Neiman Marcus Fantasy Gifts 2015: Santa’s Got A Brand New Douchebag

Haven’t finished your holiday shopping yet? Have an unreasonably large budget, no time to arrange a gift yourself, and a total d-bag on your shopping list? Yeah, me either, thank goodness. But for the second year in a row, we DO at least have the Neiman Marcus Fantasy Gifts to remind us that we’re better off than the people who do have those things — plus some low-budget alternatives for the rest of us.

A Motorcycle Day With Keanu Reeves and Keanu Reeves’ Friend Gard

Cost: $150,000.00

Arch Motorcyle and Ride Experience with Keanu Reeves and Gard Hollinger

First, go to breakfast with Keanu Reeves and Keanu Reeves’ friend Gard – which I’d be into, I mean I’d hit up a good brunch with John Wilkes Booth and Justin Bieber if promised bottomless mimosas. Then go on a motorcycle ride, then go to a cafe. Then take a friend to dinner and ditch Keanu. Or don’t: the man has been through a lot and I hear he’s one of the nicest celebrities. The next day, ride through a forest with Keanu like you’ve just watched the Matrix trilogy before bed and now you’re living in a weird dream. By the way, the 150K price tag does include the motorcycle.

Alternative: A set of Matrix DVDs (like $20 if Target’s running a sale); a moped rental; brunch with your most chill friend.

Couture Diary

Cost: $10,000.00

Couture Diary

I’m assuming if you’re buying this, you have the kind of friends who own a lot of couture, so good on you. All right, so the book part of this gift just seems unnecessarily complex:

  • Scandinavian calfskin cover is vegetable tanned in Scotland exclusively for bookbinding
  • All tooling is executed by hand in 24-karat gold at the Vogel Bindery in East Hampton, New York
  • Diary sheets are engraved on premium stock paper with hand-colored borders from The Printery in Oyster Bay, New York

Anyway, then someone draws 20 of your outfits on the Scandinavian cow, Scottish vegetable, Gatsby gold, Oyster paper that lives in the house that Jack built.

Alternative: Paper dolls, maybe? But couture ones.

Some Really Old Questionable Whiskey

Cost: $125,000.00

The Orphan Barrel Project

The Orphan Barrel Project, which sounds like a cool Orphan Black offshoot but isn’t, collects barrels of old whiskey from abandoned places then sells them to rich people. On this trip to Lexington, Kentucky, you hunt through an old distillery for booze like a troubled teen breaking and entering for the first time. Then you get a whiskey cabinet, some glassware, and a bunch of old liquor that I hope a health department has vetted.

Alternative: Go to your liquor cabinet, or better yet, your parents’. What’s the oldest bottle there, the one that you can’t quite remember buying? Okay, give that to a friend.

A 12-Day Journey Through The Nicest Parts Of India

Cost: $400,000.00


No shade, this sounds amazing and includes a surprising number of rides in private rickshaws, not like those gross crowded public rickshaws the poors take on their vacations to India. I’m most intrigued by kite-flying at a palace, which seems like the Neiman Marcus folks are just throwing together random wonderful things.

Alternative: A cassette tape of that one Alanis song about “thank you India” or whatever.

Going Almost To Space

Cost: $90,000.00

World View Profile

In high school, my brother and I had a coworker who went to Space Camp. My brother knew that she didn’t actually go to space, but wondered aloud whether she “maybe went up in a really high plane or something.” This is basically that: floating at 100,000 feet above Earth for a few hours. If any of you are very rich, I’d like this, please.

Alternative: A telescope; a reminder that we are but specks in a vast, unknowable, and ever-expanding universe; a Carl Sagan book.

An Art Tour Of Italy With A Jewelry Maker

Cost: $150,000.00

Italy Tour with Ippolita & Artemest Craftsmen

This trip includes more arts and crafts projects than you’d think, including playing with clay and “secret paper techniques” (which I imagine ends in you creating the world’s classiest cootie catcher). You have to go to the same glass-blowing “fornace” two days in a row, though.

Alternative: A gift card to JoAnn fabrics. Come at me if you want, I love me some JoAnn fabrics and the folksy suburban ladies I always talk to at the fabric counter.

A Trunk Full Of Iris Apfel’s Stuff

Cost: $80,000.00

Price includes a fancy trunk filled with jewelry and accessories, as well as lunch and a styling session with Iris herself.

