Why you always invite the crazy aunt to Thanksgiving

thanksgiving_4778Why, you ask? Because she brings a pie, and that’s one less thing you have to make! Evident from the barren wasteland that was this blog this week, I’ve been busy. Yesterday I hosted Thanksgiving for a group of our European friends here in Bermuda, and as it’s not a tradition they grew up with—and not actually a holiday here so they all had to work—(and maybe a little because I really like all my family recipes and couldn’t bear to eat stuffing or pecan pie that doesn’t follow my mom’s recipe) I made nearly every dish. Oh, and an extra pie for Andrew’s office potluck lunch.

pies_4793An acute case of homesickness struck me while I was making a pie from a recipe written in my mom’s handwriting, but the feeling of being on the verge of tears subsided by the time I was finishing up my grandma’s cranberry relish—a family favorite that I’ve inherited responsibility for as she’s aged. I love that my recipe box is filled with dishes that bring back childhood memories or make me think of old friends.

recipes_4835I had grand plans to document the day and did so on Wednesday and for about the first hour of cooking on Thursday… then I got too busy and too sweaty so taking pics fell by the wayside. It was a beautiful mid-70’s day here in Bermuda, but after having my oven cranked up for the better part of two consecutive days, I think I may actually prefer cold Wisconsin weather on days like these!

I may have forgotten to make gravy once the turkey came out of the oven (I blame the bartender who was an expert mixer of sazeracs and old fashioneds!), but dinner went incredibly well—I think I have a few new converts to the church of Thanksgiving-is-the-best-holiday. I am so thankful for good friends who have welcomed me with open arms and made this big huge move much easier. And it was wonderful to spend the day with that man I moved here for, who made a point to thank me for cooking him a real, American Thanksgiving meal, which he hasn’t had in three or four years.

thanksgiving_4795And finally after all this rambling, I’d like to thank you, my dear readers, for taking an interest in my life and work, and all your encouraging comments along the way. I promise next week things will be back to normal with an awesome behind-the-scenes studio tour and your regularly scheduled travel post! Have a great weekend and don’t forget to shop small!

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Travel Guide: Dubai

This week’s travel entry marks our first guest post ever! Elise Mooijman is a Dutch journalist and blogger. For more travel reads check out her blog The Beauty Suitcase.


 

Dubai: the city of oil and gold. A city where no architectural idea is too crazy and where money flows like water. I visited this city in the United Arab Emirates desert for one week back in September.

The first thing you’ll notice once you get out of the airport is (that is if you’re crazy enough to go in the summer like I did) the intense heat. I can best describe it as a hot blow dryer being turned on right in front of your face. At night it only cools down slightly. For someone like me who is from a colder country darkness and heat just don’t mix. Feeling the scorching heat while it’s pitch black (or as black as it can get with all the neon lights of Dubai) is a weird experience.

Burj Khalifa View Skyline
My father was in Dubai for work commitments and the company he works for was nice enough to let me stay in an apartment at one of the most luxurious hotels in the city with him. I hope this does not come across as bragging as I would never be able to afford a hotel room – let alone apartment – there myself, but staying in a place like that gave me a good impression Dubai’s high-life. However, the gap between the poor and the rich in Dubai is very large. Always leave a tip for the hotel staff as they earn little and work long hours.

Many Arab women in Dubai are covered completely from head-to-toe in black clothes, including a veil. But don’t let this fool you: Dubai is quite a women-friendly city for tourists. They for example have special women’s taxis that are driven by women only. Men are only allowed to ride in the company of a woman.

It’s important to dress respectful in Dubai: cover your knees and shoulders (it is mandatory inside the malls, so men: ditch those Bermuda shorts ;) ). You won’t be arrested or anything like that if you don’t, but locals will greatly appreciate your decency. I have heard of women (and men) though that were stopped on the streets or in the mall by strangers and scolded for their raunchy clothes.

Elise at the Dubai Mall

Elise at the Dubai Mall

Highlights

Where to go: Hands down the Dubai Mall, don’t be ticked off by the word ‘mall’, because the Dubai Mall will be unlike any shopping mall you’ve ever been to. First of all it is the largest mall in the entire world, and with that in mind it might not come as a surprise that the Dubai Mall is home to an ice-rink and an aquarium filled with 2,64 million gallons of water and more than 33,000 living creatures (of which 400 are sharks). Standing in front of this giant while surrounded by stores feel very unreal.

Burj Khalifa
Also in the Dubai Mall is the entrance to the world’s tallest building: the Burj Khalifa. From the observatory deck you’ll have a magnificent view, but I’ll be honest: I personally find the ledge experience at Willis Tower in Chicago more impressive. However, it never hurts to be able to stay that you stood on the tallest building in the world right?

