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I know. I’m early. You don’t want to hear about this. It’s barely
November, fuh cryin’ out loud. Honestly, though, that’s the whole point.
Get a head start now on the Christmas shopping, and two major benefits
will accrue: a shorter to-do list at crunch time, and a more spread-out
series of socks to the wallet. And seven weeks isn’t as much time as you
think. Don’t forget, too, that this is going to be a huge year for
online holiday shopping. Last year a lot of folks got their feet wet
buying things over the Internet for the first time ever. This year, all
predictions are for a major stampede. It’s going to be crowded on all
those secure servers in December.

Without further ado, then, here’s my first wave of recommendations
for celebrating the crassly commercial aspects of the festive season.
These ought to get you started:

Enchanting scents

For something a bit different in a perfume, with loads of chic as
well as loveliness, try a scent from href="http://www.aedes.com/Frames/diptyqueEdT.htm">Diptyque. An
original eau de toilette from this traditional parfumerie will
run you a bewilderingly reasonable $50 a bottle. Its Olene, an unusual
white-flowers blend of wisteria and narcissus, is very much recommended
indeed.

A decent place to look for your particular scent at a discount is href="http://www.fragrancenet.com/html/">FragranceNet.com. Browse a
bit. I was disappointed last year by the piddling 5 percent discount on
my then obsession, Chanel’s
Cristalle,
but now I’ve fallen in love with Hermes’
Calèche

and am happy to note that a more substantive discount is available on
it. Do a search for your loved ones’ favorites. Product lines in a given
scent are limited and tend to fluctuate, but the descriptions are
pleasingly specific (Calèche is “refined, woody, mossy”), and you can
actually search for a new scent by qualities like “mossy” or “soft,”
which is fairly mesmerizing in itself.

A hint in season

I am sort of hesitant and guilty about even bringing this up, because
I know perfectly well that several of my loved ones are likely to be
reading it, but Amazon.com has this new feature that is just plain
superb.

Wish lists.
Kind of like a bridal registry, but just for books. (And
music and toys and whatever else Amazon sells directly, too, of course,
but the books are the important bit.) What you do is, browse — or, in
my case, spend three hours of a Sunday afternoon running blissfully amok
– amongst the books. Hit the “add to wish list” button every time you
happen upon something you like. Then make it searchable, and all your
dearest friends will be able to enter your name or e-mail address and
access your wish list. Or, if you’re spooked out by the privacy issue,
you can keep it non-searchable, and then the only way anyone else will
see it is if you nudge them by having Amazon e-mail a strong hint in
their direction.

How do you get your friends to notice that a) wish lists exist and b)
you possess one? Suggest that they create their own wish lists — which,
not incidentally, will facilitate your own shopping. And the most
nonchalant, innocent way to get them to create their own wish lists is
to e-mail them about Amazon’s href="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/subst/wishlist/wishlist-contest.html/002-8962112-2375420">Holiday
Wish List Giveaway promotion. From now through Nov. 30, 10 people
every day will win one item on their wish lists, and on Dec. 1, one
lucky soul will get his or her entire wish list, up to a $2500
value, free. This is, I think, very crafty and clever of Amazon, and
works out well for all of us.

Give him the boot

In the men’s apparel category, people I like have been raving to me
about Danner boots — how they last
forever, how they’re the most comfortable work boots in the world, blah,
blah, blah. They ain’t cheap, that’s for sure, but then I know how long
the cheap boots last (not long). With specialty lines designed for
hunting and fishing and suchlike, a decent-looking pair of sturdy street
shoes, and a rather fetishy, military-looking “uniform” line, they offer
a good selection in the neighborhood of $200 a pair. A notch down in
quality — but also in price — href="http://www.skechers.com/e-commerce/store.jhtml">Skechers’s
men’s boots have a slightly more urban, though still rugged,
sensibility. They’re worth a comparison check if you aren’t specialty
shopping. My father used to swear by href="http://www.nationalfootwear.com/bates_floaters_online.htm">Bates
Floaters for city winters, so I’m throwing in the link, despite mild
aesthetic misgivings. They must be comfortable, because they seem to be
a bit of a cult, and it certainly can’t be for their looks. Like
Skechers, they’re priced in the $100 range.

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