Holiday Gift Guide

December 8th, 2014 · 14 Comments · Uncategorized

It’s the most wonderful time of the year — at least it would be if you could check a few things off that massive list of yours. DALS is here to help! Need a holiday ham? Check. A classic Christmas cookie recipe? Here you go. And because we love you so much, herewith, our annual collection of gift ideas for friends and family, lovers and fighters, readers and eaters. Enjoy. -The Family DALS

Magna-Tiles ($52 for a 32-piece set.) The day after Thanksgiving, we stopped off at a friend’s house on our way back home. It was a kind of bleak, chilly day — Alanna, our host, made us a lunch of pasta with kale and lamb sausage, which fit the weather perfectly — and I spent most of the two hours we were there, on the floor, playing Magna-Tiles with their two sons. Their sons are a little younger than I am. Like, 35 years younger than I am. And yet! I could have stayed there all day, building stuff, feeling that slight pull-then-click of the magnets as the pieces locked together. If they had had these when I was a kid, I would have grown up to be an architect.  Maybe it’s not too late. — Andy

Booze ($30-60) I haven’t bought a serious bottle of booze in a few years. And that’s not because I haven’t had any serious booze in the past few years. It’s because our friends buy all the good stuff for us. Thank you presents, holiday presents, birthday presents, anniversary presents — every occasion, it seems, warrants an insane bottle of bourbon, wine, or gin. I’m not complaining (though I do worry a liiiiiittle about the signals we’re sending re: our priorities in life). Our two favorites lately are Widow Jane 8-year bourbon (which is made in Brooklyn, NY), and Cold River Gin (which is from Maine, and which makes a martini that will bring tears to your eyes). Both do the job, in style. – Andy

Cozy Earwarmer/Headband ($28) From 11-year-old Abby: “Recently, I got a chance to see this awesome headband. It was the softest, snuggest, coziest thing ever! That is why it’s #1 on my Christmas list. I would wear it to winter soccer, tennis and even under my ski helmet! I love the bright colors, but mostly it is about the fur lining… It is sooooo plush, and it looks like it could definitely keep me warm.” –Abby

Jacques Torres “Wicked” Hot Chocolate ($18) Decadent hot chocolate from the master of decadent chocolate, this (or maybe Frankie’s Olive Oil) will be what I give teachers, coaches, hosts or anyone else who makes me happy. The kick of cinnamon and cayenne is what makes it “wicked” and wicked special. –Jenny

Dinner Plates ($13 each) Anyone who has spent even a minute on this blog will know all about  my obsession with Heath Ceramics, artisanal designers of dishes and dreams. I have a few pieces (this and these) and fantasize about replacing every mismatched, chipped Ikea plate in my kitchen with one of their tableware lines. Only hitch in the plan? Um, it’s a little pricey. So until then, I’m going with these “18th Street” stoneware plates from Crate & Barrel, which hit the similar modern-but-rustic notes I’m so into these days. If all goes according to plan (are you listening friends and family?) you’ll be seeing them photographed underneath chicken and pork chop recipes on this blog very soon.  –Jenny

Vintage Board Games from eBay Have you played Monopoly lately? Or Sorry? Or Life? Or Battleship? Or any other nostalgic, old school board game that you played as a kid? We have a closet full of them upstairs, and every single one of them makes my eyes hurt. So many of these games have undergone merch-y makeovers since we were kids — I love Nemo and Buzz Lightyear, but they have no business near Park Place — and I haven’t seen one yet that I approve of. And since we get roped into these games every time our kids want to play — usually, like Tuesday night at 8:45 pm, when all you want to do is climb into bed —  it’s way more fun to play with the real thing. Easy to find (start with ebay), inexpensive (less than the new ones), and aesthetically pleasing (come on, you could frame that Sorry board)! – Andy

Marcel the Shell ($10) My boss, who does not have kids, called me into her office a couple of months ago. “You have got to see this video,” she said. I stood there, looking over her shoulder, as she cued up a clip on Youtube, and a tiny, one-eyed, sneaker-wearing snail named Marcel the Shell took the stage. I don’t know how to describe it other than: absolutely friggin’ delightful. So I went back to my desk and did some googling. Turns out, this was kind of a thing! (It’s a common theme in my life. This internet thing is amazing!) There were more videos, which I watched and loved. And better yet, there were books. Which would make a good Christmas present of the kids. And for me. – Andy

