Thursday, December 4, 2014

20 Gifts I Love to Give (or Get!)

It's that time of year again! Time to light the Advent wreath, sip hot cocoa, and drive yourself nuts trying to pick out the perfect gifts for your loved ones.

For some reason this year, John and I had our act together and (mostly) finished Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving. Pretty cool, right? Feels nice to be me right now. But that didn't come without a bit of work on our part. We sat and thought and thought and sat and browsed the internet and got annoyed with how long the process was taking, just like the rest of ya. Except this year we started gift brainstorming and shopping in October. OCTOBER, I tell ya. CRAZY, right??

But actually, who am I kidding? I LOVE giving gifts!! I love the thrill of finding that perfect, thoughtful gift for my special someones. And the joy and love they receive simply by opening our gifts and realizing we were thinking of them. Sure, it can be frustrating when you're stuck on that one relative who's nearly impossible to buy for, but overall, gift shopping and gift giving are two of my favorite things ever.

And I like to think I'm pretty good at it. (Not bragging, of course.)

So, for your shopping and giving pleasure, I give you some of my all-time favorite gifts to give (and receive!) with pictures and descriptions and links, oh my! Hope it's useful!

(Psst - If you're related to me and know you'll be getting a gift from us this year, you definitely want to skip the rest of this post. Spoilers ahead. Don't say I didn't warn you in all italics.)


This blanket is my favorite blanket of all time. True story, I own two of them and I'm giving two of them to loved ones this Christmas. Sure, it's a fair bit more expensive than your average fleece throw, but it's extra soft, very high quality fleece and all the patterns and colors are super cute.

Super saver tip - when Vera Bradley retires colors, they'll usually put all items in that color/pattern on a 30% discount. It's the best way to grab this item at a steal of a price. 

Subscription boxes

You all know I'm the Stitch Fix queen, but did you know I'm actually just an overall subscription box queen? And I think they make fantastic gifts.

This year, some of my loved ones will be getting a 6-month subscription to the Cravery, a bakery that delivers out-of-this-world tasty cookies straight to your mouth door once a month. And another loved one will be getting 3 months of Birchbox, a box full of girly girl stuff (make-up, perfume samples, etc.) or manly man stuff (socks and colognes, etc.), depending on which gender you're buying for, of course.

If neither of these sound appealing, do some research on other subscription boxes. Seriously, there are a zillion options out there: wine of the month, bacon boxes, craft boxes, kids' toys boxes, and so on. A box to suit everyone on your list! And oh what fun it is to look forward to receiving a gift subscription box full of surprises in the mail even after Christmas is over. A great gift indeed!

A new hobby 

Similar to subscription boxes, how about signing up a loved one for an online class that could turn into a new hobby? I found some great ones for sewing, crocheting, and calligraphy. Actually, the calligraphy class I linked to is the one I took online several months ago! And just like subscription boxes, I bet there are a zillion others out there too. Happy hobbying!

Games for little ones

Alright, so we all probably played Candyland, Chutes & Ladders, and Kerplunk as youngsters, so this gift suggestion likely isn't all that inspiring. But, the main point I'm trying to make here is get games for young kids, not clothes or toys that have simple functions (light up, make noise, annoy parents) or more clothes. Games are interactive and keep the kiddo you're buying for smart as a whip! My niece loved getting Candyland from us when she was three, so you can definitely start 'em young. Get gaming!

Games for adults

And just like our favorite little kiddos' brains, our adult brains need some game time too. Two of my favorites are Pandemic and Bohnanza, and they're both great as two player games, so you don't have to have a crowd around to dive in. Pandemic is a cooperative game, so you play together instead of against each other, to rid the world of fast-spreading diseases. And Bohnanza is just a wild wheeling-and-dealing, extremely interactive game that involves silly puns and bean farming. Oh, and there's also always Cards Against Humanity for your more crass relatives. Or folks looking for lots of inappropriate humor. It's ridiculously, so inappropriately hilarious. Don't say I didn't warn you.


