That Time Of Year
It’s that time of year again, for many of us, to share time and wonderful things with loved ones. In recent years I have grown fond of finding unique gifts for friends and family. Functional but fun, things that they may have not thought about or even knew existed prior to receiving them. Whats the fun in buying something for someone if they know exactly what it is they would be getting? Part of the joy is discovering something great and taking a chance on striking a note of joy in the surprise of getting something unique and thoughtful. Last year I had fun making a list of interesting gift ideas and while there are probably a million suggestions out there already I thought I would toss in a few of my own again this year. Seeing as nearly every christmas gift guide I come across online is full of exactly the same gadgety stuff I thought I would try to dig a little deeper with a few of these ideas. Feel free to suggest something in the comments below, I will add things if I find anything else interesting.
Oddly enough I found myself straying away from photography gear, the world has enough of it as far as I am concerned. Outside of a camera, and a good lens what else does a photographer really need? You can have a peak at my list from last year which has a few more photo centric ideas. I did toss in one idea related to photography but well get to that in a bit. This is not some amazon kickback link filled junk article written for clicks, I have no affiliation with anything here and none of the links are affiliate links. This is just a list of stuff I thought would make a great gift for just about anyone. Photos were pulled either from online shops or a google search, sorry for the random size and consistency there. Of course many of the shops I link to are US based, most of these products can be found elsewhere in the world as well. Follow the Read more link to get to the list.
Pro-Ject Essential Turntable
The way I see it, anyone that really honestly loves music should give vinyl a spin. Those that once had a collection or those who have never held a record in their hand, a collection of a few of your favorite records and a nice place at home to put one on it such a joy. Pro-Ject has gained a lot of notoriety for their entry level turntable quality. Beautiful, simple decks at fair price points. There are, of course, cheaper options out there but you sacrifice a noticeable amount of audio quality and in turn some of the joy of experiencing it. I believe there is a USB enabled version as well. It’s not about audiophile nonsense, it’s simply about experiencing the unique connection to your favorite music a vinyl record can bring. You can find them on sale here as well as many other like minded shops online.
PB Swiss Tools Insider
I always carry a small kit of tools with me and always look for tools that provide me with a mix of portability, durability, maximum usability. I am picky because I am hard on them and use them often in my work as an audio engineer. Everything I carry was built well enough to survive a 3-4 floor drop form a scoreboard to a cement sidewalk a year or so ago and keep on ticking, including this wonderful screwdriver I have been using for the last few years. I love the stubby shaft which gives a great amount of leverage and control. I bought a simple extension for the end to use when I need to get into deeper spaces with it but there is a version with a longer reach as well. If there is anyone you know in need of a great screwdriver, look no further. A random choice for a christmas list perhaps but I felt there must be some of you out there that could use a great new screwdriver. You can find them for sale here.
Corter Leather Bottlehook
Originally purchased through a kickstarted campaign I could not be happier with this amazingly simple yet efficient little gadget. Gone are the days of annoying carabiners for my keys. Simply slip this over your belt loop or bags strap and you are good to go. You can pick up one directly form its creator here.
Hario Woodneck Drip Coffee Pot
Everyone has their favorite way of brewing coffee at home and increasingly people seems to take pride in their methods. For me, its more about taking a moment to savor the process than always getting the perfect cup. Due to this I choose to grind whole beans with a manual grinder and use a put over method to make a tasty cup or two. While I also use a Chemex and Kone filter often because of its simplicity I still find that my personal favorite brew always comes from this one of a kind little brewer. The flannel filter produces the smoothest cup of pour over drip coffee I have ever had, rich and balanced. The only quark is the fact that you need to keep the flannel wet at al times after its first use which means keeping it wet in a small plastic baggie or plastic storage container in the fridge between uses. Still though it’s totally worth it for me because I am never left disappointed by the results and feel this would be a fantastic gift for any coffee lover. You can find them here or many other places around the web. (Also recommended with any pour over brewer is a nice kettle such as this)
I have also seen these great mugs with measurements written on the side like a chemistry beaker which I believe is what the design is based on originally. I later discovered this great plain version online and they quickly become one of my favorite mugs to use. A somewhat delicate glass mug with a great lip around the edge for easy sipping and pouring. Perfect for any beverage you throw at it. They can be found at the always fascinating Kiosk.
A minimally named sleeve for your favorite device. I have always loved the simplicity of these and you will find they are available in a number of sizes these days for most all of the Apple line and more. Find them here.
Back on the tool kick I can’t help but sing my praise for this fantastic little palm sized knife. Its brilliant design leads to the most sturdy grip I have ever felt on a knife this small and find myself using it nearly every day for all number of little things. I realize a pocket knife is not for everyone and even I feel weird carrying around anything bigger than this these days. A quick search on google will show you just how tiny it really is. Built like a rock for years of use, anyone you feel may benefit from a new pocket knife should look no further than this great little folder. Find them here.
