Archive for the ‘gift ideas’ Category

Carla finally decided on her birthday plans: we will do an escape room. I am… skeptical. But the people who run the escape room venue seem confident that the kids will have a blast even if they don’t “escape.” 

Carla also kind of wants a loose spy/detective theme which is… challenging to find décor for. So I am still working on that. I’m leaning toward all-black décor (the escape room facility has a party room) and then buying the kids dark sunglassesspy notebooks and invisible-ink pensmagnifying glasses, and fake mustaches as party favors. Maybe if I am really on top of things I will give each kid a manila folder with some spy/detective stuff in it – like “how to choose your spy name” and “crack this code” type games. We’ll see. 

For her cake, Carla initially wanted a chocolate cake with lemon curd. My dear, sweet husband, upon hearing this choice, reacted with a Gross Face and a loud, “YUCK” (sigh) and so she rethought her choice and now just wants a chocolate cake with chocolate cream cheese frosting. Listen, I was game to try chocolate with lemon curd! Chocolate: good! Lemon curd: good! (Joey Tribbiani voice.) But… maybe this will be better. For her party, I plan to make black velvet cupcakes – to complement the spy/detective theme – and top them with these adorable magnifying glass toppers. I will order these black cupcake carriers so that kids can take the cupcakes home (in case Covid transmission continues to be high when Carla’s birthday party comes around). (Everyone will wear masks during the party and escape room.)

Carla has only two gift requests, which we fulfilled. And my husband and I came up with a few other ideas that we think she’ll love.

A Barbie motorcycle: I don’t know WHY, but this has been on her wish list for at least a year. I finally found this one in stock at Walmart, and was glad to order it for her.  It’s kind of tame for a motorcycle, but it does come with a dog which she will like.

image from Walmart.com

A 3-D pen: I am honestly not looking forward to finding 3-D creations all over the house, but this has been Carla’s TOP REQUEST for the past couple of months. Whenever I ask what she wants for her birthday, this is it. And I know she will love it.

image from amazon.com

With only two specific requests, my husband and I have been tossing around some other ideas that we think she might enjoy. 

A new board game: I’ve heard so many great things about Ticket to Ride, and have had it in my cart for previous gift-giving occasions… I think we’ll finally get it for her.

image from amazon.com

A LEGO activity kit: Carla still loves LEGO, and this Gear Bots kit seems really fun. (And less expensive than a LEGO set.)

image from amazon.com

A joke book: Santa Claus brought my husband a book of dad jokes last Christmas, and Carla honestly gets more of a kick out of them than anyone else. So perhaps she needs her own book of jokes to thrill us with. Maybe she will bring it on the road trip and get us all chuckling along with her.

image from amazon.com

Animal erasers: These little “desk pets” were all the rage in third grade, and I know Carla would love to have her own eraser menagerie.

image from amazon.com

A book of birds: Carla LOVES birds, and when we go for walks together she often regales me with facts about the birds we see. I think she would get hours of enjoyment out of this atlas of amazing birds

image from amazon.com

A book of beasts: When I was looking for bird books, I came across this book of forgotten beasts and I’m guessing it would also spark Carla’s interest.

image from amazon.com

A set of bath bombs: My husband is opposed to this gift (it is too expensive for what it is, he says, and he’s not wrong), but I think Carla – who is newly obsessed with Pokemon – would LOVE these Pokemon bath bombs. (I tried watching one of the Pokemon TV shows she has been so into lately and I don’t get it. At all. But she will regale me for as long as I will listen with amazing feats of electrical types and ground types and water types. None of it makes any sense to me.)

image from amazon.com

A shaved ice machine: This is another impractical/expensive idea that my husband’s voice of prudence will probably overrule… but Carla loves shaved ice and would LOVE making her own snow cones.

image from amazon.com

An art case: Not that we don’t already possess THOUSANDS of crayons and markers and colored pencils, but this case of drawing supplies would be SO fun. I remember having something like this when I was a kid, and it was a highly prized possession. I also think it would be good to bring along on the road trip; a good way to keep all the utensils tidy and contained.

image from amazon.com

A fun new novel: I am always trying to encourage Carla’s (limited) desire to read, and this Swistle-recommended novel combines several of Carla’s interests. 

image from amazon.com

A reading timer: This is something I’ve considered before – and it would probably make a better stocking stuffer than a birthday gift. But I think Carla would enjoy timing herself as she reads.

image from amazon.com

A sewing book: Carla hasn’t spent a lot of time sewing recently, and I hate to think of her sewing machine sitting there unused. Maybe this book would reignite her interest?

image from amazon.com

A decoder set: Considering that Carla is interested in spy/detective stuff recently, I wonder if she might enjoy this decoder activity set. This would be another good Road Trip! option, too.

image from amazon.com

A fingerprint kit: Along similar lines, this fingerprinting kit might be a lot of fun.

image from amazon.com

If you have (or have had) a nine-year-old in your life, what have been some of the top gifts they’ve enjoyed?

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Well, I feel really overwhelmed with reasons to buy things lately. This is both exhilarating (wheee!!! permission to shop!) and anxiety-producing (everything is SO expensive). We keep thinking of things to buy for our upcoming Road Trip! and Carla’s ninth birthday is fast approaching… but before I can properly deal with finalizing THOSE purchases, I need to pause and consider Father’s Day. 

My husband and father and father-in-law are ALL exceedingly difficult to buy gifts for. They all tend to buy the things they want when they want them, which means that they already HAVE everything. Plus, their interests (music, cars, golf) lend themselves to tchotchkes or wildly expensive investment pieces… and not much in between. Plus plus, to buy anything meaningful for their areas of interest requires an in-depth knowledge of a) that particular hobby and b) what they already have. Which results in me having No Idea Ever what to get any of them.

And yet! We must persevere! 

Sleep Buds: I’m going to start with the most expensive item, and that is because I can recommend it myself. My husband got me a pair of these sleep buds for Mother’s Day, and they are wonderful. They connect to an app on your phone that allows you choose soothing sounds and then you fall asleep with these soothing, noise-canceling sounds in your ears. They are wonderful for me because I am a very light sleeper. If you have a person in your life who has trouble falling asleep or who is a light sleeper or both, I highly recommend these. 

image from amazon.com

Puzzle: My husband loves puzzles. He also has a million puzzles, several of which he has yet to complete. But… it seems like puzzles are similar to books and video games, in that you can’t really have too many. In fact, it’s nice to have a pile waiting for you so you can look forward to a new one… and it’s nice to have a couple to choose from, depending on your mood. At least, this is how I am justifying buying my husband YET ANOTHER puzzle. This Ravensburger puzzle has a mystery-solving element that sounds fun – but which also sounds different from the (very fun) mystery-solving element of the Magic Puzzle Company puzzles (which my husband loves). 

image from amazon.com

Bike Computer: Since my husband got me such an extravagant gift for Mother’s Day, I feel sort of compelled to return the favor. And I think he might enjoy being able to track his speed and distance when we go biking. This Garmin bike computer looks like it tracks all sorts of fun data.

image from amazon.com

Speed and Cadence Monitor: Or maybe he would prefer these speed and cadence monitors instead. Still plenty of data he can nerd out to.

image from amazon.com

Breakfast Sandwich Maker: I keep going back and forth on this one. On the one hand, my husband said recently that we absolutely do not need another kitchen appliance. On the other hand, he really likes to make himself breakfast sandwiches on the weekend, and this breakfast sandwich maker would do ALL the work for him.

image from amazon.com

Pajamas: My husband loves his loungewear, and he could use another pair of pajama pants. I wonder if he would like this full pajama set. Then again, he just got me a set of pajamas for Mother’s Day, so I don’t want to seem like I am copying him.

image from Nordstrom.com

Exercise Shirt: Every time we go to the sporting goods store lately, my husband wanders over to the section of exercise clothes. He’s really gotten into working out recently, and I can’t decide if getting him an exercise shirt would reinforce that hobby or give him the impression that I think he SHOULD be working out. Seems dicey.

image from amazon.com

Coffee Equipment: My husband is a coffee connoisseur and therefore already has ALL the coffee equipment in the world. Chemex pour over coffee maker? Yes. Moccamaster drip coffee machine? Yeppers. Burr coffee grinder? Of course. But he doesn’t have this Vietnamese coffee maker, so I am definitely getting it for him. How are any of these different from anything else? I have no idea. 

image from nguyencoffeesupply.com

Books: My husband has ENOUGH books, but my father and father-in-law are both avid readers. Here are two recent releases that I’m considering for them: Sleepwalk by Dan Chaon and City on Fire by Don Winslow.

Baseball Stadium Map Glasses: While I’m not 100% sold on getting these beer steins with maps of iconic MLB stadiums, I do think it would be a really fun gift for a baseball fan. 

image from uncommongoods.com

Contour Gauge Tool: My father is a tool fanatic, and I think he would really enjoy this measuring tool that adjusts itself to the contours of the item being measured. Just watching the marketing video that accompanies the listing made ME want it. 

image from amazon.com

Radiohead T-Shirt: It’s been 25 years since OK Computer was released. For those of us who find that album to be both seminal and iconic, this t-shirt would be a really fun gift. 

image from amazon.com

Matching Kid/Dad Socks: While my husband does NOT need any more socks (Carla, recently, after pairing and putting a bunch of her father’s socks away in his drawer: “WOW, Dad has TOO MANY socks.”), the matching-socks-for-kids-and-dad gift is one that he and Carla have both LOVED in the past. I think they have three pairs of matching socks, and they find it so fun and hilarious to wear matching socks. If you have a kid of the age to find this wonderfully fun, I highly recommend it.

image from amazon.com

Digital Air Compressor: I got this portable car tire inflator for my husband this past Christmas; his car perennially has low air pressure in its tires and he was sick of stopping at the gas station all the time. (He tells me he hasn’t had a single instance of low tire pressure since receiving this gift.) I thought it was kind of a boring, practical gift, but my husband loved it.

image from amazon.com

Jokes Book: Another Christmas gift I am re-upping for Father’s Day is this book of dad jokes. My husband got a big kick out of it, and our daughter LOVES it. 

image from amazon.com

Unique Game: I got DropMix for my husband last Father’s Day and it has been a big hit. It’s a game that allows you to mix your own songs, based on a bunch of musical elements that play when you add cards to different sections of the game board. It is really fun, good for the whole family, and is technologically fascinating.

image from amazon.com

Candy Tasting Box: One of the best gifts I’ve ever given is this boutique tasting box from Sugarfina. SO FUN, like a little Father’s Day Advent calendar. But this three-piece Bento box would be fun, too.

image from sugarfina.com

What are you getting for the fathers in your life this Father’s Day?

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Shall we do another little shopping browse?

One of my favorite parts of shopping for Christmas is keeping an eye out for fun stocking stuffers. And I admit that I look out for stocking stuffers for myself, in addition for stocking stuffers for the rest of the family. If I plan ahead, I can stave off my tendency to panic buy a bunch of junk at the last minute.

