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October 1, 2011

The Right Gift: On-Line Resources

by Anne Paddock

Giving a gift is easy but giving a gift that the recipient will truly enjoy takes time, thought and effort. Gifts are delivered with a message:  Happy Birthday, Thank You, Congratulations, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah  – and the message is best conveyed with a thoughtful gift.

A true gift is given to make another person happy and to successfully accomplish this, the mindset has to be on the recipient and what he or she would enjoy. This is harder than it seems as often times people forget that their preferences are different from others. Years ago, I gave my husband a box of chocolate pecan turtles thinking he would enjoy them as much as I would but when he jokingly told me he was going to buy me a box of cigars for my birthday, I got the message. The old adage – put yourself in their shoes – comes to mind and now guides me in making gift selections.

First, a few tips on gift etiquette:  don’t give:
  • Diet Books:  Most people don’t want to be reminded to lose weight;
  • Books on How to Raise Children:  Most parents don’t want to be told how to raise their kids; there are a thousand successful ways to get from Point A to Point B and until you’ve walked in someone else’s shoes, it’s best not to judge;
  • Gift Certificates to Tire Kingdom: I’ve yet to meet someone who would appreciate this one;
  • Jewelry:  Jewelry is a very personal gift; best to let the recipient choose his or her own;
  • Bathing Suits:  Unless the recipient is under the age of 2, stay away from this one;
  • Stationary:  Stationary is a very personal choice best left to the recipient;
  • Re-Gifts:  We’ve all received re-gifts which are easily recognizable (i.e. the gift receipt in the box dated 2 years prior or the charity event cast off). This is a serious faux pas;
  • Books on Politics or Religion:  Based on the old rule of etiquette not to talk about either of these topics with friends (or some family members), better to buy these books for yourself; and
  • The Same Gift for Everyone: Years ago I bought ties for all my brothers and they rather ungraciously let me know how they didn’t appreciate them. Although their methods were not kind, they were right.  Not much thought is put into buying the same gift for everyone and that message comes through. Everyone wants to feel that he or she is special so consider the individual.

A good general rule of thumb is not to give anything that you wouldn’t have a conversation about.  Think about the recipient – favorite hobbies or lifestyle – and chances are a gift idea will come to mind.  I’ve yet to meet a person who doesn’t like to eat and so the gift of a favorite food – be it chocolate, olive oil, cookies, nuts, or jams – will more than likely be enjoyed.

What follows is a list of suggested gifts that I’ve sent to friends and family with good results.

The Cake

No one makes a better cake than Perfect Endings out of California. The company’s line of vintage cakes – Coconut, Red Velvet, Devil’s Food, German Chocolate, and Banana – are extraordinary. Each cake is made with real butter, cream, chocolate eggs, and can be purchased directly from the company  for $55 plus shipping or through Williams-Sonoma for $80, shipping included.

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Gifts for  the Cook

Most cooks love gadgets or anything that makes kitchen tasks easier and quickerZyliss, a Swiss company makes top quality kitchen tools that most cooks love.  Amazon (www.amazon.com) carries a good selection of these tools.  There is also a wide selection of cooking tools, food (the brioche is phenomenal) and supplies at www.williams-sonoma.com and the gift wrapping is beautiful.

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Think twice before giving a Julia Child cookbook to a kitchen novice or risk the book will be forever parked on a shelf. Instead, pick a more appropriate cookbook aimed at his/her skill level. Cooks Illustrated (www.cooksillustrated.com) writes excellent cookbooks that are fun to read, easy to follow, and most importantly, the recipes produce delicious results. If the gift recipient is a vegan, consider a Happy Herbivore book or if a vegetarian, consider a Celia Brooks Brown book.

Gifts for the Baker 

For the best selection of bakeware and ingredients, go to King Arthur Flour at www.kingarthurflour.com. Parchment paper, scone pans, and silicone cups to make lava cakes are just a few of the wonderful products this website sells.paper-pans-740

King Arthur also sells everything needed to make a pizza, including the pizza stone for those who love the infamous Italian pie and for the baker who gives her creations, King Arthur has a wonderful selection of disposable baking pans and cups.

Gifts for the Cookie Lover

Nearly everyone loves cookies and Amy’s Cookies makes a Viennese Crescent that will please the most discerning cookie connoisseur.  Made with almond flour and lots of butter, this cinnamon dusted cookie melts in your mouth.  The key lime sandwiches and chocolate chip cookies are also excellent.

254576_445804722123364_1805885220_nTwo dozen cookies in a beautiful box with a grosgrain ribbon sell for $16 plus shipping at www.amyscookies.com.
Gifts for the Dog Lover 
Most dog lovers have a favorite breed and what better way to show you’ve noticed than to give a coffee table photograph book of the preferred breed. There is a great selection of books at www.amazon.com. The New Yorker publishes books filled with cartoons for dog or cat lovers which can also be purchased on-line through www.amazon.com.
Gifts for the Chocolate Lover
Nearly everyone loves chocolate and La Maison du Chocolate, a french chocolatier makes a wide variety of dark, milk, and white chocolates. Go to www.lamaisonduchocolat.com and the chocolate will be packed in a beautiful brown box and ribbon. For the almond and chocolate lover, the company makes chocolate covered almonds that are positively addicting.
img10oThe serious dark chocolate addict and those who like their dark chocolate over 70% will appreciate chocolate bars from a store in Seattle, Washington called “Marie and Freres” which sources their own cocoa beans and sells the amazingly delicious Claudio Corallo chocolate bars.

Although orders can’t be placed on-line at the company’s website (www.marieandfreres.com), the store does take phone orders (206-859-3534) and ships promptly.

