Super Lame Gift Guide 2016

So, I’m just getting over a week-long bug. According the local doc-in-the-box, there’s a weird ten day, flu-like virus going around and, of course, I got it. So, I’ve been limping around at at half capacity for a week. I don’t have an article in the works. I don’t have a Christmas tree. I just started shopping for reals yesterday. Life fail.

Anyways. Here’s what I’ve just started to do. It’s not organized or pretty, but if you want to steal some ideas. We have a week to go.

(OK. Today suddenly got very busy. I’ll come back to this post throughout the day. This will be the last gift guide of the month.)



Gift Guide 2016 – Book Picks from Steve, the Blog Husband

by Steve

I admit it, for the past few years I’ve been slacking with this whole book-gift-giving-recommendation thing.  It’s not that I haven’t been reading anything, heavens no.  This year I read “Riddley Walker,” “The Road,” “Underground Airlines,”  “Cloud Atlas,  “A Canticle for Leibowitz” (which I really enjoyed).  And a bunch of other stuff.

From the above you can see that this year I became obsessed with good ole’ fashioned apocalyptic dystopian fantasies.  End times stuff, it must have been in the air.  Lord, I could have just looked out the window.   Anyway, reader beware, for beyond this paragraph here be monsters.

 J.G. Ballard.  “High-Rise” and “Concrete Island”.  This summer I went on a Ballard bender.  Whoo boy.  Thought it important to better understand the influences behind the Punk and New Wave movements; those guys and gals have a thing for technology, isolation, and violence.  Clockwork Orange with fast cars.  One book, notoriously famous, was absolutely unreadable. I’ve never experienced anything like it, it was so appalling.  I was embarrassed to hand it back to the librarian.  Another famous book was disappointing.

But there are two worth looking at.  “Concrete Island” is a modern Robinson Crusoe tale of a man trapped on a traffic island under a highway overpass. After some initial struggles he decides to remain on the island, becoming the lord and master of his tiny kingdom.  Great idea, could do with a little more work.  “High-Rise” is the better of the two.  The inhabitants of a 40-story apartment building slowly descend into savagery when the power goes spotty and routine maintenance is forgotten.  The symbolism, of course, is obvious.  No subtlety here.  And now it’s a motion picture starring all of your favorites:  Jeremy Irons, Tom Hiddleston, and Elizabeth Moss.  Sorry honey, I know you are quite fond of these actors, but this movie will certainly make you squirm.  Nevertheless, in the queue!

Michel Houllebecq.  “Submission”.  One of the best things I read this year.  An indifferent and disillusioned French academic.  A quirky French election.  An Islamic regime in power.  With a Gallic shrug the academic adapts and carries on, realizing that all he really cares about are his bourgeois pleasures.  An intriguing piece of work.  Could be worth a second read.

Victor Klemperer.  “I Will Bear Witness”.  I don’t know why I went back to these two books.  I haven’t read anything Nazi-related in years.  After all, as a famously handsome man once said, “Nazis.  I hate these guys.”  And they are loathsome.  So, at a subconscious level may there is a reason why I returned to Klemperer.  This is his diary chronicling increasing degradation as his life as a thoroughly unreligious Jewish German is slowly circumscribed under the Nazi regime.  Each day, each week brings another indignity to Klemperer, and as the months progress the screw tightens.  At which point does a person say “enough”?  At which point is it too late?  What is tolerable?  Like the frog in the pot of water gradually coming to a boil, can any of us recognize when it’s time to hop out?

Ugh, sorry to be such a downer, but I feel that mentally we have to steel ourselves against some sort of unpredictable future unpleasantness.  Be prepared, so to speak.  But who cares?!  Here’s a bourgeois pug in a top hat!


LOL, but as Jonah says:  “Real Talk”.  I don’t mean to be flippant because one could argue that a lack of seriousness got us into our present predicament.  Keep your eyes open.  Happy Holidays.

Gift Guide 2016 – Afternoon Treats

I always get my best work done in the morning. If I’m in the midst of a good writing project, I can slam out a thousand words in the hour or two after I get the kids to school. If I’m in between projects, like I am now, I’ll use that prime time to get in a run or do an hour at a spin class. After noon, productivity takes a huge dive. Rather than squandering time on social media or my iphone, I might squeeze in some brain-less errands during those hours of vast waste. I also rely on my old buddy, caffeine, to revive me.

So, what are good gifts for people who need afternoon treats to trick themselves into doing more work?

I need a new set of mugs. I have strong feelings of dislike for mugs for words, so these are word-free mugs:  I like Fishs Eddy‘s 212 Skyline and Math patterns. Octopus mugs are cool. Crate and Barrel’s Ito mug is minimalist. Some options on Etsy are a T.S. Elliot mug, a Kracken mug, or an elephant mug.

