Christmas Gift Guide 

Sunday, December 12, 2004

2004 has been a joy for Christmas gift shopping.

Normarily, I hate shopping. I hate crowded malls and I hate trying to think of something to buy for impossible people. My parents, for example, have no discernible hobbies. They have everything already. My mom would like more of Elizabeth Taylor's White Diamonds perfume, but she ain't adding another bottle to her collection.

This year I made a list of all the people I need to give gifts to and all the people who might potentially give me gifts.

Some people, like my dear friend Cheryl the Red, are effortless. Any bookstore will do.

Children, especially newborns, are easy. Start planning for their future Christmas trees, by purchasing their Christmas tree ornaments now. Every year buy a new ornament to add to their growing collection. By the time they're thirty and ready to leave the nest, they'll have a tree brimming with fantastic ornaments because you'll be vicariously living through them and thus buying all the ornaments you wish you could buy for your own tree. Just choose a theme or, better yet, a colour scheme, and buy the tree ornaments to match for the rest of their lives. For my godson, I thought about a masculine colour like blue. After perusing the selection available at a local furnishing store, I thought transparent or silver ornaments would work better. That way if little Issa ever wants to go the purple route, everything will match.

For the others I need to list the best gifts for them. This means a lot of eavesdropping. I discovered in this way, that my sister needs a new day planner. Bam! Wish granted!

Most of my gifts, to bypass malls, come from craft fairs and farmer's markets. I absolutely abhor knickknacks; all presents must be utilitarian in some way. Edible things are utilitarian. Toiletries are utilitarian. Clothing is not, unless you know the exact make and model of the desired panties your friend expects. Accessories are utilitarian as long as they almost match the receiver's desires. I know that I myself can never have enough (funky) purses.

If worse comes to worse and I must enter a mall, I've come up with a new game to ease the pain of shopping. It's called pocket letters. I write a few quick letters in front of the telly the night before - simple missives about farting or the pain of having one's heart broken - then I have a scavenger hunt in reverse; I try to find suitable clothing that someone for whom a particular letter is meant would wear. Then, I locate an opened pocket (the inner ones are rarely sewn shut) and slip in my letter.

If you haven't finished your Christmas shopping, I encourage you all to try out a few craft fairs. Yes, there is some tacky stuff involved. Despite the fact that I recycle down to the littlest Post-it note, I still can't bring myself to purchase or use washable menstrual pads.

But there are great things that are made locally in your community and would support your artisans. Factory slave workers in third world countries need the pennies they earn too, however, the mall shoppers already see to that.

In 2004 I collected contact information for a number of Maktaaq-approved gifts for the special somebody on your list. For you Vancouver readers out there they are:

  • Erin Dolman's jewellry, in particular her pendants. While out of my range (the lowest-priced itme was $85, anyone willing to shell out $150 for a bunch of tickets to a boring hockey game can afford one of Dolman's lovely pendant boxes filled with leaves and Tibetan flames.

  • Crooked Garden makes very affordable leather bracelets and chokers ($12-$28) with traditional cowboy imagery as well as pretty flowers. They come in the usual blacks and browns as well as fuschia.

  • Rose Hip's Beata Basik (604-435-7841)has ruffle skirts made of different fabrics in jarring contrast. At only $35, I wish I had a neice between three and eight for whom I could buy one of these skirts.

  • Jal Gal's Lorie Ann Johnston (604-461-0118) has the niftiest purses made out of record covers, with the original record inside. Recently I saw her at the Railway Club with a half-record purse (Simple Minds); I wonder if that would cost half as much as her usual fare (about $125).

  • Astrosatchel, available in lots of places, makes the sort of I-scream bags that I will one day save up $65 to buy. Janna Hurtzig also has wallets and coin purses for $20 and $15 respectively; I am still hankering for the purse.

  • Susan McCamon's birdhouses ($59 and up) are what I am buying for the old folks if they ever move back to Canada. Heck, I would metamorphose into a bird just to live in one of these hobbit-inspired masterpieces.

  • Cory Judge's Epiphany Designs makes pendants imbeded with Chinese brocades (not available on the website). At a mere $25 for the daintiest of the bunch, this is a perfect present for the girl on your list worth more than a $10 Starbucks gift certificate.

  • Joanne Waters' seaweed baskets start at $25. Otherwise, take her seaweed basket weaving class and make a couple of your own seaweed baskets. (Reference: the seaweed baskets in my own living room, for those of you who've visited.)

  • Bijoux du Monde's Mikel Lefler distributes her insect jewellry all over the place. A tad pricey for me ($120 for the cheapest pendant on the market), I am willing to accept any gifts of dragonfly necklaces.

  • For the absolute mystery people on your list, a $5 bottle of the Salad Sisters' strawberry salad dressing is what I'd take along to their Christmas party. Even a sworn carnivore will like these dressings.

  • Finally, for the collage artist on your list, there is Urban Source, one of the greatest stores in the world. Though not a craft market, Urban Source can encourage anyone to take up assemblage art with their array of film canisters, plastic pig heads, doll faces (see below), and other "diverse and unusual manufacturing discards". It's like dumpster diving, only you don't come out soggy from garbage juice. May every city have a store like this. If not, let me know and I will open one at a location near you.

Collection of doll faces from yesterday's foray into Urban Source.

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