Every year, I find special products that enliven my day in my personal and professional life. I love great, basic things that perform well who are backed by amazing companies with superb customer service. I profile cooking and baking related products but also, since it's the holiday season, some other gift possibilities. I've used each one of these products and know how special they are. They are also all backed by the best customer service.

Here's my 2015 List:

Goulet Pens and the Pilot Metropolitan

www.GouletPens.Com and the Pilot Metropolitan Pen


Some gifts just always make sense and if well-chosen, like a great, classic fountain pen, offer many years of gift enjoyment. A great pen is simply: the perfect gift for almost any age and men or women. Match a great pen up with the friendly expertise of a par excellence pen supplier, such as Brian Goulet’s and you’re in for a real treat.

As a writer/author, my love of great pens is no secret. As a hand-written journal keeper, nothing beats a great fountain pen for ease of use and sheer pleasure in the craft of writing itself. When I first realized I preferred fountain pens, I just bought cheap (but not so cheap: they run out every other month and you have to throw them away) disposable fountain pens called the Varsity (also a Pilot pen). Then I got curious and began to investigate the world of fountains pens, guided by Brian Goulet’s amazing YouTube video pen blog. Herein is everything you need to know about fountain pens. In short, what I didn’t know about fountain pens is a lot. Like watches, people collect special edition of fountain pens. You begin to know which companies you might prefer and which pen style, heft and grip suits you best. Then there’s choosing nib size (Fine, Extra Fine, Medium) and appreciating that a Medium nib in a Pilot might be as fine as a Fine nib in a Lamy. Then there’s all sorts of inks. So many pens, so little time. Plus a $15 pen might suit you as much as a $1000 pen or you might like them all and everything in-between. This is a fascinating world.

As I am somewhat of a newbie, and just recently started working with Goulet, they suggested an amazing, affordable pen by Pilot called the Metropolitan. Mine’s a Purple Pop Metropolitan. It came with an easy-refillable cartridge and gorgeous purple ink (Goulet is a fountain of great ink choices and information too!) $15.00

What’s also neat about Goulet Pen in this holiday season is that their pens come beautifully and creatively wrapped and topped off with a sweet treat (I will leave that as a surprise). Just receiving a pen from Goulet is an experience. Opening the package, and using the pen is the second half the experience.

My purple Pilot Metropolitan is a dream to write with. I ordered a bottle of Noodler Ink in Violet and simply enjoying the perfect writing instrument, as it glides across pages in my Moleskin and large journal that I try and write in daily.

If you want to give someone the perfect holiday gift, whether it’s Christmas, Hanukkah, Valentine’s Day, Father or Mother’s Day or their birthday check out
Spend some time on the site, ask questions (their customer service is incredible) and begin your pen adventure.  Goulet also has a huge selection of roller ball pen, highlighters and other writing instruments, as well as ink, paper, sealing wax kits and pen parts.


The Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillets (and everything else)

I don’t know about you but sometimes non-stick can’t cut it. When that happens, I turn to The Lodge Cast Iron skillets. They are the breakfast makers, cornbread pans, and are ad hoc ‘pizza ovens’ (nothing makes better pizza crusts than a Lodge cast iron skillet). Now they’re even better than they were over a century ago. The famed skillets now come pre-seasoned. They come with instant great release, clean up with a bit of hot water and a paper towel and are literally invincible. You can also choose one of the ‘heat-treated’ skillets which boosts a rust-free finish.


