A Few of My Favorite Things - The Holiday Edition

By Ann Fulton

A Few of My Favorite Things - The Holiday Edition
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This year’s collection of holiday gifts offers a little something for everyone on your list, with options to shop from the warmth of your home or join the hustle and bustle. As an added bonus, you don’t need to spend a lot for your gifts to be valued! 🎁




Happy holidays, my friends!

Finding the “perfect” gift that won’t be relegated to closet clutter or the giveaway pile isn’t easy. My goal is always to find gifts that are the perfect balance of personal and practical. In my mind, it’s far more thoughtful (and appreciated) to spend less money on a truly useful gift than to go “all out” on something that might never be used.

In that spirit, our December Favorite Things post is getting a jump on the holiday season with a list of winners I’ve given (or received) over the years. Happily, the items are easy to find, have wide appeal and the price tags aren’t big.

For those who enjoy a fun project, I’m kicking things off with a short list of homespun gifts. Please also feel free to comment as to what you like to give (or receive!).


Homemade gift that are fun to make and give

  • Easy Hand & Body Sugar Scrub has been a popular blog “recipe” and is extremely easy to make. In the winter months, I keep a jar near my kitchen sink because it really does help dry, cracked skin.
  • Homemade Dog Treats - So many of us really don’t need anything, but we love to spoil our pets. These healthy dog treats are totally gift worthy and are certain to be appreciated by the dog lovers among us-and the dogs, of course!
  • Magical Reindeer Food is a fun Christmas Eve tradition that doubles as an easy activity. If you have young children or grandchildren who want to give a little something to their friends, this is an economical idea that truly embraces the magic of the season.
  • Salted Hot Fudge Sauce is a perennial favorite and the recipe can be scaled as needed. It’s perfect when you need a little something thoughtful for teachers, neighbors, coworkers, hostess gifts, etc. For a holiday dessert that everyone enjoys, we serve this over vanilla ice cream and pass a plate of cookies.
  • 3-Ingredient Cinnamon Ornaments  fun-to-make ornaments will last (and smell delicious) for years to come. Choose the rustic look for decorate as desired.
  • (Slow Cooker) Chocolate Peanut Clusters with Sea Salt are a welcome, bite-size alternative to cookies that recipients can freeze if they wish and enjoy after the holiday onslaught. Recipe makes a big batch.
  • Peanut Butter Pinecone Bird Feeders and Birdseed Ornaments are two more ideas that are fun for kids to make and give. The Birdseed ornaments have been especially popular with people of all ages to make and use as gift toppers as well as party and shower favors.
  • Other popular gifts of food include homemade granola (I have lots of options, including low-sugar, chunky and pumpkin), a jar of homemade marinara sauce (or this marinara recipe which is easier to double and create a larger yield) and this hard-to-resist Spiced Glazed Nuts & Pretzel Mix. For festive packaging, store in Mason jars, add a tag or label and tie with a colorful bow.


🛍Onto the shopping…

Something for girlfriends, sisters, coworkers, teachers and neighbors

Favorite Things - the best foaming hand soap
Michel Design Works foaming hand soap ($14.99 for a 17.8 ounce bottle)

I’ve never been excited about hand soap until THIS soap! Several years ago, my sister-in-law, Melissa, gave my two bottles of Michel Design Works foaming hand soap for my birthday, and I fell in love. (I know, that’s saying a lot for hand soap!) She’s given it to me every year since, and I’ve come to anticipate it. The bottles are generously sized, and they seem to last forever despite heavy use. The foaming mechanism creates perfect foam and delivers just the right amount in a single pump. Plus the soap smells heavenly, isn’t drying and the bottle looks pretty. It’s the sort of thing I never bought for myself and it feels like a small luxury whenever used.

We’ve enjoyed the lavender rosemary scent (pictured above) and the honey almond. When I looked for a where-to-buy link for this post, I noticed a fall harvest and peony scent that seem delightful. Additionally, there are several holiday varieties and truly something for every season, making these a practical gift any time of year. For those who prefer, lovely bar soaps, lotions, candles and related gifts are also available.