For your loved ones who love the kitchen, how about some awesome cookbooks? If you've got a friend who loves low-cal, low-fat yummies, checkout the Skinnytaste Cookbook. Or if your friend is more into decadent stuff (bring on the butter!), the Joy the Baker Cookbook is probably more her speed. For Sriracha lovers, there's the Sriracha Cookbook, which John and I own and enjoy very much. And for your friends who love science and cooking, I definitely have to recommend The Science of Good Cooking by Cook's Illustrated. That one explains how to cook any and everything to perfection and why certain cooking methods are better than others. Geeky.


Every family has a chocolate lover, right? I know it might seem like kind of a lame present, but these boxes of chocolate are 1.) so very tasty and 2.) pretty expensive. So it's a yummy splurge item, or basically, an item people don't typically buy for themselves but probably totally secretly want. And that, my friends, is what I think makes it a great gift. 


You don't know what bad spices can do to a meal until you've cooked with really good spices. My parents have been using Penzey's spices for years (like probably 25 years +), and a few years back, they filled our cupboards with these gourmet spices as a Christmas gift. We'll never go back to cheap grocery store spices ever again. 

Penzey's sells great gift sets like the one you see above, but you could also just pick out a bunch of your favorites or a bunch of the standards (oregano, sea salt, vanilla extract, cumin, etc.) and make a set of your own. And all at very affordable prices. 

We really like their chili powder, adobo chili pepper, sandwich sprinkle, and sunny paris seasoning (for fish), in case you were looking for suggestions. :)


What's that? You say your friends would rather grow their herbs and spices? Well, alright! Instead of Penzey's spices, buy them one of these... an Aerogarden! This is their smallest, most affordable design, which can grow up to three different plants at a time. But of course, there are larger, more expensive Aerogardens too. I just think it's a super neat toy and who doesn't love to have fresh herbs growing in their home all year long? 


For your friends who love tea, spoil them this season with some tasty tea from Teavana! You really can't go wrong with any of the flavors, but we highly recommend the Cocoa Caramel Sea Salt, Zingiber Ginger Coconut, Youthberry, White Chocolate Peppermint, and Blackberry Mojito. Two ounces (the minimum purchase for each type of tea) is plenty to make lots of cups of one flavor, so mix and match a bunch for a full-on tea crazy experience. Or buy just two ounces to keep it affordable. It's up to you, gift giver!

Teavana also has lots of fun gadgets and gizmos for tea-making. Like this tea-maker that strains super easily. However, we do not, I repeat, DO NOT recommend buying any of their tea gift sets. From what I can tell, they save their worst teas for the sets. Ick! 


This lip goop is the perfect stocking stuffer. It goes on thick and stays on forever, leaving lips super moist and happy. Great especially for the winter time. I've never met a better lip gloss. 


Don't let the name throw you off. This palette of eye shadow is pure wonderful. So if you have any make-up fans in the fam, keep this gift in mind. The shadows are high quality and the colors are so perfectly standard and neutral, you can create tons of lovely looks. Also, there are two other versions of the Naked palette, one with more flashy colors and one with more rosy shades, so if you really want to shake it up, take a look at those too! 


These earrings are my jam. I actually have two pair: one in mint and another pair in clear blue. I wear them every stinkin' day and they always make me feel glamorous. If your friend has her ears pierced, buy these for her. She'll love you for it. 


So, I don't own these pajamas, and actually, I don't own many sets of fancy pajamas, so maybe that's why I think these'd make a great gift... because I want them for myself but I'm not willing to splurge on them. But again, just like the See's chocolate, isn't that what makes a great gift? Items you wouldn't buy for yourself but totally want? Anyway, these come in lots of different colors and they just look so dang comfy. Totally a spoil-the-heck-outta-your-loved-one item. 


Another good item for spoiling. LL Bean makes these suuuuuper comfy slippers for both men and women. And plus, they've got a wicked good name. :) New England, REPRESENT! 


