Fashion Trends

What You’re Shopping For: December Edition, Part I. Basically, Gifts for Tough-to-Shop-for-Recipients.

By: Jen Shoop

Q: Base layers for outdoor workouts.

A: I’m currently lusting after the merino ones from Tracksmith after a few readers recommended this new-to-me brand just last week! I currently use and love a range of the long-sleeved styles from Lululemon (listed here), this tee from Outdoor Voices, and a performance material running top from Athleta from like five years ago that I believe is this style, or at least a forebear of it, layered under this running jacket which keeps me quite warm, even when in the low 30s. Athleta also has their own line of merino running tees that I am eyeing for that reason.

Q: Pink sweater as a Christmas gift for my sister to wear with Levis and Vejas!

A: So cute! I rounded up my favorites at all price points here.

Q: Gifts for 20-month-old twin brothers (my nephews!)

A: Hill is about the same age — if you want to give them something to share, a Brio train set (a classic! Hill is into this already) or this little garage set (<<we are giving Hill this for Christmas). If you want something more individualized, give each a Janod wooden activity set like this or this. Your sibling will thank you — these toys are incredibly well-made, attractive, and learning-oriented. More ideas here!

Q: Chic slippers for around the house, under $100 preferably.

A: I live in these Birdies mules at home. These 100% cashmere ones look like a dream, too.

Q: Nursery and playroom rugs.

A: I like the quality and price point of the rugs from Erin Gates — and she designs many that are suitable for play rooms/nurseries without being too childish. I love this, this, and this — and we are currently using this in Hill’s nursery. We are using a Dash & Albert rug in my daughter’s room — my friend Jen, an interior designer, immediately recommended them for nursery/children’s spaces — and I love the playful stripes (ours is discontinued, but this is very similar, and I love this one in the blue colors).

Finally, if you have a higher risk tolerance profile than I do, I love the look of a thick white/cream rug like this in a baby’s room.

P.S. More rugs I love here.

Q: Baby socks or slippers that don’t slip on hardwood floors.

A: I so hear you! We’ve had a number of incidents this year because my three year old daughter LOVES these warm camp socks, but they slide all ov erhte place. In general, I almost always buy my children’s socks in white because they go with everything and losing a mate doesn’t matter as much. I like the triple roll style from H&M and Gap, both of which have grippies on the bottom, and also these slightly more athletic ones from Amazon.

Q: Foot cream recommendation!

A: I just wrote about this earlier this week (great minds think alike), but I am devastated La Roche Posay discontinued their INCREDIBLE foot cream. I am trying something that’s just OK right now, but will be testing this baume from LRP next. I find their products rarely let me down.

Q: Gift ideas for my fiance, who wants to start helping me cook!

A: So sweet! I wonder if an apron from Hedley & Bennett, his own chef’s knife (<<this is the one I use most consistently in our kitchen; buy him an 8″ or 10″ style — I use the 10″ but it did take some accommodation at first, since it feels very long when you first start using it!), or a Boos cutting board (this one with the juice groove is one of our favorites — great for catching stray mise en place bits or juices from resting meat) would be a good starting point. (Or all three, depending on budget!) I also have a bunch of my favorite items for the kitchen here.

Q: A gift for my sister who is currently pregnant with her third child.

A: Super comfortable maternity/nursing pajamas. I feel like good quality pajamas were the highlight of both pregnancies. I lived in these Cosabella pajamas — they are the absolute most comfortable and flattering ones that exist. I bought multiple pairs. They work post-partum, too. I also loved the ones from Lake Pajamas.

Alternately, love the idea of giving her something indulgent like a fancy face mask (<<this one is getting a lot of good buzz) or La Mer cream. Something that reminds her — treat yourself!

Finally, accessories fit no matter how big your bump. Maybe a fun and trendy headband, splashy earrings, or a personalized bracelet.

Q: A chic, non-plaid flannel women’s robe.

A: This one is perfection.

Q: Looking for a timeless bracelet.

A: I have some good starting points in this post, but — depending on budget and style preference — I love these quatrefoil ones from Van Cleef and Arpels; the pretty personalized bangles from Merci Maman; a gold bangle from Monica Vinader; the unique, heirloom-worthy styles from Aurelia Demark; the Cartier Love bracelet; Hermes’ leather wrap bracelets; and a Mikimoto pearl bracelet (look for less with this, which is I believe the exact style my parents gave me in high school and I wore almost daily from that point through college).

Q: Affordable stocking stuffers for my one-year-old girl!

A: Woohoo for Christmas! I did a roundup of great stocking stuffers for little ones here, but top picks specific to her age:







Q: Professional gifts — what would you give your partners in a surgical practice?

A: The gourmet gift route might be best. Maybe a three-pack of Jeni’s ice cream? Alternately, these Davek mini umbrellas are truly an MVP in my life. They are so well-made and thoughtfully-designed!

Q: Best gifts for husbands?

A: I got you!! Because I know who submitted this question, I would also suggest taking a look at the gourmet gift guide!

Q: A gift for my brother’s girlfriend. The cutest blonde who doesn’t know she’s gorgeous and is slightly quirky.

A: What a sweet portrait you’ve painted! I have a bunch of gift ideas for gals at all price points here, but who wouldn’t want a teddy liner jacket (or a channeled one, if you think that’s more her vibe — I own that style); a pretty but practical face mask; cult status tube socks; or a pretty little trinket dish?

P.S. If she’s a book lover, more ideas here.

Q: A small holiday gift for our renter in Hawaii — he’s a single guy in the restaurant business. Ideas?

A: Luxardo cherries, wrapped up in cellophane with a big bow, for his next batch of Manhattans.

