Posts Tagged ‘christmas


how belated is too belated

Reader B.P. writes:

I’m clearly a bit late on the Christmas gift thing this year. Do you think it would be worth it to get my friends gifts anyway, or would it just look tacky?

Dear B.P.:

Once again, my tried and true method with gifts is: if you feel like giving a gift, do it. Regardless of when you get the feeling, or what you get the feeling for.

Most people genuinely enjoy getting gifts. Even if it’s the ugly sweater from Aunt Mildred, there is a certain joy in having something handed to you that is meant specifically for you from someone who claims to love you in some form or another. In fact, getting a gift  when it’s not a gift-specified season (e.g. birthday, anniversary, Christmas) can be twice as exhilarating because it is so unexpected.


Belated or not, I would not recommend giving a half-eaten apple. Image: Clare Bloomfield /

So what I say is: ditch the Christmas pretense in this case, and give them gifts when (and if) you feel like doing so. You may, if you’d like, say, “This was supposed to be your Christmas present,” upon presenting the present in, say, March. Or you could say “Happy Easter!” or “Happy Passover!” or something for the spring holidays. There’s a Catholic saint for every day of the year, so you could always use that as an excuse to give a gift. That is, if you must have a “holiday” reason for giving a gift.

Or you could be even classier and make up your own holiday, which is what a dear friend and I once did. True, the original goal of our holiday was to be a religious-sounding reason to get the friend out of having to play tennis with a coworker, but it turned into a gift-giving experience, too. We called it “El Día de No Jugar con Pecado” (the day of no playing with sin) and bought each other little gifts and drank a lot.

The absolute best thing to do, though, is just give the gift when the moment is right, probably right after you buy it. If you bought gifts before Christmas and just failed to send them, by all means send them now and allow the belatedness to be part of your charm. I once found a stash of Christmas cards I’d written and forgotten about from a few years previous, and sent them out to the addressees as part of a “blast from the past”. It was like sending out a time capsule.

It certainly is the thought that counts, and not necessarily the timing. If your friends or family care more about when you give than the fact that you’re giving at all, they’re lame, and that’s not going to change whether you give them gifts or not.


last minute xmas gifts in ABQ

sales galore!

Image: Filomena Scalise /

I know a lot of you are probably going a bit crazy today getting your gift shopping done. At the same time, I was looking over the last-minute gift-buying guide over at the NYTimes and NOTHING on that list was < $150. (Also all of it was only available in NYC.) So I thought I’d make my own list of last-minute Christmas gifts, which then turned more into a guide to where to get stuff in Albuquerque. Luckily, everything on this list is gettable for under $100. (Take that, New York!)

FOR DAD or other male relatives:

– Armagnac. This is really for the fancy dad. Armagnac is basically a type of brandy from a different part of France than Cognac. Bonus: It’s cheaper than Cognac, according to the New York Magazine sommelier. You can get a pretty nice bottle of the stuff for $50 or so (or $1,500 if you want to go all out), leaving you perhaps enough money to grab dad two brandy snifters to go with it. ABQ Place to get it: Jubilation Wine and Spirits off Carlisle & Lomas. If your dad is less fancy than Armagnac might suggest, you can get him a nice bottle of Scotch, too. Or just a six pack of microbrewed beer.

– Anything from Kauffman’s West. You cannot go wrong with finding something for dad at this store. It’s full of extremely interesting manly things, from military or police stock to Oakley sunglasses and Luminox watches or political gag gifts. You can get dad camping gear, too. I really like their hat selection. You’re sure to find something here for under $100, although if you wanna’ splurge, those watches can get pretty pricey pretty fast.

FOR MOM and other female relatives:

– A day at the spa. Moms do a lot of work and often don’t have the time (or money) to pamper themselves. Get your mom a massage, facial, mani-pedi thing for Christmas. Most of the spas around town are doing gift certificate specials, so you don’t have to set up the appointment for mom now — let her pick when she wants to go. Or you can surprise her and go with her. Prices vary from location to location, and for service, but you can probably get mom a good mani-pedi for $25-$50, with packages going up from there.

There are a few places to check out in ABQ, depending on your price point:

Mark Pardo’s — there are several of these around town. Mark’s the juggernaut of Aveda stuff in Albuquerque.

Betty’s Bath and Day Spa — this is the favorite local spa spot of everyone I know.

