Tuesday, November 25, 2008

How To Get With The Season Without Going to the Poor House, Part 2

The art of shopping will not be disputed by me. Not to be all braggy, but I actually think it is one of my great life skills. Oh, I know, it's shallow and meaningless compared with, say, helping starving people and educating children. But it is a necessary activity and one which we should aim to do intelligently - if not ecstatically.

So Xmas is coming. Geese are starting to freak out. So are most men. This year, I've advised my very generous but not-given-to-gift-buying-when-the-target-holidays-occur husband that I need a little something other than a nicely wrapped computer battery. Of course, I don't need a thing. But, when everyone else is opening those gorgeous, thoughtful gifts I've lovingly sought out with just them in mind, I'd really appreciate a bit of the same.

My husband is intimidated by holiday shopping. He loathes it. He's afraid of stores. He's afraid to buy things for me because I do all the discretionary purchasing in our lives (and 90% of the rest of it) and he hasn't needed to develop the skill. Secretly, I enjoy being the boss of the shopping. But it doesn't bode well when I want a little treat. Note: Scott has given me some of the most lovely gifts I've ever received - from jewels to, ahem, electronics. He just only buys when the inspiration hits him. Otherwise it's just not his thing.

While it vaguely defeats the purpose, I feel so responsible to help him get through the challenge that I have a) presented him with a list of stores containing items I enjoy, b) spoken with a couple of key SA's who have kindly offered to guide him if he visits them and c) explicitly indicated the kind of items I like - and "need" - in various colour palettes that might be useful.

"Why don't you just go buy the things, wrap them and give him the bill?", said my mother good-naturedly. You see, she knows me. And she knows him. And trust me, I'm tempted to do it. But I have to let the little tadpole swim into the sea.

It's times like these, I recognize my bourgeoisie is painful.

But here's the thing. I don't want something cher. (Cher, of course, is relative and I'm obviously speaking only from my own economic perspective... What's affordable to me may be out of someone else's price range. Lord knows, much of what I see is out of mine.) I'd just like something lovely and thoughtful. One thing. And preferably it should smell, feel or fit nicely.

A propos of giving gifts - let's focus on the giving rather than the buying - you do not need to spend a lot to thrill someone you care about.

To wit, here are some reliable stores for gifts at various price points:

Club Monaco
J Crew
Holt Renfrew (Canada)
Ziggy's At Home (Toronto)
Suite 88 Chocolatier (Montreal)
The Gap (for Ts, jammies, kid's stuff, undies, skinny turtlenecks and scarves)
David's Tea (Toronto)
AGO Gift Shop (Toronto) - or any good gallery gift shop
Chapters/Indigo (Canada) / Borders (US)

You will note that many of these are rather lovely stores, selling rather lovely merch. But you don't have to buy the evening gown for 15K. You can buy a lipstick from the Bobbi Brown counter and have it nicely wrapped for free. You can buy the cashmere socks or a well-designed tube of hand cream and save approximately $14,970.

And here are a just a few gift options for the various people in your life. Please remember - it's not about how much you buy or what you pay. It's about how thoughtful and sensory - and beautifully presented - your token of affection manages to be. If you wouldn't want to receive it, please don't give it:

For your kids' teacher, housekeeper, daycare staff - and anyone else who helps you to logistically function in your life:
  • Fine chocolate - the bigger the box the better.
  • Hand milled soap and body products made with fine essential oils.
  • Gift cards (Chapters, iTunes) - but only if you can't be more personal.
  • A spa treatment - but only if you know the person fairly well.
  • A book about a subject that interests the giftee.
These gifts can range in price from about $20.00 to $200.00 and up. Here are a couple I've bought for various peeps:

Savon de Marseille

For Your Mother:
  • Really the choices are endless, but how about fine leather goods (bags, wallets)
  • Lovely tea pot and cups - don't forget to include some tea.
  • Cashmere scarf
  • Unique jewelry (it comes in all price points)
  • Clothing if you are sure of her size and style
M0851 Bag

se gifts can get pretty pricey. But I've bought my mother some beautiful antiques, over the years, that are treasured and yet cost less than $30.00.

For the Men:
  • Wallets and other leather goods
  • Gadgets (iPhone, video games, techy stuff)
  • Hats, scarves - preferably merino or cashmere! (Remember you can find this on sale.)
  • Leather gloves
  • DVDs
  • Cologne - something you know he likes
  • Affordable crystal wine glasses
Riedel O Wine Glass

These gifts can also range in price quite substantially. I just bought 4 Riedel cabernet glasses for my father, wrapped by the boutique in a fantastic tube to look like a Christmas cracker, for $40.00 all in. And they're crystal.

the Kiddies:
  • Books, books, books!
  • Educational toys from Chapters and the like
  • Diaries with keys
  • Webkinz
  • American Girl stuff (My daughter calls hers a Canadian Girl!). Not the least $$ on the list. So maybe leave these for the grandparents!
  • Clothing from H&M Kids, Gap and other affordable stores
  • Boots and slippers
  • Gorgeous iced cookies
  • Lip balm and hand cream - little girls love this!
  • Special outing to see a musical, ballet or special Christmas movie (or other cultural event)
  • Puzzles
  • Art Supplies
This list really does go on and on. The great thing about kids is that they love anything as long as it's wrapped!

The price point here is often very reasonable. You can get a nice kid gift for $10.00. Or spend a living fortune...

PS Happy Almost Thanksgiving to my American family and friends!


  1. Great list. I love gift shopping for others, I tend to accumulate a lot for people in all the months leading up!
    I think the real key for men is to not buy "holiday" items--who wants a snowman bathtowel after Dec?

  2. Awesome post! Funny about the geese!
    And I loooove those stemless wine glasses :)


  3. Great picks, lady - I'm not surprised. Do you ever do handmade gifts, or is the thrill of the hunt just too alluring?

  4. Love your picks!
    I just broke down, after 2 solid years of campaigning, and bought my daughter an American Girl doll. I spent an hour tooling their website looking for the one with the best outfit.
    She better play with it!

  5. Great post K. Thank you for all the tips.


  6. This is so brilliant, I don't even have to think now. I'll just print this post, meander into the stores, and buy what's on the list.

    Ahhhh. Holiday shopping?


  7. Riedel O Wine Glass is cool. I always liked them.

    You're just like me then. what I see I cannot buy cus they are usually the most expensive thing in the shop. grr

  8. Clothes Horse: That's a biggie. Those things are so compelling in Nov. but in Jan they lose the appeal!

    Thanks CC. I liked the geese line too :-)

    Great question, Sal. I used to. And my version of homemade was food. Because that's the only thing I can make well. But now, with kid, full time job, blog and life - I just do not have the time or inclination.

    Janet: Which one did you get? M is getting Samantha for Xmas (grandparent gift).

    Thanks, Seeker.

    E: I love it if this post helps you. I was going for "instructional"

    Songy: Those were pretty reasonable. Some of their stuff is insanely expensive though, I agree!

  9. i'm kind of with Mr on the buying when inspired as opposed to being forced by the season to buy. Maybe I should celebrate Festivus this year.
    Having said that I will go back to the shop where I saw Liz Earle handcreams for the teachers and tutors in my life. so thanks for that inspiration K.

  10. Wow, I was just looking at buying some Savon de Marseille at Neiman's the other day. We seem to be on the same page a lot these days :)

  11. H: I'd just find some way of making presents part of Festivus... The teachers love hand cream. Really.

    E8: We really are on the same page. It's bizarre. But we're both so smart :-)