Cha-ching! Chri$tma$ $hopping by AF$

As I alluded to in an earlier post, I have been itching to put together a shopping blog. Although my law school days hampered my shopaholic-ness (and let's be perfectly honest. It didn't do wonders for my artsy-fartsyness either), now that I am working girl, I am BACK. I am almost done with Christmas shopping for the AFS and Knight fams, and I feel that at this point, I have a pretty good handle on what's out there and of interest to other shoppers in my demographic. I say "in my demographic," because I could never even begin to claim that I have great ideas for every race, gender, age, and economic status. Hopefully, though, my catalog perusing, real in-person mall window shopping and internet stalking will help some poor soul out there who is stuck on purchasing something for the mother-in-law who has everything or, even more of a stumper, the dreaded White Elephant Christmas party.

Note #1: I think the best way for this to work is to organize the list according to the gift recipient from lowest price to highest. Just so you know how it is going to flow. (NOTE - it takes too much work to put them in order by price. Sorry...but they are still sorted by recipient!)

Note #2: If anything on here catches your fancy, and you want to buy it on the internet, please google "(store's name) coupon codes." This usually will direct you to some coupon site which has the codes to save you 15% or get you free shipping. If the stores offer it, why not take it?

Note #3: This post's gift prices aim to please many, but probably will be most applicable to young people who have jobs, but aren't rolling in the dough. Kapeesh?

Note #4: I didn't post ideas for spouses. The Knight and I aren't getting anything for each other this year (saving for a house...wouldn't it be nice if Santa would bring one of those this year?) and I think most of the gifts here would be good for a hubby or a wife!

Note #5: I also didn't post many ideas for pets. There are a million different types of pets out there, and how would I know what Arthur the Tortoise wants for Christmas? I only have a Betty Rascal, and am already too embarrassed to tell you how much money I have already spent on her holiday attire (p.s. Wal-mart actually has really cute and really cheap clothes for doggies this year!). If I made a list, you would just make fun of me!

Now - on to the LIST (which sadly has not been checked twice. This thing was a b*tch to write!).

Haute Mamas (gifts for the Mothers with everything)

I am always a fan of Christmas dishes. Nothing spreads holiday cheer quite like a little platter piled high with a holiday spread. These are really spectacular, but at $100 per set, they are a little pricey. Perhaps go in with a sibling? These are arguably just as cute, but a set of 12 would only put you back about $45.

Since I'm already talking about dishes (you know how I get about dishes), let me show you this jewel of a bowl at West Elm ($49). Daisy had to literally steer me away from it in the new Nashville store. Sometimes shopping for others causes the Knight and I to mysteriously acquire many new things during the holidays. Hmmm.

Vera Bradley has a little clutch this year to celebrate its 25 years of business. At $60, it might seem a little high, but for the quality and beautiful design, I think it's worth it.

This book (How to Get Fat) is guaranteed to please ($9.95). It is hilarious, and is going in my mom's stocking this Christmas. I certainly have to fight the incessant desire to get out and exercise, don't you?

I have fallen in love with Heidi J. Hale's jewelry. I found her by way of an interview on http://www.craftrevolution.com/ and am very impressed with her work. It is reasonably priced and appeals to fans of David Yurman and boho beauties alike. My favorite necklace is the Amazonite & Sugilite Necklace ($63) and the Tomato Jade ring ($65). Although I put this under the "Mom" section, I really this this site has something for all the ladies - from the grannies to the girls.

PJ's for mom might seem a little generic, but with some of the comfy stuff out there, it is hard to resist. Garnet Hill has some oh-so-soft organic cotton Asian wrap pj's ($68.00)that I just might buy for myself after the holidays are over (they also have them in the shorts version too - $58.00). Tons of moms love Talbots, and their lime green Cheetah PJs are guaranteed to make your mom feel like the queen of the jungle (OK, that was cheesy, but really - they are super cute!). Also, don't forget to check out Lane Bryant, Coldwater Creek, and J. Jill. During my most recent trip to the mall, I found that they all had nice PJ's at reasonable prices.

If you are looking to start a tradition for years to come, how about a Swarovski Star ($70) or Little Star ornament ($45)? The prices are redonk for a tiny crystal ornament, but they are so beautiful and look wonderful tied to the arms of a chandelier in the dining room. If you like the idea of an ornament tradition but want to spend less, Wallace does a yearly sleigh bell and Towle does a yearly silver-plated bell for $29.95.

To Die For Dads (gifts for the Dads who don't need another tie (or in my dad's situation, can't stuff another one in his closet...the graveyard of necktie apparel)
For the executive dad, Ballard's has a gorgeous Horn Desk Letter Opener, Magnifying Glass, and Pencil Cup. Or you can buy all three for $45.50!

If your dad is a Christian, a religious scholar, or just interested in different worldviews, an audio subscription from http://www.marshillaudio.org/ ($30) might be just the perfect (and definitely unexpected) gift for him. (I'm sure some moms out there would like this, too...just not mine).

In that same vein, ISI is an online bookstore dedicated to "limited government, individual liberty, personal responsibility, the rule of law, market economy, and moral norms." They have tons of books hand-selected by the company (like this one - $17.60) which relate to those themes. I know, we're getting all deep here, but it's an idea!

If your pop likes tools, Black and Decker has made their cordless tools more efficient by making the batteries for the tools interchangeable. This really helps out when you are in the middle of a project and all of a sudden your B&D drill's battery dies, but OH WAIT...I have the B&D Handisaw battery to use. That's a humdinger of a design! The 18volt drill runs about $85.

Does your dad have the need for speed? Is your mom always harping on him to use a coaster? Well, the folks at Harley Davidson have a solution. These vintage Harley coasters ($20) are sure to please them both. Unfortunately, you can't buy these online, but if you are completely opposed to actually stepping foot into a store this Christmas, I'm sure the nice people at your local store would be willing to take your order over the phone and ship them to you!

Genealogy has become a booming hobby in the last few years, and this book from Ancestry.com is sure to please the family history buff. Just type in your last name, and for $29.95, you can learn all sorts of cool things about where you came from.

Give dad something to chew on: a sampling of buffalo, venison, and ostrich that will impress his beef-munching buds - House of Jerky Exotic Variety Pack, $35

Brother, where art thou? (seriously, why won't you return my emails and tell me what you want for Christmas?)

For the suave entertainer, I recommend this Mock Croc Bar Set ($25.50), Ice Bucket ($35.50), and Shaker ($25.50). All of the pieces are affordably priced, masculine enough to please the burliest of men, but stylish enough to impress the ladies. NOTE: These could also make great Dirty Santa gifts.

For the curious boy in your family, Pick Me Up ($19.79) and Do Not Open ($16.49) are guaranteed to please. Pick Me Up covers everything from "how to confuse an angry seagull to a history of medicine to Germany's exports and imports to an exploration of the meaning of life..." and Do Not Open is a "colorful book filled with unexplained mysteries, bizarre anecdotes through the ages, great escapes, codes, optical illusions, hoaxes, and explanations of secret systems and complexes." While these books are geared for grades 5 - 12, the Knight and I agreed that we would like this book, too. Besides, we've already forgotten everything from the 5th grade on, so a little refresher wouldn't be bad at all!

Now, I'm not going to even begin to attempt to discuss video games. There are too many, and I only know about 3 of them. BUT, if you are going to splurge and/or your mom needs some ideas, I HIGHLY recommend Guitar Hero I/II/ or III. I understand that you can play this game on Wii or on Playstation (you just have to buy the kind made for each game system). It is SO fun. Plus, mom and dad will be pleased that so many songs on the game are from their era. My brothers got this last year, and just last weekend when we were at the parents' house for Thanksgiving, Guitar Hero was still the main attraction (after the turkey, of course).

For the cynic in your life, check out http://www.despair.com/. They have some hilarious "Demotivators" that poke fun at all those cheesy posters regarding "Teamwork" or "Courage." Plus, they have a calendar so your dearest brother can be "demotivated" all year.

Upgrade from his holey college sweatshirt with these Crocs Collegiate Athens Flip Flops.

Is your bro a huge (and possibly very annoying) trivia buff? To your detriment, this may be the perfect book for him: The Book of General Ignorance, $11.97.

Okay, so I think boys are hard to shop for. I admit that this section needs some help. If you have some ideas, please share!

Sister, Sister (for the girls in your life who want twice as much as you can afford)
Now this cami from J.Crew is on sale, so it may not last, but trust me - your sister needs it. It is the perfect layering piece - can be worn under a cardigan, over a tissue thin tee, under a blazer at the office, and of course on its own! For $29.99, you can't beat it!

If your sister is gearing up for that overnight field trip, a weekend trip to visit the boyfriend's parents, or just needs a separate bag to tote her shoes for family vaca, this is the bag for her! Only $19.50 and super cute - Black and White Overnite Tote.

Got caught wearing your shoes in the house? Try Charlotte Russe's Hot Pink (also in Black) Polka Dot Slippers - a steal at $9.99. Now, don't be scared of the "teeny bopperish-ness" of this store. Or, if you are (like me), go to their website. They have tons of great, cheap jewelry and fun shoes. I especially liked this necklace (it looks even better in person) for only $6.99. Oh, and this covetable crimson swiss dot top, too (but for sizing, err on the larger size. This is a juniors store!).

Good morning, Baltimore! Don't forget about the Hairspray! This movie has roped in yet another generation of fans with its latest rendition of the classic. And believe me, I much prefer John Travolta in a dress than Ricki Lake. The Shake-n-Shimmy version ($22.99) even comes with a special section for lyrics and dance moves. Big, Blonde, & Beautiful - doll! And for the HUGE fan, give her the soundtrack as well ($9.99)!

If your sister is crafty and ready to try something new, I suggest you mosey on over to visit Jenny Hart at http://www.sublimestitching.com/. Her "Stitch-It Kit" ($22.95) comes with all a beginner needs (minus the scissors) to get started on some funky embroidering (think a tube of lipstick embroidered on the back of a tank top; the Eiffel towel on a pair of Chucks), and her how-to manual actually tells you how to do the most simplest things. I know this from personal experience because I bought it for me last month, loved it, and then promptly bought one for my 15 year old sis! But SHHH, don't tell her, because she still has almost 30 days before she gets to open it.

Sweet Child O' Mine (what to get that little rugrat in your life?)

Kid presents is another area where I have a hard time. I have no kids of my own, and although I still behave like a child, I have no idea what is cool if you are 7 or 11. Since I have been shopping for my nephew and neice, I have spent a lot of time googling "boy presents for age 5" and "what do 2 year old girls like?"

The one thing I learned this year is that pretty much everything is being recalled. Seriously, all of the recalls have led me to privately owned, one-of-a-kind toy stores that have toy brands that aren't mass-distributed by Target and Wal-mart. The employees at these stores are usually a lot more informative and tons more helpful than the mega chains. So, I'm going to show you a few of my favorite kid toys, but really, go ask the experts. They know way more than I could ever hope to.

The following were few suggestions from Real Simple that I particularly liked:

EyeClops Bionic Eye, $50 - For the budding scientist: a giant eyeball that magnifies any item to 200 times its size — and plugs in to display it on a TV screen. http://www.amazon.com/

Squiggles: A Really Giant Drawing and Painting Book, $19 - Filled with creative “assignments” (draw a sky full of lightning; sketch a hat on an alligator), this big, black book will keep them busy for hours. http://www.chroniclekids.com/ or http://www.madallie.com/

E.L.F. Cosmetics Holiday Grab Box, $50 - OMG! She’ll freak over the 50 makeup items presented in this jar. Choose them individually for $1 a piece — and expect a long wait for the bathroom from now on. http://www.eyeslipsface.com/

Tales From the Brothers Grimm: A Classic Illustrated Edition, $20 - Beautiful antique drawings make this volume a page-turner (and a library must-have), even if kids already know how the stories end. http://www.chroniclekids.com/

I adore the Land of Nod, and this pull-along Pinto ($24.00) is so cute I want to squeeze it! What about these stuffed zany cats ($30.95 - $40.95)? Or this "Chicken or the Egg" apron ($12.95)? Heee! Okay, so you just need to go to this site. I want to buy it all. So colorful and smarty!

Golden Girls (gifts for the very best of friends)

I don't know about you, but sometimes I have the hardest time shopping for my friends. Anything I could afford to buy them, they could just as easily go out and get it themselves. So, I am always trying to find just the right gift, the one that they wouldn't even think to buy themselves. Last year, I gave my two best friends sassy aprons from http://www.sweetpeahandcrafts/ and I Like You, a zany hospitality/recipe book from Amy Sedaris.

This year, my focus has been on the more "one-of-a-kind." I just think that there is something really special about giving something that handmade. I have become obsessed with http://www.etsy.com/. It is a great website where indepedent crafters/fashion designers/painters/potters/artisans of all kind can sell their wares with little expense. Want some handthrown pottery? Looking for an owl pillow? Or a hand dyed leather cuff? Etsy's got it. If your friend has a home that she's planning to stay in for a while, why not try one of these stamps from Sweet Paperie? Prices run from $16.95 to $22.95...much cheaper than a lot of other places. (These would also make great wedding gifts, too!)

Most of my friends adore all things personalized, and this is is especially cute (just picture it in a bathroom or a kitchen)! The Jack and Lulu Framed Monogram ($50).

If your friend is a mom with little ones, she'll surely appreciate this (somewhat controversial) cookbook all about sneaking veggies in her kids' foods ($14.97) or this pioneer cookbook covering much of the same thing (but it got less press...I guess that's what happens if you aren't a Seinfeld) ($10.77).

