To take the guessing game out of holiday shopping, The Globe and Mail asked 10 Canadians, each experts in their field, for tips on how to find the perfect gift for everyone on your list. Inspired by their advice, we compiled suggestions that will delight and surprise.
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The Art Lover
Nuria Madrenas, founder, Tacit Collective
When shopping for the aesthete, Nuria Madrenas, who founded Tacit as an online gallery and art consultancy dedicated to works by female artists, suggests sticking to art that tells a story and expands the recipient’s collection. “If you know them well, picking out a piece from an emerging artist that you think they’ll love is super thoughtful,” she says.
1. Decorate your dining or console table with Elte Mkt’s ceramic Rope Vase, which features a narrow space for a floral arrangement. It also serves as a statement piece on its own. $45 through eltemkt.com.
2. Crafted in brass and with frosted playing pieces, Stax turns game night classic Connect Four into a decorative piece to display in your home. $65 through umbra.com.
3. Designed in Toronto and handwoven in Northern India, a Mark Krebs floor covering adds a pop of colour to any room. Rose Garden 2x3 rug, $74 through markkrebs.ca
4. Onquata’s trilogy of hand-painted, ethically made paddles are decorated with beaver tail lines inspired by Wendat traditions and made from Canadian poplar. Sangrias Trilogy, $295 through onquata.com.
5. Minimal, by Stéphanie Mandréa and Laurie Barrette, is not only a beautiful book to display on your coffee table, but it offers readers an approachable guide to living a more balanced life. $29.95 at bookstores.
The Festive Foodie
Jackie Kai Ellis, designer, entrepreneur, pastry chef
Jackie Kai Ellis avoids the holiday rush by shopping for gifts year-round when travelling. For the gourmand on your list, Ellis recommends “buying specialized kitchen equipment like a tortilla press, or rare spices and sauces” if you’re familiar with their palette. If you’re not as close, “more general items like local sea salt, good olive oil and jams from France would be less intimidating to enjoy.”
1. Decant a 750 millilitre bottle of wine or serve a warm holiday drink in a Rock Bottom Vessel constructed from scientific grade-glass that can withstand extreme temperatures. $97 through studio50.ca
2. Ideal for those living in smaller spaces or simply looking for a better way to organize their kitchen, Montreal-based Ensembl’s fully clad stainless cookware features removable handles and flat-lying lids making them easy to stack and store. Stackware Classic4, US$612 through getensembl.com.
3. Enhance your holiday meal with the Wild Cranberry Sage Poultry Seasoning, Sweet Gingerbread Spice Sugar and four other spice blends found in Twisted Gourmet’s Taste of the Yukon Sampler #2. $25 through twistedgourmet.ca.
4. Chef Tammy Maki makes handcrafted chocolate works of art that are almost too pretty to eat, arriving with tasting notes and information about the Indigenous ingredients used. Raven Rising dark chocolate bars, $13.75 through ravenrising.ca.
5. Compost the leftovers from your culinary creations into nutrient-rich organic fertilizer with Tero. The eco-electronic device fits easily on your countertop and filters odours to keep your kitchen smelling fresh. $595 through teroinnovation.ca.
The Aspiring Mixologist
Christopher Waters, Globe and Mail wine critic
This holiday season, Christopher Waters is “looking to give bottles [of wine] that are connected to a destination the recipient was planning to visit and needed to delay their trip or had previously visited and which continues to hold a fond place in their hearts.” Throughout the holiday season, Waters recommends popping open a bottle of sparkling wine from a Canadian winery.
1. Savour the wines from Benjamin Bridge, located in Nova Scotia’s Gaspereau Valley. The Nova 7 (2020) is a blend of Muscat varietals, Geisenheim and Ortega sustainably farmed with no sulphites at harvest and a 100-per-cent wild fermentation. $24.95 through benjaminbridge.com.
2. Whether in person or virtually, Montis Distilling in Whistler, B.C., lets you create a custom batch of gin or whiskey with your favourite botanicals and a personalized label. $60 per bottle (12-bottle minimum for custom orders) reserved through montisdistilling.com.
3. Add some chic to cocktail hour with Luxe Agate Cheese Knives by Vancouver’s Graze Company. Made from genuine stone, the handles are crafted in brass-plated stainless steel. $110 through thegrazecompany.com.
4. Bring a bit of the Yukon to your bar cart with Free Pour Jenny’s Bitters Boreal Bitters Mini Set, featuring five handcrafted bitters created with homegrown and wild foraged ingredients from the North. $57.99 through freepourjennys.com.
5. Salted Co.’s Fancy Cocktail Nuts feature a trio of almonds seasoned to pair perfectly with your favourite glass of wine. $45 through salted.company.
The Grounded Traveller
Charles McDiarmid, managing director, the Wickaninnish Inn
Charles McDiarmid of the Wickaninnish Inn in Tofino, B.C., says that when buying for a frequent flyer you should first consider how and where they like to travel by looking at the size of their luggage, where they prefer to stay and the types of destinations they gravitate toward. “Once you know the travel style then it is looking for the items that are essential to helping make their journey enjoyable,” he says.
