Doesn’t the title of this post make it sound like it’s going to be a torturous entry that is only tangentially related to a sponsorship? Perhaps a Meaningful Personal Memory brought to you by Old Navy?

Actually, I just wanted a place to share the fantastic gift idea ideas I received via Twitter yesterday when I posted that I was having a hard time thinking of what to get my mother-in-law for Christmas. In case you, too, find certain people to be a shopping challenge, here’s a roundup of potentially useful suggestions:

Charity gift? Donation for schools, ed, domestic violence? Gift cert to local restaurant? Wine tasting class?

Nice candles, gloves, a pretty scarf, fancy coffee/tea.

What about canvas print of great photo? My MIL loved the one we got her. Also once got a custom silhouette of the kids.

Pretty cookbook? Nice soft gloves/hat? Upgraded version of something she already uses? (nicer soap, fancier salt, whatever?)

Uncommon Goods has a great selection of interesting gifts for hard-to-shop-for people.

How about a throw blanket with a photo of the kids? They are creepy but my MIL loved hers

One year I bought mine a bible cover from etsy, another year a tea cozy, still another year an etsy bookmark. One year, custom teas.

Cozy throw blankets, monogrammed tote, slippers, snow globe.

Kyocera ceramic knife set..I’ve gotten this for a few different people and all loved it.

The base model Kindle is a great gift and not horribly expensive.

Hve you checked out Fab yet? Totally different unique gifts for everyone.

Teavana teas and their perfect teapot

Do you know her salon? A gift voucher for a hair cut/something else she does regularly could work.

Necklace with grandkids’ birthstones?

Tickets to an upcoming show or event that she might enjoy?

Set of mugs/latte bowls (Anthro), Smitten Kitchen cookbook, set of classic DVDs (Hitchcock, Cary Grant), monogrammed boat tote?

Cozy throw blanket, new towels, nesting bowls, x-of-the-month club (pasta, chocolate, salsa – check Amazing Clubs), Le Creuset pan?

Scarf? Crabtree and Evelyn Hand lotion kit? Expensive slippers? Spa gift card? Something from personalization mall?

An ornament with her house painted on it? (Ooh, I love this idea. Look!) Or a sketch of the cabin? silhouettes of boys? All I’ve done & all on etsy.

Do you have some awesome gift ideas the rest of us can borrow? Share them in the comments! (I’m kind of geeked about the possibility of having my shopping done early this year so I can chill the fuck OUT during the December craziness.)


25 Responses to “Holiday gift ideas for the hard-to-shop-for”

  1. Sarah on November 19th, 2012 11:10 am

    Great ideas! I wonder if anyone has a particular site/shop for birthstone necklaces for a MIL or grandmother? I have looked on Etsy and they are nice, but pretty cutesy. Not very grandmotherly. Maybe someone has a suggestion…

  2. michelle l on November 19th, 2012 11:24 am

    Your friends have great ideas. Would you ask them for suggestions for 10 to 15 year-old-boys, too? They are my toughest to shop for. Especially when they have sisters who are completely content with lotion, lip gloss and hair bows. There is no boy equivalent of that kind of thing. :)

  3. Lucy on November 19th, 2012 11:37 am

    I find Ebay is fab for vintage gifts! For my dad’s 80th birthday, I got him an antique cuckoo clock (memories of Austrian family holidays) and a hymn book from the 1920s from his boarding school. I also got my brother an antique clock for his 40th, and another one for his Christmas present which is the same as one our grandparents had.

    I have also for gifts bought vintage saucers, put a nice soap in, and wrapped with cellophane and pretty ribbon – or filled a terracotta flower pot with tissue paper, then put little gifts on top – pack of favourite flower seeds, nice candle etc, wrapped in cellophane and ribbon. Also, bought vintage cup and saucer, planted plant in cup, again wrapped in cellophane and ribbon!

  4. Lisa on November 19th, 2012 11:54 am

    I’ve done grandmother necklaces for both my mother and my mother-in-law. My mom’s is mostly with black onyx and then spaced out with her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. One gal at work had a special name her kids called her mom. Another time, I made each of them mom/grandma bookmarks with a few paperbacks in the genre that they read. If you’re interested, look up ‘Details Jewelry’ on Facebook.

  5. H on November 19th, 2012 12:30 pm

    My mom is 71 and for the past few years, our family has been buying her gifts related to her heritage. She’s half German and half Swedish so we’ve given her a cookbook with old German recipes, Swedish Christmas decorations, German or Swedish candies and this year (thanks to the Food Lush blog), she’s getting a couple of Swedish dishcloths in her stocking.

  6. anu on November 19th, 2012 12:42 pm

    Holga camera. He’ll get a real DSLR too but I’m going to let him pick it out.

  7. ktjrdn on November 19th, 2012 12:43 pm

    Not to toot my own horn, but I get a lot of orders for these this time of year.

  8. esssp on November 19th, 2012 2:25 pm

    this is the coziest blanket ever, and it’s half price right now. i’m buying another one as we speak…

    Eddie Bauer Fleecy Down Throw

  9. Joanna on November 19th, 2012 5:47 pm

    I had us three (adult) grandchildren chip in for every other month flower delivery for my eightysomething grandmother. She doesn’t need anything but most people enjoy the luxury of fresh flowers and I think this was a nice bimonthly reminder that we love her, too.

