8 (mostly) little things I’m loving for winter

I like to keep a list in my journal of the (mostly) little, everyday things bringing me a disproportionate amount of happiness these days. And I like to share a handful of these things with you occasionally—but I just realized it’s been ages since I have!

Let’s catch up with this little sampling of small things making me happy right now:

1. Michael Storrings puzzles

I bought my first Michael Storrings puzzle at the New York Public Library two years ago when I was in New York to record my Don’t Overthink It audiobook. (Does anyone remember when I got flagged by airport security because it looked like a suspicious item through the scanner?) At the time, it didn’t occur to me that other Storrings puzzles might be available, beyond the wintry NYPL scene I’d so enjoyed doing. (But I should mention: that one is harder than it looks!)

This winter we’ve been on a blissful Storrings binge around here. Will kicked it off when he gave me this Parisian scene for Christmas, and we’ve since done Cuba and this panoramic Cityscape. I can’t wait to start the Cherry Blossoms puzzle I stumbled upon at St Louis’s Left Bank Books earlier this week, and next up I’m eyeing this glittery Moonlight Skaters puzzle.

Have you worked any great puzzles lately? Please tell us in comments!

2. Abbott Elementary

Thanks for your great suggestions on what to watch in this edition of Links I Love. They’ve led us to some great stuff, and our family favorite—for my crew aged 12-16 and then 40-something-year-olds— is Abbott Elementary. (We’re watching on Hulu.)

This workplace comedy set inside a Philadelphia public school, and focusing primarily on the staff and their relationships, unfolds in 22-minute episodes. It’s funny and warm-hearted and we all love it.

3. Hot water bottles

This is not a new discovery: after visiting Scotland with its ubiquitous tea kettles and hot water bottles (in every inn, lobby, or even bookstore we encountered), we came home and bought our own. But then during the warmer months we forget they exist, and fail to pull them out again in the fall when the weather gets nippy.

But last month we got back in the habit. I’m not sure if this article Will found reminded us how great they were, or if it finally somehow dawned on me that my toes don’t have to be nippy just because it’s cold outside, but whatever the reason, we’re enjoying them.

4. Wine glasses

I got Will some quality glasses for his birthday back in December and y’all, they’re SO MUCH BETTER than our 75-cent IKEA glasses. Who knew? (You probably did.)

If you have no idea what I’m talking about: the bowl of a well-made wine glass completely changes the smell of the wine, which then completely changes the taste. (The first time we did a side-by-side comparison of new vs. old glasses we could barely believe the difference.)

After a fair amount of research I landed on these Gabriel-Glas wine glasses. (I bought ours on Wayfair but they don’t seem to be available there now.)

5. Tea, lots of tea, so much tea

We love a good glass of wine, but we mostly drink tea. I’ve my shared my love of tea before, but it’s winter and worth saying again: cold, grey days are better with hot beverages. I’m a longtime fan of Harney’s hot cinnamon spice (I get the decaf), and this winter I’ve also been drinking tons of mint from Rishi, Trader Joe’s, and assorted brands from holiday gift baskets. I’m generally picky about my tea, but easy to please when it comes to mint varieties.

6. Anything that helps manage winter dry skin

My skin gets terribly dry come winter, and using the right products, religiously, makes a huge difference in my day-to-day comfort level. It’s not great for your mood when you’re literally uncomfortable in your skin. I’m currently loving some new-to-me this season products from Glossier, especially the Body Hero Dry-Touch Oil Mist paired with the Body Hero Daily Perfecting Cream.

I mentioned my other go-to’s in 13 skincare favorites for winter weather, but I have to give a shout-out here to drugstore favorite Aquaphor, which saves my hands every winter.

7. An itty bitty eye shadow palette

Back in November I gifted myself one of the Sephora holiday sets (its theme was bestselling beauty, though it’s unavailable right now) and I’ve been using the included three-color eye shadow palette nearly every day. The colors suit me, but I think the main thing is it’s EASY.

The brand is Natasha Denona; it’s a mini version of their well-known Biba palette (which contains WAY too many options for my makeup-challenged self to use!). The real magic here, I suspect, is that my go-to little baby palette only contains three colors I know exactly what to do with. No fuss, no hassle, no overthinking.

8. New-to-us books, and new books on the way.

I have a 12-year-old who can devour a chapter book in an evening, so keeping him in good books is TOUGH. That’s why stumbling upon a new series—with its built-in answers to “what should I read next?”—is such a joy. And right now he’s loving the Alex Rider (Bookshop | Amazon) series by Anthony Horowitz. Yes, the same Anthony Horowitz who wrote Magpie Murders! He’s also excited to dig into the new book in the City Spies series (Bookshop | Amazon) by James Ponti. My younger two kids LOVE that series for late elementary and middle grade readers.

