The holidays are bittersweet for me. On the one hand, any sort of earnestness makes me very uncomfortable. Television specials like Nick & Jessica’s Family Christmas make me insane—so thank goodness those two called it quits. And I hate the extra 10 pounds I tote around November through January. But on the other hand, once I beat someone to a parking space, I truly enjoy Christmas shopping. And I have amazing people in my life. Tracking down the perfect gift for each person on that list feels almost as good as receiving a super-expensive, ideal present. Almost.

The Parents
Because of the misery I caused my parents in my youth, I am too frightened to have children of my own. I often got picked up by the police for underage drinking while my parents hosted a work-related dinner party, Bible study, or neighborhood social. As a grown woman, I haven’t been much better. My financial ineptitude is criminal. I prefer to keep track of my bank balance mentally; as a result, my father has had the great privilege of paying thousands of dollars in overdraft fees. For those reasons, along with a slew of others, they have transferred most of their love to my nemesis, Gracie, a 7-year-old Yorkshire terrier. My plan is to win back their favor by buying Gracie something exceptional this year. Dog Specialties (West Village, 3699 McKinney Ave. 214-219-5555) was the perfect place to start. I found a super-soft brown and tan Bowser bed ($112), but Gracie is also brown and tan. The girl likes to shine, not blend in. Dogs in clothes kind of freak me out, but it doesn’t seem to bother my mother at all. I loved the tiny pink t-shirt adorned with the word “diva” in rhinestones ($38) at Lucky Dog Barkery (8413 Preston Center Plaza Dr. 214-368-6000). And Perky Poodle (2706 Oak Lawn Ave. 214-526-3243) had the perfect summer outfit—an American flag cap ($3.99) and a yellow flowery cotton sundress ($34.99)—but, alas, the Fourth of July is months away. The Burberry trench coat ($265) at Tails of the City (6819 Snider Plaza. 214-750-7602) was by far my favorite, but I refuse to buy that bitch a finer raincoat than I’ll ever own. So I opted for the double-stranded pearl “necklace” with bone tag ($225), also at Tails of the City.

The Sister
My sister and I couldn’t be more different. Unlike me, Kathy rarely leaves the house without brushing her hair or applying lipstick. She’s a lady who borrows your car and returns it only after gassing it up, changing the oil, and getting the darn thing inspected. Lend me your car and you’ll be lucky if it comes back at all. I aspire to be like her one day. However, my sister has one flaw: she does too much for others and not enough for herself. So this year, I wanted to buy her something completely frivolous. I started at Lisa Luby Ryan’s new place in Snider Plaza, Vintage Living (6701 Snider Plaza. 214-360-4211). The shop has lots of lovely things, but the chocolate brown velvet satin duvet ($564) caught my eye. Unfortunately, I was pretty sure my baby nephew would confiscate it, and that’s too much to pay for a security blanket. At Madison (45 Highland Park Village. 214-528-8118), I almost bought a huge pink leather jewelry case ($425). I imagined telling her husband that it is his responsibility to fill it with jewels. I then imagined him hanging up on me. I briefly considered art and found a set of seven “found” jars with metal and chandelier crystal cross tops at Grange Hall (4445 Travis St. 214-443-0600)—very simple and distinct. But my feeble mental bank registry couldn’t make $2,700 work. I ultimately went for something my sister loves but would never buy for herself: Christian Louboutin snakeskin pumps ($850) at Studio Sebastian (6730 Snider Plaza. 214-360-9001). (Note to self: ask Mom to pay for half.)

