Zelda’s 2016 Holiday Gift Guide

It’s that time of year again, y’all! The gifting season is upon us, a time of secret santas and white elephants and wrapping paper galore. I love to gift: Nothing gives me quite the same thrill as finding the perfect present for a particular person, the perfect blend of thoughtful and fun and unique all wrapped up in a bow. But whether you love to gift or find it an onerous challenge (see: Scout), a little inspiration and brainstorming help never hurts. These are some of the things I’ve found on the internet lately that tickled my fancy. Whether you buy them for a friend, a family member, a coworker, or yourself, they’re all sure to bring a little joy and sparkle to your day.

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For the one with more books than bookshelves: Strand Grey Beanie (Strand Books, $14.95)

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For the one who loves a good color-coordinated binder: Leslie Knope Tote Bag (Etsy – HommeSurLaLune, $20)

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For the one with the well-stocked bar cart: The Cocktail Deck (Etsy – loveandvictory,  $16)

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For the one who, like, really wants to get into mixology this year: Tall Bartending Glasses (Kikkerland, $25)

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For the one who’d rather be in Stars Hollow: I’m With Lorelai Tee (Rachel Antonoff, $45. Also available in Rory!)

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For the one who is attracted to pie, but doesn’t want to date pie: Foods of Gilmore Girls Print (Etsy – roaringsoftly, $12-22)

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For the one who’s too good for Starbucks: Southern Coffee Holiday Sampler (StyleBlueprint + Batch, $39)

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For the one whose favorite time of day is No Pants O’Clock: Beloved Bedtime Reading Robe in Polar Frolic (ModCloth, $32.99)

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For the one who’s still a nasty woman: Wild Feminist Sweatshirt (Wildfang, $50)

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For the one who could use a little pick-me-up: Brave Enough by Cheryl Strayed (Amazon, $10.12)

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For the who has a way with words: Punderdome: A Card Game for Pun Lovers (Amazon, $13.13)

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For the one who’s trying to channel his/her 2016 rage into something productive: Write Like a Motherfucker Mug (The Rumpus,  $15)

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For the one who can’t even keep a succulent alive: Tiny Terrarium Trinket Dish (Leif Shop, $8)

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For the one whose apartment is a life-size Pinterest board: Wood and Marble Hexagon Coaster Set (Leif Shop, $38)

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For the one who’s basically a beauty guru: Sephora Collection Face Mask Set (Sephora, $25)

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For the one who’s always the hostess: Gilded Greetings Cheese Board (Anthropologie, $58)

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For the one who’s always on the go: Ceramic Skyline Trinket Dish (Anthropologie, $14)

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For the one who knows what’s up: Kentucky Kicks Ass Sweatshirt (Kentucky for Kentucky, $50)

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For the one whose brunch game is on point: Bitter Southerner Short Stack Cookbooks (Bitter Southerner General Store, $14 or $38 for set)

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For the one who won’t stop talking about Great British Bake-Off: Retro Mixer Ornaments Set (World Market, $20.97)

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For the one who’s flawless: I Woke Up Like This Mug (Etsy – DeLuceDesign, $18.99)

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For the one after our own hearts: Just One Kind Print (The Old Try, $42)

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For the one who wants to find some hope in this dumpster fire of a year: a donation to the charity of your choice (Some suggestions: ACLU, Planned Parenthood, Everytown for Gun Safety, The Trevor Project, NextGen Climate Action, Council on American-Islamic Relations, The UN Refugee Agency)

all images via retailer. last image via pinterest.

Winter 2016 Playlist: Snowfall Songs

We love a good holiday song here at Z&S. Give us chestnuts roasting over an open fire, dreams of white Christmases, and dreidels made of clay, and we go positively cuckoo for carols. We abstain all year, you see, saving up for that sacred festive season, and then as soon as the clock strikes midnight on Thanksgiving night, the spirit of the season sallies forth from our earbuds and doesn’t stop until Christmas.

