What to Give: Thinking Outside the Gift-Wrapped Box

bkrA year ago, we came up with a list of the perfect holiday gifts we’d enjoy. Sad to say there are plenty of things we’re still waiting for, including world peace and good will toward everyone. But when we thought about holiday wishing this year, we thought we'd offer a list of suggestions for some of the special people in your life.

For the green-minded. BPA-free water bottles -- including our favorite bkr glass and silicone bottles ($28) -- make great gifts, along with reusable lunch totes made of neoprene, and grocery totes made out of canvas, burlap or wicker ($10 to $30).   

Family and friends who have it all. Forget about going big. Think genuine. And by that, we mean seemingly small but honest gifts.  Consider a nice bottle of wine (here are 20 suggestions). Or maybe a jar of (real) locally-produced honey or olive oil. How about a classic game -- Bingo, Monopoly, Scrabble, Clue, Operation, Carcassonne, Uno, Set, checkers or chess -- to play with holiday guests or to pull out at the next Friday night potluck? 

Elderly parents, relatives, friends. Honestly, these folks might most appreciate your time -- helping them with household chores, taking them out for a meal or a movie or even just a walk. But if you can’t offer your time, think about things that make day-to-day life easier: Electric kettles and coffee makers with an auto shut-off, clocks with large digital displays, area rugs with rubber grips to keep them from sliding, night lights with automatic sensors that turn on/off, and large print reading materials. Of course, they might also appreciate gift cards/certificates or prepaid phone cards.

Teachers. Instead of a paperweight, frame or box of candy, consider a gift card. We’ve talked to many teachers who say that while they appreciate the thought and gifts (especially homemade items), they don’t really need yet another mug decorated with apples.

For those who love to write. Just because we use computers and smartphones doesn’t mean we should give up the old school stuff. Office supplies can be turned into a great gift. We’re talking about an empty cigar box ($2 at a smoke shop) filled with a variety of pens (fine point, medium point, black, blue, red) and a Moleskine diary ($6.50 and up). Or maybe a box of stationery, with the postage already in place. Forever stamps mean you don’t have to worry about the postage coming up short when the rates go up.   

For those who love to draw. Who says crayons, colored pencils, pastels and a drawing pad should be for kids only? Add a few erasers, watercolor pencils and a ruler, and you’ve got the makings of a nice art kit for kids and adults. 

Kids 7 years and up (boys and girls). Instead of another game, toy, book or video, why not a sewing box? Yes, a sewing box, along with instructions (or your assistance) in teaching them how to sew on a button. This is a basic skill that can easily be learned and it's something they will remember all their life. While you can buy pre-assembled sewing kits ($7), these are fairly easy to put together. Get a tin, box or some other container and fill it with a few sewing needles (with large eyes), a variety of colored threads, a small scissor, measuring tape, buttons, fabric squares, straight pins and safety pins, and a pin cushion. Now that we think of it, there’s no reason why this shouldn’t make a great present for adults, too. 

For the gourmet chef. Kitchen shears (about $25). These are scissors on steroids. Use them to cut tomatoes while they’re still in the can, chop herbs, make short work of chicken joints, or cut through the crazy plastic they use to package kids’ toys and batteries. Get the sturdiest, strongest-looking pair you can find.

For the grandparents. Photo books (about $40). Yes, they take a while to assemble, but once finished you’ll enjoy looking through them as much as the grandparents will. Order an extra copy.

For the commuter. An e-reader. That way she can finish off the daily paper, a magazine or two, and have a nice mystery on backup for when their commute goes hopelessly awry. There are plenty of good choices, but we recommend the Kindle Paperwhite ($120) because New York Times reviewer David Pogue does, and he spends way more time geeking out on this stuff than we ever will.

For a two-year-old. The Wheels on the Bus, by Paul Zelinsky ($15.) Sure, there are many printed versions of this classic, but the drawings and pop-ups set this one apart. Older kids will have fun following some of the details in the illustrations, which show, among other things, a boy trying to transport a box full of kittens.

For the tired mom. Babysitting. Don’t just promise it -- do it. It’s what she wants. Trust us. If you feel the need to put something in a box, jewelry, a scarf or pajamas are all nice. Anything that makes her feel cozy or pretty, but doesn’t actually have to fit, will do.

For the college student. You can't go wrong with a gift card. Amazon, iTunes, Google Play -- or their favorite store.

The woman who has everything. Sign her up for a flowers-of-the-month club. Wouldn’t you love to have someone deliver fresh beautiful flowers every month? We would.

For the oenophile. Rabbit Metrokane wine aerating pourer (about $30). This funny-looking contraption can save many a $10 bottle of wine and make a $20 bottle taste outstanding. And you don’t have to leave the wine sitting in a decanter for an hour, getting warm, before you drink it.

For the crafter. An iPhone case by Leese Designs (about $20). For the DIY’er who is sick of seeing their favorite iPhone case everywhere, this is the ticket. The mesh on the back of these cases is actually a plastic needlepoint canvas, so you can needlepoint or cross-stitch your own iPhone case. Brilliant! -- Connie Guglielmo and Kimberly Weisul



If you liked this story, you might also like:

Keeping The Holiday Joy Alive

Holiday Wish List: Thinking Outside the Gift-Wrapped Box 

33 Things To Be Thankful For

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Image courtesy of bkr



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