Try as I might I canâ€™t escape a few not-so-merry topics this holiday season. Swine flu, healthcare debates, the recession and the environment. Howâ€™s that to go with your Thanksgiving turkey? No one likes a host who is thinking about anything outside of good food, enough alcohol and what tunes to spin next, so Iâ€™ve been on the hunt for some entertaining innovations to both quell my national-news-driven anxiety as well as answer my endless hunger for new things to make life easier and better in my home. This means I wonâ€™t have to ask guests to wear masks or put an array of H1N1 vaccines on the buffet next to the cranberry sauce, nor do I need to pass a collection plate â€“ here are some great, affordable answers to the worldâ€™s current problems including how to make this yearâ€™s festivities more beautiful and more fun.
GERMS. I swore Iâ€™d never become that person who compulsively squirts Purell on herself at even a hint of contact with a surface another human being might have touched â€“ the quintessential germaphobe. Iâ€™ve become one of those people this flu season. With each swine flu news story â€“ Deadly flu!! Deadly vaccine?!! Not enough Vaccine!!?!! â€“ so it goes with another squirt of hand sanitizer, which you can actually buy by the gallon now. When it comes to having friends over for dinner, closeness, and the passing of glasses and food (especially after multiple glasses of wine) makes for a veritableÂ party Petri dish, but this is what I love about entertaining â€“ the closeness, the intimacy, the communal relaxation and potent disregard of whatever else fills our days. So, Iâ€™ll need another approach. I absolutely loathe beady wine glass tags â€“ beads donâ€™t belong anywhere need food or drink and I think they are tacky. Along the same principle, of providing a unique glass to each guest, without the tack-factor, I found glasses from HuePhoria . These hand-painted glasses, for either wine or martinis, feature a uniquely painted ball to accent where the vessel of the glass meets the stem. A set of HuePhoria glasses would ideally be a hand-picked collection of your favorites from their catalogue of whimsical, colorful designs. I have never been good at keeping members of â€œsetsâ€ of anything, so the one-of-each concept works better for me. From a design perspective, I love their artisan, quirky sensibility which handily accompanies them right into the dishwasher. Also, because my set is comprised of HuePhoriaâ€™sÂ black and white patterns with a few holiday-themed babies to mix it up, the glasses fit the design scheme of my entire house, which is dotted with black and white. What other glass can do that? I canâ€™t imagine anything better for someone who likes interesting things and consequently shares my fears of mistakenly drinking out of the glass with the person who is coughing into her napkin and double-fisting cabernet and Nyquil. Each glass sold for $20.
ENVIRONMENT Iâ€™ve been a candle whore my whole life. My ideal party can easily be mistaken for a sÃ©ance were it not for the loud music and intoxicated guests. I love the glow of candle light and jump at the chance to start burning something the moment it turns from warm to cool outside. For me candlelight is visual warmth and coziness â€“ eking these characteristics out of even the most stark and uncomfortable environments. Unfortunately I recently came to terms with the fact that most of the candles Iâ€™ve been burning all these years are made of paraffin, thus leaching petroleum into the air and I suppose, coating the insides of my lungs, as well as those of my guests. Not to mention all the faux scents that live inside the petroleumÂ making for a vaporized chemical cocktail that canâ€™t be good for me or the earth. For a while I went on a candle moratorium, and attempted the faux candles that use LED lights instead of fire. Convincing, but not the same. I need to burn again, so Iâ€™ve been on the hunt for candles that are either scentless or scented in a light and earthy way. (Nothing that would lead you to believe that I bake.) I prefer candles housed in glass containers not only for aesthetics, but also for fire prevention in case I go to bed without blowing them out. (Which I seem to be programmed to do.) It must be made of beeswax or soy, ideally with an organic cotton wick, and preferably from an eco-centric company. I also donâ€™t want to spend $50 for said candle. Perhaps it could be from a small company with a conscience, headed by a woman? Bingo! Butterfly Effects. I love their simplicity, their attention to olfactory detail with their extensive and thoughtful range of scents, and most of all, the toxin-free glow they give to my house. I am currently loving lemon verbena and the mistletoe. (4â€, 14oz spa tumbler, $25)
HEALTHCARE The only health care rationing that makes sense to me is the rationing of harmful substances from my food or harmful foods from my body. Probably all the cookware I own â€“ which range in price from top-of-the-line-wedding-present to clearance-rack-at-Target are hazardous to my health in one way or another. Iâ€™m not being overly dramatic here â€“ the cheap non-stick pans leach all kinds of metals into food over time, and those that arenâ€™t non-stick require an oil slick to avoid burning my food. Â Iâ€™m no chef, and if I was married to Anthony Bourdain (a girl can dream) perhaps weâ€™d make better use of my toxic-pots or those that seem better at burning things than anything else. Â Iâ€™ve been fantasizing about cookware with the dual function of not adding metal to my food and a design that helps me cook with less fat â€“ until I found 360 Cookware. Now I must say, the price of the design genius behind this cookware is that you must learn how to use it â€“ my old ways of cooking wonâ€™t work here Â â€“ there is even a DVD that comes with each piece to help you learn how. What you get in return for your schooling is a a hefty, multi-layered, stainless steel, American-made (love that) product that works by using vapor to heat the food. Vapor allows forÂ the absence of added fat, and even additional water. This isnâ€™t inexpensive cookware by any means, but itâ€™s designed to last past my own cooking career â€“ the ultimate in eco-friendly purchases are those that we donâ€™t have to throw out ever or for a very long time. 360 is an environmentally-conscious company that uses wind and solar power in their Midwestern factory, in case you need another reason to feel good. Good for the earth, my health and my crusade to win over my baby belly? Canâ€™t beat that. 2-quart saucepan retails for $139.95.
RECESSION I am in no way advocating drinking your financial sorrows away â€“ this is not the adult way of handling things. Considering I am apt to end up with underwear â€“ mine or someone elseâ€™s –Â on my head after more than two glasses of anything makes this less of an option for me, for sure. But I do think that wine and spirits are a fundamental part of any get together. They lubricate the social fabric, they can be a conversation topic, they add ambient laughter to mix with the ambient light of the candles â€“ instant great party vibration. So you can’t really say, â€œlets have a party and skip the booze because weâ€™re in a recession.â€ Not happening. And you canâ€™t just say, â€œletâ€™s have a party and have shitty booze, no one will notice?â€ Not cool, at least not for the first half of the part y.Â Fermented liquids that are affordable and interesting, not just good-tasting, are a must for any successful party.Â Again, my feminism often manifests in my purchasing habits – I like the idea of buying wine from women. Enter the award-winning Middle Sister wines. Their website encourages you to â€œenjoy some with your sister,â€ which I canâ€™t really do for a host of reasons, so instead, I tasted them with my husband, who fancies himself an uber wine and cheese taster. The snappy labels are most certainly conversation starters â€“ my husband went on a diatribe about not wanting to like a wine named Smarty Pants, especially if it was a chardonnay. I promised not to tell any of his guy friends — he finished the bottle. Such was the case for me with Forever Cool, the Merlot, which I thought was tasty despite my intense loathing for anything â€œcool.â€ The entire collection is rather lovely, and they retail for under $13 a bottle.