Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Quite out of the blue, Eve received a letter in the mail shortly after she was born from her cousin, Peyton.
Monday, December 21, 2009
(At least, I'm pretty sure it said that. It may have said "flyer at plum & modern.")
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Friday, December 11, 2009
SIDEBAR: In case you're wondering, I will not be blogging about the conclusion of Top Chef because AGAIN the biggest dickhead of the bunch won, and I am sorely, bitterly disappointed. I love the show, love it, but I disagree with their awarding the person who cooks the best final meal, rather than take the entire season into consideration. I hated Hosea, too. And Ilan. (Harold and Stephanie were allowed to win, and Hung was clearly the better cook though also a dick.)
Then they make Folgers' coffee, and while it's brewing the son takes a deep inhale of the aroma and says, "Ahhh, REAL coffee."
FOLGERS TOOK OUT THE "REAL."
Sunday, December 06, 2009
I should be so lucky.
I miss the East Coast winters. I never lived far north enough to despise the winter months the way some folks do -- folks who suffer from seven months frozen earth and the kind of ice storms that render entire counties powerless for days, and whose spring is known only as "mud season." In southern Connecticut, it would snow several times every winter, but snow storms were often few and far between. I can count on one hand the times the snow fell hard enough to be waist-deep. We had fewer white Christmases than rainy ones. And snow days were rare enough that they remained special, the eternal hope of homework procrastinators.
There's foliage in Napa that I didn't expect. The vines turn brilliant colors, and the vineyard expanses are...well, they're gorgeous. Winding through Napa's highways is not as traditional as driving up the Merritt Parkway and through New England's autumnal glory, but it's pretty spectacular. If West Coast travel and winemaking had been part of the American landscape 100 years ago, Currier & Ives would have had much to capture. But I guess that's the point. This Napa wasn't here 100 years ago.
Regardless, it doesn't snow and won't snow and winters -- while chilly -- won't ever quite be the same as they were in Connecticut. But that doesn't mean I won't make them as homey as possible.
These photos are of Eve and Ish, just before we left to get our first "family" Christmas tree.
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
UPDATE: Right after I finished this post, ANOTHER Christmas movie starring Peter Falk came on. This one involves Katy Segal and she and not-Columbo are both some sort of Angel-God-Santa characters, but it's tough to figure out on mute while paying mostly no attention. But I am mentioning this because, for some reason, Peter Falk's character decided to pretend to be a shopgirl and DRESS IN DRAG and what kind of blogger would I be if I didn't take a picture of my television to show you this Christmas marvel?
I feel like I've blogged this before, but when my sister and her boyfriend were in high school, they developed a certain way of saying this phrase. Basically, say it as loud and snottily as possible: 'TIS THE SEASON. Emphasis on 'TIS. This comes in handy when someone is especially rude to you while you're doing (or trying to do) something festive. Say you're somewhere Christmas shopping, and someone cuts you off in line, or blows past you as you reach for the door. 'TIS the season!
I'm not NOT in a festive mood, it's just that I haven't decorated the house or gotten a tree or any of those things. And while it's only December 2, I feel behind. Because one day behind soon becomes one week. You know.
So I'm debating how this blog entry will go. I could tell you about how I cried at lunch with Ish yesterday because of a perfectly happy friendly email I received. Or I could tell you instead about the amazing array of holiday movies on the Hallmark channel. As I write t his very sentence, Peter Falk is singing and dancing a jazzy Christmas tune with a toothy pre-teen girl in some horrible movie where Valerie Bertinelli plays her mom and works at a hospital and believes in a ghost. How these things are connected eludes me, and I'm going back to DVR'd episodes of Supernanny now.
But in case you weren't paying attention to my Tweets, I've also landed on a Christmas movie starring Steve Guttenberg AS THE LOVE INTEREST, who is marrying Crystal Bernard (who I always thought was totally hot, but man, she's had some work done) and somehow they're becoming Santa and Mrs. Claus.
Then there was the one that made me laugh right out loud for its horrible-osity, the one starring Candace Cameron and Tom Arnold, I'm not even kidding, and I LOVE movies that take place in office buildings written by someone who's NEVER had a corporate job. I'm always reminded of Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion where they pretend to be businesswomen but get thrown for a loop when the waitress asks them what kind of business they're in.
In this movie where Candace is supposed to be a high-powered corporate woman, written in 2007 no less, she is showing a "client" a slide show but the projector she's using is one of those old-fashioned ones with actual slides and a carousel. Also, she is supposed to say "Celtic" like with a hard C, except she pronounces it like the basketball team and no one working on this movie seemed to know the difference. ALSO also, she uses the word "arithmetic" instead of math, which makes me think the person who wrote the script is not so much under the age of 65.
It also makes me think I should be writing these movies.
BUT THE BEST MOVIE ever is one starring -- I don't even know how to prepare you for this -- Jane Kaczmerek and John Denver. I KNOW!
Damn it. I lied. I didn't go back to Supernanny in time, and now Peter Falk is wearing a bushy mustache (he was facial hair-free last we saw him) hugging some guy. Maybe he's Santa? Or God? Or an angel? I'm just guessing here, based on how these movies go, but I'm keeping the computer mute. Poor Columbo.
* * * * * * * *
Yesterday I got the friendliest email ever from a woman helping manage Crazy Aunt Purl's virtual book tour. Seems our dear Laurie has written a second book and it's coming out soon and this woman wanted to know if I would like to review the book and interview Laurie (or have her guest blog). And of course, OF COURSE I would, happily, yes.
