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

Who doesn't love presents? Well, one of us does (Barbara) and one tends to pooh-pooh the entire gift-giving notion (Margaret). But since it's that time of the year, we are making our lists. We're also cutting back now that inflation is still looming, and gas recently ramped up again close to the $4 mark in Barbara's village, though lately it dropped down a bit. Margaret no longer owns a car.

Try not to be upset if you don't receive a lovely gift from us; we send all our family members, friends and readers a wish for happiness, health and good cheer in the coming season and New Year. In the meantime, here are our 12 ideas for those who make the cut and for you, dear readers, to consider.

Remember to focus on those who've been nice, and not naughty. 

Jigsaw puzzles. Yes, those again. You may have done one months ago or even two or three when we first sheltered 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 slowly. At Barbara's library there's always a puzzle out for the community to do together, such neighborly bonding. Good rule of thumb from Barbara's 8-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:  PapertrailRhinebeckSerious 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. Cooking is a joyous activity to pursue on your own or with others. Why not start kids off young to help stir, decorate cookies or roll out pizza dough? This company, Raddishkids https://www.raddishkids.com 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 5-year-old who's mastered helping his mom bake a challah and make hamantaschen.

Apple watch. We both hate labels, especially on purses, clothing or WATCHES. But for those who want to be reachable and in touch with their health and fitness issues, Apple offers watches that will alert others if you fall or something is array with your health. Good idea at our age and better maybe than a medic-style device. We also like to count our steps and check our heartbeats. You can choose the type of face, strap and color so it's fairly personalized. The latest version (as of this writing) is the apple watch 8.  According to the website, it describes one watch as: "Your essential companion for a healthy life-it monitors fitness, health and safety.  Advanced health sensors with new temperature sensing for insights into women's health. Innovative safety features including Crash Detection. All in stunning, durable designs.

A great bottle of wine. 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 still happening, unwind at the end of the day as we watch yet another TV show, 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 continue to worry about the state of our democracy and Ukraine. 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." https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/10/dining/drinks/best-wines-under-20-dollars-pandemic.html

There are dozens of others on the internet or contact your favorite wine store and ask for their suggestions. It can be tricky shipping wine across state lines and each state has different rules and regulations. Best bet: go to your favorite wine purveyor and ask them to order the wine/wines you would like to gift. When you cross state lines, the shipment of alcohol becomes more difficult. You now must meet the requirements and regulations in both the state you're shipping from and the state you're shipping to. Direct-to-Consumer alcohol shipping is governed by individual state regulations, and any person or business looking to legally ship wine needs a DTC license. There are currently 42 states that offer out-of-state entities licenses to ship DTC in their states. Residents of Utah, Oklahoma, Delaware, Alabama, Mississippi, and Kentucky may not receive any DTC wine shipments, and for the most part in Utah, non-compliance is actually a felony.

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. 

Sous chefs. Many of us are still practicing our adult culinary skills and trying to avoid eating in restaurants. Barbara still has making croissants from scratch on her to-do list and plans to ask a friend's teenage daughter for help since she mastered them last year. Margaret still wants a new omelet pan that makes it easy to flip it to perfection. All Clad and Le Creuset make great looking non-stick ones, available at Williams-Sonoma https://www.williams-sonoma.com and many other stores. Barbara's buying hers at her local Warren Kitchen & Cutlery https://warrenkitchenandcutlery.com 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 or email almost daily, or so it seems. 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 https://bluecashew.com/, 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. And still another idea for those on their list with generous counter space is to invest in an Air Fryer for them if they don't have one. 

A good book. Everyone should have a good book or two or three 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, Who Killed Jane Stanford? A Gilded Age Tale of Murder, Deceit, Spirits and the Birth of a University by Richard White; In the Early Times: A Life Reframed by Tad Friend; What's for Dessert? by Claire Saffitz (for those who like to read cookbooks in bed); Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez or her other book Wench (recommended by a St. Louis friend); Confidence Man by Maggie Haberman; When We Were Sisters by Fatima Asghar; an easy read and very popular, The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray or any of the Elizabeth Strout books such as Lucy by the Sea or Oh, William!.

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. 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. And before winter gets really cold, check your supply of hats, scarves and mittens or gloves. These, too, help to keep us insulated from the frigid weather!


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 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. The two of us always love receiving food, even healthy oranges from Florida (hint, hint to two friends who have sent luscious packages).

Getaway gift or lesson. For those who are extra special in your life, why not gift a pedicure, manicure, spa treatment for a massage or facial, workout with a favorite Pilates teacher or trainer, tennis, pickleball, skiing or cooking class lesson. This way your recipient can focus on themselves and feel healthier.

Donations. Most of us like to contribute to a worthy cause, whether our high schools, colleges, favorite museums, parks, the homeless, churches or temples, food banks, symphonies or zoos. 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. In a New York Times piece by Nicholas Kristof, opinion columnist, 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 has several items on her list. First, still wants a new short warm jacket to be able to continue to take her twice-a-day walks in her ‘hood. She wanted to buy it last year but never did. So she continues to debate between two that are very insulated and warm, from Aether Apparel and Oros.

When she's home and unwinding and not writing, she plans to do more painting on weekends in winter from home, which means investing in a few more paints and brushes. She also would love a Sonos or other device so she can play music while she paints or cooks. She's also planning to take another painting retreat, which she did this year for four intense, wonderful days. Doing so upped her skill set and happiness quotient with like-minded classmates. If her favorite local kitchen shop, begins offering cooking classes again, she may treat herself to one. But mostly she's giving herself some time to work out daily at her gym and get healthier so she can spend more time in the years ahead with her three young grandsons.        


Most days, she dons one of her many pairs of tennis shoes to walk out the door safely in New York City. Recently, when going to a concert, opera or play, she has eyed a pair of Rothy’s so she has something, They are flat and comfortable for those who walk to their destinations. And Rothy’s are sustainable made from recycled plastic water bottles and other post-consumer recycled materials.

Once she buys her new shoes, she hopes to treat herself to at least one opera and a play (on or off Broadway) as well. 

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

  • Audrey Steuer

    What lovely suggestions! I love the explanations behind each of them and some new sources. Thanks and Happy Holidays to all!

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published