Gifty McGifterson

Dec 01

Gifty McGifterson

With Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday, it feels like it is full on holiday mode now.  I’m so glad we decorated before Thanksgiving (a first ever for us, I think) because it feels like I’m ahead.  (Feeling ahead.  Huh.  So that’s what that feels like.)

I love gifts and gifting.  A lot.  I want to go be on Ellen’s show, not to be in the audience to get the things, I would love to be the give-er of the things.  So. Much. Fun.  Anyway, as I’m having fun with gifts I thought I would share my thoughts.  They’re kind of all over the place, which means that — as ever — you are getting an accurate perspective into my world.  If you are not interested in gifting or shopping, you may want to stop reading now.  If you are a husband of one of my friends and will be shopping for her, tune in carefully as this could be very helpful to you.  I get energized by thinking about my people and finding things that will dazzle them.  We’re in a season where we’re over ‘stuff’.  We want experiences or things that matter.  This post is sharing my “favorites” with you, in hopes that you might dazzle your people.  I figure the more dazzled people we have in the world, the better.

White Elephant:  We did a White Elephant gift exchange with my family.  ($20 max, bonus points for less money spent, creativity, and giggles).  Greta ended up with a hideous mouse/melon piggy bank that she loves, and Brad ended up with an elf hat that sings and jingles when you push a button.  He has really great comedic timing with that button.  Obviously, my family is winning at White Elephant.  Other gifts that were stolen often and I recommend: a label-maker (everybody wants one, nobody has one!), a mermaid pillow cover (this is mesmerizing–Amazon it!  I’m giving it as legit gifts now too.), and reindeer antler/nose for the car.

Curl Help:  Greta wants to be able to curl her hair.  She has white-blond, thin, fragile, stick straight hair that doesn’t hold curl well.  I have always had easy-to-curl or curly hair.  What tool(s) do I need to buy to accomplish this for Greta?  (She loves to do her hair.  Big opinions.  Big vision.)  Best part, to me, is that she is always gorgeous in her own mind.  Send me links, Amazon preferred, obviously.

American Girl:  I hear so many parents hating American Girl because of the prices.  I am in the same boat with the prices, but I’ll still plug their historical “Beforever” collection.  The books walk you through a period of history from a fourth-grader’s perspective.  It was my reading of these books in the late 1980s when they first came out that I credit with influencing my love of history, story telling, and ultimately choosing a career as a high school history teacher.  Reading the books with Maren is an educational experience of high value, and I think it’s keeping her at “doll age” longer.  We (mostly) stick to that section of the catalogue when we shop.  We also make our own props that go with the stories a lot more than we shop.

Custom Shoes: In a conversation with a friend this year, I learned from her that Nike/Converse allow you to custom-design shoes on their website.  I spent an hour one night in October (in procrastination mode, obviously) designing my own shoes and planning what I would buy for Brad, Maren, and Greta everyone I know.  Since they are pricey and a luxury item, I didn’t actually buy them, but if you are looking for a gift in that price point I think it would be awesome to custom-design for your person (you can put words on them!), or just gift-card your loved one with a request to see a picture of the shoes after they design their own.

Happy Thought Bubbles:  It’s that time of year when everyone is shopping for gifts for all the people in their lives.  My sister began making Happy Thought Bubbles in 2013; her inspiration was that when life gets hard, she goes to her happy place — her glass studio — and blows happy thoughts into her work.  Thus, when you buy a Happy Thought Bubble, you get a beautiful hand blown glass bubble, and the happy thought is forever encapsulated inside.  Each bubble comes with a story card that tells a version of that story so the recipient can read it too.  My mom and I both have stock in our homes locally, and my sister ships from her website.  She’s shipped boxes to Australia before without breakage, so don’t let the shipping intimidate you.  *Out-of-towner Hint: Buy one of her bulk listings for six, ten or twenty-five Happy Thought Bubbles and consider your shopping done.  Teacher gifts.  Boom.  She’ll choose a beautiful assortment for you.  *Local Hint: In addition to lots of Happy Thought Bubbles, I also have limited inventory of hand blown drink ware!  Message me if you want to come over or meet up.  This time of year I often have 30 HTBs in my trunk!


Urban Decay Eyeliner: My sister introduced this to me, and — though I hate the name of the brand — I love the product.  I’m picky about cosmetics, and this doesn’t irritate my eyes at all.  The main thing though, is that I love the sparkly colors, and I get compliments on my eyeliner on average of four-times-per-month.  That’s a lot of eyeliner compliments, right?  Get the 24/7 Glide-on Eye Pencil, and I love LSD, Junkie, and Vice, or pick her favorite color.  But definitely get one with sparkles.  Again, I’m sorry about the terrible names (I thought about not including these because of that!), but everyone I’ve recommended it to loves it.  (Husbands, dazzle your wives!)  Sold at Ulta, Sephora and other make-up places.

Arkadiance:  A few months back, I wrote a review for my friend’s new business where she is focusing on using science/health to bring beauty.  On her website is now a gorgeous little bag with a collection of samples so you can try her products without committing to the full size.  It would be a great gift for a girl, whether she’s into that stuff or not.  Arkadiance is outside the box, in a good way.

Hats:  My favorite summer / sporty hat is Sunday Afternoon’s Sun Tripper Cap.  I wear a large because tight hats are the worst.  I have it in three colors and think it looks awesome whether you are bald or not.  (Brad also compliments me when I wear it–it’s his favorite of my hats too.)  It would be a great gift for a hiker/sporty/outdoorsy girl.  My favorite hat for when I’m bald and want my head covered/cute is the “Butterfly Beanie Cotton Chemo Cap”.  I’ve worn it to weddings in the summer (though I’m not too shy to whip it off if/when I get hot), and to the theater in the winter.  It’s a great “perfect hat” for a chemo patient; it looks pretty and it’s the perfect temperature/texture/weight.

