During this oft-stressful shopping season, you'll inevitably need to find a present for someone you wouldn't normally gift. Perhaps you pulled a distant cousin's name in the family exchange. Maybe you need to butter up the boss or fork over a gift for the neighborhood party swap.
The following options, which hover around $30, were seemingly tailor-made for those whose relationship to you hovers around "acquaintance."
Design snobs (or aficionados, as they like to be called) will appreciate the simple homage of the Designer Emulation Kit, miniature replicas of famous lamp styles that you can snap together from a single circuit board.
For aspiring architects or naturalists, or simply kids who need something to fill their extra week or two of vacation, Smith & Hawken provides a project -- an all-wood bird feeder kit complete with paint and brushes.
Need something wonky for the out-of-towners on your list? Apres Peau's signature D.C.-centric candy bars, crafted from Belgian chocolate, offer a witty and tasty souvenir alternative.
Both West Elm's lacquer nesting boxes and L'Occitane's French-milled soaps come in sets that can be separated and redistributed, double or tripling their gift-giving value.
Sure, it might seem a bit cheap, so call it spreading the joy. It beats showing up with the night's fifth bottle of wine.
-- Cory Ohlendorf