Unfortunately, original Thing 33 has been discontinued. Costco used to have this awesome cheese—Lake Country Asiago. It was the best deal ($5.50/pound) and one of the most delicious and versatile hard cheeses out there. It was perfect to eat by itself, or could be added to a huge range of foods. I always had some in my fridge. RIP Lake Country Asiago.
But, Peri in Rochester needs a Thing, and there is plenty more I like, so we continue on. In many other countries, everywhere you go, there is a kettle. The US is just not kettle country, which is silly because they are awesome. I have a kettle in my office and a kettle at home, and my winter is greatly enhanced by always being 60 seconds away from tea time. Plus, with the rise of better instant soups, emergency lunch is also right at my fingertips.
TIP: Trader Joe’s is the place for cheeses. You can put together a fantastic, fancy-looking cheese board for under $12. An excellent entertaining cheese adage to remember is: something old, something new, something goat, something blue.
Old: aged, smoked…a hard cheese. Aged goudas are an excellent choice, as are parmesans. RIP Lake Country Asiago
New: soft & creamy— think Brie. Never go too funky with a soft cheese when entertaining
Goat: Chevre is a classic, but don’t limit yourself
Blue: see rule on new. Gorgonzola is usually a crowd pleaser.
A few years ago I saw these for the first time. “How cute!” says I. As a frequent flier and lover of cocktails, it seemed like the perfect thing. I picked one up, turned it over and shrieked “twenty-five American dollars?! For a single enhanced airplane cocktail?!”
Helllll no. Once you purchase the booze, you are looking at a $33-$35 drink you made yourself on an airplane. And people complain about bag fees. But, the concept was solid and I started making my own for when I wanted to feel fancy in economy (see also: privacy scarf).
Jason in New Jersey will be receiving a starter kit, which includes Peychauds bitters, orange bitters, sweet vermouth, honey, cane sugar packets, real lemon, real lime, real orange, candied orange peel, toothpicks, and a spoon. You’ll have to use the airplane napkin. Make a great Old Fashioned, manhattan, Champagne cocktail, hot toddy, spruce up your gin and tonic, or create something new! Most of the time the vials are small enough for airport security to not care, but if you’re concerned, throw them in your liquids bag.
TIP: Batch cocktails and punches are perfect for entertaining. A few of my favorite recipes are below, but if you really want to up your punch game, and learn some fascinating history at the same time, read David Wondrich’s Punch.
Champagne Pomegranate Punch
Cleveland takes a lot of crap. But I will remind all you fine people that Cleveland has given you some of the best there is across multiple genres, from the Cleveland Orchestra to Bone Thugs-N-Harmony to LeBron. Another Cleveland treasure is one of the OGs of the craft beer world: Great Lakes Brewing Company.
And there is no better GLBC beer than their Christmas Ale. I would venture to say there is no better Christmas Ale than the Great Lakes Christmas Ale. You can check to see if they distribute to your area here.
On Monday, I fly to Cleveland for Christmas and my very first stop will be to secure myself a fresh six pack. My family can wait; this beer cannot. Jacob in Jersey City is probably sipping on a cold one presently.
TIP: Always look up the tipping culture before traveling to a new country, and stop at an airport ATM to make sure you are ready to start tipping accordingly. And err on the generous side. If you can afford to travel, you can probably afford to tip a little extra.
Straws have had a tough year. They joined the axis of evil after that one turtle video. We should cut down on all plastics and consumables, but disposable straws are necessary tools for many people with disabilities, and they’re awesome (🥤). Let’s fight disposable plastics through water bottles takeout containers, plastic bags, and commercial fishing regulations first.
But, I concede. Straw use can go down for sure. And there are plenty of solutions for using fewer plastic straws. At home, at the office, and whenever I have a large bag, I carry one of these suckers.
I find metal straws far superior to glass and silicone straws for many reasons, including durability and ease of cleaning.In good company, Oprah had metal straws on her Favorite Things list this year too. Just don’t use them on the dance floor or you could stab the roof of your mouth (who would even do this 😬).Nancy from Virginia now has a set of metal straws to enhance her drinking experience and cut down on plastic use at the same time.
TIP: A friend recently informed me that sequins and glitter are terrible micro-plastics and a hazard for wildlife, and my little queer heart weeps. But I am hopeful for BioGlitter and Sustainable Sequins.
So, I am a vegetarian. And I am busy. And sometimes a girl just needs protein on the go. Enter my very favorite emergency food product: the Think Thin High Protein Bar. Here at Abbey’s Favorite Things, we are all about body positivity, so I prefer to call these Think Thicc bars. But with so much protein, no sugar, and a taste that you can actually deal with, they are my go to. I tend to buy the bars at Trader Joe’s or Target. I find that you can also reliably buy the bites at CVS and Target.
I’ve never been wowed by the brand’s High Protein/Fiber combo bars, oatmeal, smoothies, or other products. For me (individual results may vary), the high protein bars are the bees knees. Brownie Crunch, both peanut butter varieties, and Chocolate Fudge are my preferred flavors. Pam in Florida will soon be protein boosted, and hopefully find her favorite too.
TIP: There are so many good vegetarian/vegan holiday recipes out there. My favorite guide is here.
So after yesterday’s booze, we must hydrate. I mentioned in Thing 7 that I am a double California almond. My thirst is not just limited to my skin, but also my actual hydration. I drink so much…and you should too. Not only is it good for your skin, sleep, and organs, it also helps your brain!
