Thursday, January 29, 2009

From Here to Gourmeternity

Sorry I didn't post for a day or two. I'm also job searching and writing, don't forget. Recently, someone on one of the boards I'm on wanted some suggestions for good local places that do higher end gourmet gift baskets. I thought I would share my top 7 list with all of you.

1) Manhattan Fruitier is great. They have all kinds of baskets, but are most known for their dried fruit assortments.

2) If you want to do a cheese related basket, check out my very first post that listed 3 local places you can go.

3) Baked It Myself does amazing dessert/sweet gift baskets and also does catering. I'm pretty sure they can custom do anything you want from the experiences I have had with them. Everything I have ever tasted from them has been delicious.

4) Another option if you want to go the sweet route is Big Sugar Bakeshop (look under gifts and then gift baskets). The last celeb I worked for wanted to give thank you gifts to some famous friends who donated their time to record poems for a book he did and we did gifts from here that people adored.

5) Leave An Impression does some unique gourmet baskets.

6) You can't go wrong with Wally's . They have an amazing selection of wines and also do all sorts of baskets. Almost every celeb I have worked for has used them at one time or another for gifts and to stock up for parties.

7) Star Treatment has been around for quite some time and does all kinds of gifts including gourmet gift baskets. They are utilized by a ton of studios and celebs, but they are super friendly and you can really do gifts in almost any price range.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Things that make you go MMMMM

I do seem a bit fixated on the food gifts lately, but I get asked about them all the time and there are so many great and unusual things you can send now that I want to spread the word about some of the more interesting stuff.

One site that has tons of special things for the real foodie in your life is the Grateful Palate. One item from them that is a bit strange, but very popular is their Bacon Brittle (yes, I did say bacon brittle and no I have not lost my mind). For the person in your life obsessed with wine and/or coffee they do an incredibly unique thing that people have really responded to - they have well known winemakers come in and create a blend of coffee with their in house roaster. Right now they have five different blends and they aren't that expensive. You will not find this anywhere else and it is one of those things that is great to get for that person who has everything else already. If you can't decide what to pick, they have gift certificates.

In the last few years the combo of sweet and savory has really come into the mainstream. One company that has become even more popular because of this is Fran's Chocolates. Their signature item is salted caramels (caramel, chocolate and sea salt). It sounds odd, but they are really good if you like that combo of flavors. They have been featured in the New York Times and Obama is a fan of their chocolates.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Should Babies Really Be So Hard To Shop For ??

One thing I get asked about often is baby gifts. People always want to find something special and inventive to give. I tend to go either very classic for a baby gift or something super unique, but hardly ever in the middle. Here's a few of my favorites:

A Tiffany ratttle is always a classic choice. If you want to go Tiffany, but mix it up a little, this rattle is in a less predictable shape and style.

I have purchased a few baby blankets from the Kinder Cashmere site on behalf of employers for them to give as a gift for newborns and they have always been a hit. I think it's because it isn't the same item everyone usually gives. It's a bit more modern and chic and people respond to that. These blankets are pricey, but if money is no object and you want to give something nobody else will, it's a good choice.

For a soft and luxurious blanket that is much easier on the wallet, try this item from Little Giraffe that is sold at Nordstrom. It also comes in this color combo for a boy.

One gift I have given many times that I truly love is this cardigan and hat set by Barefoot Dreams. It's soft, chic and adorable.

If you have a friend that's a bit of a hipster and doesn't want something for their kid that is pastel and traditional, go for this onesie that has a bit more edge or go to Boss of Me Clothing for some other fun and hip clothes for babies.

Two really great and relatively inexpensive gifts that are fun and original are the Sleep Sheep and the Twilight Turtle (this is good for little kids and babies).

If you want to give a gift to a mom who is very eco-friendly (and these days that is hopefully everyone), try the Little Seed (they have a site and a local store in LA) or this item from Erbaviba that is one of my all time favorite things to give.

If none of these gifts are up your alley, I have TONS of baby gift resources and will do many more postings on the topic.

Short & Sweet

For once - a SHORT posting! Sweets were on my mind today, so I thought I would direct you to one new place that I discovered and a website I already use to send sweets that are a bit original.

Foodzie is an online marketplace where you can discover and buy food from small artisan producers and growers. I have not tried this site yet, but it is getting lots of buzz and looks to have great stuff, like this.

