Thing 16: Books, from a indie shop

It’s about to be the fourth year of my online book club (the original idea I stole from Oprah), and all are welcome. Many join, but few participate…and this is OK! Sometimes people need book ideas, others need aspirational reading goals; there are no obligations or bad reasons to join. We read one book a month and discuss it on a chat platform (text chat only) for an hour at the end of the month. I choose all the books (muahaha), and we only read things published in the past 18 months. 

I am using Thing 16 to celebrate the end of Book Club 2020, and invite you all to participate in Book Club 2021! The world debut of next year’s titles is right here, right now! The actual physical Thing #16  is our final book for 2020, Real Life by Brandon Taylor. Since I chose the book last December, before it was released, it has received much acclaim, including being shortlisted for The Booker Prize! (This is a brag about how I pick good books.)

Books are also a great thing to buy locally. Support independent bookstores in your area. You can use sites like Bookshop to browse availability (if they don’t have their own ecommerce), but you should always try and email or call in your order if possible. Meg is getting her copy of Real Life from Loyalty Books, which is a great Black and Queer-owned bookshop in DC and Silver Spring. They have a fantastic ecommerce platform and have many things available for pre-order too (which can be hard to find in independent bookshop sites).

Pre-orders can be so important for authors. If there are authors you want to see thrive, pre-order their next book from a local, independent book store (if you don’t have one, borrow mine). There are a few unreleased titles you can pre-order on the 2021 Book Club list: How the Word is Passed by Clint Smith, Kink edited by R.O. Kwon and Garth Greenwald, and Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia.

And don’t forget about libraries when you pre-order―request your local library also purchase (this link is for DCPL and requires you to be logged in) a copy too. This is also a great way to show support if books aren’t in your budget: requesting is free!


✔️ DC Based 

🏳️‍🌈 Queer Owned

🖤 Black owned 

🚺 Woman owned  

Thing 14: The USPS

five stamps

So, the Postal Service is having A Very 2020 Time: leadership sabotage, an increase in tens of millions of mail ballots, and extreme mail and package surges (amid staff shortages) that enable us all to get the things we need during this pandemic. And don’t forget- the employees who make the mail happen are real people impacted by Covid-19!

Ok so we all love the post office, but I thought the focus was on small businesses? Bear with me. So, so many small businesses rely on USPS. Without affordable and reliable rates, many small business owners would be unable to ship their products. Plus, they provide free boxes and mailers for Priority and Express Mail services. If you’re an Abbey’s Favorite Things participant this year, your package probably came by USPS. And if you’re waiting on an item, it may be delayed. That’s ok! An unprecedented amount of mail!!! Side note: I am only worried about one item…because it is alive 😬

The USPS also provides opportunities for small businesses in other ways. Let’s take a look at the stamps that Georgia, temporarily in Yonkers, will receive. The Innovation stamps were released in August of 2020. Some stamp info:

Five new stamps in a pane of 20 celebrate the American spirit of innovation, specifically in fields in which U.S. scientists and engineers have made significant contributions that have touched lives around the world: computing, biomedicine, genome sequencing, robotics, and solar technology.

Each stamp design features a photograph of a subject representing one of these five fields: Computing (detail of a circuit board), Biomedicine (immune-system cells), Genome Sequencing (detail of a DNA chromatogram), Robotics (a bionic ankle-foot prosthesis), and Solar Technology (detail of a square solar cell). The word INNOVATION is laid over each of the images. Each of the pane’s four rows includes all five stamps, arranged differently in each row to add visual interest. Art director Antonio Alcalá designed the stamps, choosing a detail of an existing photograph for each. 

Antonio Alcalá is part of an Alexandria VA based design firm, Studio A. Artists and designers are commissioned to design stamps, providing work to small businesses! So buy some stamps, send some mail, and enjoy the journey. Maybe wait until next year though—they’re pretty busy right now. But do consider a holiday tip or gift for your mail carrier!



