Gift Ideas for Adults
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Gift Ideas for Adults
I grew up in another country and I am trying to learn what is
culturally appropriate in the US. I was invited to a birthday party
for a male colleague who I really respect, and would like to know what
is appropriate to bring as a birthday gift. I understand it might be
different from what we used to do where I grew up. I am a female,
most of my colleagues are males, we all are physicians. Is it
appropriate to bring a gift card for a store or restaurant? For what
amount of money? I do not know the taste of the birthday person very
well and I have never been on a birthday party of a male
colleague. What to buy for a 45 or so years old man? Your suggestions
would be greatly appreciated
Some gifts that are might be appropriate for an adult you
don't know well:
A house plant
A fruit basket
A couple of jars are nice jam wrapped together
A nice bottle of wine (if he is a wine drinker)
If he is someone you work with, a small gift related to work
is also appropriate:
A fancy clipboard
A canister to hold pens, etc.
If the event is at his home, it is also polite to ask if you
can bring anything, like dessert or other dish or beverage.
(This is not necessary if the event is at a restaurant or
Gifts are hard
You sound like a very kind and considerate person who anyone
would enjoy having as a colleague! What I would do is talk
to another female colleague and tell her exactly what you
wrote in your query----you'd like to bring something but you
don't know what is appropriate. Ask her (and maybe another
female colleague as well) what they would do (or will do) in
such a situation. I think that, for example, a really nice
bottle of wine could be an appropriate gift if you can find
out whether he prefers red or white. Go to a wine store and
ask someone there to suggest a good $25.00 bottle. Or a
bottle of champagne. With a nice card, of course. If your
female colleagues know what his hobbies are, you could think
about a gift card although that may be a little awkward in
terms of the amount. Is there an author you love who has a
new book out? A new book could be nice if he likes to read.
Men are harder to buy for anyway so it's not as easy as a
female colleague but i'd keep it on that level---wine or a
book---something he'd enjoy but not too personal (like
cologne). I know how it feels to be foreign and not know
the expectations; my experience is that being honest with
others and asking their advice is the best way to go. Hope
you enjoy the party!!!!
In a work setting, IF a present is given, it is often a
group present. Everyone donates and one person colects the
funds and buys a gift. Ask around to see if a group gift is
planned. If not, tell a trusted co-worker your situation
(from another culture, need help understanding the norm
here) and ask what is typically done in your particular work
setting. Each oiffice is different. If all else fails, a
$25 to $40 bottle of wine in a gift might work, if they drink.
I recently relocated too. I actually used a coach who
specializes in Life Transition Coaching. It was a wonderful
experience and she supported and assisted me in positive
ways. I am very happy with my move and I am very happy with
my new locattion. Please feel free to contact me if you'd
like to talk more about any of this.
I would NOT give a gift card -- I think that is not
appropriate for a colleague (for a subordinate or your
niece, yes). I don't think gifts are expected, but you
should bring something, like a bottle of wine. I wouldn't
spend more than $40 since you don't know him very well. It
tends to make people uncomfortable if you are not good
friends and you get something too extravagent. But then
again, you may want to ask your other colleagues what they
are bringing. Have fun!
A book! You can leave the gift receipt inside so that he can
always exchange it. I think any book by Atul Gawande would
be a great idea for a doctor.
Anyone have suggestions for an original gift for a dad who
insists on nothing major, does NOT want a big party (we are
going to respect this and just do family BBQ), and really is
somewhat of an introvert so doesn't have a lot of his own
friends, outside of my mom. Just want to do something a little
special in addition to our family BBQ.
For my father's 70th birthday, I got a very nice looking blank journal and
took it to a
family event. I got all of his sisters and brothers still living and as
many nieces and
nephews to sign it with birthday wishes and special notes. They all lived
different part of the country from him and so he only saw them maybe once
or so. They loved being asked to do it, and he loved the gift. Other
memory books I have seen done ask people to send photos and/or notes and
you assemble them into a journal. For my father-in-law's 80th we bought a
mat and had the family sign in, then we took a family picture at the party
and got it
framed with the mat. These are all fairly simple, not expensive, but
personal and special. People might not need or want another ''thing'' but
want to know how much they are loved and have something to remember people
For my parents 50th wedding anniversary, we hired a professional
photographer and had the whole family pose for a formal portrait.
It was their idea and the only gift they wanted. They hung it in
the front hallway of their home where they could see it every day
and show it off to friends and family.
How about hiring a photographer to come out to the BBQ and do a
family portrait? My in-laws are hard to shop for, and they loved
this as a 40th anniversary present!
