For a long time now we have had a present cabinet. Yes, as in gifts. And, no, I am not super organized. It’s for when I need an emergency gift, you know, when you’ve forgotten an event is coming up – What, you don’t do that? Well, I do and sometimes the cabinet is stocked and I breathe a sigh of relief, and sometimes I am down to some hair ties and a pen.
So I clearly can’t leave special events like birthdays, graduations, weddings or anniversaries to chance, those need more planning, and, well, I have that covered, too. Actually, UncommonGoods does. When they contacted me to share my gift giving practices, I was thrilled – I love their site because they have cool, creative gifts in a wide range of prices, and make shopping by occasion super easy. Located in Brooklyn, NY, they select works from talented artists and artisans, and, as an added bonus, they’re a B Corporation. What is that? It means they do work on social and environmental problems, including wage levels, environmental impact, and giving back to the community. That’s to the good of everyone.
But you need gifts.
Our family just wrapped up one graduation season, and while the next is a ways off, the holidays are around the corner and I’m betting on UncommonGoods to help with my list. Love this dreamy retro camera that takes romantic, light soaked photos and will charm any photographer, artist or film student. The Diana Camera is super cool, dare I say hipster? – and uses 120 film.
Looking for something a bit more personal? You’re covered there, too, with gifts that can be made to honor a special someone. And I love that the Uncommongoods site lets you search by occasion, interest, price, and category. No small feat, that.
And having just reached a milestone wedding anniversary, I also know a bit about great gifts for anniversaries (or weddings). Keeping it personal is key, and so easy to do here. My favorites for couples include these gorgeous faux bois personalized mugs, just pair with your favorite fair trade coffee.
A new go-to gift: Put together a mixed six pack of local craft beer, the beer labels are cool and the names are usually funny, and if you put that together with these wordy glasses, you have a really thoughtful gift. And you might even pick up a vocab word or two.
Feeling the sentiment? Me, too. Love this company,
The theme of this blog for the next 12 Days (at least – no telling which direction I’ll go after that) is great gift ideas. It started last year when Pragmatic Mom and I got all hopped up on caffeine brainstormed at L’Aroma and decided to write up a series of 12 Days of Shopping (it started out as five days but Pragmatic Mom over achieved as usual peered at our coffee stained notes and came up with more days) for those hard to find/fit/figure out people on your list – so, yeah, pretty much everyone. So here is the new and improved 12 Days of Shopping.
What makes a great homemade gift? Well, food is my default for pretty much everything, so that is where I start. I do actually like to bake (results may vary) and have a few tried and true recipes that I will post below. Making your own gifts is great and not only because it is nice but it also helps you get around the no gift rule in schools so you can actually give a teacher a gift. Seriously, can anyone refuse a sugar cookie or a nice cup of tea? No, I didn’t think so.
Do you have a signature baked good? A great banana bread or coffee cake? Chocolates? Make what you love (presentation idea – wrap breads in foil or cellophane and then wrap in a pretty dishtowel as wrapping paper). What if you can’t bake? No time? You hate it? Not a problem. Grab some nice chocolates or favorite candy (you can find nice candy in almost any store from Trader Joe’s to T.J. Max – I know – I was out and about this morning) and repackage it. Fill a nice container and add a hand written note. No one will care that you did not bake. Seriously, relax.
Use a plain brown coffee bag ( 39 cents at The Container Store) or in clear cellophane bags (Container Store, Target) or any container you like (I am a born New Englander so I don’t spend a lot on containers – I pick them up throughout the year – everywhere from The Christmas Tree Shop to the Target Dollar Spot to China Fair in Newton. If you want to add a fun simple craft project, have your children decorate the bags or containers with stickers or crayon drawings. If you have an artist or two in residence and you can bear to part with any of their ceramics creations and fill them with treats – great for family and teachers. Maybe for a really special gift make it a nice ceramic or glass piece from a local artist.
Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Cafe by Joanne Chang
1 cup (80 grams) dried apples
1 cup (160 grams) dried cranberries
1 cup (160 grams) dried apricots
1/3 cup (70 grams) granulated sugar
2 cups (480 grams) water
1 cup (100 grams) walnut halves
1 3/4 cups (245 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups (150 grams) old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant or quick cooking)
2/3 cup (150 grams) packed light brown sugar
2/3 cup (80 grams) sweetened shredded coconut
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks/228 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 8 to 10 pieces
6 tablespoons (128 grams) honey
3 tablespoons flaxseeds
3 tablespoons sunflower seeds
3 tablespoons millet
This and many other wonderful recipes may be found in Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Cafe
by Joanne Chang from Chronicle Books
Every so often, a Flour customer puts a request for more healthful items in our suggestion box … please! It’s not that Flour is full of unhealthful items-I think our baked goods are healthful, in moderation-but we are a bakery, after all, which mans that many of our offerings are necessarily indulgent. We came up with this bar as an option for customers seeking a good-for-you snack. You make a granola of oats, nuts, coconut, and honey for the base. Add a fruity filling made by blending a dried-fruit compote into a sweet, chunky jam. And finish off the bar with more of the granola base mixed with a handful of sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, and millet. The bars stay moist for several days and actually get better with age (I like them best after 2 or 3 days). We make huge trayfuls of these at Flour, and one of my favorite ways to snackat the bakery is to raid the pans after the bars have been cut for serving and enjoy a plateful of edge trimmings
To make the jam: In a medium saucepan, combine the apples, cranberries, apricots, granulated sugar, and water and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from the heat and let sit for about 1 hour. Transfer to a food processor and pulse 8 to 10 times, or until a chunky jam forms. (The jam can be made n advance and stored n the refrigerator n an airtight container for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month.)
Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast for about 10 minutes, or until lightly toasted and fragrant. Transfer to a plate and let cool.
Leave the oven set at 350 degrees F. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment paper.
In the food processor, combine the flour, oats, brown sugar, coconut, salt, cinnamon, and butter and pulse about 15 times, or until the mixture is evenly combined. Dump the mixture into a medium bowl and drizzle the honey on top. Work in the honey with your hands until the mixture comes together.
Press about two-thirds of the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Place the remaining one-third of the mixture in the refrigerator.
Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until light golden brown throughout. Remove the pan from the oven, spoon the granola jam on top, and spread in an even layer with the spoon or with a rubber spatula, covering the surface. Remove the reserved granola mixture from the refrigerator, and break t up with your fingers into a small bowl. Add the flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, and millet and stir to combine. Sprinkle the mixture, like a crumb topping, evenly over the jam.
Return the pan to the oven and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 2 to 3 hours, or until cool enough to hold its shape when cut. Cut into 2 bars.
The bars can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.
Not your thing? Too crunchy? Go to the goddess of all homemade and fabulous, Ms. Martha Stewart’s site for killer cookie recipes – like these basic sugar cookies. Hint: double the recipe, your family will be sad if all of these cookies go out the door!