1. Italian cookies, from Maria's Bakery in the North End: a satisfying variety of traditional Rainbow bars, Florentines, leaves, petits fours, and other butter cookies, usually saturated with food coloring and/or frosted, sugared, or sprinkled. Mike's had a disappointing selection the last time we were there; both Mike's and Bova's sell similar cookies for $15 a pound. Maria's are just $10 a pound and just as nice as Mike's, maybe better. Having a box around makes it feel like Christmas all over again.
2. Candles, on sale at Bath & BodyWorks. We often burn scented candles to mask cooking smells that waft in from elsewhere. We ignore $60 Diptyque candles, $65 Jo Malones, and the Bond line that starts at $95. We breeze past them as we walk through Sak's because it's the warmest way to get to the supermarket. Instead, we stock up at B&B when their $20 candles are half price or less, so we can burn them with abandon. There are good scents in their winter line, and you can always find some kind of sale or deal. Most of the year, their candles smell like household cleaners, cupcakes, suntan lotion, tropical drinks, and variations on pumpkin pie. I shop only between November and January, when they offer Winter Night: a blend of cypress, clove, cedar, and incense. It smells like church, specifically Midnight Mass. So I stock up now for Christmas in August.
I'm branching out this year with Fireside, which smells like it sounds, Evergreen, and Chestnut and Clove. One more tip: their red candles tend to smell like fruit drinks. Look for gray or ivory candles, and you'll be happier.) Single-wick candles are marked down to $4 to $5 now and several of their better scents are available online.
Tom + Lorenzo each week.
4. Sparkly stuff. My new iPhone case in raspberry glitter from J. Crew. A steal on sale for $10. Full disclosure: I have the silver one, too. Anything that sparkles that much makes me unreasonably happy, and Christmas ornaments can't stay up forever.
5. So, naturally, I fell for J. Crew's glitter notebooks ($12.50), too, in pink gold and midnight blue. I'll keep one on my desk to jot down info as I'm talking to the vet or a family member's doctor, or doing other business that will slip my mind soon after I put down the phone.
6. A cozy throw. Mine is a knitted cashmere blend from Garnet Hill, a Christmas present from last year. I'm often ridiculously cold. Right now, I'm sporting fingerless gloves, cashmere socks (one with a giant hole at the big toe), a turtleneck, a cardigan, leggings, a wool muffler, my husband's sherpa fleece jacket, and a wool hat. My laptop is trying to keep me warm, too. These layers are a little extreme... but I'm still cold. Possum is purring nearby but not throwing off much heat. So I'm also bundled up in my throw. It's a winter necessity. I wrap up in in it bed, too, under the flannel sheets, the double-weight down comforter, and the quilts. You gotta have a throw in January.