Odds, ends, and a recipe

Its Christmas Eve eve, the work week is done, and I'm in good shape for my weekend. I do need to make one run to the grocery store which I will do tomorrow when I'm rested and more likely to withstand the crowd.

I want to wish you a merry Christmas on Sunday, or a happy Chanukah right now, or whatever you celebrate, may it be everything you hope for.

I also missed posting something I do every December 15th, so to a certain man out there who reads the blog I'd like to say one more time, happy anniversary baby. 14 years, who would have thought.

And finally, a little gift to everyone reading who needs a vegetable side for the weekend. Not exactly a recipe because I don't really measure things out, but here's how I do brussels sprouts, and they're always a hit:

You'll need:
1/2 of a white onion, thinly sliced
3-4 strips of bacon (I like thick and peppery), diced
1/2 stick unsalted butter
Sprouts (I usually get a full third of a plastic produce bag)
Decent olive oil, but don't feel like you have to use super-good stuff
white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons of a good stone-ground or french mustard

Set your oven to 350 if you're going to roast. With no oven I use a crock pot on high and it seems to work just fine.

Clean your sprouts by removing bad leaves, and make a fresh cut on the end, then cut them all in half unless they're small and bite-sized.

In your skillet brown the bacon until its crispy. Remove. You may pour off the excess fat if you wish, frankly I leave most of it in. Fat is delicious.

Melt butter in same pan, add onions, and cook until they're golden and soft. Add bacon back, and sprouts. Move everything around to coat the sprouts in the butter and onion, and cook for a few minutes until the sprouts get some color on them.

While sprouts are cooking, mix about 1/3 cup of olive oil, about the same amount of white wine vinegar, and the mustard. Voila, vinegrette.

When the sprouts have some color (5-7 minutes maybe) remove from heat. Pour vinegrette over and toss to coat. Pour everything into roasting pan, and finish in the oven until tender but not mushy. I'd say 30-45 minutes, but you should test with a knife or a toothpick. Or do what I do and eat one every few minutes.

If you're trying the crockpot like me the time is about the same. Last time mine went a bit over an hour and I would have liked them a little more firm. Just test and go until they're as done as you like them. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve em up warm and enjoy.

Somebody please buy these

Currently on eBay, Edward Wormley for Dunbar, here. 32" wide, 15" deep, 25" tall. The Buy It Now is $2200, offers also accepted. Local pickup in Chicago.

They'd go lots of places, I think they'd be super as nightstands.


The bathroom we just renovated is large, but because its a Hollywood bath between two bedrooms the layout is limited. Two doors, a window, sink, shower and toilet didn't leave a lot of room for storage. Using a pedistal sink rather than a vanity didn't help, although I'm totally in love with that sink.

So we needed a storage piece that would fit into one specific corner. This is Restoration Hardware's Shutter bath cabinet. We took a look at it, vaguely thought it might fit, but for just over a grand we didn't bother to measure.

Fast forward to Christmas shopping. We needed to pick up a few things that Resto on the Plaza was out of, so we headed out to the Leawood store. Imagine our surprise when the sign said the store was closing. Imagine our further surprise when everything in the store was half off.

That was enough for us, we drove immediately back home to measure to see if it would work. It would, and we bought it. The only disappointment is that we can't actually go get it until January 21st, when the store finally shuts it all down. They said they need to maintain the store's look until closing day, which seems a bit ridiculous to me. Everything is there, but everything is marked sold.

I asked why the store was closing and the lady said the company was closing all stores not in historic buildings. Apparently they closed two in Houston and opened one new one in a former US Post Office building. Houstonians, is that true?

I have no idea why they're doing it, if you know anything I'd love to hear. I do have a theory. I think they know they've gotten a bit of a rep for knocking off great old things. For basically being imitators. I think they're trying to give their repros a bit more weight by putting their stores in locations with some architectural pedigree.

Again, just a theory, and not even one I think will work. But I'm not a stickler for provenance on everything I own, and often find something I like. Mostly I'm just glad the store nearest Chez Malaise is staying open.

