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Posts Tagged ‘gifts for people who are hard to find gifts for’

It seems like so many people around me are having babies lately! My husband’s assistant! My daughter’s former teacher! And another former teacher! Babies everywhere! It’s very exciting – there are few things more delightful than a hotly anticipated baby. 

Recently, the mom of one of Carla’s classmates had a new baby. This was the fifth baby in that family. Since Carla is classmates with one of the other children, we have known the family for several years now. It’s a lovely family – all the children are charming, well-behaved, and polite, everyone is always dressed and groomed beautifully. I always give a little wistful sigh when I see the mom – who is both physically beautiful and a truly kind, generous person – and her little row of gorgeous kids, because she has a parenting gift that I do not share. Well. Perhaps that is why I have the one child and she has five. 

Some of the other moms from Carla’s school got together to do a meal train for this family when the new baby arrived. I love a meal train. Food is one of my love languages, for one thing. Plus, I love it when a family gives you a lot of very specific details about how best to nourish them. Plus plus, I kind of love the challenge of making a meal that I have never made/would never make for my family. It’s kind of like trying on someone else’s life for a minute.

(Me being me, of course, meal trains are also opportunities for a lot of stress. Since I don’t normally make this kind of meal, how do I know if it’s GOOD? What if they have a very specific idea of what Good X is supposed to be like, and I do it wrong? Am I making enough food? Have I included enough options for people who don’t like the main course? Etc. etc.) 

When there is a new baby, I always want to give a gift. And I had the same urge for this new baby. I ended up not getting the baby a gift, but that really happened as a result of a bunch of tangled thinking and then running out of time, not out of lack of desire. And so I really want to know what you would get for a fifth baby (or a third baby, or an eighth, or whatever baby is being added to a family of More Than Two).

Here are my thought tangles:

  1. This family probably already has EVERYTHING they need. This is Baby 5, and Baby 4 is still pretty much a baby. What gift could I give them that they don’t already have?
  2. But this is a New! Baby! It’s always nice to have something special and specific for a particular kiddo.
  3. Usually when I give New Baby gifts, I like to give a present to the older sibling; they understand gifts while the New Baby doesn’t, plus, it helps them feel included in the celebrating. But when there are four other children in the family already… well, that starts exceeding my gift budget. Not to mention exceeding my knowledge of what to buy for kids of varying ages. 
  4. And what would I GIVE? I know that gift options and gift budgets vary widely for a lot of reasons, but it seems to me that the moms of Carla’s classmates lean toward the high-end/expensive end of the spectrum. Like… fancy children’s boutique stuff. And I feel super uncomfortable with that kind of thing because how do I know if a wooden rainbow in muted shades of grey would be a welcome gift or in any way worth $28? That kind of thing makes my generous impulse shrivel up and hide. I am much more a Cute Onesie I Spotted at Target kind of a girl, you know? And maybe that would feel… cheap to the mother? Like a last-minute “whoops I need a gift” gift rather than something I agonized over? I don’t know. 

So! That’s why I ended up making a meal and not giving a gift. I am sure – SURE – that whatever I chose would have been met with sincere gratitude and effusive thanks, because that’s what this family is like. But I opted out anyway.

I’m still wondering, though, what YOU would get for a fifth baby.

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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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Wow, do I hate the time change. It should have kicked in already, right? Instead, I still feel like I’m sleeping less and yet also sleeping late and it’s making me very grumpy indeed. You’d think I would be THRILLED at the news that the U.S. is planning to put an end to the time change. Instead, I’m apprehensive. What new inconveniences will NO time change insert into our lives? What can I say. I am bitterly opposed to change, even if said change means changing the time change. Better the devil I know, I guess. 

It has come to my attention that I may have forgotten to update you on a few small things here and there. Things that make literally no difference to your day-to-day well-being. And yet, for completeness, I am going to give some updates. At least, on the things that I remember I need to update you on. Perhaps, if there is something you have been eagerly awaiting an update on, or a Burning Question you have for me, you will mention it in the comments, and I will answer it. 

