Written by

Chris Gonzales


Joshua Hoehne

Ah yes, come in, come in. Have a seat, friend, and allow me to welcome you to the 2019 Tools & Toys Christmas Catalog! 🎄🎁


↓ Skip down to Table of Contents

I see you’ve visited us in years past, so I’m sure you understand by now how this all goes. Just to refresh your memory though, we’ve combed through the past year’s items and hand-selected the neatest, most gift-worthy of them for your holiday shopping and personal wishlist needs.

We understand this is an extensive catalog to browse all at once, so like past years, we’ve grouped the items into categories and have a handy 🏆 Table of Contents 🏆 that lets you click around to any part of it you like. Don’t worry, each section also has its own mini-list of contents and a return link to make the journey even easier.

Moreover, we are continuing our tradition of highlighting three of our favorite non-profits. Here at Tools & Toys we have always given away 11 percent of our gross income to charity, and during the months of November and December, we’ll be donating 11% of our gross specifically to these three non-profits: App Camp for Girls, Operation Christmas Child, and St. Jude.

* * *

As we’ve said in past years, thank you so much, dear reader, for your attention and your patronage. Tools & Toys is now over 8 years old — man, the time truly flies — and continues to be predominately supported by readers like you who purchase something on Amazon through one of our links.

If the items we’ve curated below don’t fit your needs or wants, ping us on Twitter and we will try to help.

Also, click this link before you do your shopping on Amazon, as it’s a way to support our work.

Thank you, and happy holidays!

The Tools & Toys Staff


Table of Contents


🎲 Games & Puzzles

🎧 Audio

🕶 Style, Grooming & Everyday Carry

🎒 Bags

🛠 Tools & Trinkets

📚 Books & Novels

🧸 Toys & Kids

☕️ Coffee & Tea

🗺 Travel & Outdoors

🧑‍🍳 Food, Drink & Kitchen

🖋 Writing & Stationery

💡 Gadgets & Accessories

💝 Charities

* * *

Apple 

↑ Return to Table of Contents

Twelve South HiRise Pro Stand. ($153)

Twelve South HiRise Pro Stand. ($153)

Twelve South’s HiRise Pro Stand for iMac and External Displays »

On top of looking great, Twelve South’s HiRise Pro stand is a sleek-as-all-get-out desk accessory that serves two purposes:

  1. It ergonomically elevates an iMac, iMac Pro, or external display to eye level, with four height options to choose from.
  2. It doubles as a “gear garage” to store desk paraphernalia in, keeping one’s workspace organized and clutter-free.

The first purpose ties into the second, actually — whichever of those four levels the iMac/display is placed at, it naturally creates a divider shelf inside the storage bay for a bit more organization.


On the front of that bay is a vented, double-sided faceplate/grille that’s gunmetal steel on one side (to match the rest of the HiRise Pro) and walnut wood on the other. It attaches magnetically on both sides so you can quickly swap looks at will.

The back of the bay has a cable management slot where you can feed whatever number of cables you like — especially handy for backup drives stored inside the bay. The top of the stand sports a soft leather “landing pad” that acts like a valet tray for your iPhone, Apple Watch, keys, glasses, etc.

Juuk “Vitero Crimson” band for Apple Watch. ($149)

Juuk “Vitero Crimson” band for Apple Watch. ($149)

Juuk “Vitero Crimson” Apple Watch Band »

Know an Apple Watch owner who’s super into Iron Man? Juuk’s Vitero Crimson band is just the gift. Made from hard anodized 6000-series aluminum — commonly used for aerospace, automotive, and nautical applications — the band sports a matte red (dare we say “hot rod red”?) color with a gold stripe down the center.


This band will practically make the wearer feel like a superhero. Pair it with a gold Apple Watch (42mm or 44mm) for best effect 🤩

Zhiyun SMOOTH-Q2 gimbal for iPhone. ($139)

Zhiyun SMOOTH-Q2 gimbal for iPhone. ($139)

Zhiyun SMOOTH-Q2 Smartphone Gimbal »

Zhiyun’s SMOOTH-Q2 gimbal is an ultra-portable handheld stabilizer for iPhone (and Android) that packs a surprising number features to help unleash its owner’s artistic side and take their photos and videos to the next level. Measuring only 204mm long, it’s about as pocket-friendly as these things get.

The SMOOTH-Q2 offers 360 degrees of rotation and has 3-axis stabilization, with three separate motors for smoothly tilting, panning, and rolling — all of which work together to make your video shots truly cinematic without all the fancy-pants Hollywood equipment. It’s made from a durable aluminum alloy with a handle coated in soft silicone, so it’ll hold up to any shoot and be comfortable to use all the while.

The TGT iPad case. ($140)

The TGT iPad case. ($140)

The TGT iPad Case »

The TGT Wallet is something we’ve mentioned a number of times around here over the years, and it’s always a good fallback if you run out of gift ideas for someone (though you’re surely not reading this catalog if that’s the case 😉). However, they’ve got another product we think is gift-worthy: the TGT iPad Case.


Introduced last November, this case fits the standard 9.7″ iPad design and is made from a combination of marbleized calfskin leather and an extra-wide version of TGT’s custom-woven elastic. The whole thing is proudly constructed in the US by local craftsmen and fittingly sports that “Americana” look we’ve always loved so much about their signature wallet.

Studio Neat's Material Dock for iPhone and Apple Watch. ($45–$95 depending on configuration)

Studio Neat’s Material Dock for iPhone and Apple Watch. ($45–$95 depending on configuration)

Studio Neat Material Dock for iPhone and Apple Watch »

A little over two years ago, our friends at Studio Neat released their Material Dock for iPhone and Apple Watch. And about a year ago from this writing, they announced an updated version that includes Qi charging.


Check out the short video that shows off the Qi charging:

There are a few ways to purchase components of the Material Dock:

  • Wireless (Qi) + Watch + Lightning dock ($95)
  • Wireless (Qi) pad alone ($50)
  • Regular iPhone + Watch dock ($70)
  • Regular iPhone-only dock ($45)

Apple's new AirPods Pro earbuds. ($249)

Apple’s new AirPods Pro earbuds. ($249)

Apple AirPods Pro »

In a surprise announcement just in time for the holidays, Apple unveiled their new AirPods Pro, a successor to their original AirPods with an all-new in-ear design and a customizable fit, with flexible silicone ear tips in three sizes.

More importantly though, the AirPods Pro boast active noise cancellation (with an optional transparency mode) that uses two microphones — one outward-facing, and one facing inward toward the ear — to analyze incoming sound 200 times a second and continually counter it with an equivalent level of anti-noise so the listener can be fully immersed in their favorite music/podcast/game/etc, unbothered by the outside world.

* * *


↑ Return to Table of Contents

U-Turn's “Orbit Special” hardwood turntable. ($549 with preamp, $479 without)

U-Turn’s “Orbit Special” hardwood turntable. ($549 with preamp, $479 without)

U-Turn “Orbit Special” Hardwood Turntable »

With an emphasis on brilliant, high-performance audio and a minimalist, gimmick-free design, U-Turn Audio’s “Orbit” turntables have for years been a way to dip one’s toes into the vinyl world without breaking the bank.

For those who’d like to up their aesthetic game though, that’s where the “Orbit Special” hardwood model comes in. It features a gorgeous plinth machined from your choice of solid rift walnut or flatcut maple — both sustainably sourced in the US — rather than the colorful finishes their lower-end models are known for.

  + More details in our guide on a few great vinyl turntables.

Bose Noise-Cancelling Headphones 700 »

Designed to unseat the QuietComfort 35 IIs, their own industry-standard flagship headphones, Bose’s new Noise-Cancelling Headphones 700 have been engineered with an all-new acoustic design that ekes out even better noise-cancelling performance, with 11 levels of incremental transition between full isolation and full transparency.

Also new is an adaptive four-microphone system that intelligently isolates your voice from competing noise and surrounding chaos, making the quality of your phone calls almost unbelievably good. As one Amazon reviewer notes, “These are killer for conference calls even if you dare take them in the middle of Times Square, NYC.”

Marshall “Major III” Bluetooth headphones. ($112)

Marshall “Major III” Bluetooth headphones. ($112)

Marshall “Major III” Wireless On-Ear Headphones »

Some people buy certain headphones for the audio quality. Others choose theirs more for fashion reasons. With Marshall’s Major III wireless headphones, you don’t have to compromise on either front.

On the visual appeal side, these on-ear cans sport stylish, square-shaped ear cups stamped with Marshall’s signature logo, evoking the company’s iconic amplifier design. They fall somewhere on the spectrum between vintage-looking and modern chic. They’re pretty comfy to wear for extended periods too, thanks to their extra soft faux-leather earpads.


On the technical side, the Major IIIs contain 40mm drivers that offer clear highs and deep lows, lending themselves well to the crunchy guitars and thundering drums of rock music — that’s Marshall’s specialty, after all — but also do an admirable job when listening to hip-hop or just about anything else. Moreover, they employ aptX technology for high-quality, low-latency Bluetooth playback.

