Elena Bowes

New York-London design & culture writer of a certain vintage looking for meaning and wholeness in life

My Three Wise Women – Christmas Shopping Made Easy

December 9th, 2020

People ask me how I met Stretch- the best way, I say, through friends. He was vetted by people I trust and like, passed all quality controls so I didn’t need to fret about any of those nagging first date questions- could this person with a big smile sitting across from me be a closet serial killer, own a chatty parrot, or have smelly feet?
Shopping for a man is a lot like shopping for a winter coat. Don’t do it alone.  Get advice from those in the know. If I shop blind (for men or anything really apart from toothpaste) I get into trouble. Witness my new winter coat…
Ahhh, that will keep me warm, I thought to myself as I looked through the shop window.
I will now spend the winter looking like a giant caterpillar, a warm one, but still.
Dear readers, take my advice and don’t shop blind this Christmas season. I have asked three trusted, capable and very different friends for their tips. You can thank me later.
For  all things original and unique, I defer to Sara, who herself is an original.

Sara proves that it’s possible to be a hippie and live across the street from the Met. She is a free spirit who is as likely to recommend a stocking stuffer that costs $30 as $3,000. All of them will be special and cool. All are small businesses that she found scrolling Instagram.

Amazon doesn’t need me, she says.
Below are Instagram shots of Sara’s faves. From chocolate to ceramics to coats, she’s got your back. First up –  Harlem Chocolate Factory . Sara recommends the assorted box.
Looking for unusual holiday decorations to wow your Covid pod? Look no further than Glitterville Studios in Knoxville Tennessee…

I’m a sucker for a pretty bowl (what Stretch mistakenly calls clutter). These beauties below are made in Beirut, and can be shipped anywhere.

Next comes funky fashion label  I Love Libertine … If you can’t go to Versailles, why not have Versailles come to you?

And finally, for that sun-filled cashmere throw you’ve been dreaming of – Saved NY has got just the one …

Next we go cerebral to my childhood friend Natalie and her puppy Bean…

While Natalie and I have moved around a lot since growing up in San Francisco, we’ve remained firm friends throughout. She is an avid reader, and we have the same taste in books. In short, she’s my go to for all things bookish. Here’s her book list for this special lockdown season.

Favorite of the year was hands down This Tender Land – William Kent Krueger – love a book when you fall in love with so many of the characters, says Natalie.

My other top fave was American Dirt (Jeanine Cummins) – it’s a fabulous listen (I gasped out loud as I tromped endlessly through the woods in early COVID),  but everyone I know who has read it loved it as a read too.
I loved The Dutch House (Ann Patchett) but that may be too last year… (I only read it this year). Colson Whitehead’s The Nickel Boys was just plain excellent (if gut wrenching). Also from last year but recently in paperback is Sarah Blake’s The Guest Book – her handling of race and anti-semitism within the context of a WASPY Maine summer house was really well done. IMHO
Aside from American Dirt for great listens,  Anne Glenconner’s Lady in Waiting – was just divine – and if anyone feels like “rereading” Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair, Colin Firth’s reading of it is pretty damned fabulous.
For pure blissful trash, Kevin Kwan of Crazy Rich Asian fame delivers again in Sex and Vanity.
Winking at me next is Louise Erdrich’s The Night Watchman.  I am also kind of excited about Elena Ferrante’s new book The Lying Life of Adults.
From the head we move south to the heart – My friend Lara is angelic without being annoyingly virtuous. She’s intuitive, generous, funny and always finds the best of what’s out there.  Here she is with her healing crystals and a lovely painting by her daughter Natalia

Lara’s top tips:

For those in London, check out the House of Wisdom Studio for its rich array of classes in all things peaceful and nurturing –  Give a gift that restores the soul – Lara recommends the Studio’s classes with crystal singing bowls or a gong bath. Sounds good to me. Or for those at home (ie most of us), Lara suggests giving  that special person a reiki session on zoom from LA-based clairvoyant and spiritual healer Karie Gonia.  Lara’s last idea is my personal fave:  a  post-vaccine stay at Maison Ila, a yogic healing and wellness retreat in the Pyrenees  – it looks heavenly – what a way to usher in 2021.

December, 2020