Personal Shopper: Gifts to Cheer Up Mel's Sister

Says Mel: "So this request isn't for myself, but for my sister--she just called off the wedding with her fiancee/boyfriend of 4 years. I can't say that I'm heartbroken (he had way too much baggage and drama), but she sure is. I know that time is only thing that's really going to help, but I'm hoping that you might have some ideas for presents to keep her mind off things and brighten her day . . . she's a very conservative person, so no risque items.. She loves sushi, used to love to draw, and shopping at places like Gap, J Crew, and Banana Republic. She'd love to cook more but doesn't think she's good at it. And she LOVES her little white dog like he was her only son."

Hi, Mel - Marian here. It's kind of you to want to help your sister through this fragile time, and I hope that some of the following will prove useful, distract her, or maybe even make her smile.

Since we have to start somewhere, I'll start with the bookshelf. 1) The Sushi Economy ($varies, since it's out of print) is an engaging (even for non-sushi fans, so she should love it) description of the modern sushi industry and the enormous logistical challenge it presents. If she hasn't read it or doesn't own it, 2) All Creatures Great and Small ($11) is one of the classics of animal literature (really, just a classic) and another great title to get lost in.

Now when we went looking for a good soup cookbook (soup is possibly the best comfort food in the history of the world) we didn't expect that 3) the one from Reader's Digest ($16) would garner such great reviews, but hey. Go with what works, we say. And the last book on the list is blank - because she really ought to have a 4) sketchbook ($10) again. This one is hardbound and contains 96 sheets of acid-free medium-weight paper. Ask for a picture of the dog.

And when it comes to the dog, he can have this 5) Fisher-Price Bowl 'o Bones dog toy ($13), which we swear we didn't pick just for the brand. It's good for chewing and for tug-of-war, so he'll enjoy it whether or not she's home. And she can keep warm during walkies in a pair of these 6) cable cuff gloves ($18).

Now once she's back home, she should have something to fulfill one of the basic male household functions - by which we mean getting stuff off the top shelves. A 7) Rubbermaid footstool is $24.

And lastly, I can say from experience that silence is one of the most oppressive things about being lonely at home, so you'll need to provide some sounds. And how could one be sad while listening to 8) The Best of Gloria Gaynor ($7)?

We love Gloria Gaynor.

Give your sister a hug from us, Mel.

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