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Transitions and Life Events: Graduations and Weddings, 2017

By Jesse Kornbluth
Published: May 18, 2017
Category: Beyond Classification

‘Tis the season for Transitions and Life Events: Weddings & Graduations. Yes, you can spend a bundle and give One Big Thing. I prefer kits — collections of small things. Practical things. That can be used. That last. That make recipients think of you as the smarty you are. Consider building a kit from these 29 suggestions…


Setting the Table
This book is by Danny Meyer, an immensely successful New York restaurateur, but it’s not about cooking or restaurants. It’s a how-to manual, a common sense guide to smart business practices that should be read — like: today! — by anyone whose livelihood involves face-to-face encounters with customers. What he’s concluded is obvious to those who have been to his restaurants: It’s not about the food. It’s about the people. It’s about the way you feel when you’re there — about the way the staff makes you feel. In a word, it’s about a philosophy: “Hospitality is present when something happens for you.”

The Creative Habit
Twyla Tharp explodes the myth of “creativity,”and, in the process, returns our creativity to us, whether we’re “artists” or accountants. And she does it in language that could convince anyone from a timid l6-year-old to an elder who “wants to write” but has just never gotten around to it. Let’s be clear: This is not a book about dance. “The Creative Habit” is about one thing, and one only: the habit of working — and working hard — at something you care about.

The Queen’s Gambit
Because you don’t get anywhere alone.

Epictetus was a practical philosopher — if you’re looking for deep thoughts, big ideas or anything that leads to the linguistic and mathematical analysis we now call philosophy, he’s everything you don’t want. His concerns are the here and now: reality, life, death. And he’s not about to quibble over their ambiguities. As Epictetus has it, your first task is to look hard at reality and see it for what it is. Then your decisions start…


The Filson Briefcase
Reader Testimonial: “I’ve had a Filson briefcase since the early 2000s. Mine survived a car fire and the laptop inside was fine.”

The Filson Duffle
The Tin Cloth is virtually bulletproof. Certainly waterproof. Rustproof brass zipper and storm flap closure. Two inner pockets. Rugged handles and shoulder strap.


Clarisonic Facial Sonic Cleansing System
I asked Ali McGraw what our teenager should do to keep her young-Ali good looks. “Tell her to keep washing her face,” she said. And, I might add, use this. You may never need to visit a dermatologist again. You may never need a facial again. Why is the Clarisonic so great? Because it doesn’t scrub. It cleanses — a sonic frequency of more than 300 movements per second works on your skin to clean it, then smooth it.


The Burr Grinder
A burr grinder runs at a slower speed, so it generates less heat. The burrs create uniform grounds. You can set a timer for five to sixty seconds so you don’t stand there, your life reduced to this chore, while you grind.

Melitta Cone Filter Coffeemaker
Drip. Drip. Drip.

Vremi Coffee Carafe Thermos
Because you must not reheat coffee.

Zojirushi Insulated Mug
Hot stays hot. Cold stays cold.


Unicorn Pepper Mill
Functionality rules. The mill is made of easy-to-wipe-clean plastic. Black plastic; like the Model T, you don’t get a choice of color. There’s a large, easy-to-open hole near the top that allows you to fill the cylinder with peppercorns. You adjust the grind on the bottom with a simple thumbscrew. Then you grind. Batteries? Oh, please.

simplehuman kitchenware
This company makes what it describes as “tools for efficient living.” And that’s no lie. The degree of thought that has gone into these household products is astounding — each product has been distilled to its essence. Napkin holder. Paper towel holder. Trash cans. Pet food storage can.


Canal House Cooks Every Day
Want to make deviled eggs but have no time? Split hard-boiled eggs, spread mayonnaise over them, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle salt and pepper. And… done. Spare ribs? Baste them with hoisin sauce and bourbon. Chicken in a pot needs only scallions. And no recipes call for foam or truffle oil.

Julia Child and Simone Beck: Mastering The Art of French Cooking, Volume One
WGBH, Boston’s public TV station, invited Julia Child to promote her book. The station had no studio kitchen, so she brought eggs, a whisk and a hot plate. On camera, she made an omelette, narrating the process with wit and confidence. A TV series soon followed. And the recipes!

