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Posts Tagged ‘gifts’

The gift without wrapping — love

In aging, behavior, domestic life, family, life, love on December 24, 2013 at 1:11 am

By Caitlin Kelly

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For many of us, the holidays are a time of frenzied shopping, wrapping gifts, tearing them open with glee, (and pretending we love those socks, really!) — surrounded by loved ones, deep in the bosom of a welcoming family.

For others, it’s a lonely time of want and exclusion.

My greatest gift, for the past 13 years, has been my husband, Jose, who proposed to me on Christmas Eve, with snow falling around us, after the evening service at our small historic church. He knew that night had many painful memories for me, going back decades, and decided to “re-brand” it with something new and happy.

But we didn’t marry until September 2011, eight years later, in a small wooden church on an island in the harbor of my hometown, Toronto.

Our marriage, which we cherish for this, is hard-won.

JRLCAK WEDDING01

We were — and still are — two hot-headed, competitive, stubborn workaholics, both career journalists more accustomed to pouring our best, (our all), into our work, a safe place to win recognition, awards and income. His parents died before he was 30 and we’re not close, emotionally or physically, to our families, no matter how hard we’ve tried. No one from his family attended our wedding, nor did one of my brothers or my mother. We have no children.

So we’re very much one another’s family.

We also married, (the second marriage for both), at what is euphemistically and hopefully called mid-life.

I’m grateful for the daily gift of a good man who loves me deeply.

We laugh loudly, and a lot. We talk for hours. We lean our heads against one another’s shoulders in public. He does the laundry. I do (some!) of the cooking. He’s starting to beat me (damn!) at Bananagrams. He’s the guy who — when I start waving the wooden stick after I’ve finished my ice cream bar — makes the buzzing noise of a light saber.

The furthest apart we’ve (yet) been — I was in Tunis on a solo vacation and he was in San Francisco, judging photos for the “A Day in the Life of America” coffee table book.

In this, our 13th holiday season together, he has shown me, more than anyone in my life so far, that love doesn’t come in a box or bag or sealed-plastic container.

It has no price tag or return policy.

If we’re really lucky, it’s right there in front of us.

33 fab holiday gift ideas

In beauty, culture, design, domestic life, entertainment, family, Fashion, life, love, Style on December 8, 2013 at 3:03 am

By Caitlin Kelly

For some people, holiday gift shopping is hell — you have no idea of your recipients’ sizes or favorite colors or you’re on a super-tight budget and/or the thought of a crowded mall makes you want to give up before you start.

English: Gift ideas for men - wrapping paper e...

English: Gift ideas for men – wrapping paper example. Please source http://www.giftideasformen.com (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Take heart, Broadsiders!

Every year I make a list for you of fun, lovely practical gift ideas for men and women of all ages. A few are big splurges, but I’ve sought out a variety, many chosen for their combination of charm and affordability.

Enjoy!

From Plumo, one of my favorite fashion online retailers, this watch, with an owl on its face, $122.  And these great socks, with chartreuse hares on a field of blue, $38.63; they also come with foxes or crows.

I didn’t expect to find housewares at this new site, Saturday by Kate Spade. But this simple, black pitcher is gorgeous and large enough to hold a bunch of tall flowers or a lot of martinis; $75.

And, maybe for the same kitchen or dining room, here’s a great little black and white cotton rug, in an array of sizes, starting at $33. This site, Dash & Albert, has a huge selection of terrific colors.

Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

O’Brien’s boots! Any of you who are addicted to Downton Abbey will crave these terrific Edwardian-era black leather boots; $298.

Love these ceramic, printed measuring spoons, with imperial and metric; $25; add this gaggle of gold-edged geese — ceramic measuring cups. Adorbs! $36

It is a sad fact that many American schoolteachers — and their students — don’t have enough of the supplies they need. This site allows you to choose what to give and where.

As someone who loves to entertain and set a pretty table, I love this colored flatware, in a variety of colors, from tortoise to deep blue; $150.

Love this linen tea towel – made by a Broadside follower, Edinburgh-based designer Niki Fulton — of an industrial crane in the harbor, bright pink on black; $13.26.