And its not even Christmas yet

Its been a really good week. I won the Patch NYC candle giveaway from Hello Gorgeous and Boxwood Home in Rehoboth Beach! I happened to be home yesterday afternoon when the UPS man pulled up and I couldn't wait to open my package. Its the triple wick stag candle, and it smells fantastic, piney and clean. I even got extra matches, which I really dig. I have a Zippo candle lighter, but there's just something about using a book of matches that feels good.

You should take a look at Boxwood Home's website for candles or anything else you might need to spruce up your place. I literally don't see anything I wouldn't want to own.

One of these days I hope to visit Rehoboth Beach (its a world gay heritage site you know) and when I do this will be my first stop. Unless I manage to track down the address for HG's beach house, then I'm stopping there first to demand gin and tonic, then a ride to Boxwood Home on the back of her Vespa. Thank you to HG and Boxwood Home!

Boxwood Home

39 Baltimore Avenue

Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971

The other cool thing that happened was my company's holiday lunch. We're privately held, and as such we're treated really well. So well in fact, that in the year you hit your ten year anniversary, which I did in September, you get recognized at the holiday lunch with a gift.

Rather than a catalog of stuff you really can't get excited about (like my 10 year pocket multi-tool I got when I worked at Sprint), we get to make an appointment with Kansas City's old-guard jeweler, Tivol, to pick out a watch.

Before you think it's all crazy and limitless, it's not. But what the company pays is truly generous, and we're welcome to add to it ourselves to get the timepiece we really want. I banked my tax refund this year in anticipation and for not even all of that ended up with something I really love, my steel Rolex GMT-Master II.

Inscribed with our company logo, a 10 year anniversary notation and my initials, I put it back in the box to take a picture. Even the box and paperwork are beautiful. And other than when I'm asleep that's the longest it's been off my wrist since noon on Wednesday.

I know just how incredibly lucky I am to work where I do, where we're treated so generously and graciously, and it really is an organization I'm happy to be a part of.

The 2011 MidMal Gift Guide

I can't believe its already December. I've mentioned before that we cap Christmas pretty low around here, but if we were made of money here are some things I'd ask for as well as give.

For the boys:

I mentioned this once before, and I'm still in love with this topcoat from LBM1911. You might be familiar with Lubiam for their men's suiting. This is their less constructed line, but you still get super Italian tailoring and fabrication. From the Aficionado Shop at Haberdash in Chicago. Not cheap, and I'm betting totally worth it.
I tend to go for umbrellas that are small, black and cheap because I lose them. For those who can keep track of their stuff how about this: Blackwatch, lined in orange, with a maple handle and shaft and silver ferrule. A collaboration between London Undercover and Michael Williams of the blog A Continuous Lean. Available here.
This summer my company moved downtown, and gone was convenient parking just a 3 floor elevator ride away. No longer able to run to the car for anything I needed I began carrying a small man bag. SO NICE to not have pockets crammed with whatever I need for the day. This is the No. 95 shoulder satchel from Billykirk. I had a different bag from them that I ended up eBaying because it was too small for what I needed to carry, but I can attest to the quality. These things are well made, he (or you) will have it for years. Here.

This year my jewelry pick is supremely casual. This is the hook bracelet from Miansai. Available in lots of colors and quite a few designs, the simplicity of this one is my favorite. Stack it over a really nice watch.

I always have a bandana around for covering my head while I paint. This bleach dye-printed one by Grei, availble from Unionmade in San Francisco is fantastic. Like a scarf, only smaller. It comes crinkled and rolled. I'd tie it loose around my neck, almost like a necklace, under a casual button-front shirt.

Speaking of casual button-front shirts, here's a sweet blue plaid also available at Unionmade. Its the Shorthorn Shirt in indigo flannel check from Levi's Vintage Clothing. Not your regular Levi stuff, until recently LVC was hard to find in the US. I'm glad to see it's become more available here.

There is no piece of clothing I like more than jeans, and I know I'm not alone. Why not wear something not everyone else has. This is the Cutter jean from Denham the Jeanmaker in Amsterdam. Their washes are done by artisans in Italy and Japan. Available online obviously. Also, next time you have an afternoon to kill, hit the website and click on the Denham Garment Library. These guys are clothes geeks as well as collectors, and their obsession makes for hours of interesting reading.

