Shopping small 4: For the cook

You don’t have time to make dishcloths to go with chichi soap for the kitchen, especially when you’re stuck on the second sock for a family member (but it’s really not about me). But you still want to do something for that person in your life who lives to cook. Instead of going to that fancy chain at the mall, or that other one (we happen to have two), you might want to try shopping at one of the small, independent cooking stores.

Fantes in Philadelphia has:

  • Cake pans: How about an adorable airplane tin cake pan? (squee)
  • Cookie cutters and springerle pans: How about an adorable springerle owl? Or the 12 days of Christmas springerle boards that you can hang on the wall? (At over $200, it’s not a stocking stuffer.)
  • Choose cookbooks and accessories with a theme, like the Vedge cookbook, a mushroom-themed apron, a mushroom scrub brush, or a vegetable peeler, and you’re done.

If your recipient is in Chicago, how about a cooking class at The Wooden Spoon ? (January has some great classes, including one on Basque Cuisine)

Compleat Lifestyles out in Colorado offers things for foodies who have their own herb garden, or access to a green grocer:

They don’t have much online. I’d check the store itself to see if there’s something your cook can’t do without (or never knew existed).

Happy hunting!

Shopping small day 3: for artists

My local art store (Utrecht) has changed its name to Dick Blick art supplies, but shopping there still feels a bit more intimate than a big crafting store in the suburbs. I look at the Aquarelle Arches paper, and my heart skips a beat (no, I don’t need more. It’s worse than my inability to leave sock yarn in a store.). But grown up artists and dilettantes (and young artists in preschool) all need:

  • Sable brushes are nice and these look luxurious for watercolor work (the set I want is out of stock, Santa).
  • I don’t think I’ve ever used badger brushes for any of my oil painting. But synthetic bristle brushes are sturdy, and offer flexibility for young students who are just starting to choose either oil or acrylic (set of 3 brushes). Round the set off with a stack of disposable paper palettes, a palette knife, and you’re done.
  • Drawing and sketching pencils, colored pencils, sharpeners in funny shapes. Consider jumbo crayons that are easy to grip for young artists (great stocking stuffers).

Other local art stores and craft stores: Artist and Craftsman. Love them. I’ve been to their Philadelphia branch and their Baltimore one. Service at both was excellent, and the ones in Baltimore were able to explain which things I could get as a gift for a young person who wanted to try cartooning. Shopping for people who do pottery can include lovely time poking around at: Clayworks Supplies (three locations or online), or at Dick Blick — shaping tools are helpful and welcome to potters and sculptors. Happy hunting!

One concert down, one to go

Our encore performance in Baltimore is on Tuesday, at 7. Last night’s concert felt magical for the singers. There’s just nothing like being in the middle of an orchestra or a choir, and feeling like you’re in a tidal pool of music. When everyone breathes at the same time, hits the notes in the right beat — it’s amazing. And, since we sing in a mixed chorus, with basses, sopranos, and tenors next to me, I really got to enjoy the other parts of the music instead of a wall of alto notes. This morning I slept in after the excitement of Saturday’s concert. This afternoon I’ve been baking for the reception, and checking which things need to go to the cleaner’s tomorrow to be ready for Tuesday.

The Lauridsen piece, Sure on this Shining Night, is beautiful, and fits so well into the winter season. It’s interesting to hear different choruses perform it, partly because our chorus is so much smaller. Different direction also changes the nuances, of course. So do different nights — every performance is unique. Tickets are still available, so if you’re in Baltimore, please consider buying a ticket and attending.

Time to spiff up the tuxedo

It’s another concert night, so it’s time to spiff up the tuxedo, make sure I know where the bow tie is, and bake cookies for the reception. Our concert will include: music by Morten Lauridsen, Twas the Night Before Christmas, and Caroling, Caroling.* I may choose the Joy of Cooking peanut butter cookie recipe and substitute Nutella. I suppose I should put a warning note on it that it contains hazelnuts, in case someone has a nut allergy. Link to a preview of the concert (practice session) is here.