First of all, let’s talk cake. As you know, I did indeed order my own cake from a fancy artisan bakery for my birthday. It was only $35 (I had thought it would be in the $70 range, so $35 seemed like a bargain), and my interactions with the baker/proprietor were 100% via email (which made me love her even more). Carla and my husband happened to be with me when we went to pick up the cake, and Carla was aghast that I was going to see the cake before the appointed candles and singing time. I think this is because I always hide her cake from her until I bring it out with the candles glowing and her family off-keying “Happy Birthday” while she waits at the table. We didn’t do candles or singing for my birthday, which is fine. The cake was GORGEOUS. A sea of lemon curd, ringed by a crown of raspberries. Here, let me show you:

A THING OF BEAUTY

I want to stop there, because it was beautiful, and the lemon curd and raspberries were perfection. But I am sure you are wondering “How did it TASTE?” and there I start feeling a little discomfort. Because I want to tell you that it was perfection… but it was… well, it was almond cake, for starters, when I had requested vanilla. And the buttercream – which was applied in the exact right amount!! – was vanilla as well, when I had requested cream cheese. The layers were separated by both lemon curd and raspberry jam, which was a little odd, but I’d said I wanted lemon curd and if there were raspberries involved, I wouldn’t be mad about it, so she interpreted that in her own way. It was fine! My husband, who likes cake much more than I do, assured me it was a Very Good Cake. And I don’t want to be ungrateful! It was lovely! But it was not what I asked for. Oh well. It was still quite fun and I don’t regret ordering my own cake, or ordering it from this particular bakery. And it is infinitely better to not-love a cake when that cake was baked by someone other than your beloved husband. Edited to add: Okay, I am coming back here to say that it was much more than fine. It was a beautiful, well-made, gourmet cake. It was not exactly to my tastes, but that’s more on me than on the pastry chef who made it for me.

Dinners continue to mystify me lately. I continue to load up my cart with khaki pants and sensible cardigans. I have some pork chops, some tilapia filets, and some beef I can use for stroganoff or stir fry. I also bought a package of chicken, intending to maybe give chicken a go again. We’ll see. But even with all these perfectly serviceable foods in my fridge, I am baffled by what to make. It is currently 5:15 pm and I have NO IDEA what to make for dinner. UPDATE: We are getting takeout from the Lebanese place that does spicy cauliflower. We had tacos last night, and that seems to be the only meal that has ever existed. (Obviously, I could do stroganoff or stir fry, but those things seem much too complicated to implement NOW.) Tell me what you’re having for dinners this week, even though it is somehow already dinnertime on a Wednesday. I could surely use the inspiration.

Speaking of dinner, I have been returning to the stir-fry sauce suggestions post frequently, for ideas. So far, I have only tried yum-yum sauce (per several suggestions) and it was wonderful and rich and perfect with the shrimp I made. My husband also dug a jar of gochujang sauce out of the depths of a cabinet, and I used that on a stir fry one night. It was… okay. Good mainly for its novelty. I think I made a roasted gochujang chicken once many years ago, and the sauce was better in that capacity than it was on stir fry. I will be working my way through the rest of the suggestions, as they are all appealing. Well. Except for the peanut butter suggestions, because I do not care for peanut butter. But I still appreciate your suggesting them as options!!! My husband, for whom peanut butter is a Desert Island Food, would love them!

I can’t remember if I told you this already, so forgive me if I have: Mornings continue to be awful, but we have instituted a new system of rewards and consequences that may or may not be helping. A little. Carla gets a set amount of screen time on the weekends – two hours per day. So we are now tying her morning timeliness to screen time. For every minute past the appointed Leave The House Moment, her screen time is reduced by five minutes. For every minute she is early, she gets two minutes of additional screen time. This worked terribly the first week (she lost nearly all her screen time), and then much better the next week, and less well the next week. In advance of Spring Break, we have sort of relaxed the rules… but I am eager to pick it back up again after Spring Break ends. The best part about it is that I feel less involved in getting out the door, if that makes sense? Obviously, I still want to be on time! But having this system makes the whole thing feel kind of out of my hands, which relieves some of the stress of pushing and pushing and pushing. I don’t know. Ask me later if it’s helping my overall Morning Mood. It’s still too early to tell. 

