Christmas Gift Guide 2020 for Christmas in a Pandemic!

The Casey Palmer, Canadian Dad 2020 Gift Guide: The Things You Want to See Under that Tree!

Last updated on January 4th, 2021 at 03:06 pm

Some content creators are like Andrea and plan their gift guides months in advance, helping their communities see what’s on-trend for the holiday season so they can buy the best and brightest gifts for the people they love. You have hundreds—if not thousands—who put holiday content out in the months that follow, keenly aware that it’s the time where internet searching’s at its highest and want to get in on the action.

And I try—my lead-up to Christmas sees no end to the email exchanges, nights of writing, and the piles of to-do lists that are generally a lot more to and not nearly enough do. In some ways, I wish I could be more on top of things and be ready for all the holidays, but the juggle is real and I always have less time than I have imagination.

But you don’t let good content go to waste, and that’s why I still wanted to get this year’s gift guide out, even if it meant I needed to do some tweaking in the process.

After all—most of us want to see something special under the tree no matter how old we are, right?

But enough preamble. Without further ado, I’m proud to present my 2020 Gift Guide: “The Things You Want to See Under that Tree!”

I hope you enjoy it!


What do you really hope to see under the tree on Christmas when a pandemic has you stuck at home?

Does Santa Still Visit in a Global Pandemic?

The Palmer Boys Horsing Around at Christmas

COVID-19‘s made for a very different holiday season, changing the things we look for when there’s nowhere to travel to or nothing to dress up for. For me, these past nine months have really put a focus on the world immediately around me, obsessing over using up all these things I already have before I even think about adding more stuff to the mix.

But pandemic or no, Christmas is still a thing, and even without the grandiose dinners with our families or so many of the traditions passed down for generations, I have this sneaking suspicion that people are still expecting gifts under the tree on the 25th!

It wasn’t easy to get our shop on this year, though, with retail stores on lockdown, supply chains askew and our wants and needs becoming so much simpler. Instead of fancy new gadgets, we just wanted a meal from our favourite restaurant. Or we’d swap expensive clothing for a night out drinking with friends in a heartbeat. This list has been so strange to put together, but it’s finally here, filled with plenty of things that should catch the attention of all sorts of people in your life! Kids. Coders. Spouses, influencers and everyone in between. If you don’t see something that strikes your fancy, here’s hoping it helps you think of someone else!

The Casey Palmer, Canadian Dad Gift Guide for a World Stuck at Home

Table of Contents

Gifts for Kids

Spinmaster RC Cars

Books

When Good Fruits Go Bad

Big Dreamers: The Canadian Black History Activity Book for Kids

The Adventures of Grandmasaurus

Tech

Little Robot Friends | Cubby Robot Kit

Adafruit Circuit Playground Express

Gifts for the Home Office

Epson FastFoto

Google Pixel 5

Herman Miller Embody Chair

Gifts for Content Creators

Podcasters

Shure SM7B Studio Microphone

Sennheiser EW 112P G4 Lavalier Microphone

Videographers

DJI Camera Gimbals

DJI Pocket 2

DIY Crafty Types

Cricut Maker

Writers

Ferris Wheel Press ink

Stocking Stuffers

The Sh*tstorm That Was 2020

Clippo Masks

Candy

Dog Man the Hot Dog Card Game

For the Kids

First on my list are the people who count on the holidays most to match up to their hopes and dreams—our kids and their expectations for a late December delivery, man in a red suit or no.

My Youngest with Santa Claus
Still one of my favourite Santa photos the kids have ever taken ????

The holiday season sees the toy companies going at it to see who’ll have the hottest toy of the year, and 2020’s headlines were flooded by the releases of Microsoft’s new Xbox consoles and Sony’s new Playstation 5.

But despite having more than three decades of gaming running through my veins, I’ve come to learn that video games aren’t everything and that there are other skills and interests that are just as important to develop.

So that in mind, as fun as it’d be to swing around New York City as Miles Morales or terrorise Britain in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, here are some other things your kids could enjoy when they rip open the wrapping paper this December.