Picaflor Day Spa — a cute little spot in the heights that is a bit less expensive than some of the bigger day spas.

Any of the spas at the major hotels in the casinos will probably be good, too (Sandia, Isleta, Tamaya at Santa Ana, etc).

I also happen to know a few licensed massage therapists who do work around the area, including in-home massages, but I’m not comfortable putting their contact info up on here. Send me a message and I can get you in touch with them if need be.

– A handbag from Tres Boutique. Does their name mean “very” in French, or “three” in Spanish? Oh, who cares. This place has shoes, clothes, jewelry, and accessories, too, and nothing costs too much. Everything in there is pretty darn cute, so you ladies could probably find a thing or two for yourself while you’re in there.

FOR THE BF or close guy friend:

– A shaving kit. I’m talking about a real shaving kit, with a badger fur brush, lathering shave soap, and an old school razor. Boys in our generation have lost the knack for getting a real clean shave, and it’s really a shame. I know I’m trying to keep this local, but for the most part, I recommend the kits from The Art of Shaving, although it’s way too late to have that delivered by Christmas this year. Check out Crabtree & Evelyn in the mall. Sometimes Target has kits like these, but I’m not going to send you there.

– A gift certificate to Astro Zombies or Burning Paradise Video. Yes, I generally recommend against gift certificates, but if you don’t know exactly which strain of XMen comic your BF is following, or which zombie movies he’s already seen, the only surefire bet is to get him a gift certificate. The main thing about this gift is introducing him to these stores. These places are havens for any geek or nerd who’s into movies, comics, or other geek cultural artifacts.

FOR THE GF or close girlfriend:

– If you’re capable of figuring out her size (with or without asking), head to Seventh Goddess for the sexiest lingerie in town. Stockings + garters, nighties, cami sets… whatever you want to see her in, they have it there. And the staff is amazing. They also have toys and accessories in the back, if you’re feeling a bit more, ahem, adventurous.

– If you want to get her a piece of jewelry that’s not overly ambitious (I mean, not a diamond engagement ring or the like), Carolyn Pollack has some very reasonably priced and fun, funky jewelry. Most of it has a very Southwestern feel to it, but there are some very simple pieces you can find in her favorite color.

For the booty call:

I’ve gone over the etiquette of getting your fling a gift, and if you decide you want to but want to keep it “bedroom only”, head to Self Serve. They’re completely woman-owned and they know exactly what you need. Hell, you can probably find something for everyone on your list there, as long as they’re sex-friendly. Massage candles make awesome presents.

For the coffee or tea connoisseur:

My absolute favorite coffee shop in ‘Burque is Moon’s Coffee and Tea. Moon roasts her own coffee and blends her own tea. You absolutely cannot beat her piñon — she uses real piñon nuts! (Be sure to get it ground if you get it as a gift — a lot of coffee grinders can’t handle the nuts.) She also has accouterments galore, from pots for loose tea and French press kits to coffee filters and tea cookies. You can’t go wrong at Moon’s.

For the music buff:

Charley’s Records and Tapes is the place to find the music your beloved wants. Pick up a few CDs or some vinyl, and/or a tee shirt to match. This is another place you can get a gift certificate, just to introduce your friend to the store. Bonus: there’s a chocolate shop next door if you want to spruce up your gift a bit with a truffle or two.

For the heavy reader:

There are a few independent bookstores in Albuquerque, but my favorites fall in the Heights and the Valley:

Page One on Montgomery has basically every book you could think of, and if they don’t, they’ll order it for you. They also stock used books, and you can sell your used books there, too. If your friend is a serious book nut and you know exactly what first edition you want to look for, Page One does antiquarian, too.

Bookworks on Rio Grande (next to the Flying Star) is chock full of books for everyone, and toys for kids, too. They sell autographed copies for that fan you know, too. (Are people really huge fans of writers anymore? Really?)

For the kid in your life:

Out of the Blue has toys for every kid in your life, and many of them are of the educational sort, too. (I love being that aunt.) You won’t find the usual plastic subjects like Barbie here, but there are Legos! And the sales folk there can gift wrap like pros.

Anyone else got any ideas to share? Go ahead, post ’em in comments!