One place to order sweets online or buy them in person if you live in NYC and a few other places is Dylan's Candy Bar - It's a Candy Mecca. They do great gift baskets, like this get well one and this nostalgic one that I have given before that always goes over big.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Custom Swooshapalooza

For some time now Nike has had something called NIKEiD (it looks weird, but that is how the logo is supposed to be) that's pretty cool. You can go on their website or give someone a gift certificate to make a custom pair of shoes. For the right sports fanatic or even just someone who likes to get outside and/or exercises regularly, this is a fantastic gift. I just read this month that Nike has upped the ante and now there is one speciality NIKEiD location in SOHO where you can can do something called NIKEiD Bespoke (scroll down a tiny bit) that is even more custom and you get to have a consultation with a Nike designer. The great thing about this type of gift is that it's an experience and a gift. I'm not sure yet if you can give this as a gift certificate, but I'm guessing it's pretty likely. I've heard it costs upwards of eight hundred dollars, so hopefully you have a big budget or your company is buying the gift for an actor that makes the studio millions :)

Curiosity Might Have Killed the Cat, But It Will Help You

Above all, one the most useful things you can be in any profession, but especially as a person assistant, is curious. I often tell people that being a great personal assistant is something that can't totally be taught - a large part of it is innate, but that isn't entirely true. One way to stand out in this type of job that you can cultivate as a skill is to be curious and informed. I know that sounds vague, so I have included a list of tips and sources below that let you know how I stay in the loop with what's going on in the world, what trends are heading your way and where to find the best gifts.

1) Listen to and read all sorts of media. Try to stretch yourself and find at least some information that you would not normally be interested in. At times that new information ends up being something really fascinating that can inspire you to think of a cool gift, a solution for a problem or just make you well informed in case it comes up in conversation. Below is just a portion of what I read, listen to, etc.

A) NPR - Some favorite shows are This American Life, Fresh Air and Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, The NPR News Quiz. These shows are informative, creative and fun to listen to. There are plenty of other great shows on NPR, so investigate and see what appeals to you. Almost all shows on NPR offer podcasts for free and listening to them is a great way to kill time at the gym while learning something. Invariably one of them will educate you about something, inspire you to think of an interesting gift to buy (maybe the book or cd of a guest) or maybe if you're a writer like me - you will be motivated to create something of your own.

B) Newspapers/Magazines/Trade Papers - I'm a bit of a news, pop culture and information junkie. I read things offline and online. You can never know when you might need to know some tiny piece of new information or about some website that could help you at your job or the perfect wedding gift to buy. Just a sample of what I read on and offline: New York Times, Los Angeles Times (which admittedly I don't totally love except for Joel Stein's columns), Time, Wired, USA Today, Vogue, W, Men's Vogue, GQ (occasionally for gifts for guys and insight on men :), Creative Screenwriting, Variety, Entertainment Weekly, People, Wall Street Journal (the All Things Digital Section) and Forbes - believe it or not that's only part of the list. I'm not suggesting you read all of that, but the one thing to take away from it is that it's a diverse list. I intentionally read magazines for men and women and also read things that are serious and much lighter. Don't just focus on what interests you, try to also read things that can help your career in the long run and/or that interest your boss or a client. It will help you to be more valuable to them and you also might spot a great gift idea. One great idea to simplify finding out about new articles in your online publications is to set up a Google home page and add RSS feeds from the sites you like. It makes it much easier to have all or most of it on one page. Click here to read how to do it.

C) Blogs - I love blogging. I'm no blogging virgin. I wrote one a few years back about pop culture and other things on my mind. The great thing about blogs is that it completely democratizes journalism in some ways and makes everyone a citizen journalist, if they want to be. You can have a voice even if you don't work at a newspaper, TV station etc. The downside is that well - EVERYONE gets a voice! In order to sift through it all and find good stuff you have to really look around, ask your friends what they read, find blogs on topics that interest you or pertain to your job and also for gifts it's great to look at very niche sites that post info on new or interesting items along with reviews. A few blogs I read are: Celebrity Baby Blog (great baby gifts ideas on this site), Luxist (this blog is all things high end and often includes interesting gift ideas), Lifehacker (productivity/tech blog), Valleywag (tech info and gossip), Cinematical (movies) and a TON more, but you have to find the ones that are right for you, so go surfing and see.

