When my kids were little and the holidays required a visit to that Hades of parenting otherwise known as Toys “R” Us, I prided myself on getting my shopping done early, by which I meant the first week of December. My smugness ended the year my younger sister, Beth, informed me that, yeah, she too liked finishing her Christmas shopping early—by which she meant in October! As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to realize that giving should not be an arena for sibling rivalry but rather a chance to match a treasured person with the most thoughtful of presents. So even though the More staff pored over thousands of items to find you the 50 fabulous gifts, $50 and under, I want to share with you the coolest items I’ve encountered this year. They are great to give—to someone else or to yourself.
For the cook in your life: In my effort to eat healthy, I have become obsessed with the dishes of Yotam Ottolenghi, a chef who grew up in Jerusalem and is now the toast of London. In the cookbooks Jerusalem (coauthored with Sami Tamimi) and Plenty, he gives the freshest ingredients a gentle Middle Eastern twist, resulting in the most gorgeous and delicious meals I’ve ever made (for a visual taste, see my personal food photos at facebook.com/lesley.j.seymour). His vegetable recipes are so good, my usually unadventurous family has embraced lentils, chickpeas and Swiss chard! I’ve also cooked my way through Every Grain of Rice by Fuchsia Dunlop. Once I located her five key ingredients (available at most Asian markets or by mail), I began turning out easy, fast, delicious Chinese food that keeps friends popping by. My husband, Jeff, found me the best wok at the Wok Shop in San Francisco.
For the gardener: Sign her up for the newsletter from AWaytoGarden.com, a site that has turned my black thumb green. The site’s genius proprietor is Margaret Roach, who was chosen by Martha Stewart as her magazine’s first garden editor and who was the voice and brains of those pages for more than a decade. One source Margaret led me to is Sunshine Farm & Gardens, which offers a home-garden sampler (five each of 20 plants) that would make a fantastic gift for any novice or veteran. My favorite of the batch I received: SFG’s famously beautiful hellebores. (You have to love people who are so passionate about plants. When I e-mailed the farm with a question, the owner, Barry Glick, helped me out, then signed off by saying, “Take care of my babies!”) Finally, for quick-but-special stocking stuffers, load up on exotic flower and veggie seeds from SummerHillSeeds.com.
For the fitness buff: When I travel, I lose weight—but why? The mystery was solved when I started wearing Jawbone’s UP wristband (available at jawbone.com and Best Buy’s website and stores), which tracks the number of steps you take. Turns out that when I’m away from home, I ratchet up my activity—from 6,000 steps on a workday to, for example, 25,000 steps while seeing the sights of Arles. Duh! Jeff and I now compete to log the most activity (but he cheats by abandoning the car and walking everywhere—even out in the suburbs, where we live). UP also clocks your sleep cycles, and when you see the chart showing how much deep sleep you did or didn’t get this week, it explains a lot about how energetic you do or don’t feel.