Welcome to my favorite annual post!
By Caitlin Kelly
None of my suggestions are sponsored, just stuff I like, in a range of prices and categories — from $4 to a maximum of $1,995.00.
As usual, nothing (sorry!) for babies, kids or teens, no tech or games, but no gag gifts as I think the best gifts really respect the recipient’s tastes.
This year’s list includes several new artists and craftspeople I’ve discovered on Instagram. You’ll find things large and small, from a baby elephant to a race car driving class.
I’d known of her talent through a mutual friend in my hometown, Toronto, and met Ali G-J for lunch on one of my visits. I admired her gorgeous watercolors and kept urging her to turn them into products. She did! Her pillows, scarves and totes are fun and charming. If you know a journalist, check out her “Joe the Reporter” image and the California Dreaming laptop skin. Prices start at $16 for a fab floral phone skin.
I rarely splurge on costume jewelry, but this London artist’s bold, outsize earrings and hairpins hand-cut from brass — some painted black, some cobalt blue — are gorgeous. (I chose the Gia earrings, 60 pounds, $77.
Guys, this brand combines several of my passions — swearing, birds, vintage art and Canadian bad-assery. Ottawa-based Aaron Reynolds decided to create a line of mugs, T-shirts/hoodies/baseball shirts, posters, pins and playing cards that combine gorgeous vintage images of birds with wickedly funny/furious sayings. Not surprisingly, his biggest audience is pissed-off American women. Great gifts for anyone whose head is perpetually about to explode. Pins $11, mugs $20, baseball shirts $30.
What is it with angry avians? This British brand creates exquisite wool and silk scarves, mufflers and pocket squares. Their color palette is bold and bright and their designs amazing. Perfect for stylish men and women of any age. Not cheap, but utterly distinctive. Women’s silk scarves start at 255 pounds ($331) to 290 pounds ($376) for large silk/wool combinations; silk pocket squares are 65 pounds ($84); love the ones marked FURY and LUST.
From super-talented Scottish illustrator Anna Wright, love this cotton coin purse (more birds!) for 13.50 pounds or $17.81; her site has a large array of products, from mugs to aprons to art prints.
Smelly soap! I always order these, from my favorite Manhattan fragrance shop, Aedes de Venustas. They smell divine, $42 for three. I’ve loved Spain’s Maja soap since I was little; made since 1921, it comes in gorgeous black tissue paper, a box of three for $16.41
For all the feisty feminists in your life — the RBG Action Figure! Named for Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, now 85 and still kicking judicial ass. $19.99
Zara Home is a great source for all things home-related. Love this pale pink oversized gingham tablecloth, which comes in three colorways: $69.90 and up.
Love these tiny round glass magnets that look like Islamic tiles — from the Met Museum store. Six for $22.00
Damn! Check out these fab magenta wool/nylon over the knee men’s socks from classic clothier Drake’s. Nothing’s more fun than a flash of unexpected color. $35
Here’s a handsome, classic men’s watch — but a woman might also enjoy it. Also from the Met Museum shop. $175
I’m mad for marbled papers, a glorious riot of color and pattern, and use them to cover books, to line a frame for a photo or print, lampshades, wrapping paper. This British woman’s work is beautiful: 8.80 pounds ($11.42) for a sheet of paper; 22 pounds ($28.56) for a gorgeous blue letter tray; 30 pounds ($38.95) for a vertical magazine holder; 14.50 pounds ($18.82) for five stunning bookmarks.
Regular readers know my love for all things vintage and vintage-looking. I’m a big fan of this website, with wicker, brass, ceramic, lanterns, candlesticks, trays, linens. Everything is well-priced, simple and lovely. Love this antiqued brass foliate key-holder, $29.
Here’s a fun practical present — combining two more of my loves: beer and a tidy kitchen! A tea towel identifying all the different kinds of beer. $20
I love the soft, soothing glow of candles and light them every day in our home. Love these, in the shape of pine cones, from Crate & Barrel. $12.95 to $16.95
And, these fab vintage-looking matches, in handsome boxes, $4.00 from design legend John Derian.
Many people now long for experiences — not more stuff! I’m longing to take a floral-arranging class like this one, offered by the New York Botanical Garden, $100, or a class in film-making techniques like those offered at our local art film house. Maybe a museum membership? Or a cooking class? Or a how to drive race cars class for $1,995?
I love using my Filofax, a leather-covered planner, with all sorts of cool inserts, from tiny Post-It notes to a well-used tiny ruler that measures in inches and centimeters. Mine is embossed red leather and a total pleasure to handle. They come in a rainbow of colors and two sizes; this one $101.
