Thoughtful Christmas Gift Ideas for him & her

ID-10053923Black Friday Presents,

Cheerful holiday music is playing in store, wrapping paper’s lining the check-out areas and the shopping line-ups have begun – December 25th is upon us.

Last year I really didn’t have to think about gifts much as I decided to make home made food [spice/seasoning] rubs in decorative fabric topped jars for all my loved ones. This year I want to shake it up and do something a tad different.

“There is something about a homemade or original [one of a kind] gift that is just so nice & personal. The occasional gift card is handy at times as well or donating to a charity on behalf of someone.”

What does shake it up mean to me? This year I want to shower most people with recycled gifts!

If you are raising an eyebrow to this – that is okay. What do I say to this? In recent years recycling gift bags has become all the rage, I cannot remember the last time I got a gift bag with the To: and From: sticker still on it. I don’t think this is just me…people are giving used gift bags, it is just about time that used gifts follow.

This year I am bringing used gifts back on the radar. Looking for that one and only idea for someone you care about? Look no further – here are the top used gifts that will put a smile on someone’s face.

1. Jewellery Box: A vintage jewellery box can add certain something to the top of any dresser and they really aren’t that hard to come by. Visit your local consignment store and take a peak. Most ladies [& gents] love the jewellery/accessories! Who doesn’t need more storage or organization in their lives? Raise the bar and add/place a new or gently used locket (in gold or silver) with their initials on it inside. Or better yet a vintage engagement ring!

Tips: When searching find something that has pull out wide drawers (good for laying necklaces flat) or those taller doors that allow you to actually hang things up. Lift off the top and check for some box slots for smaller pieces. Consider the décor in his/her bedroom. What colour of furniture do they have? Try and match it a little.

2. Flask: Does your man or woman like the hard stuff? A hip (stays by leg and is thin) or hunting (kept in side of the belt or a pouch and is rounder) flask with some ornate details or even some interesting engraving would be a rad gift. Some of the older flasks are simply captivating. Even if they don’t want to drink out of it they could still use it as a stunning solid silver showpiece. Note: When poking around make sure you note the condition of the flask and keep in mind that some older flasks may contain lead (pewter) – just be aware.ID-10049882

Tips: Consider if they want a discreet flask – make sure it is smaller if they would want to take a swig here or there. Remember some flasks come with a funnel for an easy fill – check for one. Some popular names in the seasoned flask making business are:

  • Brook and Son
  • William Leuchars
  • Sampson Mordan
  • Tiffany
  • Atkin Brothers
  • Asprey
  • Thomas Ingleton
  • James Dixon and Sons

3. Homemade Handmade Quilts: People freaking adore handmade things! Quilts will never go out of style. Everyone knows that person that is always cold. This would make the perfect gift for them and it will stay in the family – I assure you. If you find a quilt make sure the stitching is in good shape and there are no stains, holes or tears.

Tips: Handmade and machine-made patchwork – it may be hard to notice the difference between the two. Best thing to do is ask when you are buying -when it was made or if they know who made it. Look for signs of aging and older fabric patterns.

4. Vintage Christmas Ornaments: It is so fun to open up that big ornament safe keeping box that was stored away in the basement just to find that twenty year old ornament that has lived through as many holidays seasons as you have. Some are crafty creations while others may of been purchased many years ago. Think of one of your friends childhood memories and seek out the old school original tree ornament. Make it a Snoopy or Porky Pig Christmas.

Tips: Make sure it still has the hole to hang it by ex. so you can put a hook through it or new piece of string. Check for any chips or cracking.

5. A Personalized Stocking: A different Christmas idea is to find a stocking that has made in through the years and sew your friends name on it. Fill it with some goodies and voila. Or better yet fill it with the animal you were planning to surprise them with Ex. the new kitty or puppy you adopted.

