We can all use fresh ideas in the gift giving department, right? In that spirit, we’ve been keeping a list and have assembled a collection of our favorite things to give and receive, and it’s loaded with practical and thoughtful ideas for kids and adults alike!
Home is where the ❤️ is…
Betsy is a Lancaster native and went to school with Emily. Her tea towels reflect the natural world around us, including animals, plants, and florals. She hand paints the designs, which are then brought to life on the towels. Emily got these prints for Ann last year – she found them while on vacation in Colorado and couldn’t resist the fox and deer print. (For those of you who don’t know, our shared backyards are home to both of these beautiful creatures!) The crazy thing is that Emily picked them out before she even realized the hometown connection! Also, Ann loves them so much she uses them as hand towels in her powder room.
When Ann’s friend, Cathy, lost her dog, she wanted a special something to honor Miles’ memory. At the recommendation of another friend, Cathy commissioned an 8×10 hand-drawn portrait from Carla, who is known for her pet portraits and other original artwork of animals. Carla worked off photographs of Miles and provided images to Cathy of the work in progress, as shown below.
Avocado Vase from MOMA
Put your leftover avocado pits to good use! Simply place them on top of the gorgeous vase (choose form a variety of colors) fill with water, and watch over the next 6-8 weeks as a new house plant grows. A scientific – and artsy – way to watch a plant grow from the bottom up. The avocado vase is $60, and there is also a smaller one for acorns, which is priced at $45.
Think Elf on the Shelf, but for those of us who celebrate Hanukkah. Start a new family tradition with this fun doll and attached story – as seen on Shark Tank!
The give-it-now gift:
Advent calendars have come a long way from the chocolate-a-day grocery or drugstore purchase, although those still exist and are plenty of fun! There is now a theme for every hobby and food favorite, from Legos and beer to jam and tea. Many follow the 12 days of Christmas theme instead of the traditional December 1 through 25 format, which may be appreciated. Sometimes less is more!
- 12 Days of Cocoa Advent Calendar – Who wouldn’t enjoy a steaming mug of cocoa on a blustery day? Perfect with a side of holiday cookies or to warm cold hands after making a snowman. Make a cafe mocha by adding coffee instead of water to the gourmet mix. $49.95 from Williams-Sonoma.
- Bonne Maman 2023 Limited Edition Advent Calendar includes 23 mini spreads and honey and retails on Amazon for $44.99.
- 12 Days of Hot Sauce Advent Calendar includes 12 sauces that range from savory to “mouth-melting! $50.00 at Uncommon Goods.
- The Lego 24 Days of Christmas Advent Calendar 2023 retails at Amazon for $29.99. There’s also a Harry Potter-themed option for $45.
- Wine Advent Calendar – Wine lovers may enjoy sampling 24 mini bottles, which include a wide range of varietals sourced from countries including Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, and California. $139.99 from In Good Taste.
- Beer drinkers, on the other hand, may prefer 12 of America’s top-rated craft beers in this Beer Advent Calendar, which retails for $85 from Give Them Beer.
- If you know a fan of Williams-Sonoma’s famed holiday treat, their Peppermint Bark Advent Calendar may be the perfect early holiday gift. Each of the 24 doors holds a piece of their signature bark in the shape of snowmen, toy soldiers, Christmas trees, and Santas and retails for $29.95.
- Prefer an advent calendar that can be reused? The reusable wool advent calendar, pictured below, features the Grinch and 25 numbered pockets for hiding your own candies and trinkets year after year. $149.95 from Williams-Sonoma.
- Finally, you can’t go wrong with this festive, classic fabric advent calendar. It features 24 pockets, which contain decorative stuffed ornaments that attach to the tree. The calendar can be personalized and replacement pieces are available if lost. Available at Etsy for $49.95.
It’s not what you wear, it’s how you wear it!
Reversible House Slippers
It’s pretty common these days to offer to take off shoes before coming into someone’s home, but it’s nice not to have to go totally barefoot, especially in winter months. These are like half socks, half slippers, are reversible, and can roll up for travel or storage when not using. Cozy, machine washable, and available in an array of pretty colors and designs. Reasonably priced at $39.
Shoes might not seem like a safe gift, but they are so practical. Just ask for the size and make sure the vendor has an easy return/exchange policy. Ann has been wearing Taos’ basic white sneakers for years. They are classic, comfortable, and go with seemingly everything. You can even wear them with casual dresses…and her kids approve! They have good support and cushioning, although an orthotic will fit if needed. You can’t go wrong with white, but there are lots of other fun colors and patterns to choose among.