Five things I never fly any sort of distance without

Never is a pretty bold statement, and obviously this depends on the length of flight, but here goes:

1) Kiehls In-Flight Refreshing Facial Mist

Cabin humidity isn’t just for your insides. Though this product has been relabeled as Cactus Flower & Tibetan Ginseng Hydrating Mist, I have been assured it is the same stuff. I spray this stuff liberally on my face and neck, and honestly anywhere else. It smells great and a bottle lasts forever. Make sure you buy the 2.5 oz size because this is a carry-on essential. Who checks bags anyway? Things are better if you’re on a 787, but I still bring it.

2) A large, thin scarf.

Blanket, headwrap, skirt, privacy shield…what you can do with a scarf is endless. I recommend something at least 6 ft long and 3 ft wide. Linen is great, cotton blends are great, silk is ok. Fold it up, wear it on, whatever. If you’re in economy, make yourself a little privacy sleeping hood. Anything that makes you feel a little less like you’re mere inches away from the face of a stranger.

3) Water Sac

Sure- most planes will give you free water. But it is never enough. Seriously you need to drink more water on planes. One liter for every four hours of flight, even more if, like me, you love to drink the free booze. I do this even when I am in premium cabins, as it is personally more annoying to continually ask for water or deal with trying to hoard mini bottles at your seat than to just bring some of your own. Water sacs are nice because they flatten and are reusable, but if push comes to shove, buy a liter at the airport. If I am going to a destination where the tap water is not drinkable, I will bring one with an attachable purifier.

4) Thick socks or slippers.

My shoes are coming off but I am not going to walk around the cabin in my regular socks. Slippers are ideal- better protection from the floor, but socks are easier to pack. If I am in business or flying economy on airlines like Qatar or Korean, this will be provided. Always be prepared though.

5) Noise cancelling headphones

I like these, which are small and I can crumple up and abuse. I can’t sleep with giant domes on my ears. I also love that you don’t have to charge them. Remembering to charge your electronic devices before leaving is obnoxious. Between computers and cameras and phones and battery packs, the last thing I want to worry about it my headphones.

Disposable face wipes, toothbrush/paste, eye cream, and a non-aerosol dry shampoo are my runners up.

No, I don’t receive compensation for this but I am totally open to product bribes.

Thing Thirty Two

A few years ago I saw these for the first time. “How cute!” says I. As a frequent flier and lover of cocktails, it seemed like the perfect thing. I picked one up, turned it over and shrieked “twenty-five American dollars?! For a single enhanced airplane cocktail?!”

Helllll no. Once you purchase the booze, you are looking at a $33-$35 drink you made yourself on an airplane. And people complain about bag fees. But, the concept was solid and I started making my own for when I wanted to feel fancy in economy (see also: privacy scarf).

Jason in New Jersey will be receiving a starter kit, which includes Peychauds bitters, orange bitters, sweet vermouth, honey, cane sugar packets, real lemon, real lime, real orange, candied orange peel, toothpicks, and a spoon. You’ll have to use the airplane napkin. Make a great Old Fashioned, manhattan, Champagne cocktail, hot toddy, spruce up your gin and tonic, or create something new! Most of the time the vials are small enough for airport security to not care, but if you’re concerned, throw them in your liquids bag.

TIP: Batch cocktails and punches are perfect for entertaining. A few of my favorite recipes are below, but if you really want to up your punch game, and learn some fascinating history at the same time, read David Wondrich’s Punch.

Champagne Pomegranate Punch
Red Sangria


the big three-oh

Get thee an enormous, modal scarf. Make sure there aren’t any serious danglies or tassles. And use it for everything (you hear that Tiffany in Washington?!) Need to lay on the beach? The scarf’s got you. Need a fashion accessory that doubles as a blanket for travel? Scarf. Need to hide? scaaaaaaaaarf. Wear it as a dress when you’re doing laundry. Use it as a head covering when you need privacy or modesty, use it as a cover-up on the beach. It folds into almost nothing, it’s comfy, it’s lovely, and it can transform any boring outfit into something spectacular as a fashionable cape. GET THEE A SCARF. Bigger the better, as long as it’s thin.

TIP: Rewatch Frasier. It’s so worth your time.