Posts About ‘Gifts & Holidays’

Happy Mother’s Day from AT&T

Friday, May 10th, 2013

Mother’s Day is this coming Sunday and while I know all the Digital Dads reading this have everything already covered for the mom’s in their life, our friends at AT&T also wanted to celebrate moms with a fun, shareable video e-card. It is a special edition of the popular “It’s Not Complicated” campaign.

In the new commercial that will air Friday through Sunday, mediator Beck Bennett strays from his usual “what’s better, bigger or smaller?” and instead asks, “who gives the best hugs?” to a unanimous response – mom does.

Now you can add some Mother’s Day swag to Mom’s inbox, Facebook, or Twitter by creating a video e-card from the kids. Hop on over to ATTMothersDay.com and make your own personalized version of the “It’s Not Complicated, Moms are the Best” video for free courtesy of AT&T.

Disclosure: I received a free HTC First smartphone in exchange for promoting AT&T’s Mother’s Day e-card that is part of the “It’s Not Complicated’ campaign.

Photo credit: ralph and jenny on Flickr

Last Minute Valentine’s Day Gifts

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

Digital Dads Last Minute Valentines Day Gifts

Thankfully, my wife and I have never celebrated Valentine’s Day.

But, I know that we are not most couples and there is a good chance that you are on the hook to do something special tomorrow. I want to help you with that.

First off, unless this is your first Valentine’s together or you are younger than 18, skip the flowers, stuffed animals or chocolates. If you have to give in to the same old same old then can I at least suggest you go big and get something from Epiphany Chocolates or Vermont Teddy Bears? At least than, it shows you put a little thought into it.

Oh and while we are talking about the basics, we should discuss the card. There are so many different philosophies when it comes to buying a card. Personally I find them to be a waste of money, but every woman I’ve ever been involved with loved them. Don’t skip buying one. You know your companion better than I do. Be smart if you go the humor route because you don’t want to offend. Overly sappy can be creepy if it is a new relationship. When it doubt go simple and classic.

Now, what are you going to get here since you waited until now to think about it. Here are some ideas for you:

  • Take her out to dinner.
    Try giving OpenTable a whirl to see what around you actually has openings left. You might get lucky and get an early or late dinner. If you strike out call around and plead your case. 
  • Pampering is a great go to.
    You are guaranteed to have a spa of some sort around you. Buy a gift card that will cover a variety of personal pampering. Some even offer massage card programs so you can give her six months of massages. Many women won’t take the time to pamper themselves, but when it is a gift how can they say no?
  • A framed picture of you two.
    Preferably a funny or special moment between you two. Look up where the nearest Kodak Kiosk (or something similar) and get a nice print done. You can buy a frame at your local art store or Target. Don’t skimp on the frame and take your time in picking out a great one that compliments the photo.
  • Something she has been talking about wanting.
    You have been listening right? We all drop clues about things we’d love to get for gifts. Hopefully it is something you can run out and buy. A gift that they want is perfect unless it is something over practical. Give her that new vacuum or iron she mentioned and you won’t be having a fun night.

I know those are only a couple of items, but with only a few hours what did you expect? You should have planned better.

If after all this you still drop the ball or my singular advice ends in your special someone not being too happy with you then you should watch this video from Ze Frank as you prepare for battle.

Hope Valentine’s Day goes great for both of you.

Sexy, Funny, Foodie Gifts

Friday, December 14th, 2012


Gift-giving is fun, but gift-shopping sucks. But, at least it has become far easier since the advent of the Internet that allows you to shop from bed with only your fingertips and a credit card. I confess that the following curation reflects my interests in things foodie, sexy and funny.

Books for adult friends with a sense of humor:

1. Can you think of even one single man who wouldn’t be thrilled to receive a book entitled
How to Live With a Huge Penis? I can’t. Buy.com.

2. Who says coloring is for kids only? Here is Coloring for Grown-Ups: The Adult Activity Book. Amazon.com.

3. For those particularly obsessed by breasts, fear not. There’s Color My Boobs!: A Titillating Coloring Book for Adults. Amazon.com.

