nothing says christmas like 36 inches of steel

ruggy learned fairly early on in our relationship that i adore, with the passion of a pit bull, all aspects of the gift experience, which frightened him a little bit.  i learned he called them prizes, which thrilled me to no end.  our first christmas together occurred two months after we met.  i bought him 18 prizes, including black silk pajamas and a samurai sword.

i have no idea why i thought he would want a samurai sword.

but i felt christmas would be ruined if i did not buy it.

we're surrounded by some of our dearest friends in the known and unknown universe, celebrating a birthday and starting christmas off very right.  i've been paging through the holiday issue of real simple, our friends' adorable baby (Child The Second, to be exact) in lap and drink of the moment in the other fist.  drink of the moment is ever changing and completely up to the whim of Hollow Leg Birthday Dad. over a peach bellini, i read letters describing the best present you've ever given someone.  i thought that was interesting; i'll frequently ask what's the best you've received but not the other way round.

i'm not sure what that says about me.

but i do love to give, even when it's a borrowed minivan full of prizes having nothing to do with the intended recipient. (really, i'm shocked ruggy didn't wash his hands of the whole situation that first christmas.  samurai sword?  appropo of nothing?  psycho.  thank god i met him six days after his birthday.)  but i don't think i've ever given a best gift.  thoughtful, yes, storebought or handmade, but nothing like these folks have done.  dog dna tests,  a single singular chocolate from childhood, a recorded set of recipes for an elderly relative.  i couldn't think of anything i'd done that fit the bill.  and because i like to win, now i really have to give the best prizes i've ever given this season.


what's the greatest prize you've ever given?


  1. Aww! I gave my husband a stuffed white tiger and a toy sword for our first Christmas together... he already had the samurai sword (technically his is a ninjito. Apparently this is important.)

    I don't know about best individual gift, but I've really rocked the Christmas cards a couple of times. The first year I made our own with awesome pictures of the kids and some fun photoshop filters, and then last year we went a step further with stamps and embossing powder. I kinda feel like that jumped the shark, though. There's nowhere to go now but down.

  2. Oh that would have to be the year that I gave my three year old niece a jar of olives. It was meant as a joke gift, but you wouldn't believe how her eyes lit up and then she kissed and hugged the jar of olives. (She part Portuguese, it's all about the food with us.) It was the same year her uncles spent oodles of dollars on dolls and such, but she didn't pay any attention to the other gifts. She just walked around hugging her jar of olives. She's a teenager now but her folks have repeated the gift ever year and it has now turned into a Christmas tradition for her. It is my favourite Christmas memory.

  3. Sounds like you speak "gift giving" Oona!

    Best gift ever? For a while, when I was dead broke, I gave "cafe de Raquel" coupons to friends. They had 2 or 3 meal options for them and 2 friends (that meant 4 at the meal, including me). I got to cook for them, and we got some good time to talk and be. Now, as we are short on funds again, its back to homemade things! The parents like the jams and butters and canned jalapenos.

    The Hubby is not anti-prizes, but he tends towards anti-spend money, so don't do much in gifts for each other. But I'm good with that.

    PS. You are making onto the "Favorite Blog" post today!

  4. My husband loves the Chop Shop silhouette t-shirts. I started giving them to him about 3 years ago and he looks forward to it every year. He's been known to spend hours deciphering the silhouettes, too! *geek love*

    You are so lovely, Ms. Balloona! :) I can totally see how excited you are by gift giving! (me, too!)

  5. Ooona, you just made my head huuurt... How do you decide just how great a present is? Initial reaction? Frequency of use? Tradition? Emotional significance? Aaaaagh. My brain is starting to leak out of my ears because I am having such a hard time answering this.

    My most *memorable* prize (at the moment) was when my husband and I made a surprise visit to my cousins in Arizona. We tried to break into their house to be there and surprise them, but that failed, in part because it was snowing heavily that night. But we tracked down their spare key at their friends' and then showed up at the door. I still smile at how my cousin fell on the floor in (happy) surprise. :D

  6. mmmkaaaaay.... I feel kinda bad now that I didnt' get my husband a sword for our first Christmas... since clearly (based on Tanit Isis and you) that's the Gift To Give. Or the Prized Prize. Whatever. Although as our First Christmas was, in fact, the day after we got married I guess I could always say that being married to me was his prize and it was a damned good one.



  7. Thank you, Sarah! I have just ordered a solar system ChopShop T-shirt for my boyfriend.

  8. LOVE the post title, made my morning :)
    I love giving prizes, but am notoriously bad at timing. I tend to give them throughout the year on non-designated gift giving days and then when it comes to the designated day, I've got nothing.

    The best? I'm not sure. I made an applique bag for a friend that had a design so intricate it took me weeks and weeks of hand-sewing to finish. I also made a lion hoodie for my nephew that he wore until the sleeves were 3/4 length (he even asked to sleep in it and have a bath wearing it).

    Maybe my favourite was one I gave to my husband the first Christmas just after we'd started going out. I was a broke student so tried being creative. At that stage he had a tank of tropical fish he loved so I printed out a whole stack of fish pictures, put a paperclip on the top of each and wrote on the backs something I loved about him. I then gave him a "fishing rod" (okay, a stick with a piece of string and a magnet on the end) and told him to go "fishing for compliments". Maybe that's actually the corniest prize I've ever given!