If you want to see the historic and less polished side of Dubai visit the Souks. There is the gold souk, which offers silver and gold jewelry for great prices, and the spice souk where sales men will literally shove the most interesting spices under your nose.

Spice Souq
Where to eat:

The restaurants around the Dubai Fountain (right outside the Dubai Mall and at the foot of the Burj Khalifa) make for a great place to grab a bite. The food isn’t anything spectacular— you’ll find a lot of typical American chains like Red Lobster and Texas Roadhouse there—but eating while watching the fountain ‘dance’ to the most beautiful music is an experience that you’ll never forget. The water jets get as high as 500 ft. and after 6:00 p.m. there is a show every 30 minutes in which the fountain ‘dances’ differently to each song.

Dubai Fountain
If you’re on a budget try Italian-Japanese restaurant Scoozi, but stay away from the sushi. Not that the fish is bad, but what is a California roll with nothing but crab inside? If you have a little more to spend I recommend having breakfast at the InterContinal Festival City hotel. I have never seen a breakfast buffet with so much choice (sushi for breakfast anyone?). It will cost you an arm and a leg, but you’ll leave with the fullest stomach you’ll ever have.

 

Thanks so much to Elise for sharing her travels with us! Interested in writing a travel guide? Email me at kristink_64@yahoo.com.

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New Star

A while back I realized that if I kept creating goods at my current pace (a byproduct of needing to busy my fingers while watching tv), I’d soon become a hoarder, or that friend who only gives gifts she’s made. So I picked up hand embroidery–a craft I hadn’t touched since I was very young. It’s incredibly labor intensive and slow going, so I knew the production line would slow its pace, plus I’ve been really inspired by modern takes on the ancient craft that have been popping up on the Internet in the last few years.

I’m not one for following patterns. Or recipes. Or direction of any kind, aside from my GPS… And even then…

Anyway, one of those cross stitch kits from the craft store was definitely not going to be for me. I knew I wanted to create a starfish entirely from French knots—the texture would be perfect—so I drew 5 lines radiating out from the center and got started!

Project in progress

Project in progress

A French knot is one of those things—like knitting and reformatting a hard drive—for which I always have to rely on YouTube to provide a refresher course. Here’s a great tutorial (skip the first 30 seconds).

I picked my colors at random—I already had a couple skeins of the vibrant poppy in the center of the star and knew I wanted to work my way out to something more muted to tie in to a chair we have in our living room. Not having a pattern meant many trips to the craft store, sometimes just for one skein, but sometimes I need an excuse to get out of the house these days anyway.

Some of the legs are a little crooked, some are a little bulgy, and the overall shape certainly isn’t a geometrically perfect star, but I like her and she adds the perfect touch. These days she’s happily keeping watch over our living room, right next to the window that looks out over the ocean!

starfish_4659

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Feeling blessed!

One of my business goals while in Bermuda is to up press exposure for 622 press. I have small benchmarks I’d like to reach, but honestly it’s such a big goal I haven’t really started so much as a press release. So, I’m feeling incredibly lucky that an amazing opportunity just fell into my lap.

Screen Shot 2014-11-15 at 5.27.36 PMBehold: Cool Mom Picks Holiday Gift Guide featuring our very own shadow monogram stationery! You guys, this website gets more than a 800,000 visitors a month! I’m kind of freaking out. I can’t wait to see what this does for the business!

 

 

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Christmas cards are here!

Since the Bermuda post office sent out a flyer saying cards need to be posted by… yesterday… in order to arrive in the U.S. in time for Christmas, I figured I’d better get mine printed up! Holiday cards have historically not been great sellers, but I decided to create a few new designs this year anyway. These are all available here, with one or two more designs coming in the next week! Enjoy!

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Travel Guide: Bermuda

This week has been one for writing. One of the pieces I worked on was a guest post for Dutch beauty and travel blog, The Beauty Suitcase. It was of course a Bermuda travel guide! I thought you guys would be interested in the highlight reel as well, although I’ve condensed it so as not to repeat things I’ve already said here, but if you’re interested in the full version (or haven’t been following along on my Bermuda adventures), click here!


The moment you step off the plane in Bermuda (onto a stair car, they don’t have jet bridges here), the first thing you’ll notice is the humidity: pleasantly warm but thick, wet air. Depending on the time of the year, it can be wonderfully refreshing—not to mention great for your skin—or almost overwhelming (and if you have curly hair, forget about taming it until you go home!).

There are plenty of taxis waiting at the airport—with just a handful of flights per day, they know when to arrive—so you won’t have any trouble getting a ride, however very few of them take cards, so make sure you have cash. The Bermudian dollar is tied to the U.S. dollar, so everyone uses both interchangeably. It’s very convenient for us Americans, but sort of confusing once you remember you’re actually in a British territory (and no, they don’t accept pounds!).

