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With 50 in the Rearview Mirror

Wise Gifts

Our resident essayist offers thoughtful ideas for everyone on the list

For that crabby neighbor, in-law or boss

  • An indoor plant. It breathes oxygen, which makes people healthier and nicer. Among the top 10 that will fight for their lives through any amount of neglect are peace lilies, Christmas cactus, Chinese evergreens and spider plants.
  • Chocolate. Featured on the Food Channel, Gail Ambrosius of Madison, Wis., is a chocolatier well-named. For super-goody points, give the 12-for-12 assortment, a box of truffles every month for three months for $95, or gift the classic truffle collection for just $11.75. Flavors run the gamut from raspberry to Lucille's vanilla to curry (it's great!) to … mushroom! Medical research proves that dark chocolate actually stimulates good feelings and fosters health.
  • Honey. It's always been on the menu in heaven. Great clover honey from your local hives is perfect, but the best I've ever tasted is the rare Hawaiian organic white honey, which can go for $17 for 8 ounces. Still, a little honey goes a long, long way, which balances the cost. Honey is great not just in tea, but brushed on a piece of grilled fish or dabbed on cheese and crackers. It is also the one food that never spoils. Liquid honey was found in the tombs of the pharaohs.
  • Etsy gift certificate. There are people who still don't know about the wonder of etsy, the online marketplace for artists. They make everything from furniture to paper bead earrings to cupcakes to cupcake-shaped soap to … fingerless gloves, for man, woman, dog or child. All the profits go directly to the artisan. You can find steal-the-compliments objects on etsy for $25, and if you can't find anything you like, you really don't deserve a present.
  • Tea. It's no mistake that it's the first thing offered to people in British mysteries to calm their nerves after someone murders the vicar. Teavana Tea Store is a vendor that offers selections for as little as 2 ounces for about $10. Buy a tea ball to put into a cup and pour the boiling water. It's a civilized thing to do. For those less Zen, a selection of bags from Tazo (the assorted sampler) is $11.59 online.
  • Chickens. Not for them! For somebody whose life depends on it. For generations, Heifer International has offered the chance to give sustenance to families in developing countries where a rabbit hutch or a cow can mean the difference between life and death. A set of chicks is $20, while the Cadillac of gifts is a camel, for $850. Shares of such creatures, in smaller denominations, are available, too. Presume a person is good, and the person may just live up to it.

Jacquelyn Mitchard is the best-selling author of 20 books. Her most recent, Second Nature: A Love Story, was published in September.

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