All last minute presents are not created equal.
There's the last minute present of obligation. You owe the ballet teacher, tonight's hostess, or your cousin arriving in town. Surprise! For those situations, I rely on certain retailers with sufficient taste. Mass market, I'm a Pottery Barn gal. Pottery Barn vs. vs. Sonoma vs. is the Ford vs. Chrysler vs. Dodge vs. Chevrolet of our generation. Park close by, run in, grab something pre-wrapped, run out. Cheese markers, for example. Nobody has those. I've also found a few boutiques on University Avenue - Palo Alto's main street - offering unique little thingamabobs. Odd objects of desire amongst some, well, some other stuff. Just make sure there's meaning attached, if you go for objects. The blue horse below would be good for an equestrienne, not so good for the math teacher. Unless she liked native American crafts. This kind of present says, "I see you. I acknowledge you."
Then there's the last minute present of love. Usually these are put off because they are hard. Of course, not for my sisters. I can buy for my sisters in my sleep. If I had a million extra dollars my sisters would have to buy new houses for all their presents. I just get them what I want.
My brother is more complicated. First of all, he's a man. I am somewhat mystified by men's style. That part where the salesperson lays the shirt and ties lovingly on the glass counter? And tells you that the orange dot/stripe picks up the taupe? Yeah. Not getting it. But I do, by now, 49 years into his life, know what my brother likes to wear.
He's got style. You look at him and think, hey, that guy dresses really well. Doesn't look like he tries. Classic at first glance. Subversive and artistic on closer examination.
What I also know about men is that if they have certain jobs, banker, lawyer, psychologist, professor, salesman, CEO, venture capitalist, a long storied list, they have to wear A. LOT. OF. SHIRTS. While they own the basics, a white, a blue, a something else, there is almost always something missing. One shirt with a certain detail. Or higher quality of cloth than they usually invest in for work.
As the perfect last-minute present for your beloved professional male, here is my nomination. The Etro shirt*.
Classic. Wearable almost everywhere except perhaps when you ring the Opening Bell at the New York Stock Exchange. Blue. Have you noticed how much Corporate America loves blue? We do. It makes us feel safe. Like we've all read the same contract. Subversive. That little bitty stripe. Slight hint of something handwoven from a country where they ingest substances illegal in the USA. Ikat. Peruvian. N'importe quoi.
Not cheap. I spent $225 on my brother's last minute birthday present. But I figure bargains are for the prepared. A 15% premium over my budget isn't an issue. When time is short but affection profound. Happy Holidays to you all. A little Otis Redding for the season.
*Available last minute at . I know.
For those Paris lovers on your gift list, here are une femme's last-minute gift ideas to remind them of their ville favorite. (Click on the image above for details about each item.)
1. Gold charms of her favorite Paris landmarks (including the amazing croissants!) or fleur-de-lys ring or earrings.
2. A picnic basket including some favorite French treats (foie gras, Maille mustards in various flavors, perhaps a jar of cornichons, and of course some Valrhona or other chocolats noirs, all available at a local gourmet grocery or online).
3. Gifts for the home: some nice dishtowels, a set of hand-painted espresso cups, a quirky welcome mat with un chien de garde qui dort.
4. One can rarely go wrong with a bottle of good French champagne, either on its own or included in the picnic basket above.
5. These aren't your average guidebooks. From "Little Known Facts," did you know that the figures atop Notre Dame are "grotesques" not "gargoyles?" (To qualify as a "gargoyle," the figure must function as a rain spout.) "Paris Out of Hand" is one of the most borderline surreal, yet highly amusant guides of Paris ever (the chapter on Toilettes pour les femmes offers some helpful guidance on where one can fais du peepee in luxury).
It might not surprise you but my always reliable go-to last minute gift is personalized or household stationery. One of my quests in life is to bring back the beautiful art of letter writing and correspondence and I try to re-introduce this lost art whenever I can. There are many great sites that offer a vast selection of beautiful stationery and a quick turnaround/delivery time, like Tiny Prints (www.tinyprints.com), Stacy Claire Boyd (www. stacyclaireboyd.com), Dabney Lee Stationery (www.dabneyleestationery.com), Mr. Boddington’s Studio-one of my personal favourites (www.mrboddington.com); (and of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my own company, Lily Lemontree (www.lilylemontree.com).
If I am really pressed for time or need to pick up a gift on the way to someone’s home, there are always your local stationery stores that usually carry monogrammed stationery featuring an initial that will correspond with the recipients first or last name.
I always scout my city (Toronto) throughout the year for stationery and fine paper stores that can facilitate a quick pick up of personalized stationery. These boxed sets of initial stationery are usually packaged in lovely boxes that can be topped off with ribbon, a pretty bow and they're ready to go.
I have always received great responses to my stationery gifts and have been told on numerous occasions that it was my gift of stationery that jump-started the gift recipients new found love affair with correspondence through the post.
*(For technical reasons -- another problem when one runs one's own magazine without an art director, eh oui -- I've placed Lily Lemontree's note cards at the top of the post instead of with her words. Update, now fixed.)