First up, of course, is the miniature office supplies set I told you about yesterday. This is going to make Carla so happy. I remember having a set of mini office supplies when I was a kid, and I adored them. The teensy stapler most of all. (photo from target.com)

While at Target, I added a trio of rainbow leopard hand masks to my cart. I am picturing me, Carla, and my mother sitting around on Christmas day in ridiculous rainbow leopard print gloves, our hands transforming through the magic of the masks’ deep hydration. It will be silly and fun and I couldn’t resist. (photo from target.com)

I also went into Ulta, which often has good stocking stuffers. I loaded up on 5-for-$5 bath treats for Carla and my niece. (photo from ulta.com)

In Ulta, I lingered over the display of Essie holiday nail polish colors, and resisted buying the Bahama Mama for myself. But there’s no need for YOU to resist. (photo from amazon.com)

The Essie polish was $8.99, and I found an almost identical color (Zip Wine) in the Sally Hanson InstaDri for $5.99, which is only $3 less but that seems like a Big Difference when it comes to nail varnish. (photo from amazon.com)

But THEN, I found this three-pack of mini Essie polishes, which includes Bahama Mama AND Marshmallow, which was another color I was dithering over buying, and a third metallic color called Gadget Free. This will be a perfect stocking stuffer for my mom. (photo from amazon.com)

(Full disclosure: I was also eyeing the Essie Off Tropic while in Ulta… and then bought it later at Target.) (photo from amazon.com)

(And, after writing this, I really really wish I’d gotten the Marshmallow. It’s such a gorgeous creamy near-white, just the way that a melted marshmallow looks. So I may need to ease that into my online shopping cart for my own stocking.) (photo from amazon.com)

Speaking of things that I might sneak into my amazon shopping cart, I am thinking Carla is just the right age to get a big kick out of an old school Slinky. (photo from amazon.com)

These makeup headbands are adorable – and maybe having one would encourage Carla to wash her face more regularly! I could send the others to my sisters-in-law. (photo from amazon.com)

I love this hair and body glitter set for anyone who needs a little shimmer in their lives. (photo from petitenpretty.com)

As usual, the men in my family are more difficult to shop for.

I am pretty sure I’ve considered this magnetic wristband in the past for my dad, but haven’t gone through with it. Maybe this is the year; I do think he’d get a lot of use out of it! (photo from amazon.com)

My dad might also appreciate these molds for filled chocolates, which he makes each year around Christmastime. (photo from amazon.com)

My husband would find many opportunities to use this digital tire gauge. But I can’t tell if it would a Fun Gadget type of gift, or a Super Lame Practical Gift. (photo from amazon.com)

He, as I mentioned, loves fun socks. And these ASDR socks might appeal to his music-production side. (photo from redbubble.com)

I also love these pink synth socks. (photo from redbubble.com)

And these socks, featuring a rainbow of video game controllers. (photo from redbubble.com)

Oh my gosh – or these happy colon socks!  (photo from redbubble.com)

Okay, three pairs of socks are now on their way to me!

I think he would enjoy this book of Dad Jokes. Sometimes when Carla and I are in the kitchen and my husband is still upstairs, he will send us dad jokes via our Echo. (photo from amazon.com)

Speaking of which: if you don’t have an Echo, this Echo Dot is only $19.99 right now. That’s on the top edge of stocking stuffer pricing for me. (photo from amazon.com)

Carla specifically requested an electric pencil sharpener for Christmas. Perfect stocking stuffer. So proud that she has inherited my tendency toward practicality! (photo from amazon.com)

The pencil sharpener makes me think of Carla’s desk vacuum, which is an ideal stocking stuffer size and price and which would bring many, many people joy. (photo from amazon.com)

My husband got an extreme dot-to-dot book for Carla’s stocking. It looks VERY STRESSFUL to me, but she shares his logical brain, so perhaps she will love it. (photo from mindware.com)

On the opposite end of the stress spectrum, I just came across these Pop It bracelets! This would be perfect for Carla, who loves Pop Its and jewelry! If you know a child in elementary school, you probably already know what a HUGE fad Pop Its are these days, but this is something I haven’t seen before. (photo from amazon.com)

I am pretty everyone in our family is getting a bag of Bequet Sea Salt Caramels. They are SO soft and buttery and delicious. (photo from bequetconfections.com)

Qwirkle Rummy is another family favorite that’s perfect for stocking stuffing. (photo from amazon.com)

Speaking of family favorites, who wouldn’t love a Wick Habit votive in their stocking? They come in such a wide variety of fun scents, and they all smell SO GOOD. (photo from etsy.com)

It might be fun to find a lovely prism in one’s stocking, like this crystal suncatcher from JkkGifts. Rainbows would be useful in chasing away the winter gloom that sometimes come with a post-holidays crash. (photo from etsy.com)

And, from The Prism Emporium, these mini star prisms – which stick to your window – would appeal to my daughter and my niece. (photo from etsy.com)

You likely already know I have a soft spot in my heart for miniature things, especially when they are useful in the kitchen. These mini spatulas would be perfect stocking stuffers for the cookers on my list. I have some and use them all the time. (photo from amazon.com)

I am also loving these mini serving tools. And such bright, fun colors! (photo from amazon.com)

I want this mini grater quite badly. I suspect it would do a better job grating ginger than my microplane does. (photo from amazon.com)

Thinking of miniature items reminds me of this mini rice cooker, which I bookmarked after Swistle mentioned seeing a pink one at HomeGoods recently. SWOON. Maybe it wouldn’t fit in a stocking – not to mention it’s a teensy bit more than I like to spend on stocking stuffers – but it is SO CUTE. (photo from amazon.com)

Tell me something you’re hoping to see in your stocking, if stockings are a thing you do.

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It has been a lovely quiet Sunday and Carla has been busy crafting and my husband has been at the hospital. We finally ordered our holiday cards, and I have nothing to do (besides laundry, which I am ignoring) but fret about all the holiday gifts I have yet to buy. Won’t you join me in moseying through a big unwieldy list of ALL the possibilities that we can narrow down at some point in the VERY near future? (Reminder that I use affiliate links in the amazon products.)

This is one of the silliest and yet most adorably charming things ever: a sweater for your mug. From Etsy shop ValKnittingShop, these cup cozies come in all different colors. I cannot imagine buying this for myself, and yet I would be DELIGHTED if someone bought it for me. The perfect gift. (photo from etsy.com)

The eight-and-nine-year-old set are obsessed with Cat’s Cradle these days. If you have a child in that age range in your life, perhaps you need to find them a Cat’s Cradle. Carla informs me that rainbow is the most popular color for the string, but that solid colors are good too. (photo from amazon.com)

And if your Cat’s Cradle enthusiast is, like me, completely new to the world of string figures, then perhaps you need an instructional book to go along with the string. (photo from amazon.com)

Fidgets are, of course, very popular lately. If you or anyone in your life doesn’t yet have a Pop It, that would make for an excellent stocking stuffer. (photo from amazon.com)

This magnetic rings fidget looks like a good way to keep active hands busy. Plus, it’s not a Pop It, which is a big bonus in my opinion. (photo from amazon.com)

Carla is obsessed with these Mini Brands toys lately. I don’t fully understand it – well, I guess I see the appeal of teeny tiny items based on real products; I would have loved those as a kid. And I guess I see how manufacturers would love to start brand recognition among the very young – but we got a bunch of them for Carla to shove in her stocking. (photo from amazon.com)

Am I the only person without a ring light? Perhaps. But this is on my own holiday wish list, and perhaps you know someone in your own life who needs one as well. (photo from amazon.com)

For those who are botanically inclined, these little bird-shaped self-watering bulbs are perpetually in my Amazon cart. I think they are too frivolous to buy for myself… but I would love to get them as a gift. (photo from amazon.com)

Here’s a set that looks like colorful mushrooms. (photo from amazon.com)

Or this terra cotta hippo head would be adorable peeking out between the fronds of a fern. (photo from amazon.com)

Carla is still Very Into Dinosaurs, and also crafting. This paint-your-own-dinosaur kit is the ideal combo, if you know someone with similar fixations. (photo from amazon.com)

Along the same lines, this dinosaur soap making kit looks very fun. I think I mentioned that Carla’s grandmother bought her something like this, and they made soap favors for her birthday party guests. She loved it. (photo from amazon.com)

On the dinosaur front: These Spinosaurus teeth would become one of her most prized possessions, I’m sure of it. (photo from boneroom.com, which I did not know existed until I read the comments under one of Swistle’s recentish posts)

Carla specifically requested a pottery wheel. Yikes. I don’t know if that’s something my mess-aversion can accommodate, but I’m sure she would love it and make all sorts of beautiful sculptures. (photo from mindware.orientaltrading.com)

After visiting her grandparents over the summer, Carla has been really into tools. She persuaded us to buy her a pair of needle nose pliers and some wire cutters. Her grandfather made her a small tool set a few years ago with hammer and screwdriver… but I wonder if there’s something a little more comprehensive? This Junior Carpenter Set looks like what I have in mind, but alas I think it’s too young for Carla. (And I’m not quite ready to get her a REAL drill yet.) (photo from walmart.com)

I was looking for something on Etsy and one of the auto-fill search terms was “Lisa Frank shoes.” Obviously I clicked on that immediately, and then became almost breathless with longing for the resulting footwear, from the CuzShesCrafty shop. (photo from etsy.com)

Carla and one of her friends did a lot of jumping rope during playdates this summer, and it reminded me of how great jump roping is. This jump rope is budget friendly (some are $100 and up omg WHY) and would fit great into a stocking. (photo from amazon.com)

When it comes to candles, I am a WickHabit fan (though her candles last so long it’s been awhile since I’ve bought anything new!), but the SkiinTones Etsy shop has some very beautiful sculptural candles that I love. (photo from etsy.com)

We went to a friends’ house for an outdoor dinner recently, and they had a zipline in their yard. Obviously, that works only for families with the right tree setup, but man would it be a fun gift if you can make it work. We cannot, and I am coveting a zipline anyway. (photo from amazon.com)

Outdoor fun makes me think of sledding (it is snowing right now) and from last year’s extensive research, I believe that saucers are best. This one – am trying to ignore the giant L. L. Bean logo – looks sturdy. (photo from llbean.com)

While I was looking at gift ideas for Carla, I came across this fully-stocked dress-up purse. The purse is so cute and it comes with everything the contemporary kiddo needs to emulate grown-ups. I would have DIED to have this as a kid; I’m pretty sure Carla would too, although I think she may have outgrown it. Maybe my niece would like it? (photo from amazon.com)

She has definitely not outgrown her obsession with LEGO. We are strongly considering the Hogwarts Astronomy Tower for her big gift this year. (photo from target.com)

I think she’d get a kick out of this LEGO chain reactions kit, too. (photo from amazon.com)

Carla requested a few board games this year, and it’s fun to look through her suggestions (circled in catalogs – do you remember doing that as a kid? I do; I loved it. So many possibilities!) and see which ones would be good for our family. LineUp looks really cute and it’s a strong contender. (photo from amazon.com)

