Posts Tagged ‘gifts for people who are hard to find gifts for’


2019 Holiday Gift Guide 3.png

Holy moly, Internet. It’s DECEMBER. We have just a few short weeks to get all our holiday shopping done. I don’t know about you, but I have purchased exactly one (1) gift so far. YIKES. Time to get going.

In lieu of buying, I have been doing a LOT of perusing. ALL YEAR I have been bookmarking fun gift ideas and taking note when someone on my gift list mentioned something I could possibly wrap in shiny paper and put under their tree. I have ended up with far more gifts than I could ever buy, and solid ideas for most everyone on my list. And, since it was so fun last year, I thought I’d put them all together in a gift guide – and maybe you’d find some inspiration for your own December shopping.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this very eclectic mix of things that appeal to me and the specific people I love. Perhaps you will find something for someone on your holiday gift list. Perhaps you will find something you need to put on your own wish list. Or maybe, like me, you just enjoy reading gift guides in all their forms. (As per usual, some of these links are affiliate links, which means I may make a few pennies if you end up buying something.)

Let’s begin where any gift list should, with books:

Books 2019.png

Photos from amazon.com, inkshares.com, and barnesandnoble.com

  1. You should definitely get the writer/reader/dog lover in your life The Friend by Sigrid Nunez, which is not only the best book I read this year but one of my favorite books of ALL TIME not to put too much pressure on it.
  2. Another one of the best books I’ve read in a LONG time is Inland by Téa Obreht. It is beautifully written and obsessively researched, and it’s just so GOOD. Also, I went to a reading by the author and she is the type of person you want to become best friends with.
  3. Normal People by Sally Rooney was also excellent, in an entirely different way.
  4. If you’ve got book lovers on your list who prefer thrilling, plot-driven novels, then definitely consider Recursion by Blake Crouch. It’s part sci-fi, part mystery, all edge-of-your-seat excitement. And, as a fan of ALL Crouch’s work, I believe it is also his best-written book to date.
  5. Or, for the detective novel set, might I recommend The Lost Man by Jane Harper? The setting – the Australian outback – is the biggest star in this book, but the characters and the beautifully crafted plot have ensured that I will buy anything Jane Harper writes.
  6. Speaking of authors who are so good I will read anything they write: Sophie Hannah (whose next book comes out in February – squee!!!) released a new novel earlier this year. The Next to Die  was, per usual, excellent.
  7. My friend Kristina wrote a very spine-tingling but deeply heart-wrenching book, Weight of Memory, and you can pre-order it (and read a few of the early chapters!). It’s so good, Internet.
  8. For those people on your gift list who like aliens, comics, and/or witty observations of everyday human moments, you will hit the jackpot with Nathan W. Pyle’s Strange Planet.
  9. And, while Maggie Smith’s book of affirmations Keep Moving isn’t out yet, I highly recommend her book of poems, Good Bones, to tide you or your soul-of-a-poet loved one over until May.
  10. In nonfiction, consider Semicolon by Cecilia Watson or Dreyer’s English by Benjamin Dreyer. I already have the Dreyer book, but I am asking for Semicolon for myself; I got it for a friend and he loved it, so now I really want it. I also put I’ll Be There for You: The One About Friends on my wish list, because it looks cute and I love Friends.
Reader gifts 2019

Photos from etsy.com, uncommongoods.com, and amazon.com

11. You could always pair one of the above books with a set of literary bookmarks from CarrotTopPaperShop.

  1. And maybe this bookworm t-shirt from NinetoNone.
  2. Oooooh… and this is pretty splurge-y, but I love this set of city skyline bookends. Not a huge selection of cities represented, but maybe your book lover also lives in one of these places…?
  3. And any reader needs a booklight. I am strongly considering getting this one for my husband. It’s really for me, because I go to sleep before he does and wake up the instant he turns on a light.

Photo from amazon.com

15. Carla learned to read over the past… six months or so. Like, actually read. HOWEVER, little perfectionist that she is, she gets easily frustrated when she doesn’t know every single word instantly. Fortunately, she adores all things Piggie and Gerald because they are a) amazing and b) make her feel successful at reading by herself. For your own just-now-reading gift recipients, I highly recommend any of the Mo Willems canon, especially the Elephant and Piggie Biggie! which is essentially five books in one.

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Photos from amazon.com and storiarts.com

16. We’ve been really getting into some good chapter books lately, as a family. And I am lobbying hard to read Roald Dahl’s Matilda

17. This Matilda pillow cover would be a great gift to accompany the book.

18. Or maybe you know someone who would prefer a Little House on the Prairie theme? Here’s the box set of the Little House on the Prairie books.

19. And the accompanying  the pillow cover.

20. Oooh! You could also do an Anne of Green Gables themed gift! With a pillow cover

21. And the complete set of books

22. And if you want to go Full Anne, might I also recommend the Megan Follows TV series? I have literally never received a themed gift in my LIFE, but I also think it would be super fun!

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Photos from amazon.com and etsy.com

23. Speaking of themes that I would like are universally appealing… If you know someone who likes to bake, or likes to think about baking, or likes to look at beautiful baked goods, I highly recommend the Great British Baking Show Seasons 1-5. This show (also referred to as GBBO) is SO SOOTHING. The contestants are lovely and kind and there is no drama of the type that permeates American competition shows. Also, you get to weigh in on whether someone’s Charlotte is well-baked when you have no idea what a Charlotte actually is. It’s great fun.

24. For the GBBO superfan, you could always buy a fun apron from PenCraftE…

25. Or a T-shirt from HandmadeJoyDesigns…

26. Or a cookbook. I own this one and, while I can’t say I have made a single thing from it, I really enjoy imagining that I am about to bake one of the scrumptious goodies featured inside.

Baking bundle

Photo from barnesandnoble.com

27. And who says Great British Bakeoff fans are only grownups? Carla loves to bake with me, and, if she were a little younger, I would totally consider buying her this kids’ cooking set. Honestly, it’s probably GREAT for a six-year-old, but… I don’t have enough room in my kitchen for more of this stuff.


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Photos from amazon.com

28. Carla has been really into magic lately, so I am considering getting her a magic kit. This one seems very similar to one I had – and LOVED – as a kid.

29. For the budding magician, a cape, hat, and bunny would also be very useful.

30. And these foam balls would be a great accompaniment.

Studio in a box

Photo from kidmademodern.com

31. This studio in a box would be wonderful for kids who have an artistic bent.

Kahlo book

Photo from amazon.com

32. Maybe pair it with a great book about Frida Kahlo?

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Photos from amazon.com

33. I have it on good authority from A Friend Who Knows Such Things that the Blinger is a hot ticket item for the first grade glitterati. (This is totally a kid-size BeDazzler, right? Anybody remember the BeDazzler craze?)

34. Another coveted item among the first graders is the Rainbow Loom. I cannot tell you how many bracelets and necklaces Carla comes home with on a daily basis. Her friends LOVE making these things (one of her friends has an ENORMOUS collection that he brought over for a playdate and his mom says he spends HOURS looming). I am leaning toward getting Carla one as well. Of course, I have to overcome my resistance to a having a million tiny rubber bands popping up all over my house first. (Her friend has an expansion pack similar to this, I think. But I would get Carla the starter kit first.)

35. Something Carla got for her birthday and LOVED was a Fairy Garden. It comes with dirt and seeds that you plant… but it has little fairy toys and furniture and stuff, too. She loved it but eventually we went away for the weekend and everything died, so we cleaned it out and will have to start again.

Journal Gifts 2019.png

Photos from amazon.com and papersource.com

36. Carla has been really into journaling lately. It seems like a kindergarten/first grade kind of thing, but I bet it last a LOT longer than those two years. Especially since this is the time when kids are just learning to write. Anyway, here is a cute journal.

37. And a set of colored gel pens. I think Carla would FLIP OUT over this collection.

38. Or a really cute narwhal pen.

39. Oh my goodness. Or this journal-and-pen set that has everything a kid in Carla’s cohort could ever want: unicorns, flappable sequins, and a pen with multiple ink colors!


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Photos from amazon.com

40. Carla is a huge lover of stuffed animals, and this year she went CRAZY over something called a Rainbowcorn. It’s a stuffed animal but has that “unboxing” and “element of surprise” appeal that so many kids gifts do these days. She got a big one as a gift for her cousin and loved it so much that we got her one for her birthday. And then she got a little one as a gift for something else and we just bought another little one for her Girl Scouts gift exchange. I think it’s safe to say they are popular with kids anywhere from age 3 to at LEAST 7.

41. Last year, we got Carla a cat-a-day calendar for her bedside table. We made it to mid September before we stopped looking at it, which I think is pretty good for us. I am considering getting her another one this year. I like this one because it is mini and would fit better on her nightstand.

42. One of her friends — age four — requested a globe as a gift, much to his mother’s surprise and delight. A globe is clearly a great gift at any age. I am thinking about this interactive one for Carla and/or my niece.

