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Christmas

The Only Practical Gift Guide You’ll Need This Holiday Season

Sometimes, I feel like practical gift posts end up being a bunch of weird garbage. Like, no, my fellow gift guide compiler – I totally understand your headspace, but I don’t think that most of us have any interest in giving or receiving an at-home Egg McMuffin maker, you know? (Okay, well, I may want to receive one, but we all know that it’d only get used a few times before I’d think it was too annoying to clean, or hard to use, or something like that, and then it’d be stashed away in a cabinet for decades.) This post is not about Egg McMuffin makers.

This post is about practical gifts, though – things that I’ve tried and loved throughout the year (or, in many cases, things that I’ve had for a while that I still highly recommend). See, I grew up with a mom who crushed the usable gift game – stuff I didn’t even know I needed, but that I ended up using daily – and now I want to pass a few of those ideas on to you. Nothing here is super sexy or exciting, but they are the kind of products that make me say a little silent “thank you” every time I break them out (which is pretty lovely, if I do say so myself!). Let’s get it started with a few of my kitchen favorites from 2022…

1. Silicone Air Fryer Liners: Air fryer users, YOU NEED THESE. Buy them for gifts. Buy them for yourself. (I’m so enthusiastic about this that I’ll even buy one for you. What’s your address?) These silicone liners are a breeze to clean – grease and gunk roll right off – and you won’t have to spend any more time scraping hot fried food out of the nooks and crannies of an appliance. 5 stars are not enough stars.

2. 3-Tiered Cooling Rack: Is this a total revelation to anyone else? How did I go 31 years without knowing that collapsible stacked cooling trays exist? This is an unbelievable find for bakers who lack counter space (or for your friend who just really loves making cookies in enormous quantities).

3. Graza Olive Oil: Sweet branding, easy-to-use packaging, glowing reviews, and a really lovely mellow flavor. Everyone needs olive oil at some point (even me, the world’s worst home chef!) and this is a great choice that still feels a little special.

1. Silicone Lids: You know the old “every pot has a lid” idiom? Enter: these airtight silicone lids, which come in a set of 5 and eliminate the need for plastic wrap and aluminum foil. They take up no space, attach snugly, and are easy to clean – what else can you ask for?

2. Reusable Pot Scrubbers: Swap out steel wool for these reusable (and machine washable!) pot scrubbers. I find that while a lot of folks have embraced kitchen swaps like sponge cloths, far fewer know about these little scrubbing miracles – isn’t it time that you get to be the cool friend who introduces your circle to the new ~it~ product?

3. Lomi Composter: Splurge-y? YES. Worth it? Also yes (according to Bowser, at least). If you have a larger budget to play with, you can’t go wrong here. (Like, we all have food waste! It will be used!)

4. Double Decker Dish Rack: I have this dish rack. I love this dish rack. (I don’t have a dishwasher, either, so this puppy sees a LOT of use.) It has a tiny footprint and a slim profile, but it holds so much stuff. File this under “tiny upgrades that make big differences in your quality of life.” (Like, I don’t hate scrubbing dishes now? Incredible.)

1. Cove Litter Box: It’s a little splurge-y, but worth every penny. I’ve had my Cove for about 2 years and it’s transformed cleaning the litter box from a “daily chore I detest and dread” to a “daily chore I don’t mind that much.” Picking litter is never a blast, but the material here is SO much easier to clean and maintain (it’s kind of like if Apple invented a litter box). Treat the cat lover in your life to a Cove – they deserve it 🙂

2. Travel Carrier: Give your pet a nice lil upgrade from the standard black mesh carrier! This bag opens in a variety of ways, can be slid straight onto a suitcase handle (so you can roll your companion around smoothly and easily!), and the included travel mat doesn’t look disgusting after going through a washing machine (amazing).

3. Scratching Board: “Aesthetically pleasing” and “cat scratchers” are not normally words that you’d find in the same sentence, but this really threads the needle perfectly. Grab this board with or without wall mounting hardware and watch your cat enjoy!

1. Tushy Bidet: I have one. Jess has one. Bowser has one. Most of my close friends have one, too! It’s pretty easy to install (not my favorite task, but it was relatively quick) and it’s such a nice little luxury. Your gift recipient will never want to be without it (I promise).

