Welcome to Our Second Annual Family Holiday Gift Guide. And by that, we of course mean gifts for New Moms, New Dads, Seasoned Moms, Seasoned Dads, Little Ones, Big Ones, Babysitters, Carpool Helpers, School Teachers, Cello Teachers, Art Teachers, the Nice Guy Who Brews You a Badass Cup of Coffee Every Morning…and even YOU! Read carefully and you’ll see what we mean.
English Premier League Christmas Ornaments ($10 for 3-pack). You could never accuse this family of rooting for the underdog. Last year, after Chelsea won the UEFA championship — establishing it as the best club team in Europe — our resident diehard Manchester United fans began to… waver. Phoebe started wearing her Wayne Rooney jersey a little less proudly, Abby started asking to watch Drogba highlights on YouTube, and six months later, I guess you could say we’re a full-on Chelsea household now. (Like the weather, this will change again soon.) We’re making the most of it while it lasts, though, and even bought a set of these for our pals Mike and Sara up in Portland, Maine, whose three kids are true blue Chelsea fans, through-and-through. Hang these with pride, my friends. — Andy
French Press (Le Creuset, $60). When I showed this to Jenny the other day, she said, “Do you want one?” And the answer was, “Yes and no.” Yes, I want one because it’s so cool looking and I love Le Creuset and am an inveterate coffee addict; and no, I don’t want one, because we have a French press already and I can’t really justify spending money for another one. But I am going to buy it for a friend or relative who loves coffee and I am going to secretly look forward to the day when our current, perfectly functional — functional: therein lies the problem — french press, I don’t know, maybe falls off the counter and shatters or is gravely wounded in the dishwasher. At which point: Yes. I want one. In cherry (pictured above). — Andy
Animal Stacking Game (Haba, $20). When the girls were little, playing board games with them was always one of those milestones I was excited to hit. Until we hit it…and I found myself spending long swaths of winter afternoons wandering through Gumdrop Mountains and Peppermint Forest, dying the slow painful death that is CandyLand. (Let’s not even discuss Pretty Pretty Princess.) But when this stacking game came into my life, things changed. Though still simple enough for 3-year-olds (you take turns stacking animals until it tumbles over), I found it to be actually calming, plus it didn’t take up an entire shelf in the toy “closet” (read: floor), it exercised my kids’ (and my) as-yet-developed patience muscles, and was the game that promised brighter skies of Monopoly, Mancala, and Apples to Apples ahead. (PS: And this was a major hit with my puzzle-minded 5-year-old nephew.) —Jenny
McEvoy Ranch Olive Oil ($24 for 375 ml — about 12 ounces) When I strike it rich with this blog that I write for free, no Porsches for me. Just garages filled with cases and cases of this olive oil, made in Petaluma, California and renowned for its bright, peppery finish. There is olive oil for browning your chicken breasts and tossing with your potatoes before roasting; there is olive oil that you use sparingly, to whisk into vinaigrettes or drizzle atop soups and pastas. And then there is McEvoy Ranch. Which is not only all that, but also the perfect gift for your party host or daughter’s piano teacher or friend or person you like very much, who knows a little something about the finer things. I’ve only ever used the traditional blend, but I can’t imagine you could go wrong with their Olio Nuovo, made from just-harvested olives, or anything else they sell for that matter. —Jenny
Pure Komachi Chef’s Knife ($10). We own a fleet of Wusthof knives that have served us well since we registered for them fifteen years ago. We have some wood-handled Forschners that our Uncle Mike gave us which, in a matter of seconds, can render a head of cabbage helpless. Last year, for Christmas I bought Andy a New West Knifeworks Fusionwood 8-incher, and when he first removed the thing from its red leather sheath, he looked like a Samurai warrior. In other words, we are pretty well-endowed in the blade department. Which is why it’s all the more strange that when I’m about to embark on chop-heavy meal prep, I get thoroughly depressed if my six-and-a-half-inch Pure Komachi carbon stainless steel chef’s knife, which we picked up a year ago as an impulse buy for TEN BUCKS, is in the dishwasher — or, more likely, has been co-opted by Andy. The Komachi — light, sharp, and seemingly molded to the exact specifications of my right hand — came in fun colors like pink, so we thought it might be a fun First Knife to give Phoebe on her 10th birthday. The only problem is that now, when she wants to use it, we have to tell her to get in line. –Jenny
