Gifts that keep us living and keep on giving 

Sailing gracefully through the holidays

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It's that time of year again: the holly-jolly season when so many people I know start to get heart palpitations even thinking about Christmas, stressed as they with work, with home-front obligations, with tweeting and tooting and generally trying to stay on top of things.

So if you feel like you're doing more glub-glub-glubbing than gracefully sailing into the holiday season, this one's for you.

While I can't claim the Queen of Green title, at least not publically, because that resides with Lindsay Coulter at the David Suzuki Foundation (check out her column at, if you've been reading this column over the years, you'll know that I'm at least a royal member of the green family.

However, I can wear the crown as Queen of Gifts That Disappear, not just at Christmas time but anytime — gifts that are the antithesis of the plastic and fake-chrome-finish thingie-whatsit that end up in a landfill by this time next year. The queen of gifts that give happiness but get gobbled up — the special jams, the favourite chocolates — or otherwise add beauty and joy, but disappear — the beeswax candles, the luxurious soap.

Unless you know a young person just starting out on her own, just say no to the hard good gifts. Most of us have so much "stuff" stuffing our houses and workplaces it would make far more sense for each of us to hold a modern version of the traditional potlatch on the West Coast and start giving it all away to worthy recipients.

But custom and culture being what they are, we want to give. The trick is to do it thoughtfully and gracefully. So here's a basketful of ideas that may bail you out and keep you from going under in more ways than one:

Gifts that keep giving and keep us living

You've heard of gifts that keep on giving. They can make very good gifts, indeed. You know, things like subscriptions to a favourite magazine, and here I'll plug a few favourites of mine: Canadian Art, Geist, Brick Magazine, Granta, Scientific American, Harper's, The New Yorker, heck, even Pique Newsmagazine can make a great gift idea.

If you give hard copies, suggest your recipients donate them in a timely way to the local library or care centre; most are very grateful. To go super green, you can often buy gift subscriptions that are digital to the likes of the above, and more.

The digital version of The Onion makes for a really good laugh when you need a cultural reality check while you're glued to your screen. And if you want to keep curious minds plugged into good resources, how about an on-line subscription to Encyclopaedia Britannica? I can get lost in there for days.

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