The Official 2009 Los Angelista Gift Guide

Whew, it's definitely the Christmukkahkwanza time of year! If you're giving gifts this year for whatever reason and haven't picked them out yet, there's no time like the present to get busy thinking about presents!

I've been mulling over what kinds of gifts to recommend, so I figured I'd go on and share a few of my favorite things from the past few months. Maybe you'll get some ideas from these things, maybe you won't. I'm big on the all-natural, unique presents. Stuff that the people in your life will truly remember.

1) All Natural, Homemade Soaps & Lotions: I've fallen in love with Soaptopia. It's handmade, it's a local Los Angeles business (although they ship nationwide) and the soaps are long lasting and smell like heaven so what's not to love? I'm nuts about the awesome quality - all natural ingredients and no irritating chemicals in these. Try the Double Bubble gift box - two big bars for $12.50. -- And if you don't want to order from Soaptopia, hit up your local farmers market and support local businesses making soap, lotions or creams naturally.

2) The Gift of Photos: Instead of gifting each of your extended relatives with a different present, have a group portrait taken by a professional photographer and then give everyone a copy of the print. This is creates an especially nice lasting memory when you have multiple generations of family getting together. Yes, you could go to a place at the mall, but you could also get creative and have a real photographer handle the shoot. I love the work of folks like fellow blogger Tafari Stevenson-Howard (out in the Detroit area but he also does Chicago, DC & NYC areas) Nancy Wong in Minneapolis and locally here in LA, Bobby Aazami and Razi Photography are fabulous and still reasonably priced.

3) Unique Jewelry: No, I'm not talking the "Every Kiss Begins With Kay" sort of jewelry. I'm talking handmade, handcrafted stuff. I spend a lot of time browsing on Etsy and I love the work of Trace Ellements and Sofia Masri - But then again, I like stuff that's quirky and that no one else is going to have. Buy something off Etsy (or from an independent seller at a craft fair or market) and the person you give it to will know you put some thought into their gift.

4) Cool Ceramics: If you buy someone a box of chocolates, that chocolate might be gone in a day or two. But if you buy them a cool plate to put the chocolate on, (or a gorgeous bowl or vase) well, that's the gift that lasts. I'm in favor of my dear friend Leili Towfigh's work - she has absolutely stunning stuff. We have a plate of hers here in our house and people always ask about it. Get something from Leili or find someone local at a craft fair and pick out something unique.

5) Bookstore Gift Cards/Certificates: I have never been mad that someone gave me a gift card or certificate to a bookstore. Never ever. I believe strongly in supporting local independent booksellers - like my hood's Skylight Books - but I can 100% get down with Barnes & Noble too. Sigh... sometimes I think I keep my local B&N in the red. So, if you know a bibliophile, this one's an easy choice!

6) Books: Actually, if you know a bibliophile's taste really well, skip the gift card and get them a book you think they'd like. I have three recommendations for you:

If you know folks obsessed with both Legos and Star Wars, the Lego Star Wars Visual Dictionary might be the purchase to make. The book has pictures of all the Star Wars Legos that have come out (as of it's printing at least!) and lots of interesting facts about them.

This is a hot item because, well, nerds of all ages dig this stuff, so if you can find it, it'll make a special someone very happy. -- As an aside, I know of no child that hates Legos. Get a kid some Legos and they will occupy themselves for hours building houses and spaceships.

If you know someone who loves witty fiction that's fun & socially probing, get them Feminista by Erica Kennedy. It's romantic, clever, and has a heroine you recognize, either because you've been in her shoes, or else she's your best friend or sister. But this isn't one of those mindless shopaholic books. Oh noes. This book is girl meets boy while also chewing on the race, class and gender issues that are ever-present in our modern world. I could NOT put it down.

I'm all about developing a global orientation for kids so the new book by Homa Sabet Tavengar called "Growing Up Global: Raising Children to Be At Home in the World" is a great resource for parents and a perfect gift for teachers. Instead of being generically PC and using multiculturalism as a buzzword, this book is full of practical advice and activities to foster both children's global awareness and their ability to build genuine, respectful and loving relationships with folks from diverse backgrounds.

Can you tell I love books???

7) Tea (& coffee) & Assorted Accessories: Yes, you could get the gift card to your local shop but how about make it more personal? For example, if you get someone who loves tea a really nice box of assorted teas, they'll be overjoyed. If you aren't sure if they're into chai, Earl Grey and Darjeeling, hook them up with some herbal teas or even some authentic green teas from your local Chinese market. Tea lovers also adore cool teapots, tea balls, and tea cups... for a REAL tea party! You can, of course get equally cool stuff for coffee drinkers.

