Thursday, December 30, 2010

On a Homemade Gift

Over the years, my sister has been known to choose hand made options for her Christmas presents, most notably making me a bath robe and a wonderfully warm fleece throw. This year was no exceptions as I was the recipient of home made blueberry jam and new mittens. The jam was canned at home and after having it on my toast yesterday morning, I can confirm that it is indeed as delicious as it looks.

The mittens are made from a shrunken wool sweater. They are fleece lined and incredibly warm. You can see that the cuff is made from the cuff of the sweater. A terribly clever idea.

This being said, never underestimate the power of the home/hand made gift. These meant a lot to me.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

On Gift Wrap

I realize this is a bit after the fact, but I thought I'd share my present wrapping strategy for Christmas 2010.

I'm actually not so great a wrapping gifts. I really like to see well wrapped gifts, but I don't seem to have the appropriate motor skills to do a really beautiful job. So, I prefer to keep things simple and have often opted in the past for traditional brown craft paper and had planned to do the same this year. But, my plane looking gifts were spiced up in a nice way, by this red and white twine from Crate and Barrel.

I was fond of the look myself, but was mostly pleased by the ways in which people reacted to the wrapping. It seemed to bring about a nice piece of nostalgia to the unwrapping process and made for a nice discussion piece during the family time. Given the large roll of twine I purchased, I imagine I will reuse the idea in upcoming years.

Friday, December 24, 2010

On a Merry Christmas

Dear All,

Sorry I've been so lax about the blog lately. I've wanted to blog, but sometimes when I'm a bit overwhelmed with life I can't quite bring myself to type. So, I write this to share a few thoughts on this Christmas Eve, 2010.

I'm sitting here in Otsego, MI. My mother is baking pies in the kitchen and my father is wrapping presents in the light of the Christmas tree. We are listening to some of my father's old Christmas tapes, which are mostly over the top arrangements of Christmas tunes with operatic singing. We're waiting for my brother, his wife and kids to arrive. It's Christmas. It's weird, and great.

Let me just say I'm thankful. I know I have a whoooole lot and I'm thankful for each and every bit of it. Do I want more? Yea. Totally. And, I think in 2011 I'm going to get even more because as Scott would say "You deserve it." But I don't care if I get any more things. I have a lot of that. I want more of the good stuff. The name of this blog is of course meant to be silly because things ultimately mean so little, but the sentiment of things can mean very much. I'm thankful for a life full of sentiment and beautiful people and beautiful things and a holiday that reminds me of such... and, I'm looking forward to more in this upcoming year.

Have a lovely day tomorrow.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

On Black Swan

There has been a lot of buzz around Black Swan and so it seemed necessary to see if it was merited.

You know, I'm not actually going to say much about this movie other than that this movie is scary, ya'll. My stomach was in knots and it still is kind of sticking with me. Natalie Portman deserves the praise she is getting and the costumes by Rodarte are truly stunning. I will say, one would be hard pressed to not have a movie tremendously enhanced with a score by Mr. Tchaikovsky himself. So, the music was of course a delicious (and scary) treat. Give it a try, but only if you dare.

Friday, December 10, 2010

On Inspiration Friday

On No Need For Things Gift Guide - Day 2

Makr Flap Wallet

Ugh. So, I of course do not need another wallet because I'm still pretty much obsessed with my Comme Des Garcons wallet, but if I were to gift a wallet I would gift one by the genius handyworkers that are Makr. I've been drooling over these products for months and this flap wallet is pretty close to perfect for me. It is an investment, but you would clearly be investing in fine craftsmanship and how can you say no to that? This is something your giftee will have forever and thank you for just as long.

Rich Renaldi - Fall River Boys

I mentioned Rich Renaldi the other day, and it reminded my how badly I want his recently released book called "Fall River Boys." It looks every bit as beautiful to me as I find most of his portrait work. Here is what he has to say about the book. "Since the spring of 2001 I have paid numerous visits to the small community of Fall River, Massachusetts. The town is situated on the Taunton River about 15 miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean and is home to a Portuguese community of considerable size. Fall River enjoyed prosperity as a manufacturing center for cotton textiles until the 1920s but has seen its economic lifeblood leach away in the intervening decades. As a struggling working class New England community, I am drawn to this town for its bleakness and its beauty. My photographic focus here is on the adolescents who are engaged fitfully, awkwardly in the search for adulthood." This is a coffee table book of the best kind.

Private Music Lessons

Ummm... I'm just going to link to my own private lessons on this one, but let me say that as a general rule if there is someone in your life who has inclination to make music, gift them lessons! It is an incredibly rewarding experience and it gives an individual the opportunity to create and there is no better gift than that. Most private instructors are happy to teach beginners or experienced students, so do not let that intimidate you. Personally, as a teacher I'm just happy to help people get better and watch them feel good about doing so. If your special someone isn't up for the one on one thing, there are tons of class options available. They will thank you!

