Tales From A Hungry Life

December 18, 2013

12 Things to Ask Yourself While Christmas Shopping

by Maria Schulz

Choosing the perfect gift for family and friends should be easy—right? You just take into consideration what the person you’re shopping for needs or wants, figure out what he or she likes to read or what movies they like to see, and think about their hobbies. Easy, right?

Well, no. WRONG. That’s because you may love someone very much but have no idea what to get for him or her. And the next thing you know, it’s the day after Christmas and the gift that you struggled to pick out for that special someone is for sale on e-bay.


I thought I was done with my shopping, but then after wrapping gifts, I realized that I was no where near done. That means I will be out there with all of the other crazies, searching desperately for gifts. This leads me to become the dreaded Impulse Buyer. I have a feeling that I’ve gotten gifts from quite a few impulse buyers in my time. These gifts included:

  • A banana clip for my hair (I had short hair at the time)
  • A tupperware container that had nothing but cookie crumbs in it (someone must’ve gotten hungry while delivering this to me)
  • Enough body lotion to suggest that the gift-giver thinks I own an alligator and, oh yeah, I may have a dry skin problem
  • A box of soap that smells like mothballs
  • A pocket book big enough to hold several small children
  • Chocolate covered cherries (from someone who knows I’m allergic)
  • Gift certificate for a manicure in a nearby state

So how do you get your Gift of the Magi moment? You know, the one where the person you’ve just handed a gift leaps up, gift in hand, and throws his or her arms around you in a moment of pure, unadulterated joy thanks to your thoughtfulness, ingenuity and blazing insight into their hopes and desires? I’m not sure, but in the interest of helping myself—as well all of you other procrastinators out there who still haven’t finished your Christmas shopping yet—here are:

The Top 12 Things You Should Ask Yourself While Christmas Shopping:

12. Is this kitchen blowtorch something he wants, or am I buying it because it looks kinda cool, I think I can use it, and I have no idea what tools he really wants anyway?

Blowtorch, anyone?

Blowtorch, anyone?

11.  Just because she never wears makeup, does that mean I SHOULDN’T buy her a lipstick/foundation/eyeliner/eyelash curler combo?

10. It’s almost 10 p.m. and the mall is about to close. Am I buying this wheel of almond-studded cheese that’s big enough to feed an army of Wisconsin-ites because I am desperate, or because she told me she loves giant wheels of cheese?

9. Would I ever want to get a gift that’s a monthly subscription for fruit?

Great! Smelly exotic fruit

Great! Smelly exotic fruit

8. If there’s a skirt on sale that I know my sister would never wear in a million years, should I NOT get that skirt? ‘Cause maybe she’ll really love it.

7. Is my husband going to enjoy this Trivia Game about soap operas, or is this really for me?

Luke and Laura

I was at their wedding

6. Have you ever met a woman who was grateful to receive a vacuum on Christmas?

5. Will they guess that I did all my shopping at the 24-hour convenience store if I buy them a pack of beef jerky and a DVD of The Talented Mr. Ripley?

4. Are stuffed animals ever an okay “Big Gift” for a girlfriend?

If he intends to get a job, then maybe....

If he intends to get a job, then maybe….

3. Are feet-y pajamas appropriate for anyone over the age of 5?

2. There’s a big sale on Minion tee-shirts and socks. Is this romantic and playful enough for my honey?

Best. Gift. Ever.

Best. Gift. Ever.

1. He likes non-fiction and memoir, but can I get him Fifty Shades of Gray instead?



No. The kitchen blowtorch is a bad idea. Not just because it shows you have no idea what your man needs in terms of tools and you weren’t listing when he told you, but also because he may try to use it in your kitchen, and he could set your kitchen on fire. Put down the blowtorch and step away.

makeup kit


No. You should not buy her makeup. You just said yourself that she never wears makeup, what the heck does she want with a lipstick/foundation/eyeliner/eyelash curler combo? This is one of those gifts that may be perceived as an insult. PROCEED WITH CAUTION.


