Archive for the ‘Teens’ Category

A Thoughtful Gift Idea

I’m a big believer in gifts that show you were thoughtful about choosing them. My friend bought me a beautiful hydrangea plant for my birthday recently and as much as I love the plant (and I do!) I also love the fact that she knows me well, and thought about choosing something that would please me. That plant is thriving in my garden showing lacy white blooms and every time I walk by or stop to admire it, I know I have a friend who cares about me.  Isn’t that what we want our gifts to say?  So while I love to give gift ideas here (yes, one is coming…) I also advise you to spend a few minutes thinking about the person you’re buying for to get a sense of direction.

Today’s suggestion: Now that there are video cameras on our phones and computers, it’s pretty easy to create a video clip and while the tech savvy person can edit it and get fancy with music in the background, none of that is necessary for this gift idea.  Record yourself sharing a happy memory.  It can be a story for your child from his past or a memory from your own childhood that you share with your parent.  The ways to use this idea are endless but the key is to let the person know that they play an important role in your happy memories. Here’s the fun part that may require a little courage on your part: post your video somewhere, on YouTube or FaceBook for example, and then send the link to your gift recipient.  You won’t believe how many people will share this with their friends because everyone loves to have their life witnessed.  You’ll be the coolest gift giver ever.

A Gift Full of Memories

There are a few sites that offer photobooks on the internet now.  My favorite is It’s so easy to use their software and the end result is as professional as anything on the shelf at your local bookstore. I heard about this site when I received a gift of a photobook from a family who had visited our vacation home with us. They compiled photos from that trip, many featuring my children with their children having a wonderful time together and “published” a book as a thank you gift. It was one of the best gifts I’ve ever received and it has become my “go to” place on the web for personalized gifts at Christmas. Pull together some digital photos, upload them to site and start arranging them into your own special gift for someone.

Questions to Start Great Conversations

We all have that friend or those family members who always love to entertain and be the hostess. When selecting a present for them you might as well take advantage of this and give them something that you know they will get plenty of use out of. Table Topics is a great, unique gift for anyone. They are similar to the conversation starters you may find at some restaurants, but are available in a seemingly endless amount of themes. Their topics range anywhere from book club to dinner party and even teen. They come in small clear cubes filled with cards and are then decorated in fun and playful patterns and colors. They are perfect to simply leave out on your coffee table when having friends over or even to entertain you during a long car ride or when sitting in a waiting room. The “Girls Night Out” addition is the perfect present to give to your friends as a small holiday gift. If you are looking for something extra to give to your significant other, the “Couples” addition is a great thoughtful present and includes questions such as, “what possession of your partner’s would you like to throw away.” With the endless selection of items available you are guaranteed to find something for anyone, no matter the occasion, as there are cards specialized for even a bachelorette party and going to college. These creative questions are also available on napkins, coasters and even placemats. This year I couldn’t resist buying these for my friends and family members and even purchased one for myself as well. 

    The Gift of Choice

    No matter how hard you try there are always going to be those few people who are impossible to shop for. Infamous for returning presents or those who never ask for anything for themselves- we all know at least one. Why they may seem somewhat overdone gift certificates are a great solution. If the person you are giving the present to really doesn’t have a need for any more materialistic things, a gift certificate to the movies or a day at the spa is a great way to force them to enjoy some time for themselves. If a spa day is a little out of your budget a card for a manicure and pedicure can always be used. For teenagers an iTunes gift card is perfect and is sure not to last long. If you’re shopping for children and just not sure what toys they already own a card to Build a Bear is a great way to get them involved in their present and allows them to create memories and a stuffed animal that they will love forever. Even if your friend or family member isn’t much of a shopper it is hard to find many who could resist a Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts certificate. 

      Shredded Money!

      Dan: First semester of my sophomore year of college I took a class officially titled as, “ECON302 Banking and Monetary Policy.” That class ended up becoming the bread and butter of my life as it’s about all I do in college now.  However, my professor, when getting an exam back or when recognizing a great group effort at an attempt to analyze economic phenomena, such as the Japanese bond crisis or when interest rates in the United States were around 15%, she would hand out a special gift…thousands upon thousands of dollars of shredded money!