Nike Mercurial Indoor Shoes ($50) Our dainty little flower, Abby, will soon be wearing these to school every day. “Abby, I’m not sure they’re going to match too many of your outfits,” I told her. “Dad,” she responded, “that’s not the point.” “Okay, what is the point, then?” “The point is that they’re awesome and rocking and cool. Duh.” And she’s right. The truth is, I kind of want a pair, too. Having grown up in the 80s, I can’t tell you how happy I am to see that neon is back. (Her sister has a pair in neon, as well: a color she describes as “reddish-pinkish-orange.”) Abby has been ogling these things on soccer.com for weeks now, and her agonizing wait will soon be over. — Andy
Malley’s Chocolates ($1-$3 each) I went back to Ohio, the great Chrissy Hynde once sang. But my city was gone… all my favorite places/ My city had been pulled down, reduced to parking spaces. A, O, way to go, Ohio. All I know is, our Cleveland-living friends (and DALS contributors) Dan and Jen sent us a care package while our power was out after Hurricane Sandy — a big box of candy bars from Malley’s, which has been making the stuff (in Ohio, mind you) since 1935. Everything about this was good, starting with the dark chocolate-pretzel bar and the super-reasonable prices and the beautiful, retro packaging (awesome, off-kilter, hand-drawn fonts and cheerful color combinations and a general look that says, “This is not another coroporate product.”) Think of it as a new twist on an old stocking stuffer, and it happens to taste good, too. Way to go, Ohio. — Andy
A book for dad: Tears in the Darkness by Michael and Elizabeth Norman ($18). Did you read Unbroken? I did. Unbroken speaks for itself; you don’t need me to tell you how good it is. I might have liked Tears in the Darkness more, though. This book is the unbelievable, harrowing, and ultimately uplifting story of one man — a young cowboy with a poet’s soul from Montana named Ben Steele — who somehow survived the Bataan Death March in World War II. This book took twelve years to research and it shows. I read it three years ago and still think about it all the time, still think about how one person can endure this kind of hardship and not be ruined by it. I’ve been hand-selling it ever since, and haven’t heard a single negative report back. I’d read one of these a week, if I could. — Andy
A book for Junior: The Daydreamer by Ian McEwan ($13). I knew I loved Abby’s fourth grade teacher when Abby came home from school and said, “Dad, we’re reading the best book in school, about a kid who has these crazy daydreams. It’s by Ian McEwan.” Ian McEwan? I wasn’t even really aware he’d written children’s books, but he has, and when Abby was done with this one, I read it for myself. This will not be a newsflash, but: Ian McEwan is a good writer. And this teacher had good taste. Here’s just one little example of what I mean: “As for being on his own, grown-ups didn’t much like that either. They don’t even like other grown-ups being on their own. When you join in, people can see what you’re up to. You’re up to what they’re up to. You have to join in, or you’ll spoil it for everyone else. Peter had different ideas. Joining in was all very fine, in its place. But far too much of it went on. In fact, he thought, if people spent less time joining in and making others join in, and spent a little time each day alone remembering who they were or who they might be, then the world would be a happier place and wars might never happen.” — Andy
A book for anyone: Tenth of December by George Saunders ($26). If you’ve been reading this blog for the past few years, you are probably SICK TO THE FREAKIN’ PITS OF YOUR SOUL of hearing me talk about George Saunders, but I am not done yet. In the first week of January — it’s the perfect thing to load onto that new reading device you got over the holidays — he is publishing his first new collection of stories in six years. I am deeply, irrevocably biased, but man, it’s amazing. If you love writing, this is for you. A sample: “Oh, no, you don’t, she said with that smoky laugh and guided him into a house. A house on the park. He’d seen it a million times. And now was in it. It smelled of man-sweat and spaghetti sauce and old books. Like a library where sweaty men went to cook spaghetti. She sat him in front of a woodstove, brought him a brown blanket that smelled of medicine. Didn’t talk but in directives: ‘Drink this, let me take that, wrap up, what’s your name, what’s your number?’ What a thing! To go from dying in your underwear in the snow to this! Warmth, colors, antlers on the walls, an old-time crank phone like you saw in silent movies. It was something. Every second was something.” — Andy
Emily Green Placemats ($10, each). There was a three-year stretch in our lives when these laminated, animal-themed washable mats never left the kitchen table –we used them at meals but also for play-doh marathons, cookie baking and pie-dough-rolling. Sweet as this era was (and sweet as the mats are), I have to admit I’m happy to usher in the new era of placemats, an era that looks like…
….these ($14/each) from Shop Fog Linens. Unlike the bright, poppy colors of the old guard, these are sold in the muted colors of grown-up land that kids will say are boring. Which is, of course, how I know they’re perfect! Lucky for all of us, Shop Fog Linen has offered four of the placemats you see above as a giveaway to a lucky commenter chosen at random below*. (Winner will be announced in a few days and must live in the 48 contiguous states.) Good luck! —Jenny
Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas ($10). You know you can sing when you take a song like “Jingle Bells” – or good lord, “Frosty the Snowman” — and somehow make it your own. Somehow make it into a beautiful song. Somehow make it listenable after a month of incessant, moldering holiday songs piped into every Duane Reade and Gap on earth. Everything on this album is so smooth and effortless and peppy, and this recently remastered version contains a bunch of alternate takes that are a lot of fun for the kids to hear, as Ella Fitzgerald tried out different voices, different rhythms, etc. Good with a glass of wine. Good, period. — Andy
Nike Girl Power Shirts ($18-$25) My friend Yolanda’s 9-year-old daughter recently came to my house wearing cute shorts over tights with little flats that I could’ve sworn I saw on a 25-year-old in Williamsburg…and that I instantly coveted. My friend Marcie’s daughter showed up to her cello lesson today wearing a gray jersey dress over striped tights and pink patent Mary Janes that seemed to say “I’m more punk than priss.” My daughters? They favor Club Team jerseys and leggings and neon soccer shoes and steering clear of anything resembling a ruffle or a trim or a pleat or detail that might remind passers-by that they are girls. Every morning after Andy and I put our ragtag little jocks on the bus, he turns to me and says the same thing: “You’ve gotta take control of the clothes situation in this house.” My answer to that? These Nike empowerment Ts with the coolest fonts I’ve ever seen. For now at least.
Frog Hollow Preserves ($9/jar; gift boxes $25-$90). When we were out in San Francisco last summer, we spent a couple of mornings at the Ferry Building, eating, exploring, and eating. We hit the Farmer’s Market, took down some insane homemade hot dogs, and tried — and failed — to endure the line at Blue Bottle Coffee. But the place we really loved was Frog Hollow Farm, which sold their own fruit – some of the best produce on the planet, according to people who know this stuff, with a particular genius for stone fruit — as well as a crushingly tasty selection of jams and preserves. We must have sampled fifteen of them before settling on Plum Blueberry, which the kids decided was best, but really: They were all the best. They were all incredible, all examples of little things you think don’t really matter until you taste them and realize (a) how happy that one little bite just made you and (b) how dedicated and talented the people must be who make them. Turns out, this stuff matters. —Andy
Large Serving Bowl (Heath Ceramics, $115). I can’t believe Andy just wrote 200 words about the Ferry Building and didn’t mention Heath Ceramics. I’m going to take this to mean that he actually bought me something from the Sausalito-based pottery company and is trying really hard to keep it a secret. More likely he’s trying to block out the memory of the place, because, yes, prices are high (you know you’re in trouble when the word “heirloom” is thrown around on their website) but also because whenever we were wandering around the Ferry Building, I don’t know what God of Beautiful Things was possessing me, but I would always, always find myself right in front of this bowl you see above, just staring. Phoebe would have to practically grab a cane to pull me from the place. “Mooooom, are you there AGAIN? Come ON!” Yes I was, but just look at that bowl. It’s the simple, sculptural beauty, but it’s also the colors: rich, deep, and so many brilliant combinations to choose from. If you need help, Andy, just ask. —Jenny
Wolffer Estate Red Letter Table Wine ($17/bottle) Jenny and I spent three days out in Long Island in October for our anniversary, just the two of us, eating and wandering and reading books on the beach and visiting a few of the seemingly endless wineries that have sprung up out there in recent years. It’s a gorgeous part of the world, with some extremely tasty wines, and this one may be our favorite. It’s seventeen bucks, not too big and high in alcohol, and — for us, at least — it’s local, which is not something we say a lot about wine. Also, the label is awesome and we’re not too proud to admit that that counts for a lot. A perfect house-warming gift. Also a good wine to stock for any holiday party you may be hosting. People will leave happy. — Andy
Robert Griffin III. (There is not enough money in the world.) Super Bowl 2013! — Andy
*Update: Kendra is the winner of the placemats. Thanks for playing everyone!
