HERE’S OUR IDEA about the holidays: Cancel them. Cancel Christmas, the remaining days of Hanukkah, even New Year’s Eve. Not the spirit of those holidays, mind you, but the dates.
We’re not going to be able to see friends and family to exchange gifts, or even hugs, and Zoom will get us only so far. The holidays will retain their religious and family meanings, but beyond that they will be pandemically different.
On top of that, all that online shopping we’re been doing? Some of those packages are simply not going to get to Aunt Viola in time. Predicting the upcoming “shipageddon” we’re now experiencing, the New York Times explained back in October that larger retailers are having to pay UPS a premium to get their packages out. Even then, delivery services such as UPS and FedEx are imposing limits on how many packages they will pick up each day (x number of trucks plus y number of drivers, even with seasonal help, plus z number of hours in the day means the math just isn’t working). Online merchants have long displayed “order by” dates to guarantee delivery by Christmas. Now some of them flat out say they can’t be sure when your order will arrive.
So, let’s not concentrate on dates. Let’s just think of this time as the “holiday season.”
We’ve found some things that will give us something to do leading up to the end of the year, time we might have spent going to parties. Even better, we realized, will be if some of these things arrive in the middle of a dull January afternoon or even in gloomy February. Some of our items promise pampering, something even those of us not truly suffering feel the need of. Other items involve learning something, trying a new activity, a new food or a new way of cooking, for instance. And some are downright indulgent.
So, we should all be grateful for what we have, and should take a look outside our usual circle, supporting local businesses and workers and donating to food banks and other vital charities. And then do a little shopping to remember others. No matter when a gift arrives, it will be welcome—before Christmas, after the New Year or deep into February.
ABOVE: Who knew a deck of cards could be so gorgeous? We didn’t—until we discovered these High Victorian Playing Cards ($9.95, Theory 11), encased in green and gold foil. Each of the cards, designed in London and made in the US, is inspired by the Victorian era’s obsession with covering/ornamenting available surfaces. We wouldn’t blame you if you got lost in admiring the details on the cards and forgot your bridge bid. Buy four or five as stocking stuffers/gifts, and you score free shipping. The site says, “Allow up to 48 hours for shipping due to additional safety precautions.”
At this point most people have hand sanitizer. But they don’t all have hydrating sanitizer in a cute little bird (MyLittleBird, perhaps?) misting dispenser. We’re showing the one-ounce size of essential-oil fragrances from Olika, $17.99 each, also available in three-, six- and 12-packs. There’s also a .6-ounce birdie ($14.99) that has a clip to attach to belt or backpack. They are all refillable and available from Olika online or many Anthropologie (one-ounce birds, no clip, $9) stores.
LEFT: January and February are made for puzzle projects even though you might be able to snag this Christian Lacroix Heritage Collection Fashion Season Double-Sided 500-Piece Jigsaw ($24, Amazon) in time for Christmas delivery if you act fast. A fashion follower will be delighted to reacquaint herself or discover the color and costume of Lacroix, who closed his business in 2009.
RIGHT: Wooden jigsaw puzzles from Liberty are works of art—and devilishly hard. Made with quarter-inch maple plywood and archival paper and inks, no two pieces in any puzzle are alike. So-called “Whimsy” pieces, which comprise 15 to 20 percent of the total, are cut in the shapes of recognizable characters, animals or complex geometric shapes. The Journey of the Magi (427 pieces, 12½ by 16¾ inches, $105), a section of Italian Renaissance painter Benozzo Gozzoli’s fresco masterpiece depicting King Kaspar and part of his entourage, is a little gem but won’t make it in time for a holiday gift. In fact, delivery may take more than a month. Still, that leaves plenty of time this winter to enjoy its splendor and challenge. For more information, see the Liberty website.
You need not go to Brooklyn to get a decent bagel: Brooklyn Brew Shop can save you the trip. The Everything Bagel kit ($25) includes all the fixings—including the all-important malt to give the exterior that shine and caramelized flavor—to make a dozen Everything bagels. Its sister kit, the Everything Bagel & Cream Cheese Making Kit ($30) gives you the bagels plus a tangy schmear of homemade (by you!) cultured cream cheese. Could be the answer to why get out of bed in January.
