The Best Christmas Presents
Welcome to my holiday gift guide for another year! Given that we traveled far less than normal because of the pandemic, I have a mix of travel and non-travel items this year. As usual, no one has has paid me to include them on this list, and there are very few affiliate links. I’m primarily linking to each company’s website since Amazon doesn’t really need more of your money, but a lot of these are available on Amazon as well.
Everything here is something that we actually use and all photos are mine. Never trust a blog that uses stock photos! It means that they’re likely not writing from personal experience.
I’ve always used notepads for my to-do lists, which is disorganized and not great for the environment. I switched this year to the Slope whiteboard that sits in front of my monitor, and I now write all tasks and appointment times there. My handwriting is still terrible, but I’m far more organized. And I’m constantly looking at my to do items, so I’m more motivated to actually do them. An added bonus is that I can slip my keyboard under the Slope when I leave my desk, reducing the likelihood that the cats will step on the keyboard and send out an email, which happened earlier this year!
The Litter Robot is a self-cleaning litter box that works far better than any powered litter boxes that we’ve tried before. After the cats walk out, the litter box rotates to deposit the waste in a bottom pull out drawer. We take the trash bag of waste out once a week, replace the trash bag and otherwise never think about litter boxes anymore. And it’s taking us forever to go through a container of kitty litter, so that’s another plus.
I usually don’t accept free things, but Litterbox.com wanted to send us some catnip and our cats highly encouraged me to say yes! Our cats loved it – so much so that we then purchased more last month. I don’t know if they liked one kind more than the others, but the catnip flight is a good way to try three of them.
Nite Ize Headlamp
We did a lot of night hikes this year, both in California and while road tripping, and I used my Nite Ize headlamp for all of them. As opposed to our other head lamps, the Nite Ize one is rechargeable (via USB) so it was nice to be able to plug it in at night and then know that it would have plenty of power when I used it, without having to take extra batteries along.
I love DK Travel Guides. I have several on my desk for travel inspiration, and this year I used the Southwest USA guide for our road trips.
Stuff Every Tea Lover Should Know
Candace Rose Rardon is my favorite artist and I loved her Instagram Live drawing sessions during the COVID lockdown. This is her first book (I think) and I love it – everything you never knew about tea.
It’s like Mike and Anne knew that this would be the year of the road trip! The perfect book for people who like to stay in non-hotels but don’t want to camp.
I got Pakt’s Travel Backpack for international trips, and still haven’t used it on a single flight, but I took it on most of our road trips, and hiked with it several times as well. It’s large enough to hold my laptop, camera, lenses, a tripod, a book, a sweatshirt and a water bottle, but it doesn’t feel huge. And the waist belt made the backpack really comfortable while hiking.
My oldest daughter loves everything Carhartt, and their Medium Pack was perfect for her on road trips this summer.
Briggs & Riley Luggage
I did a campaign with Briggs & Riley this year that started in March and was supposed to revolve around European travel, but with all of my trips cancelled it became a road trip campaign. The luggage transitioned perfectly. And we didn’t have any issues, but I love that there’s a lifetime guarantee.
It’s been over a year since I’ve been to Italy and I wanted to maintain my Italian. It’s a cliche, but if you don’t use it, you lose it. So I kept going with Rosetta Stone this year (30 minutes a day) and am happy to say that when Italy is accepting Americans again, my Italian will be ready.
Face Masks and Filters
For some reason I didn’t have face masks on my list last year! We’ve tried dozens of different masks. We’ve had the best luck on Etsy, simply through trial and error. There are a lot of good mask makers out there, and everyone likes different styles.
The only masks I’ve ordered from a company that I like are from Hedley & Bennett – the Wake Up & Fight Masks. They’re comfortable for as long as I have to wear them.
In our masks we’ve been using filters from Augustine Surgical. The ComfortSeal filters push the mask a little farther from our faces, giving us more breathing room without increasing the risk of anything getting through, and in our other masks (especially kids masks) we cut their flat mask filters to fit. Highly recommended.
A Balance Board
I don’t have a standing desk, but I still use a balance board when I’m on Zoom calls or when I’m doing something that doesn’t require typing. And my kids use it all the time as well – for play and exercise but also sometimes when they’re at their desks. I have The Level from Fluidstance (since I loved their whiteboard – above – and since it’s a local Santa Barbara company).
The Wee Mighty Phone Holder
The Wee Mighty Phone Holder does exactly what it says – perfect on the back of a car head rest or airplane seat, on a desk or on a bed. The arms fold to hold onto anything, or keep your phone in any position. Easily the least expensive thing on this list!
For the Kitchen
A Cheese Vault
A few years ago we realized how much paper and plastic we were using in our kitchen and implemented a few changes to reduce it by 95%, almost overnight. We started using cloth napkins for all meals, eliminating paper napkins. Thin washable kitchen rags replaced paper towels. Snack tins replaced zip-lock bags if we wanted to take food in the car. Flat silicone lids took the place of Saran Wrap and aluminum foil for covering leftovers. And for cheese, we bought cheese vaults instead of individually wrapping each cheese. They work great, keeping cheese from drying out and preventing mold as well as plastic wrap.
A Wireless Meat Thermometer
We’ve been using The Meater+ wireless thermometer and it’s great. Just insert the probe into the meat you’re cooking, open up the app, tell it what you’re cooking and how well-done you want it, and then throw the meat on the grill or into the oven. The app will give you a constant readout of the internal temperature of the meat and tell you exactly when to remove it from the heat. Nice not having to let heat escape, or risk burns, by checking the temperature the old-fashioned way. One of the better uses of technology we’ve found for the kitchen (we’re old school with most other things).
A Magazine Subscription
Please support print magazines! There are lot of amazing stories and travel inspiration out there, but it’s getting harder and harder for magazines to survive. I’ve already purchased 20+ gift subscriptions to AFAR and Outside for friends this year and hope that you’ll opt in as well and subscribe to one of those, or renew your favorite magazines.
The Best Christmas Presents – Your Turn
What’s the coolest thing you’ve found this year? What should be on our Christmas lists?