8) Movies: Everybody has a favorite movie, whether it's a cult classic or recent release. If you have a friend who raves that she loves John Cusack, get her a copy of "Serendipity". If your friend adores film noir, get her a DVD of the 1944 version of "Double Indemnity". Seriously, movies are a great gift because it provides an evening of fun and the recipient doesn't have to get dressed or comb her hair to enjoy it.

The wonderfully creepy "Coraline" is probably my favorite film of the year. I'm still freaked over the evil mom/thing/whatever it was that wanted to sew buttons over Coraline's eyes. I seriously didn't know how scary Coraline was going to be so I took both my kids to this. Afterwards they were all, "We promise we'll be good. Please don't sew buttons over our eyes!"

Hmm... has someone done a sociological or psychological analysis of Coraline?

9) The Gift of Fitness: Giving fitness related stuff can be super tricky. You don't want the recipient to go cry in the bathroom after opening your gift. "Zomg, that heffa Los Angelista gave me a Jillian Michaels DVD! She must think I'm FAT!" Nooo, that's not the way to go so you really have to know your recipient well.

If she's always talking about the Jillian DVD and how she wants it but doesn't have it, THEN get it. Otherwise, maybe she'd love passes to a Zumba class - Passes to lessons & classes are always a fun & maybe you all can do it together. Get the runner in your life a gift certificate to her favorite running store. And if you have the moolah, get someone in your family a Wii Fit.

Before we get to #10...A little advice on what NOT to give.
  • Gifts they'll hate: Sounds like a no brainer but people do it all the time. Don't give chocolate (or something else they hate) to the person who's mentioned over and over again that he/she hates chocolate. It's a sign that you are NOT paying attention to them and that makes people feel sad.
  • The Random Crap at Rite Aid: No, don't buy the Jean Nate gift set and try to give that to somebody. Never in a million years will that person think you care one iota about them. And if you're a guy buying something for a woman, stuff at Rite Aid, Walgreens, Osco or Duane Reed is the kiss of death. Trust me, your girl knows what's on those shelves and she will NOT be happy if you get it for her.
  • Sexytime stuff: Maybe some people are into getting sexy lingerie at this time of year, but I'd say that sexy Santa outfits or toys are probably not a good move. And please don't take it to a gift exchange. Please don't.
  • Things you can't afford: Seriously, gift within your means. It's less stressful. Even if you just write them a note saying how much you appreciate them & you wish you had more to give, that's better than going into debt and MUCH more in the spirit of the season. And for heavens sake don't give a gift you couldn't afford and then complain in front of the recipient about how big your visa bill is going to be in January. That's just tacky.
  • Cash: I say only give cash if you're a relative or the boss. My husband says give cash no matter what! ;)
Now, for the 10th gift...

10) Music: How could I not suggest giving the gift of Depeche Mode - I mean, music? The days of mix CDs aren't over. Every year my husband makes a mix CD of Christmas songs for our immediate family. It takes him HOURS but he loves doing it and everyone loves getting it. Maybe I'll make everyone a Depeche Mode's Greatest Songs CD. Gift certificates to independent record stores are also always welcome!

I hope this gives you some gift ideas. If you have anything you'd like to suggest, please feel free to share in the comments. But above all, make sure you tell the people in your life that they matter to you, that you love them, and that you believe in them. Back that up with your actions. That's what the holidays are really about and no material gift can ever be better than that.


Jameil said…
I love those plates! Esp. the black and white ones. But they don't have any prices. :( Chritmas music is awesome!!! i love getting those sampler cds from people! i have a long list of cookbooks i want! lol. i made a target list so people don't have to wonder if they're getting me something i like! i've done wish lists in the past for my friends and fam and love the results!!
Sarah Auerswald said…
Great gift ideas! I already love Soaptopia, too, since they're my Mar Vista neighbors! But the Lego Star Wars visual dictionary is already in the "to-be-wrapped" box for the kids -- you nailed it!
Liz Dwyer said…
Aren't Leili's plates lovely? You can email her for prices - I'll let her know you're interested. That's smart to make a wish list - I have one on Amazon and no one ever gets me what I want off it! Hope you get some cookbooks this year!

I think I'm addicted to the Soaptopia lavender soap. It's the best. -- And I'm not sure who in this house is going to spend more time with the Lego Star Wars dictionary, the adults or the kids! It's awesome!
I am so happy I read this - I've never heard of that book Growing Up Global but it sounds awesome! Having our kids be "little citizens of the world" is a huge value for us and I can't wait to read this. I think I might order it for a few friends, too. Nice rec!

We did a guide on gifts that give back on a blog I write for, and there were some really need ideas:

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