In the same post linked above, I mentioned that I was fretting over what to do for my parents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary. A couple of people mentioned family photos and that idea kind of knocked me over as The Perfect Thing. But there were so many obstacles to get through to figure out if that were the right gift, or even doable! First, feasibility: we are celebrating the anniversary in a very remote location, so I didn’t know if photographers would be available. Turns out there are MANY photographers in the area, but most specialize in weddings. And that meant $$$. So the next obstacle was cost. I made several requests-for-quotes via online forms, and heard back from one photographer. And then I had to have a phone call with her, which you know I love. She was very nice and her pricing was absolutely reasonable. But then I felt I needed to get buy-in from my parents. Because what if they already had events scheduled for their anniversary weekend? Or what if the idea of dressing up and getting photos taken sounded horrible to them? I was very reluctant to “spoil” the gift – but I decided removing the element of surprise was far preferable to showing up with an expensive photographer and be faced with a group of reluctant subjects. My mother seemed very pleased by the idea, so I booked the photographer. And voila! Gift handled!

Speaking of gifts: I recently learned that my mother’s beloved clay focaccia pan? pot? dish? died a sad untimely death, and she is on the lookout for another one. I would love to get her one, as her birthday is coming up. But I have no idea what the original was like. The only specific I managed to extract from her was that it was CLAY, not cast iron. I have no idea if it was round or square or rectangular or what. And google is NOT helping me out here. A terra cotta cazuela looks like a good candidate, maybe… although I guess I was always under the impression that focaccia was Italian and not Spanish, so a cazuela is perhaps not the most authentic vessel. Or maybe a bread cloche would be better? I am really hoping that you know exactly the thing I need to buy for my mother’s focaccia making purposes. 

My daughter and I watched Turning Red together. While I am glad to have watched it, I can’t say that I LIKED it. Not true of Carla, who has since watched it an additional four times and has been playing 4*Town songs constantly on our Echo. I liked some of it. I liked that it was a movie that touches on the physical and emotional changes kids go through during puberty. (Although I did get a little caught up in trying to make “turning into a red panda” completely analogous with puberty/menstruation, which it is NOT.) I liked that it explored the complexities of mother/daughter relationships, although those parts made me cry. I liked that it showcased the importance of friendship. I liked the diversity of the characters, in race and body shape. And I liked the message that it’s okay to be yourself, even if that self isn’t exactly what your parents want you to be. But there were parts I didn’t love, also. I didn’t love that the main character (Mei Lee) lies and defies her parents… or that the message “be yourself” seems to condone both of those things, as well as other things like physical violence and disrespect. I didn’t love that the changes Mei Lee goes through are referred to as “upsetting” by the mother. (I mean, I get we’re talking about a girl who is literally changing into a red panda, which would be upsetting… but it read to me as though the parents found puberty/menstruation to be upsetting, which seems like the wrong message.) I was mad that Mei Lee’s mother was so heedless of her daughter’s privacy and private inner life. I didn’t love that Mei Lee (and, later, her mother) are so unwilling to be honest about their feelings that they end up lying to their mothers in ways that make things so much worse. And I found it just plain confusing that Mei Lee is fine with being herself, but literally ALL of the other women in her family go through with a special ceremony to suppress their own selves. Kind of a mixed message. Then again, perhaps I am expecting WAY too much out of what is simply a cartoon for children. No movie is perfect, and there is no reason THIS movie should be held to an unreasonable standard. It has plenty of commendable aspects, and my kid likes it. And it sure beats Puppy Dog Pals or The Suite Life of Zak and Cody.  Have you watched it? What did you think?

What are you watching, TV-wise, these days? My husband and I just started watching Severance on AppleTV. It is kind of like Office Space meets Black Mirror and I am hooked. In the universe of the show, a company called Lumon severs its employees’ minds in two. (This is a big controversial thing, in the show’s universe.) While outside the office, you are a normal person except that you have no memories of what goes on while you are in the office. While at the office, your mind is only aware of what goes on in the office; your outside life doesn’t exist. The main character’s best work friend leaves the company due to mysterious circumstances, and the main character tries to put things together both inside and outside of the office… without knowing what his other “half” is doing. It has some dark humor and some very dark moments and some very poignant commentary on grief and some extremely thought-provoking ideas about autonomy, and then there is the mystery of this company and what it does and why. The whole thing is totally captivating. 

