Monday, November 30, 2020

Sam's Weekly Quarantine Digest #35: Gift Guide Edition, Part III

 Hi all,

What a topsy-turvy few weeks!  I promise there will be more to report soon, and that my message of thanks is delayed, but not forgotten.  I hope each of you are finding something to be thankful for these days, and some good old holiday cheer!

Below is the final installment of my holiday gift guide, including some stocking stuffers and holiday decor at the bottom.  If you're a few emails behind, you can find the full gift guide here!  Enjoy, and happy shopping!

As always, previous digests can be found on my blog at  If you have suggestions or would like to stop receiving these emails, just let me know. 


P.S. - Public Service Announcement: One more advent calendar came to my attention after I sent the last Digest, but I couldn't possibly omit it, since it appears to have been made for me.  I haven't purchased it for myself yet, but it's definitely going to be in my letter to Santa this year!  If you have a fellow baker on your gift list, this would be a very *sweet* surprise, indeed.

For Bibliophiles

  • Obama’s memoir, A Promised Land, was released a few weeks ago.  If you haven’t already gifted it in past years, you can pair it with Becoming, Michelle Obama’s own memoir, for an in-depth look at this beloved couple.

  • Allie Brosh (All the Things): Solutions and Other Problems (and her original book, **, can be found here).  Brosh’s sense of humor is unique - it’s sarcastic, it’s self-deprecating, it’s crass, and it’s exactly what I need during the quarantine.  Luke bought me her first book when I was living in London, and I read it every day on the double-decker buses as I whizzed around town - at a time when I was feeling very lonely and very lost, that book was able to make me laugh out loud on the bus to the point that other passengers stared at me.  Highly recommended!!

  • Nostalgic memories: 2020 has been a year full of nostalgia for many of us - when our modern shows stopped airing new episodes, many of us started to binge oldies-but-goodies that we loved years ago, like Arrested Development, The Office, and 30 Rock.  Hulu has even brought back new episodes of Animaniacs, and Saved by the Bell has been reincarnated, too.  Why not do the same for the books we used to love?

    • For example, I stumbled on a few Nancy Drew books in my parents’ house, which are quick reads and which I’ve been loving revisiting from my youth.  Try this starter set with the first five books, or head to Etsy for plenty of sellers that will let you pick a specific book if you want to complete your set.  I also found My Father’s Dragon, the first book of one of my favorite series as a kid.

    • I’ve also been working my way through a set of Barnes & Nobles Classics that I bought last summer after the Bar Exam.  From Sherlock Holmes to Edith Wharton to Dante, I love the B&N versions - they include explanatory notes where helpful (especially for a translation like Dante, or to explain historical references that are no longer obvious), and the translations are fairly easy to digest, even for the complicated stories from the days of yore.

    • Another winner for kids of all ages would be any of the Where’s Waldo? or I Spy books - you can even pair them with a personalized version!

    • Revisit simple, uplifting, and even silly poetry with Shel Silverstein, Jack Prelutsky, Maurice Sendak, or Khalil Gibran.  Or, if you haven’t yet encountered it, now might be a good time to try one of my favorite books as a kid, which happens to be written in verse - The Sign of the Seahorse.

    • I’ll round out this category by suggesting that you just pick one of your giftees’ feel-good favorites from years gone by - perhaps Madeleine L’Engle or Roald Dahl?

For the Fragrance Lover: My favorites come from two stores, both of which have been long-lasting and repeat gift go-to’s year after year.

  • Bath & Body Works: IMHO, this is the best source for hand soaps, hand sanitizers (wait a few days - they’re pretty cleaned out from Black Friday), and body washes.  My go-to fragrances are the one that smell like desserts, naturally.  They also have beautiful nightlights - they’re meant to hold fragranced “Wallflowers”, but you don’t actually need to insert a Wallflower to use them.  Some of my favorites items are:

    • Merry Cookie hand soap: I literally just bought one for every bathroom in the house Luke and I are in the process of buying.

    • Vanilla Bean Noel Whipped Confetti Body Scrub (also comes in Winter Candy Apple): This body scrub is essentially a foamy moisturizing body wash that includes sugar crystals to exfoliate while you deeply inhale the sweet scents of sugar and spice and everything nice (my description of the Vanilla Bean Noel fragrance).  I can’t get enough of it, year-round!

    • Marshmallow Fireside or Hot Cocoa & Cream candles: ‘Nuff said.

    • Nightlights (selection changes seasonally): Try this pine tree, this snowman, or this snowflake.

    • Hand sanitizer: Their Pocketbacs are amazing - they smell delicious (I really hate the smell of Purell), they don’t dry your skin out as much as others, and you can get really cute holders (like this Husky) that you can affix to your belt loop or zipper pull so your sanitizer is always handy when you need it.  Just make sure you get the right shape Pocketbac (looks like a rounded square shape) for the current bottle holders - they also make prism-shaped bottles and sanitizer sprays that won’t fit the holders.  Check back frequently, as they refresh their stock of fragrances daily.

