We’ve trimmed our gift-giving WAY down over the years, refusing to give stuff because we’re supposed to. Mostly we give money to charity in our friends’ names (with a pretty card alerting them), or food gifts we’ve made ourself. For the few we really want to give more tangible gifts to, here’s our list of things we think are worth giving for the way they expand minds/hearts/creativity, or are just downright useful. (For more ideas, explore our SHOP’S drop-down menu or enter “gift” in the SEARCH box).
We are BIG on giving books, especially poetry and art, which to our minds means giving an experience in compact form, enjoyable any time, for years to come. You’ll find a trove in our shop (along with articles we featured them in). A favorite that many people we know have loved: Ancient Trees: Portraits in Time, 60 astonishing “portraits of change, survival and time” that photographer Beth Moon made during fourteen years traveling the world.
Kid’s books are great for adults too. Check out artist Yayoi Kusama’s astonishing version of The Little Mermaid. Our perennial, zennish favorite is Marjorie Winslow’s classic Mud Pies and Other Recipes.
Need a little something to give? The Everyman Library Pocket Books series offers small, wonderfully designed books most any poet you think the giftee would enjoy.
Computer upgrades and fixes can be remarkably easy with iFixit’s great tech repair toolkit and their online videos. We’ve liberated a few friends by showing them how easy it is to add ram, a new hard drive, and giving them the tools to do it. Love means helping you do it yourself!
For years we dreamed of life-size Lego blocks that we could use to build furniture. Then we found EverBlocks which are just that: strong, plastic, modular, interlocking blocks that you can build all sorts of useful things out of…including FORTS (for kids)…read about ’em here. We love the minimalist white ones; kids dig the 24pc Jumbo Block Beginner set in primary colors.
Instant-films cameras have had a big resurgence with good reason: they have the inimitable analog quality of real film, with images that magically appear before your eyes, and that you can hold, give, display. We still use our beloved vintage polaroids. Fuji makes a range of instant cameras, with readily available vivid color AND black-and-white film.
Although Fuji makes smaller models, e like the Fujifilm INSTAX Wide 300 whose picture size (4.25 by 3.4 inches) is similar to the original Polaroid, and has a some good basic controls. Be sure to include film with your gift. (We STILL treasure the pictures we took decades ago)…
Earlier this year we stumbled on Twisted Lily, a Brooklyn-based fragrance boutique that has a fantastic web store. We were THRILLED to discover we could buy samples of perfumes for $4 each. Receiving a selection of 6 or so made us realize that a little trove of perfumes makes a great, inexpensive gift. You can also give a gift card from Twisted Lily to allow your friends to sample what they like.
Along the idea of everybody-is-a-cook-in-some-form, we love giving beautiful tasting spoons. Our current favorite which is beautiful on a wall: twelve-and-a-half-inch hangable black walnut spoon from Park Woodshop $48 at Food 52.…
A heavy, well-made, big enough mortar and pestle is a terrific item for the cook in your life (most don’t have a good one. We really like Milton Brook Unglazed Mortar and Pestles with beech handle pestles and the 6.5-inch diameter (there are many sizes).
Today, a reader gave THREE subscriptions to Improvised Life to member of her extended family. In doing that she hit a triple-home run: she gave access to our 4,000 articles + our inspiring community + supported Improvised Life + she didn’t have to leave the house. To gift someone, click here, fill out the form and we’ll send a notice for you. And you can email or print one of our gift cards to announce it.