One of my go-to gifts over the years has been flavored salt — always useful on popcorn or around the rim of a margarita, I figure — but this season I plan to present my loved ones with a different addition to their pantry: chile flakes. Easily slotted into a stocking or attached to a larger gift (a backyard pizza oven, say, or a spice drawer organizer), chile flakes are another one of those kitchen staples that can be noticeably improved when done thoughtfully. Pizza Marvin, a Providence, R.I., pie shop that combines a nostalgic neighborhood feel with careful attention to ingredients, makes its own fragrant mix using locally grown peppers. The Athens-based herb purveyor Daphnis and Chloe sells a jar of flakes made out of Karatzova peppers that have been smoked for 10 days before being crushed by hand. For a variation on the theme, try Sambal Goreng chile topping, a mix of fried shallots, garlic and chiles made by the Los Angeles-based sisters who started the Balinese food pop-up Bungkus Bagus. (If your recipient becomes obsessed, next year you can give them a bulk jar.) And while Fly by Jing’s Sichuan chile crisp is a reliable source of heat and flavor, the brand’s recently released Chengdu Crunch adds texture to the equation with pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and fava beans.
Beaded Necklaces That Add Color to a Jewelry Collection
Beaded jewelry is a festive alternative to gold or silver gifts, as well as a win for versatility: These necklaces can be styled on their own as a statement, or easily mixed and matched with other everyday pieces. The designer Ashley Harris launched her brand Don’t Let Disco in 2021 with a collection of one-of-a-kind beaded jewelry. Her pieces, like this necklace composed of yellow jade and glass droplets in different shades of blue, are individually crafted by artisans or upcycled from vintage materials. The 75-year-old jewelry house David Webb produces all of its creations in a townhouse on Madison Avenue, including this necklace made of amethyst, carnelian and carved amber beads strung between white enamel and brilliant-cut diamonds. The Los Angeles-based brand Azlee makes fine jewelry for everyday wear, including a 132-carat Burmese sapphire necklace available in a spectrum of saturated colorful stones like Zambian emerald and African opal. Jessica Tse, the creative mind behind the brand Notte, which she founded in 2020, draws inspiration from the eclectic accessories she saw while growing up in Hong Kong. Tse’s focus on kitschy charms and vibrant beads is exemplified in pieces like this beaded necklace crafted from green aventurine stones. And for those looking to entertain a younger demographic, the D.I.Y. Bead kit from Super Smalls makes for a fun holiday activity.
For epicureans on your list who may live outside of a perishable delivery zone, consider a gustatory candle. Ysnay, a Martinique-based candle maker whose name comes from the Taino word for sun or light, offers an assortment of locally crafted organic candles with wooden wicks that burn with a dynamic crackle. Presented in porcelain jars made by Martinican artisans, including one resembling a pocked green-glazed breadfruit, the candles are available with scents like vetiver, frangipani and sweetsop. Gohar World, the outlet for fanciful tabletop goods founded by the sisters Laila and Nadia Gohar in 2020, takes the surrealism one step further with a pair of lifelike treats: A biscuit tin contains what appear to be stacks of Danish butter cookies (actually tea candles made by the Italian company Cereria Introna). Equally deceptive is a brilliantly hued persimmon with a wick for a stem.
Stocking Stuffers That Serve a Purpose
Smaller gifts that fit in a holiday stocking can still be thoughtful and practical. For those who are craft inclined (or have procrastinated on gift wrapping), MT, a popular seller of washi tapes made by the century-old Japanese paper adhesive producer Kamoi Kakoshi, offers options in vibrant patterns from pink-and-green argyle to colorful flowers that resemble needlepoint embroidery. For aspiring know-it-alls, Princeton University Press sells a series of pocket-size encyclopedias covering subjects including brain phenomena and dinosaur lore. Bath time enthusiasts will appreciate Nopalera’s Planta Futura bar soap, which uses Mexico’s native nopal cactus (and resembles it in shape). Oils are extracted from the seeds of the nopal’s fruit, then blended with natural butters and lemongrass oil, as well as cactus fibers that purify and exfoliate skin. And Ceylon, the skin-care brand founded by the former diplomat Patrick Boateng, has launched its first eau de parfum in time for the holiday season. The scent has top notes of Timur pepper, artemisia and cilantro, and each vial is packaged in a box featuring a print of one of nine curvilinear graphic paintings by the Bangkok-based artist Trey Hurst.
Classic Merry and Bright Décor
In the 18th century, it was common for German families to adorn their Christmas trees with candles, the flickering light mimicking stars in the winter sky. Early trees were decorated with apples, candy canes and pastries and, eventually, glass baubles, which would become popular in Victorian England. In the 1880s, the American retailer F.W. Woolworth discovered the round ornaments on a trip to Germany and began importing them to the United States, where he could barely keep up with demand.
While clipping lit candles to a branch now seems daunting (and dangerous), there are other ways to get the effect. A handmade glass oil lamp, first made by the glass blower Jon Wolfard in 1972 for his wife, is an elegant and contemporary take on traditional candlelight in which the flame seems to float above a sphere holding the oil. And the nine muted colors of these flocked ornaments are a softer version of the traditional glass baubles.