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Gifts for the Hard to Buy For

I presented a gift guide in partnership with American Express last week, featuring items that could be purchased through their Membership Rewards program. I also asked if you needed help finding gifts for anyone, and today I’m going to follow up and help out with some ideas for the hard to buy for people in your life.

American Express Points for Presents Gift Guide, Part 2

  • Brothers

    Emily said: “I always struggle with new gift ideas for my brothers in their mid-late twenties. I always go with t-shirts or something boring like undies or socks.” And Valerie said: “I’m trying to figure out what to get my brothers (18 and 19) that isn’t in the video game/dvd/gift card oeuvre. But I’m pretty broke this year, so I have a $40 limit for both of them. Everything I’ve looked at so far that I thought would be good goes way over that!”
    There were a lot of requests for brotherly gifts! This Cards Against Humanity game (4) looks awesome, and you can’t go wrong with a Jon Ronson book (Brandon and I both like him). Lost at Sea (5) is Ronson’s newest. You can pay for these with points through Amazon’s checkout.

  • Sisters

  • Ashley said: “I’m having a really hard time coming up with something for my 18 year old sister. She has so many interests its hard to narrow down a meaningful gift.”
    I think sisters would enjoy the brotherly gifts above too, but if you’re looking for something a little more girly, perhaps a bracelet with meaning (2)? The one shown represents strength, motivation, and knowledge, but it would also just look cute as part of an arm party. If she’s a maker, use a gift card to west elm to buy beautiful heirloom scissors (3).

  • Parents (Yours or Hers/His)

    Marie said: “I could use gift ideas for my boyfriend’s parents!! We’ve been dating for 1.5 years and although I’m not very close with them (distance makes it tough), I’d like to give something thoughtful.”
    Give tickets to a show. I cashed in a bunch of my Amex points recently to get tickets to The Book of Mormon (1) (Brandon and I will be going on our anniversary in May). You can pay with points through TicketMaster, so there are tons of options for shows and concerts that they’ll like.

  • For Those Who Don’t Need Another Thing

    Hillary said: “Would love advice about what to get my dad and stepmom. They are retired, don’t really need any “stuff” and are just plain hard to shop for. I usually default to restaurant gift cards but would like to give something more thoughtful. Help!”
    Give to charity. Donate your points to Hurricane Sandy Relief (6), or to another charity on behalf of your gift recipient.

  • The Wild Card

    Sarah said: “I’m having a tough time coming up with something for a family gift exchange. It could go to anyone in my family from my 12 year old niece to my 50+ uncles. I seem to only be able to come up with girly or adult ideas.”
    My best bet for one-gift-fits-all is How Music Works by David Byrne (7) (pay with points on Amazon). It will appeal to book-lovers, music-lovers (young and old — doesn’t everyone agree that David Byrne is awesome?), and it has a technology/science bent.


I was selected by American Express to help educate consumers about how to use Membership Rewards points. As such I was paid for my services as an ambassador, but all gift choices selected and opinions about the gifts and American Express are my own.

Points for Presents

I’m working with American Express to share ideas for holiday gift giving. All of the gifts below can be purchased with points from their Membership Rewards program. Some of the items (numbers 1, 6, and 7) can be purchased directly with points, and the others can be had by redeeming points for gift cards.

American Express Points For Presents Gift Guide

  1. KitchenAid Artisan Series Stand Mixer

  2. Alphabet Needlepoint Pillow (via gift card)

  3. Torpedo Sconce (via gift card)

  4. Newgate Bubble Wall Clock (via gift card)

  5. Squirrel Cookie Jar (via gift card)

  6. Dooney and Bourke Florentine Domed Buckle Satchel

  7. Michael Kors Acrylic Tortoiseshell Watch

I’ll be sharing more gift ideas next week too. Are you having trouble coming up with ideas for someone in your life? Let me know in the comments and I’ll help out with some ideas. Glorious ideas.


I was selected by American Express to help educate consumers about how to use Membership Rewards points. As such I was paid for my services as an ambassador, but all gift choices selected and opinions about the gifts and American Express are my own.

Sky Umbrella

Tibor Kalman’s Sky Umbrella is 20 years old. I remember seeing it in the MoMA catalog for the first time when I was 15. I was so taken by it that I begged my mother to buy it for me.

To my mom’s credit, she did come through with a sky umbrella, but it was not the Sky Umbrella. The shape was slightly different, the clouds not as beautiful, and the handle plastic instead of wood, but that was not its biggest affront. It was blue on the outside. Did she not know the how the umbrella’s symbolism struck me? Aye, the morose teenager with the dark, brooding exterior, braving the storm and cloaked in black — she contained an optimistic (though clandestine) scene beneath! An argument could have been made that I was “blue”, I suppose, or perhaps that I just had my head in the clouds but OH, THE HUMANITY!

What? I was 15. (Sorry, mom.)

So, yes, when MoMA asked if they could send me an umbrella to help spread the word, I happily accepted. You can enter SKY20 to save 20% on all versions of the Sky Umbrella, now through April 30. All proceeds support MoMA programs and exhibitions.

This is not a sponsored post. I agreed to accept an umbrella and write about it because I’m a fan of MoMA and their mission of educating the public about modern art and good design.. I had one of my most moving museum experiences there a few years ago, in Olafur Eliasson’s Take Your Time exhibit.

Sky Umbrella

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