Bored with trying to satisfy the people on your list with a simple 3-D object in a box? Time to contemplate things they can do, or -- even better -- have done to them.
From spa sugar scrubs to billiards lessons, there are package deals all over town on the kind of instruction, relaxation, and restoration New Yorkers crave but never manage to schedule for themselves. That's where you come in.
Significant others -- male or female -- will find Zenlike comfort at The Spa at Equinox (140 East 63rd Street, 212-750-4671; 205 East 85th Street, 212-396-9611), which is rolling out discounted holiday packages to supplement its year-round menu of indulgences. Champagne Wishes gets him or her a manicure, a pedicure, and a half-hour of Swedish kneading ($100). Athletic overachievers might particularly enjoy Jingle Bell Rock, a massage with heated rocks that are used to loosen tight muscles ($165).
For party prep, Borja Color Studio (118 East 57th Street; 212-308-3232) offers a special $250 full-monty certificate that includes hair color, highlights, cut, and style, topped off with a manicure and pedicure. Add a glam makeup session for $125.
For those who have a hard time squeezing pampering into their schedule, the Helena Rubinstein Beauty Gallery's (135 Spring Street; 1-877-4hr-soho) main-floor Express Beauty Buffet guarantees a quick turnaround, from 30-minute facials ($40) to fifteen-minute polish changes ($15).
If someone on your list has bought a yoga mat but never used it, you can give him a chance to sample several varieties all under one roof at Yoga Plus (20 East 67th Street; 212-327-0159). Yogi Christine Grimaldi teaches Ashtanga yoga as well as Iyengar techniques in her Open classes, and a more rigorous option, Flow yoga, which incorporates dance and martial arts for a more intense cardiovascular experience ($20 a class or $180 for ten classes; privates are $100 per session or $1,000 for a pack of eleven).
Sal Anthony's Movement Salon (190 Third Avenue, near 17th Street; 212-420-7242) is a surprisingly well-priced mecca of alternative modalities like Pilates and the newest exercise craze, Gyrotonic technique. ("Basically, it's yoga on machines," says artistic director Daniel Giel.) A half-hour private session of Gyrotonic work, a half-hour massage, and three classes are $50. Full-hour private sessions of either Pilates or Gyrotonic work are $50, or $235 for five.
Oscar de la Hoya wannabes can perfect their uppercut at the Church Street Boxing Gym (25 Park Place; 212-571-1333), which offers five-week introductory courses ($199) in boxing as well as Muay Thai boxing (that's kickboxing, to the uninitiated). In the same ring where Lennox Lewis and Evander Holyfield have jabbed and weaved, novices will learn proper form, stance, shadowboxing, and speed-bag hitting from professional fighters. Classes meet twice a week; a high tolerance for jumping rope is recommended.
Don't let your friends embarrass themselves at the barroom pool table one more time. At Corner Billiards (85 Fourth Avenue; 212-995-1314), workshops on Saturday afternoons are given by house pro Helen Koh for $5. The one-and-a-half-hour sessions review bridge (that's the hand that holds the cue in place) and stroke (that's the one that moves the cue back and forth) and proper pool-shark stance. Private sessions from Francine Crimi are also available for $70 an hour. Gift certificates can be applied toward either option, as well as table time when recipients are ready to showcase their newfound Hustler-style moves.
When all that's left of the holidays are cigarette butts and wine stains, aesthetes will love you for a chance to have their wares restored by the experts. Madame Paulette (1225 Second Avenue, near 65th Street; 212-838-6827), which cleans garments for Fendi, Gucci, Versace, even Sotheby's, offers gift certificates for its menu of obsessive-compulsive services, including the Vera Wang-and-Badgley Mischka-approved bridal division, which gets shipments from as far away as Turkey. "We invite brides to see their dress before we pack it up," says owner John Mahdessian, "and if they live outside the city, we take a digital picture with the grass stains out and e-mail it to them." He'll also dispatch a team of cleaners to your house (or jet, or yacht, he notes) to scour balloon shades, headboards, or antique rugs on the spot.
Fanatical pet owners (is there any other kind?) can schmooze with Westminster contestants and city celebrities (Puffy and his shar-pei are regulars) at DOGGIE-DO and Pussycats, too! (567 Third Avenue, near 37th Street; 212-661-9111). Owners Larry Roth and Howard Binder promise a day of beauty to rival one at Canyon Ranch: After nail clippings, coat-specific conditioners, and hot-oil treatments come a hand-scissored haircut and fluff-dry ($70 for small dogs to $175 for large standard poodles). Gift certificates can also be applied to doggie day care ($30 a day or $400 for a month pack) -- "It's like nursery school, but for toy breeds only right now," says Roth -- or rounded out with merchandise, from python collar-and-leash sets ($200) to Limoges boxes personalized with your dog's image ($100-$250).
If you've been less than respectful of the family heirlooms in your possession, at Speezak Quilt Studio in Park Slope (425 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-369-3513), Judy Speezak will repair antique quilts, wall quilts, and pillows, or custom-craft new ones using her vast library of vintage fabrics; others supply their own materials: boxer shorts, a deceased father's tie collection, a toddler's repertoire of cotton shirts and shorts. "Children's clothes come in nifty little patterns," she notes. The minimum repair is $50; new work is $60 per foot, plus the cost of the fabric.
For needle-phobes who haven't seen the inside of a doctor's office since their college physical, here's a practically painless push in the right direction: a visit to the Continuum Center for Health & Healing (245 Fifth Avenue, at 28th Street; 646-935-2220), a new outpost of Beth Israel Medical Center overseen by integrative-medicine leader Dr. Woodson Merrell. Gift certificates for a visit to the Continuum ($100, $150, $200) are good for any of their Western medical services (a session with a medical doctor, gynecologist, or nutrition specialist), or any of their Eastern ones, like Tibetan, Chinese, and Ayurvedic healing.
If someone you know has splurged on a shiny new G4 but has maxed out all their computer resources by pressing the on button, Leigh Henderson (212-362-0942; Leigh@LeadershipTrainingRoom.com), a technology coach, has helped all levels from Britney-loving teens to a 92-year-old grandma surf the Web or photoshop their own digital pictures, for $125 an hour (two-hour minimum). A former technology trainer at Merrill Lynch, she notes, "I've used e-mail since 1982!"
For your friend who crams a three-bedroom life into a one-bedroom, a visit from clutter consultant Michelle Passoff (212-222-2488) might be in order. Passoff will transform pack rats into neat freaks. "If 2001 is your year of change, say you're getting married, getting divorced, retiring, or recovering from a bad year," she says, "for all of these reasons, it's a great thing." One liberating four-hour session in the city is $300; outside, it's $400. "I follow the clutter," she says, "and I promise fun."