But amid all this holly and tinsel, sometimes you just want a little snow. Something non-denominational, holiday neutral, which can carry you past Boxing Day and into the new year. So this year, for our wintriest of playlists, we decided to diverge from our seasonal themes past, and present a playlist for snowy days and chilly nights, regardless of the date on the calendar (if we’re being perfectly honest, this decision may also have had to do in large part with the fact that we’ve done two holiday playlists on here already, and we’re running out of favorite carols to share).

From guitars and bluegrass to Broadway stars and one Nobel Prize winner, these songs are for the bare tree season. Pour yourself a big mug of cocoa, with some marshmallows and perhaps a shot of something stronger thrown in. Sugarplums are swell, but sometimes you just want to watch the snow fall. Listen below or on Spotify.

New Resolve

Hey y’all. It’s been a rough week. We’re both still reeling from an election that didn’t go the way we hoped. We’re scared for friends and neighbors, and we’re trying to recover from the result and turn to proactive choices. We’re donating to places we think will help. We’re having conversations — at work, with friends — about what to do next, how we can use our privilege in the most effective way.

But mostly we’re sad and tired, and honestly we didn’t think we could do a real post this week proper justice. So instead, here are some things that make us happy. They bring a smile to our faces and distract us for a little while. They allow us to heal, to recharge, and to renew our resolve. As Leslie Knope instructed us last week, it’s time to find your team and get to work.

“Sunday Candy,” Chance the Rapper with Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment.  

Anything with Richard Ayoade, but especially TravelMan, wherein Ayaode reluctantly spends 48 hours in various locals around the globe with other comedians.

Kristen Bell is another favorite of ours. Scout just finished catching up on her new show The Good Place (Zelda’s been a big fan since the pilot), but if you’re short on time, her love of sloths always makes us feel good about the world.

Lin Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton has been a source of much inspiration and solace this election season. Last week he struck again, and cemented his family’s status as Most Adorable of All Time, with a Sound of Music-inspired home movie.  

Carpool Karaoke is basically what we look like any time we drive anywhere together, and seeing our fave James Corden go as hard as we do when it comes to singing behind the wheel is a source of comfort. Our two favorites:


We’re not giving up, and neither should you. Take the time you need to find your resolve, and start now. Be proactive, but keep yourself and your friends safe. In the words of Justin McElroy, “I’m gonna wake up tomorrow and and keep trying to do good and so are you, and nobody gets to vote on that.”

20 Hours in America: Why We’re With Her

Dear readers,

This week’s post was supposed to be a boozy one. I was going to make fall cocktails, most likely of the bourbon variety. I had plans to kowtow to Scout’s crazy anti-pumpkin sentiments and eschew that classic flavor for toasted marshmallow and maple and chocolate. But I, like many of you, have been consumed of late by pre-election anxiety. And so I found myself this weekend unable to write anything but this.

This election is so important. Every election matters, it’s true, because a democracy is only as strong as its citizens’ participation in it. But this year, it’s about more than who will fill the Oval Office for the next four years. It’s about who we are — as a country, as a people. It’s about the values we want to define our nation and the legacy we are choosing to build on or throw away. I’m not talking about specific policies here (although I would argue that the United States is way, way, way better off than it was in 2008, and as someone who got a job straight out of college, who benefited from my parents’ health insurance while I freelanced and interned and temped, and who has seen the people I love be able to marry those they love, regardless of their gender, I am extremely eager to see the work of Obama’s presidency continue). I am talking about something deeper than that.

We are a nation of immigrants. My ancestors came from England and France, Ireland and Spain, Germany and Poland and Russia (I am, as you might guess, a bit of a mutt). And that makes me utterly un-unique in the American scheme of things. Everybody here, at some point or another, came from somewhere else (Unless you are 100% Native American, and even then there’s an argument to be made about migrations from Asia centuries ago. But I digress). And we came seeking a fair shot at a better life, something that wasn’t offered in most other corners of the world.

