The Little Luxuries That Are Keeping Us Sane
(Bloomberg) -- In these deeply uncertain times, it’s really the little things that can keep us sane.
Take the tiniest bottle of Champagne in my Brooklyn, N.Y., home. It’s about two-inches tall, and its content costs roughly $1 per ounce. Pop the plastic cork, and you’ll find a narrow wand from which you can blow tiny, glittery bubbles. It’s entertained my nearly 1-year-old for hours over our time in quarantine (18 days, thus far), and the little container, which looks like shrunken Perrier-Jouët, gives me a chuckle each time she grabs it. Also to my delight, it’s a rare form of amusement that neither moos, honks, squeaks, plays electronic-sounding Mozart snippets, nor requires a great deal of energy expenditure from me, exhausted work-from-home mom. It’s truly saved me from the brink of many a meltdown.
That’s just one example of a little thing keeping us sane here at Bloomberg Pursuits. (In all fairness, it’s likely the smallest … and the most affordable.) Here are 25 additional at-home luxuries that we’re cherishing right now. Use them to transform your social distancing experience, or as a gift guide for friends in need of a boost.
Tiny Kitchen Upgrades
A morning ritual: For years, I’ve subscribed to a membership service called Craft Coffee; it sends out a curated selection of beans from high-end roasters across the U.S. The frequency of the packages—and how much coffee you get—can be customized on an impressively granular level. I get three 8-oz. selections every 21 days (from $7 per 12 oz.). —NE
Fancy flour: It cost $45 just to have it shipped, but the four bags of artisan organic flour that photo editor Aeriel Brown purchased from Central Milling ($7 per 5-pound bag) are what’s keeping her sourdough starter going, and the slightly malted flavor is worth every dime. The store is also one of the only places where you can still find bread flour in stock online, thanks to the boom in at-home bakers.
Pasta time: Deputy editor James Gaddy has used his KitchenAid pasta-making attachment ($199) more times in one week than in the entire year he’s owned it. “I never knew how nice and delicious and relatively easy it is to make pasta on your own,” he says, from simple spaghetti to sheets of lasagna that can also be used for ravioli.
Chop chop: A fancy cutting board doesn’t look much different than a regular one. But thick blocks of maple, cherry, or walnut feel substantially different when you use them: They’re spacious, soft, and supportive, all qualities that will improve your knife skills overnight. This long-grain board with an indented groove to catch juices ($128) has become the household favorite, and its Brooklyn maker happens to be helping to fight the Covid-19 pandemic through a drive to collect protective gear for local hospital workers. —NE
Clean hands club: If you’re going to be washing your hands for half your waking hours, it’s better to use soap that makes you feel pampered. Deputy editor Justin Ocean, our resident soap fiend, recommends Le Labo Hinoki hand soap ($23 for 8.5 oz.). He says the lather is silky and substantial, a tactile pleasure, and pleasantly aromatherapeutic. He says it won’t strip your hands as much as drugstore brands do.
A springy scent: We can see blossoms maturing on the trees just outside, but fresh air and the smell of spring feel like rare commodities. A well-chosen fragrance, such as Fresh Honeysuckle ($50 for 30 ml.) helps bring the outdoors inside. —NE
That clean laundry smell: Pursuits chief Chris Rovzar has similar feelings about scents: No matter how tidy you keep your home or apartment, when people crowd it all day, it’s going to smell a little stuffy. A few spritzes of Clean Space’s almost magical Fresh Linens room spray ($25 for 5 oz.) instantly makes a room feel as if it’s just been laundered.
No-fuss hair care: “Being forced to stay at home is actually a great time to experiment with your hair,” says contributing writer Claire Ballentine. “If something goes wrong, no one is around to see!” Of the many products she’s sampled so far, Oribe’s hair plumping mousse ($22 for 2.5 oz.) is the winner. “It gives great body and texture without that dreaded crunchy feel,” she says. “Plus, it has a great smell of watermelon and lychee.”
Not skin deep: Body brushing—quick, vigorous strokes on your skin with a coarse bristle—might just seem a means of revitalizing skin by sloughing off old and dry cells. But car columnist and body brushing devotee Hannah Elliott says it does much more: “It helps overall circulation, improves lymphatic drainage, creates a healthy glow, and improves general health.” This Espa brush ($33), used after a soak in homemade bath salts, makes for a pampering, mood-boosting bathing ritual.
