The stockings are hung by the chimney with care…Wait? What? Christmas is when?
Perhaps you are one of the many men who wait until the last minute to purchase gifts for Christmas. If so, you are not alone. We women shop for Christmas throughout the year. We find the perfect gift for each loved one, and hide it until December.
Did You Already Hide the Presents?
My mother hid ours in the attic. Knowing what a little snoop I am, she stashed our gifts in a closet within a closet. She locked it with a tiny key. The only way to reach that closet was through my brother’s bedroom or his adjoining playroom. To get to that tiny locked closet, my parents had to venture up 20 creaking wooden stairs to the attic. Step lightly across a creaking wooden floor. Open a larger creaking wooden door. Unlock a smaller squeaking wooden door. It was there that my mother hid the presents marked “From Santa.”
On this particular snowy Christmas eve in West Virginia, as tiny white flakes fell silently upon the roof, we set out a plate of milk and cookies with a note “For Santa, from Amy and Scott,” said our prayers, climbed into our beds and drifted off to sleep.
At least I did.
Scotty sat quietly by the window in his room, looking out toward the largest flat spot on the roof of our three-story house, hoping to catch a glimpse of Santa’s sleigh. He listened for the jingle of sleigh bells or the hoofs of tiny reindeer. And he waited.
It was not until after midnight that my parents convinced him to give up his vigil; “Scotty, Santa will not come if he finds you are awake.” So he finally went to sleep.
Thus began the hunt for the missing key. My mother looked in her jewelry box in the bedroom. Down to the dining room and the soup tureen. To the living room and her sewing box. In the candy jar on the mantle. In the desk drawer near the foyer. It seems she looked high and low for hours. Then she shoved her hands into her pockets with an exasperated sigh.
It was there she found the key.
When we awakened in the morning, we could not understand why our parents were so bleary eyed. But as we delved into our stockings my brother said to me, conspiratorially,
“Santa kissed me on the cheek last night as he was leaving, but I did not open my eyes!”
For those of you who do not have gifts squirreled away in a closet, here are some suggestions for last-minute shopping:
Barvivo. Forget the bunny ears. The wine lover both beginner and connoisseur alike need a double-hinged wine opener with a foil cutter. The best we have found for everyday wines, hands down is the Barvivo. It has a nice hefty weight to it, with a grooved worm. Around $15. A steal.
The Durand. For the wine collector who spends hundreds of dollars on a single bottle of wine, for older vintages and long-cellared bottles, sometimes a basic opener just will not do. Enter The Durand. We think it is the best wine opener for mature wines and ports. For the connoisseur, the collector and the wine lover who has everything. $125. Worth every penny, we’ve been using ours for years, and have recommended it before.
Coravin Wine Access System. For the wine lover who simply cannot finish a bottle in one sitting — we know you are out there somewhere — we recommend the Coravin. A Wine access system that allows you to have a glass of wine without pulling the cork. A needle pierces the cork, allows you to pour a glass or two, and then uses argon gas to replace what you’ve removed, cork resealing for another day. Great for wine bar owners, wine writers, and the person who likes to enjoy wines without committing to the entire bottle. With several options to choose from, I’ve linked the models with Amazon Prime Option, so you can get it in time for Christmas:
Books for the Wine Lover
The Wine Bible, by Karen MacNeil.
One of the best books for any wine lover that you can find on the market is Karen MacNeil’s The Wine Bible. The first edition was 10 years in the making. She recently released the Second Edition, and very charitably offered the new book to any wine blogger in attendance for her Keynote address at the 2015 Wine Bloggers’ Conference who requested it. I got a copy that way. Karen breezed through Houston last month to host a couple great seminars for Wines from Spain, and I purchased several additional copies as gifts for friends. It is a very easy to read and covers grapes and wines all over the wine world. Get one copy for yourself, and pick up a few as gifts. Available on Amazon. Free two-day shipping with an Amazon Prime membership. $24.95 (softcover) Get it here: The Wine Bible
Tasting Wine and Cheese: An Insider’s Guide to Mastering the Principles of Pairing by Adam Centamore
Cheese is my favorite thing. It was been since I was a little girl and my mother would reward my good behavior with a trip to Mansour’s Market for a bit of specialty cheese. To me there is nothing more satisfying than a glass of wine, and a bite (or four) of cheese to end the day. Adam Centamore creates a lovely book that provides you with a wealth of combinations, based on the curriculum he developed teaching at Formaggio Kitchen and the Boston Wine School. Maitre d’Fromage teaches you the science and psychology behind tasting and pairing wine and cheese, and walks you through pairings with sparkling, whites, reds, desserts and fortified wines. He takes you around the world with each pairing describing the particular style of wine, “the cheese that loves it” and “a match made in heaven.” It’s a delightful, handy book with beautiful photographs. Through Amazon here. $24.99 (Flexcover)
Books for Beer Lovers
The Beer Wench’s Guide to Beer: An Unpretentious Guide to Craft Beer by Ashley Routson
Ashley Routson aka The Beer Wench knows beer. She loves beer. She lives beer. In fact the last time I saw Ashley some of her beer fell out of the overhead compartment on a bus on the way to Walla Walla and bopped me on the head. Twice. But I love her anyway, and forgave her wayward beer bottles. That was over five years ago, and Ashley has since written a well-organized book that is a great way to learn about beer. She created a guide that relates to the way most people actually drink beer. You get a brief history lesson, some key stats, her “two cents,” the kind of glass one usually finds it in, and just like we do with wine, some suggested pairings. What I really appreciate about Ashley’s book is her “Drink instead of” where she indicates how the beer might substitute for a particular cocktail or wine. She also includes a “Cooking with Beer” chapter that has some great recipes, and another chapter on beer infused cocktails. I pre-ordered this one, at first just to help out a friend. But I ended up really enjoying the book. I think your Beer Lover or wine lover looking to learn about beer will too! List Price $22.99 Find it on Amazon here.
