The shopping list can get overwhelming. Mom. Dad. Kids. Clergy. Cousins. In-laws in Borneo. We understand the pain of buying holiday presents for a small army. The Deal Divas, tbt*'s team of roving shoppers, and tbt* staff writers teamed up to do the work for you. When you're signing your "thank you" notes this year, just remember us. — The Deal Divas tampabay.com/blogs/divas
Panic. Sheer panic, right? You have to get a gift for your girlfriend or your wife, and you are absolutely certain you will screw it up and end up cold and alone discussing politics with your cat. Don't err in the fatal tradition of blender or gym membership. Follow these easy suggestions to guarantee domestic bliss for at least a week.
If you haven't been together long, avoid jewelry and sappy stuff. Keep it simple and sweet with the gift of delicious, gourmet cupcakes from The Cupcake Spot. This works on multiple levels. By giving her dessert for a present, it's like you're saying she's too thin and needs to eat. You'll win so hard. And you'll look far more fun and creative than if you go with the played-out box of cherry cordials. Give a pack of six for $16.50, or get her a gift card so she can snack happy during the work week. She'll think of you every time. The Cupcake Spot, 405 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, (727) 825-0572; and 3225 S MacDill Ave., #103, Tampa, (813) 839-7077; cupcakespotinc.com.
When buying your woman something to wear, don't be an idiot. Clothes are risky because you might buy the wrong size. And you may have horrible taste. A necklace seems nice, but she'll feel obligated to wear it all the time. We've found the perfect solution in The Starburst wristlet, $30 from Coastal Cabana in Clearwater. It's beautiful, hand-crafted from mother of pearl. It's small, so she'll only wear it on special occasions (like when you take her DANCING, hint-hint), and it's neutral enough that it goes with anything. She'll be so impressed by your new fashion know-how, she might forgive the time you bought her Crocs. Coastal Cabana, 1435 Gulf To Bay Blvd., Clearwater, (727) 441-4222, coastalcabana.com.
Listen, people. If you can afford this, just do it. It's a ridiculously soft three-ply cashmere robe from Restoration Hardware, $249. We're not saying this is any kind of deal whatsoever, but it's a pampering luxury item that she'll have forever. And just imagine the leverage every time you get in a fight. "Oh, yeah? Oh, yeah? Um. Well … let's get you into that cashmere robe I bought you, honey!" It's an upper hand for life. Restoration Hardware, 711 S Dakota Ave., Tampa (Old Hyde Park Village), (813) 258-9062, restorationhardware.com. — Stephanie Hayes
Men are primitive creatures. We like gadgets. We like denim. We like arguing about fantasy football and the ugliest baseball player of all time (we still say it's Gary Gaetti, dammit!). And when it comes to gift-getting, we're accustomed to our ladyfriends keeping things simple — money clips, cologne, gift cards, dress shirts and so on. But if you dare to venture outside Dillard's this holiday season, here are three unique gifts that might make him smile.
There's no maybe about it: If your guy is between the ages of 25 and 50, he owned baseball cards. If he's into sports, he's still got 'em filed away in his childhood bedroom, even though he probably hasn't bought a new pack in 10 years. But trust us, the enjoyment of sifting through a fresh pack for the latest hot rookie card is hardwired into his brain. For $20, pick up a handful of packs as stocking stuffers, and watch his face light up with nostalgia. We recommend the whimsical 2010 Topps Allen & Ginter, which retails for $6 a pack and features quirky subsets like "World's Greatest Wordsmiths," "Monsters of the Mesozoic" and even "DNA Hair Relics," featuring snippets of fuzz from Charles Dickens, Abraham Lincoln and others. Buy yourself a pack, too, and maybe you can trade your Evan Longoria for his Edgar Allen Poe. Triple Play Sports Cards and Memorabilia, 2219 S Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa; (813) 831-0652, tripleplaytampa.com.
