so, we’re on vacation. and it’s pretty freaking awesome. I am very brown & very relaxed & very pleased to offer you today’s guest post from my friend Lauren, who is beautiful and talented and funny and with whom I went to school for twelve years (she was a fellow Christmas pageant Mary).
I know that you’ll appreciate her sense of aesthetics and clever voice as much as I do. you can find her regularly on her blog, Gathering Moss.
Given that many of my cohorts are getting engaged and planning weddings, I asked Lauren to offer her advice on the kitchen-related part of The Infamous Wedding Registry—an arena in which I have zero expertise!
hi hello, Lauren here. thanks for having me, Blue Jean Gourmet! it’s fairly hilarious that Nishta asked me to guest post, because I’m not that much of a cook. the cooking at chez stone is generally relegated to my husband, affectionately known in blogland as “captain fantastic.” because he is. except not at cleaning up after cooking. but that’s a-whole-nother blog post. I do make a mean vegetarian lasagna (thanks to my dad, who is also one of those fantastic cooking husbands) and a pretty sweet baked gouda (thanks to my mom, queen of the hors d’ oeuvres), so I suppose I qualify as a Blue Jean Gourmet. maybe more like a Tattered Overall Gourmet, but whatev.
something that I am better at than cooking is shopping. that’s really why I’m here. c-fan and I were married last June, so without (much) further ado, my wedding registry suggestions for foodies, wanna-be foodies and all to-be-weds who want a well-stocked kitchen:
I would be remiss to not mention that ubiquitous wedding registry staple, the Kitchen Aid mixer. it comes in a gajillion delicious colors to match any decor, makes many types of food prep gloriously easy, and, if you have generous wedding guests, can be yours for free (well, ok minus the cost of the wedding…). even the non-cooking-inclined may find themselves regularly making brownies from scratch in the middle of the night with this beauty. I speak from experience. highly recommended.
another helpful appliance is the food processor. but beware – all I wanted in life (after my kitchenaid mixer, of course) was a shiny new food processor. which I may or may not have mentioned several dozen times. and I ended up being gifted four. 3 cup, 4 cup, 7 cup, 12 cup…one in every size. The size you’ll actually want depends on how you’ll be using it; for a couple or small family, 4 cups is probably good. If you regularly host large dinner parties or plan on joining the Quiverfull movement, 12 cups may be the way to go.
dishes. you’ll need those. here in the south, we register for both “everyday” dishes and fine china; sometimes even Christmas china, y’all. the patterns you register for are a personal choice – we decided to go with a neutral everyday set, which we can accent with festive linens and accessories. for fine china, we chose a pattern that’s the modern incarnation of my mother’s pattern, because we’ll be inheriting her silver and love sappy stuff with meaning like that (isn’t it sweet how I said “we,” like captain fantastic gave a hoot about dishes?)
the number of dishes you request is also a matter of your lifestyle – if you live in an apartment in the city and rarely eat at home, you may only want 6 or 8 place settings, whereas big entertainers and family types will want 12. if you get extra plates (which can happen if you register for the same item at multiple stores), go ahead and keep them; things break.
other registry staples that you’ll be sure to use often:
a nice set of knives (Blue Jean Gourmet would like to suggest Wusthof as a go-to brand)
a pattern of stainless place settings for everyday use; a pattern of silver if you’re feeling fancy (we registered for a few extra place settings of the family silver that will be passed down to us)
upgrade your pot and pan collection (hard to go wrong with Calphalon)
fill out your assortment of cooking and serving utensils by registering for that slotted spoon/silicone spatula/tongs/pizza cutter/other implement you’re always wishing you had but never remembering to procure.
get some fancy wine glasses. Riedel are a perennial favorite. it’s a good idea to get both red and white wine glasses. if you’re always swilling martinis or sipping champagne, you may want to register for a set of specialty glasses. again, the number you request will depend on the number of people you anticipate needing to serve.
some general registry advice and etiquette:
your registry information does not belong on your wedding invitation; it can spread by word of mouth (traditionally through your mom), on shower invitations and/or on a wedding website if you have one.
it’s advisable to register with at least one national big box store with an online component, like Macy’s, Williams Sonoma or Target; this way, out of town guests can easily choose a gift and have it shipped straight to you.
remember to choose a variety of gifts in a wide price range so that all of your guests will be able to give a gift that’s comfortable for them.
any veteran married folk out there who’d like to share a particular registry item that’s gotten lots of use? anyone in the registry process right now and have a specific question? comment away!