1. Make dozing off mid-flight more comfortable with the memory foam Combo Nuage pillow and sleep mask (kept safe in transit in the Bon Voyage 2 litre reusable dry bag) by Volprivé. $149 through volprive.ca.
2. Lambert’s Stella vegan leather and nylon multicompartment tote is the perfect carry-on, with laptop storage and room for everything else a traveller may need mid-flight. $144.99 through designlambert.com.
3. Print off vacation pictures with the Instax Link Wide Smartphone Printer. This portable device connects to smartphones through the Instax Link Wide app to edit, crop and print while on the go. $189.99 through chapters.indigo.ca.
4. Frame your favourite destination with a hand-drawn map by Bode Goods. Custom maps are also available upon request. From $24.99 through bodegoods.co.
5. Stay cozy while in transit by switching out worn sweats for Monos’ unisex Kyoto cotton pants and long-sleeve shirt. $224 for the set through monos.com.
The Tired Parent
Emily Hosie, founder and CEO, Rebelstork
When shopping for fellow parents, Emily Hosie, who founded the second-hand baby gear shop Rebelstork, searches for gifts that give them a bit of a break. She also tries to give memorable experiences and activities as a way to buy more mindfully and sustainably. “I think anything that simplifies parents’ lives and lends convenience to make things a little bit easier is a fantastic holiday gift,” Hosie says. ”This could be a weekend away, dinner out or just time to reconnect with their partner or friends.”
1. Inspire their next family dinner with Devin Connell’s latest cookbook, Conveniently Delicious, which is packed with ideas that add more spontaneity into mealtime. $35 at bookstores.
2. Perk up with the Coffee With Purpose Collection sampler pack from Salt Spring Coffee, which includes three distinct single-origin coffees grown using regenerative organic agricultural practices from Matagalpa, Nicaragua and a 16-ounce reusable cup. $25 through saltspringcoffee.com.
3. Take a moment for yourself and reset with The Human Being Journal from Mahara Mindfulness, created to help manage stress and set goals in a non-dated 12-month guided journal. $48 through humanbeingjournal.com.
4. Essentials Eco makes sustainable swaps easy with quarterly shipments of useful everyday ecofriendly and low-waste household products the whole family can use. The Gift Box, $72 through essentialseco.ca
5. A kid-free escape at a local hotel will always be welcome. Fairmont Hotels and Resorts offer gift cards redeemable at its properties worldwide. From $25 through fairmont.com.
The Deserving Kid
Samantha Kemp-Jackson, host of Parenting Then and Now
Parenting podcast host Samantha Kemp-Jackson recommends pairing down the toys this holiday season and focusing on gifts that allow you to spend time together. “The sheer novelty of being around extended family will mitigate their expectations of being completely spoiled with too many gifts,” Kemp-Jackson says. If you need to buy a physical present, she prefers “gifts that foster creativity in the child, ranging from art supplies to building blocks.”
1. Expand their library with A Kid is a Kid is a Kid, written by Sara O’Leary and illustrated by Qin Leng. This artful book focuses on diversity, acceptance and inclusion. $18.99 at bookstores.
2. The Monochrome Rainbow Tunnel by Grimm’s is one present that parents will want to leave out on display. This handmade wooden toy will spark kids’ imaginations as they stack or build new shapes out of the arched pieces. $124.99 through westcoastkids.ca.
3. These kid-friendly blue light glasses protect their eyes during screen time and are customizable in fun patterns and colours. They also feature hinges designed to bend and not break. $69.98 through mesquad.ca.
4. Encourage outdoor exploration with The Wild Life Outdoor Adventures monthly subscription box. Each box is filled with gear, activities and games to help kids learn about the natural world. $47 for a one adventure kit through jointhewildlife.ca.
5. Turn your gift into a game night with the Curious Correspondence Club. This family-friendly escape room-inspired game lasts at least two hours and is filled with stories and puzzles the whole family will enjoy. The Starter Kit, $60 through curiouscorrespondence.com.
The Holiday Host
Destiny Seymour, interior designer and founder of Indigo Arrows
When it comes to finding the perfect gift for a host, Anishinaabe interior designer Destiny Seymour is always searching for ideas from new Canadian small businesses. “Shopping at smaller businesses allows you to find unique and beautiful pieces,” she says. “I love to give handmade items such as soaps, linens or candles.” If you’re unsure about what will match the recipient’s home, Seymour suggests “choosing products in soft neutral colours can make them work for any decor.”
1. Instead of a bottle of wine, greet your host with a thoughtful thank you note on a Flowerink plantable greeting card. Each card, available in English and French, is embedded with wildflower and herb seeds making it the gift that keeps on growing. $9 through flowerink.ca.
2. Get creative in the kitchen with Kanel’s Discovery Box, complete with eight spice blends and specialty salts packaged in reusable amber glass jars. $36 through kanel.com.
3. Decorate their table with these whimsical Dim Sum Candles created using the same techniques chefs use to make the edible dish and housed in a traditional bamboo steamer basket. $45 at Vancouver’s Chinatown Storytelling Centre or through foohungcurios.com.
