I come to you today for three reasons: 1) it is so windy outside this morning that my entire house will shortly be carried away (to Oz, I hope) and I want to leave you something to remember me by; 2) there is a fat, freshly baked loaf of banana bread on my kitchen counter that is not for me, and we all know how this will end if I don’t occupy myself; and 3) though no one needs encouragement to buy more stuff, I enjoy a nice holiday gift guide. What follows is a quick, and possibly too late to be useful, tour of some of my favorite things to give and receive, accompanied by a selection of photographs of Christmases past. (Including, by not limited to, a shot of our cold-weather “auxiliary fridge,” an milk crate on the deck that we trot out when the refrigerator gets too full with boozed-up egg nog, homemade toffee for gifts, the annual delivery of smoked salmon from our CPA, and other holiday delicacies. ‘Tis the season!)
We begin with books. How about the new Carrie Brownstein memoir, which Brandon and I both swallowed in one gulp, for the Sleater-Kinney fan in your world? Or, for lovers of Patti Smith – and we should all be lovers of Patti Smith – maybe her new book M Train, or her now-classic Just Kids, winner of a National Book Award. For appreciators of poetry: I recently revisited my copy of Field Guide, Robert Hass’s first book, and I still love it as much as I did at sixteen, when I was first introduced to it. And Anne Sexton’s ecstatic, wildly sexy Love Poems, yeooooow! And for those who like a good craft project, I highly recommend The Modern Natural Dyer, which has put me on something of a dyeing-and-sewing tear. I had never dyed my own fabrics before, and now I’m dyeing tea towels, tote bags, flannel yardage to make a duvet for my kid – in other words, this book has given me a lot of ways to avoid real, income-generating work, la la la. (All book links are Amazon affiliate links, FYI. If you’d rather support an independent bookstore, and by all means, please do: Seattle’s excellent University Book Store offers FREE shipping on all book orders over $20.)
Speaking of my new sewing habit, I learned everything I know from the ladies at Drygoods Design. A gift certificate to the shop – which is based in Seattle but sells online as well – or for one of their classes, would make a killer gift.
Also in the textile vein: napkins designed by artist Jen Garrido, also known as Jenny Pennywood. We’ve used cloth napkins at home since a friend gave us some as a wedding gift, and while I’ve lately taken to sewing the occasional addition to the pile – perhaps you sense a theme here – I hope to someday own a few Jenny Pennywood napkins, too.
Also in the handmade gifts category: wooden spoons and other utensils, hand-carved by Maggie Kirkpatrick of Apple Doesn’t Fall. I met Maggie a few months ago, when she was in Seattle and dropped by Essex with some of her wares, and I came home with two spoons, cherry and maple, and a butter knife. They’re gorgeously shaped, soft as your grandmother’s cheek, and – win win win! – more affordable than most other hand-carved utensils I’ve seen.
Also, hey, did you know that Bennington mugs are pretty reasonably priced? I didn’t, until I bought a couple this fall. I have two “trigger” mugs: “elements gold” (which feels wonderfully silky in your hand) and “black on green” (which Brandon says is “very ’80s,” but I don’t care), and I love them. Spendier, but so handsome, is the Heath “tall tumbler,” which I’ve had my eye on in black. Or this foxy Eric Bonnin tumbler.
And for kids, this: a year or so ago, my sister-in-law Courtney gave June two small stuffed mice, each with their own matchbox for sleeping, à la Stuart Little, complete with tiny mattress, tiny woven blanket, and tiny pillow. June loves them almost as much as I do, and I can’t imagine any toddler, or human being, who would not want one. Or two.
And for those who have absolutely everything, I like to make a donation to a worthy cause. The thirteenth anniversary of my dad’s death was this past Monday, but if he were still around, I would give a donation to NPR, or Medecins Sans Frontieres, in his name. Heck, I’ll do it anyway.