Jaybird “Vista” true wireless sport earbuds. ($180)

Jaybird “Vista” true wireless sport earbuds. ($180)

Jaybird “Vista” True Wireless Sport Earbuds »

Jaybird’s “Vista” sport earbuds are a pair of waterproof, true wireless earbuds that don’t skimp on audio or build quality, and from the moment of their release they’ve been garnering positive reviews:

But just because they’re smaller and lighter doesn’t mean they sound worse. Jaybird moved up to a 6 millimeter driver that delivers much richer quality than before. […] There’s a huge leap forward in mid-range definition, but there’s still a nice kick in the low end for bass-heavy tunes. And even though they don’t have noise canceling, they do a solid job of blocking out external clamor. I was still able to listen to podcasts and music at reasonable volumes on incredibly noisy subway platforms.

Devindra Hardawar, Engadget

The sheer portability reminded me of AirPods, but there’s an essential distinction. The new Jaybird earbuds are practically bombproof. You can get them wet or bury them in dirt, and they’ll keep working. Functionally, the Vistas are probably the best fitness-focused earbuds I’ve tested.

Adam Clark Estes, Gizmodo

These are the kind of earbuds you’ll actually want to listen with outside of workouts. They’re so small and light you’ll almost forget you’re wearing them, they sound as good as AirPods, they’re rated IPX7 waterproof (and are incredibly durable otherwise), and accounting for the included charging case, they’ve got a fairly competitive battery life of 16 hours (with an extra hour beyond that with just a 5-minute quick charge).

IKEA & Sonos “SYMFONISK” Table Lamp + Wi-Fi Speaker »

This year IKEA and Sonos teamed up to release a Wi-Fi speaker that’s also a lamp,, which they’ve cleverly described as “the best sounding lamp in the world.” The best way to describe it is like having a Sonos Play:1 or Sonos One built into a lamp stand.

  + Read our original post here.

Audioengine A2+ wireless computer speakers. ($269, in your choice of red, black, or white)

Audioengine A2+ wireless computer speakers. ($269, in your choice of red, black, or white)

Audioengine A2+ Wireless Computer Speakers »

Audioengine’s A2+ Wireless Computer Speakers are a quality mini music system for your desktop, bookshelf, or other small space. The two speakers put out a lot of sound for their compact size, which comes as no surprise since they share the same bones as their predecessors, the wired A2+, just with easy Bluetooth connectivity for all your devices.

They didn’t add just any old Bluetooth either — these bad boys employ aptX HD technology for high-definition (24-bit) playback over Bluetooth. That high-quality audio translates quite nicely through the speakers themselves, thanks to their aramid fiber (essentially, Kevlar) woofers and silk tweeters built into cabinets precision-tuned to offer clear, powerful sound with a superb low-end.

Audio-Technica ATH-G1 gaming headset. ($169 for wired, or 249 for wireless version)

Audio-Technica ATH-G1 gaming headset. ($169 for wired, or 249 for wireless version)

Audio-Technica ATH-G1 (Wired) and ATH-G1WL (Wireless) Gaming Headsets »

Audio-Technica’s wired G1 and wireless G1WL deliver outstanding sound clarity and bass response for the ultimate gaming audio experience.

Borrowing some design cues from the company’s M50x line of studio headphones, both headsets boast large-aperture 45mm drivers that deliver outstanding sound clarity and bass response for the ultimate gaming audio experience. Since the professional-sounding boom mic is detachable, you can actually use each headset as a great pair of headphones in your day-to-day life, then reattach the mic when it’s time to crush the competition.

Two points of note:

  1. The G1’s 6.6-foot 3.5mm connector makes it compatible with PCs and all current-gen gaming consoles, like the PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.
  2. The G1WL, on the other hand, is really only compatible with PCs and Macs via the included 2.4GHz USB-A wireless transceiver. Sorry, console players. However, you do get a good tradeoff in the form of 7.1 virtual surround sound for totally immersive gameplay.

The Sonos Beam smart soundbar. ($399, comes in black and white; also available with wall mount for $458)

The Sonos Beam smart soundbar. ($399, comes in black and white; also available with wall mount for $458)

Sonos Beam Smart Soundbar »

As we approach a world where all household appliances offer voice control in some form or another, it should come as no surprise that Sonos has a smart TV soundbar with Alexa control built right in for voice-controlled playback.

This voice control works with a number of streaming services, including Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Music (of course), iHeartRadio, TuneIn, and SiriusXM. If you have Apple devices, the Beam also works with AirPlay and Siri, meaning you can count Apple Music on that list as well. As you’d expect, the soundbar integrates perfectly into any existing Sonos system, so your whole home can be filled with beautiful sound simply by speaking a command.

Even with only the Beam and no other Sonos speakers, you’ll be rewarded with far richer sound than your TV’s speakers are likely to put out. It’s not quite the same as having a full surround system with a sub and all — though that is an option — but for such an unassuming-looking soundbar, it packs quite a punch.

* * *

Photo: Erol Ahmed

Photo: Erol Ahmed


↑ Return to Table of Contents

The Monterey Backpack by ONA »

Based on their popular Camp’s Bay bag and named after a county in California, ONA’s photography-focused Monterey backpack has a more svelte silhouette yet still fits a DSLR kit (camera + up to 5 lenses) along with a 12″–13″ laptop.

It’s crafted from the company’s signature waxed canvas with beautiful full-grain leather accents — most notably, the top flap. This backpack will only look more gorgeous with age.


The front compartment (above, left) is where photography gear goes. When you’re not shooting, the dividers in there can be taken out so the bag can be used like an everyday backpack. The top compartment is where you’ll find the padded laptop sleeve, which fits down behind the camera stuff. Also in that top area is a kind of shelf/tray (above, right) for your personal items, which can be adjusted to different heights.

Stuart & Lau Cary Briefcase. ($295–$350 depending on size)

Stuart & Lau Cary Briefcase. ($295–$350 depending on size)

The Cary Briefcase by Stuart & Lau »

For someone who simply needs a better briefcase at their side as they jet-set around the globe, Stuart & Lau’s timeless-looking Cary Briefcase strikes just the right mix of dapper style and high durability.

This ultra-lightweight bag is constructed from a waterproof “DuraLite” fabric comprised of resilient nylon twill with a thin layer of rubber foam bonded to the backside, with full-grain leather handles and straps that will soften and become more beautiful with age. One of the signature features of each Cary is the snazzy umbrella slot on the back.

The Cary comes in three styles/sizes to suit any organizational need perfectly:

  1. Slim ($295)
  2. Single ($325)
  3. Double ($350)

Each is available in a range of colorways — one of our favorites being the navy + tan, of course 😉

Hillside Industries' convertible “Meridian 2.0” bag. ($275 for leather, $175 for nylon)

Hillside Industries’ convertible “Meridian 2.0” bag. ($275 for leather, $175 for nylon)

Hillside Industries “Meridian 2.0” Backpack & Messenger Bag »

Can’t decide between a backpack or a messenger bag? Why choose one when you can get a bag that converts between both modes in a flash, while you’re still wearing it? Hillside Industries’ signature Meridian 2.0 is a convertible messenger bag that allows you to easily transition over-the-shoulder carry and backpack modes, simply by dropping a shoulder strap or slinging another on — without taking the bag off your body.

The continuous strap/ring system that makes this transition possible is a pretty clever innovation. Here’s what it looks like in action:


With the Meridian, you have a choice between water-resistant 400D nylon ($175) or full-grain vegetable-tanned leather in either black or brown ($275).

Topo Designs chalk bag. ($43 for either red/black or [white/turquoise](https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07G5HDPSP?tag=toolsandtoys-20))

Topo Designs chalk bag. ($43 for either red/black or white/turquoise)

Topo Designs Chalk Bucket »

Designed for climbing/bouldering purposes and made from durable structured 1000D nylon, Topo Designs’ Chalk Bucket has a widemouth opening at the top that grants access to a secondary cinched enclosure where climbing chalk is kept. That same enclosure also has a couple of side slip pockets — kept apart from the chalk by a polyester fleece lining — for holding regular shoes ’til after the climb.

On the front of the bag is a key clip and an external pocket where you can stash a few essentials — think: phone/wallet, a tub of skin repair balm, snacks, small grooming tools for after the climb…you name it. Plus, there’s a series of daisy chain webbing that gives you attachment points for additional gear and act as places where you can put a water bottle and climbing brush.

* * *

Books & Novels

↑ Return to Table of Contents

Circe by Madeline Miller. ($17 hardcover)

Circe by Madeline Miller. ($17 hardcover)

Circe by Madeline Miller »

Have you read Emily Wilson’s translation of Homer’s The Odyssey yet? Good, because one of the key players in it, the sorceress Circe, has a tale of her own to tell.

Madeline Miller’s Circe is something of a followup to her 2012 Illiad-based epic, The Song of Achilles. In this book, she retells the story of the eponymous witch goddess, reshaping the entire narrative of a former side character that people have reading for thousands of years:

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child–not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power–the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.

But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.

You won’t ever see Circe the same way again. She’s more than just a witch and “lesser” goddess who turns guys into pigs and entices heroes to her bed; she’s a clever hero in her own right, not to mention an icon of feminine empowerment. In fact, Odysseus appears only as a cameo in her story, as she originally did in his. Her arc goes far beyond the brief time the two of them spent together.