6. Get Playful with Playing Cards: For the cottage goer or game enthusiast – why not grab a classic set of playing cards. Not only are these quite collectible they are very practical. The pin-up model/girl ones are really awesome.

Tips: Make sure the entire deck is there and the cards are free of staining, water damage and burn marks.

7. Perfume/Fragrance Bottles: After looking at the bottles from previous years I must say we have gone a bit backwards. The perfume bottles used to be super glamorous. They had more glitz and just looked like they would make your nightstand or make-up counter shine. You can take these bottles and refill them with room spray/deodorizer you purchase in a way less sexy bottle. Everyone can always use room spray so why not make the bottle a little more distinguished and disguised.

Tips: Clean that sucker out and make sure the old scent is long gone. Look for any metal discolourization. Go for the ones with the squeeze ball they are elegant.

ID-100336028. Vintage Bicycle Basket: If you look around you I am sure you would say you have at least one close friend that is into riding bikes. For those that need a bit more storage or cargo space consider buying them a used woven basket. Schwinn made a ton of really fantastic ones that would suit many bikes. Carrier racks are always helpful. If you friend ain’t into weaving why not try a dashing metal design?

Tips: Consider the style and shape of their bike when choosing the basket. May be good to do a little undercover consulting.

9. Cook Books: Used cook books are easy and find and are way cheaper to buy. Know your friend or family members favourite cuisine? Why not get them a used book or two. Then pick out a few of the best sounding recipes and purchase the groceries to make the items. Wander over to their place around the holidays and surprise them with some long lasting reads and dinner for that night.

10. Coffee Beans: I have always been a ground coffee kind of gal but can definitely appreciate why someone would love the full bean approach. Vintage wall mounted coffee grinders are not the easiest thing to find but they are a worthwhile find for the coffee loving lover or friend.

Before you start your shopping expedition don’t forget to read my recent articles on Second-hand Gift Giving: Is It Okay to Give a Used Gift? and Tip of the Week – Second Hand Clothing Shop (in Store) Like a Pro if you prefer to go the clothing and accessory route.




La Nouvelle-France Antiquités – The Price is Right

IMG_2031It’s Monday and after a busy weekend (and day) I am eager to continue reporting on my recent trip and finds.

Out of all the places I recently visited in QUÉBEC CITY I must say La Nouvelle-France Antiquités was one of my favourite shops is town. To be honest after exploring most of the antique landmarks there were only two places that curbed my “curious tourist antique-hunting cravings”.

The gentleman in the store was friendly, helpful and a pure delight to be around. He instantly greeted me and my friends and told us a little bit about each of the objects we were looking at.

This shop has a little bit of everything including crates, wooden items (ex. horse), lamps, glasses, purses and much more. Don’t forget to check out the basement. I always have a jolly good time looking for treasures in dark places.

IMG_2037The second I arrived I noticed something special in the distance. I had a quick look around and eagerly approached a football shaped purse. The price was right! I managed to snag this Made Exclusively Stein Novelty Import in Japan black tightly beaded clutch for $10.

After doing some searching I noted this may be a vintage reproduction and not worth much more than what I paid for it. That is okay because its black and will go well with any outfit.IMG_2177

Sometimes when I am on-the-go and unsure of an items value I “Google” it on my cell. Most times I can find a similar item to confirm pricing but at times nothing will come up which can mean an item is rare or I am not searching for it (getting the keywords) properly.

Have a jolly good time when your in Québec City next and browse La Nouvelle-France. I hope you find a hidden treasure to add to your collection.

“A collection is not a mere ‘pile’ of non-differentiated items. Even if it seems chaotic there is always a logic behind the dynamic arrangement of the items and their circulation.”

– Robert Neuberger, in Art Tribal, Spring 2003

IMG_2033Come back soon to hear about more of the interesting antiques I came across on my travels.

Happy Hunting!















