Something changed deep inside of me when Blake Lively launched her lifestyle brand, Preserve, this past summer.
Instead of ignoring – or, perhaps, idly mocking – the whole experiment as I’d done with Gwyneth Paltrow’s GOOP and other out of touch brands run by hopelessly beautiful and privileged blonde stars, I became oddly jealous. It wasn’t fair that Blake Lively, star of Gossip Girl and the Traveling Pants movies, could have a lifestyle brand when I, writer of some articles that some people maybe read sometimes, did not.
Since then, I’ve occasionally threatened to turn Risky Fuel into a lifestyle blog, telling Aaron that I was going to start rhapsodically writing about the importance of owning Rod Stewart hot pants and Cancer Bats t-shirts with the sleeves cut off (and the brilliance of wearing both items at once).
With the holiday gift guide season upon us, and with Aaron arguably already dipping Team Risky Fuel’s toe into the lifestyle blogging world with a post about furniture, now seems as good a time as any to do this.
Here is Risky Fuel’s first (maybe) annual Gift Guide, full of stuff that you should buy for your loved ones/me.
For Stinky People (And People Who Like To Engage In Activities That Cause Stink)
I discovered Apera Bags at the Las Vegas Rock n Roll Marathon’s expo this year and was immediately impressed with the amount of thought and detail that had gone into the design and construction of their various gym bags. Each one is outfitted with a logically-placed series of compartments that will allow you to actually find your shit when you’re looking for it, and contains a number of ventilated areas and wipeable surfaces that will keep your shit from smelling like it’s been languishing in the festering hell hole that is your average gym bag. As someone who’s spent a fair amount of time working in fitness and training in martial arts, I can assure you that anyone who tries to make fitness accessories smell less is doing the lord’s work.
If a loved one expresses some interest in this race and/or a trip to Las Vegas, paying for their entrance fee is a great way to say “I love you and I would love for you to experience all of the magic of standing in the middle of a totally shut off Las Vegas Blvd, watching Doors tribute acts, and getting free chocolate milk… and running 13.1 miles.”
Or maybe it’s the best way for your subconscious to say “I enjoy your company and want to guilt you into coming with me even though you’re ambivalent at best about this running thing.”
Either way, I did this for my dear friend Rachel last year and I’m sure she’ll forgive me eventually.
Knixwear is a Canadian female-run company that actually bothers to think about things like periods, crotch sweat, and wonky pelvic floors and makes comfortable, attractive underwear that addresses these issues. Their athletic line, which is moisture-wicking, anti-odor, absorbent, and leak resistant, is particularly brilliant. As a former Spinning instructor who has heard (and experienced) a number of athletic undergarment-related horror stories, I cannot overestimate the importance of these things.
All of the Things From The Perth Soap Co.
I was predisposed to liking The Perth Soap Co. because it’s manufactured in a plant in Perth, Ontario that’s been making soap for over a hundred years and, as someone who comes from a post-industrial wasteland of a hometown, I loved the idea of a plant of any kind adapting to the times and continuing to thrive in a changing marketplace. Then I was given a couple of “Cleansing Bars,” in the parlance of Perth, to sample and I turned into a full-blown fanatic. The bars smell wonderful. They make my whole bathroom smell wonderful after I’ve used one. And they make me stink less. This is quite an accomplishment.
At $10 a pop, the bars aren’t cheap, but they’re fairly large (170g) and, in my personal experience, last forever. As far as I can tell, the cost per wash isn’t significantly higher than what you’d pay for an OK-smelling glycerin soap. And a Perth bar, particularly a Moroccan Spice one, will de-stinkify you for so much longer.
For Jewelry Fans Whose Interest In Tiffany’s Does Not Extend Beyond Truman Capote Novellas
Aaron gave me one of L.A. Jones’s whimsical Toronto-themed charm bracelets for Christmas two years ago and it’s easily one of the best gifts I’ve ever received. You can customize your bracelet from a selection of Toronto-centric beads that include the CBC, Sam The Record Man, Maple Leafs, Blue Jays, Eaton’s, The Bay, Porter, and more. My piece has Fran’s and Mars Diner beads next to each other, because those two institutions are at least 78 per cent of what I love about the city.
Montreal’s Missy Industry has been making gothic and industrial influenced jewelry since 2003 and it’s all uniformly brilliant, from the Snake Bite ring to the Spine earrings to the Serpent necklace. My personal favourite, as a giant nerd who once boasted the nomme de guerre Sarah Bellum, though, is the Einstein, a handmade sterling silver brain on an 18-inch chain. Rachel gave this to me for Christmas last year and it’s easily earned more compliments than any other thing I’ve ever worn.