Alternative: A copy of Iris, the Iris Apfel documentary that’s on Netflix. It’s life-affirming AF.

A Neiman Marcus Mustang

Cost: $95,000.00

Neiman Marcus Mustang

I’ve become jaded by this point, because my reaction to that price tag was “wow, only $95K?” I’d make the most darling rich person. You also get to go to racing school! Manual transmission only, soz.

Alternative: A day at the go-kart track! Everyone loves go-karts, right? Whee!!

Three Guitars

Cost: $30,000 each

Texas Trio Guitars

Steve Miller, Lyell Lovett, and Billy Gibbons all designed guitars. For a cool 30K you get one of them – not all three -as well as a backstage visit with the musician who designed it.

Alternative: Legit, you can find a guitar for like $30 on Craigslist, and something tells me it’s not too difficult to get backstage for any of these fellows if you really wanted to.

A Casket Full Of Gender Norms

Cost: $5,000

Mackenzie-Childs Trunk - Ultimate Children's Costumes

No, okay, what it really is is a custom-painted trunk for a “girl” (pink trunk, four different princess dresses) or a “boy” (primary-colored trunk, superhero costumes). It’s like those McDonald’s Barbie and Hot Wheels toys for the very rich (Stuff 90s Kids Remember: being asked if you want a “boy toy” or a “girl toy” instead of a doll or a car). If you know a girl who is into princesses, or a boy who likes Iron Man, and you have 5K to burn, this seems okay … but I still think this is some kind of bullshit.

Alternative: Dress-up clothes – one of my favorite gifts for the kids in my family! But you don’t have to be so rigid about it.



What To Buy: A Baby You Know

Welcome to What To Buy, a semi-recurring holiday gift guide feature I’m doing since I’m looking all of this stuff up anyway. It feels like all year I think of gifts that would be perfect for people, only to panic and scramble for gifts once November and December roll around. This year, I’m sharing my thoughts for anyone else in the same boat. Julie Andrews always told us to start at the very beginning, so that’s what we’re going to do … with gifts for babies, who are the beginning of people.

Something you probably know about me: I know a lot of babies. I don’t actually have one, which is great. There are a lot of people that I like hanging out with but I wouldn’t particularly want to be roommates with them, and babies fall into that category. But I think they’re really fun once they get a personality on them, and they’re some of the easiest people to buy for because they’re happy with an empty box. For gift giving purposes, we’re calling babies anything from brand new to age two or so, when they start to fall into the kid category.

For The Baby Who Loves 90s Hip Hop And Has Dreams

I Wish I Was A Little Bit Taller or I Wish I Was A Baller shirt from tribeisalive

This is my niece, Lulu. I’m obviously biased but I think she’s as cute as a bug  – and at 17 months, she’s also about as big as one. She probably does wish she was a little bit taller but you can’t blame an auntie for wanting her to stay this size forever. Also comes in I Wish I Was A Baller, and is available in onesies or – why not – adult sizes. Lu has a great Jump Up Jump Up And Get Down shirt from the same site, but it seems to be no longer in stock.  $23,

[Because you didn’t ask, my personal criteria for “clever” baby t-shirts and onesies: nothing that references the father’s fertility or the fact that babies poop and pee. Why are those so popular?]

For A Baby Who Is Cold

Knitted hat that makes them look like something other than a baby

Baby it’s cold outside … is NOT a song you should sing to a baby. Creepy song, that. But it’s also a fact of life this time of year. One of the great things about babies is you can make them wear ridiculous things and they don’t know, like the adorable hats from Melondipity. These cute knitted caps are also a good way to circumvent that whole issue of not being able to find cute boy or neutral baby clothes. $19.99,

For A Baby Who Likes Taking Things Out Of Containers And Putting Things Back In Again

Autumn Acorn Color Sorting Bowls

Autumn Acorn Color Sorting Bowls //  Wooden Bowls & Acorns // Wooden Educational Toy // Montessori // Waldorf

I know that sounds like a really specific type of baby, but if you also know a lot of babies you know what I’m talking about. I try to avoid anything that is probably full of lead paint and parabens, and if I were shopping for a sort-crazy baby this year something like this wooden set is just what I would go with. And since adults are the ones stuck with baby stuff strewn about their house, the bonus is that wooden sets like this are a lot less loud and ugly looking. $29.00, Simple Gift Toys on Etsy.

