2023 Holiday Gift Guide for People in Tech

EDGE in Tech™ Initiative at UC
11 min readNov 26, 2023

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Tis the season for joy and family. Yet we all could use a helping hand with all the other things weighing down our thoughts. We carry the knowledge of immense tragedies around the world — from natural disasters and wars, to domestic and global political polarization and its negative impacts on the wellbeing of women, minorities, and the LGTBQA+ community, to the growing threats from rapid automation and AI (and FOBO the fear of becoming obsolete), climate change, wage inequality, and gun violence.

Phew! It’s no wonder we all need a reminder to breathe. We all need space. We all need grace. For ourselves, for our family, friends, and our global neighbors. G — generosity; R — respect; A — action for change; C — compassion for others; and E — energy to persist and thrive.

To help us shore up our outlook and keep our focus on making the change we want to see in the world, let’s explore gifts to reflect, to encourage gratitude, and to restore our reserves so we can continue our efforts to support our families and our world. As always, holidays give us a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with the people and activities that really matter.

So for this year’s gift guide — let’s specifically focus on comfort… and the little things that can collectively bolster a positive outlook. Let’s give gifts that promote balance, peace, and our sense of safety. And let’s celebrate the precious opportunity to travel around the sun on our small blue dot for another year together.

Gifts that hug back

Hugs are great and evidence supports the comfort they provide. To help you curl up with a book or stream a movie or just get a better night’s sleep, here are several ways to wrap yourself up in gifts that cuddle you in comfort. Take a look at the Softies Marshmallow Crew Neck Lounger with Pockets “envelops you in a cloud of softness.”

Barefoot Dreams has been a favorite since they came out with tiny “ultra-soft blankets” for babies and now you can get an adult size version CozyChic® Endless Road Blanket or INSPI(RED) throw in collaboration with (RED) to fight global health emergencies and support equitable access to testing and treatment (15% of the retail price from every RED blanket purchased will go to the Global Fund).

Consider the Hug Sleep Pod with its “sleep experience with integrated hood design,” that provides a “cozy and secure feeling and allowing you to drift away into a rejuvenating sleep”

Cloud Socks points out that “studies have shown that wearing socks to sleep will not only help you fall asleep quicker but you’ll also stay asleep longer.”

Not to leave out the little ones, a great wearable blanket for the crib-set is Burt’s Bees Baby Organic Cotton Wearable Blanket which is “designed to replace loose blankets in the crib.”

Wherever you cuddle up, grab a soothing Hugget, “a stress-relieving knot pillow to delight the senses” that soothes the fidgeter in all of us. Another a great soothing toy for kids? Purrble.

Gifts that feed your soul

In a time when you can find any recipe with an internet search or by asking Chatgpt for a recipe with the ingredients you have in the house, why buy an actual cookbook? These cookbooks not only connect you with heart warming comfort foods, they are also beautiful books with inspiring stories, mouthwatering photos, and wonderful illustrations. Food brings people together, for many, food is their “love language”, and food can take us back to a time when we were cared for and treated. So warm someone’s heart with compelling personal stories and recipes that strengthen community.

Perhaps your mind immediately goes to a sweet treat for a momentary respite. In “More Than Cake: 100 Baking Recipes Built for Pleasure and Community,” baking brings people together and should not be seen as “an overwhelming means to an end but as a meditative process to enjoy in and of itself.”

Another go-to for comfort food is soup. Nigel Slater’s “A Cook’s Book” includes: the solace of soup” and not to mention a section on cakes and “the silence of cheesecake.”

In “Salad for President: A Cookbook Inspired by Artists” we find a “practical resource for healthy, satisfying recipes,” “an inspiring look at creativity,” and a reminder that “food doesn’t have to be complicated to be delicious”

Another artistic book invites you to reflect and relax with “Black Food: Stories, Art, and Recipes from Across the African Diaspora [A Cookbook]” which “explores the interweaving of food, experience, and community through original poetry and essays”

Food is a cultural link between generations. Explore “how food connects us to our loved ones” in “Tenderheart: A Cookbook About Vegetables and Unbreakable Family Bonds” with its “loving homage to [the author’s] father, a Chinese immigrant in Australia.” Hetty Lui McKinnon also wrote the forward to “Mamacita: Recipes Celebrating Life as a Mexican Immigrant in America.”