I'm a classy guy, with a capital C and dollar signs in place of each S. That's why when I wear a tie, I tack on a tie clip to keep things in place. New ones are sleek, flashy and available at some department stores and menswear shops, but for something with a little more flair, try your nearest antique shop or vintage clothing store. I've always enjoyed the quirky selection at ARTpool in St. Petersburg — this handsome geese-based number comes with matching cufflinks and retails for $45. Nothing says class like a chest full of lake fowl. ARTpool Gallery, 919 First Ave. N, St. Petersburg; (727) 324-3878; artpoolrules.com.
Of-the-month clubs are so hacky. But a mug club? That, we can dig — especially if it's at Tampa Bay Brewing Company, proud producers of some of the best beer, burgers and pizza in Ybor City. The TBBC Mug Club is $55 for new members, and entitles cardholders to discounts on beer, food and merchandise, plus a T-shirt and your very own mug, which you can decorate and hang on the walls of the brewhouse. Unfortunately, the pub is out of mugs at the moment, but general manager Ryan Kelly said they're expecting a new shipment soon, and new members will be notified when they arrive. Stop by to sign up your guy, and on your next casual date night, you'll both reap the rewards. Tampa Bay Brewing Company, 1600 E Eighth Ave., Suite 123, Tampa; (813) 247-1422, tampabaybrewingcompany.com. — Jay Cridlin
Getting a gift for your BFF might be the easiest task on your list. After all, you probably know his or her tastes and wants better than anyone else — and have the cell phone bill to prove it. Besides, isn't buying for your best friend really like buying for yourself? Shop wisely, and maybe you can borrow the gift.
Don't let your BFF cry away the holidays because her guy won't up the value of her left ring finger. Get her some hand bling from Sweet Emotion/Why Not Boutique. The women's clothing and accessory store carries flashy rings and other unique jewelry guaranteed to boost any girl's spirit. The rings sell for less than $20 and have embellished, stretchy bands to fit any finger. Sweet Emotion/Why Not Boutique, 3217-A S MacDill Ave., Tampa, (813) 374-2394, shopsweetemotion.com and whynotboutique.com.
Show your BFF you really care with a gift certificate from Crave, a new spa and nail salon for men and women that uses products without harmful chemicals. That means no formaldehyde, toluene or other nasty stuff. Gift cards come in any denomination and are good toward any service. Combine it with Crave's whipped lotion for $9.99 and nail polish for $6.99 for long-lasting health at home. Or look for other gift bundles at The Edge Salon, another "green" salon in north Tampa. Crave, 3211 W Bay to Bay Blvd., Tampa, (813) 837-2600, cravespa.com; The Edge Salon, 14447 N Dale Mabry Highway, (813) 963-7575, edgesalontampa.com.
A lasting friendship deserves a gift that will last equally long: a bonsai tree. Treat these tiny trees right and they will last for decades. Just like your friendship. Agora gifts in St. Petersburg and Ybor City sells juniper and other bonsai trees in attractive clay bases, which average about $70. The stores carry unique home accessories made in Indonesia, Thailand and other countries. Agora, 915 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, (727) 895-6419; and 1515 E Seventh Ave., Ybor City, (813) 247-4141; shopagora.com. — Susan Thurston
Really, is any gift good enough? This lady taught you how to go potty, when to say please and thank you, how to tie your shoes. She put up with your smart-aleck teenage years. She cried as she saw you off to college. There's really no way to repay Mom for all that she is and all that she does, but during the holidays, you've gotta give it a shot.
It might feel weird to wrap up a gently worn (i.e. used) gift for Mom, but trust us, she'll appreciate the one-of-a-kind piece. Revolve Clothing Exchange has the most adorable used and vintage purses, and most are under $20. You might find a funky yellow bowling-style handbag or a leather shoulder bag that looks like a cat face. Great for carrying Mom stuff, like tissues and Excedrin. Revolve Clothing Exchange, 2000 Fourth St. N, St. Petersburg, (727) 399-7788; and 1620 E Seventh Ave., Ybor City, (813) 242-5970; revolve.cx.
