Tracey’s Gift-Giving Guide: Part 5 – Last-Minute Ideas

There’s only a week left until Christmas people! And yet I know that some of you barely have any shopping done…some of you even have NO shopping done. For shame.

For you people, here are a few last-minute, minimal-effort ideas.

Gift Cards

Personally, I’m not a fan of gift cards at Christmas. I can’t help but feel like there should be a note on them that says, “I don’t know you well enough to have any idea what you might like, so here’s some pre-spent money, and please do the leg work for me”. No offense to those who like to give gift cards…that’s just how I feel about them.

That said, there are certain types of gift cards that I feel are acceptable. Two of them are shown above. If you know a Tim Horton’s coffee lover, a Tim Card is an excellent choice because it’s money that you know they’re going to spend anyway. Alternatively, a Playstation Network card (or a Microsoft Points card for the XBox lovers) for the gamer in your life is a wonderful choice because it allows them to “load” their account with funds without having to attach a credit card number to their account. (For those of you who don’t get the whole gaming thing, your recipient can use the funds to download games or virtual goods for their games.)

Depending on what your gift recipient likes there are other good choices for gift cards, but I beg you to avoid certain stores…giving a gift card to a department store says, “I had literally thousands of choices around me, but still didn’t know what to get you”, and please, please avoid those Dollarama gift cards…even if your recipient regularly shops at the local Dollar Store, giving them a gift card for one screams “I think you’re cheap!”

A Themed Christmas Decoration

There are literally thousands upon thousands of themed and licensed Christmas decorations out there these days. They’ve always been available at stores like Hallmark and Carlton Cards, but they’re also prevalent at the department stores and supermarkets now, so you can’t possibly try to say that you can’t find any. For a few bucks you can get your loved one something cute and/or personalized that they can use to decorate their house for years to come.

Does your loved one love the old Rankin-Bass Christmas specials? There are tons of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer decorations out there. Do you have a kid on your list who is obsessed with a particular cartoon? I can almost guarantee you that you’ll find a couple of tree ornaments dedicated to that particular show. My daughter has her own miniature Christmas tree and it is covered in Ponies, Ninja Turtles, Spongebob, Sesame Street characters, and Disney Princesses. Take half a glance in the decoration section of any store and you’re bound to find something, I promise.

A Throw Blanket

Hear me out. If you live in a tropical climate, feel free to ignore this one, but if you live anywhere where, at some time throughout the year, the temperature drops below freezing, this is a great gift. There’s nothing quite like snuggling up on the couch to watch TV/read a book/play a video game/screw around on the computer with a soft, snuggly blanket wrapped around your shoulders. For a cost of between $10 and $30, depending on where and what you buy, you can share this joy. I’ve both given and received these wonderful little squares of material, and they’ve always been appreciated. In fact, I have one wrapped around me as I’m typing this post. Trust me on this one. Lovely, easy gift.


With this last gift-giving guide post, I would like to say one last thing… Pay attention to your loved ones. The reason we all tend to have so much trouble (and stress) shopping during Christmas is because we can never think of what to buy, and the main reason that we can’t think of what to buy is because we simply don’t pay attention to one another. I’m not trying to give the impression that I’m exempt from that statement…I’m as bad as anyone. But the worst offenders, I’ve found, tend to be the parents of young children. Working in retail has shown me that a lot of parents pay so little attention to their children’s likes and dislikes that it actually frightens me, so here’s a hint: if you think that every video game is a “Mario” game, or you can’t name even one of the characters of the TV show that your child loves…you need to start opening your eyes and your ears and stop relying on sales associates to help you figure out what to get your kid for Christmas.

Do you have any gift ideas that you’d care to share with the panicked, stressed-out last-minute shoppers? Leave a comment! We’d all love to hear your ideas!

This concludes Tracey’s Gift-Giving Guide. I hope I’ve helped a few people come up with some ideas for great gifts for their loved ones, but now that we’re down to one week left I plan to not even think about any more shopping. 🙂

Happy last minute shopping, everyone!

