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Christmas Gift Ideas for Mom

Christmas is almost here, which means you have to give your mom a present...and your sister(s) and your sister(s)-in-law and your friends and your employees. Need some gift ideas? These ideas are all kick-@ss. 

In honor of the holiday, there's no actual swearing here, as my mom would surely not approve.

Everyone seems to have a recommendation for the *perfect* gift. Many ideas are 100% terrible.

A $45 votive candle holder? Oh, thank you so much. I'll put it in the box with the rest of my candle holders. Now, where is it? Ah yes, the back of the closet in the spare bedroom, underneath these boxes. Lemme just blow the dust off it real quick.

And, yes, I did put a lot of thought into the sarcastic votive candle holder example above. To my recollection, no one has gifted one of these to me.

If you did give me a votive candle holder, I'm not talking about that one. I love that votive candle holder.

Anyway, my holiday gift ideas only feature items that I have and enjoy in real life. No sponsors. No kickbacks. Just my own, honest opinions. There's something for every budget. To make it onto my list, they had to pass the "Would I buy this again?" test. Of course, they also have to pass the "Would I want to receive this as a gift?" test. After all, plenty of things get by the first question that would make awful gifts. Like toilet paper.

Christmas Gift Ideas for Mom

(Click the title for more info/prices, where applicable, and click the photo to share on Pinterest.)

Trader Joe's Gift Card (or basket of assorted, delicious goodies)

Where else are you going to get fig butter for $1.99/jar? Where else are you going to get fig butter, period?

My ever-so-awesome boss at the pediatric dental office recently went on a shopping spree at Trader Joe's, scooping up every pumpkin-related product she could get her hands on. She turned this tasty assortment into surprise gifts for her three children. Pumpkin biscotti. Organic frosted pumpkin toaster pastries. Pumpkin macarons. It all sounded scrumptious. Why couldn't she be my mom, right? (No offense if you're reading this, Mom.)(Wow, this Christmas Gift Ideas for Mom article is off to quite the start!) The other day, when my boss told us that everyone had especially enjoyed the pumpkin chai tea, I let it slip that her pumpkin gift basket would pretty much be a dream gift for me. She thinks all year about what to give her employees for Christmas and for their birthdays, getting recommendations and often returning the "perfect gifts" when even more perfect gifts come along. Funny enough, the idea that we might enjoy the tasty treats she'd been describing had honestly never crossed her mind. It's one of the many quirks I love about her.

Seriously though. Where are my salted pumpkin caramels?
Thabto Mood Mugs

"AAAARGH! Where is my coffee?!"

Score bonus points by including packets of fancy tea or a bag of coffee. When I ordered these, Sexy Nerd told me they were stupid. "We already have too many mugs," he pointed out. Yes, but these are unique! Your hands don't get hot because they're double-walled, they're BPA-free, and most importantly, they're the cutest mugs ever. I love to use the sleepy one before bed, as focusing on its yawning face makes it irresistible for me to yawn. We only have two so far, but I'd like to eventually collect the entire set (hint, hint to anyone reading this for ideas on what to get me for Christmas this year.)

I love to use these mugs when serving coffee to guests. They're a great conversation starter! If you place your mug order through this link, you'll get $25 off a $75 purchase.

Garlic Grater and Oil Dipping Dish 


I ordered this dish from Uncommon Goods after seeing something similar, but more utilitarian/ugly, demonstrated at the NM state fair. It's so pretty, like something you'd find at an art show. You rub your garlic clove (or ginger, lemon, Parmesan, nuts, chocolate, etc.) on the bottom and it zests your ingredients right where they need to go. When not in use, you can just leave it right out on display as a cute piece of handmade pottery.

Tickets to a Show
Have you ever met someone who saw Wicked but didn't enjoy it? Could such a person possibly exist?

This gift can be extra budget-friendly by buying a ticket package. With my season ticket order for the UNM theater, rates for many shows dropped down to only $10 per person!

