Favorite Things, and a Wish or Two: Christmas Gift Guide

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I love reading gift guides. They’re a peek into what other people treasure. In case you’re in need of gift ideas, I figured I’d share some of the things I use and enjoy most. Unless otherwise noted, all of the items in this guide are things I’ve purchased (or received as a gift) and that I’d wholeheartedly recommend. There are a few wishes on there as well, because that’s just fun.

I didn’t include anything in the “books” category, because my book reviews are all over this blog, and there’s just so much space and time to write!

For your listening pleasure

oh hellos christmasThe Oh Hellos Family Christmas Album. My older son introduced me to this, saying he knew I’d love it. He’s right. It’s not even Advent, but I’m already playing this. Very homespun sound with tight harmonies. The album has four movements, each of which are medleys of familiar tunes. Play it on repeat — but not on shuffle, since it tells a story. My only complaint? I wish it were longer!

anna nuzzo be loveAnna Nuzzo: Be Love. If you didn’t discover this in 2014 when it came out, be ready to enjoy it now! Subtitled “Songs of Faith, Hope & Love,” this album has my very favorite Anna Nuzzo hymn: “Memorare.” The music is very peaceful and prayerful, with simple piano accompaniment.

TSO Christmas EveTrans-Siberian Orchestra: Christmas Eve and Other Stories. This is the album we cue up every year when we decorate the Christmas tree. I can’t help but conduct an imaginary orchestra during some of the more dramatic pieces. (No, I will not put that on Facebook Live.)

CD Christmas CDA Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack. This is my daughter’s favorite study music during final exams. It’s also just about the only jazz I’m willing to listen to. Enjoy this as background music during Christmas dinner.

Movie Time!

CB ChristmasA Charlie Brown Christmas, because it’s not Christmas without watching this one. Who doesn’t love Snoopy’s doghouse decorations and Linus’ creativity in turning his blanket into a costume? And then there’s the best moment in any Christmas movie ever: “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

grinchDr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas. It must be this version — the one with Boris Karloff singing, “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” My favorite moments? Anything involving Max — watch his facial expressions. They’re priceless. And I’d love to learn the song the Whos sing, even after they find that their Christmas gifts and decorations have been stolen.

wonderful lifeIt’s a Wonderful Life: the ultimate Christmas romance. Yes, I said romance. When Jimmy Stewart promises to lasso the moon … I do love this movie. George Bailey seems so real, and you really want things to turn out well for him and his family. This version offers both black & white and colorized versions of this iconic holiday movie.

year without a santaThe Year Without a Santa Claus. I’m including this one because it’s my husband’s favorite. Always a weather buff (even before he majored in meteorology in college) he gets the biggest kick out of the Heat Miser and Snow Miser. We still watch this one every single year, just because it’s fun.

last holidayLast Holiday. Not really a Christmas movie but my daughter and I enjoy this sweet rom-com every year during Christmas vacation. Here’s the story: Cautious Georgia learns she has only a few weeks to live, so she cashes in her carefully-saved retirement funds and decides to take her dream trip to a European resort. Meanwhile, the shy coworker who’d been crushing on her doesn’t want to let her slip away.

christmas vacation dvdNational Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Not for the kids, but oh, so funny. Our family tradition is to watch this one either on the day when Clark Hubs hangs up the outdoor lights or on his last day of work for the calendar year. We know half the lines and laugh at the jokes and gags before they even happen. There’s a little bit of Clark in all of us at Christmas, and watching this movie is a good way to get rid of some of that tension.

In the Kitchen

instant potInstant Pot 6-qt 7-in-1. This is the model I have. I’m still learning how to use it, but so far I’ve had good success with it. The sauté function is terrific for browning roasts before slow-cooking or pressure-cooking them, and this appliance makes it easier to cook potatoes for mashed potatoes (and you can mash them right in the cooking insert!)

oggi utensil holderOGGI utensil holder. I’m short on drawer space in my kitchen, but I have more wooden spoons, spatulas, and other utensils than anyone reasonably needs. This stainless-steel utensil holder accommodates an awful lot of my tools, is easy to clean, and looks pretty on the countertop, too. It measures 7 inches in diameter, and it’s heavy enough that it won’t tip over even if you have a lot of whisks and ladles hanging over the edge.

cuisinart chef's classic 7 pcCuisinart Chef’s Classic cookware. I purchased this cookware two years ago to replace some worn-out Farberware, and I never looked back. It’s dishwasher-safe, oven-safe to 500°, and the pots feature tapered rims for easy pouring.

nordic ware sheet panSheet pans, because sheet-pan cooking is a thing and you can never have enough of them! I’m a fan of these made-in-USA NordicWare half-sheet pans. I use them for cookies, roasting vegetables, and sheet-pan cooking — plus they make great trays in a pinch! I also have a couple of the quarter-sheet size. Sometimes I’ll have one half-sheet and two quarter-sheet pans in the oven all at once. Cover in foil for easy cleanup.