Water in the United States is completely safe to drink (almost everywhere), and yet, bottled water consumption is still off the charts. While I do buy a bottle sometimes when there are no other options, I try to be prepared with my watersac- the HydraPak Seeker 2L. This thing is almost weightless (empty lol), and can be condensed into something that fits anywhere. It also has never leaked and is easy to clean. Sid in San Francisco will see soon.
What I use my sac for the most is air travel. Even if I am in a premium cabin, if the flight is over 4 hours, I make sure to fill this up at the airport (from a water fountain, dispenser in the lounge, or even a larger bottle if I am in a place with unsafe tap water). If you have to ask for every 6-8 oz of water, you just won’t drink enough. There is no specific answer on how much water you should drink, but for myself, I try and consume a liter of water for every 4 hours of flight.
TIP: For long flights, there are almost always drinks and snacks you can grab from the gallery, and if there are not, just ask! It’s also a good excuse to get up and avoid that DVT.
We’re drinking thing legal, y’all…and so we’re here to talk about alcohol. (Let’s pretend the delay on this was due to excessive celebrations?) Most of you know that I love a fermented or distilled beverage. I have a very broad range of favorites, from bourbon (I tend to favor less wheat-y selections with vanilla notes) to beer (sour, dark, crisp, usually anything but super malty brews, but anything can change my mind) to gin (the more herbal the better) and beyond. But today we’re talking about wine, specifically sparkling wine.
I’m always down for bubbles. But sometimes, you don’t want to drink a full 750 ml bottle…or maybe you just want something more portable. Enter the Sofia Blanc de Blacs Minis. These adorable cans are perfect for drinking on the go, or when you just need a glass (or two…and not four). Now also available in a brut rosé, these cans have been a favorite of mine for years.
On the pricier side of what I normally pay for wine, they are definitely worth it for the mix of taste and convenience. But, if you want to go with something anyone can drink at any occasion and budget, Trader Joe’s recently debuted a similar canned wine product. Definitely lower quality, but at 1/6th the price, what can you expect…they are still fun and delicious. Canned wine is now everywhere, and some is worth your time, some is not. But I hope that Aimee in Queens will agree with me on the Sofia.
TIP: A little sparkling wine explainer: traditional sparkling wines are carbonated from secondary fermentation in the bottle. Wine is bottled, often with additional yeast and sugar. As the yeast cells consume the sugar, carbon dioxide is produced, giving you those fun and delicious bubbles. There are a few other processes used to produce sparkling wine, which you can read about here. A brief overview of some common varieties is below:
Blanc de Blancs– used to designate sparkling wines made exclusively from Chardonnay grapes
Cava– white or rosé sparkling wines from the Catalonian region of Spain*
Champagne– from the Champagne region of France
Cap Classique (MCC)-traditionally produced South African sparkling wines
Lambrusco- Italian sparkling red wines, secondarily fermented in stainless steel tanks
Prosecco- Italian wines (usually sparkling) secondarily fermented in stainless steel tanks
These cookies will change your life. I really can’t overstate how delicious they are. I make them for every fall/winter party, but they can really serve you well all year round.
I carried this recipe around on a sheet of butter-greased notebook paper for years before I finally scanned it in and tossed it in the cloud. Now it is yours forever. And an anonymous friend will be enjoying some shortly.
1.5 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups white sugar
1/2 cups molasses
4 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2.5 teaspoons ginger
1.5 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
Cream butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add eggs and molasses and blend. Mix all dry ingredients together and add into butter mixture. Roll rounded scoops in white sugar and place onto baking sheet. Bake at 350 for around 8 minutes. Watch carefully as all ovens differ.
TIP: Cookies continue to bake after you take them out of the oven. If you think about it, a cookie sheet removed from the oven is just a sheet of very hot metal. If you like chewy cookies, always remove them 1-2 minutes before you think they are done.
Everyone knows Jelly Belly. They’ve taken jelly beans from occasional Easter treat to year round supermarket candy aisle extravaganza. My personal favorites are the sours. They are readily available and you get a variety of flavors without any bad ones (looking at you, buttered popcorn and chocolate pudding). But I am also here to evangelize for the cantaloupe beans. These fuckers are delicious. If you disagree, you are wrong.
Both favorites will soon arrive at the Kids Table commune, as they already know because FedEx is trash. Watermelon ones are good too.
TIP: This is the time of year to buy sunglasses. Go to Nordstrom Rack and just buy all of the sunglasses. They’re almost always super discounted in winter. But there’s still sun! Unless you live in Cleveland…😎
1/3 done with Things!
A few years ago, a coworker and I were discussing our love of salads. She remarked that she rarely to never used store bought dressing because making your own dressings just made things so much better. I think I scoffed and mentioned that I was tired. Reader, I married her. Not quite true, but I did soon marry her idea. Making your own dressing is so much more delicious and honestly not that much work.
Enter pomegranate molasses, and congrats to Thing awardee Megan in Lakewood, OH. A Mediterranean favorite, soon to be a favorite of yours. I use this in dressings, sauces, cocktails, and anything I see fit. A little goes a long way and a bottle will last you forever. You can find it in most large grocery stores in the so-called “International Foods” section. Just don’t look for it in central Italy. You can also make your own.
TIP: Hazelnut and grapeseed are great oil choices for dressings if you want to avoid the olive flavor for a particular salad. I make all dressings with an immersion blender (takes 2 seconds), and pretty much always use a bit of dijon mustard as an emulsifier.