Sunday, July 11, 2010

Stranger at the Party: A Gifting Guide

Despite being terribly ill this weekend I had to attend a birthday party at someone's home in Brooklyn. It was my husband's friend's girlfriend's birthday so I was sort of obligated to attend. In my opinion, these types of events are sort of unusual as far as etiquette is concerned. Especially, as in this case as I only know the girlfriend in passing.

Would bringing a bottle of wine enough I asked myself? Am I supposed to get a gift? If it was one of my ever dwindling set of friends, I would know the right answer right away to these questions. As I was unsure, I went with my default bring a bottle of wine and pick up a gift under $20.

Normally, my go to gift is some type of hair accessory. It fills all of my requirements for the purchase of a gift for a person you do not know well. It is compact, it is one size fits all, and is mostly in good taste. The key here is to try to score something of quality on sale or if you are me pimp that ex-intern discount I have at a certain retailer. (If going the former route shopstyle is your friend - use it!)

Any one of these would be a great item to grab, well if the party you are going to is for a girl that considers herself fashionable.

1. Amanda Pearl - Leaf Headband ($20.40; Originally $68.00): This twisted wire and black sateen leaf headband is sure to please. It is simple and yet has a bit of an edge with the raw hem.

2. - heart ($15.00): I love this piece for reasons beyond it being a sequined heart. It is twofer - a hair clip and a pin! This keeps the options open for the intended, which is great when you are giving a gift to someone you do not exactly know well.

3. TopShop - Flower on Ribbon Headband ($6.25; Originally $25.00): It cannot get more vanilla than this white flower accompanied with a white ribbon. Sure not offend, but stylish enough to please the next one this is a no brainer.

These, however, are not guaranteed to fit the bill if the guest of honor is not female or is not a fashion die hard. What? People might have interests outside of fashion? I know crazy right, but I'm all about being prepared for all occasions. (Take my super detailed zombie outbreak attack plan for example.)

What do you do in this particular case of emergency? Take a tiny fact or something you noticed, and run with it. This will help you find the perfect gift or one close enough to at least peak the interest of the intended.

So, you have heard them mention something that might indicate that they are a greenie? Here are a few products sure to titillate and if they flop are at least conversation pieces.

4. MapTote - New York City ($15.00/$25.00; Natural/Organic): Everyone and their mother has a re-usable grocery bag. But do they have one with a map of NYC on it? I think not!

5. Move Collective - Bobble Filtering Water Bottle ($10.00): Greenies from all ends of the spectrum will instantly fall in love with this piece. It reduces plastic consumption by being a re-usable water bottle, and it actually increases its functionality with a built in filter! It is made of BPA free RPET (recycled plastic), and it along with its packaging can be recycled.

6. Flip & Tumble - Produce Bags ($11.00): One of the hardest ways to be green is at the supermarket. Produce bags are only available in plastic and hence not reusable really. These bags made of polyester are one designer's answer to that problem. Five are included in the pack, and even better you can wash your veggies inside them due their mesh construct.

Or maybe you heard them talking about Top Chef? Then these items are definitely going to intrigue their DIY cooking inclinations.

7. Crate and Barrel - Herb Keeper ($19.95): Not all of us are blessed with backyards or even a windowsill that can support an herb garden. More often than not when I'm forced to buy from the supermarket the leftovers tend to go unused. Then they go bad, but this Herb Keeper would change all that. This is a slam dunk as what cook wouldn't want to prolong the life of their herbs?

8. DIY - S'mores Kits (Price Varies): SHIM + SONS made the one pictured, but step by step instructions can be found here. This is the gift that keeps on giving, especially if you buy gourmet ingredients to kick it up a notch. The leftovers are for you to feast on!

9. Nordic Ware - Microwave Popcorn Popper ($8.99): I know this might not look like much, but this is a powerhouse of culinary potential in a very mundane package. It allows you to cook popcorn without using oil in minutes within the microwave! Also, better yet it allows you to make gourmet popcorn in your very own home! I highly suggest printing out some of gourmet recipes to go along with the gift to make it pop.

Ok maybe all you know about them is that they are we say in my family a "booze hound". Unless you know their poison of choice, I always suggest staying away from buying them alcohol. Accessories are a much safer and often more appreciated route.

10. The Curiosity Shoppe - Cork Screw Driver ($15.00): I am not sure how well this will work in every occasion, but if you are like me and break the cork this will be a lifesaver. Also, it is one hell of a conversation piece. People will be trying to open random things all night with it!

11. artecnica - alia bottle stopper ($12.00): Normally, bottle stoppers are pretty boring constructs of plastic and metal. This one would definitely class up the majority of wines from places like Trader Joes, and probably take a decent bottle down a couple of notches. But who cares - you have a flower growing out of as Micheal K. puts it the "sweet nectar"!

12. Suck UK - Key Bottle Opener ($14.00): This is what dreams are made of when you are trying to brown bag it. Or, are at a party and cannot for the life of you find the bottle opener. Either way the recipient of this lovely key chain is bound to be someone's knight/lady in shining armor sometime in the future.

Or maybe you heard them once locked in heated debate over which is the better New Who Doctor? Then any of these nerdilicous products will be sure to peak their interest.

13. Suck UK - USB Drive "Mix Tape" ($20.00): At 64MB it stores about an hour of music - as much as would be on a cassette back in the day! You can scribble all over it just like when you used make mix tapes. (Yes, I am old enough to have made a mix tape. I was mature for my age - that is it, yeah.) The geeky intended I'm sure will love the fact that their data can kick it old school.

14. Think Geek - App Magnets ($12.99): This can be a bit dicey if the person is not a mac head. But everyone and their brother has an Ipod, so it is a safe bet they will get a modicum about of enjoyment out of it. And if they don't, now they can pretend they do!

15. Fred Flare - Pac-Man Bandages ($9.00): Everyone loves Pac-Man. I mean Google even put it on their splash page for a day! It had every geek's technolust in overdrive, well that I know anyway. (Also, little known fact is that it is still up and playable here.)

Maybe you heard that they have a blog aka meaning they love to write. Then what better way to show tribute to their writing than a gift that encourages it? I mean writers love nothing more than to have their egos stroked - do they not?

16. Moleskine - Mini Notebooks ($6.99): Each of these 3 notebooks come with 64 pages for your intended to fill. Literati have used these for ages to record their ruminations on life, so why not give your giftee a shot?

17. hammer & daisy - mini notebook ($6.50): This notebook allows you to chose the cover! No matter the option you chose, each one will have about 20 pages at its owner's disposal.

18. paperwink - twenty ten lined notebook ($4.50): This one is a bit larger than the others. Its 40 pages are meant for those who have deep thoughts just like Jack Handy, but only relating to 2010.

For everyone else, there is always the iTunes gift card or certificate. That way they can ensure their account isn't being hacked for at least a little bit.

Got any great gift ideas under $20? Leave them in the comments.


  1. Loved this post! You gave me a lot of great ideas! It is always so easy to go to the default gift of wine for a house party, but after reading this I'm going to think more creatively when purchasing a gift.

  2. Wine always me a bit nervous too. What if they don't like it? No matter how good something is - someone might just not have a taste for it. Luckily, you liked yours!