Lauren Stone is an undercover decorator with a day job in communications (much like Clark Kent, but with a more stylish wardrobe). She never met a topiary she didn’t like. or a piece of chocolate. lauren got into blogging while planning her june 2009 wedding, when she realized that there was a whole community of people out there who would rather be DIYing. Born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee, she currently resides there with new hubby, Captain Fantastic, and their giant mutthounds, Marley and Sterling. team stone is on a tireless crusade to turn their little house into a home, one ridiculous project at a time.
I did not leave the house today.
After a warm and relaxed combined Thanksgiving with our friends Courtney and John, the kind of meal where every dish is stellar and you leave, hugging folks on the way out who you met for the first time on the way in, waking up at the ass-crack of dawn this morning to jostle and shove people out of the way just so I can buy STUFF seems like a total slap in the face to everything I said I was thankful for yesterday.
At the same time, while today is Buy Nothing Day in our household, I do not want to sound like a holier-than-thou hypocrite. I like things—gifts, presents, trinkets, baubles, tokens of affection. I love to give and receive jewelry (ahem, anyone notice the bday bling courtesy of my sweet spouse?), mix CDs, spa gift certificates, kitchen accessories, homemade goodies, books, sweet-smelling soaps, etc. There’s something very satisfying about presenting someone with a gift you know they will enjoy but might not have bought for themselves.
What I have a problem with is buying for buying’s sake—this idea that, at the holidays, we have to buy a gift for everyone in our life. Because we feel obligated to? Because the economy needs stimulating? Because it’s what we’ve always done?
Many people are starting to buck this tradition, turning instead to gift-raffles, family name-draws, charitable donations, or homemade presents. I feel lucky that my family, friends, & co-workers aren’t caught up in the gift parade; if we see something we think someone else will like, we buy it for them. Barring that, we bring each other specialties from our respective kitchens, write thoughtful cards, spend time in each other’s houses laughing, and don’t worry too much about the “balance sheet” of friendship.
As I look around my house today and see my two favorite women in the world, my mother and Jill, this sweet dog Dolly in my lap, and two sassy cats sleeping on the bed, I know there’s not a thing in the world that I need, but there might be a few things that I want…I just have to make sure I am mindful of the difference.
THE BLUE JEAN GOURMET GUIDE TO MONEY WELL-SPENT
Start here. Stop here, too, if you can:
Heifer International–Heifer works to end poverty and hunger by gifting animals to families in needy communities around the globe. Every animal, be it a water buffalo or hive of bees, can both feed its recipient family and be used as a potential source of income. Heifer’s holistic approach includes integrating local customs, respecting the dignity of recipients, & requiring that every family “pass the gift” when their animal reproduces.
Wounded Warrior Project–The WWP seeks to honor and empower severely wounded servicemen and women, many of whom often tragically slip through society’s cracks when returning from active duty. Given the nature of the ongoing fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, more and more young men and women are face disability and mental trauma, sorry repayment for the invaluable service they have provided.
Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres–This international organization works in over sixty countries to assist men, women, & children whose lives are threatened due to violence, neglect, or catastrophe. Winner of the 1999 Nobel Peace Prize, MSF is full of stories that break my heart and make me think twice before I open my mouth to complain.
Water.org–Sobering facts: 3.5 million people die each year from water-related disease; An American taking a five-minute shower uses more water than the typical person living in a developing country slum uses in a whole day. Donate to Water.org and help build wells, sewer systems, and sanitary drinking lines for the one billion people world-wide who don’t have access to safe water now.
CARE–My father gave consistently to CARE his whole life, because he particularly respected the way they work with women to fight global poverty. CARE believes that by equipping women with the proper resources, they then have the power to help whole families and entire communities escape poverty. More and more studies and reports back this hypothesis up.
This list of more traditional gifts is far from definitive and certainly biased in light of my own preferences and the preferences of those I tend to buy gifts for. Please do leave any suggestions of your own in the comments!
INSPIRATION = customized stationery or thank-you notes (I’m partial to this purveyor), a bold, beautiful scarf from your local museum gift shop, a J. Crew gift certificate, a case of her favorite wine, a set of luxurious-thread-count sheets, first-edition or signed copy of a book that’s been important to her.
Melissa Borrell Jewelry–Distinctive and finely crafted, Melissa’s jewelry is sold in design shops and museum stores across the country. She’s a hometown (Houston) artist, so I’m extra excited to share her work with you.