Beauty sleep: Skin-care addict Rovzar is taking advantage of this time (and the additional sleep) to pamper his moneymaker with a high-low mix of beauty products. Before putting on a fancy eye cream and multitasking moisturizer at night, he uses the drugstore’s secret weapons, Roc’s Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Serum ($24)—its combination of retinol, magnesium, and zinc helps fight wrinkles and bring newer skin to the surface—with L’Oreal’s Revitalift 10% Pure Glycolic Acid Serum ($24) to fade dark spots and combat freckly sun damage. And to help ease headaches and tight jaws from stress, he recommends keeping a jade roller from Atahana ($22) in the fridge; the cooling touch before bed serves as an extra-calming, skin de-puffing delight.
Collecting the pieces: “Even though New York Public Library locations are closed, you can still support them through their online store, including a collection of puzzles,” says Ballentine. “This 750-piece one ($18) is a reminder of two of my favorite things: books and spring. It’s contoured around the edges of the image designed by artist Ben Gilles and comes in a sturdy matte-finished box.”
At-home mixology: Liquor stores are considered essential businesses in this crazy time—for good reason. Use that as an excuse to make better drinks at home. The Cocktail Codex ($40, Penguin Random House) is a wonky yet approachable James Beard award-winning book by the guys who own New York’s legendary Death & Co., is like a DIY bartending course to help you master the basics. For something even more straightforward, Pursuits contributor Kara Newman’s book Shake. Sip. Stir. ($17, Drooz & Co.) includes only “equal parts” recipes that are surprisingly satisfying, though they require absolutely no talent or brainpower at the end of a stressful day. –JO
Table for two: My husband and I have always been board game people; lucky for us, he picked up a few over the holidays that are specifically designed for just two players. Now Wingspan ($60) and Cathedral ($55) are our regular after-dinner go-tos. The former is a beautifully illustrated twist on strategic deck-building games; you collect food resources in order to feed birds and accumulate points in a variety of everchanging ways. The latter is more chess-like, with a series of wooden pieces that players use to construct buildings in the increasingly limited space around (you guessed it) a big cathedral. —NE
Color factory: Grown-up coloring books are so 2013. But they’ll likely have a resurgence, considering how therapeutic it feels to intently fill intricate white spaces with bursts of rich pigment. There’s no better tool for that than these fancy colored pencils ($95 for a set of 72) by Prismacolor, of which I’ve been a devotee since childhood. They make silky, smooth lines, contour with ease, and come in a veritable rainbow of color choices. –NE
Reliable Anxiety Busters
Soothing scents: Fred Soll’s handmade incense sticks are an instant source of calming energy for photo editor Evan Ortiz; the earthy Frankincense & Myrrh variety (from $2) smells like a walk in the woods and comes in dense sticks that fill his home in minutes. Pair them with this lovely brass incense holder ($75), which looks like a metronome stuck in place. It’s a nice reminder that time can sit still for just a moment or two, if you need that.
Tune up: “My record collection is getting new life,” says Gaddy, who plays a variety of chill tunes while watching online workout classes. “I get to listen to my own music while still getting the visual prompts of the class,” he explains. Don’t own a record player? This vintage-looking one by Crosley Audio ($90) is a compact design statement with plenty of modern practicality. It’s Bluetooth-compatible, has a headphone jack, and fits records of various sizes.
Shut eye: Medterra’s CBD-infused melatonin ($56) has been a reliable aid when I’m up late worrying; the sublingual tabs dissolve and act quickly, usually helping my brain shut off and get into rest mode within a half hour. After many years spent testing over-the-counter sleep solutions, from Magnesium to Valerian and Unisom, it’s been the most consistently successful weapon in my exhaustive bedtime arsenal. —NE
Eat your feelings: When all else fails, there’s always ice cream. And these cheery, retro sprinkles from Williams Sonoma ($20), which I’ve decided I can no longer live without, are guaranteed to bring out your inner child. Just scooping them onto your bowl with their tiny wooden shovel feels joyful; add a bit of fudge or caramel sauce for a sundae that really goes the extra mile. Truly, this is happiness in a jar. Who doesn’t need that right this minute? —NE
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