Of course, this idea can also be applied to tickets for sporting events (10 games for you, 5 to give as gifts) but who would choose to watch the 49ers when they could be enjoying an evening with David Sedaris? Not this gal.

Professionally Taken Portrait

I liked this Kim Jew photo when Sexy Nerd and I selected it, but now I hate it. For starters, I'm wearing a dress with fancy ruffles, but you can't see any of them. Even worse? Don't make the same creepy claw mistake I did. Kim Jew gave me Lana Kane hands!

Want to score some serious points with your mom? Surprise her with a framed photo of you and your siblings. I did exactly this for Christmas a few years ago, taking a nice photo with my arch nemesis brother before he left to live in Australia. It cost a few dollars and about an hour of my time. Just be certain to let the Sears photographer know ahead of time that you're brother and sister, not a couple.

Things got awkward, fast.

$12.99 for 3 pounds of chocolate is good, but this was on sale for only $7.99 a box. A good rule of thumb for chocolate-shopping is to always buy more than you think you'll need. We spent almost $50 and it wasn't nearly enough!

Sexy Nerd and I have been together for more than 11 years and have made zillions of trips up to Colorado to visit his family in Buena Vista. All this time and no one told me they live right by a Russell Stover outlet shop. It's a mere 3 hours away, tops. Think of all the chocolate that could have been! If you have one of these glorious stores within a days drive, go. Picture this: you enter a large building with candy piled floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall, with samples everywhere. Just when you think you can't get any happier, you realize that there's a second, even larger room in the back. The chocolate clearance room!

No outlet store nearby? Candy is still one of my top gift recommendations. Everyone knows I'm a candyholic, yet the gifts I receive rarely include any. Something about not wanting to feed my addiction, be a bad influence, create a monster, yadda yadda yadda. It's a bummer.

Literary Scarf

Men are so stubborn. Sexy Nerd wouldn't cooperate when I wanted him to model this scarf for me, but when I gave up, he wouldn't let me take it off!

This is another one from Uncommon Goods. I'm a big fan of theirs because most of their items are "green" and made in the USA. There's something so cheap about giving someone a gift with a big MADE IN CHINA marked on it.

You can give a no-strings-attached gift, of course, or you can secretly inspire a little self improvement. After ordering the Wuthering Heights literary scarf, it occurred to me that someone would almost certainly ask me about the book, which I had not read. Who was this Heathcliff referenced all over my hip new scarf? I had to find out!

This scarf could be the beginning of a reading/writing-themed present, accompanied by things like an Audible audio books membership, fancy gel pens, and a gift card for a local bookstore.

Groupon, Travel Zoo, or Amazon Local Deals (or a gift card to the site)

These are my go-to places for everything from restaurant deals to cosmetic procedures. You can treat your gift recipient to a spa day, mani/pedi, wine tasting, sightseeing tour, glassblowing class, massage (assuming they're okay with a little awkwardness) or any number of fun other things they might not normally treat themselves to. You can even buy an extra one for yourself and join them.

Enormous Chopping Board

Who'd have thought my under cabinet lighting was so photo-ruiningly bright?

I'm not one to ever spend money impulsively (never, ever!) but when Sexy Nerd suggested possibly buying this IKEA cutting board, it made too much sense not to. The thing is HUGE! Where else are you going to find an attractive, double-sided cutting board with countertop mount and juice-draining grooves of awesomeness for under $10? Every time I use it, which is just about every day, I think about what a nifty deal it was. We haven't touched any of our other cutting boards since we bought this. I love it, love it, love it!

Do not wash it in the dishwasher. Or, at the very least, you can rinse it in the dishwasher at the beginning when Sexy Nerd isn't looking but be sure to remove it during the 'add a dish' period, before it gets all steamy. I was warned to only wash it by hand, but did I listen?