  + Along this same vein are Natalie Haynes’ A Thousand Ships and Pat Barker’s The Silence of the Girls.

Kerby Rosanes' Colormorphia coloring book. ($8 paperback)

Kerby Rosanes’ Colormorphia coloring book. ($8 paperback)

Colormorphia Coloring Book by Kerby Rosanes »

Kerby Rosanes is an illustrator from Manila known for his best-selling Morphia coloring book series, featuring dazzling illustrations of fantastical creatures, mythological figures, and stunning landscapes that practically explode with intricate details for you to color to your heart’s content.

Some selections from the Morphia series, both finished and unfinished.

Some selections from the Morphia series, both finished and unfinished.

Colormorphia is a compilation of the most striking images across the entire series, making it a great way to try them all at once. From the book description (all bold emphasis ours):

Colormorphia is a selection of Kerby Rosanes’s most remarkable artwork, featuring a stunning, full-color sixteen-page section at the beginning of the book that displays some of the most accomplished completed artworks produced by Kerby’s fans. These demonstrate the range of approaches colorists can experiment with when coloring. Kerby comments on the styles and the results, describing why they work so well.

The artworks displayed in the color section are included in the black-and-white section of the book, too, giving the reader the opportunity to duplicate the approach should they wish. In addition, there are a variety of images to color featuring the very best from Kerby’s Morphia portfolio. These include show-stopping spreads, such as the tiger from Animorphia and the camel from Imagimorphia, among others, plus a section of single-sided pages that can be removed, once colored, for display.

Longitude by Dava Sobel. ($17 hardcover, $13 paperback, and $71 illustrated edition)

Longitude by Dava Sobel. ($17 hardcover, $13 paperback, and $71 illustrated edition)

Longitude by Dava Sobel »

The chronometer — a friction-free clock that keeps precise time at sea, regardless of local conditions and movement — is a technology we take for granted nowadays but was utterly revolutionary in its time (pun intended). Before the 18th century, sailors had no way of telling their longitude at sea, and even the most experienced of them could find themselves lost as soon as land was out of sight, or shipwrecked upon encountering unexpected shores.

Dava Sobel’s Longitude tells the surprisingly gripping and dramatic tale of inventor John Harrison’s forty-year obsession with building his perfect timekeeper — an achievement even Newton and Galileo before him had failed to conquer.

As you will learn reading this story, there was plenty of drama and political intrigue to go around:

When a nationally-sponsored contest offered a hefty cash prize to the person who could develop a method to accurately determine longitude, the race was on. In the end, the battle of accuracy—and wills—fought between Harrison and arch-rival Maskelyne was ruthless and dramatic, worthy of a Hollywood feature film [or a TV mini-seriesEd.]. Longitude‘s story is surprising and fascinating, offering a window into the past, before Global Positioning Satellites made it look easy.

Taking the Work Out of Networking by Karen Wickre »

We all know at least one introvert — or we are the introvert — who has trouble making connections in the business world and elsewhere. Karen Wickre’s book, Taking the Work Out of Networking: An Introvert’s Guide to Making Connections That Count, shares a lifetime’s worth of practical networking advice for such individuals.

Wickre is a former Twitter editorial director and Google executive who’s been working in Silicon Valley for 30 years now, and as a self-described introvert herself, she’s had a lot of practice figuring out how to make lasting connections without having to leave her comfort zone. Her book shares the insights she’s picked up along the way:

The common networking advice for introverts are variations on the theme of overcoming or “fixing” their quiet tendencies. […] Karen’s “embrace your quiet side” approach is for anyone who finds themselves shying away from traditional networking activities, or for those who would rather be curled up with a good book on a Friday night than out at a party.

For example, if you’re anxious about that big professional mixer full of people you don’t know, she advises you to consider skipping it (many of these are not productive), and instead set up an intimate, one-on-one coffee date. She shows how to truly make the most out of social media to sustain what she calls “the loose touch habit” to build your own brain trust to last a lifetime.

The Art of Noticing by Rob Walker ($17 hardcover)

The Art of Noticing by Rob Walker ($17 hardcover)

The Art of Noticing by Rob Walker »

Maybe introversion isn’t so much the issue, but more a lack of inspirational spark. Hey, it happens to all of us.

The Art of Noticing: 131 Ways to Spark Creativity, Find Inspiration, and Discover Joy in the Everyday is an imaginative, thought-provoking gift book by journalist Rob Walker that aims to build one’s attention muscles so they can enjoy…well, noticing things in the world around them:

Welcome to the era of white noise. Our lives are in constant tether to phones, to email, and to social media. In this age of distraction, the ability to experience and be present is often lost: to think and to see and to listen.

Enter Rob Walker’s The Art of Noticing. This gorgeously illustrated volume will spark your creativity–and most importantly, help you see the world anew. Through a series of simple and playful exercises–131 of them–Walker maps ways for you to become a clearer thinker, a better listener, a more creative workplace colleague and finally, to rediscover your sense of passion and to notice what really matters to you.

The “131” in the title refers to the number of exercises within the book that are designed to get you thinking about your environment, wherever you are. Prompts include things like:

  • Challenge yourself to notice one new thing on your commute every day.
  • Look around for the weirdest thing in the room when you’re in someone else’s home or office, and make a point of asking about it.
  • Pick one specific thing to look for wherever you go, like a single-object scavenger hunt.

In today’s age of constant distraction from all directions (including our pockets), a book like this is a welcome tonic.

How To by xkcd's Randall Munroe. ($17 hardcover)

How To by xkcd’s Randall Munroe. ($17 hardcover)

How To by Randall Munroe of xkcd »

xkcd creator Randall Munroe’s hilarious third book, How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems — which follows previous bestsellers What If? and Thing Explainer — explores ways to do seemingly simple tasks in the most excessively complicated and entertaining ways.

He employs plenty of infographics and his signature stick-figure illustrations to show just how Rube Goldbergian (though quite scientifically based) his suggestions really are. For example, here are some of the, uh, “solutions” — read: really bad advice, just super inadvisable — you’ll find within:

  • How to predict the weather by analyzing the pixels of your Facebook photos
  • How to cross a river by removing/boiling all the water
  • How to tell if you’re a baby boomer or a ’90s kid by measuring the radioactivity of your teeth
  • The many uses for lava around the home
  • Using a telescope to take selfies
  • How to use experimental military research to ensure that your friends will never again ask you to help them move
  • How to get to your appointments on time by destroying the Moon

And if you want to get rid of the book once you’re done with it, he walks you through your options for proper disposal, including dissolving it in the ocean, converting it to a vapor, using tectonic plates to subduct it into the Earth’s mantle, or launching it into the Sun.

This is obviously a fantastic read for xkcd fans and science nerds alike, though it should be said that anyone in the right frame of mind will get a kick out of it — and even learn a thing or two!

The Writer's Map by Huw Lewis-Jones. ($31 hardcover)

The Writer’s Map by Huw Lewis-Jones. ($31 hardcover)

The Writer’s Map by Huw Lewis-Jones »

Is there any better feeling than cracking open a new novel and, before the story even begins, being greeted with a map? Do you ever just bookmark that page and reference it again and again, all book long, trying your best to pronounce every place’s name each time you come across it? Maybe you use the word “worldbuilding” in everyday conversation, to an embarrassing degree.

If you’re relating hard right now, you’d do well to check out Huw Lewis-Jones’ coffee table compendium, The Writer’s Map: An Atlas of Imaginary Lands. Inside is a veritable feast of 167 lovingly reproduced, full-color maps taken from many eras of fantasy literature and beyond, along with a series of essays and personal reminisces by writers and artists on their love of fantasy cartography.

Click here to vew full size.

Click here to vew full size.

Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett. ($20 hardcover, $16 paperback)

Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett. ($20 hardcover, $16 paperback)

Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett »

When you think “fantasy novel”, what comes to mind first? Are you imagining dragons, epic quests, and the like?

Well banish those thoughts now, because that’s not the sort of thing you’re going to get with Robert Jackson Bennett’s 2018 novel Foundryside. While the book does feature magic-esque elements (known as “scriving” in-story), it’s not like any classic sorcery you’re used to reading. In fact, there’s a rather interesting coding-style logic to it.

Sancia Grado is a thief, and a damn good one. And her latest target, a heavily guarded warehouse on Tevanne’s docks, is nothing her unique abilities can’t handle.

But unbeknownst to her, Sancia’s been sent to steal an artifact of unimaginable power, an object that could revolutionize the magical technology known as scriving. The Merchant Houses who control this magic–the art of using coded commands to imbue everyday objects with sentience–have already used it to transform Tevanne into a vast, remorseless capitalist machine. But if they can unlock the artifact’s secrets, they will rewrite the world itself to suit their aims.

Now someone in those Houses wants Sancia dead, and the artifact for themselves. And in the city of Tevanne, there’s nobody with the power to stop them.

To have a chance at surviving—and at stopping the deadly transformation that’s under way—Sancia will have to marshal unlikely allies, learn to harness the artifact’s power for herself, and undergo her own transformation, one that will turn her into something she could never have imagined.

