12.9.13 Wrap It Up (and a Caramel Giveaway!)

Caramels 790 xxx
photo by gluttonforlife
First of all, to those of you who left comments on my last post, thank you so very much for sharing your wonderful memories and appreciation of your most treasured gifts. I was really touched and heartened to see that the ones that truly matter are those that come from the heart, that are carefully considered and laden with emotional significance. (Through random selection, the winner of the set of Mirena Kim nesting bowls is Janet Prince! Janet, please email me your mailing address at gluttonforlife@gmail.com.)

This week, there will be another two giveaways, starting with this jar of my famous sea salt caramels in two flavors, very voluptuous vanilla and sultry chocolate-chile, the latter made with my favorite bittersweet chocolate from the awesome Askinosie. The gorgeous new packaging is the result of my collaboration with the groovy design team at Mother. Trust me, you want to win. Next year, these may be for sale in the pop-up shop, but this year, here's your only chance. Just leave a comment by midnight on Wednesday telling me your favorite candy from childhood. And now, read on for this year's gift guide.
Winnie 790 xxx
just do it
I've put together what I think is a fantastic list of gifts to appeal to all sorts of people. Some of of these are by people I know and love, some are things of which I am a big fan, and others I have just coveted. But none of them is from a big corporate entity and this is intentional. Where possible, I hope you'll join me in supporting small independent purveyors and artisans.

The book One Simple Change, is by my friend Winnie Abramson, above, whose popular blog, Healthy Green Kitchen, spawned this great series of suggestions for how to transform your life through simple but significant weekly changes. Gracefully written, full of wisdom and optimism, it is the perfect antidote to Draconian new year's resolutions. Give it to your mom, your colleague, your best friend, and get a copy for yourself.

In a similar vein, give the gift of meditation and help someone change profoundly with minimal effort. Here's another option.

The goldfinch 790 xxx
book it
Books make great gifts because they transport readers and let them discover new worlds, new friends, new philosophies.

My picks this year include:

The Goldfinch, literary fiction from Donna Tart
The Dog Stars, a compelling futuristic thriller by Peter Heller
The Caretaker, the debut thriller by my talented friend A.X. Ahmad
Full Fathom Five, a memoir and scientific adventure by my friend Gordon Chaplin
The Signature of All Things, in which Elizabeth Gilbert redeems herself for Eat Pray Love
Anything by the poet Mary Oliver, in hope you will join me in my effort to spread the love of poetry
Ditto W.H.Auden
Best made 790 xxx
man's man
For the men in your life, you can do no better than anything at all from Best Made—from pocket knives to kevlar belts to sheepskin vests. (A well-kept secret is that chicks dig this stuff, too.) Even their packaging is gorgeous!

Another great tip: Dollar Shave Club. So useful, great deal, smart concept with a bit of sustainability thrown in for good measure.

I'm also obssesed with the great-smelling natural products from Jao. (The BeardScent is divine.)

There's a wide range of interesting things here, all with that particularly British Paul Smith vibe that I admire (and shipping is free!)
Stampa 790 xxx
hang it up
Art endures. 

Find wonderful and quirky original works from Stampa (the zebra above is by Britt Browne), Jennifer Ament and Lisa Congdon.
Seeds 790 xxx
grow your own
Give life. There is nothing more full of hope and potential than seeds. The Hudson Valley Seed Company has wonderful heirloom varieties and beautifully illustrated packaging. Here's another option.

Terrain has a lovely selection of terrariums, a wonderful way to introduce kids and urban dwellers to the joys of gardening.

More inspiration of the cooking/gardening/living variety can be found in 66 Square Feet, a fantastic new book from the lovely and amazing Marie Viljoen of the popular blog of the same name.
Two new york tunics caftans dresses 01 790 xxx
dress up
For the aesthete and style afficionado:

Glorious caftans from Two New York  (also available from here, along with a seemingly limitless number of items that any woman in her right mind would love)

Mystical incense fom Astier de Villatte (my favorite is Oulan Bator)

Exquisite body oils from Jiva Apoha

Handmade natural soaps from Trillium
Pups 790 xxx
doggy do
A few suggestions for the little ones:

A clever book by my pal Daniel Stark that comes alive with these adorable paper pups you simply punch out and fold up (no origami skills required here); buy it here.

Inspire wanderlust with this richly illustrated atlas and watch your kid clamor for her passport.