4. A young, free-range chicken… a dominating, ravenous chef… 50 recipes to make every dinner a turn-on… Yes, it’s here, so go ahead and dominate dinner with 50 Shades of Chicken. Fiftyshadesofchicken.com.

For New York-lovers:

5. All types of items — onesies, messenger bags, doggie hoodies — that say NY hearts ME. Get ‘em here.

6. All about New York [*Caveat: Most of these have to purchased in person]. FlavorWire.com.

7. Yo Brooklyn: A hip neighborhood type map for your hipster peeps. Etsy.com.

For foodies:

8. Cool looking stainless steel spice rack, $89. Emmohome.com.

9. I LOVE this kitchen knife set with unique holder. See why it’s also known as “The EX” ($130). Ricsb.com

For those with a passion for coffee and bacon:

10. What would you do with coffee syrup? Pour it over ice cream and into drinks… DavesCoffeeStore.com.

11. High end bacon and stuff. Food52.com.

12. Funky glassware. Uncommongoods.com.

13. Even More Gifts for Food Lovers, according to the Village Voice, from books and accessories to lobster and booze. VillageVoice.com.

For parents of toddlers:

14. The “onesie” that says 9 Months Ago My Mommy Read 50 Shades of Grey. Etsy.

For the 1 percent:

15. Got $28,000 to spare? Might be time for that new spiral wine cellar… TheFancy.com.

Shop away!

THANKSGIVING CURATED

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THANKSGIVING

OK, in preparation for Thanksgiving I’ve reviewed hundreds of recipes, ideas, tips, how-to’s, help lines and more. Here are the links that you might find useful.

RECIPES
– A whole lotta menus for 2 to 20 peeps (Gourmet)

– Overall Thanksgiving Guide includes Vegetarian and Gluten Free (The Daily Meal)

– Recipes you can make ahead (Saveur)

– Food & Wine’s Ultimate Holiday Guide

Every Stuffing Recipe You’ll Ever Need (The Daily Meal)

– Except this one

Veganizing Thanksgiving (FOOD 52)

– Gluten Free Ideas

– One more cranberry

– The Easy Thanksgiving Menu (Chow)

– Wait, you need even more recipes? (Foodista)

– Sweet Potatoes with Bourbon and Maple (Bon Appetit)

– Bryan Voltaggio’s go-to cranberry sauce (TastingTable)

– Sweet-Potato Casserole

– Good looking dessert: Apple Crostata with Spiced Caramel Sauce LINK

HOW-TO
– A FREE downloadable digital guide with a lot of helpful how-to’s here (Tasting Table)

– Sam Sifton’s Thanksgiving Rules, an excellent video

– The Dry-Brined Turkey (Food 52)

– How To Carve (A Chicken, But It’s The Same for a) Turkey. Video

– Why You Should Spatchcock Your Turkey (CHOW)

– The Truth About Brining Turkey (Serious Eats)

– Steam the turkey? The best TV chef instructor in history does. How?

– Table setting ideas (The Daily Meal)

– The Thanksgiving Timeline, a stress free step-by-step checklist (Epicurious)

– A complete guide to roasting the perfect bird (Epicurious)

– Thanksgiving Help Line (NY Times)

– The Thanksgiving-erator, an interactive thingie (NY Times)

Wine: 4 Top Viogniers for Roast Turkey

– There’s an APP for that…

– Recipes, music ideas, wine & more

>>> I think this is THE perfect gift.

Anyone else need a nap already?

Top 10 Tips, Tastes and Tidbits for the Best Thanksgiving Ever

Monday, November 21st, 2011

I have scoured the interwebs to bring you the most helpful links for planning and preparing your Thanksgiving Feast. They include recipes galore, wine pairings, shopping and cooking tips, and much more.

