Don’t Look A Gift Horse In The Mouth

A few years ago, Judah and I took a road trip with some very dear friends to Rochester. We spent three days eating amazing food and having great laughs with some really fun people. On the last day, someone offered our friends a $50 gift card to the Olive Garden. Not thinking of all the other restaurants that would also accept the card, they turned it down with their noses turned up. They were “above” Olive Garden cuisine—or so they thought.

We began our long trip home, but we still needed to eat. So we started looking for restaurants, but didn’t find anything for miles. Then Judah remembered that on our way to Rochester we had passed a mall. There it was—a few exits up, so we pulled in. We drove around and around and around the mall, but couldn’t find any restaurants. Were we in Smallville? But where there are malls, there are restaurants—right?

By now it was 5:45 in the evening, and we were getting desperate. The mall closed at 6:00, and we didn’t see any other options. So we parked and went inside. By 5:50 we all were in the food court eating lukewarm, Chinese mall food that had been sitting out for who knows how long and, by all rights, should’ve been thrown away. We should’ve gotten the clue when the normally placid guys behind the counter seemed way too giddy to serve up the mad-cow beef and broccoli.

After we ate—with angry rumbles already beginning in our stomachs—we made our way back to the car. Fear was beginning to set in and sweat was beading up on our foreheads about the inevitable doom that awaited us at our respective bathrooms back home. We had to get home fast, before General Tso started barking out his own orders, so we quickly followed the signs to the highway which took us to a side of the mall that somehow we had not ventured to earlier.

As we made our way to the highway—all of a sudden—restaurants appeared! Five Guys, Outback, Longhorn Steakhouse, Bonefish Grill, Cheesecake Factory, Panera, Starbucks, and oh, you guessed it, the Olive Garden. Our stomachs groaned (literally), and we laughed the whole 6-hour ride home—miraculously with no emergency stops along the roadside.

This experience taught us all a very valuable lesson, one that causes our intestines to lurch whenever we pass by the food court at the mall—gift cards should never be spurned. They are practical, useful, and convenient. In fact, I count them among my top-ten favorite, consumable gifts. What are my other nine? In no particular order:

  1. Flowers—They brighten a room, especially in the winter.
  2. Champagne—Veuve Clicquot brut is my favorite and never disappoints.
  3. Young Living essential oils—Young Living has amazing products for wellness and beauty—creams, lotions, body butter, bath bombs—and their diffusers are the best. The oils are delicious; Stress Away, Peace and Calming, Lavender, Purification, Frankincense, and of course, Northern Lights Black Spruce. You can’t go wrong because they are all amazing gifts! And when you become a member you receive their wholesale prices. Follow this link to learn more and get started.
  4. Mani/Pedi—Yes, please! Who does not appreciate a mani/pedi? Throw in a massage and start humming Nat King Cole’s “Unforgettable” to yourself because that’s what it will feel like.
  5. Time—There is no substitute. I’m not talking about a Michael Kors rose gold watch (although that would really be nice). Just take a day or a weekend out of your schedule and spend it with someone you love. Nothing you give could be more valuable than that.
  6. Framed picture of yourself—Why not? If you’re not on their mantle already, this is a gentle reminder. Or you could pair this with the “unforgettable” mani/pedi/massage.
  7. Baked goods—I had a neighbor that somehow always remembered my wedding anniversary. Every year she would give me a dozen homemade chocolate chip cookies in a cellophane bag with a bow. Such a good idea! Her gift was consumed in a couple of days, and we looked forward to her gift every anniversary. She, in turn, became a recipient of my homemade vanilla. It was given with pure, altruistic motives . . .
  8. Local specialties—If there is a farmer’s market or produce stand near you, look for locally grown or produced items such as honey, maple syrup, or fruit. You can get one item, or put several together in a gift basket. Totally stealing from Martha Stewart here, but “it’s a good thing.”
  9. Spa gifts—Who doesn’t want to feel pampered once in a while? Make a gift bag or basket for a spa day—robe, slippers, teas, creams, face mask, bath bombs, loofahs, natural soaps, essential oils—whatever will help your loved one relax and rejuvenate. 
  10. Gift cards—Practical, useful, convenient . . . and easy on the tummy.

These are just ten of my favorite gifts to give others. Consumable gifts don’t require a commitment from the recipient. But they do require a little more forethought, time, and effort from the giver. You’ll never regret it because the return on investment doesn’t diminish. If you still doubt the value of consumable gifts, just remember me, remember my story, remember this blog, and if nothing else, remember . . . the Olive Garden and General Tso.

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