Games 2019.png

Photos from target.com, amazon.com, and electricliterature.com


43. If you’ve got a family-with-kids-or-grandkids on your shopping list, I want to recommend Qwirkle, which is a very fun family-friendly game. It’s a distant relative of Scrabble, I’d say – you have to connect tiles based on color or shape and you get points for the number of tiles you add. Carla started really getting it at about age five but it’s challenging enough that it is actually pretty fun to play it as an adult.

44. The adults in my family really love Linkee, which is all about finding connections. You get a card with four questions, and as you ask the questions and people answer them, you have to find what links them together. It’s very fun. I wonder if Carla is old enough, at this point, to play?

45. As far as new games I’m looking at, Papercuts, which is supposedly a literary game in the vein of Apples to Apples/Cards Against Humanity, appeared on one of this season’s many gift guides and it sounds like tons of fun.

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Photos from teasquared.ca and amazon.com

46. If you know a tea drinker who needs a gift this holiday season, might I HIGHLY recommend Tea Squared Tea? I had some of this tea in a beautiful little restaurant (Cluny Bistro) in Toronto and it was the BEST Earl Grey I have ever had. And I drink a LOT of tea. I had the pyramid tea bags, but I see that Tea Squared also offers a variety of subscription services. As a tea drinker who also enjoys getting regular presents in the mail, that sounds VERY fun.

47. And here is where I plug my favorite tea kettle. My husband got it for me as a gift years ago and I use it every day. Every. Day.

48. My husband also got me this set of polka dot mugs for some gift-giving occasion or other, and they make me happy every time I open the cupboard. They are so cheerful! And big enough for a nice, large cup of tea.

Puzzle Gifts 2019.png

Photos from collage.com and amazon.com

49. For the puzzle lovers, no puzzle has ever been so adored as this custom photo puzzle that I got for both grandmothers one year. Of course, the puzzles each featured an ADORABLE picture of Carla, which is what made them so special.

50. My husband is one of the puzzle lovers I referenced, and I have this puzzle on my to-buy list for him.

51. And, for the serious puzzler, you should highly consider this set of puzzle sorting trays. I got this for my husband and he uses it every time he completes a puzzle.


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Photos from tiffany.com, beautycounter.com, nordstrom.com, crabtreeandevelyn.com, and uncommongoods.com

52. I got my hands on a sample of Tiffany Sheer this summer and loved it. I don’t normally wear a lot of fragrance, but this was very light and feminine without being super flowery.

53. As long as we’re talking about cosmetics (perfume is a cosmetic, right?), you might also consider this gift set of facial oils. I LOVE the skin brightening oil and use it almost daily. Well, nightly. And I have just gotten myself a bottle of the plumping oil which I’m super excited to try. Especially if you or your giftee live in a dry, cold climate, this would be such a nice treat.

54. If you are looking for another good smelling gift, I highly recommend the Nest fragrance diffuser – my husband got me one of these a few years ago and I LOVED it. This one comes with three separate fragrances – Holiday, Birchwood Pine, and Sparkling Chassis. I bet it will help your house smell like the holidays – and extend the holiday joy – for months!

55. When it comes to luxurious treats, hand cream is always on my wish list. This collection from Crabtree & Evelyn sounds like such a nice way to pamper my dry skin in the winter.

56. And as far as pampering goes, I would LOVE this overnight foot care kit. Cozy socks and nice-smelling cream? Wonderful.

57. After our recent conversation about jammies, I started looking around and fell in love with these Rachel Parcell Thermal Pajamas. So cute! I could totally see myself wearing these. Maybe not to actually SLEEP in, but as House ClothesTM wendiwendy.

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Photos from amazon.com

58. I already did my favorite books for adults, but I forgot about books for kids! There are a couple of new books in series Carla loves that I am putting on her “something to read” list. Sofia Valdez, Future Prez by Andrea Beaty just came out in November and Carla already owns and loves Rosie Revere, Engineer and Ada Twist, Scientist and I really enjoy their messages of female empowerment and intellectual curiosity… and the excellent rhyming.

59. I see that there’s a new addition to Shannon Hale’s Princess in Black series, too: The Princess in Black and the Bathtime Battle. These books are a little bit more… goofy than anything else, but Carla enjoys them. And they are nice for young chapter book readers.

60. Carla has been checking out books of animal facts from her school library every week, so I am also eyeing a big book of animal facts, maybe like this animal encyclopedia.

Luxardo Cherries.jpg

Photo from amazon.com

61. My husband expressly asked for Luxardo cherries this year. I will take any help I can get in finding him a present he wants, so I will get him the cherries! You can get a two-pack from amazon, or a single bottle from Williams Sonoma if you a) want to spend less and b) can go to a Williams Sonoma or get free shipping and/or c) you are uninterested in supporting the other company I just mentioned.

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Photos from zingermans.com, etsy.com, and uncommongoods.com

62. Speaking of food gifts, one of the most successful gifts I’ve sent in recent years was the gift of cheese. If one of your gift recipients is a cheese lover, I highly recommend this Zingerman’s customizable gift basket of three cheeses and crackers. (Zingerman’s also has a quarterly cheese club, which sounds so decadent.) If you don’t want to spend quite that much on your cheese fan, iGourmet also has a cheese sampler and so does Wisconsin Cheese Mart.

63. You could always make your own cheese tray or give a cheese gift certificate – and maybe pair it with this adorable cheese tea towel from HoneyBrushDesign. Or this cheeky cheese tea towel from TickledZebra. (You know I love tea towels.)

64. Oh my goodness – if your cheese lover is a TRUE cheese head, maybe you need to give them this cheese grotto? This is totally a gift for the kind of person who already has everything.

65. Or, for the cheese lover who has everything, maybe a DIY goat cheese kit?


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Photos from williams-sonoma.com and amazon.com

66. While looking at cheese – yum, cheese – I came across this fun gift crate for coffee lovers. It has a French press, a half pound of Illy whole bean coffee, and two of Williams Sonoma’s waffle weave towels (which I have and LOVE).

67. My coffee-connoisseur husband already has a French press. (And a fancy coffee machine. And a Chemex and an Aeropress, both of which would make excellent gifts for a coffee lover.) Anyway, I am always looking for new coffee gadgets for him, and I think this travel espresso brewer would be super cool.

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Photos from etsy.com

68. Drinks make me think of coasters. I love these blue agate coasters from OwlKraft– but they are quite pricy. I guess that’s what makes them a good gift, because I would be hard pressed to buy them for myself.

69. Same goes for these beautiful wooden hexagon coasters by ManchesterWoodcraft.

70. Ooooh or these geode coasters from Dock6PotteryandTile. So pretty.

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Photos from amazon.com

71. You know who else loves geodes? Carla and most of her classmates. This is not a new thing, by the way; she’s loved them since preschool – but a break-your-own geodes kit would be an excellent gift for a child of many ages. I’d say maybe 4 to 10, depending on the 4- to 10-year-old in question.

72. Another science-y kit we’ve used with great success in recent years is a crystal growing kit. It’s a fun project for kids to do with their grandparents while you are out of town, if you ask me. But definitely a very cool and semi-educational gift.

73. Also for Carla, we are strongly considering this VTech kids video camera. My only fear is that I will then become the subject of her documentaries.

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Phots from potterybarn.com, nordstrom.com, and westelm.com

74. One of the people on my gift list this year requested a new cozy blanket for her living room. I am in love with this buffalo check throw  in pretty much every color.

75. Or this plush throw  with fringe also looks very soft and cozy – and there are so many colors to choose from!

76. Ooooh – or this faux fur throw . So soft!

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Photos from everythinghappy.com, nordstrom.com, and potterybarnkids.com

77. Kids need blankies too – my particular kid’s favorite blankie is from Happie Blankie. These blankets are plush on one side, satiny on the other, and come in a variety of animal shapes. Best of all, the company donates one blanket to a child in need with every purchase.

78. Now that she’s older, I would probably get Carla something a little bigger. Maybe this wearable cat blanket?

79. Or perhaps I should be shopping for a sleeping bag – even though I am so far resisting the idea of sleepovers. This shaggy head sleeping bag looks very cute and comfortable.

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Photos from boden.com, justice.com, amazon.com, and nordstrom.com

80. Carla has been asking for cozy slippers. I like these faux fur-lined options from Boden a lot.

81. Or these unicorn slipper booties would be a big hit.

82. Or maybe these fox slippers.

83. Maybe my husband needs a pair of slippers, too?

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Photos from flaviar.com, thespiritco.com, and selfridges.com

84. One person on my gift list has requested a repeat of a gift from last year: a liquor sampler. This year, the request is for bourbon, so I am considering this New York whiskey collection . Each of the three samples is 50 ml and this is the company I used last time with (apparently) great success.

85. Or, possibly, this American bourbon tasting set . The samples are teeny (3 cl each), but there are five of them.

86. As long as we’re thinking of alcohol gifts, I wouldn’t mind receiving this gin bauble  in my stocking. Cute and fun and different!


