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Time for Giving: Gifts convey our best wishes for those we care about, including ourselves

November 27, 2020 Barbara Ballinger & Margaret Crane

Gift giving can be a lovely, generous and tangible expression of how much we care about someone. 

Who doesn’t love presents? Well, one of us does (Barbara) and one tends to pooh-pooh the whole gift giving notion (Margaret). 

 

However, since we want to get into the holiday spirit, this is a collective effort of our present to you, dear readers, to share what great gift ideas we’re seeing online, in magazine and TV ads and viewing on our very few ventures into stores this season. We try to buy local when we can, so we know those favorites will be in business when the pandemic ends, though sometimes we must go online. This year, there seem to be more bargains than ever because of COVID. 

And now, if you’re thinking, “That’s all very nice but why haven’t you helped me with some gift giving ideas?” Please, know that 12 well-chosen, clickable gift ideas are listed below. 

Jigsaw puzzles. Yes, those again. You may have done one months ago or even two when we first started sheltering inside. So, it may be time for a refresher course with a harder puzzle, maybe, one with 1,000 pieces the entire family can tackle together. Good rule of thumb from Barbara’s 6-year-old grandson who’s a whiz: “Do the border first, take your time and when you finish do a puzzle dance!” Three good places to find puzzles: PapertrailRhinebeck; Serious Puzzles, and Puzzleyou, the latter produces the puzzle with a photo of your recipient, family or you! Or pick a subject you love such as a favorite artist, famous person or place or animal. 

Raddishkids. This relatively new company, Raddishkids designs cooking kits for kids to do on their own or with supervision for young chefs, but they’re so much fun adults may want to tie on an apron and participate fully. Kits come with a monthly theme such as Thanksgiving or Mexico, and the best part you can gift a kit a month. The package includes recipes, lessons about culinary skills, patches to reward, a kitchen tool designed for smaller hands, ideas for conversations and more. We know one 3-year-old who’s mastered apple-cider doughnuts with help from Mom.

 

Apple watch. It’s tech-time for the person who always wants to be reachable with this Apple offering. It easily travels with you wherever you go. Downsides: it is constantly vibrating on your wrist, and yes, it’s a splurge. However, here’s how we justify it as a gift. It tells the time and it’s so hard to remember when every day seems the same. It also tracks our health stats, movements and steps, even if we’re just going in circles around the block or up and down our staircases. You can now choose the type of face, strap and color so it’s fairly personalized.

 

A great bottle of wine. Who can say no to this gift idea since now, more than ever, is the time to indulge and stats show that people are uncorking their wine and liquor bottles to help them chill in this COVID-stressful time? It’s fun to toast, sip and schmooze on all those Zoom calls, unwind at the end of the day as we watch yet another TV show or series, have with  a nice dinner which many of us are doing most nights for wine is made to go with food, or toast our happiness at staying healthy as we worry. The good news is that it helps us to worry less after the first or second glass. Also, it can become the source of a new collection and a way to dive into learning about a whole new topic. Cheers! Here is one  article that discusses the best wines under $20 from “The New York Times.” There are dozens of others on the internet or contact your favorite wine store and ask for their suggestions. 

Headphones. A good pair of headphones is a boon to those who don’t have devices with good speakers. It helps us hear better on Zoom calls and block out noise when others are present and chattering away in the background. They don’t have to be expensive. Noise isolating to noise cancelling and can range from around $50 up to more than $400 for the gold standard Bose 700 noise cancelling wireless headphones Over the ear, in-ear and on ear are options as well. Good places to peruse:  Microcenter, Best Buy, Amazon online, or Bose. Margaret’s son, a professional musician, recommends Audio-Technica, a Japanese company that designs and manufactures professional headphones that come in a range of prices starting at about $50.

 

Scarves with themes.  Who can’t use another scarf to wrap yourself up in some warmth or dress up an outfit even if you’re not going anywhere except to the dining room table to eat or to the couch to watch TV? Make it a bit more special by personalizing your choice with a design motif that reflects an interest whether perfume bottles, shoes, horses, dogs, a favorite city or colors? Most museum gift shops sell a large selection, so you’re also contributing to a worthy cause. We like those from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, which carries ones with irises designed by Louis Tiffany and Vincent Van Gogh. Also, the Metropolitan Opera shop has a fabulous array; many with opera themes that hit just the right note if the gift receiver is an opera buff.

