Top row (L-R): Akiko's Pottery Mini Colander ($42) and Ambatalia Bento Bags ($17) from Art & Article; Shino Takeda ceramics; Ray Morales Pottery Mugs ($25) Second row (L-R): Wooden utensils from Richard Rose Culinary; Walnut cutting boards from A Sunny Afternoon ($69); Kaico Enamel Milk Pan from Anaise ($72); Mud Australia Teapot in Slate ($185) Third row (L-R): Vintage Cocktails; The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Dessert Cookbook; The Roberts Court by Marcia Coyle; 50 Mile Bouquet by Debra Prinzing Bottom row (L-R): Astier de Villate incense ($40); Mad et Len candles ($80); Kashmir Body Balm from In Fiore ($80); The Lip Slip by Sara Happ ($24)
I think the idea of holiday gift guide is a little redundant since everyone has different likes and budgets. I don't presume to think that everyone can afford $80 chocolates and $200 sweaters. I also don't presume to know better than most people about the best thing to give their friends and family. I mean, with the ease of online shopping, the multitude of "gift guides" and the ubiquitous sales and promotions, I'm sure most people will be able to find the perfect gift quite easily.
In keeping up with my last post on cataloging purchases, I feel it's a better idea to list a few things that I've purchased this year and tell you why I love them while hopefully making a case for why you should own them too. Most of the items come from independent stores that stock plenty of unique artisanal products. If you click through any one of these stores, you'll find that they also have a ton of other great products at varying price points. I'm going to encourage you to shop responsibly and to buy something that is, to put in quite clichéd terms, an "heirloom". I've linked to some of the items using affiliate referrals, which will yield a small commission for me if you purchase an item. However, in case you don't want to click on an affiliate link, I've also listed the stores you can purchase the items at (where applicable). All commissions are donated to the Oregon Dachshund Rescue (where my rascally dachshund Mr. Dieter was adopted from).
1. Akiko's Pottery Mini Colander & Ambatalia Bento Bags from Art & Article
One of my favorite online discoveries this year is Michele's store, Art & Article which stocks a small but very unique selection of home goods including Akiko's Pottery ceramics and Ambatalia bags. I've been a huge fan of Akiko's Pottery for a few years now after visiting her studio in West Seattle. I use my Ambatalia bags for wrapping bread, toting fruits and vegetables and for bring my lunchbox to work. The added bonus is that it's all made in San Francisco of organic cotton, linen and hemp.
2. Shino Takeda Ceramics
New York-based Shino Takeda's ceramics is every yupster's must-have. I particularly like her style of multi-color glazing and hand-pinched clay which results in really extraordinary shapes and textures. They tend to be slightly expensive (in my opinion), but the several dishes I have from her have been conversation pieces at the dining table.
3. Ray Morales Mugs
The person who makes my favorite morning coffee mugs is Ray Morales, who is a ceramics professor at Miami-Dade. I particularly like his mugs for the way they feel in hand, the handles are extremely comfortable and sturdy for when you're still bleary-eyed. His pottery is also well-made enough to hold up to everyday abuse and comes in beautiful shino glazes.
4. Richard Rose Culinary
Rick Odea runs Richard Rose Culinary (formerly known as Phoenix Culinary Products and the other half of Ozark West). I first noticed a lot of Rick's beautiful wooden utensils being used on Giada De Laurentiis' cooking shows and I finally purchased a pair of salad hands and a few spoons this year. I can't really convey how beautifully made these utensils are, from the luminous sheen of beeswax on walnut, the wavy carvings, the way the wood fits perfectly in your hand and the subtle elegance, it's a wonder anyone buys wooden utensils from anywhere else.
5. Cutting boards from A Sunny Afternoon
This year, I also discovered beautiful cutting boards made by Sarah Sherman Samuel and her father at A Sunny Afternoon. I love the cutting boards particularly because they have such interesting shapes, have a good heft to them and are made from my favorite kind of wood - the American black walnut. And... I kind of have a crush on Sarah, who is possibly one of the most beautiful bloggers ever (other than Jenny Gordy, but that's a different story).
6. Kaico Enamel Milk Pan
I use my Kaico enamel milk pan for hot chocolate, morning porridge and for making very small amounts of sauce. Having bought the saucepan based on some idealized online photos, I'm actually quite surprise that the pan has managed to stay pretty clean for the most part even though I make my caramelized sweet soy sauce in it quite often. I bought the pan at Alder & Co. but I'm linking to Renee's store since it's slightly cheaper there.