2. Magnetic Toiletry Capsules: My boyfriend bought these for me (after seeing them on my 2020 gift guide – what a peach!!!) and they absolutely live up to the hype. I’ve traveled domestically and internationally with these containers carrying gels (shampoo, body wash, etc.) and true liquids (like a toner) and they’re the best toiletry items I’ve ever owned. The construction is SO efficient, they’re fun to use, and I’m excited to expand my collection!

3. Fabric Shaver: This is actually on my list this year – it’s something I need but always forget to buy. I’m excited to clean up some pilled sweaters and remove some snags on the microsuede bench my cat’s been clawing up lately! (If you’re planning to use this on furniture or larger surfaces, opt for the rechargeable version).

4. Period Belt: OBSESSED. My mom gave me one of these over the summer and I haven’t shut up about it since – basically, you strap this on near your ovaries, choose a heat/vibration setting, and cramps begin to ease almost immediately. My periods are still painful (like vomit-inducing bad), but this makes them so much more tolerable (if you knew how gnarly my period gets, you would be blown away by this review).

1. Moccasin Slippers: I love these LL Bean slippers SO MUCH and wear them year round (even in LA, even when it’s 110 degrees in my apartment). They’re cushy and comfortable and my all-time favorite Christmas gift – I got my first pair in 2019 and they’ve been near-permanently attached to my feet since.

2. Weighted Blanket: A weighted blanket that’s chic and simple enough to be displayed every day? SIGN ME UP. I actually love sleeping with weight so much that I opted for a permanent weighted comforter (this one!), but this knit is an ideal option for those who prefer to add and remove pressure as they see fit.

3. Knee Support Pillow: My mom gave me one of these for Christmas last year and I fell in love with it after a few weeks. I like it so much that I actually have one on both coasts (one at my apartment, one at my mom’s house!) – it’s small enough that it doesn’t disrupt sleep (like, it’s easy to roll around and keep this in place) but powerful enough to make a notable difference in my back pain. Big fan!!!

1. Vaccination/Passport Holder: I just got back from Europe and I wish I had thought to purchase something like this before leaving. I loosely jammed my vaccine card in my passport and nearly lost it about, uh, a million times. If someone you love is traveling somewhere with health requirements, save them the hassle of digging around for two key documents with a case like this one!

2. Portable Folding Chair: You never need a portable folding chair until you NEED a portable folding chair. I used to keep this one in the trunk of my car and it saved the day at least once a year. (I ditched the car and officially went vehicle-free in 2022, but kept the chair. Priorities!)

3. Clear Gift Card: I signed up for a free trial of Clear on a whim at the Seattle airport with Jess (because she already had it!) and thought I’d cancel – NOT THE CASE. It ended up coming in clutch on a flight out of LAX a few days later (hello, fellow Terminal 5 frequent flyers) and I’ve been really thrilled with the product ever since. You don’t need this and TSA Pre (and I’m too lazy to renew my TSA Pre, so Clear it is!) but it really has made travel way easier for me (a person who is prone to constantly losing their ID). I didn’t expect to love it, but here we are – it’s gift guide worthy!!! 🙂

4. Neck Pillow: This was a 2021 gift from my mom and it’s been awesome (she ended up buying one for herself, too). I spent a few hundred hours on planes this year and have been so grateful to have a tiny, reliable, easily-packable pillow at my disposal. I can’t do red-eye flights without it!

1. Temperature Controlled Mug: Full disclosure: I don’t drink coffee or tea, but y’all seem to LOVE THIS MUG. Every time we publish a gift guide, someone brings up the absence/presence of this mug (i.e. “you should have included it on this list” or “I also love this mug, but it should have been included on this list 10 times”). People who make hot drinks at home really seem to love this product. (Feel free to jump in with your experience down below, pals!)

2. Thermoflask: After a lifetime of trying and failing to drink more water, this was the water bottle that finally worked for me. I have the 24 oz and love the straw lid; my boyfriend, an advanced water drinker who doesn’t need to be bribed to stay hydrated, has the 40 oz and uses the chug lid. It’s easy to clean and comfortable to carry – huge fan.