This is my very favorite place to buy children' clothes (it doesn't hurt that they also do adult-sized things now as well!)
Twentyfourblackbirdschocolatebarpalosblancosbar900 1024x1024 790 xxx
feather in your cap
And last but not least, a few things for the gourmand and gourmet in your midst:

They have branched out from being a New York-only resource, but Mouth remains a marvelous curator of all sorts of artisanal treats, from flavored marshmallows and handmade chocolates (like the gorgeous feather above) to bitters and biscuits. Choose one of their cleverly assembled gift baskets or build your own.

My friend Claire who raises bees upstate partnered with Fingerlakes Distillery to launch an amazing rye whiskey infused with late-summer honey. It's fabulous just over ice, though I've also developed a few cocktails that do it justice.

These delightful tea syrups would be a novel choice for the mixologist in your life.

Tee-totallers and tipplers alike will swoon over these delicious Japanese drinking vinegars. (I'm partial to the shiso.)

Brooklyn woodworker Arielle Alasko, whose furniture is always on my wish list, has a collection of beautifully crafted serving utensils, scoops and cutting boards made of highly durable black walnut. (Just saw that she's all sold out already! I sent her an email asking if she will be restocking soon; stay tuned. In the meantime, I'm also a fan of Jonathan's wild cherry spoons.)

This classic skillet only gets better with time, developing the lustrous patina that facilitates perfect omelets and blinis.

My four top picks for cookbooks this year are:

Mast Brothers Chocolate

The AOC Cookbook by Suzanne Goin

Manresa: An Edible Reflection by David Kinch (breathtaking)

Saving the Season by Kevin West (for canners & picklers, and those who aspire to be)

I hope this gives you some grist for the mill. Remember, one gift that truly hits the mark is all you need, so give some real thought to the passions and dreams of the recipient. And come back on Thursday for yet another giveaway from the Grand Holiday Gift Extravaganza at Glutton for Life!