For one of my mom's major birthdays, we contacted everyone we
could think of to write something to or about her. Memories,
funny stories, how she had influenced them, etc. Then we bound
them all into a book with a nice cover. She cherished this, and
it wasn't a lot of work for anyone.
Something personal, like going through old family photos and
putting together an album, or creating a video with music and a
slideshow type presentation would be a couple of ideas you might
consider. I did a dvd slideshow with 60's music for a school
reunion of my very alternative 60's private school (I got alumni,
teachers and parents to send me photos) - it was a huge hit. Good
I've never given this, but I've read about a 'journal jar.' You
find an attractive vessel and fill it with fortune size slips
of paper with questions on it that allow the recipient to share
their past/family history. You can provide a beautiful empty
book and pen, or promise to bind the wordprocessed results.
Questions range from ''How did your parents meet?'' to ''Who was
your best friend when you were nine?'' etc. If you attribute the
questions that kids think up it can give the writer
an 'audience' which may help them let go and write. Another
idea is to have family members decorate a platter or set of
dishes at a ceramic studio, or to have them decorate quilt
squares and produce a wallhanging or quilt. The latter get the
kids involved which can be touching even for those who 'don't
want a fuss.'
How about something personal that lets him know how much he means
to you? Maybe a scrapbook of family photos through the years with
various family members writing in captions of special memories;
or a video where family members tell favorite ''dad'' stories; or a
slide show (high tech or low tech) with live or recorded
narration. Or if your family isn't into media, just a collection
of stories, best wishes and family jokes could work. This could
be as simple as asking each family member to contribute one
favorite memory and putting them all together. Have a great party!
We took our mother for a weekend at The Homestead Hotel in VA
(that is where she lives). It's very upscale and has wonderful
amenities. It was just two nights and we had a wonderful
birthday dinner celebration and then during the day we took her
for a falconry experience, high tea and a swim in the natural
spring pools. It was low key which she wanted but she was
thrilled to also be treated like a princess.
It depends on what kind of a man your father is. A once in a
lifetime experience, such as the above stated falconry, was
truly amazing! That is one suggestion, but there are other
things you could find with a little imagination. Unless you
really want to go more low key.....
if he is a grandfather, get a pitcher or a serving dish and
have all the grandkids do hand prints in different colors with
their names and ages and then fire and glaze it. You can do
this at any of the pottery art places all over the place. It's
simple, yet nostalgic and sentimental.
How about a donation to a good cause-like to help people in
Darfur. We have so much in this country, and that would mean
something to someone else as well.
I just ordered pillowcases with my kids photos on them and they
are the cutest darn things. You could take a group family
photo and have it put on a pillow case for about $20 at
kodakgallery.com. It sounds weird, but when I put the cases on
and put the pillows on my bed I laughed so hard. It was
hilarious to see my kids huge, smiling faces staring back at
me. I thought it would be a great gift. Maybe your dad would
A in Alameda
I would highly recommend making him a photo book on Shutterfly. If you
pictures, either old or recent, and you can upload them from your digital
computer onto the Shutterfly website, the rest is really fun and easy.
Choose a nice,
maybe leatherbound photo book where you can pick and choose which pictures
want, in any order. You decide how many pictures go on each page, and can
write text also, if you like. I've made many photo books for many people
in the past
few years, for all different occasions, and people LOVE LOVE LOVE getting
heirloom-type, very personalized gift.
For his 80th, my father-in-law was completely tickled by a gift
of a DNA analysis! He's always been somewhat obsessed by family
history and frustrated that he couldn't trace his paternal line
beyond 4 generations. So I arranged for a DNA kit from Family
Tree DNA, www.familytreedna.com. Since all four of his kids
chipped in, we went for testing both maternal and paternal lines,
with the maximal number of genetic markers, for $489 (''YDNA67 &
MtDNAPlus''), but you could just do a minimal number of markers
from either line for about $129.
The results assign him to an ancestral ''haplogroup''. My
father-in-law was happy to find that his recent paternal origins
pointed to Scotland, as suspected, and before that a likelihood
of Viking origin. So he's running around in kilt and helmet...
Another option is to join the National Geographic ''Genographic
Project'' http://www.nationalgeographic.com/genographic. For $99,
your father would have his Y-DNA tested (the minimal number of
markers, 12), and also get a DVD, map and other goodies. If the
results are intriguing, he can pay a fee to bring his data over
to the Family Tree DNA project (which uses the same lab) and have
more Y-DNA markers tested, and/or his maternal line.
