Best Gifts I've Given and Received

These Are the Best Gifts I’ve Given or Received

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It’s not even December, and it seems everyone has had their holiday shopping done for weeks now. Ya feel me? Well, in case you are just a normal human who has not been stockpiling gifts in your closet for months now (*cough cough*), this year I’m rounding up some slam-dunk purchases I’ve made for SVV, my family and friends in hopes they help you come up with ideas of your own.

Christmas Ella

Disclaimer: I used affiliate links when possible, which means if you purchase through the links, I’ll receive a small commission, which goes toward keeping the blog lights on. Thanks for your support in the 15th year of running this blog!

If you are someone to whom I will be giving a gift this holiday season, you might want to avert your eyes or risk spoiling the surprise!

Oh, and if you aren’t already a Rakuten member (formerly eBates), now is a great time to join. It’s free, easy to use with a browser plug-in—it literally pops up to tell you how much cash back you can receive on any participating store, of which there are thousands—and every year around holiday sales, Rakuten has insane 10 to 20% cash-back deals, which is the equivalent of an additional discount on top of the never-ending Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, which now seem to last an entire month instead of merely a weekend.

Christmas in Tennessee

For your spouse who loves a cozy bum: MeUndies subscription

I was totally influenced by every podcast I ever listen to to try out MeUndies, and you know what? Every one of them was right. Not only has SVV switched to all MeUndies boxers, but I’ve started wearing their hipster briefs, too—we actually have a monthly subscription now where we get one pair a month in a different fun print. You can use this referral code for a free pair if you’re new. Want to really keep in theme? Get on board the bidet trend with a Tushy.

MeUndies subscription
MeUndies subscription
MeUndies subscription

For a hostess gift: a four-pack of The Set Up cocktails

If you’re in Tennessee and Mississippi, this liquor-based drink is brand new to the market, having just launched this month, and I can attest after downing a few at the taproom this weekend that it is delicious. Made by the team at Wiseacre Brewing Co.—our favorite brewery, the largest in Tennessee and our partner this holiday season—The Set Up ready-to-drink cocktails are 5% ABV at just 99 calories; they’re also gluten-, sugar- and carb-free. The current flavors available on draft and in 12-ounce cans are Vodka Soda with Grapefruit and Pineapple, Gin and Soda with Lime, and my favorite, the HiBall with Lemon, a Japanese-style malt whiskey drink. Also, the branding is just plain rad.

The Set Up cocktails from Wiseacre

For the frequent traveler in your life: a Monos suitcase

This was my holiday treat to myself: a nice hardshell carryon suitcase. Unless I’m going skiing, I never check a bag, and prior to buying my Monos a couple weeks ago, I always just bought whatever was on sale at Macy’s or Nordstrom. But after our Iceland trip, I wanted something with better functionality—and I love that this Monos bag has front pockets for all my electronics like my MacBook Air.

Monos suitcase
Monos suitcase

For your cocktail-loving pal: a set of double old-fashioned glasses

I first received this set of Kate Spade glasses as a gift a decade ago, and they’ve since become my go-to barware. I have several different designs and swear by their durability, as well as weight (hefty enough, but not too much so). In fact, one of my Black Friday purchases was another set of these His/Her glasses for our own home bar. If you’re planning a wedding, these are also excellent bridesmaid or groomsmen gifts. If you’re looking for more variety, I’m also a fan of Mikasa barware and Crate & Barrel’s collection (pictured below).

Holiday gift ideas: old fashioned glasses
Holiday gift ideas: Old Fashioned Glasses
Holiday gift ideas: Old Fashioned Glasses

For your neighborhood White Elephant swap: a cocktail kit

Do we sense a theme here? I love giving booze-related gifts, especially around the holidays. Think about it: It is a functional gift that the receiver can put to use right away! I find that a good bar tool set never goes unused, and depending on your price point, you can throw in some fun simple syrups and other accoutrements. 

Holiday gift ideas: a cocktail tool set

For the new homeowner: a welcome mat

I find it something of a game to pick out the perfect front doormat for my friends among a sea of thousands; “I Hope You Brought Whiskey” is a personal favorite, but I’m also partial to West Elm’s mats, including this one that lives at my house. My other go-to new-homeowner gift is a return address stamp—which would also make a great stocking or hostess gift—because who wants to manually write that out on every envelope ever?

Hi Bye doormat

For the busy family: a robot vacuum

This was the best pandemic purchase we (erm, my mom) made, hands down. We run this thing daily! We originally had the Roomba, but it didn’t do a great job of mapping our oddly shaped house, so we returned it within the 30-day window for this Roborock and like it so much, we now have two. There’s also a Roborock version that mops your floors, too, if you really want to get crazy.

