Best Holiday Gifts: Our Favorite Things
Not sure what to buy for those special friends and family members on your list? Maybe our suggestions can help! Our editorial team weighs in on their favorite gifts of the season.
Annie Tucker Morgan, Editor
This holiday season, I’m swearing off my usual frantic mall excursions. Not only are they stressful, but I always end up with a bunch of Christmas gifts that aren’t particularly meaningful—just so I have something to put under the tree for my loved ones. Instead, I’ve decided to give gifts that keep on giving, in the form of charitable presents for my family and friends.
For my mom and dad, both of whom work in finance, I can’t think of a better gift than a microloan in their names to Kiva.org, a nonprofit that encourages people to donate small amounts of money to entrepreneurs all over the world, alleviating poverty and building a vast global network of philanthropists.
Since I don’t have a single friend who doesn’t love NPR, I’ll be visiting its online store and snatching up cool gadgets and books for them; I’ve got my eye on David Sedaris’s Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, the This American Life: Stories of Hope & Fear anthology, and the NPR Radio by Livio. Even better, every purchase I make will support NPR programming.
Finally, for all my beloved nieces and nephews, I’m trying to decide between a species adoption from the World Wildlife Fund, a Heifer International animal purchase, which will give a family in need a direct food source, and a donation to UNICEF in the kids’ names. The nice thing is, no matter what I choose, it’s a win-win.
Vicki Santillano, Staff Writer
I usually spend the last few weeks before the holidays stressing about what gifts to get for my family and friends, making lists and checking them twice and then throwing them away when new inspiration hits. But this year, I’ve been so obsessed with the accessories and home goods at Anthropologie that I’ve decided to do the majority of my shopping there. I got more gift ideas during a recent quick browse than I have from hours of online searching and bus-ride brainstorm sessions.
As soon as I spotted the Needlework Candle Tins in Burnt Vanilla, I knew it’d be the perfect stocking stuffer for my mom, who’s a sucker for cute candles with sweet scents. Maybe I’ll pair it with the Mistral Winter Russe Soap in Winter Berry, since it has a hint of vanilla as well. My friend who’s famous for her homemade desserts will be getting this adorable Baker’s Delight apron. Another friend is going on a European excursion this winter; I think this wine-colored eternity scarf will keep her stylishly warm.
I can’t buy everybody’s presents at Anthropologie (the men in my life care little for candles or scarves), but at least I can knock a few people off my list—and add a few hundred items to my own gift wish list in the process.
Allison Ford, Staff Writer
This year, although funds may be low, my Christmas spirit is still high. I am known far and wide for my exceptional skills as a gift giver, and I have a reputation to defend, budget be damned.
My friend Mindy and I love to drink white wine and watch Bravo together, so I’m getting her this Real Housewives of Atlanta tee, which immortalizes one of our favorite smackdowns. After a few bottles of wine, we carry on whole conversations just by saying “Who gon’ check me, boo?” and “Put a brawrawn.” My other best friend Maggie just started a new job working with Planned Parenthood. Since it’s a cause that’s dear to my heart, I’m buying her a copy of one of my favorite books, The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power, and the Future Of the World, by Michelle Goldberg. It’s a fascinating look at the politics of family planning and birth control, and it should be required reading for anyone working in public health.
I got married this year, so my husband deserves an extra-special gift. We didn’t register for crystal, but since he’s a Scotch drinker, my wedding gift to him was two Baccarat crystal glasses. I’ll get him two more to add to his collection, and keep saving up for that pricy decanter. He might have to wait a few Christmases for that, though.
Rebecca Brown, Editor-in-Chief
When it comes to buying gifts, I’m equal parts good and bad buyer. I love scouring stores to find unique gifts for friends and family—that’s the good part. The horrible part is that I almost always covet those same items for myself, and because I have zero willpower, I end up with the same scarves, candles, cookbooks, and earrings I buy for others.
This year, I’m going back to my go-to favorite—the heavenly scented Tocca products, like the travel candle gift set, the solid fragrance, or the simple but divine single candle—but I’m also opting for gifts that can be consumed immediately, like food. I love the Whoopie Pies from Recchiuti Confections, but those are only available for a limited time. If you miss them, pick up one of their four-piece samplers, which contain their incredible fleur de sel caramel as one of the four pieces.
I’m also considering creating small gift bags featuring some of my favorite caramels and chocolates. If you’re in San Francisco, all are available at my favorite Fog City News and all are around $2 each: Cowgirl Creamery spicy caramels (very spicy!); Michael Mischer bonbons; miniature Dolfin bars; and for the very special, Henri Le Roux caramels au beurre salé. And if my recipients aren’t as excited about those as I am, maybe that just means they’ll share them with me.
