Friday, December 21, 2007

Friday Finds: Last-Minute Gifts

As the holidays near, I like to stock up on small presents to give as last-minute gifts for people I've forgotten, or as hostess gifts if I've been invited to on a short notice. There's nothing worse than being in a situation where someone you don't know very well and weren't expecting to receive anything from gives you a thoughtful holiday present. You don't have the time to fight the crowds at the mall or wrap the item, so you end up either giving nothing or running and grabbing a generic Starbucks gift card. I don't think there's anything truly wrong with giving someone a gift card as a present, but it certainly isn't personal and doesn't suggest that you gave a lot of thought. I keep lots of extra gift bags and tissue paper at home as well as small, last-minute stocking-stuffer type gifts for just these situations.

I think that for gifts under $20, it's great if you can find an item with beautiful design or packaging. It shows some extra thought and reflects some of your own personality and style. Soaps and candles are two of my favorite inexpensive gifts, since everyone can use them, or at least set them out in their bathroom or leave them for guests. I tend to find the prettiest and most original looking soaps and candles at specialty gift stores, but Sephora and Anthropologie have a decent selection.

I've also had a lot of luck finding small gifts at Trader Joe's and Whole Foods. Both stores have a beauty section, featuring mainly organic products. But their real draw is their selection of food gifts. Boxed truffles, gourmet hot chocolate, handmade marshmallows and peppermint bark are all great gifts, and are elevated by the cool packaging. It's hard to go wrong with sweets, and again, you know that if someone doesn't care for a particular flavor (or if they're on a diet), it's something that's easy to re-gift or share with friends and family.

And if you're the baking type, it's never a bad idea to make a huge batch of a fairly simple sweet like chocolate-covered pretzels (you can have fun decorating with sprinkles and drizzled white chocolate and caramel), fudge, bark, brittle or turtles, any candy that won't spoil quickly. A few hours of work and you have a large selection of homemade presents that will impress anyone.

Do you have a go-to gift for these situations?


EthidiumBromide said...

I avoid homemade food gifts for this type of situation. It's one thing if it's someone that I know well, but if it's a casual acquaintance, I generally tend to find that whatever you've made gets thrown away. I know a LOT of people that will not eat something baked my someone they don't know well; whether it's an issue of not knowing that ingredients they used (butter vs margarine, etc) or just a general distrust (even if they seem like a nice person, it doesn't mean they don't lick the spoon while baking).
I love to bake for my friends, for my own holiday parties, and for my coworkers, but they all trust me. I wouldn't bake for a neighbor or someone I don't know well, because it's a significant amount of effort and cost for ingredients to just be put straight into the trash.

Anonymous said...

I have a few go to items mostly for females.

-Bottle of Chanel nail polish
-Bottle of champagne or wine
-Case of 4 individual POP pink champagne bottles
-Subscription to Vanity Fair or Atlantic Monthly - you can honestly say your present is in the mail, although I usually wrap a ribbon around one from a store when presenting the gift.
-Kate Spade Stationary, I really love the "how the devil are you" and "see you later alligator"
-Kate Spade desk calendar
-Scented Stones from World Market, Lavender and Ocean are great
-Small silver picture frame
-Any current New York Times best seller, for example "The Kite Runner", "Eat, Pray, Love"

All of these things are usually around $20, nothing too crazy but illustrates that I am thinking of the person.

Thank you for your great blog.
Melanie Hayes