  • Lush: Lush makes incredible bath bombs. It's that simple. Butterball is my absolute favorite - it leaves your skin feeling soft for days, and for the holidays, they usually dress them up in the form of the Butterbear. The reality, though, is that you can't go wrong here - they have tons of seasonally-themed bath bombs as well as year-round favorites, and they're all pretty terrific. Besides Butterball, I've also become enamored with the Geode (gorgeous, with a soothingly relaxing fragrance) and the Eggplant (make fun of me all you want, but the color is awesome and I love the scent).

  • You can also try these bath bombs for kids!

For the Gadget-Lover

  • AirPods seem ubiquitous these days, but there’s so much more room for fun with Apple’s classic sleek packaging - try a case like this one to make someone smile every time they reach for their earbuds.

  • Razer Kishi: These attachments click into your iPhone or Android to turn it into an ergonomic video game controller.  Bring Fortnite to life, or take more of your favorite games on the go, or maybe appease the child who keeps asking for a crazy-expensive new gaming console for a fraction of the price.

For the New Grad

  • These bookends are one of the coolest law school graduation gifts I received, and I’ve paid the idea forward several times already (and they come in a few different varieties, like the scales of justice for attorneys and the caduceus for doctors).  I happen to love Personalization Mall in general - personalized gifts on the internet have come a long way since the stick-your-face-on-a-mug-or-tee phase of the ‘90s.  It doesn’t hurt that they’re having a HUGE sale right now!

Miscellaneous/Fun for All

  • Tired of staring at the same scene day after day?  Bring the outdoors indoors for the long winter months with this peel-and-stick wallpaper (try it on the ceiling if you’re brave enough!) or these decals of grass or vines.

  • Venus et Fleur's Eternity Roses last at least one year without needing to be watered.  They even offer an advent calendar, although it will run you $249.

  • Single-serving loose-leaf teacup: I used to hate tea, but then a lovely hotel owner in Rome introduced me to vanilla tea, and then a few months ago, I discovered that cacao tea is a thing (and a really good one; the one I tried isn’t sold in the U.S. right now, but this one looks quite similar).  Unfortunately, I had no loose leaf tea gear, but obviously, nothing was going to stand between me and a direct hit of chocolate.  Enter this single-cup loose-leaf tea mug, which makes a perfect amount, keeps it hot for an hour or more, and is a cinch to clean.

  • Under-desk elliptical: Until the day that my Cubii got stranded at the office in March when the zombie apocalypse began while I was on vacation for Cookie Party Week (ok, it wasn’t exactly like Rick Grimes’ experience, but wasn’t unlike it, either), I was loving this thing!  I was so skeptical of it at first, but I really missed using the treadmill desks at Google, and this ended up being the perfect analog for a law office - subtle and non-disruptive, but still effective.

Holiday Ornaments and Tree Trimmings

  • Signs of the times

    • 2020 Dumpster Fire ornament: try here, here, or here.

    • Toilet Paper Shortage commemorative ornaments: try here, here, or here (the last two can even be personalized).

  • Clip-On Cardinals for your Christmas tree: One of my close friends introduced me to these last year when I surprised Luke by setting up and decorating a giant tree in our new apartment (my very first time!), and these continue to be one of my favorite holiday decorations.  The only snag is if you’re married to a Seahawks fan and he accuses you of being an unsupportive wife when their division rival’s mascot is looking at him funny from the tree on Sunday afternoons...oops.  In that case, they make lots of other birds, too, in various colors, but none of them truly have quite as much holiday oomph as the cardinals.

  • Garlands: There are so many fun garlands out there, but these gnomes, gingerbread men, and sleigh-and-reindeer garlands are some of my favorites.

  • In our home, the Christmas tree is always topped with a Star of David.  We own this one and this one - the first is lightweight but probably too small for a tree taller than 8 feet or so, and the second lights up and is really pretty, but is also quite heavy and one-sided (so if you need a 3D topper, go for the first one).

Stocking Stuffers

  • Pretty much anything from the Container Store's Stocking Stuffers list! This is one of my perennial go-to's - their curated assortment always contains novel and super-useful items, plus a handful that just plain make me smile (chip-shaped chip clips, anyone?  Or the cutest hand-warmers ever?).  Two of the stand-outs for me this year are included in my suggestions below, but I highly recommend taking 5 minutes to peruse the full list. 
  • Earbud Cleaning Kit: Let’s face it: earbuds are extremely convenient for today’s lifestyle, but they’re also kinda gross.  And in an era when we’re obsessively cleaning so many of our belongings, they still tend to be overlooked.  This cleaning kit lets us give these little buggers the attention they deserve.

  • Ok, I have truly spent too much on masks this year, but if I had the cash to buy just one more, this sprinkle-print mask would obviously be the one.

  • Ready-to-eat coffee: Because, let's face it, we're not going to feel comfortable going into a Starbucks for a long time, but we need our caffeine more than ever.

  • White noise machine: Because we all need to sleep better after 2020.  I've heard they also work wonders when placed on either side of an office door to block out competing Zoom calls.

  • Astronaut ice cream sandwich: Because doomsday planning should be fun, too - throw in a few of these along with those 8,000 rolls of Charmin you're hoarding in the basement.

  • Giant chocolate Hanukkah gelt: One coin will last you all eight days!

  • Pokeball bath bombs: For when your kid (of any age) needs to chill. 

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