The last post

June 28, 2010

With regret I must advise that this is the final post for Giftology Blog, due to the impending birth of my second child.  With two littlies to care for shortly, I can see that I won’t be able to maintain a regular blog anymore.  I know just how much work a newborn can be!

So adieu dear readers, and may you continue to give creative, timely, amusing and attractive gifts that delight both you and your loved ones.


The gift of unreason

June 25, 2010

Gotta love this exchange, which took place in a Washington call centre:

Me: “Thank you for calling, how may I assist you?”

Caller: “I would like a gift card.”

Me: “You would like to purchase a gift card?”

Caller: “No.”

Me: “I’m sorry, I don’t understand. You said you wanted a gift card.”

Caller: “Well, yes. We’ve been shopping at your stores for so many years, we feel we should get a gift card from you.”


Forgotten birthday rage

June 22, 2010

I noticed in The Telegraph’s recent obituary for TV chef Keith Floyd that he once experienced an episode of what I can only describe as “birthday rage”.  Or, perhaps more accurately, “forgotten birthday rage”:

His third marriage ended when he accused his wife of forgetting his birthday. In a rage he destroyed much of his own restaurant bar and threw out his wife and 50 diners before retiring to a nearby hostelry to drown his sorrows.

The article doesn’t elaborate as to whether Floyd’s wife really did forget his birthday.  (Wouldn’t it have been awful if she’d had some lovely surprise present wrapped and ready to give to him after the restaurant shut for the night?  Although I wouldn’t recommend leaving it that late in the day to give your nearest and dearest their birthday present.)

And in another episode I recently read about, a woman complained to the authorities that her mail had been stolen, because she had not received birthday cards from some of her friends.  Rather touching, I thought.

Which I guess goes to show that people really do care about whether you remember their birthdays.

Signature gift

June 19, 2010

Another gift idea I’m keen on is scoring an autograph of somebody the gift recipient keenly admires.  A sportsperson?  Actor?  Politician?  Astronaut?  The list goes on.

Helen Gurley Brown writes:

The best present I ever gave David was a handmade birthday card with glossy photos and personal messages from each of twelve women he once told me he thought sexiest in the world.  The messages took some doing because several of the women didn’t know David, but I started early sending photos and asking for personal messages from them; all came through.

Having It All, Helen Gurley Brown, 1982, Simon & Schuster

Okay, not all of us are Cosmopolitan magazine editors like Helen, but with a bit of beavering away, usually you can obtain something, although it may take months.

Years ago I had the happy accident of meeting Australian race driver Peter Brock while he was in town, guest speaking at a conference.  Right there in the hotel corridor I explained about how my friend Bruce was his biggest fan, and was currently battling cancer (Peter was also a cancer survivor), and would Peter please write a message of support?  He did, right there on the spot on a piece of memo paper, even though the incident must have been a pain in the neck for him and his busy schedule. 

By the way – Bruce beat his cancer too, and loved the autograph/message from his hero.

Christmas 2010: let the shopping commence!

June 14, 2010

Well, I didn’t quite intend it to happen so soon…but on Saturday I bought my first Christmas gift of the year!  Not that I had set out to do so.

I was in a pharmacy/drugstore, waiting to buy some contact lens fluid, when I noticed this cool set of lip glosses.  Cool for a younger woman, that is.  Much younger.  Like: 15.

We have a 15 year old friend of the family.  She is a sweet girl, but she is 15 going on 25 (or would like to be), as is the way of many teenage girls.  So buying for her has become rather difficult.  You just know that what you buy her is going to be wrong – either not cool enough, not expensive enough (this is the girl of $400 cellphone lust), or somehow just plain wrong.

So my eyes lit up when I saw this Lip Smackers collection.  It seems to fit around the demographic, and is a practical gift (who doesn’t need lip gloss of some sort, at any age?) that will also appeal to her girly, feminine side. 

Although it’s still only June, I thought I’d better snap up this set because a) there was only one left on the stand; b) I’ll come back another time and there’ll be none in stock or; c) I’ll forget all about it.  Then in December I’ll be scratching my head, going, “Now what the heck should we get Fern this year?”

Diamonds or dentures?

June 11, 2010

Saw the strangest thing in a jewellery store recently, while I was waiting to pick up a repair.  A woman was having an alteration made to a diamond ring her husband had recently given her, and was discussing the ring alteration with the sales attendant. So far, so normal.

But here’s the thing: that customer had the worst teeth ever: some missing, many crooked, and with chunks out of the front ones – big square chunks, like miniature barn doors, right out of the top front two teeth.  I’ve rarely seen teeth that bad and was hard put not to stare.  I couldn’t help wondering: with choppers that unsightly, why bother with gifts of jewellery? Shouldn’t every possible dollar that couple had be channelled towards getting that lady’s teeth repaired?  That would do so much more for her appearance than any diamond could.  She could be wearing the Hope diamond, the Crown Jewels of England, and the entire contents of Tiffany – but it would still be her bad teeth you would notice first. 

If it were me, I know I’d be dashing out of the store immediately, and running straight to the dental surgery a block south, plonking down every penny for whatever repair work the dentist could offer. But we’re all different and therein, I guess, lies “life’s rich and varied tapestry.”

