A Few Distractions and An Only Occasionally Outrageous Gift Guide!
You're not doing anything else today, surely?
At some point in the past decade or so everyone in my immediate family started sending out our lists of what we might like to get for Christmas. Each time these lists start the same way: “I want for nothing.” And then that’s followed, of course, by a list of stuff we would like to get, if you insist on getting us something. It’s silly, to have that little throat clearing up top, especially when you do it every single time, but it does feel important to get the facts straight: gifts aren’t necessary. They’re nice. But they’re not what any of this is about. Still, people like to buy each other things. It’s an endearing thing many of us do to mark big occasions or big swells of sentiment: “I wanted to make you happy, so I got/ made/ found this for you.” We can acknowledge that while we have everything we could possibly need already—and if you want to get real woo-woo, as lately I do, we have all those things inside ourselves— it’s totally fine to also want to shop, or also want to artfully suggest what you might like someone else to shop for with the intention of giving it to you. (I’m all about asking for what you actually want rather than playing a guessing game. Surprise can factor in with the delivery.) Anyway, that’s the spirit in which I’m making this gift guide. Because even if you’re not particularly interested in actually shopping, looking at lovely things can be a fun distraction during a week that often sorely needs them. (Happy Thanksgiving!) No? Well I personally don’t need another newsletter about leftovers or how no one actually likes turkey and here are 12 incredibly complicated beautiful pies to make instead, or whatever. Of course we all prefer pie to protein. But I’d rather scroll than roll dough at the moment. Okay?
If you need further distracting: I loved this 2003 New Yorker essay by the wonderful Roger Angell; it’s about long car trips, and family, and this road of life that we’re on. (Very timely this time of year!) An excerpt: "My father overcorrected while driving and favored long silences, but he was a soldier, a commandante, at the wheel, good for a five-hour bore through the blazing Indiana afternoon while we dozed and told dumb jokes. He didn’t go for jokes, but laughed out loud when we imitated him trying to order his breakfast café au lait from a waitress at our creaky small-hotel dining room. This always started our day. “I want a glass of milk,” he began, speaking loudly and fashioning the shape of a glass in the air. “Cold milk, in a glass. Then, and in addition, I’d like a cup of coffee”—his hands moved to one side, forming an invisible cup with a saucer underneath—“and with it a pitcher of hot milk, to put into the coffee. Now, again: cold milk, please, in a glass”—he poured it and pushed it carefully to the side—“coffee, hot coffee” he made a happy sniffing sound, at the Maxwell Houseness of it—“and over here our hot milk”—little finger waves to show heat rising—“to put into the hot coffee. Is that clear?” But of course it wasn’t. The waitress, bewildered by this mixture of mime and command and terrified by the lawyerly glare in his dark eyes, had long since paused with her pencil. What Father got was generally coffee with cold milk in the pitcher, or coffee and boiling water, or, at least once, iced coffee. It never came out right. We shook our heads helplessly, knowing that he wasn’t cruel or unfeeling: he just liked things nice.”
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I interviewed Tove Lo for Vogue Scandinavia and we bonded over the toxic fishtank of the early aughts as a late ‘80s baby, and about how incredible it is to rediscover yourself and learn to love your body in your 30s. Being a whole grown ass woman: Cannot recommend it more! The story is paywalled so email me if you want it and I’ll send the PDF. Don’t tell my editor.
Speaking of the female body! I enjoyed this Decoder Ring podcast episode about the history of our fascination with the female rear end, and what Victorian England and the bustle have to do with our current BBL craze.
A horror, a hero. Put that drag queen’s heels in the Smithsonian. I saw on Instagram that people are buying the merch from Atrevida Beer Co., the brand owned by Richard Fierro, the Army vet who restrained the shooter. I will be getting one of those hats, myself!
