As December rolls around, to-do lists tend to bloat with constant additions of parties to attend, decorating to be done and presents to buy. The whole endeavour can be exhausting before you even step foot in a store.
One year, in an attempt to streamline my to-do list, I took my friend’s advice and bought everyone on my list the exact same present. Now this may sound like it wouldn’t work (and truth be told you may need to buy a few extra presents for children) but you’d be surprised by how many people one present can actually fit.
The best gift to give is one that has personal meaning, so I like to give family and friends my favourite book of the year, accompanied by a short note as to why it stands out from all the rest. Immediately you’ve given something more special than an item you picked up in a rush, and without much thought.
In fact, one year my immediate family took this idea to heart and traded our three favourite books as the only presents. It made our shopping experience very easy and on the night of December 25th we all settled down with a big pile of books at our side. This idea could easily be transferred to a whole host of items — from movies to music or even gift certificates to experiences.
We asked the editors at Chatelaine to think about gift-giving this way, and choose one gift to rule them all:
Whenever I’m at a specialty shop, I make sure to cast an eye over their selection of olive oil and pick up a few bottles (I have a particular weakness for the kinds that come in those beautiful small gleaming tins). My favourite way to enjoy it is simple — paired with a good baguette. I love the holidays for two reasons: catching up with the people I love, and eating. So maybe it’s no surprise that my default gift is something that goes with breaking bread, both figuratively and literally. – Christina Vardanis, Executive editor.
My go-to is a BKR water bottle. I’ve given it to pretty well all of my girlfriends. You have to stay hydrated, and you might as well look cute doing it! They’re made of glass, which is amazing, and the silicon sleeve means my bag doesn’t get soggy from condensation. – Nicola Hamilton, Deputy art director.
David Mitchell’s audacious Cloud Atlas nabbed a Booker nom and a boatload of attention, and rightly so: It’s a dazzling Russian doll of a novel, with six narratives folded ingeniously into each other. But his follow up, 2006’s Black Swan Green, is the book I would stock up on for unbridled gifting. It’s a quieter affair, following 13-year-old Jason across 13 months in Thatcher’s rural England. Not much happens, and somehow everything does: the first ache of romantic yearning; the sudden intrusion of a far-away war; the recognition that our parents are flawed and human; the overwhelming, and usually frustrated, desire to just fit in. Readers will be affected in different ways — maybe most by Jason’s relationship with his much-cooler sister, or by the widening cracks in their mom and dad’s marriage, or by the restrained beauty of Mitchell’s writing — but every single person will be moved. — Danielle Groen, contributing editor
I like to add a little festive sparkle to a bottle of bubbly by tying on a pretty lip gloss with a bright ribbon. I always stock up on the limited edition gift packs (they’re cheaper than buying the glosses individually) and then split them up according to who I think will like each colour. — Kate Gertner, Associate editor, style.
Curling up with a cookbook is one of my favourite things to do at the end of a long or stressful day. My kitchen selves are lined with cookbooks — some are well worn, some are barely touched, save a couple of dog-eared pages. But who cares! For me, it’s all about daydreaming — being transported by the beautiful photos and the cool, confident voice of the author. One of my recent favourites, and the one I’d give to everyone in my family (whether they like to cook or not) is Ruth Reichl’s My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life. It’s a diary of Reichl’s first painful year after Condé Nast abruptly closed Gourmet magazine in 2009, where she had been editor for a decade. It’s about loss, sadness, reimagining your life at age 61, and cooking as a way of healing. And it’s beautiful. — Rebecca Philps, Lifestyle director