What’s new with you?

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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 snowed last night! Our first Real Snow of the season! Woo hoo! So I’m feeling chatty.

I suppose this is just a regular old Friday randomosity, dressed up in slightly different clothes.

Being a Parent Sometimes Means Forcing Your Kid to Go to School Crying

Hoo boy we had a rough start to the day. Poor Carla woke up on the WRONG side of the bed. And, oh, how I empathize. That feeling of dozens of little angry crabs, skittering all over your skin and clamping their tiny sharp claws into your brain, is so familiar to me, and I have dealt with it hundreds of times over the years and STILL don’t know how to get through it without snapping at my husband and/or feeling wounded by any tiny slight and/or wanting nothing more than to climb back into bed and start over. But for Carla, it’s still a new experience. She just doesn’t GET cranky, and so it’s been a long time since she’s felt this way and she hasn’t yet figured out how to cope.

I tried to be empathetic – validating her feelings, lots of hugs, keeping my own frustration in check (we left the house TWENTY MINUTES LATE) – but matter-of-fact. Being cranky happens, and it feels rotten, and nonetheless we all have to go on with life and do the things we have to do. I tried to suggest some strategies for getting past the yucky feelings. (I tried not to sigh too loudly when she rejected them all.) And then I dropped her off at school, even though she was tearful and upset, and I am hoping hoping hoping that her day only goes up from here.

Okay, despite my anxiety about being That Mom, I sent an email to her teacher just to check on her. (Not sure what I will DO, if her teacher says she is still crying… go get her? That seems like both the Wrong Lesson and the Right Thing to Do.)

Cleaning Before the Cleaner Arrives, Helpful or Ridiculous?

One of the reasons Carla was cranky (I think) is because I gave her a Hard Choice this morning. She was supposed to tidy her bedroom and her bathroom last night, in preparation for the housecleaner. I reminded her twice. I asked her whether she’d done it, and she said yes. But then, well after she was asleep for the night, I had to go into her bathroom for something and discovered that she had NOT tidied the bathroom. The opposite, in fact: sodden Barbies lying facedown on the bath mat, a full Barbie swimming pool in the tub, toy catalog on the counter, hair ties and rocks (yes, rocks) on the floor, pajamas wadded up in the corner. I know that some people who have housecleaners believe that the housecleaner can handle stuff like this. And I’m sure our very capable housecleaner could. But it is my view that time spent tidying – especially tidying away toys and things whose homes you may not be aware of – takes precious time away from the CLEANING. For me, the value of the housecleaning is in the scrubbing of the toilet and the scouring of the bathtub and the mopping of the floor. Some people in our house may disagree but I FIRMLY AGREE with myself on this point. So Carla’s bathroom door has been shut tight and the housecleaner has been instructed to stay out, and Carla will be getting some hands-on experience with what I mean by TIDYING vs CLEANING because she will be doing both.

Okay, so I also gave the microwave a quick swipe (there was a Ham Incident the other day, which I mostly took care of at the time, but exploded ham bits are surprisingly evasive) and wiped down the stove top (I haven’t even MADE anything on the stove lately, WHY was it so FILTHY?) before our housecleaner arrived because I don’t want her to think we are total pigs.

Stepping Out on Your True Love: Will It Rekindle the Fire, or Cause the Relationship to Implode?

The thing I REALLY wanted to discuss with you, before all the morning’s crankiness and associated anxieties derailed me, is that I have had a Startling Revelation. I think I am growing weary of my one true love: tea.

I hope you took that paragraph break to allow the magnitude of this revelation to sink in. Because it has taken me a few weeks to come around to this understanding. Historically, I LOVE tea. Double Bergamot Earl Grey has been my faithful and delicious companion every weekday since I discovered it, with splurge days on the weekends when I drink my fancy Uncle Grey imported from Canada. Before that, I drank regular Earl Grey or English Breakfast. I can’t remember exactly when I started drinking tea, but I know that it has at LEAST been for eight years (one of my fondest memories from Carla’s first year of life is that my husband made me tea every single morning and brought it to me while I pumped), and probably for several years before that.