You probably know Zara, the fast-fashion Spanish retailer. But do you know Zara Home? I love their unusual designs and colors, and splurged this year on a duvet cover and shams on sale. The quality is excellent! I adore this duvet cover, in a dusty grey and soft red paisley, (the sort of thing you’d pay three time as much for an antique version if you could even find it), $89-109.

The worst thing about flying? Tough to choose! But an overweight bag is a nasty surprise. Here’s a portable luggage scale. (We have one. It works!) $12.

I use Windex and Q-tips, but here’s a computer keyboard brush that looks like something from a Victorian hotel. Steampunk! $24.

I use candles and votives in every room of our home. I love their gentle, flickering light — a lovely way to wake up slowly on a cold winter’s morning or soothe yourself during a long bath or illuminate an intimate meal. This set of three, in white ceramic, resemble sea urchins, from one of my favorite catalogs, Wisteria; $19.

Oh, admit it…you’re dying for a little (maybe a lot of) cashmere. Feel less guilty if you buy it for your brother/father/sister/bestie (after getting one for yourself.) This V-neck sweater, a classic, is a delicious heathery teal; $225.

Speaking of cashmere, they call this thing a snood; I call it a cagoule. Either way, it’s a cozy, gorgeous way to wrap your throat from chilly gusts; in three soft colors, $108.

Can you resist a small fox door knocker? I can’t! $24

Do you know the Moomins? They were one of my favorite children’s books, by Finnish author Tove Jansson. A Moomin mug is sure to start your day with a smile; $22.

I love my Lamy fountain pen; this one is a sharp, matte black. $28.

These gold-plated Herve van der Straeten clip-on drop earrings are divine! Bold but organic. $376.

I serve on the volunteer board of the Writers Emergency Assistance Fund, and am proud that we’re able to help non-fiction writers facing financial crisis. We have absolutely no administration costs so every penny goes directly to the people who need our help. We can give up to $4,000, which we send out within a week of receiving and approving an application. Writers, no matter how talented or experienced, often live a somewhat precarious life financially. Please keep our culture thriving with a donation to WEAF!

If you’ve ever been to the Paris flea markets, you know what fun (and madness) they can be. I always score a few fab finds. Here’s  the next best thing - a hardcover book with lots of photos and stories about them, from the elegant publishers Assouline; $75.

Scarf mavens, unite! I want this one, quite desperately, a mineral print in tones of blue, turquoise and brown, on silk, exclusively from one of my favorite shops in the world, Liberty of London; $120.

Beautiful department store.

Beautiful department store. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I do love the elegance of a silk pocket square; this one, in deep blues and blacks, is also from Liberty; $56.

Have you ever tasted tamarind? Here’s one of the world’s best gourmet/spice shops, Kalyustan’s, on Lexington Avenue in Manhattan. Delight your favorite foodie or cook with a basket filled with exotic, hard-to-find ingredients — and hope for a dinner invitation!

Y’all know I’m a big fan of sending lovely thank-you notes. Check out these letterpress thank-you cards, made by a woman in Silicon Valley; $15.50

This creamy, dreamy soap, with a tangy citrus-y smell, is the signature fragrance of the five-star hotel Le Sireneuse on Positano and…swoon! We’ve been using it for the past month in our bathroom and the whole room smells divine. Eau d’Italie, a box of three bars; 36 euros.

And speaking of lovely scents, my favorite is Blenheim Bouquet, a man’s fragrance created in 1902 by the British firm Penhaligon’s. It’s crisp but rich, and I wear it year-round. “Reserved Victorianism, telegraph style. But fresh. Colonial lemon/lime meets Scarborough fair. Splendid, old boy,” says one reviewer; $136.68.

Shameless plug here; my latest book, “Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail”, or a one-on-one coaching session on any aspect of writing, journalism or publishing — or perhaps a headshot by a Pulitzer-prize winning photographer who has photographed three Presidents (aka my husband, Jose)? Just the ticket for an ambitious pal (or one for yourself.)

Who doesn’t want a baby elephant? Sponsor an orphan through the Daphne Sheldrick Foundation. From $50.

This squid’s dangling arms — designed by a Swedish kite-surfer — offer a fun, funny way to gather and keep your shampoo, conditioner and body wash in one place; $36.