For my father-in-law, this was a particularly meaningful, if
somewhat poignant gift, making him feeling connected to his
ancestry and to history. Unfortunately he has yet to find close
genetic relations who share his last name, thus solving his
genealogical dead end. On the other hand, my brother's results
yielded distant cousins in Switzerland, confirming our family
If your father is curious about more than just his paternal or
maternal line, but wants some clue as to what his particular
''mix'' is....such as wanting to check out a family story that his
mother's paternal grandfather was Cherokee, or that his father's
maternal ancestry is from Ghana, both of which would not be found
in his Y-DNA or mtDNA, since these are zig-zag branches (male to
female to male, etc)...you could order an ''autosomal DNA'' test
from DNATribes, AncestrybyDNA or FamilyTreeDNA. These are
purported to give you some indication of genetic ''admixture'',
comparing the results with world populations. There is some
controversy about the reliability of these results but it's fun
to speculate. You can also hone in on specific areas of origin
for European or African DNA through sub-tests at AncestrybyDNA or
If you choose to do this and have any questions about
interpreting the results or taking it further, feel free to
contact me - with the caution that I do this strictly as an
amateur and am not a genetic genealogist by training.
Natasha Beery email@example.com
My father is turning 80 in October, so we were going through
the same problem; he is adamant about not receiving ''things''
and never wants my brother and I to spend money.
So I decided that we all, including the grandkids, would put
together a booklet called ''Why We're Glad You Were Born.'' It's
just a jumble of the meaningful as well as the silly, ie: ''You
taught me how to whistle,'' ''You were a role model in what to
look for in a husband,'' etc.
Basically, it was when I started thinking about how old he's
getting and that he might be gone soon, and all the things you
say in appreciation at a funeral. Why not tell him now?
We are going to have it printed up and (inexpensively) bound.
We know for sure he's going to love it and bawl like a baby!
Happy birthday to your dad, too
My husband who is in his 80b80>Special gift for my mom's 80th birthdays was recently given a subscription to The New
Yorker. I donb80>Special gift for my mom's 80th birthdayt know when he has enjoyed a gift so much. When it comes, he
immediately looks at the cartoons, the political columns, etc. If your
some specific interests, see if there is a magazine he might really like &
him a subscription to it. If he likes movies at home get him a
something good like Netflix. We donb80>Special gift for my mom's 80th birthdayt have much time to watch TV, but have
many friends who love being able to pick out exactely what they want. You
could also (depending on what you want to spend) get your parents gift
certificates to restaurants they have wanted to try. That is always fun.
getting a gift that works over a period of time, you all extend the fun of
your dad a special gift.
My sister just gave my stepfather the full length New York
Times from the day he was born for his 70th birthday. It was a
great present...quite fun to look at all the ads and the costs
of various things. She found it on
If your dad is anything like mine, he is a tough one to get gifts
for. I'm thinking of getting mine a digital frame that i can
load with photos of his grandkids etc. You transfer photos onto
a card and into the frame, and he has a slide show without
having to do anything; it's good even if he's computer
illiterate. They seem to range from $90 to a few hundred (search
google or amazon for 'digital frames'), depending on the size,
memory and features. Then i'll be able to change his slideshow
when i visit.
Well, this may not be original, but it worked for my father,
who also said ''I don't want anything!'' when he recently turned
70. My sister and I made $70 donations to two or three
different organizations that we knew he cared about. He liked
this a lot.
Good luck and happy birthday to your father!
Sometimes a special outing is a great gift. Is your Dad a
veteran or a history buff? The USS Hornet in Alameda (WW II
aircraft carrier) is a historic landmark. They have an Apollo I
exhibit there too. We've taken my Dad there twice and it's
filled with historic exhibits. A real treat to have someone who
lived through these things give you their perspective.
Does he like model railroads or trains? Walnut Creek has a
great model railroad exhibit and the steam trains at Tilden
Park are very low key and fun, and you can do a picnic there
Does he like classic cars? The Blackhawk Auto Museum has an
amazing collection and there are some great restarants just
steps away. Also it's totally indoors, handicap accessable (if
he's not in the best of health) air conditioned and you can be
in and out in a couple of hours. Maybe brainstorm with your mom
on some old hobbies or interests of his and plan a special day.
How about a photo album or a scrapbook that collects family and
other memories and milestones from over the years? You can do
it the old-fashioned way (cut and paste) or use an online
service (snapfish.com is one of many out there) to which you
upload photos and create an album or scrapbook that the service
then prints and binds for you.
Or, put together a slideshow of photos on CD. It can be very
basic or you can add music and captions. Even more high-tech?
Have someone put together old home movies and more current video.