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Photos from schocolat.com, etsy.com, zingermans.com, and nueskes.com

87. Speaking of delicious gifts I wouldn’t mind receiving: how about a box of chocolates for someone with a sweet tooth? We used this particular chocolate company for the candy “bar” at our wedding, and the chocolates are beautiful and delicious.

88. Your chocolate lover might also appreciate this “chocolate is salad” tea towel from VintageMarketEugene.

89. Or maybe some decadent drinking chocolate?

90. And if you aren’t into chocolates (I get it), maybe a caramel sampler like this onewould be more your speed? I mean, your gift recipient’s

99. Or how about a bacon sampler? We got this for my dad one year and he loved it.

Home Gifts 2019.png

Photos from crateandbarrel.com, neimanmarcus.com, joann.com, amazon.com, and williams-sonoma.com

100. If your gift recipient, like me, enjoys fun decorative accents for the home, might I also recommend this plaid vase? I have been eyeing it for a long time and would LOVE it for my bedroom.

101. I have been looking for a new serving platter to replace my favorite blue one that chipped… and it strikes me that beautiful servingware makes a great gift. I, at least, find it hard to spend money on things I pull out only a few times a year, even though I want them to be nice. I rather like the uneven edges of this platter – and it’s nearly the same blue as the dish I’m replacing.

102. This oval platter is gorgeous and goes with our other blue and white dishware.

103. This matching serving bowl is also so pretty.

104. One of my favorite and most-used gifts is a lovely wooden salad bowl. This one is also quite beautiful and comes with matching salad tongs.

105. In the practical kitchen gift category, I highly recommend these mini Wilton spatulas from Joann Fabric. I use them ALL the time.

106. And – less practical, but still very useful – I have to plug the cake turntable (plus icing tips!) I bought myself for Carla’s birthday this past summer.

107. I would also enjoy some lovely hand soap and lotion, for after I’ve done all the dishes.

Eco Gifts 2019.png

Photos from amazon.com, rei.com, and nordstrom.com

108. One of my friends is very eco-conscious (I admire her and try to emulate her where possible) and so I am thinking about getting her this set of bamboo utensils. She has to eat out quite a bit for her job, so I know she’d get a lot of use out of them. And they are so pretty!

109. My mother-in-law is fretting about the straw ban. She LOVES straws. So I think we will send her this beautiful collapsible stainless steel straw and cleaning kit.

110. OH! Also in the eco-friendly category is a reusable bottle. Carla got one for her birthday one year WITH HER NAME ON IT and it was seriously one of the best gifts ever. (Until she lost it at camp. Which… how???? There is one other Carla who attended her camp, and wouldn’t you know that the hot pink stainless steel water bottle you brought home wasn’t yours?) Anyway. I have a S’Well bottle like this one and I love it. If you have time, you can take it to Things Remembered and get your gift recipient’s name engraved on the side.

111. You could add a water bottle cleaning brush to your gift, too – I have one very similar to this one (but in boring grey) and it makes me feel much better about not putting my bottle through the dishwasher.


Photo from nordstrom.com


112. Let’s close out this gift guide with something frivolous and pretty, like this Kate Spade bangle. Do I need this? No. Do I want it? Very much yes. Perhaps so will someone on your gift list.


That’s it for this year, Internet! I hope you find something for everyone on your list. And if you have gifts that you are really excited about giving – or receiving – let me know about them in the comments. I love to hear about fun gifts!

Happy shopping!

For more ideas, check out last year’s gift guide, which has lots of great options!

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Wallet 3

Buying birthday gifts for children is… trying. Even though I am in possession of an honest-to-goodness child myself, I have no real idea what kids like or what they want. Usually I end up buying some combination of whatever it is Carla is currently into and whatever falls into my price range (somewhere around $15-$20 for classmates and $30-$50 for close friends/relatives). But it’s HARD to choose gifts for kids you don’t really know, even if you feel like you’re getting a Good Gift, and even if it’s something that your own child loves.  It’s even HARDER when the child in question isn’t the same age as your own child. When confronted with a three-year-old’s birthday, my mind goes completely blank. What did Carla like when she was three? Was she ever three? Do three-year-olds like LEGO or are they still in that put-everything-in-your-mouth stage? Or is three that magical age when toy packaging finally says it’s okay for your kid to play with pretty much anything? What toys did I hate the most? Which ones did I kind of enjoy? Which ones did Carla play with for five seconds and then forget forever? The answers elude me.

But! Thanks to my brilliant mother-in-law, I have found a new gift option that I think works well for kids of MANY ages. I’d say starting with age three (if you know the three-year-old pretty well, and think this would be appropriate) and going up at LEAST to age seven or eight – maybe older.

Now, I will preface this by saying I don’t think this is groundbreaking gift news, or anything. And because it may take a little extra poking around, it might be far less desirable than clicking “buy” on a “top gift for X age kid” on Amazon and getting something in the mail two days later. But I am newly enamored of this idea and, even though it seems quite obvious when I think about it, it was successful enough that I was startled into wanting to buy it for all children forevermore. There. Preface over.

This is the gift my mother-in-law gave to Carla and to my three-almost-four-year-old niece this year for Christmas, and it is henceforth my Gift of Choice:

A purse or wallet inside which you stow a gift card or two.

It’s super simple right? And yet a very satisfying gift to buy and give. (And get, based on the reactions of Carla and her cousin to this very gift.) The only problem is that you can really go overboard on the spending for this one, so you have to be crafty to keep it in budget.

Target gift cardBN gift card

The way I see it, you use the biggest chunk of your budget on the gift card/s. The critical thing (to me, and probably this is age dependent) is to make sure the gift card is for a bricks-and-mortar store. Ordering things online is not as exciting an experience for a kid as is walking through the aisles of a Target and saying, “I want that!” It doesn’t take much. A $10 gift card is delightful to a child of 5 (and I suspect to a child of seven or eight or ten, too), and will easily buy something fun.

For close friends or family, I might do $10 each to Target and Barnes & Noble. (Although, since B&N has really upped its toy game since Toys R Us closed, and because, as my husband is quick to point out, you can’t insist a child buy a book with a B&N gift card, $10 or $15 to B&N might accomplish the same thing as two separate gift cards.)  My mother-in-law got Carla a Barnes & Noble gift card and a gift card to Starbucks because she (Carla) loves begging for cake pops whenever we go there, and, with a gift card, she could buy one herself. I never though I would say this about a $5 gift card to Starbucks, but it was very empowering for my child. And there are plenty of other places where $5-$10 goes a long way. The LEGO store. Claire’s. Justice. A local ice creamery or candy shop.

Then, you use whatever you have left on the wallet/purse. Even if your budget is $15, you can totally make this happen. Target is a great place to find these things on clearance. I got a cute pink cross body purse for a friend’s daughter on clearance for $8.00, and then also found a little card holder/wallet for $3.00. Totally worth getting both, so I did! But lots of places have good options, either all the time or on clearance. Here are a few I dug up online right now — although it is probably best to see them in person, to make sure they will fit a gift card or two and aren’t TOO hideous.


Claires glitter 500

Glitter wristlet, $5.00 (photo from claires.com)

Claries cat 699

Cat Zipper Purse, $6.99 (photo from claires.com)


Amazon clutch 1099

Clutch, $10.99 (photo from amazon.com)


Amazon dino 890

Dinosaur wallet, $8.90 (photo from amazon.com)

Amazon cat crossbody 999

Cat crossbody, $10.99 (photo from amazon.com)

Amazon shark fanny 998

Shark belt bag, $9.98 (photo from amazon.com)


HM card case 799

Card case, $7.99 (photo from hm.com)

HM shoulder bag 999

Unicorn crossbody, $9.99 (photo from hm.com)


Target Nintendo 799

Nintendo wallet, $7.99 (photo from target.com)

Target clutch 399

Mesh clutch, $3.99 (photo from target.com)


F21 yellow 553

Yellow wallet, $5.53 (forever21.com)

F21 gold crossbody 995

Gold crossbody, $9.95 (photo from forever21.com)


Walmart Mickey 285

Mickey wallet, $2.85 (photo from Walmart.com)

Walmart Fox 659

Fox coin purse, $6.59 (photo from walmart.com)

Walmart Mickey 1041

Mickey crossbody, $10.41 (photo from walmart.com)

Walmart owl 930

Owl crossbody, $9.30 (photo from walmart.com)

Michael’s, Joann Fabric, Five Below, Tuesday Morning, and the dollar store would be other places that could have good low-cost options.

If I have any money left in my budget, I might stick some other fun item into the purse/wallet. Stick-on earrings or a matching slap bracelet or a pair of sunglasses.

