The Not-Obnoxious Gift Guide

Stressed by all those holiday to-dos?

I’m here to help!

This not-obnoxious, LOL Surprise Doll-free gift guide can cover everyone on your list. It’s based on reviews, recommendations and personal experience. It includes some really good deals (hello, $4 Amazon Prime wool socks!).

It’s designed to deliver comfort and convenience for the adults you love most – and toys that will engage your kids and extend their attention spans, as opposed to pieces of plastic to be dramatically unboxed and promptly discarded, lost or swallowed by the baby. (Yup, I’ve pulled a plastic 1-inch microphone out of my baby’s mouth!)

To round things out, this gift guide will showcase THE prettiest wrapping paper!

AND an oversize Santa sack to transport all your gifts!

Told you I had you covered.

Let’s get started.



Here’s my go-to for teachers, specialists and girlfriends. It’s generic and low-cost, so you could even prepare a couple extras to have on hand for a surprise visitor or to reciprocate an unexpected gift.

Face masks are a quick-and-easy way to pamper someone – whether it’s a fun add-on for a by-the-book skincare enthusiast or a novel indulgence for a hard-working woman who’s never used one.

I’ve tried dozens and my favorite are by Pond’s, St. Ives and Miss Spa. They cleanse, they hydrate (for that glooow!) and they cost very little (about $2-$4 a mask).

Walmart carries Pond's masks. Target carries St. Ives as well as the fabulous Miss Spa masks. (Their spunky instructions will make you smile. Love a product with personality!) 



Two other versatile beauty favorites: the TRESemme shine serum and the St. Ives Daily Cleanser.

The hair serum is a quick way to add shine and tame frizzies. I apply a dab any time I’m heading out.

The St. Ives cleanser in watermelon smells SO good you’ll actually want to wash your face. It’s gentle enough that it hydrates while cleansing – perfect for a preteen, a friend or a neighbor. (It's available only at Target -- online and in stores.) 



Yes, that's mermaid wrapping paper you spy! It’s from The Container Store, whose Holiday Shop will blow. you. away. (There’s a lot more to The Container Store, it turns out, than containers!)

The Holiday Shop includes more than 100 rolls of wrapping paper -- with a pattern for everyone, from Astronaut Santas to sloths, legos to llamas, plus lots and lots of dogs.

Flamingos. Dinos. Unicorns of course. (Would I be remiss if I didn't point out the "Reindeer Pizza Party Wrapping Paper"?) 

My daughters are huge mermaid fans. So how could I resist wrapping paper with mermaids in Santa hats?

Bonus: They have brown hair and eyes, so my girls will identify. (Blond and redheaded mermaids are much more common.)

When you add candy canes floating among the seahorses and starfish? You’ve got me right where you want me. 



To drive home the R-and-R theme established with a face mask, add a pair of wool socks and some chocolate and you're set! A low-cost, high-comfort gift. (Ideal for teachers.)

This Warm Wool Cabin Cozy 5-Pack is an Amazon’s Choice, available through Prime, averaging a 4.3 star review out of more than 1,600 ratings.

Each pair is individually wrapped – you’ll have no issue dividing them up – and come down to $3.79 a pair! The wool will keep you warm, but they’re thin enough to not scratch or add too much bulk, reviewers noted. (Only four pair are pictured, but the pack does include a fifth pair.)

 The muted colors and cozy pattern deliver plenty of hygee charm.  



 So does the Cabin Friends wrapping paper pictured above -- another Container Store find. (Cabin socks, cabin paper -- a match made in heaven).

It costs $8 for 13 feet. You'll be savoring every square inch! 



I'm also gaga over Target's Wondershop ornaments, which double as gift toppers thanks to the low price. Most are just $3. Some are $5. 

Pictured above is the $5 Faux Fur Deer Christmas Ornament, the perfect fit for the Cabin Friends paper. The $3 doe also pairs well. 



While we're talking cabins, consider these cozy L.L. Bean plaid moccasins!

At $79, they'd deliver comfort to anyone on your list. They are highly reviewed, lauded for being washable and durable (ready to fetch the mail). 

L.L. Bean is currently sold out of the festive red moccasins pictured here, but the brown Bean of Freeport is even more cabin-y -- and ready for year-round use. 



The surest way to deliver the cozy is through matching family pajamas. I've viewed all the options on Instagram, and my favorite -- hands down -- is LazyOne. They have the best patterns, high-quality cotton and the irresistable butt flap. They just look Minnesotan! 

If you want buffalo check, if you want moose and bears, if you want fair-isle pines, LazyOne is for you. Be sure to check out its darling new Tailgate Collection

I recommend the Bear Essential Onesie Collection for everyone in the family, including the dog. The collection bursts with North Woods charm! (And while they work great for Christmas, the bear-and-pine pattern is not overtly Christmas-y -- perfect for year-round use.)



 Impress the teen on your list with an insanely popular hydro flask. Dick's Sporting Goods has a terrific range of hydro flasks, including this bestselling 32-ounce bottle. It has garnered glowing reviews, earning 4.7 out of 5 stars from more than 3,000 customers who appreciate its durability (food-grade stainless steel) and praise its size (big but not too big). 

 All of Dick's hydro flasks are made with a double-wall vacuum insulation to keep cold beverages cold for up to 24 hours and hot beverages hot for up to 12 hours. It works, reviewers say! 



