Gift Ideas for a Practical, Magical Mom

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

Age: 51

Place: Marin County, California

Relationship: mother

From the gift-giver:

My mother is a catering chef. To survive, she is always on the go and always bubbling with take-action energy. Basically, she's the kind of trigger-pulling creative problem-solver any daughter would want in their lives—until Christmas-shopping season hits. Throughout the year, if she needs something, she buys it herself—quickly. In the past six months, I've culled together what I thought was a smart list of things she's casually declared she needs or wants: a new jacket, The Hobbit movie trilogy, an iPad case, makeup products, new knives. But lo and behold, even before I can let my Amazon page load, she has magically tracked down, purchased and utilized said jacket (it was a nice leather one... I could not have found it myself), makeup products and custom-made knives. Apparently I am "slow."

Any gift they’ve loved?

Yes, anything hobby-related. She creates a miniature "fairyland" in our yard (we are normal) in her spare time and creates jewelry. I've gifted her gemstones and little "fairy cottages," but there's only so many times I can have her unwrap a hunk of citrine or buy a whimsical mushroom home without my mailman thinking I'm a lunatic.

We recommend: soap-making kit ($35.99)

Your mom sounds like she's happiest when she's taking care of things on her own, and she clearly loves a project, so I thought she might like to try soap-making. With this beginner's kit, she can create her own custom-made scented soap, start a new hobby to mystify your mailman, and hopefully take some time out of her busy life for an at-home spa day. (One important note—the ebook included in this kit is in PDF form, so you may want to consider printing it out if your mom is not an e-reader. You can also find a cheaper option here, or a more luxurious one if she's OK with following video instructions.)

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