Target slap bracelet 599

Donut slap bracelet, $5.99 (photo from target.com)

Amazon slap bracelet 799

Superhero slap bracelets, $7.99 (photo from amazon.com)

Target shades 599

Paw Patrol shades, $5.99 (photo from target.com)

Charlie shades 600

Heart sunglasses, $6.00 (photo from charming charlie.com)

Amazon shades 846

LEGO shades, $8.46 (photo from amazon.com)

Amazon earrings 399

Stick-on earrings, $3.99 (photo from amazon.com)

Listen, I will fully admit that part of the joy in this gift is the SEARCH. And if the search is not your idea of fun, or if you just want to grab a board game off the shelf next time you are in Target and be DONE with the whole thing, then this is obviously not the gift idea for you. But I know from experience how much fun it is for a kiddo to receive this present. Carla was so excited to have her own money to spend, and has loved picking out what she wanted to buy with her gift cards. And it’s nice for me to be able to say, “Get whatever you want as long as it’s within your budget!”

Wallet 4

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I am assuming that you are spending all day, every day, scrolling through Gift Guides, right? There are so many gift guides, you don’t even have to THINK about what to give someone – you’ll just find it on a guide! I for one ADORE gift guides. Gift guides for book lovers… gift guides for foodies… gift guides for nerds… gift guides for survivalists… gift guides for native Iowans… Doesn’t matter WHAT the gift guide is, I will read it.

And this year, I’ve put together one of my own! I know Hanukkah is nearly over and Christmas is right around the bend, so it’s not particularly timely. It’s not well-organized and it’s long (hey, just like my blog posts!) and it doesn’t have any other theme than Things I’d Like to Give or Get. But I hope you have fun reading it. And hey – maybe you’ll find that elusive something that you’ve been looking for!

A couple of quick notes before we dive in:

There are not a lot of Gifts for Men on this list, I have to say. It’s slim pickins out there. If you’re to believe retailers, dudes like only five things: grilling, tools, shaving, farts, and bacon. I am chagrined to say that I have tools AND bacon on my list, but hey, those things are universal. (So are farts, but I get enough potty talk from the kindergarten set, so I am going to keep my gift list fart free.) (And I maintain that shaving is not GIFTWORTHY, it is an often-DAILY annoyance and should not be gift-e-tized. Whatever the “monetize” version of “gift” is.) But I didn’t even TRY to find men’s clothing options or look at tech stuff. Oh, right! That’s the sixth Category of Manly Giving: tech. I admit to total tech ignorance. My husband gives me a list of exactly what he wants and I choose from those items so I don’t get something wrong. I got him something slightly tech-adjacent for our anniversary and I am super nervous that it won’t be something he can use. Anyway, my anxieties are not part of this list. Moving on.

You will also note that some gifts on this list are Just For Fun. I am not going around spending a thousand bucks on a Scrabble wall hanging, for Pete’s sake. But it’s FUN. I wish I WERE the type of person who a) could afford to buy a Scrabble wall hanging and b) would have a room in which it fit perfectly with my décor.

Finally, I own a few of these things, some of them I want, some of them I just think are awesome. I get nothing for including these on the list except that the Amazon things include an affiliate link for which I get a few cents if you actually buy the product. (Prices and availability accurate as of the writing of this post.)



First, here are the obligatory tools:

  1. This flashlight case strikes me as very practical for just about anybody.
Flashlight Tool Kit

photo from amazon.com

Emergency Flashlight Tool Case– Sharper Image, $49.99

  1. And for your handy friends, perhaps this magnetic wristband?
Magnetic wristband

photo from amazon.com

RAK Magnetic Wristband– Amazon, $16.99

Sticking with practical, here are some of my favorite kitchen tools:

  1. While I’ve mentioned this simple clip-on strainer before, it is so useful I have to mention it again.
Fave Things Clip Strainer Amazon

photo from amazon.com

Kitchen Gizmo Snap ‘N Strain Strainer– Amazon, $15.99

  1. My mother got this for me last Christmas. If you eat a lot of tacos or meat sauce, as we do, I think you’ll fall in love.
Meat Chopper

photo from amazon.com

ChopStir Meat Chopper– Amazon, $7.99

  1. I have waxed poetic about this one before. I use this rice/quinoa/couscous cooker ALL the time. It is SO easy.
Rice cooker

photo from amazon.com

Sistema Microwave Rice Cooker– Amazon, $12.45

  1. In the category of Things I’d Like to Own, I love this enormous cheese and crackers board.
Cheese & Crackers Board

photo from uncommongoods.com

Cheese & Crackers Serving Board– Uncommon Goods, $48

  1. Coasters fall into the category of things that I use often and always admire but that are priced way more highly than I think they ought to be. Which makes them perfect for gifting. These West Elm coasters are pretty.
Coasters WE

photo from westelm.com

Reactive Glaze Coasters– West Elm, $20 (down from $29)

  1. Salt is always a good gift. And it’s fancy salt, so it’s fun AND practical.
Salt Set

photo from worldmarket.com

Salt Journey 8-Piece Gift Set– World Market, $19.99

  1. So is super fancy jam.
Christmas Jam Quartet

photo from spoon.com

Christmas Quartet– American Spoon, $55.00

  1. You should probably add in a box of 15 croissants for your friend, to eat with the jam.

photo from williams-sonoma.com

Classic Croissants – Williams Sonoma, $31.96

11. These breakfast molds sure are cute, if you have someone on your gift list who would eat pancakes or eggs. Unlike the unicorn fan in my household.

Unicorn Mold

photo from surlatable.com

Unicorn Breakfast Mold– Sur la Table, $10.00

Or there’s a feline version…

Cat Mold

photo from surlatable.com

Cat Egg Mold– Sur la Table, $10.00

  1. This pizza box oven is adorable.
Pizza box oven

photo from sharperimage.com

Pizza Box Oven– Sharper Image, $69.99 (down from $89.99)

On the less practical side, I love these location-themed gifts from Etsy.

  1. This travel ornament is perfect for friends who are big travelers, or for people who joined together in locations different from their home cities. (Hat tip to NGS for turning me on to this particular ornament!)
Travel Ornament

photo from etsy.com

Travel Ornament– Location Inspirations, $23.95-$55.95

  1. Or I love this wall print using the same idea.
Adventure Print

photo from etsy.com

Adventure Together Print– A Gier Design, $65.00-$272.00, depending on size

  1. Moving on, of course, to the Giant Wall Scrabble. This photo does not adequately show how giant it is.
Wall Scrabble

photo from potterybarn.com


Wall Scrabble– Pottery Barn, $949 (down from $999)

  1. And of course, while you’re busy playing wall Scrabble, you’ll have your robot bartender mix you a Manhattan.
Robot Bartender

photo from uncommongoods.com

Robot Bartender– Uncommon Goods, $1,150

  1. While we’re on the topic of things that are too expensive (for me), how about putting one of your parents’/grandparents’/spouse’s handwritten recipes on a cutting board? I would totally cry if I got this. (I have also seen these on Etsy.)
Cutting Board

photo from orvis.com

Bespoke Cutting Board with Handwritten recipe– Orvis, $169

  1. You could pair it with a really great cookbook. Here are two I’m eyeing:
GBBO Baking Cookbook

photo from amazon.com

Great British Bake Off Big Book of Baking– Amazon, $35.62

  1. Or this one…
Ina Garten Book

photo from amazon.com

Cook Like a Pro by Ina Garten– Amazon, $20.99

  1. At Orvis, I am in love with this beautiful bowl.
Live Edge Bowl

photo from orvis.com

Live Edge Wooden Bowl– Orvis, $39-$49


  1. Somehow I have veered back into Practical Gift Territory (why am I so hung up on practicality?) with this supposedly easy-to-use tree stand.
Tree Stand

photo from orvis.com

World’s Easiest Tree Stand– Orvis, $119

The tree stand would be for my husband, which got me to thinking about gifts he’s actually liked – in particular, a couple of “of the month” clubs.