Gifts for the Cheese Lover
Murray’s Cheese is based in New York City and has a vast selection of European and American cheeses with full descriptions on their website (www.murrayscheese.com).

canstockphoto1704631Orders can be placed and delivery dates specified with the cheese arriving in perfect condition on ice.

Gifts for the Ice Cream Lover
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream is rich, creamy and made from all natural ingredients with the milk and cream coming from grass grazed cows. Orders can be placed on-line at www.jenis.com with a minimum order of four pints. Each pint is about $12 and worth every penny. The ice cream is guaranteed to be delivered frozen (on dry ice) and ships on Mondays and Tuesdays to guarantee prompt arrival. Jeni’s also makes a great selection of frozen yogurts in wonderful flavors like grapefruit, mango, apricot, lemon, and more.
Gifts for The Francophile
For those who love all things French, a box of Le Macarons from Laduree (864 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10021; 646-558-3157) are reminiscent of being in Paris.

laduree3The macarons come in a wide variety of flavors and although the company has a beautiful website: www.laduree.com, The website is not set up for orders; best to visit the store or call to place an order.

img20oEqually as good, if not better is a box of croissants ($39 for a box of 15 large or 24 small) from Williams-Sonoma (www.williams-sonoma.com). The croissants – plain or chocolate – are shipped frozen from Galaxy Desserts and arrive on dry ice.  Easy instructions to thaw and bake.  Unbelievably good..next best thing to enjoying a croissant at Pierre Hermé in Paris.

Gifts for the Tea Lover

Tea Forte sells a variety of tea in unique pyramid-shaped tea bags that look as good as they taste.  Go to www.teaforte.com and place an order but don’t forget to include a canister of orange spice cookies which go perfectly with a cup of tea.

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Gifts for the Nut Aficionado

Koeze is based out of Michigan and sells colossal cashews, pecans, mix nuts and pistachios that are absolutely delicious and addicting.  The nuts come in glass canisters or in gift boxes that can be ordered at www.koeze.com.

feature-103-cashews2-pop_310Gift for the Sports Enthusiast

Most sports enthusiasts love layering so fleece jackets are an important part of their wardrobe. Backcountry (www.backcountry.com) has a wide selection and carries stylish brands including MammutNorrona, Peak Performance, Acr’teryxHelly Hanson, Billabong, Marmot, Patagonia, and more. Prompt (and often free) shipping and excellent customer service.

Gifts for the Fashion Conscious
A pair of Hunter boots is the necessary fashion accessory for a rainy day.  These boots come in a rainbow of colors so choose her favorite color and bring a smile to her face on a wet dreary day.  Available at www.hunter-boot.comwww.zappos.comwww.nordstrom.com and many other websites. The original boot at $125 is a hit that doesn’t go out of style.

Wellies
Gifts for the Design Enthusiast
Jonathan Adler is the new kid on the block in eclectic, bold designs reminiscent of the 60’sand 70’s.  The company makes home accessories and furniture that have a touch of whimsy and modern design.

Candid-CanistersGo to www.jonathanadler.com to review the complete line and to send a gift.  The porcelains are just plain fun.

Gifts for the Jam Lover
My husband always says that bread is just a vehicle to transport the jam.. So for those who really love their jam, Sarabeth’s makes the ultimate fruit spread.  Sarabeth’s is a combination bakery/restaurant with several locations in New York City but their jams can also be purchased from their website: www.sarabeth.com or from www.williams-sonoma.com.  I’ve also seen the jams at Stew Leonards – a northeast chain of grocery stores.
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Gifts for the Book Lover
Of all the categories, books are probably the hardest gift to buy for someone because it’s not enough to know someone likes to read; you have to know what kind of books or which authors the recipient prefers. There is an independent bookstore in Madison, Connecticut called R.J. Julia Booksellers that offers great advice in person or online at www.rjjulia.com. Amazon also has reliable book reviews and recommendations online at www.amazon.com.
Gifts for the Family
One of the most entertaining family games is called “Apples to Apples.”  Easy to learn and guaranteed to keep everyone laughing, this game is enjoyed by all generations.  Available for about $25 at most toy stores, bookstores, or at www.amazon.com.
wrdAppPartyALLbitsGifts for the Family Hearth

Everyone who has a fireplace and uses it knows that fires are not just lit and left; they need to be worked, cajoled, and fed to continue burning.  One of the best wedding presents we received was a fireplace tool called a blopoke made by a company in Connecticut.  The blopoke is a four foot long hollow rod with a poke at the end which serves two purposes: allows the master of the fireplace to move the wood around and also to blow air down through the rod to ignite the fire. Lightweight and made of solid brass (unlike copycat versions with stainless steel with a brass coating), the Blopoke really works and is the one wedding gift we’ve used the most through the years. The Blopoke can also be personalized which makes it all the more special. The company has a website: www.blopoke.com and the tool can be ordered for about $150 plus shipping.

BloPokesLg
For the Traveler

For those who travel often, www.magellans.com is the go-to website for adaptors, tools, appliances, clothing, and more. The selection is vast and for those planning a major trip, a gift from this website will be used and appreciated.

The Special Gift

Every so often, a special gift needs to be given and a sterling silver frame usually is the right gift because no one has enough silver frames to display family photographs.  The silver frames from Tiffany (www.tiffany.com) or Christofle (www.christofle.com) are simple but elegant and come beautifully wrapped.

And, one final piece of advice. Take blanket generalizations regarding gift advice with a grain of salt. Someone once told me to never give soaps or candles as gifts – two things I love and always consider wonderful and thoughtful gifts. It’s what the recipient thinks that counts, not what everyone else thinks. So, if you really think that special someone wants a diet book, wrap it up.

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