Spinmaster | RC Cars

The pandemic helped us rediscover the outdoors, craving anything that’d help us avoid staying trapped in our homes. And while it started with walks back in March, in time the weather improved and we wanted more from the time we spent in parks and backyards. Trampoline manufacturers couldn’t keep up with demand. Campsites were all booked up. But I didn’t have any of that when I grew up in the ‘burbs—sometimes all you need is a speedy radio-controlled car.

Spinmaster Introduces Four New RC Cars to the Mix!
Spinmaster RC Cars

Now, the RC Car has come a long way from what I raced back when I was a kid, full of features and options that make them entirely different from here vehicles:

  • The Air Hogs Stunt Shot is a parent’s dream—a remote-control stunt vehicle with super-soft foam wheels that can drive over anything indoors without causing any damage. Furniture, walls and floors are all safe as the wheels pose no threat to their surroundings without compromising on speed. (MSRP $40 CAD)
  • The Monster Jam Megalodon Storm is USB rechargeable, water-resistant and amphibious—its custom performance tires help it attack most terrain without a problem, making it suitable for whatever Mother Nature can throw at it! (MSRP $65 CAD)
  • Designed as the ultimate unboxing experience, The Animal is an interactive RC truck that breaks out of its own box as kids follow the steps to free it! It climbs over obstacles with retractable claws. It can tug and tow items with its tow strap. It’s part truck, part animal, and all the way different—though we’ve yet to get our kids a pet, this is one Animal that we can work with! (MSRP $55 CAD)
  • And finally, you have the Ninja Bots Double Pack, including Red Dragon and Black Tiger—two ninjas who can battle each other with over 100 sounds and movements! You arm them, battle them and have them level up—they’re perfect for a couple of kids who’re always competing! (MSRP $65 CAD)

Books

Another pandemic trend is that it made some people a lot more productive than they might’ve been otherwise, with people dipping their toes into work they previously only had in their dreams. Some people baked bread. Some built massive play structures in their backyards. And some people decided to write books.

Kids' Books

These books are from a mixture of first-time authors and seasoned vets, covering topics like dinosaurs, Black history, and uses for slightly-bruised fruit. Sure, it’s the toys that kids usually look forward to, with their flashing lights and blaring sounds, but there’s something about getting lost in a book that we need to teach our children—these books will set them on the path to do just that!

When Good Fruit Goes Bad

Written and illustrated by Vernon D. Gibbs II and Steven T. Gray

The Palmer Boys Holding When Good Fruit Goes Bad

Co-authored by one of my friends from Dad 2.0, my boys have really come to love When Good Fruit Goes Bad, Hank Huckleberry’s battle against a fruit store gone rogue, the produce tired of being cast aside just because they fall a little short of perfect. Though it teaches great lessons about not being wasteful and other things you can do with the fruit you don’t want to eat, but I’m not sure it’s sinking it for my kiddos just yet.

A dad can try, right?

(MSRP $13.99 USD)

Big Dreamers: The Canadian Black History Activity Book for Kids
  • Volume 1 by Akilah Newton & Tami Gabay
  • Volume 2 by Akilah Newton & Omari Newton
Big Dreamers - The Canadian Black History Activity Book for Kids Volumes 1 and 2

It’s not very often that something comes in the mail for the kids that impresses me so much that I end up claiming it for myself, but the Big Dreamers Black history activity books were put together with such care that I couldn’t bear to mar them with my children’s sloppy handwriting—I might have to get second copies they can actually use.

But what Akilah Newton and her co-creators are doing is filling a hole in the fabric of Canadian history that’s been left gaping for entirely too long.

As a Black person in Canada, it’s easy to feel unseen. With so much of our media coming from American sources and so little of our history taught in schools, too many Black Canadians live lives with little knowledge of where they came from, or what came before them.

Big Dreamers is a step in the direction of a better-informed future for the children we’re raising today.

So whether you’re raising Black kids, white kids, or really any kid willing to learn, Big Dreamers is an amazing way to teach them some history they might not encounter otherwise.

Make sure to check it out!