Remember when Mom used to clean your mouth out with soap? Or did that just happen in the movies? Either way, Mom will love the squeaky-clean gift of soap, especially if it's a basket of super fancy ones from Milagros. Both local stores make the soaps in-house, and it's fun to smell the sample bars until your nose burns. They carry the same usual designs like the red swirly Passionate and striped Milk & Honey year-round, but also have cute holiday mini-bars featuring snowmen and reindeers and menorahs. The half-pound bars are $8, the mini-bars are $6, so a good selection of four or five soaps will run you $35 or so. Milagros, 1603 W Snow Circle, Tampa, (813) 251-1255; and 1104 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, (727) 821-7555; sisteragnes.com.
Those copies of Good Housekeeping, O and Glamour can only sit on the nice marble-top coffee table for so long. Sooner or later, they must be tucked away from company but kept on hand in case Mom needs to dig up that Cornish hen recipe or tips on how to lose 10 pounds in 10 days. This stylish Lido magazine rack, made of steel in an anthracite finish and solid wood base, adds a modern splash to the reading room while cradling all of her favorite back issues. It retails at DOMA Home Furnishings for $124 but is 15 percent off during the holiday sales. Make it extra special by throwing in a new magazine subscription or two. DOMA Home Furnishings, 1916 S Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa, (813) 258-4500; and 2540 22nd Ave. N, St. Petersburg, (727) 327-9400; domahomefurnishings.com. — Emily Nipps
Dear old Dad. When your car started making that weird noise earlier this year, he saved the day … and returned your wheels with a full tune-up, wash and wax. When you thought about opening a IRA, Dad played money manager. When you wanted to impress your sports-loving guy, Dad explained the difference between a spread offense and an I-formation. Now's the time to show Pops how much you appreciate it all, even his lame jokes. We have some ideas.
Maybe Dad's jumped on the techie bandwagon and carries all his tunes in his iPod shuffle. But we're willing to bet Dad's still a softie for a classic record or a copy of his favorite CD. Check out Vinyl Fever in Tampa, where you'll find row upon row of gently used albums, plus concert posters and all kinds of cheesy paraphernalia that'll bring Dad back to the glory days. Prices vary, but most CDs and records are less than $5. Vinyl Fever, 4110 Henderson Blvd., Tampa, (813) 289-8399, vinylfevertampa.com.
Let Dad feel like a high-roller with his own glass-top humidor for his cigar collection. King Corona Cigars in Ybor City sells a $37 version that holds 30 to 40 cigars. Stock it with a couple individual stogies and a box of matches, and let the celebration begin. King Corona Cigars, 1523 E Seventh Ave., Ybor City, (813) 241-9109, kingcoronacigars.com.
Show Dad how much you love him with a gadget that'll stop him from overcooking the steaks. This handy remote thermometer alerts Mr. Barbecue that his meat is ready from up to 300 feet away, giving him the freedom to share his lame (I mean, hilarious!) jokes with the whole block party. And just when his medium filets are nearing the world of well-done, he'll get a heads-up from the talking device clipped to his belt, $70 from Brookstone. Locations at West Shore Plaza, International Plaza, Westfield Citrus Park, Westfield Brandon Mall, Countryside Mall, Tyrone Square Mall, The Shops at Wiregrass. brookstone.com — Kim Wilmath
A young child
If you're not buying a gift for a young child, then you're really not getting into the holiday spirit. Even if you don't have a special kid in your life to spoil, there are plenty of charities working to spread cheer to little ones in need. In other words, gifts for kids never go unopened.
At Lionhearted Toys, you get name-brand used toys at garage- sale prices. All of these goodies came out to $15. Yes, that's a real Build-A-Bear, Webkinz pet and Melissa & Doug puzzle with all the pieces. Looking for a particular toy? Just ask. The store has a ton of stuff in the back waiting to be sorted. It's all in remarkably great condition. Lionhearted Toys, 5216 S MacDill Ave., Tampa, (813) 443-5104, lionheartedtoys.com.
