When I started writing this, it was the morning after the first hard frost. I crunched over frozen leaves on my early morning walk with the dog. It was clear and cold and everything sparkled. Since then there's been snow and ice, more than we're used to here. Besides the wintry weather, these weeks have held cookie baking, a double date to The Nutcracker, putting up the tree and stringing lights in the windows, shopping for and wrapping gifts, writing cards, and planning holiday meals to come. Hello December, I remember you.
Here's some of what's been filling my cup lately.
I love to make up a pot of Marble and Milkweed's Modern Chai No. 1 and keep it warm over a tea light. That way I can drink cup after little cup, while reading, writing, or talking with a friend. I make it strong, sweeten it with a little honey, and top it with some warmed and frothed half and half. This chai hits all the right herbal, warming spice, floral and vanilla notes. Plus the rose petals, pink peppercorns, cardamom and black tea make it to look at, too.
My sister and I get together with a friend every December to bake cookies. We play Christmas music and chat and laugh while we bake, and we always make sure there's something something simple and delicious to eat when we stop for lunch. By the end of the day, there's usually six or so different kinds of cookies to share. For the second year in a row, I made oatmeal scotchies from the Cookie Love book. They bake up lacy and crisp, a little bit salty and full of browned butter, toasty oat and vanilla flavors, accented by the butterscotch chips. I've been enjoying sipping cups of Whispering Pines Wildcrafted Da Hong Pao with the scotchies. The sweet, nutty, and woodsy notes of this roasted oolong are a perfect match with the cookies.
Early this fall, I got my hands on Smith Teamaker's very limited edition (and now sold out) Astoriamaro. It's an herbal tea they made in collaboration with local barware purveyor Bull in China. Astoriamaro recalls the bittersweet, herbal liqueurs known as amaro. It's complex and delicious and it makes a great hot or iced latte. But I've been having fun serving it after dinner-- as a no caffeine, zero proof digestif. It's interesting and delicious enough to stand on its own, but it also plays well with dessert, especially with a little milk and honey.
Here are some of the things that have caught my eye recently.
Cookbooks. Have you ever noticed how many cookbooks come out towards the end of the year? The 2016 batch is so great that I'm a little overwhelmed-- in a good way! These are some of the highlights.
- Small Victories: Up your kitchen skills by cooking through Julia's tasty recipes. There are techniques and tips (small victories!) that you'll pick up with each one that you can apply beyond the specific dish.
- Molly on the Range: It's quirky, wide-ranging, and brilliant. In this book, midwestern, multicultural, small town and the big apple all get along together. Plus, Molly's passion for halvah and funfetti is contagious. You can get a feel for Molly's cooking and writing style on her blog, My Name Is Yeh.
- Dorie's Cookies: SO many cookie ideas (including savory cocktail cookies!) for your favorite baker. Add a cookie scoop to go with it for the perfect gift.
- Everything I want to eat: Sqirl and the New California Cooking: This is on my wishlist, as it seems to be everything I want to eat, too. Healthy-ish, inventive, flavor-packed food for breakfast through dinner. Plus sections for dessert, jams (!) and drinks like rhubarb lemonade and a turmeric tonic.
- A Modern Way to Cook: I appreciate that this book is intended for modern everyday cooking. The inspired, all-vegetarian recipes are organized by the amount of time they take to prepare from 15-40 minutes.
Feminist goods. So many options to rep your feminist pride... here are some of my favorites. Several come in kid sizes too!
- "Feminist" sweatshirts and hand-dyed totes from Portland artist Anna Joyce Design.
- "Wild Feminist" sweatshirts, jackets, tees, and more from the cool kids at Wildfang.
- "The Future is Female" tees and sweatshirts from Seven Sisters in Portland or straight from the source at Otherwild.
- Dear Mrs. President tees (and so many others!) from prinkshop, where they donate some of the proceeds from their activist tees to the cause.
- La Futura tees for all of your favorite mujeres from the newly launched This Is Dynasty. 10% of the proceeds go to The Southern Poverty Law Center who monitor hate groups and fight bigotry.
Other good things. Maybe for you, maybe for them.
- Pretty much anything from Red House Vermont. Their handmade bags strike the perfect balance of rustic, yet modern and refined. I'm especially into The Weekender-- this might be the perfect version I've been looking for. I'm also considering making The Overnighter my everyday bag, and I have my eye on their almost-but-not-quite black linen table runner.
- Tea. It's a good time of year to stock up on tea to see you through winter and spring. For delicious and unique small-batch tea blends, I love T Project and Marble and Milkweed. For high quality pure tea, Joseph Wesley Black Tea and Red Blossom Tea are two of my favorites. For really special blends and pure tea in one place, check out Whispering Pines Tea. For stand-out matcha, Breakaway is a great choice.
- Supporting real journalism. Like a lot of us, I've been reminded recently how important journalism is to the healthy functioning of our society. To that end, I'm giving and requesting subscriptions to support the work of credible news sources like The New York Times, Scientific American, NPR and The Atlantic.
- Art and poetry. Instagram is really a treasure trove of artists. I've tumbled down that rabbit hole several times this year and have been amazed at what I've found. There are too many to list, but here are a few to get you started: dreamy landscapes and more from Emily Jeffords, the colorfully abstract ladies painted by Hayley Mitchell, and the airy botanical illustrations of Camille Shu. Last but not least, who couldn't use a bit more poetry in their life? I've fallen hard for the beautiful, powerful, and spare words of Salt. by Nayyirah Waheed.
I hope you all enjoy the season. Cheers!