December. It’s an exhausting time of year. The sun sets before dinner. The temperatures plummet. It’s rush, rush, rush, especially in advance of the holidays.

Gift-giving can be draining, expensive and time-consuming.

That’s why the Calgary Journal hit the streets, looking for inspiration about best and worst gifts. On Nov. 29 we caught up with people skating at Olympic Plaza to gather their stories.

The Calgary Journal took to Olympic Plaza to ask Calgarians about the best and worst holiday gifts they’ve received. Produced by Arianna Korbett and Robyn Welsh.

Spending an evening at Olympic Plaza, the Calgary Journal learned from the skaters that they appreciate gifts of time and experience more than material things. But let’s face, we all have people on our lists who crave the sound of the wrapping paper flying off the tangible.

Jim and SebastianSebastian, 5, holds his hot chocolate tight while sitting with his dad Jim Shirley on a park bench in Olympic Plaza before hitting the ice to skate. The two share some of the best and worst holiday gifts they’ve received in the video above. Photo by Robyn Welsh.

Here are some tips and links to aid you with your material pursuits this holiday season.

Restaurant gift cards, top spots picked by your city councillors

Dinner Gift

A lot of people would appreciate a gift card to a restaurant. Before the municipal election, The Calgary Journal surveyed all city council hopefuls. One question asked where they would take a friend for dinner. Here are their picks:

Joe Magliocca suggests Burger 320. This joint offers a number of specialty burgers including vegetarian and vegan options, and milkshakes galore. Stop by yourself at one of their two locations: 814 1 Ave N.E. or 126 10 St N.W.

Jyoti Gondek suggests Workshop. Located in Calgary’s Grand Theatre, this restaurant provides a calm and cool ambiance and decadent dishes. According to their website Workshop was, “born of a healthy disdain for the status quo, Workshop is a beacon for the hungry, the thirsty, and the adventurous.” Find Workshop at 608 1 St S.W.

Sean Chu suggests Sean Chu’s Mom’s Place. Everyone loves a home cooked meal, and Chu is no exception. While we would suggest phoning first to avoid any awkward situations, we hear the food is great.

George Chahal suggests Caesar’s Steak House. If you’re looking for some old school dining, welcoming and professional service staff and somewhere to become a regular, then look no further. With numerous elderly folk and classic home-style meals, Caesar’s is a foolproof, affordable option. Check out one of their Calgary locations at 512 4 Ave S.W. or 110, 10816 Macleod Trail S.

Druh Farrell suggests Silver Dragon. With their namesake, a large silver dragon on the far wall, this restaurant lies in the heart of Chinatown. Silver Dragon serves delicious dim sum during mornings and early afternoons, and switches to a dinner menu for the later hours. Walk through their golden doors at 106 3 Ave S.E.

Evan Woolley suggests Bar Von Der Fels. This small bar offers a unique array of dishes including Brandt Lake Alberta wagyu beef tartare. Don’t forget to check the dessert menu! Waiters can give wine pairing suggestions for a full sensory experience. Find them at 1 St S.W.

Ray Jones suggests Villa Firenze. This upscale, family-owned restaurant serves classic Italian dishes. For an elegant, warm-cottage feeling visit Villa Firenze at 610 1 Ave N.E.

Jeromy Farkas suggests Ox Bar de Tapas. With a collection of Spanish small plates for sharing and a popular brunch menu, Ox Bar de Tapas is an amazing place for someone who loves eating a bit of everything. Take a bite at 528 17 Ave S.W.

Shane Keating suggests Bolero. Meatatarians unite: Bolero will keep bringing slabs and slabs of meat to your table and carve pieces off for you until you tell them to stop. If that’s not service, we aren’t sure what is! Stop by at 6920 Macleod Trail S.

Diane Colley-Urquhart suggests Sushi Zipang. This classic Bridgeland sushi restaurant makes for a cozy and classic Japanese meal. Visit them at 1010 1 Ave N.E.

Books, books, books

Fifteen DogsCover of Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis. Photo courtesy of Coach House Books.

 For those bookworms in your life, we compiled a foolproof list of the CBC Canada Reads book choices for 2017 to give you some ideas. Just make sure they don’t already own the book!

Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis. If you’re shopping for someone who is constantly questioning the known and would wonder what would happen if dogs were granted human intelligence, this book should be on your list.

Company Town by Madeline Ashby. This book is a juncture between a Canadian oil-rig and bioengineered human enhancements. What’s life like for the only remaining organic person?

The Right to be Cold: One Woman’s Story of Protecting her Culture by Sheila Watt-Cloutier. In a changing, global warming ridden world, Watt-Cloutier’s raw exploration of the intersection of her Inuit culture and preserving the Arctic reflects humanity, resilience and survival.

Nostalgia by M.G. Vassanji. When the physical body becomes immortal, only requiring periodic rejuvenation, identity must be reconstructed. But memories leak through, and Presley Smith is plagued by flashes of the unknown. Can he be saved by these consuming memories?

Consumer Reports

DIY Gifts

Consumer Reports has a great gift guide. An independent non-profit organization, it helps consumers make smarter and wiser choices through evidence-based testing, as well as journalistic research on various products.

One list we love? Top Gifts Under $100:

1MORE E1001 Triple Driver earbuds. These $89 headphones have an ear-plug like design to limit outside noise. They also have inline controls on the audio cord and an integrated microphone.

Ginsu Chikara. A $99 eight piece knife set, noted for its performance and comfort that matches pricier knife sets.

Black+Decker Mill & Brew CM5000B. A $77 coffee pot that grinds the beans in the brew basket then immediately brews the coffee, keeping the flavours at their strongest.

LG BP350. A Blu Ray player for $80 that has excellent high definition picture and can connect to Wifi for streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu.

Swiss Diamond Nonstick #6424. A non stick aluminium frying pan worth $80 and known for its sturdy cooking surface and the nonstick coating standing up well to the abrasion test.

Breville Control Grip BSB510XL. A hand held mixer worth $86 that performed better than other handhelds when blending smoothies and pureeing soups.

Amazon Fire HD 8 2017 (16GB). This $80 Amazon tablet has a 15-hour battery life and covers the basics of movie watching, reading books and playing games well. It also is worth about half of what most competitors are worth.

Some other lists provided by Consumer Reports include the Top 5 Tech Gifts Under $150, Top Gifts for Dad, Holiday Gifts for the Coffee Connoisseur and Top Gifts for Grandparents.


Toys’R’Us is a great store to find gifts for the little ones, or even fun family games to play over the holidays. The store created a list of the 50 hottest toys this holiday season, chosen by their panel of experts.

Check out a selection of Geoffrey’s Top 20:

Little Tikes 3-in-1 Sports Zone. This toy geared for toddlers comes in around $50, and features bowling, basketball and soccer.

Paw Patrol Sea Patroller Rescue Vehicle. “No job’s too big, no pup’s too small!” Now kids can help the Paw Patrol save the day with this toy for $50.

Disney Junior Doc McStuffins All-in-One Nursery. Kids can pretend to be just like Doc McStuffins with this life size baby nursery for $70.

FurReal Roarin’ Ivory The Playful Tiger Pet. Kids can pet, cuddle and roar with this playful tiger toy priced at $130.

Hatchimals Surprise Puppadee, Toys’R’Us Exclusive. Kids can nurture and hatch their very own magical creatures with Hatchimals, for $70.

For more toy ideas, be sure to check out the link for the rest of Toys’R’Us’ Hottest Toys List of 2017. and

Editor: Anna Junker |

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