Tracey’s Gift-Giving Guide: Part 4 – MORE TOYS!

Battle-Shell Ninja Turtles

Do you have a Ninja Turtle fan on your list? Check out these awesome action figures of the Nickelodeon iteration. These four “battle shell” turtles are larger than your average figure, standing about 11 inches high, and come with weapons that fit snugly into a compartment behind each turtle’s shell. They’re perfect for a fan of the Turtles, and since my wonderfully rough-and-tumble niece has a couple of her own I can assure you that they are kid-resistant. A wonderful choice at approximately $30 each. 

Talking Sophia the First

My daughter very recently fell in love with Sophia the First, an amazing little show on Disney Junior that follows a young peasant girl who suddenly becomes a princess overnight when her mother marries the king. Toys for the show have just begun to explode this year, and this 10-inch doll is one of my absolute favorites. Pressing Sophia’s magical amulet makes her share one of dozens of phrases, and when you bring one of her three animal friends close to her amulet the two will “talk” to one another. It’s a sweet toy, especially for a lover of the show. A bit of advice: shop around for this one. I’ve seen it as low as $30 and as high as $45 depending on where you go.

Collector Series Exclusive Nightmare Moon

If you’re someone who has been paying any attention at all to this blog, you know that my daughter loves My Little Pony, so I consider myself something of an authority. That said, this Toys R Us exclusive Nightmare Moon would be an excellent addition to the collection of any lover of the show, or ponies in general. This large figure of the series’ premier villain talks, and her wings move and light up when you press the button on her “cutie mark”. She comes with a comb and four barrettes (of course) with which to style her mane and tail. This toy is an exclusive item that can only be purchased at Toys R Us, and is also part of a collector’s series that probably won’t be around forever, so if you want to get your little pony-lover something special, this just could be it. The regular price for this talking, light-up figure is about $25.

LeapPad Ultra

If you’re looking to spend a little bit of money on something fun and durable that is also an excellent learning tool, I present to you one of the biggest toys this holiday season: the LeapPad Ultra. I have to admit that I haven’t yet seen one of these in action, but I’ve read so many good reviews that I feel I can still tote it as an excellent gift option. The latest in a line of “kid tablets”, the Ultra is the largest and most durable version of LeapPad to come out. It brags excellent specs, a 7 inch screen, 8 gigs of storage space, and front-and-rear-facing 2 megapixel cameras. Unlike previous versions, this one is wi-fi capable, and incorporates a child-safe web-browser that only allows the user to access pre-approved sites (the PBS website is an example of an approved site). This model also has a built-in rechargeable battery – unlike previous models – which is gold considering how a child can chew through batteries on a toy like this. The game/book/app library is huge, and includes plenty of options for kids ages 3 through 9. If your little one is as ingrained in technology as mine is, the LeapPad Ultra would make a wonderful gift that lets them feel like they’re using a “real” tablet, while playing games with their favorite characters and learning a ton in the process. This model costs approximately $160, depending on where you buy, and in my opinion it’s worth every penny.

Do you have any great ideas for toy gifts? Please share!

Stay tuned for Tracey’s Gift-Giving Guide Part 5: Last-Minute Ideas

Tracey’s Gift-Giving Guide: Part 3 – TOYS!

My friends, I am an expert in toys, not only because I have a daughter of my own who teaches me lots, but also because toys are awesome and I love them. Don’t judge me. My knowledge is helpful this time of year.

My Pal Scout & Violet

For a younger child, I absolutely love this puppy pal. My daughter has one from when she was younger, and for a good year straight it was one of her favorite things. Scout/Violet talks to your little one and sings fun songs, all depending on your input – these cute little pups can connect to your laptop via LeapFrog’s downloadable software, wherein you can program the toy with your child’s name, favorite food, favorite color, and your choice of a number of songs. Squeezing the pup’s paws initiates interaction. My favorite paw was the blue one, which plays so many minutes of lullaby music depending on how many times you squeeze it. It’s an excellent daytime and nighttime toy for any little one, and will only cost you about $25.

