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Posts Tagged ‘holiday stress’

First, I feel duty-bound to inform you that last week’s spinach artichoke chicken was a bust. I don’t exactly know why it was a bust, but it was. 

The spinach artichoke dip or sauce or whatever you want to call the element containing the creamy spinachy artichokey goodness was quite delicious. But the chicken… well, it suffered, and the whole dish suffered in empathy. I made enough to have leftovers, but when it came time to reheat the leftovers and eat them, I was filled with such revulsion I ended up a) making fish tacos with frozen fish sticks one night and b) ordering Chick-fil-A another night. And then I ended up throwing out the rest, which made me feel extremely guilty and wasteful. (I did scrape off the rest of the spinach artichoke element and ate it by itself; it was yummy.)

The other issue – besides the chicken, which was very tough? and also didn’t really seem to complement the sauce somehow? even though chicken is so neutral I have no idea how this is possible? – was that some of the artichoke hearts were… inedible. So that you would be eating along and then all of a sudden you realized you had been chewing for ten thousand years on a particular leaf. That was wildly unpleasant. I used the frozen artichoke hearts in a bag from Trader Joe’s and maybe that was the issue. It really kind of put me off of artichokes, though, and those have always been such a treat. 

Since I raised the issue of extracurriculars in my Dinners This Week post last week, I also feel duty-bound to update you. We had our first (nearly) full week of extracurriculars and we survived. It was rough going though. Although it was also a Call Week and it was also a week that Carla was recovering from a nasty respiratory thing that resulted in a lot of coughing, so she and I didn’t get a lot of sleep. 

This week has to be better, right?

I am also experiencing that free-falling panic that often accompanies September, which only just started and yet is also somehow two-thirds done. I have several freelance projects all due at once and then another one coming up in a couple of weeks; I have a big volunteer event looming in the near-distance and preparations and meetings have begun for that; we just had two family birthdays and two more are coming up early next month and one more after that; I am finally getting the ceiling repaired so we’ll have workers taking over our kitchen for a bit; then there are ALL the fall holidays one right after another and I feel as though I am already behind. Plus, in that time my husband and I have a pre-planned mini-getaway and I am trying to figure out if we can go visit my sister-in-law to see a performance she’s in even though the dates we could possibly make that work are the single weekend in between the big volunteer event and Thanksgiving. I don’t mean to complain, because it is all good stuff. It is just A Lot and it all stresses me out. 

I did buy my husband one of his birthday gifts already, so there’s that. But the rest of the uncompleted tasks are in a big, teetering stack and I don’t know what to grab first because everything is going to come toppling down on my head. 

Let’s think about food!  

I did not make lentil soup last week. The weather went from cool and rainy to 80+ degrees and sunny, and hearty soups no longer sounded appealing. I am back in Salad Mode, at least until I remember how much work salads are to put together. 

Dinners for the Week of September 19-September 25

  • Greek Marinated Chicken with Something Green, Probably Zucchini: I saw this on Instagram and immediately wanted to try it. In the Instagram video, Laura Vitale simply combines all of the marinade ingredients in a blender and blends them together, which is a relief because “use a mortar and pestle” is otherwise a reason for me to skip a recipe entirely.
  • Greek Farro Salad: I am feeling really into farro right now? I will make an extra couple of chicken breasts on Greek Marinated Chicken night so that we can have this salad.
  • Fall Chopped Salad with Some Sort of Protein: Another salad, and another Instagram find, this time from Healthy Girl Kitchen. Her recipes are vegan and I am not vegan, so there will be a little variation in the way I make my salad. For instance, I might add shrimp? Also, I don’t have any butternut squash on hand, so I may skip that part. I absolutely HATE chopping butternut squash – they are so hard and I am always afraid I will chop my hand off with the knife, or that I will send a shard of squash straight through the window (they tend to fling themselves away from the knife, when I can get it through the rind). My grocery store sells pre-cubed squash but one package was $5.49 and, while I appreciate how much labor is required to cube that squash, $5.49 is too much for me to pay for what is likely to be my least favorite part of the salad. I suppose I could look for frozen cubed butternut squash but I didn’t and I am not eager to return to my grocery store anytime soon. Last time I went I FORGOT TO WEAR A MASK and I am still reeling from that. Like… WHAT? I have worn a mask in a grocery store for TWO YEARS at this point, how did I just… forget?!?!?!
  • Tacos: ** Alert, alert: very quick weight loss talk ** The thing about tacos is that I love them with my whole heart. I want to put them on the menu because they are easy and everyone loves them, and because they SHOULD produce enough leftovers for a second night. However. I tend to overeat tacos. It’s as though you put a taco in front of me, and suddenly my body is certain this is the last time I will ever have access to a taco, and so I eat more tacos than any person should eat. I have a fond memory of being invited over to my schoolbus driver’s house when I was in elementary school, along with all the other kids on her route, for a taco night. (Yes, I suspect this is a little unusual, and yet my parents okayed it as did other parents of other children. Small town life, I guess.) And I ate TWELVE TACOS. As an elementary school student. Please understand that I do not eat twelve tacos when I make them at home, that was a one-time feat of extraordinary stomach stretchiness, but I do really, really like tacos. For most of my life, I have just… eaten however many tacos I want. But that’s not in line with trying to lose weight. I think it is reasonable to eat tacos, but that it is also reasonable to not eat ALL the tacos. So I am trying very hard to tell myself that just because things like tacos exist in my house right now, doesn’t mean I need to eat them. And likewise, that just because I am not eating tacos now does not mean I cannot eat them later. (This point is to prevent me from scarfing down leftover tacos for lunch, which I usually do as well.) Furthermore, I am not going to die if I only eat two tacos. I’m just not. (I am being hyperbolic; I never feel like I am going to die by restricting myself to X tacos. But I do feel a deep, deep longing for more.) Anyway. I am going to put tacos on the meal plan for TWO NIGHTS and ZERO lunches and it is going to happen.

Do any of these meals seem particularly in line with “easy” or “quick” (aside from the tacos)? No, not especially. So we’ll see how quickly it all falls apart. 