For The Baby Who’s Working On That Walking Thing

Plan Toys Push Toy

PlanToys® Push Toy Storage Capacity

During that wobbly stage, toddlers are so much happier to walk when they’re pushing something. This van is adorable and leaves storage space for kids to take a stuffed animal or two along for the ride. It’s also non-babyish enough that I could see it getting worked into pretend play into the early childhood years. $60.99,

For The Baby With A Crafty Gift-Giver And A Blank Bedroom Wall

DIY Name Sign

Not at all sorry for bombarding you with my Lu. My sister-in-law made this for her own baby’s room, but it would be a great gift, too. Use scrapbook paper and mod-podge to cover wooden letters, available at most craft stores, and accent with flowers or balloons, also in the scrapbook section. It’s a thoughtful, fun gift that will ensure that the baby you know never forgets who they are (as soon as they learn how to read.) $10 – 30 for supplies, JoAnn Fabrics or Michaels.


For The Baby Who’s Growing Teeth In Its Mouth

Josephine Mouse

Chances are, the baby you know already has a Sophie the Giraffe – but do they have Sophie’s friend Josephine yet? A few parents have raised choking concerns about Sophie’s long neck, although looking at the toy and the babies I know, it just doesn’t seem possible. But if you’re concerned, you might like the mouse’s rounder shape. $16.10,

For The Baby Who Still Has A Lot Of Growing To Do

Set Of 30 Milestone Baby Cards

Milestone cards

It can be hard to document all of a baby’s firsts. If you know parents who aren’t painstakingly writing every moment in a baby book, they probably still have time to bust out the camera phone when baby does something new. These milestone cards provide a space to put the date the baby hit those big milestones, like smiling and saying mama. Parents can just write the date on the card, prop the card up next to the baby, and snap a photo. Instant, easy baby book. $24.59 for a set of 30,

For The Baby Who’s Sleepy

Constellation projecting turtle light



The soft light from this projector will create a peaceful glow in the baby’s room … and make parents 50% less likely to stub their toes walking into a dark room in the middle of the night. Win-win. $34.95,

For The Musical Baby

Baby Instruments


Instruments aren’t just great for a baby’s burgeoning musical abilities, they also help teach cause and effect. Pro tip: go for the non-electric ones that are baby, rather than battery, powered. The parents will thank you. $19.93,

For The Baby Who Likes A Good Story

Baby Lit books

Pride & Prejudice

I have bought these for so many babies, and they always get a great response. No baby is too young to get drawn into the Bingley v. Wickham v. Darcy debate. Other titles include Sherlock, Wuthering Heights, Moby-Dick, and many more. If you’re a lit nerd trying to get your favorite babies on board – guilty! – these are just the ticket. $9.99,


Subscription Boxes That Should Probably Exist

Subscription boxes are the way to go if you’re a lazy or indecisive gift-giver. Instead of picking one gift – that the person may or may not like – you pick a theme or service they’ll be into, and let someone else handle the specifics. If they don’t like what comes in their box one month, it’s not on you – and they get something else next month, anyway. But it’s not as easy a gift as you might think, because there are about 49,000 different subscription box companies right now. Still, I thought of a few that – to my knowledge – don’t exist yet. But they should.


Every month, recipients get a box full of items sure to spark nostalgia. Here’s how it works: you give the company your gender and date of birth. That’s it. Let’s say you’re a lady born in 1986, because hey, that seems like a good year to be born in. One month you’d get a 1995 box. It would have pogs, a copy of Disney Adventures magazine, maybe a Deep Blue Something single. One month would be the Year 2000 box, and your 1986-er would get Y2K glasses, a set of butterfly clips, perhaps a stretchy tattoo choker. But someone who was born in 1995 (and is thus old enough to order things with a credit card, sorry ’86 babies) would get an entirely different box for the year 2000, because they were 5 then: a miniature Bratz doll and a Junie B. Jones book, for instance.

Nobody steal this one, because if I had the start-up capital I would totally do this.


This one takes a bit of trust with your most personal of personal information – your Google history. You’d give the company access to your Google search history for the month (already accessing your Google search history: every company on the internet, probably, so what’s there to lose?). They will stock your box with personally-selected treasures relating to the stuff you’re obviously obsessed with, even if you’ve been keeping it between you and Google. Did you fall down a Google hole looking at unsolved cold cases? Voila – a bunch of true crime books!  Or maybe you’ve been sucked into the crafty mommy blogger vortex. You’d receive a twee apron and some craft supplies.


