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Holiday Gift Guide: Part 2 ~ Curated List of Artisanal Music, Books, Cocktails & Herbal Christmas Drink Recipe, Zoom Fashion & More


Welcome back! This is part two of my curated Holiday Gift Guide for this most bedeviling year: 2020.

I sincerely hope you enjoyed part one. The first chapter of the guide is more of a plant-based, green-theme to help you create a home oasis. A sanctuary. We all need a wee bit of that now more than ever…

As a kind of addendum, I just read that a national florist has named the sunflower as the flower of the year and the Red Maranta Prayer Plant as the plant of the year.

Cheerful and sunny is always cause for joy. And the prayer plant ~ well, who doesn’t need more prayers this year? The plant’s leaves fold at night looking like hands in prayer.

Plus the red and green leaves are just so perfect for the holidays.

In my previous Holiday post, I highlighted gifts for your home or loved ones that are high-quality and appropriate for this most uncommon “moment” in world history. Who wouldn’t appreciate plants, advent calendars, food, memberships in noteworthy, world-class cultural institutions – both local and international? And please forgive me, I am offering these gift guides to those who are not in that unfathomable circumstance of not being able to pay their rent or have access to food…

Moreover, I have to correct an oversight. I am embarrassed that I neglected to add City Harvest as a noble community effort to support; they pioneered food rescue in 1982. Mea Culpa. Most disconcerting as I am proud to be a City Harvest volunteer for many years. Please contribute and help if you can? Food security has never been more poignant.

Gift Guide 2020 ~ Part 2:
I think we all recognize this is not the year for the same old kind of gifts.

The world has changed. So too, should your gifts. A tie? I don’t think so. Socks. No. A fruitcake? Well, maybe. If you make it… I’m more drawn to panettone, just for the record.

Now, we are all feeling how much home and the celebration of family, nesting, and carving out our smidgen of glamour means right now ~ in this time of unprecedented pandemic and protest. We crave serenity. Peace. Beauty….

Here, I will expand my previous holiday gift list to include some unique, bespoke, artful items including music, cocktail culture, books, toys, and fashion. Cultural pursuits bring us joy and brighten our moods. And we all need more of that right now.

I got to thinking, what did I treasure this past year? What resonated? And what helped get me ~ and you ~ through this wild year? I follow so many great influencers on social media. You inspire me…

Blame it on the Bossa Nova is pretty much spot-on. Music affects our mood, changes our perceptions and elevates our well-being. My research shows that music touches us in a most pronounced, literal way. According to the Max Planck, Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, “Scientists have… found that touch is perceived differently depending on the music being played. Think about that sexy Bossa Nova score and the more sensual experience when we dance or grab a lover. Music can evoke a positive group feeling, too.

Musical medics
According to Arnold Steinhardt, a founding member and first violinist of the Guarneri String Quartet, chamber music audiences nearly always include many health care practitioners, “Everything from podiatrists to psychiatrists, since there seems to be a mysterious and powerful underground railroad linking medicine and music. Perhaps music is an equally effective agent of healing, and doctors and musicians are part of a larger order serving the needs of mankind. Perhaps they recognize each other as brothers and sisters.”

Is there a doctor in the house?
Yes. Yes, there is. If you are passionate about your music but don’t know your G Clef from your Treble Clef. Further, if you’ve been despondent about missed concerts and performances, I have The perfect, artful gift that will have you humming a new tune.

James Popik, the talented, gifted, grammy-nominated musician – and I’m so proud to say, my favorite brother, has launched a timely gift site on Etsy. 

His MusicOfNote celebrates the long lost art of seeing our music in the fine art dimension. On paper. Perfect for framing. 

It’s a music premiere! It’s a Garden Glamour featured debut! In fact, you can say you “heard” about Music Of Note here first!  

Besides his first posted collection, he does custom pieces. Ask James to render your favorite, such as your wedding song, your child’s first concert, a lullaby, your engagement song or your dream song or your alma mater’s school song… You get the idea.

Music marks our memories.