LEFT: If you have a friend or family member like me who’s inclined to throw the covers over her head all winter and not come out until she gets vaccinated, a lush, large throw to cocoon in and escape reality is just what she covets. ABC Carpet & Home’s 90-by-60-inch Strata Cashmere Throw in Pink Whisper, reduced from $1,350 to $1,080, is handmade in cashmere central Nepal. Ground shipping (expected delivery in two to eight days) is $24.95; expedited (delivery in two days) is $36.95. Next day is $49.95.
RIGHT: This open-weave 50-by-70-inch cashmere Ciarra Throw ($425, Sferra) is opulent but lightweight. Besides this lemony yellow, it comes in navy, teal, charcoal, ivory, tangerine and wine. UPS Ground Shipping is free. Want it more quickly? You could try your luck with UPS Three-Day Expedited ($25); Two-Day Air ($50) or Next Day Air for $75.
Before or after the holidays, finding these hand-crafted little fellas and gals at your doorstep would be reason enough to celebrate. From L.A. Burdick, the teeny penguins (each is 1½ inches tall; the sampler of four, shown, is $16) are part of a collection of tasty critters (snowmen, pigs and mice), each made individually with hand-piped chocolate ganache. Bye-bye, January blues.
LEFT: I’d never say no to a year’s subscription to Harry & David’s Fruit-of-the-Month Club, or to an extravagant one-time delivery of fruit and treats from the Pacific Northwest. But I’m sorely tempted to try out this very different subscription: a monthly delivery of wild-caught Sockeye or Coho salmon from Wild Alaskan Company. There are 12-pack boxes of six-ounce portions and 24-pack boxes ($131.88 including shipping for 12; the 24-pack is $239.76 with free shipping). If you want more variety, there’s a Wild Combo Box (salmon plus wild white fish) and a Wild White Fish Box (including halibut and cod), similarly priced. I like the idea of “encouraging” myself to eat more fish and also the fact that I could skip a month (or several), as needed.
RIGHT: I’m planning to make some Christmas spritz cookies, for sure, but armed with the new Kuhn Rikon-designed cookie press, I will shift over to the heart disc for Valentine’s and the flower-shape disc as a harbinger of spring; the bat and pumpkin will conquer fall, but the dinosaur is an all-year-rounder—and there’s even a disc for shaping cheese straws. There are 14 discs in all, plus a small squeeze bottle for decorating. The whole ensemble is $29.95 at Williams-Sonoma.
LEFT: I get excited about a recipe only to find at the last minute, of course, that I don’t have the required fresh herbs. To the rescue, White Flower Farm’s Mini Herb Garden LED Light Kit ($199) with everything needed—seed mats, high-intensity LED lights and a self-watering tray—to grow herbs like thyme, basil and oregano, and microgreens, including red cabbage and kale. Gift this tabletop garden to aspiring or experienced green thumbs and cooks. Note to anyone mechanically challenged: A little assembly is required. Shipping estimate: five to seven business days after the date of your order, by UPS Ground.
RIGHT: Sous vide is a very different way of cooking: The “cooker” attaches to the pot of water containing your pouch-protected meat or vegetable, then heats and circulates the water to cook the food to perfection. This Williams-Sonoma combo offers the Anova cooker with a W-S test-kitchen cookbook, plus there are some 4,000 recipes and temperature guides on the Anova Culinary App. The combo is $154.95 and sounds like the winter equivalent of men grilling outdoors.
LEFT: Bread is basic, bread is gorgeous. And making it yourself can chew up hours of dull winter time. Especially sourdough loaves, especially when you make your own sourdough starter. The folks at FarmSteady can guide you every step of the way. No bread machine, just a pair of hands and the tools in the Sourdough Bread Making Kit, $48 (that includes dough scrapers, the basket that gives the loaves their rustic resting place and the “lame” that allows you to incise your own signature top. For the basics, the FarmSteady site is invaluable; for more romance on the process, read this Vox article.
RIGHT: Okay, maybe the idea of painting your own truffles is totally dingbat, but it also sounds like something that will liven an otherwise dull winter evening. Exquisito Chocolates, based in Miami’s Little Havana, is the producer of this Truffle-Painting Kit and while the idea is fun, the chocolate is serious. Founder Carolina Quijano and her team source their cacao beans from more than eight farms in Latin America and the Caribbean. The kit includes a dozen truffles, five edible paints, two paintbrushes and instructions. The kit is $59.