Gift Guide #5: The In-Laws

AKA, unscented gifts for moms

Golden Bouquet Black iPhone Case ($36)

Whether you love them like your own family or simply toler(h)ate them, figuring out what to buy your in-laws can sometimes be the biggest hurdle of the holidays. When I first started participating in Christmas with Bryan’s family, I had no idea where to even start with buying his parents gifts. Unlike my own parents, I couldn’t fall back on twenty plus years of trial and error—would I have to start all over again, moving through perfume sets and strangely themed ties until I could suss out what they really wanted? Thankfully, no, because I had Bryan’s years of experience in my corner. Turns out? My in-laws are the practical sort—they tend to ask for something specific, but if not we can usually suss out something that would make their lives easier.

So today, we have a gift guide for your in-laws, or perhaps your own parents. A little bit practical, a little bit fancy, and happily lacking in cartoon ties or scented bath soaps.

TOP PHOTO Because she always wants to know where you found your cool iPhone case, and you’re always waving your hand vaguely and saying, “Online?” Golden Bouquet Black iPhone Case ($36)

ONE For the practical, yet also sentimental, possibly the prettiest photo calendar on the internet. Pictures of their favorite people, year round. ($28.99)

TWO Bryan’s parents have a tablet that very rarely leaves the house. Still, I’d love to get them this fancy case for the times they do take it on the road. Gentleman’s iPad Case ($49)

THREE What about when you want your mother-in-law to think you’re tasteful and sweet, but are not ready to get too personal? Look no further than these throw pillows done right. We’re currently digging this vibrant pop of color, this exotic embellished print, or this strangely soothing modern pillow. In order: Sangria Pillow ($20), Peacock Silk Pillow Cover ($39), Reassurance Pillow ($20)

FOUR If you’re blessed to have the always-cooking in-laws, how about this baller meat thermometer? Precision Pro Commercial Thermometer ($99.95)

FIVE For Bryan’s mom, winter is puzzle season. This photo puzzle lets her get cozy with puzzles, while thinking fond family thoughts. ($24.99)

SIX When I came into the Bennett family, I was introduced to the L.L. Bean catalog, and to the only slippers I will ever buy for the rest of my life. You’re welcome. Wicked Good Moccasins ($69)

SEVEN If it’s getting down to the wire and I still don’t have a gift for parents, I look to stock their bar. For my dad, this means a good bottle of scotch, and maybe a set of sphere ice cube molds to use on fancier occasions. Sphere Ice Molds ($10.95)

EIGHT A good throw never goes amiss. These Solid Kantha Throws lend a pop of color for your mother-in-law who likes things bold, while these Gilded Cable Throws are cozy with a bow on it. ($99 and $89, respectively)

NINE For the artistic and whimsical mother-in-law, who you want to impress with your quirky taste: animals to dance in her books, or divide soul from jazz in her record collection ($24 each for three)

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  • KW

    Love that peacock pillow! I am loving all these gift roundups. I stress out a lot about getting just the *right* gift, and it is hard enough buying for him, much less other people :) When we were dating, I got his parents small gifts. Now that we are married, we ended up in the habit of him buying the gifts for his side of the family and I get the ones for my side of the family, but they are given from us both. He is pretty good at gift-giving in his own right and handled it just fine all the years he was single, so no need for me to take it on as a solo chore. Thank goodness!

  • a single sarah

    Yes to those slippers! Every year, I look forward to when it’s warm enough to wear mine.

    • mimi

      Yeah those slippers are the best. I got mine 2 years ago and they still look new.

  • Laura C

    I am giving my FMIL Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, because my parents gave it to me last year and it is the best thing ever. Simultaneously a fantastic reference for “what temperature do I roast this vegetable at/how long do I broil this steak for” and has great recipes for all sorts of things. We made an amazing fish recently.

    • Laura C

      (I should say, I’d probably think twice about getting a cookbook for the female half of a couple unless I knew them real well, but she’s a widow so it doesn’t feel loaded on gender role grounds.)

    • MisterEHolmes

      I thought about giving that to my FMIL but hesitated… I don’t want it to look like I don’t think she can cook! (Which… might be true. Don’t put soy milk in your mashed potatoes, people! It just doesn’t work!)

      • Laura C

        Ha, yeah, I can see that. But one of the great things about it in my view is that it has something for everyone. So anyone I give it to, I’m going to emphasize whatever I think they’d appreciate most about it. In my FMIL’s case, probably the fact that the first fish recipe we tried from it was a total home run, since she cooks a lot of fish.

        • MisterEHolmes

          Oh, absolutely! I’m buying it for a (male) friend instead, because I know he loves to cook and I’ve already given him Good Eats!

    • mimi

      I gave my MIL the vegetarian version last year (she already had the original). Love that cookbook!

      • C

        The vegetarian version is amazing. I use it constantly!

  • 100% yes on the Artifact Uprising calendar – I give my people AU-printed gifts on all occasions. So easy to order, and so soft and simple.

  • K.

