Salutations, dear reader! Welcome to our 2023 Christmas Catalog, which I am dubbing the “Relatively Shorter and Sweeter Edition.”
You see, in recent years the scope of this annual holiday gift guide has reached somewhat…extravagant heights. And while it’s always a lot of fun to put together, it’s an extremely time-consuming task for one person to compile, curate, edit, and publish. Unfortunately for yours truly, that kind of time simply hasn’t been there these past few months.
However! I can’t let even a difficult season of life stop me from offering our loyal readers a handy list of great gift ideas. This is one of our most beloved and time-honored traditions, and uphold it I shall, even if I have to simplify the format quite a bit.
With all that said, here are nearly three-dozen fun and useful gifts for 8 different types of people you can click through in the table of contents below.
Find a Gift For…
💡 For Creative Types:
- Kalimba ($46) — Much like a ukelele and steel tongue drum, picking up a kalimba (aka “thumb piano”) is an easy and fun way to pluck out some soothing tunes whenever the urge strikes, and this one is a beautiful instrument with a glossy flat board made from solid rosewood.
- The Creative Act: A Way of Being by Rick Rubin ($18 hardcover) — If there’s anyone alive whose brain is worth picking about the creative process, it’s Rick Rubin. The legendary and award-winning music “superproducer” released a book this year that takes a bunch of his wisdom and distills it on the page for the rest of us to learn from and be inspired by. You’ll not only learn how to get better at your craft, but also come away feeling more in tune with your own humanity.
- Magnetic putty pebbles ($35) — Sometimes you just need a way to get the creative juices flowing, and the best way is to actually occupy your attention with something else for a while. This so-called “ferrite putty” is super fun and sensory for your hands to play with, freeing your mind to do its work in the background.
- Wooden yarn bowl ($27) — Knitting is another way to occupy your hands (or simply relieve stress), and once you take up this hobby, you quickly realize the importance of keeping the yarn in place while you work. A yarn bowl cleverly takes care of that pesky issue, and makes moving your project around from room to room a bit easier besides.
⚙️ For Gadget Lovers:
- Retro gaming mechanical keyboard ($100) — Somewhere within the Geek Venn Diagram™ there is a particular spot where the circles of “mechanical keyboards” and “retro gaming” overlap. Every person who lives in that segment should have 8BitDo’s Retro Mechanical Keyboard at their fingertips, featuring two designs inspired by the classic Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and Family Computer (Famicom) gaming consoles, respectively.
Light-up word clock ($29) — Any old clock can give you the time with analog hands or digital numbers, but how many will tell you what time it is in full sentences? That’s right, the Word Clock from Sharper Image is a unique alternative to normal clocks, presenting the time in phrases like “It is five minutes past eleven” or “It is twenty minutes to nine”. It’s a bit like a flip sign board in miniature.
- Alternative gift idea: The LaMetric TIME Wi-Fi Smart Clock.
- Portable vinyl turntable ($199) — Audio-Technica’s cult classic “Sound Burger” portable record player from 1983 has made a comeback, and it not only brings all the 40-year nostalgia, portability, and unique listening experience of the original model but also features modern aspects like Bluetooth connectivity and USB-C charging.
- Temperature-changing massage gun ($88) — Whether it’s because you sit at a desk all day or you have an intense workout regime, having sore and/or tense muscles is an issue that demands direct attention. We’ve previously recommended a great little massage gun to work out muscle knots, but if you want to go a step further, you can get one with a temperature-controlled head that can be heated or cooled for a more therapeutic experience.
☕️ For Coffee Obsessives:
- Gaggia Classic Pro espresso machine ($499) — The GCP is often touted as the starter machine for budding espresso enthusiasts, and it’s hard to disagree. Gaggia first introduced the original Classic model in 1991, and over 30 years later, its successor holds up that reputation as a reliable workhorse. Don’t let its beginner-friendly reputation fool you however, because it definitely has the capability of being an “endgame” espresso machine.
- Clear AeroPress ($50) — We’ve written so many words about the AeroPress coffee maker over the years, from brewing recipes to the best attachments and accessories and beyond. So, I won’t repeat what you probably already know about the thing — all I’ll say is that if you’ve never liked the dull gray or brown color of the more recent AeroPress models, you’ll be glad to know there’s finally a crystal clear version available once again! And this time, it’s made of BPA-free shatterproof Tritan plastic.
- Manual coffee grinder for press and pour-over brews ($69) — For any coffee drinkers hoping to obtain a hand grinder this holiday season, the Timemore Chestnut C2 is the “new” hotness that makes our old favorite feel almost like a toy. It grinds faster and more efficiently, the crank handle feels smoother and sturdier to use, and the catch container screws into place rather than being held on with friction, so you don’t have to spend effort holding the pieces together as you grind.
