Creative ways to wrap wine bottles as gifts
I never like to go to a party without a gift for the host or hostess, and a bottle of wine is always a surefire way to say thanks for the invitation. But instead of presenting the bottle in just a gift box or (gasp) a BevMo! bag, wrap it in something unique. These fun wine-wrapping ideas will help your gift stand out from the crowd — and get you invited back for the next soirée.
A new leaf
Throw in the towel
Wear it well
Teaching the value of giving in the season of getting
A Sporting Chanukah
On the third night of Chanukah my true love gave to me, an Olympic swim cap signed by Lenny Krayzelburg, a game of Horse with the Houston Rocket’s Bostjan Nachbar and a chance to be on the set of ESPN’s Cold Pizza.
Thanks to the Center for Sport and Jewish Life’s online Chanukah auction (www.CSJL.org), gift giving just got more interesting. Forget about the tired old Gap sweater, the Best Buy gift card or the basket of peach-smelling lotion. Imagine your son opening a baseball signed by the 2002 World Series Champion Anaheim Angels or your daughter having dinner with Survivor: Africa winner (and nice Jewish boy) Ethan Zohn. In a fund-raising effort, CSJL will be offering these and other sports-themed gifts through Dec. 20. Opening bids range from $36-$400. Items up for auction are not only unique (and tax deductible!), but their sale supports a Jewish cause.
As longtime publisher of The Jewish Sports Connection quarterly, SCJL is a charitable nonprofit organization that promotes Jewish identity and Jewish values through sport. SCJL runs the Association of Jewish Student Athletes, a support network focused on mentoring, and created T.E.A.M., a curriculum for youth athletic groups that incorporates traditional team sport principles and Jewish ideals. In addition to the auction, the center’s Web site features articles on Jewish athletes, a youth page with pieces written by readers age 12-16, and stats from the world of Israeli sports. So this year, don’t strike out with your gifts — place a bid on an item that’s sure to score big points with your loved ones. — Carin Davis, Contributing Writer
Skip the Socks, Think Sushi Candles
What do you get the person who has everything? There is always someone on your list that gives you a hard time, the person who would appreciate something more creative and less generic. The chocolate gift baskets are too businessy and the gift certificate is too impersonal. So what to do? Get the gift that screams Jewish festivity and thoughtfulness; the gift that is kitchy, creative and will surely be a conversation piece at your Chanukah celebration.
Harvey Magila: All you have to do is clap your hands and
Harvey Magila will do the rest. This sonic-activated doll in full rabbi regalia
sings and shimmies to “Hava Nagila.” Young or old, this gift will make you laugh
your latkes off. $14.99. “>www.runningpress.com .
Hanukkah Autograph Dog: Are you going to a Chanukah party
and sick of bringing along a boring bottle of wine? You’ll be the most creative
of the bunch with this Hanukkah Autograph Dog. Pass it around the party and have
each guest sign it with a cute note as a keepsake. Memories are always the best
gift for the person who has everything. $11.95. “>www.judaicaworldwide.com .
Catnip Gefilte Fish and Kosher Dog Bone: Forget the new
ball of yarn and the rawhide bone, this year get your kitty a Gefilte Fish
Catnip Plush Toy, and your pup a Kosher Plush Bone. Both toys squeak and will
remind your furry friends that they, too, can celebrate Chanukah. Fish: $3.95.
Chan-U-Cats Musical Collectible: Singing cats may be a
bit cheesy, but it’s the holidays — so anything goes. Chan-U-Cats is the perfect
gift for someone who loves kitchy collectibles. If your auntie is sick of
crystal dreidels and is difficult to please, the kippah-wearing cat quartet that
sings “The Dreidel Song” will put you on her good side. $26.95. “>www.judaicaworldwide.com .
Sushi Roll Candles: Everyone loves candles and they fit
the holiday theme, but make them unique this year. For your friend who loves
candlelight, but doesn’t need another ordinary one, get the sushi roll candle
set. Made of 100 percent beeswax, these hour-long lasting candles look edible in
their container — and come complete with chopsticks. $20. “>www.judaicaworldwide.com .