2) This one is EASY! Listen to people when they talk! You will often find out more about them and what they might like for a present or how you can do a better job to help them (be it client or boss) or someone might tell you about a great gift they gave and you can file it away for later.

3) Stay on top of what's new and fresh by getting on lists for e-mails that track such things. One that almost everyone gets is Daily Candy and it's good, but everyone gets it. Two others that I like are Juli B and Trend Central.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Don't Just Think Outside The Box - Throw It Away!

In every part of the entertainment business you need to be able to be creative in order to set yourself apart. Even if you're already successful, you need to find fresh ways to make people pay attention.

It's especially important to be creative if you are a personal assistant or any assistant really. You have to be able to think of creative ideas to find your way out of problems. No often isn't an acceptable answer and you need to make sure you can be resourceful. Gift giving, which is one of my areas of expertise, can be hard. When you give gifts to execs and celebs who have been everywhere and have been given almost everything it's tough to be creative, so you always have to be looking and keeping lists and trying to figure out what is fresh and new.

Here are a few items I have suggested to bosses that have gone over well:

A gift certificate to Sarah Horowitz. The recipient gets to meet with the owner of this company for a few hours to do a fragrance journey and at the end they get their own custom perfume. This is not your run of the mill gift. It's an experience and a gift and the perfume is a one of a kind. I suggested this to a boss who is a creative guy in his own right. I wasn't just going to suggest some boring pair of earrings.

Amazing golf themed cookies from Elenis. You have to click and view these to really get why they are so unique and fantastic. The golf lover who got these was blown away.

A gift certificate for Timbuk2 where the recipient gets to log on and create their own messenger bag. This wouldn't be right for everyone, but for a exec or a younger celeb that wanted something cool and custom to tote scripts around in - it's perfect.

Ecreamery Custom Ice Cream. The recipient of this gift gets their own custom ice cream that you create and name! I did this gift for my sister when she got engaged. I called the one for her Jill Said Yes Crunch. I wanted Chocolately Ever After, but it didn't fit.

A great example of this out of the box thinking is this promo piece for the movie He's Just Not That Into You that I just watched yesterday. The trailer for this movie is great, but this home video style short that stars three of the male leads talking about all the romantic comedy cliches the movie avoids is PRICELESS. The video is much longer than a trailer, but because it doesn't feel like advertising you watch the entire thing. It feels more like something you would see on Funny Or Die or that a friend would send you AND that's the point. I found it hilarious and was already planning to see the movie, but I'm sure if guys who are worried this is a chick flick (which it isn't) see this, they will feel more inclined to go. Odds are this was much cheaper to do than some slick extra promo thing that a studio would generally put out to be creative.

So all it takes is a tiny bit of time and effort to make your gifts and ideas stand out from the pack. It can actually be fun and trying to top yourself can inspire you to work even harder to be original.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Organization How I Love Thee, Let Me Count the Ways

You would think I would not be so busy these days. I'm looking for a job and not at one -- but somehow between my job search, this blog and finishing up a tv spec, I don't seem to have that much extra time on my hands. The key thing to utilizing your time wisely is being organized. I'm a bit mental in that department, but in a good way. I LOVE organization and I use a ton of tools to keep things from slipping through the cracks. Below are some ideas and tools you can use to make yourself into an organizational superstar.

1) Keep some kind of To Do List. You would be amazed at how many people don't do this! I literally don't know how I could sleep at night if I didn't. There are so many options you can utilize, here are just a few:

A) Go old school (especially if you are short on time) and use a pen and paper. I often do this if I am not right by my computer or my iPhone (honestly the thing is pretty much attached to my hand, but that isn't the point). I sometimes will do this just to get the thought out of my head and put it into another format later.

B) Use some sort of online or computer related To Do List manager like Vitalist (this is the one I prefer) or Remember The Milk (both have a free and paid version). Gmail now has a tasks function that you can use, read about it here. If you want to use something more simple, take advantage of the functionality of your online calendar from Google (I prefer this one), Yahoo or whatever one you use. On most online calendars you can set it to send you reminders via text or email. People are always astonished that I never forget birthdays, but the online calendar is what makes this possible! All you have to do is set the date for yearly and a reminder 2 weeks before (to get a gift or card) and then the day of and you are all set. If you use Outlook often and like it, I'm pretty sure it has a To Do List or To Do Bar, so try that.