Mina Stone “celebrates her grandmother and the other influences that have shaped her life, her career, and her culinary tastes and expertise” in “Lemon, Love & Olive Oil”, with 80 Mediterranean-style dishes with the stories that inspired them.”

Finally, give yourself and your loved ones the gift of kindness. Sometimes we need permission to experiment and fail. Enter “Basics with Babish: Recipes for Screwing Up, Trying Again, and Hitting It Out of the Park,” with “recipes that teach you how to learn from your mistakes.”

Gifts that clear your mind

Whether it is the aftermath of a global pandemic or the everpresent social media, we and especially the youngest generations are struggling. There is a growing need for practices that promote our mental wellbeing. Meditation apps are surging and we have access to data from nutrition, fitness, and sleep sensors, yet we need help to create this space for personal reflection and growth.

When you search for selfcare, one of the first thing you might notice is the absence of resources for men, so let’s start off with the “Mental Health Journal for Men” which offers a “mental health gym for guys, providing effective ways to organize your thoughts and work through stress, anxiety, and more.” We need more of this type of inclusion.

In “Real Self-Care: A Transformative Program for Redefining Wellness (Crystals, Cleanses, and Bubble Baths Not Included)” we are reminded that “Fixing your troubles isn’t as simple as buying a new day planner or signing up for a meditation class.” Societal systems often “exonerate an oppressive social system that has betrayed women and minorities.” Real self-care is an “internal, self-reflective process that involves making difficult decisions in line with our values, and when we practice it, we shift our relationships, our workplaces, and even our broken systems.”

Children pick up on our stress and feel loss deeply. In pictures and words “Many Shapes of Clay: A Story of Healing” helps children to “live with the sense of loss” and experience the “joyful power of making something new out of what is left behind.”

If you are behind a screen most hours of your day, take a moment to pick a card from the “Desk Yoga Deck: 52 Simple Practices for Mental and Physical Wellness, No Matter Where You Work.”

Turn small talk into team building with UC Berkeley EGAL’s “Belonging Sparks” and make a deeper connection with people, with the “Actually Curious: Happy Hour Edition! Adult Icebreaker Conversation Card Game.

Gifts that make you laugh

For more belly laughs try playing “We’re Still Good Party Card Game” which is fun and encourages you to put a good spin on a bad situation. In “3 Things”, you have 30 seconds to choose three things to survive a strange scenario. And you can’t go wrong with “Cards Against Humanity.”

And for those more digitally inclined — check out these for chuckles — “Untitled Goose Game”; “I Am Bread”; “Human Fall Flat”, and “Jackbox Party Pack 10” was recently released.

Gifts that are in good taste

For the kid in all of us, what is more relaxing than cookies and a warm drink? Cookies and a warm sip can feed the soul and nourish neighbors. Here are gifts to strengthen your immunity and community.

GOLDE Superfood Latte Blend — Original Turmeric or GOLDE Turmeric Blend Matcha is a great alternative to coffee that will also kick your immune system and metabolism into gear.

With “Doughp Legit Cookie Dough” a portion of each purchase is donated to support mental health & addiction recovery through #Doughp4Hope. “Life is raw. Cookie dough helps.”

“Food allergies affect 1 in 13 children across the country, and (according to foodallergy.org) Black children are at a significantly higher risk of developing these allergies” so Partake offers a delicious, allergy-friendly cookies “that those with and without food restrictions” can enjoy and share so everyone can Partake in celebrations.

Taste the Mexican Wedding Cookies and Orejitas Cookies with a cup of Mexican Hot Chocolate by La Monarca Bakery, appropriately named as 1% of the purchase of this product goes to protect and preserve the Monarch Butterfly Habitat in Mexico.

Which aptly leads us to…

Gifts inspired by the planet

Let’s give back to the planet by using less of it and planting more into the soil. “Dock & Bay Reusable Makeup Pads” are great for cleaning your face and they are reusable. “Bee’s Wrap” reusable beeswax food wraps “eliminate single use plastic and keep food fresh.” “Rocketbook Core Reusable Smart Notebook” helps you “Ditch piles of wasteful single-use paper” with “the timeless feel of pen to paper writing with the digital connectedness of a tablet.”