I saw The Menu last week. I thought it was funny! It’s a pitch black horror comedy, I guess? (Not gross out gory, but definitely not for the squeamish or sensitive to violence/ scenes of self-harm.) Ralph Fiennes is always terrific, menacing, a low blue flame. Nicholas Hoult is maybe one of our best actors and I never don’t find it funny that he was the dorky kid in About a Boy. The movie skewers the whole fine dining scene expertly (the fabulous Dominique Crenn did the food for it, in case you were wondering how in-on-the-joke it is, the answer is extremely), and don’t get me started on the food critic/ magazine editor characters…
Speaking of food: should you be currently adrift in a food coma or in the throes of preparing for one, a nice thing to do to show gratitude for all of that abundance is to donate to the local foodbanks in your area. More than 34 million people, including 9 million children, in the United States are food insecure, and Covid certainly didn’t help. Sending money or a canned food drive doesn’t feel like much in the face of that, I know, but it does feel good to do something. It all matters.
I was moved by this Joan Mitchell quadriptych (← that’s a first time use for me!) ‘Chez ma soeur (1981)’, which David Zwirner has on in New York; I wish I was in town to see it before it leaves on December 17. It’s one of her largest paintings, and apparently she painted it while her sister was dying of cancer, inspired by the time she spent visiting her in Santa Barbara. “Painting is the opposite of death,” she said, “It permits one to survive, it also permits one to live. For me, Chez ma soeur, for example, is profoundly sad… it’s sadness in full sunlight as there is joy in the rain.” Art! Beauty! Pain! Life! We love it!
Now: to the gifts!
It’s holiday party season. You know this. You cannot show up empty handed. I hope you know that. Wine is more than fine(!) but once it’s officially winter out I love to show up with a tin of Leckerlee, which are beautifully packaged authentic Nuremberg-style Lebkuchen. Think a lighter, occasionally chocolate dipped gingerbread. They are nutty, warm, the perfect amount of sweet (not overly), and the tins are fun and great looking. Slap one of those tinsel bows from CVS on top and they’re perfect for a last minute “oh, I got you something too!” scenario, ditto office presents, or distant family members (they travel well and keep even better). I order in bulk and keep a stack by the door for easy access when heading out.
Are you shopping for a difficult-to-please aesthete? Do they have a strong jawline? I’ll explain: I met the founder of this brand Extreme Cashmere in LA recently and she was stern and Dutch and so chic and explained to me that this specific sweater style is really only meant for very handsome men and other people with strong faces and you know what? I appreciate that kind of candor. So if you know a handsome person of any gender that you’d like to treat to a machine washable lasts forever ultra luxurious and classic cashmere sweater with just a hint of difference? (The angle of the collar draws the eye up to the face.) They will be very thankful. They will also have this sweater for the rest of their lives. It’s like wearing a perfect un-sweaty right-amount-of-clench hug. You never want it to end. Take care of it (it comes with detailed instructions on how), and it won’t have to!
For the plant lover who does not have a green thumb, here’s something they can’t over-water or neglect. If you’re looking for more of a statement in the same wheelhouse, I also love this, so, so much.
Nice bedding is a love language. I traditionally tend towards solid colors in off-center shades like ochre, rose, moss, pistachio; for those who love prints, a pal of mine from university makes these winsome, preppy delights. They’re so cheering.
I like the idea of getting this for a fancy friend who gets bored at parties: (maybe that friend is you!) The Courchevel one is really cute, too.
A small delight: I bought these Imogen Owen scented cedar pencils at the gift shop at the Hammer museum thinking they were incense. They were not! A pleasant surprise and well suited to a stocking.
Baseball hats are having a moment! As I told Goop earlier this year, I personally like them very random (Wyoming Dinosaur Center!) or utterly untraceable. For the former you gotta do the legwork, for the latter you gotta head over to Varsity Headwear, a very stylish new discovery I’ve made for well-made brandless numbers in linen and tartan and denim and wool and some technical fabrics, all in a variety of colors. The packaging is also good for gifting.
Shopping for someone with exquisite tastes? Sherman Field is the heirloom-level jewelry you wish you had inherited but was instead created by the chicest woman you know (Danielle Sherman, previously of The Row, Edun, etc.). The lockets are a perennial cult-favorite—she’ll put your photos inside and engrave to your specifications!—but I’m obsessed with the thick link chain bracelets and perfect length necklaces. (Do you know how hard it is to find a good quality chain that is the perfect length? It’s VERY hard.) It’s all very 1970s Cartier, but right now. You could always start by giving a chain and add a locket (I love the tiger’s eye or nephrite jade), a pearl, a gemstone, etc. along the many holidays to come. Or you could just buy me the convertible emerald tassel and lapis earrings and we could just be happy for the rest of our lives?