For Christmas 2012 — 25 fun gift ideas (and a bonus!)

In beauty, design, domestic life, Fashion, food, Style on December 14, 2012 at 12:26 am

Enjoy!

For the home

There’s nothing nicer than a set of unusual and stylish plates — for hors d’oeuvres, salad, dessert — to complement your everyday china. These four black plates, all different and each resembling the face of a vintage watch, are stunning; new this season from Pottery Barn, $50,00.

I love ZaraHome’s products, newly available this fall in the U.S. These purple paisley towels are gorgeous and unusual, $18.90 for hand towels, $59.00 for the bath towel.

This 15.5 inch square throw pillow isn’t cheap — at $87 — but looks like something three times the price, embroidered in cream on white, also from ZaraHome. Pretty for the bedroom, or a nice touch on the sofa.

A glossy olive green enamel thermometer, made in France, $28, is a nice touch for your window; imported by Boston-based entrepreneur Kit Mitchell.

These 8″ plates — each painted in rich jewel tones in a geometric pattern — are $60, from Mothology, a fantastic house wares, lighting and furniture site with a vintage look.

I love an array of pierced-metal lanterns scattered throughout my living room, like these. Nothing sets so romantic and calming a mood.

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Here’s a terrific small lantern, with a glass lining, that’s round, soft, weathered green cut-work metal and looks like it was discovered at some Mongolian archeological dig. From Mothology, $34.oo.

For women

This black burn-out velvet dress — something Lady Mary from Downton Abbey might wear — is spendy but exquisite; $554.73, from Plumo, one of my favorite women’s wear websites.

These metallic silver slippers are pretty enough to wear outside the bedroom; from ZaraHome, $49.90.

Oooooh la la! These red and black panties, $52, from Bergdorf Goodman, are to die for.

If she has pierced ears, these stunners from Swarovski, $75, are a great choice; (in my photo on this site’s Welcome page, I’m wearing them.) In gray crystal, they’re a gorgeous neutral elegant enough for evening but simple enough for day. I get compliments every time I wear them.

For men

I love this Timex watch — with a Hudson Bay striped band, in classic primary colors. These are the colors of the classic “point blankets” introduced by the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1780 to trade with Canadian natives.

If you’re going to wear a warm hat, go for a tuque, (pronounced took); this one has the insignia of the Montreal Canadiens, aka the Habs. If you can get through a Montreal winter, you’ve survived some serious cold. From Canadian retailer Roots, $30.00.

If you’re looking for a messenger bag, this is it! A man walking his dinosaur, $48.00, from Etsy seller Matt Snow.

A soft indigo henley is a classic; $59.50 from J. Crew.

For fun

I discovered this fast-paced word game this past summer. So fun!

Need help with your snow-ball-making skills? Buy this, $7.50.

Can you really bear to leave home without travel Scrabble? The classic holiday-at-home sanity-saver, $39.00.

Build your own cardboard biplane, from the fab Japanese chain store Muji, $12.50.

For pure pleasure

These handmade marbled papers from Thailand are gorgeous — use them to cover a lampshade, line a picture frame or wrap gifts. (I got this paper from Papyrus and painted some plain frames to match it.)

20121130155434

Do you know the extraordinary scents of Paris-based Diptyque? Try a candle for $60.

I love this seasoning, from Penzeys’ spices, whose selection is mindboggling.

A box of Jacques Torres chocolates. Yum! $36.00.

For a good cause

Who wouldn’t like to adopt an orphaned baby elephant? Through the work of Dame Daphne Sheldrick, who runs a foundation in Kenya, you can.

You can help prevent malaria — for $5 — by buying a bednet, through this organization.

This is the writers’ aid organization on whose volunteer board I serve; we can write a check of up to $4,000 within a week to established non-fiction writers who meet our criteria.

Please consider helping writers in your charitable giving this year!

BONUS: I’ll send you a signed copy of my new book “Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail” — for you or as a gift, signed to someone else — if you donate $25 or more to WEAF, the writers’ aid organization listed above. Email me at caitlinvancouver@yahoo.com with your mailing address; checks should be made out to the Writers’ Emergency Assistance Fund, or you can donate directly to WEAF, here.