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I am sitting in my living room with a lovely view of the Christmas tree, lights glowing softly in the morning dim, and I am still feeling distinctly grinchy. What is my DEAL. We could easily blame my lack of spirit on the fact that I have to go to Costco today, the week before Christmas, because I have somehow allowed our toilet paper and paper towel supplies to dwindle to dangerous levels. Or perhaps we could point to the fact that my daughter’s school just informed us that winter vacation will begin a day early, so agitated are they about rising numbers of Covid cases in the system. And, worse, that the kids will be coming home with devices just in case we cannot return in January as planned, and need to remain remote for a while. Cue wailing and rending of garments. Of course of course I am glad that Carla’s school continues to take this pandemic so seriously. Of course I would rather keep her home than expose her unnecessarily. Of course I want to be a good community member. Of course we will be fine if we need to do a few days or weeks of remote learning. But. Anguished scream.  

However, even before this very unwelcome announcement from the school administration, I had been feeling distinctly dispirited.  Christmas music irritates me, unless it is a very specific and somehow highly elusive style of old-fashioned instrumental Christmas carols. I have wrapped maybe a dozen presents and am already SICK OF IT. I tried to read two separate Christmas books, both which came highly recommended by people I trust, and neither of them were a good fit for my reading style/current mood. We have NO SNOW, just wind, wind, and more wind. We finally put up the tree and the Christmas decorations, and somehow even they seem lackluster, even though they are the exact same decorations I put out every year.

I feel a certain level of frustration (with myself) over this lack of holiday spirit. Also, woe. I LOVE Christmastime, and I feel it slipping away from me, and I’m concerned that this is the last Christmas that will be Magical for Carla, which makes me want to swaddle myself in Holiday Joy that is on a high, dark shelf somewhere I cannot reach. Fretting about it does not help, of course; I cannot GUILT-TRIP Christmas spirit upon myself. I thought I could coax it to me with gentleness and patience, like getting a skittish cat to come up from under the couch, but so far that hasn’t worked either.  

The only Coping Thought that is working for me (currently) is that Christmas Spirit isn’t MANDATORY. There’s no law. I have done my best to do the things that will make Christmas happy for my loved ones and I can finish the last tasks I need to do but there is no law that I have to be cheery or feel awed by the season or cherish every moment. It’s disappointing, but trying to FORCE spirit upon myself is not working, so I am trying to let go. Maybe it will find me if I stop looking so hard.

In the meantime, here are a few utterly mundane updates on a variety of things. 

Christmas Tree Skirt: I ordered the Christmas tree skirt I loved from my recent post and it has since arrived. I like it even more in person than online. The fabric is kind of stiff and heavier than I anticipated, which I quite like; I don’t think presents are going to crumple it or displace it. (It did get some stubborn folds in it during shipping, but I think time and gift gravity will smooth those out.) I LOVE the red version, but I kind of wish I had the burlap one, too. Maybe someday I will be the type of person with two trees and I can get the burlap one as well.

Holiday To-Do List: Just two weeks ago, I was in a bit of a panic over all I had yet to complete. Here is a list of what I had yet to do:

I can make a nice tidy list of things we have yet to complete:

Address and mail holiday cards

Finalize purchases for Carla’s “rilly big box full of all craft stuf”

Wrap and mail gifts for sister-in-law and niece

Mail caramels to my brother and sister-in-law whenever they get here

Buy the final gift for my mother

Buy the final gift for my father

Buy all gifts for my mother-in-law

Buy all gifts for my father-in-law (including birthday gifts)

Buy all gifts for my aunt-in-law

And now, I have completed every single item on that list. Plus, I have wraps all the gifts and packed them in boxes and put them in the mail. All that’s left is to wrap gifts for my family (and on behalf of Santa). A good reminder that there is usually plenty of time to do what needs to be done. Also that panicking publicly on one’s blog is quite useful for stimulating action.

Box Office Breakdown: When last I showed you a photo of my office, it was cram-jammed with boxes. I was saving the boxes so that I had The Perfect Size for the gifts I needed to send to relatives. This was kind of ridiculous, considering I only needed four boxes. But they are gone now! Broken down (by my husband!!!) and recycled! 

My office is usable once again. Hooray!

Coffee Experiment: I ended my experimentation with drinking coffee after two days of drinking coffee. Coffee is not for me. Instead, I have been making matcha lattes with occasional forays into Christmas tea, which is a very gentle, fragrant way to enable the Christmas spirit to enter my soul should it choose to. 

I just ordered a box of Stash Christmas in Paris tea to try in addition to the Twinings. “Luxurious chocolatey flavor paired with lavender and mint”? Yes, please!

Anniversary Dinner: My husband and I decided that we just weren’t comfortable eating in a restaurant quite yet, so we got “fancy takeout” (this means I ordered short ribs and my husband ordered chicken Milanese and we also each got an appetizer, instead of getting our usual pizza/Indian food/Thai food takeout) and took it back to our house where we watched football while Carla was at a birthday party. It was a surprisingly fun, lovely way to spend our anniversary. Plus, we got (“got”) to wait in the lobby of the restaurant for a few minutes while the kitchen prepared our order, and observed all the unmasked people coming in to dine there, and listened to how snarky and unpleasant the three (three!) hostesses were, and witnessed a disgruntled diner gripe to one of the hostesses about how he’d been waiting at a table for fifteen minutes and no one had come to serve him yet, even though someone had waited on a table that was just seated. It gave me just enough taste of Being In A Restaurant to realize that I have no desire to be in a restaurant perhaps ever again. 

Also, I got flowers!!! (And chocolates. They are both from my mother-in-law, but that doesn’t dampen their beauty.)

Dog Gifting: Carla would like to make special holiday treats for all her neighborhood dog friends. I have googled “homemade dog treats” several times, which turns up lots of recipes, many of which include peanut butter. But then some websites say that dogs can be allergic to peanut butter. Or gluten. I feel like we would KNOW if any of the dogs on our gift list had special needs. That seems like the kind of information that comes up, when you are a dog person. Right? But maybe not? I don’t know. My best guess is that we should just pick a recipe, make it, distribute the dog treats, and then the owners will decide if they want to feed it to their dogs or throw them away. It definitely seems like the perfect “It’s the thought that counts” kind of situation. But I don’t know! I’m not a dog owner!

If you are a dog owner/expert, would you allow your dog to eat a treat containing peanut butter? Perhaps I should stick to a different “flavoring.” But the other flavors include things like banana and sweet potato. Do dogs like bananas and sweet potatoes? Am I overthinking this? I am overthinking this. 

Awkwardness: Thank you for your support and kindness in response to my post about being the most awkward human on the planet. I am mostly over it. I have since spoken to several of the moms involved in my big foot-in-mouth incident the other day, and they seemed friendly and normal and the subject never even came up. 