But ouch, too.
Purl and I started blogging at about the same time, had similar audiences and (I presume) traffic. We wrote about similar things: living single post-divorce, with cats and yarn. And wine. We even sort of look alike.
And here we are, nearly five years later. We are both in verrrrrrrry different places. It's amazing. I am happy with what I've accomplished and I'm thrilled with where I am in life. It's exactly where I wanted to be.
But -- and you know what I'm going to say, of course -- I can't pretend it doesn't make me envious that she's written two books while I can't manage to complete NaBloPoMo.
Yes. We have had different priorities, different paths, different goals, different experiences. And my goodness, I would never, ever say one single negative thing about Laurie, who is still my favorite blogger.
Some of the comedians who started their stand-up career at the same time Ish did are now headlining at The Punchline and getting gigs on Comedy Central. He's performed with dozens of folks who've managed to get on television (Letterman, Ferguson, Last Comic Standing, etc). Assuming he's every bit as talented as these folks (and I do believe he is), there are many reasons he hasn't advanced as they have. Different priorities, different paths, different goals, different experiences.
But I know how he feels when he's been asked to open for one of these guys. Or worse, when he's been asked to help promote one of their shows. He doesn't begrudge them their comedic success. He gives them a good show, and is thankful for the opportunity -- glad he was on the radar screen at all. But sometimes it's a hard pill to swallow.
And that's how it felt yesterday when I received the email. I am proud to be on the radar screen (thank you to whoever recommended me, by the way!), and am happy to help Purl/Laurie in any way I can. I absolutely want her book to do well and would buy a copy if I weren't being sent a copy for review (just as I bought her first one -- in fact, I'd pre-ordered it).
I think you get what I'm saying, though. It's hard for this NOT to be a reminder of what I haven't done. And what I'm not doing and what I could have done already and -- scariest of all -- I'm not sure I will ever be able to do.
Which I will totally get over. Look for more info about the book and tour in Jan & Feb.
In the meantime, I have to get back to ignoring this Hallmark movie while playing peek-a-boo with a fauxhawked baby.
(And by the way? Who was letting Valerie feather her hair in 2003!?!? 'TIS THE SEASON!)
Monday, November 30, 2009
The Wednesday before Thanksgiving, we spent the afternoon with out-of-town guests.
"Out-of-town guests" is easier than randomly launching into the story of how my cousin is married to my other cousin who isn't really my cousin but may as well be. It deserves exposition.
Then Wednesday night, we started in with the casserole cooking and turkey brining and setting up rented equipment for the holiday weekend.
I finally figured out a table solution. I did end up using the runner (even though it didn't extend to the add-on leaves). I also found some mini-apples at Whole Foods and cut some hydrangeas from our yard, and everything looked simple and lovely.
I rented a buffet table for the food itself, adorned with some Bartlett pears, extra mini-apples, and vases full of vines I clipped from outside.
Once everything was set to go, the rest of the weekend was a blur.
We hosted three couples (one with a three-year-old boy) and between food and wine and a baby, I'm not sure how anything got done at all on Thanksgiving. Eve melted down right as we were trying to get dinner on the table, and it took everyone's help to get the food out and kept relatively warm. Eventually, Eve just fell asleep in a sling while I was sitting at the table.
The food was good. I did some hybrid turkey prep that turned out just fine. I brined the turkey using Whole Foods brine mix and the directions on the brining bag box (from Williams-Sonoma). I then cooked the turkey to Alton Brown (Food Network)'s specifications, using Giada's recommendations for aromatics inside the bird and her butter blend for outside (instead of Alton's plain ole canola oil). It was the easiest combination of instructions I could find and felt comfortable trying.
The stuffing was great. I highly recommend adding bourbon-soaked dried cherries. (Thanks, Ms. Txsjewels.)
Some short time after dinner, we danced to Into the Mystic, as it was playing on our record player.
Some longer time after dinner, there was some bourbon and a holiday viewing of Die Hard.
The next morning was a crazy assortment of kids and breakfast and dish-washing, while guests went from pajamas to clothes in time for Ish's family's arrival. And then we spent the rest of the weekend with his parents, his sister, her husband, and their two kids (aged 8 and 5).
We mostly hung around and ate and worked on jigsaw puzzles. There was a lot of football watching, but I was fairly oblivious.
Saturday was incredibly windy, and our backyard fence blew down. Our neighbor came over almost immediately to say that she'd be having it repaired (apparently, it's their fence and their responsibility, so okay!). The guys were out there working on it yesterday and today.
which you usually can't see because there's a fence in the way. Not so at the moment.
And that's the weekend round-up.
I finished all my Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving, but I am only about 3/4 way through wrapping, and have barely begun to figure out shipping it all. On the one hand, I'm psyched to have it all done. On the other hand, I hate missing out on all the Cyber Monday fun.
OH! And? For those of you not on Twitter, WHAT THE HELL?
I mean, well, let me start this way: My sister and her husband are currently separated. (That's very weird to write.) She is living in a short-term rental house in MA, and the house does not have any sort of Internet connectivity. My sister doesn't feel she needs it, because she and I live on entirely different planets.
But we are visiting her for Christmas, and the idea of being without Internet access on my laptop for a full week makes me break out in hives.
So I thought, "Oh, hey, I'll just get a mobile broadband card thing."
