I’m horrible at buying gifts for people. Like, horrid. I’d rather write you a cheque than have to drive to a specialty store, walk in, ask an anxious question, and be sold on some junky toy on the top corner of the shelf.

The act of gift giving is also extremely awkward. There’s the part where you buy said gift and then wrap said gift, both of which require lots of preparation and precision. More importantly are those moments immediately following the act of giving — you hope your gift is neither over-the-top nor dropping-the-ball, and you can usually judge the effectiveness of your gift by looking at the person sitting beside the recipient. The look on that person’s face will tell you if you’ve succeeded or if you’ve just made a fool of yourself.

I don’t like gift-giving. Plain and simple. I’d like to buy you dinner instead.


I have a friend who told me Christmas guides sort of feel like an author’s request — rather than recommendation — for special gifts at Christmas time. I’d never looked at it that way, but I suppose I can understand an element of the thought.

I promise though, I come to you today with a genuine helping hand.

Here are five items which I own personally, used extensively, and can recommend wholeheartedly to all the hopeless gift givers out there. One is just odd enough to get a high-five, while another is a can’t-lose method to celebrate at dinner time.

1. Bellroy Note Sleeve

This is my favourite wallet in existence and is very unlikely to be uprooted from my daily carry. I previously reviewed the Note Sleeve on Tools & Toys a few months ago, so you can head over there for some further thoughts and photos.

In short, the Bellroy Note Sleeve finds a way to hold at least twice as many cards as my old bi-fold wallet and can still fit international currencies and (believe it or not) coins. It comes in a wide range of colours and is made by a superb company.

I can’t recommend this wallet enough.

2. allocacoc/PowerCube ReWirable USB + Plug

(What a name, hey?)

Jaclyn and I purchased this travel adapter for our three week hiatus to Europe. Although the PowerCube is a bit big, it is the perfect travel accessory for those who travel internationally.

The PowerCube comes with four different plugs for adapting to Australian, North American, European, and UK outlets, and also converts between 110-volt and 220-volt outlets. This particular model comes with four North American outlets for charging up to four devices at once, plus two USB Type A ports for charging your iPhone, iPad, or other USB devices. When on our trip, I had my camera, extra battery, GoPro, iPhone, and MacBook all charging at once, with no sign of issues. Sometimes those cheap converters you buy at dollar-store travel shops can’t even handle a single device.

Overall, this travel accessory quickly became a must-have for Jaclyn and I. I use it around the house as a makeshift power bar (because it ships with a North American adapter as well), so it won’t go unused when at home. And although it’s an expensive travel adapter at $35, it goes way above and way beyond other travel adapters.

3. Tweezerman Tweezers

Jaclyn bought these tweezers for me last year and I couldn’t be more in love with a household toiletry item. Perfect for cleaning up unwanted hairs or eyebrows, the Tweezerman Tweezers has to be ranked near the top on the “Best Tweezers List” on The Sweethome.1

Overall, the Tweezerman Tweezers are made of a sturdy steel that doesn’t easily bend or break. The slanted tips remain sharp for long periods of time, making it easy to snag the smallest neck hairs and eyebrows. And the steel remains springy enough to provide proper feedback for when you have fully gripped onto your target.

This might be the oddest gift on the list, but it actually sits atop my handwritten list in my Field Notes book. This is one of my favourite gifts from Jaclyn over the last few years and I use it every single day, without fail. At $16, you’ll find cheaper tweezers, but they won’t be anywhere near as useful as the Tweezerman.

4. Côte&Ciel Isar Rucksack

Here’s another item Jaclyn and I purchased for our trip to Europe. The Côte&Ciel Isar backpack caught my eye a few years ago when Andrew Kim reviewed it for his then-current blog Minimally Minimal. His photos were tremendous, which probably resulted in my lusting after the bag for the next few years.

But after a few iterations and newfound materials, the Isar Rucksack has become one of the most unique, most useful backpacks to be found. The vertical zipper is in direct contrast of other backpacks on the market, but it helps the Isar carry more belongings than I ever expected. The laptop sleeve is located behind the shoulder straps, making it more difficult to open, but more secure from thieves. It comes in two different sizes and a wide range of colours and materials.

And it flat out looks sweet.

This isn’t a cheap backpack, by any stretch. You can pick it up for $295, but it can range to as high as $750 for the higher end leather backpacks.

I recommend this backpack on looks alone, but its utility far outweighs any other backpack I’ve owned. As an everyday general/travel backpack, the Isar is a great choice.

5. J. Lohr Chardonnay and Pinot Noir

Hat tip to Marius on this one.

Jaclyn and I have been on a wine kick for the better part of a year. In our research, I asked both Álvaro and Marius for some recommendations and Marius came forward with a Cabernet Sauvignon recommendation. We started with the Cab Sauv and moved on to try the J. Lohr Merlot, Chardonnay, and most recently, the Pinot Noir. All are our favourite wines so far, with the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir taking the cake.

The Pinot Noir is on the lighter-bodied side of the red wine spectrum. It’s a bit fruitier than both the Merlot and the Cabernet Sauvignon, which is probably why Jaclyn and I shot it to the top of the list. The Chardonnay is also fruitier, but I’d actually say it’s on the heavier side of the white wines I’ve tried.

The Chardonnay is available in Canada for around $24 CAD a bottle (depending on the province) and the Pinot Noir is available for around $30 CAD a bottle (again, depending on the province). However, they’re much less expensive in the United States (somewhere between $14 and $17 USD).

We highly recommend both these J. Lohr wines. Grab a couple bottles, chill the Chardonnay for about 15 minutes and the Pinot Noir for about 5 minutes in the freezer before serving, and watch your Christmas dinner come to life.


There you have it: Five items Jaclyn and I have around the house that we purchased or discovered this year and that have brought the most delight to the household. These items all have lasting value, great quality, and are sure to be used by whoever the recipient.

It’s a bit early, but we wish you a healthy and blessed Christmas season.


  1. I just checked. It is.