25 Thoughtful Gifts That Helped Us Get Through 2021

Another weird year, but we made it.

December 13, 2021
Photo by Rocky Luten

I remember starting 2021 with more optimism than I had all through 2020. And while this year has undoubtedly been better than the literal dumpster fire that came before it, it was still trying and exhausting. I won’t go down the laundry list of things that made us want to bury our heads into our pillows (literally), so I’ll just think of the good parts instead. Like baking Ted Lasso’s legendary cookies or finding out that Timothée Chalamet loves espresso martinis just as much as we do. Or these 25 sweet, thoughtful gifts that kept us going this year no matter how mentally or physically tired we all were. And we were.

From coffee table books on travel and exploration to cozy throws and robes for lounging with said book, these were just some of the little joys that we gifted ourselves or were gifted by loved ones. And while we’d appreciate them any year, the gratitude was especially heightened after months of being confined indoors and separated from family, friends, and co-workers.

Here are the 25 gifts that have kept us going this year.

Photo by Amazon

1. “Atlas Obscura, 2nd Edition: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders,” Joshua Foer, Ella Morton, Dylan Thuras, $40 $27.93

"I bought this book for my husband, but really, it was a gift for myself. We’ve missed out on two years of traveling, so this coffee table book was a way to transport ourselves around the world. It’s a gorgeous and hefty book that you can thumb through whenever you’re feeling that pinch of wanderlust, which for us, is always."—Jada Wong, Market Editor

Photo by Uncommon Goods

2. Uncommon Experiences Next-Level Tie Dye Class + DIY Kit, $63

"I’ve never done tie-dye before so this gift was especially fun. All the materials were mailed to me before the date of the virtual class, and there was no pressure to turn my video on when class started—it was a low-stress environment where I got to enjoy 90-minutes of creativity and messiness. I got to make some cool tie-dye scarves that I’ll be using to wrap holiday gifts (which may or may not be tie-dyed pieces, too)."—Jada Wong, Market Editor

Photo by Julia Gartland

3. Breville Barista Express, $699.95

"This was a very indulgent gift for my husband and I, but one that’s already paid for itself given how many drinks we’ve made. We’ve been wanting an espresso machine for a few years, but were reluctant to drop so much money on a coffee gadget since we already had a French press and a cold brew maker. Now, I can’t imagine waking up without a cup of rich, strong espresso."—Jada Wong, Market Editor

Photo by Bloomscape

4. Bloomscape ZZ Plant, $149

“My mom bought me a giant ZZ plant as a housewarming gift earlier this year and it is absolutely thriving. Having plants in my house makes the space come alive and feel much more welcoming. The plant has so much new growth that I’m tempted to propagate some stems and gift it back to my mom.”—Jada Wong, Market Editor

Photo by The Citizenry

5. The Citizenry La Calle Alpaca Throw, $155

“We’ve spent such a disproportionate amount of time in our homes this year—so we’re doing all we can to make it feel cozy, comforting, and secure. There’s nothing more comforting than curling up under a throw at the end of the day with a book and a glass of wine, or while watching Ted Lasso. This throw is perfect because it’s super soft but also lightweight, so it can be used all year long.”—Arati Menon, Home52 Editorial Lead

Photo by Bed Bath & Beyond

6. Global 8-Inch Chef's Knife, $124.99

“Earlier this year, I went on the hunt for kitchen knives for my mom's birthday and ended up with a spare Global chef's knife that I meant to return after finding a set. Fast-forward about four months, I rediscovered the should-have-been-returned knife and fell in love while using it. It's the perfect size for a smaller hand and cuts like a dream, so you could say that I'm altogether pleased by my forgetfulness.”—Caroline Mullen, Assistant Editor

Photo by Wayfair

7. Symple Stuff Harvin Folding Laptop Desk, $39.99 $37.99

“I’ve always wanted a standing desk, but it’s just not me. My all-time favorite line is ‘I don’t wanna lean in, I wanna lie down’ from comedian Ali Wong for crying out loud! I've accepted that I'm the most productive when sitting comfortably on the couch or floor, so I got teary-eyed when my mom gifted me this folding laptop desk. It makes for a great flat working surface, but you can also adjust it to various incline levels for the utmost viewing comfort—which is great because one minute, I'm sitting upright and the next, I’m basically supine. I even use it in the kitchen when I cook because it keeps laptops and cookbooks elevated and away from messy ingredients on my counter. In that regard, I guess I do use a standing desk!”—Justine Lee, Contributor

8. & 9. Bala Bangles Adjustable Wrist and Ankle Weights (Set of 2), $49 $39, Hatch Restore Smart Lamp, $129.99

“Both these helped me stick to my routines this year. I started 2021 being in denial about the coronavirus still being very real so I felt a bit down, but these two helped me get back into a calmer mood and a much-needed workout routine.”—Shareen Singh, Buyer

Photo by Headspace

10. Headspace Meditation App, $12.99/month

“My Headspace subscription is my most-used means of self-care. There's a feel-good video every morning (a much nicer way to start the day than my email—no offense!). And lots of specific meditations, for instances when you're feeling overwhelmed in the middle of the day, or when you wake up at 2 a.m. after having a nightmare.”—Emma Laperruque, Food Editor