Holiday gift ideas: Roborock vacuum

For the whole fam: matching Christmas jams

We’re big Hanna Andersson fans in this household—in fact, it’s where a majority of Charlotte’s wardrobe comes from—and the past few years, we’ve all worn different version of these matching family pajamas throughout the holiday season. Last year, we were all about the stripes, though this year I’m pretty stoked to have gotten us all matching Fa La La! jammies. There are also fun character PJs like Elf, Snoopy, Mickey Mouse, Star Wars and the Grinch, as well as non-holiday versions, too. So far, the boys and dogs have avoided joining in on the fun, though they do have men’s and pet PJs, too!

Christmas jammies
Christmas jammies

Christmas in Tennessee

For the gal about town: artisan-made earrings

You know I love everything Paris Woodhull makesand these Dolly Parton earrings are beyond adorable. She’s also got a well of other cool items from tea towels to prints, stickers to T-shirts, all of which have become go-to gifts for my artsy friends (and really just about anybody). My other favorite artisan is Nashville-based Ash & Clay from whom I’ve purchased a dozen pairs of earrings in the last year alone. And if your favorite artist doesn’t have a shop, ask him/her if they take commissions—this is how we’ve built up our own personal collection, including original pieces by artists such as Paris.

Dolly Parton earrings
Paris Woodhull T-shirt
Clay earrings

For your resident bookworm: a subscription to LibroFM

I’m on track to read 52 books this year, and though I’ve not been on the road nearly as much as in past years, my LibroFM subscription has helped me to whittle down my reading list by supplementing with audiobooks. After I started feeling guilty buying so much from Amazon, I looked for other ways to funnel my purchases to independent bookstores when possible, and a few friends in the industry recommended LibroFM, which lets you select which stores gets credit for your purchase (for me, that’s Parnassus in Nashville). I pay $15 a month for my subscription, and it’s worth every penny—you get one credit a month that you can use at any time, it never expires, and you also get additional discounts off subsequent purchases. (I also just joined the affiliate program, I love it so much.)

LibroFM subscription

Here’s what I’ve listened to this year if you need a little book inspo.

For your niece or nephew always on the go: a Micro Kickboard scooter

Around the time Charlotte turned two, our neighbor’s grandsons were zooming around on a Micro Kickboard scooter and let her take it for a spin. She immediately was hooked, and Mom and I immediately went home to buy her one. Nearly two years later, and she still zooms around the house and Mom’s driveway on this thing at least weekly. She’s nearly doubled in size since, and it still fits her as the t-bar extends (the company says this model is great for ages 2 to 5, though there are larger models for ages 5 to 12 if you have an older kid). If you have an even more adventurous kid, the tweens in my life love a good hoverboard like this one.

Micro Kickboard Scooter: great for toddlers

For any kid who loves books: the Bruce series

Our good friend Devry bought Charlotte Mother Bruce by Ryan Higgins when she was born, and every holiday or birthday, we give her a new one. They’re absolutely the cutest books. I’m a huge proponent of giving books to kids in general, and others that have been a hit among Charlotte and Mac so far include: The Girl and the DinosaurThose Darn Squirrels, Pat the Bunny and Llama Llama Red Pajama.


Bruce books by Ryan Higgins


For a newborn or infant: a Busy Bee developmental toy

This is one of my go-to baby shower gifts now after Charlotte and Mac went wild over their Busy Bee as infants. It provides hours of entertainment and, bonus, helps them learn how to crawl (assuming you want that…). My other go-to baby gift is anything from Jellycat; you simply can’t go wrong, and no one makes a cuter stuffed animal than Jellycat.

Best holiday gift ideas for kids
Best holiday gift ideas for kids

For the chef in your life: a new pan or knife

SVV is our resident chef, and he’s a big fan of all of Lodge’s cast iron products, as well as All-Clad pots and pans. I know people are all about the Our Place Always ceramic pan, and if you’re a fan, let me know in the comments as we might consider adding it to our kitchen toolkit in the future. The men at Thanksgiving were saying you can never have enough good knives, and in the past SVV has been gifted both a Dalstrong Japanese knife and one from Brooklyn Knife Company if you’re looking for something fancy for anyone you know who loves to cook.

Best holiday gift ideas for chefs
Best holiday gift ideas for chefs

For literally anyone: OnCloud shoes

My sister, Josh, SVV and I have all drunk the OnCloud Kool-Aid, and aren’t mad about it. These lightweight sneakers that slip on and off easily are the best travel shoes I’ve ever found. I have this pair, SVV has these, and my sister loves this style. One tip I learned: OnClouds never go on sale because they’re considered a “premium product,” so if you’re waiting around for a deal, you’ll be waiting awhile. I buy mine from Zappos or DSW so I can at least accumulate VIP points and Rakuten cash back.

On Cloud shoes
On Cloud shoes
On Cloud shoes

For the dreamer in your life: custom map jewelry

I’m a big fan of maps and globes—we have a collection that spans more than 40, easily—but I’m also much more likely to wear a souvenir than display it in my house, which is why jewelry is always on my must list. I came across Israeli designer Talia Sari on Instagram, and I love all the variations she offers. The coolest part is that you can input your zip code and have a piece customized as a necklace, earrings, ring or a brooch—this is a great gift for a spouse to commemorate, say, where you got married, engaged or another place that holds meaning.