It’s really incredible to now have the ability to see your music as a printable, frameable piece of art. This is a classic way to celebrate a memory; a love; a hope…

James’ detailed, hand-drawn musical notes and scales are intoxicating. The printed art pieces are endlessly fascinating to view on your wall, as your own personal stationary, a calendar.

And just like every art of note (did I just write, “note?!” ha.ha.) In this case, it’s a musical note. A love note.

As James explains in the Etsy shop: “Handwritten musical scores are works of art. In the age of computer printing the hand drawn musical score is more and more rare. Take a close look and see the fine details and flow and shape of the whole work. Custom works done by request.”
Order your custom musical love notes and you’ll have your friends and family “singing” your praises…

While I wave my collectible bookmarks to recommendations from my trusted sources — there are those endless top ten lists, the “Best of” lists and more. 

My list here is personal – meaning the books I’ve selected to highlight are written by my talented friends and colleagues, and those that have enchanted me with their stories and their timeliness this past year when escape and fantasy were more salient than ever.

As an author and writer, it won’t surprise you that I read every chance I get. And it’s never enough. My ultimate fantasy would be no deadlines and just an infinite amount of time to read.
I do that on my iPhone while mobile. I read on my Kindle while kinda’ mobile and in bed. I always buy hardcover cookbooks and garden books. And almost every book in our home library is autographed by the author. I’ve always considered that a sublime luxury.

Further, I cling to Cicero’s quote: “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need…”

Elevate your reading

Here’s my book recommendations:

Glenn Kenny: Shhhh, I purchased the latest of Glenn’s books best selling books for a sweetheart. You won’t believe it when I tell you that Glenn graciously and immediately agreed to send me an autographed signature that I can insert into the book’s title page, making this book even more special. (I’m not suggesting that Glenn can do this for everyone ~ the book is special enough ~ believe me.) I know and respect Glenn; I worked with him during the apex of the consumer electronics’ heyday. (Another time, ask me about dancing on the bar in Tokyo as part of an editorial press tour of manufacturing facilities… smile)

Glenn is a film and music critic. He’s been described on the book’s editorial review page by no less than Brian Koppelman and David Levien, screenwriters of Ocean’s Thirteen and co creators of Billions as “… a scholar and a writer, and every bit the literary hit man that Tommy DiSimone was in real life.” So exciting.

The Book of Two Ways, Jodi Picoult. Actually, I’m reading this novel now. The writing is incredible! I find myself re-reading paragraphs just to indulge in the beauty of the author’s words. And the story is about life-changing choices. And who among us hasn’t considered those kinds of questions especially in this this life-altering year?

Jordan Grace Robinson: Jordan is an artist with so much talent it doesn’t fit neatly into one genre. Here, her anthology of poem books: Like Flowers We’ll Bloom Again, and Melancholy Mey Zee remind us why we need poetry and hope. While exquisite unto themselves, Jordan’s artful offerings also include her textile designs, handbags, and more.

Richard Powers, The Overstory of Trees, I worship this book. And the author’s telling of a “climate-themed epic,” and “the wisdom of trees.” I always knew it…

The Hidden Life of Trees, Peter Wohlleben, narrates how these majestic creatures feel, communicate and live. Technology has allowed us the first opportunity to better understand and document their heretofore secret world. The book “explains that trees use scent to talk, ‘agree’ to bloom together and take communal action against pests.” Again, I always knew it. I am in awe of these tree books (see a pattern?!); they are akin to being the Rosetta Stone of these plant sages.

Bloom, The Overthrow, Kenneth Oppel. This book is a fantastic, terrifying thriller; a plant-based sci-fi adventure. It’s also about friendship. This YA novel is for kids of all ages. And the first in a trilogy. Can’t wait for Hatch. I have it on pre-order.
Code Girls, Liza Mundy. I liked these brave and smart dames so much, I recommended the book to my 95-year old Mother, Virginia, who got her copy in large print from our library. Mother would’ve made a stellar World War II code breaker. As it is, she signed on to be a registered war nurse.RN.
Screamers, an action thriller and fantasy, authored by my friend, Frank Vizard
Next Year in Havana, Chanel Cleeton
Barkskins, Annie Proulx 

The Leopard, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa

One audio book: H.G. Wells’ “The Time Machine,” as read by the incredibly verbally animated, Kelsey Grammer.
Weather, Jenny Offill. The novel features Lizzie Bensen, a librarian, who has stabilized some family issues, who gets a request from her former mentor, Sylvia Liller who has “become famous for her prescient podcast, Hell and High Water, and wants to hire Lizzie to answer the mail she receives: from left-wingers worried about climate change and right-wingers worried about the decline of western civilization” and climate chaos.