The Ex-boyfriend
Robert and I broke up about a year ago. I ended things because he didn’t want the relationship to move forward. His work is all-consuming, and he travels a lot. He didn’t feel as though he could make more time for me, and I understood. It was handled very maturely and with great decorum. Unfortunately, all traces of that dignity went out the window as soon as I realized that his life was not falling apart due to my absence. After drinking very heavily, texting seemed to be the best way to get his attention. I enjoyed crafting cryptic messages like “I hate you” or “I broke my arm”—neither of which was true. Robert didn’t get a restraining order against me because he’s a kind, good person. He deserves to be rewarded for that. But buying for an ex is tricky. I wanted something that said, “Thanks for being patient during my freak-out.” Not “I’m stalking you, and you will be mine.” He has a new house, and he would love the very Goth-chic Jan Barboglio iron fireplace screen ($1,500) or the decanter with cross stopper ($110) at Peacock Alley (4311 Oak Lawn Ave., Ste. 150. 214-520-6736). But either of those might suggest that I want to help decorate his house. I briefly considered the super-soft Sonoma Lavender robe ($165) at Nuvo (3900 Cedar Springs Rd. 214-522-6886), but that could imply that I still thought about him naked. Same went for the fun candles by Lauren Grossman—male and female nudes with the wicks in strategic places ($22 each)—at Iota (3107 Knox St. 214-522-2999). I decided to go with the mock crock luggage tag by Graphic Image ($45 for two) at Madison (45A Highland Park Village. 214-528-8118). I think it says, “Have a nice trip—and a nice life.”

The Best Friend
I once accompanied my best friend Lisa to Drug Emporium, and in the amount of time it took me to complete 12 laps around the store, purchase a few items, and read every selection on the magazine rack, she hadn’t moved from the shampoo aisle. Whether she’s checking out Noxema or La Mer, the lady is meticulous. She touches and smells every product, closely examines each label, and compares prices to the penny. It can take her days to pull the trigger on a lotion purchase, making her the toughest person on my list to buy for. Lisa just had her second baby, and she recently laughed that, between her stinky English Spaniel and the baby’s dirty diapers, her nose is taking a beating. So I made it my mission to buy her something that smelled unpoop-like. I started at Cadeaux (4506 Lovers Ln. 214-363-4500), a cozy store that sells everything from jewelry to chocolates. I espied some Place de Lices soap ($30). The proprietor promised that it would last six months and could solve “any sort of skin ailment.” “Leprosy?” I asked innocently. He didn’t laugh, and I left shortly thereafter. I headed over to Talulah Belle (2011 Abrams Rd. 214-821-1927). The boutique is full of sweet-smelling potions. The Lollia bath candle ($30) and bubble bath ($32) caught my eye. Both were adorned with a pretty crystal, so I thought that, combined with the pretty scent, they might fight the evil forces smelling up her house. I channeled Lisa and decided to check out one more store. I’m glad I did. Napa Home (4012 Oak Lawn Ave. 214-520-4880) not only has beautiful housewares, it’s also home to two French bulldogs. But the place smells amazing—nothing doggy about it. I took that as a sign and purchased the Millefiori Milano diffuser ($58) in bois de cedre.

The Brother I Never Had
The first time I ever had drinks with Tim, he dared me to approach a man with a hearing aid and ask him to dance. Not only did I dance, but I also showcased the sign language I learned at vacation Bible school in ’82. Later, Tim dared me to walk up to a stranger and unobtrusively touch her breast. He threw in the additional incentive of $10. I made a sawbuck that night, and Tim learned that I am unable to walk away from the double-dog dare. Since then, my life has been a series of embarrassments. (To be fair, Tim can only be blamed for some of those.) He has become the brother I never had: he yells at me, mocks me mercilessly when I say something stupid (it happens), and sometimes pushes me down. The latter is particularly disturbing because he’s also my boss. Despite all of the above, as well as his ever-growing bald spot and alarming flirtation with cirrhosis, he’s an incredible mentor, drinking buddy, and friend. So I began my quest for an unusual “boss” gift at Bettyann & Jimbo’s Junkadoodle (4402 W. Lovers Ln. 214-350-5755), which had some funny stuff, including a kitschy sign that read “Beer” ($18) and a selection of lunch boxes ($14), perfect for a leftovers junkie like Tim. I contemplated the Romanza balloon wine glasses ($24 each) at Stephanie Anne (4346 Lovers Ln. 214-368-3025). I knew his wife would dig them, and I dig her. I almost bought the poker kit ($95)—an ebony wood case filled with silver-plated chips and cards—at the super-sleek Bishop Arts shop Flip (332 W. Davis St. 214-948-3547). But after deep reflection, I realized I had no choice but to go with the $100 gift certificate to the Old Monk (2847 N. Henderson Ave. 214-821-1880). Or, as I like to call it, “manna from heaven.”