My husband goes to war with the black burnt gunk on our grill. But cleaning it off is such a pain.

Our solution: the Brookstone Motorized Grill Brush with Steam Sprayer, which is now on sale for $35 from JCPenney. 

I consider this one of those unexpected-but-super-cool gifts to impress someone with on Christmas. Maybe for your hard-to-buy-for father-in-law? 



Target has a ton of Frozen 2 toys, including some exclusives, like the $50 Fashion Bundle and this $39 Arendelle Royal Family Doll Set that my 6- and 4-year-old will go berserk over.

This is a gift they will spend hours and hours playing with -- which makes everyone happy. It feels much more Santa-y than a blind bag or mystery hunk of plastic. 



Meanwhile, the digger-loving toddler in your life will be happily occupied by this $24 Vtech digger. (And I sincerely hope you're lucky enough to have a digger-loving toddler in your life!) 

It's highly rated on Amazon (4.9 stars!) and The digger scoops up and pushes out pieces, lights up, plays songs, says phrases and counts to 10. (Educational and fun!) 



Another company that seizes the intersection of educational and entertaining is Melissa & Doug, who just released a brand new Magnetivity line based on STEM principles. In total, there are 16 sets available to snap and stack together. Early purchasers are raving online, especially grateful for the fact that the pieces are interchangeable, so the more sets you buy, the more building potential you get. Each comes with flat wooden figures with stands for imaginative play. 

An amazing starting point (if Grandma and Grandpa want gift ideas to tie into yours) would be three of the largest sets (each for $50): the house (which has a 4.8-star Amazon review!), the school (hello, bus!) and the farm, pictured here. 

The farm set has 102 pieces, including a tractor, 16 magnetic panels, 77 magnetic accessories and six wooden figures. (Hat tip to Melissa & Doug for creating a diverse cast of farmers!) 

The Magnetivity line is wide ranging, including a $30 pirate cove, a $40 pet center and a $40 fire station. There's even a castle you can color yourself

And there's a great option for just $10 in a handy take-along pouch: the Dress & Play Careers set. It's still loaded (with 83 accessories and two figures) but a more manageable size to keep kids occupied on road trips or at restaurants. 

I love the brunette girl pictured on the package as an astronaut. (Yes!) As we count down to 2024 and NASA's Artemis Program to get the first woman to the moon, this fun STEM toy feels apropos. 

Melissa & Doug recommend the Magnetivity line for ages 4 to 10. 




Melissa & Doug's giant stuffed animals are well known and loved -- especially, it seems, the high-profile giraffe, which stands 53 inches tall and costs $100. This giraffe often surfaces in trendy nurseries decorated for former reality TV stars and featured in glossy magazines.

I see the charm, and my husband and I planned to buy one when our firstborn was young. But we wound up with Melissa & Doug's $60 giant Golden Retriever instead. (My mom brain is fuzzy on the details. It was almost Christmas, I know, so perhaps the giraffe was temporarily sold out?) 

Looking back, I am SO GLAD we got the dog and not the giraffe. For the past three years, this has been the most loved stuffed animal in our home. It is much more huggable and lovable (in size and texture) than the giraffe would've been. (Bonus: It's also $40 cheaper!) The dog doubles as a pillow and is constantly getting cuddled by one of the kids. 

It is so sturdy; it has endured all manners of abuse and emerged unscathed. It dons party hats for birthdays and festive red bows at Christmas. 

I've lost track of how many visitors have remarked that they thought it was real, glimpsing it in the corner of our living room with its alert face. It's practically fooled me!

Which brings me to its best advantage: It kind of feels like having a real dog. One that doesn't eat, poop, bark, shed or shred. In other words, the perfect dog. 

Our girls often beg for a pet dog, but that simply isn't in the cards at this point. The driving goal for my husband and me right now is to keep the four little humans under our roof alive and fed. 

Having this stuffed Golden Retriever is our best bet. It might be yours too.

I highly recommend it for the many kids who are asking for a dog this Christmas but, alas, will not be receiving one.

I'm not the only fan; it's earned terrific reviews online. The dog is an Amazon's Choice, averaging 4.5 stars (and currently on sale for $48). And it averages 4.8 out of 5 stars on, where one reviewer posted a darling picture of the stuffed retriever hugging a real retriever. 



This $50 Disney Cars race track, called the Race Around Radio Springs Playset, will be a huge hit with any Cars-lovingkid. It comes with a 3-foot-long motorized booster to launch Lightning McQueen at record speed. Recommended for ages 4 and up, the playset boasts lots of fun details and features, including a flyover track and lane-changing diverter. 

It's advanced enough to keep a preschooler entertained without being unwieldy. 

Pair the gift with another Cars product from the Disney Store, like the Lightning McQueen rain boot or the matching big-kid sippy cup with flip straw. There's even a Lightning McQueen waffle maker and crockpot



To carry all these gifts, you might need the Container Store's Oversized Santa Sack, available in XL, XXL and Jumbo (pictured) for $9, $13 and $17, respectively. 

Made out of durable cloth and topped with a drawstring, the Santa Sack stretches to fit odd-sized gifts -- and makes for such a festive arrival at the holiday party.

Reviewers praised its ease for quickly bundling gifts designed for one person or family. But I prefer to keep it for myself to transport the gifts we're giving each year. 

Happy shopping! Happy holidays! 



Disclosure note

The following companies provided free products to review and consider for this gift guide: