14 November, 2014

Gift guide: best and worst of Christmas past

Just in time for the shopping holiday season, I decided to highlight some of the best gifts I've given and received (and some of the worst). I love getting presents as much as the next person, but I really really love giving the perfect gift.

Best gifts I've ever given: For some reason, these are disproportionately objects that could be used as weapons, and disproportionately male-targeted. I think - with most clothes, shoes, bags and jewelry off the table, at least if I'm hoping for the recipient to be excited - that I spend more time thinking creatively when I'm giving gifts to men. Several years ago, I had a replica of an orbitoclast made for my dad: he wrote about it here, so I won't recap the story. My sister's fiancé claims to hate Christmas (but loves weapons), so he's gotten a set of tiny switchblade cufflinks - which were reportedly sharp enough to draw blood. For their engagement party, they got an engraved Champagne sabre.

Runners up: a trainer stand for a mountain bike; a monogrammed steak brand; a dwarf Meyer lemon tree (although they killed it, eventually); matching olive wood spoons so my mom, sister and I could each be cooking with the same spoon in our separate kitchens.  

quilt from Say Yes, Juliet
Best gifts sourced from Etsy: This overlaps with the previous category - the orbitoclast was the product of Etsy's Alchemy feature. Alchemy matched customers in search of a unique item with sellers with the skills to create such an item. It was offline for a bit, but has re-emerged as the Custom Order Corner (with slightly stricter rules and more oversight, I think). I also used Alchemy to have a custom quilt made for a little girl - each square had a translation of her first and middle names in a different language. For Christmas last year, my dad gave me a copper bracelet engraved with phrase chi hullo li na billia chih (roughly translated from Choctaw as "I will always love you"). Pretty good for a last gift, if there has to be one. (I need a bittersweet emoji - suggestions?)

Runners up: There are tons. Check out the painter Obsolete World, the photographer Elle Moss, hand-dyed ombré tights from BZRshop, pottery from Kandace Lockwood, barrettes (for kids) from KatesKlips, modern art from Messicakes, and really amazing geometric furniture from MSTRF. I may need to devote a whole post on my favorite Etsy artists. Next year, I would like to try to only give gifts that are handmade.

Best gifts I didn't know I wanted: My sister has an incredible knack for this. One year, I swore I didn't like stemless wine glasses. Then she gave me a set of six Riedel "O" glasses and suddenly I couldn't understand how I lived without them. (It's true that I knock them over less often). I was solidly anti-Tiffany (all my undergraduate peers wore than same stupid, overpriced silver bean)...and then she gave me a sterling silver infinity pendant on a double chain, and I wore it every day for the next several years. Two years ago, she gave me a totally unexpected forest green coat with hot pink trim (from Anthropologie), which I never would have chosen for myself but attracts fairly constant flattery.

Most embarrassing: One Valentine's Day, an ex-boyfriend's parents happened to be visiting the city where I was living, and asked to take me out to dinner. (It wasn't a recent break-up, and we were all friends, so it was really just coincidental that it happened to be that particular holiday.) I brought them a book I thought they'd like - they brought me earrings, a bracelet, and...black lace boyshorts and a bright pink thong from the company hanky panky (tag line: "world's most comfortable thong"). And, apparently, I wasn't too embarrassed, because I kept the underwear.

Runner-up: A boy my age at the time (more than an acquaintance but not a good friend) gave me a very soft, light green throw/blanket at my high school graduation party. Again, it was awkward-but-kinda-sweet-really, and I've actually had it ever since.

Best gifts I've given myself: This year, for my birthday, I replaced my lost iPod Shuffle for running (which was a gift from an earlier birthday). And then, a few weeks later, I bought a baby grand piano, which I've wanted since I was 10. And four years ago, I gave myself a custom-made Todd Loewy steel coffee table, which still might be the best thing I've ever paid for myself.
Todd Loewy coffee tables

Most epic fail in gift-giving (or really great symbolism!): One year, a guy I was in the process of breaking up with bought me an EcoSphere, which was dead on arrival. It's sort of hilarious in hindsight.

What I wish for every year and never getShaun Leane talon earrings. (Hint, hint, loved ones. I love you too.) Extra brut Champagne. Passes to the climbing gym (and a good climbing partner). Lace fingerless gloves. (I know - what's the point?) One of those weird coral wands for pulling hair back from PluieTieks (ballet flats) in every color. A monthlong vacation in the Maldives. A cure for cancer, universal health care, world peace. (Or at least a U.S. election result that I could understand, but even that seems to be asking a bit much.)

Websites that have been especially inspiring this year: (certain people better not peek!)
www.bobles.com
http://www.tokyo-milk.com/
www.aplusrstore.com
http://www.occulter.org/
www.melissajoymanning.com
and lots of books and wine, of course, because you can't go wrong with books and wine.