Before we get to the decorating, baking and wrapping, we need to sort out the Prezzies. And while we can all waltz into a store and exchange our cash for a gift card, putting some thoughts into your gifts is so much more fun…
To the Web, at Once!
NotOnTheHighStreet.com is my favorite shopping website for two reasons: it has the most amazing stuff ever, and it ships pretty much everywhere. (There is nothing more annoying than locating the perfect gift and then discovering that they won’t deliver it to your part of the world. Ugh!) They have a huge range of personalized gifts, and all of their stock is so special that the recipient will know you put in some serious thought to their gift this year. Pictured below are some of the items on my Not On The High Street gift-giving wish list this Christmas: Space Rocket light switch (£24.99), “Don’t Stop Believing” framed print (£25/+£45 for frame), Paris cotton print photo album (£40), Bespoke Heart Map (£38/+£40 for frame), “Tweet, Tweet” printed blue canvas – perfect for the Twitter-obsessed! (£55), Dunk mug (£15.50). Visit their treasure-trove of a website here.
Blurb It, Baby!
I love, love, LOVE Blurb, the online service that produces beautiful photo books. Not to be confused with self-publishing or POD sites like Lulu and Createspace, Blurb produces high-quality hardcover books, from square pocket-sized right up to dust-jacketed coffee table, ideal for gifts or keepsakes. Combined with some patience and your imagination, the possibilities are limitless.
I’ve used Blurb to make:
- Catherine & Sheelagh’s Central American Adventure 2008 (below). After we got back from our backpacking adventures, I took the blog posts we’d written on the road and the hundreds of photos we’d taken, and preserved them forever in a beautiful Blurb blog book. Better yet, I didn’t tell Sheelagh anything about it so she got a nice surprise!
- My mother is an avid gardener, and takes photos of her achievements on a daily basis. Thing is, she never does anything with them. So last Christmas I shifted through the 1,000+ digital photos of plants, flowers and garden views on our family PC and used them to make a photo book fit for the coffee table (below). It looked so “real” that when she unwrapped it, it took her a second to realize it wasn’t just a gardening book, but a book about her garden.
- One of my closest friends and I have never lived anywhere near each other, save for the few months we worked together when we first met. Due to our geographical locations, much of our friendship is conducted in long, gossipy emails which when you read back over them brings back some hilarious memories. Last year I did a bit of mining through Yahoo Mail, found around 50,000 words worth of messages going back around five years, turned them into a text-only Blurb book with a suitably hilarious cover and sent it to my friend for his birthday.
And if your budget doesn’t stretch to Blurb, make your own version of a photo book. Muji and Paperchase do ranges of plain photo albums and scrapbooks with kraft covers; fill them with photos, personalize the cover and brighten up someone’s Christmas with a thoughtful keepsake. Another idea: compile a themed book of quotations, such as travel-related ones for a friend about to hit the road, or writerly wisdom for the scribe in your life. You’ll be practically drowning in brownie points.
You’ve Been Framed
Not enough things get framed these days, in my opinion. Framing an item can turn it from something you’d otherwise just chuck in a shoebox to a unique reminder of happy times that will get pride of place on your bedroom/office/bathroom (!) wall. In another life I had a little handmade card company, and my ultimate wedding gift was a handmade wedding card with the bride and groom’s names and wedding date on the front, framed in a beautiful co-ordinating frame and mount. On it’s own: a pretty card. In a frame: an ideal keepsake and thoughtful (that’s today’s buzz word, if you hadn’t realized) wedding gift. At this time of year you could do First Christmas Together for a couple, or Baby’s First Christmas. (With a little Santa bootie – oh, the cuteness!)
Tickets and photos also work – last year I got my brother’s U2 ticket framed alongside some of the photos I took at the concert , making a great memento of his first live experience of his favorite band and a unique Christmas present.
Hampering It Up
If your budget is particularly limited, another great idea is what I like to Hilarious Hampers. Take a box and.. well, think outside it! For instance, my sister is forever stealing the usual suspects from my room: wet wipes, deodorant, hair clips and hair bands – all those things that you use the most but somehow completely forget to buy when you’re in Boots, wandering out instead with €50 worth of make-up you don’t need and a vague suspicion that you didn’t come out with what you went in for. So last Christmas I took a wicker basket, arranged a bunch of those items artistically, wrapped it in cellophane and stuck a bow on it. She got the stuff she needed, it won a few laughs and I prevented theft of my toiletries until February. (I also contemplated giving my recycling-obsessed Dad a hamper of empty plastic bottles and jam jars, but I wasn’t sure it’d go down too well…!)
And let’s not forget… BOOKS!
The best present to give and to receive. (Forget this love business – I just want books!) The Book Depository is by far your cheapest option for internet buying with its low prices and free shipping worldwide, and the site is offering Irish customers an additional 10% off until December 15th. (I have had some problems with their careless packing though… stuffing books into too small envelopes, etc. Not great for items intended as gifts.) But online bookstores are difficult to browse – you have a much better chance of finding that perfect book if you make the effort to pop round to local independent bookstore. They choose the stock themselves and usually have very knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff.
Don’t forget you can also send Kindle books as gifts to anyone who has an e-mail address. Simply click the ‘Give as a Gift’ button on your chosen book’s Amazon Kindle listing.
And if you’re stuck for what book to get, you know I wrote one, right?
(Admittedly a little cheeky…!)
So there you have it – my best gift ideas. Do you have any to add?