Gastronomy 101: Unique Gifts For Foodies

Everybody loves food. We’re all made of it.

But most of us have a friend in our lives who really, really likes food, and can’t help talking about what they cooked last night, or the latest restaurant you have to try, or how a dessert recently brought them to tears.

While I’ve always stood firmly in the “eat it and forget about it forever” camp, I’ve come to appreciate people who love food. Appreciating food recreationally is a product of civilized society—in the days of hunter-gatherers you took what you could find, and there was no intentional ambiance to where you ate it.  There were no waiters with helpful suggestions, no garnish except perhaps actual bits of vegetation that got stuck to your food

Food has become a ritual in our culture, a symbol of shared human-ness. Sharing food is an intimate act that says, “let us relax and enjoy the bounty of the land together, since there are no predators nearby to eat us while our guard is down.”.

So to show your appreciation to a foodie, give them something beyond a bottle of fancy vegetable oil, or whatever cookbook was on sale in the line at Barnes & Nobles.

PB&J Cufflinks by Mancornas

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Oh man, who wouldn’t love this tribute to the timeless American staple, the PB&J?  Seattle shop Mancorna sells great cufflinks, tie clips, and lapel pins. The designs range from simple and elegant to quirky.

Another cool thing about Mancornas is 5% of your purchase goes to the Seattle Humane Society. Check out the selection here.

“Main Squeeze” by CDesignCards

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CDesignCards is a company based in Buffalo, NY. Their understated, retro-inspired design shop includes a “Kitchen Art” section, where you can choose from a healthy selection of excellent prints for the happiest room in your house.  A lot of them are food pun based, like the above “Main Squeeze” print. Who doesn’t love a good food pun?

The prints come on high quality cream linen cardstock paper. Check out CDesign’s storefront here.

Wood Cutting Boards by foodiebords

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Kentucky’s Foodiebords is a great place to go for high-quality, eco-friendly, and unique cutting boards. The boards are made from three types of wood native to the Kentucky area: Walnut, Ambrosia Maple, and Cherry. Mineral oil is used as a finish, and the boards are re-waxed with beeswax before they’re shipped.

Foodiebords has tons of unique cutting boards to pick from, in addition to Lazy Susans and serving boards to pick from. Check the shop out here.

Wooden Spatula by HollyHorton 

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The UK’s Holly Horton owns an eponymous Etsy shop that sells hand-painted kitchenware. Holly’s designs have a sophisticated simplicity—the colors and bare wood place the modern beside the classic. Wooden kitchen tools in particular have a special personality, lasting well beyond the lifetime of their plastic and metal counterparts.

The bare beech wood is protected with mineral oil, and the paint with a varnish. There’s 4 different colors to choose from, in addition to a striped design. Check out the whole shop here.

Felt Berries from FeltFoodTruck

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In the frozen aisle, this would be the mixed berries bag—but instead of fruit, the berries are made of felt. Like most good fruit, the set comes from California. Santa Barbara’s FeltFoodTruck makes this assorted collection, along with enough felt-foods to fill several felt-grocery lists.The “food” is made with Eco-Fi, a environmentally friendly fabric made from 100% plastic water bottles.

I’m also particularly fond of the avocado and the tangerine. Check out the store’s full menu here.

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Our Favorite Back to School and Dorm Decor Essentials From Etsy

If you’re a student heading into class this fall, you’ll probably find something worth saving on this list–whether you are stressed-out about the coming of August, or you’re excited for the school year to start up again. The stressed-out might find some peace feeling more prepared for the upcoming year, or even get excited by the opportunity to put some original flair into their school supplies. The excited folks will probably just get more pumped at the mere sight of school-related paraphernalia.

Book Iphone Docks by UncommonandNice

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Dorm swagger is a tough game to pull off–because you’re surrounded by a bunch of young adults, you’ll want to seem cool and up to date with your technology. At the same time, you’re also surrounded by highly educated young adults, which means you’ll also want to seem well-read and up to date on your classic literature.

The smartphone charging docks of Texas makers Uncommon and Nice are a perfect middle ground between the two worlds. They’re handmade works of tech-art based on classic books, and they’re adaptable to whatever device you have in your back pocket. Pictured above is Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. Other options include Pride and Prejudice, Gray’s Anatomy, and Tom Sawyer. Check out their storefront here.

