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Boldium’s Unconventional Gift Guide

We hope you enjoy our annual unconventional gift guide, where we share personal stories about the trials and triumphs of giving in the 21st century. We hope they inspire you to find ways to bring joy to friends and families.

Two children and a dog posing for a picture with Santa.

The gift of believing

Photo of Eliza


Christmas was always a really big deal in our household. My parents loved bringing the family together, and my brother and I were totally enthralled by the idea of Santa Claus—real life magic! We would stay up as late as we could tracking his movement across the globe using the NORAD Tracks Santa site. I, in particular, had an attachment to the idea of Santa. I was totally convinced that he was real and that he was capable of miracles.

I usually asked Santa for your standard Christmas gift—a Polly Pocket set, new soccer cleats, etc. But one year I decided to go big. One of my favorite shows at the time was a sci-fi show on Discovery Kids called Strange Days at Blake Holsey High. There was one episode where all the kids traveled around school using flying metal balls as hoverboards—think the Snitch from Harry Potter but more futuristic looking. Simply power it up, step on, and away you go. I was so taken by them that I decided I needed one for myself. I promptly put it on my wishlist to Santa, assuming that since he was powered by some sort of strange magic, he could make something that was magic too, no problem.

I’m sure my parents were completely stumped when they saw the magic hoverboard on my wishlist. I was too young to get the “Santa talk,” but there was no way they were going to be able to deliver on the out-of-this-world gift.

Christmas Day came, and I couldn’t have been more excited. I was going to get my magic hoverboard! I ran downstairs as soon as I woke up and made a beeline to Santa’s gift. I opened it up, and inside was a set of magnets and a skateboard, along with a note from Santa saying he was a bit behind on gift making this year and, regrettably, didn’t have time to make the magic hoverboard. I remember being a bit frustrated by Santa’s lack of time management skills, but I loved both gifts. Never was there a thought in my mind that Santa might have been limited for other reasons.

To this day, I think that was one of the nicest gifts I’ve ever received. I didn’t get exactly what I asked for, but I did get the gift of continuing to believe in something that brought a lot of joy and magic to my life. In fact, it worked so well that I went on believing in Santa until the ripe old age of 12. What can I say, it was a convincing note :).

The side wall of Industrial Piercing in Berkeley, showing their name and a retro-style illustration of a hand holding a tattoo gun

A Piercing Story

Photo of William


Sometimes, solidarity and emotional support are the best gifts you can give a person. And sometimes, that means getting jabbed with a needle and pierced for the first time.

But let me rewind.

A close friend of mine had a birthday a few months ago, and — with shipping backed up and nothing jumping out at the local shops — I was struggling with what to get them. Then, in conversation one day, I heard them mention:

“I've been thinking for years about getting a piercing”

I thought this was interesting, because I was in a similar boat. I'd thought about getting one for years, but was afraid to go it alone. If I was going to suffer for my dreams, I needed to suffer with someone.

The die was cast. We made a deal — I'd not only pay for that piercing for their birthday and be there for emotional support, I'd get *my* first piercing, too... as an act of solidarity, of course.

Together, we found a reputable piercer, booked the appointment, and waited anxiously. Then the day came.

“Hi, I'm Nash, and I'll be your piercer today. Who's first?”

I stared at my friend. They stared at me. We flipped a coin for it. I went first.

I won't detail the whole process here for you. Suffice it to say I wouldn't necessarily call it 'fun'... but it wasn't the worst either. We had picked a good first piercing, so I was told. After seeing stars for a bit, I turned to my friend, who asked (nervously), how it was. I told them it wasn't that bad, just a little pinch, over real fast. Some of this was true, some of it was being a little loose with the truth, but I was trying to be a hype man and inspire confidence.

“You'll do great”, I told them.

And they did. They did great. Maybe better than me, embarrassingly enough. Neither of us regret it, and both of us are thankful.

It was a great gift for both the giver and the recipient, to help give each-other something dear — the confidence and solidarity to do something you’ve always wanted to do — with just a little less fear. We had the comfort of knowing that if we were making a bad choice, at least we were making a bad choice together.

I'm not sure if I'll keep the piercing forever, but it's healing up alright. We share notes on our journey together — “piercing got caught on something today and I almost cried”, or “actually it wasn't so bad until I had to sneeze”. It's something that sticks with us and provides a common bond. A gift that keeps on giving — or at least, a gift that keeps on reminding you (sometimes painfully) that it is still there.

Ariel Ratajczak on an armchair with two dogs, their dog Nuki, and our office dog Chai.

Holiday Treats

Photo of Gosia


Holidays are a time to tell our loved ones how important they are to us—and gifts are a great way to do it. But, with such a huge variety of products, lifestyles and needs, finding the right gift often poses a significant challenge. If you have a large circle of people close to you, finding the right gifts can really take a lot of time. For some people, it can be so stressful that they start losing sleep as early as November.

And it’s especially hard to find gifts for Ariel and me. Our personal belongings are pretty much limited to two suitcases since we’re almost always traveling—and because we adhere to the "forever or never" rule.

So, we’re not that good at “things.”

A few years ago, we decided to simplify. We asked everyone for gifts in the form of food, toys and blankets for animals in need. The gifts are always a big hit. They give the recipients a lot of joy, and our loved ones no longer have to spend a lot of time thinking about gifts for us. Instead, they can spend more time with family and friends. Everyone wins!

A vineyard in California, mid-day.

Out-of-the-box Gifts

Photo of Suzanne


If you search for great gift ideas, you’ll get lots of articles claiming people enjoy experiences more than things. This made me think: why do people give things more than experiences?

I decided a few years ago to try giving experiences—and I think I’ve figured out the answer to that question. It’s really hard to give an experience.

Exhibit #1: A flying adventure

Last holiday, I gave my daredevil teenage daughter something I was certain would fly: a gift certificate to iFLY, an indoor skydiving place, aka a wind tunnel. While she seemed really excited when I gave it to her, let’s just say I’m hoping that the certificate doesn’t expire—because it’s been tucked away in the back of her sock drawer all year.

Exhibit #2: Experiences I’ve received… but have never taken

I hope my friends and family don’t read this, or will at least be understanding, when I confess that I have an envelope stuffed with gift certificates from everything from music and theater venues to spas (thanks Mom!).

However, I recently gave an experience which went off really well, making me think I may be on to something. It was a gift for my partner in life and work, Igor. His birthday was coming up, so I spent some time thinking about the kinds of things he enjoys doing and then searched for experiences that had availability shortly after his birthday. I wanted it to be something a little outside of what he normally does during his spare time so it would feel special. And one more thing—I wanted something we could do together, which meant it had to be something I would enjoy too. Luckily, we enjoy a lot of the same things :-).

I signed us up for an all-day bike riding adventure through the Sonoma wine valley. The tour was about a week after his birthday, enough time to get excited and not enough time to forget about it. We cycled through backroads, neighborhoods and alongside vineyards, stopping now and then for wine tasting. It was truly lovely. For both of us.

Here, then, is my “how to give a great experience” checklist (based on a sample size of 1):

  • Plan the experience for a concrete date, preferably close to when you’re giving it.
  • Find something that’s a little outside of what the person normally does in their spare time.
  • Choose something you both enjoy, so you can share the experience.

Good luck and let me know how it goes, so I can increase my sample size and change up the checklist. Maybe I just got lucky.🍀