Holiday shopping online

Tired of fighting for a parking spot and elbowing your way through the mall during the holiday rush?

Start shopping from the comfort of your own home for personalized gifts you won’t find anywhere else.

Here are some of our favorite, off-the-beaten track Web sites that offer great service, unique products and reasonable shipping costs.

But safety first. Before you shop, read our 21 rules of acquisition to understand the risks and to learn how to protect yourself when shopping online.

Still worried? Many of these sites have 1-800 numbers to call if you’re squeamish about giving out your credit card number and other personal information in cyberspace.

Let the shopping begin!


For personalized stationary, drawings and home décor, try Choose from numerous characters, then change their hair color, hair style and skin tone to match yours. Creator Lindsay Stephenson works diligently to make her characters fit your needs. For an additional fee, she’ll even go as far as replicating an outfit you’ve worn for your personalized drawing. Orders are available for delivery across Canada and can be expedited for an additional fee.

Our favorite: Penny People ? Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation Note Card

Fifty per cent of proceeds are donated to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. Price varies depending on number of note cards or prints ordered.

Little Monogram

There’s nothing more posh than spending Christmas morning in your fluffy white robe ? monogrammed with your initials. The Little Monogram Shop offers a wide range of items, from baby blankets and golf towels to pillows and throws. Turnaround time depends on the intricacy of the design and the quantity of your order.

Our favorite: Kids Hooded Towel ? $40

Picture Postage from Canada

Don’t know what to get the person who has everything? Consider customized domestic postage stamps from Canada Post to give their correspondence an added personal touch. The process is simple: send your picture by mail or electronically (photos must be 4″x 6″ in size, electronic submissions must be in .jpeg format), choose a style and payment method, and voilà ? a gift unlike any other.

Tip: ordering online with a digital image is faster.

Cost: 20 self-adhesive domestic rate stamps ? $24.95.

Crystal Couture

Decorative crystals are the perfect gift for your teenager or pre-teen who would love to add some bling to their accessories. These do-it-yourself kits allow them to jazz up their cell phones, iPods, Sidekicks or clothes with sparkly Swarovski crystals in a rainbow of colors.

Choose between affordable (simple patterns with size 12 stones), detailed (finer detail with size 9 stones) or exquisite (greater depth with size 5 stones) designs. (Custom designs do push the price up considerably.) Kits come with quantities that allow you to cover all, part or just the trim of your gadget or accessory.

Our favorite: Partial Coverage Kit for Cell Phones ? $45-$64 U.S.

Don’t be fooled, has much more than its name suggests. Besides classic dress shirts made from Egyptian cotton ($85 and up), offers silk ties ($65), silk/cotton blend sweaters ($80), casual and dressy pants ($65 and up) and all kinds of accessories from cufflinks to brass stays. Looking for that perfect fit? The company also offers custom sleeve lengths on all their dress shirts. They even have a clearance section online with prices reduced by 35% to 50%.

Our favorite: The Chairman’s Choice, Straight Collar/French Cuff (in white) ? $85

A basket full of fun, edible or luxurious items is not only practical (the basket can be used again) but also shows that some thought and attention went into picking each item. For those of us who don’t have the time to create a basket from scratch, does it for you, and will even go so far as creating custom baskets for your special needs such as baskets for twins and specialty items for diabetics.

From gourmet baskets with chocolates, fruit and cookies to fragrance baskets with soaps, lotions and perfumes, all items are available at various prices (under $50, $50-$100, over $100). Custom orders during the holidays must be ordered well in advance to accommodate requests.

Our favorite: The Nutcracker
Godiva hot cocoa, candy cane chocolate bark, rum and raisin pecans, among other items in this festive basket. ? $45

Digital cameras give us the opportunity to capture every momentous occasion without the worry of running out of film. But they also mean more pictures than ever before to store in an album. Enter An alternative to traditional photo albums, this website allows you to create your own coffee table book with up to 80, 120 or 240 digital images depending on the size of book ordered. (Additional pages can be added for an extra charge.)

Download the free software, choose your layouts and create each page of your book (hardcover books allow for up to six photos per page, paperback up to four). will then print, bind and mail you your completed book in as little as seven days. Delivery during the holidays may take longer.

Our favorite: MyPublisher Classic Hardcover Photobook
20 pages with up to 120 photos in linen (raspberry) ? $29.80 U.S.

December 9, 2005.