Mountain Notebook by Little Alexander

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Awesome little notebook design from the experts at Little Alexander. The brown paper cover is hand-stitched, broken at the bottom by a mountain range graphic. The mountains were inspired by the Olympic Mountains of Washington state. Buyers can choose a blue/white color scheme or gray/white. There’s 80 pages inside the little book–also customizable in lined, graph or blank paper. Check out Little Alexander’s full shop here.

Pannier and Backpack by MotleyGoods

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Grand Rapids’ Motley Goods focuses on bike bags and backpacks. Many students need a bag that functions well as both, and that’s where their Pannier/Backpack comes in. The bag has a removable hardware plate for attaching to the back of your bike, and comes with a host of customizable extra features, like 18 different colors, a leather base, and a 13-inch laptop sleeve. Click here to visit the Motley Goods’ shop front.

Cordito Leather Cord Wrap by This is Ground

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Tangled chord are an eternal problem, and it’s even worse to have to stuff a spaghetti of technology into your bag every morning, then sprint to class and try to untangle said pile of noodles while everyone around you stares. The Cordito by LA shop This Is Ground addresses this problem in the most stylish way possible. The leather roll has sectioned off holders perfect for cradling your thin, fragile chords on the go. The roll comes in several different colors like Sky Blue, Black, and Tobacco Brown. Check the store out here.

Chalkboard Skull by skullpops

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If you like, you can imagine this skull is like your student brain, and your education is the chalk-words being “written” on your brain.

If that comparison seems pretty weak to you, you can still enjoy this chalkboard skull from Nashville’s skullpops as a badass dorm accessory. The artists at skullpops repurpose found thrift store statues and figurines into kaleidoscopic interior design. Their chalkboard skull also comes in green, and there is also a chalkboard hippo, if hippos are more your jam.

Their storefront looks a lot like a children’s museum from the future–check it out here.

The House of the Wild Bee: Handmade Bee Hotels

Recently, I’ve been fascinated by garden structures called “wild bee hotels”. These odd little buildings vary widely in style and construction–some are roughly the same shape as birdhouses, but instead of a single hole in the front, the face is composed many hollow reeds where bees make their homes. Some hotels are simply a series of holes bored into a log or stone, while others most others feature a combination of these styles. Among all the different types of bee hotels, the purpose stays the same: to provide a home for the lesser known solitary bee, also known as the wild bee.

Feature photo: A bamboo Mason Bee House by The Bird on the Tree. Click here to check it out.

A driftwood inspired bee home for your garden from Flotsam and Jetsam crafts

A driftwood inspired bee home for your garden from Flotsam and Jetsam Crafts

About Solitary Bees

Only about 7 of the nearly 20,000 species of bees live in honey-producing hive societies. Most of other species are solitary. This means every female (not just a queen) is fertile and inhabits a nest by herself. Typically these are tunnels in the ground, but often wild bees will inhabit hollow reeds, twigs, or holes in wood.

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Quirky Bee Hotel design courtesy of England’s Wudwerx

Why build or buy a wild bee house?

If you already have a garden, bee hotels attract these helpful insects to your backyard. Although they don’t produce honey or beeswax, wild bees still act as pollinators for your garden. Maybe best of all, solitary bees are often stingerless. Even species with stingers– lacking a hive to protect– are non-aggresive and only sting when provoked.

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A more modern, tear drop-shaped aluminum hotel from Ox + Monkey Home

As you may be aware, the world honey bee population has been in decline in recent years. Many other species of bee are also vanishing due to the loss of habitat and feeding grounds. By providing a nesting place for wild bees, you’re helping preserve creatures essential to the survival of the ecosystem. It’s also a great way to certify your yard as an official wildlife habitat–according to the National Wildlife Foundation. 

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Unique, no finish design from Toronto’s Spade and Feather

Etsy Rings that Celebrate Nature

Rings are a subtle accessory compared to, say,  necklaces or bracelets . To the wearer, a ring often functions on a personal level as a symbolic memento. They can remind you of a very dear person, like an engagement ring, or of a specific place and time, like a class ring.

Because of their personal nature, rings naturally become tied to specific memories. This makes them excellent for gift giving, especially on special ocassions.

Today I decided to make a list that celebrated nature–my explorations of my hometown of Austin have me marvelling at the natural beauty the city is famous for. Also, there are so many amazing rings for sale on Esty, and I had to narrow it down somehow.

Mountain Ring by everli jewelrymountainring

The ring no doubt will invoke memories for anyone who has felt the call of the mountains. The ring comes in bronze, sterling silver, 10k or 14k gold. The seller, everlijewelry is a New York based brand that specializes in handmade jewelry. Click here for their shopfront.

