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by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times

Even as crazy as this year has been, there have been some constants—such as the observations of holidays (although they have been a lot more virtual). Among said observations is holiday shopping, and Windy City Times is here to help with some suggestions:

—1800 Silver Tequila ( Article Link Here ; $34): There's a reason this brand tastes so good: It's made from 100% Weber blue agave that's aged for eight to 12 years. This is definitely one of the smoother tequilas around, so be sure to use it for tequilas, sangrias—or whatever your heart desires.

—bbluv Ultra diaper bag ( Article Link Here ; $89.99): For the new (or relatively new) parent in your life, bbluv is known for having products that cover a baby's or child's needs regarding feeding, bathing and much more. As for the modern-looking diaper bag, not only does it have lots of pockets, but it also has a built-in wetbag to help with organization.

—Beekman 1802 body cream sampler kit ( Article Link Here ; $25): Many may know Josh Kilmer-Purcell and his husband, Brent Ridge, as the duo who won the 21st season of The Amazing Race, or from the show The Fabulous Beekman Boys. Now, they're thriving with Beekman 1802, which sells ridiculously smooth and fresh-smelling goat-milk skincare items, such as this kit.

—Bliss'd Co.'s holiday peppermint CBD (or non-CBD) bath salts ( Article Link Here ; from $14): This year has been beyond stressful for almost everyone, and for a variety of reasons. Enjoy some personal serenity with these bath salts—and if you don't have much time, at least try to use them as a foot soak.

—Blue Circle Norwegian Arctic smoked salmon ( Article Link Here ; from $13.99): I've had my share of salmon over the years, and this is one of the better samples I've had. On top of how delicious the ready-to-eat salmon is, there are no added hormones, antibiotics and sugar—and, of course, there are the multiple health benefits.

—Cheeky: A Head-to-Toe Memoir ( Article Link Here ; $26): A book that's definitely different, Cheeky is a full-color graphic memoir that gives the finger to body-shaming. In Cheeky, feminist Ariella Elovic takes her own journey to self-discovery by examining self-consciousness. This book aims to inspire others to do the same.

—Cool Cat ( Article Link Here ; four-can pack for $15.99): This is a new—and quite flavorful—line of wine spritzers developed by NYC-based gay/minority business owner Rocco Ferrari, who comes from the fashion world. Cool Cat currently has two flavors: Original (Elderflower Mint Lime) and Citrus. Moreover, the spritzers are gluten-free, and have only 150 calories and two carbohydrates per 12-ounce can.

—Cure Crate CBS subscription box ( Article Link Here ; starting at $58): Here's more relaxation for you, as Cure Crate offers a monthly box full of top-rated, quality-tested and full-size CBD products to fit your wellness or beauty needs. (Note: Use the code "CUREYOURHOLIDAY" until Cyber Monday to get the first crate free when subscribing for three months.)

—Ekster aluminum cardholder ( Article Link Here ; $55): This company advertises the item as the last wallet you'll ever need—and that may be on the nose. Incredibly sleek, the wallet is built for easy access, and it fans out your cards (up to 15) at the click of a button. However, cash carriers needn't fret: It comes with a free cash clip.

—Epic Gourmet Popcorn ( Article Link Here ; from $13.50): So much delight—and so many flavors… Epic—the only popcorn company certified by the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (and it's local)—offers something for everyone, from chocolate toffee almond to Fab N' Fruity (think Froot Loops) to the sweet-and-spicy Love Is Love Mix.

—FloSleeve ( Article Link Here ; $69.99): Whether you get them running a marathon or hyperextending your leg while sleeping, leg cramps are no fun—and that's where the FloSleeve comes in. It promotes recovery by providing a deep massage, stimulating blood circulation and relieving muscle fatigue. Your calves will thank you.

—Fogblock ( Article Link Here ; $14.99): Wearing face masks provides many benefits—but one of the problems involves foggy glasses. Enter Fogblock, which keeps eyeglasses crystal-clear for up to 24 hours—and no wipes or clothes are needed.

