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!


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.

PicMonkey Collage

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 Gift Guide: The Foodie / Home Chef

As Toronto quickly becomes cemented as a Foodie town, we’ve got no doubts that you’ve got a budding chef or food connoisseur on your list of people to buy for this year.  We’re big fans of food ourselves and have put together this guide with our own loves in mind!

under $25

1) Perfect for stocking stuffers, small gifts, or thank-yous to holiday hosts, fancy salts, vinegars and oils are a gift that will always be appreciated and never be wasted.  There are gourmet shops around the city selling these items, some at a premium, some at a discount. For salts and great spice blends in pretty packaging, check out The Spice Trader on Queen St. W. or order online. Crescendo just opened in the Distillery Market and is known for its incredibly flavored oils and vinegars.  For bargain prices, check out HomeSense!

2) We’ve both been to the wine and cheese classes offered by the Leslieville Cheese Market, and they are fun, informative and delicious.  Even better, they’re $20! For your beer-loving foodie, beer and cheese classes are also offered. ($20)

3) A wine saver pump is a great gift for your favorite wine-o’s. The wine vacuum takes out the extra air from an open bottle of wine, helping slow down the oxidation process so the wine keeps longer. I know we all love to polish off bottles, but sometimes a nice wine is great to savour! (from $10)

4) There are cookbooks for every taste, whether your foodie is focused on being healthy, trying to master the perfect chilli in the slow cooker or hell bent on learning to make macarons. Chapters is a one stop shop, but there are some great smaller stores staffed with people who can really speak to the books to help you pick out the perfect one. Try The Good Egg in Kensington Market, you’ll want to browse for hours!

5) Seemingly every time we head up to a cottage with a food loving gang in tow we manage to fill the trunk with excessive food and supplies.  Heaven forbid we go two days without our precious sea salts!  Pick up this Mobile Food Survival Kit and help simplify the travels of your foodie friends. ($25)

under $100

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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 among other retailers). 

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