ink.’s favorite things! Wine, kudos, and seven great gift ideas


Oprah recently released her annual list of favorite things, all 107 of them, along with an interesting article in Oprah magazine about how the Favorite Things grew from an organic gift giving experience (she found a pair of pajamas and boots that she loved and wanted to share them with everyone…then did, gifting over 500 pairs!) into a months long process of searching, curation, sponsorships, and publicizing. The favorite things Oprah shows used to be wild with audience members going crazy over the free giveaways and swag that they picked up. She writes of the experience:

Nights before the big giveaways, I couldn’t sleep from my own anticipated joy of giving. And this I came to realize: It wasn’t the gift itself that would be remembered. It was the spirit, energy, and excitement of being in that moment.

And then, despite the fact that she’s about to give 107 different gift ideas for the holiday season, she says:

In my personal life, I give only when the spirit of the giving is right for me. I don’t like exchanging presents just because an occasion calls for it. And if I must give something other than flowers to acknowledge a birthday or a special accomplishment, I put a lot of thought into what would be meaningful and most appreciated. For me, the gift is a symbol of a feeling.

I often feel this way about gift giving. First (on a side bar) I love sending and receiving flowers to acknowledge an occasion. I know that there are people who think flowers are a stupid gift because they don’t last forever and provide only fleeting joy and amusement, but a lot of things in life only provide fleeting joy and amusement, and no one seems to knock those things quite as much as flowers. I’ve sent my mother flowers, friends in far off states flowers. I’ve bought my husband flowers…which I think he saw as a gift to myself more than him! 😉 I buy flowers for my own table, and appreciate the occasions in which others choose to grace my table with bouquets. I’m not saying you have to be a flower lover, but they get a bad wrap sometimes. And can you really tell me that if Oprah sent you flowers, you’d hold a grudge because flowers are a stupid gift? I think those Oprah flowers would be all over social media. They’d certainly be on mine! So maybe just lay off a bit!

So I like flowers as a go to, all occasion “gift,” though if the moment calls for a “real” gift, then I revel in choosing just the right one! This does not always mean spending a lot of money. Sometimes the perfect gifts can be very inexpensive or even homemade. Sometimes the perfect gift is that of time. Sometimes it’s an experience or event. My husband is not a gift lover, but for Christmas or his birthday he likes to get tickets to an event. As he’s not a planner, having an evening or weekend to look forward to with tickets, hotel reservations, dinner plans, etc. all taken care of is a wonderful present that he very much enjoys receiving.

ink's favorite things

The joy in giving the gift, for me, comes from the joy that I know the receiver will feel in receiving it. Figuring out what will bring them that joy is a personal mission that excites me. Does it excite me 107 times like it appears to do Oprah? Not quite! Fortunately or unfortunately I have neither the budget nor the gift list to work with that she does. I do have some favorite go-to’s, however, that seem to work in many an occasion. Things that friends have come back and said, you could just give me ____________ every year. It is these things that make up the first ever ink.’s favorite things list. And my hope is whether you’re indulging for yourself, so finding a few gifts for friends and family, that you might find a few new favorites among them as well.

Screen Shot 2018-12-06 at 11.57.58 AMVince Camuto Picket Fence Stripe Wrap 

It’s a wrap; it’s a scarf; it’s a light blanket; it’s cozy AF! This scarf will change your whole perspective on winter, being out in the cold, and cozying up. I love the heather grey variation as its classic winter and looks great with black, camel, and my red wool coat. The deep teal isn’t a particularly bold pop of color, but it has a little more variation and trends towards the springy pastels. One big perk of ordering online…it’s an Amazon Wardrobe product, so you can order it and “try it on” before you buy it. Don’t like it, send it back with the box and sticker they include in the shipment. That said, you and any one you gift it to, will love it. CLICK HERE TO SEE IT ON AMAZON.


WoodWick Evening Bonfire: HearthWick Flame Candle

Screen Shot 2018-12-06 at 12.21.03 PM

This is my favorite candle of all time. The HearthWick flame is a fun effect for those of us who don’t have the luxury of a fireplace during the holidays, as it crackles and pops while it burns like a true bonfire wood. The original WoodWick scent was called Bonfire Nights, and if you can ever find it as a throwback somewhere, I admittedly like it a little better than the latest iteration. However, there’s a cool smokiness in both versions of the scent that adds to the illusion of the crackling fire, and it can’t be beat. You can find this candle on Amazon, though I’ve had hit or miss luck ordering them online as the glass has come damaged, and if you ship to a warm climate, I’ve had the wax warm and melt in the packaging. You can find them in store easily enough. Bed Bath and Beyond carries the entire line, and Target has a selection of holiday favorites. CLICK HERE TO SEE IT ON GOOGLE EXPRESS.


