In my book, there are two kinds of gifts worth giving. First, there is the thoughtful gift that makes manifest how well you know the recipient and understand his or her personal and idiosyncratic tastes. This is the sort of gift that, in addition to being cherished in and of itself, makes its receiver feel seen and in turn cherished themselves. Next, we have the sort of gift that’s perhaps less personal but so delightful no one can resist its charms--like a bottle of really delicious champagne or a pair of 8-ply cashmere socks.
Everything else is destined for the landfill.
I’ll admit that gifts are not my Love Language. But I stand by my assertion that mediocre gifts born out of a sense of obligation are not worth giving. This might sound harsh, but hear me out. My years on this earth have taught me that if someone doesn’t love your present, they will either ditch/return/re-gift it posthaste. Or if they are of a more sentimental persuasion, they will display/use said crappy gift for a month or so before relegating it to a closet shelf where it will gather dust and inspire a great surge of guilt each time its owner stumbles upon it.
No one wants too much dust or guilt in their lives, so let’s talk about how to give a great gift!
First, check out my recommendations below for creative gifts to give this holiday season. All of them are from small producers and/or purchased from local small businesses. Supporting small businesses who are passionate about what they do and that create products with love makes the season even brighter in my opinion!
Next, scroll on down for my 5-step guide to becoming a fantastic gift-giver!
Finally, click on over to Cream & Honey for the second installment of our holiday blognanza in which you will discover how to make an old-school Stilton Pear Cheese Ball With Pistachios + Pink Peppercorns (a kickass gift for the cheese lover in your life!) and even more tips on how to throw an awesome holiday party, which will leave your guests with fond memories of that time they got drunk and danced on the table wrapped in nothing but Christmas lights, which is the very best gift of all.
Merry Merry and XO!
Small is Beautiful Holiday Gift Guide 2017
First up we have gifts for those eclectic, hard-to-shop-for souls in your life! 1) Siren Bath Soak from Remy & Roses turns an ordinary bath into a luxurious soak. 2) Danae Vermeil Necklace by Emmanuelle Zysman, Paris. Simple, feminine and falls to the perfect length. I own this and wear it with everything. 3) Sweet Grapefruit Reed Diffuser from P.F. Candle Co. Bright pink grapefruit over notes of yuzu, musk and teak. This diffuser smells both bright and earthy without being overpowering and lasts for months. 4) Espresso cup with saucer in matte white finish from Margarida Fabrica in Lisbon. These handmade cups are my favorite for espresso--they feel perfect in the hand and each one is unique. 5) Tobacco Blossom soap from Claus Porto. I never leave Portugal without stocking up on Claus Porto soaps and this one with notes of tobacco leaf, cinnamon and basil is my absolute favorite. 6) Speckled saucer from Margarida Fabrica. 7) Hera earrings from Inês Telles, Lisbon. All my favorite earrings--and the ones I get the most compliments on--are from Inês. Her work is sublime. (Email for availability). 8) Rose of No Man's Land and Super Cedar fragrances from Byredo. My favorite feminine and masculine scents from this creative, evocative perfume house. 9) Vintage vinyl from Daybreak Records, my favorite spot to buy new and used albums in Seattle. Track down the best record shop near you (it may be online) and grab a couple discs for your favorite audiophile. 10) Hand dyed merino yarn from Madelinetosh. I picked this dreamy yarn up at Tolt Yarn & Wool in Carnation, WA, otherwise known as Knitters' Paradise. Check out both of these sites to find the perfect something for that crafty, DIY-loving friend of yours.
You knew I was going to talk about edible gifts, right? 1) Zürsun flageolet beans. Yup, beans. But not just any beans. These heirloom beauties cook up silky soft and intensely flavored. They are not cheap and they are worth every penny. The best beans I’ve ever had. 2) Hédène chestnut honey. Rich, woody and complex, this honey from the Tarn region of France renders everything it touches--from a bowl of yogurt to a crackly pork roast--super sexy. 3) Portuguese tinned fish from A Vida Portuguesa. The Portuguese make some of the best tinned seafood on the planet. Your food-obsessed friends will savor these beautiful cans of sardines, tuna, mackerel and squid preserved in gold-green olive oil. 4) Ayako & Family Jam. Ayako makes the best jam in the world. I will hear no arguments to the contrary. All the flavors are fantastic, but the plum jams are transcendent. Buy some for a friend and buy a jar (or 4) for yourself. You're welcome. 5) Jacobsen kosher and flake salts harvested with love in the Pacific Northwest. Because there's no reason to buy that chemically tasting stuff in a big box from the supermarket. 6) Atlas Extra Virgin Olive Oil. This is my go-to olive oil. Inexpensive enough to use for everyday cooking. Delicious enough to eat from a spoon. The cooks in your life will love it. In Seattle, you can buy this at PFI, ChefShop & Vif.