What a wonderful list! But I am still working off of last year’s list and bought my husband the Black Maple Hill whiskey you highlighted from last season because it was sold out for Christmas last year! It is sitting in our closet and I can’t wait to give it to him for Christmas.
Great suggestions – thanks! Those placemats are the thing that caught my eye. 🙂
I love reading lists like these! As I am planning my wedding it is very helpful to find items that should be included in my registries! The placemats would be a perfect addition to my new home! Thank you for gift ideas as well! Now for some Christmas shopping…
Thanks y’all…I love your gift guides. While I don’t just run down your list for purchases, it does get me thinking more creatively about presents for my family & friends.
hmmm, not your everyday gift guide. Thanks for the pointers!
Great gift guide! Love the placemats. I’m going to get some of the kiddo ones for my godson. 🙂
and now my holiday shopping is done. Thanks!
Those placemats are gorgeous. And I love my Komachi knife, too!
Thanks for the great list! The coffee press and those placemats really caught my eye. I will have to wait on the press (I, too, have one that is in perfect working order) but those placemats? They’d be *perfect* in my kitchen and I’d love to win them 🙂 Thanks for the opportunity.
On the coffee press…my feelings exactly. The french press I have is so perfect already but man do I covet that blue Le Creuset…
Very excited to give a few George Saunders this holiday. He is a master!
Alright, I want the placemats. They are Just Right. And I too have drooled over the stuff at Heath Ceramics in the Ferry Building. Love it.
i agree with the commenter above. the place mats are just right (like goldilocks finding the right bed).
Awesome giveaway! The placemats were actually my favorite of everything.
We love Tier auf Tier! It’s a great game, though we promptly lost all but a couple of snakes and a sheep.
I may have to invest in some futbol christmas ornaments too.
Thanks for the great list!
Great ideas! I’m buying my son the animal stacking game. I had to laugh at your comments about playing games with your girls. I don’t think I can play one more game of Spongebob Memory or Spongebob Yahtzee Jr.
I am hosting a large group for New Year’s and would love to show off those fabulous placemats.
And the Tier auf Tier stacking game is perfect for my son. Actually, this entire list pretty much takes care of holiday shopping for me.
I really LOVE the wide range of gift possibilities presented here. I think I can now cross some hard-to-shop-for people off my list! Thanks, and thanks also for the opportunity to be entered to win the placements; they’re so pretty!
We use placemats all the time and our stash could use an upgrade!
This is a fantastic list! I live near the Heath store in LA, and oh – everything is just so lovely there.
The placemats are just lovely – maybe for the dining room table while the Emily Green ones reside on the kitchen table?
Finally, a gift guide with things I actually want to give (or receive)! Those placemats are lovely.
Oh, and for Heath lovers, we discovered that if you go to the factory in Sausalito, you can buy seconds at more affordable prices. A couple of years ago, we brought home a little bowl perfect for weeknight salads. It has a tiny flaw on the underside, but is otherwise perfect. We use it every day and hand wash it with love.
What a great list! I love all of the suggestions, especially the book reviews. All hail!
There are holiday lists (which usually bore me to tears). And then there are YOURS.
Awesome. All of it. Top to bottom. Love. Frog Hollow, yes!