Tule Fog Candle Holiday Travel Collection

Count this among gifts that I have ordered for other people and then decided to keep for myself! Two candle gifts in a row may seem overkill, but in the interest of picking the perfect gift for the perfect person, you may want options. I display both these candles in my house and have never felt like they’re at ends with each other. Plus, in the interest of full disclosure…I know the founder and creator of Tule Fog Candles, and she’s as awesome as her candles, so if you’re looking to support small businesses this holiday season, this is your pick! Each candle is hand poured soy wax, for a clean burn that will help you, as their website states, “create your cozy.” I adore the Tahoe Lights. But the Holiday Collection is really all around exceptional with a scent scape for every moment of your holiday fun. Mine is out for delivery as I type! CLICK HERE TO SEE IT ON THEIR WEBSITE


Screen Shot 2018-12-06 at 12.49.29 PMSmoked Spanish Paprika by Penzeys Spices

How good is Penzeys Smoked Spanish Paprika? It’s the spice my husband and I will put on just about anything. For our wedding, my parents stuffed a wine gift box full of the stuff. We put it in chili; we use it to season just about any meat or fish; we’ve put it on eggs, in tacos, on grilled veggies, and in marinades and dressings. If there’s a “secret sauce” in our house, it’s smoked paprika. Penzeys is a little spendy, but the quality is excellent, and a little goes a long way in adding punch to your flavors and dishes. There are many gift boxes and sets that Penzeys puts out this time of year, and they’re all good. But if you want to skip the flashy packaging, extras, and tiny jars, you can go straight to the good stuff and just order this in bulk! CLICK HERE TO SEE IT ON AMAZON.


Kubb Yard Game

First there was ladder ball. Then there was bags. Now, the trendiest yard game of the year may be Kubb. Though the game itself is pretty easy to play, the instructions are not particularly easy to paraphrase. Take a peak at this quick video, and you’ll get the idea.

When I learned Kubb, I was told it had Viking origins and could be played on any surface that would support the kubb blocks and king. Some had play it in sand. Others had played on snow. We played on a level, grassy field which made for a good introduction. Once you figure out the game, however, it’s easy to see how it could be adapted just about anywhere. This is a hot gift and you can find sets all over right now. CLICK HERE TO SEE IT ON AMAZON. 


Friday kudos to…World Vision – The humanitarian gift idea

The World Vision gift catalog is all together different. Your gift goes not to someone on your own shopping list, but to a family or community in need around the world. You can send these gifts in the name of a loved one for whom you’re shopping, and maybe even pick out an item or cause that your loved one would support in the name of charity giving for another. For example, for Mother’s Day one year, I “gave” my mom a “New Mother and Baby kit” which is to say that World Vision sent her a card that said that I’d supported a new mother and her child in my mother’s name. My mom in turn “gave” us all goats for Christmas one year. Those goats are off supporting families in Zamibia. Last year at our family gift exchange, I gave baby ducks (represented by a rubber duck in the gift exchange) which are hopefully off providing nourishment and a source of income for a family in the Philippines. There are dozens of gift ideas listed, including artisan jewelry and tapestries that you can purchase and gift if you feel the need to give a physical item. Also World Vision gets an A- rating from Charity Watch which tracks how charities use their money, how much of each donation covers overhead, and how much actually makes it to the charitable cause.

Screen Shot 2018-12-06 at 2.41.01 PM

Wine for your weekend gift idea – Bottle Puzzles – 750 ml edition

If you’ve got a wine lover on your list, this is my favorite thing for you. Obviously pick out a nice bottle of something they’ll love, but instead of putting it in your standard wine bag minutes before you run out the door, plan just a little in advance, and lock it in a wooden bottle puzzle. Secure the bottle in the wooden frame, follow the instructions to secure the top, and give the gift of a holiday “spirit” along with the gift of a little good-natured fun and competition. I’ve given wine this way a number of times, and invariably it makes for a great initial gift, plus one that can be easily (and guilt free) re-gifted after the puzzle is solved and the wine released. Or, you can be like my one friend who took two years to solve his puzzle, and it just became a conversation piece for anyone who came over for a drink. If you need a wine recommendation, I’ve got a lot of wine for your weekend posts for that. If you’ve got a favorite bottle ready to go, then this is the final piece of the puzzle (see what I did there!?) for a fantastic gift! CLICK HERE TO SEE IT ON AMAZON.


Published by Kate

A former Wisconsinite, Kate now resides in southeast Minnesota with her husband where she teaches high school English and theater. She recently completed her master's degree in learning design and technology, and continues to study and advocate for arts integration in the classroom. A recipient of the RISE America grant for high school theater, Kate is working to innovate and expand theater opportunities for the students at PIHS. An avid distance runner, concert pianist, and want-to-be wine aficionado, Kate's blog "ink." is a passion project, embodying all the best parts of life: friends, food, wine, thoughtful conversation, style, and sass!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: