How to Find Thoughtful Gifts

Jahna PeloquinPresented by 

The holiday season often means multiple gatherings of friends and family over hearty meals, spiced cider, and mulled wine; optimistic champagne toasts to the New Year; and plenty of opportunities to don a favorite sequined frock. 

But amidst all the fun, these seasonal celebrations can also be a source of stress. After all, throwing a Pinterest-worthy party while knee-deep in a mass mailing of holiday greeting cards can be daunting. And then there’s the near-impossible task of finding the perfect gift for everyone on your list. 

But gift giving doesn’t have to be a source of heartburn. (We’ll leave that to the Christmas roast.) Here are a few tips I’ve learned over the years: 

Start early. Keep a running list of ideas throughout the year. If you pay attention, your loved one will unconsciously offer up some great gift ideas. One of the best gifts I ever received came out of a throwaway comment I made to my boyfriend about a mutual artist friend of ours: “Wouldn’t it be amazing if he made a jewelry box?” I had mused. Six months later, a custom-made jewelry box by said artist, Michael Thomsen, arrived at my door. Swoon!

Research interests and tastes. Is he a fan of craft cocktails? Buy him a home beverage-mixing set or an array of bitters. (I recommend the six-piece set from Midwest favorite Bittercube Bitters.) Is she a perfume collector? Take stock of her favorite notes and introduce her to one of the season’s newest fragrances. (I suggest Yves Saint Laurent’s Black Opium, the famed fashion house’s latest scent that features fresh white florals and vanilla with notes of black coffee.) 

Celebrate a personal or professional milestone. When I first joined the Minnesota Monthly staff as style editor, one of my best friends congratulated me with the book, Diana Vreeland Memos: The Vogue Years, which features the collected memos of the famed Vogue fashion editor. Merci beaucoup!

Relish your shared history. Did you grow up obsessing over a favorite band together? Buy a pair of tickets for their reunion tour. Did you, like me and my brother, love watching Pee-Wee’s Playhouse? Buy him the DVD box set. After regretfully missing out on a girls’ trip to New York City to see the Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty exhibit in 2011, one of my friends brought me the hardcover commemorative tome so I could experience it vicariously. 

When all else fails, remember that there is no such thing as the perfect gift.

And when all else fails, remember that there is no such thing as the perfect gift. In fact, most people are just happy to receive anything at all. If you’re at a complete loss as to what to get, and end up buying a scented candle, that works, too. Just make sure it is gorgeously packaged, and if possible, locally made (I like the ones from Illume)—extra points for carefully wrapping it in beautiful paper and ribbon.

After all, it’s the thought that counts.


Jahna’s December Style Picks

Jahna's Pick Bittercube Bitters
photo by michael wessel

Bittersweet Symphony
The Milwaukee-made Bittercube Bitters are a favorite among the Twin Cities craft cocktail set to add dimension to classic libations. $54 for set of 6 @ Askov Finlayson,

Jahna's Pick Illume
photo courtesy of illume

Everything is Illuminated
With notes of balsam and cedar, this candle by Minnesota brand Illume offers a timeless holiday fragrance in a modern textured glass. $38.25 @ Uptown MN,

Jahna's Pick McQueen
photo courtesy of the metropolitan museum of art

London Calling
Published in conjunction with an exhibition of the same name, Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty examines the career of the iconic London fashion designer. $50 @ The Store at Mia,