My husband, Chris, is notoriously hard to shop for. In fact, it’s kind of a known fact around here. He’s extremely particular about purchases, and when he eventually identifies something he wants or needs, he researches the heck out of it, and then inevitably buys it for himself, right then and there.
Add in the facts that 1) his hobbies skew pretty personal (cycling, cars and timepieces — all things he’d rather invest in, himself) — and 2) he’s not particularly into gadgets, keepsakes, team sports, or anything even remotely gimmicky, and it makes gift-giving with any level of stealth…well, tricky. (On the flipside, it also means I’ve similarly grown quite discerning and anti-stuff, which can only be a good thing for our household — and the environment — as a whole.)
Gift Ideas For The Kinda Nerdy, Super Practical, Ultra-Picky Man
Despite that, however, I’ve managed to hit the nail on the head a few times with simple, personal gifts that are irrefusable and, dare I say, even a bit impressive.
So, by popular demand…those items, plus a few Chris-approved items he’s picked up, himself, over the past few months, make up this latest round of 13 more gifts for that person who is just hard as all heck to shop for. (Sounds like we’ve all got one…)
In case you missed it: my original Gift Guide for the Guy Who Already Bought Himself Everything He Wants; and this Father’s Day Gifts That Truly Don’t Suck post has lots of ultra-curated gems that would be suitable for holiday gifting, too.
Chris spent a good portion of the pandemic researching and building out our home bar, and Death & Co’s first book, Modern Classic Cocktails, has been a serious resource, so I know this latest release (pre-order it now for release later this month) will be well-received.
Death & Co is a bit of a Manhattan bartending institution (there are also locations in Denver and L.A.), and their experts make building cocktails at home seem at once utterly romantic and alluringly doable. They offer tips on everything from how to stock your bar (they even suggest plenty of surprisingly affordable labels, especially for mixing) to how to work with what you’ve got — and of course there are recipes for all the classics, as well as dozens of twists on them. This latest volume has more than 600 recipes, including plenty of low ABV and non-alcoholic cocktails, and the binding and photography is stunning enough for the coffee table, too.
I still can’t say enough good things about this Tiki fire pit, but now that it’s finally back in stock, I’ll try my best. We researched all the available low-smoke/smokeless options before landing on the Tiki, and it truly offers the best combination of both style and design. With traditional firewood, it’s mostly smokeless (like any smokeless fire pit, there’s a learning curve at first), but with the wood pellet packs, you get a rip roaring flame that’s genuinely smokeless for 30 minutes at a time — perfect for a super low-maintenance, weeknight fire.
Design-wise, it’s large enough to feel like a feature of our backyard but compact enough that we can move it around to where we need it. And there’s a handy tray for removing ashes so you don’t have to lift the entire drum up to the compost bin, too. Genuinely one of the best buys we’ve made in the past couple of years.
I mentioned these in my Gift Guide For The Low-Key, Minimalist Entertainer, but I had to include them again here because they’re such a stunning gift at a great price point. Distilleries across Scotland, Ireland, Wales and the US use these exact glasses for tasting/sipping scotch and whiskey — they’ve been expertly designed specifically to maximize the experience — and yet they’re under $30 for a set of four (or under $20 if you only need a pair).
Chris and I went on a date a couple of months ago, and the fragrance in the restaurant bathroom was so appealing, I sent him back in to take a photo. Turns out it was the one-two punch of both this reed diffuser (which is wintry and smoky without being too cloying or cologne-y — also available as a candle) and the Le Labo hand soap, below. We wasted no time ordering them both on the drive home.
What’s more 2021 than the gift of a luxe hand soap? Le Labo scents are all so lovely (and notoriously indulgent), but this one drew both Chris and me in at first, uhhh, sniff. (See the restroom anecdote for the reed diffuser, above.) Herbal and fresh, not too flowery. I was extremely scent-sensitive during the first trimester, and somehow this remained appealing to me throughout. A new fave that rivals Chris’ beloved Aesop milled pumice hand wash (also a great gift).
Pastrami is quite possibly the fastest way to Chris’ heart, and his ideal way to enjoy it is in a classic deli sandwich. Enter: a full deli spread from Liebman’s in the Bronx — sandwiches, pickles, mustard, coleslaw, matzah ball soup, knishes and rugelach. You can even add a t-shirt and really feel like you went somewhere. (They have an option with just the sandwich fixins, too.) Not into pastrami? These Wagyu Burnt Ends also make for a seriously tempting foodie gift.
