A few years back, my family started to float the idea of doing away with holiday presents. Not that I don’t love giving and getting presents—last year I totally nailed K’s birthday with a combination of bowties and memoirs about extreme religious sects (she looked up over birthday paleo waffles and exclaimed, “I feel so seen!”). But at this point, our siblings are all grown, and our parents are moving toward downsizing rather than accumulating more stuff, and we don’t really need for much. What we want is time and experiences, preferably together. So here are my non-tangible, experiential recommendations for this year. (NYC and Hudson Valley based, mostly, but all replicable!)
I’m going to make an afternoon of it with my mom. We’re both going to appreciate the hell out of the Death Becomes Her exhibit at the Met. She’s taken up watercoloring in retirement (meaning we’re getting a whole lot of notecards with watery slightly wild-eyed bluebirds on them) and mentioned she wants to do some sketching of famous paintings. So after we’ve toured the dresses and slurped ramen, I’m planning to give her a museum membership–something she wants but would never get for herself. ($110)
Winter Sun Farms has flash frozen summer vegetables like sweet corn and peppers, and a pick up spot right near my dad’s house. He’s using his semi-retirement to practice complicated cooking, so I’m inviting myself over for pea shoot risotto! ($122)
My siblings gave us a gift certificate to www.bedandbreakfast.com for our wedding. And wow, am I going to borrow that for the future. We are planning ahead and using it for an easy, quick February getaway—generally the time of winter when I’m weeping into carbs and booze. Thanks, C and C!
OK, this one isn’t experiential, but it’s too good to pass up. My newly graduated little sister is short on cash, long on style, and is going to love the jewelry, accessories, and little home goods from a monthly Umba subscription. ($25–$49 per month)
The 23andMe genealogy kits were a huge hit for K’s parents, who loved tracing their ancestry composition. ($99)
My brother, a backcountry ski guide and seasonal Forest Ranger, doesn’t like to own more than he can throw in the back of his Camry to take off for parts west. That’s why we’re getting him a gift certificate for the Hot Springs over the pass from his tiny ski town, so he can take the waters in the dead of a Colorado winter.
My grandmother always used to send us fruit over the holidays, and I remember scarfing down the perfectly ripe citrus fruit. K is going to love the organic version from Frog Hollow Farms. ($60)
One year, all the siblings went in on a gift certificate to the Blue Hill at Stone Barns tasting menu for my dad and stepmom. They saved it for their anniversary in the spring, and loved walking around the grounds, checking out the happy pigs and amazing gardens, and are still talking about the complicated root vegetable appetizers. “And we don’t even like beets!”
Finally, I’ve never gone wrong with donating to a beloved cause of the recipient. We made a donation in honor of K’s mom to Lyric, the queer youth organization in San Francisco. And there’s not a woman in my family who would not appreciate a gift made in her honor to Provide.