Speaking of Podcasts I find they are an excellent audio storytelling platform: topical, compelling, and easily digestible (no pun, as most of my Podcasts are, not surprisingly, related to food and drink.)

Podcasts work especially well when I’m knee-deep in my client’s gardens. I can multitask while listening.
I like them all the more because the storytelling in some ways can’t help but remind me of all the bedtime stories my beloved father would create and tell me…

Overall, downloads of podcasts were up nearly 50 percent at the end of October, according to Podtrac. I see no signs of this trend abating.

Some of my favorite podcasts are: Radio Cherry Bombe, Blindspot -The Road to 9/11, Modern Bar Cart, Soundstage by Playwrights Horizons, A Taste of the Past, The Sporkful, The Splendid Table. Wish I had more listening time. The stories are so great. 

I can’t leave the book category without mentioning my latest book! Indulge me, thank you.
Art of the Garnish.

Art of the Garnish is such a lovely, charning, and dynamic book; I am forever honored to have been asked to write it. Thank you, Cider Mill Press and your spectacular team.
In addition, special thanks to: Doug Young, the brilliant photographer who worked tirelessly over two days to capture some of the best images featured in the book.
Incredibly, I shot many of the photos included in the book ^:^ ; you can see our home backdrops in some of those styled cocktail compositions.
Also, I very much thank the brands and mixologists who so generously contributed their drink creations, as well as their very professional photo images.
The cocktails and their glamorous garnishes resonate with every season.

I had to update this Post after I read the feature about the elixir Chartreuse in yesterday’s Times. 

I have long been intrigued by this spirit. Curiously, Chartreuse has been made by a very ascetic order of Catholic monks for more than 900 years from a recipe they perfected from an “alchemist’s ancient manuscript for a perfectly concocted medicinal tonic of about 130 herbs and plants: the ‘Elixir of Long Life,'” according to the Times’ reporting.  Further, and astonishingly, there are only two monks who know how to make the full 130-ingredient recipe. Scary brand trust… 
I love that it’s made with local herbs and plants. And oh, that vibrant green color!  And the taste is unique ~ very herbally. A bit spicy.  How to describe it?  I love this characterization: the Times notes that in “Brideshead Revisted,” Anthony Blanche compares it to ingesting a rainbow. And a Baltimore bartender, Brendan Finnerty, says it tastes like Christmas in a glass.” 
In that spirit of holiday cheer, I offer you a recipe gift from my Garnish book, contributed by the London-based mixologist, Valentina Carbone, at Nobu Berkeley St, London. She named it English Rose. The featured ingredient is the magical Chartreuse. Perfect for a Christmas in a Glass!

  • 2 oz Gin
  • 1 oz rose simple syrup
  • 1 oz yuzu or lemon juice
  • Barspoon of Chartreuse 
  • Slice of Lemon, lime, grapefruit 
  • 1 Strawberry, 2 Blueberries, 2 Raspberries
Place all ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake vigorously. 
Strain into a cocktail glass. (I prefer this drink in a Coupe)
Garnish ~ Finishing Touches:
Rose petals.  The rose petals are also medicinal.  Rose petals are mildly sedative, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-parasitic. They’re also mild laxatives, a good supportive tonic for the heart, and great for lowering cholesterol.
A big plus for this garnish? The Red Roses is a symbol of love… 
If you would like a signed copy as a Holiday gift, please email or DM me and I will send you an autographed book.
Which brings me to:

