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Hidden Gems

Products/Places/Things that make the world a better place

Trader Joe’s Ultra Moisturizing Hand Cream

This hand cream is currently in my purse, my desk drawer at work, a drawer in my kitchen, and I have a back-up on hand for when any of those run out. For someone that loses it when their hands are dry, TJ’s hand cream has been my saving grace. It’s a quality, non-fragrant hand cream that keeps my hands moisturized through the cold, ruthless days of winter. Splurging on a spendy hand cream every now and again might make you feel like royalty, but this lotion is the real deal for 1/4 of the price.   \  AL

The Cheese Knife

My first encounter with this cheese knife was on NYE four years ago @ my friend’s parents’ home, and I haven’t shut up about it since – it seriously makes cutting a hard chunk of cheddar an enjoyable experience. Add in a bottle of wine, and you have plans for Friday night. I like to rave about it during this time of year because it’s a cutting edge! and practical gift. Obviously you can just purchase it for yourself, if you see cheese boards in your future! Available on Amazon, like most everything, or you can purchase it via The Cheese Knife’s website where Myra will tell you more.  \  AL

Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love album

I was initially introduced to Kate Bush during a particularly memorable all-nighter, when my college classmate was imitating Bush’s dance moves from her Wuthering Heights music video. If you’ve heard/seen this masterpiece, you may have an understanding of why this night is so unforgettable. Wuthering Heights launched young Bush’s music career. Years later, Bush peaked with the release of Hounds of Love in 1985 – this album explored newly invented sampling technology and fell perfectly at the crossroad of weird and accessible. Hounds of Love is an exercise in contrast: the A side is full of pop hits: Running Up That Hill, Hounds of Love and Cloudbusting (you maybe heard the latter on the last season of The Handmaid’s Tale), and the B side is packed with experimental feats: Waking the Witch and Hello Earth. Every moment on Hounds is a vivid portal into an alternate experience. Bush charges up hills, plunges to depths, and then rockets to outer space to look back on earth. I beg you to join her.  \  Tom

His Dark Materials, a trilogy by Philip Pullman

Remember that attractive yet forgettable movie The Golden Compass? – Love you, Nicole. The film was an adaptation of the first book from Pullman’s epic fantasy series His Dark Materials. Although the British author has found a large following in the UK, the novels haven’t had as much of an impact in the US. It wasn’t until the announcement of the BBC/HBO television show based off this series that I became intrigued myself. Northern Lights, aka The Golden Compass in the US, is the first of the trilogy and opens with an attempt at murder, the mention of a powerful ‘dust’ with mysterious origins, and meeting the novel’s protagonists Lyra and her dæmon. The plot thickens as the duo learns more about the complex world they live in – one that is ruled by a religious governing body, where witches + fortresses guarded by polar bears exist, and cocktail parties are abundant. There is enough mystery, drama and action for everyone. Read it, then binge the new HBO series!  \  Tom


In holiday movies, there’s often scenes of bustling shops with over-the-counter service; everyone’s smiling, no one’s stressed, old friends are running into one another. For the longest time, I figured this shopping utopia didn’t exist outside of Hallmark movies – but it does. If you’re in the Twin Cities, check out Ingebretsen’s (located on Lake Street in S. Minneapolis) during the month of December. This local Nordic giftshop/food-market has been located at the same location for nearly 100 years and has unique gifts, many of which are handmade. If requesting your physical presence is too much to ask for, they do have an online shop! I just bought myself this advent calendar candle that counts down the number of days ’til Christmas; I figure lighting this candle will be a good reminder to be in the moment, even if only for a few minutes.  \  AL

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