Sunday, November 12, 2023

I am moving!

Hello, hello! I am moving over to Substack! Everything that's here will remain here, but new content will be over there! Including the 2023 gift list. Please subscribe to join me over there!

And please pre-order my new book if you're so inclined. 

See you soon, I hope!


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

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Red Velvet(ish) Smoothie


This is not an easy time, and you might already understand how self-care goes around here. Mostly it's food. Sometimes it looks like a 7-minute boiled egg with butter and Frank's. Sometimes it's chicken wings, homemade or from the good Korean wing place. A big green salad with fried chickpeas and feta and perfect vinaigrette. Half a grapefruit. Mashed potatoes. It's an excellent alcoholic IPA or a good-enough non-alcoholic IPA. Buttered popcorn with Old Bay or nootch. So even though I'm posting two kind of suspiciously healthy recipes in a row here, rest assured, we are also eating buffalo shrimp (when Ben is home, at least) and Trader Joe's olive oil potato chips.

But I really just kind of love this smoothie, and it makes me feel great when I drink it. It's tangy and rich and smooth. Barely chocolatey, but a little bit chocolatey. It tastes exactly like the color it is. If you have a high-speed blender, you will notice the kale not at all--it will simply disappear, mixed into the red of the berries in a way that the one teaspoon of cocoa will make you feel like "Of course it's brown!" I have a fancy Vitamix blender, which I bought refurbished and which was still expensive and which I use every day and love. However, at my volunteer hospice cooking gig, we have this less expensive blender and it's excellent. 

Anyhoo, take care of yourself, okay? And everyone around you. I'm trying to recenter myself around the word "grace" when it feels like every interaction, even mundane work ones, is too fraught to bear.

Red Velvet(ish) Smoothie
I believe it goes without saying that I don't actually measure anything. 

½ cup frozen raspberries (or use fresh and add a couple of ice cubes)
¼ cup frozen mango cubes, only if you happen to have these languishing in your freezer (I ran out and stopped using them, and it's still good)
½ cup yogurt (I use full-fat vanilla)
½ cup unsweetened cherry juice (I get it at Trader Joe’s, but Whole Foods and my Stop and Shop both sell this too) or a juice of your choosing
1 pitted date
A large handful of clean kale stripped of its thick ribs
A heaping teaspoon cocoa powder (or cacao powder if you’re in an episode of Portlandia)
A dash of vanilla

Whir all the ingredients in a high-speed blender, adding a splash more juice if it's disinclined to move around. Drink! Be nourished and well!

p.s. I wrote this kinda weird piece for my friend April over at Romper.

Tuesday, March 01, 2022

Really, really good non-alcoholic booze (a recipe)

I'm sorry if my writing about cutting back on alcohol gives you a bad feeling. I know that feeling well, since any time anybody quits one of my many habits of excess, I feel like I'm on the Titanic watching everyone sail away from me, waving merrily and healthfully from their life boats while I snort a bump of cocaine off the side of the iceberg that's jutting into my cabin. But I am trying to drink a little less, even though I really love drinking, because WWIII and empty nest and apocalypse and maybe I should try not to self-medicate quite so robustly.

In terms of purchased stuff, I like the Sam Adams non-alcoholic IPA called "Just the Haze." It's bitter and citrusy, and it looks great in the glass. 

But I wanted to make a drink that would have the bracing spice and tannic bitterness of something like bourbon, and I did a bunch of research to reverse engineer the flavors I was looking for. (I am too cheap to buy the expensive NA booze that the Instagram ads want to sell me.) In the end, I settled on strong black tea as the base (I use decaf because I don't want the buzz), smoked hot paprika flakes for oakiness and spice (you can use regular chili flakes or part of a whole dried chili if you prefer), and then a little glug of vanilla for that rich barrel-aged kind of sweetness. I love it straight-up, but it also mixes great. Try it and report back! And please take care of yourself, whatever that means right now.

Copycat Jack Daniels
At the risk of belaboring this, here are my thoughts on the spice: I really just want a hint of it, to mimic the way booze feels in your mouth. I like just a dash of the smoked hot paprika flakes which are shown above and which I got at no lesser a gourmet emporium than Marshall's, and then I make up the rest with some dried chili my friend Nicole grew 2 years ago. You can experiment and see what you like best! I would toss in an oolong tea bag for smoke, but I don't want the caffeine. . . 