Cat Crimes also looks adorable and fun. (I will go to great lengths to avoid playing Candy Land.) (photo from amazon.com)

She also loves playing Linkee (which is a perennial favorite) and Trivial Pursuit with us, but the questions are often a little over her head. I would love to find a trivia game that we can all play together. (There’s a family edition of Trivial Pursuit, but the reviews stink. And at one point, it looks like there was a kids’ version of Linkee, but it looks like it’s not made anymore and the websites I’ve seen it on are unfamiliar to me.) (photo from amazon.com)

Oooh! Here is a new twist on Scattergories – a family favorite around here – that looks really fun: Scattergories Categories. (It was VERY difficult not to type “cattergories.”) (photo from amazon.com)

This cute cooperative game looks perfect for my niece. (photo from amazon.com)

If you are looking for a fun family game that’s a little unusual, we got this DropMix music game for my husband earlier this year and it’s a lot of fun. You get to mix and match different beats and instrumentals from familiar songs. We love it. I’m probably going to get my husband the rock music expansion pack for Christmas this year. (photo from amazon.com)

Speaking of my husband, I am wondering if he would like a pair of fancy sneakers? I have heard great things about Allbirds shoes, and they look very chic PLUS they are washable. (photo from allbirds.com)

For those on your list who like sweets/consumables, this pack of mini cupcakes from Baked by Melissa look amazing and fun. (photo from bakedbymelissa.com)

Ditto these indulgent cookie gifts from Big Fat Cookie. I am drooling. (photo from eatmebigfatcookie.com)

Speaking of sweets/consumables… I got my husband a boutique tasting box from Sugarfina for Father’s Day, and it was a huge hit. It was also the perfect amount of candy: four or five behind each little door. Sadly, it’s sold out, but its success makes me very amenable to trying out one of their bento boxes. (photo from sugarfina.com)

My husband has received peanut butter for the past few gift-giving occasions. And twice I got him jars of Chai Spice Peanut and Almond Butter from Big Spoon Roasters because he LOVES it. (I like it, and I do not care for peanut butter.) I am eyeing this winter gift pack while I decide whether I’m weary of buying him peanut butter. Could be nice to split among several gift recipients, if you know multiple lovers of unusual nut butters. (photo from bigspoonroasters.com)

Oooh… or I could get him a jar of cinnamon almond butter. It’s less decadent (less pricy, but also a brand we see at the grocery store), but also makes me more inclined to get it as a stocking stuffer rather than as one of his primary gifts. (photo from amazon.com)

My husband’s primary gift, FYI, is a new Kindle Paperwhite. His existing Kindle is one of the first generations models, and doesn’t have the backlighting that the new Paperwhites offer. His is starting to be verrrrrrry slow when he tries to turn the pages, too, so I think it’s time for a new one. (photo from amazon.com)

Carla has started knotting her t-shirts, sometimes tying a corner into a knot, other times putting a tiny hair elastic around a little bunch of t-shirt. I saw this little gadget that helps make the perfect knotted twist. I kind of also want one for myself… (photo from twist-teeknot.com)

Carla would love this Secret Message Lab kit. I had something like this when I was a kid, and loved learning about and using secret codes and ciphers. (photo from blacktoystore.com)

I don’t take baths, but I do like a nice spa-like shower experience. My husband got me these shower steamers for my birthday or Mother’s Day last year, and I really really love them and plan to give them to both of my sisters-in-law. (photo from amazon.com)

Anthropologie has a shower steamer gift set, as well. A little pricier, but I wouldn’t expect any less from Anthro. (photo from anthropologie.com)

You know who DOES like baths? Carla. She would get a huge kick out of this geode bath ball, considering she also likes geodes and bath bombs! (photo from anthropologie.com)

There are many people on my gift list who would appreciate a bookmark. I love this Storiarts one featuring an Oscar Wilde quote. (photo from storiarts.com)

Or this gorgeous leather bookmark from Ox and Pine, which you can personalize with someone’s initials or a pertinent quote. (photo from oxandpine.com)

Carla and I have been tossing around the idea of her making homemade bookmarks for her friends and family this year. I found a kit that provides all but the artwork. This would make a great gift for a bookworm, too. (photo from amazon.com)

Oh my goodness – or these diamond painting bookmarks. The perfect mashup of diamond painting, which was a hit last year, and book crafts! (photo from amazon.com)

Carla did a brief unit on making comic books in school this fall, and really seemed excited about it. Uncommon Goods has a comic book making kit that she might enjoy. (Also available at Amazon.) (photo from uncommongoods.com)

Here’s a book of blank comic book templates that requires little more than imagination. (photo from amazon.com)

My sister-in-law recently bought these gel crayons for Carla (bonus: shaped like cats!) and they are awesome. (But messy.) (photo from worldmarket.com)

She paired them with this stand-up sketchpad, too. Carla found it quite delightful. Perfect combo for any young artist. (photo from amazon.com)

Carla would get so much joy out of this cat stationery set. Cat paperclips! Cat sticky notes! Cat pens! (photo from amazon.com)

Or this set has cat page flags as well, plus a little cat pencil case! (photo from amazon.com)

These little cat paper clips/bookmarks are marketed as “pliable.” Supposedly you can soak them in water for a few seconds and reshape them. I have no idea what that means, but it might be worth $7.99 to find out. (photo from containerstore.com)

Because Carla has been wearing clip on earrings – old ones, that I bought a million years ago for myself – I think maybe we should get her some of her own. These dangly cat earrings would please her greatly, I think. (photo from amazon.com)

I love this collection of clip ons – no cats, but there are so many other good options! Christmas trees! Snow flakes! Dinosaurs! The little seals with their little scarves! (photo from amazon.com)

I think I mentioned that my sister-in-law is hoping for an opal necklace. This one is so pretty (from Irin Skye) – although I’m not sure which initial to choose. Maybe hers, maybe her daughter’s. (photo from etsy.com)

This may not sound like a very exciting gift, but I am hoping to find a pack of these reusable cooking sheets in my stocking this year. I use aluminum foil and parchment paper all the time, and if these are good replacements, I will be delighted. (photo from amazon.com)

Along similar lines, I think I would get a lot of use out of these round silicone baking mats. ROUND. (photo from amazon.com)

Something that I long for constantly – especially when we have any sort of guests over – is mini tongs. I would use them for everything from cheese trays to taco bars. In my head, I was thinking of something in the wood family. (photo from amazon.com)

Or maybe simple silver. (photo from containerstore.com)

But these rainbow tongs are FANTASTIC. (photo from amazon.com)

As long as we’re ogling beautiful and largely unnecessary kitchen items, I’d like to give a shout out to these gold, leafy teaspoons. SO PRETTY. Surely we all know someone who needs them, right? (photo from anthropologie.com)

More practical but still something that would give me a tingle of joy: these odd-size measuring spoons. I would measure the spelt out of these. (photo from surlatable.com)

As a big fan of the resurgence of the charcuterie tray, I have been eyeing this fancy cheese board. Mainly because it has a RIM (no more cracker avalanches), but also because it has all these cute dip dishes and a little compartment to hold the cheese knives. Would they still manage to end up floating around my utensil drawer? Perhaps. (photo from amazon.com)

Would I be happy with a simple round, rimmed platter that I could repurpose as a cheese board? I think so, if it is as simple and lovely as this one from Crate and Barrel. (photo from crateandbarrel.com)

Or maybe this wooden serving tray. It has a rim AND handles! (photo from nordstrom.com)

When I think of charcuterie trays, I think of fun food options to add to them.  Like some delicious crackers. I’m partial to the kind that have fruit and nuts, like this cranberry and pistachio option. (photo from mouth.com)

Apple crisp crisps might be a fun alternative to crackers – I bet they would be tasty with cheddar or brie. (photo from igourmet.com)

Or perhaps some fancy olives. I love olives soaked in gin; maybe olives soaked in vermouth are just as good. (photo from igourmet.com)

This ginger honey would be fun to spread on sliced baguette… or drizzle over apple slices. (photo from mouth.com)

My mom loves pickled watermelon rind, an acquired taste and a hard-to-find delicacy, so I’m planning to give her a jar. (photo from igourmet.com)

There is also pickled watermelon, which may appeal to her as well. (photo from mouth.com)

My daughter is obsessed with capers. Maybe a two-pound jar all for her would be a fun treat? (photo from igourmet.com)

Something I NEED is a good quality silicone whisk. My husband got me a set of silicone whisks a few years ago, but water got into some of the handles and some of them broke so I am down to zero silicone whisks. Not a particularly FUN present, but a useful one. (photo from surlatable.com)

Going right on down the “not a particularly fun present, but a useful one” path, I think my mother-in-law needs a package of silicone straws. She hoards straws from Starbucks to reuse in her iced coffee each day, but the silicone ones have to be sturdier and more sanitary, and I’m guessing (hoping) they are better for the sea turtles. (photo from nordstrom.com)

I always love a good fancy hand cream. This year I specifically requested the Beautycounter hand cream trio. I’ve gotten it before and loved it, and this year there are new scents: Ginger and Earl Grey! Neroli, whatever that is! Lavender and Tonka! (photo from beautycounter.com)

This hand moisture pack looks like it would be fun and good for my dry, dry hands. Plus, it’s a nice stocking stuffer price. (photo from anthropologie.com)

I usually ask for some fancy nail polish for the holidays. Maybe this year I will ask for this peel-off nail lacquer? Sounds very satisfying to remove. (photo from anthropologie.com)

Someone – perhaps my sister-in-law, who knows these kinds of things? – says that these cooling facial globes are the new jade roller. They look very soothing.

As an alternative, Anthropologie has cooling eye gels, which would make great stocking stuffers for all the tired-eyed people in my family. (photo from anthropologie.com)

Ooooh they have lip gels, too! Would this finally put an end to my peeling lips??? Supposedly they “hydrate and smooth” as well as “help you relax and de-stress.” (photo from anthropologie.com)

I am in LOVE with this Little House of the Prairie book blanket from Litographs. The book text makes up the drawing on the blanket. (photo from litographs.com)

There’s a version with Robert Frost poems, too! My mom might need one of these. OH MY GOSH there is also a custom option and YOU CAN UPLOAD YOUR OWN TEXT.