As Andrew Liptak of The Verge notes in his mildly spoiler-y review, it “imagines magic almost as though it’s a type of artificial intelligence. […] I couldn’t help but imagine that the book was essentially a cyberpunk novel, trapped in the clothes of an epic fantasy.”

Couldn’t have put it better ourselves.

* * *

Coffee & Tea

↑ Return to Table of Contents

OXO Brew Conical Burr Coffee Grinder »

At just $100, the OXO Brew conical burr grinder is an attractively priced entry-level grinder that will save you $40 over the longtime top dog in this field, the Baratza Encore. In fact, that’s about as cheap as you can get on this market before the quality really starts falling off.

(And, as we already know from their track record, OXO is a trustworthy brand to have in your kitchen.)

The OXO Brew’s sleek stainless steel construction lends itself to more than just good looks. It also makes the grounds container more resistant to static buildup, so the fines inside won’t cling so stubbornly as they do in the Encore’s plastic bin.

Look ma, no spills!

Look ma, no spills!

Another advantage the Brew has over the Encore is that the hopper is removable while beans are still in it, whereas if you try that with the Encore, you’d just have beans spilling out everywhere.

The YETI Rambler 12 oz. vacuum-insulated bottle with “Hot Shot” cap. ($30, available in various colors)

The YETI Rambler 12 oz. vacuum-insulated bottle with “Hot Shot” cap. ($30, available in various colors)

YETI Rambler 12 oz. Vacuum-Insulated Bottle with Hot Shot Cap »

This 12-ounce YETI Rambler bottle with its leak-proof 360-degree lid is, possibly, our perfect drink container. The whole thing is dishwasher safe and it’s so easy to clean.

The lid itself is only two big pieces that are very simple to clean by hand or by simply tossing into the dishwasher. There is a soft “click” to hold the inner part in place as half-open. Then you can easily drink from the lid on any side. You could also completely remove the inner locking piece altogether, or tighten it down to seal the mug. It’s brilliant.

YETI makes a taller version of this same Rambler (which does not include the “Hot Shot” cap) — but, we love the smaller 12-ounce size. What’s cool about all these YETI Ramblers is that all the different lids are interchangeable. If you have a larger jug, the lid for that one fits on this smaller Rambler, and vice versa.

Bonavita “Interurban” variable-temp gooseneck kettle. ($119)

Bonavita “Interurban” variable-temp gooseneck kettle. ($119)

Bonavita’s “Interurban” Painted Variable-Temp Gooseneck Kettle »

Bonavita’s “Interurban” kettle is a painted version of their acclaimed variable-temp gooseneck that comes in your color choice, each with a matching stainless steel base:

Like the original variable-temp, the Interurban kettle can be adjusted to whatever temperature you like between 140°F and 208°F and hold it there for an hour, with six handy presets you can quickly jump between.

There’s also now a standalone “Boil” button for when the exact temp isn’t so important to you as quickly getting the water up to boil. Nifty!

Fellow “Atmos” vacuum canister for coffee and loose-leaf tea. ($25–$35 per container, depending on size and color)

Fellow “Atmos” vacuum canister for coffee and loose-leaf tea. ($25–$35 per container, depending on size and color)

Fellow “Atmos” Vacuum Canister »

If the Ankomn Turn-N-Seal container we featured in last year’s catalog were a tad more stylish looking, the Fellow Atmos Vacuum Canister might be the result.

The basic premise is very similar: Using a hidden pump within the lid — activated by twisting back and forth — you create a vacuum inside the canister, protecting the contents from oxidizing and thus keeping it fresher for longer. Once the airtight seal’s created, simply press the button in the middle of the lid to release it and bring the pressure back to normal.

The Atmos canister comes in two colors and three sizes:

Matte Black:

Clear Glass:

The uKeg Nitro cold brew coffee maker. ($199)

The uKeg Nitro cold brew coffee maker. ($199)

GrowlerWerks “uKeg Nitro” Cold Brew Coffee Maker »

Following a very successful Kickstarter campaign this past summer, the uKeg Nitro — developed by GrowlerWerks, makers of the original (and quite handsome) uKeg pressurized beer growler — is the world’s first fully integrated at-home nitro cold brew maker and dispenser. You know, for the kind of buzz that’s appropriate before noon.

The promo video really tells you all you need to know:

If nitro cold brew is the type of coffee you’ve been dropping a bunch of money on at your local coffeehouse, you’ll love being able to have 12 cups of the stuff on draft wherever you go.

  + Be sure to pick up a pack of 16g nitro chargers to gift alongside the Nitro itself, as it does not come with any.

The Palmpress collapsible coffee press. ($39 in black or eggshell blue)

The Palmpress collapsible coffee press. ($39 in black or eggshell blue)

Palmpress Collapsible Coffee Press »

The Palmpress, is a portable, single-serve coffee press with an interesting concept that might just give the AeroPress a run for its money.

It’s a collapsible silicone brewer that looks a bit a pour-over cone when expanded, except the whole thing is the press. You just fill it with coffee grounds and hot water, screw the lid on, wait a few minutes, flip it over onto a mug (watch out for that initial stream of hot coffee!), and gently press down. That’s it.

Notice how we didn’t say anything about using a paper filter or pod or anything like that? That’s right — it’s essentially a waste-free brewing process, every time.

  + More info in our original post. For an even more travel-friendly solution, see the JavaPress mug featured further down in this catalog.

Fellow's “Monty” double-walled ceramic cup. ($15–$30, depending on size and type)

Fellow’s “Monty” double-walled ceramic cup. ($15–$30, depending on size and type)

Fellow “Monty” Double-Wall Ceramic Milk Art Cup »

If you happen to be the type who likes to make lattes and cappuccinos at home — steamed milk art and all — then you’ll appreciate Fellow’s “Monty” cups.

Constructed with a double-walled ceramic body, each of these cups has a hidden parabolic slope inside, which naturally lifts espresso crema to the top and makes it easy to create café-worthy latte art. What’s more, every size of the cup is designed to be stackable with others in the collection, so they’ll look great just being stored on top of an espresso machine or elsewhere.


The cups come in matte white with copper bottoms and matte black with graphite bottoms, each of which come in four different sizes/styles: latte (11 oz), cappuccino (6.5 oz), cortado (4.5 oz), or a set of two demitasses (3.0 oz each).

* * *

Food, Drink, & Kitchen



↑ Return to Table of Contents

Snow Peak titanium curved flask. ($122)

Snow Peak titanium curved flask. ($122)

Snow Peak Titanium Curved Flask »

Made with the utmost craftsmanship and quality, Snow Peak’s 6.4 fl oz titanium curved flask is sleek and lightweight as they come, with a classy rounded design that’s pleasing to hold and slips smoothly in and out of one’s pocket.

The titanium construction keeps any metallic taste from being imparted to the scotch/whiskey/etc within, preserving the original flavor even if it gets forgotten somewhere for a few days.

The Mason Cash ceramic batter bowl. ($17–$33, depending on color)

The Mason Cash ceramic batter bowl. ($17–$33, depending on color)

Mason Cash Batter Bowl »

If you watch The Great British Bake Off or Downton Abbey, you’ve likely seen Mason Cash’s ceramic batter bowl make appearances here and there.

It’s essentially a large, sturdy mixing bowl with a handle and spout built right in. It offers ample room to stir batters and doughs of all kinds, which can then be easily poured into muffin tins and cake pans or onto a baking sheet. It’s also not bad for whisking together a whole lot of eggs for, say, making omelettes for the family.

Mason Cash pride themselves on the longevity of their bowls, crafting each one from sturdy stoneware that will last a lifetime without chipping or fading. They’re microwave- and dishwasher-safe, so they have plenty of utility and ease-of-use to go around. Even the raised pattern on the sides is useful, making the bowl easy to grip in your hands or nestle under your arm without twisting or turning as you beat batters into submission.

Runa Klock + Areaware “Drink Stones” whiskey stones. ($35 for set of four)

Runa Klock + Areaware “Drink Stones” whiskey stones. ($35 for set of four)

Runa Klock + Areaware “Drink Stones” »

Having a cold drink “on the rocks” takes on a whole new, geometric meaning with these Drink Rocks created by Norwegian product designer Runa Klock for Areaware. They’re essentially whiskey stones that look like mini-sculptures you get to admire in your evening cocktail.

Made from natural marble and soapstone and finished by hand, these shapely and vaguely futuristic drink rocks are meant to be kept chilled in your freezer before being added to your bourbon, et al without diluting the drink like ice would. They’d look just as cool on display in your living room or on your desk as they do in your drink.


Urban Accents popcorn gift set. ($50)

Urban Accents popcorn gift set. ($50)

Urban Accents “Blockbuster Movie Night” Popcorn Kernel and Seasoning Variety Pack »

Whether they’re a lover of big movie nights or a serious snacking fanatic, Urban Accents’ “Blockbuster” popcorn seasoning set offers a special alternative to store-bought boxed popcorn.

It comes with three varieties of popcorn kernels:

🍿 “White Gold” — Classic and fluffy.
🍿 “Ruby Red” — Slightly sweet.
🍿 “Tri-Color” — Colorful blend of ruby red, white gold, and indigo blue kernels.

