My Go-to Gifts + Nordstrom Giveaway | On the Daily EXPRESS


My Go-to Gifts + Nordstrom Giveaway

Believe it or not, this is only my second "gift guide" in four years of blogging! I've never considered gift guides to be my blogging forté and I've only done this one for hostess gifts last year. Partly because I don't have the knack for making them as visually appealing as some people, and partly because my #1 go-to gifts are gift cards! I have no shame in giving them as gifts and I love receiving them too. But after thinking on it for awhile, I realized I do have a few favorite gifts to give and a few I've really enjoyed receiving that might be worthwhile to someone else. I also had my kids help me with some gift ideas for kids and tweens (boys in particular), which are fairly underrepresented in the blogger gift guide world if you ask me!

Sentimental Favorites:

Deep down I'm a pretty sentimental person, and if I can find a way to show someone they mean more to me than $25 at Nordstrom, I'll try to go that route!

1. Custom Watercolor Photos (this and Item #6 by Miss Audrey Sue Designs):
I have commissioned a couple of these custom watercolor drawings for friends. In my case, they were friends who had lost a loved one and this was a very special way to give them a family portrait of sorts. But by no means are these limited to the grieving. I love this cute illustration she did of four girlfriends (for a better look see the full size image), and the customization options are endless (e.g. religious, seasonal decor, makeup loversshoe lovers, petspet parents, favorite quotes/song lyrics, homes).

2. Photo Books:
These can take quite a bit of work, but they make great gifts for parents, grandparents or anyone who shared a special adventure or experience with you (think: Travel, Wedding, etc.) I always use Shutterfly Photo Books (search my blog for Shutterfly for more on how I create my family albums with them) simply because I learned their software first and have always been happy my final products.

3. Personalized Photo Jewelry:
Last year for my birthday, some of my family members gave me this custom locket. My dad had recently passed away, and the locked contains an engraved picture of my dad along with one of my favorite quotes by him. It is the sweetest, most meaningful piece of jewelry I own and I love wearing it (see it on me here). Since I received mine, I've also given this as a gift to another family member! I love the ability to customize with your own photo and words. Again, this doesn't have to be limited to loss, that just happens to be what makes it meaningful to me.

4 & 5. Engraved Jewelry: 
(Four: Stella & Dot Adjustable Bracelet | Five. Stella & Dot Silver Bar Cuff)
These are similar to the personalized photo jewelry in #3, but I didn't know until Noelle mentioned a few months back that Stella & Dot has a line of engravable jewelry. They don't have quite as many customization options (e.g. no photos and more limitations on characters) as #3, but they do have a nice selection of items and I've always been pleased with the quality of Stella & Dot pieces. These are especially great for fashion-savvy friends who are familiar with the brand.

6. Custom Watercolor Family Photo:
See Item One for more info, but this is another darling print (see the close-up here) by Miss Audrey Sue Designs. While I personally recommend Audrey for this gift idea because that's who I have used (plus she's my niece so naturally I love her and her work), she did recently have a premature baby who is in the hospital, so she may have a full plate this holiday season. If she's unable to take on more orders here are some other Custom Watercolor Sellers on Etsy.

7. Personal Photo Gifts:
If a photo book sounds like too much work, Shutterfly has plenty of other cute personalized photo gifts, like these Photo Coasters (Retro Flame Style). I made a set of these for my in-laws one year by gathering individual photos of each of their grandchildren and putting each little face on a coaster. They do actually get used around their house, and now that the photos are several years old it's a fun way to look back at old pictures.

Older Kids and Tweens (Mostly Boys):

I polled my two boys (ages 10 and 12) on what kinds of things their friends are talking about and might want for the holidays, so their suggestions are the majority of this list along with a few other items we've enjoyed receiving ourselves.

1. Star Wars Battlefront II
According to my 12 year-old, this is the number one video game that all his friends want for Christmas.

2. National Geographic Kids Subscription
A family member gave my kids a subscription to this magazine for Christmas ages ago and it's a fun magazine for kids to look through with interesting facts and pictures. I even end up looking through it myself when it's on the table. I have renewed the subscription myself every year since the gift expired because I like that much. My 12 year-old was in the room while I was making this collage and he pointed to the magazines and said, "Why is that on there?" Ha! Well, I reminded him that I catch him and his brother reading it and quoting it ("Did you know that most of the dust in your house comes from your family's dead skin cells?!" Yes, that was in there!) every month, so even if kids aren't asking for it specifically, it's been a frequently-used gift. If you want to get a more gender specific magazine subscription you might try something like Boys Life Magazine or American Girl Magazine.

3LeBron James Hat
When I asked my 10 year-old what his friends wanted for Christmas, he said, "Probably a snap-back hat signed by LeBron James." Oh, okay, sure! Well, I couldn't find a link to one of those, but depending on the child some favorite sports team paraphernalia could be a good option!