Put down some roots with… “AeroGarden Harvest with Gourmet Herb Seed Pod Kit”; the “Back to the Roots Organic Shiitake Mushroom Kit”; a “Plant Theatre Psychedelic Vegetable Garden Starter Kit”; and some “Modern Sprout Pollinator Seed Garden Lollipops.”

Gifts that get you outside

Being outdoors can have a multitude of positive effects on a person’s physical and mental outlook. Here are a just a few of nature’s heath perks: Increased Immunity, Improved Mental Health, Better Sleep, Improved Physical Health. So give the gift of the outdoors. Find a way to regularly immerse yourself in nature, go for walk with friends, explore parks, put your toes in the ocean, climb mountains, bike or find a sport that will take your mind off work.

There are a number of Hiking Apps that will allow you to go places that cell phone coverage and GPS doesn’t reach. The Hiking Projects is free and crowd sourced, and AllTrails has a basic offering for free and subscription for more features.

Grab a “G4Free Lightweight Packable Hiking Daypack” or for a splash more color — a Cotopaxi Tasra 16L Pack — Del Dia 16L One of a kind and made proudly in the Philippines by an employee who has total creative control over the pack’s colorway. No two are the same!

And don’t forget to use sun screen like the “Brush On Block SPF 30 Mineral Powder Sunscreen” or treat yourself to “Eleven” by Venus Williams, a Natural Unrivaled Sun Serum SPF 40 Mineral Sunscreen (Clean, Reef-Safe, Cruelty-Free, Vegan).

Stay hydrated with the Hydracy Water Bottle and the No Sweat Sleeve. A good hiking shoe with ankle support is a good foundation — try the light weight “ALTRA Lone Peak All-WTHR Mid 2 Trail Running Shoe” in Womens or Mens sizes. And take a look at the “Conscious Step socks” and especially their socks that protect foxes!

Inspired by the Latin American abortion-rights movement, the green wave and symbolic green bandanas worn by activists and allies symbolized nature, growth, and reclaiming the term “pro-life.” In partnership with Niege Borges, a Brazilian artist & illustrator, 100% of proceeds from “THE GREEN BANDANA PROJECT” will be donated to the Whole Woman’s Health Alliance. The “Parks Project’s Doodle Cactus Cord Hat” will keep the sun out of your eyes and contribute to protecting national parks and to leaving it better than we found it. And to keep your cool, grab a “Igloo x Parks Project ECOCOOL® Little Playmate 7 Qt Cooler.”

To go further afield — grab a Roam limited edition Carry-On (For every bag sold, they donate $100 to New Alternatives, an organization dedicated to helping LGBTQ+ homeless youth and young adults transition to stable adult lives.)

Gifts that matter

Be generous with your time.

Be emphathetic in your interactions

Be aware of the agency you have to make a difference in the lives of others.

And whether you give your time, service, donations, or gifts, you are truly giving kindness and joy.

And give yourself the same kindness and the same grace you give others.

This is how we build the world we want to see.

Happy holidays and all the best for a better new year.

And keep in touch at edge.berkeley.edu and citris-uc.org/innovationhub

and in the Blue Sky @innovationhub.

All photos are courtesy of the companies and the linked sites selling the items including Amazon.com.

Download this guide and the prior gift guides: 2022 Gift Guide, 2021 Gift Guide, 2020 Gift Guide; visit us at edge.berkeley.edu; save the date March 8, 2024 for the EDGE in Tech Symposium on Advancing Health Tech for All, and follow us here on Medium at EDGE in Tech™ Initiative at UC, at Blue Sky @innovationhub, Twitter at EDGEinTech, YouTube, and on LinkedIn.

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EDGE in Tech™ Initiative at UC

Expanding Diversity and Gender Equity in Tech (EDGE in Tech) Initiative @ UC | CITRIS & the Banatao Institute + Berkeley Engineering http://edge.berkeley.edu