Omar’s Holiday Picks 2018

It’s that time of year again and I thought I would write you about some gift ideas to think about for the Holidays. Many of the items on last year’s picks are still good too!

Many of the items below are also on sale through Monday.


Away Luggage

While I remain a huge fan of Rimowa - nothing can beat the Topas Aluminum in Stealth Black, I also appreciate that at that price point - it’s not a great option. I’ve been really impressed with Away. We got our kids their first set of carry on luggage.

I am a huge fan of having these three sizes of bags for travel

Carry On - Normal Size - 34-39 Liters. Great for 2-3 days.

Carry On - Large Size - 45-50 Liters. Some airlines let you bring on this giant a carry on bag - so I have one. I can usually fit 5-6 days of clothing in here. British Airways allows this size.

Check In - I think the sweet spot is 60-68 Liters. Anything bigger is too hard to carry and probably does not meet the weight limit anyway.

I am a big fan of aluminum bags as they have a non zipper and gasket so your bag is shut and nothing is getting in or out of there. This suitcase will get dented and scratched but that adds to the charm.

Use this code and get $20 off your order (I will get a $20 credit) 


Aura Frame

I wrote about these last year - and they now have a new design. I find that these are the best quality frame out there with a really great iPhone app for updating photos.

Buy - Aura Frame


Apple iPad Pro

For most people who have an older iPad or for people that don’t, I’d recommend the 11 inch iPad Pro with the Smart Cover Keyboard and Apple Pencil. The new iPad is brilliant.

Buy - iPad Pro


Apple iPhone Wallet Case

The Apple Wallet case is really well made. I know both men and women that use this - and it was my wife’s holiday pick

Buy - Apple Wallet

Apple Watch Series 4

The Apple Watch Series 4 is the best watch Apple has made so far. It’s a really great product and I love mine. I personally love the black stainless steel, but all the models are great.

Buy - Apple Watch

Apple AirPods

This product is hands down one of the best inventions Apple has made. They last forever, are useful for phone calls or listening to audio books and podcasts. I take mine with me everywhere.

Buy - AirPods


Surface Go

I think the Surface Go is the best laptop you can get for your kids. Both our kids have them, love them, and use them all the time. They are a bit small for an adult, but for kids no problem. And they won’t break the bank. Yes you could get a cheaper chromebook for your kids that does less.

I would get the top end model (8GB / 128GB HD) with the Pen and the Keyboard.

Buy - Surface Go


Dyson Supersonic Hair Dryer

My wife still loves her hair dryer and so do I (it’s so quiet)!

Buy - Dyson Hair Dryer

FitBit Ace Activity Tracker for Kids

Our daughter loves her Fitbit Ace. This is a tracker designed for kids.

Buy - Fitbit Ace

Sill Indoor Potted Plants

Plants always make for a great gift, and this company Sill, delivers a whole kit to anyone you want as well as tutorials and instructions for how to keep them alive.

I really like Calathea plants as they look nice and are easy to care for.

Buy - Sill Plants

Proof Merino Shirt

The most amazing t-shirt I own.

Buy - Proof Shirt


Power Pic

I don’t have this, but I think it’s a fantastic idea - a picture frame by day, a phone charger by night. Twelve South makes awesome products.

Buy - Power Pick


Nomad Wireless Charger

Another company that makes fantastic products is Nomad. I really like their new Apple Watch + iPhone wireless charger. They also make great cases, wallets and other accessories. They are offering 30% off many items on their site for black Friday.

Buy - Nomad


Begg & Co Wispy Scarf

This is one of the nicest scarfs I have ever held. I own one in gray and in the winter I take this with me everywhere. It’s unisex and comes in 40 colors. Lora and I each have one. Made from the thinnest Cashmere I have seen. These are really wonderful and they ship directly from Scotland.

Buy - Begg & Co Scarf

Swarovski Annual Edition Christmas Ornament

This is on my holiday list each year as it makes for a great gift or something you can collect each year.

Buy - Swarovski Ornament


Oura Ring

Lora and I both sleep with the Oura ring - a really impressive piece of technology and sleep tracker.