Old Dutch 601 Stainless 3 Quart Whistling Kettle

I love a great kettle and a good whistling kettle is hard to find. Most have a whistling part that you have to use pot holders to take off once the water is boiled. Others, you just flip back the cap/whistling lid. But the Old Dutch iconic 601 from is not only gorgeous in a Downtown Abbey way, it features the whistle in the pouring stem of the kettle. Once it whistles –just remove the kettle from the heat source. But you don’t have to fiddle with a hot lid or cap. Plus this kettle looks brand new with a simple wipe and it has that British kettle (but worthy of Smithsonian) look that says : quality, class and legacy tea times. This to me, is the perfect gift and at the price, it’s about a third the cost of a similar kettle from England. Old Dutch is also renown for their kitchen copper ware and Tesubin pots. My suggestions for great tea? or

Starfrit is a Canadian housewares legend that began in 1965. Since then, this innovative company has been on a mission to innovate, create and market an enviable host of kitchen products, from cookware, storage to gadgets that bring gadgetry to a new level of quality and performance. The brand has everything you could possibly want, and all with the Starfrit attention to detail of design and totally does whatever job the product is supposed to, whether it be food storage, chopping, dicing, opening cans, weighing ingredients (or luggage), measuring, cooking or baking. The line is extensive and you can order online at the Starfrit site or via Amazon and Canadian Tire and Walmart.

The Rock is their line of durable, ceramic non-stick cookware that comes in classic black speckle or the Heritage cream-coloured finished. Either one features a ‘rock-hard’ durable non-stick surface that is unlike any non-stick on the market. The Rock can take a beating and comes out shining. Unlike other non-sticks, The Rock has a nice heft and weight to it. Thicker than most non-sticks, it also offers incredible heat retention and conductivity.  It’s simply a pleasure to cook with, not only because it does the job but because each piece of The Rock is gourmet cookware.

Aside from the frypans and a host of amazing The Rock casseroles (great for stews and oven-dishes), the Rock Square pan is the ultimate brownie pan and perfect lasagna pan. Nothing sticks in this pan!  In fact, it offers the durability of cast iron, (without the weight), the release AND easy clean up of non-stick, and the high performance of a gourmet stainless steel cladded pan. The One Pot is also a terrific all-in-one meal maker (try it for Coq au Vin).
Please note many of The Rock's items DO work on induction cooktops too but always check the packaging to confirm that. Currrently The One Pot  is on sale for $29.99 (versus $99.99) for a limited time at the Starfrit site.



I also recommend their Lock and Lock line of storage which has nicely snug fitting lids atop durable, clear glass storage of every size and shape.

There's also the Starfrit pro-quality Mandoline that can rival the French import classic mandoline for a fraction of the cost and delivering incredible cutting action on anything you throw at it - no matter what the vegetable - plus it all neatly falls into an attached container which can also be stored in the fridge. This is a must for every serious cook.

Vanilla Smoke Perfume, by Mandy Aftel

Vanilla Smoke by Mandy Aftel
Mandy Aftel’s Newest Artisnal Perfume
Vanilla Smoke

Top Notes: Yellow Mandarin, Siam Wood, Saffron Absolute, Vanillin
Base Notes: Vanilla Absolute, Lapsang Souchong Tea, Ambergris, Coumarin

For girlie girl bakers, nothing is as riveting as a new vanilla perfume, especially if it is crafted with natural ingredients from a leading artisanal perfumer. Mandy Aftel has just launched this exquisite, sophisticated vanilla based perfume called Vanilla Smoke,  that is sultry with vanilla absolute from Madagascar, and also brings woody, incense-like notes along with the floral boost of mandarin and warm anchor of ambergris and more vanilla.

This perfume gently transforms as it stays on your skin, imparting a sensuous, light but lingering echo of mystery.

Sangean Radios - Simply the best radios on the Planet!


Nothing delights me more than a simple, high-performance, aesthetically pleasing, phenomenal AM FM Radio. I love live radio hosts, NPR, CBC and the sense of presence a radio offers. There are so many ways to listen to talk shows or music or check in on sports and weather but nothing beats a great radio. It’s accessible and ‘real’. A few months ago when my long-time Sony and Panasonic respectively stopped working, I went on a radio search. How hard could it be to find great sound, easy-to-use features (like pre-sets) and nice design? Turns out, it was almost impossible. Radios are a category that have morphed (as well as been neglected) over the years. Leaders in radios seem to have abandoned the category and/or let quality slip.