1) A comprehensive guide to planning, shopping and cooking, brought to you by Cooks’ Illustrated.
LINK

2) Is there a perfect Turkey recipe? Well known chef Jonathan Waxman thinks so. LINK

3) Some folks think the side dishes are the best part. Here are 10 Great Ones via Foodista. LINK

4) Even more side dishes from restaurant chefs via FINDEATDRINK. LINK

- Wait…you just love Brussels Sprouts? Check out this recipe and VIDEO how to. LINK

5) Having a large crowd over? Here’s a quick TIP.

6) What’s the best wine to drink (or bring) for the big meal? LINK

7) What to consider if some of your guests are vegetarian, vegan or “gluten-free”. LINK

8) For celebrity chef fans, here’s a look at WWBD: What Would Bobby (Flay) Do. LINK

9) Fair warning: DO NOT READ THIS if you don’t want to know what’s really in your Thanksgiving meal. (Hint: fat, sugar & salt – surprise, surprise.) LINK

10) Music for the meal? My suggestion is to sign up for Spotify and create your own jukebox for free! Plug it into your speakers and you’re good to go. LINK

Have the best Thanksgiving ever!

The Short Order Dad®

 

Photo Credit: Ryan Ozawa

Better Valentine’s Day Gifts

Friday, February 11th, 2011

Thankfully, my wife and I have never really celebrated the greeting card created Valentine’s Day. We started dating in March and always opted to celebrate that instead of some made up holiday with over priced chocolate and roses.

Now I know we are not the norm on this, so many of you do have to celebrate it and if you don’t do it right your going to end up with an upset significant other and certainly are not going to get any quality loving that night. But, you’ve probably already done the heart shaped anything and a funny card so I want to give you some ideas on how to break out beyond that to do something special.

I’m a die hard romantic and when you’ve been with a woman as long as I’ve been with my wife you learn to get creative. Hope that at least one of these helps you break out and have a great Valentines Day.

Send Flowers to Her Work

Everyone will be getting red roses so opt for something different. Whenever possible do a quick search to find a local florist rather than using one of the big chains as you’ll always get better customer service. You want to send them to work to get extra points from everyone she works with who will give you brownie points.

Make Dinner

Anyone can get a reservation at a fancy restaurant, but it takes real heart to make her dinner. If you have kids, ship them out for the night (makes dessert easier), or get them involved in the whole process. Don’t be scared of cooking. Heck, try one of our recipes or do a quick search online for easy recipes. Pasta can’t really be done wrong if you get stuck. Just don’t over due it or that dessert we hinted at might not happen.

Pajamas & a Movie

Don’t know what her favorite movie is? Find out and then buy her a copy of it and some comfy pajamas and have a date night on the couch. Keep in mind that when I say PJs, I’m talking about the fuzzy comfy kind, not the lacy sexy kind. Keeping her in mind when buying is always the key to success.

iPod Filled With Her Favorite Music

Sort of the modern day mixed tape, but cooler. Take it even further by making it a Product (Red) Nano and get it engraved for her. I did this one year for my wife and she loved it. If you are not sure of her favorite music (again, this is something you should know) give her an iTunes gift card with it so that she can fill it up. For extra credit, allow her to play DJ on the next road trip with her new iPod.

Vermont Teddy Bear

I’m a big fan of this company because I’ve watched them grow and survive after all this time. Trust me that these little guys are damn cute and come in so many varieties that your bound to find one that is a perfect fit for your wife. I took a quick look and they don’t seem to make the Jester one I bought my wife years ago when I was in college, but it was a perfect fit for us. Check their site for options and specials.

A Day at the Spa

Trust me when I say this is a gift that you can always give and she will always appreciate it. Ask other women you know about a good spa in the area and then work with them to put together something special. If you’ve never done it, a couples massage is always a great idea. I can already hear some of you thinking massages are stupid or not manly. Shut up and do it. Trust me, they feel awesome. If she has never been consider getting a package so her and a friend can go and make a day of it.

These are just a few options, but I hope at least one of them catches your interest and makes Monday a great day for you and your special lady.

What other ideas do you have for unique and special gifts? Leave them in the comments so that this post can become even better for guys lost on what to get.

Digital Dads Holiday Gift Guide: Gaming

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Don't lie. You want one.

