I love giving gifts, but I rarely have good ideas. Thankfully I have friends who are extraordinary gift givers. I asked them for ideas for gifts for the men in my life, and they came up with a ton. So then I asked them for their ideas for the ladies. Their recommendations and their personal comments are below. Whether you’re buying for moms, sisters, friends, or lovers, this list will get you going.
For the caffeine addict: I have been reliably informed that “Mommy needs coffee.” (I am informed of this every morning at about 7:00.) I’ve got a good recommendation for a home espresso maker. You can spend a lot of money on big machines, but our standby is a $40 stovetop espresso maker from Bialetti. You commonly see aluminum versions for a little less money, and we used to have one, but I found that aluminum doesn’t do well in the dishwasher. It starts out all shiny but quickly develops a chalky gray patina, and after a while, I suspect it affects the taste.
Since I didn’t care for the idea of aluminum in my coffee, I sprang for a stainless steel version. I also happen to think it’s very nice-looking, although it comes in two other styles (here and here). Note that these are all described as “six-cup” espresso makers, but each of the “cups” is only two ounces, and who are we kidding about that? I find a “six-cup” maker produces two really excellent cups of cappuccino for me and the missus every morning.
Speaking of cappuccino, I highly recommend an electric milk frother. I sprung for the Cadillac of frothers: the Nespresso Aeroccino. I am chagrined to find that you can now get it at Amazon for about a third less than what I paid, and there are other, less expensive options available. This one seems to have good customer reviews. But honestly, this is one of those things that’s just worth every penny. You pour a little milk, hit a button, and in less than two minutes the milk is heated and turned into perfect, silky smooth foam. It’s like magic.
This is also a great part of the gift if you’re the kind of guy who shows that extra level of love and dedication and actually makes the coffee for his wife in the morning. So this is something that makes your own life easier. Oh, and at this time of year, I should mention that if you change from the frothing attachment to the stirring one, this become a hot cocoa maker. And you’ll need espresso ground coffee. I’m partial to Illy. You can buy it on Amazon, but they also carry it at my local grocery store. It’s not the cheapest, but by my calculation, it costs less than a third of what you would pay for the same amount of coffee at Starbucks, and it tastes better.
For the slow imbiber of coffee: A coffee cup that keeps coffee hot for at least eight hours. Seriously. I have a cheap Contigo brand, but it’s perfect as I’m not reheating my coffee through the day. Of course it’s usually too hot to drink for the first two hours, but still. It’s a small price to pay.
For the well-tailored woman: A gift card to eShakti, where a lady can get clothes made to her own measurements. They sell a lot of shirt dresses, which are wonderful for nursing moms who need front access.
For the woman who’d love a personal shopper: I love clothes but I abhor shopping. A friend turned me onto Stitch Fix, which is sort of like having a monthly personal shopper delivered to your door. You tell them a little bit about what your style is and all your sizing issues, and they send you shirts, blazers, pants, accessories, and more. You only pay for what you keep after you try it on.
For the text-obsessed on the go: A phone charging purse, of course. Here’s a sample. And maybe it’s not the most exciting gift, but a portable phone battery charger she can throw in her purse sure is handy.
For the overworked mother: Weekend getaway with no kids. Or how about a coupon for free babysitting. Be a gem and make it three to four hours (or more!) of babysitting, so she can have a night out. I actually think you can get gift certificates on Babysitting.com, but it’s better to arrange with a trusted friend.
For the scribe: Yes, everyone does everything via email these days, but it’s not an optimal system for taking notes or keeping track of things on the go. Good old pen and paper are still the handiest thing around, to say nothing about the satisfyingly tactile act of scribbling. Now you can buy a lot fancy notebooks, but the best are often the most utilitarian and in that regard, nothing beats Moleskine. They come in a variety of sizes and colors. They make appointment books. They make wine tasting journals and recipe books. Coupled with a nice pen, such as this one from Swarovski, it’s a thoughtful gift.
For the wife who always puts the kids first: A gift certificate to the nice clothing store she likes that doesn’t carry children’s stuff. Then she has no choice but to buy pieces she likes for herself.