…and six tasty popcorn flavorings ranging from sweet to savory to spicy:

🧂Sweet & Salty Kettlecorn
🧈 Buttery Caramel Corn
🧀 White Cheddar
🧀 Asiago & Cracked Pepper
🥒 Tangy Dill Pickle
🌶 Sizzling Sriracha

Mix and match the kernels and seasonings however you like, or try the seasonings on other snacks than popcorn. You can even try toasting the “Sweet & Salty Kettlecorn” flavor on bacon. The sky’s the limit, really.

  + Looking for something even more gourmet? Take a look at this popcorn seasoning gift set by Dell Cove Spices ($38), which allows you to choose any four hand-blended seasonings from quite a list of flavors, all packaged in a black gift box and tied closed with a satin ribbon.

Double Awesome Chinese Cooking by Margaret, Irene, and Andrew Li. ($21 hardcover)

Double Awesome Chinese Cooking by Margaret, Irene, and Andrew Li. ($21 hardcover)

Double Awesome Chinese Cooking »

Margaret, Irene, and Andrew Li are the exuberant sibling trio behind the acclaimed Boston-based Chinese restaurant and food truck catering business, Mei Mei. After several years of success in the restaurant world, the three of them decided to publish a cookbook full of inventive Chinese-American recipes you can feel comfortable making at home, and have fun doing it:

Take the Double Awesome: flaky scallion pancakes stuffed with two oozy eggs, sharp cheddar, and garlicky pesto; could there be anything better? Ridiculously delicious and unexpected dishes like Cranberry Sweet and Sour Stir-fried Pork and Red Curry Frito Pie will become new staples for your cooking lineup. Throw a hands-on dumpling-making party and let your friends decide whether to serve them chewy and pan-seared or crackly and deep-fried. Packed with pro-cooking tips, sauces to amp up any meal, sustainable sourcing advice, and over 100 delicious recipes, this book is your ticket to making the Chinese food of your dreams any night of the week.

It’s got J. Kenji’s seal of approval, which is all the recommendation anyone should need.

Red Hot Kitchen by Diana Kuan. ($14 hardcover)

Red Hot Kitchen by Diana Kuan. ($14 hardcover)

Red Hot Kitchen »

Know someone with an unhealthy obsession with spicy Asian food (if such a thing is even possible)? Set their imagination and tastebuds alight with Diana Kuan’s Red Hot Kitchen, a cookbook that dives into the fiery world of DIY Asian chili sauces:

From Thai Sriracha to Indonesian sambal to Korean gochujang and other fiery favorites, Asian chili sauces have become staples in restaurants and homes across America. They add a palate-pleasing subtle kick or a scorching burn to the stir-fries, appetizers, and noodle dishes so many people love. But until now, these tantalizing flavors haven’t been easy to recreate at home with fresh, all-natural ingredients.

Not only will your gift recipient be learning how to easily make 9 of the most flavorful sauces of their life — including the life-changing XO sauce, which New York Times food writer Sam Sifton calls “the truth” and a “fish-pong-fiery umami bomb that elevates all that it touches” — they’ll also be getting over 100 enticing and easy-to-follow companion dishes for those sauces.

  + More info in our original post.

Truly Mexican by Roberto Santibañez and JJ Goode. ($25 hardcover)

Truly Mexican by Roberto Santibañez and JJ Goode. ($25 hardcover)

Truly Mexican »

What about someone who can never get enough great Mexican food? Well, that’s where 2011 cookbook Truly Mexican comes in.

Written by James Beard Award-winning chef Roberto Santibañez and food writer JJ Goode, Truly Mexican features 128 authentic Mexican classics in all, from classics like tacos, enchiladas, and tamales to more advanced dishes like “Braised Short Ribs Adobo” and “Red Snapper Papillotes in Green Mole”.

It also covers a lot of helpful techniques you’ll need to know, along with info on tracking down true Mexican ingredients.

Mexican cuisine is an American favorite from coast to coast, but many people are too intimidated to try cooking real Mexican meals in their own kitchens. In Truly Mexican, Roberto Santibañez shows you that it’s the flavors that are complex, not the cooking. With effortless preparations and fresh, flavorful ingredients, Mexican home cooking can be simple and simply delicious.

An introduction to Mexican cooking covers the main ingredients as well as how they’re best prepared—from toasting tortillas to roasting tomatoes—and offers a few simple kitchen commandments that make great results a given. Recipes cover main dishes, sides, salsas, guacamoles, moles, adobos, and more.

Batch Cocktails by Maggie Hoffman. ($15 hardcover)

Batch Cocktails by Maggie Hoffman. ($15 hardcover)

Batch Cocktails »

You may already know the joys of advance meal prep, but have you considered applying that idea to making cocktails? Food writer and “Queen of Cocktails” Maggie Hoffman has a book called Batch Cocktails: Make-Ahead Pitcher Drinks for Every Occasion that wants you to put away the cocktail shaker and break out the pitcher instead.

The book contains 65 libations (including a few nonalcoholic ones) for a stress-free cocktail hour. They can be made days or even weeks in advance, so you can spend more time with your guests rather than mixing drinks at the last minute.

In true mixology fashion, many of the cocktails within have wonderful little names like “Double Down”, “Bitter Ex”, “All She Wrote”, “Bone Machine”, and “Poolside”.

* * *

Gadgets & Accessories

↑ Return to Table of Contents

The Nintendo Switch Lite mobile game console. ($200, available in gray, turquoise, and yellow)

The Nintendo Switch Lite mobile game console. ($200, available in gray, turquoise, and yellow)

The Nintendo Switch Lite »

Nintendo’s new Switch Lite is a smaller and more affordable version of the original Switch. It sports a unibody design with fully integrated controls rather than having Joy-Con controllers that separate from the device, so it’s only compatible with games that support handheld mode — i.e. no TV mode or tabletop mode.

On the plus side, you end up with a device that’s overall lighter, sturdier, and not as easy to lose components for. And, since it’s $100 less than the regular Switch, the Lite is a great alternative for families who may not want to drop a ton on a game console for their kid.

  + Before the Switch Lite launched, we published a guide full of handy accessories and games for it.

The ecobee SmartThermostat with Voice Control »

As the latest and greatest revision to their flagship device, ecobee’s fifth-generation SmartThermostat with Voice Control boasts a more premium outer build than before, with a slightly thinner body and a new crisp, glass-encased touchscreen display (versus the old plastic one) for better touch sensitivity, along with even more significant updates under the hood.


On top of the internal upgrades, the ecobee’s newly designed (almost to a cute degree) remote SmartSensors — one of which is included in the main package — have been overhauled to be more powerful than the previous generation, with wide-angle detection of motion and temperature, and a new Bluetooth pairing range of 60 feet.

Anker's Nebula Mars II portable projector. ($500)

Anker’s Nebula Mars II portable projector. ($500)

Anker “Nebula Mars II” Portable Projector »

The awesomely named Nebula Mars II is a portable mini projector by Anker that’s perfect for casual streaming and movie watching, wherever you put it. At only 720p, this isn’t the kind of thing you’d use in a high-end home media center setup; it’s more for those of us who like to throw a Netflix show on from time to time.

It’s about the size of a Bluetooth speaker — which it actually can be used for when you’re not watching something — so you can take it from room to room, or move it around within a room, no problem. The cool part is that it’ll automatically correct the image after being moved, both in terms of picture focus and accounting for the “keystone” angling effect. You don’t have to fiddle with settings every time you set it up, it just works.

The dual 10-watt speakers (one on either side) offer a rich, room-filling level of audio on their own, but if you want, you can still connect to external speakers with a 3.5mm cable or via Bluetooth. When you’re not plugged into a wall outlet, the Nebula Mars II’s rechargeable 12,500mAh battery provides about 4 hours of video playback.

The Raspberry Pi 4 mini-computer. ($53 for 1GB RAM, $63 for 2GB RAM, and $73 for 4GB RAM)

The Raspberry Pi 4 mini-computer. ($53 for 1GB RAM, $63 for 2GB RAM, and $73 for 4GB RAM)

The Raspberry Pi 4 Basic Kit by CanaKit »

This past summer, the geek web got a pleasant surprise with the release of the Raspberry Pi 4, which wasn’t expected to be released until 2020. This version of the famously hackable mini-computer comes with enough upgrades that it can finally be considered a budget PC option, and one that can still fit in your pocket.

Improvements over the previous generation include a faster processor, up to 4GB of RAM, full-throughput gigabit ethernet, dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and more. We’ve got the full rundown of specs and buying options in our original post.

Amazon's 2019 Kindle Oasis ebook reader. (from $250)

Amazon’s 2019 Kindle Oasis ebook reader. (from $250)

The 2019 Amazon Kindle Oasis »

This year’s edition of Amazon’s top-of-the-line e-reader is virtually the same as the 2017 model but for one new feature: The display now sports an adjustable warm light that you can change the “temperature” of — from white to amber — so it’s comfortable to read in any lighting.

