Holiday Presents Made by My Friends

First of all, “Shut up, Wesley” is probably the best gift that any person can give to another, but it’s really hard to wrap. If you’re looking for something slightly more tangible to give to your loved ones this holiday season, maybe you want to give them something made by my loved ones! Yes, a number of my friends are making things that are sure to delight, impress, and enlighten at least one person on your holiday list. (If that person is me, you pretty much can’t go wrong with any of these, not that you were asking, but, like, if you were but not in an obvious way, you know, playing it cool, you know? I get it.)

(Lengthy side note: being an adult is amazing. Not only can you drink wine on a Sunday night in a closet-turned-room-of-one’s-own whilst blogging, but you get to share the joy that is your friends’ creativity, talent, and general awesomeness. There’s something extra, double satisfying about getting to see the people you love do really cool stuff.) Anywhooo, here are some rad things made by rad people:

Sutton Long Print Shop

Sutton Long Swanson

 

Oh, did Sutton go ahead and create maybe the best combination of Ron Swanson (and Leslie Knope!) quotes and lettering ever? Yes, yes she did. I honestly love them all, but this one seemed pretty fitting for the holidays. Sutton is also doing these really cool prints that are mounted on wood blocks of some of her ah-ma-zing photography. They look a little something like this:

Sutton Long wood block

Sutton’s photos are really stunning, and not only because my beloved hometown features so prominently in them. If you want to see more of her beautiful take on SF, follow her on Instagram: @suttonlong.

Alice + Freda Forever: A Murder in Memphis

Alice + Freda Forever Alexis Coe

You guys. This book is really good. Yes, I’m friends with the author, so there’s obvious bias. But! Consider the following: despite my best intentions, I don’t read much historical non-fiction. I prefer novels, short stories, and magazines. That said, this book delivers like a novel in the way that Alexis was able to make me sympathize with the characters. The themes in the book are still painfully relevant, and her writing is, like, fun to read. In case you want more of her greatness, follow her on Twitter: @Alexis_Coe.

Sheila Longacre Art & Design

Sheila Longacre Art & Design

It’s possible that I’m the most biased about Sheila, seeing as a) I’ve known her all her life because b) she’s my sister and I love her the most forever and all times. But, all that sisterly adoration aside, she’s super stinking talented. She makes really gorgeous and lifelike pet portraits, and she’s taking commissions for holiday gifts. This is one of my all time favorite pieces of hers, and as you can see, she’s real, real good. I strongly recommend. See more of her radness on her site: Sheila Longacre Art & Design.

I’m extremely fortunate in knowing these ladies and getting to shout from the rooftops about their talents. Check ‘em out!

Gal(s)avanting

picstitch

One Rebecca (as she calls herself when making reservations at Italian restaurants where it’s expected that one diner out of any party of two will be proposing) Leah Brunstetter and I sometimes meet up and go on adventures, which is pretty much a necessity because we no longer share 300 square feet in the West Village, as we did in grad school. She is better about blogging (in general and also) about these outings, but, dammit, I have a blog too, so here you go. This time, we went to Morro Bay, which is quickly becoming my second favorite quiet seaside town in California, next to Half Moon Bay, where I grew up. We looked at the big rock, we wine hiked, we dined, we hot tubbed. We stumbled upon a little succulent shop and also the Madonna Inn. There’s a very good chance we’ll be returning to both. We lunched really well at this wonderful vegan cafe called Shine, where we attempted to be locals and, I have to say, did not get run out of town. And maybe we did some wine tasting, which explains both the gorgeous pastoral vineyard scene in the top right, and also me having a slow motion fight with my bangs. Next up, possibly Wyoming!

YumUniverse Review & Giveaway!

YumUniverse Banner

When I agreed to write a review of YumUniverse (in exchange for which I did get a review copy of the book), I didn’t realize what I was getting myself into. Books are like pillowcases full of trick-or-treating loot that way—it’s not until you get home and start going picking out your favorite pieces that you comprehend the full bounty of your haul. When the book arrived, I glanced through it and thought, oh, that’s nice. She seems nice. That’s a nice book. Nice, nice. I thought, oh, I’ll flip through and find a recipe and make it and that’ll be that.

Then I actually started reading.

Not to ruin the ending of the review here, but I still haven’t made a recipe. I’ve been too engrossed and impressed by all the other elements of the book to settle in enough to choose a recipe to make. Though, I’ll say, that the Fig & Caramelized Onion Tart looks incredible, and is definitely first on the list. I think. Or maybe it’s the Chickpea Flatbread, which comes with six variations on the base recipe. Or maybe all six of them, plus the tart. This kind of roundabout has been going on in my head for a while now.