      YOU’RE RICH!  Not really since its been destroyed, but various Federal Reserva Banks sell pretty packages of currency that has been taken out of circulation due to wear and tear.  Even though you wish you could glue it all back together again, it is a really neat gift idea.  You can use it for educational purposes, when teaching the true value of money.  It’s not the paper composite it’s printed out, but the value you can get in exchange for it.

      Grace: This is a very unique gift idea, because at the heart of it, the gift is not so much about a physical object, but more about an important life lesson.  Lots of people, especially those from the younger generation, don’t understand the value of money, and then when they go off on their own, continue to practice bad spending and saving habits.  Although this might not seem to be the coolest gift ever, it’s certainly the most helpful in the long run.

      Give a Personalized Gift

      Grace: I’ve been talking a lot about personalized gifts or gifts that have special meaning to the recipient.  One way to do this, is to literally give a personalized gift, such as a necklace with the recipient’s name engraved on it.  However, personalized gifts are not limited to jewelry; I found this great site that has a vast array of items that can be personalized.

      The most obvious choice for a personalized gift is a piece of jewelry, such as a necklace or a bracelet.  However, this site also offers personalized clocks, pens, music boxes, and water globes.  An engraved music box or water globe would be the perfect gift for a younger girl, while an engraved clock or flask would be great for an older man.  I love the range of products provided (they even personalize pillows and blankets), and there is also a great selection of fonts for you to choose from.  This is definitely a great go-to site for a special gift!

      Dan: Great idea, I can’t believe we did spot this great website earlier.  Personalized gifts are really the way to go if you want to add some additional extra meaning.  Inside jokes, or something meaningful for that significant other can read add value to any gift!

      Painting Kit

      Grace: Even though I’m a math major, I decided this semester that I needed to take something completely different, so I signed up for a painting class.  I used to paint when I was much younger, but I forgot how much fun and how relaxing painting could be.  A great gift idea for someone would be a painting kit.

      I remember getting my first watercolor kit when I was still in elementary school and it was such a fun and creative gift!  I used to paint with it all the time and I even used it in high school for school projects.  The nice thing about watercolor is that they aren’t particularly difficult to clean.  A little bit of paint goes a long way with these, so even though I received my set as a gift when I was younger, I still had plenty of paint years later.

      For someone who is older, I would recommend an oil paint kit as a unique gift.  I love painting with oils because you can go over them and change your painting if you don’t like it, unlike painting with watercolors.  However, the paints themselves and the paint thinner or turpentine used are all toxic, so this isn’t something I would recommend giving to a young child.  Not to mention, oils stain clothes and skin.

      Dan: Unfortunately, I have never been artistically gifted and cannot draw or paint beyond the skill of an elementary school child.  On the other hand, my older sister was/is very into painting and drawing; her artwork is scattered all over our house.  She received a painting kit from parents years ago and she still uses it to this day.  If you really want to express yourself through paint I recommend getting a quality painting kit.  If you know someone artistic or someone who wants to start painting this is a wonderful gift!

      The Gift for a City Dweller

      Dan: Hi everyone! I just spent the weekend in West Philadelphia helping my sister move into a new apartment. I now return to you with a new gift idea! A lot of people today (at least in the United States) get around in the car. However, if you live in a congested area like my sister does, it costs an arm and a leg to even get a parking space in a garage. Pretty much said, my sister has no good use for having a car. Sometimes this can be a hassle for her since she cannot easily escape the city whenever she wants to. Luckily, there are options for her to get around the city more quickly than just walking.

      A great gift idea for her, and many other city dwellers, would be a bicycle. Not only a bike, but long boards, unicycles, etc are also great transportation gift ideas. The bike does not have to be the greatest made, but there are specifications to consider. Different bikes are designed to handle different conditions. You may assume that a “road bike” is the best gift choice for someone like my sister because she is located in a concrete jungle. However, knowing my sister, she may not be comfortable sharing the road with ruckus drivers. Therefore, I would probably get her a mountain bike or combination bike that features road bike comfort and thicker, more sturdy tires and tubes allowing her to venture onto the sidewalk.

      I would personally recommend a combination bike because they usually work for most types of terrain no matter your location. They also usually have a wide array of different gears unlike certain “recreational” combination bikes found around beach communities. Give the gift of exercise and transportation! I would personally recommend Schwinn bikes due to my previous experience with them and their durability.

