Holiday Gift Guide

At your service

Here’s what they really want for the holidays: a clean house, a night out, maybe a home chef for a day

Homemade Today is a Lexington-based service that cooks meals in the gift recipient’s house or delivers them to the home. Homemade Today is a Lexington-based service that cooks meals in the gift recipient’s house or delivers them to the home. (Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff)
By Ami Albernaz
Globe Correspondent / December 9, 2010

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Maybe you’re resisting the idea of buying loved ones another set of wine glasses or a bottle of perfume or anything else you’re sure they don’t really need. So how about finding something they could really use — a couple of hours of errand-running, say, or a family photo session? We came up with 20 ideas, some novel, some not so novel, and suggestions for where to find them. Trust us: these gifts will be keepers.

1. House cleaning. Who wouldn’t love having their floors mopped and bathrooms cleaned without lifting a finger? Surfaceworks Inc. in Watertown offers gift certificates starting at $112.50, worth three hours of house cleaning. Certificates are available over the phone or in-person. Surfaceworks Inc., 200 Dexter Ave., Suite F, Watertown, 617-926-7633.

2. A gofer. For particularly busy friends and family, there’s perhaps no better gift than a personal concierge service. Newton-based Lisa’s Hands of Time will do the food shopping, the waiting for the cable guy, the returning of unwanted holiday gifts, and lots more for $65 an hour. (Recipients should live within a 20-minute radius of Newton.) See or call 617-281-7606 for more info.

For Boston residents, City Schleppers will do the running around for $35 an hour (plus mileage fees for errands requiring a car). See (click on “City Schleppers’’) or call 617-236-1199.

3. A little pampering. Treat a special someone to a massage, facial, or other luxury with a Spa Week gift card, redeemable at many spas in and around Boston. Until the end of the month, $100 gift cards are $79.99; other denominations are 20 percent off. (To see a list of spas that accept the cards, go to, click on “gift cards,’’ and then click on “gift card directory’’ to enter a ZIP code.)

4. Some dolling up. For a gift that’s a little more glamorous, a $75 gift card from Rouge in Salem will cover the cost of a 90-minute makeup lesson. (You can order a card over the phone.) As a nice bonus, if the recipient spends $75 of her own money on products while there, the lesson fee will be waived, freeing up the gift card to be spent on other goodies. Rouge, 322 Derby St., Salem, 978-740-1044.

5. A wardrobe consultation. Who hasn’t, at some point, wanted help sorting through their duds and picking out new pieces? Fashion coach Susan Kanoff offers gift certificates starting at $150, good for two hours of closet consulting or shopping for worthy additions. A travel fee may apply. See or call 978-807-0577.

6. A home makeover (at least, the start of one). If a friend needs help reimaging a living space, you can buy the expertise of interior designer Jane Miller (who owns the South End home shop J.E.M. and will travel a wide radius of Boston). She charges $150 per hour and unless your friend has a particularly large abode, you can get a lot of ideas going in that time, Miller says. Gift certificates are available over e-mail or phone, or in person. J.E.M., 470 Shawmut Ave., Boston, 617-391-0490.

7. Dog grooming. Shopping for someone with a pampered pet? Pawsh Dog Boutique & Salon offers gift cards in $25 increments online (or in-person); a $50- or $75-card might be the right amount if you’re looking to give a full grooming (these are generally around $50-$70.) The cards can also be used for food, toys, and other products. Pawsh, 31 Gloucester St., Boston, 617-391-0880,

8. A family (or baby) photo session. Getting your family to a portrait studio can be a challenge, so it’s nice to know there are photographers who will come to your family. Millis-based Heather Barr shoots outdoors or in people’s homes (prices start at $150 for a minisession outdoors or $225 for an in-home session, prints extra), and offers gift certificates in any amount. See for examples of work; e-mail or call 508-794-9050 for gift certificates.

9. A car wash package. For those who like to keep their ride looking sharp, a car wash gift card might be just the thing. Somerville Car Wash & Detail Center offers gift cards through its website and in person (which can also be used at its no-touch car wash on Washington Street, also in Somerville). For those particularly committed to their vehicles, a $30 Smart Pass allows a wash a day for one month. Somerville Car Wash & Detail Center, 680 Somerville Ave., Somerville, 617-625-9027.