What are you up to, this last weekend before Christmas? If you also have to brave Costco, you have my solidarity and sympathy.

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I don’t have any new shortages to report, although Lunchables, which seemed to recover briefly, are once again non-existent and frozen pancakes remain highly elusive. But I had to rush here immediately to alert you that iceberg lettuce at my grocery store is currently selling for $3.50. That’s U.S. dollars. THREE DOLLARS FIFTY CENTS. Iceberg lettuce

I am well aware that prices of many items are creeping ever upward, but this seems like a GIANT LEAP. Usually, a head of iceberg lettuce is somewhere between $0.99 and $1.50. So the increase feels rather dramatic. 

It wasn’t even a particularly large head of lettuce, either. Smaller than usual. 

I find it so curious that the label says “2 for $7” instead of “$3.50 apiece.” Does 2 for $7 sound BETTER? Because it doesn’t sound better to ME. When did ICEBERG LETTUCE become such a hot commodity?!?!

Well. The other types of lettuce seem to be holding steady at their normal egregious pricing, so I’ll just forego my beloved iceberg for something more nutritious and less delightfully crunchy, like romaine. 

I was so gobsmacked that I mentioned the price increase to the checker. He commiserated and said that the shock waves of the pandemic were causing very strange cracks in the system. Even though I haven’t noticed a big difference in staffing – I see the regular staff members I’ve come to know over the past decade – he said they are really struggling with understaffing issues. 

He was the only checker open – which didn’t strike me as too strange; it was eight in the morning after all. But there was a guy behind me with two items to my full cart, so I let him go ahead of me. Then a woman got in line behind me, also with two items. What was I to do in that situation? Let her go ahead of me, too? It would have taken five seconds but then what if the next person showed up and only had two items? Or five items? I told myself that I had done the nice thing, letting the one person jump ahead of me in line, and that I didn’t have to do it again. But she had SEEN him go ahead of me, and I didn’t want her to think I was a jerk. So I told her I thought that the customer service desk would check her out, since she had so few items. She thanked me and headed off to buy her muffin and juice at the customer service desk. 

The whole interaction was super awkward already, but then it became doubly so when I realized she was my old hairdresser. 

I swear to you that I blogged about breaking up with this hairdresser, but I rummaged around in my archives a bit and couldn’t find the post, so you will get a small recap: I went to this hairdresser for several years and liked her. But then she started outsourcing things to others so she could work on other clients. Not just the shampooing. But like… “Oh, I’m going to send you over to Dean to do your color while I cut this other person’s hair.” Or… “Kelly’s going to trim your ends and then I’ll be back to do your color.” I did not care for this. First, it was a salon that charges more based on your stylist’s level of expertise, so I felt a little miffed that I was paying for HER level but getting half of my hair done by Dean or Kelly, and who knows WHAT level they were… plus, I wanted to see HER because a hairdresser/hair-haver relationship is very intimate and based largely on trust. So after this happened a few times, I went elsewhere for my haircare needs. 

It’s so AWKWARD, though, to dump a service provider. I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine having an end-of-relationship conversation with a hairdresser. “It’s not you, it’s me” sounds even more insincere when it’s directed at your stylist, right? So I just… ghosted her. (I did the same to the next hairdresser, too, which is even MORE awkward because she remains my husband’s hairdresser.) (Then my next hairdresser ghosted me, but that was because she didn’t return to work after the pandemic and who can blame her.) I have seen the old hairdresser out in the wild a couple of times, but on those occasions I spotted her from a distance and I think I was able to slip away before she saw me. Or if she saw me, it was as I walked speedily away, head down, eyes averted. Yes, I am very mature.  

But this was the first time I have seen her face to face. Not only that, but I SPOKE to her. I was wearing a mask and glasses, and I am several years older by now. Sure, I remember her name and her daughter’s name, and the type of books she likes to read, but I was one of many clients that she’s had over the years. So I’m hoping she didn’t recognize or remember me. 

There’s nothing to be DONE about this very small, very fleetingly awkward interaction. Even if she did recognize me. Even if she did think, “Wow, there’s that person who ghosted me half a decade ago.” Even if she reacted with anger or hurt feelings. I can’t change any of it. It will likely be years before I run into her again in public. And yet I AM STILL THINKING ABOUT IT, and may continue to do so for hours/days, twirling and twirling the interaction around itself, trying to reshape it or make it less awkward by perseverating on it. Why is being a human so rife with these little inescapable twinges and pains? 

Let us now change subjects abruptly to meal planning.

I went to the grocery store with one meal in mind, and while I was there I came up with several possibilities. So now I have a full fridge and a nice list of dinners to make for my family this week.

Dinners for the Week of November 15 to November 22

WAIT A SECOND IS THANKSGIVING NEXT WEEK WHAT HAPPENED TO THE TIME WHERE HAS IT GONE?

  • Fire Fry: We haven’t had this in a long while, and I am craving crunchy veggies in a fiery sauce. My husband made me promise to drastically reduce the amount of spices I add to the yogurt though. He is no fun at all. 
  • Chicken Paprikas: Another meal we haven’t had in far too long. And I have a bunch of cooked, shredded rotisserie chicken in the freezer just waiting to be added to a rich, creamy, potato laced sauce and poured over noodles. 
  • Asian Chicken Salad: I think my husband will appreciate this meal, as it is neither tacos nor chicken/zucchini stir fry, both of which he is tired of. I will probably make some teriyaki dressing as well since I don’t care for the peanut dressing listed in the recipe.
  • Chicken/Zucchini Stir Fry: Oh yes, I love this stir fry. It’s so easy and so tasty and all the zucchini makes me feel so virtuous. And despite my husband feeling like we have it all the time, we do NOT and it has been many weeks since we’ve eaten it and it is time once again. 
  • Thai Red Chicken Curry: Am I in a stir fry mood or what? 
  • Red Wine Braised Short Ribs with Polenta: Why yes, this has been a recurring bullet on my dinner posts since October 25. I STILL have not made this meal, but the short ribs are in the freezer waiting to be immersed in red wine until they collapse in drunken ecstasy and the polenta is very calmly waiting on the shelf and I have a nice package of inexpensive-compared-to-iceberg-lettuce romaine waiting in the crisper, so perhaps THIS is the week it will all come together.

What are you eating this week, the last week before THANKSGIVING, which is somehow nearly upon us?