 

Omelet pan. We’re all practicing our adult culinary skills whether it’s croissants (on Barbara’s to-do list) or omelets (on Meg’s) and a new pan that makes it easy to flip it to perfection might please your recipient, too. All Clad and Le Creuset make great looking non-stick ones, available at Williams-Sonoma and many other stores. Barbara’s buying hers at her local Warren Kitchen & Cutlery where many chefs in training taking classes at the nearby CIA (Culinary Institute of America) shop, along with their teachers; the shop stocks the Mineral B pan. For those who want something practical, easy to use and inexpensive, Bed, Bath & Beyond has a non-stick three-egg folding omelet pan for under $10, and you can use one of those millions of 20 percent off coupons that arrive in the mail almost daily, or so it seems. Simply fill one side with eggs and fillings, fold and flip to cook the other side. Go online and check out the choices. Speaking of skills, why not also consider a great new knife for a gift. Barbara’s favorite other kitchen store, BlueCashew Homestead, recommends the Messermeister 6” German-made “Chef,” which is sharp and efficient with the rocking motion good cooks expect. There’s a lifetime warranty against manufacturing defects.

 

A book. Everybody should have a good book to dive into when you have the ability to focus on more than a TV show. We’ve got several stacked on our nightstands or loaded on our iPads. We recommend six: former President Obama’s new biography, The Promised Land; Patty Dann’s The Wright Sister, Alex Ross’ Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music, Elena Ferrante’s The Living Life of Adults, Mark Kurlansky’s Birdseye: The Adventures of a Curious Man, (though take a peek at his other tomes), and Deborah Feld’s Unorthodox, which many consider better than the TV version. And if you’re going to buy a real book, support your local independent bookstore.

 

Long underwear. It’s gone trendy especially if you live in a walking city like Manhattan that gets cold and windy in winter. We love staying warm and toasty when we’re braving the elements and assume friends and family would appreciate the same protection. Go to a good but affordable retailer such as Uniqlo, which stocks tights, tops, gloves, coats, vests and socks in extra warm and ultra-warm versions in an array of colors. Stock up! The ultra-warm is warmer than the extra warm. Other good spots to find similar garments are Land’s End, L.L. Bean and your local outdoor shop.

 

Monthly treat. Knock, knock. Who’s there? It’s a monthly gift and we all love to receive a gift of the month whether it’s fruit—pears! or wine—that again, candy, cheesecakes, bagels, deli meats and smoked salmon, cheeses. We all know that Harry & David is a good place for the fruits, and the company has added cheeses and even wine to its repertoire. Others are Fruit and Cheese Club, Cheesecake of the M, Bagel Club, Bacon Club, Coffee Club, Jeni’s Ice Cream and more. Many will let you send just one month, two or three, so check carefully the rules.

 

Supplies. With supplies a bit scarcer, as people start hoarding with the onslaught of the rise in pandemic cases and another lockdown imminent, what could be better his year than a big box filled with good paper goods from toilet paper—not the thin single-ply kind, thick paper towels, Lysol disinfectant, hand sanitizer with a high percentage of alcohol and heavy paper napkins? Add something fun and delish such as a package of Oreos, which come in 25 flavors, including peanut butter, red velvet and carrot cake? Not sure about that! Go with the original.

 

Donation. Most of us like to contribute to a worthy cause, whether our colleges, favorite museum, park, the homeless, a food bank, symphony or zoo. Give a membership to someone you know would enjoy it or just give because we have to protect our institutions and resources for future generations to enjoy. And in a recent New York Times piece by Nicholas Kristof, opinion columnist, Nov. 21, 2020, he suggests choosing a gift that changes lives: "Educate a girl. Send a young person to college. Restore a person’s sight."

 

What we’re getting ourselves: 

 

Barbara. She wants a new short warm jacket to be able to continue to take her twice-a-day walks in her ‘hood. She’s debating between two that are very insulated and warm, from Aether Apparel and Oros. And when she’s home and unwinding, she’s putting together a spa package for herself with a candle a dear friend already gifted her, plus bubble bath from her favorite store Face, a new lipstick also from Face Stockholm for Zoom meetings and a new moisturizer from her favorite Rodan & Fields products line. And she plans to renew her subscription to “The New Yorker” magazine, which provides great content, including articles and cartons. How we love you Roz Chast, especially now that we need more laughs.                               

Margaret. She’s on the hunt for a pair of shearling waterproof boots (Ugg perhaps) that she has been told are great with good traction for walking in ice, snow and rainstorms. However, it’s difficult to buy shoes online, she says, so Barbara sent her to check out boots at Harry’s Shoes on Manhattan’s Upper West Side in NYC, which has a huge supply of styles, sizes and prices. She’s still a bit skittish about going into a store for more than 10 or 15 minutes, but she might take the risk. 

So, as you muster your gifts, mixing in, if you wish, some but not too much innovation, keep your focus on the gladsomeness of giving. The gifts you send have more to do with spirit than substance.



1 comment

  • Lynn Marks

    Dec 19, 2020

    love the gift suggestions!! how bout opining about what to do with feelings when people in your family don’t thank you for gifts, not that i give gifts for the purpose of being thanked but still……


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