These days, you don’t have to be a hardcore gamer to enjoy video games. The casual gamer has taken over the industry, changing the demographics to include people of all ages, races & social economic groups. However, this is a dad blog so we don’t really give a shit what the chicks want. You want to know what you want. You want the latest FPS. You want a laptop powerful enough to handle WoW and your checkbook. You want headphones that deliver every minute detail of gaming surround sound, you want a controller that makes you feel like a gaming god.

The holiday shopping season has just gotten started and although Chanukah came early this year, the gentiles still have plenty of shopping days left until Christmas. So check out some of these great gaming gifts, and start begging the wife. Or, do what I do and just agree that I’ll buy my own present – if she buys hers. Trust me, clears up a lot of guesswork.

Lenovo Ideapad Y560d

We’re going to start big here with the Lenovo Ideapad Y560d. This laptop is near the top of the heap when it comes to entertainment. I don’t personally have one, but my friends at Microsoft suggested that I mention it. Really, if you’ve got the scratch (and it’s really not that expensive for a laptop) and love gaming and entertainment – this is the laptop for you.

First off, it’s rollin’ with an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5730 graphics card with 1 GB DDR3 graphics memory. That’s wicked fast HD rendering. Tack on a 500 GB 7200RPM HDD, Windows 7 (which makes start-up and shut down take about as long as it takes you to flick a booger) and freaking Dolby Home Theater surround sound with JBL designed speakers – this makes for a seriously awesome gaming machine. You can get it from Lenovo, or a seriously pimped out one at Amazon.

Logitech F540 Wireless Headset

You know those nights where you want to rock the Xbox or Playstation but you don’t have a game room, and everyone is in bed except for you, so you have to keep the sound way down? Well, that’s when you need a pair of these bad boys. Logitech was nice enough to send me a pair for review, and they did not disappoint. I slapped these babies on, turned them up and enjoyed the surround sound. I was hearing things in games for the very first time.

Open world games like Just Cause 2 literally opened up in the aural sense. I could hear plants rustling, the deep bass of explosions and gunfire and bullets whizzing by my characters head. Aside from gaming, the headphones made movie watching at night another great auditory experience. Not having to worry about how loud you are watching an action movie while your family is sleeping is a good thing. Mostly though, these headphones are perfect for late night gaming. Give you wife an ultimatum, “get me the Logitech headphones or I’ll turn the speakers on at night.” Good luck with that.

Call of Duty: Black Ops

What? You haven’t gotten the latest Call of Duty game yet? What the hell man? This amazing series of FPS games has taken us from WWII on multiple fronts, to modern warfare and now to the Cold War. Sure, why not? I bought this game two days after it came out and I was already way outranked in the massive online community. Which is where it’s at for these games. There is nothing like getting online with a bunch of friends and having a knives only match. The chaos, the smash-talking, the displaced aggression… what are you waiting for? Get it!

Microsoft Kinect

This one is a gimmie. I had to mention it. Not because I’m a shill for Microsoft, but because it’s a freaking awesome piece of technology. The Kinect uses full-body tracking to make you the controller. It’ll get your ass off the couch for sure, and is an easy sell to the family because it’s intended for multi-player use so you can get the whole family involved.

Of course, you could also use the Kinect as an excuse to get a brand new Xbox as well, since they are selling it as a bundle. If you’ve experience the red ring of death, you know that you could always use a new Xbox. The Kinect, in my opinion, put the Wii and the Playstation Move to shame for one major reason – there are no controllers. This is the future of gaming technology, don’t you want to be part of it?

Nintendo DSi XL Special Edition Bundle

Every gaming dad, even as our eyesight fails us, needs a portable gaming system. While our smart phones offer a semblance of gaming more reminiscent of cheap flash gaming, the Nintendo DSi (or as we like to still call it – the Gameboy) offers a full set of games that we still love. This special 25th Anniversary Super Mario Bros. edition bundle is the one to get for that long train ride into work in the morning.