(MSRP $15.95 & $19.95 CAD)

The Adventures of Grandmasaurus

Written by Caroline Fernandez, Illustrated by Shannon O’Toole

The boys really enjoy Caroline Fernandez’s The Adventures of Grandmasaurus, a fun little tale about two kids and a grandmother with a flair for misbehaviour, teaching them about dinosaurs while constantly transforming from one reptile to the next. It has a lot of little sight gags to keep parents interested while reading, and as your kids grow older, they’ll be able to expand their dinosaur vocabulary, too!

(MSRP $21.95 CAD)

Tech

And finally… let’s talk tech.

The Boys on Their Tablets

In the Before Times, we were in an anti-screen culture, looking to raise kids as purely as possible, avoiding too much influence from the outside world until we were sure they were old enough to deal with it themselves.

And for many, it was working pretty well! Sure, it meant really busy schedules and hustling to give them every opportunity to increase the chances for the best possible future, but we were okay with all of it because we were willing to make that sacrifice.

But then the pandemic came and it was all taken away. Suddenly, it was only the most dedicated (or perhaps stubbornest) of us who could keep things screen-free as our regular rules were thrown out the window. We had screens for school, screens for work, screens for our extracurriculars. We did all that work to avoid screens, but suddenly found they were the only way to get in touch—what’s the best way to raise kids in a world like that?

My answer’s been to make the most of a bad situation—that if it’s harder to limit their screentime, at the very least, I can make sure that time’s spent as wisely as possible.

My Kid Playing with Tobbie the Robot

With our eldest at seven, he’s starting to get into things like robotics. We started him up with a circuitry set last summer, but kids are voracious for knowledge at that age, and it’s up to us and their schools to provide tools and resources that will challenge them so their minds continue to grow. In this last section, I want to focus on a couple of tools I hope my kids make more time for in their lives, blissfully unaware of the skills they’re both honing for their futures.

Little Robot Friends | Cubby Robot Kit
The Little Robot Friends Cubby Robot Kit
Source: https://littlerobotfriends.com/products/all-new-cubby-robot-kit

One thing our eldest got for his birthday was a Cubby Robot Kit from Little Robot Friends on the Danforth, a robotics set that offers three levels of difficulty to match your child’s stage in their coding development.

We followed the straightforward instructions out of the box to get some batteries and downloaded the Little Robot Friends App on my laptop, experimenting with the options for the light, sounds and sensors. It kept him entertained for an evening, but he soon wished that his robot could do more. And that’s when we downloaded Little Robot Friends Blocks, a drag-and-drop application that lets you do even more with your Cubby through things like conditionals, inputs, outputs, and loops! Unlike LRF App, the code you create only works with your robot when it’s plugged into the computer, so it’s important that your child have a device where they can regularly practice.

And the third level? LRF for Arduino requires coding in C and C++ to program your Cubby without limits, so you’ll need an intermediate-level coder or higher with a strong grasp of reading and mathematics, so we’re not quite ready to tackle that yet. It makes me think about buying a smaller computer for the kids to have his own space for developing code, but separate from the internet for his safety.

But that’s a future Casey problem.

The Cubby Robot Kit from Little Robot Friends is the perfect gift for your little mad scientist—expand their minds today!

(MSRP $79.99 CAD)

Adafruit Circuit Playground Express

Along the same line of thinking but not really as cute is the Adafruit Circuit Playground Express, with ten lights, sensors for motion, speed and temperature, and plenty of other goodies baked in for those who like their devices with a few more options.

We got our hands on these thanks to some friends at Microsoft Canada, and though my son hasn’t yet had the chance to try it out for himself, I can confirm that the application interface is easy to work with, and it gives a flavour of everything you’ll find in a tiny little package—the only problem’s that the Playground Express isn’t very practical.

The Adafruit Circuit Playground Express
Source: https://www.adafruit.com/product/3333

With so much you can do between the device and its associated app, I’m still scratching my head over what I might actually do with it. Sure, it’s cool to add light and sounds to swords or to program it to play your favourite song. But when our kids come to expect robot that can do anything their little minds could imagine, will the world be ready for them?

