FAIL-SAFE GIRL GIFTS: DAY 2

Yesterday I gave you a rundown of personalized gifts for your favorite female. Today, I’m encouraging you to go big – as in, things that won’t fit in a box. That’s right – instead of giving her a “thing,” how about getting her an experience instead? Making memories is what it’s all about, so here are some fun ways to spend her time (and yours, too).

Up in the air - If she’s always looking for ways to see things from a new perspective, how about from above? Hot air balloon rides offer an aerial view of awesomeness, especially if you take her at sunrise. For city dwellers, seek out the nearest scenic area – they likely have balloon tours. In the NY/NJ/CT area alone there are options like Above The Clouds Inc., or for a view of what upstate NY has to offer, try Adirondack Balloon Flights‘ tours of the Lake George, Adirondack and Saratoga Springs areas (full disclosure: I grew up there, the views are unparalleled, hence the bias).

However, there are three things to keep in mind if you go this route -  the first is cost. Tours start at around $169 per person for 30 minutes in a non-private basket and can go up to nearly $1000 per couple depending on duration, private rides and champagne/food inclusion.

Secondly, these rides are wind and weather permitting, so if you don’t want to wait on Mother Nature, you can always try a helicopter tour instead. Manhattan has some great options, plus she can see what the city has to offer without the shuffle of the crowds. Sites like All New York Tours offer a solid rundown of your aerial options.

Finally, take into consideration her comfort level. Once upon a time I was surprised with a particularly thoughtful hot air balloon ride, but since I am deathly afraid of heights (see? I can throw myself under the bus, too) we decided to forego the experience. Though the gesture is what really mattered (and it does score major points for romance), if the thought of soaring in an open basket terrifies her, obviously opt out.

Perfect for: Any girl, so long as she doesn’t share my fear of heights! Dating timeline appropriateness: Any – except unless you’re a baller, I can’t see dropping this much cash on someone you’re newly dating. What it says about you: I like adventure and I want to share something awe-inspiring with you (swoon).

For a more grounded experience, how about letting her learn something she’s always talked about, like a language?

Gifting her with French classes is the perfect way to say Je t’aime to your cherie this year. Also, choosing something that she wants but wouldn’t normally spring for cost-wise is always a treat.

The French Institute (Alliance Francaise) offers 11-week and 5-week intensive courses for beginners, but can cost between $315 and $585 for sessions depending on frequency. (Hey, I never said knowledge is cheap). Obviously this requires some juggling with her schedule, so if you prefer the luxury of leisure time and choosing any language, there’s always the Rosetta Stone route as well.

Perfect for: Any girl with a desire to learn and the discipline to see it through. Dating timeline appropriateness: Same as above – any, but since it’s costly let your wallet dictate how much you really like her (kidding). What it says about you: I really pay attention and respect your desire to better yourself. This proves to her that you were listening.

And finally, if you’re looking for an experience of a different kind, how about something a little unconventional, like a glass blowing class? I know, it sounds a little odd, but stay with me… The art of glass blowing is something you just have to see to appreciate, plus you come away with cool keepsakes and bragging rights that you made your wares yourself.

NYC offers some well-respected options, for instance Scanlan Glass in Brooklyn’s funky Red Hook neighborhood. Classes can be private or semi-private and are offered on weekends, but as with everything, come with a steeper price tag for privacy ($300 for a 2-hour session for 2 people, so join in!). They offer beginner and 2nd level classes, as well as boasting an impressive gallery. Check their website if this sounds like something she’d enjoy.

Perfect for: Artsy girls, or girls who just think it’s badass to play with molten fire. Dating timeline appropriateness: Any, it’s a cool experience no matter what your commitment. What it says about you: I’m creative and unique – two refreshing qualities in a man.

That’s it for Day 2 of Miss Wingman’s 12 Days of Fail-Safe Girl Gifts, but check back for more holiday options. Have an idea you’d like me to highlight? Ever received a standout gift? Share it and maybe it’ll be featured – email suggestions to misswingman@gmail.com, and keep it right here for more gift-giving wisdom.ETIQUETTE WINGMAN

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FAIL-SAFE GIRL GIFTS: DAY 1

Santa came early this year, boys. As promised, this is the inaugural post of Miss Wingman’s 12 Days of Fail-Safe Girl Gifts, where I direct your attention towards some very cool holiday options for the females in your lives. First up: personalized gifts, because you can’t go wrong with a little attention to detail.