The bundle comes with Mario Kart and several DSiWire titles, but the fact remains that the game library for the DSi is pretty robust. Yes, there is a lot in there that is clearly aimed at children, but for the discernible gaming dad there are still a slate of titles that will not disappoint in their playability.  Personally, I like the DSi XL because well – it’s XL. This makes it much, much easier to see.

Jinx.com

That’s right. The whole website. If you are a gaming dad and are still young enough to consider gaming wear stylish and fitting, then you need to head over to Jinx.com and put some of these awesome shirts on your wishlist. The premier website for gaming & geek related clothing, from World of Warcraft shirts to Call of Duty shirts, to just plain ‘ol inside gamer joke shirts. I personally like the Portal Potty one. There are a-lot of t-shirt sites on the internet, every Tom, Dick & Harry makes their own sites with custom made shirts but Jinx.com has always had the edge as far as I’m concerned, focusing on the hardcore & casual gamers with a pointed vengeance. Shirts from Jinx.com will also make great gifts for the younger gamers in your house as well.

Gunnar Optiks Digital Gaming Glasses

I was going to get a pair of these courtesy of Jennifer Michelson, co-founder of Gunnar Optiks. However, even though they offer many styles of these groundbreaking frames in prescription form – my script is so terrible that it would actually ruin the effect and experience of the glasses. The deal with Gunnar glasses is that they are specially designed for those of us who sit in front of a monitor or television screen all day long. Whether working or gaming, the i-Amp technology reduces eye strain by messing with the color spectrum and kills glare from the screens.

If you are really hardcore, you can go for the Call of Duty: Black Ops frames. Frankly, I like the MLG Phantom series because they are pretty damn stylish. I may just get them anyway, regardless of how thick my left eye lens is going to be. And oh yeah, if that brand new 3D TV is on your holiday wish list, you might want to check out Gunnar Optiks 3D frames.

Book Review: The Compleat Gentleman

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

The Compleat Gentleman: The Modern Man’s Guide to Chivalry (Revised and Updated) by Brad Miner (Richard Vigilante Books, 2009)

In this wonderful book, Brad Miner rolls an incredible volume of history and research into a single reference about chivalry, then applies it to modern times and modern manhood.  The book generally has an academic tone to it, but not in a way that’s distracting.  In fact, for what is essentially a combination of history and what today would be called “self-help,” the book is definitely readable and held my attention throughout.

Miner works us through the picture of the compleat gentleman by discussing the medieval knight (often used to typify gentlemanly behavior), then examining three persons as models or types:  the warrior, the lover and the monk.  He also distills the essence of the gentleman into a single Latin concept: sprezzatura, which he thoroughly examines throughout the book due to its rich, deep and complex meaning.  On the surface though, it simply means nonchalance; Miner says that to today it would mean “cool.”  Toward the end of the book, he summarizes his work by saying, “if ‘honor’ is properly the one word that epitomizes the character of a gentleman, then ‘sprezzatura’ is the last work about the gentleman’s ‘conduct of life.’”  He goes on to say, “There are two ways to look at a fellow’s sprezzatura.  On the one hand, it means discretion, or, more grandly, prudence; on the other hand it means restraint, which may even be concealment.”

As you read, Miner will weave these concepts together with others, including the role of historic stoicism, and leave you walking away challenged and encouraged that no matter who you are or where you think of yourself relative to gentlemanly conduct, you’ll can make more of yourself.

At the end of the book, Miner quotes Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If” (available through The Kipling Society) as his closing and as “the best short summary of the compleat gentleman’s profession.”  It’s a short, fantastic poem and worth taking a look at.

Finally, a note for those who might mind, the author clearly writes from a Catholic perspective and defines himself as a classic liberal.  Even so, he’s never in your face with either and the points about being a gentleman don’t conditionally rest on either.  No matter what your religious or political persuasion, the book is informative and useful.

The Compleat Gentleman is definitely worth the time to read.  If you have an interest in the history of gentleman and chivalry, the book is a great anchor point for additional research, with plenty of references and a healthy selected bibliography.  I recommend this book to any man whether he’s a father or not, think it would make a great gift at the appropriate time for any young man, and will definitely be on my son’s reading list.