What a brilliant gift guide! 🙂 x
Thank you for the gift guide, and the giveaway for the Fog Linen placemats. I’d love to have a set of them. 🙂 P.S. I also gave up on the Blue Bottle Coffee line in S.F. Frog Hollow Preserves look delicious. I’ll have to check it out when I’m back!
Love all the choices!
So good. We’re still firmly in the plastic placemat part of life, but would love to stash the fog linen ones away for later…
Fabulous list. That is, except for the Chelsea ornaments! I support whatever team is playing Chelsea 🙂
yes! we luv shop fog linen!!!!
Those are the perfect holiday placemats! Love the entire list.
I SO covet this bowl! But would be thrilled with the linen placements as well.
Covet covet covet. That french press is killing me! The placemats are equally lovely.
love this list. my husband is impossible to shop for and i found a few ideas. also, i have been looking for place mats for, um, forever. so thanks.
What an interesting list – thanks for sharing!
Whoa! Now that is a list! Placemats are lovely – but personally, I gots to gets me some of that there Ella! I am hopping on Amazon stat. Re: all the sports references – we are totally clueless – and are certain our child is destined for the theater and drama crowd. 🙂
Love the placemats. After going through two sets of every day dishes in the past sixteen years of marriage this year I put Heath Ceramics on my Christmas wish list.
I’m ordering the Premiere League ornaments right now – perfect for my husband. And I’ll look later to see if there are boy-ish versions of the shoes for my 7-year old. And I’ll add the Heath bowl to my list – it sort of already was there but now I remember it. Fantastic list, thanks. And I’d love the placemats too.
Great list, Andy and Jenny. I bought my daughter the animal game and she “bought” me the Saunders book.
Andrew Luck–Super Bowl 2013!
Haha. Being from Indiana I can be nothing but a Colt’s fan. However I do admit RG3 is a darn good quarterback.
p.s. I love how to french coffee press looks. Too bad I don’t drink coffee 😉
Thanks for the ideas AND the giveaway! Can’t decide if I would keep those placemats for myself or give them as a gift. SO many good suggestions — and RGIII is at the top of my list too!!! Go ‘Skins!!
Great ideas – now hopefully my sisters don’t steal them from me. Dips on the animal stacking game!
Our current placemats are falling apart, so we could use an upgrade!
Great ideas – and I love the placemats!
your lists are just SO. GOOD. think i just spent a 1/2 hour on this single post!
& on a completely random note- the “pretty pretty princess” part made me LOL. how could i have forgotten that stage of our lives????
RGIII – yes! So not what I was expecting to find at the end of this post but gah, isn’t he just the best?!
Thanks for another great gift list! The placemats would be lovely (I mean manly!) for my brother’s new place!
So tempted to Christmas shop for myself this year. Love!
Thanks for the list! A few of these may just work out for some folks on my list. Is your 4th grader still interested in the stacking game? I have a couple of 9 year olds I’m shopping for, and wonder if it would be too simple to still interest them.
i love my mommy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Elizabeth – Abby, my 9-year-old, is with me (as you can see above!) and she says that she still loves to play that stacking game. She would also like to add that Elizabeth is her best friend’s name.
I just had to pipe in to second the recommendation of “Tears in the Darkness.” It’s a really, really wonderful book—the kind that sticks with you. Great list!
The bowl, totally beautiful and functional. The placemats – something that would be used every day as we use placemats and mine are looking worn. Thanks for the list!
love these ideas! thanks.
love this thank you – i’ve already added to both my shopping list & my wish list
Do you have a good source for Mancala games? My son is at just the right age, I think, and I just loved this game as a kid. I’d like to find one that is attractive & handcrafted if possible.
Marvelous gift suggestions and even better descriptions!
So much to ooh over but that french press and the placemats take the cake!
Soooo many great gift ideas. Ornaments for my husband’s buddies, the animal game for my kiddos. Thanks for making like a little easier.
I’m about a week away from getting my kitchen back after a remodel, and that Le Creuset French Press is just the perfect thing to sit on my new work desk. But not a be a downer – one reviewer says it’s made in China and maybe not up to Le Creuset’s usual standards? For that price, that would be disappointing if true.
But the game is totally going on my list for my daughters. Almost every game we have for them is from Europe it seems.