3. Silicone Straws: These reusable straws are portable (those pods on the right are little cases, so you can always have a clean straw on the go!) and painless to clean (that’s a little brush at the bottom). They make perfect stocking stuffers and they’re great to have on hand if you also love to use a straw that doesn’t feel like sucking on a wet napkin (sorry, paper straw lovers).

1 AirTags: Consider me swayed – this is the one product that I’ve really grown to love in 2022. Slide one in your checked baggage to keep tabs on your bag while traveling! Toss one on your keys! Throw one in your wallet! Attach one to your friend who has a tendency to disappear on a girl’s night out! (It’s me. I’m the runner). There are a ton of great use cases here and you can’t have too many (or it’d be hard to accumulate too many, at least) – if you’re looking for a no-fail recommendation, this is it.

2. Rechargeable Electric Lighter: Pals, it’s almost 2023. We’ve gotta knock it off with the single-use BIC candle lighters. It’s time to make the jump. (Maybe pair this with a nice candle, a la Jess Bunge’s Gift Kit idea?)

3. Portable Jump Starter: This year, I finally parted with my beloved 2009 Subaru Legacy, which had been sitting dead in my incredibly tiny garage since the start of the pandemic. You know how we got it turned back on, out of said garage, and on to the purchaser’s tow truck? THIS PORTABLE CAR CHARGER. (But also, if you don’t ever want to have to ask a stranger for a jump…this comes in pretty clutch).

4. Charging Stand: Simultaneous wireless charging for your phone and your Airpods? SOLD. Courant’s products hold up beautifully – I bought 2 of the Catch 3 trays in 2020 and have gifted the Catch 2 a few times – but their customer service and shipping can be a little dicey, so be sure to order from a stockist (vs. directly from their website).

1. Wool Dryer Balls: My favorites. Cute colors, extreme efficacy, and they look the same after running through hundreds of cycles in my laundromat’s heavy-duty industrial dryers. There are definitely more affordable options out there, but these are the ones that I’ve tried and loved and can happily vouch for 🙂

2. Little Green Machine: The aforementioned boyfriend grabbed me this carpet/upholstery cleaner for my birthday after reading about how I wanted one on the blog (again, a literal dream!) and I LOVE IT. It cleaned a stubborn, frustrating, bright orange vomit stain off my taupe hallway rug (my cat’s, not mine – just for the record) in seconds and my white outdoor upholstery looks brand new again. A must-have gift for anyone with soft goods and pets in their home!

3. Dyson v15 Detect Absolute: This is the crème de la crème of cordless vacuum cleaners (and it’s also what I asked for this year, for the record!).

That’s it for me today – what say you, though??? Any favorites to recommend to the class? We’re all ears. HAPPY FRIDAY 🙂 xx

Opening Image Credits: Design by Arlyn Hernandez | Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp | From: Arlyn’s Warm (& Sort of Last-Minute DIYed) Holiday Reveal

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Millie
1 month ago

I love these ideas! You and your mom are gift geniuses!

And I want to hear more about the car-free life! What prompted the change and how do you get around a city like LA? Do tell. 🙂

Kimberly
1 month ago
Reply to  Millie

I was so excited to hear that you went car-free, Caitlin! We recently became a one-car family; my husband commutes to work on his ebike (even in the snow!) and I take the kids to school on our electric cargo bike. We mostly use our minivan for weekend adventures. We save sooooo much in gas and insurance; the bikes have more than paid for themselves by now and it feels so good to be doing our part to mitigate ya know global extinction. My husband has logged like 2,000 miles this year on his bike. We’re really intentional about where we choose to live (most of our friends have moved out to the suburbs into bigger homes as their families have grown but we’re still crammed in our little place with three kids because it’s near a transit stop). We choose neighborhood schools for our kids instead of the higher ranked charter school a little farther away. We choose extracurriculars for our kids that don’t require a ton of driving (soccer we can bike to, music class that we can carpool to). A lot of people get really defensive about cars and driving and insist that they HAVE to own… Read more »

Emily
1 month ago

Love this guide! A practical gift may not be the flashiest when it’s opened but it has the staying power above most other gifts. I can strongly vouch for many of these items- silicone lids, dryer balls, charging stand, folding chair… Thank you for this!
I second a post on the carless lifestyle in LA. Tell us more!