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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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With everything (that word is doing a LOT of work) going on these days, and the attendant underlying doom, I am continuing to hyper-focus on making the holidays Extra Special. My husband has cut me off from buying any more presents for Carla (although there are still so many things I could get her! as though overwhelming her with material goods will help at all!), and I’m not really sure which new vessel I can pour my Making Things Special panic into next. The panic and the wheel-spinning have consequently drained a lot of the holiday spirit from my preparations. So I am trying to FORCE myself into feeling appropriately festive. Perhaps if I just jam myself as hard as possible into holiday-ish activities I typically enjoy, I will find the holiday spirit somewhere among them.

Here’s what I’ve been doing so far:

Enjoying Winter: We have gotten, so far, approximately 20 inches of snow. Carla and I spent more than an hour outside the first day, while the snow was still falling – I was trying to remove some of the snow from our poor trees, which were bowed low to the ground with the weight of winter (relatable) and she happily slid down the slide, molded snow penguins, crawled through the snow, ate handfuls of the fresh top layer, and flopped around making snow angels. I also decided to shovel the walkway, thinking of the poor postal workers having to trudge through all that white, but of course my work was covered by a new frosty layer by the time we came inside. Oh well. At least there was less to shovel when next I attempted it. By the time we came in, our hoods were full, our hair was crusted, and our cheeks were rosy.

I find snow festive and cheering, especially when I can play in it with Carla. Heavy snow is her favorite type of weather, and I totally get it. (Although I fear for the health and well-being of our poor trees.) Once the snow stopped, we had glorious sunshine. And brilliant sun transforming the snow into a shawl of diamonds is MY favorite kind of weather.

Seeing Through the Kiddo’s Eyes: This week I got to unveil Carla’s Christmas-anticipation activities. I feel weird calling them Advent Activities, because 1) I had to do a quick Google search just to remember what Advent IS (sorry Mom) and 2) I am not really equipped to teach Carla how to appreciate the season from a religious standpoint. This is not to say that we won’t dabble in some religious education this month; Hanukkah arrives on December 10, so we will be revisiting the Maccabees and the miracle of the oil and honestly it seems like a more poignant message than ever this year. As does the hopeful joy of the Christmas season – so much anticipation and gratitude and delight over the birth of the person who is meant to be our salvation. 

Back to my regularly scheduled secular celebrations: My husband and I got Carla this LEGO Advent Calendar, and she is delighted each morning to open it up and find a new little character/item to build and play with. But I also saw this beautiful reading calendar on Everyday Reading a few weeks ago and immediately uploaded it to the Staples website to be printed and picked it up, curbside. I’m glad I got it early; it gave me a chance to look over the daily reading activities and order some appropriate reading material from the library. (Our home Christmas book collection is a little thin.) Carla has been having a lot of fun coloring the image associated with the day and she has been reading the books out loud to me, which I feel is Educational on top of being festive. 

Easing Into Christmas Décor: We have not yet decorated for Christmas. Although I have put up the wreath my mother sent me; she sends me one each year and it is one of my favorite, favorite, FAVORITE things about the holidays. It smells so fresh and lovely and it looks welcoming and festive (it’s the only outdoor holiday décor we have, so it does a lot of work) and this year it has tiny little lights, on a timer, that make it that much more special and lovely. I may start bringing out the Christmas stuff bit by bit, rather than doing it all at once, although this will all be mood dependent; if I get a big rush of decorating energy, I will certainly not tamp it down.

Holiday-ing Day-to-Day Mundanities: I have finally allowed myself to start using the Twisted Peppermint lotion that makes me feel very Christmassy. (Should I get the matching shower gel? Or try the Gingerbread Latte lotion, which could be fun or disgusting and there’s no way to know?) (Although I have discovered I need to use it sparingly; I applied it two days in a row and found it more cloying on the second day than on the first.) I put out the Christmas hand towels – some in the powder room and two in the kitchen; I need more holiday towels, I think. My husband was, surprisingly, on board with buying Christmas family jammies this year so we have matching sleepwear that is bringing me a lot of glee. (We aren’t even wearing the jammies regularly — we did it once — but just the THOUGHT is enough to make me preemptively happy.)

Making a Holiday Playlist: Just like holiday decorations, I can’t start with Christmas music too early because I get sick of it. But it DOES help foster that festive feeling. So I am compromising by making a playlist of holiday-season/winter songs. (I like a good mix of Christmas carols and wintery bops.) This does require me to listen to a song, to ensure that it qualifies for placement on the list. But I am not listening to seasonal music nonstop. I acknowledge that may not be as real a distinction for you as it is in my brain. So far, my playlist has: “Last Christmas” by Wham, “All I Want for Christmas Is You” by Mariah Carey, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” by John Legend (a song that is rightly though exhaustingly controversial, but I like the way John’s version sounds and I don’t mind his contemporizing of the lyrics), “White Winter Hymnal” by Fleet Foxes, and five songs from Gwen Stefani’s “You Make It Feel Like Christmas” album. It’s a slow start indeed, and I welcome any and all suggestions. 

Sending Out Holiday Cards: We DID decide to do holiday cards, and took our photo on Thanksgiving when we were already wearing Real Clothes for family zooms… and our cards arrived this week! They definitely look homemade (which they were – I designed them) but I am trying very hard not to care. I keep telling myself VERY LOUDLY INSIDE MY HEAD that no one will care if the borders are slightly different sizes or that the photos are kind of blurry. NO ONE CARES. They just want the card. Plus, the cards will be looked at close-up probably once, when they are opened, and then they will be hung up on a mantel or a wall or a doorway and will be enjoyed from afar. (Exception: If you are able to have your mother over during Card Season, in which case she will remove her glasses and get right up in there and examine each card very carefully and ask if that is the same Wendy you went to high school with and didn’t she have three children instead of two and wasn’t her husband a fire fighter, is he still with the fire department, and have you heard how her sister is doing after her surgery, shoulder surgery wasn’t it? Moms are the best, truly, and I cannot wait to do this very thing to Carla someday.) 

These things are already working a little, so far. And just writing them down has tamped down the holiday anxiety a bit. What are you doing to feel festive?

