An Actually Useful, Oddly Practical Holiday Gift Guide

Back when I started this blog many moons ago, the holiday gift guide was my all-time favorite post. I'd collect ideas for months, and come November, I'd create an elaborate Photoshop collage (with absolute minimal knowledge of Photoshop), and include caboodles of my all-time favorite items from that year.

Thing is, I'm a sucker for useful gifts that are unexpectedly awesome. This year I'm focusing not necessarily on my all-time favorite items, but instead on delightfully practical gifts--namely, the ones a person wouldn't buy for themselves: That surprisingly practical thing that makes you think, "Hm. Who knew I'd love a Turkish towel so much?" From the ethically sourced dopp kit to that rose quartz face roller, the items in this gift guide are meant to surprise, delight, and be put to good use.

Happy Holidays!


the facial roller

An intriguing beauty device.

You won't buy this for yourself because a.) you think $45 is an absurd amount of money to spend on a "facial device" when you are the proud owner of hands, or b.) you think the whole conceit is a whopping pile of nonsense. And that's why it makes a great gift. If you've got a pal who loves to try new things--and in particular, is a skincare buff--this Herbivore Botanicals facial roller in rose quartz is meant to eliminate toxins, reduce puffiness, improve blood circulation, and even skin tone. I have one in jade and can attest that it's pretty delightful (so good for a tense jaw--Hello Holidays).


the straw bag

An artisan-forward bag for year round.

Why wouldn't you buy this Bembien bag for yourself? Because you think it's only wearable during the summer. False! It's seasonless! I challenge you to reimagine wearing this woven bag with everything from crop tops to cable knits. Tie a silk scarf in a moody, wintery hue on the strap. I like that each bag is made from natural materials, and that 10% of Bembien proceeds go to Nest, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) committed to the social and economic advancement of global artisans through supply chain transparency, sustainable business development, and widespread industry advocacy. 


the dopp kit

An ethically made travel necessity.

You won't buy this for yourself because you are oddly overwhelmed when it comes to deciding which dopp kit to purchase. (So many options!) A friend of mine asked me recently where he could get a good dopp kit for his wife, and I didn't hesitate. I've been living out of a suitcase for 16 months, which means I often travel weekly. I am so obsessed with these dopp kits from Accompany because a.) they are only $36, b.) they are cute, c.) they have waterproof lining, and d.) they are surprisingly roomy. Plus, the sale of Accompany's products give back to the artisans who create them. Learn more about their ethical, philanthropic mission here.


the beauty box

An indulgent treat? Or investigative journalism for your skin?

You won't buy this for yourself because you can't justify the luxury when, after all, you don't need it. **Whispers: That's why it's a great gift.** Discovering new beauty products is. so. fun. And, in all seriousness, it's a fantastic way to discover products you'll use for a lifetime (or a least a year or two). I love that Birchbox offers gifting options ranging from $30–$110, as well as gift cards.

They offer boxes for men, too!

If you or your pals prefer natural skincare, Beauty Heroes is a subscription service that stands by its non-toxic, natural ingredient standards. They, too, have gift cards and sets!


the turkish towel

A multipurpose home & fashion piece.

You won't buy this for yourself because you don't even know you need it. I, too, didn't know I needed a Turkish towel, until a good friend gave me one for my birthday. I think she intended for me to use it my kitchen, or perhaps drape it over a chair. Instead I fashioned it as a chunky scarf. But that's what I love about Turkish towels: They come in all sorts of sizes, patterns, and colors, and can be used as scarves, shawls, hand towels, body towels (though not initially very absorbent), or simply throws on a couch. Live in a warm-weather climate? Take it to the beach! I personally love the selection at Berlyn 65 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, but they are widely available (even at Costco).


the good things box

A look-good-feel-good subscription.

You won't buy this for yourself because you wear your undies until the elastic has begun to shred. To be transparent, EBY is one of my clients in my Real Life Job. (I don't make money for promoting them). But I'm including them here as an oddly practical gift because their seamless undies are very good. AND EVERYONE WEARS UNDERWEAR. But what's really useful about this gift is that 10% of EBY's net sales go to Seven Bar Foundation, a 501(C)(3) who vets microfinance institutions on the ground around the globe. These institutions then give microloans to women in poverty so they can build their own business. HELLO SUSTAINABILITY! So not only do you get to wear super comfy (and cute) undies, you are also helping a real women shift the trajectory of her life! 


the planner

A shockingly useful everyday tool.

You won't buy this for yourself because a.) UGH ORGANIZING! and b.) you are the person who buys journals and organizers, uses them for 2 weeks, and then shoves them in the drawer with the other partially used journals and organizers. But Bando planners are the best. Not only are they adorable, a large spiral spine and hardcover front and back make thes easy to write in (on the right and left sides!). They come with stickers, include important reminders (National Donut Day?!), and have pockets to stuff things that would otherwise go in your Drawer of Abandoned Thoughts. 


permission to travel

A gift that's both good-looking and reliable.

You won't buy this for yourself because buying luggage isn't sexy or glamorous like, saaaayyy buying a plane ticket to Portugal. But AWAY luggage is cute, affordable, and easy to cart around. I know because I have two AWAY suitcases and have carted them to more than 65 cities in 16 months. Sadly, mine are not this adorable blush color. So get one and think of me, k?

What's cool about giving luggage, though, is being the person who says to someone, "Go. It's OK. You should do it. Buy the plane ticket. Hire the sitter. Yes--it will be worth it." Because--take it from me--the trip is always worth it.