Dr. Zorba Paster: Best gifts don’t have to be expensive
Holiday shopping tips. Do you love these types of columns or hate them? I love them. I don’t love to shop, though. Not really. But at this time of year, I enjoy putting together my shopping list for those I love. And maybe there’s something here that will spark a good gift idea for someone you love.
Back in the day, my mom and dad owned the proverbial “mom and pop” Ben Franklin store. For those of you who remember Ben Franklins, you can reminisce a bit. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, visualize a small store with six aisles packed to the gills with all sorts of merchandise. There’s a nice woman with bleached blond hair in a 1960s bouffant to take your money at the cash register. No Visa cards, by the way — they weren’t invented yet.
That woman at the register was my mom. The Christmas season was a time of joy in our house because that’s when the store made its profit. “Black Friday” was no joke. If we did brisk sales that week, it meant the whole year was good.
So shopping brings me back to heartfelt memories and not over-consumerism. And with that, here are my seven suggestions for this shopping season.
Flashlight: I don’t know about you, but at this time of year, when it’s dark outside and I want to walk the dog or do something outside, I find it really, really dark. This is partly an eye thing — my 71-year-old eye’s “ain’t what they used to be.” This is where I need the Triplelite 180 degree flashlight.
Everybody needs a flashlight at one time or another. This one lights up straight in front of you and also all the sides around you. Buy the costlier one, the original not the mini, as it’s much more robust. You can find the original Triplelite for about $30 to $40 at some hardware stores and department stores or online at thegrommet.com.
Warm layers: Back in the day — I’m talking about the 1950s — my mom bought me bulky cotton long underwear, which made me look like the Michelin Man. What do you think my teenage boy brain thought when I put them on? Right. I thought they were awful. And they were awful.
Cotton is not the insulator of choice in Wisconsin or anywhere else where there is cold weather. Instead, I go for Uniqlo Heattech “innerwear.” These inexpensive tops and bottoms in various styles and thicknesses are perfect. Both men’s and women’s styles are available.
I wear the lightweight bottoms all winter long. I don’t know how they do it, but they’re not too hot inside and they really make a difference, especially when that Wisconsin wind howls, when you’re outside. And they’re inexpensive, so I have a couple of pairs; uniqlo.com.
Fitness trackers: I use mine to tell me if I’ve been lazy that day. I really know when I have, but somehow seeing a number does motivate me. Not 100 percent of the time, for sure, but at least I’m often encouraged to walk more.
My favorite fitness tracker is still the inexpensive Misfit line. The Shine 2 — it’s the one I use — had a price drop from $79.99 to $14.99 as of this writing. I like it because it’s waterproof and has a six-month battery, so no charging every few days. It’s also a watch and it looks like a “Star Wars” gadget; misfit.com.
If you’re looking for something with more information and a full screen, then look at the Garmin Vivofit line. Garmin made their money with GPS devices. Theirs is a great system; garmin.com.
But sweetest of all is the Motiv Ring. It’s pricey, at $199, but small and effective. It’s a ring you wear that does lots; mymotiv.com.
Cookbook: “The New Family Cookbook” from America’s Test Kitchen is my next pick. I love this book. I use it all the time. It’s great for new couples getting married, too. For me it even replaced “The Joy of Cooking.” (Remember that, folks? Every good kitchen had one.)
From steaks on the grill to how to cook salmon to using rubs to baking muffins, this book is the golden book of cooking. Try it out; atkfamily.com.
Ticket to a cultural event: Why not give a ticket, or two if you’re splurging, to a cultural event your loved one might not go to otherwise? You could pick it out and buy it. Or you could give a gift card to a theater company you love.
This is a gift that will pay off in the future. You open it up and know that sometime in the coming year you get to go to … what? The symphony? Shakespeare? A play? Hmm … you just might be encouraging that loved one to do something they never thought of doing.
We have a robust and vibrant culture — sports such as football, baseball and basketball are part of our culture. But so are other things many of us had forced on us when we were in high school that we might like now. It’s educational.
Prepared meals from a local provider: My daughter and son-in-law always give us some weeks at 608 Community Supported Kitchen, based in Mazomanie. It’s a locally sourced meal-delivery service (unlike Blue Apron and other providers, which are national).
In the middle of February, when I just don’t feel like cooking, I call them up and get a few weeks’ worth of meals delivered. If I’m still in the “I’m not cooking tonight” mood, I’ll extend it a bit.
For someone who can’t cook, this is a must. Meals are delivered to your doorstep — all you need to do is wash out the reusable jars and they pick them up. It’s the right portion sizes, tasty and healthy; 608csk.com.
Personalize it: And I’ll save the last tip for the best gift — the gift of love. Now, when I say love I mean active love. This is the least costly of the bunch, as it doesn’t cost a penny. Give a card — or cards, if you’re up for it — with lists of things you’ll do for a loved one around the house. Clean the basement with them. Wash their car. Do the laundry.
Pick a chore they don’t like and give them a card — and I mean a real card you make up from a 3x5 card or a greeting card. It has to be a solid thing, nothing wishy-washy like saying “just call me and I’ll help.” But give them a real card they can hand in to you later, a few months from now maybe, to remind you that you promised to do this chore. The love will be there because they’ll love it, too.
So that’s my list, folks. My mom and dad’s Ben Franklin store has fallen into the dustbin of history. My dad, in merchandising his entire life, would be flabbergasted by what you can find these days. I’m flabbergasted, too, but I hope I’ve helped to simplify the gift-giving just a little for you.
A happy holiday season to you all! Stay well.