Listen, I know. I see the calendar, the turkey has yet to come and go. But I’m also working on Christmas. I like to start slow, buy stocking stuffers so they are tucked away and purchased saving me the “Oh, hmm, gotta fill that up don’t I?” panic on December 20th, when Amazon Prime shipping is the only option, but of course what you want is available for Prime. Always.
(Amazon links affiliate, all items I love or want for my own self, nothing is sponsored)
Anyway, if you too are in charge of filling a stocking or five, and you are looking for ideas beyond the typical “chocolate orange for the toe, socks for the mid section” and need a few more nifty things, look no further.
Portable battery charger. In today’s device filled world someone is always looking for a plug, a car charger, a something, please, get my phone over 20% battery. These suckers are awesome for traveling (you can watch a movie and your iPad isn’t dead when you land) or for the car/office when you are away from an outlet. They are also really nice to have during bad weather so you know that if you lose power for awhile, you can recharge your phone and stay in touch with loved ones or on top of the weather reports.
All Clad measuring devices. They are definitely more than the average person is going to spend on something for their own kitchen, but I think that is what makes them an awesome stocking stuffer. I have a set of these and I *love* them so much- worth the investment. They are so much better than the cheap ones from Target or Bed Bath and Beyond. There are measuring spoons and measuring cups in evens and odds.
Nielsen Massey vanilla items. If you are shopping for someone who loves to bake, all of the vanilla products by NM are amazing. I’m partial to the paste, which gives pale items (like cheesecake or ice cream) pale vanilla bean flecks within.
Gear Ties. These things come in a million sizes and colors and are awesome for anyone who likes to stay organized. These heavy duty reusable twisty ties are perfect for bundling up headphone cords, charging cords, cords behind a desk, closing a bag, etc. Awesome (again) for people who travel to keep your suitcase from looking like cord/bomb central in the x-ray machines.
Infrared thermometer. If you’ve ever watched an episode of Good Eats, you know that Alton Brown is always checking on the surface temperature of his pans/grill/etc with one of these things. My husband long admired it and it was an easy way to fulfill his inner gadget geek on Christmas morning. Warning: you will have an infrared beam pointed at every surface in your house for a few days. Once the initial glee wore off we do use it pretty frequently, particularly when cooking and grilling.
Fit Bit. Ok, I know, this is a little pricier than your typically $20-and-under stocking stuffer, but man if it wouldn’t fit nicely in a stocking. Fitness trackers are taking the world by storm (I suppose time will tell if they stick around) and I want the new FitBit something fierce. If you can’t wait for the pre-order, check out the old faithful model, the FitBit Flex.
Microplane. I think I recommend one of these every year, but honestly, they are just that amazing for anyone who likes to cook. The fine ones are awesome for zest, spices and hard cheese, the larger ones are perfect for a block of cheese.
Quirky Cordies. This is something on my list- I want one for my bedside table and my desk. Perfect for anyone who loves gadgets and has a lot to charge.
Ice molds. A few years ago everyone was all about whiskey stones (still very cool, B loves his) but now the new way to drink your sipping whiskey is with a huge ice cube the size and shape of a pool cue. Last year we gave a lot of these to friends in small gift exchanges and I realized around December 20th that B didn’t have any of his own so I ordered a pair for his stocking. We’ve used them all year and find them easy to fill/work with. They also make a great boo-boo ice cube for bumps and bruises.
Tie travel case. I know, another item for traveling. Truthfully though, when B travels for business or for a wedding he was always trying to figure out how to pack his nice ties without them getting rumpled. This inexpensive solution is just what he needs to pack them in his suitcase.
Gas gauge. Two summers ago it seemed like we ran out of gas for our barbecue at the most inconvenient times; always when dinner was halfway cooked and both of us were grumpy with the two solutions: finish it inside on the stove or run to the hardware store. I bought B a little gas gauge to help us know when we were running out. It isn’t 100% accurate (mostly near the end, you never know if you have enough for one more thing or if you’ll run out in 5 minutes) but we always know when we are running low and make sure our second tank is full and ready to be swapped out. B thought it was very cool when he opened it up on Christmas morning.
