With the holiday season upon us, I thought it might be fun to share some of my favorite things. Unlike Oprah, you and you and you won’t be showered with a bounty of gifts or samples of my faves, but hopefully this will stoke some holiday gift ideas.
It might come as a surprise that Oprah was not the creator of my favorite things. I’m quite certain it started with the popular song from the Sound of Music. I was first introduced to it by my piano teacher, Mr. Ferber. He reminded me a bit of Ward Cleaver, tweed suit and all, and was slightly intimidating with his very fastidious ways. After weeks of learning notes, scales and how to bend my fingers just right—and I mean just right, he assigned me some actual songs. “My Favorite Things” was an instant fave, not that it had a lot of competition. After all, it was assigned after weeks of mastering “Rubber Ducky” and “Little Dutch Girl.” I joyfully plucked away like a chicken taking to fresh seed and, as I practiced, I couldn’t help but channel my inner Julie Andrews. I made sure the windows were closed and that no one was home, more enthusiastic than confident in my singing ability. I loved enunciating the words when the dog bites, when the bee stings, holding the foot pedal down for extra volume. Fortunately, our family dog was the only one that had to suffer through the painful performances. If I still played the piano today, I’d open all the windows and sing as loud as I chose to, unencumbered by insecurities. As I get older, I care a lot less about what people think. It doesn’t hurt that there’s a good five acres between my house and the closest neighbor.
Believe it or not, bright copper kettles are actually a fave of mine. This year I really got into antique copper accents of all kinds, hanging my finds from pot racks, clustering them from hooks on the wall and nestling them on exposed shelves in the kitchen. But for the sake of easy gift giving, versus blogging about how to find a good estate sale, I’ll start with more accessible items.
b.e. boutique/Black Moss Lotion (www.beboutique-nr.com):
My love for Black Moss lotion started with the purchase of another lotion from a local boutique. I loved the scent so much that I literally ordered it by the case and used it for years. You can imagine my disappointment when it was discontinued. As I coveted my very last bottle, mixing it with other lotions to prolong its life, I dug in and researched the ingredients that made up the intoxicating smell. After much googling, I managed to find the list of ingredients and broke them down, determining it was the black moss that I loved. That’s when the hunt for a replacement lotion began. Eventually, I found Black Moss Shea Butter Lotion at b.e. boutique, and it’s better than the original.
Mavra Gourmet Products: (www.mavrasgreekoil.com)
Many brand name olive oils are anything but rich with the oil of olives or packed with the many health benefits. The olive oil industry has foiled us for years, ripe with fraud, imposters, and counterfeit products. Several summers ago I was introduced to Mavra Greek Olive Oil at a farmer’s market. I can rarely tolerate a long spiel from a vendor, but I couldn’t ignore the interesting Greek woman with the thick accent and her insistence that I give her oil a try. She quickly educated me on the industry and why Mavra was so special, but the real proof was in the taste. I’ve been a loyalist of Mavra ever since. It’s available at most specialty markets and online.
Harp Gallery Antiques and Vintage Furniture: (www.harpgallery.com)
My love for antiques started at a young age, something that seemed to run in my family. I have spent many an afternoon scouring shows and have shopped endless stores in Wisconsin as well as out of state, like the tobacco barns in North Carolina. I can emphatically say that there is no better place for authentic, well-researched, impeccably refurbished antiques than at Harp Gallery in Appleton, Wisconsin. Delivery options are outlined on their website.
Beverly UMP Protein Powder/Vanilla: (www.vitacost.com)
I’m a vegetarian and have been most of my life, so focusing on getting enough protein has always been important. A female body builder I saw speak about nutrition some years back turned me onto Beverly UMP. I was skeptical at first as I’d tried many protein powders and disliked them for varying reasons from the metallic taste to the chalky consistency. Maybe it was the speaker’s sculpted body and glowing skin that made me try it, but it’s the product that has had me going back for more.
Smoothie Box: (www.smoothiebox.com)
Speaking of smoothies, Smoothie Box is my new great find. The frozen packages of goodness include organic fruits, vegetables, and seeds, are low in calories and packed with nutrients that will pump up your protein smoothie. I mix the Beverly UMP protein with half a package of a Smoothie Box package and buzz it up in the blender. It’s a meal in itself and tastes like dessert. My Smoothie Box fave is the Clementine, but I love them all.
Free People: www.freepeople.com
While their ads feature waif-like models in their twenties, their clothes are for anyone and everyone who wants to feel comfortable and likes a bit of a vintage vibe. I live with a pile of FP things in my on-line cart at all times, hoping they’ll magically show up on my doorstep. FP is available online and at retail locations.
I love many Aveda shampoos and have for years, but Botanica Shampoo/Conditioner is top of the list. It’s got an earthy smell, great lather, and tamps down frizz. Being an animal lover, I also appreciate that Aveda doesn’t test on animals. Aveda products are available at Aveda salons, retail locations and online.
Voluspa Candles: www.voluspa.com
Voluspa candles totally light me up! They come in beautiful glass jars, burn slowly without leaving a wax puddle that drowns the wick, and every scent is rich without being overpowering. My fave is the Fig, and what a perfect time of year to get your fig on. Available online and at various retail locations.
Belif Aqua Bomb: www.belifusa.com
I’ve spent enough money searching for the perfect face cream that I could own a Chanel purse. (I would have put Chanel on my fave list, but why waste a wish.) This translucent, lightweight, gel-cream has a light smell, no stickiness, and floods the skin with moisture. It’s the perfect stocking stuffer.
Black Forest Gummy Bears
I’m a self-proclaimed candy-aholic, and when it comes to candy, I’m all about the gummy. After endless research, I am absolutely adamant that Black Forest Gummy Bears are the best. Great flavor and consistency and perfect for the stocking. Available at various retail locations.
I couldn’t help but give a shout out to a few of my local faves. Though not all of them fall into the gift-giving category, they’re worth considering a trip to the area.
The Knick (Milwaukee)
Their tater tots are indescribable–creamy on the inside and crunchy on the outside, served hot and with delicious dipping sauces. There’s nothing like them.
Books & Company (Oconomowoc)
I could spend an entire day in this store browsing around. It doesn’t hurt that they carry my books and support local authors.
Harry’s Bar and Grill (Shorewood)
Best pear martini in the universe.
Element Style Boutique (Delafield)
Packed with trendy clothes that won’t wallop the wallet, and styles that are on point.
Elemental Bread Company/elementalbreadco.com
Don’t bother arguing with an Italian. This is absolutely, unequivocally, unarguably the best pizza crust anywhere. Available at Farmer’s Markets in season and for pick-up all year. (Maybe someday they’ll ship.)
Disclaimer: No compensation has been given for these endorsements. If, however, any establishment would like to discuss, I’m openly shameless. As for liability, proceed at your own risk.