lovely gift suggestions and thanks for the shout out, Stampa hearts Gluttonforlife xoxo
stephanie on December 9, 2013 at 5:11 pm —
My favorite candy from childhood was my grandma's peanut brittle. My grandparents were farmers - simple and happy people. And she was famous for this brittle. I remember not only the great taste but the joy she had in giving it away. I tried to make it about 10 years ago and forgot to use a temp sensitive spoon (before my current job) and it melted right into my bowl :( I need to give it another shot. I hope I win the BEST caramels in the world!
Shawn Askinosie on December 9, 2013 at 5:12 pm —
They're made with the BEST chocolate in the world! I am going to amend the post right now to include that important fact! xo
laura on December 9, 2013 at 6:13 pm —
Wasn't The Goldfinch AMAZING?! And your caramels look incredible! x
Valentina on December 9, 2013 at 5:23 pm —
favorite candy from childhood: bazooka joes. not at all for the taste or consistency (lasting all of about 3 seconds)...more about the newfound freedom of being able to walk to the candy store to buy them (and being able to afford them with a paltry allowance) #youth! ps: hi!
nancy hsu on December 9, 2013 at 6:15 pm —
My favorite candy from childhood (and now) was (is) my mother's chocolate fudge. I need to learn how to make it myself!
Terry Lohrenz on December 9, 2013 at 6:18 pm —
Terry, that reminds me how much I love and crave my grandmother's chocolate fudge. I will look for the recipe. Does your mom's have walnuts? Maybe you can get her recipe, too.
laura on December 9, 2013 at 6:28 pm —
She makes it with and without nuts. I will send you the recipe.
Terry Lohrenz on December 9, 2013 at 6:45 pm —
Thank you for the list Laura!
Tomo on December 9, 2013 at 6:29 pm —
When I was in kindergarden in Kathmandu, my mother would give me 1 rupee everyday to buy myself a treat. This was a big deal for me. Although most candies that the old lady on the corner street had on her little bamboo woven tray(nanglo) could only buy me 1 candy for a Rupee. :( I wanted more. She had one candy that was called "orange ball", which was 3 for a Rupee. Sold! That became my favorite. Mostly likely filled with sugar and orange food coloring but I was only a kid and needed my fix. Now I know better. This guy has a photo of such a lady with her tray on his blog. http://benjamingraham1.blogspot.com/2010/09/behind-nanglo.html
Sanje Lama on December 9, 2013 at 6:43 pm —
Love this memory, complete with photo!
laura on December 9, 2013 at 7:13 pm —
Yes, I started making my own caramels, but they don't (and won't) hold a candle to yours. Sign me up. My favorite candy as a child were jellied fruit slices (the translucent colors! the sugar coating!), and those orange and spearmint jelly wedges (accessible, and just the right amount of textural give).
Julia on December 9, 2013 at 7:06 pm —
What do you mean? You have the recipe! I'm sure they are every bit as good.
laura on December 9, 2013 at 7:13 pm —
Every thursday, in conjunction with the Bill Cosby Show, my sister and I would bike three blocks to Peggy's market and I would buy a Snickers bar and she would buy a Three Musketeer and then rush home to freeze them before the Bill Cosby show came on. My sister and I were very competitive and it was always a contest to see who could make their candy last the entire show. I usually won since carmel freezes much harder. (Older sister trick:)
erica on December 9, 2013 at 7:16 pm —
I love this so much!!
laura on December 9, 2013 at 7:39 pm —
Wow what a list, Laura! I am honored that you chose to include my book. Thank you.
Winnie on December 9, 2013 at 7:23 pm —
My favorite candy from childhood is a tie between resee's peanut butter cups and tootsie rolls :)
Jamie on December 9, 2013 at 8:17 pm —
what a terrific holiday gift giving line up! I'm going to spend some time purusing it. your caramels! I will cheat on my no sugar diet for them! My favorite candy as a kid was jordan almonds. I didn't eat much candy, or many sweets, my grandparents always had halvah and turkish delights for me, but I begged for those candy coated almonds! When I was able to buy my own candy I always went for butterfingers :)
tamika on December 9, 2013 at 9:09 pm —
My mom and I used to make caramels every christmas - we would sit and wrap them together (a few wouldnt get into wrappers but my tummy instead!)
meredith on December 9, 2013 at 9:30 pm —
Oh, I know that technique only too well!
laura on December 9, 2013 at 11:59 pm —
Easy. My favorite candy from childhood is the Big Hunk candy bar my dad would buy down at cowell's beach for my sister and I to share, and of course he had some too!!!
Christa cavanah on December 9, 2013 at 9:53 pm —
Love a Big Hunk. Haven't had one since I was about 9!
laura on December 10, 2013 at 12:00 am —
No favorite candy from childhood, but what if this became my favorite candy from my adulthood...
Robert on December 9, 2013 at 11:08 pm —
laura on December 9, 2013 at 11:58 pm —
Well discovered and edited gift ideas, thank you! (The chocolate with feather imprint from Mouth is divine). Always have had a sweet tooth. My earliest and fondest Christmas memories include ribbon candy and marzipan.
Jan on December 9, 2013 at 11:19 pm —
OMG - ribbon candy! That takes me back.
laura on December 9, 2013 at 11:58 pm —
peanut brittle, i haven't thought of that in a long time! my grandmother made that. my mother was a cherry mash aficionado. when i could buy more than penny candy it had to be a payday!
patryce on December 10, 2013 at 1:24 am —
Cherry mash? That' a new one for me.
laura on December 10, 2013 at 8:23 am —
Candy sticks from Canal Towne Emporium in Wurtsboro....always fun to try and pick one from all the flavors!
Diane Lindsay on December 10, 2013 at 7:33 am —
too much gorgeousness! what a feast--can't even think about your question, drunk as I am on all the eye candy you have just provided....
Janet on December 10, 2013 at 9:47 am —
Oh, my favorite candy from childhood - and still - is caramel. Being that I wasn't allowed to eat sweets (Dad was a dentist), I must have subconsciously gravitated toward one of the sweetest sweets around! So, when sneaking a taste (usually from the Brach's candy bin), that's what I'd go for.
Susan on December 10, 2013 at 10:33 am —
Our neighbour used to make sponge toffee once and a while ... I still remember the old well worn tin with wax paper peeking out the lid. I'm sure I used to visit and stare at the tin hoping that it might mean she would notice and offer a sweet. (it often worked, but it wasn't always toffee ... sometimes cookies, but it was the toffee I craved) I must have been 4 or 5 at the time, it's still a favorite. Adore all the great holiday inspiration! hugs and warm wishes from Victoria!
Christine on December 10, 2013 at 12:08 pm —
Sponge toffee sounds so exotic to me! xo
laura on December 10, 2013 at 4:39 pm —
ugh, and I just bought a stampa!
Robert on December 10, 2013 at 11:22 pm —
Why "ugh"??
laura on December 12, 2013 at 1:07 am —
My favorite candy from childhood was the Sugar Daddy! When I was 10 years old, I went to overnight camp in Maine. There was a Canteen at camp where you could buy candy and eat it during rest hour. I have very vivid memories of lying on my bed, in my pink bunk, writing letters home and eating my Sugar Daddy! I would do the same if I win Laura's AMAZING CARMELS...I would lie on my bed and eat away...
Gayle Fleischer Ober on December 24, 2013 at 6:08 pm —