Sunday, November 29, 2020

Holiday Gift Guide 2020

What? It's *this* time already? I can't believe it. It seems like 2020 just started ONE MILLION YEARS AGO! Ha ha ha. I am astonished. I have been made an aunt again twice over in just this past month. We elected Biden and were thrilled about it. Are thrilled about it still! (If you'd told us that back when, we would have laughed in your face. But relative good is a powerful force when it comes to saving people's lives, isn't it.) Stacey Abrams and other bad-ass, tireless activists flipped Georgia from a voter-suppressed state to a less-voter-suppressed state. It's too much. The heartbroken and galvanizing Black Lives Matter protests. Getting schooled in triple time about the criminal justice system. The virus and all of its losses. I miss people. And also we sit with friends around blazing fires, with mugs of soup warming our hands and jars of red wine warming our guts, and I wonder if I've ever been happier. Birdy is applying to college (sob!). Ben is home (yay!). We are well and safe and hopeful and energized. Also exhausted. But okay, okay, onto the gift guide.

  • Last year's gift ideas are here
  • The year before are here--and also there is a list there of links to the homemade gifts we've posted over the years. I'll add Our Fudge of Perpetual Sorrows because it is a perfect recipe and would make a great present for a sweet-toothed kind of person.
  • The year before that are here.
  • The year before, here
  • The year before, here.
  • The year before that, here.
  • The year before that, here
  • And the year before that, here.
  • Some long ago thoughts (i.e. for little kids) are here.
  • As always, the master list of games is here.

And also as always, let me mention that these gift guides involve various revenue-earning affiliate links, and that's because I will earn a commission, and then I'll donate all the money I make from them. In other words, this is something of a fundraiser, with the happy side effect of you doing your holiday shopping. All the book links this year are to, which supports Indie bookstores *and* offers affiliate $, which is just totally win-win. The other affiliate links are Etsy (indie makers) and, even though I'm trying to wean myself off of them, Amazon. Anything you see here? Try to buy it locally--especially if you have a local game and/or book store--and then just donate a little money to an organization doing great work. That way we support local businesses and it's still (kind of) a fundraiser. 

We'll be donating the earnings to Partners in Health, a global health organization we've been supporting for over a decade. And also to Fair Fight, which is working to take back the Senate RIGHT NOW, and The Movement for Black Lives, a coalition developing leadership and political strategies to represent black communities. Onto the gifts!

First off, we got Birdy a good portable speaker so that SHE WON'T TAKE OURS TO COLLEGE LIKE A WHORE. (This would have made a good graduation gift, come to think of it.) My late, great Ali friend was famous for her object-research skills, and one of her last great gifts to me was researching the UE Boom, which we have loved.

Of the 2199 results I got when I plugged "Four Seasons Total Landscaping t-shirt" into RedBubble, I picked this one for both of my kids. I liked how the tree is kind of a riff on the actual Four Seasons hotel-chain logo. The story is just so delicious, and why would we ever want to forget. If you have never had the pleasure of typing your random thing into the RedBubble search engine and getting a million results, you're in for a treat. I also got the kids cat face masks this year. And stickers of all types--from Killing Eve (our new favorite TV show) to the robber from Settlers of Catan.

I also bought the kids a few things from Mochi. They have the most incredible collection of decorative and organizational sticky notes. And notebooks.

POMMO Press is the art company of the amazing Debbie Fong, who illustrated How to Be a Person and whom I adore. I joined her sticker club to cheer Birdy and me up during this long and tiresome year, and it was an excellent decision. Every month a really pretty envelope arrives with a themed sheet of stylish stickers, and lots of little extra stickers and freebies. Get a gift subscription for someone and make them so happy every month! Plus, you'll be directly supporting an independent artist. (She also sells delightful comic books, patches, and stationery. I have little coveting of this to-do list notepad, but that's not surprising.)

This little chunk of a book is 4- by 5-inches small and filled with prompts to draw teeny-tiny things, which is kind of all anybody in my house actually wants to draw. A chewable vitamin! A freckle! A thimble! A chickpea! Pair it with these pens or these (bizarrely expensive) pencils, our favorites in each genre.
For my nephews and kids, I could not resist these posters. The series, Subpar Parks, is based on actual nitpicking Yelp reviews of National Parks. OMG. If you've ever read someone's sighingly inane complaints about the most spectacular place you've ever stayed or visited, you will love this so much. (A tour operator in Puerto Rico told us he'd once gotten a bad review because the beach was "too sandy.") These are the two I picked, but there are so many good ones, and you can order them in all different sizes. Plus, the posters are actually gorgeous in addition to being LOL funny.