4. Xbox One X
Yes, this is $500 so it's a lot more expensive than anything else on the list. I might as well have added an iPhone X here too because I'm sure they'd all love one of those! But my 12 year-old insisted I include this because it's The Gaming System that everyone in middle school wants to own. So if you're a generous parent/aunt/uncle, now you know!

5. Destiny 2
After Star Wars Battlefront II, this is the second-most wanted video game right now according to my middle school child.

6. Fandango Gift Cards
Alright, yes, this is a gift card. But to me, it's a gift card for an experience so it's a step up from a retail gift card! Our family rarely goes to the theater to watch a movie because it's just so expensive to take a family of four these days. It's hard to justify the cost very often, and we don't mind waiting a few months to watch it at home for a fraction of the price. That said, when we do receive a movie gift card, we go! The theater experience is fun and it's a nice "treat."

7. Little Passports Subscription Boxes
This is the only gift in this post that's not something I've personally given or received. I also think this would be better suited to younger kids (maybe 3-8) but your child may vary. That said, these subscription boxes for kids are something I've been hearing more about lately and I think my own kids would have enjoyed it a lot when they were younger. And as a mom of little ones always scrambling to keep them entertained, I think I would have liked something new coming in the mail every month too! I thought the Little Passports options would have fit my kids best a few years ago, and they have boxes for a fairly wide range of ages. For more ideas on subscription boxes for your child/niece/nephew etc., you might want to check out this Red Tricycle Subscription Boxes article.

More Resources + $450 Nordstrom Giveaway:
Well, that's about the extent of my gift-giving expertise! I'm sure I left a lot off a lot of people on your holiday shopping list, and if that's the case, you're in luck! Fourteen of my blogger friends are sharing their holiday gift guides today too, so if you need some more ideas click through their links below for all kinds of shopping inspiration. This same great group of ladies is also bringing you the chance to win a $450 gift card to Nordstrom as a way of saying thank you for your support! Enter using the Rafflecopter below the linkup images. The exact entry form is on all of our blogs so you only need to enter on one blog. You also don't have to follow everyone to win, but remember the more accounts you follow, the better your chances of winning. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway



  1. Love your guide and I actually have no clue what tween boys want lol and I'm sure I'm not the only one.


    1. LOL yes, I live with them and it's still hard to figure out what they want!

  2. These are such great ideas! I love the engraved bracelets! I've been wanting something special with each of my daughters' names on them and the bracelets are a perfect idea for my wish list!

    1. Aw, what a perfect idea for engraving! That would be a favorite jewelry piece I'm sure!

  3. I really love your sentimental gift ideas, my husband has done the personalized photo album for me and it was definitely one of my favourite gifts! The personalized photo jewelry is also so pretty!

    1. Oh wow, I'm so impressed your husband made a photo album for you!! He sounds like a keeper!

  4. I really love sentimental and personalized gifts. They show a lot of thought! Thanks for all these ideas. :)


  5. Awesome guide! My son is 6, but I find that he's been asking for things the older boys think are cool, lol! I'll have to use your son's advice!

    Pumps and Push-Ups

    1. LOL! That is so cute! Hope you're able to get him something "cool." :)

  6. These sound like great gift ideas. Personal gifts are always nice for Christmas.

  7. I am so glad you shared this post! My son is 11 and I have been STRUGGLING with ideas on what to give him for Christmas. Big time. He loves Star Wars and hasn't even mentioned this game! And, I know he was playing Destiny awhile back and I am wondering if it was Destiny 1... My husband gifted me a Stella & Dot necklace that was engraved last Christmas. It has photos of him and the kids in it. I love it!


    1. I totally understand - my son had never mentioned this game until I asked what his friends wanted (and told him it was for the blog). I guess boys just don't sit around discussing the latest video games with their mom! LOL!

  8. I love the personalized gift ideas! The custom prints particularly caught my eye and think would be dearly treasured.

    1. Yes! They have been so well-received as gifts. It's just something outside-the-box, you know?

  9. Personalized water colors photos would be such a special gift! Love that idea!

    Doused in Pink

  10. I think the watercolor family portrait is SUCH a good idea and my coworker loved hers. She and her husband cried when they saw it. Highly recommend. And you guys made me cry with my engraved bracelet! So you know I love that too! I love that you have a sentimental side. I could use that with my gift ideas!
    Caryl |

    1. Aw!! I'm glad you can attest to the meaningfulness (is that a word?) of some of these gifts both as a giver and receiver! Those two gifts in particular have changed my gifting game in the last couple of years!

  11. I love how thoughtful this guide is - which is why it’s very useful! Am going to try that subscription for my kids - it sounds like they’ll love it!

    1. Thank you so much, Zeba! That's very nice of you to say! I hope your kids like their subscription box! Besides, who doesn't like getting packages in the mail? :)

  12. Your gift guide is awesome Gina! I am loving the custom illustration idea because everyone I know is into photography. Personalized gifts really are the best, aren't they? I give and receive gift cards pretty often, but when I want something more special, a monogramed necklace or a locket is the way to go! And I'm with you on gift guides...this may or may not be my first time creating one!


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