by Kate Schmidt
What you need is thrift.
Scraptones photo cubes Local designer Bladon Conner, who also makes beautiful (and sustainable) custom furniture, offers these salvaged wood blocks printed with images of Chicago architecture in three sizes, starting with a small one for $20. etsy.com/shop/scraptones.
High tea, etc, at Pleasant House Bakery High tea, served every Sunday from 2 to 5 PM (reservations required), is just $15 at Bridgeport's mecca for royal pies. Gift certificates are also available, as are T-shirts; homemade body products like lip balm, lotion, and body scrub ($4-$15); and, by special order or sheer luck, baked goods including mini mince pies ($3 per). pleasanthousebakery.com.
Twenty-four hours at King Spa I am seriously considering spending New Year's Eve in Niles, at King Spa, Mike Sula's 2011 Best of Chicago pick for Best Relaxing $25 Overnight Stay.kingspa.com.
Cat shit After my dad died, my sister and I thought it would be good for my mom to adopt a cat—she'd always wanted one. We created a monster. If you too have someone on your list who is enthralled by things for cats to play with, check out the Tree House Humane Society's online store. Or make a donation. treehouseanimals.org.
World Peace I can't say I'm much of a fan of the Smitten Kitchen, which I find too wink, wink, am I not droll? But I do like that blogger/food pornographer Deb Perelman is (1) not superskinny and (2) a demon for the details. Here's her recipe, derived from Dorie Greenspan's, for World Peace Cookies, so called because they're reputedly good enough to bring about peace on earth.