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Photo from minted.com

Oh, don’t mind me. I’m just sitting here at my computer, scrolling through holiday card templates and weeping. While there are still lots of the standard designs, some of the messaging has shifted to address the very significant year we’ve been having. Some are humorous, referencing Zoom meetings or qauarnteams or that “everything is fine” dog-sitting-cheerfully-amid-the-flames meme. But the more prevalent feeling is poignancy, I think. I am seeing a lot of messages embracing togetherness, a lot of very simple cards (just the name of the sender, or a moderate “happy holidays” or “season’s greetings”), a lot of messages about gratitude or thankfulness or hope. The one that made the tearfulness slip over into sobbing was one that said in bold, reassuring letters: Love is all around us. Oh jeez, and after I wrote this whole post and had calmed down and was looking for a photo to put at the top, I came across one that said: You are essential to us always. And I lost it again.

It seems fair and reasonable and maybe necessary that the messaging of this year’s holiday greetings would be different: gentler, more hopeful, more restrained. Yet I have such a complicated mix of feelings in response: tenderness, toward the designers who have so carefully crafted these messages of love and solidarity, and toward the people who choose them. Petulant anger that we need to have specialized messaging at all. Sadness that we can’t be with our loved ones this year, and grief for those whose loved ones have been lost forever. Resignation that even though this strange mostly-awful year is coming to a close, things aren’t BETTER yet. Determination to celebrate and be joyful nonetheless.

My husband, who does not particularly like the holiday card tradition in normal years, is even more against them than usual. On the other hand, I feel like maybe they are more crucial now than ever. My mother says they are not just the yearly hello from friends and loved ones, near and distant – now, they are an important touchpoint. We’re not just wishing one another happy holidays, we are saying, “We are alive, we have so far made it through, if not unscathed at least with enough left over to send out a seasonal card.” For me, sending holiday cards (and receiving them!!!!) has always been one of my favorite traditions of the season. And I am CLINGING to normalcy and tradition here, to help me power through the last few months of what is, dear lord in heaven please make it so, a very unusual and upsetting outlier of a year.

Of course, I completely understand the opposite feeling. That this year was so rough that it’s hard to know how to acknowledge it. That it may feel almost off-puttingly cheerful to send out a message about the holidays when these holidays are so full of unaccustomed stress and uncertainty. That we are all doing everything we can just to make it to 2021, and trying to send out holiday cards is just another expenditure of time and money and energy that we don’t necessarily have. 

So I get it. This may not be the year for holiday cards for many people, and that makes total sense. But I’ve come down on the side of wanting to do them. For me, it’s an important point of connection. And in a year where so many of those connections have been severed, I crave it more than ever. I haven’t yet persuaded my husband to my way of thinking. (He is the photographer, so I kind of need his buy-in.) But I am working on it.

What are you doing, cards-wise, this year? And, whatever it is, is it a break with tradition? And, if you are sending out cards, what kind of messaging are you considering?  

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What day is it, anyway? I have been off-kilter, day-wise, all week. And I just checked the date and was very surprised that it is somehow the 19th. I guess I think it should be Friday but also only November 15? Well. Time has taken on very strange and malleable properties this year. I should be accustomed to it, by now, but am very clearly NOT.

Last night was a 3:30 a.m. wake up night. I hate nights like that. They happen so frequently that I feel like I should have a better handle on them, or at least know how to get back to sleep. But somehow, in the dark, with the wind doing its best freight train impression outside my window, and the gate shrieking in protest, none of my getting-back-to-sleep techniques occurred to me at all. Instead, my brain decided to first fret extensively about the pandemic and how everything is so much worse than it was in March and yet no one seems to care, and so many people are dying and my loved ones have been spared so far but that extreme good fortune simply cannot hold for much longer. Well. I couldn’t go on thinking about THAT. So I forced my brain to choose a different line of thinking, and it decided to chart exactly how I am a failure, and how I am nearing forty and have not yet finished the book I have been working on for far too many years and how it is now too late and I should just give up in disgrace. Great second choice, brain. You dick.

This is when I pulled up Swistle’s archives on my phone and started reading old pre-Trump, pre-pandemic posts. Very cheerful and soothing. At around 5:00, I fell back to sleep.

That’s when I had a dream about being at some sort of ski resort where four little girls went sailing over a cliff and three of them died in a horrible, violent way. Really, truly gruesome. And in the dream, not only could I do nothing to help, but no one else seemed to register the horrific tragedy that had just happened in front of them, and everyone sort of shrugged and kept on skiing. Thanks, brain. 

So today I am fretful and draggy. Going to walk on the treadmill for a while would probably help, but the act of getting TO the treadmill seems unsurmountable. In terms of productivity level, I score a solid Low. I did have to go to Wal-Mart, for a “contact free” pickup, where I had to wait in a smallish area with another person for the staff member to go get my item. (A present for my niece. She lives in a different state, and I want to wrap her gifts and mail them to her because her mother does not need to wrap extra gifts.) (I do not need to wrap extra gifts either, but I have resigned myself to doing it as I have been doing for several years now. Grim it’s-not-really-as-big-an-imposition-as-it-feels-like face.) (I GET it. Sometimes it just much simpler – and MUCH less expensive! – to order from a website, often with free shipping, and have something shipped directly to your recipient rather than shipping it to your house, wrapping it, then paying to ship it to the recipient. And sometimes gift wrapping isn’t available through online retailers! I totally understand! Occasionally wrapping gifts on behalf of a family member is totally fine!) Then, after eleven minutes of standing around, counting the number of Wal-Mart staff members whose masks covered their mouths but not their noses (final count: 3 of 5), and telling two other staff members who approached me that yes, I was pretty sure I was already being helped, the staff person who’d gone to get items for me and the other shopper returned. He handed the other shopper his item. And then went to a shelf right beside where I was standing and fetched my item. Sigh. Well. I never considered Wal-Mart and efficient to be synonyms.

I was counting the minutes because I needed to get home for my microwave installation. (I made it home in time. And had enough time to wrap my niece’s gift and put it in a box to ship.) Turns out that our old microwave had been installed… badly, is the word I am coming up with. And it’s a good thing a) we never needed it repaired, because the way the previous owners installed it immediately voided the warranty and b) we never had a FIRE. Because they had “installed” it by cutting the wires of the microwave and basically hot-wiring it to the wall. Good times. But! The installation company put in an actual outlet and installed my new microwave correctly and it works and looks basically the same as the old one, so I am pleased. 

(The microwave installation people, by the way, were very nice. They wore masks. I kept the doors open while they were here and also wore a mask. They were gone in about forty minutes. But I asked one of them if they’d been extra busy during the pandemic, you know, just to make awkward conversation, and he said yes, and then went on a [very] little rant about how so many people are going SO OVERBOARD with precautions, and using too much hand sanitizer and wiping everything down, and people just need to chill out a little. Omg.) (After they left, I kept the doors open until the frightful wind started slamming them for me and I also washed my hands and wiped down the entire microwave and everything else they possibly could have touched.) 