Like the previous model, the 2019 Kindle Oasis has the same 7″ 300ppi e-ink display and IPX8 waterproofing, plus an adaptive front light and support for Audible audiobooks. Really, the one weird choice they made this year was to stick with micro-USB charging rather than switching to the faster USB-C.

Check out that yummy Champagne Gold color though 🤩

Check out that yummy Champagne Gold color though 🤩

iOttie “Auto Sense” Automatic Clamping Phone Car Mount and Qi Charger »

Ready for something cool? iOttie’s “Auto Sense” car phone mount has a proximity sensor that knows when a phone is headed its way, causing its arms to open and close automatically as you set the device in there one-handed. Seriously, look at it:

What’s more, once your phone’s securely cradled, the built-in Qi wireless charger pad starts charging any capable smartphone (up to 3.6″), so you don’t have to futz around with a cable every time you put the phone in or take it out.

* * *

Photo: Riho Kroll

Photo: Riho Kroll

Games & Puzzles

↑ Return to Table of Contents

Dixit storytelling card game. ($21)

Dixit storytelling card game. ($21)

Dixit Storytelling Card Game »

In case you’ve never heard of it in the past decade-plus, Dixit is a lighthearted, fast-to-complete party card game with an emphasis on imaginative storytelling. Literally, players take turns being the storyteller.

The [game’s wiki][dw] describes the basic gameplay pretty succinctly, and we have more details on it in our original post. To make a long story short though, Dixit is a creative blast for the whole family, and they’ve got a number of expansions to keep things fresh for a long time.

Clemens Habicht's “1000 Changing Colors” jigsaw puzzle. ($89)

Clemens Habicht’s “1000 Changing Colors” jigsaw puzzle. ($89)

Clemens Habicht “1000 Changing Colors” Puzzle »

If you or someone you know likes a challenge, check out the insane “1000 Changing Colors” puzzle designed by artist Clemens Habicht. It’s printed with a lenticular lens to create an iridescent/holographic effect where the colors change at different angles.

The effect is gorgeous to look at…

…but all the more challenging for it, as explained by Redditor u/puzzlecolornerd:

I do not recommend gifting this to anyone who is colorblind unless they’ve wronged you in some extreme manner.

  + Of similar challenge is the solid-color Ravensburger “Krypt” puzzle.

8Bit Deck pixel art playing cards. ($15 + shipping)

8Bit Deck pixel art playing cards. ($15 + shipping)

The 8Bit Deck »

The 8Bit Deck is a pixel art playing deck inspired by the PICO-8 fantasy console system. Every card and the tuck box were designed pixel-by-pixel using the Aseprite sprite editor, with all card text rendered in the fantastically retro PICO-8 font.


Forbidden Island co-op card adventure game. ($14)

Forbidden Island co-op card adventure game. ($14)

Forbidden Island Card Game »

Whereas most board games are about competition and destroying your opponents, Forbidden Island is a card game that takes a different approach by having 2 to 4 players form a team of adventurers who must work together to recover four treasures and escape by helicopter before the island sinks under the ever-rising sea.

  + You can read more details about this awesome game here. Also check out the “sequel”, Forbidden Desert.

“The Moon” jigsaw by Four Point Puzzles. ($25)

“The Moon” jigsaw by Four Point Puzzles. ($25)

“The Moon” Jigsaw Puzzle by Four Point Puzzles »

Four Point Puzzles’ challenging 1,000-piece jigsaw of the Moon is based on an image from NASA that shows the near side of our sister celestial object in superb detail — right down to the tiniest craters. No two pieces are exactly the same shape, so this is a puzzle you can spend a good chunk of time on.


The completed puzzle measures 26.5″ (67cm) in diameter and would make a fantastic wall display piece if you decide to frame it.

Turing Tumble ($70 for the standard kit; as of this writing, the game is still unavailable on Amazon)

Turing Tumble ($70 for the standard kit; as of this writing, the game is still unavailable on Amazon)

Turing Tumble Marble-Powered Computer Game/Kit »

Programming and generally knowing how computers “think” are other types of skills kids will be expected to have in the coming years, and Turing Tumble is a really cool game that should get them started on the right track.

With just the included marbles and other components, along with the game board itself, players get to build simple marble-powered computers (akin to that “Plinko” game on The Price is Right) in order to solve a series of logic puzzles — no electronics required.

It’s crazy what you can do with simple switches connected together in clever ways.

  + Read our original post here.

* * *

Style, Grooming, & Everyday Carry

↑ Return to Table of Contents

Wool & Prince's Heavy Crew Neck sweatshirts. ($118, available in black and navy)

Wool & Prince’s Heavy Crew Neck sweatshirts. ($118, available in black and navy)

Wool & Prince Heavy Crew Neck Sweatshirts »

Fellas, we’ve all received a terrible sweater or two in our day. Let’s avoid those false “I love it”s with the minimally stylish Heavy Crew Neck sweatshirts by Wool & Prince.

These guys are known for being obsessive about merino wool, and the Heavy Crews are no different. Sporting a soft 78/22 blend of merino wool and nylon with a 300 GSM weight, these versatile long-sleeved shirts are as comfy as any tee you can think of, yet heavy and warm enough to be worn as casual sweaters in the fall or as base layers in winter.

Wear one on brisk morning jogs, layer it over a button-down at the office…they really work for anything.

Marram Co. brush & bowl shaving set. (€175 / ~$194 USD)

Marram Co. brush & bowl shaving set. (€175 / ~$194 USD)

Marram Co. Brush & Bowl Shaving Set »

A luxurious shave starts with first-class implements. Marram Co.’s handsome Brush & Bowl Set will help round out your shave kit and make you the envy of your house guests. It includes:

  + The Brush — A weighty, sturdy tool made from solid brass and plated in ammunition-grade chrome, with soft bristles made of silvertip badger hair and a handle finished in high-grade black rubber for excellent grip, even when wet.

  + The Bowl — This tall, uniquely shaped bowl fits well in the hand and is made from two layers of metal: The outer layer is spun from solid brass before being chrome-plated with a high-gloss finish, while the inner dish is brushed in a way that creates lather-maximizing friction with the brush.

When you’re not using the set, the brush docks perfectly onto the bowl lid, creating a kind of sharp, statuesque look wherever it’s stored.

Spyderco “Manix 2” folding knife in Midnight Blue. ($145)

Spyderco “Manix 2” folding knife in Midnight Blue. ($145)

Spyderco’s Midnight Blue “Manix 2” Folding Knife »

Everybody should own a good, trusty knife — they’re just so handy to have around when you need to open packages, cut cords, and more. In addition to its gorgeous midnight blue coloring, Spyderco’s massively successful Manix 2 tactical knife is a must-have in any collection. Take good care of it and you’ll have a lifelong companion.

  + There are other colors of this knife available, we just like how classy the midnight blue looks. Black-handled knives are so… typical (though there are beautiful examples of those as well).

Dango D01 pen wallet. ($109)

Dango D01 pen wallet. ($109)

Dango D01 Dapper Bifold Pen Wallet »

Equipped with an aerospace-grade custom aluminum pen and a 48-page dot-grid notebook, Dango’s D01 “Dapper” pen bifold will be there whenever you need to jot down your thoughts, ideas, and to-do lists. Also holds up to 16 cards and has a built-in bottle opener on the anodized aluminum frame.

  + More info and photos in our original post.

Acqua di Giò Profumo cologne. ($96 for 4.2 fl oz bottle)

Acqua di Giò Profumo cologne. ($96 for 4.2 fl oz bottle)

Acqua di Giò “Profumo” Cologne »

If the original Acqua di Giò is a light, floral, and even sunny scent, then Profumo is the darker, more mature cousin destined for summer nights and chilly weather. As noted by Fragrantica, Profumo “symbolizes the merging of sea waves with black rocks.”

It shares some of the same aquatic, citrusy notes as its predecessor, but also with deeper tones like bergamot, geranium, sage, rosemary, and just a touch of incense. This is one that still gets compliments 8–10 hours after spraying.

The PocKit EDC organizer. ($40–$50 depending on style)

The PocKit EDC organizer. ($40–$50 depending on style)

Yellow Birch Outfitters “PocKit” and “PocKit Pro” EDC Organizers »

For those who are guilty of toting too many bits and bobs in their pockets every day, an organizer pouch like the “PocKit” by Yellow Birch Outfitters offers a simple, effective, and ingenious way of organizing all those things in one place. That way, there’s just one piece of gear to slip in and out of your pocket each morning and evening, rather than dumping out a myriad of individual items.

Measuring 4″ x 6″ in most cases and handcrafted from water-resistant 1000d Cordura nylon — which is sewn with mil-spec nylon #69 thread and edged with mil-spec tape — the PocKit comes in four main styles, which we detail in our original post alongside some helpful photos.

* * *

Tools & Trinkets

↑ Return to Table of Contents

Irwin VISE-GRIP 2078300 wire stripper. ($15)

Irwin VISE-GRIP 2078300 wire stripper. ($15)

Irwin Tools VISE-GRIP Self-Adjusting Wire Stripper »

The VISE-GRIP 2078300 by Irwin Tools is among the best in the wire stripper field — maybe even the gold standard.

