Gift for upcoming Mom's Birthday
November 15, 2007 1:16 AM   Subscribe

GiftFilter: Help me with my mother's upcoming birthday!

My mother's turning 57 next week and I'm many thousand miles away without a clue of what to get her for her birthday. As much as I love em, both of my parents tend to be difficult to get gifts for; while they wish to be thought of on their birthday, receiving a gift that they don't really like is read as a sign that one clearly didn't think of them thoughtfully enough, so its almost better to not get anything unless its something they really want.

However, in general, they tend to get anything they really want on their own, so it's also a question of what do you get the girl who has everything. My mother's realized the difficulty of this, and usually just tells us what she wants within a few days of her birthday, but when I'm this far away for the first time, it seems a little crappy to simply throw money at a gift I've never even seen, and not be able to at least pick it up for her.

Things my mother enjoys doing:
-Spend her mornings outside in the backyard in her kind of ratty but well-loved robe (robe suggestions appreciated, though I'd have to ask my father if that's on the table) with a mug of hot coffee and her lap-dogs, feeding the fish/turtles in the pond.
-Walk around town boutique-shopping with her toy maltese in her doggy-purse. Said dog is sometimes dressed in silly doggy outfits. She already has doggy purse and silly doggy outfits, so I'm not sure what else can be done in this category.
-Do whatever females do in front of the mirror for 45-80 minutes before leaving the house. I think this involves the half-hearted watching of trashy soap operas.
-She works as a clinical pharmacist, and likes her jobs (she works a number of different hospitals part-time), but things like "Hug the pharmacist" Mugs or something wouldn't be a good fit.
-She likes very high-end, colorful, kind of bohemian style boutique clothing and jewelry and stuff. Getting her clothing or jewelry is always a very difficult proposition, as she has very particular (and expensive) tastes. Most of her birthdays end up in some sort of clothing or jewelry item that she's already picked out and then the whole family chips in to buy. I'm kind of hoping to skip this category this year.
-She likes relaxing at home late at night with a glass of cheap wine or two after work. She has nice wine glasses and doesn't tend to care much about the quality of the wine, though she also appreciates good wine. I brought her some local austrian hard cider stuff for my coming-home present last month (which she liked quite a bit), and I'd rather avoid 2 alcohol-related presents in a row if I can help it (but suggestions on this end are appreciated too, since there's always christmas).
-Much of her stress in life involves my aging grandparents, who are living a few blocks away and are, well, getting old. They're both becoming less mobile, losing their eyesight, and all in all, their independence. Ways to enhance their lives are probably the thing my mother appreciates most, but those are even more difficult than gifting my mother and would involve a much longer, separate question. They tend to be very unaccepting of anyone spending money on them, or getting them anything, and will return any item that they can return and give away most everything else as a gift.
-She's an animal person, and probably her dream vacation would be some sort of safari in Africa (not gonna happen this time around with my budget :). She has 3 dogs, 1 cat, 2 cockatiels, a cockatoo, a pond of koi, catfish, goldfish and turtles. She's mostly a dog person, I'd say.
-She loves swimming in her hot swimming pool, and it's only last week gotten too cold to keep heating the pool (she's in SoCal). I think we've tried getting her a wetsuit so she could keep doing it, but she wasn't a big fan. Ideally, she'd want one of those indoor "endless" pools with a speed-adjustable current, but that, too isn't gonna happen on my budget :).

What doesn't she like:
-Sweets are not her thing, and while she enjoys good food, its not really a big deal for her.
-Keepsakes and photos and things arent typically her thing either
-She's not particularly tech-savvy, and isn't much of a person for gadgetry. She does like to watch DVDs on her computer at night (she has some OK headphones, but probably wouldn't notice the difference that much if I were to get her good headphones).

That's all I got. Send questions. Many thanks.
posted by anonymoose to Human Relations (13 answers total)
gift certificate to a fancy spa for a day of pampering! a good massage and facial are even more relaxing on someone else's dime.

alternately, if your parents have a computer that can go online, get a webcam + headset for them and the same for you and do videochats via skype or aim or whatever. my mom loves being able to do this, it's the next best thing to being in the same place.
posted by lia at 1:36 AM on November 15, 2007

My mother always loves flowers, because she would never waste the money on them for herself.

Is it possible to buy maid service gift certificates so she could have her house or your grandparents' house cleaned without having to do it herself?

You could donate money to an animal shelter or similar animal-based charity in her name, maybe a maltese rescue group or something.

also, I second the spa certificate above.

Oh, my parents always like restaurant gift certificates, too.
posted by egret at 1:51 AM on November 15, 2007

Summer and winter-weight bathrobes, embroidered with her name over the heart and lapdog pawprints up the leg area and in the lap.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 3:04 AM on November 15, 2007

Response by poster: We've tried spa/massage and she eventually regifted it. I think she felt a little self conscious about it. I did the animal shelter donation thing, and it was a good gift, but I'd need another gift to go along with it if I'm to do it again so it's not just reusing an old idea.

She's got maid service a'plenty, as do her parents. We've already got the videoconferencing thing going pretty well. Bathrobe is a promising idea.

Good ideas coming in, thanks :)
posted by anonymoose at 3:11 AM on November 15, 2007

My mom just had a birthday. I got her a fancy footbath from Brookstone (has a heater to keep the water at 115 F and jets that massage your feet). Only $99, has many positive reviews.

posted by hjo3 at 5:48 AM on November 15, 2007

Foo foo dog stuff. Either a bling-bling collar with the dog's name spelled out, or a matching lead and rhinestone buckle collar.

Yes, you think it is stupid. She, however, will coo with delight. The dog will be indifferent.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:18 AM on November 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

Maybe the animal shelter thing with some gourmet doggie biscuits, and perhaps add some people-cookies or a jar of gourmet baking mix?
posted by bassjump at 6:19 AM on November 15, 2007

Hand thrown/formed pottery. Crafted and handmade will appeal to her bohemian side; useful will appeal to her practical side. Find a mug that feels really good sitting in your hand. Mugs are usually the least-expensive thing a potter makes (they're the gateway drug).
posted by desuetude at 6:39 AM on November 15, 2007

Matching bathrobes for her and the dog? My rule for buying jewelery/clothes for people is to buy something that looks (to me) like something they already have. If it looks repetitive to me, they will love it.
posted by selfmedicating at 6:49 AM on November 15, 2007

- set of really nice sheets/pillowcases
- I've said it here a million times: this blanket. Sold lots of places. Soft, warm, washable, not scratchy, really really comfy, lots of colours, and it'll be her favorite blanket for watching those DVDs.
- jewelry organizer/box
- really nice set of makeup brushes (Sephora will help)
- nice new LV wallet in the style she likes (not as outrageous as it seems)
- gorgeous orchid in a pot with moss, rocks, etc. They last forever, can probably regrow the next year, and are stunning to look at.
posted by barnone at 6:54 AM on November 15, 2007

How about nice indoor/outdoor slippers? Ugg like - warm, but with a rubber bottom so she can do her morning routine outside.
posted by barnone at 10:25 AM on November 15, 2007

Would she like a gift certificate for a day of pamerping for her Maltese? A professional wash, fluff dry and haircut? Or maybe a certificate for some professional pictures to be taken of her dog at a portrait studio.
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:16 AM on November 15, 2007

I know you said you'd prefer avoiding the alcohol but the wine of the month club be an option.

Wine glass charms might be a cute idea. Sorry I don't have a specific link for you. A search for them will bring up some ideas including dog ones. My step daughter made a set of them for her mom and I and we use them all the time.
posted by ChainzOnline at 12:48 PM on November 15, 2007

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