4. Liven up any party with Auxgod: Music Battle Card Game. Players are split into three teams. Two teams face off when they draw a card that prompts them to play a song on their smartphones based on a theme, with the third team acting as judge. Available in four musical editions, $33 through auxgodgame.com.
5. This puzzle from Victoria-based wooden puzzle company Puzzle Lab in collaboration with Benny Bing doubles as a decorative piece. Some proceeds support Artscape, a not-for-profit organization that represents communities of artists and arts organizations. $200 through puzzle-lab.com.
The Pet Parent
Alain Courchesne, president and founder, Doggy Bathroom
As the pet parent of two Italian greyhounds, Alain Courchesne likes to “surprise someone with a new gift idea that they didn’t know they needed or even existed” by combing crowdfunding sites for the latest in pet gear. When finding a present for a pet, he “puts himself in the receiver’s shoes” going through their daily activities and asking “what could make this experience better?”
1. The Wild One Everyday Carrier will make toting your pet easier for you, and more comfortable for them. The carrier features a 100-per-cent recycled knit body made from water bottles and storage pockets for all of your pet’s supplies. US$150 through wildone.com.
2. Match your pet’s dinnerware to your dishes with the Le Creuset Pet Collection – complete with a bowl, container and scoop made from their durable stoneware with a high-gloss finish. $115 through lecreuset.ca.
3. Daily dog walks will be more chic with this Ray Harness made from a single piece of rope embellished with Buttero leather features. US$115 through boo-oh.com.
4. Upgrade your pet’s sleeping area with a Premium Organic Pet Bed from SmartSilk, made with three non-toxic materials, including a silk top layer that regulates their body temperature and repels dust mites. $69.99 for medium size through smartsilk.com
5. This miniature-sized furniture that your cat will love is designed by Los Angeles-based collective Work in Progress to blend seamlessly into your space. The Cat Couch comes with a recyclable scratchpad or add on a patterned cushion designed by Block Shop for comfortable cat naps. US$195 through w-i-p.la.
The Gadget Geek
Takara Small, Host of A Death in Cryptoland and founder of VentureKids Canada
The most common mistake when it comes to technology gifts, according to Takara Small, who founded an organization that offers free STEM programming to students living in underserved neighbourhoods, is that people often gravitate toward buying technology that they enjoy instead of what the recipient may use. “Try and find technology that solves some of the pain points we experience in everyday life,” Small says. If they’re not as tech-aware, she suggests helping them set up their new gadget and walking them through privacy and security settings on their new device.
1. Three times faster than standard chargers, Nimble’s Champ Portable Charger connects to multiple devices at once and offers multiple days of battery power. $62.99 through ecomvmnt.ca
2. For the fit-tech enthusiast, Fitbit’s Luxe can be paired with woven, leather and stainless steel mesh bands so that tracking health doesn’t mean compromising style. $199 at electronic stores or through fitbit.com.
3. For the budding podcaster, the Blue Microphones Yeti USB microphone delivers broadcast-quality sound while taking up minimal space on your desk. $169.99 through bestbuy.ca.
4. Nintendo is upping its Switch experience with the OLED Model. The 7-inch screen and 64 GB of internal storage mean gamers can save their progress in more games than before without using an external microSD card. $449.99 at electronic stores.
5. The chic Trova Go, a portable biometric safe ideal for keeping phones, cannabis or other precious items out of sight and reach, is equipped with smartphone alerts when opened or out of range. US$199 through trovaofficial.com.
The Aspiring Athlete
Donnovan Bennett, host, SportsNet
Donnovan Bennett treats holiday shopping like it is a competitive sport. “I try to do my work early and assemble gifts throughout the year instead of waiting until the last minute to take advantage of sales,” he says. For the active person in your life, Bennett recommends avoiding everyday workout clothes. “Provide gifts that help them in their goal to be healthy, not just in the minutes per day they are exercising to achieve that goal.”
1. Inspire outdoor exploration with the Atlas Helium MTN snowshoes designed to withstand cold temperatures and grip icy and snowy trails. $249.95 at Mountain Equipment Company.
2. Refresh at-home workouts with the B YOGA New Beginnings bundle, which pairs the best-selling B Mat Everyday, a cork block and practice strap with a one-month subscription to digital workouts at The Class. $134 through byoganow.com.
3. Strike a nostalgic chord with Mountain Equipment Company’s Anniversary Cornice jacket made from 100-per-cent recycled materials. The 90s-inspired design is an ode to the company’s classic colours and styles. $109.95 at Mountain Equipment Company (mec.ca).
4. These augmented-reality goggles, a world first, will be a game changer for swimmers. A display, visible through the goggles to the wearer, offers motivating workouts and monitors distance, time and pace. Form Smart Swim Goggles, plus an annual membership, $239 through formswim.com.
5. The Sindri Pongee oversized puffer from Montreal-based Norden can withstand up to -40 C, making it the warm upgrade needed to stay active outdoors all winter long. $545 through nordenproject.com.
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