Speaking of things my mom and I might both enjoy: these Scandinavian dish cloths are gorgeous and sustainable! Okay, I ordered one moose print and one woodland trees. The shipping is very reasonable! (photo from threebluebirds.com)

You know that I can’t resist a good dish towel, and I find this Ted Lasso “biscuits with the boss” dish towel from Moonlight Makers to be quite charming. (photo from etsy.com)

Oooooh this set of rainbow towels is so lovely! Who DOESN’T need these? (photo from anthropologie.com)

Sticking with the rainbow theme, I MUST have people on my list who need one or all of these little rainbow pots. SO CUTE. (photo from anthropologie.com)

While I don’t think I have room in my life for another vase (although this one is SO small and SO pretty), I am sure someone on your list needs to have this bud vase, right? (photo from anthropologie.com)

Speaking of things I don’t have room for: Mugs. I need another mug like I need another pickle jar. And yet I want this Ted Lasso mug from Journo Travel Goods very badly. (photo from etsy.com)

Or a Roy Kent mug from You Had Me At Cadeaux. Featuring Roy Kent’s gloriously cranky and deliciously handsome mug. (photo from etsy.com)

The same quote, on a mug from Byron Betts Store, without the face. (photo from etsy.com)

This quote (now on a rainbow-lovely mug from Little Canada Prints) is starting to make me quite teary, hearing it inside my skull in Roy’s fierce growl. I love it so. (photo from etsy.com)

To fill our new Ted Lasso mugs with something more interesting than hot brown water, might I suggest some of these micro-ground tea lattes from Tea Squared? I have no idea what they are or what they taste like, but they sound VERY interesting. Especially the pumpkin spice chai latte and the London foggy ones. (photo from teasquared.ca)

Carla marked several cooking/baking items in the catalogs she was trawling through. This surprises me, as she doesn’t show a whole lot of interest in doing things in the kitchen. Well. Maybe a “toy” would help encourage this interest. Perhaps something like this tiny baking kit. (photo from amazon.com)

Or this cooking challenge kit – which includes recipes, cooking challenges, and score cards. (photo from mindware.orientaltrading.com)


And she would definitely enjoy this knife set. I’m guessing my niece would as well. Knives all around! (photo from mindware.orientaltrading.com

Last year, Carla hung a wall calendar near her desk for the first time, and she really likes having one. I asked if she wanted one for next year, and she said without hesitation: “Yes, with kittens.” Maybe this one? (photo from amazon.com)

Or possibly this one, which has kittens AND puppies. (photo from amazon.com)

My husband, who has been very poorly represented on this list, alongside every other man in my family, egads I am terrible at giving gifts, likes socks. He has too many socks, in my opinion. But he LIKES them. And these light butter socks look soft and have the type of charming pattern he normally likes. (photo from nordstromrack.com)

He might also enjoy this basil scented body wash. I think I would enjoy him smelling of basil. (photo from nordstrom.com)

Or perhaps basil, lime, and mandarin. Also: sheesh, this is expensive. (photo from nordstrom.com)

He and the other men on my gift list might get some fancy soap. Poor men. BBQ tools, liquor, socks, and soap. That’s all I can think of for anyone male. (photo from nordstrom.com)

Or some cozy pajama pants. Jammies all around!

If you have a person in your life who also owns an Apple watch, I highly recommend this leather watch strap. I got one for my husband for his birthday, and he loves it. (photo from nordstrom.com)

My husband also enjoys a good puzzle. This multi-colored pine trees puzzle looks challenging (but not impossible) and it’s very pleasing to the eye. (photo from llbean.com)

We got this Times Square puzzle for my mother-in-law, and we’ve all been putting it together on my dining room table since September. It is VERY challenging, and perfect for your favorite puzzle fiend. (photo from amazon.com)

This smaller version might be a little less frustrating challenging. I’m getting it for my mother-in-law to do at her house. (photo from amazon.com)

And I think maybe my husband needs this puzzle with a Paris scene. Although, hmmm, I am 50% concerned I have already purchased this for him. (photo from amazon.com)

KP suggested, on my last post, looking for gifts for my parents as they go on their road trip. GENIUS. This would be a big splurge gift, but I think they would get a lot of use out of this iceless cooler, which would plug into the cigarette lighter. I suppose I need to make sure their car has a cigarette lighter, which seems like an old-fashioned amenity. (photo from amazon.com)

They might also appreciate a new atlas. Is that the most boring gift in the history of the universe? (photo from amazon.com)

Perhaps an Allersac sheet set, since they will be staying in multiple hotels on their drive? (photo from amazon.com)

Or, to really amp up the Christmas gift-opening enjoyment, perhaps this bed bug prevention suitcase liner? Nothing says happy holidays quite like hoping someone doesn’t encounter bed bugs on their journey. (photo from amazon.com)

One thing I KNOW they would like is an audio course – something like The Great Courses used to offer. But they prefer things on CD, and it doesn’t look like Great Courses offers CD options anymore. I suppose we could buy something and burn it to a CD (using an old computer, because new computers don’t have CD drives anymore). (I asked my husband about this and he doesn’t think it’s possible.) Or maybe I could find a couple of audiobooks on CD to buy them? I loved In the Heart of the Sea, and enjoyed the first half of The Mayflower before I put it down some months ago. (photo from amazon.com)

Childhood road trips with my dad meant car snacks, and he favored Necco wafers and spicy peanuts. Maybe he’d appreciate a package of Cajun peanuts? (very odd peanut photo from nuts.com)

Or these taco seasoned peanuts might be a fun flavor. (very odd peanut photo from nuts.com)

Not for imbibing on the road, of course, but I think I might get my dad a whisky tasting kit. I got him one a few years ago and he really enjoyed it. (photo from flaviar.com)

I think my dad would get a kick – and a lot of use – out of this 6-in-1 tool pen. (photo from amazon.com)

My brother, whom I have NO IDEA what to get, might appreciate this thermal phone case. (photo from amazon.com)

Or a boot dryer, for his ski boots. (photo from rei.com)

New gloves are always nice. My mom and my sister-in-law might find a pair of these fleece-lined wool gloves under the tree. (photo from orvis.com)

I am also eyeing this beautiful ceramic paint water cup from BNCA Pottery. My mom is an oil painter, and I feel like this would add substance and beauty to a necessary aspect of painting. (photo from etsy.com)

I have absolutely no use for this mini toaster oven, but I could not resist adding it to this list. If I had any college students to shop for, this would be a strong contender. It is SO CUTE. (photo from nordstrom.com)

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Now that my in-laws are gone, and I am released from all the effort of meal planning for people who aren’t my husband and cleaning up after two additional people in my home and trying to be friendly and social when I am neither, I can fully experience the weight that is the End of Year Crush. 

It seems that the instant Halloween ends, the year starts pell-melling faster than I can keep up, and I am feeling winded already.

We are blissfully free of Thanksgiving obligations this year. It’s just the three of us this year again, which is a relief. No entertaining or massive meal to be stressed over and undertaken. I mean, I am definitely making myself some goat cheese mashed potatoes, and I expect my husband will want dressing, and, in my opinion, you can’t make the really good, rich gravy without roasting at least some part of a turkey. But it will be easier and less anxiety-filled, it what I’m saying. HOWEVER, Hanukkah follows quickly on the heels of Thanksgiving, and then it will be Christmas, and then the calendar will flip over into 2022 before we can blink an eye. 

There are a couple of critical tasks that I need to complete in the next few weeks.

Holiday Cards

I forced my husband to take family photos for our holiday cards. He very reluctantly complied, and drove the thiree of us out to a beautiful autumnal setting and wore a nice outfit and took several photos with his fancy camera. And they are… fine. They’re just fine. I hate the way I look in them, but that’s fine. No one else will notice. No. One. They’re fine. 

Mpix had a good discount going over the Halloween weekend, and I made samples of multiple cards with the photos my husband took, and showed them to him. And he had a few tweaks and requests, which I made… and then we both promptly forgot about them until after midnight and the deal had ended. Sigh.

Well. We got a coupon for Minted, so I have already created some samples there. I just need my husband to go through them and choose his favorite and I will order those puppies SO FAST. 

Holiday Gifts

Presents are… not done, not by a mile. But I have the rest of November to stress about them. Except November is already HALF OVER OMG. I already ordered my husband’s big gift from me, and Santa Claus delivered two of Carla’s gifts early, so I feel okay about things. Despite all of your lovely advice when last I brought this up, I still have no earthly idea what to get any of our parents or our siblings. 

Our parents are particularly tricky because a) they have everything they want/need already and b) they don’t have a lot of room/desire for Things. Usually, I get my parents consumables, but they are going to be driving here for Christmas and then going on a road trip around the country, and I don’t know if a big gift crate of cheese will survive the trip back. Everyone reads books, but they all read CONSTANTLY so it is difficult to know what any one person has/hasn’t read yet. My husband and I received some of those mystery games you can play in a group last year; those are fun. Maybe everyone will get one of those. 

My sister-in-law mentioned that my niece might want a big craft mat like Carla has, so I think that will be one gift from us… but it’s not very fun. And my sister-in-law also showed me a picture of a beautiful opal necklace she liked on Etsy, so I might look for something similar to get her. 

My mother-in-law claims that she really likes the food I cook, which is so kind and such a compliment. For Christmas, she requested a collection of the recipes I use. Of course I would prefer to photograph some of the meals I make and create a real book for her, but I just don’t know if I have the time or the photography skills to get it done before Christmas. Well, we’ll see what I can do. Right now, I’m thinking this might be a better gift idea for Mother’s Day or her birthday.

That’s all the ideas I have. Beyond those meager half-formed thoughts, I am stumped. STUMPED. 

Oh! I had an idea for my husband and I wanted to run it by you. 

He taught himself how to create and produce music during the pandemic. You know. While also still being a physician, husband, and father. (During the pandemic I… dyed my hair a couple of times and refrained from killing anyone during remote learning. Does that count?) Anyway, his music is amazing and I am so proud of him and blown away by his talent. He created a title card for the first song he produced which features an artsy photo he took, the title of the song, and his artist name. So I was thinking of putting that title card on a sweatshirt from zazzle and ordering it for him. 

But I can’t commit to that idea! I keep going back and forth between “he will be so pumped and touched to have his music commemorated this way!” to “omg he will feel super awkward to wear a sweatshirt featuring his OWN music.” 

What do you think? Is it weird? No one will KNOW, of course. But I suppose there is a very small chance that someone might ask him about it, and then he might be embarrassed? I don’t know!!! Would Mark Ronson wear a sweatshirt featuring his own album art? Would Ryan Tedder? I don’t know!!!!!!!!! 

Without knowing my husband AT ALL, what would you suggest? Is it an ill-advised idea? Should I order myself a sweatshirt featuring his album art? That way it would be flattering but less self-aggrandizing? 

And if I don’t get him THAT, what do I get him??????

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Well, I am sitting here waiting for the exterminator to come do our quarterly bug roundup (I like to picture him ushering a bunch of creepy-crawlies down the stairs and out into the street and off into some buggy wonderland, Pied Piper style), and I neither feel like emptying the dishwasher nor trying to plan our meals for the week, so randomosity it is!