For better or worse: That straw creature does not come with the mug.

Also on Etsy, Pamela Zimmerman of Hobbitware makes all of my very favorite things. I am just completely in love with her lumpy, heartbreaking mugs and dishes. In fact, I have such a profound attraction to lumpy, heartbreaking pottery in general that my friend Lydia thinks I must have been a terrible ceramicist in a past life.

Or does someone in your life need a glam mask from a Black-owned Brooklyn business for their stay-at-home New Year's celebration? (Um, I kind of do.) 

My brilliant award-winning artist friend Melinda Beck created this Georgia Peach illustration, which she's putting on socks and mugs and t-shirts and buttons, and all the proceeds go to Stacey Abrams' Fair Fight. Look around while you're there! Everything is fabulous.

Also glam is the flying wish paper I got the kids, which I thought we could light on New Year's eve. I've never used it, but I guess you write your wishes in pencil, then roll it up and light it and it flies away. (Did you wish that your neighbor's leaf pile would catch on fire? Your wish came true!) I figure we've got a lot of wishing to catch up on! Or do we? Maybe all my wishes came true already.

I don't know whom to credit for this, but it makes me laugh every time I look at it.

Okay, onto the games, because I know that's why you're really here. First of all, if you didn't buy Wingspan last year, buy it now. It's expensive, but it's a beautiful game with lots of replay value.

Viticulture is one of the big games I'm giving Ben and Birdy this year. A heteronormative-appearing wine-themed worker-placement game! What could go wrong? I'll report back, of course. But I got this game with a fair amount of confidence both because it scores so well on the (geeky) boardgamegeek, and because a trusted gaming friend recommended it to us.

And Parks is the other (although full disclosure I'm saving it for Birdy's birthday). People love it because it's gorgeous and seems to offer that great kind of always-different play, which I love in a resource-gathering board game. Plus, it's such a good pairing with the Subpar parks posters, no?

We had occasion to get and play a bunch of new games this year, thanks to a piece I was writing for Parents magazine. Lots of them were games for tiny little kids, and if you've got those, you might think about this game (for the very eensiest gamers) or this game (for the next eensiest).

One game we tested and loved was this slightly easier version of our beloved Patchwork, which is perfect if you have less time, or if you play with easily frustrated people. This is one of the very best two-person games I know, even thought the design elements feel just a little like a missed opportunity, as if your grandma made it, only she's kind of a shitty quilter. But still.

Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza is this completely ridiculous game that we've now played a ton of. It's fun playing with Birdy because she's always like, "Fuck me, I flinched" and "Fuck you, take your fucking gorilla back." It's simple and slappy and I always lose because it turns out that my hands have been somehow unhitched from my brain and are now living a life all out on their own, totally unsupervised by any higher powers. We've already gifted this a bunch because, besides being a really funny game, it's small and packaged stylishly and the cards themselves are perfect and adorable.

Point Salad is another little stocking-stuffer-ish type card game that I got for b + b for the holidays. It comes super highly recommended but, as always, feel free to wait for us to report back on how much fun it is! 

OH MY GOD AND THESE PLAYING CARDS! I just came back here to add them after seeing them on Buzzfeed. I am a sucker for the rainbow gradient, and also Fredericks and Mae are one of my favorite queer design teams! If you have great big wads of cash burning a hole in your pocket, you can check out their website (or donate it).

If you haven't gotten Animal Upon Animal yet, that's because you're new here. Welcome! Ha ha ha! (We seem to play it as a drinking game now.)

A couple of puzzles while I'm at it. This one and this one, both from my beloved publisher Storey, from the beautiful Julia Rothman books. So stylish and fun to look at--and a little educational even, which is nice, since you're sitting there staring at it for hours. You might as well learn something! (The puzzles are not themselves out of focus, by the way. I think there's something amiss with my camera.) Edited to add: We just did the Nature Anatomy one last night, and it was so deeply pleasurable. An easy puzzle, but captivating, and the pieces are gorgeous, with a lovely printed backing.

Eatable Alphabet is this big, stunning little-kid activity deck that we made over ChopChop, the nonprofit where  I edit the kids' cooking magazine (itself a wonderful gift). It would be hard to overstate the gorgeousness of these cards: they're big (the size of a greeting card), and heavy, and smooth, and designed by all the most talented people I get to work with. Plus, I wrote all the copy! If you buy this, you will be supporting a tiny nonprofit with a mission to teach families to cook and eat real food.

