I’m a long-time fan of Fort Standard and this pen is one of my favorite objects they have produced. Made of stainless steel with a nice weight to it, the pen can be used to pivot the ball that rests in a little stand—a satisfying plaything and a beautiful writing instrument. A bonus is the perfectly formed cork container the pen arrives in, making this a great gift. It’s also available in brass.
I’ve been making an effort to find clothing that is more ethically produced by people who seem to care about things other than profit. Ijji is a company I have grown to love and these jackets/tops are my favorite thing they make. Sadly, they stopped making the denim version but the canvas and corduroy are equally wonderful. Also, everything they make is deliberately genderless and they’re working on expanding the available sizes with the goal of making a more inclusive clothing line.
I don’t want to become one of those people who cares about fancy pillows, but here we are. One of the most beautifully constructed and special objects in my house, these pillows are individually made in Aukland, New Zealand. The attention to details on these is really something. An absolute treasure.
This is unfair of me and impractical because really I am recommending an experience that can only be had in London—but maybe you’ll find yourself there! If you do, go spend some time smelling the beautiful fragrances crafted by Lyn Harris in her perfectly designed shop and laboratory, Perfumer H. Earlier this year we visited twice, smelled all of the scents, and I came home with a bottle of what has become my favorite fragrance. If you really feel like a splurge, spring for the hand-blown glass bottles that can be customized with your initials. Perfumer H is starting to be sold in limited ways outside of the shop, but trust me when I say that they shopping experience is a part of it. (Thanks, Caroline!)
Has there ever been a better restaurant tote bag? (also, if you’re in Detroit—eat at Lady of the House)
Three of my favorite cookbooks this year were from the Midwest. Proving once again that Midwest is best. In Ruffage, my buddy Abra Berens wrote one of the year’s best books which highlights the glory of vegetables through the lens of the Midwest. Midwest Made is Shauna Sever’s homage to the baking of the region and is full of recipes that you will be anxious to make including iced oatmeal cookies, kringles, and poke cakes. One of Chicago’s favorite chefs and restaurateurs created one of the best entertaining books of the year with Cooking for Good Times. It is unorthodox in a fun and inspiring way.
I am a sucker for over-priced candles and I love this one that smells like earth and minerals and other wonderful things. If you’re in Chicago, this is available at Field & Florist (along with a selection of cookbooks that I curated!).
After many experiments we landed on this tea as the best for making a classic unsweetened black iced tea. I start my day with a glass of this every day—it is the absolute best. To follow my lead, brew 2 1/2 tablespoons tea leaves in 4 cups of water (just off the boil) for 4 minutes. (I use a 4-cup Pyrex measuring glass for this.) In a pitcher, combine with an additional 5 cups of water and chill.
One of the things we always have in the house is a bottle of Drambuie, the Scottish liqueur that is often associated with older generations. Drambuie is so delicious. I use it to make the best oatmeal in the world. Stir a tablespoon or so into a serving of Scottish oats that were cooked in milk with a pinch of salt and sugar. The flavor combo is unparalleled in the porridge world. Also, you then get to say you have whiskey in your oatmeal. Bonus: you can also make a Rusty Nail.
Ikea occasionally kills it and these candlesticks are a great example of them at their best. The perfect shape and material, and they come in a set of three at varying heights. They’re at their best paired with a black taper. Have yourself a very gothy xmas.
Overallt Cork Trivet by Ikea
Another winner from IKEA. This one is no longer available in store but I’ve seen them available elsewhere online. (Google it)
Happy to have attention being turned to ethically sourced spices and am transitioning to Burlap & Barrel who, in addition to caring about sources of their products, sell some really wonderful spices.
This classical pitcher is a really beautiful object on its own, but also fun to use for water or even wine.
This company is publishing the handwritten manuscripts of beloved authors from Flaubert to Fitzgerald. The perfect gift for literary superfans, which explains how I came into possession of the Mrs. Dalloway edition. It is really something to be able to read a beloved text in the author’s hand.
Snake Top from Hape
We got this for our nephews but I play with it more than they do. The top has a small magnet in it that sends the little metal snake on a wild ride. Lots of toy shops carry these, but the only link I can find online is to a store I would never link to so you do what you have to do to find one of these near you. A fun stocking stuffer.
I really loved reading this book which was one of the winners of the Booker Prize this year. The other books I read in 2019 and really loved were: There but for the by Ali Smith, I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, and Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino.
Red pepper flakes, but make them smoked. SO good. And you’ll find they’re pretty great added to a lot of things but especially the oil you’re about to fry an egg in.
As always, these are all things that I genuinely enjoy and use regularly. This list might be a little spendier than usual, which I attribute to what has been a rough year that occasionally required splurges (I also make the mistake of thinking that things will make me happier). Remember what really matters: the people you love, good health, nature, art….
And don’t worry, I’ll be back around with some recipes soon. Love to all.