Archive for the ‘Shopping’ Category

101 Gift Ideas for the Host or Hostess

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

101 Gift Ideas for the Host or Hostess | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamWell, maybe not quite 101, but a whole bunch anyway! If you’re like me, you do a lot of visiting and hosting over the holidays, whether it’s in our home area of Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County, the Edmonton area or elsewhere, and you don’t want to arrive empty-handed. But what are the best things to take as a thank you token for your host? On the list below are lots of things you’ve given in the past, but there may be a few things you haven’t thought of! The cost of the item will be up to you. If you know your host well – a good friend or family member — then you may want your gift to be more extravagant and more personally attuned to the person’s taste. Otherwise, we’re looking for items generally under $20 and less personal in nature.

Beverages

  • wine, spirits, liqueurs, craft beers. A nice hostess gift for someone who likes to try different liqueurs is a half dozen mini bottles in a pretty basket.
  • special coffees, teas such as David’s Tea, or gourmet hot chocolate mixes. Starbucks and Tim Horton’s both package items especially for this time of year.
  • unique bottled beverages such as special bottled waters, or other drinks with unusual flavors (look in the international section of your favorite large grocery store).

High-quality chocolate

This year Purdy’s Truffles retail at $14 per box, and this is a gift appreciated by pretty much everybody!

Specialty food items

  • If you know what your hosts like, treat them to a favorite item they wouldn’t purchase for themselves – caviar, maybe!
  • Look for artisanal or craft items made by specialty producers in small quantities: special syrups or honey (Manuka honey is prized by many people); salts, spices or herb blends (Himalayan sea salt is trendy right now); pepper mill filled with fancy peppercorns; special barbecue or hot sauces; dips or spreads such as antipasto or jalapeno jelly (even better if you make them yourself!); gourmet olives; specialty pickles or jams (again, even better if homemade); special cooking oils or flavored vinegars; special popcorn or nuts or trail mix; biscotti.
  • Or put together a “gift in a jar”:  a Mason jar filled with ingredients for cookies and the like, together with a recipe card, and beautifully decorated. Google “gifts in a jar” for tons of ideas.
  • A gift that seems mundane but I guarantee will be appreciated:  a super fresh loaf of bread hot from your own oven, or from Cobs Bread.

Hosting items

  • beautiful paper napkins or Christmas crackers
  • a pair of unusual placemats (made of twigs or bamboo, perhaps!)
  • dip servers or spreaders
  • stemless wineglasses (all the rage right now), or a set of unusual shot glasses
  • cheeseboard and slicer
  • cocktail shaker
  • coasters
  • cocktail picks
  • salad servers
  • pretty seasonal tray or dish
  • wine stoppers
  • wineglass charms
  • tapas trays (or other tiny serving dishes)

Kitchen things

  • cookie cutters or stamps
  • wooden or bamboo utensils
  • unusual gadgets that your hosts might appreciate but which they are unlikely to buy for themselves, such as a rasp grater or garlic rocker
  • specialty dishes and containers, like a garlic pot, olive serving dish, herb oil infuser, oil spray bottle, etc.
  • herb chopper or pizza cutter
  • crocheted dish cloths (a staple at our local farmers’ markets!)
  • Check out all the kitchen gadgets at Canadian Tire, or get fancy with something from Gifts and Gadgets, or visit the Crooked Pot gallery in Stony Plain for one of a kind pottery items.

Book, calendar or pretty journal, music…

Take a look at online retailers such as Indigo for ideas.

Flowers / plants

Etiquette mavens suggest not bringing a loose bunch of flowers (because then your hostess has to find a vase, trim the flowers, etc.) so:

  • either put your flowers in a vase yourself,
  • or look instead for a small potted plant such as a colorful pepper plant,
  • or a tea garden or herb garden in a box. If you have a green thumb, consider making some yourself next summer; directions can be found online. Tea plants would include things like lemon verbena, mint, etc. A herb garden might include chives, basil, oregano, parsley, etc.

Special soaps

Lush Cosmetics will cut you a chunk, or look for pre-packaged soaps of all kinds at the Body Shop, Bath and Body Works, Spruce Grove’s Gifts and Gadgets, and the like. Or make your own! Or pick up a pretty container of liquid hand soap for your hostess’s kitchen sink.

A beautiful one of a kind Christmas tree ornament

Many gift shops, such as Gifts and Gadgets, carry items like this.

Photo frame

Practical gifts

  • microfiber cloths packaged with a natural cleaner, such as Green Works
  • pretty tea towels or apron or oven mitts (check out the Ove Glove at Canadian Tire!)
  • grocery carry bags made from heavy recycled plastic or cloth
  • miniature LED flashlights to hang on a keychain or tuck in a purse (see Amazon.ca for a selection)

I wasn’t going to include candles or mugs in this list, but lots of people still like to receive them! (The Bay has a candle that looks just like its iconic Hudson’s Bay blanket!)  Jazz up your gift of a special candle by adding a unique lighter or fancy matches. Fill a pretty or unusual or holiday-themed mug with candy or sachets of tea or hot chocolate or a Starbucks or Tim Horton’s gift card.