Melissa and Doug Handmade Wooden Toys

I didn’t specify any one toy because there are tons, and it all depends on the age-range you’re looking for, but Melissa and Doug’s wooden toys are amazing. My daughter has a few of the puzzles (the number one shown above, and an alphabet one), and one of their “build-a-cake” toys, which is a three-layer wooden cake with Velcro decorations. All are very well made, colorful, and original. You can order directly from the Melissa and Doug website, but these toys can also be found in a number of stores; I’ve found many of the options in Winners, which incidentally seems to have some of the best prices.

Dress-Up Toys

Again, for this one I give you a broad range, not a specific toy. Kids love dress-up, and YES, that includes boys, this is something I know for sure. At the playgroup my daughter attends there is a large tote full of dress-up gear, and all of the kids love it. From the 1-year-old little girls to the 5-year-old boys, they all love playing with the fireman and police officer suits.

This gift is up to your own discretion; you can spend a little or a lot because there are tons of options. You can go to the toy aisles of your local stores and find lots of Disney Princess dresses and Ninja Turtles wearable shells, or you can go to the local Dollar Store for feather boas, princess crowns, superhero masks, and a multitude of plastic jewelry. Either way, I guarantee the child will have a blast. Dress-up and imaginative play is one of the best things about being a kid. Think back. You know it’s true. 🙂

Do you have any great ideas for toy presents? Please share!

Stay tuned for Tracey’s Gift-Giving Guide: Part 4 – MORE TOYS!

Tracey’s Gift-Giving Guide: Part 2 – Electronics

A Playstation 4 or an XBox One


Now here’s the thing…chances are that if you haven’t already purchased this present for your loved one, it’s not going to happen before the holiday season. As I mentioned in a previous post these two devices are THE THINGS to get this year, so if didn’t either pre-order one or camp out all night for a midnight release, there’s an extremely good chance that you’re not going to get one. Good luck.

That said, I still felt I should mention them because, again, they’re going to be THE THINGS this year. Every gamer out there (except for the PC gamers, who we will not speak of here…;)) is going to want one or the other, or perhaps even both, so if your loved one is anything like my husband, the fastest way to their heart is one of these two devices.

Just makes sure you’re get the proper one. You do not want to find yourself in the middle of a console war. @_@

A Media “Box”


Do you have a loved one in your life who watches a lot of their media on their computer? Someone who has tons of movies and TV shows on their hard drive, or who prefers Netflix and Hoolu to satellite television? You may want to consider getting them a media box!

There are a variety of brands out there, but the basic idea of each of them is that they allow you to stream a variety of file types and utilize a number of internet-based services on your television. Depending on which box you decide on you can either place your files on a personal hard drive and connect directly to the box, or you can set up your internet and network sharing options so that the box can stream files over the network from your computer to your television. Additionally, many of the options out there have access to all kinds of internet services.

This one might require a bit of research to decide which box is best for your particular loved one. My husband and I personally have two WDTV boxes (one older one that doesn’t have wireless internet capabilities, and a newer one that has both wireless and it’s own internal hard drive), and while we’ve had our issues with them (WDTV support is effectively useless) we’ve definitely made great use of them. For this time of the year my husband has a collection of Christmas specials on a hard drive so that we can enjoy holiday fun on any television in the house all season long. 🙂

Depending on which one you choose, this gift will run you anywhere from about $80 to $200+.

A Smartphone

Plan you strategy carefully…when considering a gift that will actually end up costing the recipient money (hello, monthly data plan!) you must be very careful. If your recipient is currently on a plan with an older phone, you don’t want to set up a new plan that will be costing them three times as much each month. Similarly, if your recipient doesn’t currently have a cell phone at all, you must take into consideration that they have no intention of paying a monthly bill for something they hadn’t bothered to buy for themselves.

That said, if you have someone who is looking to upgrade their phone, or you’re in a situation in which you’re going to be paying the bill anyway (such as a gift between spouses), this is a great idea. My personal experience has shown time and again that even people who think that they have no use for a smart phone almost always end up loving them in the end. Even if your recipient is not the kind of person to hang out on Facebook or feels the need to check their email a hundred times a day, smart phones are just outrageously useful in a number of ways. My husband and I might have wasted our entire shopping trip to New Brunswick being as lost as a blind puppy if it weren’t for our phones and the Google Maps app.

