In media, the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is also known as Gift Guide Season. It’s when all your favorite websites start publishing curated gift guides for every type of person and relationship in your life. You have probably seen dozens already.
I love recommending stuff and I also love reading recommendations from people I trust, so I wanted to put together a mini gift guide of sorts. But really, these are just things I own and love and will talk about effusively until you tell me to shut up. Maybe you might want to buy something just for yourself instead of for someone else! No rules! All of these items are things that have made my quality of life a little better.
Two disclaimers about this gift guide: there are no affiliate links. I make no money off of this, it’s 100% genuinely stuff I own myself and love. Secondly, I’m sorry, but there are some Amazon links. I try my best to support small businesses when I can, but some items are just easier to find on Amazon, so there are some Amazon links in here. But I recommend looking elsewhere when you can — use Bookshop for books, etc.
What I’m reading
A quick link roundup this week:
The joylessness of cooking, New Yorker. On cooking burnout.
Turns out it’s pretty good: fall, The Cut.
Children of quarantine, The Cut. What will this year do to kids?
The Gift Guide, aka Stuff I Bought That I Love
🎁 Just random stuff I deeply love and can’t recommend enough
This $8 Hanes sweatshirt: My coworker Rebecca Jennings told us about this magical sweatshirt on Amazon recently and several of us bought them. They are so cozy and so affordable, I now own 4 of them in different colors. At $8, why not??
The Hobonichi Techo Cousin planner: I love paper planners. In 2020 I used the Hobonichi Techo Cousin and it has been truly instrumental to keeping me organized in my work life. There’s weekly and monthly pages that I use for setting goals for each week/month, and there’s a page for each day that I use to keep track of every to-do and task and random thing I don’t want to forget. Getting everything out of my brain and down on paper has made me feel infinitely more organized. (These have to ship from Japan, so buy your 2021 planner sooner rather than later.)
Milk frothing wand: I recently bought one of these little wands and can now make lattes at home. It’s inexpensive, so easy to use, and a daily small delight.
👩🍳 Food and wine stuff I love
Vacuvin wine stoppers: I love wine, of course, but at home, I rarely finish a bottle the same day I open it. (I am a wuss and can’t handle hangovers, especially on weekdays.) I’ve been loving Vacuvin’s little stoppers, which come with a pump that lets you vacuum seal the bottle so your unfinished bottle stays fresh longer.
Spicy chili crisp: I can’t believe it took me until 2020 to get into chili crisp, but it’s now the condiment I put on everything. I totally get why it has a cult following. Eggs, grain bowls, whatever — it’s so versatile and makes everything taste better. I love the original Lao Gan Ma brand, which you can find in Asian grocery stores and also on Amazon. But also Momofuku started making one (which appears sold out right now!) and lots of people I trust recommend Fly By Jing brand.
Dinner: Changing the Game, by Melissa Clark: This is not a new cookbook, but it is my actual favorite cookbook of all time, the one I keep referring to over and over again. This book has so many original, creative ways to put a spin on traditional dinner recipes. Vietnamese caramel salmon! Harissa chicken! Pizza chicken! Jalapeno honey lime steak! Cumin chicken meatballs! I have probably made 50% of the recipes in this book and want to make them all.
The $10 Victorinox paring knife: I had no idea the power of a really good, sharp knife until I got this knife several years ago. It completely changed my cooking life. All you really need in terms of knives are a good paring knife and a good chef’s knife. This paring knife is so useful and such a steal that we now have like 4 of them in our house.
These $4 coupe glasses: At the beginning of the pandemic, I bought a couple of these glasses from CB2 to make our quarantine cocktail hours feel a little fancier. They look beautiful, and at this price, you don’t have to feel guilty about buying them (or breaking them).
Virtual wine boot camps: One of my favorite NYC wine bars, Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels, has long been doing “wine boot camp” classes with their sommeliers. But since the pandemic, they’ve made the classes virtual and can ship the wines nationwide — which means these fun classes and wines are now available to people outside of NYC, too! (Disclosure: my friends run this wine bar, so I’m a little biased, but it’s still objectively wonderful. I’ve done the bootcamps and loved them.)
