread count percale. Prefer a silkier sheet? Go for a 300 to 600 cotton satin. If you want lighter sheets, Joanna says, a 400 thread count sheet can be soft and light, while an 800 percale would be soft and dense. The higher the thread count, the more likely multiple-ply thread is used or picks are added, making the fabric denser and heavier.
Now you know that quality is not just about the number, so don't let numbers rule your bed! Remember what to look for on the label and be wary of too-low prices for supposedly high quality items. Beyond that, go with what you prefer. Get a good feel of the sheets before buying. Whether you're unzipping the packaging or lying down on a display bed, make sure the fabric feels good against your skin and soon you'll be having sweet dreams!
Find out how to keep your new linens crisp and clean with our tips to whiter-than-white sheets.
Make this twist on traditional lasagne with this recipe from Elana Karp and Suzanne Dumaine's new cookbook Plated.
1 Preheat the oven to 425°F.
2 On a baking sheet, toss the mushrooms and squash with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and salt and pepper.
3 Arrange in a single layer and roast until tender, about 18 minutes.
4 While the vegetables roast, strip the stems from the kale leaves, then cut the leaves into bite-sized pieces. Thinly slice the garlic. In a large pan, heat the remaining olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the kale and garlic and cook until the kale is wilted and bright green, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper; set aside.
5 Remove the roasted mushrooms and squash from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 400°F. Using a fork or spoon, mash the squash.
6 To make the béchamel sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. When the butter is foamy, sprinkle in the flour and whisk until the mixture is smooth and golden, about 2 minutes. Slowly pour in the milk, whisking continuously, until no lumps remain. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thick and coats the back of a spoon, 6 to 7 minutes. Season with the nutmeg, salt and pepper. Add 1/4 cup of the Parmesan, stirring to combine; remove the pot from the heat.
7 Spread a thin layer of the béchamel sauce over the bottom of a 9" x 13" baking dish. Add a layer of the lasagna noodles, followed by a layer of squash and mushrooms, the kale, more sauce and a sprinkle of Parmesan. Repeat to make 2 more layers: noodles, vegetables, sauce and Parmesan. Top with a final layer of noodles and the remaining béchamel sauce. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan and the Gruyère.
8 Loosely cover the dish with foil, transfer to the oven and bake until the lasagna is bubbling, about 30 minutes.
9 Increase the oven temperature to 450°F.
10 Uncover the lasagna and continue baking until golden, about 10 minutes longer. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before cutting into pieces. Wrap with foil and store in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month. To reheat, microwave the lasagna or warm it, covered, in the oven at 350°F.
Excerpted from Plated by Elana Karp & Suzanne Dumaine. Recipes Copyright © 2016 Elana Karp & Suzanne Dumaine, Photography copyright © 2016 Robert Bredvad. Excerpted by permission of Clarkson Potter/Publishers. All rights reserved.
Add these tasty thumbprint cookies to your holiday baking list! Credits: Maya Visnyei
Try this decadently delicious spin on the traditional thumbprint cookie.
Offering a twist on a classic is something that comes up a lot in the Style at Home offices, but it’s never been as yummy as this. Our take on these traditional holiday cookies replaces the usual jam with three of our favourite sweet spreads – pure genius, if we do say so ourselves.
1 Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2 In a large bowl, beat the butter with the icing sugar until fluffy; beat in the vanilla.
3 In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, ginger and salt; stir into the butter mixture just until the ingredients are combined and come together to form a dough.
4 Shape the dough into thirty-six 1" balls.*
5 Arrange 1" apart on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Press your thumb into the centre of each ball, leaving an indentation; pinch together any cracks around the edges.
6 Bake until the edges of the cookies are golden, about 12 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the sheets for 3 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely.
7 When the cookies are cool, spoon a scant 1 teaspoon of filling into the well of each one.
*To roll the cookies in nuts, whisk 2 egg whites with 1 teaspoon water until frothy; place finely chopped nuts (such as pistachios, walnuts or hazelnuts) in a bowl. Using a fork, dip each dough ball into the egg mixture, then into the nuts to coat. Place on the prepared baking sheets and continue with the recipe as directed. To dust with cocoa or cinnamon, roll the dough balls into either cinnamon or cocoa powder, shaking off any excess. Place on the prepared baking sheets and continue with the recipe as directed.
Makes: 3 dozen cookies