Okay, maybe this is not the most original idea in the world, but how about
photo in a nice frame? If the family will be together for the BBQ, you
could hire a
photographer to come there and get a portrait of all of you, or you could
everyone go to one of those Sears/JCPenney/PicturePeople type studios.
with just you and your siblings, or one with you, your siblings, spouses
together, or get your mom & dad in the portrait too if it doesn't have to
Another photo-related idea is to put together a nice photo album or have
videos consolidated into something that he might enjoy watching.
I heard about a unique idea for a b-day gift/party for someone
that has everything. Instead of a party, organize a service day
with close family and friends doing something in honor of Dad for
a cause that he cares about (e.g. cleaning up a park, serving
meals at a shelter, planting trees, etc.) I thought it was a
cool idea and I am considering organizing something similar for
my dad's upcoming 60th b-day.
Good luck with whatever you decide to do. I'm sure he will
appreciate it as it is the thought that matters.
In reading between the lines I recognized that you and I have
someting in common re: gifts and fathers, so wanted to respond.
There are surpise-loving gift givers like you and me, and there
are people who simply want what they want, like our fathers.
Your father doesn't want a big party, and hasn't asked for any
gift. He probably has recognized the gift he has already, his
family and the time they spend with him. Relish it as he
does. As an idea, simply ensuring everyone gives him a big hig
and spends three minutes talking to him alone may be the best
gift he could want.
My Dad is my best friend. He is active, many friends, and
loves his grandchildren! He turns 75 in two days. He'll be
pretty much alone though, and no party. My Mom has to go
overseas this week to watch over her dying brother (a priest,
himself alone). Earlier this summer I had tried to plan a
party for my Dad, but my Mom counseled against it. The BDays
don't mean so much to them now, and tomorrow is the 20th
anniversary of the death of my brother, a painful reminder of
time. I only wish we could have a small family BBQ! Enjoy the
time with your Dad, and pay attention to his joy.
We hired a professional photographer to come for my Dad's 75th just to take one
photo of the entire group. We had a large print made and framed and my father
I would like to give my mother a special gift this fall to
celebrate her 80th birthday. She has hinted broadly that her
preferred gift would be for me to plan and host a large
'surprise' party for her, but my financial circumstances (we live
on one moderate income), parental resonsibilities (I have a
toddler and a preschooler), and geographic issues (she lives in
SoCal) make that impossible. I know that she'll be disappointed
by this. After reading responses to an earlier BPN posting, I
considered having a quilt made from pieces of fabric that I would
provide to her friends and ask them to decorate in a way that
symbolized their relationship with her. But she has been
depressed since my father's death seven years ago, and I'm
worried that having this quilt would only deepen her depression
each time one of those friends passes away. I'm wondering whether
anyone in the large and thoughtful BPN community has other ideas
for a gift that can celebrate this important milestone without
reminding her of the painful losses she has incurred along the
way. (And yes, I have urged her many times to seek therapy for
her depression, but so far to no avail.)
I don't know how big your family is, but one nice thing might be to get the
children, grandchildren, brothers, sisters, friends, etc. to make a video
that you can present to her at a nice, but intimate, dinner party, and then
all watch together. A good friend of mine did this for her mother. In their
case, there were several grandchildren, ranging in age from 7 to 20, and
with the help of their parents, each grandchild produced a segment
(cute, idiosyncratic mini-skits). These were then edited together and
capped with a final scene where they all wish her a happy birthday and
blow her a kiss. The nice thing about it was it gave her a sense of the
future, what she's given to the world, and how much she is loved. If there
aren't enough grandchildren, I think the same thing can be
accomplished with other members of the family, and friends. It was a
huge success, with grandma and everyone laughing and crying at the
same time. Everyone ended up wanting copies for themselves...
hoping this helps
My mother just had her 80th birthday. She lives in central
California, and like you, it wasn't practical financially or
timewise for me to go there and host a party with her friends.
Instead, I asked her to come visit me and I invited some of my
friends for a circle honoring her. I had a piece of bamboo I'd
cut years ago that had a lot of character to use as a staff and
I asked everyone to bring something small to tie on the staff.