Got other ideas for great hostess gifts? Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at barry@barryt.ca, or contact me here.

Shop From Your Spruce Grove Home This Holiday Season!

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

Shop From Your Spruce Grove Home This Holiday Season! | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamEdmonton, Spruce Grove, Stony Plain and Parkland County have some great shopping venues, as local residents know. From West Edmonton Mall’s vast array of stores that includes many world-class retailers to Whyte Avenue’s one-of-a-kind treasures to unique and interesting shops in Spruce Grove and Stony Plain, there is something for everyone. (Check out Spruce Grove and Stony Plain shops in my Community Connections Business Directory. Under Jump to Category, click on Shopping, Spruce Grove and Shopping, Stony Plain.)

During the holiday shopping season, though, with time short and weather unpredictable, wouldn’t it be nice to find an easier way than traveling from store to store?

Google “Canada online shopping” and you’ll discover that almost every brick and mortar store has an online presence from which you can order products. Which online stores will give you the best deal on the best quality merchandise and get it to you in a timely and low-cost manner? Once you get hooked on online shopping, you’ll soon learn the answer to this question through personal experience.

Instead of driving to the mall, hunting for a parking spot, being jostled by crowds and waiting in lineups, start by educating yourself about the policies of the online retailers you discover. You can expect that major retailers like Sears, The Bay, IKEA, Best Buy, the Apple store, Costco, Walmart, and the like will work hard to keep customers happy, but this should be true for lesser-known retailers too.

Some things to consider about online shopping:

  • Do the prices appear to be comparable to what you’d pay in a store? (Compare prices by reading The Best Price Comparison Sites in Canada from How to Save Money.ca.)
  • Even better, does the retailer offer special pricing deals to entice you to buy online? (For example, the Body Shop offers 50% off a wide variety of merchandise ordered online during the holiday shopping season, plus free shipping.)
  • Shipping costs can be a killer. Look for deals on shipping. Free is good! Mountain Equipment Co-Op, a wonderful place to buy anything connected to outdoor recreation, regularly offers free shipping during the holiday season when you purchase a certain dollar amount. Excellent service too with fast delivery and accuracy of orders. (Note that you do have to buy a $5 lifetime membership to purchase from them.)
  • When you order online, you want to know that the goods will arrive when you need them and when promised. Amazon Canada, with its enormous selection of goods, is very speedy in the fulfillment of orders. Staples offers next-day delivery.
  • Be sure to read through the returns policies of online retailers you’re considering doing business with. Sears Canada, for example, briefly considered instituting a re-stocking fee, but customers irate at that idea soon persuaded them to keep the current policy of free returns at catalogue sales offices.
  • An important consideration:  What security measures do companies have in place when you hand over your credit card number online? Most of us know to look for the “s” denoting a secure webpage after http in online addresses, but check out the retailer’s security and privacy policies also. Read the article Online Shopping from the Canadian Consumer Handbook for tips on how to protect yourself online.
  • Does the retailer participate in any kind of loyalty or cash-back program? For example, Sears allows you to earn AirMiles or get cash back through Ebates (see below).
  • Tip: Once you become a seasoned online shopper, you may want to shop internationally, but I suggest sticking with Canadian retailers you know to begin with.

Other good sources of information and deals:

  • A good article featuring reviews of some online retailers: Shop Online in Canada from the Huffington Post.  Look for the bonus article about online shopping scams.
  • Groupon:  Get your name added to their emailing list and get ready to save big bucks on all kinds of items, from goods like watches and bed sheets to 50% off restaurant meals to adventure experiences like a hot air balloon ride to vacation trips around the world.
  • AirMiles. If you are already a collector of Air Miles, you know that you can redeem those Air Miles, not just for trips and hotel rooms, but for a huge variety of goods and services that make great gifts.
  • Ebates. Shop at a variety of big-name online retailers, like Amazon, Sears, Walmart, the Bay and many others, and get real cash money back, sent to you by cheque. Heck of a deal!
  • Shop.ca is basically an online shopping mall where you can save money and earn Aeroplan Miles.
  • Beyond the Rack is an online only retailer handling mostly clothing, accessories and home décor items.
  • RedFlagDeals offers flyers, deals, coupons, lists of stores, etc.
  • At SmartCanucks.ca find coupons and all sorts of other deals.
  • Great Canadian Rebates:  As the name suggests, get rebates by shopping at the retailers listed through this website.

Also good to know: Many Canadian retailers present their own version of the US Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales following the American Thanksgiving which just happens to fall this week. Hard to escape the ads but easy to take advantage of the deals!

Got your own online shopping stories or secrets to share?  Please call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at barry@barryt.ca, or contact me here.

Barry Twynam, Realty Executives Leading
#1 14 McLeod Avenue, Spruce Grove, Alberta, T7X 3X3
Tel: 780-962-9696 Cell: 780-910-9669 Fax: 780-962-9699
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