2014 feel good gift guide

*All images can be found on Fresh Presse’s Pinterest (link below).

I love pulling gift guides together! Especially this year because I feel I’ve found some wonderful things that truly keep on giving. This comes at a time when, according to an American Express study, 72% of people would prefer to spend their money on experiences rather than random stuff. But don’t get me wrong, stuff is still fun… the goal is to strike a balance. It’s a great thing when we can embrace a new experience and feel fulfilled; and when giving back can make us feel successful everyone wins. So in the spirit of these sentiments, I hope the gift ideas presented will help you give things that not only add to the happiness and wellbeing of your nearest and dearest, but inspire an intention for global goodness. Are you ready to go all over the map?

At the high end of the give-to-give-back trend is IfOnly.com, an experiential marketplace that donates its proceeds to worthy causes. From at-home dinner parties prepared by master chefs (Tyler Florence? Yes, please!) to a balloon expedition over Mt. Everest, IfOnly offers over-the-top opportunities to select memorable experiences, while also supporting worthy causes. At least 10 percent of each IfOnly experience purchased benefits a charitable cause.

Keeping things super luxe, but not bank-breaking, the KW X PAPER CHASE PRESS sketchbooks are handmade, Swiss-bound, covered in black linen and then stamped in gold foil. Choose from three of Kelly Wearstler’s designer signature emblems; Classic Kiss, Legs, and Head Trip. Add a matching monogram to the cover to make it even more personal. Sexy.

For something decidedly more manly, check out the goods at JM & Sons. Two Canadian craftsmen recently opened shop to offer handmade homewares (see rustic wall bottle rack), as well as a keep-it-neat leather portfolio (pictured above). Before you open your wallet, watch the magical Bring The Journey Home video to see what these guys are all about.

One shop I really do miss in my former home base is Blossom Lounge. The place was always so well curated, I was bound to find something unique on every visit. Located in Unionville, Ontario and in Toronto’s Distillery District…and online! Shop high quality men’s and women’s clothing, accessories and the softest scents.

When their daughter Elsa was seven months old, food bloggers David Frenkiel and Luise Vindahl packed their bags, took leave from their day jobs, and embarked on a trip around the world, sampling cultures and cuisines along the way. Seven months later, they returned home to Stockholm with their minds and bellies full of culinary inspiration, and hard-earned knowledge on making travel work with a young child in tow. Frenkiel and Vindahl’s second cookbook, GREEN KITCHEN TRAVELS: Vegetarian Food Inspired By Our Adventures, brings their inspiration to the home cook through more than 90 recipes that are healthy, and which represent vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free diets. Readers are transported around the globe through the gorgeous photographs that accompany recipes from Morocco, Greece, Italy, Vietnam and more. Think: a Mexican breakfast salad with mango, eggs, and avocado; Crispy eggplant bites with honey and lime, inspired by tapas in Barcelona; Vietnamese lemongrass and coconut summer rolls. Not stopping there, the authors also include advice for packing light when traveling with children, and how to convince little ones to try new foods. Frenkiel and Vindahl’s blog Green Kitchen Stories was named a 2013 Saveur Blog of the Year and their work has been featured in Food & Wine, Bon Appetit and ELLE. For a chance to win yourself a beautiful hardcover copy from Rizzoli, simply email the name of your favourite country to visit (or want to visit) to lovefreshpresse@gmail.com + follow @freshpresse and @gkstories on Instagram. We want you to have this in time for the holidays so please send an email by midnight on Thursday, December 11, 2014. If you don’t want to take any chances, buy the book now here. *Open to anyone with a North American address.

Danielle LaPorte‘s guide to creating goals with soul has motivated thousands to get passionate about their lives. Who doesn’t need to start 2015 with a dose of that good stuff, right? She’s got everything from audio guides to a #Truthbomb Card Deck and a Big Beautiful Book Guide (because we all know a smarty who really needs to put pen to paper). Shop it all at daniellelaporte.com.

Tony Robbins‘ new book MONEY Master the Game: 7 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom recently had one of my favourite web TV hosts – Marie Forleo – gushing with high praise. She says, “While I could talk to you for days about why I love this book, I want to point out two specific things: (1) Tony exposes the biggest and most upsetting money lies we’re all being sold. I got so upset reading this stuff I wanted to shake somebody, throw up and cry. But he doesn’t just expose the lies, he gives concrete solutions. This book is designed to empower the everyday hardworking gal or guy who is doing the best they possibly can. You need to know this stuff for you, and your family. (2) Tony is not making one cent from the book. He’s already donated all the proceeds, in advance, with a target goal of feeding 100 million people. And every book purchase helps feed 50 people through their partnership with Feeding America.” I don’t know about you, but I want it!

If you have someone on your list that wants to shake things up by learning a new language in 2015, then lean in and I’ll tell you that I love my Pimsleur. While I don’t quite parle Italiano yet, this tutorial method -that only requires 30 minutes every day- has definitely helped my ear. I have confidence that one day the words will flow out of my mouth with such grace that no one will suspect I ever struggled. This is the dream. Good to know that even the super advanced can advance as Pimsleur just put the finishing touches on Level 5 (a first for the company) for Spanish and French.

