Doorbells and Sleigh Bells

Have you all seen The Sound of Music? I feel ridiculous even asking this. I never would have thought to ask anyone that question a week ago. I mean, that movie feels as woven into the pattern of my life as, like, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, watching the New Year’s ball drop in Time Square, the Wizard of Oz, and Sara Lee cinnamon pecan coffee cake on holiday mornings. But then, my little family has always had a bit of a Broadway bent, which may be making me think something is really mainstream when it’s not. Big Hungry Jill told me last weekend she’d never seen it. When I reacted with horror and the insistence that she watch it with me, she was reluctant. Then I told her there was a yodeling song with goat puppets in it, and she was a bit more on board. As one is.

Where am I going with this? Well, the holidays are upon us. For reals, Thanksgiving really snuck up on me this year, like a lurker on a message board or a spider in the shower. It’s a week early, right? It feels a week early, because I am NOT ready to listen to holiday music yet, but usually I’m sneaking Christmas CDs into the car the week before Turkey Day and trying to justify how that’s OK because I should get started on cards soon and I need to get in the spirit. This year, I’m all, “I’ve gotta go to Indiana on November 26, then maybe I can think about being Christmasy,” so Thanksgiving feels really out of left field. Along with the holidays, inevitably, comes shopping. No matter how much your family has trimmed back, no matter how grinchy you are or how much disdain you express on Twitter for the consumerism that has eaten our country alive, you will do some amount of holiday shopping. And you know what, Big Hungries, I’m here for you. I have ideas – big ideas, tasty ideas – on what to buy this year. So strap in!

First off, let’s talk about My Favorite Things, which is where this whole train of thought started. Yankee Candle has come out with a line of limited edition jar candles in scents inspired by my favorite nun-turned-governess. Naturally, my favorite is Schnitzel with Noodles, a buttery, savory-scented cream-colored candle with no hint of pork funk. You also can pick up Whiskers on Kittens, which is more floral than feline, or Bright Copper Kettles, which is warm and homey.

Want to mull over two really gorgeous words that come together in a phrase that is more than the sum of its parts? Try gravy boat. Mmmmm. Gravy. Boat. It’s a boat full of gravy! Gravy may be my original happy food, before I ever knew pork shoulder, wasabi, or miso even existed. And a gravy boat is a vessel purposefully, solely, reserved for gravy. My favorite example this season is from Le Creuset, because of the fun colors. My kitchen is sadly gravy boat barren, and I would like this one:

If you’d like to bestow a vessel for happiness upon your beloved for only $24.95, proceed to Sur La Table post haste. While you’re there, you also should take a look at the store’s own brand of specialty salts. I picked up the Asian 5-spice blend on a whim in March, and that little jar has become a workhorse in my kitchen. Terrific when making plain white rice as a side dish for a stir fry, or on tuna steaks destined for the grill, this warm mélange of ginger, sesame seeds, and five spice powder instantly renders your meal Asian. A sampler of these $10 salt combos would make a fabulous gift for the food person you love.

Moving right along in the foodstuffs arena is something that will surprise you. I think? I wouldn’t usually encourage you to holiday shop in a grocery store. But Trader Joe's is not your average grocery store, and their chocolates are not average candy bars. I brought the dark chocolate caramel with black sea salt to a work offsite earlier this year, and colleagues A and K were very pleased when I shared this massive bar. Unlike a lot of trendy salted caramel treats on the market right now, this bar is rich and buttery, with gooey, flowing caramel and a pronounced salty tang against the backdrop of the 70 percent cacao chocolate. An assortment of these babies in your wife’s stocking might earn you a little more than a lump of coal this year. Another idea is to curate an assortment of foodstuffs you dearly love and arrange them in a basket for someone on your list. I do this each year for the folks at my hair salon. I might have a bar or two of good chocolate I’ve just discovered that year, some crackers and a yummy jarred dip, and almost always my favorite gray salt from Napastyle. This both provides some nice snacks for the recipient, but also shares a bit of your own culinary life with them as they enjoy each item.

I’m very caught up in the idea of subscription gifts for people this year. Last year, I did Plow & Hearth’s Nuts of the Month for my Dad, which he loved; and you may remember Jill bestowing Bacon of the Month upon me as a consolation prize to losing hearing in my right ear? These subscriptions tend to run on the pricey side, to be sure, but many come in three or six month versions, and I love the idea of someone getting a gift each month that will remind them how much I care. I won’t spoil who’s getting what this year, but here are some of my favorite subscriptions:

Birch Box – Melinda turned me on to this service after her clever man, BLD, ordered it for her. Perfect for all us product whores: a monthly delivery of deluxe makeup, skincare and hair samples, directly to your door!

Zingerman’s – the grandpappy of gourmet foods offers a variety of premium monthlies, bacon to coffee to baked goods or cheese. The most fun might be the culinary adventure society, which starts at $175 and delivers gastronomic oddities like thimbleberry jam, rangpur lime syrup, or regional, artisanal cheese to your door, along with literature on each item and recipes.

I get a lot of compliments on my jewelry, which pleases me because I love it, too. I feel like a lot of women exclusively wear fine jewelry, and that we’ve lost our appreciation of costume jewelry as a culture, although it’s started to re-emerge in the last few years. For my birthday this year, Big Hungry Jill gave me the idiom bracelet from Kate Spade, and bought one for herself as well, so we’d have wonder twin matching arm candy:

The inside inscription reads: mom always said…(don’t play ball in the house, BRADY KIDS!), while the outside says fun things like don’t forget to floss, and eat your vegetables. Between Jill and me, this depicts our early relationship, which largely consisted of me bossing her around and telling her to put on a warm coat. Other adaptations of the idiom bracelet now exist for best friends, bridesmaids, and more broad ideas like get carried away, which would be cool for a friend or relative named Carrie. Other really lovely costume jewelry gifts can be found from Alexis Bittar, Rivka Friedman, and Juicy Couture.

It goes without saying that gift cards are some of the easiest gifting around. What I particularly like about giving restaurant gift certificates is that it encourages the gifted to slow down and share a meal with someone. Think about your recipient’s life and what would be most indulgent or useful. It could be spot she and her spouse like to go on date night, or a deli he frequents for lunches during the week. Most importantly, I encourage you to skip the chains and give gift certificates to mom and pop eateries, as these will not only benefit your loved one but also the local economy.

If gift cards seem too lazy or impersonal for you, there are lots of websites offering gift guides right now for that special foodie in your life. Gilt Taste is one of my favorites, offering high end pantry items, prepared foods and sweets. Another is Fab.com, which has a special section for foodie gifts, including quirky kitchen gadgets, witty serving pieces, and avant garde cookware.

And for those loved ones who regard a glass or three of wine as a sacred right, but also enjoy an active lifestyle, there’s Vino2Go.

That’s right, finally, a wine sippy cup. I have half a mind to buy these for most of the ladies on my list this year, and couple for myself as well.

Have a very happy Thanksgiving, Big Hungries! This year, I am thankful for my job, which I love so much, for the health and love of my family, for the travel I’ve done this year, and for Shawn, who is my home. My hunger is big; my personality is bigger!


  1. I want that gravy boat because I like it, not because I need it.

    I might want the bangle bracelet.

    1. Aren't those bangles great? I'm done with most of my Christmas list already in terms of the ladies, but I'm thinking these are going to be prevalent on birthday lists in 2013 for me.