Our Favorite Holiday Gifts

Time to get shopping!

If you want to get started shopping, browse through last year’s gifts list while we’re polishing up this year’s version. We’ll have it ready soon!

Every year A Sharp Eye tries to give you a selection of the best gift ideas we’ve come across.  We hope this year’s selections are helpful and inspiring.  Before we get started, our gift to you is a free app we’ve found to help you organize your holiday shopping.  Santa’s Bag will help you keep track of what each person on your list wants, what gifts you’ve gotten for them and how much you want to spend.  It’s a great shopping list manager. For iOS only.

Do you know someone who has trouble waking up in the morning?  Maybe the Philips Wake-Up Light with Sunrise Simulation will do the trick.  Set a wake-up time and light will mimic sunrise to wake you naturally and slowly. It has a tap-to-snooze alarm clock and a beep function to make sure you wake up on time.  It has 10 brightness settings and can also be used as a bedside light. $70.00


2016 Holiday gifts


These wood neighborhood coasters are personal and fun. Each set includes 4 different neighborhoods in the city you choose.  The maps include the date the city was established, the area, population density and neighborhoods.  Each coaster is 3.5” diameter. They are made from aromatic cedar.  Choose from 19 cities. $36.00 for a set of 4.


favorite 2016 gifts

Touch Sensor Pocket Gloves from TravelSmith are practical and good-looking.  How many times have you needed to use your phone in the winter when you had gloves on?  It happens to me often, and I have to yank the glove off and then my hand freezes.  These gloves have touch sensor fingertips so you can use any touch screen device and keep your hands warm! They are cozy and come in several colors.  The gloves also have a zippered pocket to hold cash. On sale for $12.00.


If you are giving a personalized photo album consider the Layflat Photo Album by Artifact Uprising.  The binding on their custom Lay Flat photo album is designed to allow the pages to lay flat when open which in turn allows for wonderful panoramic effect.  There are 4 album sizes, 2 premium paper stocks, 6 cover sizes, 11 fabric colors and 4 types of foil stamping to choose from. Prices start at $139.00.


Give a pet lover a custom silkscreen pet pillow.  These are handmade by artist Shannon Broder.  Simply send her a favorite photograph and she will turn it into a black and white pillow. They are 13” x 17” and $80.00 each.


Shannon Broder also sells her own animal design pillows.   She has about 18 to choose from.  You will be forwarded to her Etsy shop and if you don’t see the one you want she will make it for you.  $40 each.


This is a very cool waterproof, Bluetooth portable speaker by Ultimate Ears.  My daughter introduced me to these and the sound is terrific.  Small enough for travel at 5.5” diameter, or have one in every room!  They are lightweight, have a 100 ft. Bluetooth wireless range and a 9-hour rechargeable battery life.  They can be submerged in water for up to 30 minutes.  They come in blue, green, purple and black. $99.00.

2016-holiday-gifts-ultimate-ears-waterproof-speakerPenguin Little Black Classics are 80 little black paperbacks featuring writers from around the world and their fiction, poetry, drama and essays.  This is like giving the gift of a series of inspired hours and an invitation to get drawn into a book.  It would be a fun hostess present to live in a guest room. $74.99.



I love the trivets at Leslie Evans Designs, as well as the pillows and sachets.  There are many fabulous designs.  This 6” x 6” tile trivet is $17.00.


Ginny owns this hat and just bought another one as a present. This ribbed knit cap is 100% Mongolian cashmere, not too tight (have a good hair day even in winter) and oh so-very soft.   Vanilla or Black.  $85.00


I am crazy about this set of two pebbled leather cases that can be monogrammed.  The larger one will hold all your travel-sized toiletries.  The smaller one is useful for jewelry, make up or anything small.  They come in ten colors.  $110 for set of two.


The environmentalists on your list will love these ‘unpaper’ towels.  Susie G gave some to me and I had to fight off house guests and my children to keep possession of them.  Use them as paper towels but they are reusable, machine washable and very convenient.  They fit on your paper towel holder and unsnap.  $30.00 for 12 towels.


These bags make packing easy.  They are 100% cotton and help organize clothes for travel.  There is a bag for dirty laundry, for lingerie, for shoes and for hair dryer or other hair accessories.  $48.00 for the set.

2016-holiday-gifts-4-bag-travel-packThis solid maple cheese board has organized spaces for crackers and cheeses sit separately for a ‘put together’ hors d’oeuvres presentation. Add figs or grapes to taste.  It has lots of space for an assortment of hors d’oeuvres.  17″ x 14″. $48.00.


For the grill master on your list – Butcher Salt from France.  It is a blend of salt and rosemary, thyme, sage and marjoram- the perfect seasoning to use as a rub for anything you want grilled.  It is also great to use on just about any roast, stew or stir-fry.  It is best if refined with a salt-grinder or mortar and pestle before using. 17.6 oz. is $22.40.