- Kintsugi cups (£29 / ~$37 USD) — Inspired by the old Japanese art of restoration ceramcs, these espresso and tea cups are beautiful and each one is totally unique in pattern. They aren’t true kintsugi since they’re merely decoratively painted with gold rather than being broken pieces joined together, but they do pull off the look well.
🛠️ For Handypeople:
Nigh-indestructible tool box ($105) — When a job calls for the toughest, most indestructible tool storage you can get your hands on, Milwaukee’s PACKOUT Large Tool Box is there to endure whatever is thrown its way. It boasts an impact-resistant body with metal-reinforced corners — along with a metal-reinforced carry handle and heavy duty latches — that can hold up to 100 lbs of weight. It also has an IP65-rated weather seal to keep out rain and worksite debris.
What makes the PACKOUT series of tool boxes even more awesome is that all the various sizes/styles feature integrated locking cleats, so they can be stacked and securely connected together into one modular rolling tool transport system.
- X-Acto knife set ($23) — All craftspeople, handyworkers, and hobbyists should have at least one X-Acto blade in their toolkit, and the X-Acto Basic Knife Set is a great way to collect every variation of it in one go. It comes with three knives — one for precision cutting, one for trimming/cutting medium- to heavy-weight materials, and one just for cutting heavy materials — plus ten more assorted blade styles, all in a conveniently giftable and transportable carry case.
- The steel revolving frame makes it easier to maintain a single bead of caulk/sealant around corners or in tight/hard-to-reach spaces. Simply rotate the barrel with your non-trigger hand as you work.
- It uses a smooth rod plunger mechanism rather than the old-school ratchet style, giving it an 18:1 thrust ratio instead of a measly 6:1 or 5:1. What this means for you is, it takes way less effort to extrude caulk from the tube, giving you much more control over the smoothness of the bead and helping prevent hand fatigue.
- Multi-tool pens ($25) — Perfect for that DIYer who wouldn’t mind feeling like James Bond or MacGyver now and again, the RAK Multi-Tool Pen Set is a pair of retractable ballpoint pens (both made from robust military-grade aluminum) that each double as a collection of little tools for handling small tasks anywhere, including a bright LED light, bubble levels, Phillips and flathead screwdrivers, and more.
🥘 For Home Cooks & Grillmasters:
- Hand-hammered carbon steel wok ($52) — In the right hands, a well made wok can be the most versatile and awesome piece of cookware in your collection. On a busy weeknight, nothing beats tossing some oil and a bunch of ingredients you have on hand into a blazing hot wok and stir-frying up a flavorful dinner in a half-hour or less. With time and use, it develops a wonderful nonstick patina that only gets better the more it’s cooked on.
Instant-read cooking thermometer ($15) — At some point you may have learned about the palm “trick” that’s supposed to help you figure out how done your steak is. However, it’s been shown time and time again that this is a wildly inaccurate test and should never be relied on.
What you want instead is an instant-read thermometer. There’s simply no better or more affordable way to get a fast and easy read on what’s happening in the center of the food you’re cooking, whether it’s steak, chicken, fish, or even bread.
- Cast iron bread oven & loaf pan ($140) — A much more affordable alternative to the much-desired Challenger Bread Pan that works just as well, this generous-sized oblong bread pan is awesome for cranking out bâtards and boules to your heart’s content, with a well-fitted lid to seal in that all-important baking factor: steam.
- Portable induction cooktop ($68) — Perfect for any small space or travel setup, this induction hob heats fast and is easy to customize. To give you an idea of the speed, let’s just say you can forget any notions you have about pre-heating skillets — if you step away for even a minute, you’ll likely come back to a pan that’s too hot to melt butter without browning it. Think of it as microwave-fast.
🤵♂️ For the Well-Appointed Gentleman:
Safety razor set ($8) — As we’ve said in previous posts on the subject, a man should see the daily act of shaving as a calming and enjoyable ritual, not a chore. And it should never be done with some throwaway plastic razor that will end up in a landfill for literally centuries alongside billions of others.
Instead, we recommend a good double-edge safety razor like the Baili BD176. On top of providing a very smooth, close shave with minimal risk of nicking (provided you approach the task with care), you (or your gift recipient) will absolutely feel more manly shaving with one of these. Might even make grandpa proud as well.
Pocket mustache/beard brush ($17) — ZilberHaar’s pocket-sized beard and mustache brushis a travel-friendly grooming tool that keeps your facial hair in line whether you’re standing in line or jet-setting elsewhere. Each one is made in Germany using sustainably forested pearwood and 100% boar bristles (in your choice of soft or stiff).
Whichever bristles you go with, they’ll do a fantastic job of untangling beard hairs and reaching through to the skin underneath, both exfoliating the skin and ensuring full distribution of your favorite beard oil to keep everything moisturized and healthy.
