Gift Guides

Down the Chimney St. Nicholas Came With a Bound

. 8 min read . Written by Russell Smith
Down the Chimney St. Nicholas Came With a Bound

Your ultimate 2022 holiday gift guide

Wow, did 2022 go fast or what?! How is it time for Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa again? Well, despite our best attempts to slow down time, here we are. If you are looking for fabulous gift ideas for your loved ones and friends, you came to the right place. You’ll find amazing gift ideas in these categories:

Food and Drink


Life Improvement

Work Joy

At Home



Hold on to your sleigh; here we go!

Food and Drink

Old Ways Tea Club

Phil and Mengjiao Cyr run Old Ways Tea in California. They sell tea, tea bundles and tea tools. But their best product is the Old Ways Tea Club, a subscription service of delicious and rare teas from China every other month. The teas all come from Mengjiao’s family’s farm in Wuyishan.

For my birthday this year, I gave myself a subscription, and I love it. The Club has introduced me to teas I otherwise would not have found. And I thoroughly enjoy their write-ups on the teas too.

Unlike the Jelly of the Month Club, this Club gives all year round.

Runamok Sparkle Syrup

My aunt and uncle introduced our daughters to this delightful syrup a few years ago. Which genius looked at syrup – sweet, sticky nectar of the backwoods gods – and said, “Yep, we can make it better”? Santa will be a hero when your kids pour some delicious sparkles all over their chocolate chip pancakes.

Sailor Ceramics

My friend Rachel Lutz owns Sailor Ceramics and makes the most gorgeous pottery. She gave me a mug earlier this year and it is unspeakably beautiful.

This photo does not do justice to its beauty. The bluish-gray looks like a color you could only find in the depths and shadows of the ocean.

Every morning, I come into my office and start my work day with my tea ritual.

I fill my water heater.

I pour the tea leaves into my teapot.

Once the water has heated up, I pour it into my teapot.

The tea steeps. Usually, not for long. I prefer medium-strength tea.

I pour the tea into a mug.

I keep many mugs in my office.

They all have a story behind them. Some were also gifts.

Some I simply found beautiful. Their elegance radiates out to me.

This mug contains a beauty all of its own. Almost a soul.

Yes, the tea does taste better – richer, more fulfilling – when drunk from a mug with a special story and connection.

I will use it for many, many years.

I will cherish it for many, many years.

You will too. Reach out to Rachel for details.

Blackstone Griddle

For aspiring Benihana chefs like yours truly, these griddles bring those dreams to life. Cook your shrimp appetizer, fried rice, onion volcano, veggies swimming in soy sauce, and your favorite meats on this flat-top – and you’ll have friends and family salivating for that delicious dinner. Just let me know what time I should arrive and what I can bring.


For the fiction-lover on your list, pick up a copy of The Lightkeeper, a wonderful story of a time-traveling lightkeeper.  You can read more about the book and its dynamic author, Sherry Shenoda, in the interview Sherry kindly did with me earlier this year.

My list of the books I would read if I could only read 25 books for the rest of my life contains books to satisfy every book lover in your life. Check it out!

For even more terrific book ideas, check out the index of articles I’ve written about books.

Life Improvement

A Day For Yourself

In an increasingly pressurized and hectic world, we need time and space to think, reflect and feel – about our life, world, our work and relationships. Give yourself a gift this year – schedule a day NOW for a moment of pause and reflection. Even better, schedule a day each quarter. Or take it a step further and schedule a day every month.

What’s that? Are you feeling a bit hesitant? Maybe you feel that “work is too busy” or that you can’t take “time off to do nothing.”

I have a different perspective. This time does involve work. It’s not a vacation. This time exists as an investment in yourself and your life. It provides an opportunity that you simply can’t wrangle out of the everyday hustle and bustle to ask yourself questions. Perhaps essential questions about your life.

Give yourself this gift. You will thank the gift giver, as will your loved ones and colleagues.

Foster Membership

As I have mentioned, in 2021, I joined Foster, a wonderful writing community. It’s a warm, engaging, highly-skilled group of writers supporting each other in pounding the stone on the craft of writing and storytelling. It’s been one of the great joys in my life.

If you want to become a better writer, I invite you to try Foster! You can sign up for a free one-month trial. Enter the code RUSSELL to unlock this offer. You will love it as much as I do!