Victoria’s Secret Pajamas–Satin pajamas were a gift from Jill a few years ago and I am still in love with them. Too frivolous for me to have bought for myself, I feel so luxurious, indulgent, & movie-star-like when I wear them.
INSPIRATION = a nice bottle of Scotch, a sturdy, waterproof watch with some gleam to it, vintage vinyl, a well-crafted pocket knife, Apple store gift certificate, first-edition or signed copy of a book that’s been important to him.
Ray-Ban Aviator Sunglasses–Why mess with a classic? A good pair of sunglasses can do a lot for one’s swagger.
iDesign Dock with Power Speakers–Reasonable price, sleek design, badass sound. Works for iPhone or iPod.
INSPIRATION = high-end candles, an unusually shaped vase, magazine subscription befitting her interests, pre-filled photo frame, cashmere sweater, a copy of the children’s book she read to you over and over again with an inscription from you on the cover page.
Reusable Shopping Bag–I received one of the Reisenthal Mini-Maxi Bags as a teacher gift a few years ago and have been buying them myself as gifts ever since. Perfect stocking stuffers, they work well for groceries or gym clothes, beach bag or yoga-mat-carrier.
Quilted Jacket–My mom bought herself one of these L.L. Bean Jackets in Cranberry Red and loves it! It’s quite easy to guess jacket size, but if you get it wrong, L.L. Bean has a very forgiving return policy & excellent customer service.
INSPIRATION = a grill or grill accessories, food-or-wine-of-the-month club, magazine subscription befitting his interests, pre-loaded ipod, expensive & silky dress socks, a copy of the children’s book he read to you over and over again with an inscription from you on the cover page.
Jerky of the Month Club—This one really doesn’t need an explanation. At the very least, this gift is least likely to be duplicated by a sibling or relative.
Classic Leather Jacket–This sleek zip-up may not be your dad’s style, but bombers and motorcycle jackets are also to be found. Remember, it’s our job to help our dads be stylish. Don’t fall down on your duty!
For the Foodie:
White Truffle Oil–D’Artagnan is the place to find gourmet goodies, but if you need a sure-to-please gift, try this truffle oil. Packs an incredible flavor and can be used in dozens of applications, from risotto to pasta.
Beecher’s Handmade Cheese–Jess of the beautiful blog Sweet Amandine turned me onto these folks and I’m so glad she did. You can order their Cheese of the Month or buy a la carte from such goodies as their “World’s Best” Mac and Cheese Kit or 6th Anniversary Collection.
For the Bookworm:
Of course, taste in books is highly personal, but here are some old & new BJG favorites. Each title links to a description.
The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins)–I took this book home one weekend and couldn’t put it down. I then passed it along to Jill, Sonya, Courtney, John, all of whom had similar responses. Even better? Catching Fire, the sequel, is just as good.
Beastly (Alex Flinn)–Every one of my students who have read this modern re-telling of the classic story of Beauty and the Beast has loved it, and you can feel good about gifting it because the messaging is solid. A movie based on the book is scheduled to be released next year, so get them to read the book first!
the dead and the gone (Susan Beth Pfeffer)–Another riveting, intense piece of young adult fiction that translates easily to adult readers. I’d especially recommend this one for young men or reluctant readers.
Willful Creatures: Stories (Aimee Bender)–One of my all-time favorites, this collection of stories is astonishingly creative and moving.
The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Junot Diaz)–My favorite book club read of 2008. Highly inventive, blooming with verve.
Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlife (David Eagleman)–Devoured this in a few afternoons. Perfect bedside-table book because you can pick it up here and there without missing a beat.
Nurtureshock: New Thinking About Children (Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman)–Jill ordered this after we read these authors’ Newsweek cover article, Is Your Baby Racist? Urgent arguments, substantive research, approachable tone.
Losing Mum & Pup (Christopher Buckley)–A fugue of a book from a square-jawed author. Incredibly touching, especially as someone who has experienced the loss of a parent myself.
Color: A Natural History of the Palette (Victoria Finlay)–I bought this book at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Gift shop and read it on the plane home. It’s a stunning account of where color comes from, with travel vignettes I still recall vividly.
The Omnivore’s Dilemma (Michael Pollan)–This book has become somewhat ubiquitous, but for good reason. If you haven’t read it yet, do. A book must be powerful if it convinced Jill to buy organic dairy!
For the Pet/Pet-Owner:
Homemade BJG Dog Treats—as featured a few months ago, these Peanut Butter Treats have never met a dog who didn’t wolf them down!
Furminator—The most incredible pet brush I have ever experienced, with both dog and cat incarnations. It seriously changed the quality of life for this multi-pet household! Worth every penny.
