What's an appropriate, low key gift for a neighbor?
August 3, 2022 8:08 PM   Subscribe

We just moved to a new place, and a neighbor has been very kind to us, in spite of some moving mishaps on our side that caused her problems. We've chatted, apologized, and just today she gave us tomatoes from her garden. I'd like suggestions for a gift to keep up the goodwill, but we don't have a garden, and we don't want to give something that's "escalatory" or something that makes her think "too much". She's a woman, possibly in her sixties that is from another country but immigrated to the US decades ago.
posted by ignignokt to Human Relations (14 answers total)
Perhaps just a nice bouquet of flowers and a thank you note. If she's a gardener she will probably appreciate them. My wife grows flowers but still very much loves receiving them.

I might suggest a plant to put in her garden but it's kind of late in the season and you don't know what sorts of things she grows. Gardeners have all sorts of reasons for what they do and do not grow.
posted by bondcliff at 8:15 PM on August 3 [5 favorites]

If you bake, make her some cookies!

If not, I like bondcliff’s suggestion of a simple flower bouquet.
posted by mekily at 8:17 PM on August 3 [9 favorites]

Giving away tomatoes is a neighbourly thing (and depending what your tomato plants are doing at the time, it's also sometimes a necessity). I would suggest doing the neighbourly thing when it's your time - cupcakes or cookies when you're making or buying them (or - if necessary - that's what you say was happening), fruit off your trees, whatever. It feels a bit more natural if it happens on the spur of the moment.
posted by How much is that froggie in the window at 8:22 PM on August 3 [23 favorites]

Maybe invite her over for dinner one night for spaghetti, pizza, or something else low key? It’s been a long COVID century and many people just want connection right now.
posted by gillianr at 8:23 PM on August 3 [3 favorites]

If you're not a baker, just buy a nice cake, cut it in half. Enjoy one half, and bring her the other half.
posted by dum spiro spero at 8:25 PM on August 3 [4 favorites]

750ml bottle of wine or spirits from her country of origin, natch.
posted by vrakatar at 9:58 PM on August 3 [1 favorite]

Is there something awesome in your kitchen cupboard that you have too much of and will never use?
posted by aniola at 11:12 PM on August 3

Cook a meal enough for two or more, and share half should be simple enough. Vegetarian should be the most likely to be accepted. If you can ascertain what nationality is she we may be able to offer more concrete suggestions.
posted by kschang at 1:54 AM on August 4 [1 favorite]

Yeah I think zucchini bread or banana bread or muffins or cookies could be the thing with kind of a "a friend of mine has too much zucchini in their garden" / "I wanted some but don't want to eat the whole dozen" spin in the delivery.

Another non-escalatory option could be fruit, e.g., a big watermelon you're cutting up and don't want to eat all of or just a pint of blueberries.
posted by slidell at 3:02 AM on August 4 [9 favorites]

There's an opportunity for you to offer the gift of time. Stop to chat when you see her out in the garden; ask her questions and engage in whoever she is; share a bit of yourself. Let what you discover lead your actions from there.

Being a good neighbor can mean showing that you are available and open. Time is one of the most precious and difficult gifts to offer; but it is the most valuable.
posted by mightshould at 6:46 AM on August 4 [5 favorites]

A common thread in these very reasonable suggestions is that the gift be perishable.

That makes sense to me, you don't want to add to your neighbors permanent collection by giving something she'd have to display or store, as that feels too like too much.
posted by RajahKing at 7:21 AM on August 4 [2 favorites]

Houseplant! Houseplants have become my go-to gift. They can be very inexpensive or very expensive depending on the type of plant, the pot that it's in, etc. But for most people, an easy houseplant (such as a snake plant) can make a fun and handsome gift.
posted by jdroth at 7:41 AM on August 4

My mother always taught me that when neighbors/friends share with you the bounty of their garden, you repay the favor with something you made from said bounty. In this case, it could be salsa, or gazpacho, or even a tomato salad that benefits from yummy fresh tomatoes.
posted by DrGail at 8:09 AM on August 4 [2 favorites]

750ml bottle of wine or spirits from her country of origin, natch

I'd be wary of this - she could be on prescription medications which mean no alcohol;

she could have health issues that mean no alcohol;

she could be a recovering alcoholic.

You don't know. Safer to stick to food, flowers, potted plants etc.
posted by Carriage pulled by cassowaries at 8:36 AM on August 4 [7 favorites]

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