Jack Rudy fixings. If you have a cocktail lover on your hand, consider one of Jack Rudy’s accessories- tonic syrup, grenadine syrup, or bourbon cocktail cherries. These are specialty small batch items for making really delicious, high quality cocktails.
Focusing on happier times, lets take a look at last weekend.
As Chicago geared up for an arctic plunge (refuse to use the p-v-phrase, the one that rhymes with molar cortex) we spent the past weekend out and about without wearing hats, as one should do before the temperatures plunge and everything becomes frozen. Friday evening was spent just enjoying doing nothing other than recalculating our grocery budget after Gracie ate three breakfasts, two lunches, a hearty snack and two dinners, but otherwise uneventful. I made these beef/blue cheese/au jous/crispy shallot sandwiches in the crockpot and both adults in the house declared them a huge success (we paired them with roasted brussels sprouts/Gracie had her own separate dinner before the sandwiches were done, opting for two huge portions of smoked salmon + sides) for a chilly night, and we sat around in the living room watching television and being lazy sloths. Saturday morning, after a delightful breakfast (two full size waffles and a piece of bacon for Gracie, which she paired with a large cup of milk and another of water) we bundled up in our finest maize and blue and drove up to Evanston for some football.
This was Gracie’s first college football game, and while we had a great time, general consensus is: not again, until she is old enough to sit in her seat for more than 32 seconds. We picked up my cousin (attending Northwestern), parked, and hit up a tailgate where Gracie ate her weight in pretzels and tried her very first Doritos (big fan). Then we loaded her up in the Tula and went into the stadium where she was happy and content to do anything except sit in our seats. We gave up only 7 minutes into the game and instead spent the half wandering the concourse, yelling “Go Blue”, trying out some of the stadium fare (pretty delicious/upscale) and watching Michigan return to the locker room for half time. Although we didn’t watch much of the game, we did have a lot of fun and even got Gracie a certificate commemorating her first college football game (thanks Northwestern)! At this point we had a no-napper on our hands and we decided to beat the crowds and cold, pick up barbecue from Hecky’s and head on home. Gracie had a stick that she carried around all day (found while tailgating), jumped in leaves, watched the crowds and was pretty enthralled by it all. B wore his Michigan “themed” Loudmouth golf pants (his very favorite pants ever) and I got to tailgate, which is one of my very favorite hobbies (if one can call it that). All in all: November Saturday success, especially after we came home to see Tulane win and Notre Dame lose (not, uh, in the same game obviously). We even found time to watch Good Morning Vietnam, a Robin Williams movie I hadn’t seen but wanted to. It was worth staying up for!
On Sunday morning we got our grocery shopping out of the way so we could hit up the “Fall French Market” at the French International school in Chicago. I wasn’t sure what to expect but they promised kid activities and crepes, so we decided to check it out. Unfortunately the kid area was for those who were potty trained, so we meandered as much as Gracie could stand (a lot of no-touching booths), sampled some crepes and cookies, and bought some raffle tickets (the school is fundraising as they move to their new campus/oh wait schools are always fundraising, ha ha ha), and prevented Gracie from stealing decorations from the walls/lockers. Sometimes in a big city (with no family roots) it can be hard to find a sense of community, and attending something like a school market makes you feel like the city is just a little bit smaller. Despite not meeting pre-conceived expectations we had a good time and made it home in time for Gracie to eat a huge bowl of yogurt, with a side of salmon, before she took a (much needed) afternoon nap. I made a practice pie for Thanksgiving (man, pie skills….not my thing…) and B and I read with football on in the background. After a family supper (grilled flank steak, asparagus, mashed potatoes) we put Gracie down and spent the evening reading while keeping one eye on the shellacking of the Chicago Bears. It was one of those nice weekends with lots to do but plenty of downtime. Here is hoping for another one this weekend (and maybe Gracie’s eye will open up a little?)
