Life & Culture

Holiday gifts with something extra

It’s early December, which means that if you don’t start soon, you could find yourself dragging around the holiday aisle of a CVS on December 24, wondering which of your nearest and dearest love scented candles and which turn up their noses at them. But with a little planning and imagination, you can give out gifts that rock — and don’t break the bank.  All you need is a little thought…and your smartphone.



Let’s face it, we all spend too much time taking pictures with our phones, rather than living in the moment. But you can turn that into an advantage with Chatbooks, a service that takes your smartphone pics into books cheaply and easily. Just download the Chatbook app on your iPhone or Android, select the product you want, and choose photos from your camera roll. Books run from $10 (6 x 6 inches softcover) to $20 (8 x 8 inches hardcover), and come with 30 pages. Extra pages are 20 cents for the small book and 40 cents for the large. So take your photos from Dad’s 90th or last year’s Alaska cruise and make them into a neat little package of love. Just give yourself a week or two to make sure the book ships in time.


The Gift of Serenity

You’ve recommended meditation, but your stressed-out friend says she couldn’t possibly sit still and think about nothing. Well, for just $12.99, you can give her a month’s subscription to Headspace, the guided meditation app featuring the soothing English accent of Andy Puddicome. For $60, you can give a year of another popular app, Calm,that features guided meditation, soothing music tracks, and (for the insomniac on your list) sleep stories for grownups. Or for just $20 on Amazon, give them Calm’s lavender sleep mist, and write them a little note to let them know that they can get 30-day trial of Calm for free.


The Perfect T-shirt (or Flask)

CafePress is an online print-on-demand shop, where you can design your own merchandise or choose someone else’s. It’s got just about everything: a Notorious RBG t-shirt ($22), iPhone cases featuring your own picture ($27) or even a personalized flask made of stainless steel ($20). As with all personalized gifts, make sure to leave enough time for the gift to arrive.

What to Give Your Crafty Friends


You can’t sew a button on a shirt, let alone sew a quilt or knit a homemade sweater. But for your friend who is crafty, acknowledge their talent with personalized sewing labels, available in sets of 25, for $23 on Amazon. Ditto for your friend who bakes (bread labels on Etsy for $8.50). Of course if you can knit or bake, by all means pick up some of those labels for yourself and gift your talents to your friends


Kitchen Gadgets and the Gift of Paying Attention

pastedGraphic_4.pngHere’s a present you could buy in bulk and give to just about anybody on your list. ChicWrap reinvents the lowly plastic wrap roll as something colorful and whimsical and which actually works.The plastic doesn’t shimmy up the roll like it does on grocery store wrap, and it also adheres nicely to bowls and plates. (Watch this video.) ChicWrap comes in seven different designs and goes for just $15 on Everything Kitchen. And while we’re on the subject of simple household gadgets, how about the lowly grapefruit spoon? My husband always says that buying the perfect gift is mostly a matter of paying attention. So if you notice your friend struggling to scoop out grapefruit sections with an unserrated spoon, or if they’re always sighing with envy whenever they see you use your garlic press, skip the slippers and the picture frames and give them exactly what they need.


3 responses to “Holiday gifts with something extra

  1. Thank you for these terrific ideas! I’d love to add one more – give a friend the gift of learning with a gift membership to one of the 124 Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes (or OLLIs as we call them) found all over the country! It’s a great way to make new friends and learn new things – without the stress of grades and tests. You can see if there’s one near you by checking this webpage>> There’s at least one OLLI in all 50 states.

    And yes, I’m biased because I’m the director of one, but I am also a second generation OLLI member (my mom and aunt are members too!) and I love them!

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