Thanks!

But it’s exactly what we wanted! How did you know?

In behavior, domestic life, family, life, love on July 22, 2012 at 12:40 am
Wedding Gift

Wedding Gift (Photo credit: INIJIE)

It’s summer and, in North America anyway, it’s wedding season!

If you’re getting married any time soon, be sure to practice this phrase.

Because you will get some seriously weird shit as wedding gifts.

If your wedding gifts are given in cash, score! No such luck for me.

Here’s a blog post about the 10 items couples should register for, but never do…

Every time I watch the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” and see the couple get a house — a house?! — as their wedding gift from her Dad, I wonder what that would be like. (My Dad gave me a knife set for the first wedding and a set of sterling salt and pepper dishes for my second.)

We recently got a belated wedding gift from a friend we see fairly rarely. He gave us…a gong. So cool!

Jose and I are now competing to see who gets to ring it first/most/most often and under what circumstances:

– come to bed, at once!

– you’re snoring. Off to the sofa!

– breakfast/lunch/dinner is served

– time to drive me to the train station

Unlike a toaster/blender/vase, you’re fairly unlikely to get multiple gongs. Maybe not even one.

My favorite nuptial gifts, (from both of my weddings) have included:

-- a pair of binoculars

– a picnic basket

– a mini-blender

– a drawing of several nautical knots (get it?)

– a gorgeous wide, deep bowl perfect for pasta or parties

– a gift certificate to one of our area’s loveliest restaurants; (this from a couple who live nowhere near us, who did their homework)

Don’t wait too long to select or send your wedding gift. One friend waited almost two full years after attending my first wedding.

Her gift arrived just in time for…my divorce.

And here’s a website where you can actually get a refund if this happens to you, oh generous gift-giver!

What’s the best wedding gift you received?

Or gave?

The worst?

My baby, she wrote me a letter

In behavior, culture, design, domestic life, life, love, Style on March 11, 2012 at 12:06 am
English: Postal card mailed from Washington, D...

Image via Wikipedia

When was the last time you wrote — (yes, by hand, using a pen) — a letter or note on a piece of paper, let alone chose a lovely card or piece of quality stationery? Foolscap, notebook pages, the back of a receipt or a Post-It note do not count!

Did you put a stamp on it and mail it to someone: a business associate, a former professor or mentor, your sweetie or mom or nephew or former college room-mate?

When was the last time you received a card or letter and ripped open that paper envelope, wondering who had been so thoughtfully old-school to choose it, write it, buy a stamp, find your mailing address and, in time for an occasion, send it to you?

Here’s a recent op-ed in The Guardian making the same argument in favor of paper-based communication:

A letter is a letter no matter whether it lands on the doormat or pings into your electronic inbox.

Actually, though, there is a difference and it is one that worries historians like myself who spend their days combing the correspondence of ordinary people written 150 years ago. The protocols that govern letter-writing mean that even the simplest of communications come packed with extra bits of information that never make it into an email. “A … letter, should be loose, cover much ground, run swiftly, take risk of mortality and decay,” Saul Bellow once wrote – and while most peoples’ communications don’t quite match up to these exacting standards, they do strive to do more than simply arrange where to meet tonight, FYI, or chortle over last night’s debauch down the pub, WTF. Even the most listless letter-writer generally includes a bit about how they are physically and emotionally, a snapshot of their recent activities, a nod towards future holiday plans and a final comment on the state of the nation.

To a historian this stuff is gold dust. For buried away in the interstices of the most apparently banal note you will find all sorts of data, not just about how people lived, loved, ate and dressed a century ago, but – and this is the important bit – what they thought and felt about it all. Letters are a prompt to reflection and what cultural critics call “self-fashioning”. Put bluntly, we get to know who we are and what we think by writing about it to other people.

I recently had major surgery and cannot adequately describe the pleasure, comfort and moral support I got from the many cards and notes I received, whether slid beneath my apartment door by neighbors, sent from old pals in Canada or mailed by members of our church.

(I loved getting e-cards, too.)