Despite my late blog posts (ugh, man cold took me down hard) Gracie had a pretty awesome Halloween this year. We sent her off to daycare on Friday morning with her costume packed in a bag, ready for the daycare trick or treating and party. We had initially planned on leaving early but when we were hit with weather so extreme it made the national news (30 mile an hour winds with 60 mile an hour gusts and intermittent rain/ice/snow flurries) we decided we should stick around longer than planned. I got hit with a parenting milestone when I got my first “please bring a nut-free, pre-packaged treat” note and decided to be an over achieving Pinterest-Mom by drawing pumpkin faces on a bag of clementines. Gracie thought they were awesome, which is all that mattered. This is where a good blogger would show you a Pinterest worthy photo of said clementines. Instead, I present my child:
B and I were there promptly at 5 and the kids were adorable. The babies in the nursery were all perfect meatloves in their various costumes, the older kids had strong ownership of their choices, and Gracie’s classroom was the most “huh, so explain this please?” in the festivities. Gracie was an owl (I’m sure you noticed). She wasn’t pleased with her costume earlier in the week, but when she saw everyone else in costume, she was accepting of the idea.
Pink pumpkin candy bucket purchased at Target (like the rest of the free world), marked down to 50 cents and combined with my coupon, I paid a grand total of one quarter for it. Twenty five cents for a bucket she was OBSESSED WITH, carried all night and was generally smitten with. Mom-win.
We had a lot of fun at the party- she goes to daycare with a nice group of kids with equally nice parents, so the kids ran around eating snacks and playing on the little indoor jungle gym in various states of undress. When we sensed Gracie was at the point of overheating we headed out for some trick or treating. The weather was…intense to say the least….so we opted to walk to a street near us with a gorgeous stretch of single family homes. Only a few homes had their lights on, but thanks to the weather + the group of teenagers not in costume behaving like jerks (egg tossing, screaming obscenities, demanding candy) Gracie was given a really warm welcome at every house we visited. She was encouraged to pick her own candy and hoot like an owl, which she happily did. She wasn’t quite sure why we were not going inside, but had a lot of fun before coming home and passing out in an exhausted heap.
Don’t worry hoot owl, we all need our rest. The next morning I thought I’d teach her about the next holiday and asked her what a turkey says, and without missing a beat she smiled and yelled “GOBBLE GOBBLE” so, daycare, your tuition is worth it.
B and I were the only two single people in a large group of law school friends. Everyone else was coupled off, so we were always the odd ones out. Paired together at the dinner table, in cabs, in general. I took an ill-advised four day jaunt to Europe for what I thought was love, when it was apparent it wasn’t, B was the first person I told of the disastrous trip. We met for dinner occasionally, he’d walk me to the corner of the block I lived on and then say goodbye. On evenings out, as everyone coupled off, he’d share a cab home with me, making sure I got in before heading home himself.
He was one of my closest friends and then after a few years, we fell in love. It wasn’t a fast process, we kept it a secret for a long time (so as not to disrupt our circle of friends) but now we all laugh. All those other couples have broken up, moved on, have married others.
B and I are celebrating our five year wedding anniversary today.
Five years is a long time but also the blink of an eye. What is they say, the days are long but the years are short? Describes it perfectly. Five years of more good than bad, we still disagree on the right place to hang the dishtowel, how many lights should be on at any given time and what should be hand washed versus what goes in the dishwasher.
But we both love each other, our dog, our daughter. He’s turned me into a hockey fan, and he now appreciates the finer points of a good board game. Our life makes us happy, even when we are overwhelmed by law school student loans x2 or the enormous task of raising a well rounded, polite, and happy child. There is no one else I’d rather be overwhelmed with, the guy that brings home a sentimental bottle of wine because it reminds him of our honeymoon (Napa Valley), who sets out my coffee thermos the night before I have to get up early to go into the office, and never complains that I DVR every episode of Grey’s Anatomy even though I’m 2.5 seasons behind.
And as much as life sometimes overwhelms, it is also full of the small moments and sweet times and I’m glad he is my person for those. For the farmer’s market and the swim lessons, the nights where Gracie runs around like a crazy headless chicken and we just laugh, for the times the dog chases his own tail and we are entertaining, our house full of good smells and food and friends, and we lock eyes from across the room and we both smile, knowing exactly what the other is feeling.
I’m just thankful he’s my person.