ft my friends 🍒
Endpaper from The Berenstain Bears’ Christmas Tree
Notes on the right gift:
can be something they want, but wouldn’t get for themselves because it’s impractical or self-indulgent
can be something they haven’t thought of but they’ll use and appreciate
can be expensive, depending on the person and the occasion, but shouldn’t be primarily expensive (i.e. they shouldn’t feel like you just threw money at the problem). Many of the best gifts are extremely inexpensive but highly thoughtful (a book, a letter, etc)
ideally is something they mentioned offhand that they wanted eight months ago that you’ve noticed they still don’t possess
shouldn’t be something they know a lot about unless you share that knowledge (like getting someone wine when they’re a wine snob and you aren’t…)
you actually can just cheat by asking them to provide a list of things they want
whenever I get analysis paralysis I always default to flowers
is a great opportunity to impose your taste on them, but this really depends on the relationship you have with the giftee
I love the idea of giving someone an object they use and keep for a long time that reminds them of me. More specifically, I point blank love objects. This is not often a popular opinion in San Francisco, but I’m lucky to have several close friends who are extremely thoughtful about things. I know there’s 10000 gift guides this time of year (this one was inspired by the Internet Princess and Big Salad gift guides, by the way!) but I really enjoy them.
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Here are their recs:
Molly Mielke: Molly is a very talented photographer and writer, and also the first person to turn in her gift guide contribution. I met her on Twitter and we got coffee at Devocion and liked each other a lot. She baked me a cake on my birthday and gave me a book on Ann Patchett and a handwritten card made by her mom. It’s evident that I will forever and always lose the thoughtfulness competition with her. Molly works on Moth Fund and can also be found on Twitter.
Emily Dawn Butterfly Hair Pin - This is one of my favorite objects I own — super unique and somehow stays in place surprisingly well. If you couldn’t see your person wearing something like this, the Crown Affair clips are lovely and stay put too.
Lines and Current Seeded Pearl Necklace - Elegant and understated, great for girls that like to dress up.
Lunya Washable Silk Tee Set - Hands down the best pajamas by all objective measures (they drape like the robes on a greek statue).
Sezane Angelie Cardigan - This sweater is super feminine, soft, and makes me feel like a huggable fairy.
Laneige Lip Sleeping was Mask - Totally unnecessary but 100% worth it for the smell and lovely feel to your lips after — makes for an excellent stocking stuffer.
Tamara Winter: I first met Tammy at a picnic in Brooklyn shortly after I moved to New York in 2021 and she told me I had a great aura. She’s the kind of person other people use as an example of charisma and when I think of her I think of the word “vitality.” She works on Stripe Press and can also be found on Twitter.
Sweats and/or a matching set - This one’s pretty self-explanatory — women love to be cozy and sets are a crowd-pleaser, especially if you get her favorite color. Alo, Skims, Abercrombie, and Girlfriend Collective offer a range of price points.
A book - But don’t just stop there — give her a favorite book of yours, with handwritten notes in the margin. Tell her why it’s meaningful to you and why you picked it for her.
Jewelry - A piece of clean, elegant jewelry that matches her style (or, alternatively, a signature piece you think she’d like) is something she can wear with any outfit. Here are some options at various price points: Missoma, Maria Tash, Monica Vinader, Aurate, Gorjana, Mejuri
An interesting (read: this doesn’t necessarily mean expensive) dining experience. If she already has everything — and even if she doesn’t! — one thing you can give her is memories with you.
Fragrance - I’m a fragrance girl! I have my signatures, but if my partner told me he liked a particular scent profile on me, I’d be inclined to wear it more. If she doesn’t like fragrances, try flowers. I received some Venus et Fleur eternity roses for my birthday — they’re expensive because they last up to a year with no water and maintenance.
Paige Frederick: Paige and I met on Twitter in 2020 and DM'd for over a year until we finally had dinner at MONO+MONO in 2021. We passionately love and hate many of the same things and we are trying to get matching tattoos. I really like traveling with Paige and being in social situations with her because I know we’ll have the best time dissecting everything later. She is a quantum research engineer and can also be found at Twitter.
Charaku electric whisk attachment ($149) + a Tanimura Tango chasen ($38) (bamboo whisk). I drink a lot of matcha at home and assume there are a lot of people like me, so this is an essential gift. I also assume some people are too lazy to whisk the traditional way all the time, so the Charaku is a godsend.
Penguin Modern Box set ($54). The range in this set is perfect and I love this particular shade of blue.
Tamagotchi. We need to have a Tamagotchi pet revival and this is the perfect gift: cute and useless but small enough that it doesn't matter.