  10. sara on November 19th, 2012 6:10 pm is awesome! Put in a price range, holiday and who your shopping for/what their styles and tastes are and it compiles all sorts of choices… You pick a dozen of items and pay for it and they personalized a catalog for the person your shopping for. Then the person just picks what they want… Check out the site, its cool!

  11. Erin on November 19th, 2012 8:45 pm

    @sarah, I’ve had a few friends order “family tree necklaces” from etsy. Here are some:

    We’ve moved to almost completely consumable stuff, plus a photo calendar, for our parents. Really fantastic olive oil (we love Pasolivo from CA) is one of our go-to gifts this year.

  12. kim on November 19th, 2012 8:52 pm

    Here are some things I wish someone would give to ME, but I’ve never gotten:

    1. Make fun of Harry & David all you want, but I would love a fruit-of-the-month. Or even a box of fruits once (esp. pairs). Or some chocolate/cookies/cakes. Harry & David stuff is delish., too.

    2. Lessons: tennis; music; cooking. You know what I wish hair academies offered? A day of basic hair lessons for the non-specialist: how to cut your own bangs; how to dye (and mix dyes!) your own hair, incl. highlights, etc.

    3. MASSAGE. Or facial. Or fancy mani/pedi. Or all three!

    4. Teeth whitening service.

    5. Really great slippers. The fancy kind, with shearling and suede and hard soles.

    6. A beautiful black cashmere cardigan, preferably cropped to be worn with dresses. Everyone can use one of those; they are ageless & classic.

    7. A fancy collection of gourmet food items: fancy spices; teas; coffees; exotic salts; fancy peppers; etc.

    8. Along those lines, a collection of essential oils: lavender, myrrh, frankincense, geranium, etc.

    9. A gift certificate to buy electronic entertainment, like Kindle books, audiobooks, or mps.

    10. A membership to

    11. Magazine subscription

    12. A service, like a day of an army of maids to do spring cleaning, or to get my car detailed, or a chef to come and prepare a meal in my house for a small group of friends.

    13. One of the best gifts I got is something people would totally make fun of, but: socks. A bunch of fancy socks. They can be expensive! and yet socks are very useful, including (and perhaps esp.) fancy athletic socks for running (although I am picky about the height and weight of those socks). It’s also not all that much fun to buy socks for yourself, but I enjoyed getting them as a gift.

    14. A gift certificate to Shutterfly, or one of those sites where I can make my own hardcover photo book from my own photos.

    15. monogrammed Land’s End (or L.L. Bean) tote

  13. Tessa on November 19th, 2012 9:40 pm

    I got my first husband’s mom a cutting board in the shape of North Dakota, with a tiny cutout heart over the city where she lives… Found it on Etsy. Made me smile when I was home this summer and saw it on display on her countertop.

  14. Kate on November 19th, 2012 10:02 pm has really great personalizable stuff.

  15. Michelle H. on November 20th, 2012 12:27 am

    Postage stamps and personalized address labels are my go-to gift for the impossible to buy for.
    My grandmother and mother in law are both 70+ year old widows who have everything they could ever need or want. The past few years I have used microsoft publisher and made them personalized address labels with pictures of the grandbabies. Add several sheets of postage stamps in a fun design and they have been thrilled.

  16. Robin Danely on November 20th, 2012 7:49 am

    I do custom oil portraits of kids (& willing to do pets, too)… I’ve had several people order them as gifts for spouses & parents.

    It’s a little late for this Christmas, but maybe something to keep in mind for next year!

  17. Redbecca on November 20th, 2012 8:58 am

    My MIL adopted an olive tree for my husband for his birthday one year, and we got regular shipments of olive oil from them for a year, which was DIVINE. Never tasted olive oil so yummy! She said it was really expensive, but we all agreed it was one of the tastiest presents ever.

    My father and his wife have more crap than they know what to do with (seriously, 50 unopened boxes in their garage) so all we get them these days are consumables or wine accessories, or gift certificates to places they like to eat (they love to dine out).

    My mom is easy: Amazon gift certificates. She is a reading nut so certificates for her Kindle are quickly spent. And she and her husband love going to the movies, so movie gift certificates are also appreciated.

  18. Redbecca on November 20th, 2012 9:01 am

    Oh, someone above asked what to get 10 and 15 year old boys…. depending on what they are into, just about anything video-game related on would probably be a winner.

    Come to think of it I think one year I shopped for my entire family on that site! (We’re geeks, what can I say!)

  19. Shawna on November 20th, 2012 10:50 am

    I get a lot of orders for my photography products this time of year (prints, calendars, iPhone cases, jewelry, etc.) and have a big sale coming up for this weekend. (Linked from my name if you’re interested.)

    BUT I also find a lot of stuff on Etsy: washi tape for stocking stuffers, a polka-dot bow tie for my dad, a World of Warcraft t-shirt for one brother, a variety pack of popcorn seasonings for the other brother (plus popcorn of course), a French-style rolling pin for my mom, Star Wars luggage tags for my husband (, etc. It’s also my go-to place for teacher gifts. I got this for my daughter’s teacher for end-of-year last year and she LOVED it: This Christmas the teacher’s getting personalized stationary ( and one of my own mini-calendars.

  20. Shawna on November 20th, 2012 11:01 am

    Oh hey, there’s always a ton of nifty stuff for the photographer at – I covet a lot of stuff there!

  21. Sonia on November 20th, 2012 4:15 pm

    Uncommon Goods is SO great for finding gifts. I love that catalog and website.

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