Archive for November, 2006

Try thinking outside the gift-wrapped box

Sunday, November 26th, 2006

Does the prospect of holiday shopping leave you in a cold sweat?  Do the crowds in Union Square have you running for cover in the corner of the nearest café?  Is your mantra for the season more “Bah Humbug” than “Deck the Halls”?  If you have answered yes to any of the above questions, you can count yourself among the large group called “shopping phobics” or “shop-phoebes”.

For those of you who prefer to go shopping from the comfort of your own home, this one’s for you!  I understand your plight, especially since I make my living shopping for other people.  If you are not a natural shopper, the holidays only turn up the heat on an activity that is already up there with having a root canal.  If you prefer more “green” gifts, and want to save the environment, read on.  I have come up with the ultimate list of gifts; you never have to circle a crowded parking lot to purchase.

Personally, I love memberships.  Zoos, museums and science center memberships, all make wonderful gifts.  This is an especially valuable gift for families with children, or for the art lover.  They get to use it all year long, and each time, they will think of your generosity.  There are so many right here in our backyard:  The Oakland Zoo, Chabot Space and Science Center, and the Lawrence Hall of Science to name a few.  All can be purchased on-line with minimal effort!

Another favorite gift is tickets to the theater, symphony or ballet.  What is better than the gift of your time to take in a performance with an old friend, sibling, partner or grand child?   If there is a Broadway show coming to the area, getting tickets ahead gives the recipient something to look forward to.  Again, Berkeley Repertory Theater, Oakland Symphony and California Shakespeare Theater are good local options.

Magazine subscriptions are a fun gift to receive, for any age.  Does your friend love gardening, flower arranging or knitting?  There are many choices for hobbies or interests of all kinds.  For children, Ranger Rick, Highlights or American Girl is great magazines to give.  For the armchair quarterback, Sports Illustrated is a touchdown.  Log on to your favorite, and check one more name off your gift list.

Speaking of sports, tickets to a sporting event is a home run.  If professional is out of your budget, why not the Cal Bears, Stanford Cardinals, U.S.F. Dons or any other local college team?  We love taking our children to the Cal soccer games, both women’s and men’s.  It cost a total of $16, adults are $8 and children are free.  Shattuck Ave. is close to the stadium for lunch or dinner before/ after the game.

As a parent, there is no better gift for my children, than books.  I love to read, and so far, my children do too.  One of their favorite gifts is when their Aunt Sally sends them a gift card from Borders.  We put it away for a few months, and take it out when they are looking for good books, or I need a rainy day activity.  We pick the date and make an outing of it.  The kids really look forward to it.  We all come out of the store excited to get started on the books we chose.   Again, if done on-line, the recipient gets and e-mail notification.

For the teenagers on your list, the gift of music will always be appreciated.  An iTunes gift certificate is a sure fire hit with the younger set.  I could use some new music for my iPod.  Anyone who owns an MP3 player can appreciate this kind of gift.  Podcasts are also an option, and can be purchased the very same way.

If budget is your biggest issue, vouchers or coupons for services are the way to go.  What parent wouldn’t appreciate a night of free babysitting?  What busy professional wouldn’t love a prepared meal delivered to their home, or a dry-cleaning pick-up or lawn mowing or grocery run or….you get the idea.  This gift cost nothing, but really means a lot.

In the end, if you find yourself with a few missing gifts, shop your local stores!  Montclair Village, Piedmont Ave. and College Ave. all have wonderful eclectic and independently owned businesses that need our patronage.  Most have complimentary gift wrapping, personal service and a lot of good cheer.  Before you know it, “Bah Humbug” just might turn into “Deck the Halls”