Christmas gift ideas for people I like but don't know well
December 14, 2016 4:02 AM   Subscribe

I got my cousin and their spouse in a family gift exchange. I really like my cousin on the rare occasions when we are together, but my cousin was a small child the last time we spent any significant time together. Cousin and their spouse are in their 20s, live in the eastern US (somewhat rural but kind of hip area), and they seem like really cool, smart people, but I do not know their specific tastes. What should I get them? Facebook stalking hasn't helped.
posted by Alluring Mouthbreather to Shopping (16 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I have the same issue with long-distance relatives, I usually solve this with Amazon/Nordstrom/Uniqlo gift cards, and a nice card wishing them well.
posted by alchemist at 4:21 AM on December 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Check out the MeTa Quonsar Thank You thread! There are tons of really quirky and interesting gift ideas so something might catch your eye. But in general the nice thing about gift exchanges is that someone has spent time and effort sending you a surprise which is lovely in and of itself, and it's really hard to go wrong unless you literally don't send them anything, so don't get stressed out.
posted by billiebee at 4:34 AM on December 14, 2016 [5 favorites]

In this situation I buy something sort of generic (but high quality) that I would like to receive myself. I just had to buy gifts for women around the world I work with but only know professionally, and got them a collection of local items from our area - Burt's Bees lotion, artisan chocolate, some nice notecards. Everyone likes carefully crafted unique things that are nice enough to be a treat but are also items they can actually use.
posted by something something at 5:05 AM on December 14, 2016 [4 favorites]

It's for the couple? How about a gift card for a recipe delivery service like Blue Apron?
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 5:25 AM on December 14, 2016

Penzeys gift boxes are one of my universal gift go-tos, even for people I know well. Penzeys is good stuff.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:47 AM on December 14, 2016 [19 favorites]

Well first run a search to see if either of them have public Amazon wish lists lying around. If there's a family gift exchange tradition that they have been a part of for a while now I bet they've made one and thrown a bunch of amusing stuff on it.

I like Penzey's gift boxes too. Spices are the kind of thing that is special and probably a little pricey but come in small sizes and are conveniently consumable. If you know neither of them are cooks or if they have very particular diets (say one of them is a staunch vegan or they actually have celiac or whatever), then try something from uncommon goods. They have a well-curated selection and good guides for picking a gift based on recipient. I've both given and received a few things from them over the years and have never been disappointed.
posted by Mizu at 6:11 AM on December 14, 2016

Maple syrup ages in whiskey barrels is my go to this year. I've got 6 bottles as generic gifts
posted by Ftsqg at 6:42 AM on December 14, 2016

Buy things that benefit a charity, so at least if the recipient doesn't like it, you still did some good in the world.
Two I can think of off the top of my head are The Tinker's Packs and Combat Flip Flops.
posted by slipthought at 6:53 AM on December 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Unfortunately, said cousin lives in Vermont. While I would appreciate the perversity of mailing maple syrup from the Midwest to Vermont, I'm not sure the gift itself would be appreciated. I'm going to check out Penzey's and/or a couple stores that sell items handmade in my area.
posted by Alluring Mouthbreather at 6:53 AM on December 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

My go-to in situations is to hit up a local artisan shop and get something relatively generic, but nice. This year, I got my secret Santa a really nice hand-thrown ceramic mug, and threw some fancy coffee and cookies into the package with it. Is it the most inspired gift in the world? Nah. But it's nice, it's something I'd be happy to own or receive as a gift myself, and it supported a local artist. [On preview, what somethingsomething already said]
posted by nuclear_soup at 6:57 AM on December 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

Do they like wine or cocktails? Those can be a good sources of gift ideas - no one has *every* handy cocktail/wine accessory.
posted by mskyle at 7:07 AM on December 14, 2016

Possibly not as the main gift, but as a great auxiliary, make a really good Christmas mix CD (you'll find tons of recommendations in MeFi threads, including a new one on the blue this morning) and throw it in. I've done this for multiple folks and they love them.
posted by dlugoczaj at 7:07 AM on December 14, 2016

Edited because I misread eastern US as Eastern CT! Oops! Well, I guess some might still apply if you pass through CT? So these will all be CT based suggestions!

If they drink, some liquors from Westford Distillery or Hartford Flavor, a bottle of wine from Priam Vineyards or a growler from Black Pond Brews in Danelson.

There are quite a few artisanal cheesemakers in Eastern CT that offer gift certificates (full disclosure, I am a cheesemaker at one of the farms).

Firebox in Hartford, Cafemantic in Willimantic, Caseus in New Haven, and The Grange in Providence are all nice restaurants to get them gift certificates to.

A trip to The Book Barn or Mystic Aquarium or tearoom Mrs Bridge's Pantry or Grounded Coffee are fun local excursions in Eastern CT if you'd like to have some hangout time with them.
posted by Queen of Spreadable Fats at 7:51 AM on December 14, 2016

Products from Omnivore or Rancho Gordo go over really well with those people in my life. (Omnivore: get the Omnivore Salt, the original and not the lemon flavor. The lemon flavor is fine but the original-- which was developed through a kickstarter-- is really special.)
posted by BibiRose at 8:24 AM on December 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

If they're near Burlington, a dinner at Farmhouse Tap and Grill would be nice -- it's a fancy enough place that it's a treat to go there, but not so expensive that they'd have to substantially supplement a gift card with their own money.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 9:05 AM on December 14, 2016

My sweetie and I get a bunch of any handy house gadgets we've really liked. They aren't arty but they do seem to make people happy long-term because useful is good. This year it's motion-sensitive, rechargable, LED light strips that stick under cabinets or in inconvenient closets, drawers, stair landings, in the bathroom where they won't glare out at sleepers, next to doors that are hard to get open at night... something like these.
posted by clew at 3:10 PM on December 14, 2016

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