Wanna Give A Gift That Will Always Win?? Welcome to Caitlin (And Brenda’s) Tried & Tested Practical Gift Guide
YOOHOO, FRIENDS! It’s me, Caitlin, here to spread the word on a well-kept secret: my mom, Brenda, gives the best presents. They’re practical and useable and oftentimes kind of weird – like, oh, I didn’t know they made 6′ long lint rollers! – but they’ve saved the day and come in handy time and time again. I wanted to take a step back to highlight some of her greatest hits (along with some of the things I’ve bought for myself!) in the event that you’re in a bind and want to buy someone a gift that is, you know, helpful.
That said, these are proooooobably gifts best left for your closest friends and family. They’re not particularly sexy (I mean, unless you feel comfortable gifting a romantic emergency kit or a bidet, in which case…congrats on your healthy relationship!) but they ARE things that I’ve tried, tested, used, and loved. Wanna see what’s been under the Kelly-Higgins family tree for the past decade? GOOD, because it’s time to begin…
1 Headlamp: Because some of us like to go to the flea market before the sun rises, you know? (Also good for emergencies or, uh, nature activities that require lighting? My outdoor time begins and ends with “pacing parking lots while carrying old stuff.”)
2. Sewing Kit: This one is TSA compliant and a lifesaver. Keep it in your purse/backpack/suitcase – I swear it’ll come in handy someday. (Alternatively, Brenda grabbed this one for me last year – it’s Bridesmaid specific – and it’s great for any person in the midst of wedding season).
3. First Aid Kit: You know what I already had on hand when the pandemic started? A bunch of masks, because my mom thinks of EVERYTHING (like how I have really bad asthma and may need masks while living in wildfire country). A first aid kit is something everyone needs but most people my age forget about – highly recommend!!
4. Earthquake/Emergency Kit: When I moved to LA, Brenda grabbed me an emergency kit for my house and car because she knew that I’d never actually assemble one myself (she was right). The one I have is no longer available, but this one has all the essentials and more at an okay price.
5. Pop-Up Tent: In four months, every cute outdoor tent will be sold out. (Case in point – this striped tent was OOS all last summer.) If you have any summer plans coming up, why not take advantage of some holiday deals?
6. Stair Rolling Cart: I bought this for myself last year and it’s worth every penny (evidence!). It’s the best for groceries, laundry, thrifting, carrying recycling…the list goes on and on, you know? The wheels are GREAT.
1. Jump Starter: Who needs a friend when you can jump your car yourself? Added bonuses: Use it as a flashlight! Charge 2 devices with its USB ports! There’s a cigarette lighter socket outlet for old-school devices!
2. Groupon: Ok, this is a little bit of a ~free space~. For my 30th birthday this year, Brenda surprised me by paying some of my car insurance and MAN, THAT’S A GREAT PRESENT. Is there a recurring expense that you can cover for someone? If not, a Groupon for car washes or car detailing or oil changes scratches the same thoughtful itch.
3. Car Organizer: This was actually a gift from my godmother, Shannon, a few years ago and it’s a total dream! Great for keeping groceries upright or for hauling a bunch of thrift finds into the house in one fell swoop. Big fan!!!
1 Dyson Cordless Vacuum: I laughed out loud reading this viral tweet because WHERE IS THE LIE??? This $400 iteration is just as good but make sure to wait for Black Friday sales for the best savings!
2. Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner: Jess tipped me off to this compact upholstery cleaner and it’s AWESOME. Great for when you spill chicken tikka masala on your sofa (who, me???) or when your cat eats too fast and barfs all over the only rug in your home.
3. Wool Dryer Balls: Plot twist – I selfishly bought these for Brenda last year because (a.) I love them and (b.) she was using tennis balls to fluff up her laundry and these are SO MUCH QUIETER. I love the happy colors of these, too.
1. XL Lint Roller: SURPRISE HIT GIFT. Brenda hooked me up with one of these years ago and at first I was like “how is this different from a hand-sized roller?” but then I actually used it and I was SOLD. It speeds up the lint-/hair-collection process by a factor of about a billion AND it’s great for folks with mobility problems.
2. Pet Mat: When in doubt, grab a gift for your friend’s pet! This gingham mat is customizable (love it in green) and so freaking cute. The tartan plaid version is awesome, too.
3. Chom Chom Roller: If you even know a pet owner, buy them this. It’s incredible – way better than any vacuum attachment when it comes to getting hair off of bedding, pillows, or upholstery.
1. Always Pan: Highly recommended for the non-chef types in your life (i.e. me) – you know, the people who want to cook but are kinda overwhelmed by everything in the kitchen.
2. Apron: This one is like the Rolls Royce of aprons. Built-in pot-holders AND an easily accessible conversion chart? What else does a person need?
3. Cutting Board: There’s a phone slot on the prep side and a channel for catching any liquid and an easy pour spout on the carving side.
4. Adjustable Rolling Pin: Pick your dough’s thickness and width by moving the silicone rings. So smart, so simple.
5. Double Decker Dish Rack: I bought this for myself and I LOVE IT. There’s a rack up top, a tray for the bottom, and a separate silverware container. It fits a ton and has a pretty compact profile – big fan.
