Christmas cheat sheet

Christmas may be the season of giving, but often what it gives most are headaches. If you’ve ever scrambled trying to come up with just the right gift idea for that special person on your list, you’ll know what we mean. But don’t despair. To help forestall holiday panic attacks, we’ve asked six experts to share their best $200-and-under gift suggestions with you.

Adventurer extraordinaire Evelyn Hannon, founder of the Web site, recommends any one of the five multipurpose pocket tools in the Leatherman Juice line. Each is a gadget lover’s delight, combining features such as a corkscrew, bottle opener, screwdriver and wire stripper in one neat package. (Prices up to $150; available at and Alternatively, if your gift recipient is a woman, check out the Rosa 2.0 sleeping bag from Sierra Design. Hannon says the bag is cut to reflect the female shape and insulated to keep women’s cold spots warm. (About $200; check out for dealers.)

“Anyone who is into technology is dying for a portable MP3 player. It lets you carry thousands of songs with you everywhere,” says tech guru and author Jim Carroll. He brings his own player wherever he goes, especially to the gym. The Apple iPod is the best-known model on the market and is available at Depending on its size and capabilities, you could spend as little as $130 on a 512MB iPod Shuffle or as much as $500 for a 60GB iPod Video.

Rosemary Little, owner of Quince Flowers in Toronto, thinks that potted orange or cypress trees make perfect holiday presents. “It’s like bringing the garden indoors,” she says. Cypress trees start at $20 and orange trees at $45 at nurseries across the country. A pot of flowers can also add a dash of much needed wintertime color. Little recommends amaryllis (about $10 per bulb) or paperwhites ($2 per bulb). Pair them with beautifully decorated planters that can be taken out-of-doors when spring finally arrives.

Barry Willis, executive chef at the Fairmont Empress in Victoria, is enamored of the Benriner Turning Vegetable Slicer, which he says is irresistible even to those who don’t cook much. “You put a carrot through and get these amazing spirals that are two or three feet long,” he explains. (Available from Montreal-based Miyamoto at for $89.) Willis also loves to serve meals in lacquered, multi-sectioned Japanese bento boxes. “They’re almost like an adult version of TV dinner,” he says. (Available in Asian cookware shops; also see for locations of its stores, which carry Asian-inspired dishes for $25 to $30 per set.)

Lisa Tant, Flare‘s editor-in-chief, recommends cashmere sweaters, scarves and gloves for both the men and women on your list. The fabric is luxuriously soft and extra lustrous because it’s made from the soft inner down of the cashmere goat’s fleece, and Tant believes its classic appeal plays to contemporary sensibilities. “People are looking for things that are timeless, familiar and comfortable,” she says. You’ll find good selections of cashmere at both and at surprisingly affordable prices. (Sweaters from $200, scarves from $100, and gloves from $75).

Vancouver-based jewelry designer Elsa Smith believes nothing brightens the holidays like gifts that sparkle. For men, she recommends sophisticated cufflinks. (Check out, which offers a tasteful yet fun assortment of sterling links from $100 to $175.) For women, Smith suggests necklaces (much easier to fit than rings or bracelets). In particular, she admires the work of Winnipeg designer Hilary Druxman. “Her pieces are really well constructed and they work well on women of any age.” (Available through or 1-877-212-8122; necklaces start around $150.)

Updated November 15, 2005

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