Three staffers, three unabashed recommendations.
My coffee-making method of choice is either an AeroPress or a pour-over; these are both great for making single cups of coffee, but don’t work so well when guests are over for a morning cup of the good stuff. Any old percolator machine will spit out a large quantity of coffee for these scenarios, but once you’ve gotten used to the superior taste of AeroPress and pour-over, it’s hard to go back to percolating. The Motif brewer combines the convenience of a programmable machine with the quality of a pour-over cup. That’s because it basically mimics the pour-over method on a larger scale, infusing the coffee grounds with water before brewing to achieve pour-over’s crucial “bloom.” It’s quite fun to watch it in action, too, as the water bubbles up an interior pipeline, and is then dispersed over the grounds. The only problem with the machine is that it’s bigger than the average coffee maker, and it’s designed to fit into a corner, but if you have a counter with a corner, it fits snugly. [Caitlin PenzeyMoog]
After the words “’Twas the night before Christmas,” I always expect to hear “An’ all t’ru de house” in a Cajun accent, and it’s thanks to one of my favorite childhood holiday mainstays, the Cajun Night Before Christmas. Although it’s one of a series of Night Before books illustrated by James Rice—including Irish and Texan (and many more, increasingly dubious) variations—the bayou-based parody of Clement Moore’s famous poem, written by J.B. Kling Jr., captures the atmosphere and especially the dialect of South Louisiana in a ridiculously entertaining and endearing way. In it, Saint Nick wears muskrat head to toe and is pulled on a skiff, not by Rudolph and company but by eight alligators with names like Gaston, Pierre, Celeste, and Renee. At the end, he splashes off with a “Merry Christmas to all… ’til I saw you some mo’!” The book has become a regional staple since its publication in 1973, often featuring in public festivities and being read on TV during the holidays—see above for a popular rendition by Larry Ray. [Kelsey J. Waite]
Christmas In Connecticut
By now you’ve probably gone through your whole holiday movie rotation, so if you can’t bear another round of White Christmas or another trip to 34th Street and its miracles, let me throw another one out there for vintage movie fans. In Christmas In Connecticut (available for streaming on Amazon and YouTube), career girl Barbara Stanwyck plays a fake domestic goddess (the Martha Stewart of 1942). One Christmas, she must convince her publisher that she’s actually a wife and mother who can pull off all the holiday cooking and baking, when really, she’s a talented writer who fabricates all of that for the page. So she finds a fake husband and kids, but things get complicated when the publisher invites a charming Navy officer (Dennis Morgan) on leave for the holiday dinner. You don’t need a Ph.D. in holiday movies to predict what happens next, and sure, most of us don’t wear formal wear while trimming the tree, but it’s a charming sleigh ride to get there. What is it about black-and-white movies that makes every snow scene look so spectacular? [Gwen Ihnat]