After either listing your favorite blogs (aww, you shouldn’t have!) or filling out a profile of what sort of things you’re into, every month you get a bound, printed collection of the best posts so that you can read them on paper like a civilized human from yesteryear. Face it, blog content is better than magazines half the time anyway. So, sort of like Rookie Yearbook, but from a bunch of different sites and not imbued with the magic of Tavi. I understand that all of this content is free online, but the whole crux of subscription boxes is curating and delivering items to subscribers and marking up the price. Oh, and giving it a stupid, cutesy name with a suffix like -ly or -ity or -sy.


What’s better than owning a dog? Borrowing a puppy! They’d obviously have to do some sort of a background check on you. Then every month, you get a new puppy fitting your household needs! This would be a tie-in with a pet fostering organization, and it’s win-win: they get people to foster their pups, you get to play with a tiny dog for a month, no strings attached. Of course, if you and the puppy become best friends forever, there’s an option to make the dog part of your forever family at the end of the month.


Do you have trouble looking your cashier in the eye when you’re buying anything a little … you know, personal? Well we live in the internet age, and you don’t have to! It works like this. If you have any chronic embarrassing shopping needs, you can say that in your profile. Maybe you need to buy stool softener or pregnancy tests every month. It’s none of my business. You can have them shipped right to you! If you don’t have anything particular in mind, you can have an assortment of potentially embarrassing purchases shipped to you every month so that you never have to run out to the store at the last minute for lice shampoo or industrial-strength deodorant.


Hooked on Pinterest? Give this company access to your boards, and every month you’ll get the materials to make a few of the projects that you – let’s be honest – otherwise would have pinned then left to languish. You can even request items relating to specific boards if you need someone to light a fire under your butt to create a Pinterest-perfect wedding or nursery.

Let’s Make Black Friday Nicer For Everybody

The turkey coma has worn off, the stretchy leggings have come on, and another Thanksgiving is in the books. The Christmas season is officially upon us, and you know what that means: buying stuff. Last year we served up some fun alternatives to Black Friday chaos – for instance, t.v. binges: Orphan Black Friday or Orange Is The New Black Friday, anyone? Today, we’d like to introduce you to some Black Friday options for anyone who’s weary of consumer culture, capitalist mayhem, or just crowds of people in general. And if this is the day for you to do your holiday shopping, then we have included a few ways you can help make this day a little nicer for everyone, too.

Don’t Buy Anything

Buy Nothing Day is a protest of consumerism. Some groups call it Occupy Xmas, but that feels a little Grinch-y. Some people participate by just not shopping on Black Friday. Others engage in demonstrations like cutting up credit cards, staging “zombie walks” in malls, or organizing fun, non-shopping events on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

My take on it: if you’re not changing your buying habits (buying less, supporting local vendors, or avoiding credit card spending, for instance), it isn’t going to make a lick of difference if you choose not to go out on Black Friday. And if you’re engaging in some kind of public shopping protest, all you’re doing is gunking up the walkways of already-crowded shopping centers, which isn’t going to make people want to hear your point of view: it’s going to make them hate you. But I’m all for organizing non-shopping community activities on a day when kids are off from school and many of us are lucky enough to have off from work!

Support Kinder, More Sustainable Shopping

Note: while these shopping events are scheduled on particular days, these are great ways to shop at any time during the Christmas season!

Small Business Saturday: on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, support smaller, local vendors. Many of them participate with special deals or longer hours. You can find participants by checking out the map on the Small Business Saturday website or looking for the “shop small” sign in their windows. Or, you can check out the hashtags #SmallBizSat and #ShopSmall. Instead of lining the pockets of the head muckety-mucks of chain stores, shopping local helps people in your community pay their mortgages and send their kids to school.

Handmade Monday: You might be thinking that even if you shop local, most of the goods they sell are still made by giant corporations. Enter Handmade Monday. The Monday before Thanksgiving, many Etsy shops offered coupon codes and sales. But you can still make next Monday your personal Handmade Monday! It’s the best way to find unique gifts for hard-to-shop-for relatives. You can hit up your local artisans and markets, or head over to Etsy where you never have to find parking or stand in lines with humans.

