Posts Tagged ‘gifts’

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?”

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.

Label required

May 21, 2010

Somethimes I think that gifts ought to come with explanatory notes, so you know what the giver had in mind.  (Indeed sometimes they do. I can’t be the first person who’s ever jotted inside a gift card: “I thought you might like this because…”)

I wish there had been such a note on a gift of children’s clothing I received about a year ago, passed on from a friend of a friend, whose children had outgrown the garments.

I was delighted at first, to receive a big box of kids’ clothes.  Yippee, some freebies for my daughter!  But as I began sorting through the items, I became increasingly appalled.  These were terrible clothes!  Although originally of good quality, many of them had stains, buttons missing sometimes, occasionally even rips.  “I’d never give away clothing like this,” I thought.  “Not even to charity.  I’d throw them out, or use them as rags!”

The small pile of “keepers” grew slowly at my side, while the towers of “rejects” loomed like fabric skyscrapers.  Uncharitable thoughts swirled in my head about this slovenly woman who clearly thought it was okay to pass on stained, damaged clothing.  What had she been thinking? 

And there’s the catch.  A year later, I know.

You see, my two year old daughter now attends playcentre three mornings a week.  It’s a messy business: there’s paint, a big sand pit, water play, playdough, baking, and much more.  Her clothes often get filthy.  You don’t want to send your kid to playcentre wearing her regular clothes, believe me.  They’d never look nice again.

That’s when I had that “Aha!” moment, when I realised that all along the clothes had surely been intended for use at daycare / kindergarten / playcentre / messy play at home.  I just didn’t know that at the time!  My daughter was still a baby when I was given the clothing, and wasn’t up to the kind of clothes-wrecking activities that she now delights in.   Now I would loooove to have that big box of third-best clothing, to dress Sammie in on playcentre mornings.

All I can do is make silent apologies for the mean thoughts I’d had a year ago about that anonymous giver.  But I do wish that she’d included a note that said: “This stuff is well used, and is ideal for messy playtimes.”

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!

The last unicorn

May 3, 2010

A popular piece of gift-giving advice is that collectables (such as charms for charm bracelets) make good gifts, with – in theory – giver and recipient enjoying many happy years of new additions to the collection. It’s a convenient solution, reducing the risk of an unwanted gift.

But what if the collector gets a bit tired of it all – or hadn’t in fact set out to form a collection in the first place? It happens. Case in point: my friend Esther once bought a little unicorn figurine she admired. Sometime later, a pretty unicorn painting came her way. Friends and family visiting her house noticed the two charming unicorns and made the connection: Esther likes unicorns.

And so it began. A trickle, then a deluge, of unicorns. At every birthday, Christmas and Mother’s Day: unicorns. People even started referring to her as “the unicorn lady”. But the thing is, Esther wasn’t really a unicorn nut at all. In the end, she had to politely ask her loved ones to cease and desist: it was getting out of hand and the house was filling up with unicorniana. Plus it was probably getting a bit boring and predictable for her, receiving yet another unicorn thingamajig each birthday, Christmas, Mother’s Day etc.

So if you’re in a bit of a ‘giving habit’ (even a rut?) because “so-and-so likes [cats/ teapots/ orchids/ whatever]”, maybe check in every once in a while to see if they still feel the same way about it. They’ll appreciate your consideration. And likewise, if you’re “over” a perceived hobby or collectable, let it be known.

Gingerbread musings

April 19, 2010

Paying their way: my numeral cookie cutters make a batch of "2" biscuits

I did it!  I made a batch of “2” shaped gingerbread cookies for the slew of second birthday parties coming up, using the numeral cookie cutters I bought a couple of months ago.  

I frosted them in different ways and personalised some of them with messages like “Cory is 2” and “Happy Birthday!”.  I thought they looked great, and suitably festive, especially when packaged.

However, my confidence dipped when I went to the first party.  It turned out to be a full-on, almost-no-expense-spared sort of children’s party.  (I mean, there wasn’t a clown or magician, but I think next year there will be).  I had felt pretty good about my special cookies gift, until I saw the hordes of other people all turning up with big flossy parcels.  Then I began to feel…cheap.

