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!).
November 28th, 2011 at 10:19 pm
Goodness I adore you: “There are costume possibilities too, as there is a battery pack option.”
November 28th, 2011 at 10:21 pm
Hi Tim! Thank you for gathering such an interesting and unique collection of gifts! I especially love the First Love and Other Sorrows, the cookbooks, and the string LED lights. You have a unique tastes in culture, food, and I can tell you’re quite knowledgeable about a lot of things; therefore, I will read the book you suggested and let you know how it went! Oh and I’m looking forward to your 12 days of Cookies! I’m beginning to bake A LOT, so I’m excited what you’re going to share with us! Happy Holidays to you and Bryan!
November 29th, 2011 at 3:32 am
This is a great list. The rainbow maker is a big hit in our home.
la domestique says:
November 29th, 2011 at 6:50 am
Great gift guide! I own a copy of Ancient Grains for Modern Meals and think it’s such a useful and inspiring cookbook. The radiometer is fantastic too!
November 29th, 2011 at 7:50 am
this is a very cool list…interesting & unique (as are you!) … i have given the mozza cb to many & i as well love the restaurant.
goggling “first love & other sorrows” for me…
cannot wait until dec 5th! i am onboard!!
November 29th, 2011 at 8:14 am
…Such a fantastic list – I love ’em all! :o)
…I will def’ be putting “First Love And Other Sorrows” on my Wish List. Thank you.
…And I love it when someone finally puts a decorative spin on a typical, hum-drum household item, the extension cord. That is awesome.
…I too love the Rainbow Maker. Goodness knows our lil’ rather dark homestead could def’ use something like that during the Winter and all year long. :o)
…Thank you for this great list!
…Btw, that cheese is beautiful and sounds intriguing to say the least.
November 29th, 2011 at 8:30 am
…I had to come back and say that I looked at the Radiometer on your list up there and not only is that an interesting item but the website, https://www.canoeonline.net/ itself is awesome!
…Thanks for the introduction! :o)
November 29th, 2011 at 9:06 am
Always love your gift guide. :) I’ve been eyeing those lights from Restoration for quite some time…
November 29th, 2011 at 9:19 am
a great gift guide, of course! adding First Love and Other Sorrows to my “to-read-over-winter-break” list. I’m an English teacher & love nothing more than discovering other folk’s favorite books.
November 29th, 2011 at 10:50 am
Wonderful gift guide! That serving tray is going on my wishlist immediately.
November 29th, 2011 at 11:13 am
I will always recommend Wisconsin cheese as a gift. I went to college at a small school there and one of my favorite things to do was to always experiment with the wide array of cheeses at Woodman’s. A very very large part of me wishes I could get my mitts on some WI cheese most of the time here in Belgium. My boss is convinced that America doesn’t know how to make credible cheese or beer. It’s now a running joke between us because I’m never able to prove him wrong. The cruelty!
This is an excellent gift guide all around though. The extension cord is such a great idea and something that people never really think of. Top marks all around!
Fresh and Foodie says:
November 29th, 2011 at 2:24 pm
Oh my god, that cheese looks insane!
Great gift options, indeed. I actually have that rainbow thing (got it as a gift last year) and I love it.
Erin Orr says:
November 29th, 2011 at 2:43 pm
I love the radiometer and Canoe in general! This year I am excited by the gifts from http://www.wildernessofwish.is. They have hand carved wooden roux spoons, a canner for a small kitchen and crazy good salted lemon drop marmalade! I also like to give pickles. The coasters are a great idea too.
November 29th, 2011 at 3:08 pm
Hey Erin-Wilderness of Wish looks great! Thanks for sharing.
Glad everyone loves rainbows!!
November 29th, 2011 at 3:13 pm
I love that some of your favorite things seem like they come from the Museum of Science and Industry’s gift shop :)
Caroline Shields says:
November 29th, 2011 at 3:48 pm
Love the extension cord!! So cool.
November 29th, 2011 at 4:45 pm
What a sweet little list! Nicely done! I love the little rainbow maker! And I definitely know some people who appreciate cheese from Wisconsin!
November 29th, 2011 at 5:07 pm
Those LED lights are rad!
November 29th, 2011 at 6:10 pm
Mama Iils are my favorite too! Perfect baked on thin crust pizza, or inside a goat cheese calazone!!!
Pam @ Sticks Forks Fingers says:
November 29th, 2011 at 6:30 pm
Just ’cause I know you love Joanna Newsom like I do, and a whole lot of other reasons, may I also recommend another fantastic book? The History of Love, by Nicole Krauss, is the best book I’ve read in 5 years. Like you say about First Love and Other Sorrows, not nearly enough people have read this incredible treasure.
Just thought your readers may also like this recommendation. If you read it, Tim, please let me know what you think.
As always, my best.
