Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Plainsfeminist Guide to Holiday Giving, Part 2.

Continuing the thread below...

3) Photo gifts. For relatives, photo items are often appropriate. Sadly, I don't think the industry has come up with many great items. Consider t-shirts, for example. Maybe when I'm a 65 year old grandma, a t-shirt of my grandkid will seem like a good idea. But in general, I think those kinds of t-shirts are just embarrassing.

Mugs, on the other hand - calendars - mouse pads - those work. (And who couldn't use a new mouse pad, after all?) Or even just a classic photo gift: a framed snapshot or portrait. I think this last is under-utilized, myself.

4) Handmade gifts - a caution.
The problem with handmade gifts is that many people think that just because it's handmade, it will automatically be a great gift. I think this is true when the maker is a child. In this case, the gifts have sentimental value (assuming the child is one you have an association with). For example, I once had stationery made from a couple of Bean's finger paintings that were unusually pretty. These made a great grandma gift. The notecards were actually nice enough that I could have given them to random friends who weren't especially interested in having something that Bean had made, but they were better as a gift specifically for those who were.

But there are some things that I think are less useful. For example - and I could be wrong - but I just don't know about nicely packaged, homemade cocoa mix. Or chocolate spoons. I have both received these and given them (I never really understood the point of the spoons, and when I used them I was mostly disappointed), but I just don't think this is a gift that most people are excited to get (I am willing to be wrong about that).

I have also made scarves for people and not been really sure if that's something they want. Knitted gifts can be touch and go, as so much depends on a person's particular style, but usually a pretty, warm scarf is welcome in the winter. Handcrafted jewelry, too, can be a winner provided you get the giftee's taste right.

The key to making handcrafted gifts work is to either get the taste or the need right. Just one of these will make it a nice gift. Both together make it a winner (as is the handmade knitting-related gift I got for my birthday this year from this friend).

5) Edibles. When all else fails - or even when it doesn't - chocolate. Russell Stover or Whitman chocolates are an affordable gift for neighbors, teachers, or just about anyone. But if you want to give something special, try Godiva. As my aunt says, "I like all kinds of chocolate, but it's true, Godiva is really better." She will be getting this for Christmas. (No, she doesn't read this blog.) You don't have to break the bank, either - I usually get her something like this, along with a couple of books, but she's still drinking last year's, so I figured I'd just focus on the chocolate this year.

Also, even a small box of fancy truffles from a local chocolatier makes a nice hostess, neighbor, or even teacher gift, and that way you can support a small business in your own community.

Coffee is also a good consumable, especially if it's fairly traded.

I'm also a big fan of the basket o'meat and cheese. I think, though, that these are often nicer and more affordable if you select the items individually and package them yourself. You also get more for your money that way. Combine a couple of varieties of olives, hard cheeses, and salami/summer sausage with crackers, or do one each of the olives, cheese, and meat and add a small bottle of wine. Theme baskets can be nice, too. For example, how about a jar of fancy marmalade, one of fancy preserves, a set of holiday spreaders, and popover (or muffin, or beignet) mix?

(Man, I shouldn't write these things when I'm hungry. I'm drooling on the keyboard.)

OK, now, my silent readers, it's your turn: what are your smart gift ideas?

1 comment:

blacksweatpants said...

three ideas from cash-strapped college world:

photos: i like to give photo puzzles. what could be more fun than 500 pieces of black-eyed susan madness?

i've also been known to draw pieces for people (pencil or charcoal/chalk). i've found that people in my age group appreciate art that has personal significance.

finally, sometimes there is nothing better than quality time spent with someone - over anything from a beer to tea - or a meaningful letter for those who have wandered far.