Gift Ideas for October Occasions

Now that fall is in full swing, October birthdays benefit from a fiery gemstone and deep golds and oranges for their floral palette.

 Gift Idea #1: Flowers

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Calendula is the October flower. That may sound familiar if you’ve ever used a calendula cream for a burn or skin irritation. But you may also know it as the marigold—that sometimes unassuming flower found by the pallet-full at garden centers. Rich in both color and history, the marigold was prized for centuries for both its medicinal and culinary uses.

Calendula got its nickname from early Christians who dubbed the flower “Mary’s Gold” and decorated statues of the Virgin Mary with the blooms. In Hindu culture, the marigold is still used in many festivals and religious ceremonies and is considered an auspicious flower. Symbolizing hopefulness and grace, calendula means “throughout the months” as its growing season is quite long, spanning spring through fall.

Ancient civilizations used calendula as a medicinal herb, and still today is it used for headaches, toothaches, stomachaches and as a fever reducer. It is an anti-inflammatory used on insect bites, sprains, sore eyes, wounds and skin irritations. Calendula/marigolds may be used in recipes as well, or the petals simply sprinkled on salads. Ancient Romans mixed calendula with vinegar to season meats, salads and preserves.

With this amazing history, it’s a bit sad that marigolds have been stereotyped as a ho-hum annual. They come in more than 50 varieties and some have fantastic aroma. All marigolds are good in containers and provide long-lasting cut flowers.

While it’s easy to find marigolds at a garden center, it’s hard to find them in a bouquet from a national retailer. If you must send flowers, find a bouquet that evokes the deep, rich oranges and golds of marigolds, such as Teleflora’s “Forever Fall” bouquet (starts at $47.95,

If you can deliver birthday blossoms in person, plant a few varieties in a pretty earthenware pot. Or, give the flowers in their dried form as a tea! Calendula tea is available from ($5.37). Pair the tea with a couple of Fiesta® dinnerware mugs—in the 75th anniversary color “marigold” (how perfect is that?)—for a simple but appropriate gift. (Mugs,about  $8.50 to $15 each,

Gift Idea #2: Gemstone

October is blessed with a fiery, rare and mysterious gemstone: the opal. Believed to bring beauty, prosperity and good luck to one who wears it, opals can be expensive and it can be difficult to find a really good, fiery specimen.

With opals, the color is everything. Look for flashes of mini rainbows that seem to shoot from the stone’s center. More red flashes mean a more expensive stone, although the most precious opal is a black opal. Opals are generally not faceted but rather cut flat or in cabochon with a rounded, smooth top.

Opals tend to dry and crack, so be sure to take special care of these stones. Coating the opal (not soaking it) in olive oil when not in use will help preserve it.

For more affordable opal jewelry, check out Ross-Simons. The Pink Opal and Blue Chalcedony Earrings set in sterling silver are $135.00.

Gift Idea #3: Color Cues

Whether it’s the iridescence and fire of the opal or the fall tones of the marigold, finding gifts for October birthdays is easy when you put just a bit of thought into it. Be sure to include a gift note that personalizes your selection for your recipient. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” DVD is a feel-good movie, particularly for the over 50 set ($14.00,
  • Pebble Bowl – Gold is a shimmering, glamorous touch ($44.95, Z Gallerie stores or
  • Glint Crystal Topper Clutch in champagne is a sleek evening bag, perfect for holiday parties ($78, Nordstrom stores or
  • MAC “Dazzlegloss” lipcolour reflects light in prosperity-like shades of Get Rich Quick, Money Honey, or Rags to Riches ($19.50 at department stores).
  • Philosophy “Birthday Girl” set of Birthday Cake-scented shampoo/shower gel/bubble bath and a shiny lip gloss comes in a festive package ready to present ($18 at Ulta stores or
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Your Gift is Speaking … What is It Saying?

Whether you know it or not, the gift you give says a lot about you, how you view your relationship with the recipient and how you feel about the recipient.

Gifts are an essential aspect of social interaction; they help to create, maintain and grow relationships of all kinds. Today holiday gift giving is a $624 billion industry (not including anniversaries and birthdays), but the history of exchanging gifts is more than a little murky.

In traditional societies, exchanging gifts was the method of providing for the material needs of others as people redistributed resources in well-defined relationships. Gifts also created the obligation to reciprocate, thus creating complex social organizations.

As civilization evolved, material needs were met through impersonal means, such as market exchange, i.e. going to the store to buy milk instead of trading your wheat for your neighbor’s milk. Social structures evolved into formal arrangements such as schools, corporations and associations, and social integration was no longer a function of gift giving.

Yet, despite the original purposes of gift giving being met in other ways, gift giving remains an important part of society. Its purpose has evolved to be a form of communication from one person to another. A gift can communicate identity, values, emotions and meaning.

What does the gift you give to your spouse, your friend, your boss, or your parent say about you, him or her, and your relationship? Does it say, “I listen to your needs” or “I remember” or “you’re important to me”? Or does it say, “I have no clue what you enjoy” or “I forgot it was your birthday until I was driving over to the party”?

The next time you’re in a gift-giving situation, take a moment to ask yourself, what message is this gift sending? Does this gift reflect how I feel about this person? If not, is there something you could add to it to make it a more personal and genuine expression of your caring? Even a handwritten note to the recipient can add a whole new dimension to what your gift says to your recipient … and about you!

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Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

As soon as Easter decorations are packed away and we’re getting into the spring groove, it’s time to start thinking about Mom. Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 13 this year. (Pssst! It’s always the second Sunday in May!)

Based on our spending, we value and treasure our moms.

  • According to Hallmark, Mother’s Day is the second most popular holiday for gift giving (following Christmas) and it’s the third largest card-sending holiday in the U.S., with 133 million cards exchanged annually.
  • According to the most recent statistics available from the National Retail Federation, Mother’s Day ranks fourth on the list of overall holiday spending at $16.3 billion, just behind Valentine’s Day. (The winter holidays and back-to-school are in the top spots.)
  • The Society of American Florists reports that Mother’s Day accounts for 25 percent of the floral purchases made for holidays, giving it the second spot just behind Christmas. More than a third (35 percent) of adults bought flowers or plants as gifts for Mother’s Day 2011, with the majority of those purchases (69 percent) being fresh flowers.

This year I’ve spotted a couple of items that would be perfect Mother’s Day gifts, especially for moms with younger children. These gift ideas incorporate the children into the gift, and let them have a hand in making the gift personal and very special.

Wood Gallery Oversized Mat Frames – Available from Pottery Barn ($49-$69, in a choice of finishes. I love the idea of the oversized mat for children’s hand prints. Remove the mat from the frame and place it on a protected surface. Paint each child’s hands with acrylic craft paint (it will wash right off their hands) and help them make hand prints on the mat. (Practice on a piece of paper or cardboard first.) Allow the hand prints to dry, place a special family photo in the photo opening and re-frame the mat. Be sure to put the date on the back of the mat, or, if your handwriting is good, in the lower right hand corner of the front. Wrap and present to Mom!

No matter what you choose for Mom this year, make it hit a few elements of the perfect gift, particularly sentimental or meaningful; and make sure it’s within your spending plan!

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