  1. We did Craft Coffee for MANY years – he loved that you could customize by flavor profile, grind size, etc. I don’t speak coffee so you’ll have to take my word for it that a genuine coffee enthusiast LOVED this club.
Craft Coffee

photo from craftcoffee.com

Coffee Club– Craft Coffee, $29.99-$299.88, depending on duration of membership

  1. For the past year or so, he’s been getting his other love, peanut butter, in the mail every month. One jar of plain peanut butter, one jar of fun/weird/fancy/flavored peanut butter, each from a different small batch distributor. It’s really fun! Except that we have a thousand jars of peanut butter in our house at any given moment. And I don’t like peanut butter.
PB Club

photo from amazingclubs.com

Peanut Butter Club– Amazing Clubs, $74.85-$275.40, depending on duration of membership

  1. Now this is more MY kind of club.
Gin of the Month Club

photo from spiritedgifts.com


Gin of the Month Club– Spirited Gifts, $225.00

  1. And of course you’d need to give some high quality tonic to go with all that gin.
Jack Rudy Tonic Trio

photo from orvis.com

Jack Rudy Tonic Trio– Orvis, $30

  1. I think you can assume if you know me in person, you’ll be getting a tea towel chosen to fit your personality at some point during our relationship.
Gin Tea Towel

photo from uncommongoods.com

Gin Lover’s Tea Towel– Uncommon Goods, $14.00

  1. I don’t normally advocate gifting art, but this is so pleasing.
Gin Print

photo from etsy.com

Gin and Tonic Wall Print– Everlong Print Co, $27.80-$59.56, depending on size

  1. This “tea” mug makes me giggle.
Gin Mug

photo from etsy.com

Gin Mug– We Are Paper Plane, $13.17

  1. Speaking of clubs, which we were a moment ago, Zingerman’s has some really drool-worthy ones:

cartoon from zingermans.com

Cured Meat & Cheese Club– Zingerman’s, $125 (3 months) or $250 (6 months)

  1. Do I wish I were the kind of person who needed a specialty Reuben kit? Yes, yes, I do.

cartoon from zingermans.com

Legendary Reuben Sandwich Kits– Zingerman’s, $150-$200

  1. Mmmmm bacon.


Bacon Month

cartoon from zingermans.com


Bacon of the Month Club– Zingerman’s, $99-$400

  1. You don’t need to join a club to send the gift of bacon, though. I sent a bacon sampler to my dad for Christmas that’s less of a bacon commitment.
Bacon Sampler

photo from nueskes.com

Applewood Smoked Bacon Sampler– Nueske’s, $34.99

  1. And I am getting him this, as well, because it’s cute:
Bacon Pig

photo from surlatable.com

Bacon Bin Grease Holder– Sur la Table, $13.95

  1. Obligatory adorable bacon tea towel (and accompanying fried egg towel).
Bacon My Heart

photo from etsy.com

Bacon My Heart Tea Towel– A2D Creations, $17.95 (for two towels)

  1. And did you know there is a whole category of song lyric-pun tea towels?
Song Lyric Towels

photo from etsy.com

Song Lyric Towels– Kings Custom Design, $10.00 (for three towels)

  1. And there is also the song lyric-pun category in mugs…
Big Books Mug

photo from etsy.com

I Like Big Books Mug– The Scribble Studio, $22.95

  1. Might as well get something to put IN the mug. How about this fun variety gift for the tea lover in your life?
Tea Ornaments

photo from worldmarket.com

12 Days of Tea Ornament Gift– World Market, $14.99

  1. Or these tea drops, which I think are kind of like instant tea? I’m not sure, but I would love to try them!
Tea Drops

photo from amazon.com

Tea Drops Sampler– Amazon, $12.99

  1. I drink tea every day, so I feel the irresistible pull of a number of mugs. Here’s one for your Target-loving friend aka all your friends.
Target Mug

photo from etsy.com

Target Mug– The Bling Bling, $14.85

  1. And if you happen to know any writerly folks, I am SURE this will come in handy (she says, as she “overcomes writer’s block” by creating a massive and unnecessary gift guide).
Procrastinating Mug

photo from etsy.com

Procrastinating Mug– Unique Gift Ideas Shop, $17.95

  1. I am not sure how I would explain this mug to my five-year-old, but it makes me smile every time I see it.
Fox Sake Mug

photo from etsy.com

Fox Sake Mug– Lovely Panda Company, $20.00

  1. And, while I take issue with the comma placement on this one, I enjoy the message immensely:
Not Reading Mug

photo from etsy.com

Not Reading Enough Mug– Tea Please Co UK, $14.23

  1. Speaking of not reading enough, here’s a book I want. I bet you can think of someone who could benefit from Eleanor Roosevelt’s wise words.
Eleanor Roosevelt

photo from amazon.com

You Learn by Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life by Eleanor Roosevelt– Amazon, $13.49

If you too are in the market for some good reading material, here are some books I read this year and loved and can recommend without reservation:

  1. So much tragedy in this novel spanning a life, but also a lot of humor, and somehow it works out to be very uplifting:
Invisible Furies

photo from amazon.com

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne – Amazon, $11.59

  1. I had NO IDEA that shipping tragedies was a whole sub-genre of books! This was fantastic. It reminded me a lot of the mini-series The Terror (which was itself based on a book), but it was GREAT. Engaging and different from my normal murder-mystery fare and really well-written.
North Water

photo from amazon.com

The North Water by Ian McGuire – Amazon, $10.87

  1. Every story in this collection is perfect.

photo from amazon.com

The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hillary Mantel – Amazon, $14.51

  1. This is non-fiction for writers and word nerds. It was a lot of fun and I learned a lot – although I still disagree with the author’s position on en dashes.
World Without Whom

photo from amazon.com

A World Without Whom by Emily J. Favilla – Amazon, $14.27

  1. Of course, while you are – or, ahem, the person for whom you are buying a gift is – reading one of the above, you’ll need a fancy bookmark:
Personalized Leather Bookmark

photo from etsy.com

Personalized Leather Bookmark– Mayaa Co, $14.99

  1. Last summer, in a little gift shop in the woods, I found a beautiful bookmark for a friend. It was made of inlaid wood, and I loved it. Here’s something similar:
Wooden Bookmark

photo from etsy.com

Handcrafted Wooden Bookmark– R Moore Wood Creations, $7.95

  1. Or this beautiful laser cut option…
Wooden Bookmark Mitercraft

photo from mitercraft.com

Arches Design Laser Cut Wooden Bookmark– Mitercraft, $15.95

  1. What about some reader-friendly coffee, so you can get through one more chapter?
Readers Fuel Coffee

photo from bookloverscoffee.com

Reader’s Fuel Coffee– Book Lovers Coffee, $12.50

Does this list have enough kitchen towels yet? I didn’t think so. I really am a sucker for towels. Our first set of towels has been worn out, so I recently bought a pack each of kitchen towels from Williams Sonoma and Sur la Table. They are GREAT. And it’s so pleasing to have fresh, new towels hanging above my sink and filling up my laundry room cupboards.

  1. The Williams Sonoma are thick and fluffy, and, true to their name, very absorbent.
Towels WS

photo from williams-sonoma.com


Multi-Pack Absorbent Kitchen Towels– Williams Sonoma, $19.96 (for three towels)

  1. The Sur la Table towels are excellent multi-purpose towels, and I love the soft blue. (Although the towels come in many other colors.)
Towels SLT

photo from surlatable.com

Striped Kitchen Towels– Sur la Table, $14.95 (for three towels)

  1. Of course, I also have a deep fondness for amusing towels – which I never buy for myself, and which I therefore think of as Great Gift Fodder. I put this taco one on my wish list for Christmas this year.
Taco Tea Towel

photo from etsy.com

Taco Tea Towel– Kitch Studios, $10.00

  1. I mean, why isn’t this in my kitchen RIGHT NOW…?


Taco Dreams Tea Towel

photo from etsy.com


Taco Dreams Tea Towel– Paper Berry Press, $15.95

  1. Speaking of tacos, which we should be, always, here’s a way to celebrate someone’s taco adoration on something besides a tea towel.
Taco T Shirt

photo from etsy.com

Taco T-Shirt– Nine to None, $22.95

  1. Turns out the same Etsy store has a TON of cute T-shirts. I am very fond of this astrological T slash warning label; you must know someone who needs this, yes? (Other astrological signs available too.)
Pisces T Shirt

photo from etsy.com

Pisces AF T-Shirt– Nine to None, $22.95

  1. There is always this adorable tee for your bookish friend or family member.
Good Day to Read T Shirt

photo from etsy.com

It’s a Good Day to Read T-Shirt– Nine to None, $22.95

  1. This is cute – bees are great (and they are currently trendy from both environmental and subversive perspectives).
Save the Bees T Shirt

photo from etsy.com

Save the Bees T-Shirt– Nine to None, $22.95

  1. Speaking of bees, I would love this fancy bee shirt from Kate Spade.
Bee Pullover

photo from katespade.com

Bee Embellished Pullover– Kate Spade, $160 (down from $228) (oh no! This is now sold out in most sizes except for XXS and XS. BOO!)

  1. There HAS to be other bee-wear out there, right? Ah yes, here we are… A lovely navy tee with bees on it. Well, I have used all of my very extensive knowledge to try to get a photo of this shirt here for you and… I failed. So you will have to click to see it. Sorry.

Bee Print Top– Forever 21, $10.90

  1. Here’s a waterproof option for your bee-wear desires. I mean gifting.
Bee Raincoat

photo from nordstrom.com

Bee Print Joules Right as Rain Packable Hooded Raincoat– Nordstrom, $74.95

  1. And bee print rainboots to go with it!
Bee Welly

photo from nordstrom.com

Bee Print Molly Welly Rain Boot– Nordstrom, $72.95

  1. This is very much my personal style, but alas, I didn’t find it until after I sent out my gift list. Oh well. Perhaps you know someone who will give it a proper home?
Bee Bracelet

photo from nordstrom.com

3D Bee Open Bangle Bracelet– Nordstrom, $85.00

  1. I am not sure I would spend $17 on a keychain, but I do LIKE this one, and if I had a friend who was REALLY into bees, I would strongly consider it.
Bee Keychain

photo from papyrusonline.com

Bee Keychain– Papyrus, $16.95

  1. I really like the idea of bee footwear, and these Toms are really cute. To be fair, the critters featured aren’t all bees. I’m okay with it.
Bug Loafers

photo from toms.com

Embroidered Bugs Slip On Shoes– Toms, $34.99 (down from $59.99)

This makes me wonder why J. Crew isn’t ALL OVER the bee trend. That seems right up their sartorial alley.

