- Her Voice at the Table Team
Holiday Gift Guide, 2022!
Last week, I came across a meme that read, “I hate when people ask me if I’m all ready for Christmas. No, Susan. I’m not even ready for today” and, at that moment, I felt very seen, so much so that I reposted it to my own account, which resulted in many of my family and friends responding with a spectrum of emojis expressing enthusiastic agreement. One of the things that sets me back in my own preparation for the holidays is my commitment to finding the perfect gift for my loved ones. I spend hours combing the internet, traipsing through stores and contemplating the one thing each precious family member or dear friend never knew they needed, refusing to settle until I find “it.” Nothing gives me more joy than landing on that item and wrapping it, anticipating the reaction when they open it. Truly, one of my favorite parts, if not my most favorite part, of the Christmas season is giving gifts to others. At the same time, I dread the question, “What do you want for Christmas this year?” Perhaps it’s my hope for a true surprise, a gift someone else picked out just for me, that makes it difficult, or I am just so caught up in gift-giving that gift-receiving is the last thing on my mind. Years ago, I came across an idea to help out gift-givers (and receivers!) in a family, which suggested each family member receives a “want,” a “need,” and a “read,” and I just loved that idea, especially since books are one of my favorite gifts to give (and get!).
So, we at Her Voice at the Table put our own spin on this lovely tradition and decided to share our own “Need & Read” this Christmas! With this post, we hope to help those looking for gift ideas for their loved ones and maybe, also help those who are looking for gift ideas for each of us! Happy Holidays!!
If you would have told me, at any point in my life before the moment my son came into this world, that one day I would want to rock a “Hockey Mom” sweatshirt with my son’s number on it, I would’ve said you were out of your mind. Now, here I am, asking for one for Christmas. When that baby boy was put in my arms for the first time nearly eleven years ago, I vowed to always be his number one fan, no matter what he chose to do, and, believe me, at the time I was hoping he’d choose anything other than “sports ball,” but now I can’t wait to cheer him on at every lesson, practice, and game, watching him develop as a player, a teammate, and a person. As if the crowd around me couldn’t tell how proud I was by my (loud) cheering and pounding on the glass, they’ll see it now in big, bold letters with #19 right over my heart.
I first encountered Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin when it was a Book of the Month choice in July of this year. (Bonus Gift Idea for Booklovers: Book of the Month subscription!) A group of my friends, all BOTM subscribers, alert each other in a group text when the new book choices show up on the app or website, and I was immediately drawn to the colorful cover art. After reading the “Quick Take,” “This moving story of friendship and art-making will have you nostalgic for your favorite childhood video games,” I put it on my mental “To be Read” shelf, thinking it might even be a better choice for my fifteen-year-old stepdaughter, a self-proclaimed “gamer.” Since July, this book keeps popping up everywhere for me, starting with one of my BOTM-buddies raving about her July-choice in our group chat to it being declared “Book of the Year” by Barnes and Noble, Book of the Month, Goodreads, and other book influencers as the year draws to a close. Needless to say, I am seeing all the signs and have moved this book to the top of my reading list for 2023.
Recently, I took a fun workshop on Japanese sashiko embroidery with my friend Sarah that inspired me to learn more embroidery techniques. My grandmother was a seamstress and I have always loved textiles, and the sashiko method often uses naturally dyed fabrics and thread, which I think is so neat. Stitching is a soothing activity to do as I wind down before bedtime; I’m trying to limit my screen time, especially at night, and stitching feels like a great way to relax and let my mind wander. I love embroidery kits (I found these on Etsy) that come with nature themes and are easy for beginners, like me!
I saw The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow on the staff pick shelf of The Twig bookstore in San Antonio last weekend and the florals on the cover immediately grabbed my attention! I love historical fiction and over the holidays I am ready for an escape, so any story promising “ten thousand doors” seems like a guaranteed adventure. From the back cover, the book is about “January Scaller, the ward of wealthy Mr. Locke, who grows up feeling like the artifacts that decorate his sprawling mansion: carefully maintained, largely ignored and utterly out of place. But when she finds a strange book–one that tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure, and danger–for the first time January realizes she can escape her story and sneak into someone else’s.” I can’t wait to enjoy the writing that The Twig owner told me “took her breath away.”