What else can I fret to you about?

Oh yes. In Completely NOT Important In The Grand Scheme, Or Even In The Small Scheme, Really, Frets: I am worrying about Santa gifts. 

Let’s take a step back here and offer context: I grew up with Santa. I believed in Santa much longer than most children, in part because my parents were magicians at making Santa gifts appear beneath my watchful eyes, and in part because the magic was so special to me. My parents always gave us gifts, but Santa would give us the big, splashy gifts. A new bike. A Barbie Dream House. A new guitar. A kayak. Skis. (These were not all gifts for me, but various big Santa gifts I remember various members of my family getting over the year.) Anyway, they were the most exciting gifts. And it was such a delight to venture into our living room and see all these fabulous things that Santa had managed to sneak down our chimney. I have always sort of thought of Carla’s Santa gifts the same way. Santa got her a play kitchen one year. Santa brought her a Barbie Dream House a couple of years ago. Big, splashy gifts that really wow her.

My husband did not have the same experience growing up. He has never seen the gifts for Carla as “Santa gives the big gift,” but more along the lines of, it makes more sense to have a Barbie Dream House appear as from nowhere on Christmas morning rather than sit, wrapped, under the tree. And while we have discussed our different views on Santa gifts, and have very carefully said to one another that we know our own personal experience is not The One True Way, neither have we come up with a Defined Way to proceed.

With that context in mind:

As I mentioned in the Gift Guide post, we were planning on getting Carla a sewing machine for Christmas. In my mind, this was going to be her Big Gift from Santa.

But this year, another family member also had the idea to get Carla a sewing machine. And it’s a very generous gift, and very appropriate from this person. But now I am agonizing over giving up our “claim” on the sewing machine because a) now what does SANTA get for Carla? and b) what if the sewing machine doesn’t get here on time? Because this person has a lot going on this year, some very out-of-the-ordinary things that are occupying a lot of time and energy… Plus… even in normal years, this person has a very spontaneous, last-minute type of personality and gifts often arrive the day of a birthday/holiday/event or, sometimes, after the fact. In a year when shipping times and product availability are unreliable, I admit that I am extra concerned about gifts arriving in a timely manner. (That doesn’t give a lot of credit to the family member, I know, which is unfair.)

This is good practice in serenity and flexibility, isn’t it? I can only control my own actions, I cannot control the actions of others. Carla does not know she is supposed to get a sewing machine; she has not even asked for one. So if it doesn’t work out for Christmas this year, we could always get one for her next Christmas, or for her birthday. It will be fine. And, of course, Christmas is not ABOUT presents. It is about family togetherness, and the joy and satisfaction of generosity, and gratitude for all the blessings in our lives. (Yes, I realize Christmas foremost has significant religious meaning, but we are not particularly religious so it is much more of a secular holiday around here.)

And yet the anxious, catastrophize-y part of me is worrying and worrying this not-really-a-problem-problem to death, because I feel like there is tremendous extra pressure to Make Christmas Special this year. What if this is our last Christmas on earth? my doom-and-gloomful brain intones mournfully. What if one or all of us get sick and die and this is our final Christmas together? I realize, fully, that EVERY Christmas has the potential to be our last Christmas because terrible things happen all the time. But that very cheering reminder that this year is, in fact, no different from any other is not as comforting as one would hope.  Instead, it has plunged me deeper into despair and ignited within me a desire to counter that despair with retail therapy. A fleeting and overall ineffective therapy, yet a very appealing one. Except I don’t know what Big Splashy Gift to buy in place of a sewing machine, and I don’t know that I can get my husband on board even if I find one. 

I feel stupid and petty, stressing about these very inconsequential and privileged things when there are so many BIGGER and MORE IMPORTANT things to stress about. But that’s what this is, right? At least partly, it’s a reaction to how helpless I feel about everything else going on in the world. I am trying to regain control over my own little corner, and even that is proving difficult. 

I cannot be the only one wasting energy and angst on ridiculous things, right? RIGHT?

Okay, while you tell me about the inconsequential (or very consequential!) frets you are having right now, I am going to try to climb out of the pit of despair I have mired myself in. Or maybe take a nap.

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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. 

Shed No Tears by Caz Frear: Same thing goes for Caz Frear, whose protagonist Cat Kinsella is electric. This book isn’t out until December 1, but I’m hoping it will still arrive in time for the holidays.

Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline: I suppose if we must think about gifts for OTHERS, and not OURSELVES, I would strongly consider getting this book for my husband. He loved Ready Player One, after all.

Evening Star Coffee: Do you have a coffee lover on your gift list? My husband is a coffee superfan, and I feel like I’ve bought him every coffee toy on the planet. But I can always find him interesting coffee to try! I love that this company uses family farms and native communities to source, process, and produce their coffee. 

Coffee of the Month Club: This coffee-of-the-month club sounds doubly awesome – you can treat your favorite coffee lover’s caffeine habit PLUS support a team of firefighters and first responders with one gift!

Sarjesa Tea: Tea lovers like me are always looking for new brands to try. The tagline of this company is “real Canadian tea, supporting real Canadian women,” which sounds like a great reason to try their Earl Grey.

Larry’s Coffee: Or perhaps your coffee-loving giftee would like this variety pack from Larry’s, which is the overall winner in Leaf Score’s 2020 list of best sustainable coffee brands.  

Bread Bag: We’re all accomplished bread bakers now, right? (No.) These bread bags are very cute and would be good for homemade and store bought bread. Maybe paired with a loaf of YOUR homemade bread? Or some yeast and fancy flour? I mean, that would be the height of pandemic gifting, right there.

Olive Oil & Vinegar Dipping Set: If you want to encourage someone’s bread baking habit, give them something delicious to dip the bread in! This option from Williams Sonoma has specialty flavors of oil and vinegar plus little dishes in which to pour them.

Jams & Spreads: Or something delicious to spread on top of the bread. This Holiday Jam from Stonewall Kitchen would be very seasonally apropos. Personally, I love this American Spoon apple and onion jam. It pairs well with a slice of brie, and I hear you can slather it on bread, slap some gruyere on top, and make a rockin’ good grilled cheese. 

