Monday, November 30, 2009

Catchphrase Couture: Custom Tees

If you think about it, a lot of folks on your gift list have a catchphrase or some statement that they would be proud or amused to wear...the trick is to make their tee shirts into a reality.

There are a lot of websites devoted to creating tee are three options to get things started:

1. CafePress offers excellent products and wonderful customer service, but it helps to have a little graphics expertise (can you convert a file to PNG format? I know you can...). They do a lot more than tee shirts (which we will get into shortly).

2. CustomInk features user-friendly design software that allows you to easily create custom tees (and much more) with very little computer know-how, but some items require purchases of 6+ items. Worth looking into.

3. Simply Colors specializes in custom tees and onesies in luscious colors for babies and toddlers. Very cute stuff, and easy to make online.


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Calendar Notes

Three important calendar notes as we move into the new week (and the new month):

1. Monday, November 30 is now referred to as “Cyber Monday” -- the online equivalent of Black Friday, with retailers revving up to offer great deals to deskbound shoppers. Get your mouse fingers ready (and don't be surprised if overwhelmed online retailers encounter technical difficulties).

2. Ready or not, December is upon us. If you are into advent calendars, it is worthy to note that Trader Joe's sells chocolate-a-day calendars for 99 can create a sweet tradition for less than 4 cents a day.

3. 12-month photo calendars for 2010 make a wonderful gift for grandparents, adult kids (pull up pics from their childhood), pet owners or friends of great photographers (like you?). Bonus points if you customize your calendar(s) with birthdays, anniversaries and other important dates. Super-bonus points if you order now to avoid the rush! I always create my calendar gifts at our local Kinko's (Fedex Office, whatever), but a friend of mine has had great success ordering calendars online via Snapfish. Compare for yourself. Cost is less than $30 for a year's worth of lovely gifting!


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Photo Notecards with Matching Postage Stamps

We all need to send thank-you notes after the holidays and throughout the year (ahem, right...?). Here is a gift set that is a wonderful combo for anyone who appreciates the art of the hand-written, snail-mailed note -- perfect for any season.

This is a two-part gift, ideal for pet lovers, newlyweds, new homeowners, parents, grandparents, artists or travelers who have shared their photos with you. All you have to do is have one or two photos on your computer, and then get busy uploading and creating:

1. Notecards from

2. Matching or related photo postage stamps from

These websites both make the process very easy, and the personalized gifts are a lot of fun to receive and use. Plan ahead to have both items shipped to you so you can combine the goods (with a lovely pen, perhaps?) to give them as a set in a beautiful box / basket / gift bag.


Friday, November 27, 2009

A good gift? It's in the bag.

Chico Bags are the best reusable shopping bags ever. These roomy nylon bags tuck into their own little attached pouch to make a tiny little pillow you can easily stash in your glove box or pop into your purse (I carry four, and I don't have a big purse).

They also, happily, make easy and inexpensive gifts. For about $5 apiece, colorful Chico Bags make festive stocking stuffers or gift toppers, or even can be used to wrap another gift. The company does make holiday-themed Chico Bags, but I'd advise against buying them (The whole point is that the bags are reusable -- and who wants to carry a bag decorated with snowmen to buy groceries in July?).

Chico Bags are a good giftlet or gift add-on for anyone on your list who shops and/or cares about the environment (which is, of course, everyone you know...right?). Chico Bags are also a quick and easy unisex gift for low-budget secret Santa gift exchanges or those extended family gift drawings.

Check the online store locator for retailers near you, and stock up for the holidays ahead. Chico Bags will never expire or go out of style, so if you don't give away what you buy this December, you'll always be ready for future gift-giving opportunities.

Paper or plastic? Better choice: go Chico!


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Fit to a tee...

Tee shirts are an easy, practical, personal gift -- especially for kids, teens, athletes, and anyone who thinks Hanes = comfiness = fashion.

So...know your giftees' color preferences, know their sizes, know their sense of humor...then get creative!

I like tee shirts that are a little obscure or ironic. If someone is a fan of the TV show Gray's Anatomy, for example, don't just go to the ABC website -- instead, get him or her a tee shirt from a Seattle coffee shop or restaurant. Your friend who is planning a trip to Australia might appreciate a shirt from an Australian pub or rugby team. The UCLA fan might love something that refers to Bruins or Johnny Wooden or Westwood...see what I mean?

My favorite source for random, seemingly customized tee shirts is Just enter your key words there, and I bet you will find some choice gift options.

If you can't find the perfect tee shirt for your giftee, jot down any ideas or catch phrases and we'll talk later about ways to create (actual) custom tees.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Trawling for ideas

If you have been a good detective and figured out what make your friends/loved ones/co-workers happy, now you can use that knowledge to start honing in on some great gift ideas -- best of all, you can do so without waking up at 5 a.m. and battling the hordes of people who choose to shop the day after Thanksgiving.

Here are two steps to get you going…no guarantees that you will find your gift yet, but this can help rev up your creativity to help you come up with some up with something exciting.

