Per Danzig's request, I have tried to compile a nice list of what a woman would want for the Holidays. BUT, disclaimer, if I know anything about women, it's that they like what they like. Every woman is different and should be treated as so. The point is to know your woman and to show her that.
With that disclaimer in mind, I've tried to break the presents into categories. Thanks to Kolwave *who's birthday was yesterday* for her fantastic input. I've also reposted since1997's contribution as well from yesterday's DBD.
Hobbies - hiking books, cookie books, membership to museums or zoos, movie tickets. Subscriptions to DIY mags. I find this works best with younger women, as older women tend to have/get all the things they want. As for me, I love cookbooks, even if I take only 1 or 2 recipes from each. And thus, I have dozens.
Oh, and I don't want to encourage the guys' wonderful ideas of "get back to the kitchen" casserole dishes, but if your girl is into cooking/baking, a Kitchenaid Mixer is supposedly a Big Deal. My roommate has been hankering for one for years, and decided to ask her family to join together and get her one this Christmas.
Sexy - erotica (short story books.) This you have to really use at your own discretion, and it should never be the only thing you buy her unless you are in the first 4 months of dating. But it could be a fun/sexy stocking stuffer (if you know what I mean). Good Vibes has fantastic books and toys and usually publishes a 'best short story erotica of the year'. If you feel she'd really like lingerie (and it's risky) good luck going to a store. I hear shopping by yourself is quite weird, and I think having another girl to get fun but not slutty might not be a bad idea. It's also risky because you may not know her size, and sometimes things just fit weird even if they are the right size (especially in the boob region)
Jewelry - check to see what types she usually wears. For instance, I tend to wear silver, white gold and pearls - classic and subdued. Others may tend to wear more gold, a little more daring (and currently expensive) but still beloved. This gold/silver thing may be dictated by her skin tone, thus she may fall into one side or the other. If she is especially stylish, or frankly every babyboomer I know, she may like colorful baubles with big jewels or stones or Unique jewelry (e.g. Telegraph Ave silver ring lady named Diana). Unless she's trying to round out her collection (i.e. "boy, I really wish I had gold hoop earings") she'll always appreciate more of what she likes.
Exotic flavors - fancy sodas, wines they've wantng to try, Exotic coffee or chocolate - evenings out! If they love fresh cookies, but don't bake, premade holiday themed cookie dough (in a box with mixing bowl). (again as a side dish). One idea is the 'high tea' served at some fancier hotels and SF spots.
Any outing where every last detail is planned by the guy. Doesn't have to be >1 day. But still, you take care of the travel arrangements (including, for example, places to eat / stop along the way), what to do when you get there, bringing meals/snacks along if necessary ... all the girl has to do is bring what you tell her. For example, I'd like a day trip somewhere in NorCal. So, the guy would tell me to get dressed for a hike, bring good road-trip music, find a nice place to eat along the way, pack a nice picnic (or stock granola bars and a coffee thermos, whatever), pick a good hike / fun activity, call ahead to make sure that the destination will be open, check the weather, and plan out a sensible timeline for the whole day. I dunno, listing all this out sounds like a lot, but realistically, this is what I find myself doing whenever I'm in charge of planning an outing. There's a fair amount to think about and try to anticipate, and if the guy does all this for a change, the girl will definitely appreciate the effort. Hopefully no "oh crap, I totally didn't think about that" moments. Instead, see if you can plan a good time and anticipate everything that might be needed for that to happen (or in case something does awry).
comfort - scarves, bath things, toe socks (if they're into it). Sephora (beauty) and bath and body works are nice, and you could always get a gift card or basket gift.
So re Danzig’s earlier request: I GOT IT. Gift certificate for a luxurious spa. Mani/Pedi then a 1hour massage. ~$200 The beauty of this is you’ll reap the benefits the massage… er… worked up when you pick up your special gal from the spa and TAKE HER home. If you don’t know what a luxe spa is… it’s on the level of a Burke Williams, Exhale, etc. All the 5-star hotels should have a great one too. The St. Regis and Huntington hotels in SF have fantastic ones. That’s my contribution towards male-female peace plus 1000+
extensions of stupid jokes - plush syphillus, Pride and Prejudice with Zombies. This is probably 1/2 of the gifts Rags and I give eachother. This may be another use your own judgement gift.
upgrades on stuff she loves - phone accessories, watch/ring upgrades, nicer pjs.
-> warning, don't try to replace something she loves. For instance if she has 5 purses and always takes 1 everywhere she goes, don't expect a new one to win out over the favorite.
Pick a feel-good cause that the girl supports, e.g. Habitat for Humanity, and go out and spend the day together volunteering. Again, this'll require some advance planning. Call ahead, get a volunteer spot, stop for coffee/fresh pastries (I know, really specific, but I'm just imagining what I would like) on the way, spend the day racking up good karma, and then go out to dinner afterwards. Maybe tell her to bring along a change of clothes/toiletries in case you actually do do HoH and get kinda grungy.
Time with a puppy? - I can get you a good deal!
video games - rock band, group games, little big planet, new mario game. Not as crazy an idea as you may think, I personally love the lego genre games. Do not, REPEAT DO NOT, get something for yourself.
Music - Concert tickets for bands she likes. (again another experience) CDs or paraphenalia, gift sets. (New and classic, even holiday themed)
photos of family, these are always a good gift. I've been told that moms/grandmoms always love this. Framed art (by artist/photog you know she likes. Bonus: you took the extra step and handled the framing chore).
Being a big Cal Fan, I tried to think of Cal themed gifts, but other than the usual stuff, there isn't anything specifically female. You could always just shop the Cal Student Store and pick her up something fun. Cal Hats, Scarves, extensions of game day traditions (i.e. game faces?) (maybe a sweater for your armored dog).
If you're completely confused, try this: http://www.gifts.com/ - shop by personality. It will at least give you some ideas.
Last Note from Kolwave:
I'm kinda with AndBears ... I'm not much of a traditional girly-item shopper/accumulator/hankerer. Sure, I do happen to have a "Get for Self" list on my blackberry, but the main frivolous items on it are an art print I've had my eye on, and 3 fun graphic tees, despite the fact that I only wear tees/jeans on weekends nowadays. Don't like changing my jewelry, I wear the same pieces every day, and I don't like diamonds anyway (yeah, because gold-mining is so much more environmentally friendly).
Finally, I'll be checking in today since I'm in finals for my grad program (puff pastries, noooooo!) But one final thought, be on the look out for the unintended message. If you put all your gifts together, do they say something? Rags and I still laugh at the fact that he kept buying me cookware and lingerie, but I do enjoy pjs and cooking. Other women might wonder.
p.s. thanks for your patience!