Buy some fun for you and a child with these Play Day passes from the new Glazer Children's Museum. Get them at the museum or call to get them mailed. The little kid in your life will think you're the coolest ever. You won't be disappointed by the place, either. Passes are $9.50 for children and $15 for adults. For some extra zip, wrap them up in a museum bag for $4.99, plus a ball cap for $16.99, or other goodies from the gift shop. Glazer Children's Museum, 111 W Gasparilla Plaza, downtown Tampa, (813) 443-3861, glazermuseum.org.
If Barbies aren't quite your thing, how about these adorable, non-sexy bunnies? Imported from Denmark, Maileg bunnies come with their own clothing and furniture accessories. Get them locally at Silly Dilly Tot Spot, "fairy godmothers' favorite shop,'' which has plenty of unique toys for boys as well. Start a collection, for example, with a medium-size bunny for $45, a baby bunny for $18 and a highchair for $22. Silly Dilly Tot Spot, 4035 W Kennedy Blvd., Tampa, (813) 282-8855, sillydillytotspot.com. — Susan Thurston
There's nothing more awkward than trying to buy the perfect gift for the broody acne-sufferer in your life. Their tastes can turn from Hannah Montana to Ke$ha in a matter of seconds. Here are a couple options that should keep you from looking like a total loser for all eternity.
These digital photo keychains have greatly dropped in price this year, making it easier for your new driver to show off that (A) she has the keys to the minivan, and (B) she can load pictures of her favorite peeps to take along with her. You can find this Shift3 Digital Photo Keychain at a Walgreen's store for $19.99. It holds 60 pictures on an LCD color screen.
The fourth generation Apple iPod shuffle has gotten tinier and cheaper, and it comes with a voice-over feature to announce what songs are playing. It's $49 and comes in five colors, so kids can change them out like fashion accessories, clipping them on a backpack or workout gear. They hold about 500 songs, or 15 hours of music, audio books and podcasts. Apple Store, 2223 N West Shore Blvd., Tampa (International Plaza), (813) 354-3868; and 459 Brandon Town Center Drive, Brandon (Westfield Brandon Mall), (813) 413-3400; apple.com.
The trendiest water sport these days is stand-up paddleboarding because, unlike surfing, it's easy to learn, and once you have it mastered you can spend an hour on the water without getting wet. A newcomer to the sport known as SUP (like a shortened "Wassup?"), should use the widest and sturdiest board, which can be up to 32 inches wide. Bill Jackson's Shop for Adventure in Pinellas Park sells Surftech boards that range from $699-$2,100, with free lessons every Saturday at 9:30 a.m. on Freedom Lake behind the store. You don't have to buy a board to take a lesson, so that can be a good way to figure out the board you want. Bill Jackson's Shop For Adventure, 9501 U.S. 19 N, Pinellas Park, (727) 576-4169, billjacksons.com. — Sharon Kennedy Wynne
Your kid's teacher
Let's be honest. We want the teacher or day care worker to like us best and adore our children most. Some of us are not above bribery when it comes to the people who take care of our kids. Cynicism aside, thanking the people who do a sometimes thankless job is important this time of year.
We've been told by these angels that what they most treasure is a heartfelt note of thanks with specifics on why they make life better for you and your kids. The first one to make the teacher cry wins! Throw in a basket of consumables like the expensive classroom supplies that teachers often buy for themselves — Post-its, colored gel pens, Sharpie markers and white board markers. Or find some artsy items at local shops like St. Petersburg's Central Art Supply Company. But please, anything but an apple-related knickknack sold in the "gifts for teacher" aisle, we beg you. If you give her a gift card, try to keep it practical, like movies, coffee or groceries. Central Art Supply Company, 2429 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, (727) 898-8300, centralartsupplycompany.com.
If you don't want the other parents resenting you, make an effort to team up with them for any gift over $20. This isn't an arms race, and if you have a great idea, pool the resources. Get something for the classroom like this melting clock from the Salvador Dali Museum store for $24.95, along with this picture book The Life and Work of Salvador Dali, $9.95, which is suitable for preschool through preteen students. Salvador Dali Museum gift shop, 1000 Third St. S, St. Petersburg, (727) 823-3767, salvadordalimuseum.org/store.