I, of course, reciprocated by making her run 13.1 miles. Which is probably further proof that I’m the type of person who should have a brain necklace as opposed to, say, a heart one.
Las Vegas casinos are designed to rob you of your senses and rational thought and do dumb things that you’ll probably regret later. I came out of my gambling experience on my last Vegas trip with a fairly intact bank roll, but I do have one regret: I was so sleep deprived by the time I made it to the Winky store at downtown’s Container Park that I could not put the following thought together: “I need a new watch. I really like this stuff. It’s aesthetically pleasing and functional. The slap band watch strap appeals to my ’90s nostalgia without being a garish and uninspired recreation of the old trend. Winky seems like a lovely human. I should buy a watch.” So I walked out of the store without a watch, ate a bunch of $3 meatballs at Pizza Rock and bought multiple pairs of Las Vegas-themed leggings. I don’t regret the meatballs or leggings, but I do wish that I’d added a watch to my bounty that day. There’s even a digital version, which is great for those of us who can’t read an analog clock to save their lives.
Luckily, shipping to Canada is only $7.95, so I can rectify this mistake long before I return to Vegas for the 2015 half marathon. Which Rachel won’t be running.
My friend and occasional MMA t-shirt art expert won’t be officially kicking off his jewelry line until 2015, but you can contact him to commission one of his stunning designs in the mean time.
For People Who Like Good Art, Activism, And Being On The Right Side of History
If you want to look as cool as the Polaris Music Prize-winning throat singer and dream interview subject Tanya Tagaq, well… you can’t. No one’s as cool as Tanya Tagaq. But you can be as cool as any non-Tagaq person can be in a pair of seal fur cuffs just like the ones she wore during her mesmerizing performance at the Polaris Music Prize Gala. As Exclaim pointed out in their gift guide, you can buy the cuffs, made by Cheryl Fennell, in grey, black, cranberry, or arctic blue at SnowFly.
If you know anyone who still doesn’t have her epic Animism album, you should definitely give them a copy of that as well.
There are few things that the Risky Fuel household love more than the music of A Tribe Called Red and hoodies (or at least few things I love more – Aaron once tried to impose a hoodie moratorium on the household and I will never let him forget it). Here you can mix these two brilliant things in one perfect made-in-Mexico and printed-in-Canada hoodie.
Jeff Barnaby’s debut feature length film Rhymes For Young Ghouls was one of the best offerings at TIFF in 2013 and is one of the most exciting and important films that Canada has ever produced. Aaron and I are both a little obsessed with it. This beautiful poster is worthy of film it promotes, and would make a great film for anyone with any taste.
The various “Keep It Riel” t-shirts and whatnots that I’ve seen floating around the internet and various independent stores in Toronto are cute, but if you really want to sartorially celebrate Métis pride, you’ve got to go with this incredible handmade sweater by Laura Kapp.
Looking at handmade metal-themed products on Etsy is one of my most beloved methods of procrastination, and Hell Couture consistently impresses me/sings a siren song to my wallet their mix of metal leggings and repurposed t-shirts. I believe that this pair would look particularly good upon my person.
And this is the second greatest metal related thing that I’ve ever seen on Etsy. If you know someone who doesn’t want this beautifully designed heap of indisputable truth on their wall, you should probably stop talking to them. If you know someone who doesn’t agree, you should burn them as the heretics they are.
Up until I visited Judas Priest’s North American online store a couple of months ago, it had never occurred to me that one of the greatest metal bands of all time would produce any linen-related merchandise whatsoever. But now that I’ve sent this beautifully woven throw, I realize that I’ve never wanted anything more in life. I imagine that other Priest obsessives will feel the same.
Metalhead was another TIFF 2013 highlight for me. The Icelandic film about a young woman who turns to metal for solace after the brutal death of her brother is remarkable because it manages to understand both heavy metal culture and the workings of the human mind and heart with perfect clarity and enthusiasm. The film’s director and producer are currently raising funds for the film’s DVD and BluRay release. For a pledge of €20 (currently about $29 Canadian), you can get yourself a DVD copy of this brilliant movie. For €75 ($107), you can also get a poster and a personalized message from the director, Ragnar Bragason, and the lead actress, Thora Bjorg Helga. I had the pleasure of interviewing both of them at TIFF, and I can guarantee a message from the pair is worth at least twice that much.