Biologique Recherche products ($$$). I had to throw something luxurious and of questionable efficacy on here. Everyone should try the P50 (not pictured) at least once.
Walkman. Pairing one of these with a stack of your friend's favorite CDs is a very thoughtful and unique gift. Featured is the Sony MZ-EH50 in yellow. If you are exorbitantly wealthy and well-connected, the Coperni CD Swipe bag also works.
Kavanaugh pocket naturalist guides ($~8/ea). These are crucial.
Luke Miles: I met Luke on a group trip to Vegas on our mutual friend’s 21st birthday and I thought he was very mysterious and interesting, which turns out to be the impression everyone has of him. Luke and I start every hangout by talking about our recent therapy sessions and we enjoy going on long road trips together. Luke works on Context and can also be found on Twitter.
Sori Yanagi stainless bowl, set of 5 - so, on one hand, this set of mixing bowls is too expensive. it's ~$78 for 5 bowls. on the other hand, these bowls are sturdy yet beautiful objects that i adore the look and weight of. they have a very fine lip and look amazing in my kitchen. they also have a set of matching colanders that fit each bowl perfectly. the best gifts often aren't expensive in the absolute sense, but are just beyond what most people would treat themslves to. if you know a cook that appreciates beautiful objects, they will be thrilled.
Koss Porta Pro Classic On-Ear Headphones + Yaxi Earpads + phone adapter (lightning / usb-c) - wireless headphones are overrated, actually. these $40 headphones sound amazing and have a fun look. the earpads make them significantly more comfy. it can be nice to have headphones that are simple and not noise canceling for moments where immersion is helpful. also, calls can work a lot better with wired headphones. wireless headphones have perceptible latency and can sometimes be tricky to pair.
drTung's Smart Floss, 30 yds, Natural Cardamom Flavor - the best smelling floss [cardamom]. grip to your teeth well. fun gift for the teeth fans out there.
Michel Huard-Guillouet Calvados 'Hors D'Age' - sometimes it's fun buying a loved one a fancy bottle of booze. for those occasions, it seems most common to want to buy scotch or whiskey. there are some fantastic options, but a special bottle starts to get pricey very quickly.
what if i told you there was liquor where the world-class stuff was under $100 a bottle? well, that's calvados. calvados is apple brandy produced in calvados, which is in the normandy region of france.
calvados often reminds me of apple pie, vanilla, or butterscotch while not feeling heavy or overwhelmingly sweet. it both sits on your tongue and hits your body more gently than most dark alcohol and can have a lot of nuanced flavor. easy to sip straight or on ice. someone who is normally into whisky or mezcal but has an open mind for other spirits may end up loving this.
less expensive calvados than this specific one exists. anything that calls itself calvados is probably worth a try!
if you're in san francisco, i recommend buying calvados at d&m wines and liquor which has the best selection of calvados, champagne, and armangac in the city and very knowledgeable staff. bi-rite also sometimes carries calvados.
Discord Nitro - discord is where i've been having the most fun online for a couple of years now. it's where i have intimate discussions about current events, art, cooking, or share specialized memes and animal pictures.
The best discord servers are intimate gatherings with no more than a couple dozen people. they can feel like a party where most but not all of the people are familiar. safe but exciting.
nitro gives a bunch of nice-to-have but not necessary features. gifting a friend nitro and either starting a new server or inviting them to an existing one is a great way to show that you want to spend more time hanging out with them online.
Nuun Sport: Electrolyte Drink Tablets - i'm sort of addicted to nuun. i have a couple per day. it's a low calorie electrolyte drink. i naturally tend to run dehydrated and nuun helps me feel... normal in a way that water alone can't. it's the first thing i do after i wake up but before i make myself even more dehydrated with coffee. my favorite flavors are tri-berry and strawberry lemonade.
Maran Nelson. People were always telling us we were similar for years and years and Maran and I were both like, “Is it just because we’re both women in tech who read fiction?” But no. A typical Maran-Ava hangout involves meeting at a restaurant at 8 PM and then having cocktails until 12 AM. There are theories. There are graphs. There is sometimes crying. I feel really lucky to have her in my life. She works on Interact and you can also find her on Twitter.
Firstly, a thank you to Ava: doing this gift exercise was surprisingly fun for me. So I’ll begin with this. PSA: if you feel motivated to write your own gift guide, I wholeheartedly recommend it. As with many things in life, writing gets you closer to understanding your own taste than reading other people’s perspectives will. That said — here are some of the ways I think about gift giving:
When it comes to objects, a boyfriend once discovered that “Maran will like it if a raven likes it”. A lot of things I enjoy are shiny, interesting, or trinket-like.