    By the way, my husband would LOVE a samurai sword. If I'd given him one of those our first Christmas I think he would have proposed on the spot.

  9. I think the best gift I ever gave was the story I wrote for my sister... even though it turned out to be at least as much for me as for her. But the fact that she keeps urging me to write it down in computer (which I haven't gotten around to yet, phew) suggests that yes, it did strike a chord.

  10. J has like six or seven samurai swords, yet none of them were given to him by me. I, sadly, suck at giving gifts. I try really hard, but it always ends up being a joke about how bad I am. Like the year J gave me an ipod and I got him towels...

  11. My best gift: Surprise tickets to a U2 concert, when they were still (kinda) cool. Bought them for my kid sister, drove two hours to pick her up from high school, and got her raging drunk at my college.

    Black pj's and a samurai sword, huh? Exactly what I should get Mr. Fish this Christmas!

  12. Sorry to double post but I was reading this out to my husband, saying how I had trouble thinking about what the best thing I've given was. He said it was the time I paid all costs for a friend to go on an overseas trip to Papua New Guinea to do volunteer work. She wanted to go but was a student and couldn't afford it. I found out after she'd returned that at the time she'd really been struggling and the things she saw and experienced there turned her life around and gave her new direction when she got back. That wasn't a designated gift-giving occasion, just because it felt like the right thing to do. I'm so shit at giving gifts on the right days at the right time - hence most of my family is getting combined birthday-Christmas presents this year!

  13. I am enjoying your blog, glad I found it. The best gift I have received was when I was a Betty Boop collector and my son gave me a leather jacket with Betty on the back. I still wear it all the time 15 years later.

    The best I have given was when I totally surprised my husband with a beautiful leather jacket. He was stunned.

  14. I bought my dad a redbud tree for his birthday - they burst into pink frothy blooms just at the time of his birthday every spring. Because I lived 3 hours south of him I bought a 10' tree, propped it in the passenger seat of my Honda Civi and drove up the highway to his place, deathly afraid that spiders were moving into my hair and ears the whole time. It was a very jumpy drive. But worth it - he still has his tree and it still looks great for every one of his birthdays.

  15. I, like Amanda, am among the world's worst at gift-giving. My sister makes the most memorable Christmas fun: she takes odds and ends of junk from drawers, and fast-food toys, wraps them up and uses them as prizes for silly quiz games. (They are the sort of prizes that we fight to get rid of, things like bent bottlecaps, dry ink pens, old keys, etc.) Part of the game is to sneak them into other people's coat pockets and pursed before the party is over. I will admit that I won the best prize of all time once: a piece of driveway gravel with a bright green feather glued on it. It was a "turkey" made by my niece when she was a kindergartner. She has never forgiven her mother for turning that masterpiece into a Christmas prize.

  16. Now I want a Samurai sword! ;)
    What a lovely post and how nice to read everyone's answers. In my immediate family, we've decided to gift "experiences" instead of stuff, like doing a cooking class or a cocktail workshop or go out to eat somewhere nice. Stuff just stands around but we'll always remember the time we collectively got sloshed on 20 different kinds of Scottish Single Malt Whisky... ;)
    I'm crap at remembering gifts, but this year I was complaining to my bf that our friends like to collect money and give bigger gifts, while I really enjoy getting multiple, cute, small things, so he went and actually gave me 25 little gifts (for my 25th birthday) - all of them thoughtful! :) I think the best gift I gave was the soundtrack to "Apollo 13" that a friend had mentioned to me he couldn't find months before his birthday, so I got on ebay and found one for him. He was very touched because he couldn't even remember telling me. :)

  17. Who wouldn't use a samurai sword? A crazy person. That's who.

    The best prize (teehee) I've given would probably be an entire day. With an itinerary, treasure hunt, and surprise party. Yeah, I get a little excited about b'days!

  18. The best gift I've ever given was a super-old copy of James and the Giant Peach. My partner found it in a used bookstore, mooned over it, then left it there, so I went back and picked it up the next day. She spent the next three months (until her birthday) wishing she'd gotten it, since she didn't see it again, and she was so excited when she opened it up! That's my theory, Amanda. Get the gift whenever you find it, then sit on it until there's an appropriate gift-giving moment. :)

  19. OONA! This has NOTHING to do with the above post, but I was just flipping through the new Burdastyle sewing book and I saw YOUR DRESS AND YOUR NAME!!!! YOU ARE INCREDIBLE!!! CONGRATS!!!!

    (end of all caps.) (Still as excited. ;))


    please keep then coming!

  21. ahem. them, that is. frigging blogger no reply button.

    (and stacie, i KNOW!!! what?! i was shocked.)

  22. The best present I ever gave was given to my parents three days ago. I gave them two passes to the Turner Classic Movies film festival. I had won some money at work for a fitness challenge and splurged on them... because I without them, I wouldn't be in Chicago and things might be very bleak indeed. Gotta love the Grand parents! (Ba dum chee)

  23. Alessa, I agree, small but countless gifts are the way to go with me!

    And Abby, that's my theory, too! This year, I got my father a copy of Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh, which one of his friends lent him years ago and which he still occasionally quotes. And now I'm waiting impatiently for Christmas and the moment I can give it to him. :-)


i thankya truly for taking the time to comment, i love a good conversation-- and hope you know my thanks are always implied, if not always written!