You know how I love Liberty, a London department store — and oooh, Turkish delight in rose and lemon flavors, in a gorgeous box: 10.95 pounds, $14.06
And here’s the sweetest stuffed red robin, also from Liberty, 18.95 pounds, $24.33
A great price for a 10-inch high crystal candlestick — and that trademark turquoise Tiffany box! Be generous and buy a pair! $65
Also from Tiffany, how elegant is this? A sterling silver ballpoint pen, which can be engraved. $125
Mad for tea, I have a pot of it at least once a day — only in a real teapot! This one is spend-y but really lovely, from American clothing designer Tory Burch. $248. This one is sweet and charming, with birds on it, hand-made in the UK by Hannah Turner; $47.28
This handmade wooden box is large enough to store photos, recipes, love letters. Its feels vaguely Art Deco with its swirling colors. $295
Guacamole!! If you have seen it being made in front of you, you know it’s made in a specific heavy dish called a molcajete. Here’s one. $34.95
From much-beloved Opening Ceremony, a NYC retailer whose founders are now designing the line for Kenzo, I want these black lace boots! $325
Every year I include on this list a pretty duvet cover — and it has matching shams if you don’t own a duvet. This one, from Pottery Barn, is so beautiful, floral on a black background, and looks like embroidery. $60 (shams) to $249 (duvet cover.)
If you live somewhere really cold and want to be both stylish and warm, I love these huge wool scarves — they call them blankets as they’re large enough to really swathe your head and neck — from my favorite Canadian clothing retailer Aritzia. Some are named for Canadian places like Banff or Montreal. As a Canadian, I wear a lot of their clothes and appreciate their combination of style, quality, color and price. $78
And, every year, I include (hint!hint!) a few ggggggorgeous jewelry items, like these tiny initial earrings, in gold and diamonds for a very fair $440. From London designer Annoushka.
Or this pair from the website FarFetch, black tourmaline, small, dangling chunks — elegant, raw and unusual. $158.
And here’s a lovely hand-made jewelry dish to hold them that looks like coral but is made of ceramic. Yes, it’s spendy, but also special. $350
The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
Come on, who doesn’t want a baby elephant for Christmas? You can foster an orphaned elephant for $50 or more.
This is a global charity I’ve done work with, on a journey to Nicaragua in 2014. Millions of people worldwide still don’t have ready access to clean water or toilets. Their work is invaluable.
If you or someone you know is a young/new/ambitious writer of journalism or non-fiction, give them an hour of my one-one-one coaching! I’ve worked with writers worldwide, from Canada, Germany, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and the UK, and many have been well published in places like The Guardian and New York Times; testimonials on my website. $150 (90 minute webinar) to $400/hour for PR team strategy.
11 thoughts on “33 great holiday gifts — 2018 edition”
Thanks Caitlin. Once again you have found perfect gems. Thanks for your work!
So, how long have you been tacking this post together? That’s a lot of stuff from a lot of sources. I like the experiences. My friend Curtis took me out for a day of paintball a couple years back. I got shot in the neck but other than that it was good.
I like giving gifts that are high quality at least, but higher quality than they have to be is even better. I got Cathy a set of Crane’s stationery in a red leather box one year and I can still remember her reaction: She said “Oh Kenny, it’s so snotty, I love it!” DINGDINGDING! Kenny smacks another one into the cheap seats.
These days I go more for practical. If I catch one of my friends borrowing my pocketknife, guess what Santa’s got for them. The ones I like are made by W.R. Case and sons. They’re highly collectible, but still made to be used and they last a lifetime. They sell them all over the place and they start around twenty bucks. The one in my pocket is called a yellow trapper. It has two razor sharp blades and ivory colored micarta scales. I bought Cathy one a few years ago, when she was in school. It goes with her everywhere now. If you don’t carry a pocket knife, you owe it to yourself. So go get one and drop it in your stocking.
Crane’s? Ooohh, well done! Jose got me some Smythson and I have to REALLY like someone to use any of it.
I actually did get Jose a gorgeous small pocket knife a few years ago.
This post…a few weeks…I kept tweaking it and every day see something else and think…damn!
Damn fine work on the post. Cathy would rather do Amazon, but I am all about stomping around downtown. Most years I go with my very stylish friend Megan and we make a day of it. It’s more fun than going by myself and she’s got valuable opinions. Anyway, happy hunting.
Thanks! I have avoided using Amazon (and Uber and Lyft) because of their lousy labor practices.
In order for me to spend $$$, shopping usually has to be fun, social, experiential — and clicking a mouse generally doesn’t do it for me. My last purchases — on a splurge-y day in Manhattan — were paper goods at Paper Source, a suede cap and knit dress at Ina (a great consignment store) and my usual coffee and tea at Porto Rico, est. 1907. I really love old-school/indie shops more than anything…too bad NYC is losing so many of them to greedy landlords.
Spending a day with a stylish friend is the best!
I bought my family’s holiday gifts the other day, and I think they’re going to like them. I already gave one of my sisters hers because she’s going to be abroad at a bird sanctuary in Costa Rica during Hanukkah, and she loved it. It was a little elephant carved from rose quartz (hilarious, considering the way my family votes). And since I’ll be seeing my dad and stepmom a day or two before Hanukkah starts, I’ll be giving them their gift then, with strict instructions not to open it until the first night of Hanukkah. Knowing those two, I think it’ll give them the warm fuzzies.
Nice! The elephant sounds lovely. I am a total sucker for elephants; am coaching a young student headed to Kenya soon on a reporting fellowship and am tempted to adopt a baby elephant there and have here say hello for me…
Do it! Especially since conservation is such a wonderful cause.
Beautiful suggestions. I love your annual gift-suggestions post. 🙂
Thanks! It’s so much fun to put together.