Small comforts will help us through.
- Bows. Yup, like utilitarian face masks, these are essential — be they red velvet for your tree branches, or tiny, glittery ones glued to hair clips for babies, girls, teens, adults (with buns) or sweet dogs. Over the Moon is a magical children’s shop with beautiful hair bows.
- Big sweaters. There are no ugly ones this year. The more bells and Fair Isle* designs, the better. Kiel James Patrick, from New England, has the best (though pricey) picks in big and little sizes. I stumbled upon the brand many summers ago, when I bought a preppy rope bracelet with anchor clasp in the Salt Pond Visitor Center store on Cape Cod.
- Baileys. In moderation — poured into a steaming cup of coffee with a fluffy, Santa-size cap of freshly whipped organic cream. Imagine you live in a farmhouse, not a stressed-out scene, as the beaters whir; add a little pure vanilla extract. To marry #2 and #3, shop the internet for Christmas sweaters for liquor bottles. If you don’t drink, have chilled eggnog; even CVS sells it in the milk case.
- Balsam. Any fragrant evergreen will do if it transports you to a Christmas tree farm (visiting one is on my bucket list). Try branches in a glass vase; a candle ring from L.L. Bean or Whole Foods; swags for porch posts; or a wreath from the Boy Scouts’ corner stand. (Our Skippy’s seventh grade classmate Cooper and his fellow Scouts raised about $2,000 for our local food bank last weekend.) I’ve wanted a giant fresh door wreath you walk through since I first saw them in Montclair 26 years ago. Family-owned Bartlett’s Greenhouses in Clifton, a 100-year old business, sells them.
- Books. Pull out the Yuletide stories — from vintage books on eBay to “A Christmas Memory,” a quietly perfect short story by Truman Capote. These are constants. So are old holiday issues you saved of magazines you love/loved: Gourmet, Good Housekeeping, Martha Stewart Living.
Now I have to go — wish I could go sweater shopping. I check the mail basket every day for my next writing check (a few publications still send paper ones). I’m trying to earn money on Medium, but it’s hard — so far it’s $7.63 a month. So I’d better get to work on the paying essay assignment I have, about my sister and me.
Alice Garbarini Hurley was a staff writer for 15+ years at women’s magazines in New York City. Her favorite issues were the Christmas ones. She worked with gifted Brooklyn artist Ollie Alpert, the freelancer who designed enchanting gingerbread cottages, cabins, churches and barns for best-selling Good Housekeeping covers. Alice combed Ollie’s directions, right down to the tiny icing candles piped in the windows, so readers at home could copy every detail.
*Note for fans of “The Crown” (thank you, Wikipedia, and I plan to donate to the site again soon): Fair Isle (/fɛəraɪ̯l/) is a traditional knitting technique used to create patterns with multiple colours. It is named after Fair Isle, one of the Shetland islands. Fair Isle knitting gained considerable popularity when the Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII) wore Fair Isle jumpers in public in 1921.