Runner/Race Gifts:  I bought my mom and I race bib/medal hangers last year from the York Sign Shop.  If you have someone in your life who loves to run/race, customize one of these for them.  Then plan them a race trip, find a buddy to join, pay the entry fee, and book him/her a hotel!  Okay, so that last part is a mega-gift, but it would be pretty cool!  Also, Socrates Socks and Notes to Self are my favorite running socks for obvious reasons.  They would be great for the stocking for anyone!  I haven’t been able to run much in 2016 but I. Am. Still. An. Athlete.

Custom T-Shirt Help:  For more than a year, Maren has been talking about wanting a shirt that says (something along the lines of) “I am a blue-eyed redhead.  So rare, I’m basically a unicorn.”  I want a tasteful unicorn image on it too.   I’ve found variations of it, but not exactly what I need.  Can anyone help me with a t-shirt design place or graphics skills?  (Incidentally, blue-eyed red-heads are the rarest combination on the planet.)

Giving Tree: Both my girls’ school counselors organize and hang a Giving Tree in their school lobbies every holiday season.  Families in the school who could use some help this season send items needed to the counselors and they are anonymously added to the branches.  Every year my girls and I pick a couple of tags, shop together for our Stranger Friends in our community, and send the gift back to the school with the ornament tag attached so it can be given to the proper family.  I LOVE this very real, tangible exercise of loving our neighbor.  Maren now remembers and looks forward to it, and Greta gets it on some level too–it helps that it starts and ends in her space, her school.

Rollerblades:  My girls have been sharing a pair of $1 garage sale rollerblades with a broken latch for the past year, and we’ve had them for five years.  They wear them surprisingly often.  I started to look into them, but was quickly overwhelmed with the brands and variety.  Any other parent out there been-there-done-that with rollerblades and have a recommendation for brand/style for a 9 and 5 year old?  (At this point, I am thinking I’ll save the idea for their birthdays in the spring, but I could use the recommendation anytime.)

Sling Bags:  (1) Kavu Rope Sling Bag.  Maren and I both have them (mine is the Paxton style).  We get lots of compliments.  They’re functional, durable, and fun.  The colors and patterns are awesome.  They are perfect for a lot of walking when you need ‘stuff’ but don’t want to carry a purse. (2) Patagonia Atom.  Smaller and slightly lighter than the Kavu.  Brad has one and it’s his man bag for sporting events, taking the kids to the amusement park, and hiking.  He often has his regular glasses, sunglasses, phone, and wallet, and this holds them all with room to hold a decent amount of kid paraphernalia too.  (I borrow his Atom sometimes too–I secretly want one in a Jen color.  Don’t tell Brad… he thinks I have too many bags — as if that is a thing?!)

Our Tradition:  For many years now, we Andersons have gifted within the “Something you want, Something you need, Something special, and Something to read” parameters.  It’s been a really good way for us to be thoughtful about what we get for each other rather than mindless spending.  We also do Santa: he does one gift per child and stockings.  Our friends started a great tradition for Santa years ago: their Santa just plonks the presents in front of the fireplace… Santa doesn’t have time to wrap!  That late-Christmas-Eve inspired decision makes me giggle every time I think about it.

Gifting, for me, is a way for me to show and tell my people: I see you.  I love you.  I care about what you care about.  That right there, in my opinion, is the gift.


  1. Your spirit is contagious.
    I wish I could call Ellen and ask her to let you have the joy of giving, it would make me happy for you.

  2. Aunt Annie /

    Great gift ideas!
    Advice from a straight haired person for Greta:
    My mother use to perm my hair as a child to get curls!
    Try a crimper-it’s not a curl but at least it is wavy.

    • This is a good idea! I think it might be the best bet for my wiggly five-year-old. Thank you!

  3. Marion /

    I am thinking the same thing – how can we get you on the Ellen show?! Your spirit, fun, and generosity would be the perfect match with her! Merry Christmas sweet Jen!!

  4. I also have a red-haired, blue-eyed unicorn girl, so I’d love to help you design some graphics for t-shirts and Rory can get one too! Go to this website and find a tasteful unicorn you like ( and email me the image(s) you like so I can put it with some pretty type and we can both have some gifts finished up! xoxo to you, stranger friend!

    • Because I’m a nerd and wanted to make it right away:

      Whatcha think?

      • Oh, Jen! I LOVE it! You are so awesome. Maren will be thrilled. Do you have a lead on a t-shirt printing place? I know there are a bunch out there, so I am happy to do that part if you haven’t already. I would be happy to buy Rory’s as a thank you. What size?

        • Jen with THREE boys and a girl /

          I was actually hoping to gift them to you!! Email me at and let me know your sizes and give me your address again because I have major baby brain right now. I know vistaprint does them affordable with white shirts or I have a couple of other places I can check if you would like to do blue shirts instead?

  5. Melissa S. /

    A local (West Chester!) friend of mine does jewelry and awesome printed shirts! Check her out on Facebook at Bohochick. Se is a wonderful person and so easy to work with!

  6. Eloise /

    Hey Jen! Regarding the t-shirt for Maren – I recommend the How to Be a Redhead website. They sell cute Tshirts that say things like “Half unicorn, half mermaid” and “redhead royalty”. They also have books and red hair accessories – worth checking out 🙂 You could also try Etsy. If you had a particular design and wording they could make you something at a competitive price. Love the post! xo