  • Speaking of our bug guy: I am mad at our pest control service. They are constantly bothering us to sign up for this quarterly “deal,” wherein you get a discount per service. And my husband and I had figured that we were calling the pest control on an as-needed basis about three times per year, so the math didn’t work out for us to do the quarterly plan. But, for some reason, we decided to sign up the last time they made their sales pitch. I don’t remember why, but it must have involved math. ANYWAY, we signed up in June, for the quarterly plan. They sent the bug guy, invoiced us… And the amount was DOUBLE what he’d quoted me. I emailed him back and said, “I thought the quarterly plan cost $X. Or is this invoice for the entire year in advance?” And he CALLED ME. I could not answer at the time, so emailed him back, reiterated my question, and said that email is much better than calling. He called me AGAIN. I remember I picked up the phone because I was waiting for another call, but there was some incredibly stressful thing going on, and he was being super confusing and not answering my questions directly, so I started frustration-crying on the phone. It was awful. The upshoot was that he didn’t want to submit a specific quote in writing, because “their rates change based on unpredictable factors.” *Picture me right now, sitting at my desk, blinking slowly and taking multiple deep breaths.* Anyway, because I cried at him, he emailed me this: “as discussed on the phone. The current charge is your initial charge with a discounted rate. 3 months after your initial treatment we offer a discounted quarterly rate ~$X + tax on a regular quarterly basis.” Which, I have to say, STILL MAKES NO SENSE. Does that mean that the quarterly discount only kicks in… later??? And also, I want to know what we are going to pay, every quarter!!!!! “~$X” is not specific enough!!!!! I immediately started asking my neighbors who they use, even though we have used this particular service multiple times per year for over a decade. The only reason I have decided not to switch services is that I adore the man who does the actual spraying of the bugs. He is a lovely, kind, gentle man who asks about my kid and is always super flexible about timing and is very efficient. He is the kind of guy you could call to come over IMMEDIATELY and take care of any issue. Plus, he is getting up there, age-wise, and I just picture us canceling our service and him being out of a job. (This is ridiculous; they have other customers.) So we are, for now, keeping our service. But I am STILL MAD. In fact, I feel riled up enough that I am once again thinking of finding a new service. EDITED TO ADD: I asked our bug guy if he knew what today’s appointment was going to cost me, and he said he didn’t; he leaves that to the other guy, who will send me an invoice. So I still have no idea how much it cost. I DO NOT LIKE THIS.
  • It is a good time for the bug guy to come, because it is Spider Season. And I know that spiders are good and lovely and take care of other bugs, but during this time of year they get very bold and decide to break the Spider Covenant of out of sight, out of mind. Do they think they add to the Halloween ambiance? There was a spider in Carla’s room the other day, and she came shrieking into the living room to have one of us rescue her from its clutches, but then my husband couldn’t locate the spider to remove it. (I would have squished it. Am mean.) Carla KNOWS that the spider is still there, probably on her bed, maybe building a little web inside her pillowcase. She does not believe us that the spider has likely moved on. She has been sleeping in our room ever since.
  • Oh, speaking of stupid things that make no sense (yes, I am still exercised about the bug service situation): Do you remember I told you, a long while ago, about this absolutely RIDICULOUS bank situation? In short (or, as short as I can very wordily go), we have a loan through a bank, and the bank is holding a big chunk of our money as collateral against the loan. This bank has a policy stating that you (we) need to add some nominal amount of money to the account annually, or you (we) are charged an inactive fee. Even though I don’t WANT to add money, not even $5, to that account because we cannot touch it until the loan is paid. And even though I don’t have any sort of bank card that would allow me to do so without going, in person, to the bank. And even though the bank is nowhere near my house or any place I ever go. So every year I get a statement charging us an inactive fee, and every year I call the bank and ask them to remove it, and they give me a spiel about how easy it would be to avoid the fee, just by making a single annual transaction! And how it could just be $5! And how they have all these branches! (None nearer than a 30 minute drive.) I persist, getting louder and more strident, and finally they agree to remove the fee, and I ask that they make a note for next year, and they say they can’t. Remember when I whined at great length about that? Well! Last year, we got a statement that showed the inactive fee… and then showed an instant refund!!!! I did not have to call! SOMEONE MADE A NOTE! That is my hope, at least. I suppose it could have been a Pandemic Nicety. Anyway, I’m waiting for the statement to show up this year, just to see what happens. I know you are on the edge of your seat.
  • I got myself a jump rope. Carla has one and it seems fun. Plus, it reminds me of middle school gym class, and how Jump Rope for Heart! was a big health movement back then. It IS good exercise, I think. I don’t know for sure because I have yet to try it. I’m… nervous? Afraid of hitting myself in the face? Or… enduring excessive boob-flop pain? Or… having a heart attack? I don’t know. Also, I am pretty sure this is an Outdoor Activity, so that’s another hurdle. The jump rope is currently on the floor of my office. Do you jump rope? And if so, how do I begin my jump rope journey? Perhaps I shall begin by taking it with me to Goodwill and leaving it there?
  • Listen, I KNOW it’s only October, but I also know that you are aware – as are we all – that shipping and supply chain issues are causing delays and snarl-ups all over the place. So I am thinking about Christmas. Fretting is a more accurate word than thinking, except there is also a lot of inertia because it is sooooo far away and I am just coming out of a four-family-members-have-birthdays period over the last six weeks, with the fifth still to come. I persuaded my husband to order a couple of things for Carla already (thank you, Target, for having a “buy $50 in toys, get $10” promotion at the exact right time). (We got her a carnotaurus and an LOL OMG doll that she requested.) But literally no one else in my family is thinking about the holidays right now, except maybe my parents whom I have already bothered on the topic. And lord knows WHAT I will get my husband; I just had to buy presents for his birthday and it was rough. I ended up buying him a couple of things I’d purchased previously, that’s how out of ideas I am. Well. At least Santa Claus will have something to deliver to Carla. If the rest of us get nothing, that’s fine. We need nothing anyway.
  • This Christmas situation illuminates one of the Major Differences between my family of origin and my husband’s. I emailed my mom and asked her to start thinking about Christmas, and she happily complied. In fact, I had received an email previously from my dad, asking what we want to eat for Christmas dinner. They are Plan Ahead People. They have everything planned out for the next… nine months, I’d say. While I am not (always) that much of a planner, I do prefer to know what’s coming down the pike. My in-laws, on the other hand, are Spontaneous People. (This is why I end up wrapping so many gifts that they send us at the last minute grumble grumble.) They are also Christmas List People, who prefer that we all submit and choose from a list of specific items. (My parents are Money Gifters, who then also usually wrap something small to accompany the money.) My in-laws also live in a different state, so we have to ship all gifts to them. (And I prefer to buy them and wrap them before shipping them.) This is a bad combination, even in years without shipping and supply chain issues (not to mention all the health issues that are obviously and justifiably requiring significant attention). But this year it may be that everyone gets a Suzanne Hopes You Will Like This But Maybe You Won’t present.
  • Do you have a go-to gift that you send to people who have everything/people who are difficult to shop for? There has to be a Good General Gift that most people enjoy, right? Except I can’t think of one, outside of consumables like chocolate/wine/cheese.
  • And also, what would YOU, personally, like to receive as a gift? Like, right now, what is the thing that you are coveting most? For me, it is a citrus squeezer. Mine broke, and I use a citrus squeezer ALL the time, so I have been mourning its loss near-daily. Okay, after writing that, I just ordered one – it’s stainless steel, so the paint won’t wear off and it’s dishwasher safe! It will arrive on Friday. SORRY, PEOPLE WHO BUY ME GIFTS.
  • I really, reallllllllly wish that we could alllll agree that we are grown ups and do not need gifts anymore. Seriously. We can get the kids presents, if we want, but no one else needs anything. I just don’t know how to broach that topic. Like, it seems like one thing to say, “I would like you to stop buying me gifts; I have everything I need” but a whole different thing to say, “I would like to stop purchasing gifts for you.” Yeah. Makes me sound like a dick. *Resigned sigh of gift anxiety forever and ever amen.* 
  • At least I don’t have to worry about Thanksgiving! My in-laws are hosting Thanksgiving at their house, in a different state, despite the fact that it is their year with us, and despite the fact that my husband and I established nearly a decade ago that we will not travel on holidays, and despite the fact that there is still an ongoing global pandemic that makes travel – especially crowded holiday travel – unideal. (And lest you think I am being heartless, they made these plans before all the health turmoil.) (I am still being a little heartless, but the whole thing irks me.) So! It will just be the three of us, here at home! My IDEAL! I suspect I will still need to make turkey and stuffing, since my husband likes those things. (Bleh.) I can probably get away with a small turkey breast, though, which will be nice. And I am delighted that I get to make a big vat of garlic goat cheese mashed potatoes to slowly coat myself in.
  • OMG I usually tip our bug guy but I FORGOT to get tip money and had none. He said goodbye at the front door, but then his shoes were at the back door, so we trekked through the kitchen, saying things like “keep safe!” and “see you next quarter!” But then at the back door, I had to wait as he put on his shoes and tied them and tried to make small talk about the weather while I was very blatantly NOT giving him a tip. And then he got his shoes on and walked through the garage and reminded me to close the garage door and we must have said goodbye/take care to each other at least four times all while I was not giving him a tip OMG it was so awkward. I hope he knows I will get him next time.

That’s it from me, Internet. After that grueling interaction, not to mention the anticipation thereof, I need to lie down for the rest of the day. (Kidding. Mainly.)

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We are almost out of paprika, which is one of my Household Staples, and it makes me feel VERY NERVOUS to be so low. (“So low” means I bought a medium sized bottle of paprika at the grocery store last week.) (That’s TOO LOW.) So I hopped over to the Penzey’s website to order more; we have a Penzey’s locally, and they are doing contact-free pickup of spices.

Anyway, since I already there on the website, I poked around. Clicking on menu links is a poor replacement for in-store browsing, but it’s what we have. And I discovered that they are selling little “trial size” bags of some of their spices and spice mixes for around the $2.50-$4.00 mark. And a) that is a price point that seems very appropriate for stocking stuffers and b) who doesn’t love trying new spices?!?! I often get my parents a little box of herbs and spices when we go visit them, and it’s a great hostess/housewarming gift, so why not a stocking stuffer?

This works wonderfully if you have a Penzey’s in your area (FREE PICKUP). Although then, of course, you are limited by what the store has in stock. BUT if you are also out of paprika or cumin or whatever herbs/spices YOU cannot live without, you can order online and have everything shipped to you! (I mean, you could ship the little trial bags by themselves, but I think you get free shipping with a $39.95 purchase. And honestly, if you simply buy one single bottle of vanilla extract you will be almost there.)

I think my dad would like the BBQ 3000, since he and my mom grill steaks every Sunday.

Photo from Penzeys.com

And this Mural of Flavor mix sounds really fun to try — we make a lot of chicken and pork, so I could see many uses for it.

Photo from Penzeys.com

One of my parents’ favorites is this Northwoods Seasoning.

Photo from Penzeys.com

They also love the Chicago Steak Seasoning.

Photo from Penzeys.com

And I personally love this Sandwich Sprinkle, which does, indeed, add a nice herby punch to a salami hoagie.

Photo from Penzeys.com

Each little bag is less than an ounce, but that’s enough to get a sense of whether it’s worth buying a bigger bottle. Plus, they are CUTE and therefore FUN.

I wish I had spotted this in time to add it to my list of stocking stuffer ideas, but better late than never!