Cocktail Culture:
Clearly, we are all spending more time at home and so what better pursuit than to embellish our cocktail carts and bars and cosmopolitan cocktail-inspired home designs?
Did you view or participate in my Spring Facebook Live cocktail parties. If not, you can see the garden-to-glass cocktail parties on the Garden Glamour Facebook page

For some classic cocktail culture, think Nick and Nora and their equally iconic, martini-swilling pooch, the loyal Asta in Dashiell Hammett’s “The Thin Man” series that chronicles the boozy detectives.
Then, there’s the classic Topper film starring Cary Grant (later a TV series).
George and Marion Kerby ~ a rich and reckless couple are ghosts who emerge from their car wreck (see, drinking and driving don’t mix) determined to free their friend, Cosmo Topper, a bored bank president who buys George’s flashy sports car after the accident. Soon he meets the ghosts of his dead friends, and immediately they begin to liven up his dull life with drinking and dancing, flirting and fun.
Trust me, it’s a classic adventure, filled with boozy antics. Shake up a cocktail or two and watch the film – it’s a perfect pairing. And it will transport you from the pandemic.

What to sip those fabulous cocktails in? For you and/or that cocktail-loving aficionado on your list, look to It’s Not Just Cocktails. I’ve happily purchased their vintage barware and decor that celebrates the cocktail culture. Available directly, on Etsy or Pinterest, you can even find a superb collection of curated cocktail glasses to delight every drink ~ even those hard-to-find, Nick and Nora glasses!

Earlier this year, I wrote and posted on the blog, How to Curate and Style a Home Bar Cart: The Essentials and Glamorous Accessories. It was extremely popular and I thank all of you who read, shared, and gave feedback. I raise my glass to you.
Since that posting, I added a Le Bois Lélė Swizzle Stick to my cocktail at-home bar collection on the recommendation of one of the key contributing mixologists to my book, Art of the Garnish.
He is Los Angeles’ Josh Suchan, Ice and Alchemy. Josh is not only incredibly talented and knowledgeable but fun ~ and a very good teacher ~ with abundant style and respect for the art of the cocktail.
When Covid first landed, he quickly pivoted to offer virtual online cocktail classes.
I immediately signed on.
Bill and I loved our sessions. Josh’s online classes are fun and the next best thing to sitting at your local watering hole.
Honestly, while we are so blessed to have a truly gorgeous home bar, entered by a secret door to our downstairs speakeasy, that was designed by moi after ones I’d seen ~ and dreamed of ~ after I visited Havana. (I’ll showcase it soon in a Post.)
And now, Lucky you! Because you can gift a subscription to Ice & Alchemy Zoom lessons. 

Or treat yourself.
I promise you that your Ice & Alchemy cocktail “classes” will be hands-on instructive and oh-so-fun. You can ask as many questions as you want.
Further, it’s a real pleasure to meet the other “students”/aficionados on Zoom. You can talk to them too. Next best thing to sidling up to the neighborhood bar.
It’s even fun getting the ingredients ready in anticipation. Josh sends you an ingredients and prep list beforehand.
You can sign on via Josh’s Instagram: @ice_and_alchemy or online at Eventbrite, as well as the link I provided above. You can order a subscription for dates and times that suit you and/or your giftee. It’s an extraordinary value. You will be richly rewarded.

No matter your home space, an at-home bar design offers a glitzy fantasy and a sense that you’re not just filling a wine glass or pouring a drink at home. A kind of counterintuitive cocktail…
I believe the point is that you should consider a space that allows you to indulge in the art of the making of the drink vs. or as opposed to just pouring or having a drink. It’s more about the experience..

The cinema references I noted above made the cocktail hour glamorous just because the setting was sigh-worthy; the process of shaking, stirring and sipping – over elevated cocktail conversation, of course.
The glamour of the accessories, and the accompanying conversation made the time special.

As I note in my Art of the Garnish book, cocktails not only have their own “time of day” but their own “rooms” and furniture, including the cocktail table, cocktail chair, couch, and carts.