But these past few weeks, I’ve had waning enthusiasm for my tea. It doesn’t taste quite as good, I find myself dragging when I need to prepare it, I end up gulping it down to get it over with instead of savoring it. It’s just not giving me the joy that a warm morning cuppa should give a person.

I don’t think I can switch to other teas. I don’t really like most teas – the fruity kinds, no thank you. Rooibos and Chai are okay on occasion but not every day. I like green tea, but it doesn’t have the same comfort factor that Earl Grey does. Matcha is wonderful, but it requires so much milk and frothing and so on to make it the way I like it.

So NOW WHAT.

Today, I asked my husband to make a little extra coffee and so I am drinking that. It is… not good. It is too bitter, even with two packets of Sweet’n Low and my normal glug of half-and-half. When I am not drinking it, the inside of my mouth tastes metallic and sour, and I’m sure my breath is a delight. I made sure to eat a high-protein breakfast before I drank it, but I still feel like it’s making me jittery and a little queasy. How do people drink this every day?

I used to drink coffee. When I was eight, my mom brought home these beautiful bowls from France and she would make me café-au-lait for breakfast. When I went to her office after school, I would help myself to coffee and powdered creamer and many, many packets of sugar in the break room. During my first summer job during college, I would live for the few minutes when I could step away from filing and pour scalding coffee into a paper cup and doctor it until it was creamy and sweet. At some point in my life, I was a fan of Pumpkin Spice Lattes. So I have gone through multiple coffee drinking periods in the course of my life.

But I can’t say I ever really liked coffee. When I left it behind a decade or so ago, I intended never to return. Still, I don’t really want to get back into it, now. It would require too much sugar, for one thing. Too much half-and-half. Too much… amped-up quease. (I feel like the non-word “quease” evokes the feeling much better than the word-word “queasiness.”)

But what else IS there? I need a warm cup of something in the mornings! (PLEASE don’t say warm milk. Hork.)

Maybe I will drink coffee for a few days and then see if I have a newfound appreciation for tea. Or maybe I will find myself sucked into the coffee cult that has thoroughly brainwashed my husband and Lorelai Gilmore and so many others (maybe even you?).

Edited to add: It took me many hours to finish this post; distractions abound! So this is Future Me reporting back to you on today’s coffee sitch: I have still not finished my cup of coffee; my mug is still one-third full and the liquid is cold and my head feels powered by hummingbird wings and my stomach is a-sail on choppy seas. This is not a promising beginning.

A Strange and Unfamiliar Dilemma Arises!

This is not an actual problem.

We ordered our holiday cards on Sunday and they arrived ON WEDNESDAY. People, it is STILL NOVEMBER. This has NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE. I am absolutely delighted. (We ordered through Mpix.com – it was a great experience, through and through. The cards look great, even if adding a photo to a card and printing it didn’t make the awkward way I am holding my arm in said photo look any less awkward.)

But now I am facing a quandary: when do I send the cards? Part of me wants to send them NOW, get them off my desk (my office has become Holiday Storage Central, and is full of boxes that I can’t bear myself to throw away and gifts for people), and perhaps achieve the ever-elusive status of being someone’s First Holiday Card of the Season. (Our First Holiday Card of the Season usually arrives from one of the few high school friends I continue to talk to as an adult. I am anticipating it any day now.)

But the other part of me is resisting this. I don’t know why. Maybe because I am a firmly Wait Until After Thanksgiving holiday celebrant? Maybe because I don’t want to be first? Perhaps people will toss the card because it’s so early, or perhaps I am uncomfortable with the idea of MY awkwardly posed arm being on someone’s wall or mantel all alone for days or weeks? I don’t know. It seems too early!

Then again, Hanukkah is early this year, and begins the weekend after Thanksgiving. Part of the reason we send holiday cards instead of Christmas cards is because so many of our card recipients are Jewish. It would be nice for the holiday card to arrive DURING the holidays, rather than after them. (Although I doubt that any of our Jewish card recipients care all that much; Hanukkah isn’t really that big a deal, and they are likely inured to the tradition of getting “holiday” cards during Christmastime.)

All this to say: I am sort of leaning toward sending them out on December first. That puts them arriving solidly in December, and hopefully before Hanukkah ends.

