Archive for the ‘For anyone’ Category

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.


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.

Gifts for the sole

May 8, 2010

Yes, sole.  I’m a big fan of foot-related gifts, partly because I have sensitive feet that can easily get cold or sore. 

Most of the gift-type products on the market seem to be luxury things like foot spas and pedicure sets.  On which note: I have no issue with foot spas (although I do notice how many near-new spas seem to end up in second-hand shops).

Here are some different gift ideas for friends and family, particularly those who are on their feet for most of the day:

  • Wool or fur insoles. Incredibly warm and luxurious, and ideal for those living in a cold climate.  I recommend Kozitoez’ sheepskin and possum fur insoles. (I’m not usually a fur wearer, but possums are an introduced pest in New Zealand, and cause massive damage to the natural wildlife.) Walking on lovely warm, fluffy insoles is a luxurious experience – the recipient will be singing your praises with every step s/he takes!
  • Padded or orthotic insoles.  In recent years these have become available in most pharmacies.  I’ve found orthotic insoles offer arch support that may be missing in shoes, meaning your foot hurts more and more as the day goes by.  Great for people who are on their feet all day.  Not a very glamorous gift, but would make a good ‘stocking filler’.
  • Foot massage voucher.  For those of us who love foot rubs, the idea of a half-hour foot massage is sheer bliss.  However, there are plenty of others who would run a mile at the thought. So be sure you know which camp your loved one is in!

Charitable gifts

March 21, 2010

I love the way that you can buy virtual, ‘charity-based gifts’, like these ones from Oxfam, to bring much needed supplies to the Third World, and a good feeling into people’s hearts.  These gifts are ideal for “hard to buy for” types, in particular wealthy people who already seem to have everything.

It’s a creative move on the part of charities, most of whom now seem to have a virtual gift range.  Twenty or more years ago, the only way you could give to a charity was to give it money.  Then some of them started opening gift shops and publishing gift catalogues, so you could buy products and the profits reaped would help fund the charity.  Then, within the past few years (it seems to me), somebody had the brainwave of saying: what if we had a range of ‘virtual gifts’, which would allow people to give money towards a specific item, like a live chicken or goat, or rubber sandals for leprosy sufferers, or an eye operation for a cataract sufferer?  Whoever it was, they were one clever cookie.

Gimme a break!

March 13, 2010

Gotta love this idea: funky decals for plaster casts, such as this one showing an X-ray of the fractured and pinned armbones inside.  Casttoo, who makes them, also produces a wide range of other creative plaster cast decals, such as sporting logos, speed flames, and much more.

These’d make a great gift to cheer up anyone unfortunate enough to be nursing a broken limb.  I think teenagers would like this gift best of all, particularly that amazing X-ray decal.


February 19, 2010

Numeric cookie cutters - any number of gift uses

Not long after I posted about the Helvetica cookie cutters, I happened across this set of number cookie cutters, from zero to nine. 

I bought them for myself, but they would make a great gift for anyone with young children who likes to bake.

I’ll also use them to make gifts: ‘age number’ cookies for birthday parties (I’ll make fancy, frosted ‘2’s for my daughter’s upcoming second birthday) and as cute party favors.  They’ll also make amusing novelty cookies for milestone birthday parties, such as 40th birthdays.  Plus, in a similar vein, cookies for wedding (or other) anniversaries – , ’10’, ’25’ etc.

I can’t wait to use ’em!

Valentine’s cupcakes

February 15, 2010

Homemade Valentine's cupcakes

Here’s proof that Valentine’s Day needn’t be expensive or commercial.

I baked these cupcakes on Valentine’s Day, and iced them with those ready-made icing tubes you can buy in the supermarket, also using chocolate and multi-coloured sprinkles, and some glace cherries.  Easy peasy.

They made a lovely afternoon-tea gift for my parents-in-law, who have been married 44 years and are still very much in love. 

(I don’t know what it is about cupcakes, but it’s funny how a pretty, decorated cupcake can make the most hardened soul squeal with delight.)

Valentine’s Day inspiration

February 9, 2010

When my husband and I were courting (only a few years ago), one Valentine’s Day he went all out and got me: a big bunch of red roses, a big bottle of champagne, and a kick-ass, king-size box of Belgian chocolates. 

I thought this was marvellous – still do – and an unusual spin-off was that it actually slaked my desire for Valentine’s Day “proof of love” gifts.  Having had my one totally-over-the-top slew of Valentine’s gifts, I never really felt that such largesse need be repeated.  (Not that I’d complain, mind!)

So in recent years, we’ve been much more restrained.  But unlike many married couples I know, we’ve never given up on Valentine’s gifts. 


This year I’m getting him a whole bunch of CDs for his car stereo.  He’s always too busy to look out new CDs for it, and as a result the soundtrack on his drive to and from work is invariably the same old music – once beloved, now very, very boring.  Changing the CDs is one of those ‘mean to get around to’ chores that I know is lurking just below his consciousness – so I think a six-pack of brand new CDs will surprise and delight him.  If I’m feeling gushy I might write him a card about how we’re still making beautiful music together.

It’s not a lavish gift, it’s not a wildly romantic gift, but I think he’ll be rapt with it, because it’s personal to his needs and tastes.  And oh my God, is he sick of those current CDs!


February 5, 2010

In a new twist on alphabet soup, a clever person has made a set of Helvetica cookie cutters, so you too can enjoy serif-free baked goods!

As well as being a clever gift for the keen baker, the finished product would also be a witty way to say ‘Happy Birthday’ to somebody – spelling out their name in cookies, perhaps on the kitchen counter or table, ready there to greet them when they get up in the morning, or come home from school or work.