Well, hello. Are you staring down a few quiet weeks of lockdown? Are you worried about how you are going to get your shopping done at a time when retail stores are closed or closing? Do you want to support people who are awesome and not Jeff Bezos who is not? Have you ever noticed that I have excellent taste? (Just agree, the evidence to support this claim is sketchy at best and I have many critics.)
Because I have several pressing deadlines that are giving me anxiety, I would much rather put together this list, which will certainly take a long time, and which will FEEL productive. Please, shop excellently this holiday season: buy nice stuff to send to nice people and let them know that you are thinking about them, even if we cannot see each other in person – no, ESPECIALLY if we cannot see each other in person. Now is the best time to let people know that you care, and honestly I would rather receive a bottle of hot sauce than a hug any day, pandemic or not.
(This post is not sponsored; I have a lot of opinions and they are all FREE! Ask Nick how great that must be.)
Deck Your Halls
Personally, I like my Christmas tree to reflect our lives, and so usually I look for ornaments on vacation, or that relate to our interests (there are a lot of food ornaments), or that sort of mark what mattered to each of us in the past year (some people’s interests are better represented – there are a lot of Fortnite loot llamas, some Star Wars villains, and every Marvel superhero). This year, I bought a bunch of timely ornaments from Abbotsford-based MementoCanada, at the recommendation of my sister-in-law, Sharon, who really does have good taste. I bought the dumpster fire (it can also say Merry Christmas if you want!) and the Plague Doctor, but I am going to pick up a few more to give as gifts (the toilet paper one speaks to me). Ornaments are $12.50 (CAD), shipped by mail.
Spice Up Your Life
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve seen bottles of Sriracha Revolver sauces here and there; they are flavourful and hot enough but not melt-your-face-off spicy, and I seriously eat this stuff every day. I bought my first bottle a few years ago at a Halloween/Christmas craft fair in New West, and I’ve been hooked ever since. My favourite is the chili-garlic sauce, which I put on almost everything; they offer five flavours, and for the holidays they’re selling a gift box with all of them ($40 CAD) that you should absolutely buy. The beet sriracha is incredible on pierogis, and I like mixing it with butter to coat fried chicken wings or popcorn tofu. The sauces are made locally by Jordan Hocking who is super nice in real life.
Mama Ngo XO Sauce
This may be a hyper-local option – I am not sure if they ship outside of Metro Vancouver, but it’s worth spending enough with them to get delivery; I love their chili oil in particular, but they make delicious XO sauce and wontons and gyoza out of their restaurant in Surrey. The chili oil will burn your face off; mix it with a bit of soy sauce and black vinegar and throw it over some freshly boiled wontons or some steamed broccoli or fry it up with some fresh noodles and it will make you feel like you’re in a restaurant, like it is the before-times and you could do anything.
Mindan makes really pretty jewelry that is stylish but not expensive; she also is extremely generous with her time, and in the before-times would spend days with kids at the elementary school each spring to help them make their own custom jewelry to give to their moms or someone special in their lives around Mother’s Day. The kids are always very proud of these gifts, and I think it’s important to support people who give so much to their communities. Another cool thing? She’s come up with silver mask lanyards, so you can keep from constantly touching or dropping your mask: www.mindans.com/collections/mask-lanyards
My friend Corinne is the local artist behind AwesomeSauce Designs, and she makes a lot of cute and/or hilarious suncatchers to bring a little brightness to those windows you’ve been spending so much time staring out of. If you’re looking for something specific, she does do custom work if your request isn’t too unreasonable; see Lemongrab and Linda. She also runs classes, which is a fun option if you’re local.
Better With Joy
I met Sharlene Joy Jose one million years ago at a special Smitten Kitchen meet-and-greet at a restaurant on Granville Street that no longer exists, and we’ve been friends on social media ever since. She’s one of those very creative people who has all kinds of impressive skills, and since the pandemic hit she has been making gorgeous handmade face masks that adhere to current public health guidelines. These are nicer than anything you can buy at Old Navy, both in terms of quality and looks. Look at them, are they not so pretty? I suspect masks will make stocking stuffers this holiday season, and she’s offering 10% off when you buy three or more, so why not pick up a few?
Free the Tipple by Jennifer Croll
Buy it from Penguin Random House
It’s been a very long year and if you’re trying to maintain a lifestyle in all of the chaos, I strongly recommend Jennifer Croll’s Free the Tipple. It has everything you need to create happy hour at home, from cocktail recipes to something to talk about while you’re catching up with friends (who also don’t have a lot going on right now) over Zoom.
The cocktails are simple to make, kitchen-tested, and incorporate easy-to find ingredients. Snappy, informative biographies, illustrated with newly-commissioned portraits, offer revealing insights into the women’s lives. This highly original guide to delicious beverages is a perfect gift for those in your life who encourage and inspire you. www.penguinrandomhouse.com
Cook A Book
Naz Deravian divides her time between Los Angeles and Vancouver, and I first learned about her from Erin Jeffery, a local writer and comedian who turned me on to this book. I find I crave Persian food in the winter – warm spices, rich stews – and this book will be the perfect gift for anyone who likes to cook, and who would enjoy the smell of herbs and saffron filling their home all afternoon. The recipes are straightforward, producing beautiful, colourful dishes that will remind you of things like travel and dinner parties, things we all look forward to enjoying post-vaccine. This book will soothe you and fill your existential voids. There’s a good number of vegetarian recipes as well.
Socks and Underwear
Blue Sky Clothing
It’s come to my attention that I talk maybe a bit too much about my enthusiasm for comfortable underwear, like really comfortable underwear that my butt doesn’t fall out of either from the top or bottom. I hate the feeling of being aware of my underwear, and so I need something that just covers everything without, you know, getting into everything. Blue Sky Clothing is a local clothing company that makes a lot of stuff, including the most comfortable underpants, out of bamboo. My friend Katherine buys their dresses and swears by them as well. My preference is for the most full-coverage underpants, flatteringly named La Gaunche, but they sell a few different styles. Socks too, and underwears for men as well. Free shipping on orders over $149 CAD.
Hide With Books
I read some excellent books by local authors this year, and they all came from Arsenal Pulp Press (who also published my books); this is not a direct shill for APP, but they do publish the sort of thing I like – smaller independent publishers have the space to give homes to people who want to try different things or write outside the mainstream. Support your local indies, and your local authors!
andrea bennett writes from Powell River about their experience as a nonbinary parent and person, and this collection of essays was both moving and illuminating. I want to be andrea’s next-door neighbour very badly.
I bought this book based on the enjoyment I got from following Alicia Tobin on Twitter. Though I read this even before the pandemic it is such a good fit for right now. It’s funny and it’s sad and it captures a mood, you know?
Lindsay Wong was in my undergrad fiction classes and she was always better than me. This memoir won all kinds of awards, but it was also fascinating and funny and dark, perfect winter reading.
Send Your Regards
The Beautiful Project
Want cute, fun cards that aren’t embarrassingly sentimental or cloying? Jeannette Ordas’ cards and paper goods are perfect. She also makes a Dutch perpetual birthday calendar, which you can hang in your bathroom so you never forget anyone’s birthday! Forever! Buy multipacks of cards to send to everyone you like this year, since we will all have lots of time to write them and none of the usual excuses not to. Personally, I have my eye on this Bonnie Henry-inspired card.
Say It With Flowers
I love Botaniste Florals, and while I have primarily bought her flowers for work events (my dumb cat eats every plant, even the ones that will kill her), I long for a bouquet to decorate my festive table. Sending flowers in Metro Vancouver this winter? Support this excellent local florist!