Emma
1 month ago

I recently got an electric candle lighter in a Secret Santa and it is pretty neat. It has a flexible neck! I feel like sometimes it does take a bit longer to get the flame going than a Bic lighter, though, so do keep that in mind if you’re interested in getting one or if you receive one as a gift.

Kj
1 month ago

Did anyone else see the article about the Sink Twice (How washing my hands with ‘toilet water’ cut my water bills in half)? Maybe the ultimate practical gift?? https://www.latimes.com/lifestyle/story/2022-12-08/sink-twice-toilet-tank-cover-to-save-water-review

Lori
1 month ago
Reply to  Kj

Oooooooh, that’s really cool, and especially great for areas with water restrictions!

lauren
1 month ago
Reply to  Kj

I’ve never heard of the sink twice! Brilliant concept! Thanks for sharing.

Erin Dae
1 month ago
Reply to  Kj

These are very common in Japan – when I visited friends there, all their houses and apartments had toilets like this and I was in awe of how simple and brilliant it is. Cool to see the idea coming to the US!

Tish
1 month ago
Reply to  Kj

Yes, it’s nifty and cute, but the ones I’ve used don’t have a heated water option

Kj
1 month ago
Reply to  Tish

Good point, Tish! That wouldn’t have occurred to me having never used one.

Remington
1 month ago

“Attach one to your friend who has a tendency to disappear on a girl’s night out! (It’s me. I’m the runner).” Ahahahahaha, I laughed so hard. This is my favorite of your gift roundup posts!

Juanita
1 month ago

“It’s me. I’m the runner” <3 love you and love these ideas!!

Lisa
1 month ago

Thank you for the wonderfully practical suggestions, Caitlin! I love lists like these with products people actually use and love!! I’m intrigued by the Lomi Composter but as fas as I can see NOWHERE on the website it really explains how it actually works – what?? Does anybody know, or have any practical experience with it and can tell me more? Alternatively does anybody use a Bokashi Composter and can tell me how they’re faring with this technique? I’ve been meaning to try one out for a while now, but haven’t had the guts to commit yet 🙂

🥰 Rusty
1 month ago
Reply to  Lisa

“Lomi speeds up the natural decomposition process by grinding, aerating, and heating the waste material. Although they are not required for the system to work, Lomi Pods can be added to the mix to inoculate the material with beneficial microbes. They are recommended for breaking down tough compostables like bioplastics.”👍

Rachel
1 month ago
Reply to  🥰 Rusty

Doesn’t seem great for the earth if you have to use electricity to heat it. I understand options for apartment living but I can’t help thinking this is wasteful.

🥰 Rusty
1 month ago
Reply to  Rachel

A pile on the ground, regularly turned, is technically better.

Kj
1 month ago
Reply to  Lisa

Interested in Bokashi Composting but I haven’t tried it: https://www.insider.com/guides/home/bokashi-composting

kat randall
1 month ago
Reply to  Lisa

my sister has one, she likes it, said it literally seems to “bake” the food scraps into dirt, like immediately, less than 24 hours, she said it is kinda loud, louder than laundry or a dishwasher, but she said tucking in the laundry room isn’t too bad for noise. she also said it’s funny that the dirt will kinda smell like the food sometimes!

Lisa
1 month ago
Reply to  kat randall

Ah yay thank you all for your help! 😊 And whoops no clue how I missed that on the website… Thanks, Rusty ! Also thank you very much for sharing your sister’s experience Kat and the further infos on Bokashi KJ 🥰!!

Kate
1 month ago
Reply to  Lisa

The Lomi basically grinds up and dehydrates kitchen waste. It doesn’t, technically, make compost, even their own marketing doesn’t claim that. There’s quite a thorough article about it here https://www.gardenmyths.com/lomi-electronic-composter/?fbclid=IwAR1FODwAKo0c-N5-t8JbgJcfUGdoI6sYj5U9kUxRMSeIZWAPuiORUL5nfjg
The end result is nothing more than dried kitchen scraps, not a fertilizer or anything particularly beneficial to plants. Meanwhile the machine consumes energy and has taken up space on your kitchen counter.