3 black tea bags (caffeinated or not, as you prefer)
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes (smoked or not) or a piece of dried chili (you can also get the burn from fresh ginger, but that's not the flavor I'm craving)
Between 2 teaspoons and 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Put the tea bags and chili flakes in a regular pint-size mason jar and fill it with water (just under 2 cups). Microwave it for a minute longer than you would if you were making tea (for me, with my Jurassic microwave, this is 4 minutes, but it's probably more like 3 for you). Or put these things in a small pot, bring to a boil, and simmer gently for 2 minutes. Fish out the tea bags, add the vanilla, screw on the lid, and refrigerate. The chili flakes will likely settle to the bottom, but if they don't, you can just fish them out with a spoon or pour it all through a sieve. Serve over lots of ice.

Makes 3 servings

Both of the following cocktails are so convincingly good that I guiltily catch myself swigging them, and then remember that I can swig away.

Whiske(r)y Menopause Sour
1/2 cup Copycat Jack Daniels
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon maple syrup

Sour-Cherry Sobertini
1/2 cup Copycat Jack Daniels
1/2 cup unsweetened sour cherry juice (Whole Foods and Trader Joe's both sell this)
A few drops almond extract
1 tablespoon simple or maple syrup (optional)

Did you pre-order my novel? Will you please? Better yet, ask your local bookstore and/or public library to order it for you.

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Holiday Gift Guide 2021


Hello from Multifaith Holidayworld, where we fill my dad's 70-year-old ski socks with Christmas gifties and light the (birthday?) candles in Michael's grandmother Sylvia's beautiful old menorah. Yes, it is only November, don't worry. But Hanukkah is early this year, and I don't want to leave folks scrambling for EIGHT DAYS OF LAST MINUTE GIFTS, even though perhaps a single gift could last for 8 days because #chosenpeople. Between now and then will be Thanksgiving, and we are having people here, all of whom are vaccinated, the oldest of whom are boostered, the college-attending of whom are coming home to us, and I can't even really write about it here without crying. Lucky, lucky, lucky life.

Okay, okay, the gift guide.
  • Last year's gift ideas 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.
I'm repeating this from last year: 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, even though I'm trying to wean myself off of them, to 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. (I'll disclose what I make and give after the holidays.) Unrelated: Anais Mitchell's "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" is a very, very good Christmas song.

If you're looking for games, you might start with the board game guide I wrote for Parents magazine last year. There are lots of our old favorites there, and some new favorites, and also some sweet first games for the very wee gaming crowd.

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 Checkers, Qwixx (check out these new mixx-em-up score pads), Sushi Go Party, CodenamesAgricola, Patchwork, Azul, Splendor (okay now I'm seeing an expansion, which is v. interesting to me), Carcassonne Hunters and Gatherers (finally reissued!) Yahtzee, Ticket to Ride, Wingspan, Catan (with the Seafarers expansion), and Power Grid.

I recommended Viticulture last year before we'd played it, and boy was I right to. We all love this weirdly wine-themed game and, if we have time, and we're not at college like assholes, it's the game we all always want to play.

Be forewarned that it is a serious gamers' game (we all think of it as Agricola-level absorbing, but without the stress). It can easily take 2 1/2 hours--though those hours fly by! Also, we love and always play with the Tuscany expansion.

I also got Ben and Birdy this little card-sized Moor expansion this year. Shhhh.

And this whole, brand-new game Everdell, which is one I've thought about buying for a long time since it ranks so consistently high on Board Game Geeks. It looks very Waldorf, very Wind in the Willows, but, knowing Euro-style board games, is probably secretly cut-throat, and your badger is out to get somebody's hedgehog via some incredibly layered and complex type of gameplay. I want to say about these big, very expensive games that they are, yes, very expensive, but the replay value is utterly tremendous. (If your family likes playing long, complicated games.)

Point Salad is another game I got the kids last year, and it was, and remains, a huge winner. It's very quick--the kind of game you can play after dinner before everyone scatters--and it's easy to learn. Picture a card-drafting game, but vegetal.

Yes, I basically love everything Gamewright makes, but Super Mega Lucky Box is another excellent one. It's easy to learn--with familiar bingo-type play happily complicated by more interesting strategy elements from modern games, like Sushi Go. (Note: it looks like it's going to have a math element, but it doesn't.) I love the Schoolhouse Rock font aesthetic. And the whole erasable white-board aspect of the game makes it very fun. 