In the photo below, Emily is modeling the white Plim Soul (with a fun black/tan multi in the foreground), which retails for $110. Ann is wearing another favorite, the Downtown boot ($260), which has great support and cushioning and a chunky sole that adds a stylish yet practical element.
Noise Cancelling Wireless Earbuds
Earbuds are small, so no wonder they often go missing. Like that elusive sock in the dryer! (Ann’s younger son recently tracked his to the bottom of a river!) Unfortunately, technology is expensive, and so when one goes missing, it’s a pricey mistake. These noise cancelling buds are nearly half the price of AirPods and may be a good gift for a teenager or young adult…even if it’s to keep in the back drawer just in case!
Looking for a unique jigsaw puzzle? How about a map of where you live? Fun for housewarming, host gifts, or a fun family activity over the holidays. Using geological survey mapping, the 400-piece puzzle will map out roads, waterways, and notable buildings!
A word game that’s fun for everyone! The rounds are quick, so it’s ideal for people who like fast-moving games. Build crossword grids and spell words as quickly as possible. For early spellers, there’s also My First Banangrams for ages 4+. Also great for travel, and comes at a reasonable price point for $13.99. As a fun side note, Ann learned a variation of this game from her in-laws. They play with the tiles from a Scrabble set and call it Lightning Scrabble.
Life Is What You Bake of it…
A really good salt and/or pepper grinder can absolutely be a game changer in the kitchen. Ann’s favorites are pictured below. The black one is a Unicorn, and it’s special because you can adjust the coarseness of the grind and there’s a little tray that catches all the pepper dust. No mess! She has the Magnum (it was a gift to her last year!), and there are some other fun options (like the tablesticks) to glance through using the link above.
The Peugeot salt and pepper grinders are shown in natural wood, below, although there are many other fun options, including lacquered white, red, and black, and chocolate brown. Consistently rated at the top of the rankings, the pictured pepper grinder has remained the undefeated winner, for example, in annual New York Times’ tests for years. Ann has had the pictured set since her first married Christmas, and they have been used almost daily since then. If looking for a practical, long lasting gift, this could be it.
We love Tiny Turnips products and their newest product really hits the mark. A spoon/spatula mixed together – a spoonula – is an effective, all-in-one tool for mixing, scooping, folding, and scraping. Ann especially likes this spoonula because it’s the perfect balance of firm and flexible. Available in the three colors shown below. BPA-free, heat-resistant, dishwasher-safe silicone. Priced at $19.99 each, the clever spoon would be a unique gift for the bakers in your life.
☕️But first, coffee…
This MoMa mug is a perfect gift for the coffee lovers in your life. The recipes for each coffee or espresso drink are on the outside of the glass, so they can experiment with various proportions to make their favorite concoctions. That said, the cool design makes it fun, even if used for plain black coffee. Though the glass mug is well priced at $18, hand washing is recommended, which could be a non-starter for some!
Looking for a great coffee but don’t want to take up counter real estate with a large machine? These recyclable capsules are stored in the freezer and will keep there for months. All you have to do is pop them into a mug and add hot water. Or thaw in the fridge and add water and ice for an iced brew. A perfect cup every time!
For the Kiddos
I hear you. Why can’t they just use their hands like we used to do? They can, but these snowball makers are a really fun accessory for epic snowball making. Lightweight, easy to be successful, and a fun snow toy in general, they can make quick work of a snowball fort and are fun to share with neighborhood friends!
This books series is a great way to get kids engaged in reading and learning, especially those who love animals. Each book determines which of two animals would win a battle against one another by analyzing their behavior, anatomy, and much much more. They are detailed but straightforward and kids love to find out who wins at the end!
If you know a child who loves to scoot or bike regardless of how cold it is outside, these gloves are a perfect gift. They attach to the handlebars so kids can simply slide their hands into the cozy waterproof mittens and not worry about losing them. This was very practical for Emily when she lived in New York and her kids scooted to school every morning. They are available in a wide variety of colors, and typical of 7AM products, they are built to last!
This was gifted to Emily’s son last year, and has been a wonderful source of learning, adventure, and routine for her kids and many of the families we know in the neighborhood as well. The Yoto Player can simply act as a clock, but it has many different functions, depending on the age and interests of the child. When turned on, the clock will either play music or a Yoto Daily Update from the British host Jake. Emily’s son wakes every morning and turns on his daily update, which usually includes a wake up game (like guess that sound).