The Tenth Annual Mindless Diversions Unsolicited Shopping Guide
Well, this has been a crazy year, huh?
It’s kinda weird to even think about presents. For one thing, many of us have found ourselves having to tighten our belts a *LOT*. Buying stuff for other folks? Man, I wish! Maybe bake something? But the joys of baking something usually involve, you know, physically handing them the tub filled with cookies and maybe hugging and accepting one when they open the tub and immediately offer you one. DON’T MIND IF I DO, you can say as you eat one of the cookies you just gave away. And that’s gone too. Well, we can still make cookies and give them, unhugged, to friends. My mom had the Betty Crocker Cooky Book when I was a kid. I liked the Chocolate Crinkles. If you’re thinking about making cookies but want to mix it up (but not mix it up *TOO* much), that cookbook right there is the one that everybody swears by. It’s got drawings and diagrams of how-to-do-it and so it’s just as appropriate for someone making cookies for the first time as it is for someone who has been doing it for decades. (And people remember cookies. They won’t remember Shoot’em’up 7: The Sevenning in three years, but they’ll remember those orange cookies with orange frosting.)
At the opposite end of the spectrum, there are people who haven’t had to tighten their belts. They’ve just been working from home. Spending less money on going out to eat, spending less money on vacations, spending less money on entertainment in general. Holy cow, if you spend $10 every day at Subway, that’s $50 a week! Every week! You could make a month’s worth of sandwiches for $25! Well, these people find themselves thinking “oh, that’s what Dave Ramsey was talking about”. So when it comes to getting presents for them, they’ve pretty much already bought most of everything to help them with the various lockdowns and so now that the holidays roll around… well, what do you get other people? Well, everybody likes cookies, right?
There’s also the whole “donate to charity” thing that is good this time of year. Make a donation to a worthy organization and do it in the name of one of your loved ones who already pretty much has everything. The World Central Kitchen feeds the hungry and The Innocence Project helps exonerate the innocent. If you want to look overseas to help, Project Mercy is a wonderful organization that does tremendous work in Ethiopia (check out their store for gift ideas too) while Water Charity is doing great work all over the world. If you’ve had enough of people and would like to instead focus on animals, Best Friends does great work for our land-bound friends and Oceana does a great job for our soggier ones. Hey, if *YOU* have a preferred charity, leave a description of them in comments! Many of us want to help others but are stuck not knowing where to start. $10 here or $20 there might feel like too little to give, I guess, but I guarantee it’ll do good in the hands of a lot of charities out there.
But let’s say that you’ve baked your cookies and sent a check to your favorite charitable organization out there but remain tempted to buy a present for someone in your life but you don’t know what to get. Or, hey, maybe you need some ideas to tell the loved ones in your life what to get you and they won’t take “no” for an answer.
That’s what this post is for.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: You and your loved ones will NEED this showerhead right here. Seriously. (You might also want this sealant tape.) Yes, it’s $130 for a showerhead. But it’s a wonderful, lifechanging showerhead. If you’re going to be stuck in your house, you may as well not mind the showers you take there. Have a shower that is as good as the showers you’d take in a 5-star bathroom in Vegas!
After the shower, you’ll want these Utopia towels. 35″ by 70″. That’s almost a yard by almost two yards! If you google “average height in the US”, you’ll see that it’s 5’9″ for men and 5’4″ for women. THIS TOWEL IS TALLER THAN THE AVERAGE PERSON. Thick rings, come in a variety of colors, and you’ll feel luxurious after your luxury shower patting yourself down with your luxury towel. After you’re dry, throw on some microfleece pajama pants for men or some Cookie Monster fleece pants for women and a dress hoodie and you’ll be ready to Zoom into work in no time. If, perhaps, you have to walk outside to check the mailbox or drag the trashcan to the curb or back, throw on a pair of comfy slippers with a good sole and you’ll be in and out with no problem.
Vikram points out Darn Tough Socks. Yes, they are expensive, he points out. But they also come with an unlimited lifetime warranty. You’ve heard of Captain Samuel Vimes ‘Boots’ theory? These are the $20 socks that you’d want to wear in the *GOOD* boots. For the kiddos, he recommends Yoicy Socks. Wool socks, super thick, keep them tootsies warm.
The possibility exists that you might still need to go outside. In that case, Vikram recommends the tactical belt to keep your pants up and the combination phone case/wallet to reduce the number of things you’re throwing in your pockets when you leave.
Seriously, I wanna say that the best gifts this time around will probably be stuff like “comfy clothes, comfy slippers, comfy towels”. We’re going to be settling in. Get comfy. Hey, maybe a reversible flannel/fleece throw would help that computer chair not be so cold, right? And if you’re going to be sitting in the same computer chair during your leisure time as you sat in during your Zoom meetings, maybe get a butt cushion. You’re not 17 anymore. Sit comfortably.
Make it easier to be cozy. Cozy is the goal.