I guess only time will tell.

(MSRP $24.95 CAD)

For the Home Office

Casey's Messy Office - Where All the Magic Happens

If there’s anywhere I’ve spent more of my time since the pandemic started, it’s my new home office, put together when our tenant decided to get a place of her own. When we were sent home in mid-March, we expected it to be three weeks, not three-quarters of a year and counting, so I hadn’t put much thought into what my working space would look like for the countless hours I’d end up spending within it. But now that we’re here getting ready for a new year with more of the same… perhaps it’s something I should consider a little more carefully.

On this list are a number of the things I’d love to add to my office to make my space a little more my own, since I have no clue how long I’ll need to make the most of it!

Epson FastFoto
Epson FastFoto FF-680W on my parents' kitchen table

For as long as I’ve straddled the line between the physical and digital, I’ve always had some sort of scanner around, whether it was your basic flatbed or an industrial model that digitized negatives and slides. But it always made for a laborious process, often needing to scan things in a page at a time, spending night after night just inching along with progress.

But when I got my hands on the Epson FastFoto 680W Photo Scanner a little while back, it completely changed my expectations for what a scanner should do, able to scan as quickly as a page per second in stacks that can be dozens deep!

If you’re like me and have piles of memories sitting around doing nothing but taking up space, think of adding an Epson FastFoto to your life to make it easier! (MSRP $799.99 CAD)

Google Pixel 5

In an era where smartphone innovation isn’t as glossy as it used to be and “bigger is better” often proves the approach most manufacturers look to take, the Pixel 5 is Google’s shot at making a phone that just works without too many extra bells and whistles.

Google Pixel 5

At a diminutive 5.7 x 2.8 x 0.3 in @ 151g (at least compared to the 6.22 x 2.89 x 0.33 in @ 192g Huawei P30 Pro I’d frequently used before), the Google Pixel 5 has a lot of neat little touches that set it apart:

  • a handy little guide that helps you straighten your shots in camera mode
  • very surprising Night Sight mode that takes stellar photos even by candlelight in the middle of a blackout
  • crisp graphics on games like Pokémon Go, where the Pokémon and transitions between screens are smoother than I’ve ever seen
  • quick access to Google Pay, which is great because my credit card long since lost its tap functionality
  • and plenty of other features meant to make your experience as pleasant as possible!

So if you have a phone that’s on its last legs and you want to replace it with something that’s sleek, speedy, and frankly more affordable than most models out there, the Google Pixel 5 is a great bet! (MSRP $679  CAD)

Herman Miller Embody office chair

Something my workplace is big on is having the proper ergonomics for one’s office space, making sure that the desk’s at the right height, that the lighting’s at an adequate level, and that the chair gives you the proper support for all the hours you’ll spend sitting in it.

And though I’ve managed to make my office space work through the pandemic so far, I have to say—my $16 IKEA ADDE isn’t quite cutting it.

I’ve needed to upgrade my chair for the better part of 2020, but could never quite land on which one to go with, until I realised that a proper chair required a proper investment, and chose the Herman Miller Embody chair to consider for the months of home office living ahead.

Why the Herman Miller Embody?

The thing about getting older is that you really start to appreciate some of the simpler things in life, like a good meal, a day with good weather, or what it’s like to sit in a really good chair.

Herman Miller Embody Chair
Source: https://www.hermanmiller.com/products/seating/office-chairs/embody-chairs/

What the Embody Chair offers is an ergonomic experience, including elements that do more than just negate the effects of sitting around for hours on end—it actually helps by redistributing pressure, promoting healthy movement, and helping you reach your natural alignment like no other chair out there.

Some key features to note about the Embody Chair include:

  • A back-inspired design with a central spine and flexible ribs, using Pixelated Support™ which reacts to the smallest micromovements
  • Capacity for many personalized adjustments to make it fit your sitting style and align with your spine’s natural curve
  • And a 12-year warranty, because Herman Miller has plenty of faith in their products!

