Finding FredericksburgNov 29, 2023–Gift giving creates such a quandary.

What can you possibly buy for someone that they can’t get for themselves? I’m not talking about kids or grandmas, those are easy. For kids, get toys. For grannies, pick up anything from Cracker Barrel.

It’s those other demographics that are problematic–loved ones, hated ones, women, and men.

For guidance, I cast my bread upon the waters–in the tepid swamp called social media.

“Please,” I pled, “share your best holiday gift idea, of something that is perhaps unusual or unexpected, not gift-y, not pricey, that you use every day, and that most overlook as a potential expression of your adoration.”

The webs did not let me down. (Disclaimer: Description does not equal endorsement.)

Janelle suggested… wait for it… wooden spoons. I get it. Wooden spoons are handy for stirring pots and swatting bottoms, and you never buy them for yourself, the perfect excuse to get them as a gift. They now come painted and branded. I received a set with a ladle on one end, a drum stick on the other. Perfect for those occasions when you don’t know whether to paradiddle or stir the pot.

How about a jigsaw puzzle? Right. Welcome to the nursing home. But a puzzle with a twist–a puzzle made from a photo you supplied. Robert suggested this, with his photo of a Grand Canyon Thunderstorm. Just be careful when you pull that jpeg from your “exotic travel” photo album. Otherwise grandpa might become the most popular person in the nursing home.

If your bent is writing, Nancy suggested putting together a story of your life, or, maybe, a story about the life of the person you are gifting. If you’re not a writer, there is an app for that. Joy suggested, where the recipient receives a weekly emailed question they respond to. At the end of the year, the service compiles the responses into a hardback book. I’m sure any loved one would enjoy receiving a year’s worth of homework as a gift.

Does your Secret Santa own horses? Easy. Buy them a round bale of hay, suggests Paula. I’ve done this several times for a colleague. It makes the recipient, the feed store, and the horses happy.

Lisa recommends a massage. This is a personal favorite, as a massage is the type of indulgence most Puritans are reluctant to buy for themselves, but they’ll use it if it is a gift because of overwhelming guilt if they don’t.

Hire a house cleaning. Thanks, Marti. This is a great idea, unless your friend is the type who will clean the house before the housecleaner arrives.

Without revealing her age, Mikie suggested giving gel soles. One size fits all, so no risk of offending as you would buying them, say, bike shorts.

Jan shared the story of receiving a version of the “Twelve Days of Christmas,” where a loved one buys a different small gift for 12 days in a row. It sounds like a major commitment in time and thought, but she dispelled that notion by mentioning one of the gifts was a bag of Fritos. Dollar Store, here I come.

I include one that I stole from another online poster. It’s a portable rechargeable air compressor. How many times do you need to pump up a toy or tire, and don’t happen to have the lung capacity or a 10-gallon air compressor?

How about a tree from a local nursery, says Cathy. If you don’t want the person to have to dig their own hole, you can donate a tree by proxy. Donna shared a link that allows you to plant a tree in our national forests in someone’s memory or honor:

Like water? Good, clean, water? Mimi pitched a Water Filter Pitcher. Nice. But I like Melody’s idea better: bourbon.

An overlooked source of unique gifts is, unironically, a gift shop. Every museum has one, filled with themed books, toys, and gewgaws, and is free to visit even without a tour ticket. In this area, try the Pioneer Museum and Nimitz Museum in Fredericksburg, the Science Mill in Johnson City, and the Museum of Western Art in Kerrville. Schreiner University has Schreiner Outfitters, filled with sweaters, tees, caps, cups, scarves, and supplies, all in maroon, so it works for Aggies, too.

My gift to you? This column. Your shopping is finished.


Shameless Bonus Plug! Your friendly columnist has three books available:

Playing to a Full House, a compilation of the first decade of these columns; Finding Fredericksburg, a self-guided tour of Fredericksburg; and Sam Has Ants, an award-winning illustrated children’s book. Find them at