Holiday Gift Guide: A New Home and a Car Full of Chocolate
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because you should be so lucky.
Part of OZY’s 2016 holiday gift guide, in which our staffers and contributors clue you in on what they want to give and what they want to get.
Give: Ziplock Aphrodisiac
I’d been putting back roughly a bite of brittle a day, which is a modest two bags a month, for months, and it hadn’t occurred to me to share. When it did? It did not occur to my friend to share with his husband. The morning after the gift was given, the husband waved the empty bag — a clitter-clatter of little crumbs — at me. Amused but indignant. A not entirely unhostile group text ensued: “I told Kate the truth — about you ganking all the toffee.” The retort: “In the reverso world, truth = fiction.” Neo Cocoa, based in Belmont, California, makes truffles ($24 for the 10-piece signature assortment box), chocolate bars and marshmallow squares, too. There is no wrong move here. But the toffee nib brittle ($10) … my God. It is crunchy. It is a tiny bit salty. It is a tiny bit sweet. The flavor lingers like the promise of a 72 percent chocolate afterlife. I am not trying to get with everyone who gets this gift. But if I were? I’d like my chances.
Give: Hand-Knit Warmth, Ghanaian Style
A month or two before I moved to Silicon Valley, I bought an oatmeal-colored Nonitse infinity scarf ($70) from Jane Odartey, whose hand-knit business is called Mawusi. This scarf was appealing for a number of reasons. One, if hell were cold, hell would be New York in winter. Two, I wear too much black; this scarf would let me continue wearing black but with something bright (well, not black). Three, a loop that you loop twice around your neck is user-friendly and somehow reassuring. And finally, I liked the woman who made all this cozy goodness. She was as warm as her offerings.
Odartey used to climb a tree and crochet when she was a girl in Ghana. Now she is based in Queens, where she lives with her mom — the fine lady for whom Mawusi is named. Mawusi isn’t just scarves — there are also bracelets (adjustable Koryo, $12), necklaces, brooches, chic fingerless gloves ($60) and leg warmers, bags and blankets (Granny Square afghan, $398). She also offers gift cards of $25 to $100. If you want to give me a gift and can’t afford the car or house below, I would like the Zia Popcorn Scarf in cumin ($126).
These are my gift-giving defaults, which is not to say they are cop-outs. If I care enough to spend money, I intend for my gift to bring some pleasure. Good bottles make drinkers happy. Same goes for readers and books — if you’re good. Giving books takes a certain level of intimacy with the recipient and a little bit of arrogance. Two standbys on the book-giving front: The Little Friend, by Donna Tartt. I prefer this to The Goldfinch. The prose is dense, lush and tight; with its riveting take on the South, family, tragedy and race, it’s an unsung American classic. So is Salvage the Bones, by Jesmyn Ward. The 2011 National Book Award winner is set near New Orleans in the days before Katrina. It’s not the only disaster that’s coming — to the pregnant teen girl whose mother is dead, to the blazing-white pit bull called China or to anyone else in the path of the coming storm. I will dole it out like M&Ms until everyone I know has read it.
On the alcohol front: Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select bourbon whiskey ($40). As for wine? I shop by importer. Look at the back of a wine label for “imported by” — those companies curate like an art gallery or a record label would. My mainstays are Louis/Dressner and Jenny & François, which both specialize in natural and biodynamic wines. Larger importers with solid selections include Rosenthal and Kermit Lynch, says Bambi Ray, sales manager at Astor Wines & Spirits in New York. She agrees with my strategy. “Maybe you’re not familiar with a particular grape or region,” she says, but because it’s imported by a company you trust, “you know it’s not crappy.”
Get: Provisions for Sleep
My hands-down favorite gift: nice sheets and blankets. I fall asleep dreaming of Coyuchi’s organic Cloud Brushed Flannel sheets (queen set, $298) and this set of Belgian flax linen (queen, $239). But while sheets eventually wear out, blankets can be pretty profound life artifacts. Although my beloved grandparents, whom I lived with on weekends until I was 10, have passed on, some of their favorite blankets now warm me and select members of my inner circle. On my bed is a blanket from Janis Stemmermann’s 2015 Car and Blanket project, in which the artist created a giant blanket, draped it over classic cars parked around Brooklyn and photographed them (my blanket is a piece of the big one). Some of my best-loved ceramics come from the shop Stemmermann and her husband owned in my old Brooklyn neighborhood, so the blanket, like the ones from my Gran and Pop, helps connect old home and new home, past and present. Plus, the blanket, unlike the ceramics, is likely to survive a major earthquake. I would love to add Stemmermann’s one-of-a-kind Indigo Vat test blanket ($450) to the blanket mountain on my bed.
Speaking of bed, my 2009 Tempur-Pedic could use an upgrade. The mattress I want is “for those who truly desire a floating on a cloud sleeping surface.” Yes, I qualify. Organic latex, four firmness levels, a “euro top cover” with organic wool batting. There are two zippered compartments of an indeterminate purpose. You can give me Enlightenment for only $3,800 — a bargain at twice the price.
Get: A Home Away From … Everyone
For a decade I dreamed of moving to California. It never happened, so I gave up. And then it suddenly happened. Now I just have to figure out how to move away from all the people. It’s not that I want to become a survivalist; I just want to not see people. Two of my favorite recent books were Mickey Muennig: Dreams and Realizations for a Living Architecture, about a prominent Big Sur architect and the astoundingly awesome houses he’s designed, and The Sea Ranch: Fifty Years of Architecture, Landscape, Place, and Community on the Northern California Coast. Sea Ranch, in Sonoma County, is a planned community created in the 1960s along 10 miles of coast. A New York Times writer once called it “the psychic equivalent of a tubercular Victorian’s healing in a sanitarium.” To my delight, 35255 Timber Ridge Road, a demo home designed by Sea Ranch architects Joseph Esherick and George Homsey, is for sale. $410K for a house in Northern California? If you buy me this home, you can come visit. One day.
Get: A New Car!
I drive a 2002 Honda Civic Si, which in Silicon Valley’s sea of Teslas is like driving a Cushman cart. Anywhere else, though, my car makes gearheads drool. I am not a gearhead. Do car guys even call themselves that? Don’t know, don’t care. Flying down the New Jersey Turnpike, I used to see something out of the corner of my eye, hovering like an automotive hummingbird. A low-to-the-ground, neon-colored, tinted-windowed version of my car with crazy hubcaps, itching to race. Then we’d make eye contact, and I’d see a horrified WTF look cross the other driver’s face. Oh, the disdain. I should not be driving that car. Well, I am, and I’ve loved it for a decade. (Also, I did sometimes race.) But even though it’s at a still sprightly 104K miles, sometimes a weird age-related thing goes wrong that scares the shit out of me. If I die on a backwoods road, I want it to be from a botched alien abduction, not a fatal fluke of the fuel line.
Good thing Honda is rolling out not only a new Si in 2017, but also a Type-R, which has never before been available in the U.S. Both are reportedly coming out later in 2017, and might be 2018 models. Road & Track says the Type-R will be “a beast” and a “fire-breathing monster-hatch.” There are prototypes. Do you think that will fit in a stocking?