AM I MISSING SOMETHING? Why is this so hard and/or expensive? Every option I've found from phone carriers require ridiculous contracts. No, AT&T, I'm NOT going to sign up for ANOTHER contract from you, I'm fine with the one I already have for my phone, thanks.
The ones that don't require contracts are pricey, because you have to buy the USB modem thing, and those seem to cost between $200-$300.
I've seen rental options -- where you can rent the USB modem thingy for however long you need it, and those options still end up costing around $200. FOR A WEEK.
My friend who works in the mobile industry recommended I try Cricket, but that service isn't available in either my zip code OR my sister's.
So it seems there isn't an option for me. Short of borrowing someone else's, there's no cheap way to get wifi for a couple weeks. Seems very weird to me.
Lastly, I thought -- oh, you know? I could just use my iPhone the whole time...I wonder if there's a keyboard available for it. See, I don't mind using my phone to get email or read websites, but I hate writing emails back from such a limited keyboard, and I certainly can't blog from that tiny thing. But no, such a thing doesn't exist yet.
Oh well. I guess I can always take my computer to Starbucks...
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
I'm using the baby as an excuse. But also? I finished my Christmas shopping. So neener, neener.
I need to figure out some computer equipment and wait until Eve naps to be able to bring you this Very Special Thanksgiving Post, but for at least one of you, I hope it will be worth it. Either that, or it will confirm that I have officially lost my mind.
Yesterday, I realized that The Hallmark Channel had started on its Christmas Movies from noon to midnight jag, and I accidentally saw parts of two movies that I cannot believe exist. The first was called Smoky Mountain Christmas and starred -- yes, starred -- Dolly Parton. I think she was supposed to be a music star, and then there were seven orphans of varying ethnicity and a witch(??) and I'm pretty sure the story was loosely based on Snow White. I don't know what to do with any of that.
Then later there was a movie called Meet The Santas and I only caught a few moments of it, but apparently it's a SEQUEL, not kidding, and there's Steve Gutenberg (hair dye? plugs? a little lift?) and Crystal Bernard (nose job, lips, hair extensions) PLUS a very masculine-looking Mariette Hartley attempting a southern accent. So, yeah.
I wanted to follow up with you guys about my Thanksgiving plans.
Ms. txsjewels: I think your stuffing add-ins sound awesome, but I have a couple questions and I can't figure out how to contact you. Please email or FB or IM me!
Ms. bzh - you were right on the money with those napkin rings you suggested:
I love them, and the seller agreed to work with me to get them here by tomorrow. (Twigs and berries!) But for real, they're grapevines, which seems appropriate for our location.
All of your suggestions have been helpful and I'll let you know what all ends up getting put together. I gathered a crazy assortment of potential centerpiece-y things and I'm still not 100% sure where I'm going with it all...
Thursday, November 19, 2009
This leads me to the next item on my "Hmmmm" list. And that is figuring out how to make the table(s) look beautiful. I mean, I can probably figure something out, but if you have fantastic, pretty ideas, I'd love to hear them.
Of note(?): My table is dark wood, almost black, and I'm not planning to use a tablecloth. My plates are plain white. I have chargers in red. I have a table runner (also red) but I don't think it runs the length of the table while the table is fully extended, which it will be.
So I guess mostly I'm looking for ideas for napkin rings, table decor -- like unobtrusive centerpieces -- place holders, that sort of thing. I'm picturing like, twigs with red berries. Except I don't know where to get twigs with red berries. Napa doesn't have a Michael's or Jo-Ann's and it certainly doesn't have a Twigs With Red Berries store. (Napa DOES have enough wine that it probably thinks you won't notice the table decor, though.)
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Also, tomorrow it's Thursday. Which means Thanksgiving is in ONE WEEK. AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
So rather than post a random photo or two (though I'm tempted), I thought I would ask you to please tell me:
- Where is the best place to get a Thanksgiving turkey?
- What is the best way to prepare a Thanksgiving turkey?
Last year I cooked a turkey for the first time, and after exhaustive research and like, three near-panic attacks, I decided to get the bird from Whole Foods, brine it with a bag and brine from Williams-Sonoma, and roast it according to Alton Brown's instructions (which rely heavily on the use of aromatics).
The result was quite good...
Seriously. Not bad for a first time!
Also, nothing caught on fire!
...and I plan to follow the same procedures this year. The only thing I didn't like about last year's bird was that it cooked a lot faster than an un-brined bird would have. Which is fine on the one hand (fast is efficient!), but kind of sad on the other because part of the joy of Thanksgiving is having the smell of turkey wafting through the house all day long. I also think the aromatics didn't get an opportunity to do their thing for the same reason (even though I microwaved them in water to get them going).
Also, I need a better stuffing recipe. I want something with a LOT of flavor that doesn't involve sausage or rely on celery. I have yet to find a stuffing I like better than the stupid Stove Top mix (yes, shutup), even though I've gone to elaborate lengths to try and find a replacement.
Lastly, what do you use to tie/truss the turkey with? This part eludes me. Can someone explain, please?
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
And this means I am now free to direct you to my NEW contest. Mostly you can win an Aquaphor product gift basket (and Aquaphor products ROCK and I believed that pre-free product samples), but you can also win a $100 Visa Gift Card aaaaannnd enter to win a $1000 prize from BlogHer.
So you know, go read the review.