The Embody Chair is by no means cheap (MSRP $2059 CAD), but it’s an investment worth making if you’re going to spend lots of time each day sitting in one spot, because you only get one body—you may as well treat it right! (If you’re on a tighter budget, though, I’ve been told the IKEA MARKUS is a comfy chair as well! (MSRP $169 CAD)

For the Content Creators

All this time at home has a lot more people wading into the waters of content creation. One thing I’ve learned over time is how much time I would’ve saved (and headaches I would’ve avoided) had I just used the right equipment the first time I tried new things. And the current me, much older and much wiser than the me of those earliest days is willing to make the investment to set it all straight.

But a word of warning—great tools won’t save crappy content. No amount of photo editing can save a poorly-composed photo, and there’s no magic spell to save crappy audio. If you already have the start of something stellar, though, the right equipment can take it even farther.

So with all that said, this section’s about the tools that can help creators elevate their craft to help their vision line up with their execution. I hope it helps!

Podcasting

One thing I’ve really wanted to do during this pandemic is put out the second season of Chatting with Casey, the podcast I started before I fully understood how hard podcasting is. I put out a good couple dozen episodes before I lost my initial rhythm, but did plenty of soul-searching since, finally understanding what I needed to do if I wanted to take podcasting more seriously.

The gear I have is pretty sweet already, with four Shure SM58 dynamic microphones for my audio and a Zoom H6 audio recorder to bring them together, but you can always do better, and there are a couple of tools I’d be interested in to push it that much further.

The Shure SM7B Studio Microphone
Shure SM7B Studio Microphone

Shure SM58s are nice because they both record great sound and they’re rugged, able to go just about anywhere you want to take them, but if you’re doing most of your recording from a fixed location like I am, your value’s going to come from getting the best sound possible over anything else.

And after plenty of research, I landed on the Shure SM7B studio microphone (MSRP $550 CAD), capable of capturing even more vocal intonation than the SM58 can, adding warmth to recordings you don’t often find in podcasts.

I’d pair it with a Cloud Microphones CL-1 Cloudlifter single-channel mic activator to make sure my sound’s as crisp as possible (MSRP $199 CAD).

Sennheiser EW 112P G4 Lavalier Mic

They say that you get what you pay for, and when my TASCAM DR-10L lavalier mic crapped out on me just a bit outside of its warranty, the prospect of investing in something similar without the assurance that it’d last was a frightening prospect to me.

Sennheiser EW 112P G4 Lavalier Mic
Source: https://en-ca.sennheiser.com/broadcast-wireless-lavalier-microphone-set-ew-112p-g4

But when Arienne Parzei—who does much more audio and video work than me with her See You Soon brand—suggested the Sennheiser EW 112P G4 in our Toronto Bloggers Collective, I knew I had to check it out!

Now, I’ve been buying Sennheiser for ages, ever since the headphones I rocked back in the 2000s, so it’s a brand name I have a long relationship with and a brand I’ve come to trust. What the EW 112P G4 offers is a reliable wireless signal with a 100-metre range, giving you recording options in almost any situation.

(MSRP $779 CAD)

Videography

DJI Camera Gimbals

To talk about gimbals, I think it worthwhile to start with a little story of something that happened at this year’s Dad 2.0.

As a Canadian blogger, something worth remembering is that at American conferences, not everything applies to you.

Best Buy had a contest in their lounge area to take a photo on their couch and share it on Twitter with a top prize of a $1000 gift card. And wouldn’t you know it, I actually won.

I was over the moon, thinking about what I’d get with such an unexpected windfall, and on top of a RØDE Go Wireless lavalier mic to replace that busted TASCAM DR-10L I mentioned before, one word came to mind for equipment I’d yet to add to my collection—gimbal.

The DJI RS 2 and the DJI RSC 2 — Unlocking New Potential in Filmmaking!
DJI RS 2 - Masterfully Crafted
Source: https://www.dji.com/ca

Much like the OSMO Mobile series does to stabilise smartphone video, gimbals do the same when you’re recording by SLR.

