Julianne Ahn makes some of my favorite ceramics at Object & Totem. She has quite a following, so things go fast. But they are worth waiting for.
Okay, okay, this is a major splurge. But after years of being curious about linen sheets my friend Grace convinced me they were worth the money. She was right. We’ve become linen converts. I find myself talking about them way more than I should. The only problem is, they’re fucking expensive. But Bryan and I had been sleeping on the same cheap cotton sheets for most of our decade-long relationship so we felt like we could justify the upgrade (I am The King of justifying upgrades). We now have a set from West Elm that we got on sale and some from Parachute. I especially love the off-black (coal, as they call it) from Parachute–it is just such a great 90’s goth color. We like them because they are cool (we both run hot) and yet have a comforting weight to them. Hard to explain, but delightful.
We Are Everywhere. For real.
DS & Durga have made it to this guide before, and I can never get enough of their everything. They recently released a line of pocket perfumes. Oil-based roll-ons that you can easily transport. They even come in the perfect felt sleeve. And as always, the graphic design on these is A+. Spirit Lamp is based on a favorite candle of theirs, described as:
- Tea service at the colonial parlor of Mme. Revere, topless psychic.
Hot silver heated by open flame. Bohea vapours, radiant heat, milk.
These beautiful little match holders are from Evanston-based artist Julia Finlayson’s Grandmontstreet Ceramics. Each perfect little vessel holds a handful of matches and is ribbed for striking. They’re available at one of my favorite Chicago shops, Asrai Garden (who recently launched their very own web shop!).
Pillows! This pillow is great, but so is everything from Banquet Atelier and Workshop in Vancouver. I am pretty obsessed with their textile patterns and a lot of my domestic fantasies revolve around curtains for our dining room in one of their rad fabrics.
A lot of nudity in this guide, I know. These pots from Group Partner have become almost too much. I’d dismiss them, if they weren’t so damn compelling. After too long only stocking a female figure, they finally gave guys (link contains full frontal terracotta nudity!!) their due. Nice buns.
For my fellow Midwest lovers.
Swing Time by Zadie Smith. I don’t think I relate to anyone’s writing and thinking more than I do Smith’s. I still think she might be a better essayist than fiction writer, but I really enjoyed Swing Time. It is fun to read and a lot to think about—which is ideal. Maybe it is her most compelling work? (Photographed at a favorite bookstore because I read things on a Kindle now and LOVE IT, despite years of resisting.)
You can never go wrong with a plant, unless of course you do. If you’re going to give a plant, make it something easy to care for and in a beautiful vessel so that should the plant not survive, the pot will. Alapash Home in Chicago has a really wonderful selection of potted succulents.
This cookie cutter is genius. The efficiency! And it lead me to learn the word tessellation. (Thanks to Stella for alerting me to this and to Bryan for knowing all of the words.)
These are four cookbooks from this year that I really enjoyed and haven’t gotten a chance to write about yet.
Sweet Sugar Sultry Spice by Malika Ameen (I want to bake everything in this book.)
Deep Run Roots by Vivian Howard (Howard is a treasure and her PBS series is one of the best food shows I have ever seen. She is brave and humble and a lot of things that more chefs should be. She is seriously rad, and the book is too.)
Big Bad Breakfast By John Currence (Fun and rowdy breakfast food.)
Soframiz by Ana Sortun and Maura Kilpatrick (A gorgeous cookbook from one of my favorite restaurants and two of the most talented chefs in our country.)
Never forget the Whoopee Cushion. The perfect gift for literally everyone on your list.
My mom and I watched the same episode of America’s Test Kitchen where they reviewed microwave pasta cookers, something neither of us knew existed. She bought me one (kind of as a joke) for my birthday and despite some initial skepticism, I am a fan. For some reason, boiling water for pasta has always felt like a real chore. This thing works well, uses significantly less water, and cleans up easily.
Post-election, one of the things that has comforted me is poetry. The Poetry Foundation, a beloved Chicago institution, publishes Poetry Magazine, the oldest English-language poetry journal. For a relatively inexpensive subscription price, you get the journal delivered to your house and exposure to all sorts of poetry you might not easily find. Like this beaut:
BY NATALIE SHAPERO
Where can the dead hope
to stash some part
of themselves, if not in the living?
And so when I had a daughter,
I gave her your name.
She does not use it.
She goes by a silly, other
thing she was called once in fun,
and then often enough
that it stuck. But oh her hideous pill-
eyed toys — to them each, she has given
her given name,
and so it is you
I hear her again and again calling to.
It is your name she shrieks
to the bale-head farmer, the woven
goat, the cop made of buttons and rags.
Your name, to the squat gray
dog on wheels, tipping on its side
as she drags it by a red string.
That dog, always prone
and pulled along, as though constantly
being killed and paraded
through town to make an example.
What did it do —
Whatever it did, don’t do it.
In conclusion: the above are mostly distractions, not solutions. Help people. Donate Money. I know it should go without saying, but the most important thing any of us can do with our money right now is donate to organizations that will protect the health and rights of our fellow citizens. I, for one, would much rather you donate $10 in my name than show up for dinner with a bouquet of flowers or bottle of wine. I give whatever I can to Planned Parenthood each year to help provide medical services to people who need them.
