Fireside Cocktails with Foxtail Books
Make Ours a Double: A bar stacked on beautiful books is as aesthetic as it is enticing (curvy glass tumbler, be merry cocktail napkin and leaf cocktail stirrer)
We sat down with local tastemaker Christy Smirl, the founder of Foxtail Books, to get the scoop on how to style our home library and what we should read this winter season. Offering services that include curation, installation, cataloging and limited-edition acquisition Christy is a national authority on custom residential library design. She is also the former Curator of Collections for the Teton County Library.
With autumn already on its way out and shorter days a reality, we were delighted to be invited up to her cozy, retro chic Wilson cabin for fresh gingerbread (make sure to scroll for her favorite recipe) and fireside cocktails. Read about our afternoon…
On the Rocks: Add color to any space by accessorizing with your book collection (curvy glass tumbler)
WHAT ARE THREE SURE-PROOF TIPS ON HOW TO STYLE YOUR HOME LIBRARY?
Consider scale. There is such a thing as too many books in a space. There is also such a thing as not enough. Consider the capacity of your shelves and whether the number of titles feels claustrophobic or sparse. Add or pare down as needed.
Consider how you use your books and how you use the room. What's most important: a mixture of books that feels eclectic and surprising, or that you can find everything? Are your books there for guests to enjoy, or for you to access?
Use your shelves as your creative canvas. This is one of the easier design pieces in your home to move around and be experimental! Try one object d'art atop a stack of books one day, move it up or down and angle the books differently the next. Feel it out with your shelving and the elements in the room.
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT COLOR CODING AND THE RAINBOW TREND?
I love anything, trendy or not, that allows a book lover to enjoy the look and feel of their library. For some of us, that means having books organized by subject so we can find everything. For others, it's visual techniques like the rainbow trend that bring joy to a room. I have also had clients who are incredibly visual: they identify their books by color more than they do by title or author. In that case, color coding can be better than the Dewey Decimal System!
In the works: One of Christy’s current projects for a client who collects cook books
WHAT ABOUT DISPLAYING BOOKS ON THE FLOOR?
I would put books on the floor if the room calls for an eclectic feel, or if it seems sterile and needs to look more lived in. Stacks of hefty art books beneath a coffee table can change how the furniture works in that space. On the other hand, precious books need to be protected (and shown off). I love the most beautiful showpieces on display at eye level.
WINTER IS HERE, WHICH MEANS LONG AFTERNOONS AND NIGHTS IN FRONT OF A CRACKLING FIRE CURLED UP READING. WHAT DO YOU RECOMMEND…
For a modern admirer of Jane Austen and other classic authors?
To dive further into Austen, I recommend reading an annotated version of her novels. It's such fun to learn about the dances, food, carriages and language as you follow Elizabeth Bennett and Darcy around their plot twists and turns. Harvard University Press has come out with several beautifully illustrated editions in that vein.
For a good Austenish story?
Try Longbourn, in which write Jo Baker takes us back into the world of Pride and Prejudice from the servants' point of view. Unlike dozens of Austen adaptations that come out each year, this story maintains an Austenesque social intelligence and literary-caliber writing.
For the thrill seeker?
The Second Sister by Claire Kendal is about a women who, at the request of her young nephew, dives into the mystery of her sister's death 10 years ago by (perhaps?) a seductive serial killer, or perhaps someone less expected. Just out this fall, it's one of those that just twists and turns, confuses and confounds until it all pulls together as a good mystery should. Delectable.
For the historical fiction buff?
Our Man in Moscow by Amore Towles is the charming tale of a count under house arrest (for writing seditious poetry) in a luxury hotel across the street from the Kremlin in 1920s Moscow. Towles paints such a lovely picture of this place and time, and of his incredible cast of characters. His stories stick with you; I also highly recommend his first novel, Rules of Civility, set in 1930s Manhattan.
For little ones?
For the very littles: The Antlered Ship is the prettiest picture book I've seen out this year. Woodland animals (including a fox) who are friends traveling together on a seafaring adventure? That's charming enough, and the illustrations seal the deal.
And for the littles who aren't so small anymore: The Explorer by Katherine Rundell would suit kids in ages 8 through 12. Fred, Lila, Con and Max are stranded in the Amazon after a plane crash. A classic kids' adventure story (navigation, mystery, and adventure), this story is also about the wonders of the natural world, and about what kids are capable of without adults around.
Mistress of the Mix: First editions of The Cocktail Hour In Jackson Hole certainly do inspire off-season libations… Not only does Christy bake a wicked gingerbread but she is also a master at whipping up a Moscow Mule (vintage skies cocktail towel, copper moscow mule mug and king cube ice tray)
TAKE A TOUR OF CHRISTY’S ENCHANTED CABIN FOR A GLIMPSE OF HER FAVORITE BELLE COSE HOLIDAY FINDS:
Enchanted Staircase: Creative on all levels, Christy leads the way up a feathered, felt ladder to her cabin’s library loft
Warm Wishes: Christy’s idea of a perfect Sunday night? Taking advantage of cold weather and the holidays as a lovely excuse to put pen to paper and send snail mail (assorted holiday cards and silk faux flowers available at Town Square & Westbank)
Baby it’s cold outside: After a walk up Paintbrush with Christy and her pup, Bat Man, we were more than ready to enjoy a Hot Toddy… (papa noel mug and cheers my deers cocktail napkin)
FOXTAIL BOOKS HIGH ALTITUDE GINGERBREAD CAKE
Serves at least 8
1 cup water
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks, plus more for pan
Scant 1 1/2 tsp baking soda (scant means "just a bit less than" - take out 10% or so for altitude over 5000 ft like Jackson Hole)
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup molasses
2 tsp freshly grated ginger
2 large farm fresh eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
1/2 cup whole wheat flour (to pretend we're being healthy)
2 tsp ground dried ginger
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
Scant 2 tsp baking powder
Whipped cream or powdered sugar for topping gingerbread cake off
Heat oven to 375 degrees (350 if you're at altitude lower than 5000 ft).
Line a 9×13 inch baking pan with parchment paper and/or butter and flour
In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add baking soda (it should foam up). Remove pan immediately from heat and let sit for 5 minutes.
Stir in butter chunks until melted (you might need to warm it just a tiny bit for this to happen).
Whisk in brown sugar, molasses, fresh ginger, and then let mixture cool for about 10 minutes.
Transfer molasses mixture to a large mixing bowl, whisk in eggs until just combined (it's okay to do this in your saucepan if you have enough room).
Sift and mix flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, salt and baking powder separately.
Put the dry into the wet and stir everything together until just combined (it will be a bit lumpy - do not over mix).
Pour batter into prepped pan and bake for about 30 minutes, using a knife or toothpick to check whether it's done.
Once your gingerbread cake has partially cooled, remove from pan to fully cook on a wire rack.
Cut into squares or use holiday cookie cutters for a more festive approach.
Top with whipped cream or even a sprinkle of powdered sugar.
This gingerbread lasts for a few days and holds. It even gets more flavorful as it sits!