By Lindsey M. Roberts, Megan Buerger and Jura Konchus
The Washington Post
— Shopping for gifts can often feel like a chore, especially in the time-crunched waning weeks of the year. We're here to help with 20 finds under $50, at least one of which will please the finicky friend, the oddball brother-in-law, the favorite hostess and the they-have-everything people on your list. Gift away, gift givers.
1. Beverage dispenser. Help party hosts serve up a big batch of holiday cheer or get them ready for hydrating next summer's barbecue with this seven-quart glass vessel. The quirky cork stopper and beaker shape let guests know they're in for a good time. $49.95. www.cb2.com.
2. Calendar. Artist Anne Lewis captures iconic D.C. sights by photographing them around town and then painting with oils. A 2013 calendar of her images, including the Lincoln Memorial at night, the White House in winter and pandas at the National Zoo, is affordable art. Frame each month in a grid for longer-lasting local flavor. $29. www.artbyannelewis.com.
3. Sunset throws. An ombre effect gives a comfy throw a trendy kick. Perfect for a new college grad or your chic friend. The 44-inch-by-56-inch heart-warmer is available in a variety of colors, including gray, teal, goldenrod, light blue and purple. $49. www.westelm.com.
4. Watering cans. Landscape designer or apartment gardener: What nature lover wouldn't love a retro, white gardening can? Available in two sizes: 2.2 liter and 7 liter. $16-$29. www.westelm.com.
5. Travel tea mug. Keep that commuter calm with a sleek, glass travel mug. The double-paneled glass conserves water temperature, while an infuser holds steeping tea. Include non-caffeinated herbal options with your gift for extra de-stressing energy. $24.50. www.davidstea.com.
6. Popcorn maker. Fun for winter movie nights at home with kids. The automated stirring rod keeps kernels from burning and can also roast nuts. $48. www.nordstrom.com.
7. Travel charger. The jet-setter in your life will appreciate this four-pronged travel charger, to help them top off the juice in their electronics. It rolls up efficiently to occupy minimal luggage space. $49. www.restorationhardware.com.
8. Cheese board and spreader. Keep charcuterie, cheese and olives on hand, and you're always ready to party. $28. www.cwonder.com.
9. Alarm dock. Areaware's beech alarm clock is high-tech but looks low. Plug in an iPhone or iPod Touch while running a clock app, and you'll see the time and charge your device at the same time. A natural, organic-looking addition to an entryway landing strip. $40. www.thefutureperfect.com.
10. Trays and dishes. Great for serving and organizing anywhere in your home, these are go-to items for many experienced gift-givers. Two choices: nesting blue trays ($49, www.wisteria.com) or a small, decorative dish designed by decoupaging vintage-style prints — we're partial to the crab — by John Derian, ($48 each, www.neimanmarcus.com).
11. Bookends. As if that book lover needs more books. Get bookends, instead, as a way of supporting a healthy reading habit. The carved white resin is a fresh take on traditional motifs typically found on wooden architectural accents. $35.90. www.zarahome.com.
12. Snowman family kit. There are 26 solid-wood pieces including carrot noses, eyes, eyeglasses, mouths, antlers and buttons. Six black coal-like pieces are also included to suit a more button-nose-and-two-eyes-made-out-of-coal type. $29.95. www.llbean.com.
13. Ornaments. An easy seasonal hostess gift, we were especially taken with the wishbone ($15) and the flying pig ($19). www.vivaterra.com.
14. Cake stand. Go for the unexpected: a beehive-shaped cake stand. It's great for birthday gatherings, but also a whimsical way of storing cupcakes and cookies in the kitchen. $39. www.westelm.com.
15. Business card holder. The inscription on Kate Spade's silver plate business-card holder says it all: "Let's do lunch." Network away, young college grad. $20. www.bloomingdales.com.
16. Placemats. You might want to give these placemats before Christmas to showcase the holiday-red ikat pattern at this year's family dinner. Set of four, $34. www.cwonder.com.
17. iPad covers. A stylish gadget deserves a stylish cover, whether it's Jonathan Adler's funky orange pattern or Ame & Lulu's tamer geometric look. Adler's has a silicone backing while Ame & Lulu's has zippers and is available in green, orange and lavender trim. Jonathan Adler, $28.99, www.organize.com; Ame & Lulu,$48, www.ameandlulu.com.
18. Scratch maps. Help your favorite traveler keep a proud tally of places seen. Scratch off states or countries to reveal interstate highways, state capitals and bold colors. World map, $24 www.uncommongoods.com; U.S. map, $28.95 www.paper-source.com.
19. Tortoise glass nut bowl. A bowl this cute can be anything to anyone: a place for M&Ms during a party, a catch-all for the bedside, a jewelry holder for studs and bracelets. Buy one for yourself so you won't be jealous giving it to others. $24. www.cwonder.com.
20. Potted plants. Universal crowd-pleasers such as a small olive tree in a terra-cotta pot ($34) or a row of succulents in a wooden box ($48) are easy to care for and more creative than poinsettia or amaryllis. www.oliveandcocoa.com.