Giles and Brothers Nut and Bold Cuff links

I'm a pretty big fan of Philip Crangi's jewelry because in general I think jewelry can be too precious and there is something about those pieces that feel worn and weathered, but not unnaturally so. Philip's Giles and Brothers line is just that... not too precious. He takes what many would identify as seemingly found objects and mixes them in ways that seem special and wearable. These cuff links are no expection and while I'd be tempted to just run over to the Home Depot and make a pair of my own, these are probably done with a bit more class and a unique gift.

Canon G11

For me, this camera has everything you could want in a point and shoot. It sits right at the level where a gentleman or lady who doesn't know much about taking pics could automate themselves into beauty, while those of us who have a bit more experience could turn up the heat through manual labor. Aesthetically, it charms me because it looks like the real deal. Not some non-camera looking camera, but the real deal, to capture the moment properly. It's versatility has few competitors and for what you'll be getting (or giving) the price is right.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

On No Need For Things Gift Guide - Day 1

You know what, I'm just going to be honest and say I'm not feeling really crazy about the holidays this year. The reasons are many, but despite myself I haven't lost my desire to shop... for others (!), this holiday season. I've also been enjoying reading some of my favorite blogs gift giving guides. With this in mind, I've always wanted to do my own gift guide and this year I've decided I will. A "No Need For Things Gift Guide" if you will. It will take me a few posts to get it all out there, but today will be my start.

So, consider this a list of things I have given, would like to give or would like to be given.

Day 1!

Peshtemalis - Turkish Bath Towel

I've been sitting on this Etsy shop link for a looooong time. I love these towels and I imagine them to be a perfect gift. They are made on hand woven looms and are 100% cotton. They take up less room than a regular towel and have the simplicity and aesthetic to beautifully hang in a bathroom or even on the back of a sofa. I also think they would be perfect for days at the beach.

MUJI Reused Yarn T-Shirt

An while we're talking about things that are woven, take a look at this MUJI T-Shirt. Muji is easily one of my favorite stores in the world and this T-Shirt is particularly special because it combines MUJI's lifestyle like minimalism while using up all the excess. A long while ago, I knew someone who had this shirt and I admired it fervently because it was so simple, yet so cool. Shortly there after, I made my first trip the MUJI in SoHo and anxiously picked up my own. Well, I should have gotten a larger size because it's a bit small now, but happilly gifted it to Scott and now can admire it on him. I would certainly consider getting another and gifting it as well.

HEATTECH Grandrelle Yarn Socks

Ok, so I'm just gonna keep moving up the theme latter with some yarn socks also from a Japanese retailer. First off... I love Uniqlo. When oh when will it come to Chicago? Uniqlo, can you hear me? You'll do great business here!

Also, let me explain that each year in the Youngs family, we receive socks. Rather than stockings, Santa would bring us a new pair of socks, usually with an orange in the bottom (an old WWII tradition) and a bunch of other treats. That being said, I love to receive socks. Additionally, I'm hard on socks and can always use more. That's where these lovely Grendrelle socks come in. I have a LOT of Uniqlo socks and they are amazing. They are light and comfy, but hardy and last a long time. I'm particularly fond of the Grendrelle because they look just a little different, but aren't obnoxious.

Hanging Terrarium 7"

Now for something completely different. I caught a glimpse of these bad boys at my too many time mentioned fav store Sprout Home and I've admired them ever since. I also am on a bit of a terrarium kick, so this falls into that vein... but check this out! It's a mini hanging terrarium that you could either plant plants in or just fill with something cooky and interesting. Attach a wire and hang from wherever you like. They are more interesting in multiples, but one might be a nice surprise as well.

Bialetti Moka Stovetop Espresso Maker

This is for my coffee drinking friends. You know, I'm fairly sure my grandmother had one of these before she just started drinking Sanka... so I have a vague memory of this contraption from an early age. Now I associate this coffee maker with those who are thoughtful homebodies that enjoy an after dinner java jolt. Not like your morning french press, or my oft failed percolating attempts, this little guy is made me to look good while indulging in the historical tradition of making espresso a top a hot flame on your stove. This particular European brand has been around since 1933 and brings with it a strong history and a delicious brew.

Stay tuned for a few more upcoming ideas!

Monday, December 6, 2010

On Periodicals: Inventory and Dwell

Saturday, for the most part, I didn't do anything. Well, that's not entirely true as I made my way back to the much neglected (year neglected!) gym and sang a concert in the evening. But, during the day I didn't do anything other than read magazines, drink coffee and read all of your blogs. Whilst perusing my most recent periodical purchases I spent significant time with both the new Dwell and Inventory magazines.