The Jewish Golf Ball Set: For the golfing enthusiast,
this set of Chanukah golf balls adds nicely to his or her collection. A little
fun and outlandish, you can use them in a game or display them at your holiday feast. $28.
It was an innocent batch of chocolate chip cookies that started what I’ve come to call “The Great Gift-Giving War.”
The couple that manages my apartment complex couldn’t be nicer. An older Japanese woman and an even older Polish war veteran live just across the hall from me. He is the tallest senior citizen I’ve ever seen, a hearty 6-footer who fixes light bulbs while leaning on his walker wearing a baseball cap. He has smoked so long, nicotine lingers in the hallway hours after he’s gone, a kind of carcinogenic perfume. His eyes remind me of Frank Sinatra.
His wife, about 2 feet shorter, smiles at me whenever she sees me, flashing several missing teeth.
They take packages for me when I’m not around to sign for them. They make sure no one parks in my space. They’re good people.
Just after I moved in, I knocked shyly on their door and mentioned that my oven wasn’t working. The very next day it was fixed. Grateful for the timely attention and perhaps wanting to do a little Skinnerian positive reinforcement, I whipped up a batch of cookies.
It was nothing, really. Okay, I got a little Martha Stewart and taped a simple flower to the plastic wrap over the paper plate. Still, it wasn’t like I bought the woman a Rolex. Just a little thank-you gift.
I had no idea what I was getting into. The next day, Suzi knocked on my door with a bunch of flowers. Two days later, she delivered a white paper bag full of pastries from the Japanese bakery.
“Mom, I’m in a gift-giving war, and I’m losing,” I said over the phone.
“You better drop off a bottle of wine or something,” she responded, a tinge of worry in her voice.
My mother is the best gift-giver I’ve ever known. She remembers something you mentioned you wanted when you were six. She knows if you collect pug memorabilia or frogs or decorative plates. She knows what kind of chocolate you like, what colors look good on you, what size you wear. There’s no trouble she won’t go to.
Her parents were Communists and foreigners to boot. They had no clue about gift-giving and thought it was frivolous. One year, they got my mom a bicycle in November and said, “That’s your Chanukah gift.”
Luckily for my brother and me, she rebelled. Our Chanukah gifts were thoughtful, perfect, more than she could afford. My mother still starts shopping for those perfect eight trinkets in July. I have the ice blue pashmina I couldn’t find, the perfume they stopped making, French cotton underwear you can only find at one store on earth.
My mother is an Olympian at generosity, and I’m like the slow, chubby guy just trying to make it around the track.
One morning, Suzi caught me on my way to work and asked if I could help her draft a will. I went on the Internet and downloaded all the information I could find. I asked around for phone numbers of affordable lawyers. I called the American Association of Retired People for advice. I delivered a comprehensive packet of information and felt that I had finally reciprocated. The war was over.
The next day, a bag full of oranges was on my doorstep. The day after, some sort of Japanese meat pie and two persimmons were left in a bag hanging on my doorknob.
Thinking I might be unaware of some Japanese gift-giving etiquette, I went online and consulted “Passport, Japan.”
“The Japanese are enthusiastic gift givers,” it read. “Saying ‘thank you’ for a favor is considered inadequate and possibly insincere.” What’s more, the article advised, giving too good a gift is “liable to oblige the recipient to reciprocate with a gift of even greater value.”
My mom called. “I’m in a gift-giving war myself,” she sighed. “I don’t know what to do.” A new friend had given her a vase. But that wasn’t the worst part. The vase was my mother’s exact taste, the same style as a little green and pink statue she has in her living room. She had met her match.
“What do I do?” she asked. We discussed possible strategies. As in any war, there is intelligence gathering that must be done. My mother, like any good spy, would get some reconnaissance done at her friend’s dinner party. She would not be outdone.