Yes. You are buying the almond-studded enormous wheel of cheese because you are completely out of ideas, the mall is about to close, and you don’t really care that the person you’re going to give this to will probably lay in her bed on Christmas night and weep because you obviously don’t know her at all. You are probably just hungry and definitely misguided. Nothing says, “you never expressed any desire for cheese, but I’m in a rush and don’t have time to be thoughtful” like a giant wheel of unwanted cheese. Stop. Think. Does she wear makeup? Get her a lipstick/foundation/eyeliner/eyelash curler combo. If not, you’re on your own.

makeup kit


No. I do not want someone else to choose my fruit and send me enough for an entire month, and many more months to come. Maybe there are people out there who will be delighted by this gift, but this is a tricky gift unless you’ve had a conversation that goes something like this: YOU: So what would you want more than anything in the world for Christmas?” GIFT RECIPIENT: I was thinking the other day that I don’t get enough fruit on a daily basis. A fruit subscription would be so wonderful, especially since I’ve been diagnosed with scurvy.” Otherwise, why the heck would you give this to someone? Chances are it’s not even the kind of fruit anyone wants. What if they’re all out of apples or pears, and they substitute it with something weird like durian or jackfruit? These are great basket ingredients on the TV show Chopped but not so great in your personal fruit bowl. It’s like you’re giving a gift that says, “Here. Eat some smelly yet exotic fruit.” Is there a chocolate subscription? Send that instead.


No. You should NOT get the skirt. I know this is a difficult concept to comprehend, but understand this: your sister won’t like this skirt. You know it, I know it, and your sister will surely know it. The sale price won’t make her love it (that’s all for you) so maybe look around the store and find something she’ll actually wear.

Still fits

Still fits


No. Your husband won’t like this gift, unless he spent his formative years: crying at Luke and Laura’s wedding; wearing an “I Shot J.R.” tee-shirt; and wondering if Days of our Lives will ever bring back the storyline where Marlena kills off every other main character. If this is the case, you probably don’t want everyone to know about it, so buy something else.


Yes. My grandmother was thrilled to get things like vacuum cleaners and irons for Christmas. However, she was a neat freak whose hobby was to clean endlessly. Most normal people do NOT want a vacuum cleaner or any other appliance.


Yes. Of course they’ll guess you did all of your shopping at the convenience store, because no one else in their right minds would buy beef jerky and  The Talented Mr. Ripley on DVD and think it was a great gift.



No. Stuffed animals are NOT a great “Big Gift.” If you are buying something romantic (like earrings) and you put the earrings on a small stuffed bear, well that’s different. But woe to you if you buy a giant stuffed bear and he’s not wearing more diamonds than Beyonce and Jay Z combined.


Yes. Feet-y pajamas can be appropriate for adults, but that’s only if the adult in question works at Macy’s as an elf or because they enjoy being ridiculed by their family. If your gift recipient doesn’t fit into either of these categories, skip the feet-y pajamas.

elf shoes


Um, no. A minion tee-shirt and socks are the kind of gift you should give to your brother, child, or maybe your cat, if the shirt and socks are small enough. Neither of these things will translate into “romance” for your man. Yes, I know. Shocking!


No. Repeat after me: no man wants Fifty Shades of Grey as a gift. However, if you are looking for a book that is non-fiction, memoir, and includes recipes—well then, have I got a suggestion for you.

Tales From A Hungry Life A Memoir with Recipes cover

You can get the Kindle edition at amazon.com at:


If for some reason this link doesn’t work, go to amazon.com and do a search for Tales From a Hungry Life. It should pop right up.

How was that for some shameless self-promotion?


I feel better already

I feel better already

Comfort Foods

After a long day of shopping, there’s nothing better than enjoying something hot, delicious and oh-so-satisfying. You’ll find recipes for lasagna, mac-n-cheese, meatloaf and more.


So, Hungry Lifers: are you done with your shopping yet? What’s the worst Christmas gift you’ve ever gotten? Please respond: I will probably get inspiration for next week’s post from this comment. What’s the most comforting food you can eat afterwards? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks!



  1. Okay my worst Christmas gift happened about 8 years ago. This particular family member handed out all her gifts. Everyone was unwrapping presents, smiling, laughing,,,,When she was done she turned to me and said”I owe you one”. She then proceeded to tell me what she thought about getting me and she just didn’t find it yet. Well I’m so excited because 8 years and counting, when it gets here its going to be spectacular!!! If you don’t know what to get someone ask them, or pay attention starting December 26th to everything they say and keep notes. When you really can’t think of something and your feet are tired and all you really want is a snickers bar, you have been defeated and just get the gift certificate.

    Comment by Suzanne — December 18, 2013 @ 8:23 am | Reply

  2. Long ago and far away I learned that the best gift one could give is a love that is true and lasting. However if you want to be remembered tenderly and with great love accompany your love with something expensive. I used to wait until Christmas Eve to buy my love a Christmas Present and Birthday present. It usually was an outrageous hat which I really loved and she wore to please me. AND a dress that was a size too small which is better than a size too big for reasons too obvious to try and put into words.

    Comment by Bglou — December 18, 2013 @ 10:31 am | Reply

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