10. A personal chef. For the time-starved, how about the gift of healthy, home-cooked meals? Lexington-based Homemade Today offers gift certificates for $275 (three entrees with side dishes; four servings per entrée) and $450 (five entrees with side dishes; four servings per entrée). The menu is extensive; see Meals are cooked in the recipient’s home, though they can be delivered for an extra $40. Gift certificates are available online (by credit card); if you prefer to pay with a check, e-mail or call 781-860-0500.

11. Culinary prowess. Maybe you want to get a gift for a friend who likes to cook. Helen’s Kitchen in Natick offers classes focused on fish, sauces, knife skills, and more. Gift certificates are available online; classes cost $80-$90 per person. Helen’s Kitchen, 3 Ingleside Road, Natick, 617-500-0817.

12. Wine wisdom. For the oenophile in your life, Jonathon Alsop’s Boston Wine School offers gift certificates online in $100-increments, good toward all classes and events. Boston Wine School, 1354 Commonwealth Ave., Allston, 617-784-7150.

13. A little cha-cha. For the couple who aspires to “Dancing With the Stars,’’ or just needs a new date night alternative, Boston Ballroom Dance Center offers gift packages including five private lessons for $350 (classes include salsa, foxtrot, tango, and more; tenderfoots welcome). For singles, the school also offers a 10-class dance card (for group classes) for $100. Call 617-969-3262 or e-mail for more information. Boston Ballroom Dance Center, 141 California St., Newton.

14. The gift of a new skill. Help someone on your list learn a language, start playing an instrument, or even pick up poker tips with a gift certificate for the Boston Center for Adult Education. Until Dec. 24, get a $10-discount on certificates worth $50 and over. (Certificates are available online.) Boston Center for Adult Education, 122 Arlington St., Boston, 617-267-4430.

15. A fetching new ’do. Since haircuts, for most of us, are a part of life, it’s hard to go wrong with a gift card from a salon. The chic Salon Ácôté offers gift cards in any amount; a cut and blowdry starts at $55 for ladies and $45 for gents. (Clients are treated to snacks and even wine.) Salon Ácôté, 132 Newbury St., 2nd floor, Boston, 617-262-5111.

16. A mani or pedi. As a small indulgence, a gift card from MiniLuxe, good for a manicure, pedicure, or waxing makes an ideal stocking stuffer. Buy a card online in any amount; a basic manicure is $18 and a basic pedicure is $35. Find the complete service menu and locations (Boston, Newton, and Lexington) at

17. A musical gift. For classical music lovers on your list, the Boston Symphony Orchestra offers gift certificates online ($25 to $200) good toward performances at Symphony Hall and Tanglewood, or toward Symphony Shop merchandise. See and click on “Shop.’’

18. Time with nature. For the outdoors lover, a Trustees of Reservations gift membership allows free or reduced-cost admission to all the Trustees’ properties, programs, and events and discounts on stays at Trustees bed and breakfasts, including The Inn at Castle Hill in Ipswich. (Find other benefits at Memberships start at $45 ($35 for students and seniors, $65 for families) and can be purchased online or by phone, 978-921-1944.

19. Air time. Boston is now home to an indoor trampoline park and it offers the perfect gift for the energetic kid (or friend with energetic kids) on your list. A 10-jump punch card (cost: $100) allows for 10, hourlong trampoline sessions (which is a deal, since one hour is normally $12). For grownups, there are $40-monthly passes for the facility’s SkyRobics classes — essentially, low-impact aerobics on a trampoline. Buy the cards in-person. Sky Zone, 91-B Sprague St., Hyde Park, 857-345-9693.

20. More air time. For someone who’s always wanted to fly, Executive Flyers Aviation in Bedford offers a Discovery Flight for a $199 session with a flight instructor in which you (or whomever you buy the flight for) actually gets to take the controls. The flight lasts around an hour and comes with a brief ground orientation. Executive Flyers Education, Civil Air Terminal, Hanscom Field, 200 Hanscom Dr., Bedford, 781-274-7227.