Out of any form of content, video’s the most temperamental by far, where the slightest jitter can change it from professional to amateur in a matter of seconds. And with a world whose expectations for content only increase with every passing day, those rookie mistakes aren’t ones they’re likely to forgive until you fix them, so it’s not something you can’t leave unattended for too long!

What I’ve loved about DJI’s gimbals is the flexibility they offer to filmmakers in the making, allowing for filming and composition that’d prove immensely difficult without the right tools at your disposal. With the DJI RSC 2 (MSRP $399 USD, or $589 USD for the Pro Comb0) providing all sorts of features for up to three kilograms of weight, it should meet the need for most creators. But for those who need even more, like carbon fibre design, three-dimensional subject tracking and a full-colour screen, there’s also the DJI RS 2! (MSRP $699 USD, or $849 USD for the Pro Combo.)

If you want nothing short of excellence when it comes to your video, DJI holes its position as the leader in gimbal technology for a reason—make sure you check it out!

DJI Pocket 2

Speaking of DJI, you don’t always need something so complicated to take stellar video—in 2020, awesome things often come in tiny little packages, and the DJI Pocket 2 is no exception!

DJI Pocket 2
Source: https://www.dji.com/ca/pocket-2

A camera that fits in the palm of your hand, the DJI Pocket 2 takes sharp photos and smooth videos with a three-axis stabilizer, quick responsiveness, and a gaggle of features like ActiveTrack 3.0 and DJI Matrix Stereo, using four microphones to capture surround-sound audio for videos that really stand out!

($349 USD / $499 USD for the Creator Combo)

DIY and Crafty Types

Another thing I appreciate after all this time at home is the satisfaction of being able to create things on your own, because not having shops to visit shouldn’t stop you from finding ways to express yourself.

It just often means that you’ll need to get a little more creative.

What 2020 had me explore is how I liked expressing myself outside of the digital realm, experimenting with all sorts of tools to create things that people could interact with beyond a simple scroll. Below, I want to show you some of the things I’ve used to expand my thinking, and maybe it’ll do the same for you!

Cricut Maker & Accessories
Cricut Maker Birds-Eye View

I originally picked a Cricut Maker up on a whim, thinking I could find some interesting projects to do with a tool that does it all.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Cricut Maker (MSRP $399 USD), it’s a very diverse crafting tool. It can cut shapes from leather and wood, engrave designs into metal, and do so many things with paper, vinyl and more! If you can imagine it, the Maker can get you well on your way, and I was excited to get home and give it a try!

And then it sat on the shelf for a couple of years.

It wasn’t for a lack of wanting to create amazing stuff with the Maker, but that it just didn’t mesh with everything I got up to as a content creator. But with the threat of a long-term lockdown on the horizon and remembering just how detrimental video game and screen overconsumption were for my kids the first time around, I knew that I wanted to find projects that weren’t only tactile, but also interesting enough for the kids and I alike to get something from it.

And that’s when it hit me—why don’t I teach them to design their own T-shirts? I could see it combining art as they sketch out their ideas and figure out what they want to create; technology, as we clean them up in something like Adobe Illustrator on my iPad; and then make it real through the use of the Cricut EasyPress 2 to turn those designs into something they can wear with pride.

If that’s not good parenting, I don’t know what is.

In any case, I hope this is the first of many projects to come, especially with all the materials I stocked up on through December!

Wish me luck!

Writers

With a book on the way and with Christmas being one of my busiest seasons, I’ve been writing a lot. And that’s no understatement—just take a look at some of my weekly Grammarly stats from the last couple of months:

But despite a world of creators who rely on technology to put as much content as they can out each day, I’ve always found that my truest self comes out when I start with pen and paper.

A little over a year ago, a friend took me headfirst into the world of classic stationery, showing me how the proper mix of a fountain pen and ink can give you a writing experience you’d be hard-pressed to find with a ballpoint pen. Since then, I’ve bought a few Lamys, a six-millimetre Pilot, and a half-dozen colours of ink to get my thoughts out. And you learn that the paper matters too, as different grains will impact your ink flow in very different ways, so you do a lot of experimenting until you find a mix that works.

