I know most of you come here for shopping advice, so here you are. My comprehensive list of gifts that will not generally annoy or upset the recipient. You may need to use your own judgement, at times, of course: #8 would be lousy for your recently on-the-wagon friend, and #6 won't do for that gambling addict you're hoping to get a date with. But otherwise, hurry up and shop. Time's awastin'.
9. Beta fish with food and water treatment stuff. Not for the petaphobic or those who lack the ability to really care for themselves. But they're pretty.
8. Pennsylvania Dutch Eggnog
7. New socks. Everybody loves new socks, even if they're cheap ones.
6. $20 in scratch-off tickets, all different denominations/varieties
5. Free childcare for those with children, or free pet-sitting for those with pets. Be specific, so that they are more likely to take you up on this. Instead of "One free night of childcare" offer "One free night of childcare any Friday in Jaunary or February with at least 48 hours notice". See the difference? If you don't, send me an e-mail and I will explain.
4. Pudding. Everyone loves pudding.
3. A good unscented lotion, like Aveeno. Don't give scented things like candles or lotion to people who may be either A. too sensitive to them, or B. Unable to smell them. If you're unsure, go unscented, or with #4, 2, or 6. A is worse than B in terms of offensiveness, but if I couldn't smell and someone gave me lemon verbena lotion, I would question their motives. But maybe that's just me.
2. A funny picture of yourself in a very nice frame. Make sure and point out that they are welcome to reuse the frame for a picture of their choice: not everyone's home decor remains dorm-like, so they may not want a photo of you in your floppy plaid cowgirl hat on display.
1. A lovely magazine (just one issue, if you like) in their area of interest that you're pretty sure they don't already subscribe to. This falls under the "indulgence" quality I discussed in my last post. For example, for my newly engaged friends, I might buy them one of those ridiculously ad-packed bridal magazines. It's not practical, and most of my friends wouldn't spend $8 on such frivolity, but it's also really fun to look at if that's what your mind is on. Check out Shinder's if you're in Minneapolis or any sizeable bookstore for a dizzying array of options.
There. Don't you wish I had posted this earlier? Me too. But now I can just link here for next year. See how I plan ahead?
Consider also: pomegranite juice, expensive apples, help in next spring's garden planting.
Avoid: bingo palace gift certificates, lead-based paint, and shopping while angry at recipient.