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Dear Design Mamacita —
I adore my Mother-in-law. But unless I’ve just recently been with her, I never know what to give her for Christmas or Birthday. I’ve done sweaters, jewelry, lotions, gardening and kitchen stuff, and with each subsequent gifty time I feel like I’m just struggling to remember which category I chose last time so as not to repeat myself too close to the last time. Please help!! I know you can! Thanks so much, in advance, Laurie

Design Mom Answer:
Well, Dear Laurie, I need to ship my MIL’s gift today. And a gift for her birthday which also falls in December. So your question is too timely. And I love the categories you list above because they are just the kind of thing you give to someone you know personally but not that well. So I’m thinking, let’s just expand the list.

Remember my friend’s boutique that I posted about here? I’m mentally walking through her inventory, because it was Mother-in-Law gift heaven. Here are some ideas:

1) A super-cozy bathrobe.
Maybe in deep red because it’s Christmas. Or, if she’s more of an artsy gal, go with a printed kimono type robe. At the boutique there were some gorgeous bathrobe choices, but they all came in L/XL and we realized that no one wants to give or receive a robe that’s L/XL, so we carefully removed the part of the neck label that indicates size, making the robes seem like one size fits all.

2) Custom Stationery.
Something traditional unless you’re confident she would like something a little more funky. Everyone has to write thank you notes at some point, so you can be sure she’ll use it.

3) Go Handmade.
I saw these coasters made with wrapping paper on a recording of Martha yesterday when I was folding laundry. Totally love this project. Super easy. And you could pick wrapping paper that would go with her decorating style. Or paper with a Holiday print. Maybe a set of 8, each with a different paper. See coasters in the pic at the top.

4) Hat, Gloves & Scarf
When I think Mother-in-Law accessories, I think Chicos. They seem to cater to our parent’s generation. She may already own a set, but it’s nice to have a few options. If she’s not a hat, gloves and scarf gal, maybe a pashmina type shawl.

5) A book or a subscription.
These are my total default gifts and I know I’ve mentioned them before. Hard to go wrong here. You could choose something pretty generally liked by Mothers-in-law, like Oprah Magazine or you can even add a year to a subscription she already has and loves. For books, think coffee table. Maybe something about the part of the country she lives in.


6) An Umbrella.
I love everything Pare makes. A very cool and unexpected gift for anyone.

7) A donation in her name.
Help end world hunger by purchasing some poultry or a goat in her name for a village in a 3rd world country. Try Heifer International.

There’s a start, Laurie. But keep checking comments — I’m sure lots of Design Mom readers will add excellent ideas.