Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Holiday Gift Guide 2022

Hello, dear ones! I was thinking of not doing one of these this year? But people have ALREADY COMPLAINED ha ha ha! So I'm just doing a wee list. Just to get the ball rolling. But mostly I feel like we should be going to local craft fairs and bookstores, right? Anyhoo.

  • Last year's gift ideas are here.
  • The year before that are here.
  • The year before that 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.
These gift guides involve various revenue-earning affiliate links (the amazon and ones), and that's because I will earn a commission, and then I'll donate 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. But 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. 

And before I introduce a handful of new games, I want to say that these are the games we play all the time and that never, ever get old; they're the ones I would start with, if you don't already have them: Chinese CheckersQwixxSushi Go PartyCodenamesAgricolaPatchworkAzulSplendorCarcassonne Hunters and GatherersYahtzeeTicket to RideWingspanCatan (with the Seafarers expansion), Viticulture (plus the Tuscany expansion), and Power Grid.

Okay, I always like to follow up on new-to-us games to tell you how they were, and last year's  Everdell turned out to be great. Yes, as I mentioned, it looks very Waldorf, very Wind in the Willows, but don't be fooled because the game play is epic. It is very expensive, but, as I always say, the play value is huge. (If you play it twice instead of going to the movies, it will have paid for itself. Although then there will be two times you don't go to the movies.)

New this year--and it's a nice easy one--is Welcome to Your Perfect Home. This game is like a cross between YahtzeeQwixx, and the work of a conformist, middle-class suburban planner (in a good way). We played it a ton when everyone was home over the summer, and it was delightfully occupying but chill. 

And Telestrations, which we just played over Thanksgiving and boy did we laugh. This is a party game, and it's one you might buy in advance just to have over the holidays if you've got a group of folks gathering. Great for all ages (team up anybody who can't read or write), and fine for folks who are hearing impaired. I described it in Parents magazine once this way: "Like a cross between Telephone and Pictionary, this pass-and-play party game asks you to draw what you see, guess what you saw, and then reveal the chain of misunderstandings whereby a soccer ball turns into a slice of meatball pizza." Birdy took it back to college with her.

One last game rec, if you've got littles on your list: Rivers, Roads, and Rails. It's an old favorite and I wrote about it (and other games) for Cup of Jo a couple months ago: "For years, my young children played with this transportation-themed tile-laying game like it was a kind of low-rent 2-D train set, creating various grids of highways and byways and even occasionally zooming around a matchbox car or two. And then at some point we saw that there were actual rules, and we got many more years out of playing it as the mildly competitive matching game it was made to be." Such a sturdy, good game.

Puzzles! If you don't need them to be new, boy do I recommend swapping with friends or going on a Buy Nothing Facebook group and offering to trade. But for gifting, my top recommendation this year is this kinda peculiar puzzle from The Magic Puzzle Company.

I'll tell you the truth: our friend Maddie lent it to us over a year ago, and I would kind of look at it and think: This is too high concept for me. But it's not. Yes, there's a trick at the end, but it's really really fun and it doesn't at all interfere with the puzzle. We just did this over Thanksgiving, and by the time we were done we were completely in love with it. The Magic Puzzle Company makes a handful of puzzles, and we plan to do another one. The art is fantastic.

I'm also recommending this puzzle, which our friend Ava gave us last Christmas. (Yes, longtime readers, Ben's friend Ava! Who gave us a holiday gift that she bought with her own money even though she's only six years old.) 

All the Le Puzz puzzles look to be as delightfully fresh and fun as this one.
Or this puzzle from Piecework Puzzles,

which someone either gave or lent us. But all their puzzles are wonderful--kind of hiply attractive and strange, with good pieces--and you can buy them directly here.

I interrupt the puzzles to say that my friend Kate Schatz recommends these fleece joggers from Hoka. On the one hand, $78 (i.e. a lot)! On the other hand, I do love my Hoka running shoes, and Kate did send along this glowing rec:

Kate, as you may recall, is the author of many wonderful books I have recommended over the years, including, Rad American History A - Z, Rad American Women A - Z, Rad Women Worldwide, and her newest, with W. Kamau Bell

which I described back in July this way: "It’s bursting with history, critical theory, and sly, LOL, incandescent humor—and it’s also a fun, engaging, and very surprising workbook filled with games and quizzes and activities that are already teaching me how much I have to learn as a white person working to end white supremacy." Each one of these books would make a thoughtful and excellent gift. (And, yeah, you should give Do the Work! to your racist relatives because what even is a holiday without pass-agg gifting?)

I'm pimping my own novel with this exquisite review from GoodReads. If anyone on your list might like a dull weeper, this is the book for you! My kids' books might make better gifts? What Can I Say? How to Be a Person, and Stitch Camp, which I wrote with Ava's mom Nicole, and which makes an especially wonderful gift when paired with embroidery or yarn craft supplies.