Suzanne
1 month ago
Reply to  Kate

Kate, this is a great article. I bought the Lomi as part of the kickstarter (except it wasn’t kickstarter), and I like it, but I wouldn’t recommend it. I’m on the fence on if it is a good way to deal with food waste. At the time my city didn’t have a special food waste collection, so I thought it was better than putting it in the trash. But I didn’t realize how long the cycles are, so it does seem like a lot of energy. Also, it comes with a starter of carbon filters and pods that add nutrients, but then you have to subscribe for refills at a high price. It only smells when I run it, so I haven’t bought refills yet, and I have a few pods left. They also recommend mixing with a lot of soil before adding it to your planting beds or pots, which can make it a little annoying. I need a better system. I wish I was more successful at traditional composting, but my efforts haven’t yielded much, and I just have too many other interests. The city’s composting system requires that I bag compostable items in a separate bag to… Read more »

Lisa
1 month ago
Reply to  Suzanne

Dear Kate and Suzanne, thank you so much for your replies and comments!! I just casually checked back (currently procrastinating ;)) and was super excited – this was just the informations I was looking for! Thank you for sharing both the article and the personal experience 🙂 Hope you’re having great week!!

KD
1 month ago

Yay! I was hoping you’d do this list again. High fives for practical gifts!

Spero
1 month ago

FYI to anyone who has periods bad enough for vomiting, constant overflows, pain that makes you call off normal activities – if you haven’t been checked for endometriosis, please do so ASAP. It is incredibly underdiagnosed, and while treatments are still far from perfect you should know it’s a real medical condition you don’t have to suffer through without help.

Alice
1 month ago
Reply to  Spero

I had periods that bad (disabling pain, vomiting) and had an exploratory laparoscopy for endometriosis that showed nothing. I still don’t know what my problem was. I’ve found out that I probably had low iron at that time. By the time my low iron was treated I was already in menopause so never got to find out if that was the variable. I think some people just get severe cramps. It sucks, and the freedom menopause brings is heaven.

Alice
1 month ago
Reply to  Alice

I wanted to add that NSAIDs are prostaglandin inhibitors and really helped with my cramps. I think the one I took was Naproxen.

Grace
1 month ago
Reply to  Alice

Unfortunately this is a common experience as many GYNs are still not skilled enough to spot all types of endo. I know many people who had this experience and when they finally managed to see a skilled excision specialist endometriosis was found. We need much better education and research on this diseases that affects at least 1 in 10 people with uteruses.

Shar
1 month ago
Reply to  Spero

10000000% came here to say the same thin, and while / YES also see your doctor or a specialist about an endo diagnosis, FLO vitamins have been actually truly life changing for me after 15+ years of debilitating periods. Definitely check it out. Give it the full 60+ days they recommend. Never got back.

Renee
1 month ago

These are such great ideas! I’m really interested in the mug but the link goes to the lighter. Could you fix the link please? Thanks for this post!

nancy
1 month ago
Reply to  Renee

same. would like to buy the mug

🥰 Rusty
1 month ago

At first, I was like ‘Not a-noth-er gift guide’, but then….whoa!!! 🤸‍♀️
These are actually useful, seemingly long-lasting and useful things!
Kudos, Caitlin! There are several items on ypur list tgat could certainly use.🤗

I need to say, Caitlin, that if you’re experiencing “My periods are still painful (like vomit-inducing bad)” … may I suggest you get checked for Endometriosis, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and other such things?
Far too many women suffer from period issues when many things are treatable … and some things need to be treated if you wish or choose to become pregnant at any stage. I have relatives and friends who’ve suffered through a variety of conditions and issues, ovary-related.
I hope you get cgevked out and apologise if I’ve overstepped the mark. I’m concerned for you.
Rusty xx

Courtney
1 month ago

When I saw “the only practical gift guide you’ll need” I thought … N95s? But these are good too! Thank you for the reminder about AirTags … my husband loses stuff SO OFTEN and I’m getting these for his wallet and keys. And phone.

Courtney
1 month ago
Reply to  Courtney

Oh and the other thing I’m getting and seem super practical are Loop ear plugs … you can get noise-canceling or ones that basically just turn down background noise so you can concentrate but be less distracted. Getting them for my kids for school and my husband for public transportation. https://us.loopearplugs.com/

Alice
1 month ago
Reply to  Courtney

Thanks for linking the Loops. Those look interesting! What’s your favorite N95? I’m a 3M Aura girl.