Terrarium Ring by PlantGardenJewellry 

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Botany enthusiasts and nature lovers will find serenity in confines of this terrarium ring from PlantGardenJewellery. The German shop is inspired by the countryside of Kronach, where seller Batina preserves keepsakes from her garden and turns them into jewelry. This ring features a comely combination of moss and lichen, a small sample of what blooms in her storefront. Check it out here.

Feather Ring by AccJay

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This delicate feather shape ring comes in either silver or gold plating. It’s from South Korean AccJay, a great shop to check out elegant and understated jewelry inspired by the animal kingdom. Click here to visit the store.

Honeycomb Ring by VoniJewelry

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Another South Korean shop, Voni Jewelry also feature elegant pieces in silver and gold. This hexagonal honeycomb design calls to mind the beautiful symmetry of nature. Click here to see more goods from vonijewelry.

Marguerite Ring by GeschmeideUnterTeck

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The playful jewelry of Germany’s Geschmeide Unter Teck freezes the world in miniature. This particular piece was inspired by blooming marguerite flowers. I highly recommend checking out the rest of the shop, which features many other tiny scenes cast in resin and turned into jewelry.

The Art of Bicycle Maintenance: Gifts for Cyclists

In the wake of climate change and rising gas prices, bicycles have exploded in popularity. As the weather gets warmer, cyclists are oiling up their chains and muttering the lyrics to “Bicycle Race” by Queen under their breath. If you love cycling, or if you love a cyclist, this list is for you.

Wooden Handlebars from WoodOOcycles

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The handlebars of WoodOOcycles are one of a kind, literally–the above blackwood bar is listed with only one in stock.  That’s because each one of WoodOOcycles elegant and minimal products are “lovingly and unhurriedly crafted one-by-one” in their workshop in Spain. Fortunately, there’s a healthy selection of styles to choose from in the Etsy store front. The bars are crafted to fit most bike stems. Learn more and explore at WoodOOcycles’ shopfront here.

Six Pack Carrier from Fxyation 

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What’s that clinking noise coming down the street? That’s you, showing up to the party slightly sweaty with a six pack of cold ones in tow. The admiring, inquiring eyes of the party-goers fall on the leather carrier swinging from your crossbar. All seem to ask the same question–where did you score such a sweet find?

You will tell them Fyxation, a purveyor of fine leather goods from Milwaukee. The shop is largely dedicated to making sure it’s customers can tote what they need wherever they want to go–whether it’s beer, a frisbee, a bottle of wine, or a yoga mat. Go check them out.

Leather Bicycle Tool Bag from GalenLeather

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All the way in Istanbul is another leather goods shop, GalenLeather. Through the magic of the internet, however, they may as well be down the street. This beautiful blue tool bag is hand painted and hand stitched on locally sourced brindle leather. Breakdowns  and maintenance are inevitable parts of biking, but that doesn’t mean you can’t fix-it in style.

Leather Banana Holder by Biken

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Thank god this exists. Made to fit medium to small bananas. Get it at Biken, another purveyor of finely crafted bicycle accessories. They sell less whimsical (but perhaps more practical) leather goods. Their elegant hand-finished tote bags are also worth a look–check them out here.

My Favorite Bicycle Print by Wyatt9dotcom

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The good Brits at Wyatt9dotcom specialize in bike-theme printed art. The above is a gathering of beloved cycles old and new, fast and slow, big and small. The poster comes with a free greeting card, which is an awesome plus. Explore their store for more bike prints. I’m a fan of their comprehensive bicycle family tree, a poster that traces the history of the bicycle from the penny farthing to the modern Tour de France racers.

Game of Thrones Inspired Design from Etsy

Winter is coming this spring– Game of Thrones starts again on April 12. Fans wait eagerly to see what fate George R.R. Martin’s skillful and cruel pen spells for our favorite characters. Don’t worry, there’s no spoilers here.

Game of Thrones Coloring Book by TeamArt

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The good people of Team Art create modern coloring books for the young at heart. The Toronto store features the colorless faces of pop culture icons from Voldermort to One Direction. This GoT inspired coloring book has the beloved cast of characters for you to fill in to your hearts content while you wait for the show to start back up again.

Hodor Poster from OutlineArt 

hodorWords of wisdom from the gentle giant Hordor, who won the hearts of audiences with a single word. This poster, which comes via  Australian shop Outline Art, measures 8″x10″ and is printed on high quality archival paper. Outline Art is a great shop for fans of pop culture design, with original prints inspired by Harry Potter, The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and more.