For a high-dollar class gift it's best to ask the teacher for her wish list, but you might offer as a suggestion these cute area rugs by Surya, found at the independent furniture shop Being in St. Petersburg. This is great for story time or as a gathering spot, and you'd be surprised how grubby those rugs can get by the end of the year. Most teachers or day care workers really appreciate a clean new one every year. It's $130-$530, depending on the size. Being, 1575 Fourth St. N, St. Petersburg, (727) 822-6252, shopbeing.com. — Sharon Kennedy Wynne
You love her; you hate him. In gifting a boss, you ride a fine line between scoring brownie points and picking anything that could end up in your annual review. Some fool-proof ideas:
Home-made sweets scream thoughtful, but not every boss appreciates your inner Betty Crocker. I once found a bourbon pecan pie that I made for an editor under his desk two months after Christmas. Avoid hurt feelings with pretty, packaged sweets from a local bakery — perfect for re-gifting, if someone's on a diet. Try Alessi's 1-pound assortment of Italian cookies for $12.95 (a pretty bow sits on top) or a festive fruitcake for $7.85. Alessi Bakery, 2909 W Cypress Street, Tampa, (813) 879-4544, alessibakeries.com.
There's one gift that managers, especially the mid-level kind, truly enjoy: Booze. If your boss has a good sense of humor, try The Prisoner, a 2009 Saldo Zinfandel from Orin Swift Cellars in California, available for $29.99 at Wine Design in Tampa. The label comes complete with a photo of a man in shackles and chains. But a word of caution: if your boss doesn't like to laugh, or you've never seen her imbibe, play it safe with gourmet coffees or teas. Wine Design, 615 Channelside Drive, Tampa, (813) 223-3449, tampawinedesign.com.
It's hard to imagine a scenario in which you should spend so much money on a supervisor, unless you're disgustingly well compensated, in which case your boss earns even more and still won't be impressed. Take the high road and make a donation in their name (amount undisclosed, of course) to a charity close to their heart or the company's. Check justgive.org to find a database of nearly 1.5 million charities. You can donate securely, or purchase a GiveNow gift card and let your boss decide. — Letitia Stein
That person you don't really know
It happens every year. You are forced to buy a gift for a virtual stranger, or else face looking like a jerk. Maybe it's your neighbor who pulls in your trash can. Maybe it's your girlfriend's second cousin. Maybe it's the foreign exchange student sleeping on your couch. You could go the candle route, or you could aim higher.
Give this to the mystery person in your life, if you can handle not keeping it for yourself. It's the Kikkerland head massager, $6 at Urban Outfitters. With it, you basically whisk your head, or that of a loved one. It's a crowd pleaser no matter who you are, at home, in the office, on the go. The company playfully calls it the "Orgasmatron," but we suggest omitting that small detail if you're giving it to, say, your pastor. Urban Outfitters, 1600 E Eighth Ave., Ybor City, (813) 242-8472; and 2223 N West Shore Blvd., Tampa (International Plaza), (813) 348-0083; urbanoutfitters.com.
One of the worst parts about giving a gift to people you don't know is having to make a conversation afterward. So give them Vanity Fair's Proust Questionnaire: 101 Luminaries Ponder Love, Death, Happiness and the Meaning of Life, $23.99 at Anthropologie. You won't have to make conversation at all. The questionnaire is based on French writer Marcel Proust, who believed random questions were the key to one's truth. Just flip open the book, learn that David Bowie's worst fear is converting kilometers to miles, and discuss. Anthropologie, 705 S Dakota Ave., Tampa (Old Hyde Park Village), (813) 250-3600, anthropologie.com.
Nothing says "I don't know you very well" like a pen. The good thing is, people love pens. They steal them from hospitals, from waiters, from office supply cabinets. Get that random person in your life a pen they can have forever, like the brown leather Tornado roller-ball pen, $30 at Crane & Co. Pair it with a $25 set of Kate Spade sticky notes, and encourage that stranger to write those thoughts that you're sure are really interesting! Crane & Co. Paper Makers, 2223 N West Shore Blvd., Tampa (International Plaza), (813) 353-3003, crane.com. — Stephanie Hayes