It ain't only the Grinch who's green this year (eco-friendly gifts)

So, since Jess(ica) and I have become good friends, I have been more eco-minded. Although I'll never do everything right, I do think that conserving when we can and being mindful of our environment is SO important. The Sierra Club has a great list for the whole family (they probably stole that idea from me :), but I won't tell). I have selected a couple that I especially like.

I like this rugged wallet (made out of discarded truck-tire inner tubes) and these luggage tags (made of old circuit boards) are perfect for the traveler on your list.

You can never have enough purses, and this pull-tab clutch is the perfect gift for probably 1/2 of your gift list. I need this vintage-record-sleeve journal. Puh-leaze buy if for moi.

Grandma might appreciate this decorative bowl woven from telephone wire or a vase made from recycled paper.

If you have a stocking for your puppy, fill it with these fabric chew toys made of recycled soda bottles, and for under the tree, give them an adorable organic, hemp, or recycled doggie bed.

For other ideas and some great ideas to avoid waste during the holidays (hello wrapping paper, people!), go here.

Why does Santa have to be dirty? (gifts for the office party, the family gift exchange, and any other inevitable holiday gathering which requires a gift)

STOP WITH THE GIFT CARDS, people! So many of them go unused each year, which means in the end you are making a (non)charitable donation to a retail store. Not exactly what most people think of when it comes to holiday giving. In order to avoid gift card waste, here are a few unisex ideas that have mass appeal, and are a little different.

I already mentioned the bar set or shaker idea. Even Wal-mart has nice bar sets and shakers for under $25.00. Other places I would suggest are Pier 1, Bed/Bath/Beyond, Crate & Barrel, and West Elm. At pretty much any party you go to, somebody there is going to drink (maybe not such a good idea if you work at the Betty Ford clinic), and chances are this would be a desirable gift.

I'm also a fan of pairing up a popular Christmas DVD with a big box of microwave popcorn. A Christmas Story, White Christmas, and Elf are always big hits with the fam and at the office. Along those same lines, you could always buy a couple of classic Christmas CDs, some hot cocoa, and a couple mugs. Starbucks always has good Christmas CDs (this year is "Stockings by the Fire" ($13.95) and I think Tony Bennett has a new one out this year.

Another popular idea is gourmet food. No, I'm not talking about the $5 popcorn tins at the grocery store. I'm talking about stuff people might actually want to put in their mouth. Okay, actually I would put popcorn from a tin in my mouth, but anybody can buy a $5 popcorn tin! Be bold! Show your boss just how classy you are by pairing an artisanal loaf of bread from your local Whole Foods or Fresh Market with some dipping oil from Williams Sonoma. If you want to get extra fancy, add some cheese or wine to the basket. Voila...instant hit!

If you work with a bunch of car junkies, I heard this advertised on the radio and thought it was a smart little gift. For $19.95, you can purchase the Turtle Wax Car Wash Bucket Kit. It comes with all you need to keep your car nice and clean!

Other Budget-Friendly Beauties:
So here are a couple more things that I just had to mention, but didn't put anywhere. Enjoy!
Ticket Stub Diary - $12
6 Mink Coat ornaments (don't worry, it's faux!) - $20.50
Tole Cheetah/Green Wreath hanger - $19.50
Paste Magazine subscription (11 magazines and 11 CDs) - $19.95

Whew! Shopping is exhausting! I hope you got maybe one or two good ideas from here. And if you have any other suggestions, please share them. If I get enough, I'll even post them in a separate post.

One thing I didn't even talk about, but I strongly advocate is the idea of homemade gifts. They mean so much more than anything you could buy, and are usually pretty inexpensive. Whether you are a baker, a crafter, a photographer, or a handyman, I guarantee you that your family and friends would enjoy something more if it came from you rather than the mall.

Now, take a deep breath, fire up your computer, and GO SHOP!

Artsy Fartsy Shopaholic was brought to you today by the letter "E" and the number "26."

1 comment:

Meg said...

"I'm also a fan of pairing up a popular Christmas DVD with a big box of microwave popcorn."

Oooh, you gave me this idea last year when I was trying to come up with an idea for my office White Elephant, and I ended up going to Target, where they have those really nice packages of food items dressed up in pretty packaging (I guess to take to people's houses when they have parties and stuff), and got a tall thin canister of caramel/chocolate popcorn. Paired it with "Miracle on 34th Street", and it was a total hit!

(Just so you know your advice on shopping is totally dead-on, and you should sooooo start a shopping blog. I need to know where to go for nice work clothes, now!)

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