Maybe doing this kind of exercise for the person you’re gifting to would help: what makes them peculiar, who is their spirit animal, what do they notice that other people don’t? It can help you narrow in on how to gift for them, and as a bonus you’re already 50% of the way there to writing them a card. (Yes, you should write them a card.
To me, great gifts have something noninstrumental or superfluous about them; they are more like poems than utilities. Things or experiences that are kooky, random, beautiful, charming, absurd — even camp! — usually feel more emotional, endearing, and effective as gifts. Facebook marketplace and Airbnb experiences are replete with these kinds of things.
I’ve found that there tends to be a “platonic best” of most everyday items: be it a journal, mug, scarf, or hairbrush. But because we view these items as “functional”, most people don’t justify buying the platonic best of it for themselves. Especially if it’s gifted in the right context (a passport holder for an upcoming trip, slippers because it’s winter), these “platonic best” gifts can be cherished over years and years.
Some categories are harder to nail when you’re buying for taste-minded people: clothes, jewelry, things that are “personal expressions” of the owner. I’d steer clear of these categories unless you’re happy to accept the possibility that the gift won’t hit. For these taste-minded people, consider something like “tiny ceramic versions of something they like” (a favorite food, animal, memory), a small mobile, a beautiful container, or a vintage copy of a favorite book instead.
Many people have “collections” of some sort already, even if they don’t describe them that way: magnets, ornaments, journals, hair clips. Adding to their collection can be a nice way of making them feel seen without hampering their sense of style.
Gift giving is much easier if you’re searching in the right place. Start by choosing a really great venue, and then just narrow in on the gift based on instinct. The best thing you find at your favorite Japanese store, obscure taxidermy spot, museum, or favorite farmers market will probably be great.
Chris Beiser: I met Chris at a party several years ago where there was strawberry sake. I would describe him as 1) having encyclopedic knowledge of a surprising number of things 2) a truly great narrator, like I enjoy hearing about his trips to the grocery store, 3) a very reliable and caring friend. He works on Midjourney and you can find him on Twitter.
Song Teas - I like a lot of Song's teas. Their Yunnan red is right for the holidays—robust, cheery, flavorful. For something more ecstatic, try the Shan Lin Xi Winter Sprout. But compared to getting an airtight silver bag from a site like Yunnan Sourcing, Teavivre, or Yunomi, what makes Song's output so giftable is its presentation. So for a big impact—get your tea-loving giftee a full 2023 horizontal:
Cutting board that fits on top of toaster oven - With San Francisco real estate above $1000 / square foot, it's always good to save some space. I recently discovered this cutting board sized exactly to fit on top of my toaster oven. There are little feet that protect it from the heat, and they sell similar ones for many different models.
There's a certain joy to when things align cleanly. That's really a lot of what 'making a home' is about—finding ways to push out the frontier on the complexity of what a space affords while making it feel clean and atomic. The toaster oven cutting board represents a rare pareto improvement on the state of the art of the kitchen.
Story clamp planter: These little planters clamp onto desks, window sills and counters. Your plant seems to just float there… a hanging garden. Very practical, very beautiful, and often the subject of positive comments. They're on clearance right now at a very good price; I recommend picking one up before they disappear.
Olive oil soap from Nablus: I'm gonna be straight with you—I just really like everything about this soap. It's roughly square when you get it, but it rounds off with use. It's cream colored, with almost no smell, no residue. It comes in a wrapper stamped with a camel, always off center, on this cheap, waxy, crinkly paper.
Andrew Reed: I met Andrew on Twitter in 2020 and we were instantly Internet best friends, though we did not meet in person until late 2021, when we went to Tartine Manufactory for lunch and he said, Sorry, I don’t actually eat lunch and made me order him an espresso. We have intense arguments on a biweekly basis but he also makes me laugh really hard. He’s given me two gifts that I use on a daily basis. He works on Sequoia and you can find him on Twitter.
Training Sweat Short Birch | MAAP US: Comfortable shorts with pockets that zip for biking or not losing things.
Pete the Kitty's First Day of Preschool: The only book that teaches your kid that they are allowed to be excited for school and also that they can be awesome
Shotgun Pro Child Bike Seat: Something that will actually make your kid awesome
The best smartwatch: Great for activities and you don’t have to worry about lugging around a charger on every business trip.
My favorite pair of socks for outdoor adventures in bad weather. Expensive but will last forever from my experience.
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