The Stylist
My hairdresser Richard is the perfect man. He’s tall, tan, blond, and buff. He likes to wear very tight short-sleeve t-shirts, so it’s always a gun show at his salon. Richard patiently listens to my dating woes and dispenses such sage advice as “It’s better to lose a lover than love a loser.” He laughs at my jokes and makes my hair pretty. All of this is enough to guarantee a successful marriage, even though he plays for the other team. While this arrangement is fine by me, he remains unconvinced. I hope the perfect gift might change his mind. I began my quest at Tiecoon (4015 Villanova St. 214-369-8437), which has a whimsical collection of silver cuff links. I liked the tennis players ($55), but, alas, there’s no place for cuff links on baby tees. Richard loves oversize belt buckles, and I found a very sparkly turquoise and rhinestone one ($140), also at Tiecoon. I was unsure, so I headed over to Morgen Chocolate (1804 Market Center Blvd. 214-520-2462). I knew he was fasting in preparation for an upcoming trip to South Beach, but I still considered the large chocolate nutcracker ($36) because, well, it was a nutcracker. But I know how my dear Richard loves his body, so I drove over to Out Lines Active Wear (3906 Cedar Springs Rd. 214-528-1955) for an extra-small t-shirt that reads “If you like my guns, you’ll love my rock” ($24). He will be the belle of the ball in South Beach, and I might get a free haircut.

The Love Interest
Is there anything more troubling than a month-long, nonexclusive relationship in December? Okay, sure. The situation in Darfur is pretty bad, but work with me here. My new friend Luke is a nice man who tolerates my sophomoric, scatological humor admirably. Sometimes he even laughs. The relationship is far from serious, and there’s a good chance I will pull a mortifying stunt well before the 25th of December, thus causing him to flee. Even absent my hijinks, there’s a slim-to-none chance that he’ll buy me a gift. (He’s a guy, for God’s sake.) But just to be safe, I decided to pick up something casual—an item that’s nice, respectable, maybe a little flirty without any scary “I’ve picked out my wedding dress” undertones. I liked the idea of a gift designed to be beaten with a stick, so the handmade donkey piñata ($16.95) from La Mariposa seemed like a good bet. Luckily, my friends talked me out of that purchase. I considered Luke’s interests. He enjoys drinking and golf, so the flask packaged with tees and a golf ball ($39.99) from Cigary (Shops at Legacy, 7200 Bishop Rd., Ste. D10, Plano. 469-467-6653) would certainly work. So, too, would the Frank Lloyd Wright Biltmore roller ball pen from Speranza Design Gallery (Shops at Willow Bend, 6121 W. Park Blvd., Ste. A217, Plano. 469-366-0101). Better to be safe than sorry, though. I bought the distressed tin letter “L” ($39) from Legacy Trading Co. (West Village, 3699 McKinney Ave., Ste. 104. 214-953-2222). If he dumps me, it’ll work just fine in my living room.