I don't read Dwell every month, but I caught wind that a photography I'm fond of, Ye Rin Mok did some work for the edition. Also, another photographer whose work I've followed was featured in his home in PA. Rich Renaldi and his partner have rehabbed an old school house and turned it into a bit of a modern respite. If you have a moment, take a look at both of these photographers work and this issue of Dwell Magazine.

Inventory has easily become one of my favorite periodicals. I've mentioned it before, but it's worth mentioning again as this issue is especially engaging. You know, this is a magazine about craft and in that spirit, it is well crafted. I also find myself spending much of my perusing time just fawning over the pictures as I think they are pretty great. This mag is hard to get in the midwest. I ordered mine from Context clothing in Madison, WI which seems to have quite a thing going for itself. Regardless of how you get it, it is worth the investment and I appreciated its contributions to my "nothing" Saturday.

On Snow and Gloves

Hey Ya'll. It snowed. Big time.

It was actually quite a stunning weekend. The first real snow is always the best, before the dogs and people have their way at it and ruin in. It really snowed almost all day on Saturday and has been below frigid temps since. Thank God for my parka and boots. This I can verify.

But, in continuation of winter arsenal perfection, I've enlisted the help of an additional pair of gloves. As perfect as my parka is, I'm a long armed fellow. Long enough that it can be challenging to find a pair of gloves that will cover the wrist distance between hand and coat. That's why I was pleased to find these fellows by Ralph Lauren.

Perfect, right? Now, my wrists will be able to properly fend the cold just like much of the rest of me. Which reminds me, I saw the cutest family walking up State Street yesterday in snow pants. I'm sure they were warm, but it did give me a little lolz.

Friday, December 3, 2010

On Inspiration Friday

On a Down Parka

I've been prepping for winter hardcore. For some reason this year I just refuse to put up with being cold, so starting in October I started looking for the perfect pair of boots (check!) and winter coat. The search for a coat had a false start as I fell victim to an online sale and purchased a coat I wasn't crazy about. After some deliberation, I decided a return was in order and began my second search for the perfect down parka. I had in mind that I wanted something down, preferably with a fuzzy hood. Not too heavy and not too light. My only other criteria was that the hood be attached... for some reason aesthetically it bugs me when hoods are removable. I wanted mine to permanently attached.

I went everywhere. Seriously. All the obvious places, but if I found anything resembling these criteria it either didn't fit or, well, didn't fit.

Then came Eddie Bauer. I know, Eddie Bauer? But yes, Eddie Bauer. I found a coat that I am so pleased with oddly enough, in size Small. As a 6'3" 190lb man I don't think I've ever worn a small, but in Eddie Bauer Parka land I guess I'm a small and given the recent onslaught of below freezing temps, I couldn't be happier.

With a few days of traversing the cityside, fuzzy hood raised I have to ask myself "why did I not have this coat before?" I'm fearless of you Mr. Winter. Bring it.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

On Best Coast and Kanye West

I'd like to just share with you what has been playing nonstop on my iTunes for the last longer than few days. Things are quiet around the office, so my ears are getting a lot of musical attention.

First off, Best Coast was introduced to me by my consistently in-the-know friend Jessica. She put it on a mix for Mr. Scott and we've been jamming to it since. Shortly after I picked up the whole album and also heard a sweet little interview on Sound Opinions. They described Best Coast's sound as "a unique combination of shoegaze rock and ‘60s throwback harmonies reminiscent of the Beach Boys and the Mamas and the Papas." So, pretty much sweet and simple and retro and now! I'd recommend taking a listen.

Now let's move on to the irritation/creativity that is Kanye West. The NYTimes did what I thought to be a intelligent profile of Mr. West before the release of his most recent album "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy." I couldn't have said it better, so I'll leave you to read that. But, let me put things in more simple terms. Kanye drives me nuts. He actually drives me nuts in a similar way to Kate Gosselin and Sarah Palin. I know, I know... that's not fair, but I find myself having the same reaction when I see any of the three. "Why are you so needy!? Why do we keep giving!?"

But, unlike Ms. Palin and Gosselin, Kanye actually has something to offer... a creative take on popular music. "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" is no exception. This album really is all it is cracked up to be... and I was hesitant! I hated 808 & Heartbreak and although I thought his film "Runaway" was pretty (and superfluous) (and I wish he'd stop wearing crowns), the bottom line is, no one else is doing this stuff and for the most part, it's good.

So, it's been blowin' up my iTunes and I'm pretty sure it will be for a while. Of particular note is the song "Lost in the World." It has been on repeat.