This was the gift I never knew I wanted and now can't live without. John bought these for me last year and can I just say... what a world of difference they make! Not having to take off your finger-warming gloves to use your touch screen in the cold? YES PLEASE! They have tons of versions out there, not just leather, so find a pair that fits your budget and start giving away to all your favorite smart-phone-using loved ones. They'll love you for it.


These headbands. Swoon! Available for adults and children (including newborn babies... I DIE!!). But if you want 'em for Christmas, you better order now. It's not a large company (as in, I think there are only 5 or so women sewing up a headband storm behind the scenes), so order soon to make sure they arrive before Santa's supposed to. 


For your book-loving buddies, this service is fantastic! Once a month, they can download one book-on-tape and listen at their leisure. John and I had this subscription for a short while and we loved how affordable it was compared to buying books-on-tape via Amazon or other books-on-tape services. So if you have friends who like to read and who also spend a lot of time in a car or workout and listen to headphones, this is a great way of merging their desire to read with their likely lack of available reading time.

Oh, and in case you're looking for a suggestion for a clever and comical science fiction time travel novel, check out To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis. Genius. And a great book-on-tape!


Luxury for your hands. It's another one of those I-won't-buy-it-for-myself-because-it's-a-splurge-but-I'd-adore-it-if-you-gave-it-to-me items. I especially love the original scent (click on the white dot). And I especially especially love that it's made in St. Louis and made of (almost) all natural stuff. Luxury, folks. 


And finally, if you're a DIYer, like I very occasionally am, check out this great tutorial for a homemade yarn wreath. Very affordable, easy to follow, and the results are something to be proud of! Why, yes, I made that yarn wreath pictured above, thanks for wondering!

And that's a WRAP.

(Get it, get it? 'Cause you have to WRAP your presents?)

So now, dear friends, it's your turn! Can you recommend your favorite gifts to give (or receive)? I'd LOVE to hear your suggestions. Especially since the start of the 2015 shopping-for-Christmas season is now less than a year away. Don't think about it. :P

None of the above links are affiliate links, and using them to purchase will not gain me any moolah, aside from the Stitch Fix link, which will earn me $25 in credit toward my next Fix if you use it. All links are solely meant to help you get your Christmas shopping on. :) Happy shopping!


  1. Your yarn wreath is beautiful! I am so not a DIY'er, but there is part of me that wishes that I were. I think you have a lot of great ideas here. I would love to give the gift of a class or a hobby to someone. I think that's a really great idea. I'm kind of boring. Pretty much everyone gets a calendar this year, but at least my shopping's mostly done!

    1. Doesn't it feel amazing to have it (almost) all done? *Sigh of relief!* And I'm reeeeally not much of a DIYer either. I get frustrated too easily, especially when it's not turning out right. But seriously, that wreath is almost a no brainer. You should totally try it! Have a wreath party with friends!

  2. Love this!! You are so organized, puts us to shame! :)

    1. No way! Didn't mean to make you feel bad!! We just had to be on top of things this year, since we're traveling for Christmas. Glad you love the list!

  3. All of these are really great ideas! Thanks for sharing!

  4. I would have never thought of most of these. But you are on target with Penzey's spices. We love them. As for chocolates, you should check out Christopher Elbow. Outrageous but divine!

    1. Yay! Another Penzey's lover!! Seriously, I can never go back to regular chili powder ever again. Or really any spice that's not a Penzey's spice. So spoiled. And OH MY WORD I checked out those chocolates. They're GORGEOUS!!!!! I'll be keeping that in my back pocket for our dating anniversary in February. :) Thank you!!

  5. I'll take one of each, please!! What great ideas, some on your gift giving list look like they are going to be in for a real treat.

    I have been looking for a better source of spices. Penzey's sounds like a good bet. Thanks for the recommendation.

    1. Ooo, if you end up trying Penzey's, let me know what you think! :) Glad you liked the list!

  6. Thanks for sharing! I will probably be using this list for some of my gifts :)


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