The Beer Bible by Jeff Alworth
Jeff Alworth’s The Beer Bible is formatted like The Wine Bible, and includes breweries from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine. And while I expect The Wine Bible to be short on Texas wineries, I am a bit disappointed in The Beer Bible. There are over 70 active breweries in the Lone Star State, and only three are listed on the “American Breweries to See” map in the beer tourism section; two in Austin, and Saint Arnold’s here in Houston. I like my beer “dark and chewy” and the 644-page book only devotes a few pages to Stouts and Porters. But if you’re looking to learn about beer, especially those in Alworth’s Pacific Northwest with suggestions for beer labels you can find in many a grocery store, this is the book for you or your favorite Beer Lover. Plenty of history with information on beer in both the United States and around the world, with a section on Beer festivals as well. It even has a section on Gluten Free beers for that person in your life. $19.95 (softcover). Under $15 right now on Amazon here.
Uncle John’s Beer-Topia: A Heady Brew of Beer Miscellany by the Bathroom Reader’s Institute
Did you know that it is illegal to give beer to a moose in Alaska. Whistling in a bar is forbidden in Hawaii? Drinking more than three sips of beer while standing up in Texas is technically against the law? These are just some of the tidbits the reader will learn from Uncle John’s Beer-Topia. It is exactly as it is billed — a cute little hard cover to put on the back of the toilet in the guest bathroom for the beer lover and beer novice as well. It contains a guide on How to Talk Like a Brewer, Hops Trivia, Malt Trivia even a section on the world’s most expensive beer. It has a great little section on “Who Owns What” stating, “Even though American beer fans can enjoy a vast array of craft beers, the market is still controlled by a small handful of major corporations.” A great little stocking stuffer. Lists at $14.95, less than $12 currently on Amazon.
Gardening for the Homebrewer: Grow and Process Plants for Making Beer, Wine, Gruit, Cider, Perry, and More by Wendy Tweten and Debbie Teashon
Grow your own hops? Certainly! Barley and Juniper too! Gardening for the Homebrewer is an introduction to the wide variety of plants you can use for fermentation or infusions. The authors provides gardening tips like the USDA zone in which the plant grows best; the required amount of light and water; spacing, pruning and harvest as well as where the plant is best used. With recommendations that will work for gardens and gardeners of all types, even those with limited space like a balcony or a windowsill. The perfect gift for your homebrewer with a green thumb. Listed at $21.99 US, available on Amazon Prime for less than $20. Get it here.
For the Mad Scientist
The Umami Factor: Full-Spectrum Fermentation for the 21st Century by Robert Reville George
So maybe San Francisco does not corner the market on Anchor Steam? Robert R. George appeals to the NASA geek in all of us with The Umami Factor: Full-Spectrum Fermentation for the 21st Century. This reads a bit like a textbook on fermentation which delves into the fifth dimension of a beverage taste spectrum — an impression of savoriness called umami, so named by its discovered from Tokyo Imperial University, Japanese food scientist Kikunae Ikeda. It includes a list of Required Umami Brewing Equipment, as well as various recipes for fermented beverages including “True Root Beer,” and “Dubbel Trubbel Abbey Ale.” The book even includes a section on “The Inebriation Spectrum” from “Daily Normal” to a “Shamanistic” level of Inebriation, right before the imbiber hits the “Overindulgent” stage. It comes with this disclaimer:
“The responsibility to comply with all national, state/provincial, and local regulations concerning the production, distribution, and consumption of any alcoholic beverage or other substances lies exclusively with the reader. This includes, but is not limited to, identifying the responsible government agencies; securing any necessary permits or licenses; processing the appropriate tax forms; procuring and using the approved equipment; following the approved legal processes; and selling, marketing, and distributing according to the law. The contents of this book have been reviewed by the author and publishers, and no guarantees are made regarding the safety, security, and legal risks of following the recipes and procedures herein. The author and publishers assume no legal liability.”
Nor does this writer.
List price is $39.99 US (Hardcover) and appears to be popular on Amazon, where it is on sale for $33.99. Available via Amazon Prime here.
Order by 1 p.m. to get these items by Wednesday using Two-day Shipping, or by noon tomorrow for Christmas Eve delivery!