It’s great to be a dad!

Gift Ideas for Big Daddy (a Little Help for the Ladies)

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

The Gift That Keeps Giving

Unless your guy goes commando or is part of the 3% of Y chromosomes who love to shop, chances are he’s in desperate need of some new skivvies. But who wants to unwrap unmentionables next to grandma or the cousin who photographs the unwrapping of every damn present? That’s why there’s Manpacks, a subscription mail service for men’s basics. Manpacks will send a customized care package of his favorite underwear, socks, and undershirts to his door every 3 months. That means that he’ll no longer have to refer to the socks with only one hole as “the good pair”. With packages starting at just $14 there’s no easier way to grant his mother’s wish that he sports clean underwear in case of accident. As an added bonus mom will be even happier to know that when her boy submits to the new, improved airport screening processes he will be putting his best nut forward for the TSA.

Go Custom

Men’s holiday wishes don’t differ too much from their year round wishes,  but if you’ve been hesitant about getting him his most fervent wish (a Threesome) or his close second (Laser shooting & beer fetching pet monkey), there’s always every man’s third wish -  custom made clothes. Sewn to their exact measurements, preferences and secret stylistic desires, these gems are fit like a second skin.  Truly nothing (except maybe a Threesome) will bring him as much joy as a garment that’s been made only for him. That can be especially meaningful for the guy whose has difficulty finding shirts that fit well. Giving your man a taste of custom won’t require a second mortgage either; you can start out with a shirt for less than you’d spend for an off the rack shirt from any fine sportswear designer, between $100 – $150. When it comes to custom you can even choose the method of selection that better suits your guy.  If he likes the DIY approach he can design his shirt online with Blank Label, or if he prefers that a tailor come to his office or home to assist with selections and measuring, check out Astor & Black.

Commanding Carriers

Let’s face it, one upping friends and neighbors at clever ways to be green is the new way of keeping up with the Joneses. That raises F. Rock men’s carry-all coolness factor above the bar. Made from 100% reclaimed leather and fabrics, repurposed hardware and constructed in good ole’ USA, these men’s bags couldn’t be more socially conscience or handsome. If your guy is one of the many using an old & busted backpack or corporate branded nylon messenger bag, it’s time to upgrade him. He can choose his own fabric and leather combination or select from the existing wide assortment of versatile carry-alls that go from work to weekend. Available in five sizes, including one for the iPad, F. Rock bags start at $195.

Razor Relief

For the guy who hates taking a blade to his face or suffers from dry skin in cold weather, winter can turn his morning routine into a dose of daily torture. Even if you slept through medicinal potions class at Hogwarts, you can still give him the gift of relief by stuffing some pre-shave oil by the Art of Shaving into his stocking. Whether he uses a regular or electric razor, pre-shave oil is so effective at softening skin and creating a more comfortable shave with no oily residue, you can tell him it’s made from unicorn horns and virgins and he’ll probably believe you. A 2 ounce vial of kissable face happiness costs $22, available in stores or online at The Art of Shaving.

Merry ChristmaHanukKwanSolstice!

Foodie Holiday Gift Guide

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

The holiday season is upon us and so begins the annual ritual of figuring out what would make the perfect gift for that someone special on your list. If that someone happens to be a foodie, then we’ve got you covered with a host of ideas from kitchen gadgets to cutlery to enthusiast programs. And, when you get your shopping done early thanks to Digital Dads, don’t forget to reward yourself as well.

001. Just for fun – Star Wars Pancake Molds

Treat your young younglings to these Star Wars Pancake Molds available at Williams-Sonoma. These are a great way to mix up pancake morning (or brinner) to power them up to learn the ways of the force. They also have Stars Wars cookie cutters, sandwich cutters, as well as Jedi and Padawan sized aprons for hands on training.