    Ah, this would have been perfect a week ago! Darn my early gift buying nature! I might still get the photo calendar one for my FSIL…even though she’s super happy for us, I think she’s starting to feel the whole losing-my-sibling-to-a-new-family thing that’s apparently not all that uncommon (and might be accentuated by the holidays a bit), so I wanted to get her something sweet and sentimental (but not cloying or weird) just from me.

  • Leila

    Yes on the ice sphere molds for any serious scotch fans. My husband found Death Star shaped ones and has been giving them to all of his friends.

  • Amanda L

    You may have just saved our Christmas. So many of these ideas are great! Thank you thank you thank you.

  • MC

    Last year for Christmas, Fiance & I got his parents a giftcard, and they LOVED it. I think it’s the perfect gift for the philanthropic-minded, and it is literally the gift that keeps giving because once your micro-loan has been paid back, you can loan the money to someone else!

    On my side of the family, we’ve started making donations in honor of my parents to their favorite charities – extra-great because lots of them have matching donors or grants at this time of year.

    • Superfantastic

      My husband does donations to charity for his parents every year. They love it and I’m so glad because they’d be pretty impossible to shop for since they really don’t want any stuff. Nor do my parents, but my brother and I started a few years ago getting them tickets to the theater for something in January or February.

  • Lindsey d.

    Ooh, my in laws are gazillion times easier to buy for than my parents. My typical gift giving experience with my parents is a) they are disappointed I spent money on them or b) I asked them what they wanted, they told me AND THEN they went out and bought it because it was now on their mind and they forgot they told me or they decided they wanted it now.

    Also, don’t discount giving “experiences.” I gave my in laws a gift certificate for two tickets to our city’s little theatre because FH and I went to a show with them this year and really enjoyed it.

    Am I the only person who thinks giving home decor as gifts (beyond candles and dishtowels) is incredibly personal?

    • Amanda

      I was thinking the same thing about those throw pillows. Like “those are way too trendy for my in-laws, totally not their style. Actually I wouldn’t know how to buy pillows for them at all!”

    • Meg Keene

      Can be. But if someone has a pretty clear style, it’s not so personal. I’d be very comfortable buying throw pillows for my Mother In Law. She has a very defined minimal modern style, and she’d probably really like all of these pillows (I picked them, so go figure). I also have a really defined style, so I suspect people wouldn’t find buying throw pillows for me overly personal (or hard). Obviously though, know your crowd.

      (But, you know, I’d never buy people a candle ever, because SCENTS? Man. That seems hard to pick?)

      • Lindsey d.

        But the candle is short term use. You use it up and then it’s gone, whereas throw pillows stick around… My point, clarified by your examples, is that you know your MIL’s style, therefore it’s actually a quite personal gift. Same as someone giving you pillows. They’ve been to your home and know you well enough to consider what is essentially artwork for your couch. That’s pretty personal to me. I’m assuming you also know the recipient well enough to know that something like decor would be well received. But if it’s in laws who live across the country and you’ve only met a couple of times, I can’t imagine decor related gifts as being an impersonal option. For the record, I love the pillows on this gift list and want them myself; I’m just quibbling with the idea that it’s a good gift if you “are not ready to get too personal.”

        • Meg Keene

          I clearly disagree, in that, observing someone’s personal style isn’t emotionally personal stuff, like lots of gifts. Clearly it is for you though, so don’t buy pillows!

  • Amy

    Those pillows, they are gorgeous. I’ve been coveting something from Pippin & Pearl since I started following Erin on Instagram (friendly not-stalker wave!), and that peacock! Ugh. Want, please and thank you.

    • pippinpearl

      Thanks for the love! If you want a pillow, wait until tomorrow – Society 6 is having a $6 off pillows sale. XOXO

  • Alyssa

    Oh man, I can’t stop drooling over the Artifact Uprising website…wish I’d known about it around our wedding, since their albums are shockingly affordable!

    • emilyg25

      We used Artifact Uprising to make a photo book of our wedding and it’s GORGEOUS. The printing is very vibrant and crisp, and the pages have a nice weight, Their shipping is pretty pricy, but I think the product is worth it,

      • I love artifact uprising! We just bought a pack of 20 postcards, all with different photos, and they look great! I also used them when a client wanted me to make her a book of my NYC street photography. I will say that the print quality isn’t as good as our album company, the colors were slightly off, and it doesn’t seem as durable as the albums. BUT they are way cheaper than even our cheapest albums an much, much better than blurb, shutterfly, etc.

        • I make our little friend group annual photo books through Artifact Uprising, and the print quality is okay, not great. However, they are easy and adorable, and just an all around fun thing to have, so that easily makes up for it.

  • Meg

    I made my fiancé a photo album (with snapfish) of pictures from our whole relationship and all our trips. Since it was on sale from cyber Monday I ordered a second one for his mom…is that tacky??? A bunch of pictures of us?? I thought she’d like it but now I am unsure.

    • Lindsey d.

      I bet she will like it. Now when people ask what her son has been up to, she can pull out the album and tell them, as well as “introduce” them to you via pictures.