Without a bee theme to adhere to, I admit that clothes are tough to give (and receive) as gifts. I’d much rather have a Stitch Fix gift card than a sweater I might not wear. But I couldn’t resist putting these – very practical – items on the list.

  1. Who doesn’t need a beautiful sweater coat? I could totally see myself, I mean, a friend, wearing this over the Pisces T-shirt, clad in the bee wellies, sipping from the fox mug, whilst gazing out over the ocean. It’s a lot of look, to be sure, but someone could pull it off. And that someone is me. I mean, your friend.
Fair Isle Sweater Coat

photo from orvis.com

Fair Isle Sweater Coat– Orvis, $169.00

  1. These are definitely on my own wish list. They will turn your favorite boots into warm, cozy winter wear. (Boots not included.)
Hunter Boot Socks

photo from hunterboots.com

Hunter Boot Socks– Hunter Boots, $50.00

  1. I don’t know about you, but I can never have enough leggings. I have it on good authority (whose, I don’t remember) that these are da bomb. (Do people still say “da bomb” anymore?)
Zella Leggings

photo from nordstrom.com

Zella High Waist Leggings– Nordstrom, $54.00

  1. Along with bringing back early ’00s slang, I am ALL FOR the return of the fanny pack. Especially when the options are so chic.
Belt Bag

photo from markandgraham.com

Belt Bag– Mark and Graham, $99.00

  1. I love this beautiful celestial necklace.
Star Necklace

photo from anthropologie.com


Night Sky Charm Necklace – Anthropologie, $58

  1. As we have moved on to accessories, I am a sucker for gadgets that are supposed to give you beautiful, bouncy curls, and this headband looks like a fun and easy way to achieve that.
SoCal Curls

photo from socalcurls.com

No heat waves – SoCal Curls, $18.99+

  1. And then there’s this fun ponytail holder. Give someone in your life the gift of that rockin’ pony, won’t you?
Pony O

photo from ponyo.com

Pony-O Hair Holder– Pony O, $14.96

  1. Luxurious hand cream is something I ask for every year and have received exactly once. This year, I bought some for myself and I love it.
Hand cream

photo from beautycounter.com

Holiday Hand Cream Trio– Beauty Counter, $30

  1. My husband really wants some thick socks for cold winter afternoons spent watching football. This L. L. Bean option looks like a decent possibility.
Socks LLB

photo from llbean.com

Boot Socks– L. L. Bean, $19.95

  1. I think he’d like these slipper socks… but he expressly said NOT slippers, so I can’t decide if these are out of the running yet.
Slipper socks

photo from llbean.com

Knit Slipper Socks– L. L. Bean, $34.99

  1. Maybe he really needs a cozy throw to snuggle under. And if he doesn’t, you probably know someone who does.

photo from eddiebauer.com

Cabin Fleece Throw– Eddie Bauer, $52.50

We have reached the Kid Friendly Options portion of this gift guide. If “kid friendly” means “appropriate for my particular kid, who is roughly five years old.”

  1. I have been eyeing this educational get-stuff-in-the-mail science kit, perfect for the aspiring scientist.
Science Club

photo from stevespanglerscience.com

Spangler Science Club– Steve Spangler Science, $19.99-$219.99, depending on duration of subscription

  1. Ooooh, and I can personally endorse Kiwi Crates, because Carla has been getting crates every month for over a year. She LOVES them. They satisfy her need to build and craft and my need to feel like I’m teaching her something. There’s a crate for pretty much every age range, too, so if you have a child in your life, I highly recommend this.
Kiwi Crate

photo from kiwico.com

Kiwi Crate – Kiwi Co, $19.95-$203.40 (for the 5- to 8-year-old kit) depending on how many months you sign up for

  1. Speaking of Carla’s – and anyone else’s – need to craft, I am loving Kid Made Modern. I have given the kits as gifts, we have some of their smaller kits (in fact, we gave Carla the Go Wild craft kit for Hanukkah), and I can’t get enough. I think Carla would LOVE this library of art supplies, and I bet any kid would feel the same.
Arts & Crafts Library

photo from kidmademodern.com

Arts & Crafts Supply Library– Kid Made Modern, $39.99

  1. We have several of these little Polly-pocket-style toys. I find that they are the perfect size to hide in my purse and use to distract Carla while I’m getting my teeth cleaned at the dentist/waiting for my oil to be changed/trying to chat with my husband over a much-needed dinner out. It’s a good in-the-car toy, too. It could make a great stocking stuffer for a kid in your life.
Shopkins Secret Lock

photo from amazon.com

Shopkins Secret Lock– Amazon, $8.25 (usually these are $9.99; you can get them at Target, too)

  1. Carla is deathly afraid of bandages, but these would be a great stocking stuffer for almost anyone else.
Unicorn bandages

photo from papyrusonline.com

Unicorn Bandages– Papyrus $9.95

  1. Speaking of stocking stuffers, I suggest filling someone’s stocking with a pile of tiny snowpeople. We got these a few years ago, ostensibly as Christmas decorations. Carla LOVES them – there is something pretty wonderful about a dozen mini snowpeople cascading across your bed or dresser. I can’t really imagine I paid $23 for them though – that seems steep. But I suppose worthwhile, considering we’ve already gotten at least three years of fun out of them. (I guess you have to imagine the other eight?)
Dozen snowmen

photo from amazon.com

One Dozen Plush Snowmen– Amazon, $22.93

  1. This stained glass sticker kit makes for a fun, quiet activity for kids during those looooooong winter days.
Stained Glass Kit

photo from amazon.com

Melissa and Doug Stained Glass Activity Kit– Amazon, $8.59

  1. Carla got this camera for her birthday and she loves it. It’s very sturdy and easy to use, and it takes videos in addition to photos and selfies. Perfect for the pint sized photographer in your life.
Kids Camera

photo from amazon.com

Vtech Kidzoom Camera Pix– Amazon, $29.82

  1. Carla saw one of these at Barnes & Noble the other day (although I can’t find it on their site), and fell in love. I mean, it’s a stuffed animal with those so-hot-right-now changeable sequins; what’s not to love?
Sequin Owl

photo from amazon.com

Large Plush Sequin Owl– Amazon, $18.99

It also comes in a smaller, less expensive version, even though the image makes it look identical in size…

Sequin Owl Small

photo from amazon.com

Small Plush Sequin Owl– Amazon, $9.99

I think books make the best gifts (you can never have too many!), but I don’t have many on my For Carla list this year.

87. However, I do really want to get her this Mrs. Piggle Wiggle box set.

Piggle Wiggle

photo from amazon.com

Mrs. Piggle Wiggle Set– Amazon, $27.89

If you are looking for book ideas for the three- to seven-year-old set, some of her current favorites include…

88. This perfect-for-cat-lovers book all about how similar we all are despite our differences.

Cat Book

photo from amazon.com

I Am a Cat by Galia Bernstein – Amazon, $15.61

  1. This beautifully illustrated poem about Cuba’s first female drummer.
Drum Dream Girl

photo from amazon.com

Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle and Rafael Lopez – Amazon, $16.31

  1. This two-book series about a sentient robot. (FYI, the story might not be appropriate for all kids. It references guns a few times, and some creatures get killed, which I wasn’t crazy about. But it was a good story and Carla was absolutely rapt through both books.)
Wild Robot

photo from amazon.com

The Wild Robot Hardcover Gift Set– Amazon, $21.88

  1. This gentle book that I loved as a kid; it’s still as lovely and imaginative as it was a billion years ago.
Sand Cake

photo from amazon.com

Sand Cake by Frank Asch – Amazon, $7.99

  1. This vividly illustrated book about being yourself.
Tiger Goes Wild

photo from amazon.com

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown – Amazon, $13.89

  1. And maybe a plush tiger to go with it…
Plush Tiger

photo from amazon.com

Aurora World Bengal Tiger Cub– Amazon, $10.94

  1. Or you could gift your favorite animal lover with four plush animals of your choice, with your donation in support of wildlife and nature…
Tiger WWF

photo from worldwildlife.org

Build Your Own Bucket– World Wildlife Fund, $75

  1. Also for the Big Cat lover, how about this gorgeous tiger puzzle…
Tiger Puzzle

photo from worldwildlife.org

Tiger Puzzle– World Wildlife Fund, $55

  1. Speaking of puzzles, my husband is a BIG puzzle fan, and this 2,000 piece beauty was a fun challenge (it’s enormous, though)…
Truffle Puzzle

photo from amazon.com

Springbok Tin of Treats Puzzle– Amazon, $24.99

  1. This puzzle also looks like it would fit my husband’s criteria: lots of discrete sections to work on, not a lot of blank space. Maybe you know a puzzle fan who has similar specifications?
Book Puzzle

photo from amazon.com

Vintage Book Covers Puzzle– Amazon, $17.99

  1. I may have also signed him up for a Puzzle of the Month club, which you may want to consider for the puzzle fanatic in your life. It’s such a good price for puzzles!
Puzzle of the month

photo from puzzlewarehouse.com

Puzzle of the Month Club– Puzzle Warehouse, $9.99 – $179.99

I see we have moved out of “kid friendly gift options” and into “family friendly gift options,” so might I suggest some games?

  1. My in-laws got Carla Operation for Hanukkah, and it’s just as fun – and challenging – as it was when I was a wee girl. (And it ENDS. Unlike some other kid games.) (I’m looking at you, Candyland!)

photo from amazon.com

Operation– Amazon, $11.83

  1. And we love Codenames and have gotten it for all our family members. It’s really fun.

photo from amazon.com

Codenames– Amazon, $14.89

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Perhaps you are looking for some last-minute Christmas gifts? Or maybe you just like reading about what other people enjoy. In either case, here are some things that I am loving lately (and just to be clear, I am not getting ANYTHING in return for recommending any of these; I either bought them myself or received them as gifts):

Chef’n ZipStrip Herb Zipper


Photo from surlatable.com

Okay, I didn’t realize this had such a ridiculous name. But it’s awesome. I got a bunch for people as stocking stuffers last year – including myself – and I use it ALL the time. It’s on sale for $6.36 at Sur La Table, if you have any people who like to cook on your Christmas list. 

Anthurium Plant



Photo from homedepot.com

This summer, I was looking for a red lamp to add to my new office and I could not for the life of me find one I liked. But I DID find a really pretty plant with red leaf-like flowers (in a red ceramic pot) at my local Home Depot. I know, a plant does not have the same functionality as a lamp. But if you think of the lamp as more of an accessory, you will see how the plant fit the bill. ANYWAY. It is an anthurium plant, which seems to be a type of orchid. And it’s super easy to care for: I just put a few ice cubes in it each Monday and it remains lovely and shiny all week long. If you have someone in your life who isn’t great at caring for plants but who loves them AND has easy access to ice cubes, this could be the perfect gift. Okay, I am giving the Home Depot site the side-eye because I did NOT pay $32.99 for my anthurium. I can’t imagine paying any more than $15 for it. Maybe $20. I kind of want to dig through my old receipts just to prove it. Perhaps it is seasonally more expensive. If so, it would make an excellent Christmas in July gift.

Kung Fu Girl Riesling


Photo from kvintners.com

Riesling is my favorite type of white wine. My mantra used to be, the sweeter, the better. But my palate might be changing or maturing or something (unlikely) and I have gravitated to drier wines of late. Kung Fu Girl is my current go-to. It’s probably what I would call semi-dry, so there is a hint of sweetness there. But it’s crisp and clean and also, bonus, I can usually find it for $10.99 at my local grocery store. I’ve also seen it at World Market, if you have one near you.

Lands’ End Shimmer Down Long Coat


Photo from landsend.com

We live in an area of the country whose winters include snow and cold temperatures. And I happen to possess the variety of child who loves snow more than anything in life. So last year, my husband bought me a down coat from Lands’ End.  It was longer than I wanted it to be – it came all the way down to the tops of my boots (also from Lands’ End). And I felt like a marshmallow. BUT. It is AMAZING. I can be wearing a t-shirt-weight shirt and jeans, and as long as I have that coat on, I feel NOTHING. I can play in the snow with Carla for hours (or until her face is red and I have to drag her inside). I can even lie down in the snow and make snow angels and feel NOTHING. It’s truly the best. And Lands’ End has really good sales on a regular basis. It’s a bit pricy at $199, but if you get a code for 40% off, you’re looking at a much more reasonable $119 for a really great, really warm coat. Oh. I just now “got” why it’s called “Shimmer Down.” I say “got” because you CAN make a pun on “simmer down” just because the coat is made of down doesn’t mean you SHOULD.

UGG Tasman Genuine Shearling Gloves


Photo from amazon.com

Speaking of warm, these gloves are the softest, fuzziest, warmest gloves ever. Obviously, you can’t text with them on or anything. But I find they are perfect for driving before your car’s heater has kicked in. Or for, you know, being outside in general. They are pricey, at $140, but I looooooove mine so I think they might be worth it.

Bedford Cottage Eskimo Throw


Photo from bedfordcottage.com

Perhaps you can tell that it is only 15 degrees here, based on these last three items. Well, I am in love with this faux fur throw, which is currently draped over my legs. It’s super soft and warm, but I also love it because it looks like it belongs on a chaise longue in some fancy catalog and makes me feel like the type of person you might refer to as “stylish” and “put together” and less like the type of person whose living room has seventy five Amazon boxes stacked in one corner and a bright blue toddler-height table with red, green, and yellow chairs in another corner and a giant bear from Costco behind the couch and the detritus of a Doc McStuffins vet station scattered across the hearth and pieces of a menorah puzzle strewn like tiny land mines about the carpet. You can buy it via the link above for $149, which I did not; I got it as a gift. But it’s possibly that you could find it elsewhere for less.

Cuisinart CPK-17 PerfecTemp 1.7-Liter Stainless Steel Cordless Electric Kettle



Photo from amazon.com

I drink tea every day, and this water boiler has made it very very very simple. Just fill and press a button. And there are all sorts of temperature variations, so you can set it to the proper temperature for green tea… or black tea… or oolong… or whatever.  My husband – a coffee drinker – uses it too; on weekend for pour-over coffee. I really like that it maintains a specific temperature, too – just in case a toddler suddenly urgently needs you to come help her find proper socks. It cost $73?!?! Sheesh. That seems… excessive. Although it DOES do a nice job. And I really have no concept for how much these things do/should cost. 

Carole Hochman Ladies’ 3 Pair Ribbed Lounge Sock



Photo from costco.com

I grabbed a three-pack of these socks at Costco the last time we were there (what’s a trip to Costco without grabbing something that you simultaneously NEED URGENTLY and also had no idea you needed/didn’t need at all?) and they are sooooo soft and warm and cozy. They don’t look like much from the picture, but they are cushy and plush and I love them. Also: $5.99.

Laura Mercier Hand Crème Sampler


Photo from amazon.com

Well, crud. I see this is either $51 through Amazon or not available. My husband got it for me last Christmas, and it was a PERFECT stocking stuffer. I wash my hands a bajillion times a day, so they get very dry. And there’s nothing less appealing than that powdery feeling of dry skin – well, I suppose cracked and bleeding finger webs are less appealing. I think it was, at one point, around $30 at Nordstrom. (And, keeping in mind that each of us is comfortable paying certain amounts for certain things and not for others, I find that $30 seems just on the high side of reasonable while $51 has me shaking my head emphatically NO.) I have just in the past month squeezed the very last glob of lotion from the very last sample and I would enjoy getting this again and again each year. Also, if you don’t want to gift someone ALL of the little lotions, you could certainly open up the box and give one sample to multiple people. Including, perhaps, yourself. Of course, all this is MOOT because it No Longer Exists. But I’m sure there are many other good hand lotion sets in the world.



Photo from literatureandlatte.com

This may be a bit of a niche idea, but as a (would-be/trying-to-be/hopes-to-be) writer, I use this every single day. I never thought that I would like a writing platform more than I do plain old Microsoft Word. But I LOVE Scrivener. It’s very intuitive and user friendly AND it has a very simple tutorial on how to use it, just in case. It makes putting together your novel (or screenplay, I imagine) very simple. No more scrolling down in a long document, or opening multiple documents. You just create a new chapter or chapter-part inside an outline, and then you can move parts and pieces around with the flick of your mouse, OR read your entire manuscript in one flowing document. Plus, it allows you to assign (and customize) keywords to each bit of text, from which characters show up to things you need to research to plot points and dates – which you can then use to help you organize the manuscript in different ways, like, you can see at one glance every chapter featuring your villain. It’s fabulous and it’s only $45 and I love it so. If only it could do the writing for me…

Matymats Grippy Yoga Socks and Stargoods Yoga Gloves 

Photos from amazon.com

I have newly taken on yoga as part of my at-home exercise routine. Which means I have newly discovered that my feet and palms sweat when I do yoga. What can I say. The body is a mysterious wonderland. These socks and gloves help A LOT. No more sliding around while I’m trying to do downward facing dog or a triangle pose or other horrific contortion of limbs that my body is clearly not meant to perform. Both are about $15, but both come with multiple pairs of socks/gloves, which means I can match them to my sports bra. (No.)


