Gift ideas + what I learned from my mom about giving gifts

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I LOVE gift shopping. And maybe that isn’t so surprising being my mama’s daughter hah! When we were growing up, we did not have a lot of extra money & so my mom had to be creative for gift options. And she was (still is) amazing at it!

I have such vivid memories of mama making paintings for our friends’ birthdays. If she didn’t have time to frame it, she would just take a frame off from a wall, clean it up – add her painting to that & wrap it up for us to gift. Those are my earliest memories of her gifting her artwork. One time after she had taken a class on silk painting, she made beautifully painted silk dupattas (the Pakistani version of a scarf) for all of her friends! Every time she read a book she really really loved, she would get copies (or photo copies made when it was hard to find these books) for all of her friends.

Watching her do these things has always stayed with me in my grownup life. I think there is something so special about a gift made with love, or one with your ‘heart’ behind it. I love how it makes you feel when you give something you put thought & effort into. Our family is actually very lucky to be surrounded by artists and makers and some of our favorite gifts we have received have been handmade.


Hope this helps take the stress away and enjoy the process a little more.


– Two items that make perfect hostess gifts (I love to stock up on them), are candles & photo frames. They’re also perfect additions to a gift basket if you have a couple of items. I always select candles for their packaging ( I love DW candles . You can find them at Home Goods & TJMaxx). For photo frames also, I usually buy any that catch the eye for future gifting. I love Target for these. Recently have also started adding planters/vases to these hostess gifts and randomly purchase any that I like.

– I LOVE books & think they make the best gifts. A few of my current favorites to gift right now : Yesterday I was the moon by Noor Unahar  / In the company of Women by Grace Bonney / Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner / Under the Tamarind Tree by Summaya Usmani / The Magic of Motherhood by Ashlee Gadd. I love that I can find a book for almost every single person in my life, even if they’re not an avid reader.

– I also like journals as well as journals with prompts in them. Since it’s nearing the end of the year also, planners make wonderful gifts too, reminds me of back home where my parents loved when someone gifted them ‘diaries’. Two I have gifted and loved are the 52 lists project / my quoteable kid.

Magazine subscriptions & magazines make great gifts as well. ( If you’re in US / Canada Magnolia journal is my favorite to gift / A few more amazing options are Afar / Origin / Mantra / Thoughtfully / Farmhouse movement). I love that a magazine subscription is something that can feel a little like a luxury and yet it is something that can be easily recycled or given away guilt-free once they’ve been enjoyed.

Handmade items make perfect gifts if you’re any kind of an artist, a knitter or have any other creative talent. I absolutely love the ones we’ve received like artwork, handmade greeting cards, wall art, handmade knits etc.

Edible items are perfect for hostess gifts. Years ago Anya & I would make cookies together to take for our potluck dinners with friends (link to that post) and sometimes we’ll still do that now too. You can also purchase cookies and wrap them in pretty packaging to gift. I love Trader Joes & Ikea for cookies. I love how my friends will sometimes let me know they’re planning to bring me something they’re baking. It always feels so personal!

-I also love to keep an eye out for free shipping deals at a few favorite stores eg: West Elm, Anthropologie, Crate & Barrel etc, because buying gifts is the perfect use for these deals, from the comfort of your home. A few awesome & budget-friendly options are dessert plates (Crate & Barrel and West Elm have a beautiful variety), throw pillow covers, candles, trays, serving dishes and so many more. Sky is the limit depending on your budget.

Artwork can make the perfect gift too, when it has a story behind it. For example: You picked it up on your travels, or you saw it and thought of them, you got it made for them etc. I love Minted for affordable, modern art prints.

-Keep inspiration boards for gift ideas. I have a private Pinterest board + an Amazon list to do this. Every time I see something I think would make a good gift, I save it in there whether it’s generic or for someone specific. That way when I have a birthday coming it makes the searching part much easier.

.. ALSO ..

– I love the idea of having a gift-wrap stash in your house. Gift wrap, pretty notecards, twine, gift tags etc. My favorite places to stock up on these : TJMaxx for the gift wrap + notecards / Michaels for twine + jute rope + brown paper / Amazon + Target are also good options. And I also love Trader Joes for their beautiful but SO VERY affordable flowers & cards.

– A friend saw someone doing this and shared this wonderful idea of including personal notes with the gifts, eg: including the thought behind why you chose that gift, why you love that item etc. It just makes it feel so much more personal and I try to do this now whenever I can.


– I try to avoid bulky items as a general rule especially if my friend’s taste is different than mine. Only exceptions would be if the person is very close to me and we have similar design/fashion tastes. Living in the west where space is short and it is hard to get rid of things, I feel like it’s important not to gift bulky items without a gift receipt.

– I also feel that as Pakistanis our tradition of taking a ‘big gift’ first time we visit someone (because we think we have to) is something we can let go of. My thought on this is that when we are visiting someone for the first time we don’t know what their home is like or what their style is. IF you REALLY want to, do include a gift receipt. I personally think a thoughtfully put together gift-basket (with a collection of items like a small candle, a good read, your favorite coffee, a good hand cream etc), or a gift certificate to their favorite store (or yours which you think they would enjoy – eg: West Elm, Anthropologie or maybe a little boring but practical, Amazon works too. Since I love photos & wall art, I think Frame Bridge / Minted would be so sweet as well! ), a pretty plant, or just your favorite flowers + a home prepared meal would be perfect too.

What do you think, is there any that stands out for you from these? Do you have any favorite ideas to share? Would love to hear!

xo, Nataliya