Gift Guides

I'd Like To Get Something For You, Clark ... Something Really Nice

. 9 min read . Written by Russell Smith
I'd Like To Get Something For You, Clark ... Something Really Nice

Your ultimate holiday gift guide 2023

Well, we’ve come around the sun yet again. With Thanksgiving this week, Amazon, CVS, Costco, and the consumer-retail megalodon are already beckoning us towards Hanukkah, Christmas, and other festivities. I’ve been eating Christmas Tree Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups since August.

Readers have flattered me with their feedback on my previous gift guides and so the tradition continues. The items below will surely wow, Wow, WOW your family, friends, and other loved ones. 

May we all reflect well on the year, count our blessings of life, and look to the future with hope and joy. I wish you all a very Happy Holidays and a glorious New Year!

– Russell


If you read Solvitur Ambulando, most likely you have life’s necessities covered. Let us keep in our minds and hearts our neighbors who do not. Below, I list a few charities that have stood out to me this year. Often led by friends or acquaintances, many have counterparts near you if you prefer to stay local with your giving. 

St. John Center

I served on the Board of Directors and as a volunteer for many years at this hub of loving services for our homeless neighbors. It’s a remarkable organization.

Hildegard House

Another Louisville charity. In its words, “We provide a home and compassionate care for individuals at the end of life who have no home or loved ones to care for them so that they may die with dignity.” 

City of Refuge

My friend Dan Szy runs advancement for this wonderful organization in Columbia, Missouri. It provides services to refugees, enabling them to better navigate this enormous and difficult transition in life. Dan reminds me sometimes to ask, “Who is your neighbor?” It’s a fruitful question to ponder. 

Angel City Zen Center

My friend Sara Campbell resided at ACZC until recently. I often listen to ACZC’s podcast, including talks by Dave Cuomo, the Head of Practice. He’s down to earth, relatable, and teaches with wisdom, wonder and humanity. I’d like to visit one day. 


REVIX Heated Neck and Shoulder Wrap

I use this two or three times per week – on my neck, shoulders, and back. Pop it in the microwave for two minutes and place it where you need some heat relief or relaxation.

A Victorian Christmas by Robin Petrie

Many years ago, my Dad or Mom discovered this music, then in CD format. It became a beautiful and fondly cherished addition to our holiday music. It sounds simple and delicate, and yet full of life and promise. Much like a manger more than 2,000 years ago.  

Arts and Literature

Artwork by Sarah J. Hull

Sarah is a longtime friend and Washington, DC-based artist. I appreciate how Sarah describes her approach:

“My work primarily utilizes hand embroidery and sewing techniques, traditionally associated with “women’s work,” to reflect on the natural rhythmic variation occurring in daily existence and the repetition present in nature and science. Using natural fibers and fundamental hand embroidery stitches, each piece takes on an organic quality that creates a dialogue between the materials, “the hand,” and the underlying grid. The underlying grid provides a foundation where basic forms are mirrored and disrupted and subject to rotational symmetries and inversions. 
“Classical shapes and personal materials become a meditation not only on form and material, but space, surface and process. Patience and attention to detail imbue the formal geometry with warmth and allow each piece to serenely exist independently or within the context of other works.  A single piece’s intimacy evokes a sense of internal contemplation while simultaneously being an integral part of a more complex and responsive experience – just as an individual’s interaction and connections within the fabric of community and society.”

I have one of her pieces hanging in my office. It’s unique. It’s beautiful. I treasure it.

The Iliad, by Homer, translated by Emily Wilson

Wilson’s translation of The Odyssey made my list of “Only 25 Books for the Rest of My Life” in 2022. Her translation of The Iliad, published this year, will make any future such list. 

Alexander the Great famously carried a copy of The Iliad wherever he traveled. Despite the wanderlust exhibited by people in the Western world today, which might suggest a preference for The Odyssey, current events far more resemble the epic struggle of the Trojan War of The Iliad. Wilson begins her version with strong words:

“Goddess, sing of the cataclysmic wrath
of great Achilles, son of Peleus” 

Strong words indeed. We perhaps could use the stark reminder of life’s hardness, even as we enjoy the comfortable modern cadence of Wilson’s wonderful achievement. 

Tickets to A Christmas Carol

Longtime readers of Solvitur Ambulando may know that I cherish Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. It contains such beautiful images, messages, and lessons. I re-read it every year, between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Several good to great versions have appeared in movies too. Check out, especially the 1938 Edwin L. Marin version and A Muppet Christmas Carol. (And, this is a terrific ranked list of most film adaptations of the story.)

I find something special about seeing theater adaptations of it. A Christmas Carol – or an interpretation of it – is playing in the following cities and many more:

Anchorage, AK – Anchorage Community Theatre
Austin, TX – Zach Theatre
Bardstown, KY – My Old Kentucky Home
Cape Town, South Africa – Artscape
Cincinnati, OH – Playhouse in the Park
Denver, CO – Denver Center for the Performing Arts
Gilbert, AZ – Hale Centre Theatre
Indianapolis, IN – Indiana Repertory Theatre
Knoxville, TN – Clarence Brown Theatre
London, United Kingdom – The Old Vic
Minneapolis, MN – Guthrie Theater
Nagoka, Japan - Nagoka Municipal Auditorium 
New York, NY – Merchant’s House Museum
Perth, Australia – His Majesty’s Theatre
Rome, Italy – Auditorium della Conciliazione
Seattle, WA – ACT Contemporary Theatre
Washington, DC – Ford’s Theatre 
Weaverville, NC – Zebulon B. Vance Birthplace


Filson Journeyman Backpack

In my 2023 Father’s Day Gift Guide, this backpack made the list. At the time, Filson, the venerable maker of durable wilderness wear, offered it in tan, cinder and otter green. Now it also comes in Realtree Hardwoods Camo and (cough, my personal favorite) Dark Tan-Flame, which is currently out of stock. You can add yourself to a notification alert for when it comes back in stock. Not that I have….