This is an amazing list! I must confess that I loved the links and promptly ordered half of it–reference a great Lily Tomlin’s impulse shopping SNL skit. Thank you. Must check out last year’s list. Fingers crossed for place mats!
Great gift ideas! I loved that Malley’s made your list. I live in Lakewood(right down the street from Malley’s). Our stockings are full of delicious Malley’ treats every year.
Frog Hollow Farm! And Heath Ceramics! You guys are speaking my language. Jenny I hope you get the bowl. We have a few Heath pieces and without fail I smile when I see them. And your family has never failed me with a book recommendation yet.
(Also, I have the biggest smile picturing those rough-and-tumble beauties heading for the bus in their neon shoes and cool-font t shirts. )
Thank you for the list! I now know what to get my husband – the french press, of course. He has been saying how he wants to have “regular” coffee rather than espresso (we only have stovetop espresso maker and no other gadgets).
And I am off to check out those place mats. My daughter is just getting out of the “oilcloth on the kitchen table” phase 🙂
Chelsea? Check out Wayne Rooney’s Street Striker (a series he did a few years ago, sort of an x factor for kids who play street soccer), maybe that will tempt you back to Man U. Can my name be in the pot for the giveaway even if I’m not U.S. based? I’d like the mats!
I love Ella! And now I have to look into more of Ian McEwan’s works.
I love that sentence about Candyland! I will be chuckling to myself all day, especially as I play Candyland with my 5 yro daughter.
I love this gift guide! It’s just too bad it wasn’t posted a week ago — I just finished my Christmas shopping today!
i was hoping you would post a gift giving idea list! woo too – hope i win the placemats – love them!
i loved your painful game playing comment – right to the heart of it!
You’ve convinced me… I’m going to try George Saunders. I’m looking for something to really get lost it!
Love, love, love, everything on this list. Dear husband, please take note. 🙂
Such a thoughtful list! Now I’m rolling with great gift ideas and suggestions.
I have to say, the placemats are definitely my favorite… Thanks for the chance to win them! (Fingers tightly crossed!)
The placemats look great.
Thanks for sharing. Your list gave me some much needed ideas.
I would love to win these beautiful placemats! Mine are tired and old!
I already liked you guys a lot, but now I LOVE you for including RGIII in your gift guide (I had no idea you cheered for the Skins!) Every Redskins fan, including yours truly, is very glad that Santa brought him to the team this year!
Man, you guys have the best taste! Happy Holidays! -Jessica
Andy are you a Redskins fan?? Or just an RGIII fan? Either way – hail to the Redskins! Super Bowl 2013 here we come! (or at least the playoffs …)
Becca and all the DALS readers/RGIII fans out there — Yup, I’m a Skins fan. Grew up in Northern Virginia. I miss Monte Coleman!
Thanks you so much for the book recommendations; I think the Ella album is going to be gifted many times this season. Thanks for the research!
Malley’s is so delicious!! Love the shout out for them. My dad sends it to people at Christmas and they all go crazy for it!
Those placemats!! I need some!
I’m still in the messy baby phase (er, rather, my son is) but I’d love the placemats for adults!
Bonus: they match our red Tripp Trapp.
Oh! Fog Linens just came on my radar. LOVE the placemats. 🙂
great list!! love the placemats & will bookmark the olive oil for when I need more.
So many great suggestions. You just helped me finish my shopping. Those placemats are just what I have been looking for.
1. That Le Creuset french press is a beauty to behold! You can always use a backup, right??
2. I gotta try that olive oil. You had me at “bright, peppery finish.”
3. I’m not sure I can trust anyone who doesn’t think Heath Ceramics is God’s gift to tableware.
4. I’d sure love to get my hands on those beautiful linen placemats.
What a great list!!!!!!!! Love the game suggestion…. I am impressed that your kids actually wanted to play Candy Land multiple times. I didn’t remember it being so soul-crushing when I was little!!!!
I love this list…wish the giveaway was for the Le Creuset, but the placemats are mighty nice, too!
The Komachi knife (ordered from Amazon) is great!! Don’t know how long it will last, but it is a great value for $10!