(MCT) — I occasionally make a list of things I’ve liked recently. Here’s one for the holidays.
1. Gift idea: a pizza stone
My colleague Kevin Pang, culinary savant, told me I had to put this on the list. His testimonial: “This $45 slab of rock has changed my life. I make a batch of pizza dough in advance, ball it up into individual baggies and toss it in the freezer. Add whatever sauce and toppings I like, and they make the best pizzas you’ve ever tasted. Bang for my buck, the best kitchen investment I’ve made.” He got his from Williams-Sonoma.
2. China tea cups
Shortly before my Aunt Mary Louise died last month, she asked if there was anything of hers I’d like. I now own four china tea cups. I’m ordinarily a mug person and have never owned china of any kind, but I’m here to attest that tea in a china cup simply tastes better.
3. “A Jazz Piano Christmas From NPR”
One of my favorite holiday CDs since it appeared a dozen years ago. It includes 17 familiar tunes done by the likes of Ramsey Lewis, Ellis Marsalis and Carla Bley. Songs of the season without the treacle.
4. “Down Came an Angel” by Jacqueline Schwab
Another longtime favorite, this one’s by my former (briefly) piano teacher. If you’ve watched any Ken Burns documentaries — from “The Civil War” to “The Dust Bowl” — you’ve heard Jackie’s spare, moving piano. She brings the same meditative mood to Christmas.
5. Wrigley Field jigsaw puzzle by Eric Dowdle
In O’Hare, en route to a Thanksgiving gathering, I bought this at the Field Museum kiosk. A panoramic view of the city and ballpark, split into 1,000 pieces, it makes a fun gift — and a communal way to fill some idle holiday hours with friends and family. Also available online. (Sox fans can find Sox-themed puzzles online.)
6. The Songs of Good Cheer contest
Want to win two tickets to one of the December holiday singalongs Eric Zorn and I host at the Old Town School of Folk Music? To win, enter our contest: Create up to three trivia questions related to holiday music. Each question should be multiple choice, preferably with four answers. The answers should be amusing and mildly informative; one answer must be true. Email entries by Dec. 1 to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll pick one winner for each of the four shows.
7. Fresh table-top Christmas trees
Decorate one. Smell it. Put it in a window. Carry it with a single hand. Most of the thrill of a big tree with none of the hassle. I got mine at Whole Foods.
8. Lincoln Park Zoo Lights
Festive and free, the zoo lights debut this weekend. Go on a cold night, walk through the illuminated darkness, check out the animals. Warm up in one of the nearby restaurants or taverns. Chicago Christmas at its best.
9. A good poem
Many of us have guests, or are guests, at the holidays, which brings to mind “The Guest House,” by the Sufi poet Rumi, though the guests he means arrive in all seasons:
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
Mary Schmich is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. She can be contacted at email@example.com.