As a California kid of the 1980s, I grew up eating a version of this iconic coffee crunch cake on the regular, and it’s heaven come to Earth. Chris is a fan, too. Light fluffy cake draped with clouds of coffee whipped cream and bedecked in shatteringly crisp, buttery morsels of caramelized honeycomb candy. I’ve made my own a handful of times (a mini, deconstructed coffee crunch cake that is ever so slightly simpler) and, while extremely tasty, the honeycomb portion, in particular, can be a bit persnickety. Fortunately, Valerie Gordon resurrected Blum’s original recipe, and now it ships nationwide. It’d truly be the perfect indulgence for a holiday dessert spread or even a Christmas brunch. (Handily, Chris has a December birthday it would be perfect for, too.)
Chris wouldn’t classify himself as a reader, per se, but he does pride himself on having read all the science fiction classics, including the Foundation series, which many say is the inspiration for much of pop culture’s most beloved sci-fi sagas. This classically hardbound set of the first three installments would look great on a bookshelf or in an office — and the fact that it’s the original 2011 edition (pre- the Apple TV+ adaptation of the series) makes it feel extra gift-worthy.
The only no-show sock Chris wears. Actually, we’ve both taken to wearing Stance no-show socks. They truly don’t slip down off your heel, and they don’t seem to wear through at the toe and the under the ball of your foot like other thin, lighterweight socks. Easy.
And the only crew sock Chris wears. They stay up, hold up well over time, haven’t faded after dozens of washes. Solid stocking (ha) stuffer material.
After a whopping 10 years, Chris decided to make the leap from our trusty Nespresso to something that allows for a bit more customization. (Not to fear, we still have the Nespresso on hand for guests who’ve become accustomed to its ease, and I still make my daily matcha latte directly in the Aeroccino.) Unsurprisingly, Chris did an abundance of research and ultimately landed on this one — the Breville Barista Pro — which honestly only takes maybe 2-3 minutes longer than the Nespresso version, and it allows him to brew his latte just so (and yet still mostly at the press of a button). It’s a little bit more of an investment, but he’s incredibly pleased with his choice, and I was pleased that it fits easily under our counters and is actually more compact than I was expecting. Love the white, too (which was so hard to find in stock for the longest time!) — it’s a nice change of base from basic stainless.
Clearly, I’ve learned that food gifts are typically well-received, and Chris maintains that one of the best gifts I’ve ever given him was bourbon barrel-aged maple syrup. It feels special, but not so special that it sits around never to be enjoyed. And unlike some super-specific spice rubs or a novelty hot sauce that’s more pain than flavor, maple syrup is a common enough ingredient/condiment that it’s actually reached for with some regularity. (Nothing is more satisfying than a gift that’s actually put to use.) This Mikuni Wild Harvest Noble Maple Syrup, in particular, is aged in barrels from Tuthilltown Distillery — New York’s first whiskey distillery to open after prohibition — and gets rave reviews across a few sites.
I happened to mention a J.Crew sale aloud the other day, and a couple days later, a package showed up that wasn’t for me. I was…confused. “Oh, cool, my stuff’s here,” Chris said, swooping in to pick it up. “When you mentioned the sale, I realized I haven’t bought new clothes in years.” In the package? This sweater, which, it turns out, is so soft and cozy — and more of a mediumish weight than the listing suggests. Made from 80% recycled content, and not itchy, either (as verified by Chris). And I always love a guy in raglan sleeves. Good choice, babe.
Happy gifting, friends. We got this.
And before I forget, for more holiday joy, head to Holiday Central, our one-stop-shop for all the sparkle, sales and presents on offer. Check out our gift ideas hub here, browse holiday outfit inspo here, and shop all the best Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals here.
Friends! Follow me on Instagram for accessible, easily adaptable recipes; sneak peeks of The Mom Edit content (and sales!); and more snippets of our life on the Northern California coast. And if you feel so inclined, pop over to my personal food + lifestyle blog, The Pig & Quill, where I share salty scribblings from my kitchen and home life. Byeeeeee!
This one’s for the Pinners!