On being prepared

June 7, 2010

In stock now: a rainbow of ribbons

From time to time I’m told, “The presents you give are always so beautifully wrapped!  You’re so good at it – but I’m hopeless!”

Whereas the reality is: I’m not especially talented at gift wrapping.  Although I do try to ensure the gifts I give are attractively wrapped, I wouldn’t say I have any special skill at it.

What I do have is: organisation.  I keep gift wrapping paper in stock.  Also ribbons for trimming the parcel, and some greeting cards – birthday and general purpose.  And a dedicated place to store all of them.  It’s easier to have presents beautifully wrapped if you actually keep some supplies on hand at all times.  (This is a no-brainer, of course, but it’s amazing how people can overlook the need for this, and are then disappointed that the presents they wrap look either dull or incomplete.)

I’ve been noticing that my stocks of gift-wrapping ribbon were running a bit low recently.  So this weekend I snapped up some new stocks at a local haberdashery store that was having a sale.  Five metres apiece of eight different colours of gauze ribbon totalled just $17.40 (at 40% discount).  That’ll help replenish my stocks for another year, and ensure I have a enough range of colours to complement whatever wrapping paper I happen to be using.  I do like to use a variety of ribbon types, but for me, gauze ribbon is a basic staple – always looking festive. 

Having good wrapping supplies is similar to being well dressed.  It reminds me of a fashion quote I once read: “The more clothes you have, the better dressed you can be” (or words to that effect).  In essence – the more options you have on hand, the more combinations you can put together.  Which works equally well for fashion or gifts.

A gift shower – for yourself

June 4, 2010

Long before thirtysomething Sex In The City character Carrie Bradshaw threw herself a shower, another single New York writer, Helene Hanff, did the same (except it happened for real – Helene was penniless and about to move into a humble unfurnished studio apartment), as follows:

“What you need,” she [Helene’s friend Maxine] said finally, “is a kitchen shower.”

“I’m not getting married,” I said.

“You’re marrying New York,” said Maxine.  “You’ll have to write a cute invitation.  We’ll have the shower at my house.  A luncheon.  A Saturday luncheon.”

“I couldn’t!”  I said.  “I can’t send out invitations asking people to furnish my kitchen!”

“You’re not sending the invitations.  I’m sending them.  You don’t know anything about the luncheon,” said Maxine.  “It’s a surprise.  Showers are always surprises.  You’re just coming to my house for lunch.  When you get there, be surprised.”

[A list is drawn up and invitations duly despatched.]

And so on the appointed Saturday I wandered into Maxine’s parents’ apartment for lunch – and there was my sister-in-law come all the way from Garden City and a simple host of friends.  And sitting in the middle of the floor in a large wicker basket, each item brightly wrapped and tied with flossy ribbon, were frying pans and double boilers and mixing bowls and kitchen knives and pot holders and dish towels and a roasting pan and a Revere Ware teakettle that sang.

Helene Hanff, Underfoot in Show Business, 1961, Andre Deutsch Ltd

Personalisation – taking it further

May 31, 2010

A popular gift idea is to get something made with the recipient’s name on: as a rule, people love name-personalised gifts, especially if they have unusual names or names with unusual spellings. We all like to see our name in print.

I like to take it one step further, when possible, and personalise a gift with the recipient’s nickname. For example, many years ago I had a gift for a friend personalised with his family nickname, “Romanoff”. He adored the gift – much more so than if I had simply personalised it with “Michael”.

The only catch here is that the gift recipient should actually like their nickname. Not everyone dubbed with a nickname necessarily relishes it, and they may not be outspoken about their dislike of it – they may simply be resigned to it. So do check this angle out first.

How to plan that gift

May 28, 2010

Good gift planning focuses around the recipient’s likes.  A way to focus your thoughts on an upcoming gift-getting occasion is to make a list of what that person likes, over a broad range of options.  For example:

  • What do they like to eat?  (Not every day, necessarily, but as a treat.  Think: gourmet food; traditional food; sweets; fruit; cheeses)
  • What do they like to drink? (Both alcoholic and non.  And for alcoholic, think beyond beer, wine and spirits; for example: boutique and imported brands, mixers, liqueurs, glasses).
  • What music do they like?  (Think: CDs, DVDs of live shows, tickets to performances; posters or T shirts of favourite performers).
  • What movies and TV programmes do they like? (both currently and in the past – for example, DVDs of a favourite TV series or classic movie)
  • What sports do they like to watch or participate in?
  • What books do they like to read?
  • What do they like to wear? (T-shirts?  Silk scarves?  Sandals?  Earrings?)
  • What hobbies or interests do they have?

Grab a notepad and start making a list.  Just five minutes of your undivided attention, devoted to recalling that one person’s particular likes, will often be enough to get the ideas flowing.  I think the dearth of gift ideas we sometimes experience is because we expect the perfect gift idea to simply pop into our head without any effort on our part, or be conveniently glimpsed in a shop window display as we pass by. 

The other part of this exercise is to not only consider what does the recipient like, but what might the recipient like?  Push out slightly from the known, and gauge whether you can take a leap of faith and try out something that you think might work.  Your best friend loves Rieslings?  Try getting her a Pinot Grigio for a change – close enough for comfort, but introducing her to something a little different.