But it doesn’t stop there, because what that experimentation teaches you is that you’re very unlikely to settle with what you’ve got—you’ll forever search for the perfect colours that declare who you are, and in my continual hunt for perfection, I came across Ferris Wheel Press in nearby Markham, Ontario.

Ferris Wheel Press
Ferris Wheel Press Products
Source: https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/2492/5486/files/Ferris-Wheel-Press-Brush-Fountain-Pen-Ink-Olde-Unionville-Notepad-02_2048x.jpg

What struck me about Ferris Wheel Press‘ line of inks is how their colours and designs were unlike anything I’d ever seen. The bottle designs were whimsical like they’d normally hours elixirs in a fantasy novel. The colours like they were meant for gallery art instead of writing. They’re not inks for beginners, but once you’ve got a handle on what you want to create with your inks, I think Ferris Wheel Press is a worthy stop to consider on your journey!

Stocking Stuffers

And of course, there’s always the stocking stuffers.

There’s a running joke amongst my friends that my stocking’s so much bigger than everyone else’s in the house, so it must be painful to fill since I’m so difficult to shop for.

…if only they knew how right they were.

Palmer Family Living Room

Even before the pandemic, I’d already lost my lust for stuff, working hard to clear all the things I’d accumulated out of my office instead of looking for the next anything to add to them.

The Sh*tstorm That Was 2020

Words by Jon Sinden

Art by Mark Lim

People say that 2020 is a year that we won’t soon forget, but so much has happened that it’s nearly impossible to remember it all. The Australian wildfires and Kobe Bryant’s death feel like they were years ago despite happening just this past January. It’s been the longest year for any of us in recent history, and Jon Sinden wanted us all to remember it for a long time to come.

Which is why he wrote The Sh*tstorm That Was 2020, a tongue-in-cheek adult storybook written in a rhyming ABC format so that everyone can follow along. I is for Impeachment. T is for Tiger King. If you want a memento that’ll help you explain just how messed up this year was for generations to come, this book just might be it. (MSRP $20 CAD)

Clippo Masks

Masks. Where they were once reserved for those working in healthcare and dealing with hazardous materials, they’ve elevated to the status of must-have fashion accessories as we aim to keep ourselves safe from COVID-19! And what’s happened as a result is that many skilled artisans have started creating masks that truly let us express ourselves during such a challenging time.

One of these crafty types is Alex from Clippo, a blogger who’s been around before blogging was even a thing, who has a team of sewists in Ontario’s Durham region who stand for fair wages, charity, kindness and equality for all. She sent a few masks the Palmers’ way to keep us festive for the season—or in my case, completely on-brand for something that’s kept me sane through this entire pandemic.

If you’re looking for masks that make a statement, Clippo’s got you covered! (MSRP $18 CAD)

Candy
A haul of candy from The Candy Shoppe

To stuff a stocking correctly you need a ton of smaller items to fill the cracks between the bigger ones, and that’s something that came to mind when my kids asked me what my favourite candy is the other night.

I’ve grown a lot more particular over the years, choosing very specific candies as my favourites, because so much of it is just so-so. But if you ask what I think I might see in my stocking on Christmas, these nine candies come to mind:

SweeTARTS

Because I love a good tart candy, and SweeTARTS have some of the most balanced, standout tartness of any candy you’ll find!

Jolly Ranchers

Because their fruit flavours are very pronounced, and they’re hard candies that last for a while!

Starburst

Which also has some vivid fruit flavours, but is far easier to go through—I somehow devour a package at a time without noticing.

Twix

Probably the only Halloween chocolate bar that makes this list, because my palate long moved on from chocolate that’s just good enough. But Twix has been a mainstay since I bought candy from the corner store in high school, and carried me through York University alongside bottles of Lime Crush. Pretty sure it’s sticking with me for life ????

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

Likewise with these, if I see them in my kids’ Halloween candy I’m definitely haggling for them, because they haven’t gotten any less delicious over the years!  (Note: Does not apply to Reese’s Pieces or as much to Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Minis. They need to stop messing with a good thing!)