And have a happy, safe, warm holiday.


christmas hints

Reader M. T. writes:

As a woman, I make a study of my awesome man’s needs and get him the most appropriate thing(s) for his birthday or Christmas. He of course loves it, but he skips out on reciprocating and makes up for it with a nice dinner. In the past I’ve talked him into buying me something sexy, so he gets a benefit too, yeah – he likes it… But bottom line, I’m telling him what to get me. Those two times a year I would love to be surprised with something he took time to think about that fits me and my needs to a tee. Since he’s generous, protective, responsible and sensitive to me, should I just let this go? Or is there a way he could learn to gift to me that would boost both of our good feelings about ourselves and our relationship?

Dear M.T.:

It sounds like you have a wonderful relationship, so congrats.

One thing about wonderful relationships is that we forget that they can evolve and change, and that there is always room for improvement. Asking your significant other to try something new is not a sign that your relationship is falling apart, or that you should break up, or anything like that. In fact, introducing new aspects to an old relationship can bring back the spice, if you know what I’m saying. It’s part of intimacy — sharing and growing together.

a surprise

What could it be?? Image: Suat Eman /

I think you should talk to your man about how you’d like to be surprised. Do it gently, of course — assure him that you love the dinners and you love him and you don’t want him to change (just his Christmas process). Tell him that you would just like him to try surprising you, maybe even just this once, for Christmas or your birthday. Tell him he’s known you long enough to take a stab at what you’d like without you having to tell him, and that you’ll like whatever he gets you.

And of course, then you really do have to like whatever he gets you.

Encourage him to go on impulse when he’s out shopping for you. Tell him just to get the first thing that comes to mind and surprise you with it. If you want to be extra nice, you could drop hints the week beforehand, such as: “Wow, those rings at that store are gorgeous.” OR “You know, I still don’t own a red lace bra.” True, you’re technically telling him what you want, although it’s less direct than telling him “Go to Victoria’s Secret and get me the Very Sexy Push Up Bra in a 36C.”

Buying gifts can be a stressful experience. As I’ve said before, we buy gifts for people because we think we know them and want to show this off. He may not be confident in his gift-buying abilities, and you’re going to have to convince him that those abilities are good enough for you, regardless of how he uses them.

Furthermore, if there’s any kind of financial strain going on in his world, you should take great pains to empathize and let him know it’s the thought that counts. He may have been dodging the present-buying bullet because he doesn’t feel he could get you a present worth as much in money as he feels you’re worth in love (or something similarly corny, sorry). If he can’t get you anything more than a ring from a Cracker Jack box, you should take it with a grain of salt. (And FYI – rings from Cracker Jack boxes are extremely romantic, especially if you’ve seen “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”.)

He may have any number of reasons for not getting you surprise presents in the past. But, just like with other relationship things (like sexual preferences), talking about it can only increase your intimacy.

Remember, he may have no clue that this is bothering you. In fact, he will probably be completely and totally surprised that you feel shortchanged by his lack of gift-giving. Make sure you’re not accusatory when you bring it up. Use “I feel” statements, not “you never” statements. This is, technically, you’re problem. If he had a problem with it, he’d be trying to change it.

And you should also keep in mind that he may never learn the skill of gift buying. He might be willing to try it once because you ask him to, but he may never be able to come up with ideas on his own. Some people just aren’t gifters.

Therein lies what is probably my best advice in this matter:

I may have mentioned this before, but there is some theory out there somewhere (told to me and a group of impressionable teenagers by a youth pastor at some point) that human beings show love in one of several ways: spending time, acts of service, physical love, talking, and/or gift-giving. So people who show love by spending time will just show up and hang out with you, or make plans to do so. People who are talkers will call you. People who do service will unload your dishwasher or rake your lawn.

On the flip side, these people will also think you love them if you do their love-show right back.

It’s a nice idea to observe your partner and figure out how he shows his love, because that is how he will understand love from you, too. It sounds to me like he’s a time-spender/service-type (hence the nice dinners). He may also be a physical type. (NB: “sex” is not the same as  “physical love” in this sense — physical affection types are the ones who give and receive hugs openly and love holding hands, etc. Most men like sex. That doesn’t mean they all interpret physical affection as love. And neither do all women.) So keep in mind that while you interpret giving gifts to him as a show that you’ve been paying attention and love him, he may not interpret it in the same way.