Nikki Deterding, Partner Coordinator
When the holiday season rolls around, I find myself doing a lot of mall trolling and window-shopping. I transform into an actual shopper when stores lure me in with free samples and things that smell delicious.
The store that doesn’t have to do any luring—even though it does smell delicious—is Bath & Body Works. I always find myself here when they roll out their line of holiday scents. Now is the time I stock up on Vanilla Bean Noel body lotion, shower gel, and candles for the entire year … and also buy a dozen or two for stocking stuffers. The Vanilla Bean Noel scent is like heaven on earth. You walk around smelling like cake and cookies, and I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want that. It’s my go-to small gift for all. I usually get an assortment of products in the scent and make cute little gift baskets for people.
Another store that has all I ask for in my shopping experience is Sephora. They offer free samples of almost everything in their store and—AND—an entire stockpile of yummy-smelling perfume (or cologne). You can find anything in any price range for your best girlfriends here, but I go with Euphoria perfume by Calvin Klein. They offer their perfumes in different sizes, so if $78 is a little out of your price range, your friends can still smell like exotic fruits and seductive florals if you choose the smaller bottle for $45.
Renae Hurlbutt, Editorial Assistant
The months of November and December guarantee one thing at my house: a huge, heaping mess. Not because I turn into a feral holiday grinchster who disdains good housekeeping, but because my living room functions as the primary studio space for Haute Goat Clothing Company, a line of silkscreened T-shirts launched by yours truly. The project was born out of my unwavering love for three things: making art, indulging in almost-witty nonsense, and giving gifts. The shirts feature original designs from the mysterious mind moi (see “Peanut Butter and Jellyfish”), and they’re printed on Alternative Apparel unisex shirts. Assuming you’re looking for a gift for someone with both a sense of humor and a torso, these shirts are ideally suited for your gifting needs.
For the gifts that I can’t eke out in my living room, I go to McSweeney’s. Some of you may know it as the publishing house/brainchild of the tireless Mr. Dave Eggers; I know it as the go-to source for the most exciting, original, and beautifully crafted books and literary goods on the market. Everything these folks do—whether it’s Believer magazine, the Wolphin DVD series, or Dave’s new collection of animal drawings, It Is Right to Draw Their Fur—is imbued with humor and inspiration that is palpable. Plus, they have a “garage sale” section on their site where you can buy slightly damaged books for a fraction of the cost. Sure, I may have some allegiance as a former McSweeney’s intern, and I may overly identify with silly drawings of animals that feature charmingly obtuse text (see Haute Goat above), but trust me, the literary nerds, overgrown children, and part-time artists in your life will clamor for more.
Victoria Gannon, Copy Editor
I’ve decided that this is the year I’m going DIY for Christmas. Except I don’t really have time to make gifts for everyone on my list, so instead I’m going to buy things that other people have made themselves.
Etsy.com is the easiest way to find a gift that’s handmade, just not by your hands. I think my mom would love these vintage-inspired letter-pressed holiday cards, by Flora and Fauna, based in Los Angeles. Maybe it’s my inner Norman Rockwell talking, but I love the aesthetic of retro Christmas imagery—icicles, poinsettia leaves, and pinecones, done in a limited palette.
For the past several years, I’ve made felt Christmas ornaments in the shape of basset hounds and given them as gifts to my family members. While some of my relatives (ahem, my mother) have not always been gracious recipients of these “hounds of love,” others, like my cousin, have been extremely supportive of my burgeoning career in crafts. Sadly, this year I won’t be able to contribute another hound to Abby’s collection. Instead, I think I’ll get her one of these adorable felted owls, made in Finland by Formydarling. Wait, a cute animal made of stuffed felt wool? Guess my hounds weren’t as original as I had thought.
Casi Contreras, Coordinator of Strategic Partnerships
During college and the year after, I lived in a furnished apartment where the landlord provided everything down to kitchen glasses. I was never motivated to decorate because it never seemed like my home. This year, I moved into my own home, which came completely empty. While looking for furniture and other housewares to fill my new place, I stumbled across West Elm. They have beautifully designed furniture, rugs, bedding, and decor for every room of your house.
One of my favorite purchases from here is their faux-fur throw in mocha. I originally purchased it for my living room, but I’ve found myself carrying it around to every room I sit or lie in (every room but the bathroom) because it’s just so soft. I love this blanket so much that I must share its greatness with the ones I love this holiday season, though the $95 price tag will probably limit how many people I buy this for. (Don’t worry, Mom; you’re on the list.)
For those whom I can’t spend quite as much money on this year, I’ll be getting them West Elm’s cute and fun alphabet mugs, along with a package of their favorite hot beverage and a gift card from Starbucks. It’s going to be tough to purchase gifts for others from West Elm without buying a thing or two more for myself.