Last but not least, we at Delancey and Essex finally got our act together and made it possible to purchase gift certificates online! We are the slowest! We also, just this fall, made our own tote bag, with our logo on one side and a hand-drawn slice of pepperoni pizza on the other. It’s sturdy, roomy, and, when full, stands up on its own. I use my tote for everything, from groceries to lugging files to and from the restaurant. When you purchase one online, I’m the person who packs it up and ships it for you, and I will put extra love – awwwwwwwwwww – into each order placed by a reader of this blog.
WE ARE WELL! And now that I have dared to type that, I will spend the rest of the day sanitizing my hands, taking swigs straight from the echinacea bottle, and knocking on every piece of wood within a one-mile radius of my person. And it’s the holidays! Right! A couple of weeks ago, during a reprieve between viruses, my mother, June, and I managed to bake a double batch of Russian Tea Cakes, a cookie that my mother used to make every year when I was a kid, back when she and our family friend Barbara Fretwell would hole up together in the weeks before Christmas and churn out eight or ten kinds of cookies and candies to pack…Read more
Our friend Ben was here last week. He arrived on Thursday, just in time for lunch, and flew out early Tuesday morning. Even June misses him, I think. She got into the habit of standing at the top of the basement stairs – our guest room is down there, a dungeon with red deep-pile carpet and faux wood paneling and an enormous oil furnace that’s as loud as a train – and yelling, Beh! Beh! Beh! until he came upstairs. We all agree that his trip was too short, but he did stay long enough to play a ukulele duet with Brandon, to get a kiss from June, to make me a Boulevardier and a great steak, to help us host a…Read more
Hello again! If I don’t write a post tonight, I will have to do my real work, which is to read the final proofs of Delancey before it goes to print, and that is a terrifying prospect. So! La la laaaaaaaaaaaaaaa As it happens, combing through files of old film photos is also a great way to avoid work – and I can use the photos here! Behold: somewhat ancient photos that have nothing at all to do with this post! But more to the point: as I wrapped some Christmas presents the other evening, I found myself thinking about how much I enjoy the gift guides that crop up online every December. I can easily feel overwhelmed by exhortations to…Read more
Whenever we spend the holidays with my relatives in northern California, we eat Dungeness crab on Christmas Eve. I can’t remember when the tradition was started, but when Brandon and I got together, I introduced him to it. He was still mostly a vegetarian then, and he’d never tasted crab, but he was curious about it – enough to grab a couple of crab legs and, however awkwardly, get himself around them. He took to it fast. This year, we spent Christmas in Seattle, on our own, and we decided to continue the Christmas Eve crab tradition, since Washington is the state that gave Dungeness crab its name. It felt fitting. Plus, Brandon announced, he had a plan: he would…Read more
My family is not having the Christmas that you hear about in carols and television specials. I am typing this from California, where we were supposed to arrive next Tuesday for the holiday festivities, but instead I flew down six days early to help take care of my aunt, who is in the hospital. My mother is here, too, and my aunt’s two daughters, my cousins. My aunt came down with an acute illness, very fast and sudden and serious, but after more than a week in the hospital, she’s going to be alright. Today she even cracked a joke. I was so elated that I tried out a couple of bad puns, and she actually laughed at them. It…Read more
The three of us wanted to give you something nice. Unfortunately, all I have is this picture. But mainly, we wanted to say thank you. You’ve given us so much. This year was a big one, and we couldn’t have done any of it – no book, no restaurant, nothing – without you. Thank you for being here, for being there, for every kindness. Thank you for giving us so many reasons to celebrate. See you in 2010.Read more
I don’t know where to begin. You people spoil me. Do you know that? Brandon and I cannot even dream of how to adequately thank you for the immensely kind and utterly galvanizing comments you left in response to The Big Restaurant Announcement. Some of you even sent e-mails, offering advice, encouragement, and hands-on(!) help(!). I’m still trying to pick my jaw up off the floor. Thank you. Or rather, I mean, THANK YOU. If I could hire a plane to write it in the sky, I would, because that would best capture the magnitude of the sentiment. But we have a budget to stay within, you understand. So, onward we go, right? I will keep you posted, I promise,…Read more