At our best, we are a nation of tolerance, of collaboration. The arc of history is definitely long, and there are still miles and miles to go until every American is given a fair shot regardless of their identity or circumstances, but it does bend toward justice, and that angle gets a little more acute every time we come together. We are a nation of kindness and compassion, a nation of respect. And today, in this election, we have to choose if we want to continue down this path, paved by blood and sweat and tears of all those that came before, or if we want to abandon course and descend instead into a miasma of hatred, ignorance, bigotry, nativism, xenophobia, and arrogance.

I’m with her. Maybe that should be obvious, but I feel the need to say it, to shout it, to proclaim it to anyone who can hear. We are given a choice this week between a racist, Cheeto-dusted, human dumpster fire who treats women like objects and minorities like trash, and the most qualified and experienced candidate to ever grace our ballots (in my opinion). Hillary has devoted her entire life to public service. And if you look at her track record, you will see consistency in her values, in her devotion to women and children and families and helping every American have a fair shot. But also, and perhaps more importantly, you will also see change, a willingness to listen and learn and evolve. I do not deny that she is imperfect. But neither am I, or you, or any person. And when you live your life under a microscope, with the glaring spotlight of public opinion trained at you, you are bound to emerge decades later a bit bruised and battered.

I want to believe that this country is still the one I love. That we will choose love over hate, compassion over blame, inclusion over isolation. We are strongest together. So let’s show the world what our America stands for.

Vote. Dear God, please vote. Tell your friends, your family, your neighbors, that random chick in the supermarket, to vote. Find your polling place. Make a plan. And when you vote, think about what you want to tell your grandchildren (or your friends’ grandchildren — hey, procreation is not for everyone) when they ask which side of history you were on. Tell them, you were with her.

Love,

Zelda

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P.S. As someone who works in the oft-maligned media, I have been under a particularly inescapable deluge of election news over the past 18 months. For the record, the things that I find most help alleviate politically induced depression, anxiety, and/or panic are:

  1. Yoga
  2. Chocolate (I’d like to take this moment to thank Levain Bakery for getting me through this election season. Also Diet Dr. Pepper.)
  3. Videos of cute puppies, especially when they are sleepy
  4. Listening to the Beyoncé+Dixie Chicks version of “Daddy Lessons”
  5. The West Wing (Though this can also be demoralizing, as you realize how far removed our reality is from the wonderful world of Bartlet and McGarry and Cregg and Lyman and Ziegler and Seaborn and Moss and Young. And yes, to anyone who’s listening, I do really want that t-shirt.)
  6. Spending time with those you love
  7. And most of all, getting off the sidelines and getting involved, whether that means giving money to a campaign, canvassing and volunteering, or making phone calls from the privacy of your own home. I phone banked for the first time this year, and it could not have been easier. There is still time, and votes to get out, if you’re interested: hillaryclinton.com/calls.

All the Fixin’s: A Taste of Autumn

Happy Tuesday, lovelies, and welcome to first installment of “All the Fixin’s,” our new series in which we each explore our Southern heritages by cooking our way through two books tailored to our Cajun and Appalachian roots. For this first chapter, we wanted to ease into things, and a recent Halloween movie night offered the perfect opportunity. We gathered our squad at Zelda’s abode for an evening of Jack Skellington and Kalabar, the Sanderson sisters and Wadsworth and Communism (always a red herring). And to suit the festive mood, we each picked recipes that fit the fall ambiance, and that looked easy enough to pull off even in our progressively more inebriated states.

We’ll be straight with you: Things did not go swimmingly. Blame the booze or the recipes or just plain bad kitchen juju, but neither of these dishes were what we’d call spectacular. But even though they both proved to be duds (Scout blames her lack of kitchen intuition more than the recipe, but more on that later), we’d still like to check this off as a successful first endeavor. Well begun is half done, as they say, and we are now well on our way on this cookbook journey.

We’ll start with Zelda. For her first recipe, she decided to stick to her strengths: namely, sweets and baking. From amid the jambalayas and gumbos, she plucked a recipe for Brown Sugar Cookies, which seemed both simple and seasonally spiced.