—Funko ( Article Link Here ; from $11): Funko dolls have been around for decades, and they're more relevant than ever. The variety if vast: You can go all Golden Girls, or go in an evil direction and get a villain like the Joker or Darth Maul. The fun(ko)'s up to you!

—GrandPad ( Article Link Here ; $66/month, or $49.99/month if paying annually): Designed for those over 75 (or for those who want to keep things VERY simple), GrandPad comes pre-loaded with every feature owners need to stay connected to their loved ones without the difficult and distracting features of other tablets. This cool tablet lets owners play games and access news; enjoy music and streaming radio; and even order transportation through Lyft.

—Haand ( Article Link Here ; various prices): This North Carolina-based ceramics brand makes some very cool conversion pieces. Part of what make them cool are the collection patterns—and I have to admit I'm partial to cloudware.

—Hey Dewy portable humidifier ( Article Link Here ; $39): Bring this portable USB humidifier with you wherever you go for continual hydration, whether it's in the office (if you're still going there) or at home. It's like having your own personal spa.

—InvisaWear ( Article Link Here ; starting at $129): invisaWear is a stylish, innovative piece of jewelry that doubles as an SOS emergency device. This unisex item can be worn with everything from a suit to the more popular gym pants. Moreover, the jewelry offers an optional contact 9-1-1 feature.

—IRIS The Coloring Book ( Article Link Here ; $45): Budding designers or people who are simply colorful (no pun intended) will appreciate this biographical coloring book on fashion icon Iris Apfel. In addition, each copy sold will benefit fashion students at The University of Texas at Austin.

—Kino Lorber movies ( Article Link Here ; various prices): Kino Lorber—which specializes in new and vintage independent features—has some intriguing offerings for the holiday season. They include Oliver Sacks: His Own Life (about the late gay scientist/author), Proud (an LGBTQ film that spans three generations in France), the 1992 James Ivory feature Howard's End and the highly acclaimed 2019 movie Lucky Grandma.

—LOVING. A Photographic History of Men in Love: 1850s-1950s ( Article Link Here ; $58.50): Even there are a few souls who still believe same-sex relations are a modern thing (Oscar Wilde, anyone?), most people know better. This pictorial features a collection of hundreds of snapshots, portraits, and group photos taken in the most varied of contexts, both private and public—and they cover Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, France, Germany, Japan, Greece, Latvia, the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia and Serbia.

—Lume Cube Video Conference Lighting Kit ( Article Link Here ; $55.96): How many Zoom meetings have you endured in which the lighting doesn't work in your favor (to put things kindly)? Compatible with laptops and desktops, the Panel Mini brightens your workspace with powerful, adjustable LED light—and includes a softening diffuser (which mercifully isn't as severe as the "Vaseline lens" of yesteryear).

—LumiCharge-LD ( Article Link Here ; $69): This is another light-related entry, although it is a bit different, as it's also a charging station. (In addition, you can charge a second phone on the universal phone dock with pre built connectors on the wheel.) Its LED lighting system contains three different hues and multiple levels of brightness, ensuring that you have the lighting that you need for any setting.

—Mambe waterproof blanket ( Article Link Here ; starting at $79): Specializing in dealing with extreme conditions, Mambe's blankets are ideal for situations ranging from camping to just sitting outside during most Chicago nights. And just how tough are these? They have lifetime guarantees.

—Minoritees ( Article Link Here ; various prices): Minoritiees features—you guessed it!—T-shirts that promote racial and sexual minorities. Founded by Ali Forney Center (AFC) Board Member Collin Spencer, a portion of all proceeds from their store will be donated to AFC, an integral organization that protects LGBTQIA+ youth from homelessness.

—MP Magic 37.5 Tech Merino Wool Socks ( Article Link Here ; from $19/pair): So-called because they keep your feet very warm—at 37.5 degrees C (99.5 degrees F)—these socks are known for their natural moisture-wicking and antimicrobial properties. In addition, there's a 100-percent satisfaction guarantee—and there's free shipping for all orders higher than $39.

