Gift-buying made simple

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The energy of the holidays is different this year -- less “How much can we buy how frantically?” and more “How can we streamline?” Frankly, it’s a relief to have an excuse to simplify, to focus on celebrating (stylishly, of course) in a way that puts the emphasis on people, not stuff.

One approach that has a lot of appeal among my friends this holiday season involves finding a creative signature gift that can be given to most everyone. Something memorable and meaningful, or just a small moment of delight. I think of it as “The One.” It’s not some generic one-size-fits-all, but rather a choice that will make the recipient smile, think of me and feel appreciated.

That rules out crude art projects and MacGyvered gift baskets packed with random objects. But there are plenty of interesting and inexpensive presents that can be bought in multiples and given to friends, family or co-workers.


When the Image section staff traveled several neighborhoods for the gift guide in this issue, we found some appealing candidates: a colorful box of French macaroons for $20, a charming cache of retro notebooks for $8 each and much more.

If you’re crafty -- or a baker, say -- The One might be something you make yourself, preferably something with a story. I plan to give my friends bracelets and necklaces I’m stringing from beads I purchased at The beads, made by women living in poverty in Uganda, are vibrant-colored oblongs shaped from old magazine and newspaper pages. They’re beautiful -- and the purchase price helps the craftswomen support themselves.

I was feeling ambitious and bought a $12 bag of loose beads that I hope to fashion into some gorgeous and colorful bracelets (my goal is to make, oh, 100) that will look great stacked high on the arm. Bead for Life also sells necklaces, bracelets and earrings that make beautiful gifts. I purchased a pale triple-strand necklace to give as well. It was just $20.

Along with a few bracelets in a box, I’ll include a note that says where the beads came from and how important they are to the lives of the women who made them. As I focus on this simple jewelry, gift giving doesn’t seem so daunting -- it’s exciting and, above all, rewarding. This version of The One is already connecting my friends and me, and even those Ugandan bead-makers.

There are lots of reasons for finding your own take on The One -- it makes planning for the holidays simple, and becomes something all the members of your “tribe” share (even look forward to as part of your tradition).

Best of all, it helps drain stress from a pressured time and leaves space for giving people in your circle what they genuinely want more of: you.


Magsaysay is a Times staff writer.