I detest gift cards. This week's blog prompt poses the question of how to make giving gifts personal. The first and foremost suggestion I have is not to give gift cards.
The challenge of giving a personal gift is knowing the recipient well enough to anticipate what he or she likes and wants and probably does not have. For instance, I love fur. I love to stroke it and sink my fingers into it. However, I love fur best when it's still on the animal. I have a moral objection to furs such as fox, mink, ermine, etc., because those animals aren't killed for anything but their fur. We don't use their flesh or bones. In the same way, I have no objection to leather, because we eat cattle, goats, pigs, and deer. Their bones are useful, too. In short, if we're going to use the whole animal, then let's use the whole animal, including its hide.
With that understanding, someone who knows me well would know that I like fur, but I don't have any and don't want any.
I also love jewelry, especially jewelry with colored gemstones. Someone else can have the diamonds; I especially like emeralds. And rubies, amethysts, aquamarines, pearls, peridot, lapis lazuli, etc. I'm a bracelet junkie, but I don't wear rings. Someone who knows me well, will know that I prefer bracelets over necklaces and dangling earrings over studs.
However, it's impossible to always know well the persons to whom we give gifts. That's where investigation comes in. What does he or she want? Ask. Ask spouses, siblings, parents, cousins, friends, etc. Sometimes they don't have good ideas either, or perhaps they're struggling--like I do--to think of a suitable gift for the person who pretty much has everything he or she wants. Like my husband. Like my parents.
That's when we segue from "stuff" to "experience." For instance, that recipient might appreciate tickets to a concert or play. My elder son loved his gift of driving a high-end sports car around a race track. These gifts don't sit unused and collect dust on a shelf, they build memories. I think they make wonderful gifts.
Sometimes a compromise between "stuff" and "experience" works well. I'm thinking of food. If your recipient is an cheese aficionado, then maybe a subscription to the Cheese of the Month Club is just what Santa ordered. You can find a subscription delivery service for practically anything, from flower bouquets to beers.
Of course, books make great gifts. If you look around, you're likely to find a holiday bazaar or craft show in your locale or some other type of event at which you'll find at least one local author selling his or her books. If you know your recipient reads within a certain genre, buy the book and get it autographed. It's always a kick to get a book signed by the author, even if that author is someone completely unknown by the world. And if you buy a book for yourself, too, no one will blame you.
Speaking as one of those authors, come to the Writer's Block Author Fair on December 14 at the Franklin Park Mall, Toledo, Ohio. I'll be there! Buy a book and I'll be happy to sign it.
This week, the #MFRWAuthor 52-week blog challenge asks participating authors to share favorite recipes for the holidays. I'm sure this will trigger folks' Thanksgiving and Christmas recipes, but you know I'll do something a little different. I can't help it. Really.
Holidays, gatherings with families and friends, corporate potlucks, social events, and the like often call for attendees to bring a dish. That gets tricky, because hot dishes quickly become tepid. Cold dishes become tepid. These days of phobias, dietary restrictions, and overwrought fears of spoiled food further limit acceptable potluck options. I do, however, have a go-to recipe that can accommodate most potluck requirements (and restrictions) and it's darned tasty, too. We simply call it cabbage salad and, when we make it, we always double the recipe.
1 package ramen noodles, chicken flavor
16 ounces fresh cole slaw (shredded cabbage)
1/2 cup sliced almonds
2 green onions, sliced
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup cooked chicken, chopped
1 pack chicken flavoring (from the ramen noodles)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1-1/2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar
1-1/2 tablespoons of white vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Crumble the ramen noodles into a large bowl. (Do not cook the noodles.) Combine the rest of the salad ingredients with the noodles. Combine the dressing ingredients, shake or blend well, and pour over the salad. Toss.
We find that this salad keeps well in the refrigerator for several days--not that it ever lasts that long.
If you prefer a sweeter dressing, omit the white vinegar and use 3 Tbsp. of rice wine vinegar. You can use canned chicken, but shredding the leftover meat of a roasted (or rotisserie) chicken works just as well and tastes much better. For those who don't like or won't eat meat, omit the chicken.
I acquired this recipe from about 30 years ago. The recipe card is falling apart and the ink faded, but this dish remains an easy to prepare and tasty favorite at any time of day all year 'round.
MFRW Author 52-week blog challenge
This week, the #MFRWAuthor 52-week blog challenge wants participating authors to discuss whether social media is friend or foe. The answer, as with so many other things, is "It depends."
The undisputed king of social media is cats. Cat pictures. Cat videos. Anything to do with cats. Even people who don't like cats like cat pictures and cat videos.
So, what does that have to do with the topic at hand? It:
I think the rampant popularity of cats in social media is partially responsible for recent scientific research broadcast by major media about feline behavior. Quite simply, more people are paying attention to cats and want to know more about them, primarily because they've become omnipresent in our lives.
Of course, those of us who are cat aficionados already know how wonderful cats are. Now we (finally!) getting scientific proof.
(Don't get me wrong, I like dogs. I just prefer cats.)
I see this as an example of how social media can turn the tide of awareness and opinion. It can be used for good: e.g., the surging popularity of cats. Or it can be used for evil: false accusations of President Obama not being qualified on constitutional grounds to be president. (This is not an endorsement of the former president or of any political affiliation.)
When it comes to books and authors, we depend on social media to build awareness and, one hopes, pseudo-relationships with readers. We want readers to like us so they'll buy our books. We want readers to trust us so they'll buy our books. We want readers to know our names, because purchases often hinge upon name recognition.
Like many swords, social media has two edges. The downside or back swing of the stroke is that defamatory, cruel social media can destroy an author's credibility. One brutal review can sink a book.
The question of social media being good or bad fails to acknowledge the nuances of the medium.