The way gift guides talk about holiday shopping, you’d think buying presents was an onerous chore. Sure, it can be. It also can be a clutch chance to show people that you care about them. With this guide, we’re encouraging you to rise above the quid pro quo bottles of wine. Strut past that sweater aisle. Take a risk and find something more adventurous than a gift card. Here’s what every secret Santa knows: Giving really is better than getting.
Here are some favorite gifts for the season:
▪ Skip wrapping this one: Install the Round-and-Round-Swing with Nylon Rope outside and let the kids’ good times swing ($99, hearthsong.com). The tight weave on the seat keeps hands and feet on board.
▪ The Danish concept of hygge roughly translates to the feeling of cheer that comes when drinking cocoa in front of a fire with family. It can be obtained anytime, though, from something as simple hearing the whistle of a kettle. The polka dot Scatter Dot Tea Kettle is extra cheerful ($50, macys.com).
▪ When the computer, tablet, smartphone and watch all beep in sync all day long, sometimes you just want to go analog. The Moon Beam Clock, first sold in 1952, is ideal for anyone in need of a digital fast ($60, llbean.com). But don’t panic: Thanks to an updated version’s USB port, the smartphone doesn’t have to rest too far away.
▪ Sometimes you just want a fun, silly thing that will make someone smile. Enter the resin Balloon Letter Ornament ($8, urbanoutfitters.com). String a bunch across a garland to spell out a phrase, or attach one to a gift to personalize its packaging.
▪ Vintage-inspired pressed glassware gets a modern update in the bite-size 5-inch-by-5-inch Vintage-Style Square Cake Plate ($26, relishdecor.com). In teal, purple and green, for the budding baker in your life to display tiny treats. Macarons, anyone?
▪ What’s better than gifting a bottle of your favorite spirits? Pairing it with the fun Splatter-Day Night Cocktail Shaker Set ($40, modcloth.com). The durable enamelware with its rustic splatter design makes for a fun take on the classic stainless shaker.
▪ S’well’s Sparkling Champagne Stainless Steel Water Bottle is as classy as a bottle of Veuve Clicquot - only longer-lasting and better suited to the New Year’s resolutions right around the corner ($25-$45, nordstrom.com). Double-wall fabrication keeps drinks cool for 24 hours or hot for 12 hours.
▪ A fox dish, fox ring holder and bear ring holder make special places for your special daughter, niece or babysitter to put her treasures. West Elm’s Woodland Trinket Dishes are made of durable materials, including stone and brass ($24-$39, westelm.com).
▪ For the social media social animal, the hashtag symbol gets meta with Kim Seybert’s Hashtag Coasters ($98, bergdorfgoodman.com). A set of four in silver or gold sets the stage for ironic cocktail party banter.
▪ For a young person newly out on his or her own, the letter-sized porcelain Daisy Place Snail Mail Tray gives monthly bills and the whole being-responsible thing more cheer than gloom ($60, katespade.com).
▪ A husband-and-wife team in Brooklyn takes a traditional paddle-style cutting board and etch and shade it to fit the modern kitchens of newlyweds and veteran hosts alike. AHeirloom’s Etched Triangles Cutting Board is made of solid walnut ($78, leifshop.com).
▪ So many paper planners end up raggedy and worn by the end of the year. Not the 12 Month Runwell Planner ($18, shinola.com). This baby is made with a linen hard cover and durable binding and is held closed with an elastic band. Optional leather covers add further durability. For the always-on-time (or never-on-time) person in your life.
▪ The 1928 Model E3 Speaker with Bluetooth is an antique design with modern capabilities, ready for the radio, music and podcast lover ($149-$349, restorationhardware.com).
▪ Ice cubes dilute the libations they’re meant to chill. Here to help are Tovolo’s Sphere Ice Molds, which make slower-melting ice balls 2 1/2 inches in diameter ($18 for a set of two, shopterrain.com). Very cool.
▪ A round peg does indeed fit into a hexagonal hole with the Hex Wine Rack ($68, domino.com). The six-bottle rack is small enough for display on a countertop.
▪ MacKenzie-Child’s whimsical, hand-painted Courtly Check Colanders are pretty enough to set out on the counter with seasonal fruit ($50-$78, neimanmarcus.com). The bronzed-steel rim reflects light and really turns this utilitarian tool decorative.
▪ Ask any hostess: There is no such thing as too many serving pieces. So, Bunny Williams’s Wood Bowl With Silver Base won’t be just another bowl; it will be a pretty excuse to try a new salad recipe, maybe one you include with a foodie bottle of dressing ($89, ballarddesigns.com).
▪ Is there a design or fashion lover in your life? Upgrade his or her No. 2 with Marimekko’s Unikko Pencil Set. Ten pencils in five colorways all feature the flower-power pattern that set the Finnish fashion house a-go-go in the ‘60s ($13, us.marimekko.com).
▪ Posting photos of your cherubs on a family Instagram account keeps the grandparents happy. Printing and sharing those snaps with a Fujifilm Instax Instant Smartphone Printer (yes, a toy for you!) makes them happier ($199, urbanoutfitters.com). Everyone wins.
▪ Come summer, the farmers market frequenter in your life can just walk into the back yard to find the fruits of these artful Heirloom Seed Art Packets ($19-$36, food52.com). Choose from a five-pack of herbs, vegetables or both, bearing the promise of Genovese basil, Kaleidoscope carrots, Goldie tomatoes and more.
▪ Sporty tailgaters and gourmet picnickers alike will love this pack-it-up, store-in-the-car Colorblock Picnic Blanket, large enough to seat four to six people ($36, shop.nga.gov). A moisture-resistant outer shell and padded, waterproof lining make sure damp grass won’t spoil the party.
▪ The LegacyBox is the ultimate ace in the hole for parents and grandparents who want to preserve family memories. LegacyBox is a service that converts any format of picture or movie - whether 8mm tape or 35mm negatives - into digital files on DVDs that can be copied and shared with all the cousins ($75-$500, legacybox.com).
▪ It’s a rare unicorn that can please a whole family of personalities. End the hunt with The Official Family Fun Bucket List, designed by Pittsburgh-based Romeo Delivers ($18, anthropologie.com). Twenty-five birchwood sticks provide ideas - learn three constellations, volunteer as a family - to check off with the included pencil. There are also sets for brides-to-be, couples and expecting parents.
Lindsey Roberts is a freelance writer. She can be found at www.lindseymroberts.com.