Gift-Buying: the Scourge of the Holidays

9 Dec

It’s time for a bonus mid-week blog post. There’s just too much to write about this time of year!!!

I’m sitting in my favorite coffee shop – Benlee’s – and basking in the Christmas glory of about a dozen Christmas trees of various sizes, carols playing, and Highlander Grogg in my coffee cup. A fire blazes – well, smolders – in the hearth and I am forced to admit something to myself. Something that I have secretly known for a long time but have never said out loud before. (What is this blog becoming anyway? A confessional?)

I am not good at choosing Christmas gifts.

Finding the perfect items for my immediate family is not too difficult, though it’s funny how some years are easier for certain people. I’m doing pretty well for my husband this year, for example, whereas in other years I’ve been pulling out my hair by this point in Santa-induced frustration. The kids, too, are usually not too hard to figure out…though my pocketbook may beg to differ.

My favorite antique ornaments - all bought for a song at various "antique"/junk stores or garage sales.


But consider this: THE BROTHERS-IN-LAW.

Oy, vey, how I have failed them!

I try. I try all year long. Come January, I’m on the lookout for The Perfect Gift – for my sisters and their husbands, my dad, my mom, my nieces and nephews and their kids. (Yes, I’m a great-aunt. Makes me sound like I wear horned-rimmed spectacles and scold the neighborhood children every time they roll a ball into my pristine yard. “You hoodlums!” she said, shaking her fist. “Leave my flowers alone! Now get over here and help me rescue my cat from the tree.”)

Part of the problem, of course, is that with adults, you’re dealing with people who can go out and buy whatever the heck they want at any time of the year so they’re not sitting around, writing hopeful wish-lists and posting them to the North Pole.

This means you are forced to be creative. Or very smart. Or to shop on Black Friday. (NO STINKIN’ WAY.) Or to spend vast amounts of money. Problem: my self-imposed Christmas budget-per-person is approximately the same as it was during the Bush Administration. The first George. About 24 years ago.

My door swag. I like making wreaths, but I got lazy this year. A wreath takes...oh, an hour or so. Time for this swag: 10 minutes, tops.


So I try being creative, because when it comes to gifts, I simply am not smart. Exhibit A: A few years back, I found myself, come this time of year, pondering my brother-in-law who lives on Orcas Island. “He’s an out-doors-ish kind of guy,” I thought. “He goes hunting and camps out when he hunts. Doesn’t he?” (Answer: not exactly. He’s in an RV…but it’s an ancient, only-slightly-above-a-tent sort of vehicle with no running water and even its delusions of grandeur were long-ago rusted off.)

So, taking my vast knowledge of him to the L.L.Bean website, I began to shop. “This thing? Too expensive. That thing? I think he has one. This? Hmmm…well…maybe!” And so Charley got a lantern for Christmas that year. Now, lest you applaud me, allow me to describe said lantern: it was eight inches tall, black, decorated with a moose, and held a tea light candle as its entire light-source.

Charley, bless his heart, has a sense of humor. I don’t THINK he said, “What am I supposed to do with this?” but he probably thought it. I responded to his unsaid thought like this: “Well, everyone needs a light when camping, right?” Charley [tentatively]: “Yes…” Me [always the optimist]: “Well, now you have a nice new one!” Charley [looking skeptical]: “But it’s too small to help much.” Me [looking on the bright side]: “Yes, but it’s so romantic!”

Charley burst into laughter. It lasted quite a long time.

This year I’m afraid that I’ve given him new reason to laugh. But at least his gift will be practical. That is, if he doesn’t mind holding open-mouthed fish cozies on his beer cans.

Charley's gift this year. He's a fisherman...so...he'll like these. Right?

Yes. I’m serious. That’s what I got him. What? It fit my budget. And my sister says he’ll use them. That and the Mini Mexican sombrero set with tiny-bottle-of-tequila that my husband bought in Mexico for all the bros-in-law and nephews (they’re all adults!) for their stocking gifts will fit the bill quite nicely.

Good thing they don’t read my blog.

Stocking gifts for the brothers-in-law and nephews. We have these giant stockings...and you've got to fill them somehow!!