December 6th, 2016 at 9:21 am
Love this list – I know I’ve found treasures – like D.S. and Durga, from previous gift lists.
I ate at Zahav when I was in Philadelphia last month and bought their cookbook: http://zahavrestaurant.com/. Wow. I can’t wait to dive in over the holidays. Also, eat at Zahav if you’re ever in Philadelphia.
December 6th, 2016 at 9:26 am
Hi Marlena! I looooove that book. And really hope to eat there soon.
Nishta Mehra says:
December 6th, 2016 at 9:45 am
I have wanted to splurge on some DS & Durga for myself since you first mentioned them in a gift guide but haven’t been able to bring myself to spend the $. I decided it’s going to be my publication present to myself so that I smell AMAZING on book tour ;)
For my birthday this year (exactly one month before Christmas Eve), I asked friends to give to SPLC in my name and then to spend time together at an art museum, followed by pizza & wine. It felt really good. I love the idea of showing up with a donation notification as a host/hostess gift! You the smartest.
Judi Cutrone says:
December 6th, 2016 at 9:56 am
I get so excited for the L&D gift guide but I always end up buying the stuff… for myself…don’t judge.
Sally Weigel says:
December 6th, 2016 at 12:37 pm
I want to justify linen sheets so bad! Maybe next year :)
December 6th, 2016 at 12:41 pm
Midwesterner living in London here. I have some vintage French linen sheets bought here. One is a French army linen sheet given to soldiers in WWII as standard issue. It was found by an English company in a French barn along with hundreds of others. Was in perfect condition. Completely agree with you about their comfort. Lots of people use them for upholstery too. Have a look on Easy.
December 6th, 2016 at 12:42 pm
Etsy, not Easy!!
December 6th, 2016 at 9:47 pm
I am still wearing, and loving, the Casio watch I fell in love with from your gift guide last year. And now I need to go put Swing TIme on my library request list. Thank you for the wisps of beauty you bring to my inbox.
December 6th, 2016 at 9:57 pm
“Photographed at a favorite bookstore because I read things on a Kindle now and LOVE IT, despite years of resisting.”
Please continue to support your favorite bookstore by buying books there. Amazon/Kindle books are great for their convenience; I get it. But this hits local bookstores hard. And I’m feeling it hard since my local bookstore is closing at the end of January because of declining sales. So this is less chiding than a plea to you and anyone who might read this comment: If you like having a bookstore nearby, please spend money there.
December 6th, 2016 at 11:54 pm
You have terrific taste. Kate’s comment reminded me that I too bought and loved the Casio watch from last year, I bought it for my brother and then ended up buying a second for myself!
December 7th, 2016 at 6:28 am
Hey Alison! It is complicated, and probably won’t be resolved in the comments of a food blog. I shop at my local bookstore as often as I can. I even went so far as to stop subscribing to magazines so I can buy issues there. (and you’ll notice that my link for purchasing the book is to a independent local shop) But in the year or two with a reader I have easily read twice as much as in past years. I am less stressed about bringing another object into my world (the small world of a one-bedroom apartment). And I don’t have any of the nostalgia surrounding books that that people seem to have. Technology always has impacts on our world, for better and worse. Anyway, all of that to say your point was not lost on me but we all have to make lots of decisions. And happily Swing Time is also available in print so anyone who wants to can buy a copy.
December 7th, 2016 at 6:29 am
Kate and Emily! I’m still rockin that watch, too! : )
December 7th, 2016 at 7:16 pm
I check in for your holiday gift guide every year. And it made me even happier to see your appeal for donations and activism at the end of your post. Thank you for loving beautiful things and action, the world needs more of both.
December 8th, 2016 at 12:43 am
do you think is ok to read swing time without having read white teeth previously ( … not just yet)?
December 8th, 2016 at 10:44 am
Hi Meli- Yep! Absolutely.
December 9th, 2016 at 1:06 pm
I always enjoy looking at your yearly gift guide, but was particularly touched by your kindness and care for others, especially in light of the recent election. The joy of giving is a gift we give ourselves! May you have a wonderful holiday season!
December 15th, 2016 at 3:23 pm
Can I just say that my mind is kind of blown by the pasta cooker? I feel the same way – the water, the boiling, the big pot – but I never would have considered it. That’s often how I feel, reading your blog, but this might be a whole new level. Also, that cookie cutter! Thank you.
January 5th, 2017 at 6:12 pm
goth sheets. i need!
January 7th, 2017 at 7:20 pm
Reading this a little late but love your selections. That cookie cutter is pure genius, why has no one developed that before? I also love Sweet Sugar Sultry Spice–totally unrelated. The poem, also beautiful! Happy New Year!!
January 17th, 2017 at 2:06 pm
Do you happen to remember where you found the rabbit skeleton poster?
January 18th, 2017 at 7:59 pm
Hi Danielle- The poster is from a taxidermy shop in Paris called Deyrolle. Maybe they sell them online? Good luck!