The Niece
Maggie is my 4-year-old niece, and though I’m biased, I think she is the cutest kid in the world, with her darling Louise Brooks-ish bob and big brown eyes. She’s also incredibly bright and thinks that her Auntie Laura is funnier than SpongeBob. She delights in playing word games, and lately, she’s really into rhyming/rapping. Recently, I told her to tell me some words that rhyme with “chore.” She immediately yelled, “Whore!” She likely saw the color drain from my face, because she asked, “Is that a word, Auntie?” “No,” I replied. Don’t kid yourself. The perfect gift for a 4-year-old is anything that holds her interest for longer than three minutes. The Gazillion bubble maker ($17.95) from Froggies (3211 Knox St. 214-522-5867) would keep her busy because she’s obsessed with bubbles. She’d also love the sticky mosaics picture kit ($30) at the Nasher Store (Nasher Sculpture Center, 2001 Flora St. 214-242-5110). She’s all over the arts and crafts. Then again, kindergarten is right around the corner, and I want her to have the cutest stuff in class. I thought maybe she’d like the chocolate brown tote with pink “M” monogram ($35) at Paperie (Mockingbird Station, 5331 E. Mockingbird Ln. 214-821-8811), but backpacks might be what the cool kids carry. I finally went for broke—I’m not above buying a kid’s love—with the custom tepee ($350) at Stanley Korshak (500 Crescent Ct. 214- 871-3620). She can use it to hide from her brother, read books, or work on her rapping.

The Hostess
In my younger days, I dated a man who considered full-time employment a nuisance and the lingerie department at Target a good place to shop for Valentine’s Day. To make things even better, Mr. Dreamy dumped me. After keying his car, I realized I got out with something great: it was through him that I met one of my favorite friends, Jennifer. The lady throws a damn fine party—and guess who’s been booted off the guest list to make room for me? The ex. And I couldn’t be more delighted, because Jennifer sets a beautiful table, creates incredible menus, and serves bottomless glasses of wine. But the best thing about Jen is that she can amass a group of strangers who, by the end of a meal, have discussed everything from Laguna Beach to the Christian Coalition, and somehow become best friends. The Food Network should give Jennifer her own show, the first episode featuring her baklava. Anyway, she’s obviously a foodie, and the only thing I know about food is that I like it. I was completely out of my comfort zone shopping for her. I started at Sur La Table (4527 Travis St. 214-219-4404), where they recommended the Fattoria Estense 10-year-aged vinegar ($19.95) and Badia A Colitbuono campo corto olive oil ($45). Buying oil seemed boring, though. I fell in love with the Brooke Rydman chocolate brown and gold hand-woven runner ($225) I found at the cool tabletop stop At My Table (6816 Snider Plaza. 214-691-6816). I also really liked the faux mink apron ($34) at Culinary Connection (Shops at Legacy, 5700 Legacy Dr. 972-398-9009). But the item that made the biggest impression on me was the blown-glass, wonderfully dainty Juliska cake holder ($398) at Forty Five Ten (4510 McKinney Ave. 214-559-4510). I hope it will inspire her to make more carrot cakes.

The Nature Lover
When I grow up, I want to be my friend Nancy. She’s had cocktails with the Rolling Stones, catered Steven Spielberg’s kid’s birthday party, and slept in the same bed with Martina Navratilova (but not like that). All of that is pretty extraordinary, but Nancy’s true gift is that she somehow makes the ordinary and trite exciting and hilarious. Cruise through the Dairy Queen drive-thru in Athens, Texas, and watch in amazement as she gets the teenager in the window to discuss his sex life while she waits for a Blizzard. She even makes birding seem fun. She can talk for hours about her bluebirds, without making you want to kill yourself. In a world that touts “Just say no,” she shows you the value in sometimes just blindly saying yes. I wanted to buy her something for her lake house—her refuge from big, bad Dallas—and immediately became entranced by the frog birdbath ($185) at Into the Garden (4527 McKinney Ave. 214-351-5125). But I wasn’t sure if the frog was scary or cute. The Grace Note stainless steel wind chime ($105) at Redenta’s Garden (2001 Skillman St. 214-823-9421) was soothing, but she already has about five chimes on her porch, and a sixth could likely get her evicted from her private lake community. I found a cool piece of iron yard art ($90) at Joni’s (4601 W. Lovers Ln. 214-352-2489), but I wasn’t thinking clearly because I was drunk on the beignets she serves daily. Once the tipsiness passed, I headed to Wild Birds Unlimited (4314 Lovers Ln. 214-891-9793). It’s Nancy’s favorite store. Before I knew it, I had spent $350 on a copper-top gazebo birdhouse. Bill and Hillary (those are the bluebirds) better appreciate it.


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