This is the first piece in Slate’s Holiday Advice From the Experts series, where our beloved advice columnists weigh in on the best items to get you through the season. Need holiday entertaining ideas? Rebecca Onion dishes on punch, and J. Bryan Lowder sings the praises of the Champagne cocktail bar. Need a present for your child’s teacher? Our Ask a Teacher columnists weigh in on some of their favorites. Bonus gift ideas: Click here for presents to help you bond with your teen, and here for an inspiring list of children’s books.
Whether you’re buckling down for serious religious observances, a calendar full of “fun” social events, constant shopping, or trying to avoid the whole thing altogether, this time of year can be taxing (to say the least). Parents are often tasked with navigating the season’s madness through school vacations, Santa’s omnipresence, and children who may not appreciate how hard we work to give them holidays that they’ll remember. Ho, ho, hope you’re ready for some stress!
Since we aren’t typically the focal point of the various holiday celebrations taking place around us, moms and dads may need to take action themselves to ensure that we, too, get a little merriment. That’s why I urge parents, especially those of us who will be purchasing far more presents than we can count on receiving in return, to earmark at least a little something for the person in the mirror. If you’re gonna participate in such a capitalist ritual, you might as well benefit too, right? Right.
Since so many of us struggle with spending money on ourselves (especially in the face of a letter to Santa that could use a table of contents), I’ve put together a list of goodies that won’t merely put a smile on your face—they’ll help you keep it there as we crawl toward January. Think of this not as self-indulgence but self-care. Cop an item or three for yourself or your favorite parent (aww, it’s me? That’s sweet, DM me!), or forward the list to your partner, kid, or any other loved one who sees how hard you’ve been working and wants to do something nice for you.
A Vibrating Massage Pad
Chronic back pain sufferers can experience flares during times of stress, and what could be more stressful than planning a dinner for eight in a space that seats six, with three guests who are equally likely to either flake out or bring a surprise guest? A portable seat massager can go with you from home to your office and can safely be used in your car the whole way. Amazon has a number of great options and this model from Relief Expert has all the bells and whistles for less than $50.
Host Freeze Cooling Cups
If you’ll be sipping on a little something to settle your nerves this season (occasionally and responsibly, of course), these cups allow you to enjoy the beverage of your choice at its optimal temperature. With options for red and white wines, beer and martinis, the Host Freeze “glasses” are actually plastic—which means less of a chance for disaster when a small child, hopped up on virgin eggnog and adrenaline, zooms by and knocks your tiny bit of peace out of your hand.
If your seasonal spending is likely to leave you entering the new year on a tight (or “responsible,” as some folks may call it) budget, your future self may be delighted to discover that you purchased a gift card to cover a few movie tickets or family dinner at a favorite restaurant—or better yet, a week’s worth of your daily caffeine fix, a couple “emergency” items from your go-to clothing store, or a spa treatment. You’ll get the satisfaction of doing something nice for yourself now, and again in the future when you use it—it’s almost like two presents!
Uber/Uber Eats gift cards come in handy when you’re unable to drive after enjoying your perfectly chilled wine and when you’re unable to cook after enjoying even more of your perfectly chilled wine. (Also, consider getting a multipack of gift cards for unexpected present-giving, such as that second teacher in your kid’s class who you always forget about, the mail carrier, your waxer, etc.)
Galactic Sky Essential Oil Diffuser
Both seasoned eucalyptus enthusiasts and folks who’d never buy their clothes from stores that sell incense will enjoy this festive-yet-calming super diffuser to scent your space. It also serves as a humidifier and an LED lamp that is equal parts calming and dazzling. You may already have a diffuser on deck, but does it light up in a variety of colors? Think of this as the oil diffuser equivalent of spinning rims—it has an extra touch of class and gives you something pretty to look at as you contemplate the meaning of life and hide from your family’s annual Taboo tournament.
Cannabolish Smoke Odor-Eliminating Candle and Spray
If you live in D.C or one of the 11 states to legalize recreational marijuana, the holidays may find you spending time with loved ones who don’t have the most liberal attitude about cannabis … which is often reason enough to turn to said cannabis. The Cannabolish smoke odor-eliminating candle will make your bathroom safe for Mom’s judgmental nostrils, and the spray will leave your clothes ready for a hug from that uncle who is apt to yell out, “Whoa, somebody smells LOUD” as if he didn’t put a dent in the Crown Royal bottle before dinner was served.
Sleeping Mask With Bluetooth Headphones
If you’ll be traveling over the holidays, this mask is perfect for the less-than-comfortable seats on most planes, trains, and automobiles. The memory foam is soft and breathable and stays comfortably in place even as you shift around. The Bluetooth headphones are an added bonus, especially for those of us who struggle to fall asleep outside of the comfort of our own cozy beds.
Bamboo Laptop Desk/Breakfast Tray
This multipurpose tray is perfect for the days where you “literally can’t even” but still have to get some adulting done. It’s large enough to hold your laptop and a drink, plus a snack or notepad. Baby, it’s cold outside—stay in bed and let the kids watch Netflix.
Pumi Bar Pedicure Bar and Pumice Scraper
Winter is terrible on the feet (unless you live somewhere warm like I do, mwahaha), and since your toes aren’t likely to be on display very often, it’s possible that your pedicure routine has fallen off a bit since the trees went bare. The Pumi Bar will get you back in action, and it only takes a few uses to get your skin feeling baby soft. Just don’t forget the lotion afterward.
Tazo Dessert Delights Teas
It seems like everywhere you turn from October through the end of December, there’s some sort of sugary delight staring you in the face. Fun-size chocolate bars, tins of caramel corn, cookies, pies, cakes—all waiting to wreak havoc on your eating habits. These teas will satisfy your sweet tooth without leading to breakouts, indigestion, and uncomfortably tight jeans. The Vanilla Bean Macaron flavor is one of the best teas I have ever tasted in my life: absolutely perfect on its own and out-of-this-world with a little agave and a splash of almond milk.
Portable Shower-Friendly Bluetooth Speaker
A bathroom is not just a bathroom. It is a place of refuge from family, friends, and the rest of the world that can’t seem to let a parent rest. This durable speaker will allow you to enhance the quality of your sacred solo time with some of your favorite tunes. It also has decent enough sound to use in the kitchen, or to bring with you when traveling.
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