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It’s the Thought that Counts

What do you get the person who has everything? This used to be a question we would ask ourselves for one, maybe two, of the people on our holiday gift list. It seems to me that it applies to more and more people on my list each year. No, I am not hanging around with a wealthier crowd, it’s just that most Americans have too much stuff.

So once again, I’m offering gift ideas that are experiential, unusual or useful — that will add joy without subtracting order from your friends’ and families’ lives. When most people on your list truly don’t need anything, it really IS the thought that counts.

Choosing art for someone is not recommended but that doesn’t mean you can’t give the gift of art. A membership to a local museum, such as the Napa Valley Museum or the diRosa Art Preserve is one idea for art lovers. For art makers, a membership in the Arts Council Napa Valley, an organization that promotes the arts in our community, is a neat way to get them connected.

Lessons, seminars and workshops might be highly appreciated. Consider gifting an experience like a cooking class at Malcolm de Sieyes’ Silverado Cooking School in Napa (SilveradoCookingSchool.com), some private qigong training with Linda Burquez in Calistoga (LindaBurquez.com) or a subscription to live stream Marianne Williamson’s Monday night lectures on “A Course in Miracles” (Marianne.com).

Books are often welcome gifts, but if you don’t know what titles someone might be looking for, think about gifting the Kindle Paper White. This version of the Kindle is kinder to older eyes and is meant to be used for reading, while the Kindle Fire or Apple’s iPad would be a better fit for a younger recipient.

For the collectors in your life, a little guidance on how to curate their collections might be in order. “Collected: Living With the Things You Love” by Fritz Karsh and Rebecca Robertson is a beautiful hardcover book full of inspiration. I gave myself a copy.

Subscriptions for magazines and newspapers will remind giftees of your generosity each week, month or quarter, depending on the publication. For someone new to Napa, a subscription to the Napa Valley Register will familiarize them with the community. Fashion lovers who pick up Vogue at the checkout stand might love getting it in the mail every month. Gardeners will love Gardens Illustrated, published by the BBC in England. Foodies tend to love Cooks Illustrated, and sports fans appreciate Sports Illustrated. By the way, is it just me or is every issue a swimsuit issue these days?

For the person with time on their hands, a gift of the New Yorker magazine will keep them in reading for the entire year, but don’t give this one to a busy person; it’s a dense weekly that will pile up quickly and become a mountain of unread guilt by spring.

Be wary of the clever gadgets that are on display at stores, especially kitchen stores, during the holiday season. I saw some colorful plastic thingys that were designed to store a quarter of an avocado or a slice of lemon and thought for a second that they might make a fun stocking stuffer. For a weary shopper, these attractive items seem like a good idea at the time.

I followed that thread to the eventual reality of such an item getting lost in an overstuffed utensil drawer. I imagined exasperated recipients with their little slice of lemon, searching through a drawer full of gadgets before giving up and using plastic wrap or tossing the lemon in the compost bin. A better idea? A gift of winter citrus or a box of organic avocados from a warmer climate. In this case, edibles trump gadgets.