Drink Up

aeropressAeropress. Make individual cups of coffee quickly and without a lot of mess. You can adjust the brew time to customize the taste of your coffee. These are easy to use, easy to clean and don’t take up a lot of space on the counter. If, like me, you don’t have a large kitchen, this is a big consideration!

marhet coffee frotherMilk frother. This Marhet frother is about the third one I’ve tried and it’s lasted longer than the others. I heat the milk in the microwave, froth it, and then add coffee for a fake “latte” that makes a nice treat. I usually replace the batteries once a month if I use the frother daily.

swell bottleS’well bottles really do keep beverages cold; I’ve had ice cubes last 24 hours in it! My daughter gave me one of these for Christmas last year. I’ll drink water if it’s icy cold, and I carry this bottle around with me everywhere. These bottles look nice and are easy to clean.

pop up straw capThe only thing I didn’t like about the S’well bottle is the cap. The screw top had no handle, so it wasn’t easy to carry the bottle around, and it required two hands to open the bottle and drink. I discovered this Iconiq Pop-Up Straw Cap that fits the S’well bottle. I can slide one finger through the loop and tote that bottle around even with full hands. It’s easy to flip the top up to drink.

Gadgets and Fun Stuff

Kindle Paperwhite. This is my second Kindle. I have a tablet with the Kindle app, but the Paperwhite’s lighting is much easier on my eyes. Being able to change the lighting as well as the font size is a game-changer, and since the Paperwhite isn’t backlit, it’s easy to use outdoors even in full sun.

bluetooth earbudsBluetooth earbuds. It’s nice having earbuds that are not tethered to your phone with a cord; I always got tangled up with that! These are great for walking and comfortable to wear. They recharge pretty quickly too.

pencil wrapA pencil wrap that holds up to 72 colored pencils, gel ink pens or markers is great for the coloring-book fan. I bought this one because I liked the way it looks, and that it folds up to about the size of a paperback book. It doesn’t come with pencils, so make sure you fill it!

staedtler triplusStaedtler Triplus Fineliners are my new favorite pens, and they come in a terrific range of colors. They don’t bleed through most paper and they dry very quickly, so they’re almost smear-proof.

This sturdy Baggalini hobo tote is great for travel or just running errands. It has pockets on both sides as well as front and back, and a key fob on the inside as well as a small change purse. I have it in charcoal (like you see here) but it comes in tons of colors. Mine is bright pink on the inside, which is nice because you can see things in it — they don’t get lost at the dark bottom of the purse. This bag is big enough to hold an iPad Mini either inside or in the front pocket, and my S’well bottle fits in the side pocket.

Fill the Stockings with Socks!

 These are my favorite socks–they’re so soft and comfortable. They’re a little higher than a crew sock; perfect for booties if you like wearing those. They’re all-cotton but have that ragg pattern like many wool socks, so if you like this look but don’t like itchy socks, these are for you!

I also like these fun patterned socks. I already own a set of these Flora & Fred Nordic-patterned socks, but I wish-listed the pattern pictured here too! These are a thinner and slightly shorter sock, great with a dressier shoe or loafer and super cute.

For the Kids

playmobil nativityPlaymobil Nativity Set. Let your kids play with this Nativity set! They can arrange the figures and animals however they like. If your kids are anything like my kids, the Fisher-Price School Bus will arrive at the manger for a field trip … but that’s fine!

wits and wagersWits & Wagers is a fun party game that mixes trivia with bets to see which person has the right answer — which is always a number. You can win the game without even getting one question right! It’s quick to play, too. There are other editions of this game, but this Family Edition is fun for kids and grownups.

Advent Wreaths

These are in the “wish” category. We have an Advent wreath that has been in Hubs’ family since he was a kid — so we’ll never get rid of that. The plastic greenery is getting kind of tired, and I’ve tried to spiff it up by adding a few embellishments. That’s probably the best I can do. But since a girl can dream, I like these three …

journey to bethlehem wreathJourney to Bethlehem Advent wreath — this is a very pretty Advent wreath. I like how they show it filled with ornaments on the inside; I’d never considered doing that, but it looks lovely.

anticipation advent wreathAnticipation Advent wreath — this one is carved wood. Love the look!

believe holy family advent wreathBelieve Holy Family Advent wreath — this is so cute!

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Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz

One thought on “Favorite Things, and a Wish or Two: Christmas Gift Guide

  1. Love that you featured the Aeropress. I keep mine by my desk! Also, if it’s socks you like, check out Conscious Step or Maggie’s Organics – they even have a pack that supports refugees!

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