As for myself, I was thrilled to hear we have new books to look forward to from Maggie O’Farrell (Bookshop | Amazon) come September 6 and Taylor Jenkins Reid (Bookshop | Amazon) on August 30. So many good books to look forward to this summer!

What (mostly) little things are bringing YOU a disproportionate amount of happy lately? I’d love to hear in comments.

P.S. Previous editions of little things I’m loving: 9 (mostly) little things I’m loving lately: kitchen edition, 8 (mostly) little things I’m loving for early fall9 little things I’m loving this September6 things I’m loving for early summer5 late fall/early winter favorites7 little January favorites9 October favorites, and 7 not terribly exciting things making me really happy these days.

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  1. Cecilia says:

    I am really happy when I guess the Wordle in less tries than my husband (don’t tell him). I also love tea, I would like to recommend Plum Deluxe https://www.plumdeluxe.com/. Everything I have bought from them is good and they have all kinds; herbal, white, green, black. Give them a try.

  2. Susan says:

    My sister-in-law shares her Unidragon jigsaw puzzles with us. They are complex wooden puzzles with unique shapes and most of them contain a mini puzzle within the larger puzzle. Finishing one always feels like an accomplishment!

  3. Amanda says:

    I’ve been journaling before bed in a softcover Leuchtturm1917 journal with a Wordsworth & Black fountain pen. The entries are short, but gathering my thoughts and noting my accomplishments every day has been a great routine. I also treated myself to new Lululemon leggings for workouts and they make me feel happy and comfortable. The other thing I’m loving is Friendsheep penguin wool balls for the dryer — Laundry Love changed my whole routine and now I’ve got adorable little penguins each time I do a load of laundry. They put a smile on my face.

  4. Carol G Williams says:

    Playing Wordle brings up so much appreciation for my parents who instilled the love of reading and the thrill of vocabulary in me. Challenge, victory and nostalgia in one five letter word.

  5. Breanne says:

    I love the City Spies series for myself! I originally got them out for my twelve year old and then proceeded to blow through a book an evening. Middle grade novels make delightful distractions for winter reading. So far I’ve been to all the cities he’s set the books in which makes an added depth to the reading experience.
    We’re working our way through All Creatures Great and Small as a family, it’s a bit beyond our six year old at times but it’s lovely to be transported to England every week while it’s cold outside.

    • Jamie says:

      I love, love, love reading middle grade books for myself. They’re nice short reads between longer ones, and some of the stories are SO GOOD!

      Since New Year I’ve read Kate DiCamillo’s newest The Beatryce Prophecy, and Linda Sue Park’s The Single Shard, and they were both perfect!! ❤️

  6. Melanie says:

    My dog Schmidt brings me an incredible amount of joy! I must admit that he also causes bouts of anxiety and frustration. But his unbridled excitement in going for a walk, playing ball, and going to doggie day care is enough to have me smiling all day long. I especially feel joy when we ask him, “Do you wanna…” and his giant, furry head leans to the side and waits for what’s to come! Oh my, I never realized how much fun owning a dog could be!

  7. Nancy says:

    My husband and I just started All Creatures Great and Small and it makes me so happy to watch it…we are now almost through Season 2 as we have watched at least one episode each evening after dinner. Would love recommendations for other shows as happy as this one.

  8. roberta says:

    More tea! My morning tea love is Adagio silver leaf jasmine. It’s clean and almost clear for my morning tummy.
    In November it went out of stock -so sad. It’s back now and I’m appreciating it even more. Happy, happy!

  9. Alicia Casady says:

    I love the Michael Storrings puzzles! I think I learned about them from you a while back and received my first for Christmas this year. Going to buy a few more now!

  10. Marcia says:

    Every winter I would also drink Harney’s cinnamon spice which I bought at Barnes & Noble. At one time I worked there part time and a customer told me to try it so during the cold season Harney’s tea is in the house.

  11. Katie says:

    I recently discovered a (new to me) mystery series at the library by Lemony Snicket! The series is called All The Wrong Questions and there are 4 books. It’s about Lemony as an almost 13 year old. I am flying through them and plan to purchase them for my shelves for my kids when they are older.

  12. Kristine says:

    I also am a huge fan of Harney’s hot cinnamon spice. I drank hot cinnamon tea by the quart in my 30’s when I could buy it from Cost Plus, loose leaf in a brown paper bag. Since moving to NE Indiana last year, (well past my 30’s!) the winter calls me to drink cinnamon tea again. I could not find anything decent in the grocery stores, but then found Harney’s on Amazon. My husband realized that if I was drinking so much tea, I needed a proper tea kettle for Christmas. Well, maybe not a proper English kettle, but a beautiful bright, shiny red tea kettle from Target, and a tin of Harney cinnamon tea bags. I was delighted!
    Aquaphor? I smear it on my face at night with a spatula. I also use the Cetaphil healing ointment on my hands, and put gloves on before going to bed. I think I am winning the dry skin war!