Monday, November 16, 2009
For the record, skinny jeans is a trend that I have ignored and will continue to ignore until probably forever. LA LA LA JINGLE BELLS I CAN'T HEAR YOU OVER THE SOUND OF MY BOOT-CUTS, SKINNY JEANS, JINGLE ALL THE WAY.
It's not because I don't have skinny legs. All things considered, I DO have skinny legs. Well, I mean, relatively speaking.
Note: despite that my legs have like, ZERO flab below the thigh, my calves are still somehow giant and I cannot wear 90% boots and it makes me sad. Apparently, ~16" is GIANT.
Remember in the 80s when everyone wore giant tops and leggings and big socks? That worked for me then because I was young and skinny and I could have worn anything anyway.
But today's skinny jeans look is NOT the look of the 80s. Today's tops aren't boxy and 17 sizes too big. (Also, you do not pair them with crimped hair and frosted pink Wet 'n' Wild lipstick.) They are curve-hugging and, well.
The effect of me -- with my excessive top-heavy-ness -- in skinny jeans and an on-trend top would be like...well...picture a bowling ball balancing on a golf tee.
Worse yet if paired with heels.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
As I suggested below in my Gift Guide For Guys, I take gift-buying VERY seriously. (More on this in future issues.)
So I thought I would create a few choice posts about stuff I love, would never want to live without, in a gift-guide-y like way, in case you can use this info to shop for someone this holiday season.
(And if you think these are stupid entries, YOU try writing something every day.)
#1 Thing I Own And Love: Any (And All) Of The Harry Potter Books On Tape/CD, As Narrated By Jim Dale
Let me make two things very clear about this.
FIRST, understand that I never read fantasy. Shameful though you may find this, I've not read The Lord of the Rings, or The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe, or any of those I should have.
Perhaps understandably, then, I started the first Harry Potter book three times and just didn't like it, didn't get it, didn't care.
Finally I forced myself through it and got to the end and was like, "Eh."
Then I read the second one, egged on by my ex, and was even less enthused. I just couldn't bring myself to think it page-turningly amazing. Yes, I was mildly curious in how things would eventually go down with old Voldemort, but I wasn't exactly losing sleep over it, either.
But, I allowed my mild curiosity to lead me to the third book. And by the end of that one, I was hooked.
I devoured the fourth, which had come out not long before I started on the whole series, and was miserable when it ended because I couldn't wait for number five.
Oh, and I waited and waited and then -- well, by then I was in San Francisco and with El_Gallo and the day The Order of the Phoenix came out the both of us walked down to Borders on Powell St. and got in line a block away and made our way through the store and purchased two copies and walked home and read them both that weekend.
As maybe a couple of you miiiiiiight remember, number six came out the week before I left one job for another. I took a week off in between, and (quite serendipitously) was able to enjoy The Half-Blood Prince at my leisure.
The final installment came out right before the first annual BlogHer Conference I was responsible for planning, and I waited until the final night of the event to crack it open. What a divine gift to myself, being able to enjoy that when the even was all finished!
The point is, I didn't immediately love the series, but came around and fell in love. It's really something special.
THE SECOND point I want to make is that, regardless of how you feel about the series or books on tape in general, these are A-MAZ-ING. Jim Dale is the narrator and I have never heard anyone like him. He's fun and enthralling and you just want to listen to him tell you these magical stories over and over and over.
Great for trips to the gym. Great for long car rides. (I discovered these when I bought the first four books on tape for my car drive across the country, moving from Connecticut to San Francisco.) Ish didn't think he cared for Harry, either, until I begged him to start over, from the beginning, with Jim Dale as his guide.
Ish was totally converted.
Bottom line: Give them to someone you love, ask for them for yourself. Jim Dale's narration makes it worth it to start from the beginning and get lost in the series all over again.
The whole audio collection is available at Amazon and on iTunes.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Okay, for those of you who somehow missed this a cappella gem (and I'm really not sure how that would be possible), here it is, sort of:
I say sort of because the version above is from a recent show. The original recording was of a performance they did ten years prior, while at Indiana University.
Regardless, the versions are awesome. And I decided that, if it was possible to get my hands on a copy of the underlying arrangement, I would....and then I hoped that we (our all-female a cappella group) would be willing to try our version of it.
Well, I did. And we are.
Today I spent nearly several hours in an extra rehearsal with The Loose Interpretations working out this very number. And you know? We may not have the charm and appeal of college(esque) boys in tuxedos, but we make a damn good run of it. We've tweaked it to be a little more "us," but I think we do the arrangement proud.
I will try and get a recording of us performing it before Christmas.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
I never do this, but I'm exhausted (Eve is adjusting to her new sleep schedule far better than her parents are), and in this case, "exhausted" means "okay, I'm calling you out."
Here is an incredible PR pitch I got today. Word for word.
* * * * * *
I enjoy coming by your site for all your great gift ideas from a stylish standpoint. I thought you may love how stylish and frugal but chic Elisabeth Hasselbeck is being with her fashion. You can buy a super nice outfit for very cheap, and look super stylish. It would be a perfect gift.
I thought you would love this, as I thought this would be a great look on She Walks. As you love to promote savings.
If you do choose to post this, can you please send me the links.
Thanks in advance,
[paragraph with links and photos of Elisabeth and her clothing line]
* * * * * *
Where to start? What is there even to say?
My name is not Kristin.
I do not blog about sales or value or style or frugality.
I LOATHED Elisabeth Hasselbeck before she tried to get me to buy shit; this has only upped my loathe quotient, and I didn't think that was possible.