I couldn’t help it.  But then again, I reminded myself, this little boy is little more than an acquaintance.  We haven’t seen Cory in probably four months.  It seemed like madness to rush out and buy a $15 – $30 toy for a child we barely know.  Plus, his wealthy parents seem to have purchased him every toy his heart could possibly desire.  What on earth could I have found that he didn’t have already?

So I found myself in a “But it’s the thought that counts!” kind of moment.  Maybe the gift was a little cheap (?).  Certainly it only cost me a few dollars instead of the dozens I’d normally have to have shelled out. 

But despite being relatively inexpensive, it wasn’t an easy gift.  Baking the cookies, frosting them in various ways, including hand-frosted messages…that took a lot of time and effort.  It would have been much simpler to just visit a local boutique and have them giftwrap some puzzle or train or something – done in a matter of moments. 

All the same, I couldn’t help wondering what the parents thought about it, later on after the party trimmings had all been swept up.  Did they comment to each other, What a charming and original gift, and that homemade gingerbread sure does taste good! 

Or did they say, Cheap bitch!

Teen birthday angst

April 2, 2010

I know a young girl, soon to turn 15, who is not speaking to her parents – because they won’t buy her the $400 mobile phone she wants as a birthday gift.

Her family are blue collar working class and have a $300 limit on birthday gifts – which frankly I think is very generous.  However their daughter, with her eyes firmly set on a fancier, prettier, more fashionable mobile phone, insists that she’ll have nothing but that phone. 

She’s tried asking her folks for an advance on the babysitting money she’ll earn in a few weeks when the school holidays arrive, to give her the extra money towards the phone.  But they’ve put their foot down and said No.  Wisely, I think.

Firstly, because it’s her little sister’s birthday soon after, and they’ll need all their readies for her birthday.  Secondly, because they intuitively grasp that it’s wrong to encourage their children to yearn after luxury items that they don’t really need and they can’t really afford.  And if they cave in this year, what will she be demanding next birthday?  A car?  A $500 handbag?  A ski vacation?

The thing is, she’s actually a very sweet and caring girl at heart.  She’s just caught up in the massive egocentricity that is being a teenager – with perhaps a dash of peer pressure relating to mobile phone ownership.  She’s pretty and popular – and beginning to really know it. 

I think her parents are sensible to not give in to her wheedling.  Although she’s not speaking to them now, I know that can’t last: she’s part of a caring, loving, humorous family.  And one day, she’ll realise how selfish she was being.

Karmic gifts

March 31, 2010

Ever given a gift to someone you wouldn’t expect?  Such as to someone with whom you don’t have that close a relationship?  A gift given without any expectation or likelihood of reciprocity – but given because it seems like “the right thing to do”? 

Occasionally, such gift opportunities fall in our path.  I know of two.  The first one was when I spotted a pretty little vintage piece of Coalport “souvenirware”, celebrating the little Welsh resort of Aberystwyth.  A woman I knew, who had recently been a work colleague of mine, had lived there for some years and recalled it with great fondness.  So when I saw this little inexpensive piece of memorabilia, I just had to buy it for Deb.  I stopped by her new workplace (she had started her own business) a week or so later and dropped it off to her.  She was surprised and thankful for the gift  – especially as I don’t think she even liked me that much!  In point of fact, I wasn’t close to her either – but I strongly felt that that wee china item was meant for her.  Maybe when she looks at it now, she thinks a little more warmly of her former colleague. 

Another example was a friend of mine who bought her husband, from whom she had recently and traumatically separated (at his behest), a beautiful birthday present.  It was a Wedgwood coffee mug, celebrating the anniversary of the launch of Concorde airplane.  She knew he loved the Concorde and would adore that high-quality, commemorative mug.  So, even though she could little afford it (Wedgwood doesn’t come cheap), she made the purchase.

“It was like a farewell salute,” she says.  “‘No hard feelings’.  Even though I did have hard feelings about why he had ended our marriage, giving that gift just felt like the right thing to do.  I have never regretted it.”