The Gifts We Want to Give in 2020 – The New York Times

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FYI
We’ve added a new gift to this guide: these Moroccan Leather Babouche Slippers.
December 14, 2020
At Wirecutter, we spend most of the year researching and recommending the best stuff to buy, and come December we look forward to what we want to give. Each fall we ask our staff members about what they received, gifted, or bought for themselves that they’ve loved most. Here you’ll find their favorites, from an apocalyptic tea set to a nostalgic ’80s doll, that are sure to please the weird and wonderful people in your life. And if you’d like even more ideas, check out what we wanted to give in 2019, 2018, and 2017.

Calamityware Tea Time: Things Could Be Worse ($105 at the time of publication)
Nothing has been normal this year, so your tea set shouldn’t be, either. At first glance, this Calamityware tea set looks like the traditional Blue Willow pattern that’s been popular since the 18th century (I have my grandmother’s old set), but upon closer inspection, instead of bluebirds and pagodas you get dinosaurs, sasquatches, and robots wreaking havoc—just the thing you need for a quiet afternoon of contemplation or an end-of-the-world tea party. Made and decorated in Poland by the award-winning Kristoff porcelain workshop, this set is microwave and dishwasher safe.
—Grant Clauser, senior editor
Global Goods Partners Handmade Felt Flower & Eucalyptus Bouquets (from $25 at the time of publication)
These beautiful felt flowers deliver the joy of a bouquet without the existential dread that comes from watching flowers wilt slowly and sit in a vase for too long. No one needs that in a pandemic. These handmade stems have become my go-to gift this year. I’ve sent them to my best friend, my aunt, and a co-worker, and they’ve all adored them. The flowers are lovely to look at and beautifully simple, and they add a certain charm to any room. You can pick from a wide variety of blooms—such as tulips, sunflowers, or peonies—and buy them in either single stems or bouquets.
—Sara Rabstenek, director of product management
Penny Skateboards Blackout 27″ ($120 at the time of publication)
When COVID-19 hit earlier this year, I had to figure out a new way to get around. While friends holed themselves up in their apartments to bake bread, I took to the empty streets with a fresh hobby in my hands: the 27-inch Blackout board from Penny Skateboards. I slapped the skateboard onto the pavement and pushed off. I stumbled, I fell over, I got annoyed and kicked it away from me, I ran behind it. After weeks of practice, I’d relearned a skill that I thought I’d left in elementary school. If you know someone who’d enjoy spending time outside learning a new hobby, a skateboard is an exhilarating—and portable—cure for boredom during a pandemic. You could even pair it with this svelte wall display so they can hang their new board, too.
—Justin Krajeski, staff writer
The 99% Invisible City: A Field Guide to the Hidden World of Everyday Design ($30 at the time of publication)
At a time when travel is nearly impossible (or at least complicated), The 99% Invisible City provides the means to see urban landscapes in a new way. This is the book for anyone who’s constantly curious about decoding the symbols and colors utility workers spray-paint on streets, the designs on manhole covers, or the technical differences between a road, a street, and a way. By the time your loved one finishes reading it, they’ll be bursting with trivia, ready to guide anyone through any city.
—Thorin Klosowski, editor
American Girl Courtney Doll & Book ($110 at the time of publication)
This year, my 8-year-old daughter’s wish list includes American Girl’s newest doll: Courtney Moore. From 1986, she’s the latest addition to American Girl’s line of historical characters. The “historical” detail instantly made me feel way old, but that aside, Courtney is actually pretty rad. She’s a gamer and an ’80s feminist, fighting to prove she’s just as good as the boys in the arcade. Also, I might be more excited than my child about all the incredibly detailed add-ons and accessories. Courtney’s outfits, like this cropped puff-sleeve jacket and this suspenders-and-tie affair, are perfection. Plus, she has a Walkman, a Caboodles case, Care Bears PJs, a Pac-Man lunch box (complete with vintage snacks), and, for the truly over-the-top icing on the cake, a doll-sized, fully functioning Pac-Man arcade game. Take every last one of my dollars, please.
—Jackie Reeve, senior staff writer
David Lane Design Custom Watch Strap (from $165 at the time of publication)
Handcrafted in Rochester, New York, David Lane Design’s leather goods are fully customizable, from the selection of high-quality leather (sourced from France, Italy, and the US) to the stitch type to the thread color. The most eye-catching pieces are arguably the custom watch straps, cut by hand and stitched to adorn any watch you like. I’m partial to the blue buttero and green shell cordovan, but you’re sure to find something to satisfy even the most particular individual. Just make sure to plan ahead when ordering, since they can take up to six weeks to make (but we think they’re worth the wait). Or, if you don’t know your recipient’s exact preference, you can always get them a gift card so they can customize their strap however they want. Full disclosure: David Lane was my photography teacher in high school, which is how I know about his work.