7. Mud Australia Teapot
This teapot was a nice wedding anniversary gift from my husband and having owned Mud Australia ceramics for many years, I must say that Shelley Simpson's company has really upped their game by making their ceramics much more durable than before and in more exquisite colors. Customer service at the Mud store in New York is also top notch. My teapot is in the 2-cup size and it's just perfect enough for a pot of good Wuyi Oolong when you want to class things up.
8. Vintage Cocktails by Laziz Hamani & Brian Van Flandern
Vintage Cocktails has been my go to recipe book lately (I drink more than I cook these days), and the six or so drinks I've made from it have actually been able to rival some of the fanciest cocktail bars and pseudo-speakeasies I've been to. It's part of my effort to go out less and spend too much money on craft cocktails. After all, the amount you pay for a "mixologist" to hand you a French 75 is equivalent to two bottles of Prosecco at home.
9. The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Dessert Cookbook by Josh Kilmer-Purcell & Brent Ridge
Ever since I came across a cardamom cake recipe from The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Dessert Cookbook, I've been a fan. I highly recommend the cookbook for all your holiday baking needs (and more), I'm making their fruitcake laced with my personal touch pf Single Malt scotch for Christmas this year. The few other recipes (Ginger cake, cinnamon buns, etc.) I've tried from the book have turned out beautifully.
10. The Roberts Court by Marcia Coyle
I am sad to report that I haven't really been reading much this year, but in the small amount of free time I've had to actually curl up with a book, Marcia Coyle's detailed insight into 'The Roberts' Court' has been one of my favorites. It's simultaneously depressing, eye-opening and an indispensable book for anyone interested in the current state of American politics. Marcia Coyle writes for the National Law Journal and appears periodically on the PBS Newshour, talking about SCOTUS decisions and cases. She has a uncanny knack for explaining things in really concise and intellectual manner and this book is a reflection of that ability.
11. The 50 Mile Bouquet by Debra Prinzing
This year, I've also started to make myself a little bit happy by purchasing a floral arrangement every few weeks. One of my favorite sustainable florists in Seattle is Terrabella Flowers and 'The 50 Mile Bouquet' was recommended by the owner Melissa Feveyear. The book explores sustainable flower farming through stories and insights into the lives of growers and floral designers. If you're interested in the slow flower movement, whether by purchasing through a florist or growing your own, this is a really good read.
12. Astier de Villatte Incense
I was first introduced to Astier de Villatte fragrance at Alder & Co. in Portland. I've come to the conclusion that I like their incenses more than their candles and my favorite scents are the mystical Namche Bazaar (reminisce of mountains and old Buddhist temples) and the rustic Aoyama. Great for burning during the winter.
13. Mad et Len Candles
Mad et Len candles are hand-poured soy & vegetable wax candles made in the Grasse region. They may not be the most eco-friendly candles but the scents they come in are mind-blowing. My favorites so far have been the leathery Black Afghan and the smoky Nag Champa. The candles come in hefty cast iron molds and last a really long time. My everyday candles are beeswax ones by Big Dipper Waxworks, but for sitting by the fire with a glass of wine, Mad et Len lends that touch of luxury. I purchase my Mad et Len candles from Garde in LA, Mohawk General Store and online from Farfetch.
14. Kashmir Body Balm by In Fiore
Most of you already know that I'm an In Fiore disciple so it's no surprise that one of my absolute favorite moisturizer is In Fiore's body balm. I love the sensual Kashmir scent, which is grapeseed, jojoba oil and beeswax infused with sandalwood and neroli. It's an excellent remedy for dry elbows and knees as well as healing cracked heels. I keep a jar on my nightstand and I find that the scent is a really good for putting me to sleep as well.
15. The Lip Slip by Sara Happ
I bought this on a whim from Nordstrom a couple of months back after reading in a magazine about how great it was for severely chapped lips. It's been one of my favorite beauty products this year and while a little expensive, the jar has lasted quite a while. I find that after using The Lip Slip religiously for a week, slathering it on twice a day, I hardly even need to apply any other sort of lip balm. This is definitely one of the few hyped products that actually works.