Rockin’ Gift Ideas

The craziness of the holiday shopping season is here, in full blast. The atmosphere at the department stores is worse than at a wrestling match in Southern Turkey, grown – and otherwise polite – women tackling each other over the last pink and blue leather Juicy Couture bag is the order of the day and I don’t sweat as much on my daily jog around the park as I do stepping inside some of those overheated stores in the Time Warner Center. And, through this chaos, there are still so many gifts to buy, or one risks facing the irascibility of one’s friends and family. The following is by no means a foolproof shopping companion to satisfy all those names on your list, but it gets the ball rolling on the ideas. The rest, is up to you. Take my example and create gifts with a theme. And roll with that theme for nearly all those you need to shop for. It makes it more pleasant and faster for you and all your loved ones will think that you are very creative. The following gifts ideas are best presented in large, festively colored bags, but should be individually wrapped or hidden inside some tissue paper. A large bow and a heartfelt card should complete the package.

THE BOLLYWOOD PACKAGE
You know there cannot be an entry on my weekly blog that does not, in some way, deal with this exotic passion of mine. The thing is, I have never met anyone who could not be swayed towards this endearing and charming style of filmmaking and did not enjoy – even if secretly, of course – the entertainment factor it so easily provides. In NYC, it’s easy to put this present together. If you do not live in NYC, following the description of the gift you will find the addresses of some websites that can help you shop for all the stuff online. Just do this well ahead of time to avoid the disappointment of a holiday gift delivered after Christmas. For more info on the names of the stores mentioned, click on the “Curry Hill Adventure”. Anyway, start out with a couple of great Hindi films from Sangeet House on Lexington Avenue. Ask the lovely Siva – the gentleman who runs the store – for suggestions depending on the person you are shopping for, or follow my list here. For men, anything that has more action, which include the films “Dhoom 2″, “Dus” – Ten – “Bluffmaster”, “Zinda” – Alive – and even the wonderfully Tarantino inspired “Shootout at Lokhandwala”. For young girls – here’s where Bollywood is fabulous because it doesn’t deal with sex and drugs and all those subjects one would rather drink poison than talk about with a teenager girl – choose younger, more magical themes, like “Paheli”, “Hum Tum” – You, Me – “Bunty Aur Babli”, “Jaan-e-Mann” – Love of My Heart – and the audience favorite “Kuch Kuch Hota Hai” – Slowly, It Happens. For the intellectual who just could never possibly be swayed this way, try some of the Mani Ratman movies like “Guru”, “Dil Se” – From the Heart – and “Yuva”, which are masterpieces, as well as others like “Rang de Basanti”, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s “Black” and “Devdas”, Vishal Bhardwaj’s Hindi versions of “Macbeth” – titled “Maqbool” – and “Othello” – titled “Omkara” – and even Deepa Mehta’s films “Fire”, “1947 – Earth” and “Water” which are absolutely not Bollywood and don’t anyone dare to call them that. My current favorite is Rajat Kapoor’s thought-provoking “Mixed Doubles”, which will keep them thinking about it for weeks. For the couples in your life, try “Salaam-e-Ishq” – Hello to Love – “Parineeta” – the Bride – Dil Chahta Hai – What the Heart Wants – and “Fanaa” – Destroyed. And finally, for the more fun loving, hipper friends, try out the newer batch of Hindi films, less Bollywood and very arthouse, like “Bheja Fry”, again “Mixed Doubles”, “Manorama – Six Feet Under”, “Living in a Metro”, “Dilli Heights” and if you want them to laugh out loud, the very funny, almost bordering on silly, Hindi version of the film “Hitch” titled “Partner”. Once you have put together the movies, time to do the music. You have a choice of getting the CDs, or giving then a gift card for Itunes, so your loved ones can download the music they liked best from the films you gave them, or even try out something completely different.. Another good part of the gift would be a six month membership to I-Talkies, so they can rent out a few different films, stuff to include old favorites as well as South Indian movies, rarely seen in this part of the world. Once done with the entertainment, your gift should include some food and possibly a recipe book. I love Madhur Jaffey’s books on Indian cuisine, available at Amazon, because she manages to make everything sound easy. But if you don’t want to invest in a book, you can easily download a couple of recipes from the internet, print them on pretty paper and tie them in the middle with a piece of colorful ribbon. Remember, this is the “Bollywood Gift” so all wrapping should have a lot of color and at least one marigold flower. For the food part of the gift, get some of Kalustyan’s own “Mixed Pickle”, a good Paratha – aloo, which is potato, or methi, fenugreek leaves are my favorites – some microwave popcorn (hey, Trader Joe’s is fine for that! And get microwave, way easier, your friends will thank you for it!) and a box of spices called “Chaat Masala” to sprinkle on the popcorn. Seriously guaranteed to turn any film into a Bollywood hit! While in Curry Hill, go to Butala Emporium and pick up a little incense holder, they have a variety to choose from. And finally, go to Ricky’s and get some Votivo incense, which should ideally be a rose, jasmine or sandalwood scent. Now, your gift should be complete. For Bollywood movies to buy online go to Neha Flix and for Butala Emporium click on Butala Online and for Kalustyan’s click on Kalustyans.com.

