This year I started my holiday shopping early (before Thanksgiving even) and thus lulled myself into a false sense of security. Now it's nearly Pearl Harbor Day, and I'm still missing gifts for some of the important people in my life. In addition to getting gifts for the aforementioned loved ones, I also need to get one for my office holiday party which has the added disadvantages of requiring a strict price limit, being for someone I don't know well (though who doesn't want a Starbucks giftcard, right?), and being a full week and a half before Christmas.
I've been looking for gift ideas online because it's a scary world out there right now in actual stores. Also, going to real-world stores with their finite inventories would require me to actually have a general idea of what I wanted to buy. Unfortunately, even online I haven't found anything that exactly suits my recipients (at least the ones I don't already have gifts for). But, rather than have all that time go to waste (alongside most minutes I spend online), I'm posting the gift ideas here for the first ever Living the Astorian Dream holiday gift guide! Just a note, I realize this post is unluckily placed directly above a post railing against the blind consumerism that brings us useless products, because as you will see many of the gifts I'm about to mention are themselves somewhat useless. The only defense I have for this hypocrisy is that it's totally acceptable to buy these useless things as long as they're cute and you're giving them to other people. Ahem.
To redeem myself, the first place I recommend is www.mxyplyzyk.com. Mxplyzyk (the weird name is some kind of Superman reference) is a Greenwich Village based giftshop and almost all of what they sell is both cute AND useful. From cute bath stoppers (https://www.mxyplyzyk.com/v03/index2.php?cat=100) to fetching salt and pepper shakers (https://www.mxyplyzyk.com/v03/index2.php?cat=100), this place makes for some great semi-utilitarian gifts. I'm also a big fan of the cute measuring cups above!
What could be more useless than a goldfish in a bag that will inevitably develop fin rot or whatever mysterious ailment kills all carnival prize goldfish? Actually, probably just keeping them in a small quantity of water in a plastic bag for an extended period of time likely does them in, but I digress. No matter, the above is far more useful because it's, in fact, a tangerine grapefruit soap available from Vat19 (http://www.vat19.com/dvds/goldfish-in-a-bag-soap.cfm). Vat19 is an online gift and gadget site best known for selling the world's largest gummy bear (a disgusting looking confection that is apparently equal to 1,400 regular gummy bears). They have some interesting gift items up for sale and even have them organized by potential recipient from "inner child" to "person who has everything."
I think umbrellas are the perfect gift for anyone because you're constantly losing them and needing them replaced. Then again, I also have decided people shouldn't give me cute umbrellas because I've lost too many of them and clearly don't deserve nice things. But surely you know someone who can handle the responsibility of remembering to pick up their umbrella off the floor of the bar/train/Dunkin' Donuts even after it has stopped raining. If so, there are some cute umbrellas (even a goldfish one) at modcloth: http://www.modcloth.com/store/ModCloth/Womens/Accessories/Umbrellas. The independent, self-proclaimed "mod-retro" online clothing shop also has some great accessories, and I've bought a couple of dresses from them in the past as well.
So yes, from the people who measure things to the people who use soap (and want to smell like tangerine after doing so) to the people who don't like to get wet--this should cover absolutely everyone on your shopping list. And while no one frankly needs their soap to be plastic-fish-filled or their measuring cups to be babushakas, well, isn't this what gift giving is all about?
One more thing: per my semi-monthly attempts to give this blog some actual local relevance, your Astoria tidbit of the season is that there is currently a holiday craft fair going on at the beer garden in Astoria. They have raffles on the weekends (still waiting for that call about the green vase) and you can buy eggnog while you shop for gifts made by local artisans. It's pretty small (this is the first year), but I went a couple of weekends ago and they do have some really nice jewelry and small art pieces. Also cakes balls on a stick.