These solid perfumes are handy for travel.  I keep one in my pocketbook at all times.  This company sells Blending Palettes which are really fun.  A Palette contains four unique perfumes, which can be worn alone or blended with others to create your own custom fragrance.  The perfumes are made in small batches then hand-poured in the studio to keep them fresh and fragrant.  There are 10 palettes to choose from.  $30.00 each.

2016-holiday-gifts-solid-perfume-palettesThese Yoshii towels from Rikumo are made in the traditional slim Japanese style.  Each Yoshii towel has two sides – one in a soft cotton chambray, the other in a looped terrycloth pile.  The design and type of cotton makes these towels very absorbent, lightweight and fast drying.  The towels come in two-tone, polka dot, shirt stripes and tricolor.  Washcloths are $11.00, hand towels are $23.00 and bath towels are $59.00.  The Yoshii towels can be machine washed and tumbled dried.


For those with a sweet tooth give them Annie B’s caramels.  The caramels are cooked in copper kettles and made from all natural ingredients.  Each caramel is 3” long and weighs .5 oz. The canister contains 60 pieces of assorted flavors and is $35.00.



More sweet tooths on your gift list? Cocomels Sea Salt Caramels are made with all natural ingredients including coconut milk.  They are vegan, gluten free, corn syrup free and non-GMO.  And, they are delicious!  A 30 oz. tub is $45.00.

2016-holiday-gifts-cocomelsThis Hewn Birch Birdhouse if very cool. It is 10” tall x 6” wide x 8” deep.  The hole is 1.25” in diameter.  It can be used in a sheltered outdoor area.  It has a lifting cover for cleaning.  $34.00.


Do you have a woman in your life who is looking for a small, chic backpack? This is called the Small Portrait Backpack.  It is made in Great Britain, is 100% leather, has top handles and adjustable and detachable shoulder straps.  It is 10” high x 10” wide x 3.5” deep.  $255.00


Anyone on your list with a first apartment?  This Puebla dinnerware is gorgeous and affordable.  The complete 21-piece set pictured here is $149.95 and you can choose one color or do assorted colors.  Or, you can buy by category.  A set of 4 mugs is $31.50, a set of 4 salad plates is $19.00, a set of 4 dinner plates is $48.00, and a set of 4 soup/cereal bowls is$28.00.


I love Italian painted ceramics, especially this charger/serving plate with the octopus pattern.  It is 12” in diameter and $40.00.  There are also larger bowls and platters as well as dinner plates, soup bowls salad plates and mugs.


These colorful zebra socks will add to any man’s wardrobe.  They are designed by Bresciani and are all cotton.  $34.00 each.

2016-holiday-gifts-sock-hop-mens-socksGive someone the opportunity to organize a group or join a group to spend the night aboard the aircraft carrier and Sea, Air and Space Museum Intrepid.  Sleep among the aircraft on the hangar deck where the original enlisted sailors slept and enjoy after-hours access to the Intrepid and the Space Shuttle Pavilion.  Overnights include educational activities, tours and talks, unlimited rides in the new 4D flight simulator, pop-up planetarium shows and meals.  Designed for youth groups, ages 6-17, and families.  $120 per person.


Anyone you know enjoy a soft-boiled egg for breakfast?  I am in love with these whimsical egg cups.   Choose a badger, cow, duck, goat, Guinea pig, hare, lamb, pig or ram, $16.00 each. (Scroll down the page to find the egg cups).


An add-on the one who has everything tech and Alexa, Amazon has come out with their new fireHD10. Big screen, big storage and hands free connection to Alexa!

Christmas gifts

Giving Back:

Here are a couple of ideas from readers about ways they give back during the holiday season.

From Trudi S.-

“I enjoyed the Sharp Eye about giving and wanted to pass along a project that my in-laws involved all the family in.  They showed up with a little potted Christmas tree.  On the tree were hanging little paper envelopes (tiny) and they had their grandchildren draw Christmas pictures on them.  Inside each envelope was a ten-dollar bill.  Their challenge was for all of us to take an envelope from the tree and spontaneously give the money to someone or something (charity) and report back on a website that they had created how we gave the money away.

It was fun to see all the ways that 22 envelopes were donated and what the choices were.  We gave ours to a local charity called Charity Newsies that provides clothing for the needy children in Columbus.”

I do something similar – I put a $50.00 bill into a clear plastic round ornament from the craft store in the toe of each of my three daughters’ Christmas stockings.  With it is a note to use the money to ‘pay it forward’ sometime during the year when the right opportunity presents itself. They then must report back the following year on how they accomplished their mission.  The stories are wonderful.

ASE is featuring a thoroughly vetted charity every month that we highly recommend, if you are looking for a good cause to contribute to. You will find it on the right side of our home page.