Twelve Recipes, by Cal Peternell ($20) People always ask me to recommend a good starter cookbook for kids, and I almost always tell them Kids Cook  1-2-3 by Rozanne Gold (master of simple cooking) and Fanny at Chez Panisse, which is the book my daughters reach for every time they decide they want to cook their parents dinner. (Every time = precisely once, for our anniversary this past October.) I’m officially adding Cal Peternell’s to the list. Peternell, chef at (where else?) Chez Panisse, wrote this for a kid considerably older than mine — his college-bound son — upon realizing that he was heading out into the world without having learned the most basic kitchen skills and recipes. When I say basic, I mean basic: toasts, vinaigrettes, risottos, beans, roast vegetables. But really, what else does anyone even need in this world? (PS: There’s also this line: “A crash course in cooking for yourself and others also goes by another name: it’s called dinner.”)

Ceci N’est Past Une Pipe Poster ($13) If you have a young TFIOS fan in the house — and if you need me to spell out what that stands for, you probably don’t — then you will no doubt impress him or her with this subtle nod to the Magritte T-shirt Hazel wears on her visit to Amsterdam with Augustus. If you have no idea what language I’m speaking, how’s this pitch: Also great for young fans of surrealism. –Jenny

Platter by Sophie Conran ($35) Perfectly round serving dishes are so…predictable. This porcelain one, with its charmingly misshapen perimeter, is more like a piece of art than something you’d use to serve spaghetti — or vegetables or salads or short ribs or Marcella Hazan’s milk-braised pork loin….or….anything. PS: The salad bowl looks lovely too. -Jenny

TracBall ($15) Summer evenings, when I was a kid, I would wait for my dad to come home and, once he’d changed out of his suit and poured two vodka tonics — one for him and one for my mom; I can still hear the ice clinking in the glass — I’d beg him to go outside and play. Overall, my first choice was to “chuck the apple,” as he referred to playing catch, but there was a two or three year stretch in there — probably around 4th and 5th grade — when TracBall was our game. It’s a kind of weird, 80s-ish hybrid between lacrosse and Frisbee, and we got pretty good at it — able to curve it both ways, fire hard, rising fastballs, run deep fly routes down the side of the yard and pull in over-the-shoulder catches. I can still see him out there, in his shorts and black dress socks, sweaty drink in hand, and I can see hear the zzzzzing sound of that ball as it lifted into the summer night. – Andy

Vera Bradley Phone Wristlet ($24) Too young for a bona fide purse, too old to be forgetting their phone and cash. Tweens seem to be into these colorful phone-wallet combos that come in over a dozen patters. (Shown above: Bittersweet) When your parents call and ask “What on earth do we get the granddaughters?” send them this link. -Jenny

Metallic Tattoos ($12 for five sheets with about two dozen tattoos per sheet) My nieces, age 11 and 13, deserve all the credit for these temporary tattoos, which wind up looking more like jewelry if you slap a few on at a time. Great for stocking stuffers or for wrapping around a wine bottle when a family is having you for dinner. -Jenny

Lunar Calendar (About $13)  Last year, when I told Jenny that I had bought Phoebe a lunar calendar for the holidays, she responded like this: “Wow, that’s random.” Yeah, yeah, yeah. It was random. But it was also (a) kind of beautiful to have on the wall, no matter its utility, and (b) actually useful! Phoebe checks it every morning, along with the weather, before coming down for breakfast. I asked her what she liked about it. She said, “I’m a science person. Do you ask a person who likes to play with dolls why they like playing with dolls?” To which I say: Exactly! – Andy

Beginner MicroScope ($80) Speaking of science, this microscope shall be the new obsession. – Andy 

Kids’ Books We asked 12-year-old Phoebe, our resident book expert, for three solid recommendations for kids this holiday season. Here is what she said: “The first one is Ares: Bringer of War by George O’Connor. I never really knew much about Ares, other than he was the god of chaos and bloodshed. Besides that, he had no significance whatsoever in any of the mythology books I’d read before. But George O’Connor has shown me a side of Ares that I’d never seen before — his softer side, his role in the Trojan War, etc. Graphic novel lovers will be into this. The art is awesome. The second book is Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. Now, this one just won the National Book Award, so it’s obviously going to to good. It is an autobiography by a woman who grew up in the South in the civil rights era. It’s about her becoming a writer, and it’s done in a very poetic style. Once you get into it, it’s awesome. The last book is The Shadow Hero, which I already wrote about on my blog. Let’s just say it’s heaven for nerds.” — Andy