Ferrero Rocher

Quite possibly my one true confectionary love, Ferrero Rocher has been part of my world since we used to offer it as part of a holiday dinner deal, which upon reflection was directly designed to compete with Swiss Chalet’s Festive Special. Huh. In any case, it’s the chocolate I would wait till the days after Easter, Valentine’s Day and Christmas for, because it’s good, but it also ain’t cheap! I’m guaranteed that Sarah will grab a box for me each year—heck; she gets it at Costco while I’m there, and just gives it to me later ???? Bigger things to worry ’bout, y’all!

Chupa Chups

Long absent from my life after they were a convenience store staple in high school and the years immediately thereafter, Chupa Chups have made a comeback as one of my pandemic survival tools! With all the hours I spend whittling away at ideas in my office, it’s good to have something to keep other senses occupied as well, and Chupa Chups seem to scratch that itch. It’s all about the cola flavour! And speaking of which…

Haribo Gummies / Squish Gummies

It’s been about a decade since a friend first introduced Germany’s Haribo gummies into my life, and once you’ve tried them, accept no substitutes. Not even their North American versions, because much like Dairy Milk, they’re not the same. But because I insist on my Haribo coming directly from the source, the one substitute I will accept a little closer to home is Squish Gummies, who make Prosecco bears that are to die for.

Nerds

And finally, Nerds. Just pure little grains of flavoured

Dog Man the Hot Dog Card Game
Dog Man the Hot Dog Card Game
Source: https://shop.scholastic.com/parent-ecommerce/books/dog-man-hot-dog-card-game-9476407011.html

Just like I said that I knew anyone wasn’t a parent if they didn’t know the name “Paw Patrol” a few years back, it’s hard to have young readers and not know the name Dog Man. Created by Dav Pilkey, the same guy who brought us Captain Underpants, it’s a series about a hero with the head of a dog and the body of a cop who battles crime in a ridiculous fashion.

As I browsed through our stack of catalogues to figure out what we’d get the kids this year, I came across this game, which I think captures two of my eldest’s interests—childish potty humour and winning at games ???? Dog Man the Hot Dog Card Game (MSRP $11.99 CAD) is a great option for kids who love games like Exploding Kittens and Kids Against Maturity that give them the challenge of playing games that aren’t just dumbed-down versions of adult games, while also feeling like they’re getting one over on their parents by being able to make fun of them.

Yay?

What’s Under YOUR Tree?

So… I think six thousand words should about do it, right?

With the bulk of a very challenging 2020 behind us, the best thing for us to have right now is some hope for the future. Sure, it’d be nice to have some new toys to play with and find ways to create content like I never have before, but stuff never lasts. Stuff might’ve helped get us through this pandemic so far, but what the pandemic’s actually taught us is how much we all miss real human contact—with any luck, we’ll be able to share some of the wealth in person in 2021 because this year’s been really tough.

But it shouldn’t stop us from enjoying what we do have, and that’s a big part of what 2020’s Christmas is all about. Celebrating if we’ve managed to stay healthy despite a virus seemingly hell-bent on doing away with us all. Celebrating if we have people to celebrate with regardless of if they’re in our homes or not. 2020’s really messed with our priorities, but I’m hoping that Christmas provides a little glimmer of hope through all this confusion—Lord knows we need it.

For me, though, I’m ready to wrap the year up. I’m spending these last days of 2020 tying up the loose ends around me, and finishing this piece is an excellent step in that direction.

I hope you can all make the very best of your holiday seasons, and remember—even if things seem quiet, there’s always something afoot in the world of Casey Palmer, Canadian Dad.

Until the next, Casey out.

cep wrap-up logo

By Casey E. Palmer

Calling the Great White North his home, Casey‘s spent the last few decades in pursuit of creating killer content. From novels as a kid, comics as a teen, to blogs and photos once he could grow a beard, he’ll use whatever’s around him to create amazing stuff.

When he’s not creating, he’s parenting, exploring and trying to make life as awesome as possible for everyone around him.

Because a boring life’s not a life worth living!

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