Francesca just loves the song “12 Days of Christmas.” The idea of receiving 5 gold rings, 4 hummingbirds, 3 french hens, etc sounds pleasing and romantic, if not exactly practical.
So, in honor of the upcoming holidays, both Christmas and Chanukah (December 4-11), Francesca has created 12 different ways to honor friends and family members with gifts, including 9 packaged “blocks” of goodies around a theme, so that you can choose which items work best for your budget and intentions. Or, buy items in a collection to create a themed basket, and wrap them it all up in cellophane and a pretty bow!
First, the chocolate: Francesca recommends you choose from an adorable little gift package of French chocolates at a reasonable price, or for a more luxurious look and feel, choose from the Mahogany Signature Series at zchocolate.com (pictured above), who ship worldwide.
Pair the chocolate with gifts that will last long after the final morsel is consumed, such a copy of the classic cookbook Death by Chocolate: The Last Word on a Consuming Passion and this wonderful stainless-steel chocolate fondue fountain. Or give them the gift of cozy Sunday mornings with a ceramic hot-chocolate maker.
2. Shoe Lover’s Companion
Like a beautiful outfit, pair the Shoes Page-A-Day Gallery Calendar 2008 (shown above) with The Consolation of the Shoes by our very own Manolo the Shoeblogger. Tie it all together with a card alerting them that they will receive a gift certificate to zappos.com in their email inbox, and this leather shoe care kit or very cute shoe bag.
3. Chick Flick Companion
For your best girlfriend, provide all the trappings for a girls’ day in! Sleepless in Seattle, Legally Blonde, and of course Hairspray, starring the big and fabulous Nikki Blonsky! Don’t forget the theater popcorn, popper, and a retro popcorn- serving bowl. And the manicure kit. And the mud mask.
4. Night on the Town
Perhaps there is a plus-sized woman in your life who could use a little excitement, a reason to hire a babysitter and go out for some fun? Or someone a little shy who dreams of doing something different? Do you know what size she wears, or can you find out somehow? Is she you? Give her an opportunity and an outfit (with all the information she needs, of course, to exchange items if they don’t fit): Pair an IOU for drinks for two at your favorite cocktail lounge with JS Boutique Beaded Mesh Dress (pictured above, which would look good on just about anyone, except, alas, the very Appley . . . though a little spanx goes a long way . . . ); either the Stuart Weitzman Globalboa or Gloorganza, depending on her style (or, if your budget is larger, the Girly); a pretty clutch; and kick-ass earrings (Fake stuff. Real stuff.). If she needs a babysitter, arrange that, too.
5. Cocktail Party Companion
This is a witty collection of books which can help you and your girlfriends learn all you need to come across as much more cultured and sophisticated than your friends. Laugh gleefully and smugly inside as you put to work all you find out in:
6. Spa Collection
Give the gift of luxury with extra-long, extra soft bath towels, a spa wrap or plush bathrobe, the “Holiday Rescue” bubble bath and bath salt set or a complete set of Candy-Cane scented bath treats (yay! Candy Cane!), pedicure set, and a CD of soothing sounds (pictured above) . By the way, if you know someone with a baby, here is a great gift: a CD of sounds that put babies to sleep (window fan, rain, fireplace, and — because some babies march to their own drum– a vacuum cleaner!)
8. Beautiful Kosher Cookbooks
(It is the eighth gift set, for the eight days of Chanukah!)
My friends who eschew treif and separate meat from milk swear that the following cookbooks, together, are the only kosher cookbooks that any American Jew will ever need, and indeed are so delicious that anyone who loves to cook, or to read about food, or experiment with ethnic recipes, or who is vegetarian or lactose-intolerant, will enjoy them:
Spice and Spirit: The Complete Kosher Jewish Cookbook. Available from the publisher here. Ashkenazic recipes from Poland, Hungary, and Russia. Sketches but no photographs.
Sephardic Flavors: Jewish Cooking of the Mediterranean Recipes of Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Turkey.
Sephardic Israeli Cuisine: A Mediterranean Mosaic Recipes of the Mediterranean Basin including Turkey, Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Syria, and Libya. No photographs.
9. Candle Collection
Francesca loves, loves loves scented candles, both in evocative winter scents like cinnamon apple, and in refreshing summer scents like honeysuckle, vanilla grapefruit, and lemon verbena. In a nod to her New England roots, Francesca likes to use Yankee brand candles. Look! Spiced Pumpkin! It is a playground of scents! Here is a colorful, festive, unscented arrangement for one’s coffee table. One can also throw in some votive holders, aromatic oils, and an oil burner to match one’s tastes. (The oil burner is also good for using up the last little piece of scented candle that never seems to spend itself in the votive holder.) (The cinnamon candle pictured above is here. It is incredible, what a person can find at Amazon!)
10. Reading Pleasure
Give the gift that keeps on giving, with a subscription to one’s favorite (or soon-to-be-favorite) magazine. Francesca has found her favorite magazines at the best prices (usually Amazon, but not always!)
Publications which Francesca recommends you consider, for the entertainment and homey comforts they afford, are:
Real Simple: Home care, design, and tips. A beautiful publication with high production values.
Figure: Articles promoting positive body image for the plus-size woman, and clothes from the Charming Shoppes company (eg, Lane Bryant).
Yankee: Articles about life in New England.
Reader’s Digest: The famous publication read by tens of millions of people around the world.
O, the Oprah Magazine: Articles about living a positive, emotionally balanced life.
Games: A whole magazine full of word puzzles, picture puzzlers, and logic games of all kinds. It is for adults but Francesca used to do the easier puzzles as a child, and look how brilliant she turned out!
11. Viewing pleasure
A poster print of your loved one’s favorite painting, made affordable and lovingly framed by the good people at Barewalls.com (seriously, Francesca has spoken with the owners and they are very nice!) Look, it is the above work of Renoir, mounted in a very elegant beaded-gold frame, for under $75! (The poster by itself is available in different sizes for under $10 – it is the framing which makes it look special, and which raises the cost. But is it not worth it?)
12. Classic and Classy
Francesca wishes all our readers who are soon celebrating holidays a wonderful, wonderful time. And a happy winter to one and all!
Happy, happy shopping!
xoxo always, Francesca