Welcome to Nifty, Gifty Holidays, our guide for all the little, magical ways we make the season sparkle. Today, we’re highlighting our Senior Editor Eric Kim's top five picks for holiday gifts and why he thinks they're so smart.
Ask anyone in my family: I used to be notorious for my terrible holiday gifts. Christmas would roll around (and I'd roll out of bed, two hours before my flight home), and I'd have to scramble to find last-minute presents lying around my apartment to stuff into my luggage before hailing a cab to LaGuardia Airport: an old, itchy sweater from the back of my closet for my brother; another old, itchy sweater from the back of my closet for my father; maybe a free cookbook I had gotten from work for my mother (who doesn't even cook from cookbooks).
All of this changed when we entered the digital age. With same-day delivery in most cities, Christmas for me has become so much easier in the gifting realm. Being an online shopper, too, has meant that I spend the year discovering, one by one, perfect everyday products that become my own personal favorites. The best coffee tumbler I've ever owned, for instance, or the lightest, most comfortable bathrobe of all time (to pair with my latest habit, which is a nightly soak in the bathtub with a glass of wine and Netflix).
I've gathered below the things I've bought for myself this year, products that have utterly changed my day-to-day. These are the gifts that I've gifted, in turn, to everyone else in my life—because I'm confident about them and already know how smart, useful, and life-changing they are.
In addition to the old-fashioned fishing-with-grandpa design of this coffee "mug" (as it's labeled on Amazon, for some reason), what I love most about this thermos is that it has a single button on the lid, which you can push with your thumb, allowing you to open, sip, and close with one hand. This has proven immeasurably useful on many a harried morning running down the street to catch the train. And then again, once on the train, as I always need one hand to hold onto a pole and the other to drink my morning elixir.
Needless to say, yes, it is also very good at keeping coffee hot.
Get the 16-ounce flask for $24.99 on Amazon (sizes also come in 12-ounce and 20-ounce, and in other colors).
When I moved into my new apartment, I had for the first time a bathtub that didn't have pre-war stains and previous signs of life. It was, instead, brand new and deeply set, and most importantly, had a faucet that was probably installed incorrectly because it spews water so scalding that it can hard-boil an egg. This hot spa water was yet another reason to take up that hygge life and start taking as many baths as I could.
Oh, back to the bathrobe: I was in search of one that I could wear after coming out of the tub (to pet my dog, to answer the door, to get more wine) and found that so many on the market are super heavy, bulky, and sweat-inducing, which is, the last time I checked, the exact opposite of being clean and comfy. This kimono-style robe, in addition to being super soft and lightweight, even has pockets, perfect for stealing away cookies and other tasty snacks for later.
Get a small robe for $27.99 on Amazon (sizes come in medium, large, x-large, and xx-large as well, and in other colors).
There was a point in my life when I gave up on umbrellas completely. It didn't help that I had a very cool, very suave friend from Portland who told me one cold, rainy day (in his Patagonia hard shell jacket and Wellingtons) that he didn't believe in umbrellas—so of course, I stopped believing in them, too. But if you live in a city like New York where you have to walk everywhere, there's no denying that an umbrella can be useful. The issue is that there's a 99 percent chance of it flipping inside out and leaving you floundering in the middle of the street, soaking wet, trying to get the darn thing to un-invert. Umbrellas are the worst.
This one isn't. I've had the same one for the last four or five years now, and it's never failed me once. It's just, I don't know, really sturdy? The best part of it is, I suppose, the single button on the handle that SHOOTS open the umbrella like a Harry Potter spell (absolute zero need for your second hand)—and, get this, it even collapses on its own when you hit that button again. Save money on all those cheap $5 umbrellas you keep getting and get this one for forever.
The green model is $16.95 on Amazon, but there are plenty of colors to choose from.
This won't be another love letter to the Instant Pot, I promise, or even a scientific case for why you should be cooking in one ASAP. But I do want to talk about a category of gifts that's especially important around the holidays: things you wouldn't necessarily run out and buy for yourself. Though in a couple more years I predict most serious home cooks will own an Instant Pot, I think for now it's the sort of purchase that happens with a nudge and a push. I have a few family members in mind whose daily lives would benefit greatly from the Instant Pot, which has converted me from three-hour Dutch-oven braises to 40-minute pressure-cooked dinners (especially because the latter comes out so much softer). It's even replaced my 10-year-old rice cooker's spot on the kitchen counter. (Don't tell my mom that.)
The reason I specify the 3-quart size (the smallest model) is because it cooks up plenty of food, should you be of the camp that doesn't need another appliance taking up counter space. Which is great if you're gifting to someone who lives in a household of one, two, or even four—but especially to someone who doesn't want to commit to the massive 8-quart model.
The mini Instant Pot goes for $65.01 on Amazon, and it's pretty darn cute.
What are some very clever, very useful gifts you love giving to people during the holidays? Let us know in the comments below.
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