For your less-than-tech-savvy mom: Photo album with prints of all the digital shots she never sees of the grandkids. I once saw a digital picture frame with an internet connection, which would automatically update photos you load onto a website. We once considered this for my mother-in-law, although she has since become more tech-savvy. But the idea is that new photos of the kids just show up from your digital feed (looks they now have them automatically connecting to Instagram or Dropbox, etc.) without mom having to do anything.
For the woman seeking to get up to speed on the day’s news quickly: A year’s subscription to The Transom, a daily email newsletter, which aggregates news and notes from around the web.
For the young at heart or creative woman: Adult Coloring Books I know I’m gonna get push back on this one, but I don’t care. This is a great idea whose time has come (if you can get past the fact that it’s called a “coloring book,” you’ll see what I mean). There are so many positive therapeutic benefits from engaging with one of these books. And can I just ask, who doesn’t like to color? Identify yourself, so we can intervene. The designs are beautiful, and I love that all I have to do is pick the colors. My mom, who’s a designer, loves them because she says, “It’s like putting makeup on a page.” These totally nurture the inner girl. I just got this really fun one for my sister, who loves architecture: Fantastic Cities. Here are some excellent colored pencils to go along with the books.
For the healthy snacker: My husband bought me a subscription to Graze for my birthday in November. I love it. It’s fun to try a bunch of tasty new things I don’t have to think about and just grab a box. The only complaint is that the snack boxes are 90 to 120 calories, which is not so filling for a nursing mom but is perfect for basically everyone else. It’s a good gift for someone who is hard to buy for — you can customize snack styles and preferences, like gluten-free. They are really tasty and well-crafted, flavor-wise. I’m going to get one for my favorite aunt for Christmas. (And use code “YN3L9GTZE” when you order to get a bonus snack.)
For the well-lotioned: Maybe include an injunction against people buying lotion. I have decades’ worth of lotion from Christmas gifts of years past and few people pick the right smells anyway.
For the could-use-more lotioned: I agree with the lotion rule, except someone got me this lotion a few months ago, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
For long-distance grandmother: A cheap tablet with Skype and her family contacts pre-loaded.
For your mom who shows her love to everyone she knows through cooking fabulous meals: A weekly produce box (this one is specific to where my parents live, but surely other cities have them, too), or a subscription to a CSA. Also, the Smitten Kitchen cookbook and Yellow Table cookbook are both wonderful.
For your newly married best friend: Ornaments with stories/meaning behind them. There’s nothing worse, in my opinion, than a Christmas tree with a bunch of meaningless ornaments on it. I used to think Christmas ornaments were a lame gift when people gave them to my parents. But now, with a barren tree, I love them!
For the woman who can’t imagine starting her morning off without the paper: “The Time of Our Lives,” because duh.
For the woman who is freezing: It’s December, so unless you live in Florida — the woman in your life is probably cold. You could either passive aggressively fight over the thermostat, or you could do something to make her feel cozy. Here’s a cute pair of North Face gloves with special fingertips that allow her to text without taking them off.
Tom’s makes some great slippers — and make sure there are plenty of nice blankets and throws around the house. Pendleton has toasty wool blankets, and the quality is such that you’ll be passing them on to your kids. if you really want to go all out, silk pajamas are the way to go. They’re warm, but feminine as opposed to frumpy. Dear Bowie has a good selection of nicer pjs and loungewear.
For the woman who lives in a cold city and has to walk a lot: Fleece-lined leggings. A game-changer.
For the clean freak: Mrs. Meyer’s cleaning products. Is that lame? I like nice cleaning supplies.
For the recent college grad: A blazer or proper work bag.
For the coffee drinker: A Chemex. It’s such a nice routine for making coffee.
For hard-working moms: One more for moms: a massage appointment, but actually book a time and place and make arrangements for the kids. Take care of all that for her and send her off. My husband did that for me last year — amazing!!
For daughters who have everything because of the grandparents: Concert tickets, or plays or other special events.
For the houseworking multi-tasker: I love audiobooks (it’s the only way I can get reading in and makes housework much more enjoyable). I would think an Audible subscription would be a great gift for a stay-at-home mom like me, or a working woman with a commute. I don’t have one, but it’s on my wish list.