—Nat Geo Kids books ( Article Link Here and Article Link Here ; various prices): Did you know that a dog can shake off a pound of water in less than a second? You'll find amazing facts like that in books such as The Coolest Stuff on Earth: A Closer Look at the Weird, Wild and Wonderful; and National Geographic Kids Almanac 2021. They're geared for kids ages 8 through 12—but adults will learn a lot, too.

—Necessaire Body Collection ( Article Link Here ; various prices): Promoting clean products (no sulfates, synthetic dyes or parabens, among other things), Necessaire offers items such as body serums and exfoliators in fragrance-free, sandalwood, eucalyptus and bergamot varieties. And if you want something a little bit more, uh, personal, the sex gel is still available.

—Portland Coffee Roasters Holiday Roast ( Article Link Here ; $17): Coffee aficionados will appreciate this item; it has flavor notes of dark chocolate and raisins, and comes from Mexico's Oaxaca region. Also, for every purchase, a portion will go toward Food 4 Farmers.

—Rainbow Revolution ( Article Link Here and Article Link Here ; from $19.99): Photographer Magnus Hastings has amassed a collection of vibrant portraits that aim to celebrate the expanding spectrum of queer identity and visibility. More than 300 images capture "everyday people" as well as celebrities such as Kathy Griffin, Jade Thirlwall, Luke Evans, Boy George, Peppermint, Adore Delano and Eureka O'Hara.

—Rawlogy ( Article Link Here ; various prices): A National LGBT Chamber of Commerce-certified business, Rawlogy offers eco-friendly products designed to help you restore your mobility and recover faster. Conscientiously made from renewable cork, the products really work (as I've been using them during my daily workouts)—and Outside Magazine awarded it "best recovery tool."

—Siblings DIY candles ( Article Link Here ; $22): Believe it or not, there's a sense of accomplishment with this that heightens the serenity of the completed product. These DIY candles have a top scent of clove, a heart composed of lavender and thyme, and a base of cedarwood and vanilla—a combination of exquisite scents.

—Square Off Chessboard ( Article Link Here ; $399): With Netflix's The Queen's Gambit being the most talked-about show right now, it might be a good time to buy this. There are so many special things about this automated board, as you can play with anyone around the world (thanks to the globally connected game play). Also, you can choose from 20 levels of difficulty to challenge this chess set's built-in AI. (And here's another bonus: You can use the code "WINDYCITYGIFT" for a 15% discount through Dec. 26.)

—Tea Forte Warming Joy gift set ( Article Link Here ; $49): Just seeing this will make a lot of people smile—but just imagine tasting what the pyramid infusers offer (two each of Harvest Apple Spice, Raspberry Ganache, Rum Raisin Biscotti, Spiced Ginger Plum and Winter Chai). In addition, there are a red tea tray with gold monogram; and a matching cup with lid.

—The Selected Works of Audre Lorde ( Article Link Here ; $16.95): Self-described "Black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet" Audre Lorde is an unforgettable voice in 20th-century literature, and one of the first to center the experiences of Black, queer women. With a foreword by Roxane Gay, this almost-400-page book contains Lorde's essays as well as poems (the latter drawn for her nine volumes).

—The Spice Lab ( Article Link Here ; various prices): Chefs—and those who appreciate them—will find an endless array of items to peruse on this website. I never knew there were so many salts (such as jalapeno pepper salt), and seasonings are even categorized by the protein you're working with. One of my favorites is the Taste of America collection, a set of four rubs that includes a Chicago chop item.

—VIZIO 2.1 Home Theater sound bar ( Article Link Here ; $179): Take your audio to the next level with this sound bar. With three powerful speakers, this sound bar creates brilliant clarity and richer sound—and with and Bluetooth and device connectivity capabilities, this sound bar is always ready for your command.

—Weekenders ( Article Link Here ; $98): Made by Mugsy Jeans, these will replace your workout gear as your most comfortable pants. Available in a five-pocket brushed twill chino design or a flexible waistband drawstring style, Weekenders have a soft and lightweight stretch fabric—and there are five different color patterns.

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