225 St Paul, Québec, QC G1K 3W3
(418) 694-1807

Where to Buy Antiques and Collectibles in Quebec City and Beyond: Part 1

shopsmartGood Day Readers,

I have been M.I.A the past two days getting my condo in the sky conditionally sold. I can finally report I am one step closer to moving back to the country and collecting some handsome antiques. YEEHAW!

I am heading out on a remarkable road trip soon and can’t wait to share all the juicy details and picturesque photos with you. Some girlfriends have chose to holiday in the classic Quebec City.

Time to seek out the cat’s pajamas!

Quebec City has always been a prime source of antiques in Canada. If rustic curiosities and unique collectibles are your thing a stopover in the cradle of Quebec’s largest antique shops is a good place to start. I hear rues St-Pierre and St-Paul is where it’s at.

The old port area boasts stunning scenery, captivating 18th-century homes and the renowned antiques row. Once I pay a visit I will shine a spotlight on the sterling stores worth seeing. All the shops cluster the main streets of rues Saint-Pierre and Saint-Paul and carry and indulging inventory of 19th and 20th century folk art, wooden furnishings, antique lighting, country pine furniture, rugs and home decorative “accent” pieces.

In Part 2 of this post I will advise on this hub of antique dealing in Quebec. I am sure I will charmed by the old treasures and admire the works of local artisans. Also come back real soon for a run-through on the Lachute Flea Market located in southwest Quebec.

Maybe I will be swayed to get a peachy new item for my “one day” home. The swell thing about travel by car is you “generally” do not buy more than you can bring home with you. Not sure I go by that rule of thumb!

“Its not that collecting is more noble than the other pursuits of man, its just a lot more fun.”
– An adaptation of a Norman McClean quote on fishing




Top Places to Buy Antiques in the World

IMG_1905Are you an avid traveler or someone who will go the extra mile in search of astonishing antiques and vintage one-offs? There is nothing better than being a tourist or playing tourist in a hot spot near or far.

Antique hunting treasure troves can be found all over the globe. When I get globe trotting I plan to add these destinations to my list of MUST visits.

FRANCE– Braderie de Lille Flea Market:  This is the largest flea market in all of Europe. It takes place this year from Saturday, September 6-7. With a startling 10,000 exhibitors, I imagine you won’t leave disappointed. The adorable town Lille is located 1-2 hours (depending on your mode of transportation) outside of Paris which makes it a convenient stop over if you are in the area. Miles of streets to roam and bargains to be found. The word “Braderie” is French for “sell at a low price.”

ARGENTINA – San Telmo Antiques Fair: Who needs an excuse to pay a visit to the bustling Buenos Aires, Argentina? This promising antique and artisan event takes place every Sunday from around 10am to 4pm depending on the weather and season. Bring a big suitcase!

CALIFORNIA – Rose Bowl Flea Market: This famous flea market held in Pasadena, California features over 2500 vendors and 45 years of selling success. Every second Sunday pop by and enjoy the sunshine and super deals.

LONDON -Camden Lock Market: Vintage clothes, music and arts are just a few things that can be discovered at this Monday – Sunday market. Since 1972 this original arts & crafts market has been attracting visitors. While I talk about London I shall not forget to mention Portobello Road the world’s largest antiques market – a landmark that generates flocks and flocks of people from all over the universe.

There are no “slim pickings” in TENNESSEE at Antique Archaeology. This is one of two stores owned by Mike Wolfe off the show, American Pickers. You can find a little bit of everything in this store in Nashville or drive on over to the location in LeClaire, Iowa.

Start spreading the news, I’m leaving today I want to be a part of it, New York, New York.IMG_1907

NEW YORK – Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market:  There are really 3 Annex Markets here. Check out Hells Kitchen Flea Market, West 25 Street Market and the Antique Garage every Saturday and Sunday all year long. If antiques, furniture and jaw dropping bargains are your thing don’t miss “the very best” during your next trip to NY.