But! Even with all that, the thing I find MOST offensive about this pitch is the grammar. The writing is maybe the worst I have ever read from someone who (presumably) speaks English.
Maybe for fun I will spend all of Friday using "super" as my only adjective, and starting every other sentence with the word "As."
Today, I received this email from a different PR person!
Hi Kristy!Please let me start by introducing myself, my name is [nevermind] and I work at [sigh] Media.. we handle a lot of music, fashion, beauty, & film accounts nationally. I'm a project manager here and have a few opportunities I wanted to talk about with you. One of our clients is QVC - and they are offering some awesome discounts and gift giveaways for the holidays. I'm wondering if you could post this copy below for Elisabeth Hasselbeck's holiday clothes that are priced affordably for women everywhere. I know you've wrote some blog entries on Elisabeth - so I'm thinking it's the perfect fit. Her program launches today! Going forward, I'll keep you updated on other products - as we usually have quite a few things we can offer up as giveaways.Thanks!
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
WHICH IS IT?
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
I have some general gift-guide additions I'd like to make that aren't guy-specific, but I'll post those separately.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Let's face it: shopping for men is stupid.
We want to get them something they'll love, something other than grilling tongs or cologne, and so every year we ask hopefully, "What would you like for Christmas?" And every year we hear the same, mumbled, "I dunno."
Seriously. How is that even possible? I don't know what it is about the Y chromosome that makes men gift-dumb, but each year I feel like shopping for the guys in my life -- especially the in-law males, good grief -- makes me want to get everyone a Best Buy gift card and be done with it. (And by "Best Buy gift card" I mean "bottle of bourbon." FA LA LA LA LA.)
That said, I have been doing this a long time. And for every failed gift (I thought he'd LIKE Celtic Christmas carols), I've had some real successes, too. (Aside from the bourbon.) So I'm passing the fruits of my exhaustive hunts on to you. Thus...
Here are my Top Ten Official Suggestions for Gifts for Guys this holiday season! They are many and varied, in no particular order OR price range, but will hopefully prove useful for at least one hard-to-shop-for guy.
1. If you're going to go the "traditional" gift-giving route, do it with style.
Just because wallets and cufflinks are standard-issue male gift ideas doesn't mean they're bad ideas, especially if the items themselves don't suck. (Just sayin'.)
I happen to love Tumi bags and accessories, and their wallets are just as nice. I got one for my husband last year and he said it was one of his favorite gifts. I ordered it from Nordstrom.com and was very pleased with the quality of the Tumi packaging. It was evident the gift was high-quality.
This is the Tumi Wallet, $88 L-fold ID version, but there are cheaper and more expensive versions as well.
In the same vein, I love these cufflinks. Yes, I know, cufflinks, yawn. Plus who even wears French-cuffed shirts anymore? But still. Cufflinks are arguably something every man should own, and possibly something older generation males on your list might actually like, want, or need. These are monogrammable AND let you pop in mini photos. I think of it as a man-locket.
I should also note these are from Red Envelope, which always has beautiful gifts and gift packaging. $119 for silver, $99 for gold.
2. I have never gone wrong with gifting assortments of salsas and hot sauces.
Why do guys like condiments as gifts? I have absolutely no idea. But they always seem to love these!
Great as stocking stuffers individually, you can go crazy and buy "fancy" gift assortments as full-on gifts.
Consider a site like "Hot Sauce World." For one, it's called Hot Sauce World. For another, I've ordered from them several years in a row, and have never been disappointed.
The gift pack shown here is $31.98 (and easy to wrap, unlike individual bottles). They also have interesting BBQ sauces and coffees, such as those flavored with Maker's Mark. (Yes, bourbon again.)
3. Man books.
Of course, it's entirely possible that your guys are like mine and prefer lengthy, detailed non-fiction books about something that happened a hundred years ago in a part of the world you didn't know existed featuring "historic" figures no one's ever heard of.
But if that's true, then your guy probably also likes anything having to do with poo. Because if there's one thing my husband thinks is ENDLESSLY ENTERTAINING, it's poo.
I cannot roll my eyes hard enough.
Anyway, have you seen this poo book?
I like to think of it as a way to keep the poo-happy men in your life amused AND healthy. And now Chronicle Books has come out with a sequel, "What's My Pee Telling Me?" and I am not even kidding. Visit their site for the entire collection of books, calendars and well, other gifts.
There's nothing that says that gift books need to be specifically FOR the men you're giving them to. For example, every dad who has children could benefit from a copy of The Daring Book for Girls or The Dangerous Book for Boys. (About $18 through Amazon.)
Or you could snag my favorite Guide To Guys of all time for your guy, even though you'd actually be buying it for you. Try Dave Barry's Complete Guide To Guys. It's a classic.
And I suppose we must include a golf book, yeah?
I'm kind of fundamentally opposed to getting guys ties and golf paraphernalia of any sort as gifts, but this book amuses me. At $29.95 it's good coffee table fodder.
I also really like the store/catalog it comes from, www.signals.com. Cool stuff there!
4. That thing that will mostly just take up space in your kitchen but that you buy anyway because the 6 times a year you use it you will feel like Martha Stewart.
I don't need to tell you about how awesome grilled cheese and tomato soup can be - everyone knows it's the ultimate comfort food. But really, what soup-sandwich combo isn't great? Enter this handy-dandy soup and sandwich platter from Uncommon Goods. Pretty, useful, and doesn't take up the kind of space that those other kitchen items you never use will. Plus, it can double as a chip-and-dip type serving platter. $30 for a set of two.