So what if your cocktail bar is a repurposed closet?
The bar cart can be everyone’s go-to home decor essential now.
There are a myriad of looks to suit every budget.
Gifting one is, well, so very thoughtful this year… The carts range in price from modest to monied.

Further, there are more bar accessories than you can shake a cocktail shaker at.
Please ask me if you have a specific question, after reading the May Post.

Don’t overlook one of the best gifts ever and always, including: bottles of wine, spirits, bitters, and simple syrups. My list of recommendations on this include so many brands ~ most often sourced from local, artisanal makers and the spirit makers I adore. MacchuPisco is at the top of my list. I recommend Modern Bar Cart for a curated collection of mixers and tools. And they have a great Podcast ~ I was honored they scheduled me as a featured guest! (see above.)

Zoom Fashion
This is the year that’s allowed most of our others to “zee” us on Zoom from just the waist up.

While I did buy a few pairs of shoes early in the pandemic, I figured that shoes, as much as I love them, could be put on hold until after May (Given the early reports, I thought we’d be out of the coronavirus’ worst times by September…)

But now, I’m past that kind of schedule and thinking tops. Whether it’s “Tops” or “Blouses” or Shirts, I think this is the year to give you or someone you love a fabulous Zoom-worthy Top.

One that can take you from business casual to friends and family time. Please, please say goodbye to sweats. Never a good fashion choice.
As a fashion enthusiast, and former fashion careerist; (I earned my AA at the American College of Lucerne in Switzerland. Please indulge me when I share that it’s one of life’s true pleasures to still be friends with this group of special, fashion-talented men and women.)
I was a Bergdorf Goodman buyer. I owned and managed a boutique. I still ooze fashion ~ even if much of my wardrobe is now yoga and gardening looks. (wink)

Back to the fashion on Facebook Live or Facetime or Zoom because this is how we live and communicate now, I recommend flattering, non-revealing tops/shirts/blouses (no cleavage, boys and girls, unless it’s your Covid Cocktail friend’s Happy Hour), and at that, a look that your ringlight will amplify.

I’m partial to the romanticism of Ralph Lauren. I’m smitten by lace blouses and tops right now. I also favor off-shoulder, or traditional button down shirts that are very ironed or organically dry-cleaned, turtle-necks and mock turtlenecks, v-necks, and one of my favorites: the cowl neck.

Go big on makeup! And your hairstyle. Mitigate the severe pulled back ponytails or man-bun. 

Go for a true hairstyle. A professional approach. For men, you can indulge in that facial hair look that you’ve been considering. Ladies have tried some colorful hair colors (pink?! blue!) if your profession doesn’t frown on it. Let’s all just have some fun with this moment. Trial the look, please, before you Zoom 🙂 
And lipstick for Zoom is an indulgence we love, especially as face coverings all but obliterates the chance to embrace one of life’s true pleasures.

While you undoubtedly have your favorite brand and color, I’m just all supportive and giggly about SHESPOKE, a makeup brand that “represents the freedom, playfulness and joy that comes from using makeup as a tool of self-expression.”

We all feel like we’re that kid again, playing dress up. 
Plus, the best part is SHESPOKE creates a custom, one-of-a-kind lipstick color. It’s so you!

Earlier this year, pre-pandemic, I was sent a pair of amazing 4 carat Diamond Veneer stud earrings. 

I confess that I’ve pretty much worn them every day since then.

Most everyone can agree with the maker, Diamond Veneer, that many women (and some men!) stay away from wearing Cubic Zirconia jewelry because CZ is so white it looks too fake. But Diamond Veneer solved that issue with a revolutionary process of treating cubic zirconia with a veneer of carbon diamond particles, crystallizing around the entire stone, which results in a flawless “G” color on the diamond color scale! Now you can wear diamonds every day with no worries about the faux. I appreciate that I can wear them gardening and working and not worry. They are beautiful.

The CZ earrings are a perfect stocking stuffer, too.