Suggest to him that you two can learn to show love for each other in different ways. You’re a gift-giver and therefore a gift-receiver, so it means a lot to you to get surprises. He’s a time-spender, so it means a lot to him to plan things together, and you’re willing to do more of that if need be.

If you two can both study each other’s methods of showing affection and try to craft your own skills to match your partner’s, you’ll be in good shape. Better shape, I should say, since you’re already in good shape.

Just make sure it’s not a one-sided attempt at improvement, or one or the other of you is going to get resentful at having to do all the work.


the right gift for the new her

Reader Z. N. writes:

You talked about what to get your new mother-in-law for the holidays, but what about a new girlfriend? If you’ve only been dating a few weeks or months, what’s the expected gift from new boyfriend?

Dear Z.N.:

Expectations vary from girl to girl and from relationship to relationship. I don’t know your GF, so I can’t tell you if she’d prefer a book to a pair of earrings or bath salts.

a present!

Image: Francesco Marino /

There are other factors that go into what you get a lady for Christmas or Hanukkah beyond how long you’ve been together. For instance, how serious are you two? I know you said she’s your girlfriend, so I’m assuming you two have had the exclusivity talk at least. If you’ve only been “dating”, and aren’t exclusive, a nice card and a flower or special candy or something is probably fine. If you’ve only been hooking up, I don’t even know if I’d advise giving her that much. It depends on how much further you want the relationship to go. Giving someone a gift or card at the holidays means, “I care about you and want to continue getting to know you better.” Giving something to a hook-up could give a signal that you’re interested in more, so be careful with that.

Furthermore, if you guys were friends for a long time before you started dating, you might be more serious with each other than a girl you’ve just met. You probably also know a lot more about her, and buying a present should be that much easier for you.

While I can’t say for certain what your lady friend would like or what’s totally appropriate, I do have a few tips to steer you clear of asshole boyfriend territory:

Get her something. Anything.

I could say that if you’ve only been dating for a few weeks, she probably isn’t expecting anything for the holidays. But that would be a lie. Even if a girl says she doesn’t expect you to get her something for the holidays, and even if you’ve only been dating for a day, GET HER SOMETHING FOR THE HOLIDAYS. I don’t care if it’s a single rose from the gas station down the street or a box of wine, you give her SOMETHING. Same goes for birthdays. Otherwise, you’re that asshole boyfriend who couldn’t be bothered to get creative. Trust me on this one.

Don’t get her something you want.

Apparently guys do this all the time. It’s probably something you won’t have to worry about until later on in the relationship (i.e. when you’re actually living together), but it’s something you should check yourself for anyway. My major advice here: Avoid electronic equipment unless she has specifically asked for it. A pair of nice headphones? Okay, not a bad idea, especially if she’s been complaining that her earbuds are busted. A new Wii controller because you play Wii a lot at her place? Mehhhhh that’s not very personal. Even if you play Wii together, that could be seen as veering more into “I’m a guy and I will use this” territory. The reason we give gifts is to show people that we’re thinking of them, not of ourselves. Keep that in mind.

Don’t spend too much.

If you give her diamond earrings after your first two weeks together, you’re setting the bar pretty high. Diamonds after two weeks? What happens at your first anniversary? A house? If you can find her something nice for under $50, go for it. I’d say $25 is almost steep if you’ve only been together two weeks. There are lots of inexpensive gifts out there. Don’t blow your load early — save a little something for a few months down the road. Expensive gifts are typically gifts that are supposed to last, and should be saved for relationships that have lasted and/or will last.

Show off your knowledge of her.

This is your chance to prove to her that you’ve been listening. Even after two weeks of being with her, you should know at least some of the things she likes (and dislikes). Don’t go out on a limb with something you’re not sure she’ll enjoy. Play it safe. Even if it’s just something small like a bottle of wine or a gift certificate to a place she’s said she likes, you’re sure to win if you show that you know what she likes. It’s probably too early to know her taste in jewelry, too, so unless you’re sure you know her inside and out, I’d advise you to watch out in that arena. Food or a gift certificate are probably your best bets here, too. (And no, I don’t think a gift certificate is a bad idea for a new relationship, as long as you get it for something or somewhere she really likes. Just don’t play this card after you’ve been together longer than two months.)

And my number one advice for you: Don’t stress out about it. Remember that it’s the thought that counts, and a little can go a long way.

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