Good luck with any last-minute shopping you are doing!

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Well, now that the World Series is over, I can refocus all of my Sports Stress on the election. It’s like a stress sandwich, with nothing delicious in the middle. So yay. Here are some random things, from my tired brain:

  • I went to Target the other day, and the cashier totally Kristen Wiiged me during check-out. “What’s ‘Thai sweet chili sauce’? Is it spicy?” and then, “Well, I KNOW sriracha is spicy!” and, “Looks like someone is going to be a princess for Halloween!” and, “Love that color nail polish!” and, “Oooh, what’s this? A top coat? And you have coupons for both!” I don’t have a problem chit chatting with the cashier, and I am sure it is DELIGHTFUL to see the variety of things that strangers buy each day, but it was mildly uncomfortable to have her COMMENT on it.

Screen shot from nbc.com

  • One thing the Target Lady did NOT comment on? My taco shells. I bought two boxes and all but SEVEN SHELLS were broken.

WTF? Did someone at the store shake the box as hard as possible?

Carla actually EATS tacos, so we have them at least once a week. And I have never — NEVER — seen such a thing. I mean, in the one box, not a SINGLE SHELL was whole.

Well, I can bright-side my way to nachos for lunch, at least.

  • Halloween was SO FUN this year. Carla is at the perfect age, I think. She got really excited about dressing up (so much so that the hours between the end of her school day and six o’clock when trick-or-treating began took forever) and she was really pumped up by the idea of candy. She understood the concept of going up to people’s doors and holding out her little pumpkin. She didn’t really succeed in saying “trick or treat,” but she DID say “thank you,” so there’s that.

One thing I loved was that she would rummage around in people’s candy dishes, searching for the Perfect Candy. And some of them would helpfully choose something for her, and she would shake her head and say, “No, I have that already.” It was kind of adorable. Also a little bit embarrassing, but I’m choosing to believe that people felt more charmed than annoyed.

We made it all the way down one side of our block before she decided that she needed candy NOW. Instead of going up to the door, she sat down smack in the middle of one our neighbors’ driveway and started searching through her pumpkin to find something. To prod her along, I pulled out a bag of M&Ms and fed her one at a time after each house, kind of like training a puppy to heel. So she would dutifully march up to the door, collect her candy, and then turn around and open her mouth like a baby bird eager for a worm. We went through a bag of M&Ms and one roll of Smarties.

Our neighbors were so kind and generous. We have a great block, and most of the homes had full-size candies. And one of our neighbors was HIDING the good candy for the kids she recognized from our block, so when Carla finally made it to her house, she invited us in and gave Carla three full-size items. It was just so sweet. It made me feel giddy with the goodness of human kind.

  • The one negative moment this Halloween was a comment that I got about Carla’s costume, from someone who knows us well. Carla was a princess this year; last year she was a superhero. She chose both costumes, without input from me or my husband. Just, last year she was really into the superhero, so she wanted to dress up like that particular superhero, and this year she really wanted to be the princess.

Anyway, when Carla told this person what she was going as for Halloween, the person turned to me and said, “It’s nice that she’s interested in more feminine things.”

I mean.

First of all, gross. Second of all, what? Thirdly, REALLY?! Fourthly, why is anyone evaluating anything about the costume choices of a three-year-old? Fifthly, it makes me mad because – for a minute – it made me want to rip the princess costume off of Carla and dress her up like a lumberjack complete with beard and muscles (ALTHOUGH A LUMBERJACK COULD BE A PERFECLTY FEMININE PERSON TOO OMG) just for spite, and then THAT makes me mad because why? Why shouldn’t I just be delighted by whatever Carla wants to pretend to be, whether it’s a firefighter or a dragonfly or a ballerina or a freaking bowling ball.  Why should some stupid comment make me want her to be or feel or do anything other than what she wants? WAY TO RUIN HALLOWEEN, PERSON.

I don’t even care to unpack all that upsets me about that comment, or why it’s so gross and demeaning, or how it’s a symptom of a larger, more insidious problem in society, or how sad it makes me feel that Carla is going to have to face crap like this her whole life.

So I’m going to write it down here and be done with it and move on.


  • My husband carved a cat pumpkin this year. That was fun. When it was dark outside, and the cat silhouette was back lit by the little flameless candles I put inside, it garnered a lot of compliments from trick or treaters. Carla and I did the messy part, taking the top off and scooping out all the guts and seeds. Then I roasted the seeds. Carla did not care for the seeds. My husband was eating some later in the week, and I overheard Carla say, “WHY do you like those Daddy?”

Pumpkin cat.JPG

  • Now that Halloween is over, I suppose I have to put away my Halloween decorations. I am not particularly good at decorating for holidays, but I really come through for Halloween and Christmas. I have some cats on pumpkins that I love, and a cool ghost, and a little ghost family for the bathroom. And this year I also found (at Target) a bunch of inexpensive multi-colored pumpkins with glitter stripes and polka dots. There are other things, too. I don’t really feel ready to put all the stuff away yet. Maybe this weekend.
  • I love how so many people go All Out with their Halloween decorations: zombies and ghosts and witches hanging out in their yards, pumpkin path lights, spiderwebs overtaking their shrubbery, graveyards sprouting from their lawns. I love it. Carla and I went for a walk a couple of weeks back and found a street where nearly every house had Halloween decorations, and it was so fun to point them out and discuss them together. I think it also went a long way toward making the holiday fun for Carla rather than scary. She seemed delighted by one neighbor’s human-size trio of glow-eyed witches and by another’s mechanized skull hanging from a tree. I’m glad it doesn’t freak her out.
  • I suppose now that I have to get rid of Halloween decorations, I can concentrate on Thanksgiving décor… But I don’t really HAVE any Thanksgiving stuff, aside from a fall-themed runner and maybe a non-jack-o-lantern pumpkin that I can keep using. I’m not sure what I WANT, in terms of Thanksgiving décor. But I really WANT it. Do you have any Thanksgiving or fall-type décor that you just love? Why can’t I stop typing décor?
  • And that makes me feel all giddy about Thanksgiving! I love this holiday! I can’t wait to pull out my Detailed Thanksgiving Timeline and start preparing for the meal. My parents are coming out for Thanksgiving this year, which should be super fun. I wonder if Carla will eat ANYTHING?
  • Of course, thinking about Thanksgiving gets me all excited about Christmas and Hanukkah, which I bet are going to be FANTASTIC, Carla-wise, this year. She is really going to “get” the whole idea of Santa Claus and I know she loved lighting the menorah last year, so it will be even more interesting this year. I think she’ll be able to look forward to things in a way she hasn’t before. SO FUN. I have some tentative gifts picked out for a few people, but now I can start gift-hunting in earnest. I also really want to get a tiny tree and some Christmas window clings for Carla’s room – she loved having her own Halloween decorations, so I think she’ll really enjoy Christmas ones, too. I have already put on the calendar our local Christmas tree lighting and food bank donation day, as well as our local menorah lighting. Maybe we will try to do a Santa Claus visit this year, too, if Carla is up for it. So those are fun things to look forward to.
  • Speaking of gifts (which I was, a while ago), my father-in-law AND father both have Major Birthdays this year. My father-in-law is first. And I am wondering, what the hell do you get to commemorate a major birthday for men who have EVERYTHING? Everything I think of seems either lame or completely out of the realm of possibility. Ideas? Anyone?
  • It’s a little hard to imagine Christmas with the unseasonably warm weather we’ve been having. I mean, we’ve been sleeping with the windows open and it’s NOVEMBER. On the one hand, this is awesome and I don’t want to waste it. On the other hand, I really want to wear the new vest and boots I bought, and I have a bunch of cute sweaters that aren’t being worn. So get with it, Actual Fall. At least the trees are super beautiful.
  • It’s so hard to believe that this nice weather is actually happening that I haven’t really been taking FULL advantage of the warmth. When it’s not raining, that is. I feel like I should be going for long walks outside with Carla. We have gone to the playground, a LOT, so that’s good. And she’s been playing in the back yard a bit, which is great. Okay, I suppose we also decorated pumpkins outside, and we’ve done chalk drawings on the driveway, and we did our Halloween Decoration Tour. So we’re not completely failing. But I kind of feel like I should go full on It’s Still Summertime, and put the patio cushions back out and fire up the grill more often. My parents got me a meat grinder for last Christmas, and so far I’ve only been using it to make ground beef for tacos and chili.

Freshly ground meat is SO GOOD. But the clean up is a little gross.

When really the BEST use would be for hamburgers. I think what’s holding me back is that it’s usually so dark by the time my husband gets home, that grilling isn’t particularly pleasant. We have a light on the grill, but it’s not particularly useful. Hmmm. Perhaps a really powerful, useful grill light would be a good candidate for a Christmas present??

All right, Internet. That’s all I have for today. What’s going on with you?

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