Subscription to People Magazine (About $110 for 52 issues) My friend Liz had the best argument for buying herself a subscription when she first became a mother 13 years ago. “I was determined not to be one of those moms who has no idea who George Clooney is, then pleads parenthood as the excuse.” Sure, you can just go to People.com everyday, but some magazines are meant to be consumed in print, preferably on a snowy day with a big ole glass of red wine. –Jenny

Dinner: A Love Story, the Complete Collection ($12-30) I once read that in order to convince someone to get into a good habit, first, you have to provide the inspiration. Then, you need to provide the tools to make it happen. That’s how I’ve always thought of my duo of family-meal-making books. So if you have a friend who’d like to get into the dinner habit — or someone who is just in the market for some solid family recipes – Love Story provides the inspiration and Playbook provides the strategy. Plus: I’ll send personalized bookplates to the first 25 who email me at jenny@dinneralovestory.com. (Please provide address and message!) Thanks, as always for your support. -Jenny

For more ideas, check out gift guides from Bon Appetit, Cup of Jo, The New York Times, and Catherine Newman.

Past DALS gift guides: 2013, 2012, 2011

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Holiday Gift Guide 2013

December 9th, 2013 · 83 Comments · Birthdays, Holidays, Celebrations, Children's Books, Gifts, Culture

Welcome to our annual guide for everything we want, covet, crave, and, yes need this holiday. (I don’t know about you, but in my world, coffee qualifies as an essential.)  As always, the round-up was compiled with cooks, kids, and parents in mind (again, coffee), as well as for those of you who have already bought Dinner: A Love Story for everyone on your list. For those of you who have not: here’s the guide for you. Happy Holidays!

Dansk Kobenstyle Casserole ($120) In the 70s, my mom had it in mustard yellow. Thirty-five years later, I bought it in green. Forty years later, I think you should own the classic in striking, festive red. Warning: Do not purchase this if you have something against kitchen workhorses that you will use every night (as we speak, some veggies are simmering in mine in for chicken pot pie) and that looks beautiful living permanently on your stovetop. –JR

Playmobil Dolls & Sets ($5-$30) We are pretty good about giving away toys to Good Will and friends with younger kids, but I’ll tell you one thing we never hand down — anything labeled “Playmobil.” Nope. All of those German-made cup-handed dolls and perfectly-snapped-together playsets go right into a box in our (otherwise unorganized) basement labeled “SPECIAL.” If your kids are into make-believe (or your husband derives an irrational happiness from putting together a Grand Mansion Dollhouse on Christmas morning), you cannot go wrong with these. The level of loose-part detail should be maddening (tiny leaves to snap into trees, decorative flowers to snap onto birthday cakes, teeny tiny bunny rabbits with the sweetest little faces) but instead inspires you to say things like “Wow, a lot of thought went into this little chimney sweep.” The possibilities are as varied as your childrens’ interests, and so are the prices. If you are in the market for the Big Ticket Item, there are plenty: Pirate Ships, CastlesFarms, and Zoos. (Btw, I’m weeping thinking of Abby’s beloved zoo sitting in a shoebox right now.) But honestly, it’s almost more fun to explore the wide world of mini environs and figures, some of which come with travel cases. A few favorites: A very DALSian Grand Kitchen ($25, pictured above); Doghouse ($11); Horse with Groomer and Stable ($11); Cop & Robber ($11, plus carrying case); Vet Clinic ($11, includes carrying case); Royal Dressing Room ($15); Outlaw Hideout ($18); Comfortable Living Room ($18). Man, I could go on forever. -JR

Blue Picardie Glasses ($26, set of six) I really have no business putting another set of drinking glasses in another gift guide, and yet…How fun is this blue twist on the bistro picardie glass? I first saw them at The Ordinary in Charleston, and have since been hinting in many not-so-subtle ways how cool they’d look with milk (or wine) and how psyched I’d be to unwrap a set of six someday soon. –JR

