We started the day "volunteering" - that is preparing things for one of the local soup kitchens. I was delegated to the arts and crafts table making cards for dual thank you and holiday cards for the group to give its most stalwart volunteers. Other folks put bagged lunches together, and made chex mix and packaged it, and put together sample packages of diapers and toiletries for folks in need to pick up. We would have also been set to cutting vegetables in the kitchen, but the chef didn't arrive in time for us to do that activity. But it all seemed to go well.
Then we had lunch at Palacio in Los Gatos (which doesn't seem like it is usually open for lunch - we had the whole place to ourselves). During lunch we did a modified white elephant ornament exchange. I'm glad the ornament I ended up with isn't glass. Delicate, but not glass.
Then we were set loose on the streets of downtown Los Gatos with a sum of money and told "spend it or lose it - and you must spend it on yourself!"
OMG STRESSFUL (last year they gave us the same amount in amazon gift cards and I still have some left over from that)!!! I did not spend the whole amount - but I have an item in mind that I *will* spend it on, and that seemed to be okay - but it is a gadget and I need to research more about them before I purchase (e-reader for those who want to know - Kindle or Nook or Other?). Four people put the whole amount toward the purchase of an iPad (it got them more than halfway there), and two people upgraded to the iPhone4S. The apple store did very well with our crowd!
A few people cheated (a bit) and got kitchen/cooking stuff. I know it isn't technically cheating, and I suppose if cooking is where it is for you it might be fine, but I still felt appliances aren't "personal" enough. Whatever.
I got a few baubles in one of the cutest boutiques - just to have *something* to show. One of the ladies and her husband are going on vacation between Christmas and New Years to where they had their honeymoon, and she saved most of hers to go toward the golf cart rental which is the preferred mode of transportation on the island resort. I thought that was a good use of the money - because it will make their vacation that much better.
We ended the day at a wine bar, and spent some time showing off what we got - or describing what we were going to get. One woman has a fancy party for her father's 75th birthday and thought she knew which fancy dress she was going to get, but tried it on and decided not that one! so she saved it for when she finds a dress (and if any is left for shoes, etc.).
Shopping - especially under a time crunch like that - is incredibly difficult for me. The one co-worker I hang with the most gets even more stressed out and freaked because we are both "let me think about it" types. She, however, decided to upgrade her iPhone to the new one and spent it all in one fell swoop. Which left her so much more relaxed than I remember her being two years ago when we did this same activity. I guess the take away for the holiday party is *always always always* have a short list of pricy items you would love to own but might put off buying yourself to trot out and either talk about purchasing when you get home, or actually get while there.
The day was a lovely one though, sunny and and not cold at all (damned California and they still have roses and pansies blooming in freakin' December - which is a weird juxtaposition with the evergreen holiday decorations!).