C) If you spend all day out and about on your Blackberry, iPhone or some other device, the majority of them have some sort of to do list on them. Also a few of the to do list online programs like Vitalist have apps for the iPhone and other devices.

2) REMINDERS, REMINDERS, REMINDERS!!!!! I could not be as efficient and on top of stuff as I am, if I didn't utilize the idea of reminders. I constantly leave myself post-it notes, set reminders in my to do list or calendar to email me or even intentionally leave things in my line of sight, so I won't forget (this is shockingly effective). One great inexpensive item to buy that can help you remember things just before you walk out the door is this Don't Forget Door Hanger that you can put things in. I don't have this, but I might need to buy it.

3) Study others who are productive. I'm enough of a dork that I actually read blogs about productivity and well, I'm, uhhhh - PROUD of that. Two productivity blogs that I find interesting are Zen Habits and 43 Folders. The Guru behind 43 Folders has a great video presentation he gave at Google about how to get your email Inbox to ZERO, so you aren't constantly behind AND yes, I said ZERO. I swear it's worth watching. There are many great books about being organized, but one of my favorites is Getting Things Done by David Allen.

4) Make your resources searchable. I have TONS of resources about travel, gifts, restaurants and all kinds of other stuff. I'm always looking for new ways to access this information more easily. One thing I started doing last year was using a new site called Evernote. I love bookmarks and I have tons of them broken down into so many folders and subfolders it would make your head spin, but I was finding at times that I needed a solution that was more visual and that is where Evernote comes in. The best way to explain it is that it is sort of like keeping a collection of visual bookmarks, but you can also incorporate pictures and text and other items into it. Also the entire thing is searchable - even the text on a label in a picture of a bottle wine you take, for instance. It's amazing and I'm not doing it justice, so read a review of it here or listen to the CEO explain the product in this video that is under a minute.

5) Set up some kind of a filing system and as much as you hate it, FILE sometimes. To be honest, I like setting up systems more than I really love to file, but it's necessary. If you have a system set up and at least a basket to put items that need to be filed in - that's a start. Try to get yourself on a schedule if you can (maybe add a calendar reminder :), but don't beat yourself up if you get behind. Face up to it and do it and you will be so much happier when it's done.

The bottom line is that all of these ideas work when they are put into practice. If you aren't organized now it might take a bit of time, but I promise it will be worth the effort. The thing you need to figure out is what kind of system works best with your job, life and the way you think and then build it around that.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Choctastic Ideas

If I ever do a gift that is something not so out of the box - like chocolate, for instance, I want to purchase something that is still a bit different or special. I could spend all day listing the difference chocolate resources in my files, but instead I will pick out a few and single them out:

1) John and Kira's - John and Kira are a married couple who own a chocolate company. They utilize local ingredients to support their community. The chocolates are very hand-crafted and they taste great. The chocolates come in simple, but beautiful wood boxes. They have unusual flavors like Coffee Whiskey and Honey Lavender. The new salted caramels that look like bees are also a unique choice. You can order from them online.

2)Edelweiss Chocolates is located in Beverly Hills at 444 North Canon. You can also buy from them online. They have all sorts of amazing chocolates, but by far my most favorite item they make is the Toffeemallow. It is fresh chocolate marshmallow with toffee and chocolate (they come light or dark). They are one of my most favorite treats in the world. I have gotten people who don't love chocolate to try them and even they are blown away.

3) If you really want to go crazy and buy something really unique, purchase one of these (you have to click to find out what it is).

As with all other gifts I have mentioned in previous postings, the key still is to keep in mind who is receiving the gift. Do they like dark or light chocolate, something rich or a bit lighter, etc. Pick something you think they might like, not necessarily something you love or prefer.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


If you need to buy a client or a friend a gift and want to do something a bit more fun and out of the ordinary, how about Hollywood Dominos? It's a fun, trendy game and it's definitely not your typical boring gift. You can buy them here. When thinking of a gift for anyone, but especially a celeb that already has everything -- the best thing to do is to try to get them something that they wouldn't know about yet and/or that relates to some interest they have.

One year I convinced my boss we should get a member of his team who LOVED baseball a unique Baseball Chess set I found on a site I like called Red Envelope. It went over great because it was unique and thoughtful.

A few easy tips when it comes to GREAT gifts:

1) Be thoughtful. People LOVE when you listen to some tiny detail they mention about something they like earlier in the year and then utilize it for a gift.