If you’re out of town, and can’t come to the concert, hopefully the links provided will help make your season a little bit brighter. It’s going to be a lovely concert. Hopefully only rain will be a problem –> no snow this year (fingers crossed).

So, anyone else have the Christmas concert jitters? Or are all of your concerts later in December, so you still have time to prep?

* Music links are to other choruses. The Morten Lauridsen piece is done by Conspirare in Texas. Their version is truly inspirational, and I’ve been listening to it a lot. I might have to get their CD. ‘Twas the Night recording was done by Fred Waring and His Pennsylvanians. Caroling, Caroling was sung by Utah Chamber Artists.

Shopping Small 2: bookstores

If you want to get your friends or colleagues the gift of books, you might try shopping at one of the small, independent bookstores. I talked about shopping for books for Christmas here.

I’d now like to suggest small independent shops. They offer you the chance to browse, read a few pages to see if a book is a good match to your gift recipient, or talk with someone in person about new books that have just come in. Independent stores are popping up all over. Ann Pratchett began one in Nashville (Parnassus), and has a wonderful explanation about how she started her bookstore here. Daedalus Books now only has their location in Columbia, MD, but they still have a fascinating array of books that are overstocks, as well as music CDs (also available online). The Moravian Book Shop in Bethlehem, PA, offers books, gifts, Christmas gew gaws, and more (this shop isn’t new though — it has been a bookstore since 1745). If you’re at the shore, try Browse About Books in Lewes, Delaware. If you’re in California, check out SoCal’s Independent BookSellers Holiday Catalog, or find an independent retailer near you. Santa Barbara’s Chaucer’s Bookstore looks really tempting. (I just looked up vacations in Santa Barbara’s wine country, which also looks really tempting.)

If you’re near eastern Pennsylvania, try Baldwin’s Book Barn for an amazing time browsing among antique and second-hand books. I bet there’s an independent store near you that I’ve never heard of. If you have a favorite, drop a line in the comments.


The power of needleworkers – December 1

On December 1st, 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested for Civil Disobedience when she refused to give her seat to a white passenger in segregated Montgomery, Alabama. She was employed as a seamstress/tailor’s assistant, and along with her husband, she was active in the NAACP. After the boycott that ensued, Ms. Parks lost her place of employment.

When Ms. Parks was asked to give up her seat on the bus, she was actually sewing a dress for herself. The Smithsonian Institute has the dress in its collection (link here). How many of us would have given way to an order to move or else the police would be called? I like to think some of her resolve came not just from training in peaceful protest, but also the knowledge of how many times her needlework had been interrupted before. She was quoted as saying “The only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”

December 1 is also World AIDS day. In San Francisco, in November of 1985, the idea of the AIDS quilt was born, to give names to the people who might have died in obscurity and to give us an idea of the impact of the disease. Today, the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt is still growing, with panels made by 100,000 friends and family members. By June 2012, exhibits showing the quilt raised $4,000,000 to fund direct services to people living with AIDS. Gay rights activist Cleve Jones had a powerful idea that keeps growing. Over 94,000 names are on the quilt now. There are 40 International Affiliates outside of the US of the NAMES Project.

Shopping small on Saturday

I know that an American credit card company started Small Business Saturday® for the day after Black Friday, to give small businesses a chance in the USA’s big box store consumer culture. But it’s something shoppers can embrace while using cash at their favorite small stores (if they don’t want to use credit). It also encourages all of us to visit new small stores we’ve never been in before.

One store near me, Lovely Yarns, has a collection of local yarn to buy. It’s an easy sell to someone who knits, even better for someone who shops for those who knit. For the SBS, they had cupcakes out. Other small yarn shops that I would shop at if I had a time travel machine:

This is a small sampling of places I either used to shop at, or have visited while on vacation. All of these (except the departed Tangled Yarns) are pretty good locations to do to find gift cards for knitters, or yarn and needle selections for knitters.

More ideas later on gifts that don’t require a trip to a big box store. I’m hoping this is the year I get to “shop small” or craft the rest.


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