Then, via Amazon, I lucked into the global world of Sangean (although they are based in California). It is a world unto itself.  Since 1974, Sangean has been manufacturing hundreds of great radios from regular AM FM bedside clock radios, to table tops, portables, weather, Internet, Digital, Blue Tooth, World Band and more. Sleek, well-priced, durable, I bought one, than purchased two for myself and one as a gift before deciding, I had to share this treasure of a company and product with the world.  For our cooks and bakers, you might also want to consider their new and nifty kitchen radio, the

The five best qualities about this company and its products are: great sound quality, ease of use (nothing complex to set up), incredibly diverse selection, great pricing and superb customer service.

The tabletop radios are elegant and wood finished; the portables are clean and pure of design and offer pre-set tuning. All radios feature basics such as wake-up alarms of course and the time. For the holidays, as a gift, a birthday, Valentine’s Day, the cottage, condo or convocation, a Sangean radio is a perfect offering that will start a sound tradition in your home and life.

Renaissance Art Leather Journals and Laptop Messenger Bags

Renaissance Art
Gorgeous leather journals and journal covers

My loyalty for Renaissance Art Journals goes back almost as far as BB was launched. Since then, I’ve purchased several leather journals as well as covers for my Ipad and Moleskin notebooks. Like all the companies I work with, Renaissance Art offers the most amazing customer service along with great products. They’ve been evolving lately with free offers and give-aways and you can check them out on YouTube for great videos on how their unique leather products are designed and created. They’re also renowned for their laptop messenger bags.

LL Bean Kingsfield Coat

I can't recommend LL Bean's famed Kingsfield Coat enough. It's warm for the coldest winter nights and light and airy for a nippy fall or spring day. I had one that I totally wore out and recently bought a second in a luscious burgundy colour. This coat is an unknown LL Bean treasure. It comes in grey, green, burguncy or chocolate. Best coat I ever had.

Gold Canyon Candle, Scents to Inspire Your Baking
Scent Pot Warmers for all-day scent without worry!

Gold Canyon is company that offers candles online (and companion scented products) as well as a party-plan candle business (if you want to be a Gold Canyon hostess) with more than 26,000 Independent Fragrance Consultants across North America. Gold Canyon offers a complete line of candles, bath and body products and home products including home fragrance in the form of scented candles, room sprays and sachets; home décor with various candle holders; a full line of body care essentials and candle care products such as wick dippers and trimmers and wickless home fragrance.

The Scented Candle Warmers from Gold Canyon is Fragrance, Décor and….Safety.

Gold Canyon has a candle for all occasions and moods but also incredible, companion scent products that no one, pardon the pun, can hold a candle to.

For starters, Gold Canyon is company that offers candles online (and companion scented products) as well as a party-plan candle business (if you want to be a Gold Canyon hostess) with more than 26,000 Independent Fragrance Consultants across North America. Gold Canyon offers a complete line of candles, bath and body products and home products including home fragrance in the form of scented candles, room sprays and sachets; home décor with various candle holders; a full line of body care essentials and candle care products such as wick dippers and trimmers and wickless home fragrance.

But one of their products they do better than anyone else is their Scent Candle Warmers. These elegant ceramic units are aesthetically pleasing as house décor. Plug them in, adjust the timer, pop in a scented wax pod and they waft glorious scent for as many hours as you pre-set the warmer for. That’s right! They turn themselves off. So smart, so safe. The Scent Warmers can be used with wax pods in a variety of candle scents or use the ceramic scent adapters which you insert and use with fragrant oils instead. The strongest points making this one of the gifts-of-the-year is offering constant scent, with safety in a timed unit and the sheer variety of gorgeous warmers to choose from. There’s no worry, no watching, no burning – just sheer scented pleasure. I love seeing the new models each year but also love the constancy of the one attribute no other company seems to offer: the timer.