Since I've very nearly put together a whole outfit, how about some boots to finish it off. I think most men like boots, and I like ankle boots especially. These distressed leather side-zips, the James boot from Frye, would be super easy to wear with almost anything. Check his size, I think Frye runs about a half size small. I know my Frye harness boots do. Again, there are sales everywhere, google for the best price.

For the house:

I know, Restoration Hardware is responsible for the linen-and-oak'ing of America and we're all kind of tired of it. Still, every so often they do a repro I really like. For example, the 1930's Twin Raven Urn. In resin, you could use it inside or out, if your out was a covered porch or patio. At 29 inches tall it'll make an impact alone, even more so as a pair. Also, Resto is in the process of shutting down stores, not for poor performance, but rather to relocate to historic buildings. I've got some thoughts and would love to hear yours, I'll do a separate post soon.

How great are these. Nine inch, supremely simple crystal candlesticks by Thomas O'Brien for Reed and Barton. Google that phrase for the best deal as they're fairly widely available but the price points are all over the map. I got outbid on a pair of these by a dealer I knew at an auction a while back. There were other things in that lot, and I hope he made money on those things because I picked these up out of his booth for about what I'd bid. They look terrific next to a nickel plated lamp on the black Chinese cabinet in our living room. I bet someone you buy for has a perfect spot too.
Here's something I never thought I'd recommend, its the Horse Group from Lladro. Yes, its porcelain. That black glaze changes everything. They've always made beautiful things, they've just never made things I'd want to give or own. Until now. I think this piece is really interesting, then again, I have a bit of a thing for horse statuary.
While we're talking about art and gift giving, do you check out www.20x200.com? New art, every week, reasonably priced. Look often. Below is Jenny Odell's 1376 Cylindrical Industrial Buildings. Google Earth is her art supply store.

Did you know Thayer Coggin is still producing Milo Baughman designs? They are, and wouldn't a pair of these be super for anyone who's a fan of his work. See the website to find a dealer in your area.

Raina previewed these blackened aluminum horse heads back when they were new at West Elm, and I still dig them. Sold individually, you should buy a pair and give them as bookends.

And then here's an odd thing that I can't quite get out of my head. Remember when phones had cords? And the one in the kitchen had a really long cord? Sometimes I kind of miss the feel of that old handset. These, from Yubz, plug into your cell, and the colors are way better than anything we ever got from Southwestern Bell. Here.

Books are always a great gift. If someone on your list likes vintage clothing you're set. The third in Rin Tanaka's King of Vintage series, it's a pictorial examination of vintage clothing dealer Larry McKaughan's vast collection of American clothing and accessories. Available from either Amazon or currently from JCrew.

And finally, I ended last year's gift guide with a little vintage luxury courtesy of a sweet 76 Eldorado convertible in Innsbruck Blue. This year I'm in the mood for vintage muscle. This 71 Dodge Challenger looks fast standing still in white with black striping and tinted glass. Similar models (and convertibles!) fully restored run about 90 grand on eBay and might be the perfect way to soak up some excess cash. It could wreck both your driving record and your relationship with your insurance agent but its still supremely cool.

Whatever you celebrate, all of us here at Chez Malaise hope your holiday finds you happy, healthy, and surrounded by those you love. That's ultimately the best gift of all.

The good is everywhere

You might remember this post where I exposed an eBay seller with a price of over two grand on a Ralph Lauren Henredon buffet that I know he picked up on Craigslist for $400 or less.

I received an email the other day from a reader who found that post after buying the same piece and doing a little research. He picked up the buffet and the round mirror both for $200 at his local thrift shop.

They're great pieces and perfectly scaled for his space, and much more reasonably priced. Scott, congratulations to you and your Mrs. on a super deal.

I should also note that his email, the second really nice message I received last week, reminded me that people actually do read this blog. I was reluctantly thinking about giving up but seem to have found my second wind. Later this week, The MidMal Holiday Gift Guide, chock-full of good stuff for your house and your man.