- Vertical passport wallet ($79) — Handcrafted with premium full-grain leather in Spain, the Harber London vertical passport cover is a super slim way to carry one or two passports in the main compartment, two to four cards in the back, and a few folded bills or boarding passes in the ‘secret’ front pocket. The leather is nice and soft to the touch and the interior is lined with 100% wool felt, so this thing really feels like quality throughout.
Japanese nail clipper ($22) — Manufactured in Seki, a city historically reknowned for being the epicenter of Japanese swordmaking and more modernly known as the capital of high-end cutlery and other sharp tools, these nail clippers exude all the craftsmanship and dedication to quality that have made their hometown so famous over the centuries.
They cleanly cut through even the thickest nails like butter, with far less pressure needed than you’re probably used to with cheap drugstore clippers. They also just look cooler than most nail clippers. It’s not uncommon to hear people say these are the best clippers they’ve ever used.
🧶 For Homebodies:
Chunky-knit weighted blanket ($289) — For some people, the comfy hug-like feeling of a weighted blanket can make the difference between a good night’s rest and…not that. However, they can admittedly feel a little stifling for those of us who tend to run hot at night.
That’s why the Nuzzie weighted blanket exists. Rather than being one solid mass all the way across, the Nuzzie is chunky-knit like a big open-weave sweater, allowing it to be much more breathable and cooling than most blankets this heavy. And even then, you still get that “wrapped in a bear hug” feeling of gentle, soothing pressure every time you wrap yourself in it.
Touchless soap dispenser ($20) — If you’ve ever found yourself needing to wash hands after handling raw meat or touching something gross, and you’d rather not touch the soap bottle about it, then an automatic soap dispenser will be a game changer.
A simple wave of your hand (or a sponge) beneath the nozzle tells it to dispense some soap — whether it’s dish soap, hand soap, hand sanitizer, shower gel, shampoo, or a facial cleanser — in one of three amounts that you can switch between by pressing the power button.
Faux-leather accent armchair ($168) — One way you can instantly level up the refinement of a given room is by introducing a piece of furniture with timeless style and the appearance of luxury materials, even if it’s not the real deal. This “leather” armchair could almost be confused for an antique inherited from a grandparent or something you picked up at an estate sale, thanks to its classic mid-century modern aesthetic.
It’s also a rather comfy chair to sit in and is made to hold up over time, with pocketed steel coil springs to back up the already-resilient internal foam padding. To round things out, that wide winged back has a certain Drama™ to it that might just make you feel like a diabolical genius every time you sit in it 😈
- Cooling gel memory foam pillows ($40 for set of two) — Similar to much more expensive options, these pillows are filled with shredded memory foam infused with cooling gel for a luxurious-feeling sleep experience. And when I say filled, I mean stuffed to the brim — you’ll notice some complaints from Amazon reviewers that the pillows are too thick and firm, apparently not realizing you can remove any amount of extra fill you like to achieve the desired level of support.
🧠 For Clever Kids:
Folding pocket knife for kids ($26) — The Swedish stainless steel blade of this beginner folding knife from Opinel is blunt-tipped so you don’t have to worry about your kid accidentally stabbing themselves, and it has a locking ring to keep it securely open or shut as needed. We also like that there’s a safety whistle built into the wooden handle.
We recommend pairing this gift with Chris Lubkemann’s The Little Book of Whittling as a starter reference guide for your young scout/adventurer.
- Rock tumbler kit ($60) — If you know a kid who’s super into collecting rocks and minerals everywhere they go, they’re exactly the right person to have a rock tumbler. It’s a device used to smooth and polish rocks by tossing and rolling them around with water and some abrasive gritty material. Over the course of weeks or months, the inner beauty of those rough rocks comes out and they become beautiful, shiny gemstones that are fun to collect, can be made into jewelry or used for decorative purposes around the home, or whatever else.
Now we’ve added STEM Master building toys to the list. They make use of a variety of piece shapes that allow you to engineer all sorts of buildings, vehicles, creatures, geometric shapes, and more. It’s one of those things where your imagination is the only real limit, and it comes with a guide for making 42 designs, from easy to advanced in difficulty.
3D maze game ($35) — If you have a kid whose first instinct is to reach for a screen or video game whenever they’re bored, try handing them Spin Master’s Perplexus 3D marble maze and watch as it consumes their whole attention and gets their problem-solving skills going. The game makers managed to fit this 22-foot-long maze into a small clear globe, which the user must spin and flip in order to move a weighted metal ball along the numbered track, with 100 different obstacles to overcome along the way.
Honestly, this isn’t just a kid’s game. There’s plenty enough challenge to keep us grown-ups entertained as well, and there are even three different starting points so you’re not running the same exact path over and over once you’ve solved it.