But, years from now, when I sort through my papers — literally — these pretty, physical, time-specific memories will fill my hands: Valentine’s, birthdays, weddings, condolence, congratulations.

Here’s a link to 30 gorgeous modern thank-you notes, from one of my favorite daily blogs, Design Milk.

Especially at times of sorrow and stress, a thoughtful, personal note on lovely paper is an air-borne hug.

Here’s a great story from NBC Nightly News about why sending cards matters so much.

And a year-old blog devoted to saving the use of snail mail.

Writing a novel? Here’s a fascinating argument by one writer why writing letters is so beneficial to writers of fiction.

Mail one today!

The Best Present Is…

In behavior, domestic life, family, life, love on December 26, 2011 at 1:25 am
Christmas gifts

Image via Wikipedia

Good health?

Ready access to excellent medical care?

Love?

A warm, dry safe place to shelter?

Dear friends?

The most materially fortunate spent today unwrapping their Christmas gifts.

Jose, as is his wont, gave me a lovely mixture of the practical and flattering, from a new workout wardrobe to get me back into the gym in style to a book about the mountains of Antarctica to…a folding telescope!

Not at all what some men might buy a wife for their first married Christmas but I was, and am, totally thrilled. I feel like a pirate woman. The ‘scope is powerful enough that I can tell if someone’s standing on the balcony of the apartment building on the opposite side of the Hudson, a distance of three miles. Essential!

My gifts to him this year included “1493”, a new work of history; a paisley silk pocket square and bright blue tattersall shirt and a road atlas. I like that our gifts to each of us combine a sense of adventure with the tools to enjoy it.

It’s a quiet Christmas for us; my father is in Canada with my two half-brothers and my Mom is in a nursing home far away. We had a wonderful Christmas Eve dinner with our New York family, whose daughter Jose dated some 15 years ago, all of whom have remained dear friends of ours. We went to church this morning, part of a very small group of perhaps 20 others.

I hope your Christmas was lovely!

What was your best present, given or received?

The Ghosts Of Christmas Past

In behavior, domestic life, family, life, love on December 24, 2011 at 1:45 pm
christmas 2007

Image by paparutzi via Flickr

– Christmas dinner in Montreal with friends, then flying BOAC with tinsel garlands hanging across the aisle, to have Christmas Day dinner with my aunt and uncle in London

– Living in Cuernavaca, Mexico with my mother, and trimming the smallest, weediest little tree we’d ever seen (think of the tree in A Charlie Brown Christmas)

– Coming out of midnight Christmas Eve service at church, just as it’s starting to snow, and Jose suggests we go to the lych gate — where he proposes!

– Getting stuck on the 401, the world’s most boring highway, heading back to Montreal from Toronto, in a scary blizzard, trying to stay warm until the tow-truck came

– The first Christmas living with my Dad, at 15, years after my parents split up when I was seven, showered with lovely and thoughtful gifts I used for years, like the cheery red, yellow and blue patchwork quilt for my bed

– meeting a dishy, blue-eyed engineer, home from Khartoum, on a flight from Dublin to Bristol, and running off into the Welsh fog for a few days with him, back in my crazy single days

– getting frisked by the cops after attending midnight Mass at the cathedral in Cartagena, Colombia

– Heading into the insanity of Boxing Day sales with Jose

– Jose’s first Christmas dinner with my fractious, loud family of table-thumpers. As we sat around expounding and bloviating, interrupting and opining, he finally slammed the table himself, to our enormous shock. “Take turns!” he said. Stunned, like dogs who’ve had the hose turned on us, we did — for a few minutes. Welcome to the family, sweetie!

– My first Christmas with Jose, in 2001, when my gifts included a toaster and a colander. Not sexy, but useful and still very much appreciated

What was your best — or worst — Christmas memory?

Broadside’s best gift is  you — such smart, fun readers worldwide — now 560 worldwide!

Have a great holiday!

It’s My Birthday! Now What?

In aging, behavior, children, domestic life, family, life, women on June 6, 2011 at 12:21 pm
Birthday Cake

Image by chidorian via Flickr

A 22-year-old from New York City gave birth to me in Vancouver on June 6, 1957.