5. Because any Guy-themed gift list is going to include beer-related products.
It's called the beer belly (www.thebeerbelly.com), and its express purpose is for smuggling beer into sporting events. I feel like you can't even say the product name without prefacing it by yelling, "DUDE!"
(I wish there were better product photos, but I don't know what I should be expecting. Still, this image...am I allowed to say "Gay Porn" in a gift-giving guide?)
Anyway. You wear this God-awful thing under your shirt, and then you discreetly suck from the beer straw. Ta-da!
Yes, they sell a version for women called The Wine Rack. Ahem.
The Beer Belly costs $49.95 which is a little much for a gag gift. But who knows? Maybe some DUDE! out there reaaaaaaally wants this.
Classing it up just a tad...
Here's another Red Envelope special. The beer belt still has a DUDE! feeling, but somehow more civilized and less porn-y.
Last but not least of our beer-themed gifts we have the Ring Bottle Opener from Urban Outfitters. It's $8 and exactly what it sounds like. A sort of macho/metro man-ring that doubles as a bottle opener.
6. And wine, too.
The folks at Crushpad run a nifty operation, where you can have your own blend of wine made for you. If you live near Crushpad (in SF or NY), you can actually go visit the operation, but this "Fuse Box" is their do-it-at-home version.
Basically, you take the kit and futz around with various blends until you have the wine blended to your exact preferences. Then you send away for an actual case (or more) of the wine you created, complete with custom labels.
You can learn more about it here.
The kit itself is $79.99. If you go through the steps, find a wine blend you like and order your wine, the finished product will cost $336 per case. Not cheap, but not bad ($28/bottle) if you go in on a case with friends. And you can always invite those friends over to help you create your personalized blend in the first place.
7. And something to put the drinks in...
Who doesn't love that telltale blue box? Believe it or not, there are some reasonably priced, gorgeous items available at Tiffany & Co. Among my favorite (uh, and only) things to purchase at Tiffany are glasses.
Side note: glasses (highballs, wine, whatever) from Tiffany make excellent off-the-registry wedding gifts.
These tumblers are attractive, well made, great for anything (not just booze) and come with the cache of being from Tiffany. A set of two is $30.
8. For the man who's handy in the kitchen.
You will think I'm totally lying but I'm not: this was my husband's second favorite gift last year:
Yep. A $15 pan scraper from The Metropolitan Museum of Art store. (Leave it to me to see a MoMA catalog and pick out a pan scraper.) But seriously. My husband does the dishes most of the time, and loves this sturdy, all-around useful tool. It's really pretty amazing.
I also really like this set of chopping boards because one chopping board is never enough. Plus it looks all clean and organized.
Of course, this handy, easy-to-clean set is a bit on the expensive side, coming in at $85.
I still think it's worth it if it means separating HIS space in the kitchen from YOURS. (Or is that just my issue? Hmmm.)
Lastly, we know that boys like knives. They just do.
Personally, I think that's awesome (I love cooking with good knives), BUT. I hate the look of standard, clunky wooden knife blocks.
These alternatives to a standard knife blocks are attractive, simple, and a great idea. (You just stick the knives in among the bamboo reeds.) My sister-in-law requested one for Christmas two years ago and I have loved them since. So for no particular reason, I'm assuming this means men will love them, too.
They range in price from $49 (small) to $89 (large) from VivaTerra.
Lastly? Let it be known that these things rock. Men, women, it doesn't matter. Get a pair of onion goggles! They will save your onion-cutting life.
Sure, anyone wearing them looks ridiculous -- note that the catalog image does not include someone IN the goggles -- but hey, it's better than looking like dinner has made you weep uncontrollably. $22 at Sur La Table.
9. For the Metro you know and love (or for the man you just want to spruce up). Especially those who shave their heads.
If you have a Metro guy in your life, you know how impossible they are to shop for. Things must be just so. At least, in my experience.
That's why I LOVE this scarf, also from the MoMA store. It's chic, urban, artistic and high quality. Frankly, I think men who can pull off wearing this (which is basically any guy WILLING to) is sexy.
What? Aren't men in scarves sexy? Am I getting sidetracked?
Remember how I mentioned men like knives? I think razors count, too.
If you've never heard of it, let me introduce you to The Art of Shaving line. It's all old-school shaving tools, like when men used to go to the barber to get a shave with their haircuts. Except they also offer updated grooming products and beautiful gift sets. Check them out.
The good? The items are incredibly high-quality and really attractive, frankly. They're the kinds of products you don't mind sharing bathroom space with.
They are excellent for men who shave their heads.
The bad? The products are all super expensive. Arguably worth the cost, because they're items men will use almost every day for years. Then again, for what a basic set costs, you could get an iPhone. The "Manual Shaving Set" pictured above runs $275.
Speaking of shaved heads...
If you are shopping for a man who has to shave his head regularly, you can always try one of the HeadBlade products.
HeadBlade is a razor developed specifically for guys who have to run a razor over their skulls, which requires a very different motion than shaving one's face. Apparently. I don't know, it seems really cool and there are lots of accoutrements you can get to go with it. And unlike the shaving systems above, the basic HeadBlade costs $13.