—Michael Murtaugh, associate photo editor
Prantl’s Bakery Burnt Almond Torte ($70 at the time of publication)
My aunt sent my father and stepmother a Prantl’s Bakery Burnt Almond Torte for Christmas a few years ago. Folks, this cake didn’t last 48 hours after we opened it. And that’s a conservative estimate. The torte starts with downy, tender layers of white cake and a simple buttercream frosting. Then the whole thing is coated in sugary toasted almonds that add a crunchy and roasty counterbalance to the cloudlike cake. Even my partner, who doggedly believes that cake is inferior to pie, couldn’t stay away from this torte. Prantl’s also makes a chocolate version, but I’ve never tried it. And, quite frankly, I think the original is pretty perfect.
—Lesley Stockton, senior staff writer
TofuXpress Tofu Press ($50 at the time of publication)
Making tofu used to be a messy, time-consuming, and labor-intensive process for me. To transform a block of tofu fresh out of the package into a crispy, flavorful dinner requires pressing most of the liquid out of the bean curd. For years, I did this by wrapping the tofu in paper towels, placing it between two cutting boards, and piling anything heavy I could find on top of it. The TofuXpress Tofu Press completely changed my perspective on cooking tofu. Now I just plop the tofu block in the press, lock it, and wait. The press contains the excess water, it can be put in the fridge while you do other things, and it also works as a marinade dish. This is a tool that will make your tofu-loving friends’ culinary lives exponentially simpler, faster, and cleaner.
—Lucy Butcher, production manager
Penguin Magic gift certificate (price varies)
Tarbell’s video tutorials are my current go-to gift for anyone I think might be interested in picking up magic as a hobby while quarantining. The Tarbell Course In Magic has been the premiere book series for learning magic tricks since Harlan Tarbell completed the first five volumes in 1928. The books were recently reworked into videos by renowned magician Dan Harlan and the Penguin Magic shop. Harlan is an excellent teacher, and while Penguin Magic’s site looks a bit dated, I’ve found it has excellent customer service. Any of the 100-plus digital volumes of the Tarbell courses are great, but I recommend volume 13, as the featured sleights and routines are approachable for a complete beginner but produce real, fun, and impressive effects. Give enough Penguin Cash to download a few videos, which range from about $5 to $40, depending on the lesson.
—Sam Roth, product manager
Moroccan Leather Babouche Slippers ($35 at the time of publication)
I bought my first pair of leather babouche slippers at a holiday-market stall in Montreal, and they quickly became my favorite house shoes. At first glance, these slippers may seem odd because they’re not specifically cut for right and left feet. The leather molds to your feet as you wear them. The soft soles and slightly cushioned footbed make these slippers super-comfy. And they last for years, assuming one doesn’t wear them to walk the dog or run to the corner store—these are inside-only slippers. I gifted these Moroccan Leather Babouche Slippers to my sister and stepmother last year, and both told me that they still love them. These babouches run true to size and come in a huge selection of colors—even in metallic finishes. With all the time we’ve been spending at home, a fresh pair of house slippers can be a real treat.
Lesley Stockton, senior staff writer
Parks ($50 at the time of publication)
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In the Parks board game, up to five players can take on the role of hikers, exploring trails, taking photos, and collecting memories in the form of tokens. Or, if you prefer to hike solo, there’s also a delightful single-player mode. The illustrations are beautiful, the rules are simple, and it’s more about the adventure than winning. Plus, a percentage of every purchase is donated to the National Park Service.
—Jacob Baker, software engineer
Cosanti Originals Ceramic Windbell (from $35 at the time of publication)
Cosanti Originals Bronze Windbell (from about $30 at the time of publication)
Cosanti wind-bells are made by hand at Arcosanti, an experimental architectural site that rises like a mirage out of the Sonoran Desert, located just north of Phoenix. Each bell serves as a small monument to Arcosanti and the utopian ideas it was founded upon. The bells are cast in either ceramic or bronze and have a sculptural, organic design that looks at home both indoors and out. They’re available in a range of sizes and prices to suit various spaces and budgets.
—Erin Price, audience development manager for reader relationships
Colored Aura Flower Fairy Crystroll ($155 at the time of publication)
As Wirecutter’s resident gift writer, I’ve worked on nearly 20 gift guides this year alone. For all of them, I’ve begged my editors to let me include this little troll figurine. For all of them, I was denied. (Unfairly, I might add!) My editors argue that these vintage troll dolls adorned with various crystals are too bizarre, too kitschy, and too niche, but I argue that’s what makes them perfect. There’s no denying they’re strange, smiling under their crystal crowns, their chubby tummies adorned with belly-button jewels. But then, wasn’t this year strange, too? Shouldn’t we honor that? The Crystroll site seems to have a troll for anyone: a troll crowned with succulents for the plant fan in your life, a bejeweled chakra troll for the yogi you love, a seashell-clad troll for the ocean admirer on your list. And listen, if you’re looking to get a gift for me, any will do. I love them all.