Jack Rudy Small Batch Tonic ($16 a bottle) Also in the category of “first experienced at The Ordinary:” This tonic, a concentrated quinine, mixed into a memorable Gin & Tonic during a memorable summer night. But trust me, the stuff is good all year long. -JR

Galaxy CR7s ($50). I’m not sure how I feel about the fact that our family seems set on making Phil Knight richer, but I am sure how I feel about this Hubble Telescope-y, Buck Rogers-y iteration of the Nike indoor soccer shoe: good. I can’t imagine where the people who designed these go from here (“I know, let’s put photographs of Canis Majoris on a pair of cleats!”) but I’m sure we’ll be buying. — Andy

KitchenSurfing Gift Card (Any amount, but I’d recommend a minimum of $100) Do you guys know about KitchenSurfing? I’m a little obsessed with it ever since our friends Liz and Charlie hosted a dinner party for twelve catered by an Indian chef they found on the site. If the word “cater” sounds a little stodgy and prosciutto-wrapped-melon-ish to you, trust me, this site is the opposite of that. It matches your dinner party needs (Cocktail party? Kid’s Birthday Party? Dinner for vegans or sushi lovers?) with a network of local chefs  (right now that means NY, LA, Boston, Chicago, the Hamptons, and…Berlin!) who bid on your job and send you menus with their thoughts. Everything is negotiable and customizable which makes for a far more reasonably cost evening than you might expect. (Especially factoring in the babysitter you won’t have to hire.) All I know is that if I were a new parent too exhausted to entertain, I’d be psyched to be cooked for and waited on in my own home for an evening. (Photo credit: Brooklyn Industrialist) -JR

PokPok Cookbook (by Andy Ricker and JJ Goode, $22) You might be familiar with the PokPok restaurant empire because you’ve been lucky enough to frequent one of Andy Ricker’s Brooklyn or Portland, Oregon Thai hotspots. Or you might just remember that I made his Pad Thai last year and it was off the chain. Either way, the experience is now available in cookbook form. Warning: This is not a book for people who shy away from mail-ordering or pavement-pounding in search of ingredients you don’t generally find at the A&P. But for major enthusiasts, that friend who has everything, or for someone who wants to learn about Thai cuisine (technique, ingredients, recipes, regional breakdowns) inside and out? This is the one. –JR

Jane’s Granola ($14) Our breakfast rut has, by now, been well documented. There have been exceptions, but for the most part, our kids always seem to come back to the Trifecta of Starches: Bagel, toast, pancakes. It’s hard to watch. But in September, I was out in San Francisco for work and brought home a bag of this almondy-y, cinammon-y granola from Jane (above), which is one of our favorite breakfast spots on earth. I bought it as an anniversary present for Jenny, actually, but she never even got a taste. Phoebe gave it a shot — over Greek yogurt, with a drizzle of honey — and that was all she wrote. Not that we’re complaining. — Andy

The Giant Book of Strange But True Sports Stories (by Howard Liss, Illustrations by Joe Mathieu; Used paperback copies starting at 1 cent) Goofy, old-school illustrations paired with stories that stay with you for decades. (Remember the one about Johnny Heisman scoring a touchdown by hiding the football in his jersey? Or the one where the umpires got lost on the way to a Dodgers-Braves game, so the players made the calls themselves? Or the one where the outfielder’s belt got stuck on the fence when he jumped to catch a fly ball? And he just hung there waiting to be rescued?) Andy spent every Saturday and Sunday morning reading this book in bed waiting for his brother to wake up so he could watch TV. I remember my own brother obsessing over it, too. (Age 6 +)  –JR

 

Rittenhouse Rye Because dark spirits season is upon us, once again. (Only $24 a bottle – if you can find it, that is.) — Andy

Anomia ($13) I first read about this game on Catherine’s blog, and since I will essentially do anything Catherine tells me to do, I bought it before summer vacation, thinking we might need a post-s’more activity every now and then. This was just the ticket. It’s best played with kids who are at least 7 or 8, and is one of those games where even adults find themselves standing and screaming out answers with their hearts racing, reminding themselves every few minutes to Calm Down It’s Just a Game. Bonus: It takes up no room in a suitcase. -JR

Nike GPS Watch ($169) There’s nothing quite like seeing how slow you are running to make you run a little faster. I am generally not a Gadget Guy at all — I still read physical books and need Jenny to program numbers into my phone — but this thing has changed my running life. (If only it could change the fact that I am old.) — Andy