Beans. I’m not kidding. I once gave my boyfriend like 10lbs of these dried beans for Christmas. But these aren’t just any beans. These are heirloom Rancho Gordo beans! That means they’re really good beans. They come with a cute recipe booklet that is full of delicious ideas, and the pride of knowing you don’t need to leave the house in order to eat for days! You just need a little water and heat and herbs. One caveat is that the recipient has to enjoy beans. (If you live with them, you do too.)
A beauty one-and-done. I don’t always love a pre-made box set of stuff as a present, but Violet Grey knows what they’re doing. This is a dynamite selection of serious goodies for the person in your life who spends a lot of time luxuriating over “their routine.”
I recently wore a sweater vest for the first time, and you know what? I loved it. (It was this one, by the wonderful Lingua Franca.) ‘Tis the season to layer up! My friend and former Departures magazine colleague, Melissa Ventosa-Martin, has a wonderful store called Old Stone Trade that only traffics in heirloom-quality possessions. They have a sweater vest! (Also a perfect shirt.) Win/win.
For your friend who enjoys heart opening plant medicine/ would know what I mean by that. Pair this cutie patootie ornament with Alice mushroom chocolates (legal! non-trippy!), which come in two flavors designed to enhance productivity or sleep…or pair with the more fun kind of mushroom chocolates, if you are interested and able and NOT A NARC.
At some point the narrative around gifting pajamas became that it’s a boring regular shmegular holiday gift. Let’s change that today. I fucking love pajamas. If you give me beautiful pajamas I feel seen and heard and loved. I basically wear pajamas as much as I possibly can in my every day life already, and I happily encourage you to do the same. I love them in silk, in cotton, in linen. THEY ARE A GREAT GIFT!
For a friend who likes to host, or drink, or both. Fun glassware and a bottle of something special is a really nice idea. Maybe that’s an Amaro, or a Scotch, or a 6-pack of non-alcoholic or CBD spritzers. Another really nice idea that’s a nice indulgence is a pretty tablecloth and cloth napkins.
Let’s say they want something major and from a major designer. Two different takes on very classic bags that will look good for ever, because they already look vintage. One is more daytime, one more night. Out of your budget? Mine too. What about a boat and tote that has “GUCCI” embroidered on it? (Or, you know, their initials.)
Do they like to cook? What about going to your local bookstore and pulling together a library of cookbooks for them! Or just like, a few proven really good ones, and a classic tool they’ll have forever (in a fun color). (Throw in some flavor for extra points.)
You know what really never fails? Something really sweet that you can enjoy together. Like some pretty dessert bowls and a 6-pack crate of Graeter’s ice cream. (On my list of the top 5 American ice creams—which, yes, is a list I keep and constantly update—AND they deliver anywhere in the country. We can debate this later. Maybe. It’s good enough for the White House! Proven crowd-pleaser flavors: black raspberry chip, mint chip, peppermint stick. ) Anti-sugar? That’s fine! Get that big bucket of potato chips I told you about a few weeks back. Throw in a tin of caviar (keep on ice!) and maybe some champagne, and my god, we’ve got a party. Paleo party? What about an at-home steak kit from New York’s best korean steakhouse? Sun never sets on hot girl summer? Get them a bunch of prettily boxed responsibly sourced tinned fish and some nice crackers and spritz ingredients! You’ve got aperitivo hour sorted!
At the end of the day, you know your person. Cater to their tastes, write a thoughtful note (by hand), wrap it nicely or have someone else do it for you. They’ll be thrilled. And if they’re not, well. That says more about them than you! Besides, life is full of opportunities to surprise and delight each other with or without little tokens of our affection. In fact, this is often better when its not tied to a holiday. Just saying.
Okay, that’s it for now. I’m going to go help with dinner prep. Historically that has meant making Nora Ephron’s vinaigrette and pretending like I’m a genius. I guess Olivia Wilde and I have that in common?
Anyways. I hope you have a beautiful week, and a happy Thanksgiving, or just a fabulous Thursday. As always: thanks for being here. I love you.
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