Each card has a letter/food front, and then a back with recipes and activities for that food.

I am framing this one and hanging it. For real. I love it so much.

Foodwise, there are a couple more gifts I need to recommend this year. Even though you can buy Lao Gan Ma Chili Crisp at your local Asian grocery store for $4, and it is perfectly delicious, or you can make it yourself, I have to recommend this crazy creme de la creme of chili crisps


I got it for Ben for his birthday, and we are obsessed. We splotch it mostly onto ramen and soft-boiled eggs and cold, raw tofu, and it is tingly and spicy, crazy-umami and just incredibly exciting and oily and wonderful. 

Shown here drizzled on a plate of miso oatmeal with Momofuku soy eggs.

Is it expensive? It is! But not too bad for a gift. Plus, my defining culinary equation is turning out to be "cheap food + expensive condiments." 

Following that same equation, this is the truffle oil you want truffle oil to be, if you like truffle oil. It's funky and fragrant and fresh. Just a tiny drizzle, and your plate of scrambled eggs or spaghetti or polenta turns into restaurant food. 

I got the kids Tony's Chocolonely chocolates for their xmas stockings because a friend of mine tucked a tiny little bar into a card she gave me and it was so extra good that I looked it up. And the company is awesome: fair trade and free from slave- and child-labor all the way through the supply chain. I found it at Whole Foods, but you can order directly from the company. Plus, aside from the pretzel bar (yum), they're gluten-free! (I know because I wrote them.)

The truth is, I looked for a dish towel that said, "Is Stephen Miller dead yet?" Which is a question everyone in my household has asked each other upon waking for the past few months. But that dish towel doesn't exist. (Weird, I know. Business opportunity alert!) But this one is so good. And everything from this shop is so lovely.

Okay. Onto books! I have cooked from The Dosa Kitchen cookbook pretty obsessively this year. If you've never had one, a dosa is a crispy, tangy Indian pancake that's made from a simple fermented ground rice/dal batter. (I ferment the batter in my Instant Pot overnight on the yogurt setting. Sorry. TMI.) Is this too particular a gift? It might be. Though it would be cool if you also gifted the only three ingredients you need for the batter: the urad dal and the masoori rice and the fenugreek seeds, all of which you could get at a local Indian or Asian grocery store (any white rice will work and, in fact, I've been doing 1/2 white and 1/2 brown). You should give this to your spouse or any older children living at home who will take this on as a project for your enjoyment! (Shown here: A fab dosa-dilla stuffed with melted cheese and spiced mashed potatoes. What!)

Here's a lovely gigantic book for someone who likes to leaf through a big book lookingly. It's part how-to, part armchair DIY, part "Why on earth would anybody do that?" and part "I wish I did that." These are all kinds of home skills culled from Storey's vast archives of guides: crafts and homesteading and brewing and animal husbandry (!) and food and gardening and 209 other things. In fact, the finger-knitting how-to from Nicole's and my book Stitch Camp is featured! 

As is this lovely craft (and lovely model) from Nicole's book Improv Sewing. It would make a great gift for someone who was curious to get a little taste of a lot of different skills and ways of living.

How to Be a Person! Of course. Because it would make a great gift with a little set of related useful items to go with it: a swiss army knife and a nice little quesadilla-sized frying pan and a stationery set and a sewing kit and maybe a plunger.

And then 2 perfect novels: this and this.
And 2 perfect (funny) memoirs: this and this.

If you've got a lover of nonfiction on your list, I cannot enough recommend Caste. I'm reading it now and it is, as everyone said it would, blowing my mind. (Did you know that the Nazis studied race and Jim Crow laws in the United States to learn about the architecture of subordination?)

Finally, sorry to be so perverse, but is there anything more satisfyingly infuriating and hilarious than a menorah Christmas tree ornament

Stay cozy, my darlings. Be brave and also rest when you can. Anything that doesn't matter? Let it fall away. Let it burn away so that all that's left is love, burnished and bright. Happy everything. xo

Monday, November 02, 2020

As if

you'd be here and not be voting, not be voting blue down the ticket. I know. But please, let's get this done. 

Go ahead and bookmark this Atlantic article. Like an umbrella you won't need because the fact of your bringing it means it won't rain.

Take care of yourselves. I for one have been doing a lot of journaling, which helps. 

(Totally kidding! I have not done any journaling. Just various prescription, legalized, and OTC medications.)

Come do this with me tomorrow! It's calling NC dems who requested absentee ballots but haven't returned them. We'll be trying to send these folks to the polls.

We got this. Sending love to you all. So, so much love.