Something for men, women and grandparents who enjoy the outdoors

Favorite things holiday edition: yard art

Yard art (wind chimes, rain gauges, wrought iron sculpture, etc.) - Of all the gifts I’ve given over the years, “yard art” has been the gift that seems to delight the most. It’s practical but unique and unexpected at the same time. Plus it’s equally perfect for men, women, grandparents, new homeowners as well as anyone who likes to work in the yard or simply sit on the deck or patio.

For starters, I gave my husband the above-pictured wind chime several years ago and snapped this photo a few weeks ago to include in this post. (I should have thought to take the picture when the flowers were blooming!🌸) It has a delicate “tinkling” sound and is still shiny having received no maintenance.

I’ve also given rain gauges-they can be artfully designed and fun to check after a big storm-as well as a variety of decorative metal sculptures, yard stakes, spinners, birdhouses and planters. There’s a price point for everyone and can be found online and in home and garden stores. Locals may find inspiration at the shop at Penn Stone, which is where I purchased the pictured chime.

For moms, sisters, nieces and girlfriends

Favorite Things - Stella & Dot charm necklaces

I love these Engravable Disc Charms by Stella and Dot. The charms retail for $29.00 and can be engraved with an initial, a monogram, a short word or name and can be added to a bracelet or necklace. (The price is the same for sterling silver and gold plated brass and engraving is included.) I have two charms, which are engraved with the first initial of my children, and wear them almost daily on this Namesake Chain. The chain is also by Stella and Dot, is available in sterling silver or gold plated brass and retails for $49.00.

Optionally, the Engravable Bar Necklace comes on a necklace (the engravable “charm” is attached) and retails for $59.00 whether in sterling silver, gold or rose plated brass (note the additional rose gold option). The chain is a 16″ length with a 2″ extender (a feature I appreciate and makes the piece perfect for layering). On my necklace, the bar is engraved with my name, although initials would be lovely. Both of these necklaces are lovely on their own and, as mentioned, are great layering pieces, either together or with necklaces you may already own. Bonus: they never need to be polished!

For cooks, newlyweds or young adults living on their own for the first time

West Elm's Organic Shaped Bowls ($24 for a set of 4)

West Elm’s White Organic Shaped Bowls – $24 for a set of 4

There is perhaps no dish that I use more often than these versatile bowls. They’re ideal for soups, stews, pastas, salads and “bowl” meals of any kind. The size always seems just right and the crisp white finish goes with everything. Plus the price point is reasonable. To make a gift of these bowls more personal, attach a recipe that the recipient may enjoy. (May I suggest this hearty stew or this family-friendly pasta meal?) Or package the bowls with a jar of locally made pasta sauce and a box of fun-shaped noodles.


Something for girlfriends, moms and any woman who appreciates the practical

Have a difficult time seeing all those stray hairs? Struggle no more!

Conair Suction Cup Magnifying Mirror - Currently on sale for $8.38 with similar models by Conair and Tweezerman available at Ulta for $16.00. Why might one of your friends (or you) need this? I can see even the finest hair (without my glasses!) thanks to this handy mirror. My friend, Christine, kindly gave me my mirror a few months ago after she bought one for herself and was amazed by how well it worked. This model can be illuminated, although I don’t find the light to be necessary. I keep it to one side of my bathroom mirror, where it looks discreet thanks to its small size, and the built-in suction cup sticks like a charm. Want to bolster the gift? Include a lipgloss or a gift card to a favorite cosmetics store.