Meanwhile, my own war was escalating. At the sound of my door opening, Suzi would appear, gifts in hand. I would counter-attack. Still, I was losing. For every gift I managed, she struck with two or three. Remembering what I’d read online, I surrendered, politely refusing her gifts, starting a cease-fire. I let Suzi win.
That, my mom informed me, may have been the most generous gift of all.
I Wish It Were More
I am a lousy gift-giver. I’m bad enough on birthdays, when gift-giving makes me so nervous that my gifts never arrive on time. But I’m absolutely awful in December, when I feel so pressured by Chanukah expectations that I buy gift after gift for three of the people on my list, inadvertently leaving out everyone else. Maybe it’s a new kind of learning disability, Adverse Gift Disorder. But I mean well, I do.
It’s not that I don’t like gift-giving — or getting; it’s that I’m best when I’m spontaneous. I’ll pay for your dinner if the spirit moves me or buy you the perfect eyebrow brush because it’s just what you need. But gifts on demand…no, I never do it right.
As a single mom, all of my gift-giving idiosyncrasies are raised to new heights. Either I’m overcompensating for the father who isn’t there, being wildly extravagant, or I refuse to overcompensate for the father who isn’t there, giving nothing until my daughter suggests that a winter coat is what she needs. Even after all this time, time is out of joint.
My married friends don’t have it any easier, frankly. How could it be otherwise? Children read presents like Alan Greenspan reads the markets. They read a robust economy in the price of an iMac, and a coming depression in a gift certificate from Blockbuster.
That’s why gift-giving is as difficult to manipulate as the interest rate, and why a fixed financial position can best protect the most generous heart.
All of which makes me think of my grandfather, who was, in this one regard, surely Mr. Greenspan’s equal.
His solution to the gift-giving dilemma was simple: Grandpa gave me the identical gift, year after year, season after season. Whatever the special occasion, in good times or in bad, he’d hand me a check for $25, written in pen in his shaky, arthritic handwriting. Then he’d say immediately, “I wish it were more.”
Of course, $25 meant a lot to me when I was 8, but after I rubbed his stubbled cheek, I found his apology disconcerting.
“What’s wrong with Grandpa? Why does he wish it were more?” I asked my father, as if this was the last gift from him I’d ever receive. But it was just the first float in a long parade.
When I was 10, the check was still $25. With it, I could buy all the magazines I’d ever want, a year of milkshakes after Hebrew school, or a pair of shoes with small heels.
“I wish it were more,” Grandpa said. But I didn’t hear him, thinking that my new shoes should have an ankle strap.
When I was 15, the check was once again $25. We had entered the era of limits.
“I wish it were more,” he said. My friends had wealthier grandparents, and I knew what $25 meant by then. I’d imagine his bank account and consider that Grandpa had somehow totaled up all his grandchildren and divided it by the sum he had available and came up with $25 no matter what. He seemed a lot shorter by then.
But when Grandpa went home, I had time to consider. The check and the apology were one package by now — the check symbolizing constant familial love, the apology indicating that such love could never be counted or measured.
And, over time, I came to think that he was right. A gift from Grandpa, after all, was not just a gift, but a statement, a mandate, about the nature of life and what could be expected from it, a drumbeat of urgency telling me to get on and discover what life had in store: I wish it were more. I wish it were more. I wish it were more.
Soon, I’d stop thinking about the money altogether, even forgetting to cash the check.
And I understood why he apologized. For if he fulfilled every one of my dreams now, what is there left for tomorrow?
One year, my brother and I didn’t go to Brooklyn to visit him, and the check came via mail: $25.
“I wish it were more,” he said, when I called to thank him. I felt embarrassed and ungrateful, for I had given him nothing in return, not even the pleasure of my company.
So the point of the gift is not the giving or the receiving; it’s the pleasure of the company. There can never be enough time together. There can never be love fully expressed. Whatever I give or receive, I always wish it were more.
Join Marlene Adler Marks, senior columnist of The Jewish Journal, this Sunday morning at the Skirball Cultural Center when her guest will be Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.orgHer book, “A Woman’s Voice” is available through Amazon.com.