Suzanne
1 month ago
Reply to  Courtney

Loop earplugs are also nice if you like places like Disneyland but can’t handle the sound. My daughter didn’t like them, unfortunately. I’ll use them for short periods, but I am sensitive to having things in my ears. I’ve tried a lot of different types of earplugs, too. I just rotate, as needed, or limit my exposure to loud places. I think the loops are still a great option.

1 month ago

OMG< heck yes to those AirFryer silicone inserts. They make clean up a breeze and yes to the Little Green Machine especially if you have kids or pets.

Jenni
1 month ago

I just want to add—while I know the “toss an Airtag on your friend” was meant in jest—airtags are becoming a REAL problem with stalking and domestic abuse cases. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/apple-airtags-women-stalking-lawsuit/ Tracking people w/o consent is never okay (even with good intentions).

gilli
1 month ago

I just saw a brilliant hack for cooling cookies! take the cover off the ironing board and you have a huge cooling rack! Also that Obi belt sounds life changing!

Bridget
1 month ago

This is the only gift guide I’ve seen this year where I actually clicked on items. Thank you!

Patricia
1 month ago

Where was that darn period belt during my pre-menopause years? I often spent hours the first day hugging the toilet. Menopause was the best thing that ever happened to me.

Shar
1 month ago
Reply to  Patricia

As someone with similar period symptoms, it’s honestly refreshing to hear that menopause has been lovely for you 🙂

Kath
1 month ago

Best gift guide you have ever done! I always go for practical gifts, and appreciate them when I receive them too! Thank you so much for this 🙂 One note on TSA Precheck/CLEAR/Global Entry – if you have a credit card that offers to pay the sign up fee, that’s a great gift for the traveler in your life (or someone who wants to start!)

Linda R
1 month ago

Thanks for the terrific ideas for items that make sense and are treasured throughout the year, Caitlin. Always love your posts!
Hey everyone…as a caveat re. the 2-tier-style dish drainer…
That’s a mega practical space saver but check the measurements for your gift recipient (or your own under cabinet height) because wherever it’ll be used it needs to include the additional height of plates, etc. on the top shelf. This model’s dimensions are 9.00″ W x 16.00″ L x 13.00″ H. If you need to drain dinner plates, soup or pasta bowls you might need to add another drainer solution. (Even though I have regular height cabinets in my micro studio if I tried to use this with my regular-size dinner plates it wouldn’t fit, for example.)
I used to work in a deluxe home store where a similar item was often returned because it was “too high” to fit under the cabinets.
This model looks awesome (super study, well designed) but make sure you check measurements before gifting or buying one of your own. Just a suggestion!

Linda R
1 month ago
Reply to  Linda R

…and I should have added…this design looks like the items on the top shelf might fit more snugly ‘within’ the dimensions, so maybe this is not an issue with this model. If Caitlin has and uses one – that is a real life endorsement. 😉

Becca
1 month ago

Silicone Pot Lids- anyone used these? Really curious

sona
1 month ago
Reply to  Becca

I haven’t used that particular brand, but we love the silicone lids we do have. Use them mostly to cover bowls in the microwave so we don’t have to use plastic wrap or leave them uncovered and have splatters everywhere. Also use to cover bowls in the fridge.

Kj
1 month ago
Reply to  sona

If anyone needs microwave covers, I think these are the ones we have: https://www.target.com/p/nordic-ware-plate-cover/-/A-12259175#

Siel
1 month ago
Reply to  Becca

I’ve got flexibele ‘hugger’ lids that fit on different sized bowl, cups or even veggies. I regret that I didn’t buy flat ones like above though. Way easier to clean! 🙂

Karyn Meadows
1 month ago

Likely too late for you to even see this comment but on the vaccine card, you can add it to the wallet on your Apple phone. https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT212752

Heather O’Brien
1 month ago

For Caitlin and the ladies with bad cramps and pms, try taking calcium several times a day while you have symptoms. Really helps with pain relief.

1 month ago

The holiday season is coming and it is a great practical shopping guise actually. nice written article and very helpful

1 month ago

What a great list! There are so many of these I “need” for myself. The dish rack coming in first.

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