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Well, Internet, Thanksgiving is over. We Zoomed, we FaceTimed. The turkey turned out okay not great; the gravy was disappointing; the apple sharlotka turned out to be divisive in my household. My body is now 85% mashed potatoes. Over the long weekend, I am trying to avoid the news (my news feed is a roller coaster of “37 Gifts Your Second Cousin Once Removed Is Going to Go GaGa For!” and “CDC Predicts Tens of Thousands Will Die in Next Two Weeks.”). I have done All The Laundry. We took our holiday card photo yesterday (a Zoom photo, if you must know) and ordered our cards. Most of my Christmas shopping is done. (If you are still looking, I have posted some gift ideas here.) So what is left but to turn my attention to stocking stuffers?

Most years, I get Stocking Stuffer Syndrome in the final days leading up to Christmas. Have I bought enough presents? Is Christmas going to be Special enough? What if, in my attempt to not go overboard, I have gone wildly UNDERboard? This inevitably results in a rushed trip to Target or World Market where I grab far too many little gifties and spend WAY too much money on what is, essentially, junk. FUN junk, you know, like Christmas themed Pez or Christmas crackers or light-up Christmas bulb necklaces. But… stuff that could easily be swept into the trash a few weeks in the future without anyone missing it at all. It’s not a HEALTHY way to approach the holidays, no. And yet I struggle with it every year.

This year, however, there will be no last minute trips to Target. I mean, I guess there COULD be, if I placed a curbside order. But it wouldn’t be the same. I would not be half-speed-walking, half-panic-jogging up and down the aisles grabbing for any remotely semi-relevant stocking-sized item under $5. Even with a last-minute curbside order, I would have to plan ahead. So why not try to see this particular pandemic limitation as a gift in itself, and maybe try to cure — if temporarily — my Stocking Stuffer Syndrome?

To that end, here is a list of stocking stuffer ideas that I have purchased, considered, or want for myself. And there are plenty of great ideas on last year’s list, if you need further inspiration. As usual, this is not sponsored, but the Amazon products are affiliate links, through which I get a few cents if you make a purchase.

All photos are from the websites linked to in the product description.

Half Popped Popcorn Variety Pack: I love Nuts.com, and this variety pack of half-popped popcorn would be perfect for stocking stuffers – and there are TWELVE bags, so there should be at least ONE extra bag for your own stocking. (Or you could always order a big bag of Sriracha half-popped popcorn for yourself the spice lover in your family.) 

Pipcorn: Oooh – or pipcorn! I remember seeing this product featured on Shark Tank. I bet my husband would get a kick out of finding a bag (or three) in his stocking.)

Brain Food: Every year I want to put something delicious into Carla’s stocking. Every year I feel like she has TOO MUCH candy. This snack bundle from Nuts.com is the perfect compromise! Dried apricots! Animal crackers! Milk chocolate gummy bears! Sweets plus more nutritious options. You can’t go wrong. 

Mini Bundt Cake: These are SO CUTE. If you have a Nothing Bundt Cake shop in your area, this would be such a fun stocking stuffer for family – or a gift for colleagues and staff and teachers.

Bison Star Soap Bouquet: This collection of soaps is so pretty – the kind of thing I might display in my bathroom rather than use, which, yes, is silly. 

Fancy Soap: Speaking of beautiful soap, the soaps from this LaSalleAve Soap shop on Etsy are beautiful.

Portable Soap Sheets: These soap sheets would be easy to carry around in a purse or jacket pocket in case you need to wash your hands and there is no soap to be found.

Soap with a Mission: Or you could buy bar soap – or a variety of other bath products – from Soapbox, which donates a bar of soap with every purchase. (Purchases also help support research in water sanitation and hygiene education.)

Face Mask Sanitizing Case: I am strongly considering this for my husband, who has to wear a mask to work every day. For the healthcare worker in your life, possibly?

Fancy Hand Lotion: At $35, these aren’t really what I think of as “stocking stuffer pricing.” But you could split them up amongst three people’s stockings, and it would be closer. Or you could buy them for yourself and stuff all three into your own stocking as I plan to do.

George & Viv Holiday Shower Fizzies: I have started seeing these aromatherapy-type shower fizzies a lot lately, and I am intrigued. I hate baths, so I miss out on all the bath bombs and bath salts and whatever other fancy fun treats people put into their skin stew. These seem like a good way for shower stalwarts like me to get in on the fun.

Reusable Face Pads: These cotton face wipes from Etsy shop Handmade by AVO are adorable and eco-friendly.

Worry Stone: Who couldn’t use a beautiful, smooth worry stone to transfer all your anxiety to? I had never heard of garnierite until I found these on the WildMoonCrystals Etsy shop – it is supposed to help remind you of your inner divinity and creativity. I don’t know if I believe that, but I have people on my gift list who do – plus, these are SO PRETTY.

Panda Hand Sanitizer: Cute sanitizing gel is SO 2020.

Capo: While I certainly don’t play guitar, my husband does and he’s been making some comments about wanting a capo. This one comes with picks! (Is that good? I have no idea!)

Marking and Measuring Tool: This awesome little ruler-slash-level seems like it would have about one bajillion uses. 

Magnetic Bookmarks: I lose bookmarks. It’s such an issue, my husband won’t let me borrow any of his. (He collects them – tries to get a bookmark from any city we travel to.) But maybe if my bookmarks were magnetically attached to my books it wouldn’t be such a problem!

Christmas Ornament: Even if we can’t be with our families during the holiday season, we can still celebrate our innate connection with this beautiful acrylic ornament representing family togetherness from indigenous-owned company Trickster. All the offerings on their site promote indigenous design. 

Cocktail Napkins: Fun cocktail napkins are an enduring favorite of mine. Lots of these would be perfect stocking stuffers.  

Sriracha Grab N Go Packets: I love sriracha, and have been going through it at rather an absurd rate lately. These would be fun to find in my stocking. Not that I am Going anywhere that I would need to Grab some portable sriracha, but it’s fun to hope that the coming months might allow us to comfortably Go Places again.

Nerds Rainbow Pack: When it comes to candy, Carla loves Nerds and I think this holiday pack will be perfect for her stocking. I got a box for about $1 during my latest curbside pickup from Target (and one for myself).

Giant Chewy Nerd(s): When I was at Walgreens recently to get my flu shot, I spotted this guy on the shelf. Definitely more expensive than a $1 movie theatre pack from Target, but really cute and fun. (I never thought about the fact that Nerds plural implies the existence of Nerd singular… but I suppose that’s what this guy is?) 

Nutella: We put a tiny tin of Nutella in Carla’s stocking one year and it was a huge hit – maybe this little guy will find its way into her stocking again this year?

Cadbury Cherry Ripe: My husband loves interesting candies from around the world, and he mentioned this one to me awhile back. Definitely going in his stocking!

Astronaut Ice Cream: I have always wanted to try this… but have never wanted to buy it for myself.

Fancy Marshmallows: Who doesn’t love making their cocoa more exciting?

Butterfly Hair Clips: These are VERY popular in our house. I included a few of these in the Poke a Prize game I made for Halloween, and Carla has insisted on wearing her pink or red hair clips at least twice a week since, so I got her a package in all the colors of the rainbow. You know. Options.

Butterfly Jaw Clips: Little jaw clips have also been a recent favorite in our house. These are perfect for stocking stuffers. 

Meri Meri Wooden Animal Clips: Ooooh, and I love these beautiful wooden clips, although they are a little more than I normally spend on hair accessories. Perhaps better suited to a child who isn’t prone to leaving a trail of barrettes behind them everywhere they go… 

Hair Cutting Scissors: For the stay-at-homer who has now turned their sights on home hair cutting. (I may have added a pair of these to my last curbside Target order.)

Hair Towel: This microfiber hair wrap is super cute and super useful. (You know I love a practical gift!)

Bath Bombs: These are so adorable. And they combine two of Carla’s deep loves: bath bombs and tiny animal figurines. 

Grow Capsules: Carla has loved these dissolving capsule-sponge toys for YEARS – and recently discovered a stockpile of capsules in the basement, which reignited her passion – so I think they would make great stocking stuffers for kids of all ages (at least, all ages above whatever age it is when you stop fearing your child will put things in her mouth). 

Surprise Unicorn Hatching Eggs: This kind of thing is right up Carla’s alley. Like a Hatchimal, but… not expensive and won’t annoy you with computerized noises.

Grammar Pencils: I would LOVE to get this FlyPaperProducts assortment of grammar pencils in my stocking. 

Cat Pens: These pens are adorable! Who wouldn’t find routine tasks like writing out the grocery list or jotting down a phone message or writing out a math equation more enjoyable with these cute critters???

Critter Erasers: These erasers are so charming. They would be another good gift for a remote learner.

Mechanical Pencils: And I have fallen in love with these mechanical pencils. They are scented, which does not appeal particularly to me, but I imagine it would be really fun for the elementary set.

Colored Pencils: These are a much-used staple in our house. A fresh, new pack is always a welcome treat.

Mini Desk Vacuum: Speaking of items for the desk, we got Carla this mini ladybug vacuum to zoop up all the millions of eraser crumbs she produced during remote learning and she LOVES it. In fact, I love it. And I am a big believer in doing little things to make the tedium of work better, and I think this could do the trick for lots of children and adults who are now working from home. It’s small enough for a stocking and it’s darling and fun. 

Panda Stapler: Oooh! This is so cute! Who doesn’t need a stapler in the shape of a panda?

Mini Office Supplies Set: Oh my gosh – or this set of miniature stapler, tape dispenser, highlighter, and more.  I had a set of mini supplies when I was a kid and I LOVED it. 

Webcam Covers: We all need these now more than ever. 

Keyboard Cleaning Goo: I am the type of Mean MomTM who refuses to allow slime into my house. But this goo has a PURPOSE and plus it has nauseating (I’m assuming) fun scents that would appeal to my child. 

Resistance Bands: I am going to buy these for myself and make my husband stick them in my stocking.

Sports Headband: Earlier this summer, I ordered this exact headband for myself and it has been a game changer. Perfect for the active people on your gift list. I also love this beautiful gold headband from Hair Haven Accessories.

Workout Hair Ties: These hair ties from DL Designer Crafts are super cute.

Fitness Dice: Pretty much everyone is trying to find ways to make exercise more fun, right? This dice turns “moving your body” into a game.

Glow-in-the-Dark Dog Collar: What, you don’t buy stocking stuffers for the dog? Shame. NGS posted a photo of her adorable dog Hannah wearing a glowing dog collar, and I think my parents’ dog needs one too.  

Cat Hat: I am all about this. Everyone needs a cat hat.

Cat Slippers: My daughter got a pair of slippers for the holidays last year and they have been SUCH a favorite that I would be all about getting her a new pair as soon as she outgrows the old ones.

Holiday Crew Socks: Stockings are perfect containers for… stockings. I love these soft socks and Target has plenty of options for kids and adults.