The folks at Chocri allow you to design your own chocolate bar for the candy-loving female. Originally founded in Germany, these purveyors of chocolate-y decadence have thought of everything when it comes to customizing your candy bar to suit her unique taste bud needs. Seriously, they have real gold flakes, cayenne & chili peppers, even candied rose petals – the list goes on and on.

You can choose from over 100 toppings and elect for either white, milk, dark chocolate or a combo for the chocolate bar base, then build on from there. Chocri allows you to add up to five options per bar and has everything from nuts to exotic fruit to breakfast cereal and even wasabi. You can also write a message on her chocolate bar, and if she’s vegan they have an option for that, too. (Told you, they thought of it all).

Depending on your creation, bars rarely cost more than $15 each. They ship to the U.S., only take a few days to create (though this holiday season there is a backlog due to a spike in their popularity), and are a solid gift choice. Sweets for your sweet, how could you go wrong? Check out their website for full details, it would make Willy Wonka proud.

Perfect for: Any girl with a sweet tooth. Dating timeline appropriateness: Any – this would please a new main squeeze or a long-time love, no restrictions. What it says about you: In short, “I rock.” Also “Give me a bite!”

If simple monogramming is more your speed, emblazon something with her initials this holiday. New Soho retail addition C. Wonder offers personalized everything (and I mean everything) for the preppy fashionista in your life. The store is a Tory Burch-meets-Target-prices (ok fine, a wee bit more expensive, but still very affordable) emporium of everything from home goods to high heels. Currently they have stores only in NY and NJ, but their website covers it all.

You can choose from conventional customized pieces like alphabet mugs ($8) and wine stoppers ($22), to monogram cheese boards AND spreaders ($18) for the hostess with the most-est. They even sell a do-it-yourself cocktail napkins and coasters kit – which rocks. Or, you can just opt for the additional $10 required to stitch her initials on anything from tote bags to cardigan sweaters, in a variety of thread colors and font styles.

Even Miss Wingman likes to find this under the tree, I picked up their Goyard-esque coated canvas tote ($68) and added some personalization myself this year – stitch initialing only takes about a week to complete. If you can’t find it and monogram it in C. Wonder, it doesn’t exist. Seriously.

Perfect for: The Kate Spade-type girl, preppy women, girly girls or any female who loves to decorate her space (or her pet) – their home goods and stationary are also standouts. Dating timeline appropriateness: Any, it doesn’t take much to slap some letters on, but it goes a long way in the pizazz department (um, that is manly pizazz, obviously). What it says about you: That you care enough to add a little something extra.

If sneakers are more her style, Converse has you covered. You can customize her kicks now, too. Converse stores feature a bar where you can cherry pick everything from fabric to height to colors and laces, or you can go on their website and Create a Converse for your shoe-loving lady. With sneaker base prices ranging from $67 for plain Chuck Taylor All Stars to more expensive higher styles ($90) and leather options ($80), the geniuses behind this craze have struck gold.

Every piece of the shoe can be customized to your specifications – with solid color options, funky prints, racing stripes and even the option to “tag” her shoes with a word or phrase. Want the tongue to be plaid but the lining to be neon? Done. The possibilities are endless.

Though they, too, are backlogged for the holidays (allow 4-5 weeks for shipping for online orders), you can try to speed it up by visiting them in-store where they build shoes on-site. Not a bad way to say “I love you” or even just “I love your shoes,” if you’re not there yet.

Perfect for: Hipster girls, girls who like shoes, sporty girls or even just the female with an appreciation for the funkier things in life. Dating timeline appropriateness: It’s not pricey, but it is very specific, so unless you know her style really well this is more of a ‘later on’ gift for established relationships. What it says about you: That you respect her individuality and like to think outside the (shoe)box

Ladies, have a suggestion for my list? Ever unwrapped a particularly amazing holiday gift? Share your story, email me at misswingman@gmail.com and keep it right here for 11 more days of gift-giving wisdom. ETIQUETTE WINGMAN

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