Merry shopping, everyone!!

PS – my sister really liked the lantern.

PS #2 – I really do love my brothers-in-law. Good thing they know that.

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14 Responses to “Gift-Buying: the Scourge of the Holidays”

  1. Jennifer December 9, 2011 at 7:21 am #

    I LOL’d at those open-mouthed fish cozies!!! 😀

    • Gretchen O'Donnell December 9, 2011 at 7:34 am #

      Yay! I’m so glad someone else found it funny! 🙂 Thanks so much for your comment!

  2. Ashley December 9, 2011 at 8:17 am #

    Oh my goodness, Gretchen. My little brother would really like the fish cozies. Not sure his new wife would, hough!

    I fail at the brother in law thing, also. My BIL is a stylish one, so a Banana Republic shirt it is. Every year. Fail.

    I also loved you pic of the ornaments. I have some antique ones passed down to me, and they are most treasured. I was happy to see your midweek post.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell December 9, 2011 at 12:23 pm #

      Thanks, Ashley – It’s good to know we’re not alone in our struggles. 🙂 Yes, the ornaments are so cool, aren’t they? I’m always on the look out for ones!

  3. Jenny December 9, 2011 at 10:43 am #

    OK G. I told Charley about the post, not the details or the pics of course, here is his response, down to the way he loves to say your name thanks to Moe: (He was from the Ozarks)

    Gratchem, Just to let you know that men are very easy to shop for. There are three basic categories of gifts that will work for us. 1st – Food, It is the way to a mans heart after all! 2nd – tools. Some small kit, readily available this time of year. Or wrenches, preferably a 9/16 or a 1/2″, because you can never find one of them when you need it! 3rd – ______! You can fill that in with t-shirts! There are a lot of t-shirts with funny sayings out there. I need an XL. (Please refer back to idea number 1!)

    I hope this helps. And if you can’t figure anything out with these ideas, a little lantern works!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell December 9, 2011 at 12:21 pm #

      Oh, my! I will totally have to remember these ideas. 🙂 Tell him thanks and to act surprised when he opens his stocking… 🙂

  4. Just A Smidgen December 9, 2011 at 11:59 am #

    Too funny! I’ve been having nightmares about not finishing my Christmas shopping… egad it’s going to come up fast, isn’t it! I have a heck of a time selecting as well.. so where did you get those fish cozies??

    • Gretchen O'Donnell December 9, 2011 at 12:18 pm #

      I get them from Wireless catalog…www.thewirelesscatalog.com!!!

      Yes, it’s coming up horribly fast. I think I’ll be ready…but I suppose it will come whether I am or not!

  5. Jenny December 9, 2011 at 12:48 pm #

    I didn’t tell him what he was going to get, just about the problems shopping for him and about the lantern, so your gifts will be a surprise!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell December 9, 2011 at 6:26 pm #

      I didn’t think you did…but if I should happen to get say, a 9/16th wrench…then I hope he’s shocked!!!!

  6. Mandy December 9, 2011 at 8:09 pm #

    I use to think I was pretty good at picking out gifts. That is until I met my husband. The good news is he picks out really good gifts. The bad news is he picks out really good gifts 🙂 So I have to try really hard to make sure my gifts will measure up! I totally agree about shopping on black friday. It is never going to happen, not for all the $2 waffle makers in the world.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell December 10, 2011 at 8:13 am #

      Thanks so much for your comment! Yes, the stress of picking gifts is mult-layered, isn’t it? How great that your husband is…inspiring to you! Totally laughed at your $2 waffle maker remark! Oh, and I love your blog title…will check it out right now!

  7. hotlyspiced December 11, 2011 at 4:41 am #

    That is hilarious! I also fail at buying for brother-in-laws, actually, for buying for any males. It’s so much easier to buy for women.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell December 11, 2011 at 7:28 am #

      I know – unless it’s a coffee mug or a tool they already have, men are just HARD to buy for! And the annual coffee mug from a sister-in-law is not much to look forward to. At least my way of trying to be creative, I’m keeping them from being bored. 🙂

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