You Can Bet I Filled Out the Customer Survey, and I Filled It Out GOOD

Yesterday saw me flitting about from store to store, running errands. It’s been a LONG time since I’ve done something so carefree. I was looking for three specific things: 1. Candles for the menorah, which I did not find. 2. Ideas for a “giant crate filled with crafting supplies,” which was the top item on Carla’s letter to Santa. 3. A tiny, not-terribly-expensive salt and pepper shaker set that I can use when my parents are here; I did not find this, either. I did manage to spend a lot more money than my lack of success would imply.

Oh! Brief deviation from the topic, which I haven’t even GOTTEN to yet: I thought it was so fascinating to see how differently stores are handling the pandemic. Many stores had signs on their entrances, but I don’t think any of them were the same. “Masks required” said one, with a sentence below in smaller print citing CDC recommendations. “Masks recommended for unvaccinated individuals” said another. “Masks optional” said a third, which is similar to the second, but conveys a very different vibe.

One of the stores I visited was Target. I haven’t been in Target in a long while, partly because I haven’t needed anything from Target in a long time and partly because I love, with my whole heart, the option to order my items online and have someone deliver them to my car. CURBSIDE 4EVA.

It was sort of pleasant and nostalgic to wander around Target for awhile. It wasn’t terribly busy, and I could see with my own eyes that they were, in fact, completely out of Carla’s size in fleece-lined leggings. (I don’t know why I keep buying them, because holes sprout in the knees practically immediately.) (I do know why: they are cheap.)

I narrowly avoided buying any of the cute Christmassy appetizer plates they had for $3 apiece. I am beginning to think that was a mistake.

I was not able to resist the miniature office supplies set, which will make its way into Carla’s stocking.

image from target.com

But when I checked out, I reconnected with one of my biggest peeves about Target. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve complained about it before. But my peeve has been so inflamed that I am going to complain about it again.

When you checkout, there is almost NO WAY to see whether you are being charged appropriately for each item. Long, long ago, so long ago that I am willing to admit it may be a figment of my wildest dreams, you could go up to the credit card reader, and it would show you what you were buying in real time, as the checker scanned your items. No more. Now, if you have even a small hope of glimpsing what the computer says you owe, you have to stand back at the conveyor belt – which makes it very awkward to fill your cart as the checker bags your items – and squint at the computer screen facing the checker. Facing the checker, not facing YOU. And the type is so small that you have very little hope of seeing the price of each item anyway. In larger type is the total of your purchase, but that requires instantaneous math, and I am not good at that in the best of times, less so when I am in public.

We all know that Target makes errors. It is OFTEN that an item will scan at a different price than is displayed on the shelf. And the placement of the computer makes it nearly impossible to know that this is happening.

Also, the only way to know the total you are about to pay is to listen carefully to the checker, who has to say it out loud to you. It does not even give a total on the card reader! This is madness!

HARUMPH.

I did get a customer survey in my email later that day, which I took great pleasure in filling out. Not that it will do a lick of good.

Suspected Shipping Snafu Turned Sweet Surprise!

A box from amazon arrived the other day, as is an all-too-frequent occurrence in these days leading up to the holidays. (I am trying to wean myself off of amazon, I AM, but it is difficult.)

The box was addressed to me; I was expecting some fleece-lined leggings I’d ordered for Carla, to replace her hole-y Target ones. So I opened it.

Inside was a smaller box, with a label that said “lidded casserole.”

This was something I had JUST THE DAY BEFORE put on a list of Christmas wishes that I had shared with my husband. My guess what that he had accidentally sent it to me because I am the intended recipient. So I sighed and put it back in the box, resolving to be So! Surprised! when it appeared under the tree on Christmas Day.

But when he came home, he swore he hadn’t ordered one for me.

Turns out it was a thank-you gift from his parents! When they were here, I’d mentioned that I was constantly on the lookout for a medium sized casserole dish… and my mother-in-law remembered and sent me TWO!

What a fun and thoughtful surprise!

That’s the note I’ll end on. Well, and this additional note, from Carla’s teacher, that she arrived to class her cheerful, happy self. PHEW.

Hope you have a lovely weekend, Internet!

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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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