Tivoli Model One
While I feel a little weird posting something I have never heard or seen in person I am basing this off of reputation alone. It’s a beautiful little home radio which would fit beautifully in any modern home and make for a great gift. I nearly put up a Big Jambox suggestion but where is the fun in that? For anyone looking for something a bit more old fashioned and unique I’d say this is a fair bet. Find them here.
Raagini Digital Tanpura
So this is a bit out of no where but I could not help but toss this onto the list. I have wanted one of these for a long while now, ever since seeing a musician pull one out as accompaniment to his throat singing. They generate these beautifully hypnotic drones and gives you a fair amount of control over the pitch and tempo. There are a number of videos on youtube with these, here is a simple product demo I found. I love that the video was obviously recorded in India where these were made, the rickshaw/scooter horn instantly brought back memories. Note that may need a power adaptor to fit this in your countries outlet standard and keep in mind also that these ship from India so if your feeling adventurous and know of a friend that loves unique objects or is a musician, this could be something totally fun and unexpected to wrap up and pass along. You can buy them here or here.
Handmade Pewter Flask
I bought one of these for my brother last year and he seems to love it. Just because you have a flask doesn’t make you a drunkard, I rarely drink but on occasion its nice to indulge, this is clearly a gift for a responsible lover of liquor. A flask is nice for cold hikes, gatherings with friends, or other such adventures. Sure, you can go out and puck up a stainless steel flask many other places for somewhere around $5-10 but where is the class in that. This is about the enjoyment of a fine object, like a nice watch. You can find them here.
Faribault Wool Thow or Blanket
You cannot the comforting power of a nice scarf thrown around your neck in the cold of winter. This also goes for having a favorite throw or blanket around for those quiet winter nights or trips out into the wild. I came across the wonderful, quality selection of wool goods from Faribault and felt any number of their products would make a wonderful winter lovers gift. Here are the throws seen above.
Topo Kettle Sack
A few months ago I wanted to find a new backpack for my daily this and that and while a camera bag is well and good, I needed something more usable for a wider range of uses. Besides, when I have my camera with me it is rarely in a bag unless traveling. A simple padded inset would work just fine should I decide to add that ability in the future. The backpack is not too big, not too small, and dead simple in its design. The only two organizational components are the top flap zippered pocket and a divider along the back, nice for a laptop or iPad but smaller zip up pitches like their Dopp Kit. I love using the top space to roll up a jacket, sweater, or blanket under the top closing. My only wish is to have some kind of supporting spine so the bag doesn’t flop over but I have gotten used to it. The construction takes a beating, these guys make a great bag so if you know someone in need, have a look at their selections here.
Ratt Sound XLR Sniffer
Im sure there are not many of you out there in the pro audio market but surely there are a few who are or know of someone who works in the live audio buisness. This ones for you. The Ratt Audio XLR Sniffer is a sound mans best friend when quickly trouble shooting mic line issues or tracking down a stubborn line. Easily check an XLR cables for shorts and find out which pins have a short or are wired wrong. I use mine often and figured this would make a great gift for anyone in the field. You can find them here.
These delightful little balls are seaweed. They live for years and years and require very little care to keep alive, simply change the water regularly. They are actually quite small and grow only a few mm a year but the lovely handblown glass globe they come in makes a nice magnified look. Makes for a great house companion. As for giving them as a gift, I am realizing it could be a little tricky. The balls come shipped in a simple small plastic ziplock pouch so I would imagine if kept in water in a cup they could easily be transferred back into a baggie for wrapping up. Haha, ok so maybe I didn’t think this all the way through, still though, would make a great gift despite wrapping trickiness. If your still interested have a look here.
Audessy Media Speakers
I have read a lot of varying opinions about these speakers online. Some say its too bass heavy, some say there is not enough, some say they don’t get loud enough, some say they are very loud. Good thing the internet is here to feed us needlessly conflicting points of view! So who will you trust? In my opinion these make a great pair of desktop speakers. Before buying a DAC for my TV to output into my old analog stereo receiver I had these plugged into my Apple TVs digital optical output and really enjoyed them for watching movies or streaming music to and I felt they were plenty loud before hitting a level of distortion. The bass output will depend on the surface and position in the room you set them in as with any speaker on the market but the passive bass radiators in the back of these provide a nice warm underbelly of low end for any need. They live on my desk now for use with my laptop while I work and they are perfect for this use and at their current price I can easily suggest them as a great gift for anyone you think could use a nice set of home speakers.
