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Posts Tagged ‘co-workers’

So … gift cards. The hip, hassle-free gift, the only thing that you KNOW your recipient will appreciate, etc.

In theory, I have no problem with gift cards. Newlyweds can head to Bed Bath & Beyond and purchase the exact items they need, freed from the burden of first returning three s’mores sets. Teenagers can purchase the songs they want, without the worry that some hipster relative has decided to help them “improve” their musical tastes.

In reality, gift cards have become a way for adults to simply swap money at Christmas.

It’s ridiculous. Adult A buys her daughter-in-law a $30 gift card for Barnes & Noble. DIL in turn buys her mother-in-law a $30 gift card for the Pottery Barn.

Two adults have just exchanged $30. Merry Christmas.

I know it’s a hassle to purchase Christmas gifts. But I think it’s a hassle mostly because the gift-giving has gotten out of hand, along with the season’s celebrations in general. We have unrealistic expectations for Christmas, and we buy spouses, children, siblings, in-laws, co-workers, nieces and nephews entirely too much stuff. (Note: When your small children have a meltdown on Christmas morning simply because they have run out of packages to hastily unwrap, you have bought them too much stuff and they are clearly overwhelmed. Rethink your generosity.)

Many times, giving someone a gift card means that you simply haven’t been paying attention. People eat. They drink. They watch TV and listen to music. Many wear jewelry (not necessarily the expensive stuff). They wear bathrobes and slippers. They cook. They read.

Afraid you’re going to get someone the wrong thing, or a duplicate of something they already have? Include a gift receipt. (I am continually amazed, BTW, at the number of people who will pretty much hand someone cash in lieu of a gift, but refuse to enclose a gift receipt when they have actually purchased a gift. What is that?)

I LIKE finding the perfect gift for somebody. I get a little shot of adrenaline when I realize that someone I care about has inadvertently dropped a hint, whether they’re complaining about an item that needs replacement, pondering something new they’d like to try, or describing something they love and would like to have more of.

When I try to name gifts that I remember most, the list doesn’t have a single gift card on it. It includes things like the set of springform pans my mom got me the year she heard me saying I’d like to learn to make cheesecake. It also includes a fun, funky old vase my mother-in-law picked up at a garage sale and decided was perfect for me.  To this day, I can’t open a bag of Cafe L’Orange coffee from the Fresh Market without thinking of a friend in Mobile who would give me a pound of it without fail on birthdays and at Christmas. Never mind that it wasn’t some rarity that I couldn’t get for myself. He knew I loved it and would appreciate it – in short, he paid attention. A $10 gift card to the Fresh Market wouldn’t have carried the same message.

Truthfully, the gift I’d like most to share with friends and family is the gift of time, a few laid-back hours to talk and eat and drink and just enjoy one another’s company, without the zero-sum exchange of money that Christmas gift-giving has become.

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This week's CSA haul.

This week's CSA haul.

I’m up to my neck in CSA vegetables: Swiss chard, zucchini, cucumbers, poblanos, cherry tomatoes, squash and more. I made tiny souffles (my first ever) on Friday night with a recipe for Poblano and Cheddar Cheese Souffle from the 5 Star Foodie Culinary Adventures blog. I give credit to the Inspired Bites blog for helping me through the pepper-roasting process.

Oddly, I was more scared to roast a poblano pepper than I was to attempt a souffle. Go figure.

Truly, I could not handle this culinary adventure without the world wide web. Thank you, Internets.

You’ll note that there is no photograph of these alleged souffles. That’s because about three-quarters of the way through the 20-minute baking time, I realized that I WAS ACTUALLY MAKING A NOTORIOUSLY DIFFICULT DISH and I SHOULD BE SCARED and THEN THE TINY SOUFFLES ACTUALLY PUFFED UP and there was no way I was taking the risk that my first-ever homemade souffles would be served all sunken and non-poofy just so I could stop and take pictures.

They looked just like the ones here, and they were delicious. Trust me. I’m a woman who can make souffles.

I leave you with photos from the other half of this weekend’s food experiments: the Dehydration Debacle. Really, it was only half a debacle. Someone at work brought in some freeze-dried snap beans last week, and they turned out to be a crunchy, tasty snack. Having an excess of snap beans AND cucumbers crowding the CSA box, I decided to drag out my old-school stackable-unit dehydrator.

The results: crunchy bean curls that don’t really taste like anything, and thin cucumber chips that I would definitely pay good money for. I put just a slight sprinkle of salt on top of most of the slices before cranking up the dehydrator, and it seems to draw out the cucumber flavor.

Next weekend, I’ll bring out the dehydrator again to take care of all the pesky zucchini and squash taking up room and dealing out guilt in the hallway closet.

Dried snap beans.

Dried snap beans.

Dried cucumber slices.

Dried cucumber slices.

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I’ve been reading about the imminent demise of voicemail, which is quickly being replaced by email and messaging technology. Good riddance, really. There’s little I dislike more than strolling back to my desk to discover a little red light indicating a message.

Luckily, the jobs I’ve had for the last couple of years have required little phone time, so I haven’t seen the little red light very much.

The one thing I will miss about voicemail is a game that I’ve dubbed “Voicemail DJ.” The rules are simple: Identify several songs that annoy your co-workers, or songs that are just outrageously funny. When you hear one of those songs on the radio in the car, gym or mall, you call a co-worker’s voicemail (this game is only played when you’re certain no one will pick up the phone) and let the song leave a message.

Sure, it sounds stupid, but you really haven’t proven your worth until you’ve managed to explain to your company’s CEO why you’re playing “Baby Got Back” on your speakerphone at 8 a.m.

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If you tell people that the fake-fur winter vest that your mom sewed for you is made of Yeti, approximately 75% will laugh. You’ll want to keep an eye on the 25% who nod knowlingly.

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