Just buy another, Sexy Nerd! Yeesh.
Happy Hour


Yes, happy hour! What's better than the gift of your company than the gift of your company while buzzed? Order an assortment of appetizers to share and spend the evening joking and catching up. The Barley Room, one of our favorite restaurants here in Albuquerque, sells plates of homemade Jalapeno Bacon Gouda Tots (!!!) for just $5 during happy hour. They also offer a yummy drink called Cidre, like "seed-ray", which I originally thought Sexy Nerd was just being a smart alec about, intentionally mispronouncing cider.

Passenger Pets
"How much is that doggy in the window?"

Here's a fun, inexpensive gift for anyone young at heart. There are different dogs (and cats!) to choose from and they really do look lifelike when you see them peering at you through a window. I wanted to place mine in the car, but Sexy Nerd thought it might damage the tinting. Also, I'd hate for someone to think I'd locked my poor dog in the hot car and call the cops! So, Iris sits in my office window, greeting me whenever I pull into our driveway.

Sexy Nerd thinks it's a bit ridiculous.

If you place your Fab.com order through

Statement Necklace


I've probably received more compliments on this necklace during the dozen or so times I've worn it than all my other necklaces combined. It's from J. Crew, so your gift will seem expensive, but I actually found it in their clearance section for about $15. Gift giving is all about finding something the recipient will enjoy but wouldn't necessarily treat themselves to.

Amerisleep Mattress

A pillow, mattress topper, or sheet set would also be nice. Ooh, or a memory foam dog bed!

Imagine receiving this in the mail!

Okay, if you go the mattress route, this one is really more of a gift for yourself. You've earned it! Although, if you bought a fancy new memory foam mattress for the guest bedroom, I guess that would kind of count as a gift for your mom when she comes to visit, in a way. If you're wanting a new mattress for yourself, or if your guests are switching to a hotel after one night on the plywood you've wrapped in fabric (we actually used to have a twin bed like this in our guest room) this is an excellent deal.

Christmas Gift Ideas for Mom - CanvasPop

Christmas is already less than a month away. Can you believe it? I swear we were just celebrating New Year's Eve (by falling asleep at 9 pm, the party animals that we are). If you're going to get your mom, grandma, aunt, or other caretaker in your life a present, now is the time. 

You don't want to place an order at the last moment and be stuck doing that stressful, jittery "Oooh, I hope it comes today. No? Oooh, I hope it comes tomorrow" dance, eventually presenting your mom with just a card and a written description of what she is eventually going to receive. (Been there - don't recommend it.)

Of all the artwork and photo displays in our new home, my canvas print from CanvasPop is easily my favorite. It showcases all our best vacation memories and is a constant source of compliments from visitors. Your mom would love it! After all, wouldn't you rather receive something that lasts forever than flowers? You know the quality of delivered flowers (and the price!) around major holidays is always frustrating anyway.

canvaspop example
Scoring bonus points for sentimental value, I wrote the date and location of each photo on the back of our canvas print.

One of the great things about CanvasPop is that they have a wide selection of layouts and styles to choose from. What looks perfect in your aunt's house may not be your mom's style at all. With CanvasPop, everyone is happy. They also make the process foolproof. When I designed our photo collage, I was alerted when a photo I'd planned to use was too low of a resolution to look good printed.

Here are a few more of my favorite Christmas gift ideas from CanvasPop:

how to frame a photo for mom
 A Framed Print
custom photo pillow
A Custom 18x18" Photo Pillow

(Raise your hand if your mom is a crazy cat lady. Me: Both hands waaay up in the air...not that I'm jealous of my fur brothers or anything.)

gift idea #4: canvas print for mom
A Canvas Print of a Single Image

If your mom is anything like me (you poor dear), you'll be thrilled to know CanvasPop also offers gift cards. No matter how fabulous and perfect your photo gift to me is, I will always prefer to design it myself. It's terrible of me, I know. Part of the fun is sorting through all of my photos (memories) though.

Ready to explore all the great gift ideas for yourself and check "Buy All-Time Greatest Christmas Present" off your To Do list? Visit CanvasPop to get started. When you're done, please let me know. I'd love to see your creation!

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