Bread Baker’s Apron: You will understand why I love the personalized apron from Peculiar People Design. (My name is never used as an example!) But I also love this Bread Is Pain option from Neurons Not Included. 

Baguette Baker: For the bread aficionado who has everything?

Silicone Pot Holder: You know I am all about practical gift giving. This OXO pot holder is nearly identical to my current favorite. And I could use another one…

Murder on the Red River by Marcie Rendon: As a mystery-novel junkie, I am always on the lookout for new authors. Especially those who have a bunch of mysteries I can devour. This award-winning novel is the first in the author’s Cash Blackbear series. Rendon is a citizen of the White Earth Nation and I love that her books center Native American characters.

Kitchen Cube: This all-in-one measuring device would be perfect for the person who loves kitchen gadgets. I am so intrigued! 

Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell: I read two Lisa Jewell books this summer – Then She Was Gone and The Family Upstairs – and really enjoyed both. I like Jewell’s writing style a lot and both books were fun, twisty thrillers. I’m guessing her newest book will be excellent as well.

Black & Decker Handheld Vacuum: If you really want a romantic gift, this handheld vacuum is… not the right choice. But it IS the right choice for all your daily vacuuming needs. As I posted about a while back, this little powerhouse is a hard-working member of my family and I love it and appreciate it deeply.

Lesser-Mentioned Beverly Cleary Books: Carla and I are reading through the Ramona books again, and it’s obvious why they are so beloved. But Cleary has so many other stand-alone characters that I remember fondly from childhood. I just reread Ellen Tebbits this summer, and am now reading it again with Carla, and I think the main character would resonate with LOTS of kids. Emily’s Runaway Imagination is a fantastic book – I think about the pie crust chapter more often than seems strictly healthy. Mitch and Amy is a classic. Somehow, I don’t think I ever read Muggie Maggie, which is a serious oversight that MUST be corrected. 

Science in a Jar: If you know a child who likes science – and who has a parent who enjoys helping them with science as long as there’s not a lot of HOOPLA involved – this book is excellent. Carla received it as a gift last year, and it’s been an enduring favorite. It contains a wide variety of simple experiments and most of them require very little in terms of Extra Purchases. My favorite was when we bought white carnations and used some scientific principle I am forgetting to color them with food coloring. We also used jars filled with water to paint our nails, turned eggs into rubber using vinegar-filled jars, and this weekend Carla wants to make a cloud in a jar. Highly recommend.

Ask a Scientist: Carla is such a curious and inquisitive kid and she has SO many questions about SO many topics these days. I think this book would be excellent in both satisfying her curiosity and encouraging her to continue asking questions. 

Why? Over 1,111 Answers to Everything: This book might scratch a similar itch.

Bees: A Honeyed History: At one point this summer, Carla had a brief fascination with bees. This beautiful book has been in my Amazon cart ever since. 

Outdoor Explorer/Bug Catching Kit: Carla’s uncle got her something similar to this kit for her birthday and we have since spent MANY MANY HOURS outside looking for bugs. It was a very successful present, is what I’m saying. 

Beginner’s Science Lab: Carla requested this specifically and I am strongly thinking about it. 

Arts & Crafts Supply Center: This is another gift Carla specifically requested. The Kid Made Modern arts and crafts supply library, which she got as a gift last year, was HUGELY popular with her, so I know she’d love this version. But I don’t know if I can stand the thought of finding pom-poms and pipe cleaner fluff all over my house for another year. Maybe YOU or someone you know can.

Alma and How She Got Her Name: Carla and I read this together over the summer and LOVED it. It’s such a beautiful story about family pride and cultural traditions and reading it sparked some lovely conversations about how we decided on Carla’s name.

Play Money: I think this might be just a titch too young for Carla now, but it might be perfect for my niece. 

Rubik’s Cube: I broke Carla’s 3×3 puzzle cube a few days ago, so I think she needs a new, bigger one. 

Wireless Headphones: Speaking of broken, SOMEONE broke Carla’s headphones. And since we have remote learning in our future, we need a new pair. 

Mozart Music Cube: If you have a baby/young toddler on your gift list, please get this for them. Carla had an earlier version of this music/instrument combination toy when she was a baby and she LOVED it. 

Bamboo 7-Piece Nesting Bowls: This set of beautiful bowls would be an excellent gift for the cook in your life.

Mini Silicone Spoons: Speaking of fun colors, this set of mini spoons would be fun and practical! (I bought two mini silicone spoons from Joann Fabric last year and they have been one of my favorite and most-used kitchen purchases.) (Joann doesn’t seem to carry them anymore, hence the Amazon link.)

Striped Mixing Bowls: I couldn’t resist adding these bowls to my own wish list. They are so pretty!

Rainbow Whisks: I have also found that having more than one whisk – and a small one, at that – is very useful to have around the house. These rainbow whisks are super cute, to boot!

Gumball Machine: Carla made a recent offhand remark about wanting a gumball machine, and I remember getting one when I was a kid and loving it. This would be so fun for kids of so many ages.

Blankie 3-Pack: This would be a perfect gift for a new baby. I mean, no one can predict which lovie is going to become The Beloved. But if you give THREE of the exact same blankie-with-doggy-head, then your recipient can breathe a little easier in case one of them gets lost or pooped on or accidentally set on fire. 

Happy Blankie: Here’s where I make my annual plug for a Happy Blankie for the baby/child in your life. The company donates a blanket to a child in need with every purchase, which is awesome. Plus, the blankies are amazing: cool and satiny on one side, soft and plush on the other, in a variety of adorable shapes and colors. My daughter has the pig version, and it is her One True Lovey and I am pretty sure she will sleep with it for the rest of her life. 

Garmin Vivofit Jr. Watch: It seems like every sevenish-year-old I know has this watch. And I understand why – it’s awesome. Carla got one for her birthday and it helps her understand time better. It has little pre-set timers she can operate, which means that she brushes her teeth for the right amount of time and can go swing for thirty minutes without me having to bother her and can tell without me hovering when we need to get out the door for school. It monitors her physical activity and gives her rewards (in the form of a little video game and watch skins) if she has 60 or more active minutes. AND, best of all, we can assign her chores that she can mark complete on her watch and use to earn points toward… whatever we want. It’s an excellent multi-use watch and I have a friend whose eleven-year-old loves his as well. 

I Am Enough: Carla’s class read this book at school this year – and did a whole study on respect and self confidence, which I loved. Carla came home and asked if we could get it from the library, which we did. I love the lyrical beauty of the words as well as the message. It’s a book that would be a good addition to anyone’s home collection.