  13. Eileen says:

    First of all, Ann- you were at Left Bank Books and didn’t let me know!?!?!? 🥰. LBB is one of the places I visit when I need to touch joy. And they’ve been offering so many online author events- definitely a balm, especially in the winter months. And I, too, give 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 to hot water bottles, in all weather- so important for self care to ease chronic pain. This reminds me that a few years ago, I planned on knitting a hot water bottle cover for a friend. A few months ago, a dear friend told me about The Chai Box, based in Atlanta- the ingredients of every blend are chosen wisely and created with love. And then, here are the small offerings, close by, that my neighborhood offers, whether the day is sunny or filled with clouds: friends walking their dogs (seen through my window, or approaching me, eager for treats): children being their joyful selves on the corner playground, my sycamore tree, pulling bark, inviting me to let go; families sledding down the hill on seminary grounds; little ones, peering through the candy store window.

  14. Emily M Kerr says:

    I started being a conversation partner to two women in March 2021 on zoom and it brings me so much joy. One of the women moved back to South Korea in May and we still talk even with the time difference.

  15. Melissa says:

    Yes to Abbott Elementary! It’s a lovely little gem of a show that reminds me of The Office but with a bit more edge and a lot less people-making-fools-of-themselves.

    I recently discovered Harney’s Paris blend and oooooh my, it is delightful.

    An unexpected thing that’s making this winter fun is that I finally figured out what my style (or “aesthetic”) is and decided to lean into it. Also, yesterday I discovered that if you put a “Buy It Now” eBay item on your Watch List, most of the sellers will send you a “private deal” to entice you to actually make the purchase. I’m about to snag a pair of super cute sneakers for 30% off!

    • MBinHB says:

      Melissa – may I ask how you went about figuring out your style/aesthetic? I’m on a similar exploration here & am curious about resources/systems/books.

  16. Alexa Schwab says:

    My son really liked the Alex Rider series, and after he is done, that could be your next family TV show! There are two seasons, and we enjoyed watching it as a family. Also, I also bought that same Sephora set and love that little eye palette. I’m a big fan of those holiday compilations of makeup — I usually always find a keeper that gets rotated into my regular lineup.

  17. Christine G. says:

    Although I usually drink coffee, I do like decaf tea in the afternoon sometimes, so I appreciate the suggestions on here. Does anyone know of a cinnamon tea without cloves, though? I’m not a fan.
    The other thing saving me is the little organizing/clearing out sessions I have been doing the last few weekends. I started with my office, then the linen closet, pantry, and garage. There is more to do, of course, but I love opening a door and not seeing clutter everywhere! Now, if I can just keep it that organized 🙂

  18. Carla says:

    It’s so nice to find another Michael Storrings puzzle addict. My family says I have a problem – I want them all! His work is so beautiful. The moonlight skaters isn’t a Storrings puzzle, but it’s on my wish list as well! So pretty.

  19. Mary Duncklee says:

    I have visited the gift shop at the New York library but never thought to see if they were online. Now it is Anne’s fault when I start buying too many things!

  20. Jennifer says:

    I do Micropuzzles. https://micropuzzles.com/ 150 pieces. I do them after eating my lunch at work because I can fit them on a file folder and put them away to work on the next day. Some are easy (take 2 lunch breaks); some are much harder (take a week of lunch breaks). I find them relaxing and keeps me focused on something other than work because I eat at my desk. Sometimes I work on them while watching a webinar as well. Love Alex Rider and James Ponti books for your 12-year-old. I used to be a children’s librarian and they are some of my go-to recommendations for kids that age. A Taylor Reid Jenkins makes me happy as well. Abbott Elementary is a great show as well. So much good stuff to love this winter when the weather is so yucky!

  21. Steph says:

    My mom was the gift giver in our family and, since she passed, my dad usually comes up with some creative way to give cash. This year, though, he gave me a huge tin (250 bags) of English tea. Well, between sharing it and the horrible cold/sinus/allergy issues it has been the favorite gift of the year. I just may through it before the holidays come around again!

  22. Little things I love are yellow daffodils in the neighborhood and fragrant pink tulip trees in my southern yard. And Friday night date with my hubs of 40+ years, drinking classic whiskey sours and watching Netflix.

  23. Laura Fisher says:

    We got a Michael Storrings puzzle for Christmas, Snowy Brooklyn Bridge. Just finished Springtime on Park Avenue. we are hooked.

  24. Stacie Kenney says:

    I just bought two hot water bottles! The little things I’m loving right now are my book sleeves made by a fellow Little Free Library steward, Rochelle. I love books so much that protecting them is important, because you never know when your cat is going to knock over your wine glass. Check them out here – https://bookishcrafting.square.site/

  25. Maureen says:

    I discovered Harney’s tea when I went to the Hershey Spa. They serve it in the quiet room. I came home and ordered some for myself. So far my favorite is the Royal Palace Tea. The tins are so pretty. I’m going to have to think of a way to repurpose them.