Of course the price-range on this gift can vary dramatically depending on what you’re looking at. Some dealers will be offering last-gen phones (which are still perfectly excellent devices) for $0 with certain packages and contracts. The newest phones will cost anywhere up to several hundred dollars, depending on what you’re buying, whether you’re buying it outright or with a contract, and whether or not you’re paying for the contract in question yourself. Again, plan carefully.

It’s also worth mentioning that you might want to suss out the recipient of this gift on what kind of phone they might be most interested in. There are lots of iPhone enthusiasts out there, just as there are many people who would want literally any other phone before an iPhone. I personally love my iPhone, but if I were going to buy a new phone now I would definitely go for one in the Samsung series. Be careful not to get the exact opposite thing that your loved one would want!

Do you have any awesome suggestions for electronic gifts? Please share!

Stay tuned for Tracey’s Gift-Giving Guide: Part 3 – TOYS!

Tracey’s Gift-Giving Guide: Part 1 – Small Appliances

Since Christmas is sneaking ever closer, and because I personally know a lot of people who wait until the last possible minute to buy gifts, I thought I’d do a run of gift ideas posts over the next couple of weeks. Because I know about stuff. Yes, I do.

First up we have some of my favorite ideas for small appliance gifts!

Idea #1: Keurig Coffee Maker

Do you have a coffee lover on your list? Consider picking them up a Keurig single-cup coffee maker! I personally have one of these that my husband and I got as a gift several years ago, and last year we bought one for our in-laws, who love it as well. There are several versions of the Keurig makers, from the Mini – which holds just enough water for one cup and is the cheapest model – to the Special Edition – which has a large water reservoir and three cup-sizes to choose from, and is also programmable – and the B70 model which is the newest, sleekest, and most expensive. During the holiday season these coffee makers often go on excellent sales, so keep your eyes out. My husband and I have the Special Edition version, which is regularly priced at $160, but just last week they were on sale in several stores for $68 (currently, as I type this, they are on for $99).

Personally we love this coffee maker. Even considering that you have to buy the special K-Cups to make the coffee, it’s still cheaper than buying your coffee at a shop, and there are dozens of different flavors you can choose from. You can even get K-Cups to make hot chocolate, cider, and cappuccino. 🙂

Idea #2: KitchenAid Mixers

This is a more expensive investment, but if you’re looking for something outstanding to give to a loved one who enjoys baking and making lots of awesome treats, this is an excellent buy. There are different versions based on wattage capabilities, bowl size, and included attachments, so this gift idea can range from a bit more than $200 to more than $500. I can tell you from personal experience (my mother has one) that they work beautifully and that you don’t have to worry too much about the more expensive models if you’re buying for someone who is a casual baker. My mother’s version is one of the lower wattage versions and so far it has been a perfect fit for her with no problems at all.

This gift also opens up a world of smaller related gift ideas because there are many attachments that can be purchased for it, like the sausage-maker, and a pasta arm. Check it out!

Idea #3: CrockPot Cooker

There are many different slow cookers that you can buy, but it is my personal believe that CrockPot does it best in this case.

This can be a relatively cheap gift (the smaller size of CrockPots run about $30), or you can spend a bit more money for a nicer model with little add-ons (the one pictured above with the hooks to keep the cover pulled down runs for about $60). Any way you go, this is an awesome gift, especially for someone who doesn’t exactly love cooking. Bonus points if you add on a book of slow cooker recipes. I don’t use mine nearly as much as I should, but when I do I remember that it’s the greatest thing ever. You can literally just throw some meat, some veggies, and some kind of liquid (soups are great for flavor) in, leave it cook all day, and ta-da! Deliciousness!

Do you have any awesome suggestions for small appliance gifts? Please share!

Stay tuned for Tracey’s Gift-Giving Guide: Part 2 – Electronics