Today, I live near her birthplace and she, in Victoria, BC, lives near mine. We each married a man from across the 49th parallel.

It’s a gorgeous sunny day here in New York and, thanks to Facebook, birthday wishes have already arrived from Bhutan, London, Paris, Cracow, New Mexico, Tuscany and San Francisco — I have, literally, a world of friends, whose love and support are the greatest gift I could have. Being a career journalist/author partnered with a career photographer/editor means we share global tribes of fun, talented, adventurous people passionate about ideas, people and connection.

It’s day filled with a mixture of joy and sadness.

I’m a little terrified of being this age, although — yes — better than the alternative. I read the personal obits in the New York Times and yesterday read one of a woman, 45, who had made partner in one of the city’s top law firms but was cut down by cancer.

I know how incredibly fortunate I to have a birthday at all.

I normally get a card from my mother, and am her only child, but she is too angry with me for applying to become her legal guardian (she now has dementia) and instead is clinging to a weird and controlling woman who loathes me — and who shares power of attorney with me. So, today, I get silence from my own mother.

My father, thankfully, is a hale 81 — and hopes to be here this weekend, driving down from Ontario visiting friends, to share his 82d with us with dinner in Manhattan and maybe tickets to the ballet. We fought bitterly for years and in the past four (since the death of his wife, a woman I never made peace with) have become closer than I ever thought possible. That’s a gift.

My sweetie, Jose, plans to take me on a silent Buddhist retreat, mid-July. You can imagine my mixed feelings! But I’m exhausted (happily) from promoting my new book “Malled” non-stop for two months and can really use some quiet time in the country. Not sure how much meditating or chanting I’ll do, but we’ll see.

Tonight, I’m making pork roast and we’ll eat on the balcony and enjoy our river view. There’s a cheesecake in the freezer and I’ll make a mango-strawberry coulis.

I’ve been thinking about some of my best past birthdays:

10…My mother throws a terrific pool party at the first-ever Four Seasons Hotel in downtown Toronto. (My new book has a blurb from the chain’s founder, Issy Sharp. Small world?)

12…We’re living in Montreal that year, but several good friends come the five hours by train from Toronto, and we have a pajama party on the living room floor. I have photos of me with a cake covered with sparklers, happily cringing.

16…After arriving in my super-cliquey Toronto high school halfway through Grade 10, I’ve finally made some really good friends. Joyce organizes and throws a surprise party for me. Yay!

20…Both my parents are traveling, far away and out of touch, my Mom in Latin America somewhere and my Dad and his wife on his boat in the Med. My uncle Bernie, a well-known actor from London, is doing a show in Toronto and takes me out for dinner.

21…I’ve been traveling alone for months in Europe and want to wake up somewhere amazing for my 21st. I blow insane money and stay, one night, at the Gritti Palace in Venice. So worth it.

26…Paris! I’m at the end of the best year of my life, on a journalism fellowship with 27 others from 19 countries. My gal pals take me out for dinner there.

30…My mom hosts a party for me in her Toronto house. I still treasure two gorgeous art glass vases I received that day.

What was your happiest birthday?

An Alphabet of Holiday Gift Ideas, Alpaca to Zanzibar

In Uncategorized on December 4, 2009 at 5:32 pm
iPhone Alphabet

Image by schnaars via Flickr

Twenty more shopping days ’til Christmas. I’ve already mailed my mom’s presents and still have no clue what to get my Dad.

Here’s my alphabet of non-mall, somewhat unstandard ideas:

A: Antiques. Not everyone is as crazy about them as I, but this time of year there are antique shows all over the country, from small, affordable local shows to the glossiest, vetted international events. If someone you love is a collector — of magnifying glasses, or walking sticks or majolica or Depression glass, an antique show is a fun, efficient place to find all sorts of good things and high-quality surprises. Auctions: again, many smaller, regional auction houses have extremely affordable possibilities, much of it viewable on-line and biddable by phone or email, from crystal decanters to prints. One of my favorites, William Smith, recently offered lovely 200+ year-old Japanese woodblocks, some estimated as low as $150 apiece. Alpaca: is light, warm, lovely change from cashmere. One of my favorite sources with sweaters and shawls of alpaca is the 33-year-old company Peruvian Connection.

