Radiometer! I admit to not totally understanding the science behind this, but the vane inside of this glass bulb moves when exposed to light. It is one of the prettiest objects in my house and a fun conversation piece. (More info on radiometers here.)
Extension Cord, aka The Most Beautiful Extension Cord in the World. I know it is extravagant to spend money on something that would cost you $2 at the hardware store—but come on people! Isn’t that what gifts are about? Look at this thing! And it is perfect for spots where an extension cord can’t be hidden.
Red Rock. Red Rock is the newest creation of Wisconsin cheesemaker Chris Roelli. It is a sharp cheddar with blue veining and is the most beautiful cheese I have ever seen. It looks like a geode, I could stare at it for hours. It is also one of the best things I ate in 2011. I haven’t been this excited about a cheese since last year’s bandaged cheddar. Remember, cheese is always the perfect gift.
First Love and Other Sorrows by Harold Brodkey. One of my all-time favorite books (I usually include it in my top 3), it is upsetting that more people haven’t read this book. A brilliant collection of short stories of love, loss, adolescence, suburban ennui; First Love is a moving portrait of mid-20th century America. Out of print, but you can find copies pretty easily.
Coasters! We had coasters made for our wedding, but why not make some for a friend?! Design them a monogram, or a funny drawing, or whatever you like.
String LED Lights. These were hard to photograph, but each of these tiny lights (the size of a grain of rice) emits a beautiful warm white light. The bulbs are attached to a copper wire that can be bent into any shape you like. I am obsessed with these. There are costume possibilities too, as there is a battery pack option.
Rainbow Maker! Our dear friend Katie gave this to us last year, and at first it seemed silly. But! This magical (actually, solar powered) machine sends rainbows all over our apartment on sunny days. It is incredibly beautiful and helps get us through the long Chicago winters.
Mama Lil’s Peppers. I am not the only blogger to sing the praises of these pickled Hungarian peppers. The pickles are so addictive, we buy them by the case. I love a whole grain cracker topped with soft goat cheese and these peppers, it is the perfect appetizer. We also put them on sandwiches and in pasta. You’ll find a use, trust me.
Cookbooks! Plenty of good books published this year. Three standouts:
Ancient Grains for Modern Meals by Maria Speck is a completely inspiring exploration of whole grains and their use in cooking and baking. Beautifully written and designed.
The Mozza Cookbook by Nancy Silverton, Matt Molina and Carolynn Carreno is fantastic. I love the restaurant and am now happy to be able to recreate some of my favorite dishes at home. Yes, many of them are more work than you might normally put into a meal, but you can find a lot of inspiration in this book.
Bi-Rite Market’s Eat Good Food: A Grocer’s Guide to Shopping, Cooking & Creating Community Through Food by Sam Mogannam and Dabney Gough has some great recipes but is most valuable as a guide to navigating your local market. They cover everything from how to pick the right olive oil to tips for keeping GMO’s out of your diet. I’ve learned a lot from this book.
Serving Plate. You know I love plates, and this one is really a charmer. The simple black outline really makes it special, and food looks great on it.
BONUS BRYAN PICK: Marie Sharp’s Fiery Hot Habanero Pepper Sauce. Bryan says: I first had Marie Sharp’s at a taco place I’d go for lunch while working in LA. When I went to look for it at a nearby hot sauce shop, the woman working the register was putting it on HER lunch. Since then, I’ve given a bottle to many a friend, family member, and acquaintance who mentioned liking spicy foods—they inevitably go crazy for it and begin ordering it themselves. Besides tacos, I love it on scrambled eggs, cold pizza, in a stir-fry, and, perhaps most notably, on Tim’s lasagna.
Tim agrees! This carrot-based habanero sauce is very special.
And if you looking to make something for your friends and family, may I suggest cookies? I can help you out starting Monday, December 5th when I bring you 12 Days of Cookies! I am so excited and working hard to put together a great collection. On a related note, Sandra Holl (Floriole) and I are going to be selling cookies at the next Dose Market, aka HoliDose. It is this upcoming Sunday (12/4) and we’ll be there from 10am-5pm. Could not be more excited to share cookies and to meet some of you in person (I hope!).