Talia Sari jewelry
Talia Sari jewelry

For your mom who values comfort: these cozy PJs

The good news is that my mom doesn’t read my blog, so I can tell you that I got her this Summersalt Cloud 9 PJ set in the Garden Party print for Christmas. There are a lot of gorgeous prints, from peacock to polka dots, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I accidentally added a pair to my shopping cart for me, too. I also really love Nordstrom’s Moonlight Pajamas line and have basically lived in them this past year.

Cozy Summersalt pajamas
Cozy Summersalt pajamas
Cozy Summersalt pajamas

For your resident ski bunny: new snow boots

My mom gifted me these North Face boots many years ago, and I’m so glad I had the foresight to get a second pair a year ago on holiday sales as they were the only shoes I wore in Iceland on our recent trip. If you have a mom, wife or sister who skis a lot or simply lives in a cold-weather destination, these are an excellent purchase (and cute to boot! no pun intended).

North Face ski boots

For your favorite Swiftie: Taylor merch

I’m not saying I just ordered this All Too Well sweatshirt for myself, but I’m also not not saying that. If you’re looking for Taylor albums on vinyl, I recommend purchasing from Target as her merch store is a nightmare, and Etsy also has some really fun designs perfect for the Swiftie in your life.

Gift guide: All Too Well sweatshirt

For the impossible-to-shop-for teen: an initial necklace

I’m a fan of Kate Spade accessories, and I gave one of these initial necklaces to one of my nieces several years ago, and she still wears it today. Simple, yet classic, and goes with everything.

Kate Spade initial necklace

For the philanthropist: a donation to his/her favorite nonprofit

There are many times when we’ve decided to forgo gifts for certain occasions and make a donation in each other’s name instead. A couple that I love personally are Big Fluffy Dog Rescue and East C.A.N. If your loved one is an animal-loving bleeding heart, I recommend your local shelter or rescue organization.

Ella and Marley, Maltese siblings

Stocking stuffers for everyone

Looking for something small to add to a stocking or a hostess gift? Here are my go-tos:

Jaanuu masks

Sorry to say that two years later, we’re still going to be in masks for quite some time (ugh). So now whenever I see Jaanuu masks on sale, I stock up: for me, for SVV, for my mom, for my sister. These antimicrobial masks are simply the most comfortable I’ve found, and they never make me break out, even when wearing them on a 12-hour travel day across airports and continents.

The best masks for flying

a case for your AirPods

I take my AirPods everywhere, and much as I love the slick white design, it easily disappears in my purse. When my friend Em came to town sporting bling for her AirPods, I quickly jumped on that bandwagon and got my own Rifle Paper Co. case. I’m also loving these Kate Spade ones.

Holiday gift ideas: Tea towels from Anthropologie
Holiday gift ideas: Tea towels from Anthropologie
Holiday gift ideas: Tea towels from Anthropologie

a hair scarf

As a long-haired lass, I’m big on tying scarves into my hair to make it appear as if I’ve actual put in some effort. I have a half-dozen of these scrunchie-scarves from Anthropologies and and am also loving these pattered ones, too. If your giftee isn’t into scarves, solid-colored scrunchies are a safe bet (and yes, I can’t believe we’re back to this trend, but I can’t say I’m hating it either!).

Kate Spade scarf

tea towels

There are few things that get as much use or wear out as quickly as kitchen hand towels, which is why these Anthropologie ones make the rounds in my holiday gifts—they’re great quality and oh-so-cute. I’m also a new fan of Geometry and have purchased a couple for our kitchen remodel, which will be done someday in five years or so.

Holiday gift ideas: Tea towels from Anthropologie
Holiday gift ideas: Tea towels from Anthropologie
Holiday gift ideas: Tea towels from Anthropologie

tools, tools, tools

If your spouse or partner is anything like SVV, he/she loves some tools, no matter the tool, no matter the season. Tools also make great stocking stuffers, whether a meat thermometer for your favorite at-home grillmaster, a voltage tester, compact flashlights or this crazy-awesome magnetic wristband with tape measure.

What’s the best gift you’ve ever given? The best gift you’ve received? I still have a few people left to shop for, so give me your best ideas, please!



Best Holiday Gifts I've Given
Best Holiday Gifts I've Given
  • December 20, 2021

    Hi Kristin,

    It was a very fun read! With Christmas just around the corner, I am just finishing up some last-minute shopping and getting some additional gifts for everyone. Your article gave me some inspiration and gift ideas that I think my family will really love. I think my neat-freak mother would definitely love the robot vacuum, and I am thinking of getting her one. So, thanks for sharing your gifts with us, it gave me some ideas to make this Christmas more jolly.

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