November 2011

for the sustainable desktop (gift guide #5)

A keyboard handcrafted out of bamboo that actually works. And a mouse to match. Hallelujah.

Beautiful. Sustainable. Practical. Available on Amazon. What more could you ask for?

Well, for it to be more compatible with Mac’s for one. Seems they forgot to include the squiggly key and the command key, the bastards. But hey, isn’t it about time for us to finally be able to give a PC compatible gift to the few unconverted PCers in our lives without cringing?

Now we can.

Keyboard and mouse by Impecca. Comes in a wireless model as well.

for the tree dwellers (gift guide #4)

Maybe you have friends who have a garden and all it needs is a birdhouse to complete the picture.

Your answer?¬† Jack Smith’s plywood bird house.

(thanks herewegonow)

Might be logistically challenging as they are made in the UK, but it’s not super expensive (20 pounds) so the added shipping shouldn’t be too painful. And just think of how pleased the birds will be to have a little extra something to nibble on during the sparse winter months.

Too bad they don’t make houses like this for people.

(photo: courtesy of jacksmith.com)

for the design detail oriented (gift guide #3)

Whenever I travel, I try to stop at a good stationary store to buy paperclips, rubber bands, erasers… all of the ordinary things that we don’t think twice about when we’re browsing the aisles at Staples, but which are so much cooler when they come from Iceland, or Cuba, or (of course) Italy.

Which is where these brightly colored tacks and paper clips are from, though thanks to the global economy, we can order them domestically through Twine, one of my favorite online sources for cool little objects.

With both the paper clips and the pins priced at a whopping $4 each, you can have yourself a singular gift from a distant land for less than it costs to buy a halfway decent glass of wine from that same country.

And these will last longer, too!

for the cat lover (gift guide #2)

Holy sh*t I can’t believe my eyes. It’s a stylish-yet-understated cat carrier. This thing is such a miracle that I’m actually afraid I’m going to see pigs start flying or lightning is going to strike or something…

All of your cat loving friends are going to love it. And so are their feline counterparts. Brought to you by the folks at Cat Caddy, it’s available on Amazon for $89.99. Well worth it, if you ask me.

It takes a few extra days to process, so you should go order one of these babies now if you want to make sure it gets to it’s intended destination by the holidays.

And get ready to be showered with gratitude.

for the well dressed kid (gift guide #1)

Flora and Henri is one of those lines of kids clothing that I generally stare wistfully at from afar whilst wondering about what kind of life allows hundreds of dollars to be spent on clothing that your beloved little angel is only going to wear for 6 months or so. And probably draw all over.

And then, somehow, I got my hands on something from them. A gift? A splurge? I can’t remember. But now I’m hooked. And every season, I manage to get my hands on at least one piece, which, me being me, I can milk over several years of long-dress-to-mini-to-tunic wear before I hand it over to somebody else’s kid to enjoy.

The clothes are impecable. Beautifully made. Exquisite detailing. Subtle colors. The kind of stuff your grandmother would approve of– if your grandmother were the Duchess of Windsor or Jackie O. With no horrible logos or cartoon characters anywhere. And man, do they make great gifts. Even the socks are impressive. (You can find the above pictured skirt here.) Plus, they LAST, so they make great hand-me-downs if you have more than one little munchkin in your house.

And every once in a while, they have a sale. Like today, Saturday November 26, in honor of Small Business Saturday. You can get 25% off any full priced item just by typing in the code BLACK25 when you check out.

And then, once you’re hooked, you will find yourself trolling the sale and clearance section of their online shop for other deals. Which do come around every so often and are sooooooo worth it.

Because lets face it, today’s kids are going to be tomorrow’s leaders so they may as well start dresing the part. The sale is in effect till midnight tonight, Pacific time.

things people want – greetings

It’s not too late.

You can still order these cards, write a bunch of short but heartfelt messages on the inside and get them in the mail before everybody takes off for the end-of-year festivities.

Spread a bit of the magic and wonder of the holiday season via pen and paper. You will look like a champion. Plus you’ll be helping the poor US Postal Service, which needs all the business it can get these days what with e cards and all. (I am, for the record, TOTALLY AGAINST e cards, though the kids’ versions that we’ve gotten can be sort of cute…)

These cards are hand made on a letterpress  by this Brooklyn husband and wife team called Campbell Raw Press that I discovered on Krrb

There is a lovely story about keeping a grandmother’s child like wonder at the glory of Christmas alive via these cards that you can read if you head over to their onlne shop…

Plus they have this card, too, which to be honest, was the first one that caught my eye.

Happy writing!

giving thanks

Just wrote a little dissertation for the Krrb blog about how to write a thank you note. FIgured it’s actually useful information, so I’m linking it to it here.

For all of those in doubt about how/when/why to send a written thank you, your days of uncertainty are over.

Oh and this is well timed, because the annual Brooke Williams holiday gift guide starts tomorrow and will continue most days between now and when it’s pretty much too late to get a gift under a tree/menorah/etc…

Keep checking back, because “Tis the season” is now…

Mushroom bread

On a recent trip to Portland, OR, my aunt treated us with this amazing bread recipe. Called mushroom bread, it’s basically a delicious loaf of bread that is cooked in a one pound coffee can and emerges looking like a mushroom.

The recipe, evidently, comes via my Aunt’s mother, who had a subscription to Sunset Magazine over 40 years ago, and deemed this one worth saving. It’s really easy… after you mix the dough, you stick it in a coffee can, wait for it to rise (and pop the top off!), and then bake.

And let me just say for the record, that I am very glad my aunt has kept so many of her old recipes, because this one rocks.

Click below for details…

Here’s how you will make this bread. Which you will. It’salso fun for kids to watch the dough rise inside the unorthodox pan…

Mushroom Bread – from AJ’s 44 year old recipe file

1 pkg. Yeast
1/2 Cup warm water
1/8 tsp powdered ginger
3 TB sugar, divided

1 tsp salt
1- 12oz can Evaporated Milk
3 TB oil
4 to 4 1/2 Cups flour

Two – 1 pound coffee cans with plastic lids. Butter insides of cans and lids.

Dissolve yeast in warm water in large bowl, then stir in ginger and 1 TB sugar and let stand in warm place until foamy on top (about 15 min.). Stir in remaining sugar, salt, milk and oil. Then gradually add flour with a wooden spoon. Blend well. Dough will be heavy and sticky. Divide in half between the two coffee cans. Put on lids. Let stand in warm place and let dough rise until lids pop off (about 1 hour or more).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place cans on lower shelf and bake uncovered for 45 minutes or until deep golden brown.

Remove from oven and brush “mushroom” tops with butter. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes, then take knife and run around edge of cans to remove bread. Or just try to tap and shake bread out.

Cool on rack if you can stand to wait! Makes excellent toast.

hello jack

I just wanted to give a little shout out to our 2011 jack o’lantern.

Child designed.

Father produced.

Truly a lovely collaborative effort. I am going to miss him…

Though he did begin to decompose and leaked a horrible mess of liquid before I realized that it was time to throw him in the compost pile.

Live and learn.