The Wonder of Birds: National parks have had a hard time during this pandemic year, so buying something from your favorite park’s gift shop (and maybe pairing it with a donation in your gift recipient’s name?) is a great way to support these national treasures. This book – about the miraculous aviary world – sounds absolutely fascinating. 

Aspen Leaf Ornament: This ornament is so pretty – and I think it’s so cool that it’s an actual aspen leaf, preserved in rose gold.

Glacier Map Socks: These socks would make a great gift for so many people.

Yellowstone Puzzle: Have we had a long enough break from the early pandemic puzzle craze to need a new one yet? I think so.

Book Club Puzzle: Speaking of puzzles, my husband would LOVE this one. It’s 1,000 pieces. It looks hard but not TOO hard. And it features books! 

Adventurist Backpack: Or perhaps an adult in your life needs a new backpack? I think a lot of us have spent more time exploring the outdoors now that indoor activities aren’t advisable, and this backpack would be EXCELLENT to take on a hike or a picnic. The design is so sleek it reminds me more of a handbag than a backpack. Plus, with each backpack sold, the company donates 25 meals to families in need across the U.S.

Pajamas with Feet: Listen. The concept of pants with feet does not appeal to me. I need my feet CLEAR. If I could help it, I would never wear socks. But my husband NEEDS these. He is due for a new pair of flannel pajama bottoms. And he can’t stand to have cold feet. So this seems PERFECT. (Plus, if your feet get hot, there is an option to fold up the footies.) Way to go, random Instagram ads! You know my heart yet again! 

Pair of Thieves Underwear: I have it on good authority that these boxer briefs are very soft and comfortable.

Fancy Socks: This is far more than I prefer to spend on socks, but my husband LOVES socks with unusual patterns, and these are VERY attractive. 

Steel Owl: I have been seeing ads all year, claiming that I would like these birds, and in fact I DO, and have several people for whom I think they would make excellent gifts. 

Schitt’s Creek Dish Towel: You know I can’t resist a fun dish towel. You also definitely know someone who would appreciate one that says Love That Journey For Me.

Cat Dish Towel: As far as dish towels go, this is the one I am coveting for myself this year.

Friends Trivial Pursuit: I have a dear friend whose all-time favorite TV show is Friends. This would be perfect for her.

I’ll Be There for You: And I can make it a themed gift and add this really great book, which I read and enjoyed at the beginning of the pandemic. 

Disney Princess Collection: Carla had a Big Accomplishment this summer and earned this collection of Disney princesses as a gift. After you get past removing them from the very secure packaging, it is an excellent group of dolls. There are ELEVEN of them, first of all, which is awesome. They are roughly the size of Barbies (though they can’t share Barbie clothing) and there are a LOT of them, which is awesome. My only (mild) complaints are 1) Moana, who admittedly has a different body type, is nonetheless disproportional compared to the other dolls, which annoys me and 2) WHERE IS MERIDA? I guess she doesn’t really count as a Disney princess, but she’s my favorite. And 3) Why isn’t Belle in her signature yellow dress? Anyway, if you are looking for a knock-their-socks-off gift for a kid who still enjoys princesses/playing with dolls, this should do the trick. It’s pricey, I know – but you can get a pack of seven princesses from Target for much less. (But you do get fewer dolls.)

Aerogarden: Carla already had a kids’ version of this at-home gardening system, and I got a bigger one for Mother’s Day, and I LOVE THEM. Fresh herbs all the time – or lettuce! Or tomatoes, which we haven’t tried! It is very easy to operate, sustain, and clean, and it’s fun to do with kids or by yourself and it’s wonderfully cheering to have something green growing even in the winter months. 

Leapfrog Magic Adventures Globe: This is on my neice’s holiday wish list, and frankly it looks awesome.

LEGO Brick Box: Even though we got Carla a medium-sized bin of LEGO for her birthday, we also got her a LARGE bin of LEGO for the holidays. A) It was on sale at Costco and B) she plays with LEGO ALL the time and will definitely love and use additional bricks.

Jurassic World T-Rex: What kid wouldn’t love a dinosaur for the holidays? Carla and her grandparents got to visit a dinosaur exhibit at the zoo a few months ago, and Carla LOVED IT. So they sent her this T-Rex as a holiday surprise. 

Photo by Jana T. on Pexels.com

Digital Orchestra Subscription: If you have a music lover in your life, consider buying them a subscription to their favorite performing arts organization’s digital concerts… Or making a donation in their name. This year, performing arts organizations all across the country are suffering. These are most often non-profit organizations that rely on a combination of ticket sales and donations to cover their costs. With greatly reduced ticket sales, and with new challenges to face (like how to pivot to digital programming, and how to keep their artists safe), the pandemic is hitting orchestras, dance companies, and operas really hard. There are so many worthy causes to support – especially this year – and I know that when you have limited funds to give, choosing between an orchestra and a food bank seems like a no brainer. But as you are purchasing presents for people this year, consider whether supporting an arts organization might fit into your gift giving plans. 

Photo by Lucie Liz on Pexels.com

Gifts of charity: Obviously, we all know how to make charitable donations if we so choose, and there are so many wonderful organizations that are doing great work in our country and around the world. It’s a personal thing, when and how much and where to donate. Besides gifts of cash, which are always needed, I think we are all aware that giving food and supplies to our local food bank, buying books from our favorite independent bookstore, or purchasing gift certificates to our favorite local restaurants are great ways to combine gift-giving and philanthropic support. I wanted to share two new-to-me options in case you are looking for a way to give something that feels more tangible/personal than money. Carla and I usually shop for a child in need by grabbing a child’s wish off of an angel tree in a local business. Obviously, we’re not really going into local businesses these days, so I looked for an alternative and discovered that WalMart and the Salvation Army are offering an online Angel Tree program through which you can buy gifts for kids in need and WalMart will ship them directly to the Salvation Army of your choice. This removes the element of walking through the aisles of Target and picking out toys for a specific child, and it eliminates the need for wrapping the gifts, both of which I enjoy sharing with Carla, but obviously doing it all online is a much safer option this year. I also recently learned about Choose Love, which allows you to buy things like food, blankets, and winter clothing for refugees arriving in Europe, the Middle East, and the U.S. 

That’s all I’ve got, Internet! I hope you find something for everyone on your list! And of course I would love to hear what YOU are already planning to buy/receive for the holidays.

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