Fair Tuesday: Support ethical shopping by buying fair trade items. Follow the #FairTuesday hashtag, visit the Fair Tuesday website for participants, or check out the movement on Facebook.  If every Black Friday shopper supported Fair Tuesday instead, $1.15 billion would go to fair trade workers. And when you support workers, you support their families and communities, too.

Thrifty Thursday: Not a real thing. But shopping second-hand is green, has no negative impact on the developing world, and often generates revenue that will be used in your community. Poke around Goodwill, Volunteers of America, or another charity shop. You can find records for your vinyl-philes, first edition books for readers, or supplies to upcycle into an art project.

Give Stuff To People Who Aren’t Your Family and Friends

A lot of folks complain that generosity spikes during the warm-fuzzy Christmas season, then plummets the rest of the year. And that’s probably true. But if you feel compelled to reach out to the less fortunate this time of year, it can never hurt to do it. Millions of people giving to others every year – even if it’s always in December? I’ll take it!

You can make a lot of these donations online, so this Black Friday you can kick back on the couch with some leftover pumpkin pie, do some good, and satisfy your urge to shop without having to deal with parking lots or consumer guilt.

Education: Education is everything. It’s the opportunity for employment. It’s critical literacy – the ability to process and criticize what you are told. It improves health outcomes and a community’s entire economy. If you give to one cause this season, I’d recommend education. There are many charities to choose from and if you search around, you can find something that speaks to you.

My personal plug would be for the Enlace Project. They do a lot of great things, but you can specify that your money go to their education program. The first day I walked into a classroom in Nicaragua to teach English, a little girl stuck out her hand and – in English – said “Pleased to meet you, my name is Mary Jo.” Maria Jose made my heart grow three sizes and now I’m walking around with this messy, overfilled water balloon of a heart.

Toys: It makes sense that people donate toys at Christmas. For one thing, a lot of us are already buying toys for kids in our families. For another, it’s tangible – this item I’m holding is going to make a child’s Christmas better. Toys For Tots is probably the most popular donation point, but a nearby children’s hospital, Ronald McDonald house, or prison may be running a drive as well.

Toiletries: Clear out last year’s unopened shower gel/lotion gift sets before this year’s comes in. Many charities need un-fun, unopened donations like shampoo, razors and hand sanitizer. I volunteer at a refugee center and we gladly accept all of these, as will many youth centers, domestic violence shelters, and homeless shelters. Ask first so that you don’t donate anything that’s unneeded.

Time: This can be the WORST time of year to start a volunteer program. “I can show up on Mondays, but not next Monday, my son has a school concert, and the one after that is my office holiday party, and then there’s a baking party with my church group the one after that…” It’s just busy now. But if you’re farting around on the internet on Black Friday, it’s the perfect time to see what local charities could use your particular skill set, then make plans to start in the new year.

Funding: Microloans and microfinancing works. Although it might make more economic sense to donate to a microloan org and let them disperse the funds as needed, many organizations let you choose the recipient. Since this feels more personal and you have more control over where your money goes, more people donate – so it’s really a good system. Kiva is a good starting point. If you’re relaxing with family and friends today, surf around the website and see if you can find something you can all agree to help fund.

If you must shop

Whether it’s tradition, an incredible sale on one of the items on your list, or a need to get all your shopping done in one go, sometimes you end up out with the masses on Black Friday. I don’t think anyone who reads here needs advice on how to be nice while shopping – I just don’t think the “I need to speak to your manager” type comes around here, really? But there are some extra little ways you can spread some holiday cheer to workers whose feet and hands and eyes are probably exhausted:

  • Say hello, goodbye, and thank you. So small but so important.
  • But, you know, keep it moving. The 19-year-old college student facing down a line 50-deep does not need to hear that you can’t believe you found the one Monster High doll that your daughter’s been looking for, etc.
  • Don’t get up there and complain about the line. You were waiting in it, but your cashier was ringing up everyone in it. They know.
  • If you’re behind an a-hole customer in line (is it just me who always gets stuck near one of these people?) at the very least, give the cashier one of those sympathetic eye-rolls when you get to the register.
  • Don’t make a mess. Put things back where they go. If you come across some abandoned merch, put it back if you’re going in that direction even if it isn’t your mess.
  • Return your cart. Return a loose cart, too.
  • Get the name of a worker who was really helpful or cheerful or hardworking, and on a less-busy day, put a word in for them with their manager.