As always, RedBubble is my go-to for all things niche. Does your child have an obsession with ANYTHING IN THE WORLD? I promise you RedBubble makes a t-shirt (or sticker or shower curtain or mug) with that thing on it. For example, I ordered Birdy this mash-up of a favorite horror movie and a favorite kids' TV show:

Over the years, I have gotten the kids items printed with images or lines from the following: the robber from Settlers of Catan, nutritional yeast, the Four Seasons landscaping company of Trump's famous speech, gay Mount Holyoke slogans, Killing Eve, Silk Sonic, and Pickle Rick. I challenge you not to find what you're looking for! (That said, there still doesn't seem to be a "Dilute! Dilute! Okay!" Dr. Bronner's shirt, and I'm kind of shocked.)

This tee from Shout Your Abortion is another total can't-miss winner! Okay, I mean, *could* it miss? No! It totally couldn't!

In my house, at least MochiThings is another can't-miss gift site. It's all of the best pads and sticky notes and planners in the world--everything perfect and quite reasonably priced.

This, for example:


Or this:

I mean. All of it is so perfect. Don't try to rush through is my only advice. Plan to be there awhile. I also order the kids custom notecards from VistaPrint (with Jellyfish and Snapper on them) so they can CONVENIENTLY WRITE THANK-YOU NOTES. 

Stamps are another great stocking stuffer, and you can get them without leaving your house! One fun thing about ordering from the USPS is that you really save on postage, ha ha ha! 

Find me a better ornament than this.

Okay, maybe this?

And what about these tattoo pens that are unvetted by us, and since when can't we just use Sharpies? But I kinda love them. 

I am recommending this very holiday-seeming candle, but it smells so good I plan to burn it year-round! 

I am very, very picky about scented things, and I absolutely love the clean spruceness of this. I got one for Ben too so he could burn it in his New York apartment what the actual fuck. I got Birdy an advent calendar instead because she is just a baby and also because she isn't supposed to burn candles in her college dorm and so won't. (That link is the the jigsaw puzzle version of the advent calendar because it's kinda late to get an advent calendar I'm realizing.)

I also got Birdy the trashiest most disposable-culture thing, which is this nightlight. But she needs it for her dorm room, right? 

Okay, another rubber item (forgive my segue) is this little spatula.

It's long and skinning and sturdy and heatproof and I use it every day, mostly to scrape out the jar of my beloved Vitamix, but for many other tasks as well. It would be a great gift because the person you're giving it to might be desperate for just such a thing!

All I personally want for Christmas is the chaat masala from Diaspora, the fair trade spice company. If you've never tasted chaat masala, imagine the Indian version of, like, ranch seasoning. But funkier. I continue to be obsessed with it. Don't worry! I will totally treat myself to this if nobody sees it languishing here, ha ha ha!

And finally, for a cook in your life who loves a big knife, this Misen chef's knife was given to me by my lovely knife-obsessed father-in-law, and although he has given me other knives since, this is my absolute ride-and-die. 

It is such a good knife that I can simply sharpen it on the sharpening steel in all but, like, 1 out of 10 occasions of dullness. You will never look back. Horrible, dirty countertop not included!

Thank you for being here, my darlings. Please feel free to comment with your game recs, like you always do! That's often how we discover new games. Books too! xoxo


  1. Anonymous5:23 PM

    Thank goodness you published this! I've been checking for the past week or so, and had it on the top of my list to write to you tomorrow, Dec. 1st;-) Have been loving your lists since you started them, as we are a huge game loving family too! Thank you, Catherine, for sharing all these wonderful finds...

  2. Anonymous7:27 PM

    Wonderful list, as always! Thank you for providing these great ideas year after year!

  3. “Sad but also very boring” is our GoodReads review of that review.

  4. Anonymous10:52 PM

    Thank you for pulling this gift guide together. I always love it and enjoy seeing what you pick to make the list!

    I feel like Everdell is a closer match to Brian Jacques Redwall series. Redwall was a huge part of my son’s early years. We were able to take my son to see Brian Jacques speak at a bookstore and loved him even more afterwards.

  5. Anonymous10:22 AM

    Hi! Thank you for the gift guide. I was wondering you could maybe blog everyday? Kidding. Or write a newsletter? You are my favorite stranger.

  6. Anonymous10:27 AM

    6 Nimmit! A German (?) card game you can find English directions online. Way more fun than UNO *shudders* Same as Take 5 game which is easier to find.

  7. OH I WOULD DEFINITELY HAVE BEEN COMPLAINING! ...Er, I should say, if you ever need to take a break from it, you have my full support. (And tears.)

  8. Anonymous8:19 PM

    Great list! The spatula link brings me to chaat masala, which is another lovely gift, but not a great substitute for a spatula. Is it user error, as in my error? Do you have the spatula link?

  9. Anonymous8:37 PM

    I’m so glad to see Magic Puzzle Co here! I discovered this exact puzzle at an Airbnb this year and it literally reignited my enthusiasm for puzzles. I purchased Mystic Maze and then also the Crystal Caves and I enjoyed it also! I’m curious about those tattoo markers…. Thank you for posting this list. You could post it in July and I’d still be excited. I just trust that your taste is similar enough to my own that I’ll probably like anything from your lists. :)

  10. Anonymous10:11 PM

    I love that you describe a puzzle as having “good pieces!” Such an underrated criteria for puzzles these days. Thank you for publishing this list. I trust you more than any algorithm to tell me what to consider. ❤️

  11. Your lists are always spot on! Thank you for introducing me to redbubble ... I can already tell I'm going to spend a lot of time and money down that rabbit hole ...