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Terp Holiday Gift Guide 2023

Out-of-this-World Candles, Delectable Desserts, Bestselling Books Offer Options for All

By Karen Shih ’09

illustration of a person opening up a giant gift with many items spilling out

Find everything from a Neil Patrick Harris-recommended board game to flowery decorations and thrilling young adult novels in this year’s UMD gift guide.

Illustration from iStock

You’ve given thanks for friends, family and full bellies—but now, it’s time to be grateful that this year’s Thanksgiving fell so early, giving you more time to shop before the holidays.

Here at Maryland Today, we’ve carefully curated some Terp-made products for everyone on your list, whether you want even more yummy treats, games for cold winter nights, pampering and pretty decorations, or a thrilling page-turner.

Spice Up Your Taste Buds

gingerbread cookies

Try a sprinkle—or more—of za’atar, sumac and Aleppo pepper from Z&Z, owned by Johnny ’14, Danny ’10 and Ronnie ’09 Dubbaneh, who honor their Middle Eastern roots with spice mixes and traditional manoushe flatbreads. Keep the vibrant flavors coming with a gift card to RASA, a fast-casual Indian chain (think Chipotle but with chicken tikka masala and mint cilantro chutney) created by Sahil Rahman ’12 and Rahul Vinod ’11, which now has five locations across the DMV.

Outsource your holiday baking by placing a pre-order for Christmas cookies at Sunday Morning Bakehouse, opened by Caroline Yi ’14. For the craft IPA or Belgian lover in your life, try a four-pack of local Terp beer from 7 Locks Brewing, Diamondback Brewing Co. or Black Flag Brewing Co. Want a gift that’s eco-friendly—and keeps on growing? Try a mushroom kit from Baltispore, co-owned by Harriet Harris ’23, which also offers tinctures and workshops.

Get Your Game On

whistle stop logo with puzzles and planes

Stop by Whistle Stop Toy & Hobby, owned by Frank Kozuch ’82, to pick up everything from model trains to puzzles and figurines. Not satisfied with mini trains? Pick up a ticket for the annual Santa Railway Express Train in Arlington, Va., organized by Kozuch for the 17th year. If you’re looking for a Neil Patrick Harris-recommended “legitimately spine-chilling horror game,” grab The Night Cage, created by Rosswell Saunders ’05. If family-friendly is more your speed, try Meet Mahjong, designed by Cara Weiss ’91, which teaches beginners both Chinese and American variations of the popular game.

Treat Yo’Self (Or Others)

Maryland flag-themed nails

Switch up your skincare routine with Talent from Brian Tsao ’19. The former competitive tennis player serves up vegan, fragrance-free products—designed with South Korean chemists—including a volcanic rock exfoliator and probiotic recovery serum. Bioengineer Courtney Johnson Ph.D. ’23 “illuminates the world of science through fragrance” with NotURAverage Candles, with out-of-this-world options like “Dark Matter” and “SuperNova.”

Need a stocking stuffer? Rock the red, black and gold with Maryland pride nail wraps from The BeauTufful Company, founded by Julie Long ’04, or order seasonal sets in sparkly blue or candy cane stripes. Add a touch of spring to your winter decorations with a dried flower ornament from SunKissed Flower Farm, owned by Rachel Lynn Ross ’19.

Curl Up With a Turtle-y Great Book

Family Lore book cover by Elizabeth Acevedo

Enjoy the “Good Morning America” book club pick “Family Lore” by Elizabeth Acevedo MFA ’15, which tells a multi-generational Dominican American story of love, food—and secrets. Laugh along with comedian Sarah Cooper ’98, who went viral for her lip-syncs of then-President Trump during the pandemic, as you dive into her new book, “Foolish: Tales of Assimilation, Determination, and Humiliation.”

Activate your Spidey-sense with the latest young adult novel from New York Times bestselling author Jason Reynolds ’05, “Mike Morales Suspended.” Or immerse yourself in the thriller “Invisible Son” by Kim Johnson ’03, about a Black teen falsely accused of a crime—and a missing friend he sets out to find.

Take a trip to the 1960s Jersey Shore with the coming-of-age tale, “Don’t Forget to Write,” by Sara Goodman Confino ’02, M.Ed. ’03. Go further back in time with murder mysteries by Victoria Thompson ’70, including new release “City of Betrayal,” the seventh book in her Counterfeit Lady series, set in 19th-century New York City.

For your favorite dog lover, send a paw-tographed copy of “The Purest Bond: Understanding the Human-Canine connection,” by Professor of Information Studies Jennifer Golbeck, for a mashup of science and touching animal anecdotes.

Still need more ideas? Check out our 2022 and 2021 guides.

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