Practical, versatile and endlessly customizable, this gift is ideal for anyone who’s hard to buy for

Tervis tumblers

Customizable Tervis tumblers -price starts at $11.99 and varies by product chosen

This idea offers something useful and fun for virtually anyone. Start by picking a specific product and size, in classic insulated or stainless steel options, and personalize in a way the gift recipient will appreciate (collegiate or favorite sports team logo, pink survivor ribbon, Disney, Star Wars, Greek letters, holiday, etc.) or simply choose a solid color. We use the pictured 16-ounce tumblers daily; Tervis products can be used for hot or cold beverages, don’t sweat and are dishwasher safe. I like to use the pictured 16-ounce size for smoothies, and lids are available - as are water bottles, sippy cups, mugs, wine glasses, straws, ice buckets and more.

A few more ideas

For the fitness buff or anyone with tight muscles: Lululemon’s double roller $59.00
For the seafood lover: flash frozen wild salmon fillets or smoked salmon (many online ordering options; I’ve purchased larger shares from Kwee-Jack Salmon)
For the community and cause-minded: make a contribution in the recipient’s name to his or her favorite nonprofit. Optionally, you may wish to check out this list of 26 gifts that give back. There are items ranging from succulent plants to socks, personalized candles, hip t-shirts and leggings. For all of these items a portion of your purchase will support a specified cause, including but not limited to homeless veterans, pet rescue, clean water and shoes for children in need.
For the person who would really just prefer a gift card: Go for the gift card! Sure they get a bad rap, but they are often truly appreciated if they are for things the recipients will really use. Do a little investigative work to determine where they like to eat, buy their coffee or shop. Do they love the movies? Enjoy the occasional pedicure? Purchase the appropriate card, and then when possible, add a small accompaniment. For example, wrap a gift card for a manicure or pedicure with a bottle of nail polish. For a fun family gift, include a box of microwave popcorn and favorite candy with a movie theater gift card. Or attach a gift card to a favorite BYOB restaurant to a bottle of wine.
For the aspiring cook or young adult living on his own for the first time: The Joy of Cooking recently issued a 75th anniversary update of its classic book. With over 600 recipes, the new book includes the most beloved recipes from past editions as well as quick, healthy recipes for the way we cook today. In the age of the internet, this is one cookbook that is still worth owning because it offers a tested method for all the basics and is a quick and trustworthy reference for nearly any kitchen question.
I Really Needed This Today is a new book by Hoda Kotb that offers word of wisdom, courage, and hope. The much-loved Today show co-host created this book around her popular Instagram account and the inspiring collection of quotes she has shared there. ($14.49; price may vary by vendor) Perfect for someone who enjoys a dose of daily inspiration or may not find time to read longer books.
The gift of flowers- My brother and I did this for our mom on more than one occasion when we couldn’t think of something she really needed or wanted. We knew she adored fresh cut flowers, so I called a local florist and set up a monthly delivery. She was thrilled. You could make it a once and done, a 3-month, 6-month or yearly gift depending on the price you want to spend.
Gold Medal Wine Club - While dining at a recent BYOB restaurant, a friend told be about the wine we were drinking. It came from this club, which delivers award-winning, hard-to-find boutique wines to your door every month. (And it was delicious!) The club offers six plans, so there’s something for every wine lover. My friend mentioned that his father, who he gives this gift to each year, also enjoys reading the information about the various vineyards that accompanies each delivery.
A fleece blanket or cozy throw in a neutral color is likely to be used, whether at the foot of a bed or for snuggling on the sofa. I was eyeing L.L.Bean’s Wicked Plush Throw for a Secret Santa exchange. It’s available in a variety of colors, two sizes and retails for a reasonable $39.50.


Hopefully this list provides a ray of inspiration as you plan and shop for the holidays. As always, please feel free to share any gifts that you have given or received that were considered a real hit! 

🎄Happy holidays! 🎁







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  1. Gina Plain

    For local shopping, Stauffers of Kissel Hill sells the Michel Design Works line and they are 20% off until December 3.

  2. Heather

    Great list, Ann! The mirror and the monthly flowers have helped me check off several names on my list—and the foaming soap might just find its way into my stocking! Thank you!