We decorated a comfortable chair for her - she was a bit shy at
first to be the center of attention, but she relaxed and got
into it. Each person tied their gift onto the staff with
ribbons and yarn and shared what they appreciated about her or
what they wished for her. It was really very simple, but
beautiful and she did feel honored. The staff was a magical
creation that held all these well wishes. She told some
wonderful stories about her life -- stories I'd never heard --
and her granddaughter videotaped. Afterwards, we shared a
potluck meal. My friend hosted us because my home is very
small. I was amazed to see how something so simple could lead
to interactions very deep and loving. Good luck in creating
something meaningful your mother. It can be simple and doesn't
have to cost a lot. My friends were grateful to have the
opportunity to honor my mother with me and get to know her
Are you sure it is really impossible to give your mom a party? You don't
have to break the bank to give her what she wants. She is clearly
depressed and at 80, you don't know how many opportunities you'll
have to make her that happy. I don't want to make you feel bad, but if
you can phone friends and family who live near her and arrange an
informal potluck at one of their houses, it wouldn't have to take too much
effort and it would be priceless for her. She's saying that's what she
wants for her ''special present''; I would just find a way to make it
happen. At her age, she doesn't want any more stuff, no matter how
personal. She just wants the ones she loves around her making her feel
special. As for your little ones, let them know you're working on a
birthday party for grandma! They need to learn now how important it is to
make the people in their lives feel truly loved.
-- Wish I still had parents to celebrate with
If my 80 year old mother wanted a party for her birthday, I would
do it no matter what, but I think you're thinking it has to be
fancy, when it doesn't. It's really not that expensive to rent a
place for an evening, there are community centers that rent space
out (off the top of my head, try Live Oak Park, El Cerrito
community center, for starters), and if you had a potluck, while
you provide some food, drinks (non-alcoholic is fine), and a
beautiful cake, while friends/family bring other dishes to share
your mother would have a lovely party. Decorations can come
very cheap via Paper Outlet on San Pablo Ave in Berkeley, and you
can get lots of inexpensive drinks, etc. at Grocery Outlet. It
doesn't have to be fancy, it just has to be a commemoration of
your mother's long life!
Alternatively, you could have a wonderful picnic party at one of
our local parks -- Again, Live Oak, Tilden Park (call them to
reserve space), Ohlone Park, Rose Street Park -- those are in
Berkeley, but surely you could find a nice park to take a picnic
near you or your mom. Again, you could do potluck, or just make
it very simple.
I helped my son cater an appetizers-only event for 100 + people,
and we did it for around $300 -- and that was FANCY stuff -- If
you only invite 25 - 50 people you could do simple finger type
foods which wouldn't cost that much.
A couple of ideas for gifts (your quilt idea is great, but having
been a part of one of those ''gifts'', I'd say no thanks! I hated
having to design a quilt patch, and ended up hiring someone else
to do it for me - which was expensive. I had NO idea what the
heck I was supposed to do!)
Have people bring a written poem story, memory, or something
about your mother or her life to the party and have them bound
into a book. At the party, each person (or those who wish to),
could share the piece they've written by reading it aloud.
Create a photo collage of older and recent photos that she can
hang on her wall.
Your mother is only 80 once, and you don't know how much longer
she'll be here. If she wants a party, please, have a party for
her! It doesn't have to be fancy, and you don't have to have
catered food, and you don't have to invited the hundreds of
people she probably knows. Make is festive, make it personal, and
most of all, make it for her. You'll both appreciate it.
If you do pursue the party, and would like some ideas for
relatively simple food for a nice party, please email me. I've
got many ideas that have worked well for parties on a budget.
My psychologist sister 50th birthday is coming up and I'm
stumped for a gift. She concentrates professionally on
holocaust victims and is a talented singer. She also resides
overseas so that a smaller item is preferable.
Any ideas would be muchly appreciated!
How about an MP3 player with lots of memory? You would have to
find out what kind of computer she has. Maybe it's just because I want
one, but I think these gadgets are one of the neatest things. They are
extremely small and light and can hold an enormous amount of music
which one can listen to anywhere.
If your sister is a singer (as I am), she will no doubt enjoy
receiving a CD of other wonderful singers that she is not
familiar with. Someone once gave me an Eva Cassidy CD and now
I own the entire collection. Eva died of cancer at a young age
(early 30s?) and never signed a recording contract. However,
her parents found her home recordings and released them after
she died. She became more successful after her death than
anyone could have imagined and her voice is like an angel. If
you don't want to go with one artist, you could also make your
sister a collection and create the cover art yourself with
simple tools on your home computer. It's a nice gift, because
it will be homemade and something you took time to do, as well
as something that will touch her musician's spirit.
I just turned 50 and the present I wanted was a nice dinner
out with my family. This sounds dorky but it was special, and
something I can remember for a long time. My college kid came home
for the weekend, the kids put on dressy clothes that they would not
wear under any other circumstances, and we all went to Chez Panisse
downstairs on a weekend night. Everyone was on their best behavior.
It was great!
Signed, I don't look 50 so I'm not giving my name!
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