Photo by Phlur

11. Phlur S.C. 59, $96

“Since I’ve been able to work from home these past two years, I haven’t worn any makeup. But one thing I still do everyday is wear perfume, it’s a nice little pick-me-up and mood booster. As a former beauty editor, I’ve been lucky enough to test hundreds of perfumes but the one I always go back to is Phlur’s S.C. 59—I’m on my second bottle of the year. It has notes of mint, lemon, orange flower, and amber, and basically smells like the beach during summer.”—Jada Wong, Market Editor

Photo by Mate the Label

12. Mate the Label Organic Thermal Wide Leg Pant, $138

"My Mate the Label sweats! I hate to admit that there are many weekdays when I don’t leave the house and the breezy coziness of these pants are partially to blame."—Morgan Goldberg, Contributor

Shop on Amazon, $12.49 Photo by Amazon
Shop on Amazon, $27.49 Photo by Amazon

13. & 14. "Super Natural Simple” by Heidi Swanson, $28 $12.49, “To Asia With Love” by Hetty McKinnon, $35 $31.50

“New cookbooks including 'Super Natural Simple' and 'To Asia With Love' have helped me get through this last year and got me out of a cooking rut!.”—Laura Fenton, Contributor

Photo by Amazon

15. Escali Primo Lightweight Scale, $39.95 $18.47

“My husband bought me this digital kitchen scale for my birthday, and it has been an absolute dream through all the bread and cookie baking I've been doing.”—Maurine Hainsworth, Copywriter

Photo by Tuckernuck

16. Barbour Annandale Quilted Jacket, $180

“My husband got me this quilted jacket and it has turned out to be the perfect between-season jacket that I didn't know I needed.”—Laura Fenton, Contributor

Photo by Susan Alexandra

17. Susan Alexandra Sour Straw Bag, $250

"After a year of staying home, I needed some serious sparkle and fun for wedding season and this purse really delivered."—Morgan Goldberg, Contributor

Photo by James Ransom

18. Hawkins New York Simple Waffle Bathrobe & Slippers, $28-$128

“I love getting a robe or slippers as a gift. I already own three robes and still love to refresh my wardrobe every now and then. I definitely overuse my house slippers, so these slippers are my most recent fave.”—Shareen Singh, Buyer

19. & 20. WS Game Company Scrabble Deluxe Wooden Board Game, $129, WS Game Company Clue Luxury Wooden Board Game, $299

“My fiancé and I got really into game nights this year and love to have our friends over (safely!) for dinner, drinks, and games. These are beautiful enough to leave out!”—Shareen Singh, Buyer

Photo by Wayfair

21. IMUSA Granite Molcajete Mortar and Pestle, $17.97

“My husband bought me this molcajete for my birthday, and we've been making Roberto Santibañez' guacamole on repeat ever since. Suddenly, we've become the people who always bring the guac.”—Maurine Hainsworth, Copywriter

Photo by Parachute

22. Parachute Cloud Cotton Robe, $99

“I have been looking for a robe with the perfect texture and weight for a while (terry is too heavy, plain cotton too crumpled), and then I got this as a present. The weave and fabric feel sooo luxurious (and turns out thousands of reviewers agree). In fact, it’s almost permanently draped over my armchair in the bedroom, ready to grab and go!”—Arati Menon, Home52 Editorial Lead

Photo by Fishwife

23. Fishwife Tinned Seafood Co., $23.99+

“Fishwife has smoked tuna, smoked trout, smoked salmon, and olive-oiled sardines, all sourced with sustainability in mind. I would happily eat every one straight from the tin. And sometimes I do! It's the easiest way to make whatever I'm throwing together for lunch feel special.”—Emma Laperruque, Food Editor

Photo by Urban Outfitters

24. Dusen Dusen x Areaware Everybody Tissue Box Cover, $35

“This smiling tissue box holder was a gift from me to me. It brightens up the room, and I just love that I can look at these funky faces instead of a boring box (why is tissue box art so uninspired?!).”—Rebecca Firkser, Assigning Editor

Photo by Silo Luzena-Adams

25. Duralex 10-Piece Nested Glass Bowl Set, $45

“These bowls do it all, so I always have them out on my counter. They're great when making cookies, they help me mix up salads quickly, they're super handy when prepping lots of chopped veggies for big batches of soup. The best part is that they nestle into each other. Oh, and I got 10 pieces for $45—how great is that?”—Aja Aktay, Senior Merchandiser, Curation & Collaborations

This post was updated in December 2021 with more gifts that got us through the year.

And now, your turn. What gifts got you through this year? Let us know below!

This post contains products independently chosen (and loved) by our editors and writers. Food52 earns an affiliate commission on qualifying purchases of the products we link to.

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Jada Wong

Written by: Jada Wong

Jada is the market editor at Food52 with a decade of experience writing and editing for online publications such as Refinery29, Cosmopolitan, and Insider.


Ruth November 14, 2021
Just a thought...maybe an article about gifts that are equally thoughtful and lifesaving but not quite as expensive, since many people have taken a real financial hit these last couple of years. Granted, you included a few lower-priced gifts, but your intended audience seems to be increasingly upscale. Is that what you intend?
Ewlee N. November 14, 2021
You had me at “rechargeable” kitchen scales but the primo is not rechargeable from what I can tell. It takes batteries. Am I missing something? I would love a rechargeable kitchen scale!!