Retro GoT Travel Posters from TeacupPiranha

travel posterThis is a set of five of the many awesome vintage-style destination posters from the Game of Thrones universe in Teacup Piranha’s store front. Considering the fact many of these places are ravaged by war, it’s understandable why the local leadership might want to drum up some tourism. You can also find posters for other fantastic destinations, like Tatooine from Star Wars and the lampost from The Chronicles of Narnia. Take a closer look here.

Hound Fried Chicken Shirt by TrendingShirts

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This soft cotton tee from Miami’s Trending Shirts imagines a universe where, instead of becoming a fearsome bodyguard, the Hound became Colonel Sandor Clegane. All Trending Shirts are professionally printed on comfy, form fitting shirts.

GoT Map Pillow from ThisShopReallyRocks

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The name of this Etsy shop says it all. This Shop Really Rocks is overflowing with GoT-inspired posters and pillows.  This pillow features the continent of Westeros, where most of the series takes place. The print measures 40″x40″ and is made from heavyweight cotton.

Khaleesi Dragon Egg Necklace from Blingstopaybills

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Holy mother of dragons what a cool necklace. We featured the ring versions of these necklaces from Italian designers Blings to Pay the Bills in a past entry, but this design is so cool I couldn’t help putting in the pendant version. Take a close look at the necklaces here–along with a  Daenerys’  history as a bonus in the item description.

Quirky Gifts for History Nerds

Personally, I think everyone should be a history nerd. I have a friend who says he enjoys history classes because it’s like “storytime for grownups”. I’m inclined to agree–the story of humanity is a pretty good one. It’s full of all the elements that make a compelling narrative: war, revolution, glory, failure, heroism, etc.

Like children’s stories, we tell the story of history not only entertain, but also impart lessons and insight for the present and future. Sometimes history a cautionary tale of the terrible price of greed, violence, or prejudice. Sometimes it’s a heroic tale of bravery and virtue. Sometimes it’s a sort of creation myth–how we got here, why the world around us is the way it is.

Author and internet personality John Green says in his excellent Youtube series Crash Course that we study history to remind ourselves,

“(t)hat for tens of thousands of years, people have been making decisions that irrevocably shaped the world that we live in today. Just as today we’re making subtle, irrevocable decisions that people of the future will remember as revolutions.”

With that in mind, here are some great homages to the past from Etsy.

Portraits of Vice Presidents With Octopi on Their Heads by Veeptopus

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There may be the odd soul who has long searched for a store like Veeptopus–a store that combines their love of octopi and Vice Presidents. If you’re reading this and you fall into that category, congrats on reaching the end of your quest and kudos for knowing exactly what you want.

For the rest of us, artist Jon Crow’s homage to the second highest position in America are absurd and striking works of art. Veeptopus features hand drawn portraits of all 47 vice presidents wearing cephalopods as hats in addition to some strange works–notably one featuring William Taft riding a badger and another with a badger riding William Taft.  Years in the future, these portraits will confuse alien archaeologists digging through the remains of our civilization.

Historical Doll Characters by Uneek Doll Design

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The cloth likenesses of historical and fictional characters cover the storefront of Uneek Doll Design. The shop is almost more like a museum than a store, and chances are a favorite character of yours is on display. If there isn’t, though, artist/owner Debbie Ritter takes custom orders. Her handmade dolls have been featured in numerous magazines, online publications, and television shows.

Antique Maps and Prints from PortofPrints

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Port of Prints offers a wide selection of historical and antique prints, like the above railroad map of New York. There’s sketches from DaVinci’s notebook, vintage photographs, quotes from historical figures, and more to explore in their stock.

Vintage T-Shirt Designs by Bros With Beards

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The North Carolina shop Bros with Beards knows, like well-behaved women, clean-shaven men rarely make history. Their shirt store features over a hundred quirky vintage and historical designs, printed by hand with water-based inks. The also sell pillowcase versions of their shirts.

Alternate History Prints from AlternateHistories 

alternatehistorySometimes history is embellished or modified by historians, but rarely to the extent seen in the halls of Alternate History. The shop is home to prints and posters that serves as windows into parallel universes. In the above alternate timeline, the Revolutionary War was fought not only between the US and England, but also between robots (US) and dragons (Britain). In another, a vintage propaganda poster warns US citizens to flee the country, which has fallen to zombie hoards. Needless to say, their whole shop is worth a browse.