It automatically adjusts to wire gauges between 10–24 AWG, so you don’t have to keep resetting it for different wires. It also has a little adjustable stopper you can slide left or right to lock in the length of sheath being stripped off, which is super handy if you have a bunch of the same type of wire to deal with on a job and you want them all to be stripped evenly and efficiently — you can just go down the whole line one after the next, bam-bam-bam.

Since you’ll often need to crimp connectors and terminals while working with this stuff, you’ll be glad to know this tool has a built-in crimper that crimps 10 to 22 AWG (insulated or non-insulated), as well as 7–9mm terminals.

Korbo's handwoven steel wire baskets. (€99–€290 / ~$110–$322 USD, depending on size and material)

Korbo’s handwoven steel wire baskets. (€99–€290 / ~$110–$322 USD, depending on size and material)

Korbo “Classic Series” Laundry Baskets »

Swedish company Korbo has been making handwoven wire baskets since 1922, and are still doing it with the exact same technique today. These baskets were the kinds of things used and trusted by Swedish fishermen, farmers, and laborers a century ago, because they had to hold up to time, the elements, and all kinds of heavy duty work.

What makes them so incredibly durable is that they’re carefully woven by a craftsman’s own hand from a single long steel wire, without any welding. Because of that, there are simply no parts of the basket that can fall apart. Add a specially made cloth laundry bag and you’ve got the most durable hamper you’ll ever use.

  + If the official Korbo site is ever out of a particular thing, try Rejuvenation and Finnish Design Shop.

Anvil Rings guitar string ring. ($95 for black tungsten, $155 for titanium)

Anvil Rings guitar string ring. ($95 for black tungsten, $155 for titanium)

Anvil Rings’ “Guitar String” Ring »

Got a musician in your life? They’ll appreciate these stylish rings that each feature an offset phosphor bronze guitar string inlay — specifically, a low ‘E’ string — with a lustrous color that contrasts beautifully with the surrounding ring metal. Perfect as an engagement/wedding ring.

They’ve got two main colors to choose from:

  1. Titanium ($310 $155 as of this writing) — Made from jewelers grade 5 6AL-4V brushed titanium and sealed on the inlay with titanium aircraft adhesive before being polished with beeswax.
  2. Black Tungsten ($190 $95 as of this writing) — Made from jewelers grade tungsten carbide, which is hard enough to cut steel and will never fade.

Best Made Co.'s 15" toolbox. ($88)

Best Made Co.’s 15″ toolbox. ($88)

Best Made 15″ Toolbox »

Best Made’s vintage-styled, single-latch 15″ toolbox is about as classic as it gets. Built and spot welded by hand out of 22-gauge powder-coated steel right here in the USA, this toolbox offers a nice open space to store workshop tools, art supplies, fishing gear, or any other odds and ends lying around.


It measures 15.125″ x 7″ x 5.625″ and comes in your choice of red, navy, or matte black.

MecArmy's titanium alloy screwdriver sets. ($160 for the circular-head SDG1 set, $150 for the square-head SDG2)

MecArmy’s titanium alloy screwdriver sets. ($160 for the circular-head SDG1 set, $150 for the square-head SDG2)

MecArmy SDG1 and SDG2 Titanium Screwdriver Sets »

MecArmy’s SDG1 and SDG2 titanium alloy screwdriver sets each feature a single mini-screwdriver — with a circular or square-shaped bearing head, respectively — and a knurled grip, alongside 33 interchangeable bits, all contained in a waterproof 500D Cordura nylon pouch (with YKK zipper) that’s easy to carry anywhere.

That bearing on top allows the screwdriver to double as a spinning fidget toy:

Vintage-styled copper lighter. ($27 in either brass or silver colors)

Vintage-styled copper lighter. ($27 in either brass or silver colors)

Honest Vintage-Style Copper Lighter »

If we were going to get someone a vintage-style lighter as something of a novelty gift,this would be it. It’s got a bit of a steampunk vibe and feels wonderfully hefty in the hand and pocket. It even comes in a nice wooden box and includes a carry pouch, so it’s already primed for gifting to a best man, your dad, or whoever else you think will appreciate this classic-looking (and quite functional!) tool.

* * *

Photo: Nik Jones

Photo: Nik Jones

Toys & Kids

↑ Return to Table of Contents

littleBits Space Rover kit. ($106)

littleBits Space Rover kit. ($106)

littleBits Space Rover Inventor Kit »

littleBits’ Space Rover Inventor Kit is a STEM-friendly toy that lets creative kids build and customize a planetary rover, then undertake hours of missions inspired by NASA astronauts.

This short video covers it pretty well:

Once assembled, you can pair the rover with the free littleBits app — also compatible with the Electronic Music Inventor Kit and Base Inventor Kit — to give the little guy new abilities, like collecting specimens, detecting alien life, powering up via solar panels, breaking through obstacles, and more.

The OneSky Reflector Telescope by Astronomers Without Borders. ($200)

The OneSky Reflector Telescope by Astronomers Without Borders. ($200)

AWB OneSky Reflector Telescope »

The AWB Onesky reflector telescope is a surprisingly high quality stargazing tool for its price point, with proceeds going to an excellent cause. It’s designed for beginner astronomers who prefer to learn the ins and outs of stargazing in a more hands-on way, rather than passively opening the box and getting straight to it and thereby skipping a rather educational aspect of the experience.

The OneSky Reflector is lightweight, portable, and easy to put together. As long as you’re okay with the thought of manually aligning (AKA “collimating”) the OneSky’s mirrors, you’re sure to have an awesome time viewing celestial objects afterward.

  + Read our original post here.

Disney and Bandai's Toy Story-themed mecha sets. (~$140 each)

Disney and Bandai’s Toy Story-themed mecha sets. (~$140 each)

Disney + Bandai Toy Story “Chogokin” Mecha Toys »

Created through a team-up between Disney and Bandai, this pair of Toy Story-themed toy sets have components that combine into giant mecha robots, à la Voltron and Power Rangers Megazords. Respectively, they are:

  1. Woody / “Robo Sheriff Star” ($140)


  2. Buzz Lightyear / “Space Ranger Robo” ($134)


And it gets even better: If you own both mechas, you can combine the two of them into an even bigger robot, the awesomely named “Super Combination Gangreat King”:


I mean, COME ON. How awesome is that?! As if that weren’t enough, you can round out your Disney mecha collection with the “Mickey & Friends” model ($276) that involves Mickey, Minnie, Donald Duck, and more:


LEGO brick separator tool. ($6 for a pack of 8)

LEGO brick separator tool. ($6 for a pack of 8)

LEGO Brick Separator Tool »

LEGO enthusiasts know all too well how difficult some pieces can be to take apart. If you’ve ever dealt with that kind of frustration yourself, fear not, because the LEGO Brick Separator Tool is here to save the day (and your fingernails). It’s a miracle worker when it comes to separating bricks of all shapes and sizes, from tiles to plates to axles and beyond.

This video shows the various ways it can be used:

The 8-pack comes out to less than a buck apiece, and you’ll have plenty of backups in case you lose any.

HEXBUG nano Space Cosmic Command set. ($40)

HEXBUG nano Space Cosmic Command set. ($40)

HEXBUG nano Space “Cosmic Command” Playset »

The HEXBUG nano Space Cosmic Command playset is a totally interactive and modular scene set aboard an outer space mission base, with plenty of activities and features to keep the self-propelled “nano” bug critters busy — two of which are included, though you can of course add your own.

It’s got a rocket ship, a “gravity trainer” gyroscope, an airlock passage, space suits for the bugs to wear, customizable rovers they can drive, an elevator, and more. It’ll take a while before you run out of things to try here, and the amount of detail in the set is pretty impressive.

PIPEROID paper pipe robot kits. ($16 each)

PIPEROID paper pipe robot kits. ($16 each)

PIPEROID Paper Pipe Robot Kits »

PIPEROID is a Japanese company known mostly for their robot character paper craft kits. They’ve got a whole bunch of these things to choose from, each of which is super easy to build — you just have to cut apart the paper tubes that come in the package and assemble the robot using the pre-punched holes. No glue or tape necessary.

When you’re done, you’ve got a little buddy (or set of buddies) that add a bit of personality to any space you display them in. The bots can each be posed in various ways, so with a little inventiveness you can create fun little scenes or simply play with them.

  + More photos and links in our original post.

* * *

Travel & Outdoors

↑ Return to Table of Contents

Fjällräven passport wallet. ($60, available in a variety of colors)

Fjällräven passport wallet. ($60, available in a variety of colors)

Fjällräven Passport Wallet »

Fjällräven’s Passport Wallet is a practical and durable travel wallet in a slim format with room for cards, cash, coins, and of course, a passport or two.


It’s made from the company’ own G-1000 fabric, a tightly woven, hardwearing 65/35 blend of polyester and cotton that’s been treated with Greenland Wax for protection against water (and wind as well, but that’s not so much a critical feature for wallets).

The wallet fits two passports up to 125mm x 90mm (~ 4.9″ x 3.5″) and boasts some nice details throughout, like the “reverse coil” YKK zipper that hides its teeth from sight for a sleeker appearance.