Last Christmas, my family surprised me with a flower subscription service from UrbanStems, a gift that, while completely welcomed, seemed a wee bit indulgent. Who am I, Emily Gilmore? Lady Crawley? Fast forward a year, and I cannot imagine this service ending, so it is at the top of my wishlist! For the past year, a fresh box of flowers has arrived at regular intervals on my doorstep, and pretty much every bouquet has survived until the next one arrives. In terms of flower subscription services, UrbanStems appears to be the one that offers the greatest range in terms of prices and flower selection, but some quick research turns up some pretty great alternatives: this recent Vogue article, for example, runs through six companies that hit all kinds of flower needs: eco-conscious, budget friendly, flower nerds, etc. In an ideal world, I would ask for a collection of flower seeds to grow in my backyard, but until I learn how to stop killing everything that I touch, I’ll send out a Christmas-wish hope for another year of these beauties!
Rosie Blake’s The Hygge Holiday: The Warmest, Funniest, Cosiest Romantic Comedy of the Year is about four years old, but only recently came across my reading radar when a friend added it to an ongoing recommendation list that circulates in our WhatsApp group chat. While I probably don’t need yet another rom-com—book, show, or movie—on my list this holiday season, I am particularly drawn to this one because the recommender is someone often skeptical of the romantic comedy genre and yet also someone who reads this book every holiday season. Also, come on—the subtitle? The Warmest, Funniest, Cosiest Romantic Comedy of the Year? Sold! In my friend’s words: “If you like to daydream about crafting magical environments, this book is for you. If you like to imagine a heroine with integrity, just skip the parts with the jerk.” So, although my stack of holiday to-reads is now tall enough to serve as a second bedside table, I will make room at the top for this one.
On a recent trip to the UK, my partner came back with the Dishoom cookbook. I started cooking Indian curries and breads during lockdown thanks to a birthday gift-subscription from The Spicery (thanks mom and dad!) and am trying to level-up to make Indian cuisine without spice kits. Lots of recipes in this Dishoom cookbook call for freshly ground spices and spice pastes. I have an old coffee grinder I use in a pinch, but it doesn’t grind the spices fine enough! Am very interested in a proper mortar and pestle for all my grinding and pulverizing needs.
Similar to Megan, I have had a 2018 book in the back of my brain for a few years and keep meaning to snag a copy–Priya Parker’s The Art of Gathering and Why it Matters. Post-Covid and moving into my first house (!!!) I was SO excited about having friends over more regularly. However, when hosting I find myself wracked with anxiety. I’ve been meaning to read this book for a while now to remind myself of the larger “why” behind people gathering, and stop worrying about if the olives have pits or not. I’m going to check out Lucky Dog Books, a local used book store in my new neighborhood that I have yet to visit, to see if they have a copy!
I typically don’t buy books, because I would rather read it once and give it back to the library than have it sit on my shelf for all eternity, especially if it is a book I haven’t read before. I have, however, made an exception to that rule with The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. I first heard about this book from a good friend of mine who is a grade above me in school. She and I are similar, and since she is a person I look up to a lot and greatly admire, I try to emulate her. So, when she came to rehearsal each day with a copy of this book under her arm, I knew I had to read it. In it, a teenage girl, Avery Grambs, who grew up with very little money to her name, learns that she has inherited most of the multi-billionaire, Tobias Hawthorne's wealth and land, and has no connection to the family entirely.
My “need” for this Christmas might seem a little outdated, but what I want more than anything is a CD player. At first, I thought I wanted a record player. Records are cool and indie with pretty colors and good quality sound. However, after buying a few to play on my sister’s record player, I realized that not only are they expensive, but also difficult to transport, given their delicate nature. So, I revisited my thought process, and remembered the idea of a CD player. CDs are cheaper, sturdier, and smaller than records, and a CD player is much easier to set up in a college dorm than a record player. Plus, it gives me a way to support my favorite artists without breaking the bank.
My Spotify Wrapped this year dubbed me an “enthusiast,” or, as some may say, obsessive. When I find a new artist, I must listen to every album they’ve ever released (first in album order, then I go crazy and hit shuffle) and no surprise–I have similar habits when it comes to reading. So, my read for Christmas this year is The Little Friend by Donna Tartt, as I have already read and loved her other two published works, The Secret History and The Goldfinch. The Little Friend follows a little girl as she grows up, attempting to solve her brother’s murder. Although its Goodreads page describes it more as a coming-of-age story than a crime thriller, the darker aesthetic sounds perfect for (hopefully) cold winter nights!
Not to be boring and introduce practical presents to the mix, but I will be living it up in a dorm next year, and I will definitely need a coffee machine to keep me company. As much as I love grabbing coffee during a study session at a cute café, that’s not always accessible, and it’s definitely not always affordable for a college student. And as we all know, everything I own must be dorm-sized, a definite challenge, but Mr. Coffee has me covered. The five-cup coffee pot will be perfect for one person–sustainable for refills, but will still stay fresh. Starting and finishing a twelve-cup by yourself without leaving it out overnight (ew) has proved impossible to me. No coffee waste, plus, it’s so cute!