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Ingredients

1 ¼ cups packed light brown sugar

¼ cup water

3 tablespoons honey

1 egg

2 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup coarsely ground pecans (As she does not own a nut grinder, Zelda’s method involved purchasing a bag of pecan pieces, placing them on the floor, and beating them vigorously with her rolling pin until they seemed to be more powder than chunks. However, she is open to other suggestions, and were she to do it again, she might opt for the food processor in hopes of more even results…)

2 ½ tablespoons ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon baking soda

1 tablespoon ground allspice

Directions

In an electric mixer (if, like lucky Zelda, you have one — otherwise, a large bowl will do), combine the brown sugar, water, honey, and egg. Beat at high speed until mixed, about 10 seconds. Scrape the bowl well to ensure the ingredients are fully combined.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, pecans, cinnamon, baking soda, and allspice. Mix well to combine. Add your dry ingredients to the mixer and stir until mixed thoroughly.

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Now at this point Chef Paul Prudhomme instructs you to “Drop batter by teaspoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet, about 1 ½ inches apart.” And for her first batch, that is exactly what Zelda did. The recipe prescribes baking at 375 for about 12 minutes, until the cookies are lightly browned around the edges. At 8 minutes, Zelda removed her cookies, expected some well-spread gooey delights, and instead found hard lumps with burned, black bottoms. And while the worst fate that may befall a baker may be a soggy bottom, a burnt one is not much better.

Not one to be deterred (and with half a bowl of dough left to go), she persevered. For her second batch, she lined her pans with parchment paper. And instead of just scooped the dough out in teaspoonfuls, she smooshed each dough ball into a cookie-shaped patty. After 8 minutes, she removed them from the oven to much better results. The cookies resembled cookies more than rocks, and the bottoms were decidedly more tan than charcoal. Scout and the other members of the squad declared them delicious, and it is true that the spices were decidedly fall. But Zelda, to be perfectly honest, found them to be tough and lacking in flavor. A couple days in an air-tight container later, their resemblance to rocks has only increased. No offense to Paul Prudhomme, but she won’t be making these again. Perhaps she should have stuck to the savory chapters in his book (or tackled pralines, her favorite Cajun dessert, but she remains a bit intimidated by candy…and also doesn’t own a candy thermometer, yet).

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As for Scout, it’s been well established that she is not the most proficient in the kitchen. So she wanted to start with something simple, with only three ingredients and basically one step…and she still managed to screw it up. To be fair, there were perhaps several mitigating factors: We had already eaten quite a lot and drunk a good amount of wine, and we were perhaps distracted by other events unfolding in the apartment (a dramatic re-staging of a scene from Parks and Rec in honor of Halloween). But still, all she had to do was fry some apples.

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Ronni Lundy’s recipe for fried apples requires very little: 1 tablespoon bacon grease, four apples, and some type of sweetener, be it sorghum, maple syrup, or brown sugar. Zelda bought the apples, we had bacon with dinner, and we have yet to be in a Southern kitchen that doesn’t always have brown sugar on hand. Ingredients, managed.

Following the recipe, Scout poured the bacon grease into a skillet with a lid and put it on medium heat. Next, she cored the apples and cut them into slices approximately ⅛ inch thick. She tossed them in the pan with the bacon grease…and here’s where she probably went wrong. She didn’t quite trust that there was enough bacon grease to coat all the apples, so she added a little butter and let them sweat for 3 minutes before adding a couple tablespoons of brown sugar and cooking for a few more minutes.

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Unfortunately, because of the added moisture from the butter, the apples grew soggy instead of crisp. She tried to salvage them in the oven, but they were beyond repair. Zelda and the squad gamely sampled a few bites and declared them to be “not terrible.” but definitely tasting more of bacon than of anything resembling fruit.

But all of these cooking posts, for Scout at least, are about learning, and she definitely learned a lot. In hindsight, she should have leaned into the brown sugar and out of the bacon grease. Less is more with the latter, and more is more with the former. With a little more foresight and a little more love (and slightly less wine), we could have had an excellent sweet and savory dessert. Scout looks forward to trying it again sometime.

So that’s the first step in our joint journey through our culinary roots. We lived, we learned, we ate. We’ll do it all again soon.