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  • Gift of time

  • The holiday season is in full swing, and the time for shopping is slipping away. Trips to red-and-green, glittered stores filled with gadgets, bargain sweatshirts and gift baskets result in tired feet and frustration over what to buy. Another tie? More fruitcake? A regifted kitchen tool? A candle set? If you take a few moment...
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  • The holiday season is in full swing, and the time for shopping is slipping away. Trips to red-and-green, glittered stores filled with gadgets, bargain sweatshirts and gift baskets result in tired feet and frustration over what to buy. Another tie? More fruitcake? A regifted kitchen tool? A candle set? If you take a few moments to think about what friends and family really want, you might realize they'd like the same thing you would — a bit of free time and a rare chance to relax.
    So give it to them. Give them a gift of time.
    Service-related gift certificates can be used when they're needed most and won't force someone back to a store after the holidays for a different size or color. Service-oriented businesses that offer gift certificates run the gamut from day spas and dry cleaners to mobile pet care and restaurants.
    HOME COOKING
    A step up from treating friends or family to a favorite restaurant, Confident Caterers of Medford offers "gourmet to go," home-style cooking to enjoy at home on a busy night (www.confidentcaterers.com/retail.html; 541-773-6209).
    You can preorder it, or drop by after work Tuesdays through Fridays. Dinner for a family of four averages $30 (choices of entree, veggie, starch and salad). A $30 certificate would cover dinner while $50 would ensure a dinner of choice with dessert and selection of wine or beer.
    Extra time on a hectic evening and gourmet food are hard to compare with store-bought trinkets, says co-owner Wayne Whitescorn.
    "The holidays are just too much," he says. "When you have a friend or neighbor you really want to do something nice for, you don't want to give them one more thing they're going to have to figure out what to do with ... I'm a little biased being in the food industry, but it's hard to beat free food."
    Entrees include stuffed chicken Florentine, flat-iron steak with wild-mushroom sauce or casseroles such as eggplant Parmesan and lasagna. Specialties include Oregon salad (think bacon, pears, blue cheese and balsamic) or regionally renowned chowder.
    HOUSEKEEPING
    Perhaps the only thing more dreaded than meal preparation is cleaning up after the holidays. Local cleaning companies offer a host of options.
    "Any woman who works outside the home would kill for a certificate to have their house cleaned," says Sandy Watson, of Sandy's Housekeeping in Central Point (www.facebook.com/pages/Sandys-Housekeeping/283725186630).
    "I would love it if somebody gave me a certificate to have my house cleaned — and I'm a housekeeper! It's just really nice to come home and relax in a clean house, especially when you're not the one who had to clean it."
    Cleaning rates vary around the valley, but a quick search turned up holiday specials starting around $60 for a three-hour job.
    ERRANDS TO RUN?
    Having a personal assistant who is a jack-of-all-trades would be invaluable for someone in need of quality family time. Muffins on the Move in Medford goes beyond its signature breakfast goodies, offering services that range from restaurant delivery and pharmacy pickup to movie drop-off, grocery shopping and other tasks.
    "We'll do any errand somebody wants, like go to Walmart or Costco, hit the grocery store, take back movies, pick up prescriptions, anything that will save them time," says owner Brennan McLennan (www.muffinsonthemove.com; 541-326-6308).
    "People can call us and say, 'Hey, I need you to drop off my UPS and bring me Chinese food.' With the holidays, people are really busy, so we do anything that will make their life a little bit easier."
    Rates start at a flat $10 "per task" for errand-running, with a $5 gas fee and additional percentage for food delivery.
    When seeking out creative gift ideas, think about services a loved one could use, find companies that provide them and call to find out whether gift certificates are available.
    Imagine the look on loved ones' faces when they're spared from pretending to cherish something they didn't want and will never use.
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