My 39, Day 12.

For the first Black Friday in forever, I bought zilch today. Instead, I whiled away the hours at home, trading out hay bales and pumpkins for window wreaths and twinkling lights.

As I opened the front door to start on the porch, I found a familiar looking shipping tube across the mat. Before I even glanced at the return address, I knew who’d sent it.

Last time it was a Red Ryder BB gun, spectacles and other iconic symbols from A Christmas Story. This year? A hat, scarf, and glove motif in her trademark style. Custom made wrapping paper, designed from drawings created by the clever sister-in-law of one of my oldest friends in the world.

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In the nearly 30 years of friendship we’ve shared, many gifts have been exchanged. M’s have always been on point. Thoughtful, impeccably timed, and creative. The woman just really knows how to give good gifts.

I’ve got a few particularly good ones up my sleeve this Christmas, shaped by the spot on gift giving awesomeness (and the few doozies) sent my way over the years.

On the greatest hits list:

  • Williams-Sonoma waffle iron (it derails the progress of spin class, but it also makes Saturday mornings sooo much sweeter).
  • rabbit ear style wine opener (really – don’t ask me to open up a bottle with anything that’s not, well, rabbit ears).
  • L.L. Bean monogrammed canvas tote (a wedding gift we weren’t sure about at the time, and one that’s weathered every single beach trip, lake trip, and day trip since we first became a “we”).

They work for me because they are the perfect companions to some of my favorite things (good eats, inspired sips, and laid back travels).

Practical to a fault, I’ve historically bought from someone’s list – better that than to go for the surprise and end up populating their donation pile, right? For some of the more persnickety folks on my list yes. Always yes. But taking a cue from my friend M, I’m learning that if you pay close attention, it’s not that hard to give something as practical as it is meaningful.

Be it inside joke inspired, useful, sentimental or otherwise (and I’ll be giving gifts in all these categories this year), make it good.