Year of the Covid holiday gift ideas 

Holiday season 2020

It’s that time of the year when everyone including editors and contributors of magazines and newspapers dispense their seasonal wish-lists.  Normal’s proprietor is shamelessly no exception so I’m having a go at my own rendition but hopefully of a conscious kind appropriate in this time of anguish.  Frankly I wasn’t expecting to see this annual ritual in the pages of my go-to (enlightened?) newspapers and magazines this year, at least not so early in the season.  I just saw daily flashes of the US four week average infection exponentially upward at some 70%.  Are we doing elaborate gifts this year? Gift-to-self, really? Herringbone tweeds with ribbed mulberry-silk cuffs (sustainable fashion I’m sure, if the term made any sense if you don’t say it too fast), that indispensable shearling-lined Austrian sneakers and oh, spicy, woody olfactory notes of the macho kind– with ginger at the top, because you’re in search of something stiff yet calm and collected ‘tis time of the year.  I can’t help but feel somewhat frivolous…if not wanting consideration. As I look around though, it doesn’t look like our cities are going to be stopped by the pandemic from gearing up for Christmas. Some shows must go on… perhaps it warrants a sigh of relief.

Here is my shortlist of pandemic era, stay-clear-from-lavishly-chic covering kits both for the outdoors-bent and the ever cautious homebody. Prices are in USD unless otherwise noted.

The North Face Cryos Hiker Boot – Made In Italy

North Face has been releasing a small selection of outerwear and boots Made in Italy and they add understated sleekness and those oh-so-Italian details. This boot handmade in Italy from premium leather is equally rugged and versatile.  Felted-wool linings ensure you rough it out in severe conditions while the natural fabric adds breathability. And yes of course, Vibram® soles so you have traction while looking good.

Pictured is in ‘black and glacial white’. Also comes in ‘bitter chocolate’, ‘warm brown’ and ‘solid black’.  Women’s collection has some beautiful material/color combinations like ‘felted wool upper in charcoal’ or ‘light grey’ (approx. $199)


Fox Brothers Flannel Lounge Gown

Fox Bros. & Sons. have been cloth makers based in Somerset England going back to 1770s. They produce high-quality, wool and cashmere in quintessentially English patterns. In fact, they are the original creators of Flannel. I’ve been occasionally ordering clothing and accessories from their online shop (The Merchant Fox) for years as they only produce and market a handful of items per year, all at reasonable prices. Actually, their email marketing went dark for a couple of years and then recently returned to my inbox (perhaps something happened to the team?), this time with a lot more product lines than usual.

This shawl collar lounge gown in mid-grey with contrasting navy piping would make a great gift. I’ve worn mine out for years (when I happen to be residing in city with winter, I mean) and hope one day someone will gift a second (you’ll see what I mean when you see the price… Prince of Wales please).

GBP 750

While you’re browsing, check out what they’re calling Utility Jacket (military style cross between over-shirt and jacket) in indigo wool (GBP 450).

DJI Mavic Mini 2

I’m thoroughly uninitiated when it comes to gadgets so when I called on a friend to witness the inaugural flight one Sunday afternoon this past summer, he blurted out ‘was that a gift?.’ So I can safely assume it’s not something you spend your own money on. If you want a breather from everyday grind wanting a different perspective, this maybe a welcome distraction.

Starts $449 (invest in Fly More Combo at $599 with three batteries, these batteries are appallingly short lasting)

Stagg EKG Electric Pour-over Kettle

Some believe that using a pour-over coffee kettle is a waste of energy.  A gimmick that makes you look more like a coffee hipster, akin to belabored latte art atop an otherwise perfect espresso beverage. If you’re like some of my – pounce on your 21 grams with 10kg weight – espresso snob friends, well… pour-over isn’t even coffee.  They couldn’t be more wrong.  Particularly when you’re in quarantine no. 4 of the year and have hours to spare.

Stagg EKG made by Fellow, orignally a coffee shop in San Francisco Mission district, has become synonymous with highend electric kettles with its sleek design and built-in features like precision temperature control. You can’t go past the EKG if you’re serious about pour-over coffee.

Pictured is in polished steel but if I had to gift, I’d go for polished copper (think iPhone rose-gold). Or black which is their signature color, particularly handsome with walnut handle. Pass on the bluetooth connect (EKG+) version and save $30.


Prima Pietra, Tenuta Prima Pietra

This Toscana IGT (50% merlot, rest in cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, petit verdot) comes from Castiglion del Bosco’s estate in Riparbella in the northern Tuscan coast near Bolgheri. Castiglion del Bosco is Ferragamo family’s scion Massimo Ferragamo owned winery in Montalcino. This Toscana IGT (50% merlot, rest in cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, petit verdot) comes from Castiglion del Bosco’s estate in Riparbella in the northern Tuscan coast near Bolgheri. Castiglion del Bosco is Ferragamo family’s scion Massimo Ferragamo owned winery in Montalcino.

This is 2016 vintage (current is 2017), elegant and complex perfect for lunches and dinners in holiday season with meats or just pasta. 2015 and 2016 are among the greatest vintages for Brunello and my hope is that same is the case for Super Tuscans like Prima Pietra. A lot of cherries and chocolate. I’m drinking now.

EUR 50 per bottle (box of 6 in this photo would make sense for shipping).

Or contact Carolina Bracalente (, Wine Club and Hospitality Manager at CdB for seasonal offers.

Ten Lessons For A Post-Pandemic World, Fareed Zakaria

So now onto some substance you can share…. Fareed Zakaria is the smartest guy I know on TV. In his newly released book Ten Lessons For A Post-Pandemic World, the international sage compares Covid-19 to 9/11 and the 2008 financial crisis as the third major post-cold war shock to hit the global order and unspools his endless wisdom on how this crisis is fundamentally changing our world. He describes that Covid-19, like the two cataclysmic event before it, is bound to have the proverbial butterfly effect on our world. “What began as a healthcare problem in China . . . prompted a simultaneous lockdown of all business across the globe, resulting in a Great Paralysis, the cessation of economics itself.”, he says. Zechariah in the bible was proven to be prescient when Gabriel appears to him and announced that his wife will bear the harbinger of Christ. I had to throw that in there… (anyway, that’s what I always think of when I hear Fareed Z speak).

In a YouTube video of his fascinating hour-long talk with Reid Hoffman (founder of Linkedin) he compares the current remote work situation to pre-industrial era when a farmer lived and worked on his farm and a shopkeeper living above the shop, which seemed only natural. He describes how our Madmen style work-life divide, in which we go to work and have three-hour martini lunches and after return to our suburban home, where everybody knows you but nothing about your work life and vice versa was never really sustainable. Well, my money is on the smart guy… I wish for this Christmas that remote work will only become natural in 2021 and my family, friends and coworkers will live a much for mixed and muddled up life.

$10.75 in Hardcover, $9.32 in Kindle (discounted)

Merry Christmas from Normal.

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