I realize this list is a little late but the details are worth remembering for next year’s buying frenzy, or for people who have birthdays in January.
Anything from Chocolopolis
I invested some money via Kickstarter this year to help this Seattle-based business sort out their website, packaging and branding. I know, I know: you give your money to feed the starving or choose to invest in something cloud-based rather than calorific but I think it is important to support causes I really know and care about. Chocolate qualifies. As a thank-you for my donation, the company sent me a chocolate 3-bar package–something salty, something spicy and one with fruit and nut. The chocolate is fine, smooth and silken. The flavors are surprising and intense in a good way. The whole thing feels like a great value gift for just $10. I liked the transparent packaging–no-one could resist these bars once they see the chocolate. I still think their website needs a little work but, trust me, submit an order and it will feel like Christmas long into the new year.
Speaking of Sugar Plums…
I went to see the Nutcracker on Saturday night in DC, thanks to the generosity of a friend from work. Oh, it was gorgeous. The dancing in addition to being graceful and accomplished, was muscular and often witty. The quality of the lighting was superb, giving the stage real depth of field. Too often now I find going to the theater less of a spectacle than watching TV. Not this time. The fondant colors and snowflake airiness of many costumes were pumped up by the red, white and blue of the revolutionary soldiers in the drawing room scene, and the get-ups for the teeny tiny dancers who were teal and orange bees, a miniature Aladdin, and psychedelic mushrooms. It all made perfect sense at the time. The sets might have been made of tinselled macrame. They stood firm enough on the stage but when no longer required sashayed off into the wings or the rafters as though they too were born to dance. To me, the Nutcracker music is much more pleasing than the story–I never cared much for the creepy godfather and show me the child who would like a nutcracker for Christmas. The very familiarity of the music–and you will know more than you think you do–is part of the appeal of the evening. I had a smile on my face the whole way through the show and clapped and clapped at the end. So did the little girls with buns and velvet dresses. So did the little boys tied into suits and plied with popcorn to keep them quiet. Food and drink was allowed in the theater. I had a giant Bellini served in a plastic cup. The whole thing was bliss. The show only plays through Dec 29 but catch it if you can.
A visit to the Columbia Room, Washington DC
Secret passages, mystical journeys and out-of-whack experiences are the stuff of many Christmas shows–the Nutcracker, Peter Pan and Alice. Tom, Mike and I are hoping to create our own escapist story and dream-like experience in early January with a visit to the Columbia Room. This tiny hidden bar seats only ten people. Reservations are required and we have secured ours, taking advantage of the fact that the rest of the city has sworn off drink after December. Responsible decision-making is not called for–one of the main attractions of the evening. Instead, the owner and bartender mixes you two cocktails of his choice. Then you share details of your usual tincture and are treated to a version that will mean you can never go back to rail drinks at happy hour. Will I go for rum, fruity but not too thick? Or vodka, pink and not in a martini glass? Or gin, refreshing and not just tonic? I have only a couple of weeks to decide…
A Good Read
No need to search out a book store or turn to Amazon if you have friends who enjoy a good read. Instead, make up a short list of blogs and send them as your gift as I do here. I like Eat the Alpujarras, recipes and running commentary from an Englishman living, cooking and eating in the South of Spain. It can only be a matter of time before he has his own book deal and TV series (think The Spice Men meets Two Fat Ladies and a dash of Nigella before the current trouble). I can also heartily recommend Consider the Lilies from an Antrim girl now writing from Arizona. Yvonne is a beautiful writer who could use some friends just now–stick with her. Also try Alena Dillon, a sort of David Sedaris de nos jours. See, really good writing delivered to your desktop. You’re welcome.
Handcrafted Love Messages
The past week has seen a number of thoughtful deliveries from the Itchy Ankle neighbors. The Drum and Bass family, whose last name happens to be Hall, designed a card capitalizing on their teenage daughters’ love of the photo fad for thick lips. Princess Di sent a multi-media confection of her own creation, reminiscent of sugar plum fairies. Ms. Monroe sent a circular about the year of her retirement which was personal, original, brilliant and heartfelt. My resolution for 2014 is to get her to write more. Peggoty sent a handcrafted card in the shape of a cloud. Pirate Mike has given up AAR in favor of Ho Ho Ho but reports that he is still having trouble getting girls to sit on his lap. God bless us one and all.