Why you should care
Because ’tis the season to spend.
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.
As OZY’s Flashback editor, I’m drawn to history — from antiques to crumbling castles — and as OZY’s POV editor, I’m feeling tension from all the angst flying into op-eds from both sides of the political aisle. So, my Dear Santa letter — if old Saint Nick isn’t already in jail for burglary — reads more or less like this.
Give: Handmade Pottery
Who wants IKEA dishes when they could have beautiful hand-thrown pottery? I recently donated my 20-year-old, store-bought dinnerware and commissioned my favorite Cambridgeshire potter, a cheerful octogenarian named David Lane (of Abington Pottery), to make me a set in a color he created just for me: “Moran Green” — a light earthy green without glaze. Reaching for a plate is now an artful triumph. So I’ll be doling out gifts in the arts and crafts style this year, opting for beautiful practicality over soulless store-boughts. To do the same, find a local potter. Abington Pottery and Shearwater Pottery are my favs.
Give: A Kickass Tagine for Slow Cooking
Ever been on the Crock-Pot walk of shame? I have — at a chili cook-off last week, where everyone showed up with pristine Crock-Pots while I came equipped with my mother’s 1980s hand-me-down. But I knew I had the mother of all slow-cookers tucked away at home — a brown, hand-painted tagine I picked up in Marrakesh. With a tagine, you don’t need a Crock-Pot to whip up cassoulet-style feasts: It perfectly cooks vegetables, spices and meats together, encouraging healthier home-cooked meals you can’t screw up. I’ve started giving these as presents to friends and family alike — you can pick them for between $40 and $200 — complete with recipe books and spices.
Give: Oreos on Steroids
Need the perfect gift for someone you don’t really know? Leave a sweet taste in their mouth with a box of French macaroons. They look like Oreos on steroids and come in every color and flavor. You can make them at home, if ground almonds and making egg whites peak is your thing. Or you can opt for the store-bought gold standard: Ladurée. Based in Paris, Ladurée has shops in a number of European cities, as well as Miami and New York; others can rely on Amazon.
Get: DIY Steam Room … or the Real McCoy
Remember the poor man’s Porsche? The 914 carried the fancy Stuttgart-based label but for a lot less than the sexier 911. The same could be said about my home “steam room.” I’m a sucker for a good sweat, so I asked for a build-it-yourself variety a few months back. They vary in cost, from around $190 to thousands — mine was cheap and came with a plastic frame, chair, fabric cover, plastic pipe and heat generator. Construction was a faff; I’ve burned my foot, and it makes me look and feel like a trapped alien — the kids have photographic proof. But it does the trick, mustering a muscle-relaxing sweat, and I’ve now set my sights on a properly installed steam shower and whirlpool bath for about 10 times the price.
Get: The Sexiest Volvo of All Time
I loved driving as a teenager but racked up five crashes my first year. So when I paid a deposit, age 17, on a used Nissan 280ZX, my mother quickly got my money back and devised a new plan: I would be getting a hardtop 240 Volvo from my uncle instead. It wasn’t a hotrod, by any stretch, but I grew fiercely attached to my ’76 blue beast (an antique even then). It needed lots of TLC, and it became part of my college experience, with friends leaving notes on the car: “Love the blue beast. Keep it running.” I’ve since moved on to modern Swedish varieties, but I’ve always wanted a 280ZX-style antique Volvo — the best example being the impractical but gorgeous P1800, worth around $14,000 today.
Get: Things That Feel Good on Your Butt
The finest seat in my English neighbor’s house was a pricey massage chair she got at Harrods. It looked like a posh torture chamber, holding your head, arms and legs snugly as it pummeled away the pains. So in a bid to snag at least a poor woman’s version, I’m asking for a reasonably priced massage cushion with heat for about $250, as well as a ritzier one — an all-encompassing seat of good cheer for just under $6,000. Either would give new meaning to “taking a seat.” I’m not holding my breath on the latter, though.