A short-and-sweet guide to good reads: 1) Bäco: Vivid Recipes from the Heart of Los Angeles by Josef Centeno and Betty Hallock. Bright flavors, gorgeous images. So inspiring. 2) A gift certificate to Book Larder bookstore. These ladies carry an amazing selection of cookbooks, new and vintage. If you live in Seattle, head in for a fun browsing sesh. If not, grab a gift certificate and let that cookbook-loving family member order a cookbook or her favorite hard-to-find culinary journal. 3) Dining In by Alison Roman. My favorite cookbook of 2017. Gorgeous photography by Michael Graydon and Nikole Herriott (my fave food photographers) and inspiring, completely doable recipes. It doesn't get any better than that. 4) Spritz: Italy's Most Iconic Aperitivo Cocktail by Talia Baiocchi and Leslie Pariseau. So many fantastic drinks in here! Get this in a cocktail-loving friend’s hand before New Year’s Eve and you’ll reap the benefits. 5) Portraits de Villes from Studio BE-POLES. Photographers and travel lovers will fall for these gorgeous city portraits.
It wouldn't be the holidays without drinks! 1) 2016 Marcel Lapierre Raisins Gaulois Vin De Pays from Vif Wine & Coffee. This gem of a wine shop in Seattle specializes in delicious natural wines (like this one). If you live in Seattle, you need to be buying your wine here! 2) Masala Chai from Samovar Tea. I'm normally not a fan of chai tea, but this blend is amazing! Perfect for sipping around a holiday fire. 3) Methodical Coffee Colombia, Narino. Chocolaty, fruity and sweet, this coffee will please everyone at your holiday brunch. And the gorgeous packaging makes it a great stocking stuffer. If you're in Seattle, you can pick up a bag at Union Coffee. 4) Domaine de Montbourgeau Crémant du Jura. Another great bottle I picked up at Vif. The wine enthusiast in your family will love this sparkling natural white from the Jura. 5) 2016 Domaine Victor Sornin Vin Natur. This easy to drink, subtly fruity gamay is our new house wine. This might be a Seattle- and France-only recommendation since I'm having a hard time finding this online. But Seattle friends can pick it up at the PCC. 6) Bittermilk hand-crafted cocktail mixers. These are made with love in Charleston, SC, a city that knows how to make a fine cocktail. The Oaxacan Old Fashioned and Charred Grapefruit Tonic are my favorites. Pick up a bottle for the fledgling mixologist in your life and one for yourself. The season just got a little brighter!
1) Start early so you have plenty of time to track down just the right gift. Haha. Just kidding. No one does this, ever. Because work and life and Instagram. Skip to step 2.
2) Get out a notebook or a piece of paper (or a list-making app if you must) and write down the names of someone you love and cherish and want to buy a gift for. (Notice I didn’t say to write down the name of your annoying boss or your nosy neighbor? Those people get a tin of cookies if they get anything at all. No wasting your precious gift-giving energy on people you don’t adore!)
3) Now set a timer for 60 seconds and without thinking too much about it, write down everything that comes to mind about this person. Just sort of free-associate: colors, places, feelings, TV shows. Everything is fair game. Repeat with more people you want to buy gifts for, then put your notebook away. (I mean it! The brain does magical things when you don’t force it.)
4) Several hours (or preferably days) later, open your notebook and look at what you wrote. Spend a few moments thinking about all the fun times you’ve had with this lovely person before heading to the shops (online or off). The idea is to let your subconscious do the heavy lifting. Taking the time to think about the essence of the person you want to buy a gift for and what sorts of things they really love will save you hours of sifting through the holiday schlock. When you see the right gift, you’ll know.
5) And last but definitely not least, try to remember that this whole gift-giving/Christmas thing can be fun instead of stressful! Whether you’re looking online or heading out into the mayhem of the shops, treat your holiday shopping more like a spa day than a major battle. Book a babysitter. Meet a friend for lunch. Pour yourself a cocktail or a hot bath when you’re done. Before you know it, you’ll be looking forward to holiday gift-giving. You might even become one of those annoying people who starts their Christmas shopping in July!