Gifts I Have Purchased for My Brother in Recent Years (On the Occasion of His Birthday)

A Bobblehead of The Old Man in the Mountain.

Many years ago my parents spent a summer working at a camp in New Hampshire, and my brother and I were in the day camp and on their days off, we visited New Hampshire sights, most of which I remember being somewhat less than enthused by. (Pizza in New Hampshire was mediocre, taking a gondola up Wildcat Mountain felt very unsteady. Maple candy, which is an old timey idea of candy but sucks by comparison. I also distinctly remember a restaurant that offered “Oriental Food”). I remember driving across the Kancamagus Highway. One day we visited the Old Man in the Mountain, immortalized by Nathaniel Hawthorne in prose and seen on New Hampshire license plates. We parked the car and walked to the overlook to get a glimpse. My brother’s response, we drove all this way for this?! He was not impressed. When I saw the bobblehead, I knew I had to get it for him. If only to see his face upon opening the box.

A Corn Muffin recipe.

One of my brother’s favorite things is a good corn muffin. Always has been, ever since he was little. He does struggle to find good ones. He’s searched for them. I’ve brought him muffins back from New York or elsewhere. He’s been in foreign countries and curiously investigated places renowned for their muffins. None ever met his criteria. So I embarked on a task, to comb through the internet and hunt for recipes, to experiment and see what I could make. Anyway, I gained weight. My parents probably gained a few pounds. Fortunately some of this period of experimentation coincided with pledge week so I dropped off a couple dozen to the WNPR offices. And eventually I found one that was noticeably better. And when he tried it, he had to admit that they were very good.

Mini Loaf Pan. Made by USA Pans. From King Arthur Flour.

My brother’s favorite muffins from childhood could be found at the Pie Plate. A local chain, there were restaurants in Westfarms Mall, where they occupied a corner space on the second floor with two entrances, and another in Avon. There were others in Fairfield, Vernon, Waterbury, and the Danbury Fair Mall, but I don’t think I ever went there. It was a diner like restaurant, think Friendly’s and that ilk. I don’t remember the pies honestly, but I remember the muffins which were rectangular. They were also delicious. To go with the corn muffin recipe, I got my brother a loaf pan so he could make the corn muffins in the shape and style of his old favorite.

The Muppet Movie soundtrack.

One of our favorite things from childhood was the Muppets. Still is, really. To this day we quote The Muppet Movie and The Great Muppet Caper and will make references like “You know, like when the pigs took over The Muppet Show.” So when I saw the CD of the movie soundtrack, from Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher, I had to get it for him. We will quote Moving Right Along to this day, because it’s incredibly quotable, but I will go to the mat arguing that Rainbow Connection, I Hope That Somethin’ Better Comes Along, and I’m Going To Go Back There Someday, are quite simply great songs.

A Psych t-shirt.

My brother loves the TV show Psych. He’s the one who got me into the James Roday and Dulé Hill starring series about a fake psychic in Santa Barbara – which is so obviously filmed in Vancouver. But recently I was in Santa Barbara for a wedding and walking down State Street, I saw in a window a Psych t-shirt, which stopped me in my tracks. I ducked in and bought him one. No occasion; I just knew he’d like it. And I’ve seen him wear it a few times since.

A pineapple.

When Seth and his girlfriend bought a house, I debated on the appropriate housewarming gift. I gave them a pineapple. Which is also a Psych joke.

Penguin Encounter at Mystic Aquarium.

One of the things that my brother and I agree on as adults is that penguins are one of the best animals. Period. Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut has African penguins and they offer encounters with the penguins (and other animals as well) and when I saw that people could visit and meet penguins, I knew this was something for him.

Ice Cream Sandwich kit.

I’m not sure it’s ever been used, but I thought it was a great gift.