002. Cutlery – Shun Knives

Until recently I was an unbashed fan of Wusthof knives. Then I got a hold of my first Shun and haven’t looked back. Originating from Seki City, Japan’s historical center for manufacturing Samurai swords, Shun knives are heirs to a seven-century tradition of superior workmanship. What struck me the first time I used my Santoku was how incredibly well balanced the knife was and how it practically became an extension of my hand. Sur la Table has a great special running on Shun’s classic 7 inch chef’s knife where you can get a fine piece of cutlery for less than a hundred dollars.

003. Appliances – Vitamix Professional Series 500 Blender

Most blenders available for home use are underpowered and, in my experience, burn out rather quickly. When it comes time for me to replace my current blender I’m going to splurge a bit and step up to the plate for a Vitamix Professional Series 500 Blender. At $600 it isn’t cheap, but with 2 peak HP motor that runs at 240 MPH it is a commercial quality piece of equipment that is durable enough for most restaurant kitchens.

004. Cookware – Le Creuset 9 Quart Signature Oval Dutch Oven

Low and slow cooking is how I roll and there is nothing finer than the enameled goodness of Le Creuset cast iron cookware. At nearly $350 there are less expensive alternatives, but this is the type of workhorse that can pass down to future generations of home cooks.

005. Cookbooks – Braise by Daniel Boulud; Ratio by Michael Ruhlman

Even in the internet age where recipes can be had online for nothing there is still something special about owning a few staple cookbooks. Continuing with the low and slow theme we have “Braise: A Journey Through International Cuisine” by Daniel Boulud. The renowned chef and restaurateur details the techniques, key equipment, ingredients and helpful tips while offer 100 recipes for you to try at home.

At the other end of the spectrum is “Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking” by author and Clevelander Michael Ruhlman. I actually received this book for Christmas last year and it is designed to help free you from the memorization of recipes. One of my favorite things that I learned how to make from this book is Pate a Choux, which is a highly versatile pastry dough that can make a number of things from delicate cream puffs to enhancing a staple like meatballs.

006. Kitchen Gadgets – Microplane 38000 Professional Grater Set

You’d probably wondering why in the world I’d add a bunch of hand held graters to a list like this. Well, I’ve been using Microplane’s products for about four years now and you can have them once you pry them from my cold, dead hands. They are really that good. Microplane got its start nearly 20 years ago as a woodworking tool and thanks to a happy accident discovered how great their products would be in the kitchen. This set has five different graters ranging from coarse to ribbon to super fine and even makes quick work of whole spices like nutmeg.

007. Spices – Penzeys Spices Gift Boxes

With all the cooking I do we go through a lot of spices. There are probably a dozen staple spices I like to have on hand at all times including different salts like sea salt and fleur de sel, which is a finishing salt. For years I’ve been buying my spices directly from Penzeys and have never been disappointed. Compared to what you would pay in stores, buying in bulk from Penzeys is also more economical. They offer a number of different spice gift boxes that would be great for the baker, barbecue master or hot chocolate lover in your life.

008. The gift that keeps on giving – CSA Memberships

A great idea for a gift that will last for a few months is to purchase a membership to a CSA. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has become a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. A local farmer will offer a number of “shares” in their upcoming crop, which may consist of a box of vegetables and other farm products. After purchasing a share, membership or subscription you will receive a box of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season. It is a great way to eat local and fresh. These shares run anywhere from $20 per week and up depending on the season and the crops being offered. To find a CSA in your area, check out the Local Harvest website.

009. Enthusiast programs – CIA Bootcamp

A few times after I have cooked for friends I’ve been told that I should open my own restaurant. As incredibly flattering as that is, the truth is I have neither the skills nor the capacity to pursue cooking as a profession. Fortunately, there are programs out there like the Culinary Institute of America’s Bootcamps to help satiate any desire I may have as an enthusiast to pursue such a thing on a limited basis. The CIA offers programs ranging from two to five days in a range of disciplines. Whether you want to hone your skills or learn more about subjects like barbecue, baking or healthy cooking there is an enthusiast program for you. The tuition on these programs starts at about $850 and doesn’t include travel and accommodations to where the classes are held.

Photo by thebittenword.com

The shoe cables a repent reward near the visible.