Kinfolk Magazine Subscription
Know someone who loves gatherings with friends? Not specifically dinner parties, but occasions of shared experience with close friends or loved ones and at times those of solitude. Kinfolk magazine is a growing series of magazines focused on this kind of simple community based gathering. It’s for the love and beauty of the act as much as anything and it is beautifully photographed and designed. Worthy of having on any coffee table or bookshelf for years, they are full of stories and images that warm the heart to dig through. I have really enjoyed the issues I have seen and easily recommend a subscription as a gift for lovers of life. You can find it here.
Uniform Wares Watch
I adore these watches. Perfectly minimal and well constructed with plenty of design options to choose from. YoungDoo and I bought a pair of these for each other as wedding gifts for ourselves and we love them. Even with the rough conditions at work sometimes mine has held up amazingly well. While they may not be the cheapest gift one of these watches could be that one special something for someone you love. Have a look at all they have to offer here.
Bellroy Travel Wallet
There is a select group of people on this planet with a weird obsession over finding the perfect wallet. I fall more into the casually curious camp and simply love good products in my life. I came across this amazing travel wallet before my trip to Seoul and Bali earlier this year and was extremely happy with the purchase. I wanted an easy way to keep all of my important travel documents in one place and this wallet was designed specifically for this use. Boarding passes, most travel documents, and most all types currency fit cozily inside the dimensions of the main pocket while an inner flap is specially designed to hold your Passport securely in place. There is even a tiny pen pocket built into the spine so you are never left without one handy when you need it. I really can’t speak highly enough about this wallet and by proxy all of the great wallets over at Bellroy and easily recommend one for any friend or family member in love with travel. You can find them here.
Millimeter Milligram Line Notebooks
Ever since first setting eyes on their wonderful stationery products on my first trip to Korea I fell in love with the unique european inspired stationery products of Millimeter Milligram. While I was able to stock up whenever traveling in Seoul I was never able to find anything for sale outside of Korea until recently when I noticed some of their products on sale online on the LA based shop Poketo. Oddly none of the MMMG products are labeled as being made by them in the shop but I wanted to point out one of my favorites from them which would be a nice gift for any lover of a nice blank book. (The rest of the site has plenty to dig though as well) These books offer unique designs that offer something other than the traditional lined or blank pages of most blank notebooks.
Something new available on the always well curated Ghostly International web shop these paper globes are simply beautiful objects for a desk or shelf and I thought would make a great gift for any lover of wonderful things. Not much more to say than that! Have a look here for more photos and information on the story behind these.
Ever since I was a kid I have loved a good puzzle and these wonderful wooden clusters from Japan are no exception. A perfect modest gift for someone that may be harder to pick something more specific for I think these would look great on any desk or coffee table. Available in a few different designs as well, you can find them here.
Hole Punch Music Box
I enjoy gifts that inspire creative thinking and this customizable music box fits right along those lines. Simply punch holes where You would like notes to hit and you are good to go. Extra music sheets are available as well which may be a good idea to give along with this. For the adventurous spirit you could easily build this into a box for a one of a kind experience. Find them here.
Snow Peak Portable Chopsticks
All I can say about these is I have had a pair for years and love them. Snow Peak is an amazing camping supply company from Japan that makes one too many things I have trouble not buying up. Seems a little pricey for a pair of chopsticks but seeing as they last for years and years the value is more of a slow burning sort. Just the kind of thing that someone may pass over for a casual purchase but makes for a great gift in my opinion. I have seen these at nearly every local camp store I visit but you can also pick them up online here.
While stopped in Tokyo on a layover I bought a couple of this variety of simply cotton patterned towels and since then could not live without one tied to my bag or stuffed into my pocket on hot summer days. Useful for any number of uses these simple towels are beautiful and functional and I was thinking could make a great gift for someone that could appreciate such a thing. You can find them here or here.
There are now four versions of these wonderful ambient music looping players available on the market and each is unique and wonderful to have around. I have taken a number of walks through the woods with one of these playing calmly inside my shirt pocket and lead to a calm mind to work or live to. The latest version is shipping soon and I can’t wait to eventually get my hands on one to hear what great new music they have released on them. While a google search can find other places to buy them in various colors and variety here is one place they are available where I have ordered from a number of times in the past and trust.
Ansel Adams Basic Techniques of Photography
Whenever anyone asks me to suggest a book for learning the basics of photography I always point them in this direction. Of all the books out there this may come across as a bit dry or dated in some ways there are many aspects of shooting that any photographer who is even a little serious about learning more about how cameras work and dive into the needed technical details of shooting and composing would do good to spend some time with one of Ansels wonderful instructive books. These were written with a film based approach in mind but as I mentioned, I firmly believe becoming a great photographer involves being willing and able to look not only to what the latest and greatest gadgets and tech are but also learn about the history of the craft and its workings. I don’t think many people know just how easy, cheap and incredibly satisfying it is to build a small home darkroom to develop and print black and white photography. At any rate, these would be a great gift to any photographer wanting to take the craft seriously.