  26. Denise Baysinger says:

    Been enjoying your blog for several years….love books and tea. Do try Seattle’s Marketspice tea, my favorite cinnamon spice tea. I also really like Murchie’s teas from Canada. Happy reading and tea drinking!! 😊📚

  27. Sarah says:

    Have you tried Trader Joe’s skin balm? We just moved to Denver from the south and with the change in climate, dry plus freezing, this is the only thing saving my hands. Also I’m loving Harney teas too, their chocolate mint is my favorite!

  28. Regina Ross says:

    Has anyone played Quordle? It’s been fun to have another Word game to play with besides Wordle. If you Google it, you can see what I’m talking about.

  29. Michelle says:

    I discovered liquid collegian (https://modere.co/3sltkG1), instead of the powdered kind I had been using for years, which has saved my terribly dry Midwest skin this winter. Who knew!?! After years of dry, cracked and bleeding hands all winter, I was so happy!

  30. Kay says:

    Snowdrops in my garden are so pretty and make me glad that spring is on the way. Talking to my oldest friend on the phone gives me more happiness than most things in life. Lastly, it must be hot water bottles as my back is very bad and I have spent the last few weeks pretty much on the sofa with one at my back the entire time.

  31. Christine says:

    The winter is brutal on my hands, and I’ve tried a ton of hand lotions… I recently discovered Duke’s Bloody Knuckles (yes, it’s a strange name), but it’s wonderful! Super soothing and not too greasy. I bought it online through Target.

  32. Janice Skinner says:

    This last Christmas I framed a puzzle for my daughter as a gift. She loves the designer Jonathan Adler. He has a few puzzles that are a little odd but beautiful. She loved it.

  33. Angela says:

    I had no idea that Magpie Murders (on my TBR based on your suggestion) and Alex Rider came from the same author! My sons love the Alex Rider series, and now I’m moving Magpie Murders to the top of my list. Thank you for pointing out that connection!

  34. Peggy says:

    I don’t believe I’ve ever seen any posts here on Springbok puzzles. The variety of the pieces is insane, so fun! My favorite puzzle line is White Mountain as the1000 piece puzzle have way bigger sized pieces, easier on the eyes and placement!

  35. Kathryn says:

    While cleaning out my husband’s closet after he died in early December, I discovered what I knew was to be a Christmas gift for me. My license plate reads PZL LVR and he really got me this time. This thing is a doozy! It’s a 1000-piece murder mystery puzzle and they don’t give you the image! It doesn’t help that the colors are all from the same quadrant on the color wheel. He would be so pleased with himself. ♥️

  36. Colleen Bonilla says:

    I LOVE the Michael Storrings puzzles! I’m brand new at jigsaw puzzles, but I couldn’t resist the New York Public Library puzzle last January. I started it as soon as it arrived and after almost a year, I had to give up finishing it. Nothing but gray and white pieces that I just couldn’t get to fit anywhere! But I’m not giving up altogether. Now that I’m retired and in my new home, I’m going to try either the Paris puzzle or the beautiful cherry blossoms.
    What is making me happy right now? Just having time to sit at my leisure and catch up on all the MMD stuff I’ve missed during the move!

  37. Sabiha says:

    I love Storring’s puzzles. We do the London one and one of Yosemite as a tradition when we go up to the mountains, but my latest puzzle purchase is by Ravensburg and it’s a puzzle of beautiful doors which are a particular obsession of mine.

  38. Susan says:

    I hopped on the Wordle bandwagon happily — I love simple word games! Then, I discovered Quordle and enjoy it even more. I highly recommend checking it out. It’s pretty self-explanatory once you start. It’s a fun way to start the day before I get into work – gets me going some mornings. http://www.quordle.com

  39. Meg says:

    6 years late, and I’m FINALLY joining The Leftovers HBO show bandwagon. It is unlike anything I’ve ever watched! So now I watch an episode, then spend the next day listening to old podcasts about the episode, then get prepared for the next episode by listening to the soundtrack. IT IS SO GOOD.

  40. I’m pretty sure I first learned about Michael Storring puzzles here, I got the snowy Bethesda Terrace last year and the St. Patrick’s Cathedral this past Christmas! They took a bit to get through!
    I also really enjoyed this All Good Things Are Wild & Free puzzle (maybe I got the suggestion here? Not entirely sure). That one was fun to do.
    And I really like True South Puzzle Company puzzles. I have the Classic Literary Locations and Acadia National Park but there are SO MANY I wouldn’t mind from there! Quick 500 pieces but the colors and pictures are just so fun! It’s nice to mix one of those in between harder puzzles.

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