BY THE WAY. The best after-shave, bump-reducing tonic on the market is called Tend Skin. One bottle runs $20 but is TOTALLY WORTH IT. Why? Because not only is it the best product for reducing redness and bumps on men's faces and necks, but it's the best stuff for addressing redness and bumps post-lady-waxing. So you can give it to the man in your life ("It's the best stuff out there!") and then steal some. Win-win!
And if you're just looking for a nice gift set for a non-metro guy, something not too girly or expensive or weird, how about The Man Can by Orvis?
This $50 gift set includes all the things you'd want from a spa kit, but dressed up in manly colors, names, and scents.
Plus the non-metro recipient of this gift will perhaps rest assured when you tell him it's from a website that has a man in a canoe with a dog on its homepage.
10. Into every life, a little geek must fall.
If you haven't seen it, haven't heard of it, haven't visited Think Geek, you can thank me now. Honestly, if I were a little less creative and just a little more lazy, my entire gift guide would be "Go to ThinkGeek.com. You're welcome." If the men in your life skew even slightly geeky, this is the only place you'll need to shop for them, ever. (You might pick up something tricked-out-geek for yourself.)
I couldn't possibly showcase all my favorite products because there are too many. Flasks that say "Meh." T-shirts with Shakespeare in code. Products displaying "WTF." LOLCats fridge magnets. Toys for cubicle wars. Light sabers.
Oh, it's a goldmine.
Think Geek claims that this little gem is the "easiest to fly, most precise controlling R/C copter yet!" Okay! As of the time of writing this, it's also 23% off -- just $22.99! Not bad for such a fun gadget.
Bonus: Cats love these things. I speak from personal experience.
But of course, we all know that techie, code-loving guys aren't the only kind of man-geeks out there. There's also the reader-y, writer-y geek, too.
I don't know why it is that men I know love -- LOVE -- writing on graph paper (????) but they do. So rather than question them and/or fight it, I just go with it.
And everyone loves Moleskine notebooks, yes? Big, small, graph paper, normal paper, you name it. These high-quality notebooks are beloved in our household, and I think it's safe to say that if you know a guy who likes writing, taking notes, keeping track of...oh...anything...these should be a hit. Hardcover, softcover, sketch, graph, lined, large, small, you name it.
All available at Chronicle Books. Small graph notebook pictured above, $12.
Now, this next gift suggestion is extra special, because it works for geeky guys who read, but ALSO for geeky (and NON-geeky) guys who are "handy" AND/OR guys who might not have anything to do with geeky but who HIKE and are all outdoorsy and stuff!
It's like the omni-guy gift!
It's called the Headlamp. And, well, here's the thing...
A couple weeks ago, I wanted to go to bed and crash at around 8 p.m. My husband wanted to stay up reading The New Yorker. (Different kind of geek altogether.) I felt bad and said he could keep the light on, but he said "No, I have a thing, let's see if I can find it."
Next thing you know, my husband is lying next to me in bed in his boxers, looking like he's about to go on a spelunking mission.
"What is THAT?" I ask him, having never seen this device in the years we've been together.
"Oh, it's a Headlamp thing. I can use it to read at night while you're sleeping. But originally I got it for when I used to go running before the sun came up."
I was awestruck. I took a picture. (It looks like I took it using nightvision goggles or something. Also, how thrilled is he to be featured mostly naked in my blog reading The New Yorker? OH SO VERY.)
I didn't understand why anyone would own one of these things, it looks so ridiculous. (And let's not get me started on how ridiculous "running before the sun comes up" is.)
But then an amazing thing happened! When I asked people on my blog to come up with suggestions for the ultimate guy gift, I received precisely ONE reply. And it was for the Headlamp. The commenter said that her husband uses it for EVERYTHING, particularly for fixing things around the house. Which is when I realized that the Headlamp is maybe the best geeky/non-geeky guy gift that ever was.
Now you know. Petzl Headlamp, available at REI for $39.95.
Ooh! Extra #11! Because sometimes, you just want to give a guy something romantic or meaningful (that isn't so schmaltzy he won't admit to owning it).
That's where this comes in.
It's a personalized "Night Sky" poster.
I know it sounds cheesy, but it's kind of cool and I liked it and thought it was worth mentioning.
See, you can pick your date and location, and they will provide a personalized photo of what the night sky looked like then and there.
You could pick a birthday, anniversary, any special occasion, really.
So that's my guy's gifting round-up! May it serve as at least a somewhat useful starting point for your own impossible-man-shopping this season.
Good luck, and happy holidays!
Monday, November 09, 2009
Some people will see this photo and feel fear.
I see this photo and feel nothing but the same,
unadulterated glee that this awesome dog is experiencing.
More Cronie photos below.
I don't write about pets because if I started to tell you the story of how I've loved the dogs in my life -- Cronie the Briard, Folly the Golden Retriever, Boggle the Briard, Kismet the Lhasa Apso, Tyson her mixed-up cross-breed son, Basker the Australian Shepherd, and Scarlett the cute mutt rescue -- I would begin weeping and just never ever stop.
I've said it before and I'll say it again. I LOVE LOVE LOVE dogs. Dogs bring me endless joy and make me happy with every fiber of my being. Nothing tickles me quite the way dogs do. I love puppy breath.
This also means that I absolutely cannot handle the suggestion of animal cruelty, or of dogs being sad, or of anything bad happening to them. I have the emotional maturity of a three-year-old when it comes to dogs and that's all there is to it.