Games and Toys
Home games ~ think Monopoly, yoyos, Slinky, Mr. Potato Head. Did you know that Mr. Potato Head was the first toy advertised on television and, not coincidentally, it sold a million kits in a year? At 98 cents. And you supplied the potato…

At this point in the pandemic, I think we all know that Jigsaws are good for stay-at-home fun. Early in March, I was considering what activity would be best for my Mother. Learning Bridge? Too other-dependent, I determined. Then, shazam. I thought of jigsaw puzzles. We ordered a few modest ones online and purchased a few at the local pharmacy. I thought I was the lone wolf on this. It wasn’t till May that news reports were touting the overwhelming popularity and increasing shortage of jigsaw puzzles! I now see why. It can be a solitary or shared activity,

But did you know, there’s a dopamine hit every time you put puzzle pieces together.“

Could puzzles be better for you than CBD?

My Mother has become our “Puzzle Princess.”

Jigsaws are also a kind of art. We’ve framed some of Mother’s recent puzzle completions
We’ve alo appreciated getting re-purposed puzzles from neighbors and my garden clients .
My niece Lauren has gifted us artful puzzles that when completed, we’ve framed. We also love the the special ones from Rifle Paper Company And Ravensburger’s Krypt Series

Stocking Stuffers:
Straight away, please consider seeds.
So many sources were completely sold out by April this year due to you know what…
It seemed everyone wanted or needed herbs and vegetables,so for Mother’s Day, I decided to put together a gift package that folks could order from me and I’d send via the Post or hand deliver.

Therefore, in anticipation, and In order to avoid any disappointing lack of seeds in the spring, why not gift this most popular, sought-after home item now? You can source from:
John Scheepers, Grow at Seed Balls

There was also an acute lack of garlic. We shared some of our treasure with some garden clients we love. We have always sourced our variety of garlic from the Maine Potato Lady. The best source.

And I know you love food (especially if you’ve read this far) so if you are a foodie in or near the Chapel Hill, Greensboro area in the Tar Heel state, or have family there, be sure to order Holiday meals from the award-winning Beau Catering You will not only delight in the “Beau Show” but will also sink into a scrumptious food coma … and resource.

In my last Holiday Gift Guide post, I noted the happy note cards with seeds embedded in them ready for planting, from Hydrangea Home. What could be better?

And then, from KinkaNYC I got these incredible seed-bearing Lollipops!

If you didn’t know, KinKa curates THE best plant, food and art gifts.
After receiving such an extraordinary gift package, including the seed-bearing lollipops, I fainted with pure joy. Pick me up off the floor.
Sourced from Amborella Organics, the treat is to enjoy the simple pleasure of the lollipop – we all surely need more of this childhood pleasure now.
Then you plant the biodegradable stick in the soil and watch your garden grow!
I will be joyfully growing marigolds from the peach and marigold pop candy, sage from the sage and marshmallow (plus I’ll be harvesting my homegrown marshmallow root!), Baby BLue Eyes hibiscus from the vanilla and hibiscus pop, and the favorite: basil from the strawberry and basil treat. The plant-based ingredients live on long after the last lick. #EatPlantLove

I hope you enjoy and appreciate my heartfelt and personal list of suggested, curated gifts for this most unusual yet blessed holiday..

I sincerely wish you and your loved ones a healthy, safe, holiday season.

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"Love of beauty is taste. The creation of beauty is art."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

 I adore plants. Plants are my muse ~ they are my paramour… I’m a garden artist; a nature lover, & horticulturist. I’m an author & writer. My passion for culture & beauty, along with my trait curiosity, brings you an authentic celebration of life. I’m a storyteller ~ weaving the artful gifts of horticulture, garden design, tablescape decor, floral design, cocktail culture, garden-to-glass recipes & their glamorous garnishes, homegrown edibles, food & drink; & cooking, to bring you my flair & what I’ve been told is an avid elan ~ as well as the stories from those who inspire me ~ to pursue an elegant, enduring, & joyful, entertaining lifestyle. It’s an honor & a privilege to do what you love.

Join me to celebrate a romantic, garden-infused, entertaining lifestyle filled with artful design, sparkling dinner parties, peerless martinis, and copious magnums of champagne!





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