We tested Exploding Kittens: Recipes for Disaster for Parents magazine, and loved it. Exploding Kittens is like a mash-up of Uno, Russian Roulette, cats, and butts, with comically morose and peculiar animal-themed artwork. To sum up: Try not to get exploded! And also butts. Recipes for Disaster is a big-box remix, perfect for anyone who already loves the game, but also a great way to introduce it. 

It's also great for kids who love to sort and organize cards into custom game decks, since there are fun "menus" to create different types of game play. (Please note that one of the attacking sharks is saying "You're fat!" and I fucking HATE that.)

We tested 2 different Monopoly variations for Parents magazine, and really liked both of them. Full disclosure: I am the person who refers to the original Monopoly as Monotony, so do with that information what you will! (Also, please note that you can no longer select the iron token in a fit of irritable ironic feminism.) Both of these variations turn what can be a stultifying visit to Dante's real-estate circle of gaming hell into something brisker and more enjoyable. I'll take it! I wrote this about Monopoly Deal: Maybe you crave the many dull and fighty hours occupied by the original, with your beard growing down to the floor while your kids become actual monsters. Then don’t try this cards-only version which distills the game to a bracing 20 minutes of realty-themed fun. Monopoly Builder crosses the original gameplay with the resource gathering elements of a game like Catan. Is Catan a way better game? Sure. But because so many of the Monopoly play elements are already familiar to so many families, this game would make a great gateway to trickier Euro-style resource gathering games. Plus it's much cheaper. (Speaking of which: There are no pesky $1 bills any more because #inflation. Sob!) 

These are the puzzles I'm getting this year, the first for Thanksgiving and the second for Christmas. I don't give these as gifts as much as simply procure them for household enjoyment. Then we trade with friends and neighbors. 

Moving into other types of gifts. . . I know I am always buying, and recommending, watercolors. But that's partly because we use them a lot, and partly because the kids take them when they go to college (like jerks), and, thus, more must be procured! This is a new favorite set of mine, recommended to me by our friend Maddie. They're very saturated and vivid and not too expensive. Plus, I love that there's a sheet for you to paint color swatches on so you aren't constantly trying to interpret the dark little cakes and shocking yourself on the page.

I love this chunky pad. Oh, is that the famous brand *Strathmore*? Why no! It's the less famous brand *Blathmore.*  Wait. Bachmore? If you’ve ever gone to a flea market looking for permanent markers and come away with an off-brand package made by Shoupie, Sharpei, or even (What? Why?) Skerple, you’ll understand.

And I love these notepads (especially the gay agenda) by the lovely and world-bettering Jess Bird of Bless the Messy.

Surely you've checked out RedBubble for all manner of niche everything. An All of a Kind Family tote bag, say, or a nutritional *yeet* shirt. I kept it simple this year with a 

My high-school friend Melinda Beck designed this awesome love swag for the A is For nonprofit org, which is dedicated to advancing reproductive rights and ending the stigma against abortion care. "Founded in 2012, A is For emerged as a response to the ever-escalating legislative attacks on access to safe reproductive healthcare." Stylish, gorgeous, and FUCK YOU, TEXAS. A perfect gift for everyone on your list.

I'm finding that I get the kids more and more swanky self-care items, because they love them, and because they don't really want stockings full of rubber bands and magic animal capsules any more. (Sob!)
This is a lovely bar of soap. I got it for Birdy because it's nice and gritty, and it has a piney kind of butch scent, but isn't cologne-y. Plus, it's huge and lasts forever. (I got Ben the same thing, but as a body wash.)

Then there's this body wash, which I love. What does a cactus blossom smell like? Like bergamot and crisp basil, apparently. And what does *that* smell like? So good! (You can often find it in-person at Whole Foods too, by the way.)

I love the massive Treat lip balms. The flavors are amazing and the products are cruelty-free, organic, and—I know because I wrote to ask and they so sweetly wrote me back—gluten-free. I got Birdy the root-beer one and it’s this gorgeous shimmery copper color and it smells like happiness.