Q: Christmas presents for parents who seem to have everything.

A: Gourmet gifts are usually fun for parents. We do a lot of these for my parents-in-law and my own parents, too. I also like to think about what hobbies my parents have and graft onto those as I find they’ll be more likely to get used — things like puzzles (<<this brand is excellent!), great running gear, or a new kitchen tool (<<Mr. Magpie is obsessed with these).

Q: Fashionable, indoor, no-skid entry rug.

A: I love this style in the blue or gray (won’t show dirt as easily) — it’s designed for high-traffic areas and refreshingly modern.

Q: A chandelier that is a touch modern but goes with traditional decor.

A: This could be just the ticket. Elegant but slightly architectural. And this — swoon and gasp! I almost convinced Landon to buy it for our current apartment but we just couldn’t stomach such an extravagant investment given that we aren’t sure how long we’ll live in this unit. This Aerin style is also an amazing statement.

Q: A luxurious throw (under $300 though please).

A: I love mine from St. Frank. It’s gorgeous, soft, and lightweight — the perfect thing to throw on over yourself while laying on your bed reading. For something heavier-duty, is there anything more gorgeous than a 100% cashmere throw (many here are under $300)? Lastly, I have a faux fur throw that I absolutely love to snuggle under while watching movies. The weight is fantastic. People also seem to go crazy over the brands Chappy Wrap and Barefoot Dreams, though I’ve never tried them myself. I just know that they constantly sell out and cause a frenzy whenever marked down — probably because they are ultra-soft and cuddly. Not sure if either of those have the “luxe” vibe you’re after though.

Q: New sleeping pillows for our bed.

A: You will not regret this purchase. The best. Use these exclusively in our home.

Q: Skinny silk scrunchies/hair ties.

A: How chic is this?! People LOVE this brand for everything from pillowcases (I gifted my bestie one) to eye masks (I own one!) You can also get a set sans bow.

Q: Seafood scissors/picks for eating crab legs.

A: I wouldn’t pay for seafood scissors — utility kitchen shears (we have two sets of these!) have served us well on this front and handle nearly anything else you need in the kitchen, too. Super heavy-duty (can cut through shell), go in the dishwasher (halves separate easily), stainless steel (not likely to rust), and I personally love the tabs on the tops of the scissors, which I use to puncture safety seals much more safely than with the tip of a knife.

For picks/crackers, we’ve always used inexpensive sets picked up from here and there (I think several of mine are from Sur La Table and Pier 1 actually) — if I were starting from scratch, I’d just do an inexpensive set like this (good reviews).

Q: Holiday scalloped placemats that I keep seeing all over instagram that won’t break the bank.

A: I hear you! They can be so pricey — over $100 per placemat! These are still not totally inexpensive, but I bought my mother a set of mats from La Gallina Matta, and they are wonderful — water and wrinkle-proof, and about 1/3 or 1/4 of the price of so many others in a similar vein. This Etsy shop also does a similar style for about $25/mat. More holiday tabletop finds here!

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8 thoughts on “What You’re Shopping For: December Edition, Part I. Basically, Gifts for Tough-to-Shop-for-Recipients.

  1. Oh shoot, I’m sorry the foot cream isn’t working out for you.

    We gifted our hard-to-shop-for-parents an outdoor patio heater this year! So difficult to come by during covid times but such a luxury. For my in-laws I put together a basket of an Italian landscape puzzle, a nice Italian bottle of wine, gourmet chocolates, and I included a recipe card for one of our favorite Italian dishes. Just a fun stay-at-home (and aren’t we all staying at home these days!) activity.

  2. So many good ideas here! I have to give props to Holly regarding the donation-as-gift idea … we started doing that this year among my siblings & siblings-in-law for our birthdays, and it’s been SO well-received. I will have to think about this next year for my parents, who always say they don’t need/want anything gift-wise! I feel like I’ve definitely given them stuff that doesn’t get used (particularly my dad…) so I want to keep this idea top of mind!

    I will say: Tracksmith makes some amazing products! I don’t own any of their base layers, but I have a couple pairs of shorts and everything’s really well-made. My brother is a Tracksmith devotee, too!

    Thanks for the tip, too, on kitchen shears! For some reason we don’t yet have a pair (gasp!) I love Shun (we have a couple of their chef’s knives) and will definitely be purchasing those next time I am buying something from W-S. 🙂


    1. Yes!! They are the best! Once you have them, you’ll wonder how you lived without them for so long. Used literally daily, multiples a day, in our home…


  3. The best gift for hard-to-shop-for (ahem, parents) I’ve found so far has been donations in their name: a sheep through Heifer International, vaccines through UNICEF, school supplies through World Vision. If one has a cause they’re passionate about – you could do clean water for an outdoorsman, a teacher’s classroom wishlist for the educator, a gift of a garden or animals to the chef. I have found the recipients love these gifts much more than another ‘item’.

    1. Agree, Holly! My godmother (nearing her 80’s!) is a professor and has been committed to advancing education all her life, especially for women, and has been so inspirational and instrumental in my own educational goals. For her birthday/Christmas I also have been donating to educational causes (especially for women and girls) in her name.

      My older brothers are also challenging to shop for, but last year I got them AirBnB gift cards as they both love to travel with their respective families. Sur La Table cooking classes were fun too, as well as gift cards for passes to US National Parks. But with COVID… “experience gifts” are on hold. 🙁

      House slippers: Over $100, but Margaux NY cashmere ballet slippers look dreamy!

      1. Oo, I saw those slippers too. Gorgeous.

        These are such thoughtful ideas — had never even considered an AirBnB gift card! What a great idea (post-COVID).


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