A romp through Parker & Otis
by Cady Childsour lead columnist for Durham, Culture, Fashion and Style
It's that time of year--- the two weeks of mid-December where all our holiday get-togethers are suddenly upon us. Whether you're hosting, attending, or both, the stress of planning and preparing, while searching for the perfect host gift can build added tension into the already frenetic pace of the holiday season. Not everybody can be perfect (but some can get pretty darn close).
A case in point. Walk into Parker & Otis
, one of downtown Durham's fine meccas of good eats, unique gifts, stationery and notebooks, and what many call the best cappuccino in town
. You will most likely see Jennings Parker Brody, the store's founder & owner, multitasking between stocking ever more impossible-to-leave-without merchandise, saying hello to everyone she passes, delivering food orders to tables, showing customers new items, and managing a bustling, packed place at the peak of the
season. If she can manage all of that, surely we can bake a decent pie and find a gift for our second cousin's fiancee's dinner party, right?
Luckily, for those of us that may get a little lost in our to-do list at this time of year, Jennings found a few free minutes out of the hustle-and-bustle that is Parker & Otis in December to give us some advice. We sat down amidst this scene, silver bells on the stereo, sheets of holiday paper laid on spools, mothers attempting to drag their children away from the Wonka-worthy candy display, the smell of red velvet, spice, and espresso in the air, and rows upon rows of gifts for every party host on your list. Here are a few of her favorite tips and tricks of the season, and picks from the store to guide you through New Year's and into the relative calm of January (don't worry, you're not the only person to get tempted to buy everything).
A good gift should be something that makes the receiver think of the person who gave it to them afterward. Something you know your host will enjoy using, and use regularly, like fine soaps and lotions that provide a chance to treat themselves after a job well done, or a unique accessory to one of their known specialties, kitchen tools for chefs, stationary for writers.
"Something that lasts will keep that reminder of your thank you around a little longer," Brody said.
Of all the cookbooks and holiday guides to choose from in the store, Jennings took me to the Canal House collection
first. She tried out their rhubarb syrup recipe for cocktail hour with her cookbook club, and personally recommended it. P and O's shelves are sure to yield great picks for your own gathering.
"One of my biggest tips to remember while hosting is not feeling pressure to cook everything from scratch1, or over cleaning your house. Only do what you have to, and focus on enjoying yourself," Brody said.
"It makes it a lot more personal if you attach a special note to a bottle of wine or oil. Especially with things that they may use months later, and than see again," Brody said.
Stocking up on these items and adding little touches like notes and adornments later make it much easier when trying to get gifts together quickly, and is always more personal than stopping off last minute for something rushed on your way to the party.
1The Clarion Content can verify that Jennings learned this one from personal experience too...
Labels: Cady Childs columns, Durham, Pop Culture, Practical Advice