My First Annual, Somewhat Biased, Gift Guide

A round, black, cheese with the name, Snowdonia, Black Bomber, on a label on the front.

We have few people to buy gifts for this Christmas. No parents. The honorary grandkids want gift cards. I made a deal with my brother. We told each other about something we want but haven’t bought for ourselves. That’s how I know I’m getting a bonsai tree and a growing kit!

If you’re stuck for something to get for someone, or even for yourself, here are my genuine recommendations. If there’s a bias, I’ll declare it. However, there are no monetary or other gains for me from these suggestions.


I’ve read many wonderful books this year. From Henry Winkler’s autobiography, to The Trauma Beat by Tamara Cherry. I even released an updated and expanded version of my own, Make the Media Want You. My suggestion for the murder-myster fan on your list is just about anything by Carolyn Arnold.

I love discovering and reading the words of Canadian authors. Carolyn, and her husband and partner in publishing George, are our friends. Carolyn’s books are so successful that she was able to quit her full-time job and write for a living. George is an artist first and foremost who also does editing, file formatting and a host of other things. Now, Carolyn has several series including: Detective Madison Knight (police procedural). Brandon Fisher FBI (psychological thrillers). Amanda Steele (murder investigations), and others. Her stories range from pot-boiling homicides to an adventurous archeologist pursuing incredible finds and dealing with bad guys. She has made it to best-seller lists and won awards for her work. Check her out for the avid reader on your list.

Bear with me. I did co-author this one!

Trade Up is my book, but it’s not just mine. And I don’t hold the rights to it. So this is a little self-promotion but it’s also not. I truly believe the message that skilled trades are an often overlooked, excellent career option. This one’s for the young person who’s struggling to figure out their future. Or the parent who’s determined their kid will go to post-secondary school whether they want to or not. Or the educator who wants to provide all the options to their student.

The holidays can be a tough time for many people. My Dad has been gone almost seven years and my Mom for three. Mom loved Christmas so her memory is especially strong at this time of year. There are many late friends we think of all year too, of course, as well as Derek’s brother David. Grief is a universal experience. And Erin Davis’s best-seller, Mourning Has Broken, Love, Loss and Reclaiming Joy, has soothed many broken hearts and helped grief-stricken people feel less alone. It’s partly a memoir of one of Canada’s most successful radio personalities, too.

My full disclosure here, if you don’t already know, is that Erin is my ride-or-die, BFF, and co-host of our podcast, Gracefully and Frankly. But I didn’t make the book a best-seller. Canadians who don’t even know her did that.

For the LGBTQ+ reader: Donald D’Haene‘s new memoir, No One Wants to Read That You’re Happy.

I don’t want to pigeon-hole this book as being only for an LGBTQ+ audience. But it has already been a best-seller in that genre on Amazon. It’s Donald’s second memoir. His first, Father’s Touch, came out in 2002 and was updated in 2010. Neither book is an easy read. Donald was the first man in Canada to take his abuser to court and go public with his story. This second book is a mix of memories and experiences that goes wider, to other members of Donald’s family, into diary entries, and further. It might sound like an odd recommendation for a happy-holidays gift, but for the right person, it could be life-changing. Donald is a great guy I’m proud to know.


Consumables are great gifts because they disappear. The recipient isn’t stuck with the “thing” forever. There are exceptions, of course. Sometimes a thing is the best thing to get. But we all need food!

There are many wonderful cheese makers in Canada. We thought we had found one that we love. But, Snowdonia cheese is actually made by a family company in North Wales, UK. You can find the little round, wax-covered cheeses across this country. They are delicious and look fancy enough to give as a gift. We are partial to Black Bomber, a mature cheese, aged 14 months.

Every family loves a night off cooking and/or something different. Swiss Chalet and Pizza Hut have both moved to recyclable take-out containers. For Derek, it isn’t the holidays without a SC Festive Special. And once in a rare while, we like to get PH’s boneless bites. They were one of my Dad’s favourites.


I’m currently taking a second course via The Great Courses. (Both have been about novel writing.) They have scads of courses on sale for $20 or $30USD, ranging from languages to history to creative arts and more. The one I’m taking consists of 24 x 30-minute videos and cost $20USD. (You can also order DVDs for the slightly higher price.) They offer gift certificates on the site. If you know someone who loves to learn, this could be the thing.


Amazon shopping is so damn easy. Getting out and shopping locally takes effort. When I was out last week, visiting local merchants, it felt like a tumbleweed might blow past me. It was a Tuesday, not a huge shopping day. And it’s the off season. But more people live here than ever before. Do they – and do I – try hard enough?

Yes, some of the items above are not local. But I chose them because I have personal expereince and can vouch for them. Nothing is perfect. Especially me.

However, I’m challenging myself to really think before I click. Can I get this in town? Could I get off my butt to find out? Last week’s quest was for holiday gift-card cards and my local search did come up empty. But I ended up purchasing other things. And I had two wonderful conversations with store owners. That’s certainly worth something.

8 thoughts on “My First Annual, Somewhat Biased, Gift Guide”

  1. What a list…Honoured to make any list but especially yours, Lisa!
    Much appreciated.
    Happy holidays and all the best in the new year
    Donald D’Haene
    @donalddhaene1961 Instagram
    @TheDonaldNorth on X formerly Twit
    Author, No One Wants To Read That You’re Happy, Amazon .ca and .com

  2. What a great List! Books are great!
    I just purchased Peter Mansbridge’s latest book, How Canada Works, for my daughter in law. (Signed and everything).
    I think my husband and Derek are cut from the same cloth! A Holiday Season is not complete without Swiss Chalet’s Festive Special.

  3. The Greatest Xmas Gift, but all too often overlooked in the hustle and bustle of the season.

    Reach out and touch someone. Pick up the phone and give someone a call, a personal note, card or whatever to let them know they’re on your mind and although you don’t often say or express it, that you appreciate them.

    And social media doesn’t cut it at this time of year!

    1. Excellent point, Allan. Even the phone-phobic – yours truly – knows a text or email just won’t do! Thanks for mentioning this.

    1. The one thing every mother wants more of. Time and an experience with their kid. Tickets to something she enjoys that you will take her to. A play, a concert, an event, a happening! Only you would know what she likes. That way she has something to look forward to – doing or seeing something she enjoys with you.

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