YumUniverse

So, in this sweet, friendly book there are way more Three Musketeers than black licorice pieces, to extend the pillowcase line a little further (and to reveal the candy preferences of kid-me). And, no, there is not actual candy, except in a really gorgeous graphic that anyone who follows Heather on Instagram has probably already ooh-ed and ahhh-ed about. Heather basically takes readers to plant-based cooking school, and answers just about every question one might have about how to cook plants. There are so many fun little callouts, quotes, charts, arrows, tidbits, and tabs that it will take quite some time to really get everything out of this book. What to do with fruit flies? Heather has your answer. What to do at dinner parties? Yep, she covers that too. How to shop, prep, and store food most effectively so that you don’t have to spend your entire life shopping, prepping, and storing food? Indeed! There really are seemingly infinite, as the subtitle promises, little bits of information in this gorgeous, hefty book.

Just to narrow down the goodness slightly, I found the following two things of particular interest.

1. Evidently, Heather and I have the same taste in cookware.

photo 2

 

2. This. It’s particularly appropriate for the Halloween/trick-or-treat theme of the book tour, and it’s one of the great truths of all time. Carob is not chocolate. It never has been, never will be.

photo 1

With this simple, tiny sidebar, Heather has made a lifelong fan. There are so many more wonderful things about this book, but why have me drone on and on about how good it is when you could simply read it for yourself—especially because I can offer one lucky reader a copy of your own! To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment on this post before Oct. 22, and I’ll randomly select a winner. Good luck!

A big congrats to Heather and everyone who worked on this massive, impressive, and gorgeous book!

9 Feelings We All Know

running to catch a train

1. The utter desperation and mounting panic mixed with equal parts middle-school awkward thigh rub of running to catch a departing train.

2. The momentary exhilaration—followed immediately by overwhelming horror—of elevator farts.

3. The precipitous decline of desire to go out dancing (specifically in favor of staying home and wearing thick socks) as soon as someone utters the phrase, “Yeah, let’s go tonight.”

4. The genuine admiration mixed with total loathing when finding a slightly better version of the joke you’ve just made posted on Twitter.

5. The slight anxiety about the amount of time spent in the warm comfort of the office bathroom, when it’s the only place in the whole forsaken building that hasn’t become an arctic tundra thanks to the air conditioning enthusiasts who a) outrank you and b) crank up the cooling to ridiculous levels when the outside temperature dares to inch past 68.

6. The thick, plodding weight as the seconds hand inches between the moment you share a good, honest chuckle with people you don’t know terribly well and the moment when someone changes the subject.

7. The complete, untarnished joy of playing with other people’s adorable dogs—without ever picking up doo doo.

8. The borderline narcissistic satisfaction of a dinner party with the exact right amount of food for each guest.

9. The wanton liberty of returning from Costco with the three-pound canister of Nesquik, which you can totally do because you are a functioning, responsible adult, damnit.

Labor/Life

Castoria Puzzle

This is precisely the kind of labor in which I hope everyone gets to participate today. After you’ve spent an hour or so in the sun, had a cup or two of the coffee, hiked, biked, liked, or psyched yourself into doing a few chores around the house that you’ve really been meaning to do and since it’s a holiday and you’re on extra time, there’s really no excuse for leaving them undone so you might as well start off the coming week with a cleaner slate and state—after those things, get ye to the dollar store or Goodwill and bring home a brand-spankin’ new puzzle.

There’s something about knowing that the answer is included in the box of jumbled pieces that’s really reassuring. You just have to sit with it long enough for the answer to reveal itself. Not to lean too heavily on this metaphor, but trying to mash the pieces into spots where they actually don’t belong doesn’t work. As someone who has is not always the Zen center of patiently waiting, puzzles are the perfect reminder for me that sitting with a problem long enough, looking at all the shapes and colors of its components, and then try and re-trying different combinations of the materials you have to work with until the thing is done is your only option. There’s always at least one point at which you’ll (fine, make that “I will”) scream and throw your hands up and say something like, “We’re missing pieces!! There’s no flipping way that these are all we have to work with, something must be eluding us and it’s definitely someone else’s fault!! We’ve been wronged!” You can blame the dollar store for purveying cheap crap, Goodwill for selling previously used puzzles, or fate for cursing you to be the person who buys the one factory-defective puzzle on the shelf. Scream, jump around. Pour a stiff drink. Whatever.

About 10 minutes later, you’ll have puzzled and puzzed ’til your puzzler is sore (yes, I think of this line from The Grinch Who Stole Christmas every single time), and then you’ll realize that you do actually have all the right pieces, and it was only you own impatience and ineptitude that kept them from going into the right places.

So, whether you’re literally sitting down and piecing together what will become a magical purple wolf howling at the moon, or you’re working on a less-defined, bigger-picture mystery, I hope that the solving of the thing is fun. All the pieces really probably are in there, somewhere.