My wife and kids gave me the otter green version for Father’s Day. It has become my go-to weekend backpack. If I am schlepping the kids to activities, I throw my laptop, journal, calendar, AirPods, a book and a couple of pens in it and I have everything I need for a day on the go. At 18L, it fits enough for that job, but not too much. Love it!

Snow Peak Titanium 350 Kanpai Bottle

If you head out with warm drinks, and want them to stay warm, and you don’t want to haul around a heavy bottle, this one's for you. Durable, lightweight titanium makes this a worthy travel companion. It keeps warm drinks warm for…a loooong time. Same with cold ones. They stay the temp you want them at. 


Drake’s Chore Jackets

These jackets look wonderful. They make the perfect accessory around the house or around the office. Less formal than a blazer, they still exude class and style. They add a layer of warmth and with many pockets, you can carry whatever pens, notebooks or tools you’ll need for the next few hours. 

Alan Paine Sweaters

Last Christmas, my mother-in-law and father-in-law gave me a beautiful navy sweater they’d found at Delamere & Hopkins, a fantastic fishing, hunting and outdoors store in Cincinnati. The first week after Christmas, I wore it four times. It fit well, which on my body is no easy feat off the rack. It felt soft and instantly sang of high-quality. 

OK, with that set-up, let me ask you….which path would you take from here? 

Path One: tell your mother-in-law and father-in-law how much you loved their gift, occasionally dropping not-so-subtle hints that future gifts of similar sweaters, or even the same sweater in different colors, would be immensely appreciated and welcome, and thereby setting yourself up for years and years of happy Christmas Days? 

Path Two: go to Delamere & Hopkins and buy every Alan Paine sweater in stock that fits you, in all colors, and even ask D&H to order a couple other colors for you?

Dear Reader, choose your path. I’ll let you guess which path I took.

Cooking and Eating

Thermapen ONE Cooking Thermometer and MEATER 2 Plus Thermometer

When I smoke or grill or cook meats, I use these two thermometers in tandem. The MEATER is my indispensable wireless thermometer for smoking meats. It reads the meat and ambient temperatures. Through the handy app, it offers a countdown to completion, recommended recipes and temperatures and loads of other information. It is awesome! 

I use the Thermapen to check the temperatures at various places in the meat – handy when you are grilling or smoking a large cut of meat, like a brisket, turkey or pork butt. Its true superpower is the auto-rotating display, so you’ll never have trouble reading the temp.

Dynamic duo indeed.

Creekstone Farms Beef and Silver Creek Specialty Meats Snack Sticks

Speaking of meat, well, it also makes a fine holiday gift. Years ago, my friend Jennifer Stetzler of Jennifer Stetzler Interiors gave me famed Texas BBQer Aaron Franklin’s book, Franklin Barbecue. It rocked my smoking world. It prompted me to try smoking a whole brisket. I ordered the smallest brisket I could, 12 lbs. I shoehorned it onto my medium Big Green Egg. It barely fit. I woke up at 5am, began smoking at 6am, and 12 fretful hours later, my family and some friends tucked in to the mouthwatering meat.

It was marvelous. 

Now, I attribute that wondrous outcome to two decisions. One, I followed Aaron Franklin’s recipe to a T. Every single instruction. Two, I used a fine, high-quality, Prime brisket from Creekstone Farms. No, it warn’t cheap. But the price more than paid off with a perfectly succulent supper of smoked heaven.

My oldest daughter, Beatrice, and I enjoy munching on beef and pork snack sticks. Unfortunately, we are spoiled. No snappin’ into a Slim Jim for us. Why? My father-in-law hunts deer and he often turns part of the meat into the most amazing snack sticks – delicious and with far less salt and sugar than ones made by the big industrial manufacturers. 

When we run out of the ones from my father-in-law, we hunt for tasty, reasonably not-unhealthy alternatives. The best we have found: Silver Creek’s Snack Sticks. Beatrice loves Venison. I tend to enjoy the Beer & Cheese, although I’m not picky.  Every flavor we’ve tried from Silver Creek has tasted full of zest and goodness. Try ‘em!

Bundaberg Spiced Ginger Beer

Oh baby, it’s almost time to find me some of this non-alcoholic good stuff. My wife and I found it at Costco a few years ago and I was hooked. If you see it there, or anywhere, pick it up stat because it won’t last long. 

How do I describe the warm, sparkly taste? It’s like the greatest ginger ale you’ve ever poured down your esophagus, but with tons more ginger, tons more spice, tons more Christmas cheer, tons more festivity, tons more holiday awesomeness. Like you and Santa kicking one back after a sweet, sweet day at the workshop, being served by a talking reindeer bartender, reminiscing about the good ole days, 900 years ago, before that punk Rudolph came on the scene. Everything becomes candy canes and the aurora borealis….candy canes and the aurora borealis. 

There you have it! Your Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide 2023! May you and all you hold dear – near and far –  enjoy a special and joy-filled holiday season!

Image by Midjourney. This article contains Amazon Affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.