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 BUY STUFF!!!, but I always appreciate helpful ideas and good things shared by people I trust. To that end, I sort of want to share my own small guide, something I’ve never done before.  Is it too late for a gift guide?  Maybe you’ve already checked off your entire list?  In case you haven’t, what follows is a selection of the things I am most excited about this year, many of them handmade – and some even made here in Seattle, by friends of ours. I hope you’ll find it useful. This time of year makes me feel very lucky to know so many creative, enterprising people, both in Seattle and through the Internet, and I feel even luckier to have this space to share their good work.

– A couple of months ago, I started taking pottery classes at Pottery Northwest, which I highly (highly!) recommend, and I noticed that some of the potters there were wearing fantastic aprons, Japanese-style aprons that criss-cross in the back and have nice, big pockets in front.  I asked one of them about hers, and she told me that she’d bought it on Etsy, from a company called Kanso Aprons. I came home and immediately ordered one in black denim, and I’ve worn it almost constantly since. (If you think I exaggerate, ask my spouse. I am INTO this apron.) It’s easy to put on – it slips over your head; no ties – and can be thrown in the washing machine with everything else, and it doesn’t pull at the back of your neck the way other aprons do.

– Over Thanksgiving, we visited my cousin Jason and his family in Tahoe, and Jason got me hooked on using an Aeropress to make coffee.  Now, listen: I have plenty of good ways to make coffee at home – a Chemex, a little pour-over dripper, even an old espresso machine that Brandon gave me a couple of years ago – but these days, I often find myself making coffee verrrrrry early in the morning, and with only one arm (while holding a certain June with the other), and I need it to be easy. Aeropress is easy. I love Aeropress. I find it more consistent, and more consistently delicious, than Chemex or pour-over. And if I try (and fail) to make a drinkable espresso one more time with a baby on my hip, one of us is going to cry. Actually, both of us.

– Our dearly dreadlocked friend Rachel Marshall makes the best ginger beer on Earth, and she’s just begun selling it online and shipping nationally. (!)  Rachel was once a server at Delancey, and before her ginger beer went huge, she used to make it in the Delancey kitchen on days when we were closed, using just fresh ginger, fresh lemons, organic sugar, and water.  It’s bright, lemony, not too sweet, and spicy enough to clear your sinuses, and I LOVE IT.

– Our friend Megan makes Marge Granola. My favorite flavor is the Original, with pecans and cranberries, but you can’t go wrong with any of them.  And the packaging is nice enough to make a pretty gift. (Word up, Our Man Sam!) I gave Marge granola to a number of people on my list last year.

– June’s favorite book is currently Rah, Rah, Radishes, which was a first-birthday gift from the Amster-Burtons. Whenever she sees it, she says, “Rrrr rrrr ruh,” and I take that as a strong endorsement. I should, however, warn you that, after reading this book only once, you will spend the rest of your life with “Rah, rah, radishes, red and white / Carrots are calling. Take a bite!” stuck in your head.

– I learned about TableTopics (Family Edition) from my friend Lecia, and I like it so much that I’m giving it to two families on my list this year.

– Once, while visiting a friend who was living in London, I bought a small white enamel saucepan at Labour and Wait, and even though it really is very small and is technically intended, I think, for warming milk, I use it nearly every day, for everything.  I use to to cook small amounts of pasta or frozen peas for June. I use it to warm soup for my lunch.  I use it to brown butter, because the white enamel surface allows me to easily gauge the butter’s color. It might be my favorite single piece of cooking equipment. And the other day, I saw one exactly like it (except pale blue, not white) at Provisions, Food52’s online shop. Wahooooo! Here it is, what they are calling a blue enamel porridge pot. Whatever you call it, it’s great.

– Last but not least, this year I’m giving a number of gift certificates to favorite restaurants, mostly small, independently owned places, the kind that I like best.  I like the idea of giving someone an experience, and who doesn’t want a nice meal out, one that’s already (at least partially) paid for? So far, our family and friends are getting gift certificates to Contigo, State Bird Provisions, Buvette, and Dirt Candy. (I should also add that Delancey and Essex now have a brand-new, fancy-schmancy, letterpressed gift certificate. Again, word up, Sam! And Lisa!)

And with that, I think I’m finished spoiling all of my holiday surprises.  I hope you’re having a great weekend.