For the adorable chef: Also, possibly a sexist stereotype, but I don’t care: cute, vintage-style aprons. Who doesn’t want to feel classy/sexy while making dinner? And if you’re a klutz like me, the stain prevention feature helps too. Got one of these for my sister a year or two ago. Great buy.
For the space-efficient and environmentally friendly home cook: Cover blubber, a reusable food saver, eco-friendly alternative to plastic wrap. Can be used over fresh food or to cover edges of containers otherwise left uncovered. A collapsible trivet that barely takes any room at all. And a cute plastic bag dryer so you can reuse your Ziplocs.
For the woman whose costume jewelry collection is getting out of control: A jewelry organizer, like this one.
For the woman who uses T-shirts to wrap her hair after a shower: Head towel wraps!
For the woman who has recently stopped breastfeeding: Her favorite choice of alcohol. (We are getting my sister-in-law Maker’s Mark.)
For the well-lubricated lady: Nothing quite says “I care” like a bra flask. Nobody wants to see The Force Awakens sober.
I sense a theme here: Booze. It’s always appreciated. Wine, beer, Crown Royal, Baileys, I don’t care. I want it. Of course, I’m pregnant now and can’t have it. But still. It’s a good gift regardless.
For the flagrantly fragrant: A little pricey, but you can basically throw a dart at anything on this website.
For the elegant and organized woman: Limoges boxes are lovely and range from 30-40 bucks up into the thousands. eBay was the best online link I found, but they are available at many antique shops.
For the enthusiast of the Second and 19th Amendments: A Glock 19 (or accessories for same) — along with the requisite instructional classes.
For the stylish concealed carrier: For the active woman who packs extra heat in her yoga pants. Or even if she’s just carrying a cell phone, these leggings have a front and back holster. Or a concealed carry handbag or purse. Here’s one fairly basic bag, and here’s a site with some pricier options.
For the well-manicured woman: I like it when people give me nail polish. Because I have so many bottles of it, I feel guilty buying more. So when I get it as a gift, it’s extra fun and special and guilt free. Also OPI always has really fun holiday sets like this or this.
For the lady friends of lady friends: For your girlfriend, sister-in-law, or sister, I’ve found it especially meaningful to receive jewelry from women who are close to me. They generally buy something I like and would wear, and I think of them every time I wear it. I like to give jewelry as well. I think we tend to think of jewelry as a romantic/dating/spouse gift, but to me, it is almost more special if it’s from a woman who I know loves me. Jewelry ideas include: Ad Crucem, Chloe & Isabel, and Taps, which helps women in Afghanistan.
For families: Last year instead of buying individual gifts, we bought a family season pass to a waterpark for my sister-in-law’s family. It was a huge hit. A season pass to anything can be a great gift that lasts, well, all season. Ski resort, ice skating rink, museum, bowling alley, laser tag, roller skating, water park (bonus if it’s indoors and they can use it in the winter), amusement park, whatever! Around here, the zoo and conservatory (indoor gardens) are huge family hits.
For the handiwoman: Always nice for women to have their own basic tool set. My favorite tool, given to me at my bridal shower, is a ratchet screwdriver that has different heads built into it. I’m always fighting my husband to give it back to me. I can no longer find it, but here’s another one.
For the kick-ass woman: A gift for a women’s self defense seminar. This can be cool when you buy it for her to take some friends. Just flag the local Brazilian jiu-jitsu studio. She will love it, particularly after the first class.
For the classical enthusiast: Most symphonies bundle three concerts in the new year. Get two of those and work out the details of whom she goes with later.
For the craft beer lady: A starter kit from Northern Brewer. I usually recommend to friends buying for their husbands, but more and more women are getting into this themselves, and this company has the best customer service, by far.
For the woman who hates trekking to Sephora: There are so many monthly subscriptions that let you try out different types of makeup and skin care. Ipsy is $10 a month to get makeup, tools, and a cute bag.
For the lover of freedom who is anxious for the fray: Federalist swag, naturally.