Skip the stores and head online for great finds this season
We're getting used to empty shelves and out-of-stock order updates, and as we've adapted, so have our gift-giving options. This is an incredible time to discover creative and truly unique virtual gifts. Between the 'Great Resignation' unleashing a torrent of creative freelancers eager to share their talents and the ongoing chaos of our global supply chains, it's time to think outside the (gift) box.
Virtual gifts are more personal than a sweater, more fun than an e-gift card, and infinitely more original than cash. No offence to any of the aforementioned items, but if you're looking to gift someone with a truly delightful surprise, these virtual, interactive sessions will give loved ones something they'll genuinely look forward to.
Save yourself the stress of hunting down a specific item that might not even be available and, instead, support an entrepreneur who's poised to give your loved one a bespoke gift of time, knowledge and a one-of-a-kind experience.
1. Makeup Lesson with Holly Jones, $225
Holly MUAIf ever there was a perfect time to finally master winged liner or contour, it's now and Holly Jones is the charmingly affable makeup artist to make that happen. Up until COVID shut everything down, Jones was the talent behind making hosts and guests on Toronto breakfast shows look so impossibly refreshed and perky (at 5 a.m. no less). And she can do the same for you!
Jones transitioned into online tutorials when her on-air clients had to learn how to apply their own makeup. She enjoyed it so much that she's expanded to offer this service to the public. And, don't worry, it's not all about brand name, expensive products. Some of Jones' favourite brands include vegan, cruelty-free Essence and Indigenous-owned Cheekbone Beauty.
A session with Jones starts off with the client sending them a list of what they already own so she can suggest specific products and tools to purchase before the lesson. During the lesson, she'll observe (without judgement) and offer invaluable tips on how to improve technique.
2. Virtual Santa Chats at Nordstrom, $20
Nordstrom If you know a little one who's concerned that Santa's stuck in lockdown, reassure them that he and his team are doing just fine with a 10-minute video chat with the jolly man himself. The personalized, virtual experience is available from November 26th to December 12th. Tickets are $20 with a portion of the proceeds benefiting Operation Warm and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada, with a $10,000 donation guaranteed to each organization.
Another option is to purchase a personalized, pre-recorded video from Santa to be delivered by Christmas. Your little one will get a special message just for them, and only them. Tickets are $20, with limited availability.
3. Cooking Classroom with The Lazy Gourmet, $200 plus meal kits starting at $75
The next best thing to having your own private chef is having one teach you how to make your own amazing meals. Just pick a date, choose your menu (options for gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, vegan and vegetarian available), and select any special add-ons like one of their cocktail kits. Prior to the lesson, you'll be sent a list of things you should have handy, like a spatula, frying pan, etc. And, on the day of the event, all participants will receive their meal kit along with recipes, so they can follow along during the lesson. During the lesson, the chef team guides everyone step-by-step, answering questions and giving tips.
The menu currently features meal options such as coconut curry salmon on banana leaf or eggplant Parmesan with fettuccine, and cocktail options such as Champagne sangria, and cinnamon and cherry Manhattan.
4. Personal Finance Advice with Max Mitchell Money, $150 and up
Max MitchellWhether you're a part of the 'Great Resignation' and without a regular pay cheque for the first time, a recent grad with student loans or thinking about retirement plans, chatting with a financial counsellor can help you achieve financial goals. It can be daunting, especially if you're starting off with debts, but Max Mitchell doesn't judge. He's the first to tell his clients to be kind to themselves. For those who feel guilty about the state of their finances, Mitchell reassures, "Nobody is inherently bad with money. Society is engineered to separate us from our money. We're inundated with temptation and psychological manipulation to separate us from our money. Forgive your past self and move on."
You don't know what you don't know, and many of us are just not financially literate. Explore the basics, like setting a budget, creating a savings account and possibly setting up some investments. Whatever your knowledge level, starting point or goals, Mitchell will walk you through the pros and cons of all your available options.
5. Dynamic Core Cardio Fitness with Hana Weinwurm, $11 and up
Hana WeinwurmIf you know someone ready to take their fitness to the next level, but hesitant about returning to a studio and doing cardio with a mask on, Hana Weinwurm has been ranked one of B.C.'s top fitness instructors for the past two years, and she has honed her virtual fitness classes throughout lockdown. You don't need studio equipment to complete her cardio core classes, as she'll use props you probably already have at home.
Weinwurm checks in with participants before and after class, encouraging everyone to go at their own pace. Her classes are at an intermediate level, so she suggests beginners go at half-speed with fewer repetitions, until they work their way up. She describes her classes as a total body workout, focusing on dynamic core cardio to improve strength, posture and alignment.
6. Private Meditation Session by Paula Nicolau, $60
These are stressful times and as much as we've all heard the benefits of meditating, it can be daunting to start. A 45-minute, private, guided meditation session could possibly lead to a lifetime practice that results in decreased anxiety, greater mental clarity and even improved sleep. Paula Nicolau offers mindfulness meditation, with the Vipassana tradition focusing on the breath and body awareness.
7. Custom Lipstick Experience with Bite Beauty's Lip Lab, $70 and up
Bite BeautyDo you have a friend who's constantly mixing lipsticks to get just the right colour? Someone who has a dozen red lipsticks, but is still on the hunt for the perfect shade? Bite Beauty's Lip Lab will work virtually with clients to custom create the lipstick of their dreams.
Beyond the colour, clients can further customize their lipstick with a scent (or none at all), finish (matte, satin, luminous or sheer) and even have an item engraved. The most popular requests are for a nude shade or the "perfect" red. To help jump start the session, clients are welcome to bring current lipsticks and tweak the colour from there. All the Bite Lab consultants have some sort of artistic training and are experts in colour theory. Within an hour, they'll have a shortlist of colours for you to choose from and about two weeks after, your custom lipstick will be all yours. Formulas are kept on file indefinitely, so you'll be able to recreate it or even tweak it further whenever creativity strikes.
8. Human Design Reading by Sandra Lee, $575
We all know someone like this: full of great ideas but are never quite sure how to act on them. A session with a human design practitioner can help guide them towards mental clarity and mindfulness, tapping into the spiritual growth and personal empowerment needed to take those next steps. This recorded one-hour human design reading will "help you understand your gifts and challenges, and why you are here. It will help you understand your life purpose and live in integrity with the truth of who you are."
9. Yoga at Home with YYoga, $16.99 per month and up
YYOGAWhile the pandemic took most of us by surprise, YYoga had just launched their streaming platform and app in 2019, ready to—virtually—soothe and stretch bodies locked into a new and suddenly-restricted lifestyle. A gift subscription provides unlimited access to over 1,500 classes with YYoga teachers, and new streams are added daily.
Classes range from gentle Hatha to challenging power to the deceptively simple Barre. They focus on mindful movement and are taught with progressive cues, helping to make every class welcoming to all levels, especially for beginners. Class options include express (15 to 30 minutes) and full length (45 to 75 minutes). Monthly ($16.99) and annual ($134) rates are available, as is a seven-day free trial. Compatible on iOS, Androids or streaming via internet.