I’m drinking Palais des Thés, Darjeeling with Kusmi Tea Filters right now. Steve got it for me in a shop in the city, but they have a nice website, too.

If there’s tea, there must be biscuits! I’m not terribly picky in this area. I’ll eat the kids’ lunchbox cookies, if there’s nothing better. If there’s some IKEA’s biscuits in the cabinet, I’ll grab them. Doing a quick google search, there’s some really cute gift options from Harrods and Fortnum & Mason (more here).

I have a basic minimalist tea pot from Crate & Barrel, but here are some other great options from Fortnum & Mason, Denby, and Certified International.

Gift Guide 2016 – Book Suggestions from the Readers

Hey, guys. I’ve been proof reading Jonah’s college applications, and I’m too tired to do a gift guide tonight. How about you all help me out? Give me your book suggestions and I’ll hyperlink them to Amazon.

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Gift Guide 2016 – Cooking, After the Collapse of Civilization

A few days ago, I blogged that I was roasting a pumpkin to make pies for Thanksgiving. MH, I believe, scoffed at the notion of making a pumpkin pie from a real pumpkin, when the supermarket sells perfectly adequate canned pumpkin guts. Others scoffed at the entire notion of a pumpkin pie.

First of all, let me defend the pumpkin pie. When it’s done right, it should float like a Spanish flan. It has one foot in the sweet world and one in the savory; it’s an amphibian food. And it’s the perfect post-Thanksgiving breakfast.

Now, let me also explain why I get a huge pumpkin from the farmer’s market or the CSA every year, divide it up, roast it, scrape out the guts, puree it, measure it, dole it into baggies, and freeze it. (This year, we used a Lakota variety.) Because it’s badass.

I like knowing that if there’s a zombie apocalypse or another Great Depression or the end of liberal world order thanks to the election of an insane demagogue, I will be able to turn my backyard into a subsistence farm and survive. Pumpkins are food weeds; easy to grow and yield tons of food. That one pumpkin that we roasted yielded about 8 cups of puree that was pre-measured into baggies and then frozen. Over the winter, it will get turned into soup, bread, and even a flavoring for risotto.

When you roast a pumpkin, it connects you to the past. To a woman with cloth cap in the 1600s in Virginia figuring out how to cook this strange gourd and to survive the winter. It’s harder to channel your inner settler woman, if you scan the bar code on your can of pumpkin guts at the self-serve line at Stop and Shop.

So, if you want to be a badass cook who survives the zombies AND connects to women from the past, then here are the essentials: an excellent set of pots and pans, a food processor, a KitchenAid mixer, a garlic press, cutting boards, an Alice Bloomfield cookbook, wine glasses (because you absolutely allowed to drink while cooking), and a soup mixer stick thingie.

I freeze food, while Steve cans it. I’m not sure why, but that’s how it works around here. He does his canning using the basic pots and supplies that we have in the kitchen, but I suppose that if you wanted to get fancy, you could use the gadgets for that. There’s also fancy equipment for freezing. I don’t know. A black sharpie and some ziplock baggies work just fine for me. We’ve also found lots of info about preserving food on the Internet, which we’ve printed out and saved in binders. I do like these pretty books though, too.

I need to cook more dried beans. They really do taste better than the canned variety. And I want to store them in very anal retentive jars in my pantry.

Alright. This post is getting long. We’ll come back to the kitchen in a couple of days with some more fun suggestions.


Gift Guide 2016 – Runner’s World

A few months ago, I started running in a more serious way than I’ve done in years and years. Every morning, after I chug a cup of coffee, I lace up the shoes and go for two or three miles. Some walking, some running, but it gets done.

Part of me is really pissed off at myself for waiting until I was 50 to do this. I had been an elite runner in high school and for a little college. I always planned on getting back into running, but there was always some impediment. Usually that impediment was a hangover and a smoker’s cough.

So, now this former party girl is hauling her ass over the suburban hills of Northern New Jersey. And I feel really badass.

So, what am I wearing? Brooks sneakers, thermal running tights, Old Navy’s running pullover, a one-size bigger fleece jacket, a ski cap, a neck warmer. The trick to going running when it gets cold is wearing plenty of clothes and stripping down as needed. Also, tight running pants.

Technology is a big part of the running regime. I have my iPhone in an armband. I’m listening the “morning run” mix on Spotify and logging my miles on the Nike app.

Gift Guides 2016

It’s GIFT GUIDE time here at Apt. 11d ! New to Apt. 11D? Here’s how it works:

  1. I write a few blog posts with suggestions for gifts for the holidays. Most of the items are found on Amazon, but not all.
  2. You buy something on Amazon – it doesn’t even have to be the item in the blog post – and Amazon sends me a cut of the sale.
  3. After Amazon sends me the gift card, I promptly buy myself some boots. I recently got these and have my eye on these.

So, let’s do a little shopping, people!