Baked Goods. If you can afford a loaf pan, some flour, eggs, sugar and fruit, you can make banana, lemon or cranberry loaves. They’re quick, easy and delicious. Delicate cookies are impressive indeed, but anything home-made with love (and some skill!) is a treat.

Charity: For the person who already has everything, make a donation in their name. Camera: My sweetie, a professional photographer, gave me the Canon G7 Power Shot, a tiny digital camera that fits in the palm of my hand and takes fantastic images. I started my career shooting with Nikons. This is just as good — I’ve sold my images shot with it to The New York Times and Toronto Star, so far.

Duvet: It’s a European thing, but the best! Not cheap, but a great lifetime luxury. Light, warm, comfortable year-round. Cuddledown has good choices.

Elephants: I love elephants. I even rode one in Thailand, best travel experience ever. Here’s a great list of terrific non-fiction books about these creatures. If you don’t know and love the 78-year-old children’s storybook classic Babar, about an elephant family, check it out.

Fountain pen. I know, some people think they’re pretentious. Nuts. Using my Lamy makes even writing out my quarterly tax payments a little less painful. Filofax. Equally old school, equally elegant and sensual way to stay organized. Mine is a decade old, fuchsia leather. I love all its accessories — yeah, pre-Iphone apps — like a ruler in metric and Imperial, map of the world with time zones, NYC subway map and notepaper for jotting down random ideas.

Glasses. Champagne flutes, martini glasses, fun juice glasses. Crystal or glass, antique or new. I like these, with bees embossed in them.

Hermes scarf. Oh, go on. $300. Gorgeous. Their silk twill has a lovely crispness and feels like no other. The patterns can be spectacular and come in wonderful color combinations. Their site has perfume (Caleche is a crisp classic), men’s and even baby gifts.The orange box is heaven and so is the chocolate brown twill ribbon printed with their name; I wear an antique locket on mine.

Isamo Noguchi lamp. I love his simple, quirky white paper lamps, like this one, at $105.

Jacquard pillow covers. Great paisleys.

Kitchen timer. Boring? Not if you have a crummy old stove or oven and/or you do a lot of cooking. Helpful to have several to coordinate the chaos at dinner party time. Affordable, cute, stocking stuffer: chickens or cow, $7.99 each.

Lillet. My favorite French aperitif: light, a little bit citrusy, not too sweet. $18 a bottle. Serve over ice. Yum!

Massage. Give one, get one. Or give a gift certificate for one.

Notecards. I’m crazy for beautiful stationery and recently discovered this great national chain, Paper Source. How about a set of personalized cards? A nice touch for all those thank-yous you have to send out while job-hunting.

Osa Martin’s biography, I Married Adventure, published in 1940. One of the first and most daring women adventurers in Africa.

Paperwhites. A perfect fragrant addition to any winter-bound home.

Queen Anne upholstered chair. Simple, elegant, comfortable.

Rwandan-made baskets. I love these affordable and gorgeous bowls, $40, woven in Rwanda by local women.

Soap. Few affordable presents beat a hard-milled, long-lasting (like a month) fragrant bar of soap. Here’s all-natural, woman-owned Sarva soaps. Sephora carries Fresh soaps, $14 each, and anything by Roger & Gallet, three to a box, is a do-able luxury at about $16.

Toile de Jouy. (Twal de Jwee, for the non-Francophiles!) This is one of my favorite things in the whole world, a fabric design that dates back centuries. Pottery Barn has lovely cosmetic bags, two for $36, as well as bed linens and shower curtains, in this pattern.

Umbrella. I like this one, cheetah-print, that you can monogram in red, $36.

Vintage. Anything! Jewelry, vest, hats, handbags, tableware, napkins. EBay, thrift and consignment shops.

Woolrich’s Civil War artillery blanket, $119. Cozy and historic!

XKCD. Check out this fun comic website, xkcd.

Yaktrax. I love to walk outdoors even in ice and snow. These things , $17.95, strap on over your sneakers or light boots, allowing safe year-round treks.

Zanzibar. If you can find the time and money, go for me. It’s near the top of my wish list!

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