—Dorie Chevlen, associate staff writer
2018 Sweet Berry Wine ($35 at the time of publication)
Very Merry Sweet Berry Wine Pack ($110 at the time of publication)
Las Jaras Wine Club (from $120 per shipment at the time of publication)
When I purchased my first bottle of Glou Glou, I’ll admit it was the fun label that caught my attention. I brought it to a dinner (before the pandemic), and we loved how light and easy it was to drink. Since then I’ve purchased other bottles from Las Jaras, including its Sweet Berry Wine, inspired by a Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! sketch (video) featuring John C. Reilly as Dr. Steve Brule. (Eric Wareheim is one of Las Jaras’ winemakers.) But the wine itself is no joke: It’s absolutely delicious, and pairs perfectly with a hearty meal. You can send holiday gift boxes and individual bottles, or you can splurge on a one- or two-year gift membership to the Las Jaras Wine Club. The club—which ships three times a year, in the fall, winter, and spring—gives members first access to new wines, preorder privileges, and a 10% discount on every order. Each shipment includes three to four bottles selected by Las Jaras, and orders only get charged the week before they ship out.
—Rozette Rago, photo editor
A book club membership or subscription (price varies)
Local bookshops around the country have started curated subscription services that make it easier than ever to discover new books to cozy up to this winter. Audience development manager for reader relationships Erin Price likes the Transit Book Club at Oakland, California–based publisher Transit Books because you receive first editions of titles prior to their release in stores. (Transit specializes in publishing translations of literature from around the world.) Erin also loves Minneapolis-based Graywolf Press’s Graywolf Galley Club, which sends members six pre-publication titles throughout the year along with fun swag, such as tote bags and stickers. Software engineer Jacob Baker recommends the subscriptions program at Athens, Georgia–based Avid Bookshop, whose staff picks a monthly book for your giftee tailored to their interests. Your favorite local bookstore may offer its own subscription, so it’s worth checking there first.
—Wirecutter staff
Eloi Marble #2 Scarf ($50 at the time of publication)
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This scarf, surely inspired by Matisse’s paper cutouts, from Los Angeles–based studio Eloi instantly levels up whatever I’m wearing. Each scarf is hemmed by hand and made from a combination of cotton and silk. Eloi sells a variety of patterns to suit your recipient’s taste, but I’m partial to the Marble #2. These bold, bright scarves add a pop of color to any outfit, and can just as easily function as a cute hair accessory. They’d even look right at home hanging on a wall, or for the ultimate (and reusable!) wrapping of another present for a two-in-one surprise.
—Rozette Rago, photo editor
Cycling Art Prints – The Panache Collection (by The Handmade Cyclist on Etsy) (from $145 at the time of publication)
If you live with or love an obsessive cyclist, here’s a way to show them you understand their passion, at least a little, and that no, really, you’re not holding a grudge for all those hours they spend riding their bike instead of being with you. Buy them this set of three posters from The Handmade Cyclist (the company’s based in the UK, but its wares are also available to the US via Etsy). Called The Panache Collection, it depicts what first looks to be three dramatic mountainsides: Italy’s looming gray Dolomites, France’s jagged Pyrenees, and Belgium’s hauntingly bleak Ardennes. Then one sees the tiny figure in each image, a famous rider making his lonely way to a finish line, along with a quote that’ll remind your cyclist that everyone (even champions!) suffers when the road rises and the weather worsens—and that the true victory lies in persevering, with style.
—Christine Ryan, senior editor
Jack + G Droplet Huggies ($60 at the time of publication)
I lost one of my favorite earrings this spring—a casualty of accessorizing while wearing a face mask. Heartbroken and determined, I set out to find the perfect replacement. The Jack + G Droplet Huggies earring checked all the boxes: a single, solid, 14-karat gold earring that’s understated and made to stay in place. With no backing or hook, the Huggie is designed for continuous wear. This piece is perfect for folks with multiple ear piercings, or those who don’t want to fuss with their jewelry every day. I’ve kept mine in for six months, and it has survived many, many face masks. The Droplet Huggie is available in three shades of gold (yellow, white, and rose) and three sizes (6-, 8-, and 10-millimeter diameter). And if the tiny gold ball dangling off the end is too flashy for your special recipient, Jack + G also makes a plain version.
—Lesley Stockton, senior staff writer
White + Warren Cashmere Travel Wrap ($315 at time of publication)
This buttery-soft, lightweight, and generously cut White + Warren 100% cashmere wrap is my official adult security blanket. It provides comfort and warmth, whether I’m traveling or lounging around the house. And it’s the perfect gift for someone who loves cozying up in soft cashmere. Even though this wrap is huge (81 by 36 inches), the fine-gauge knit allows you to wrap it around your neck without it feeling too heavy or bulky. White + Warren makes this wrap in a wide array of color choices, from muted pastels and neutrals to saturated jewel tones. No matter how many other kinds of wraps your loved one may own, this one is bound to be their new—and possibly forever—favorite.
—Lesley Stockton, senior staff writer
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