Holiday shopping is stressful, and even if you’re smart enough to avoid the lines by doing it early or online the whole process can be exhausting. You want to give a thoughtful gift but since you have a lot of shopping to do and a number of parties to attend, picking the right items shouldn’t be your life’s work.
That’s why I have aggressively scoured the internet to find unexpected and versatile gifts that you can mix and match for him, her, littles, Secret Santas… and of course, unexpected dinner guests.
The beauty of this gift guide is that each of the items selected are either from small businesses, indie designers or made in America.
Supporting small businesses and American manufacturers is even more important during the holiday season.
1. Porcelain ice cream cone from SIN ($24)
Brooklyn based, small indie design company, SIN, created an artsy collection of paper goods made out of porcelain. The ice cream cone is perfect for the kids…and fun for adults…even secret santa (depending on your spending cap you could give one with a pint of ice cream…)
SIN also sells incredibly authentic looking porcelain paper plates ($) and coffee filters (pairs great with the wooden coffee scoop below and a pound of dark roast!) Buy your own set and serve ice cream, pie and coffee for dessert.
2. Hand Carved Walnut Coffee Scoop Currently sold out on The Future Kept, but we’ve found similar wood-carved kitchen accessories at Washington State-based small indie design company Jackalope Design Co. for $29. This is more of an adult gift to give along with a pound of gourmet coffee, but you could have it double as a kids’ serving spoon for oatmeal or cereal. Or display it on a nightstand to hold wedding bands.
3. Postalco Abacus Totem Key Holder ($90) Everyone has keys to somewhere. Why not keep them together with a gorgeous Japanese brass totem? Postalco is a small indie design firm based in Japan (but founded in Brooklyn).
4. Soap Your Wild Oats bar soap from Brooklyn Herborium ($8) This is a gentle cleansing soap version of this company’s amazing powder oats cleanser. Face, body… all natural goodness for everyone. This is a great item to pair with a beautiful washcloth as a Secret Santa gift. Don’t be that person who is rushing out to shop on your lunch break the day of the holiday party. Order a bunch NOW and use some as stocking stuffers! (Because this soap is all natural it’s safe for use on the littles, too.)
Brooklyn Herborium is a small/indie company that makes and manufactures their goods in Brooklyn.
5. Uashmama Lunch Bag Grey ($79) Who doesn’t love a cool lunch bag? After the holiday bills come rolling in everyone’s New Year’s resolution will be to curb the spending; maybe start by packing a lunch instead of eating out. This lunch bag is made out of paper but feels like leather and washes clean. A reusable and stylish lunch bag is another creative gift for anyone on your list, big or little. Uashmama is a small family run business based in Montecatini, Italy.
6. Cacao Preto chocolate bar ($8) Chocolate is always a great gift for the holidays. Cacao Preto is a small business specializing in beans-to-bar chocolate and small batch liqueur and rum based in Red Hook, Brooklyn and the Dominican Republic. The products are 100% organic and absolutely delicious! Since chocolate is always a hit, it is smart to buy a bunch and just keep it on hand for guests or last-minute gifts during the holidays for all ages. The packaging is so beautiful it already look gift-wrapped so you can just tie a ribbon around a few bars and call it done.
7. Filson Northern Cascades Candle ($88) Candles get a bad wrap as an utterly uninspired gift but when someone sees a Filson box they’ll be thrilled. Also, the earthy tree bough and needle scent is the perfect aroma for the holidays. (NOT FOR CHILDREN!) Fancy candles are also a great gift to have on hand for a surprise guest who went above and beyond with their host/hostess gift. Obviously, you won’t gift this to someone who brought a cheap bottle of wine and grocery store flowers. And if there is no mystery guest you get to keep the candle! Happy day!
8. CW&T Pen Type-A $160 Best. Pen. Ever. For someone who has a passion for design and appreciates sleek and functional pieces, this pen is the ultimate gift. If you’re thinking… $160 for a pen? Just consider it an investment that will last for generations/ I know that sounds strange, but this pen is machined out of durable solid stainless steel—with laser engraved ruler markings on the sleeve. Plus, it is designed in Brooklyn by a small firm CW&T and made at a family-run, multi-generation shop in Vermont.
9. Carry On Cocktail Kit (under $25) We all know the holiday travel mantra well: “I need a drink.” You certainly can’t expect your in-flight team to mix a proper cocktail, but with this ingenious little kit you can mix your own classic Moscow Mule, gin & tonic or Old-Fashioned. The kits come with the ingredients, tools, instructions, and a classy little linen coaster. All you need from your flight attendant is a glass with ice and a mini bottle of booze. You will definitely need the booze if you’re boarding a flight with your brood this season.
10. Baggu bag (standard size $9) Baggu bags are an easy stocking stuffer and encourage everyone from your toddler to your grandmother to reduce and reuse. The fun patterns and colors are always changing so you can amass quite a collection.
Plus, these are great gift-wrap alternatives. Just stuff your gift inside a bag and tie the handles like a bow. Or give a small zipper case with a bar of chocolate inside. A gift in a gift. Baggu is a small business based in Brooklyn and San Francisco.
11. Shinola Wild Animal Journal ($18) Notebooks are a thoughtful gift for the young and old. When we’re surrounded by screens, it is important to give our thumbs a rest and celebrate the written word with the act of journaling. There is no battery life on paper and pen. Shinola notebooks are handmade in Detroit using paper sourced from sustainably managed North American forests.
12. Monogramed LL Bean tote bag $25-40 The LL Bean Boat and Tote Bags are one of those items you always want but never buy for yourself. It is a great gift for anyone and the prices range from $15 for the small to $40 for the extra large so it fits into secret santa budget, too. Make sure you monogram them with names or initials and use them for toys, diapers, and even laundry. Large and medium work for the grown-ups and small for the littles. These are available in open or zip top (which is great for traveling) and you can pick from an assortment of colors.
13. This is Ground Cordite Cord and Plug Rollup $70 If you spend entirely too much of your time untangling your headphone cords This is Ground has a very stylish solution. They offer a variety of other organizational products, too—like the Cord Taco and the lifestyle. Having a kit to keep your important items organized and easily accessible is key, especially for someone who is constantly switching bags or traveling. This is also a great way to keep your kids’ electronic device accessories safe—and in your control. This is Ground is made and manufactured in Los Angeles.
14. Woolrich Blanket ($185) and Strap carrier ($52) Woolrich blankets are an American classic. (They provided blankets for the Union soldiers during the civil war.) The cozy wool blankets make a great gift for any age and will last a lifetime. The Woolrich blankets we suggest gifting are made in America.
Gift wrapping tip: Always go the extra mile when it comes to gift wrapping. Beautiful and creative gift wrapping increases the wow factor and even the most inexpensive trinket will seem luxurious.
Good luck this holiday season. Don’t forget to treat yourself, too!