I got the kids these swanky candles. Bougie indeed! They're not as pricey as the famously pricey ones, but they smell SO GOOD and they don't even give me a headache! (I am very particular about candle smells.) Also because apparently I am all of a sudden Bill Gates, I got this one to light in December.
Speaking of! This is another winner, candlewise. When I was a little housebound and depressed last winter, I solicited favorite scented things from my Facebook community, and this was one that really worked for me. It just smells kind of authentically piney, and I burn it when I'm in the bath like the Calgon commercial I am. Also it claims to be very groovy and free from pthalphthapthes and whatnot, so if it is killing me, it is killing me softly.

I also got the kids these little acne star stickers. Not to throw shade on their beautiful skin! But because we're all a fan of these, and the colorful stars just seems so much more festive and fun than pimple-colored dots! 

Birdy is getting this planner because she's a planner kind of person, and because the sad animal facts are just so. . . delightfully sad.

And everybody would be getting this Jo Ann Beard book, if they hadn't already gotten it at various points during the year.

It's an absolutely exquisite collection of essays and stories that you shouldn't give to your writer friends because they will be like, "Forget it then," and quit writing because why bother. Breathtaking.

Then there's this book by my friend Thirii, and it is a cliche to call a book haunting, I know. But this book is haunting. There are ghosts in it, is one reason, but also it just stays with you in its gorgeous way. It's a personal, intergenerational history, and it's a mix of prose and poetry, and it's exquisite. Plus, it's just a beautiful object too.

I Hope This Finds You Well by Kate Baer is the perfect gift for all your furious, homicidal, grateful, menopausal but somehow endlessly menstruating mom friends. She's turned frothingly sexist troll mail into poetry, and it's brilliant. (Plus, I appear to have read it in galleys back when Craney Crow was still alive, sob!) If you haven't already given everyone her stunning What Kind of Woman, that's another absolute beauty.
My social media feed is filled with beautiful images from Black Food, Bryant Terry's collection of recipes and stories about Black foodways from over a hundred different contributors. I think putting it here might count as manifesting, since maybe someone will give it to me? Ha ha ha! No worries if I don't get it, because I am already moving up the waitlist at the library. (Related: We've been watching High on the Hog on Netflix, which is a stunning, delicious, joyful, devastating series about the many, many ways that American food is African-American food. It's kind of hard not to fall in love with Stephen Satterfield.) Bryant Terry's Vegetable Kingdom is also amazing, btw.

Did you already get Jenny Rosenstrach's The Weekday Vegetarians? Of course you did! But maybe some of your friends and relatives don't have it yet. 

It's a beautiful and incredibly useful book--the kind I take to bed with me for fun. I love Jenny so much because, among many other reasons, she likes beans almost as much as I do. But also because her recipes manage to reinspire me when I am peering sadly into a cabinet full of canned chickpeas.

Speaking of beans! You might consider gifting everyone this "Desert Island" sampler box of favorites from Rancho Gordo along with Jenny's book. I am able to get a lot of great dried beans locally these days, but I still occasionally treat myself to an order from Rancho Gordo. The beans are always absolutely delicious: silky, tender, creamy, and full of flavor. Plus, you can cook them in your instant pot without any fuss or hoo-ha! Yum! Even though maybe your family teases you about how much you love (and cook and serve) beans.

Speaking of delicious sampler packs, my parents gave me this box o' chorizo for my birthday, and it has been a spicy, garlicky, and ongoing joy. We've ordered a lot of gifts from La Tienda over the years, and they're always good. (Plus, my brother lives in Barcelona now, so it helps when we're missing him...)

And now, after all those beans and chorizo, your friends and family need a salad! I bought everyone these shaker balls this year because I love mine. It turns a regular mason jar into a really great vinaigrette emulsifier. This flip-top lid is the first one I've found that is truly leak-proof, and the whole set-up would make a useful and terrific gift.

And, finally, I can't help it. Our friends' beautiful cider products! Who doesn't want the most luscious cider syrup and the appleiest vinegar in the world? This would be a unique and excellent gift for a workmate or client. But also you should give it to all your friends and family because you love them.

That's it, my friends. I put in my Pearson's pecan order. I called in the turkey. I bought a huge box of salt. I am practically waiting by the door for my grown kids to come home, waiting by the door for my old parents to arrive, as happy-sad as I've ever been. I know lots of you are in the same boat with me. Thank you for being here. xo