2) Throwing tons of money at a gift doesn't make it special. People respond to something being fun, thoughtful and unique WAY more than cost.

3) Don't only utilize the Internet. Trust me, I'm the queen of the Internet and finding amazing things online, but sometimes to find the right thing you have to get out and about in a store and really look. I will go into department stores and chain stores if I have to, but I generally find more exciting things in more specialized, boutique style type stores that there is only one location or maybe two.

The Retirement Gift Conundrum

I'm on a few networking boards and yesterday someone asked about retirement gift ideas. They were giving it as a company and had a decent budget, so I suggested some pricier items. I thought the list might be useful for everyone else, so I'm going to post my response to her. A retirement gift can be tricky because it needs to be meaningful, but you don't want it to end up being boring and overly traditional.

Here are my ideas:

1) If the retiree is into wine you could get a Unique wine holder, nice bottle of wine and a beautiful wine opener.

2) For a man, a Porsche Design Swiss Army Pocket Knife is a unique and gorgeous option. I suggested it to a few bosses who all purchased it for people and every time it was a hit. One of the models even includes a cigar cutter. As far as I know it can still be found at the Porsche Design Store on 2 Rodeo in Beverly Hills.

3) Since this person is going to have some time on their hands, if they like to read the Amazon Kindle Electronic Book Reader is a great option. I would also include a gift certificate for books to purchase for it. Alternatively you could get a special or rare edition of a book at Dragon Books located at 2954 Beverly Glen Circle in Bel Air or try Arundel Books at 8380 Beverly Blvd in Los Angeles and then get a simple, but elegant bookmark like this one to go with it.

4)If the person is going to travel, a high quality leather travel bag and/or document holder is always a good idea. One brand I like is Ghurka, but Coach, Kenneth Cole are good options as well. I really love this bag from a company called Billy Kirk that I read about in Vogue.

5)Cufflinks and a nice shirt are always a good classic option. You could go with this classic cufflinkset from Tiffany or if your busy is into music and is going to retire and start a band, get him these from Neiman Marcus. To go with it you could buy a shirt from Thomas Pink, Turnbull and Asser or go super classic with this Ralph Lauren shirt.

6) If you do end up wanting to go traditional and definitely do something that can be engraved, get this clock from Tiffany.

7) If the retiree is big into comfort and you have a big budget, you could get this cashmere robe from Saks and/or these cashmere slippers from Neiman Marcus.

8)My last idea, which also leans towards the more classic is to get the retiree a Mont Blanc pen. There are a bunch of local stores in California, but if you work in the city there is one in Beverly Hills at 439 1/2 North Rodeo. I would recommend giving some kind of leather diary to go with it. I like this place that sells them.

These items are admittedly pricey, but that is because the girl who posted the question had a decent size budget. The majority of these ideas could be modified and done on a less expensive level. I'll admit, this list is eclectic and that is on purpose because no one gift is perfect for everyone. You MUST always factor in the person and what you know about who they are and what they like. Nothing else matters more.

Sorry the first post is sort of cheesy!

The question I most often get asked about is gifts. One of the main categories people ask me about is food related gifts. A nice change from the typical cookies, brownies or wine is to do a cheese platter or basket for someone. There are a couple of really great options locally:

1) The Cheese Store of Beverly Hills is fantastic. They have a wide range of amazing cheeses, wines and other items. They can put together great baskets to send. Parking in Beverly Hills can be a pain, but this place is right across from one of the public lots.

2) The Artisan Cheese Gallery is located in Studio City and has a great selection. They also have other items and sandwiches you can order to go or eat there (there are only a couple of tables though). This place is near CBS Radford and not terribly far from Universal (10 min or so), so if you need to get a cool food gift, it's a good place to go.

3) Andrews Cheese Shop is located in Santa Monica and opened this year. I will admit that this is the one location I have not tried, but I have heard good things. To see the review of this place from Daily Candy, click here.

None of these places will be cheap. Good cheese can be a bit pricey, but for the right person it can be truly unique and a nice change of pace.

All of the places above have experts who know a ton about cheese to help you pick out what you want. A few of my favorites are: Manchego, Fontina, St. Agur Blue and Humboldt Fog.

My cousin Leah (the guru of everything food and wine related) said it is also important to get cheeses from a few different animals (goat, sheep, etc.) and with different textures.