Joyce Guan West CEO and Executive Coaching

Were you laid off recently? Are you looking for a more heartfelt connection with your work? Joyce is a dear friend and a wise advisor. She and her team can take you through the entire career evaluation and hunt process, from ideation of possible next steps, research resume and LinkedIn updates, and interview and negotiation preparation.

Even more, Joyce possesses a spark and joy in life that will excite you to work with her. She also becomes your unwavering champion – and who today couldn’t use an enthusiastic and astute advocate?

Work Joy

Colonel Littleton No. 1 Saddlebag Briefcase

I’ve carried mine every day for more than 10 years. It looks even better today than on the day it arrived. I have received more compliments on this briefcase than on all the others I’ve owned combined.

Kaweco Classic Sport Fountain Pen

I have loved fountain pens since high school. (Yet another personal trait that exuded coolness in those years.) I rarely see fountain pens in today’s business world, but when I do, they stand out. It means the person cares about the details of life and work.

The Kaweco Sports make for an excellent introduction to fountain pens. Lightweight (except the brass version), they become an easy daily companion. I carry mine often and use them at my desk almost every day.

At Home

Lusso Cloud Slippers

My wife jokes that I find all my product ideas on podcasts. She has a point. I found these on some podcast, but I can’t recall which one. Whatever the source, I started wearing the Guru Sherp slippers last month. Comfortable, easy to slip on, and provides total foot warmth. I am constantly cold, especially my hands and feet, so these boots really keep my toes toasty.

Neutrogena Moisturizing Hand Cream

An artist friend clued me into this hand cream about a decade ago. She nailed it – you cannot find a better cream to keep your hands soft and supple in these dry, frigid, windy winter months. It makes for the perfect stocking stuffer.


Pursuit Outdoors Founding Membership

This year my friend Josh Green started this company, which is dedicated to helping outdoors sportsmen and sportswomen find and plan amazing excursions. With their launch, they’re offering a special deal on Founding Membership. Join now and make 2023 an adventure-filled year!

Vedavoo Backpack or Sling Pack

My often-used and well-loved Vedavoo backpack

Scott Hunter and his team make some of my favorite fly fishing gear. I’ve used my backpack for more than 7 years now. This summer, I picked up one of their sling packs, which I also use and love on and off the water. Vedavoo’s mesh bags make for an excellent beach or all-around-carry bags. I use my Little Sandy Mesh Ruck for shopping at the farmer’s market.

Biolite Power Stations

If you’re into roughing it out, but by “roughing it” you mean “full access to electronics and most creature comforts of life,” check out these power supplies by one of my favorite outdoors companies.


Finally, if you received this newsletter, you probably have most of life’s needs and wants taken care of. The people and creatures aided by the charities below do not.

St John Center

As you likely know, I have worked with St John Center for several years. The team provides desperately needed support for some of our most vulnerable neighbors. Please consider making a cash donation or donating supplies to the Center and its beneficiaries. Current items in high demand include the following, or check out their full Amazon Wish List:

  • Men’s boxers and briefs (M, L, XL)
  • HotHands Hand Warmers
  • Body wash or 3-in-1 wash
  • Wool hats
  • Gloves

Gilda’s Club Kentuckiana

My family and many friends have suffered from cancer. Gilda’s does such special work in uplifting cancer patients’s and survivors’s spirits. Please consider donating here.

The Sorkin Center at Compass Pro Bono

In the early 2000s, I worked for a consulting firm in DC called the Corporate Executive Board (CEB). A senior executive there, Jerry Sorkin, became a mentor, guiding me in my career growth for years. Sadly, Jerry passed away from cancer far too young.

In his honor, senior leadership at CEB established The Sorkin Center at Compass Pro Bono. The Sorkin Center aids non-profit Boards and leaders in becoming better at the work they perform and the governance they offer. Having seen excellent and poor leadership firsthand, I have become a passionate advocate for building Board capabilities and growing senior leadership abilities. Last month, I joined the Advisory Board of The Sorkin Center and I couldn’t feel more thrilled to assist it in this needed mission. You can learn more, and donate, on its site.

Kentucky Humane Society

As temperatures plunge, please keep our beloved furry friends in mind too. You can donate here. Or they have a long list of items needed for the dogs, cats and horses, and for KHS operations.

May you give and receive the joy and love of the season to all who surround you! Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Happy Kwanzaa! And let me wish you all a wonderful 2023!!

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Images created by Olivia Lund.