The Awesome Guide to Gift Giving

Last year we compiled a series of detailed gift guides for the host/hostess, the sports nut, the person who has everything, the fashionista, the foodie, the world traveller, and the music lover.  This year we’re going to let you in on our favourite places to pick up unique and specialty gifts, both in store and on-line.  Some of these shops win huge bonus points for helping you check off multiple recipients all in one go and if you’re not a fan of the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping, not to worry, you won’t find a single one of these places in the mall.  Yay for (quasi) independent retailers!

Online

Etsy: This site gets mentioned in what feels like every other post, and for that reason, needs no introduction. We love Etsy for just about anything handmade, but in particular for accessories, art prints, stationary and small home decor items. Check out Pomp & Ceremony for awesome Liberty of London pocket squares and ties, Shay D Design for funky bohemian jewelry, Alexandra Ferguson for cheeky throw pillows, Arkens Jewelry Box for microthin gold and silver stacking rings, LoVintage Finds for awesome vintage decor, and JM Barclay for affordable photographic prints.

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Uncommon Goods: This site is home to a huge array of unique and unusual gift ideas at a variety of price points. Many items are quirky and highly specialized, so if you’re looking for a gift for a music loving wino or a sailing chef, this is the place. Uncommon Goods has something for everyone, from your free spirited sister to your introverted uncle.  I am personally a fan of the wide array of fun foodie focused gifts, from a molecular gastronomy kit to an epic artisal salt chest.

In Toronto

The Distillery District Christmas Market and Distillery Shops: I have purchased some of my best gifts ever (last year’s tin can banjo was a major point scorer) during the holiday market in the Distillery District. On now until December 15th, the market opens the district up to small retailers and artists who sell their wares in huts placed along the cobblestone roads alongside the permanent shops. I’m a big fan of Blackbird Vintage for pretty vintage inspired gifts and Jacob & Sebastian for amazing high end bath products and candles, but the district is yet another goldmine for hostess gifts and food lovers. The beautiful, rustic decor, mulled wine, and gourmet food huts also go along way to making this a prime holiday shopping destination.

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Holiday Host(ess) Guide (part II)

With Hanukkah officially under way and Christmas right around the corner, our calendars are already jam packed with holiday parties. While outfits and accessories might be the priority for big events, for those hosted by friends or family members you may want to turn your mind to how to say thanks to your host or hostess. While a bottle of wine is always easy, we prefer gifting something creative and/or personal. T’is the season after all! Last year we blogged about hostess gifts at a variety of price points (including several DIY options). We’re still pretty big fans of all those ideas, so we’ve simply added a few new items to the list. Happy party hopping!

1) Hostess gift box. Not the creative type? Let the people at Brika do your work for you and pick up one (or several) of their specially designed hostess gift boxes. Too late to order on line? Not a problem – Brika currently has a pop up shop at the Bay.

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2) 2014 Calendar. While paper calendars have lost much of their utility, I still appreciate them as a functional piece of art. Last year I picked up two beautiful art print calendars in the Distillery District (I believe they were from Blackbird Vintage) and still have a small 2012 calendar from Labour of Love hanging in my kitchen.

3) A Growler. While a bottle of wine might be readily overlooked, a spunky reusable growler like this one from West Elm is sure to stand out. Fill it with mulled wine or cider.

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4) Cocktail syrups or bitters. Help stock your host’s bar with specialty items like ginger syrup from the Drake General Store or some Woodford reserve spiced cherry bitters from BYOB Cocktail Emporium. Continue reading

Holiday Gift Guide: The World Traveler

I attended my first holiday party this Sunday which can mean only one thing – I’m already way behind in my Christmas shopping!!!  If you’ve gotten started but you’re stuck on some of the harder to buy for people on your list, stay tuned.  We’ve got a week’s worth of gift guides coming your way!  Up first, gifts for the World (or frequent) Traveler!

Under $25

If your traveler is off to a particular destination, travel guides are an awesome (and usually inexpensive) gift.  I’ve always been partial to Lonely Planet, but they do tend to get outdated quickly and often miss some of the best off-the-beaten-path destinations.  Before you buy, I recommend doing a google search or two to see what people are saying about the guides for that particular area of the world.  More generally, Lonely Planet also makes some awesome world books – I have a huge hardcover Travel Book with gorgeous photos and a one page info guide on every country in the world.  Robyn recently posted about some fabulous travel books that are helping her dream up her next adventure.

If you don’t know where the recipient of your awesome gift is headed, or if they don’t have any particular destination at all, we’ve compiled a list of items under $25 that are great tools for the traveler, many which would be as useful at home as away!

1) Luggage tags save you the hassle of having to full out paper labels every time you travel and also help you distinguish your luggage.  These classic Moleskin tags come in four colours and the trusty hardcover and signature elastic strap are sure to keep them securely attached.

2) One of the drawbacks of traveling alone is returning home with a camera full of scenic shots or too-close selfies.  The flexible tri-pod by Gorillapod is super-light weight and allows you to attach your camera to just about any surface/object/etc. and take sturdy timed shots.  Tripods are available for all different sizes/models of cameras, including SLRs.

3) A classic Victorinox swiss army knife is pretty damn useful no matter what you’re doing, but it becomes even handier when away from home without any of the basic tools you’d usually have on hand at home.  They come in a whole variety of colours and complexities, with the classic red retailing for just $19.99 at Canadian Tire.

4) This world map is an awesome gift who anyone who has traveled a lot even if they have no plans to leave again any time soon.  This map lets you scratch off all of the places you’ve visited, revealing a colourful patchwork underneath (available online via Uncommon Goods, Urban Outfitters and other retailers).

5) With the luxurious days of traveling with multiple heavy suitcases free of charge far behind us, a portable luggage scale is a pretty handy device.  This one by Heys is apparently the world’s lightest, so after making sure you’ll be allowed on your plane out, you can take it with you to make sure the souvenirs you picked up along the way haven’t weighed you down.

6) Even if you’re not normally a journal person, unless you’ve got a photographic memory I would never get on a plane without some sort of notebook to keep track of the places you see, things you eat, and people you meet.  There’s nothing worse than coming home from an adventure with 700 photos and not being able to identify anything you captured.  The I Was Here version is an illustrated, guided travel journal that encourages users to explore and appreciate the easily overlooked details (available at Urban Outfitters and Amazon.com among other retailers). 

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Mid Week Awesomeness

Given that Monday was a holiday, I suppose that today is not, strictly speaking, hump day, but in honour of the last long weekend of the summer, back to school, and my own return to work, here are five awesome things to help keep you inspired.

1) Limited edition Andy Warhol Campbell Soup series.  Available for sale at Target (sorry Canada) to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first showing of Warhol’s paintings.

2) Two adorable and folky fall dresses designed for ModCloth by Elsie Larson of A Beautiful Mess.  Available for pre-order now.

3) A leatherbound On the Road thermos from the Drake General Store, to keep you caffeinated throughout the work day and dreaming of the adventures that lay ahead.

4) Sparklers for adults (and photographers).  We discovered this trick during a backyard birthday party this summer.  With a long exposure, have one person stand still and trace their body with a sparkler until the shutter closes.  TaDa!  (Side note: Robyn and I are blurry because we were scared of the sparklers and weren’t using a tripod, but with a bit of tweaking, this could make for some awesome shots).  Photo Credit: Bryony Livingston & David Woodside (aka “Stitch & Bitch”).

5) Gangnam Style.  K-Pop at its best.  Just try not to become obsessed with this video.