Jumping in with a last minute guide for those of us who excel at procrastinating. These gifts probably won’t arrive in time for the tree, but if you’re running late this year like me, these may help make ammends.
Crafting custom minis for your regular tabletop RPG campaign once required blood, sweat, tears, and coat after coat of paint. Now, however, they’re only an STL file away. Anvl Miniatures‘ character creation system is both impressively vast—offering a variety of character races and classes from classic fantasy to far-flung sci-fi—and wonderfully intuitive. Not only can you tweak individual model aspects to your liking, adding an array of weapons and animal mounts as well as the popular new battle wheelchair to your character, you can also manually adjust individual features with startling precision—lifting arms, rotating hands, squaring shoulders, and bending tails. If you own a 3D printer, you can download a printable file of your custom creation for a mere $4.97. Or, if you’d prefer, Anvl will print and carefully ship your model worldwide in any number of materials from their gorgeously detailed premium resin to more exotic fare like bronze, silver, and even gold! (Review materials provided by Anvl.)
By far, one of my favorite new finds of 2020 was UK-based Harber London. Combining the high-flying aesthetic of luxury leather goods with durable, down-to-earth designs perfect for your everyday carry, their products are hard to resist and easy to love. Handcrafted in Spain of responsibly-sourced premium materials like buttery soft full-grain leather and lined with 100% wool felt, the Slim Leather MacBook Sleeve is just the thing for the Apple-enthusiast on your gift list. (Review materials provided by Harber London.)
Brash is a Black-owned small business that was started in Oakland, CA. It’s the brainchild of a young woman’s necessity: “Originally whipped up in the kitchen of a motivated millenial with dry elbows and eczema that seemed to be irritated by every lotion and body butter that didn’t smell like a medicinal nightmare. Determined to eliminate the look and smell of social exile, she embarked on a journey to create the perfect texture and scent of whipped shea goodness.”
Brash’s skincare products are all natural, vegan, and affordable. They also smell and feel great, with scents like ripe peach & wild rose, and mediterranean fig & black jasmine. And if that alone doesn’t get you to want to try their products, a portion of the proceeds of each sale are donated towards efforts to end sex trafficking of children and teens.
Sionnach Studios is a small studio that specializes in design & fabrication of custom costumes, props, and sets. They can often be found at conventions in Artist Alley and on panels. In addition to commissions, they have a full shop of patterns, 3D files, kits, and finished items to help costumers of all levels!
Are you a child of the ’70s and ’80s? Do you love nostalgia? Especially with a slightly twisted bent? Then this book is for you. With the art style of many a Gen-Xer’s childhood—with a bonus free poster inside, for reals—this book club catalog is a parody of Scholastic and other book club catalogs from that era. Inside is art from fictional books, records, and mail order advertisements, and it even includes some activities such as mazes and coloring pages. The Little Occult Book Club has titles such as “Caring for Your Demon Cat,” “Pyrokinesis for Beginners,” and “Don’t Fall Asleep Bedtime Stories.” It’s a fun gift for anyone with a sense of humor and a fondness for Scholastic catalogs from decades gone by.
If you need to pick up something fun for the littles in your life at the last minute, then you should probably pick up the LeapFrog Pick Up & Count Vacuum. LeapFrog is a not so secret obsession in our house, and has been for a decade, the Pick Up and Count Vacuum continues to combine learning, play, and delightful musical earworms for the whole family. There are several different ways to play with this toy, and then your kids will probably invent new ones, especially if they have just watched Hocus Pocus like my kids did. You can use it as a simple Vacuum toy, though I long ago gave up the hope that my kids would learn daily cleaning habits from cleaning toys, they do still enjoy playing with them. It can be used as part of your home school routine, we all have one now right, as it teaches about colors and numbers through play. There are six interactive games to choose from. And to mimic the Sanderson sisters, it can always be used as a flying vehicle.
What sets the LeapFrog Pick Up and Count Vacuum apart from other learning toys in the same vein is the collection and identification system. The vacuum comes with 10 interactive dust pieces. As they are picked up, the Vacuum counts with you, but also identifies the color that is being collected. What I really need is for LeapFrog to join forces with Lego and create a Lego Vacuum that does the same. But until that dream comes true I will have fun watching my older sons leave a trail of these colored dust tokens around the house for their sister to run around and find. The recommended age is two and up, and my kids are between five and eleven. My five year old loves playing with this, and her brothers love helping her play with it. It really fosters that play time between older and younger siblings. Especially when the younger is willing to pretend to be vacuuming in Minecraft. Like the old school push and pop vacuums of the 80s this one comes with balls that fly around inside the vacuum canister, but there are far more bells and whistles than the play vacuum of long ago childhoods. As an added bonus for the parent with too many toys, it has a detachable tray at the back that catches the dust pieces as they are collected. It is quite literally the toy that cleans itself up as they play, a bonus for anyone’s Christmas morning.
I will forever be in awe of my eight year old’s passion for, and capacity to consume, non fiction books. While I have my head in Camelot or Middle Earth, he is in the British Museum. There are always a stack of National Geographic books under our tree for him, and the 2021 Almanac is a great gift to pick up for the young reader on your gift list. Updated for 2021, the Almanac combines National Geographic’s flare for weird-but-true with their desire for education and deep knowledge to be imparted to every generation. Packed with information, games, quizzes and jokes, there is something for everyone in this book and it will provide a great way to bring a disparate group around the same activity on Christmas Day. Personally I like to sit with a nice cup of tea while my eight year old regales me with stories of freaky weather, newly discovered dinosaurs, or marvelous facts about manatees.
This edition comes with 500 photos from esteemed National Geographic photographers, no expense spared. Whether the voracious reader in your life is interested in space travel, cute animals, or biodiversity there will be something to engage and delight. Especially appropriate for this year is the map section that covers geological and political differences. There is a state by state guide to the United States, as well as the territories, and a snapshot of each President all the way up to Donald J. Trump. This year has seen many parents needing to provide supplemental education at home, and this Almanac is a fantastic tool to put at their disposal.