Another Canadian-made favourite… I don’t know about you, but my hands get super dry starting now and through to the Spring. Cake Beauty has a decadent solution packaged in a selection of best-sellers. Three ultra-hydrating, nutrient-packed creams – Heavy Cream, Milk Made and Desserted Island – are blended with shea butter to protect hands all winter long. Totally travel-friendly.

Honestly can’t think of a better style solution for the female frequent flyer than Encircled‘s Evolve Top. Designed using eco-friendly fabric, this piece is easy to pack and there are eight (yes, eight!) ways to wear it. Need I say more?

On the last few trips I’ve been complaining that I really need a back pack. So when I heard about be packs, I had to have their Aloha Rose. Not only because it’s cute, but also because $10 of every sale goes toward youth education in Zambia, Africa. Stitched inside every be pack you’ll find a Hope Patch, which has on it a handwritten message from a child in Zambia. No two patches are alike. Deal sealed.

For the traveler that needs something a little more hardcore, there’s Pelican Luggage. After decades of protecting sensitive technologies for military and emergency service teams around the world – these cases are ready to take on your next adventure. Take your pick from luggage that is watertight, crushproof and guaranteed for life.

And why not pack for a yoga retreat in 2015? Anamaya Resort is a premium wellness centre in Costa Rica and they are offering 20% off week-long retreats in 2015. You’ve got to book before 01.01.15 though… Remember to quote “5 Year Anniversary Discount” at checkout.

Something that has been long overdue in North America… Multi-day cycling tours are set to launch in Ontario’s Niagara Region this Spring! CYCLE ON Adventures will be operating the first ever luxury cycling trips in the #1 Wine & Culinary Region in Canada. From June through October, these food and wine focused tours offer a relaxed ride for guests of all fitness levels. Each 3-day tour is led by two local expert guides, who will also show the way to unique culinary experiences. This is no race, either. Routes are kept to an average of 30 kms per day, with time for guests to enjoy lazy mornings. Late afternoons and evenings are set aside to relax, indulge in a little spa pampering, or take time to explore the charms of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Opportunities exist for private groups and extended stays in the Niagara area or Toronto and bookings are being taken now.

For more gear that’ll go far (like that sweet watch pictured above), look no further than Amazon’s latest and greatest wearable techShop. Here. Now.

These organizations are worthy of a give large or small, in your name or someone else’s.

#DESIGNFORHER is a brand new collaboration between My Social Canvas and WomenOne. The sweatshirt collection has been designed by women and girls in order to raise funds that will support the future of other women and girls.  

People in Need This Prague-based Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) does important work worldwide. Over the last 20 years, they have implemented emergency relief and development aid programmes in more than 25 countries during natural disasters or at times of major international crises.

#TackleEbola Protecting health workers and children from Ebola.

The Shoebox Project Collecting and distributing gifts to women in shelters across Canada. Each shoebox is filled with necessities and a few added little luxuries that are meant to brighten the days of women living in shelters; letting them know that their community does care about them.

Kids Help Phone Free phone and online counselling for kids under 20. Very necessary.

Support young women with breast cancer by donating monthly to Rethink and receive a limited-edition friendship bracelet (pictured above). To learn more, visit Rethinkbreastcancer.com.

Kindgine is a mobile application allows tourists to use pictures like postcards and contribute to a meaningful social cause at the same time. Besides offering a solution to share special travel moments with friends and family, the project is a “kindness engine” for organizations that are in need of funding. In cooperation with NGOs such as Doctors Without Boarders (MSF), Kindgine converts the simple act of take a picture into a contribution to help solve problems like poverty, homelessness, malnutrition and disease. The mobile application will be released January 2015, but you can visit kindgine.com now and join in making a difference.

When my friend Anne said “this site is addictive” she was not kidding. But it’s totally a good thing! Environmental Working Group’s Food Scores are a powerful, fast, authoritative guide to greener, cleaner and healthier food choices. In every one of dozens of supermarket categories, shoppers can use Food Scores to cut through the noise of brand advertising, dubious marketing claims and misleading nutrition labels. superior nutrition, contain fewer additives and other chemicals, are less likely to contain worrisome contaminants. And don’t think organic food gets to ride the bus for free. As with conventional foods, they downgrade the scores of organic items that are high in sugar or salt or that fare poorly by EWG’s nutrition standards. The fine print: EWG has applied their ratings to more than 80,000 foods found on American supermarket shelves, analyzing an extensive collection of data assembled by LabelINSIGHT®, an independent product label database and analysis platform. Go here to either download the app, or donate as little as $10 to get of their printed reference guides… I especially like the brand-new Dirty Dozen Endocrine Disruptor booklet. Those lucky birds in the US and Canada can grab a beautiful hand-picked Holiday Gift Bag and have their donations matched. UPDATE | The bag has sold out, but you can still donate and get their new cookbook.

And wrapping this up with a “buy less, live more” message…From now through the end of December, the good humans at The Story of Stuff are on a mission to collect pictures and stories from you doing all the glorious, delicious, and simple things that make this time of year special; the things you have time to do when you aren’t shopping. Over the next few weeks, they will be sharing your images on their amazing blog, as well as on Facebook and on Instagram. These photos will show millions how great things can be (and how good we look) when buy less and live more. Go here and show us how you do it.

Wishing you the healthiest and happiest of holidays!