For New Babies/Expectant Parents:
INSPIRATION = restaurant gift certificate to the couple’s favorite restaurant, a “coupon book” for future babysitting, body butter & other bath goodies to pamper the pregnant , classic children’s books to build the baby’s library, a diaper bag with a sense of style.
Urban Tots—All kinds of cuteness available here, but I’m especially fond of the Fruits & Veggies onesies, with colorful silk-screened designs and clever slogans: 100% Organic (broccoli), Ripe (banana), Squeezable (orange). Packaged adorably in green paper berry crates.
Urban Smalls—because every baby needs a vinyl-backed bib that says “MUSH: IT’S WHAT’S FOR DINNER.” Other fun baby hats, pants, onesies, & shirts are also available.
For the Kiddos:
Ugly Dolls—So ugly they’re cute. Even big kids like them!
The Lightning Thief series–Conceived by author Rick Riordan, these novels draw upon ancient Greek mythology to imagine a world where the gods and goddesses of Olympus are alive and well (and living at the top of the Empire State Building). A great choice for kids from 8-14.
Duross & Langel—I fell in love with this haven of thoughtfully made bath-and-body goodies on a recent trip to Philadelphia and came away with adorable shark-shaped soaps for my godsons, Moroccan Cedar shower gel for Dave, hand-repair salve for my mom, and dermabrasion face cream for Jill.
Lake Champlain Chocolates–Yeah, I’m kinda obsessed with these people. They’re a small-batch operation with excellent customer service (Once I placed a big birthday order for a friend using the wrong address. Needless to say, it didn’t reach her, but even when I realized my mistake and offered to pay again, they sent a duplicate order to the right address free of charge). Everything they make is delicious, but allow me to recommend Vermont Country Gift Basket, Hot Chocolate Sampler, & Organic Holiday Truffles.
BUILT NY—These are the folks responsible for the good-looking neoprene protective coverings you’ve been seeing everywhere. From laptop sleeves to lunch boxes, you could (literally) have everyone covered with one order.
& last but not least…
Your local bookstore—If you’re not sure where to find an independent, locally-owned-and-operated bookstore in your town, consult this list. Then plan to spend a good hour or two browsing and setting aside goodies for the ones you love, knowing that the staff will be much more likely to actually help than at a big-box store. Though a local bookstore’s inventory will be smaller, keep in mind that they can almost always order a particular title for you at no extra charge.
Ya’ll. Please go buy this kitchen soap. (It’s even on sale!)
Come home and wash your hands. Repeat. It’s okay, you can repeat, because this stuff is so moisturizing and lovely that it won’t wear out even really sensitive skin like mine. But even if you don’t repeat, the fresh, subtle scent will stay with you all day. No, they’re not paying me to say this, although that would be nice. It’s just that my friend Romy keeps this in her guest bathroom and I finally decided to buy some for myself and now I’m in love. And when you’re in love, you just can’t keep it to yourself.
So, thanks. You can go back to your lives now. Be sure to come back tomorrow, though, for blackberry upside-down cake…oh yes oh yes oh yes.
Father’s Day is one week from today, people! So, just in case you haven’t gotten on the ball yet, here’s a no-frills smattering of gift ideas:
If you’ve got the funds, spring for a Kindle. Who doesn’t love a fancy gadget? Great for traveling Dads/husbands/etc.
The BBC’s Planet Earth series is available on DVD, visually stunning, and great for families to watch together.
I heard this fantastic interview on NPR a few weeks ago with Michael Lewis, the author of Home Game: An Accidental Guide to Fatherhood. He happens to be married to Tabitha Soren (remember her from MTV?) and wrote a no-holds-barred account of his journey from reluctant to enthusiastic dad. Based on the interview, the book promises to be a hilarious read.
For the music aficionado, I love this combo record/CD/radio player. Excellent retro styling.
You knew I was going to offer some foodie ideas, right?
I am a big fan of these “Ottimista/Pessimista” glasses in either beer or wine size. If Dad’s really into beer, give him a home brewing kit; is he more into wine? There’s a starter kit to DIY that, too. Should you have a grilling master on your hands, monogrammed grill tools may be the way to go, and I don’t think one can go wrong with a set of beautiful steak knives.
If you really want to win points for originality, allow me to point you in the direction of the Jerky-of-the-Month Club. A new flavor, every month for six months. The internet is a wonderful thing, no?
