A compendium of Recomendo




Japanese toys

Leave it to the Japanese to sell toy models of prehistoric invertebrates. Not fierce dinosaurs, or ancient predators, but spineless slugs and amorphous marine creatures extinct millions of years ago. The Favorite Store offers two of my favorites, inexpensive anatomically accurate soft casts of Opabinia and Anomalocaris. — KK 

Create your own boardgame

I recently bought the Junior Game Inventors Kit to build with my soon-to-be stepson. We had a lot of fun creating a board design and brainstorming “consequence" and “reward” cards. We didn’t get a chance to finish and play the game, but I’m looking forward to seeing how it evolves. Very reasonable price for a kit that inspires creativity. — CD


I always carry a deck of cards. Not to play card games, but to practice sleight of hand. It’s easy to have a conversation and at the same time, and it prevents me from fidgeting. This 4 DVD set, The Royal Road to Card Magic is a bargain at $15, and a great way to get started. — MF


A crazy Kickstarter project I funded (still open) is Event Horizon, which is a LARP — a live action role playing game. Think of an improv weekend where the audience is the players. This one convenes 150 people to pretend they are in a space opera on a distant planet with costumes, characters, roles, sets, drama, and lodging for the weekend. Nerd city. — KK 

Who are you?

Know Yourself is a set of 60 cards to prompt you to examine your beliefs. Example card: “List five things that are important to you in your life. How much of your time do you give to each of these?” The back of each card offers advice to make sure you answer the questions in a useful way. You can use their cards on your own or with another person you feel close to. Be prepared to surprise yourself. — MF

Brain-training apps

I’ve been enjoying using both Peak and Elevate brain-training apps for about a month now. While Elevate has more challenging writing and math exercises that actually teach you as you go, Peak’s problem solving puzzles are addictive, and I get a greater sense of accomplishment after completing them. Plus, I really enjoy competing against previous scores and watching my “brain map” grow. Here’s a good comparison review. — CD

Wise oracle cards

Second to the traditional Rider-Waite deck, my new favorite set of tarot cards is the Tao Oracle. It is the I-Ching, without the coin throwing, in beautifully-illustrated oversized cards. The guide book itself is a sacred text. I often just read random pages for quick, calming wisdom.  — CD

Smooth speedcube

I have not yet solved Rubik’s Cube, and whenever I used to try, I’d get discouraged because the cube locks up when turning it. Then I discovered Chinese speed cubes. They are very smooth and a pleasure to use. I’m working on a 2 x 2 x 2 mini-cube ($8) instead of the usual 3 x 3 x 3. Still haven’t cracked it! — MF

Pocketable watercolor kit

This small, watercolor kit by Sakura is perfect for the occasional wannabe artist like me. It comes with a brush that stores water, so you can always be ready to paint. It was so easy to incorporate this into my journaling/sketching routine. — CD

Google autocomplete game

Google Feud is a game that challenges you to guess the top ten Google autocompletes for a particular word or term. For instance, the game might prompt you with “my friend is addicted to” and you have to fill in the rest of the query. (FYI, the top ten autocompletes for this example are weed, her phone, drugs, coke, pills, drama, oxycodone, crack, anime, and alcohol.) — MF

Beautiful puzzles

Pomegranate’s Charley Harper puzzles are beautiful and sturdy. Each piece is glossy and locks well with other pieces, and it’s a fun distraction for a few hours. I’ve bought two so far — Tree of Life and Exquisite Creatures. — CD

Favorite pool float

I spent almost four hours lounging in this papasan float on the 4th of July and it’s now my favorite purchase of the year. Half my body stays in the water, so I’m able to stay cool while basking in the sun. The only drawback might be how easy it is to relax — time went by so fast, I got sunburned. — CD

Learning game for preschoolers

My three-year-old brother is obsessed with watching Youtube on his iPad and playing app games. I wanted to find a non-tech activity that he would have fun playing with and maybe learn something. The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Game — a color matching game — was fun for both of us! You spin a spinner, you pick up acorns and you try to be the first to collect all the colors. He practiced saying all his colors out loud and worked on his motor skills with the squirrel squeezer. He also learned to “cheat” by landing on the “sneaky squirrel” and being allowed to steal acorns. It was really cute. — CD 

WellnessClaudia Dawson