      Grace: Dan, this is a really great gift idea! At school there is really no point in having a car because our campus is so small, but at the same time, it’s annoying to have to walk everywhere. A bike would make my life so much easier! This is the case with many college students, and a bike would make a great graduation gift for an incoming freshman. As Dan also mentioned, bikes are useful outside of college too. For example, at home I live close enough to the center of town that it seems a waste to drive there, but it’s too far to walk; a bike would really settle the difference and I’d be getting exercise and helping the environment!

      Picture the Perfect Gift with Digital Cameras

      Grace: One of those weird Asian genes I happened to inherit is my obsession with taking pictures of EVERYTHING! Before my camera completely died on me, I would literally take it anywhere and everywhere because you never knew when it would come in handy!

      Now that my camera is officially dead, I’ve been on the lookout for a new one. I think a reliable yet fairly inexpensive digital camera is a great thing for everyone to have. I know how difficult it is to find the perfect digital camera (there are just too many!) but I think the best approach to buying one as a gift is to think of the person’s needs. For example, if I we’re buying a camera for someone who is not a professional photographer but still very dedicated, such as my dad, I would probably buy a more high end digital camera and a nice standard zoom lens too.

      However, if you are shopping for someone younger, perhaps a college or high school student, something smaller and cheaper would be better, especially since cameras tend to get replaced every few years. Personally, I would want my digital camera to take clear pictures regardless of the situation (I hate when the pictures I take at night or at museums don’t turn out well), but I’d also want it to be small and easy to carry around. From what I’ve seen, the Canon PowerShot digital cameras take very nice pictures, but I find them to be a little bulky. I also like the Fujifilm FinePix because it takes quality pictures, but it’s slimmer than the PowerShot.

      Whatever you decide on, don’t fret too much about it. I would make a list of what I know I want in a camera, and then do some research and read both professional and customer reviews. As long as the camera does its job, it’s sure to be a well loved and well used gift.

      Dan: A digital camera is a great gift idea Grace! When we just went to the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk my camera came in real handy. Digital cameras these days have unlimited capabilities, I was able to take A LOT of video and at least thirty pictures of frogs, fish and crazy toothed sharks. In the past I always hated people who walked around filming their lives on camera. I would think to myself, “enjoy the moment don’t record the moment”, but it really is wonderful to have the ability to reflect on great experiences. I also recommend taking lots of short films because they truly re-live the moment unlike photos.

      The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

      Grace: Much to my boyfriend’s chagrin, I have to admit that I am a huge geek. I practically grew up watching Star Wars and reading Lord of the Rings. I remember reading The Hobbit in third grade and loving it so much that I was off the wall ecstatic when I received The Lord of the Rings trilogy a few years later. I still own my original set and I’m surprise they’ve held up over the years since I’ve read those books so many times.

      Even if your child doesn’t have a fondness for all things fantasy and science fiction, I would highly recommend buying a Lord of the Rings box set as a gift. I don’t actually like to read science fiction or fantasy novels, but this trilogy is completely different. Written by J.R.R. Tolkien, who was famous for his critical essay on Beowulf (it’s still used today and if you study Beowulf, which you probably will, you’ll end up reading this essay), The Lord of the Rings completely creates a new world. I remember getting lost in Tolkien’s Middle Earth because he was so detail oriented; he even wrote other books and short stories that built up Middle Earth’s history, almost as if it were real.

      I know that is is very difficult to get kids to read these days, especially with the temptation of video games and television, but reading is critical to a child’s development. According to the National Institute for Literacy, children ages 9-17 who read for fun could had a much higher literacy and comprehension level than children who did not read outside the classroom.

      I would highly recommend The Lord of the Rings trilogy set not only because it was an essential part of my childhood, but because it’s a gift that has longevity. Clothes, toys, and other gadgets are used for maybe a year, but books, especially the classics, can be read and used for years to come.

      Dan: I am OBSESSED with Lord of the Rings (LOTR for us fans)! I could not agree more with your gift recommendation. When I was younger, all I did was watch television and really hated reading to be honest. It was not until I was immersed into Lord of the Rings by my older sister that I started to turn the tube off. A lot of people assume that the series is just another mindless science fiction story with monsters and elves and the like; but it really is not. Lord of the Rings is written in a tone of greater difficulty than a beach novel and really provides an array of symbolism and metaphors that can be found in other great classics such as The Great Gatsby and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. I think I am going to go pick up Return of the King right now and immerse myself in the world of Middle Earth for the afternoon!