My Favorite Things 2017: Holiday Gifts to Give or Keep

Sometimes wakefulness at 4 am can produce something other than frustration.  Yes, my brain was marching through a parade of thoughts and worries faster than a screenager’s brain on gaming:  the Christmas party we are hosting, the puppy arriving the day after, did my son really just leave his ski jacket at school, or did he lose it?  You know how it can be, especially during this crazy, joyful, where-is-the-snow-already (!), time of year.  But in the middle of the brain train, I had one, just one, really good idea.  I’m jumping on the caboose of the veritable iron horse others like Maria von Trapp, Real Simple magazine and Oprah Winfrey have made an institution:  the “favorite things” list.  Here are some of the items I’m truly psyched about, available at a variety of price points, for under the tree or perfect for stuffing.  All of them we have in our home and are tried-and-true choices, so if you’re still looking for the perfect gift for that special friend, family member, Secret Santa (or even yourself…), you may find it here!


My Favorite Things 2017


1)  Aveda hand and foot relief moisturizing creams. ($24 and 4.2 ounces each, available at Aveda concept salons and at  These are hands(and feet!)-down the best mani/pedi moisturizers I’ve tried.  They don’t reduce to water when massaged into the skin, they are both thick and creamy without feeling greasy, and the individual scents are pleasing.  You won’t want to leave home without either, and fortunately, both creams come in handy (no pun intended) travel sizes.

2) Olivu 426 lip balm.  ($3 each, available at This homegrown business in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, is the brainchild of young entrepreneur Caitlyn Brotz.  Inspired by a heartstring-tugging story, Ms. Brotz’s all-natural skin care products have earned Olivu 426 recognition beyond its modest beginning just blocks from Lake Michigan.  The Olivu brand has been featured in the Huffington Post and in the goody bags handed to celebs at the 2016 Golden Globes.  Olivu’s signature lip balm, made from two simple ingredients (olive oil and beeswax), can be customized with a favorite flavor and is totally divine, soothing and decadent.  Want to feel like a movie star? (Or at least pamper yourself like one?)  Try Olivu’s Golden Gift Package for $10, which includes lip balm and an olive oil-whipped lotion made with oatmeal milk and honey.


3)  Arbonne protein shake in chocolate.  ($76.00/$60.80 for preferred customers for 30 servings.  Available at Once a chocoholic, always a chocoholic.  But how do you quash the guilt of overindulging in the rich creaminess of Dove, Lindt or a homemade truffle?  The answer is right here.  With 20 grams of vegan protein, loads of aminos, vitamins and minerals and only 9 grams of sugar and 160 calories per serving, this shake is truly healthy.  And is just too good.  Not too good to be true.  Just too darn good to pass up.  Make it your new dessert fix.  Also available in vanilla.


4)  The Magnolia Journal.   ($7.99 an issue at newstands, $20.00 for a year’s subscription (four issues)-limited time only.)  Chip and Joanna Gaines have the midas touch when it comes to home renovation and that translates to new endeavors as well.  I read The Magnolia Journal cover to cover, all of it.  How often does that happen?  From Joanna’s musings on life and family, to delicious recipes and entertaining ideas, and of course, home decorating ideas, this magazine delivers.  Plus the photography is undeniably pretty and the paper has a luscious, cozy feel.  You won’t want to put it down.

5)  Pottery Barn Llew Deer Reversible shams.  A bit of a splurge at $49 each.  I hedged a bit before I decided to take a stag’s leap and order a pair to add some holiday cheer to our master bedroom.  These shams with a hint of Nordic charm are of high-quality construction and are machine washable with a button closure.  Beautiful.  And going fast.  They are sold out on but may be available at your local Pottery Barn.  Follow this link to find a store near you:

6)  Indoor snowball fight.  ($15.00, available at and  BRING IT!  To a favorite nephew or Secret Santa, that is.  Or to anyone on your list who enjoys some crazy fun.  Whether your season is green or even if it is blanketed in white, this pack of fifteen soft, squishy “snowballs” will deliver more fun that you can imagine.  Open a box of these when your antsy, cooped-up kids (or spouse) need something to do.  Plus these snowballs won’t break the bank (or a window).


7) The Universe Has Your Back by Gabrielle Bernstein.  ($24.99, in hardcover, available at booksellers.)  This latest installment from the “next generation thought leader” has changed my life.  Really.  In her book “Gabby” provides a guided journey to releasing fear, embracing love and letting the desire to control go, adding her own humbling personal experiences along the way.  I don’t reread books but this one I will.  It’s a keeper.

8)  ($44.95 to $49.95 for unlimited pages; but there’s a special 15% discount offered right now.)  Need something for that hard-to-buy-for special someone?  Tell him or her how much you adore them without buying them that gift card for guitar lessons that will just collect fuzz in the wallet.  Let show you the options and all you have to do is select the cover, the pages (adding embellishments along the way, the sky’s the limit!) and even the characters that look like you and your beloved.  It’s really easy.  And you’ve created a one-of-a-kind gift to be cherished forever.


9)  Puzzle Plateau with storage by Bits and Pieces.  ($59.98 on, measures 21 inches by 29 inches.)  Need a portable workspace for that 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle? And a place to safely store all those sorted edges and colors?  Enter this fiberboard surface with four drawers to keep it all together.  (Puzzle not included.)


10) Lego advent calendars.  ($29.99 to $39.99 each on  Write this down for next Christmas!  My Lego-loving kids’ argument for these calendars?  You know what’s behind every door in a chocolate calendar…booorrrring!  Such budding litigators they are.  If you’re counting down to Christmas with Lego, your enthusiast will open the dated door and find a new mini-build.  It may be a snowmobile.  Or a toy airplane.  Or a mini-figure!  Totally fun.  And parents, there’s a perk in it for you:  you won’t have to drag your kids out of bed for school on the cold, dark December mornings…they’ll be up pre-alarm to see what their advent calendars hold for them!


11) Life is Good socks for women, three-pack.  ($18.00 at some participating retailers.)  Cute.  Just too cute.  Plus Life is Good donates ten percent of its net profits to kids in need.  So you can look good and feel good.  Check out more styles at

And so your furry friends don’t chew on your new footwear…

12) Kong.  (Available at pet stores and in “pet sections” everywhere.  Prices vary.)  The king of canine toys.  Kong is virtually indestructible and comes in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors.  We’ve invested in several, in case one rolls under the couch.  (Sorry, my kids’ beloved Bow Wow and Bow Wow, Jr., are not included…)


13) Project Merry Christmas.  Check out your county’s PMC website to learn how to volunteer with this organization that provides support to families in need.  Or donate nonperishables and new clothes and playthings.


14) Salvation Army.  You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid and…red buckets and the ringing of bells.  (and yes, Donner and Blitzen, too…)  It isn’t the holiday season without the air filled with the tinkling of Salvation Army hand bell, the plink of change as it lands in the bucket, and the merry gratitude of a joyful volunteer.  Consider taking all that loose change you’ve been saving and “stuffing the bucket.”  The look on the bell-ringer’s face will be priceless.  But helping those in need, priceless plus infinity.


I had a real urge to put “puppy” on the list…not that I recommend a cutie-pie canine as a Christmas present.  While the newest member of our family IS going to top our own list of favs this holiday season, a surprise fur baby was never in our under-the-tree plan.  It just happens the right pup for us is coming a during the traditional 12 days of good cheer.  Here he is, at six weeks:

We really pooped him out when we visited him with his brothers and sisters and now he must be dreaming of sleep.  Or of the fab Kong he hopes we bought him…

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