FOR THE KIDS: POP-UP PIRATE
I have longing and painful memories of not having this as a kid and being allowed to play with it only at my cousins' (incidentally, they also had all of He-Man character toys). It's a jolly pirate stuck in a barrel and playfully tortured with swords. Once the right sword gets to him, he is launched from the barrel. The Italian jingle explained the process with something that I will loosely translate thusly, "He's going to launch like a missile / Once you tear him a new one." Jokes aside, this is a great game for kids: simple, sturdy, fun, and begging to be played again and again for years. My almost 4-year old is still playing with it. And you know what? This is one of the few games I enjoy, too.
Buy it here.
FOR DAD: MOZZARELLA KIT
Aren't you sick of stereotyping dad by making him brew horrible and sour IPAs at home? I'll say enough with the home brewing already! If you want to provide dad with a worthy project to impress his family and reconnect with some kind of olden-days skill, then get him a mozzarella kit. First of all, mozzarella can be eaten with the entire family and in a variety of dishes (check this, this, this, and this). Secondly, and this might be my own fascination, a man is a man when he can manipulate and subdue a chunk of dairy.
This cheesemaking kit gets great reviews.
FROM PARENT TO PARENT: A WEEKEND HOME ALONE
|When I'm alone, my house looks like this to me.|
This is for the parent who takes the most care of the children and who is constantly denounced by society for both spoiling and neglecting the kids so that they will turn out just like Millennials, but without the icing of good manners (i.e. The Worst). I'm trying to be PC here, but we all know I'm talking about mothers. This is the idea: you take the children to the grandparents or to a sky lodge or wherever, and the other parent (mom) is left in A CLEAN HOUSE for an entire weekend. I've been twice the recipient of this gift, and I can tell you there's is really nothing like it. I read, I sewed, I watched a movie during the day, I went out with friends, I ate whatever, whenever I wanted, and I SLEPT IN.
FOR OTHER PARENTS WHO NOW HATE CHRISTMAS: FATHER CHRISTMAS BY RAYMOND BRIGGS
I can't remember how we got hold of this wonderful children book. It is a beautifully illustrated story of a very grumpy Santa on his big day of the year, stuck in what appears to be a much hated yet comforting routine. This Santa hates the cold and the work, complains non-stop throughout his sleigh-ride around the world, and is only really happy when he drinks his Cognac or a bottle of "party-size" red wine surrounded by his pets. Kids will enjoy all of the details in each panel; parents will fall in love with the unsentimental humor. And the beauty of it all it's that there's no post-modern sarcasm in this tale. Somehow, below Santa's cranky mutterings, readers will find the comforting rituals and magic of the Christmases of their childhood.
Buy it used (new is pretty expensive) here.
FOR THE BEST OF FRIENDS: ARCHY & MEHITABEL BY DON MARQUIS
You can buy it here.
FOR YOUR OVERWHELMED FRIEND: A GIFT AND A RE-GIFT
You know what I really need? An inexhaustible collection of unopened treats in my pantry to be brought as last-minute gifts at parties and family events. I'm always running to the closest grocery store to find something that hopefully is not too popular and won't look exactly like what it is: a desperate random gift wrapped in haste and profanities. And don't tell me I'm alone in this. So let's start a virtuous cycle of regiftables. The idea is, buy two boxes of the same NICE treats, be it cream-filled bonbons, or gourmet macaroons, or Turkish pistachios, or whatever. One is for the giftee, and one is to be regifted. You don't actually have to explain the process to your giftee. You might add a wink if you feel like it, but we all know regifting will happen. You are just a generous and understanding facilitator.
FOR THE FRIEND WHO IS EASILY PLEASED: ORIGAMI SANTA ORNAMENTS
Here's a video tutorial. I know it's 7-minutes long, but after 3 Santas, you'll be down to 2 zen minutes.
FOR YOUR DEAREST, NON-VEGETARIAN FRIEND: OILY MACKEREL
|OK, so this is not the most photogenic food. |
But look, Origami Santa!
For 2–3 jars
2 fresh whole mackerels, cleaned
freshly-ground black pepper
2 tbsps lemon juice
- Turn the broiler on. Place the mackerels in roasting dish, and sprinkle liberally with salt on the outside and inside. Let stand on the counter for 30 minutes.
- Broil the mackerels for about 8-10 minutes, turning them halfway, until the skin bubbles up.
- Fillet the mackerels and add more salt if desired, then sprinkle with freshly-ground black pepper.
- Mix EVOO and lemon juice together.
- Place fillet inside the mason jars, then pour in the olive oil mixture to cover the fish.