Marcella Hazan: Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking
Until Hazan published her instantly classic cookbook, you went to a restaurant that featured Northern Italian cooking, had a meal that was destined for your top ten list, and returned home with a nagging question: This is “simple” food. Why can’t I cook like this? Her recipes were the essence of simplicity — her famous tomato sauce contained only tomatoes, onion, butter and salt.

The Gramercy Tavern Cookbook
Gramercy Tavern is a great restaurant. But can you cook from this book? I put myself to the ultimate test: I invited two friends for a dinner at which I’d serve an entrée I’d never cooked before: Braised Lamb Shoulder with Broccoli Puree. The text described how Michael Anthony and his team prepare it. The labor is daunting, even for a restaurant staff. Then comes a simplified version for the home cook. I eliminated the broccoli puree and set to work. But it wasn’t work. Braise meat. Chop vegetables. Cook in oven. Serve. Easy. Brilliant.

Small Victories: Recipes, Advice + Hundreds of Ideas for Home Cooking Triumphs
Julia Turshen’s book is a collection of the foods she likes to cook, stories about those recipes, life lessons learned from cooking, and “small victories” — little tricks and home truths that make easy recipes easier and better. “If you can make spaghetti, you can also make rice, quinoa, or soba noodles,” she writes. “If you know how to grill a hamburger, you know how to grill anything.” And this, above all: “Stress makes food taste bad.”


NEST Reed Diffusers
“The NEST sticks last longer than candles — 90 days,” one of you wrote. “They cover odors, but they’re never overt. And may I add: $42.”

Diptyque candles
Once it fills a room with scent, you can blow it out and the room will continue to be gently perfumed for hours.


Mental Clarity
Reader Review: “I ordered Mental Clarity when I was felled by flu and feeling sure that I’d never be able to do my nonprofit’s annual fundraising appeal nor in fact ever write anything useful ever again. There seemed to be a Black Dog factor in the brain fog, along with the sneezing & coughing. Lo, what to write came clear and the Black Dog disappeared. If the appeal goes well, I’ll have to credit your finding Mental Clarity.”

Pu-erh Tea
Alice Waters drinks Pu-erh tea. And swears by it. “My cholesterol went down 100 points since I started drinking this,” she says. ”It was extreme.” Pu-erh is said to promote weight loss (the health claim is that it dissolves fat cells) lower blood pressure, and calm the nerves. “A Chinese study performed on rats and published in 2009 showed lowering of LDL, cholesterol and triglyceride levels after the animals were fed a pu-erh tea extract, along with an increase in HDL,” writes Andrew Weil. “We know that tea, in general, is protective against heart disease and cancer. It’s likely that pu-erh tea has similar effects.”


Shirley Hartman: The Matisse of Pennsylvania
Shirley Hartman isn’t a slavish copyist of Matisse. I think of her as a gifted interpreter. And her watercolors and drawings are affordable. The record price for a Matisse is $33.6 million. A Hartman costs between $80 and $180.


TaoTronics LED Desk Lamp
The footprint is small. The design is sleek. It looks chic and expensive. It costs $19.99. It has a one-touch, 3-level dimmer and an I’m-leaving-the-room “escape timer” that turns the light off after an hour. The bulb is estimated to last 40,000 hours. The arm is adjustable. It uses 75% less electricity than an old-fashioned lamp. It folds for easy transport. It’s no heavier than a small bag of feathers. If the 5-star Amazon reviewers and I have missed something, I have no idea what it could be.


Timex Easy Reader Watch
It’s known by its big black numbers, its faux silvery case, and its elegant brown pleather strap. I love this watch because it’s easy to read in the day; because it lights up (gently) at night if you push the stem button. Was $24. Now $18.


Louise Fili: Quattro Parole Italiane: 12 Note cards and Envelopes
Why are these cards so striking? It’s not the words, which are refreshingly ordinary, but the typography, which is dramatic and different and, at the same time, nostalgic and familiar, taking you back to visits to small towns in Italy or, more likely, period movies.

Just like the title says.