Kartik @ Bakeology 101 says:
November 29th, 2011 at 7:59 pm
Ugh Tim! Why could you not have an extra day for selling your awesome cookies- like the 5th, 6th, or 7th? I coming to Chicago on the 4th for a med school interview and I get in only at 5:24 pm. And here I’m keeping count of the minutes. Sigh….. Well, I’m sure your cookies will sell well anyway.
I would love a rainbow maker if I end up in Chicago though.
Deena @ stay at home FOODIE says:
November 29th, 2011 at 8:22 pm
Love the rainbow maker!
What a great list… Thank you.
November 29th, 2011 at 8:49 pm
you know it is a good guide, when you actually want the items.
November 29th, 2011 at 10:24 pm
Tim, you are the best. I love your gift guide – everything is awesome and unusual. Also I love that you always give some well-deserved props to Wisconsin cheeses!
November 29th, 2011 at 10:33 pm
Thanks, Lauren! (and Jules and everyone else!) I have fun putting these together, so I am always happy when you guys like some of the choices.
November 29th, 2011 at 11:31 pm
TIM! I am BEYOND BEYOND BEYOND excited to meet you at HoliDose. I am already starstruck at the thought. I might even have to bring you some of my homemade granola to share. Until Sunday, stay toasty!
November 30th, 2011 at 12:18 am
That cheese is freakin’ gorgeous. It’s almost too pretty to be eaten (but I’d still eat it all up :) ).
November 30th, 2011 at 2:17 am
Seriously the best gift guide ever. The pieces are so heartfelt and beautiful in their unaffectedness. I’ve been reading through many gift guides (tis the season), and I do declare that yours blows away all the other vapid and materially driven guides out there. Treasures that I’ll be proud to gift my loved ones.
Oh and first comment. :)
November 30th, 2011 at 2:19 am
woops, my first comment on L+D ever if that wasn’t clear
Smith Bites says:
November 30th, 2011 at 7:58 am
I have said it before and I’ll say it again – I love YOUR list better than anyones and I wait all year for this list!!!! Cannot wait to scope some of these out – especially the book as I’ve not read it and I have a niece who is a writer!!
November 30th, 2011 at 8:04 am
Love your gift list. And, I also send COOKIES to many friends and family. Do the Toasted Coconut Sables and Cardamom Pistachio Cookies from your last list keep well in tins in a cool place? I bake about 20 varieties (each very special) totaling about 75 pounds each year. I don’t start until about Dec 12th and bake like crazy for about a week for the ones I need to ship. Then I take a break for a couple of days and start up again. A columnist for our local newspaper puts together driving routes to see the best Christmas lights. He raises money for the food bank by taking bids from people to go out driving with him. Winners also get a couple pounds of cookies from me, the Official Light Tour Cookie Baker. :-) Last year he raised $13,000. I have some cookies I bake every year, but I like to change them up a bit. I’m always looking for new ideas.
November 30th, 2011 at 1:17 pm
My goodness! How much do I love the look of that CHEESE! I honestly thought it was soap at first and thought- I could stare at that for hours!!!! So funny! Also completley agree with the extension cord….brilliant!!!!!!!! (and beautiful!) AND the radiometer….good memories of that in my Dad’s house, on a window sill above the kitchen sink, perfect for washing the dishes and spacing out. P.S. I cannot wait to read that book! Cheers!
November 30th, 2011 at 1:39 pm
I LOVE your list Tim – so perfect. And I am now on the hunt for a radiometer that can be shipped to Canada. My husband would love it. I’m hoping the library has that book because I’m in need of something new. Are you on Goodreads?
November 30th, 2011 at 2:25 pm
Cons- thanks for commenting. It’s about time! ; )
Hannah- Yay! Excited to meet you, too! It is going to be a really spectacular Dose. Can’t wait.
Thanks, everyone for the enthusiastic comments! You all are the best.
December 1st, 2011 at 4:24 pm
Hah! I was just thinking the other day that I couldn’t wait for your annual holiday gift guide! Such great ideas, Tim!
And HECK YES to the Marie Sharp’s! I saw it everywhere when I was in Belize last summer and understood why as soon as I tried it–such great flavor!!!!!
December 1st, 2011 at 4:38 pm
Sara- yay! Bryan will be happy to hear you second (or third) the Marie Sharp’s recommendation.
Nancy Singleton Hachisu says:
December 2nd, 2011 at 9:28 am
Several months ago, I earmarked your blog for some reason that has since escaped me…other than the fact that it is so very irreverent and so very visual…there was something specific…that I just cannot recapture. I came back across you again because of my friend Maria Speck (who shares my agent). I am so hopelessly out of the loop since I live in Japan, but you have been on my list of “have to keep up with.” Thanks for the reminder and thanks for your post(s).
December 7th, 2011 at 11:10 pm
We got married on the same day! October 1, 2011 was a beautiful for a wedding.
December 9th, 2011 at 7:53 am
My copy of Love and Other Sorrows just came in the mail. Can’t wait to read it! You made it sound too good not to seek out. :-)
December 9th, 2011 at 7:58 am
Awesome, Voula! I hope you enjoy it.