1. Make a list of key words for the giftees on your list: their names (first and last), kids’ names, pets’ names, hometown, their passions, their histories, and their futures (what they are looking forward to?).

2. Go online (aka shopping in your jammies) and use those key words to search. You are just trawling at this point -- gathering ideas and options, and getting the creativity started. Some of my favorite sites for this kind of research are CafePress, eBay, Amazon and the favorite search engine du jour (Yahoo, Google, Bing, whatever).

Once you start trawling, one idea will lead to another…and you just might get lucky. Think (carefully) before you buy anything -- if you find a cute “Jerry’s Pub” t-shirt but Jerry doesn’t wear t-shirts or drink beer, that’s not a good gift idea. But if you find a vintage model of the 1968 VW he drove and loved when he was 16, you could be on to something good.

Happy searching!


Monday, November 23, 2009

I spy, with my little eye…

Another note as we gear up for Thanksgiving: if you are spending time with family / friends, take advantage of this golden opportunity to sit back (or stand up and help with the dishes, darn it) and be observant.

Pay attention. Be snoopy. Who are these people? What do they like? What makes them tick?

This is a good time to realize that gift-giving really is not about you – it’s about the person who is about to receive your gift (which is, of course, still TBD). Seems obvious, but folks have been known to spend lots of time together and still miss this opportunity for heavy hint-dropping.

So, here’s your challenge: think about them as individuals and consider their history (with you and without you). Who are these people? And why are they forcing you to wash their dirty dishes?

But seriously...take note:

- What are they passionate about? (Causes, sports, fashion, music, colors, TV shows, movies, celebs, travel, animals, history, books, careers, self-improvement…?)

- What makes them happy? How do they spend their free time? Or what do they wish they could be doing?

- What are their fond memories? What did they love when they were a kid?

- What do they do for a living now? Or what did they do when they first started working? What would they like to do for a living someday? Or what do they want to do when they retire?

- Where would they like to travel…or live? Where were they born?

- What are they wearing? (There will be a quiz on this later, so pay attention.)

- What is your favorite memory shared with this person?

Yes, it seems like I am being nosey. But you will thank me later (and your friend / family member will be under the impression that you find them fascinating, so everybody wins).


Sunday, November 22, 2009

It’s not stealing, technically.

If you are visiting your family or friends for Thanksgiving, chances are they have some wonderful photos lying around -- there for the taking and just waiting to be made into holiday gifts.

So…if you have a chance to sneak away or the nerves to do a little sleight of hand while in the presence of loved ones, take advantage of this opportunity to spend some time looking through old photo albums or boxes of pictures, and snag some that you think might maybe somehow, some way, make good gifts. You'll need to be a little creative for this part. Find pics that you think will make your prospective gift-getters happy, sentimental, suprised or some combination thereof.

If you are a good citizen, you can just ask to borrow the photo and make up a vague excuse as to why you need it. Or you can just take the photo and leave a note where you borrowed it, promising to return it (and do). Better still, if you are sneaky and your folks live near a Kinko’s (FedEx Office, whatever) or large chain drug store, you can have high quality digital copies made (as large as possible, please) on their little self-serve kiosk and then return the photos before anyone even knows they are missing. Tricky you.

Guard the loot carefully, and we'll figure out later on how to transform it into a great gift.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Pack your camera…

Just planning ahead a little bit, here…with today’s digital technology, there are some very cool presents (and more than a few lame ones) you can create with photographs. The trick is to have the right photos to make the right gifts special…and Thanksgiving can be the perfect time to set yourself up for some choice gift options.

If you are visiting family or friends for the holiday, get busy and grab those Kodak moments – we can figure out what to do with those pictures later on.

- Most important thing: make sure you have your digital camera set for a high or medium-high resolution. The bigger the better – you can always reduce the file size later.

- Closeup shots of small groups or individuals are best for future gift creations.

- Aim to capture some good shots of pets, multigenerational moments, traditions (Touch football game? Walk on the beach?), or even special aspects of the house itself.


Friday, November 20, 2009

Gift ideas to spare (and share).

It is absolutely true that giving great gifts can be even more fun than receiving them. When you are thinking about giving a present to someone, there's first (hopefully) that "aha" moment when the idea starts to emerge...followed by the adrenaline that goes into making your idea a reality...building up to the anticipation of the final presentation. Without a doubt, it's a thrill.

Not for you? Well, let's see if we can change that.

My goal with this little blog is to give people ideas, examples, links, tools and motivation to help them buy or create gifts that (a) they will be excited about giving and (b) people will be happy to get.

I also figure I can use this site to collect and share some advice, opinions and war stories from my friends who have been giving and getting gifts (good and bad) for a long time.

Bottom line: if I can rescue one person from getting a lame gift, my work will not have been in vain.

Before I committed to starting this site, I challenged myself to write down enough easy gift ideas to post one every two or three days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. After I cranked out a list of 80 memorable presents, I figured we had enough to get things going.

So let's go.