🍴 Restaurants I love that ship nationwide
Momofuku Milk Bar, for cakes and baked goods (their birthday cake is the best, and also the birthday cake truffles)
Russ & Daughters for the best smoked fish, bagels, babka, and other treats
Lou Malnati’s for the best Chicago deep dish pizza
Baked by Melissa for tiny, colorful, and delicious cupcakes
🧴 My absolute fave skincare products
Etude House Moistfull collagen cream: As a person with dry skin, I’ve tried every moisturizer and couldn’t find one that was moisturizing ENOUGH until I found this. Now, I am constantly restocking on this every time I finish it. (Some Amazon reviewers seem to hate the scent, so YMMV. I’d describe it as a rosewater scent, but some people think it’s too grandma-y.)
Hada Labo Gokujyun Lotion: This Japanese product is not really a “lotion” in the way we think of it in America, but is more like a toner that goes on before your other serums and moisturizers. A miracle for dry skin havers like me.
Biore Watery Essence sunscreen: You’re wearing sunscreen everyday, right? This Japanese sunscreen is THE BEST face sunscreen. It has a light formula that feels like a normal moisturizer, smells great, isn’t chalky, and most importantly, has SPF50. There’s a reason it has a cult following among skincare junkies.
The Ordinary’s hyaluronic acid serum is the best hyaluronic acid serum and only costs $6.80.
🎨 Cool stuff from independent artists
Jane Mount’s Ideal Bookshelf project: Artist Jane Mount makes super cool book-themed prints and other merch. I highly endorse a custom print, which you can customize with your favorite books, for a meaningful gift. (When Renan and I first moved in together, we got a custom one with 5 of my favorite books and 5 of his as the first piece of art we bought together!)
Salt, Fat, Acid Heat prints and postcards: If you loved the illustrations in Samin Nosrat’s cookbook Salt Fat Acid Heat by illustrator Wendy MacNaughton, you can now buy them as prints! I got a set of these a while ago and now have several of them hanging in my kitchen. (They sell postcards and notebooks with the illustrations, too.)
Lauren Martin: I just bought a super fun “Tiny Diner” print from illustrator Lauren Martin and love it. (h/t to Rachel Miller; I saw this print on her Instagram stories and had to have one; I was successfully influenced.)
I also just generally endorse 20x200 for affordable, unique art from independent artists. So much of the art in my apartment is from 20x200; the site has something for everyone.
📚 Good books
If you want to pick up a new hobby, read my lovely coworker Alanna Okun’s Knit a Hat.
If you’re sick of the internet, read Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism.
If you want to read some really good fiction, some of my favorite 2020 novels include Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half, Kylie Reid’s Such a Fun Age, Emma Straub’s All Adults Here, Curtis Sittenfeld’s Rodham, and Lily King’s Writers and Lovers.
💛 Giving Tuesday
Nothing wrong with lots of shopping, but if you have dollars to spare, it’s a good time to give back. Some options to consider:
The Indian American College Fund to help Indigenous kids go to college
The Desai Foundation, which helps women and children in India and right now has a cool initiative training women in rural India to sew masks
Radical Monarchs, which empowers young girls of color
And if you can’t get enough gift guides….
Other gift guides I’ve enjoyed: Cruel Summer Book Club gift guide, the This Needs Hot Sauce Gift Guide, the Just Good Shit Gift Guides, the Gee Thanks Just Bought It podcast gift guides, and the Girls Night In gift guides.
And finally: a testimonial
Nisha Chittal @NishaChittali wrote about how this year, you should do whatever you want for thanksgiving, how i'm doing Sidesgiving (no turkey, all sides!), and all the Tgiving recipes I bookmarked over the last week for your cooking inspiration: https://t.co/Z0dTEudJBk Subscribe: https://t.co/GdmdZKYRnG
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