A Very un-Christmasy Moleskine Notebook ($10). My pal Kendra gave this to me last year (along with one that said “Epic Sh#t,” of course) and I love it so much, I’ve been unable to write in it. It just sits on my desk, untouched, and I wait for people who come into my office to notice it, and when they do, they all say the same thing: “Oh my god, where did you get that?” Here. — Andy

Paul Smith Socks for dudes. Fashion-wise, J Crew is generally as crazy as I get, but I own two pairs of these, and they make me happy every time I put them on. And no one has to know. — Andy

Digital Speed Sensing Baseball ($20) I like to think that my two girls are not the girly lip-gloss-and-eyelash-batting types. (Exhibit A: While watching The Sound of Music last week, during the part where Rolf sang to Liesl that she needed someone “older and wiser telling her what to do,” Phoebe turned to me and said, “She can do better.”) But still, when it comes to buying gifts for boys — specifically my nephews — my girls never have any good ideas for me. This year I seem to have hit a home run, though, with these speed-sensing baseballs, recommended by my friend Jennie, mother of a middle school baseball star. As soon as my nephews opened them, they were outside (it’s winter here in New York, remember) testing out their cannons.

 

Matt’s Wood Roasted Coffee. Every time we visit our friends Mike and Sara in Portland, Maine, I spend much of the five-hour drive home asking Jenny variations on the following two questions: (1) what are we doing with our lives, and (2) why aren’t we doing it in Portland, Maine? The water, the healthy-looking people, the tight-knit feel of the community, the lobster rolls, the bread at Fore Street Grill (worth a trip in its own right), the food in general, and finally, the coffee. Man, the coffee! Last time we were there, we stopped in at a place called the Speckled Ax, and picked up a couple of pounds of the good stuff to go. Whatever alchemy happens when you wood roast coffee beans, it’s genius. We don’t drink it every morning because then it wouldn’t be special. A bag of this in the ol’ stocking, and I’m happy. – Andy

The Wire Complete series DVD. I wish I could promise that this is the last thing I’m going to say about this show on this blog, but I will not rest until every last one of you has seen this show. (Jenny finally watched all five seasons this fall, after years of my hectoring, and her review, which I am writing down as she says it, is as follows: “It’s ruined all television for me. I’m retiring from TV now, because I can’t imagine anything better.”) — Andy

Holidays Rule If you’re sick of the Phil Spector, Ella Fitzgerald, and Frank Sinatra Christmas jams, this album — featuring a bunch of cool, more contemporary bands, from Fun. to Holly Golightly, from the Heartless Bastards to Calexico — is a pretty excellent change of pace. If nothing else, give this tune a listen and see for yourself. Well worth $1.29. Also goes well with Rittenhouse Rye and a fire in the fireplace. – Andy

Other inspiring gift guides: The Wednesday Chef, Bon Appetit, The New York Times Dining Section, Cup of Jo for Babies and Toddlers.

 

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Holiday Round-up: 24 Things We Love (+ a gift for you!)

December 12th, 2011 · 167 Comments · Birthdays, Holidays, Celebrations, Children's Books, Gifts, Culture, Dinner

So we may not be the only ones posting a Holiday Gift Guide this week, but we’d like to argue that DALS is probably going to be the only place you can stop by for a Family Dinner Holiday Gift Guide. Which is another way of saying that every gift, recipe, ritual, moment you see here is either family-related, dinner-related, family-dinner related, or, in keeping with the spirit of the blog, s#$t we like so much we just needed to tell you about it. (See #1 above, Pantone Ornaments from Seletti — for all your design geek friends!) Be sure to read carefully — there’s something in it for you, too. — Happy Holidays from The DALS Team!

2Mauviel Copper Roasting Pan ($280, 11 3/4″ x 8 5/8″) A Big Ticket Item for Big Ticket Home Cooks. Copper pots — any size or shape or model — are the gold standard for cookware. This was a present for Jenny last year; amazing what passes for romance in this house. But roasted chicken thighs have never looked so good. – Andy

3A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector. Let’s put aside the fact that he’s doing life in prison right now: Phil Spector could make music sound good. We pretty much put this album on repeat  for the entire month of December. Even when we’re eating Latkes (see #6). You can hate Christmas records and love (more…)

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