Last but certainly not least, consider giving a Kiva credit, not just for Father’s Day but for any gifting occasion. The recepient uses the credit you gave to loan out various amounts to entrepreneurs all over the world. Each invidual’s picture and story are featured on the website, and Kiva notifies you when the money has been paid back so you can loan it out again and again. An extremely empowering thing for individuals on both sides of the bargain.
Of course, you may be planning to cook for your Dad on Sunday; don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Friday we’ll feature an excellent brunch menu of Eggs Benedict & The Best Bloody Marys. In the meantime, the Summer Classics Series will continue on Tuesday with a big pitcher of Sangria. Ole!
Is your fridge a scary place? Does everything you store end up coming out smelling like tuna-fish sandwiches? It may be time to get help.
Fridges aren’t actually supposed to smell like anything. They’re not! And if yours does, fear not. Baking soda is here:
For less than a dollar, you can buy two of these guys. Throw one in the icebox (I just love that word, icebox!) and the other in the freezer. Change every two-three months to keep things smelling nice and neutral.*
Just a friendly reminder from your neighborhood Blue Jean Gourmet! We now return you to your regularly scheduled Sunday.
*If that doesn’t do the trick, you may need to take a long, hard look at your food storage methods. Alas, Ziploc bags and plastic wrap, while convenient, do not provide a sufficent enough barrier for strong odors like garlic & onion. Invest in a few pieces of storage ware, or just wash and re-use jars, bottles, and plastic butter tubs, etc. Still got a funky-smelling-fridge? You may need to activate Operation: Wipedown, in which you 1) Remove everything from fridge (being sure to switch to warmest setting first). 2) Open & inspect all fridge contents. 3) Clean shelves, drawers, nooks, & crannies. 4) Return salvageable foodstuffs, dispose of the rest. 5) Bask in the sense of accomplishment & now-unoffensive-refrigerator smell!
It’s getting down to the wire, huh, folks?
Should you be in need of some inspiration, here are a few non-floral suggestions culled from the world-wide-web. Rush shipping is available from the bigger retailers, and there’s always the “better-late-than-never” approach (if your mom is flexible like that).
If you need to present something in person on Sunday, I recommend heading to your local art museum and checking out the gift store. I’ve found that they are often really great resources for lovely, unusual gifts.
AND, if all else fails…cook something delicious for the woman who birthed you! Check back tomorrow for an easy-to-assemble Mother’s Day breakfast/brunch menu.
For new moms, I strongly recommend Beth Ann Fennelly’s poetry collection, Tender Hooks. Written after the birth of her daughter, Fennelly’s poems are honest and touching but not overly sentimental. I bought this for my dear friend Katherine following the birth of her twins, and knew it was a good choice when she ordered six copies to send to all of her new-mom friends.
For mothers-in-law, check out The Body Shop’s Wise Woman skincare line. It’s been written up in a bunch of glamorous magazines, but more importantly, the 40-something and 50-something woman I’ve gifted these products to, swear by them (especially the Intensive Firming Mask!)
For pregnant ladies, I’ll endorse The Body Shop again, this time for their body butter. All kinds of good smells (or go with scent-free Vitamin E for women with sensitive skin), plus intense moisturization that helps prevent belly stretch marks. Throw in some bubble bath or shower gel for a nice package, or even a gift card so she can indulge.
For kitchen goddesses, browse the Mother’s Day section of Sur la Table. I’m a big fan of this knife (comes with a free bamboo cutting board!), these beautiful, Italian baking dishes, this lovely lemon platter, & the fire-engine-red Cuisinart ice cream maker (which is on sale!)
For the quirky mom who has it all, check out The Spoon Sisters. They carry a random assortment of items, but there are gems to be found, the kind of items that make you think–hey, I know someone who needs that! Like the sky umbrella, the heart paper clips, the designer duct tape (I’m so not making this up), or these totally gorgeous bird-topped measuring spoons.
Last but not least, consider making a donation to a worthy organization in honor of your mom, aunt, grandmother, wife, step-mom, etc. Charitable contributions are often the first thing to be cut during “tough economic times” such as these, and of course we all know that they are needed now more than ever.
There are many worthy causes out there, but may I humbly suggest Heifer International? Your donation will provide a worthy family with an animal (hive of bees, gaggle of geese, pair of goats) that can be used for food and profit. When the animals produce offspring, the recipient family “passes the gift” to another family in the community. Make a donation and design your own e-card to inform your mom that you’ve given in her honor to such a cool cause.
Anybody else have last-minute gift ideas to share? Or plan-ahead ideas for next year?