MADRID – El Rastro:  This is one of the oldest markets in Europe as it dates back to the 15th century. Spend a Sunday morning in the streets of Madrid. The smell of antiques will draw you in. This is just one more reason why I have to visit Spain. Do you find curiosities charming? The atmosphere and unique trinkets will keep you eyes wandering.

You need to mozy on over to TEXAS for Antique Weekend. Twice a year (March/April & September/October) over 100,000 people visit rural Texas for this weekend of wonder. You will not leave these grounds empty handed.

I was born in Mississauga, Ontario therefore have to send a little shout out to the TORONTO – St. Lawrence Antique Market. There are some good times to be had at this antique market.

Immerse yourself amongst five star hagglers, distinctive vendors and the fashion elite – add one or more of these places above to your travel itinerary.

Fine old things don’t come to those who wait they come to those who search.


Second-hand Gift Giving: Is It Okay to Give a Used Gift?

shopsmartSo here’s is the deal, I would say 60% of the gifts I give to people are second-hand items.

That number may seem high and/or crazy but it is no word of a lie. I am sure you may ask yourself after hearing this statement -is it really okay to give someone a used gift or is it cheap and tacky?

First off you have to know your recipient (the person you are giving the gift to). Most of the people I know “really well’ adore receiving authentic gifts – they appreciate being given something with vintage charm, that not from a big box store.

If I do not know someone well enough to determine their preference (on new and old) or if I have an idea they are passionate about only “shiny and new” I always purchase brand-spanking new.

For Bridal or Baby Showers (more formal events) I generally lean towards not giving used items unless I know the bride or mother to be’s stance and taste.

Most of the time I would say I give a 60/40 split of used and new items in the same bag. This just gives the feel of new and old which can be the best of both worlds. I personally like receiving only old and gently used.

These are the reasons why I have justified that receiving second-hand gifts can be better than getting new:

  1. Personalized & Unique: You can find something unique, not so cookie-cutter and really suitable for a dear friend. I remember I found a vintage silver circular engraved locket once that had the initial “L” on it. I gave it to my best friend Lauren in an old black floral vintage tin. It was probably one of my favourite finds. Something about it screamed her name and that is why it ended in her hands.
  2. Green Giving & Living: Help do your part for the environment. By second-hand giving you are reusing what is already existing and repurposing it – giving it new life. Plus older things always make a house look like a home. Sustainable can be stylin!
  3. Cost Savings: Used merchandise is usually available at a fraction of the cost. This can eliminate the stress or tension that comes with gift giving as there will be more money in your wallet at the end of the day.
  4. Value, Value, Value  -More for Less: I can place 15 used and equally awesome things in a gift bag for the price of one new tamer thing – generally speaking. If you compare dollar for dollar you as giver and them as a recipient get more. Stretch that dollar!
  5. Bringing History Back: What is fun about giving some old is you are bringing some of the great influences from the past back to light. You are also giving a conversation piece that may be the hit of the party. Especially if you have some history to share when giving the piece ex. this jewellery (accessory) was from an established home in this ritzy end of town. The women selling it was in her 90’s and said it came from…
  6. Branching Out Feels Good: It doesn’t hurt to branch out a little ex. give a funky shirt from the past because it may be fun for your friend to try a new style. If you are not spending a ton for a little fun -it doesn’t feel wasteful to stray from the ordinary gift.
  7. Depreciation Never Felt So Good: Some items are just better to buy used from a spending perspective. The second certain things are sold they depreciate in value. By picking them up second hand you may just be getting a better deal. I buy used books for friends all the time and they wouldn’t know the difference except sometimes they will find an old bookmark or entertaining inscription in their book. I think those finds along with a beaten cover are what make a book feel classic.

To each their own. If this is not your thing, I challenge you to think about why second-hand giving is not your thing.

I never thought of gift giving as a status symbol “look at the expensive & flashy thing I got you” for me it has always been about the feeling I provoked in someone I care about when they opened it.

After all, it is really the thought that counts.