Taco Socks: But there’s no need to limit your sock giving to holiday themes! These taco socks are ADORABLE. Plus the company that makes them employs differently abled staff and donates 5% of their earnings to the Special Olympics, which makes me love the socks even more.]

Slipper Socks: Or you could go a step further toward shoes – for those who miss real footwear? – and get these slipper socks.

Bathtub Color Tabs: These have been enduringly fun for my child. For years. 

Bath Crayons: Speaking of colorful bath accessories, I only recently got these for Carla. Not surprisingly, she loves them. I bet they’d also be popular with younger kiddos.

Flameless Tealights: This may seem like a weird stocking stuffer, but there are approximately one million uses for flameless candles and I am here for it. I am specifically thinking of how I can coax Carla into bathing by setting up a “Spa Bath” with bubbles and soothing music and then putting flameless candles on her counter and turning off the lights. If I were a bath person, I would be ALL over this.

Bubble Bath Pods: And some bubbles.

Fidget Cube: This is one of the coolest types of fidget I’ve seen – let’s you flip switches and press buttons and turn gears. And don’t we ALL need a fidget to use during all the Zoom meetings???

Monkey Noodle: You may recall that I am a huge fan of WikkiStix (especially for stockings! They are such good in-the-car toys!) and these Monkey Noodle things look like they may serve a similar purpose… without sticking to my carpet. Looks like they may not allow you to create things as well as WikkiStix, but they are stretchy and fun.

Little Live Pet Surprise: Carla can’t get enough of these tiny surprise toys. I mean, what child can resist the pull of a SURPRISE CRITTER?

Saxoflute: Do you have a child on your gift list whose parents you hate? This is the stocking stuffer for them. (Honestly, Carla would love this. But I have a headache just thinking about it.)

Would You Rather?: I am having déjà vu, so it is possible I have recommended this before. But Carla and her friends have loved playing Would You Rather? since at least kindergarten.

Mad Libs: Carla is finally at an age where she understands Mad Libs, and she finds them delightful. 

Joke Book: And JOKES. Carla loves coming up with jokes. It’s very cute. I bet we’d get a lot of mileage out of a joke book.

Diamond Painting Kit: Kind of like paint-by-numbers, but with tiny gems. We got one for Carla and it came rolled in a tube perfect for stuffing into a stocking.

Math Dice: This game is fun, educational, and the perfect size for a stocking.

Barbie Clothes: One of the best things about Barbie dolls is dressing them up, trading clothing items among them, finding new combinations of outfits and shoes – but you don’t always want to buy another Barbie to get a new ensemble. (Although sometimes the Barbies are cheaper than the clothing!)

Snowball Maker: This is the perfect silly stocking stuffer for a kid who lives in a snowy area (or, I suppose, near a beach). Carla loves making snowballs with hers.

Fleece-Lined Leggings: Carla has a ton of these leggings and loves how soft and cozy they are. 

Polly Pocket: These gifts are GREAT for long car rides. Carla really likes the Shopkins versions of these, too. 

Temporary Tattoos: A fun stocking stuffer for kids of all ages.

Make-a-Face Sticker Sheets: Ditto for these fun sticker sets. 

Seed Packets: This would be so fun to get in a stocking. I’d personally love veggie and herb seeds for plants that thrive in indoor containers. Cilantro is my favorite thing to grow. Basil is the easiest. I think chives are fun to add to everything. My favorite indoor flowering plant is an anthurium, so it might be fun to try to grow one myself. Kids might like seeds for a Tickle Me Plant

Flower Seed Bombs: Oh my goodness – this tube of plantable paper seed pods is so pretty. 

Gardener’s Hand Salve: How about a soothing hand lotion for your resident plant person?

Self-Watering Bulbs: I am terrible about watering my house plants. It’s really a wonder they aren’t ALL dead. I either over water them or forget about them completely. So these self-watering bulbs would definitely come in handy.

Customized Succulent: Even someone with a black thumb (me!) can keep succulents alive. This miniature one from Color and Creation comes with an adorable customized pot.

Lashtopia Mascara: One of my favorite beauty products is mascara, and I would love to get fancy mascara in my stocking.

Mascara Trio: Or mascara in triplicate!

Burt’s Bees Gift Set: I don’t know about you, but this is the time of year where my lips start feeling chapped and dry. A gift set of lip balm would be wonderful to find in a stocking.

Lip Smacker Princess Trio: For the child in your life (or inner child). I remember getting Lip Smacker sets in MY stocking when I was a kid! (Dr. Pepper lip balm, anyone?)

Mini Nail Kit: Oh my gosh, these little nail lacquers are so cute. 

Highlighter Set: Ooooh – or this mini palette of highlighter would be so fun to receive.

Listen, I usually believe that stockings are for small, fairly inexpensive gifties. But once in a while, it can be fun to stick a WOW gift in there, if the size is right.

Kate Spade Apple Watch Band: Sometimes you want to wear a fancier watch but still count your steps, amiright? 

Shinola Apple Watch Band: Or here’s an option for those who want something leather. 

Wireless Headphones: My husband got me these Bose SoundSport headphones on a whim for a previous gift-giving holiday, and I had no idea I needed them. Now I use them ALL the time, while scrubbing bathrooms, while walking on the treadmill, while vacuuming, while cooking. 

Fancy Facial Oil: This is my favorite skin treatment, and it is the perfect size for a stocking.

Gourmet Chocolates: I can personally vouch for Schocolat chocolates – their assortments are so decadent. 

Drinking Chocolate: My husband loves this stuff, but it’s on the pricey side. 

Whiskey Tasting Pack: Or for the liquor connoisseur, how about a set of tasting-size bottles of their favorite tipple?

Okay, Internet. I feel sated on stocking stuffer ideas. Well, at least until I see the next irresistible “Top 20 Stocking Stuffers for Ted Lasso Fans” article pop up on my news feed.

What are your favorite things to add to a stocking? What’s been the best thing you ever got in a stocking? And does Santa stuff the stockings, or do human inhabitants of your household?

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One of my favorite categories of articles to read is the Gift Guide. I love Ultra Specific gift guides (gifts for dog lovers! gifts for vegetarians who also eat bacon! gifts for aunts!) and I love Big Broad Gift Guides alike. It’s so fun to see the latest trends in giving (and to see whether Hot Honey will be on the list YET AGAIN), they are a cheering distraction from all the dire news, and sometimes I actually find a gift or two for whom I know the PERFECT recipient! As usual, I have been collecting ideas for gifts ALL YEAR and have put some of them together into a brand new gift guide for your reading distraction.

Even though I bookmark possible gifts all year, I am terrible about a) putting them together in a post and b) actually buying them for their intended recipients. This year, my patented Gift Giving Anxiety is paired with a thick dollop of Shipping Times Are Uncertain and a hefty pour of This Year Needs to Be EXTRA Special, so I’m feeling a little panicked already. Have you already completed your holiday shopping? PLEASE SAY I AM NOT THE ONLY ONE WHO HAS BARELY BEGUN.

Ahem. This is a post of diversion and joy! (Not overwhelm and panic.)

Without futher ado, here is a VERY random assortment of gifts (and many, many books!) I am considering for people on my list (or, you know, hoping to receive). As usual, this is not sponsored, but the Amazon products use affiliate links, through which I get a few cents if you make a purchase. Also, if you are expecting a gift from me this year, please be warned that there are SPOILERS AHEAD. (And check out the 2019 Gift Guide and the 2018 Gift Guide for other gift inspiration, even if the links may no longer be live.)

All photos are from the websites linked to in the gift descriptions.

Just Dance: This has been one of my favorite purchases of the pandemic. It’s available for the Nintendo Switch but I think you can also get a Playstation version. It’s a really fun way to move your body (I get SO sweaty and tired after a couple of songs) and bond with your kiddo, partner, or roommate. 

Man Crate Puzzle Box: My husband and I love to play puzzle-style computer games together, and this physical-world option sounds really fun and cool.

Fondue for Two: My in-laws have a tradition of fondue for Christmas Eve dinner. But I don’t know if they would go to all the trouble when it’s just the two of them. This little fondue set would be perfect! Also, it’s adorable.

George & Viv Hand and Foot Cream: Hand cream is one of my favorite things to get for Christmas, and I have been using it SO MUCH now that I am washing my hands and using hand sanitizer more obsessively than ever. This set comes with foot cream – which I also love – and looks so cute and festive.

Just Add Gin: Speaking of my in-laws, which we were, just a minute ago, I have married into a Gin Family. Which is great, because I, too, love gin. This collection of gin mixers would be perfect for several people on my list. Including myself. By the way, if you haven’t tried it yet, Mouth.com is a GREAT company for hard-to-shop-for people, and for people who prefer consumable gifts. I’ve ordered a couple of gift boxes from Mouth during the pandemic, and they have been excellent and fun. 

Bourbon Gift Set: Another fun gift for alcohol fans is a tasting collection of mini-bottles. It’s hard to find the right combination of not-too-expensive and enough-for-more-than-just-a-taste. This collection is a little on the pricy side, but it has good sized samples.

Club Bubbly Gift Membership: A champagne/prosessco/sparkling wine club? Yes please! If I were to request a splurge gift, this would be it. 

Bubbles and Rose Wine Club: Or there’s this slightly-less-extravagant – but still fun! – option.

Peanut Butter Fix: This collection of delicious treats would be perfect for my husband, whose favorite food is peanut butter. However, I just got him a Mouth gift box for his birthday, so perhaps I will save this one for Father’s Day.

The Nut Fix: And while we’re drooling over the gift boxes at Mouth, why not consider this package of artisanal nuts for the nut nut in your family? 

Work Gloves: If you have someone on your holiday list who works outside a lot, these gloves look perfect – tight fitting, warm, and durable. 

Fingerless Writing Gloves: An entirely different type of work gloves, from the TogetherDifferent Etsy store. These would be perfect for the hopeful writer you know… or pretty much anyone who’s hunched over a computer in a cold corner of the dining room trying to work from home.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett: This was one of the best books I read all year. I still think about it. A beautifully written story about identity and the face we present to the world – and how that complicates how we see ourselves – this would make a great gift for the avid reader on your list.

Wedge Fund: It’s probably clear by now that I love to give edible presents. As far as food gifts go, this cheese-and-charcuterie sampler looks delicious. 

Offbeat Pickle Box: Or this collection of unusual pickled treats – peaches! beets! cauliflower! – would be really fun for the pickle-lover on your gift list.

Peanut Butter Sampler: I have already mentioned that my husband is a peanut butter NUT, and this sampler might be just the ticket for him this year. 

Crab Cakes: My parents love getting crab cakes from, of all places, our local grocery store when they visit. Since they won’t be visiting us for the holidays this year, they will have to wait a looooooong time to get some, so it might be fun to send them some delicious crab cakes as a gift. 

Maya the MermaidFor one of the kids on your holiday list. These dolls are adorable – and each doll purchased means a donation of 10 meals to hungry children all over the world.

