Let us see gift-giving less as an obligation or a buy-in to the commercialism of the season, and more as a sign of affection…

It’s less than a week till Christmas, and you realize that you cannot give Brad Birzer’s Russell Kirk: American Conservative biography to every member of your family. What to do?!

Julie Baldwin Family gift guideHave no fear: I give gifts to people as young as babies (my seven-month-old son) to my young-at-heart grandparents. I am here to help; you bring the gift wrap— never underestimate the power of beautiful wrapping as part of your present.

[Disclaimer: I have Amazon Prime, and my prices reflect that. They also have two-day shipping, which helps in emergency gift situations.]

Amazon’s Fire tablets are down to $40; a fabulous educational and entertainment gift too. Amazon gift cards are always welcome, and a subscription to Amazon Prime is all-encompassing! For those with college kids, the student subscription costs less.

Loose tea from a local shop and this Single Cup Loose Leaf Tea Infuser; similar gift: coffee (beans or ground) from a local shop. I love how sleek this Contigo mug looks, as well as its being a hefty 20 oz. This Bodum travel mug also works as a french press (I have used and owned it; loved it!). I would be remiss to mention that The Imaginative Conservative has a fabulous mug, which one can receive when donating to our worthy publication; it holds at least 10 oz. of coffee while you peruse its 4,600-plus free, delightful, and edifying essays.

The Catholic CatalogueThe Jubilee Year of Mercy may be over, but never our mission as Christians! Kerry Weber’s Mercy in the City: How to Feed the Hungry, Give Drink to the Thirsty, Visit the Imprisoned, and Keep Your Day Job is phenomenal. I also love Melissa Musick and Anna Keating’s The Catholic Catalogue: A Field Guide to the Daily Acts That Make Up a Catholic Life. As the mother of three small children, this helps reinforce our faith in daily life and activities!

Know a lady trying to keep active? Know a man who likes the color pink? This Fitbit Flex Wireless Activity Plus Sleep Wristband in Pink is currently $40!

My favorite gifts are experience gifts—memberships to museums and local activities. My parents gave our girls their swim lessons; I’ve been looking at tumbling and music lessons for upcoming birthdays. Maybe you want to help support a child’s education? Maybe you want to give parents a night out to relax? (I would take free babysitting from family members any holiday!) How can you show that you love being part of your family’s life? Even a date is special—lunch out with Dad/ Uncle/ Grandpa, or a tea shop with Mom/ Aunt/ Grandma.

For that list-maker in your life (or me), this notepad makes my heart happy. I also love these Lavender Vanilla scented candles (made in Medina, Ohio – family-owned business!).

The hardy L.L.Bean Deluxe Scrabble/Monopoly is a family favorite.

For the babies/ toddlers in your life…

One of Will’s attendings gave us this set of Verdes foam blocks when Laura was born, and all three children love them! Bonus: When you step on them, you do not yelp in pain.

Hape Pound & Tap Bench with Slide Out Xylophone is multi-level fun.

The Manhattan Toy Winkel Rattle and Sensory Teether Activity Toy has been (and is!) our children’s favorite baby toy.

Julie Baldwin FamilyIt’s hard to go wrong with a roll of paper or coloring book and a fresh box of crayons, but bonus points for Crayola’s no-mess Wonder markers and paper!

My kids love this tunnel and slide for indoor winter fun!

For the children in your life…

Classical Kids: An Activity Guide to Life in Ancient Greece and Rome (Hands-On History) by Laurie Carlson; there is also Old Testament Days: An Activity Guide (Hands-On History) by Nancy I. Sanders.

Back to the Roots Water Garden Fish Tank is a fun pet and science project!

My dad had us listen to the Met’s operas every Saturday afternoon, and I’ve grown to love opera. Sing Me a Story: The Metropolitan Opera’s Book of Opera Stories for Children is a great breakdown of the stories. I also love My First Classical Music Book: Book & CD by Genevieve Helsby; we listen to the CD often!

Magna-tiles are great fun.

Deanna F. Cook’s Cooking Class: 57 Fun Recipes Kids Will Love to Make (and Eat!) is a great way to introduce independent prep and cooking; give them the confidence to figure it out!

For the teenagers in your life…

Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography by Laura Ingalls Wilder is just beautiful.

I wish I had read this book when I was younger! Smart but Scattered Teens: The “Executive Skills” Program for Helping Teens Reach Their Potential by Richard Guare, PhD, Peg Dawson, EdD and Colin Guare.

An excellent pair of headphones as they study and entertain themselves.

A subscription to Cook’s Illustrated is a fun way to introduce the “why” behind recipes and cooking. Mad Hungry Feeding Men and Boys and The Feed Zone Cookbook are also wonderful, especially for athletes.

Common CentsTimothy Wright, PhD and A.C. Brodie’s Common Cents Without Dollar Pain: First Guide for Teenagers and Young Adults to Money and Personal Business for a Lifetime is helpful to talk about money realities; throw Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson on top.

ISI’s A Student’s Guide books are fantastic, concise, and short reads for those teens who need to know everything in a short amount of time.

Never underestimate the influence of a night out at the theater, or a fun trip!

And for the left-leaning family members in your life…

A donation to the local NPR station in their name, or an online subscription to their favorite read. Or, if you’re feeling cheeky, a subscription to The American Conservative to make sure they keep up on both sides of the aisle.

This is the perfect year to share Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton biography – founding father, inventor of the electoral college, etc. Attach Lin-Manual’s Hamilton soundtrack (original cast recording) on top with a bow and/or, a copy of The Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers.

This adorable donkey memo holder is a winner.

Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project 2017 calendar is a great gift too. (I have one myself!)


Gift-giving is just one way to show one’s love and appreciation for those in our life. Let us see gift-giving less as an obligation or a buy-in to the commercialism of the season, and more as a sign of affection.

It is not a perfect means of showing love; true love is passed when we invest in the people around us, and our community. As Josef Pieper wrote in Happiness and Contemplation, “No one can obtain felicity by pursuit. This explains why one of the elements of being happy is the feeling that a debt of gratitude is owed, a debt impossible to pay. Now, we do not owe gratitude to ourselves. To be conscious of gratitude is to acknowledge a gift.”

I hope your holidays are merry, and your gifts thoughtful.

Books on the topic of this essay may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore.

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