I remember some of my first impressions of the island: First, the water is far and away the brightest, bluest water I’ve ever seen in my life. It seems to be lit from below with a turquoise light—absolutely stunning. Foliage reminds me of South Carolina—a mix of deciduous and palm trees—which is less tropical-feeling than I expected. And there was something about the infrastructure (roads and public buildings anyway) that reminded me of the Caribbean or Central America.

As tourism is a big business here, there are plenty of hotels and I really haven’t heard many bad reviews about any of them. Keep in mind that “town” here means one thing: Hamilton. If you’re looking to be where the action is without spending a lot of money on transportation, I’d recommend staying at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess, which is within walking distance of everything. The Princess’ sister hotel, Fairmont Southampton, is perfect if you’re more in the mood for a beach vacation, and they offer a ferry back and forth between hotels.

 

Highlights

Where to go: The main drag of Hamilton is Front Street, which—you guessed it—is right on the waterfront. Much of the shopping here is tailored to cruise ship arrivals, so there are several high-end stores and gift shops. If you go one block back from the water to Reid Street, you’ll get a better picture of everyday life for Bermudians. Spend some time walking around town, getting a sense of the place. Europeans may not find it as exciting, but there is history here that most of America just can’t match. Even the post office feels like you’ve stepped back in time a few centuries. There is a national portrait museum and aquarium of course, but for touristy activities, I’d recommend getting out of town.

Lest you think Bermuda is just beaches and palm trees... This is Front Street, the main drag of the city of Hamilton

Front Street, the main drag of the city of Hamilton

What to do: You can hop on the ferry for just a few dollars and sail directly to Dockyard, which is where the cruise ships usually dock. It’s an old Navy yard, and very cool to spend some time walking through the lawns between the old walls. There are a number of bars and restaurants—including one on a boat decked out to look like a pirate ship—and what I’d wager is the best mini golf in the world! I know it sounds silly, but Fun Golf’s nearly 360-degree ocean views can’t be matched.

If you’re feeling adventurous, rent a scooter instead of taking the ferry so you can take in the views along Middle and South roads on the way back. There are really only three roads that run the length of the island, so you can’t get lost, but driving can be a little bit crazy. Take a break by pulling in to any of the lay-bys along the way so you can see the stunning parks and beaches that dot the south coast.

PortRoyalBermuda is a golfer’s paradise—there are seven high quality courses to choose from within the island’s twenty square miles. Port Royal recently hosted the PGA Grand Slam (that’s Rory McIlroy in the pic!), and Tucker’s Point (back toward the airport) is also very nice. Tucker’s has a fabulous spa, hotel and restaurant as well, so you could make a day or two of it! It’s near the airport, so I’d recommend staying here at the very beginning or very end of your trip.

The view from the pool at Tucker's Point

The view from the pool at Tucker’s Point

Also in that area is Grotto Bay, a resort that has ocean rentals in a protected bay. Rent a boat or paddleboard and head over to Castle Island beach—only accessible by water (except for the people who own the private land adjacent to it) and very shallow, it’s a great place to drop anchor and hang out for the day!

I’d be remiss if I didn’t recommend heading out to St. George’s, the first permanent English settlement on the island, and arguably North America. Settled in 1612, the town is an UNESCO World Heritage site and totally worth the visit, with reenactments, tours and, most exciting for me, a printing museum!

Where to eat: Dining here is a bit hit or miss, but you usually can’t go wrong with seafood! I’m not a huge fan of cooked fish, but I love sushi. Two of my favorites are Pearl and Beluga Bar. The latter is actually located in a mall, but don’t let that sway you: it might just be the better of the two.

photo 4My favorite restaurant on the island is Bolero Brasserie, which looks out over Front Street, so if you decide to sit on the second-story patio, you’ll get to watch the goings-on. However, I really like the dining room here, so I’d recommend sitting indoors, and grabbing a drink on the patio at Red Steakhouse afterward.

Speaking of cocktails, drinking might be Bermuda’s unofficial national past time. Harry’s is one of my favorite haunts—plus Jason is the only bartender on the island I’ve found so far who can make a decent brandy old fashioned! Their dinner menu is really fantastic as well, although I have to admit we’ve always eaten in the bar. Muse, also on Front Street near the ferry terminal, offers several interesting cocktails and three floors of eating and drinking space. They also have a menu of truly decadent French fare that is really, really tasty. If you’re a wine drinker, try the Wine Bar next to Little Venice on Bermudiana Road, just one block up from Front Street.

Off the beaten path a bit is Art Mel’s, which has been named the best fish sandwich on the island. There are several really good Indian restaurants as well, my favorite is House of India.

 

Enjoy and let me know when you visit the island!

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