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Five Gifts That Never...

Five Gifts That Never Fail

A good gift says “I took the time to find you something special.” An even better gift says “It took me no time at all to find you something special!” This year I’ve banished my ghosts of Christmas past––those haunted seasons spent standing in interminable lines, dodging shoppers, and falling flat on my face with pricey gifts. This Holiday season, I’m falling back on my old reliables.

See, I’ve overcomplicated this gift-giving process. For some reason––I’m not lying down here but it may have something to do with Martha Stewart and Oprah Winfrey––I’ve fallen into the trap of thinking that the obvious gift is the easy way out. My sister loves pajamas, but do I buy her a cute new pair? No, that’d be the obvious gift. I buy her a pair of high-tech running shoes to track her distance, speed, and calories burned. Can she cozy up on the couch with these shoes? No. Will these shoes bring her comfort after a long day? No, in fact they’ll probably haunt her, not help her.

I push myself to go to great lengths to make people happy, when the truth is most people on my list are easily pleased. In my years of overachieving in the gift department, I’ve disregarded the gifts that never fail. This year, I’m coming to regard them for the simple pleasures that they are. I’m also coming to realize that there is such a thing as a one-size-fits-all present––that still feels one-of-a-kind.

Pajamas
You just can’t go wrong with pajamas. My sister buys pajamas for my sons every year and they never fail to please, even as the kids get older. Her trick is to tailor the PJs to the kid’s current interests. One year she gave Bob the Builder pajamas, another year it was Batman pajamas, then Spiderman, skateboarder, alphabet, and this year Wall-E pajamas. The beauty of pajamas as a gift is that they come in every fabric, color, and size so they can create warm fuzzy feelings for almost everyone––little or not-so-little––on your list.

Some of my favorite resources for pajamas:

Hannah Andersson: think butter-soft fabrics, energizing colors, long-lasting quality, and comfy shapes that aren’t too tight or too grown-up for little ones. You can outfit the whole family (including Fido) with their bright, stripey PJs and you’ll not only be photo-friendly, but earth friendly too––they’re made from organically grown cotton.


JCrew: I love JCrew flannels for all the men, women, and children on my list. They’re always soft, always festive, and almost always on sale right before Christmas (just in the nick of time). My favorites this year are their Grizzly-Bear Flannel Sleep Pant for men and their Snowflake Flannel Pant for women. Their flannel bedroom slippers are always cute too.

Magazine Subscriptions
Subscriptions are the gifts that keep on giving, and they are usually the least stressful and often the least expensive gifts on my list. I gave my sports-obsessed son a subscription to Sports Illustrated for Kids last year. It cost me $20––he stalks the mailman every month in the days leading up to its arrival and reads it to tatters once it arrives (sneaky way to get your kids to read). Best $20 I ever spent. There are magazines to suit every obsession and budding interest be it fashion, travel, dogs, crafts, or photography.

Of-the-Month Clubs
Similar to magazine subscriptions, though a little pricier, an of-the-month club guarantees that your gift receiver thinks happy thoughts of you at least once a month when his gift arrives––not sure what I’ll do with all that good karma! Of-the-month clubs used to mean a pricey delivery of fruit or flowers once a month, but the options are now as wide-ranging as the prices.

If your giftee hasn’t already joined the Netflix movie club, you can purchase a three-month subscription for $50.97. Indie film lovers will love a subscription to filmmovement.com. You can get a six-month subscription for $67.95, which includes one award-winning independent and foreign film each month (for you to keep) for six months, as well as six bonus films and a DVD carrying case.

You could take your foodie friend out for dinner once a month, or you could get him or her the Tasteful Gift Combo from Omaha Steaks for only $69.99.

Books
With HDTVs, MP3s, iPhones, and Wiis on the top of every list to Santa this year, I’m more motivated than ever to give the gift of a good read. When I’m shopping for a book-gift, I’m looking to find something that either fits my gift-getter’s established tastes or ignites a new interest. I’m a book lover, but not a book snob, so I won’t force classic literature on a beach-read fan. I also won’t force a hefty must-read on a time-crunched friend––an audio book is a better fit here. Last year I bought my aunt the Encyclopedia of Ireland, and ended up buying one for myself too because it really is a beautiful book. This year I’m gifting several copies of The Secret Life of Bees to the few women who have not yet read this book. I’m gifting Scribbles: The Really Giant Drawing And Coloring Book to doodlers on my list, and 1,080 Recipes to the cookbook lovers on my list.


Fudge
Oh fudge! You don’t know what to give your neighbor to say thanks for feeding kitty while you were away. Well, when in doubt I always buy fudge––then I force people to open their gift in front of me so that I can enjoy the gift too!  You can custom fill a cute gift box of yummy slices of fudge from mackinacfudge.com for $46.95. If there’s a snobby gourmet chocolate-lover on your list, you might think about buying them a few tools of the candy trade so that they can create their own sweet treats (and you can eat the benefits!).

The moral of my story is: don’t overthink it. If an obvious gift pops to mind, there’s a good chance it’s obvious for a reason––it’s the right gift. Don’t fight it. Give them what they want and go easy on yourself. Don’t forget to buy yourself something you want too while you’re at it. Happy Shopping!

Related Stories:
Shopping For My Spice Girls
Five Things to Keep In Mind When Shopping For Kids

Updated Novmber 29, 2008

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