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.