So this post will NOT be about dogs I've loved or how pets are special or anything sentimental because seriously, I'd be a pool of dog-loving goo. Instead, I simply want to take this opportunity to say that Yep! Indeed, Crony (actually, my parents spelled it "Cronie," I'm sure for some reason, maybe because it was a name?) was a Briard, and he was great and you should get one.
A Briard is a French Sheepdog. If you're unfamiliar -- and most people are -- basically picture giant English Sheepdogs (sort of like Barkley on Sesame Street) except brown and black, with ears that are "trained" to stick up.
Contrary to popular belief, dogs with long hair shed less than dogs with short hair, and are therefore far kinder to folks who might be allergic. And sheepdogs, while they have a propensity toward heel-nipping, are great family dogs.
Apparently, Cronie didn't have a very kind temperment, but he was perfectly angelic with his family. When I was born, my parents were still living in New York City; no matter where my mom took me, Cronie was my protector and guardian. (A bit like Nana in Peter Pan except circa 1970s Manhattan.) He was gentle and patient and loving toward me and my sisters, always.
Cronie was, as you may have noticed, a giant dog. You'd throw a stick for him to retrieve, and he'd come galloping back toward you with a giant branch. Cronie also loved tires. He'd find -- and bring you -- discarded tires whenever he happened to see them. My dad would put on firewood gloves and wrestle with him in the backyard for fun.
He was a great dog, and made me fall in love with Briards, and I hope I get to have one again someday.
My mom with Cronie as a puppy.
A slightly older Cronopio, happily teething on my mom's hand.
Cronie the teenager.
Peek-a-boo! Where are you?
There you are! Ha!
Ever the patient dog.
This explains why, to this day, I'm convinced that all dogs
just want to be my friend.
In our NYC apartment. Gotta dig the hair, all around.
Sunday, November 08, 2009
I had a pretty easy pregnancy. My body, for whatever reasons, adapted to it quite well. I eased into it and never got that sudden kind of "what on EARTH is happening to my body???" feeling that so many women do, especially when they're spending the first three months puking their brains out.
Here I am after. And now I'm feeling the effects. Now I'm going through some slow, torturous hormonal adjustment period that I'm not entirely sure will ever end.
I was THRILLED when, 10 weeks after giving birth, I was feeling (reasonably) rested and energized and could not WAIT to get into the gym. ME! Excited about the gym! And I started eating better and even lost my taste for bad foods (the kinds that were absolutely required in my third trimester).
Apparently that was a phase, too. One I'm trying to reclaim, yes, but still.
I can't even begin to describe the hormonal imbalances I'm feeling now. Way worse than wondering why I'm crying at the sad mop in the commercial. No. I FEEL my moods shift. One day I am happy to eat a balanced meal, the next day I am so ravenously hungry that I become a bottomless pit and want to eat for days and days. My hair has started that awesome stage of postpartum fall-out (sexy!). One week my skin will look as blemished as it's looked since I was a teenager, the next week it's as clean and smooth and fresh-looking as it's ever looked ever in my life. I am gung-ho about the gym one day, and the next it's all I can do to get dressed. I'm not depressed (there is no sadness, no dread)...it's just...my moods, energy levels, appetite, concentration are alllllll over the map.
Four months after giving birth. WAHOO.
I know I need to just rein it in. I need to take control, keep my diet balanced now more than ever (yay, protein!) and force myself to go to the gym.
The problem is that those swim classes I relished at first now seem like giant hurdles. I like the classes (obviously, I need my regular dose of Doris), but what was at first the best way for me to get out of the house -- having a scheduled class that required planning to get to, and allowed me a full 1.15 hrs away from the baby -- now just takes too much energy. Even if I drive instead of choosing to walk and push the stroller, the whole expedition is going to take at least two full hours. Which isn't the end of the world, but two hours is a lot when everything else takes ten times as long to do.
So, I'm working on figuring something else out, and trying not to eat my weight in sugar in the meantime.
At least I got Ish to bring the last of the Halloween candy into work with him.
Saturday, November 07, 2009
Ish and I took a leisurely drive with Eve to Sebastopol to pick up some wine that Ish had ordered several months ago from a small, fantastic winery called Radio-Coteau. They weren't having a harvest party or anything, we just basically drove up to a warehouse and tasted some wines in a room that felt like a garage. It was totally unglamorous but that's how things are around here mostly. You don't generally wear your finery to visit a vineyard, you wear a fleece jacket and shoes you don't mind muddying.
On our way home, we decided to stop at a couple wineries near our home that we'd never been to before, just because we could. In fact, since moving here 8 months ago, we'd never spent a Saturday wine tasting and I'd say it was well overdue.
Cuvaison has a new tasting room and it's all open-air and windowed and Earth-friendly and provides quite a lovely glimpse of Napa.
Eve was mostly oblivious, sure, but she seemed to have a fine afternoon regardless. She's gotten very good at blowing spit-bubbles and sticking her tongue out and drooling like a fiend, and just today she's been testing out new sounds she can make which I can't really replicated in type but that sound hilarious. And totally inappropriate at a winery, but what can you do?
I have a feeling the weekends are going to be crazy from now through the end of the holidays, so I'm glad the three of us got to spend a quiet day driving around and enjoying our view.
OOH! AND!? I finally figured out that my phone's camera quality isn't COMPLETE crap, it's that when I use blogger to upload them, BLOGGER messes with the image quality. So I'm back to using Photobucket to host my images, and now they don't suck quite as much!