THE CHOCOLATE ADDICTION
This gift probably works best for those friends who have just gone through a terrible breakup, or are simply not ever watching their waistline… Otherwise, forgo for other choices. A good place to start is by visiting a really good chocolatier, like Jacques Torres, Mariebelle, Leonida’s and even Godiva. Pick out a nice box of about 12 bon bons and if they have it there, a good hot chocolate mix to suit your friend’s or family member’s taste. If you wish to find some cheaper hot chocolate mix, then Green and Black’s have a great one, available at health food stores, and even local Hispanic stores sell a good Mexican hot chocolate mix, with almond and cinnamon mixed in. If you don’t have a Hispanic mart in your town, you should still be able to find it in Whole Foods… We all know there is one of those EVERYWHERE. Good alternatives to expensive bon bons are also chocolate bars, with Dagoba being the best quality, but Lindt – at the supermarket – in dark, mint and orange are also amazing. To put the whole package together, use a brown paper bag, fill it with all the various chocolate, then add a carton of 2 % milk – the kind they sell which doesn’t need to be refrigerated until opened – a nice mug of your choice, which you can find here in NYC at places like Surprise Surprise and even Macy’s, some cinnamon for garnish, and a nice box of cookies, possibly chocolate covered. You are good to go. For more info on chocolate, or even if you wish to add a more wicked version with all the ingredients for a Chocolate Martini, go to the “Chocolate Corner” of this site.

THE BEAUTY TREAT
This is probably the easiest one to overspend on. I mean, all you have to do is set foot inside Ricky’s or Sephora and just the sheer act of entering the store makes you a couple of hundred dollars poorer. But it is a good gift to give, since you will never find a girl – or boy even! – who does not enjoy pampering herself. This can always be combined with the following gift to create a Spa/Beauty thing… It’s not a crime to mix and match… Actually, you can combine this with the Bollywood package as well, since many Indian groceries sell plenty of masks and hair treatment to suit each and every person’s needs. And some of those treatments have been around for hundreds of years. Anyway, I believe that every beauty gift should include a cellulite or slimming cream. I have never met a woman who didn’t enjoy or think she needed one. My favorite is a product I found at Drugstore.com called Green Canyon Spa. It’s only around $15 for three pieces, including two creams and a massager, which is the best thing to combat unsightly bumps. You can include a brush, my fave is by Denman, a paddle brush for around $17 available at Ricky’s. A nice hair mask, either scented coconut oil or the Avocado Mask from Burt’s Bees – this comes with its own bonnet and comb! You can include directions for a good hair treatment, which include heating up the coconut oil and brushing the scalp at least 30 times for good circulation and hair regrowth. For a good face cream, or oil, you can try Bio-Oil – also available at Drugstore.com – which works really well for the winter months, and include a bottle of rose water. Even the edible kind from the ethnic grocers are great! The final touch can be a couple of cool make up shades, a good lipgloss, some cream blush and eye pencils, Sephora makes great shades, all made in the same factories as some of the pricier stuff, but all really really affordable. Of course, packaging is very important here, so splurge on a nice bag and card from Papyrus.

THE RELAX PACKAGE AT HOME
A lot of the same things from the above gift can go into this, but I would not include make up. Start with some bath products, like a good milk soak, or even oatmeal, which is great for winter dry skin. Buy some lavender and chamomile essential oils, to add to the bath, with instruction written by you, if you wish. It makes a nice touch to have the little directions on nice, computer printed paper. A good pair of pretty slippers or cashmere socks will also be impressive. For more products, like a face mask to apply while in the bath, good bubble baths and even a great, emollient body cream as a finishing touch, Kiehl’s is good. The products are always reliable and you can ask for samples to include in the package. I don’t know why, but samples sometimes are even more fun than full sized products! Put you gift in a basket or a soothing colored bag, fill it with lightly colored tissue paper and you’ve got a “spa in a basket” so to speak!

THE NEW COUPLE’S REDLIGHT SPECIAL
This works only for those who insist on being in a relationship. I mean, don’t they know how much fun life is us single people?! But anyway, you know I speak only from… envy!! I mean, if you find the right guy, or girl, hold on to him or her tightly. Love is a wonderful thing. And it makes it so easy to shop for those who are in love! This gift is also good for any of your girlfriends who are getting married. It makes for some great conversation when opened. Hopefully, if the couple open it together, talking should be the very last thought on their minds… Start with a really sexy, really bright but not gaudy lacy thong. I have done extensive market research with some of my male friends – well one actually – and the lace thong is what gets the most attention. On and off… Anyway, once that perfect thong has been discovered, the rest is easy. Include some edible sparkling body powder – Sephora sells the Urban Decay one which comes in three delicious flavors. A couple of mini candles from Pacifica, which come in glass containers to avoid one of your couple friends igniting more than just passion. Get some Votivo incense which smells and burns the best, without being overwhelming and voila! You’ve got the package. You can optionally include some sexy games, but seriously, once the undies and the body powder are on, they’ll be making up their own games just fine!

THE TRAVEL BACKPACK
As the name indicates, start out with a backpack. This is a good gift for a friend who is constantly on the go, or even someone who will be taking their first big trip soon. If you know your friend’s destination, even better, as you can include a good guide book of the country they’ll be visiting. Otherwise, do start with a backpack with wheels. It’s not so easy to find, but the very best on tired traveling shoulders. Choose a dark color, avoid the temptation to go pink or orange, as those colors get old after a while and you won’t have to live with it, your friend will. Fill the backpack with a pretty – albeit light – notebook, which they can use as a travel log. If you have the means, do include a tiny MP3 player, possibly already filled with lots of fun music from your own collection. It doesn’t have to be the new Ipod Nano, just a simple device that you know will be compatible with her/his computer. Add some good foot balm, as the first thing to go on a trip are the feet. Kiehl’s has a good “Callous Areas” cream. A good sunscreen, some light reading material, a good map – again if you know where they are going – and some candy. Include some ginger candy from Trader Joes which is fantastic on a queasy stomach or for any motion sickness. Lavender essential oil is also great for relaxing when the jetlag is playing tricks on the traveler’s body. Well, that’s my Holiday shopping list! Hope it helps…

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