Singin’ Smart Educational Songs: When Carla found so much joy learning the 50 Nifty United States song earlier this year, I went looking for other educational songs she might enjoy. This CD has songs about the branches of government, state capitals, bones of the body, and more. 

ChopChop Magazine: For families who like to cook together, this magazine seems perfect. Published by a non-profit organization that aims to help build nutritional curiosity, STEAM skills, and literacy by delivering content to families, teachers, doctors, and libraries. It would be fun to pair a subscription with an apron.  

Build-It-Yourself Woodworking Kit: Carla saw this in the Lakeshore Learning catalog and requested it for the holidays. I know she would LOVE it. 

Young Woodworker’s Project Kit: She also requested this, which allows kids to make three pre-designed projects.

Black Women Writers Card Collection: One of my favorite gifts to give (and receive) is beautiful greeting cards. This collection, featuring vivid illustrations and quotes from black women writers, would be a delight. 

Wooden Succulent Planter: This beautiful geometric planter – made of sustainably grown wood – would be perfect for the friend trying to spruce up their home office, or a family member with a green thumb. (Or not-so-green thumb – even I have been able to keep succulents alive!) Plus, with every product sold, Oakywood plants a tree.  

Historic Women Who Dared Wine Glasses: I love these stemless glasses – each one features tidbits about feminist icons like Sojourner Truth and Marie Curie. 

Ninja Blender: This is a splurge, but it’s totally worth it. My husband and I got really into making mixed drinks during the early months of the pandemic, and our decade-plus old blender wasn’t cutting it. So we bought a Ninja blender and it is AWESOME. I love the separate blender cups because you can make a single serving of a drink, or a smoothie, or salad dressing, or avocado crema, all without dirtying the entire blender. It sounds like an airplane taking off when it’s in action, but it can blend the bejeezus out of things. Highly recommend. 

Lavender Eye Pillow: If you know any teachers or any parents who have been overseeing remote learning this year, might I suggest a soothing eye pillow from LaSalleAve Soap Shop on Etsy? I can just imagine how calming it would be to lie down for five minutes with a warm, delicately scented weight over my eyes after dealing with Zoom lessons all day.

Sleep Spray: Or maybe some calming sleep spray to help a stressed-out friend or loved one get to sleep at night.

White Willow Bath Bombs: Speaking of self-care, these bath bombs sound amazing. If chamomile tea is a cure-all, then steeping your body in a chamomile bath must be even better, right?

Long-Distance Touch Bracelet: This gift makes me a little teary – it seems extra appropriate during pandemic times, when we get to see our long-distance friends and family members even less often than usual. They come in pairs, and when you touch yours, the one your giftee is wearing will light up and vibrate! What a nice way to remind your loved one you are thinking about them.

Amethyst Face Roller: I guess the ubiquity of jade face rollers on gift guides over the years has finally worn me down, and I want one. Except I want this amethyst version because it’s PURPLE.

Waiting for the Biblioburro by Monica Brown: Carla and I read this book together over the summer and LOVED it. Plus, it’s a true story! You can go online and watch a video about the biblioburro, which made the book that much more fun and interesting. 

Animal Print Masks: Carla would love these reusable face masks from the LolaLovesIt Etsy shop – they come in beautiful animal prints and have adjustable ear loops, which I have found to be VERY important in face mask success. 

Sacagawea by Lise Erdrich: Growing up in the Western plains, I loved books about Native American life and legends – I hope to instill in Carla knowledge and appreciation of the original inhabitants of the Americas. One of my favorites was the story of Sacagawea, but the interpretations I read as a child were by white authors. This version’s author and illustrator are each Native American women.

Diapers: Maybe not a gift to wrap and put under the tree, but as you make your Target and Amazon orders, it might be easy to add a pack of diapers (or period supplies) to your cart and donate them to your local branch of the National Diaper Bank Network.

Vet Academy: This workbook uses arts and crafts, puzzles, and quizzes to show what life would be like as a veterinarian. Carla would LOVE this.

Moon Cycle Art Print: It’s very tricky to buy art for someone else unless you know them VERY well, but this moon cycle print from NonilyStudio is so beautiful, I imagine you know SOMEONE who would love it.

Let’s Stay Home Print: This appeals to my introvert heart. Plus, it’s VERY appropriate for 2020, especially as we are headed into a new peak of coronavirus cases.

Alpaca Blend Hand-Knitted Ornaments: These ornaments from Heifer International support South American artisans – and they are SO cute. 

State Pride Coasters: I’m always on the hunt for good coasters, and these are very attractive.

Beeswax Wrap: These reusable food wraps from TheTravelingBeeShop are SO lovely. You definitely have someone on your gift list who wants this starter pack.

Reusable “Paper” Towels: Is there anything more on the nose for 2020 than paper towel replacements? I think not. These cotton towels from CozySimpleLiving on Etsy are so pretty and eco-friendly AND will give anyone uneasily watching the newest paper-towel shortage a sense of much-needed relief. Or you could try a reusable roll from Ecozied – they are made from wood pulp (!!!) and the designs are adorable. 

Reusable Sponge Cloths: This is where I admit that I can’t stand sponges. Yuck. But I got a trio of reusable sponges a few years ago and LOVE them. Now that they are wearing out, I’ve been looking for new ones and these Swedish sponge cloths look perfect. I think you’d have to really know your recipient before buying these for someone, but I’m guessing I’m not the only person who would enjoy getting them as a gift.

Fudge Sampler: This gift would be perfect for someone hard to shop for. Or for a colleague, or your kids’ teachers, or someone else you want to spoil without going overboard or getting too personal. While I haven’t tried this specific item, I have had excellent experiences with Nuts.com offerings, so I think it’s a good bet.

Hand Soap: I don’t know about you, but I am ALWAYS on the hunt for soap these days and would be very pleased to get some as a gift. The packaging of this Hand in Hand soap is so cheery – plus, with every purchase, the company donates a bar of soap and a month of clean water to a child in need.

A Cozy Blanket: A blanket is an evergreen gift. The offerings at Beyond Buckskin are absolutely gorgeous – and all the products on the site are created by Native American artists.

The Blinds by Adam Sternbergh: Speaking of evergreen gifts, a really good, fast-paced thriller is always welcome under my tree. This book was based on such an intriguing premise and I devoured every word.

Banneton and Little Crock: I have an enduring love for beautiful and/or odd serving dishes. This little bread and butter/jam set is ADORABLE. I can think of at least five people in my life who could use one of these under their tree. 

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia: This has been on my to-read list since it came out earlier this year, and I finally ordered it as a treat for myself. 

Family Scavenger Hunt: This game looks like it would be great fun to play together – and a good excuse to get everyone up and moving. 

Family Feud Home Game: Despite the fact that I can never, ever spell “feud” correctly on the first try, I adore Family Feud and have managed to drag my family along with me. This looks like it would be a fun game to play together. 

Jeopardy Card Game, Junior Edition: In honor of the late, great Alex Trebek. My husband and I like to play Jeopardy on our Amazon Echo, but it’s a little too advanced/high speed for Carla to join in. This card game might allow her to finally experience the joy that is Jeopardy.

Kids Against Maturity: This game sounds pretty fun to play as a family, too. Maybe a bit too old yet for Carla though.

What Do You Meme?: Speaking of family games, my husband has been asking for this one, and it gets great reviews. 

Stet!: This game is on my gift list for a dear friend who happens to be a fellow grammar/usage snob and who gave me my beloved copy of Dreyer’s English

Dreyer’s English Day-to-Day Calendar: I just discovered this daily calendar and now it’s on my personal wish list.

Pranayama Wrap: Speaking of my personal wish list, I am definitely asking for this beautiful wrap. It has thumbholes!

Stack the Cats: This balancing gift from Etsy’s KnightingaleCrafts is so lovely, and I think any cat lover (maybe Carla?) would really enjoy playing with it. I feel like it would be the perfect desk fidget while listening to Zoom lectures or trying to edit a chapter. 

Londontown Holiday Mini Collection: I always ask for a holiday nail polish collection. This is the one I’m eyeing this year. 

Sunrise Alarm Clock: My whole family has a difficult time waking up in the dark winter months. I’ve heard great things about these clocks… maybe it’s time to buy one and try it out.

Bunch O Balloons: Listen, this may no longer be the right season for water balloon gifts, but these were SUCH a hit over the summer – and they sold out so frequently – that I think they would be a great Christmas option. Carla and her friends went through thousands of these during our infrequent backyard playdates. (My deepest apologies to the environment.)

Frida Kahlo and the Bravest Girl in the World: Carla and I studied Frida Kahlo together this summer, but I wasn’t in love with the books I was able to find at our library. A friend raves about Anholt’s books on artists, so I’ve got this book in my Amazon cart. 

Kids’ Croquet: This is billed as indoors/outdoors croquet, but we don’t have croquet-safe spaces inside. Perhaps it would be good for those living in warmer climates, though? Or something to keep in mind for next year?

Plush Octopus: There is no way I can justify buying Carla yet another stuffed animal. But SOME child needs this, desperately. It is SO CUTE.

One Leaf Rides the Wind: Carla and I also studied a little poetry together this summer, and she was super interested in formal poetry. This book looks like such a beautiful introduction to haiku. 

Beginner Sewing Machine: Carla’s big gift this year will be a sewing machine. She has been SO interested in sewing and designing outfits for her stuffed animals over the past seven or eight months that I think she would really make use out of a sewing machine. I got a ton of GREAT, very specific, VERY helpful advice from Swistle readers about what to get her, and it seems like a beginner option is not ideal (the commenters recommended something durable and high quality, because it will be both easier to use and more likely to LAST). So I have asked around and am considering this Real Sewing Machine. But… it’s so expensive, and the beginner version is much more affordable (especially if Carla decides she doesn’t like it). Decisions, decisions! Made even more complicated because I have NO IDEA how to sew or what you need to operate a sewing machine or what I’m doing.

Art Paper Center: This amazing giant roll of drawing paper would get a TON of use at our house. (When I was a kid, I would have gone wild for the create-a-story paper center as well.)

Stuffed Animals Sewing Kit: While I think Carla has moved beyond the simplicity of this kit (this child taught herself how to make button holes and sew buttons onto fabric), I think my niece would LOVE it. (She’s almost two years Carla’s junior.)

A Computer Called Katherine: A picture book about math and outer space? That centers a real-life Black, woman character? Yes, please. 

Rainbow Post-Its: I don’t think there’s any way I could justify spending $31 on sticky notes, but Carla would LOVE THESE SO MUCH. Honestly, so would I.  

Mini Kane Backpack: Still rainbow, but on the opposite end of the practicality spectrum: this adorable backpack. And with every bag purchased, this company supports American children and families in need – including by donating fully packed backpacks.

What Are You Going Through? by Sigrid Nunez: The author of one of my all-time favorite books (The Friend) has just come out with a new book. I MUST have this, and I am guessing your book-loving gift recipients need it, too.

The Searcher by Tana French: Speaking of new releases I really, really want for myself. I am a die-hard Tana French fan and want to read anything she writes.