When it comes to small luxuries, there’s always the stuff in the kitchen. Make it easier to do something. I’ve sung the praises of this one-button rice cooker before. Do you miss Chipotle rice? Well, you can get within shouting distance of it with that little puppy. Steam your veggies while you make your rice! Use it to make the old-fashioned oatmeal rather than the instant kind!
Maribou very much enjoys a hot cup of tea at different points during the day. We used to be stuck putting a pyrex measuring cup in the microwave but we got this Zojirushi Water Boiler & Warmer and it does a great job of getting, and keeping water at (your choice!) 160, 175, 195, or 208 degrees. It’s perfect for a cup of tea the second you want one (after the initial 10 minute warmup, of course). On top of that, I’ve discovered that I can use it for when I want to make hot dogs. Wander in, fill the saucepan, put it on the burner and the water is boiling after 2 minutes! Refill the Zojirushi and have hotdogs in less time than it takes to doctor up and toast the buns.
When it comes to the man in your life who prefers to cook using a cast iron pan, Oscar Gordon suggest a chainmail washcloth to help him clean it. Not *WASH* it. Just, you know, get the rust off. Get it ready for the next round of bacon.
Why not some light escapism? Vikram sings the praises of the Dutch series Wildwitch (translated into English, of course). If you’ve been hoping for a series to fill the Harry Potter-sized hole in your heart, check this one out. The fifteenth(!) Diary of a Wimpy Kid book is out. If you’ve got a nephew you’ve been buying Wimpy Kid books for, well, they’ve got a new one. We’ve also purchased Does It Fart? for our youngest nephew as a way to ease him into the whole “non-fiction” thing. See? Some of it is really interesting!
We’ve also been blessed to have *TWO* Harry Dresden books come out this year. Peace Talks came out in the first half and, I understand, it ended on an unresolved chord. (Not a cliffhanger… not like Changes ended… Jeez, that was frustrating…) And if ending on an unresolved chord might bug you, good news! Battle Ground came out in the second half of the year and got you to where you needed to be. (It was MORE THAN A YEAR! between Changes and Ghost Story!) If you’ve never gotten into the Dresden Files books, I really recommend them for people who want some fun urban fantasy. The series got off to a rough start, I’d say. The first two books are merely “good” and the third is kinda rough… but right around book four, the books start being awesome and don’t let up. And, hey, there are 17 books in the series! If you’ve been sick and tired of stories that end after 250 pages, you can hop on board The Dresden Files and find yourself with a ton of books to plow through.
And, of course, there’s the “staying in shape” problem. We can’t go out to the gym anymore. So now what? Well, I go for a jog. As such, I enjoy these sweatpants that have zipper pockets. Don’t worry about your keys. They’re safe. Vikram points out jumping rope is a good workout for anybody and everybody. If you’re outside, you’ll probably want a jumprope suitable for PE classes (it’ll handle the sidewalk). If you’re jumping rope in the basement, you’ll probably want an exercise mat and then you can use a jumprope like this one.
If you’re a little more flush and want something with gym quality for being stuck in the house, Oscar recommends the WaterRower Rowing Machine. It’s quiet enough to use during a meeting where you’re expected to listen but not talk.
When it comes to video games, the Big One that *EVERYBODY* is going to want is, of course, Cyberpunk 2077. Apparently, you’re not going to get a PS5 (unless you pay scalper prices) and you will probably want one of the GTX 30X0 cards to play it (which you’re not going to get except at scalper prices) so… well, it’ll be available on the PS4. Free delivery on release day for Prime members, the webpage says. I don’t know about that. We got Black Ops: Cold War for one of the nephews and it didn’t get there until a couple of days *AFTER* release day. But he loved the heck out of it so it doesn’t really matter.
If you’re hoping for a game that isn’t particularly violent, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 has a lot of fun tricks, famous levels, and a soundtrack that fits 2020 as well as it fit the 90’s.
As for movies… well, jeez. There weren’t that many that came out this year, were they? There’s Sonic the Hedgehog and there’s Tenet. I suppose it’s a good thing that Infinity Gauntlet wrapped up when it did because 2020 is the first year since 2009 that hasn’t had a Marvel superhero movie come out.
And I will repeat what I said last year:
Of course, the reason for the holidays has little (if anything) to do with giving (or getting) presents but it’s always nice to give a loved one a gift that says “hey, I was thinking about you.”
And with that in mind… hey. I’ve been thinking about you. From us and ours to you and yours, Happy Holidays, Season’s Greetings, Non-Denominational Generic Good Wishes, Happy Hanukkah, Good Festivus, Joyous Kwanzaa, and, of course, Merry Christmas.
I hope that you found something above that you’d want to give to a loved one. In addition to all of the above, I still recommend everything we recommended in Unsolicited Shopping Guides of the past and we want you (yes, you!) to put your recommendations in comments. The gifts that you’d most want to give your loved ones and the gifts that you’d most want to receive? We want to hear about them because you never know who is currently pulling their hair out looking for the perfect gift that you (yes, you!) already know all about.
We want to hear from you!
(Featured Image is Ebenezer Scrooge’s gravestone by Howard Lake. Used under a Creative Commons license.)