TopElek Rechargeable LED Book Light »

Whether you like to read on a flight while your seatmate sleeps, or you have a kid who likes to read to themselves at night on road trips, you’ll get a lot of use out of this rechargeable book light, which has three brightness/warmth settings you can click through.

The clamp on the end has a pretty strong hold, so there’s no concern of it falling off while reading or adjusting the flexible gooseneck for a better angle. There’s also a semi-flexible bit on the clamp that allows it to work well with books of varying thickness, or as a nightlight while clipped onto a table or other surface. It can even stand upright on its own, which is handy.

GSI Outdoors' JavaPress coffee press + travel mug. ($30)

GSI Outdoors’ JavaPress coffee press + travel mug. ($30)

GSI Outdoors “Commuter JavaPress” French Press Travel Mug »

While the Palmpress we mentioned earlier is a quite portable way to press coffee in hotels and such, GSI Outdoors’ Commuter JavaPress is even more travel-friendly, as it’s essentially a French press (or perhaps more aptly, an AeroPress) that you can drink out of after brewing.

Not only is the brewing process a cinch, the JavaPress alos excels as a travel mug, with its spill-resistant top, sealable spout, non-slip “foot” that helps keep it upright, and the ballistic cloth-wrapped foam cozy sleeve that insulates both your hands and the coffee inside for a secure grip.

  + More info and links to other sizes in our original post.

WANDRD travel journal. ($35 in black or yellow)

WANDRD travel journal. ($35 in black or yellow)

WANDRD Travel Journal Notebook »

WANDRD’s handy little Travel Journal Notebook is a superb way to keep your travel plans organized so you have greater peace of mind and can thus be in the moment and enjoy your adventures more.

It’s where you’ll track and organize all the necessary logistics — research ideas, packing notes, budgets, pre-trip checklists, reservations, itineraries, et al. But more than that, it also acts as a travel log where you can record your experiences and trip highlights for posterity.

  + More info and photos in our original post.

MIU COLOR waterproof and sandproof picnic blanket. ($17; available in three colors/patterns)

MIU COLOR waterproof and sandproof picnic blanket. ($17; available in three colors/patterns)

MIU COLOR Large Picnic Blanket »

Having a picnic is one of those things that always sounds like a good idea on paper, until you find yourself putting one of your nice home blankets on wet or sandy ground, making the whole experience kinda blegh and leading to more laundry you have to do when you get home.

Forget all that and pick up a waterproof, sandproof outdoor blanket like this one instead. Measuring an ample 6.5′ x 5′ when fully open and a compact 12.5” x 7.5” when folded, it’s large enough for a group to sit on together and small enough for a backpack. Not that you necessarily need a backpack to keep it contained, since the flap at the end securely velcros the blanket together after folding and provides a convenient carrying handle.

Hawk Zing foldable chopsticks. ($11 for ebony, $10 for rosewood; double-pairs are also available for $15)

Hawk Zing foldable chopsticks. ($11 for ebony, $10 for rosewood; double-pairs are also available for $15)

Hawk Zing Foldable Portable Chopsticks »

Hawk Zing’s foldable wooden chopsticks twist together or apart using the built-in threaded copper bits. That way, they’re easy to keep in a bag and are always on hand when you’re out to eat and would rather not waste disposable chopsticks. Just don’t leave them soaking in water too long.

The chopsticks come with a roll-up carrying sleeve with a carabiner for clipping onto your bag while traveling, camping, etc:


* * *

Writing & Stationery

↑ Return to Table of Contents

Studio Neat's Totebook softcover notebook. ($20 per two-pack)

Studio Neat’s Totebook softcover notebook. ($20 per two-pack)

Studio Neat Totebook »

This notebook is fabulous. I got an early edition and it’s the nicest soft-cover notebook I’ve ever seen or used. 👍👍

Shawn Blanc

Intended to be something of a portable companion to their previous Panobook — which was always meant to be left on your desk, not taken around with you — Studio Neat’s softcover “Totebook” is small, thin as a pencil, and flexible, so it’s perfect for tucking into your bag and having on hand whenever you need to jot down your thoughts or sketch when the inspiration strikes.

The Totebook lays flat when open, and its 40 soft white pages carry a dot grid with subtle guide markers for divvying up the layout of each page in various ways. The last 8 of those pages are quad-perforated, so you can just remove a portion of the page for easy sharing or safekeeping.

  + More info, photos, and more in our original post.

Nock Co. Lanier A5 pouch. ($35)

Nock Co. Lanier A5 pouch. ($35)

The Lanier A5 Pouch by Nock Co. »

Originally included only with their Lanier briefcase, Nock Co.’s durable and water-repellant Lanier A5 pouch can now be purchased as a standalone accessory, sized to fit your most portable stationery goods. It’s the ideal size for carrying into meetings to take notes or bringing with you on lunch breaks to do some sketching.

The main compartment is sized to fit 200+ pages’ worth of hardcover A5 notebooks (or multiple softcover notebooks), while the two interior side pockets are where you can stash several writing utensils, index cards, pocket notebooks (ahem), that sort of thing. You can also use the pouch to carry, say, a smaller iPad or Kindle.

NITECORE titanium tactical pen. ($120)

NITECORE titanium tactical pen. ($120)

NITECORE NTP30 Titanium Tactical Pen »

NITECORE, a company mostly known for making great flashlights, also make a series of titanium pens like the NTP30.

This is a tactical pen that doesn’t look like one. At first glance people would assume you’ve simply got great taste in pens, but by sliding the bolt upward in its L-shaped groove, the pen reveals a small tungsten steel spike that’s hard and sharp enough to cut metal. Great for breaking glass in an emergency, or as a surprise self-defense weapon.

As a writing implement, the NTP30 serves its purpose well. It’s lightweight, feels great in the hand, doesn’t slide in your fingers as you write, and writes smoothly enough. It comes with a trusty Schneider Gelion 39 rollerball refill but works with any Parker-style refills, in case you have a preference there.

CW Pencils crossword sampler set. ($12)

CW Pencils crossword sampler set. ($12)

CW Pencil Enterprise’s Crossword Puzzle Sampler Set »

Crossword puzzles (even mini ones) are a nice little way to pass the time that doesn’t involve staring at a screen. Unless you fill each one perfectly though, we don’t recommend using a pen because you’ll be scribbling out mistakes and writing above them a lot.

What you need is a good pencil, and CW Pencil Enterprise offers a whole set of them hand-picked for this purpose. It includes 6 pencils specially tested for magazine paper and newsprint, each with its own strengths and writing feel. The little envelope the pencils arrive in works nicely as a way to store them.

TWSBI ECO Transparent Orange fountain pen. ($32; comes in a variety of nib sizes)

TWSBI ECO Transparent Orange fountain pen. ($32; comes in a variety of nib sizes)

TWSBI ECO “Transparent Orange” Fountain Pen »

TWSBI’s ECO “Transparent” fountain pen lineup includes the Transparent Orange model. Like others in the line, this piston-filler pen sports a bright-colored cap and barrel end, so it’s always easy to spot wherever you set it down.

The clear demonstrator barrel shows off the pen’s generous ink reservoir capacity, and when filled with an appropriately orange ink — which is super easy to do, just dip the nib into your choice of ink and twist the end cap to pull the ink inside — it becomes a beautiful conversation starter.

Inventery's Mechanical Pen + Stand collection. ($50–$90 per pen depending on size, and $50 per stand — all available in three colors)

Inventery’s Mechanical Pen + Stand collection. ($50–$90 per pen depending on size, and $50 per stand — all available in three colors)

Inventery’s Brass “Mechanical Pen” + Stand Collection »

Inventery’s solid brass pen + stand collection isn’t something to be kept hidden in a drawer somewhere, but rather proudly displayed.

Each pen comes from a single brass rod for unibody construction, and each is outfitted with an all-brass Schmidt mechanism (rather than a cheap plastic one), offering a smooth, quiet click that feels phenomenal.

The weighted stands are similarly machined out of solid stock brass, and are more than capable of holding your pen upright on their own. However, they are lined on the bottom with 3M double-faced adhesive that may optionally be used for extra security.

* * *


At Tools & Toys we have always donated 11% of our gross income to charity. If you click this link before you do your shopping on Amazon, we’ll be donating 11% of our affiliate earnings for the months of November and December specifically to the three charities listed below.

We also encourage you to consider making some charitable donations this year, and invite you to give alongside us to these three organizations:

  • St. Jude Children’s Hospital: St. Jude is unlike any other pediatric treatment and research facility. Discoveries made at St. Jude have completely changed how the world treats children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases. Moreover, their hospital has been described as “a hospital without walls” where children in need are treated at no cost to their family.

  • Operation Christmas Child: Samaritan’s purse is a Christian ministry, and every year they work with volunteers and donors from around the nation to pack and ship shoe boxes full of gifts to children in need around the globe.

  • App Camp for Girls: App Camp For Girls is a place where girls can put their creative powers to work, designing and building apps, while learning more about the business of software and being inspired by women mentors in the field. This is an organization we proudly support as they spread the message that women play a vital role in the technology field and offer a significant contribution.

↑ Return to Table of Contents