Buy - Oura Ring

Prepworks by Progressive Magnetic Measuring Spoons

These make for great stocking suffers for the chef in your house.

Buy - Magnetic Measuring Spoons

Kindle Papwerwhite

The new Kindle Paperwhite is awesome - it’s now waterproof too. I like the flush front design and increased storage. I personally have the Oasis as I like having hard buttons, but the regular Paperwhite is a great option for kids as it has a backlight and you can upgrade the storage. I got my son the 32GB model since he reads so many of the same books over and over.

Buy - Paperwhite


AfterShokz Headphones

I had heard of these before but never tried them. They are hard to describe till you try them on yourself - but essentially these are headphones that you don’t put into your ear - or on your ear. They sit in front of your ear and then make vibrations that are sent into your body and “heard”. The nice thing about them is that you can hear everything around you - which is very convenient for my wife and kids who listen to things at home and when they do it’s nearly impossible to get their attention.

These are great for listening to podcasts or audio books.

The AfterShokz Trekz Air are great for adults

The AfterShokz Minis are great for kids


Blu Skillet Ironware

The one thing I own in the kitchen that I love the most are my Blu Skillet pans [review]. I have purchased gifts for some friends and family too - but they are hard to come by. So if you are interested they just announced their holiday ordering plans - try and get a 13 inch fry pan or a smaller 10 or 9 inch. If you don’t have one I would start with the 13 inch fry pan. We own the 13 inch fry, french and 9 inch fry.

If you are local to Seattle, stop by in December (get there early) and you’ll probably have good odds of getting one that way too.

Holiday Order Information


Brown Buffalo Bags

I recently discovered this bag maker in Costa Mesa, CA and have purchased some of their products for myself and family. Their Standard Issue Backpack makes for a great school backpack and I have the Conceal Bag in Camo.

Buy - Brown Buffalo

Fujifilm Instax Mini

These cameras are fun for kids and adults. Our son has one and it’s fun to see the things he likes to photograph and to also slow him down a bit and take photos with a scarce resource - film.

Buy - Fujifilm Instax

Merino Wool Shirts

I’m currently in South East Asia and wanted to travel light for this trip. As such I was on the look out for some merino wool shirts. I have brought two brands with me that I am enjoying and I thought I would write about my experience.

Over the past few years you’ve probably noticed more and more merino wool products. Merino has many qualities that make it perfect for travel (or really every day usage).

  • Works in any temperature - Merino works well in both cold and warm weather
  • Odor resistant - Merino wool can usually be worn for days without any odor occumulation
  • Quick drying - Merino wool dryes quickly
  • Wrinkles - wrinkles don’t form

I've been trying them both out on this trip. They both clock in around the same price - $65-$68 a shirt. 

Proof Crew Neck shirts from Huckberry

This shirt is made from 16.5 micron New Zealand Wool and Nylon blend.


 Unbound Crew Neck Shirt

This shirt is made from 100% 17.5 micron New Zealand Wool.  They are about to launch a Women’s line too. 


You don’t need very many of these as a few shirts can be worn for days. They also pack light.

I personally like the Proof shirts more. They are just a bit thinner and have a nice drape to them. They have a bit of nylon blended into the shirt which allows the shirt to be washed and dried (I don't recommend - just hang dry as it’s fast drying). 

I have the black, blue and grey and the colors are just what I was looking for. 

The shirt can be worn as a layer but can also be dressed up. 

Here is me in the proof shirt in medium in black 


Heath Ceramics

2 years ago, we replaced all our Dinnerware with products from Heath Ceramics. After more than 10 years with our previous dinnerware we wanted a product that would last a long time and was incredibly durable.

Heath Ceramics has been making Dinnerware since 1948. Some of their pieces will be found in many restaurants around the country. Their products are hand made.

If you have a chance to visit their store in the Ferry Building in San Francisco, or their showroom in the Mission - it’s well worth it.

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AARKE Carbonator - make sparkling water at home

Since visiting Italy this summer, our family got hooked on sparkling water. Specifically we liked “less gas” than the American Sparkling water.

