Unexpected Surprises

I’ll Be H̶o̶m̶e̶ ̶ Quarantined For Christmas #2

Hello, and welcome to my second column! This week I’m going to write about a few specialized online shops you might not have heard of and a few museums that could use our support.

When I lived in Chicago, I worked on the museum campus. In my time at Shedd Aquarium, I learned that museums bring in the bulk of their operating fees through donations and membership fees.

At Shedd, you can give the gift of symbolic animal adoption or the gift of a virtual animal encounter. I’m considering both gift ideas for a member of my immediate family! If you know who I’m talking out, do not let her see this.

The virtual animal encounter is a good deal, even though the programs are only thirty-five to forty minutes long. A ticket to an in person animal encounter can cost hundreds of dollars. 

When you support museums and aquariums, you’re usually supporting animal care and conservation research.

Museum memberships make excellent gifts too. Lots of memberships come with long lists of benefits like free admission to several other museums! Take the American Writers Museum, for example. When I opened my new member packet, I was thrilled to see that I had been given free admission to other Chicago specialized museums like the Museum of Surgical Science and the Museum of Broadcast Communications. As if that’s not enough to explore, I also have (free) access to twelve author home museums around the United States- a group of affiliates that includes Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House, Harriet Beecher Stowe House, and Thoreau Farm.

Now I’m going to include a few of my favorite websites for online shopping and browsing. Not because the proceeds benefit any particular organizations (that I know of), but because everything I reference in this installment of my column can be found online for safer and more convenient shopping experiences.

If I were thinking of gifting wall art to someone, I could skim through a list of Instagram accounts they follow and research any visual artists that jump out at me. Some of my friends send each other posts from artists. If that’s a thing your friends do, take note of who sends what! I think there was a Jeopardy contestant last week who talked about a spreadsheet he keeps of gift ideas for his wife. It’s not a bad idea, I’ll probably start to do this for the people I’m close to, but I say that as a person who thoroughly enjoys list-making. If you don’t like to make lists or you haven’t started any yet, that’s totally fine. Just creep on their Instagram or Twitter, like I talked about at the start of this paragraph.

Most artists with large followerships sell their work on Society 6 or Redbubble.

One day I’ll have my own place again, and I’ll decorate it with an eclectic mix of fancy-ish things from Uncommon Goods and silly stuff from Smoko- two of my favorite websites to browse when I’m bored.

Most of Smoko’s ambient lights feature a simple yet cute and contagious smiley face. The pear always grabs my attention. I like the dumpling too; I have a dumpling air purifier.

One of the more unique gifts on the site is this yeti ice scraper. Imagine getting up early (ick), going outside in the cold (still ick), waving at your neighbor (???), and scraping off your car (ick again) with (wait)… a paw that looks like it belongs on a yeti. Okay, you have to admit that would be a lot of fun. I’d be tempted to try and terrorize the neighborhood.

On the other paw, Uncommon Goods has bookends in the shape of city skylines, whiskey-enhancing oak tumblers, waterproof wine holders (for the bathtub), and watches that can tell time in as many as three time zones. If you see the words “Created by” under the name of a product, Uncommon Goods will send you an informational postcard with the item. Then if you remember to put the postcard in with your gift when you wrap it, the receiver can read about the person who made it- an easy way to add a personalized touch.

Next week’s column will be about handmade gifts for uncoordinated people who aren’t at all crafty. I’ll try not to link you to something if there’s a chance you might super glue your fingers together. Kidding aside, stay safe out there, and Happy Holidays!

S. Elizabeth Sigler has been published in Re-Side Magazine, Fembot Magazine, The Daily Drunk, Howling Mad Review, and From Whispers to Roars. She will have creative nonfiction in the January 2021 issue of Biological Creatures. She uses her spare time to read, write, and explore the world around her. 

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