C& H's Beer-of-the-Month and Wine-of-the-Month (Beer starts at $22.95 per month, Wine at $29.95 per month)
These packages were the most fun to see waiting outside my apartment—fat boxes labeled "alcohol." Good things might come in small sizes—if my mother or Muggsy Bogues is telling the story—but never underestimate the importance of going big. And really, who doesn't like lots and lots of free drinks, especially when they don't come with strings attached, as they so often do? (Sitting through a bad date, a work party, writing an article about holiday gifts.)
The wines came in monthly pairs, a red and a white. The beers came by the dozen, with bottles from four different microbreweries each month, getting more wintery as the months went on, culminating in oatmeal stouts and strong lagers. Both were accompanied by newsletters (Cellar Notes and Malt of the Earth) with descriptions of the vintage/brew and folksy declarations like "Merlot: Always a bridesmaid, never a bride, no more" as well as pairing suggestions, recipes, and a "member of the month" contest—it made the whole thing feel sort of like an actual small-town club.
I wouldn't sign someone up for a wine or beer club who is a true wine or beer aficionado—I assume that a more finicky drinker might quibble with the choices. But for the middlebrow, muddling casual drinker, they're just fine. These clubs also encouraged me to entertain more; with so much beer crowding my fridge, I asked people over each month to help me get rid of it. So this manages to suit both the idealistic gift givers, who think companionship is the best present of them all, and the cynics who think the answer to the question of the holidays is, always, booze.
C&H's Flowers-of-the-Month ($28.95 per month)
For reasons that remain unclear, I received only one shipment of flowers. The arrangement, October's selection, wasn't particularly to my taste—very tall, unusual Hawaiian proteas in vibrant shades of "pink ice latifolia" and "safari sunset" (taken together, the names conjure a rather confusing clime). Even so, I loved having fresh flowers around, and this varietal was particularly long-lasting. Flowers also have what I've come to believe are the key of-the-month attributes; they are indulgent but not expensive, people rarely buy flowers for themselves, and they have a use-by date, so they're nice to receive in batches instead of all at once.
Or perhaps flowers-of-the-month struck me as such a perfect idea because I only got one set, and you always want what you don't have. I suppose that even if I'd gotten 12 months of flowers I'd have pined for 24. After all, nothing says Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year like the lingering feeling of not having gotten enough.