Purchasing sparkling water involves a lot of glass and waste. For a while I’ve been looking for something I can make at home that’s not Soda Stream (yes I am aware of them, but their products are aesthetically ugly). Further, I am just interested in “water” not “flavored water” - for that I cut a lime.

That’s when I discovered Aarke - it’s a really nice looking device made of metal. It uses the Soda Stream 60L / 410g cartridges so you can buy those anywhere.

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iPhone Xs and Apple Watch Series 4

Last year Apple released the iPhone X. This was arguably the biggest change in the iPhone since the introduction of the “Plus” sized phones a few years prior. You can read my review from last year.

I was very bullish on the iPhone X and I regard this as the best phones I have owned… until now.

The iPhone Xs and Xs Max are an evolution of this product. The changes are not significant but they are meaningful. Whether they are meaningful enough for you to upgrade - that’s up to you but I will spell out some scenarios to consider.

The biggest decision when considering the Xs is the size. I decided to purchase the “Max” or the bigger one. I will admit that this was the toughest decision or me to make. After living with the phone for a week, I’m glad I made this choice - but it’s not a perfect choice. I think the size of the new iPhone Xr (which I won’t plan to review) is closer to what I’d want.

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Tesla Model 3

3 years ago I picked up my Model S and wrote this review of it.

The Model S is the best car and driving experience I've ever had. So when my lease was up, I had a choice to make - another Model S or a Model 3. I decided on the Model 3.

When I ordered my Model S I had no intention of getting a car in that price range - but I really wanted to experience Tesla and driving a luxury electric car and a zero emissions driving experience. I produce more than enough solar power for my Tesla to be "off the grid" but Washington State's energy is majority hydro-power anyway.

I will say that 3 years with a Model S - it's actually rather uneventful and boring - meaning I don't feel that there has been a single compromise or downside to owning an elecrtric car - quite the opposite. I'm now irreversibly ruined by the experience. I'll be a Tesla owner for life if that's possible.

In the 3 years I drove my car I 1. never ran out of "electricity" 2. had any major issues 3. had the car save me from an accident twice 4. removed stress and worry from my life 5. produced many smiles on my face while driving it.

My car was primarily used for commuting and driving around town on the weekend. We took a few long range trips to Canada, Oregon and around Washington. I seldomly used Super chargers as the network in Washington is small compared to California - but this has changed in the past few years as there are now many more super chargers in Washington.

In the 3 years I drove 21,224 miles and consumed 7390 kWh of energy. That puts my efficiency at 348 Wh/mi - a bit below what Tesla says is "estimated range". If you want to understand this - if you power three 100W light bulbs for 1 hour that's about how much energy it takes to move the Tesla 1 mile traveling at 65 mph. Electricity math is neat.

The cost of energy in Seattle is about 12 cents a kWh - so the cost of driving this car is $616 dollars. I paid zero dollars in maintenance costs or repair costs. If we compare to gas, lets say I had an equivalent car that got 20 mpg, at 1060 gallons of fuel would cost about $3.50 for premium gas that amounts to $3,700 in fuel I didn't spend or pollution I did not create.

Honestly though, that doesn't really factor into the equation to me as this is one of the best cars out there if you consider purchasing, ownership, and driving. I will say that the convenience and driving experience make it stand out:

  • Regenerative braking - once you get used to this, it's hard to drive a gas car. You essentially learn to drive by just using the accelerator as the car slows down when you let go of the accelerator. You almost never use your brakes.

  • Auto unlock, auto lock, pretty much auto everything. The car is a robot and it's so nice not to think about opening the garage or locking your car. You just get in and drive. 

  • Safety - the car has so many safety features - mind numbing really. the car has managed to save me from a wreck a few times due to it's auto collision and lane warning features.

  • Updates - Tesla is the only car in the world that receives software updates on a nearly monthly basis. Due to how car dealers work, you are lucky if your car ever gets a bug fix. The Tesla experience is a relationship you have with the company that makes your car - not the dealership. Who likes interacting with their dealership? Who got a new feature on their car after purchasing it?

So, if I loved this car so much why did I get a Model 3?

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