6. Silicone Lids: I write about these at least once a quarter, but they’re worth it!!! No more microwave spills AND they’re airtight, so you can throw them on any bowl or dish instead of breaking out saran wrap or aluminum foil.
1. Foot Peel: This is internet famous for a reason. It is disgusting and satisfying. Grab one for your friends (it’s novel and fun!) but also get one for yourself and spend your holiday break watching your feet transform. It’s WILD.
2. Scrub Towels: I will use this blog to preach the gospel of Japanese scrub towels until the day I die. Ditch your loofah for these!!! They’re washable and incredible at exfoliating and quick-drying and…just try them, ok?
3. Squatty Potty: Did Brenda buy me one of these? YUP. Does it live up to the hype? HECK YEAH. Would this be my go-to white elephant gift? Absolutely.
4. Massaging Scalp Brush: If you’re a deep-cuts reader, you may remember that this was what I asked for last year – it is a DREAM for getting gunk off your scalp.
5. Tushy: Every time I use one of these at a friends’ house, I’m like “AH, yes, I gotta buy one,” and then I forget almost immediately. (I loved reading Bowser’s testimony about her Tushy, too.)
6. Hot Tool Caddy: Brenda got me this 5 or 6 years ago. It was a great small space solution then (and a welcome alternative to, you know, throwing my blowdryer and straightener haphazardly into my vanity) and it’s great for storing tools as they cool down now.
1. Magic Keyboard: Brenda knocked this outta the park last year!!! I do a lot of math for my gig here (who knew), so the dedicated number pad makes SUCH A DIFFERENCE. This is such an awesome and thoughtful gift for anyone who spends their day on the computer.
2. Smart Plugs: Turn anything on and off from your phone. If you’re the type to be like “oh, crap, did I turn my curling wand off,” these will remove so much daily anxiety from your life.
3. Seat Cushion: Broken back tested, broken back approved. When I was re-learning how to sit up straight last year, this pad made all the difference. If you sit all day for work, this will change your life (or at least your spinal alignment) for the better!!
4. 6 Foot Cables: Grab the pack of 5. This is the best stocking stuffer. No one has ever been like “man, I wish I had a shorter charging cable.”
5. Lumbar Back Cushion: Let me quote our own Veronica here – “This lumbar support pillow is truly amazing 5 stars 10/10 GOOD!! It has an adjustable strap that goes around your chair so you’re not having to constantly adjust and it stays put. Take it in your car, your office chair, on a plane etc.” SOLD, BABY.
6. AirPods Max: I love my AirPods buuuut I also love sleeping on planes without waking up every 30 minutes to jam my AirPods back into my ears. These are beautiful and comfortable and easy to use.
1. Drawer Organizers: Add these to the “little things that make life so much better” category. The 8 section ones are great for underwear (and you can split them into, like, “cute underwear” and “I feel like death” underwear so you can always see what you have on hand).
2. Hanging Organizer: If you’re a member of the regular closet club (you know, like, a 2’x3′ box), these are AWESOME – they free up dresser space and they can store a ton of jeans/sweaters/PJs.
3. Plastic Bag Holder: So simple!!! So cheap!!! So game-changing!!! Turns out that, uh, not staring at a plastic bag filled with other plastic bags does great things for your mental state.
1. Slippers: I asked for these in 2019 after trying out my mom’s and I’ve been singing their praises ever since. I wear these all day every day and they’ve molded to the shape of my foot so they’re sublimely comfortable. 100000/10.
2. Flannel PJ Pants: Every year, Brenda hooks me up with a new set of PJs for the holidays. These pants that she got me last year take the cake – they’re this lightweight flannel material that do an awesome job of regulating temperature (read: they’re still comfortable in the summer). If I could only do one PJ pant for the rest of my life, I’d pick these.
3. Weighted Blanket: I swear by my weighted comforter (fully committed to the weighted lifestyle over here), but I love the versatility of this blanket – throw it at the end of your bed or keep it in the living room for some quick comfort.
4. We’re Not Really Strangers Game: I played this with an ex (post-breakup! Still friends!) and we could not take it seriously – it’s SO earnest – but I could imagine this being a great gift for anyone you’d like to build deeper connections with.
5. Socks: I know socks are historically a joke gift, but I love getting Madewell socks for the holidays!!! I don’t normally buy them for myself (they do seem a little spendy IMO) but they add so much personality to every outfit and they’re a joy to receive. I love, love, love these.
6. Luck Book: I grabbed this book from our office during my first EHD Christmas (can you believe this is my third EHD holiday season?!) and I’ve loved it ever since. It’s a great call for your ~woo woo~ friends but it also feels fitting for anyone embarking on a new journey, you know?
In closing: here’s a shot of Brenda and me at my godmother’s Christmas Eve shindig a few years back. She’s the best!!! I really do love everything on this list…so hopefully you can find something in here for the ones you love, too.
Let’s chat all things practical gifts in the comments – have you given or gotten anything that’s unexpectedly come in clutch? I’m flying back east tomorrow to celebrate the holidays with Brenda and you KNOW I’m procrastinating packing, so uh… let’s GAB, please????