Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Knitterpated (Non-Yarn) Gift Guide

Around here, November means it's time for me to make my holiday gift lists and load up the credit card. I like to finish the majority of my holiday shopping by December 1st, which makes me seem like I'm really organized and well put together until you understand that this is how I compensate for being absolutely scattered. If I wait until the last minute, I will end up giving everyone leftover snack size candies from Halloween. (You know, the ones my kids don't like. Hot Tamales, Laffy Taffy, etc.--not the good stuff.) Also, my kids have a penchant for getting the stomach flu right before, or on, major holidays, so I know that last minute trips to the mall are generally out of the question for us.

Besides, I hate shopping at the mall. I can tolerate an occasional trip with a friend to try on cool shoes, but any trips with my children make me want to pull my hair out. And a trip to the mall anytime after Thanksgiving, well--that's just more than I can take. I rarely buy anything at the mall. I do the majority of my shopping online, with a few trips out to locally-owned stores for special items. (I would like to support more local stores--but there are only a few left in my immediate neighborhood, and driving an hour to a "cool town" for shopping is not something I like to do with kids in tow. I'd rather pay the shipping fees.)

I also should note that I am a big fan of supporting small businesses and "responsible" larger businesses. I do love me some Target, but I have made a personal commitment to putting my money where my beliefs are whenever I can.

So this year I am sharing some of my favorite websites, in the hope that they might help you find the perfect item for someone on your list. And I hope that you will add other good sites in the comments, for those hard-to-please folks on my list.

Gifts & Gift Baskets

Vermont Moonlight Cookies
Small Vermont bakery specializing in unique cookies, using quality ingredients (Cabot butter, King Arthur flour, etc.) A pound of cookies runs around $25 (plus shipping) to start, which may seem expensive but they are beautifully packaged and worth every penny. I have frequently sent these as anniversary/Mother's Day/birthday/thank you gifts. The owner is great and very willing to accommodate special requests.

Vermont Nut Free Chocolates

I haven't purchased from here, but a friend of mine has nothing but good things to say about the products. I have added the maple creams to my holiday wish list, and I'm eyeing the raspberry creams as well! (And maybe some of that Peppermint Crunch Bark...and oh, there's fudge too...) All products are free of peanuts, tree nuts, and sesame. Small family owned business with a connection to Norma.

Lesley's Life Is Sweet Chocolates
Unique themed chocolates (Celtic, African, etc.) with a percentage of profits donated to various charities.

Equal Exchange
I'm big on Fair Trade, and this is one of my favorite companies. They sell gift assortments of coffees, teas, and chocolates, in a wide range of prices. Buy a case of candy bars to share at the office. They also have a fundraising program, if you need something new to bolster the PTO coffers. And if you are a member of a church or other religious group, check out their Interfaith Program. I love being able to buy free trade coffee and chocolates right at my church.

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters
Check out the Better World Gift Basket ($56.00) that includes fair trade coffees, teas, and chocolates. They also sell a variety of Vermont produced products.

King Arthur Flour Bakers Catalogue
This is a 100% employee owned company in Vermont--and I can guarantee you that any baker on your list would love a gift certificate from here. You can easily search for gluten free, sugar free, organic and kosher items, and they also put together some great gift baskets. I am also a fan of their cheddar cheese powder, which makes great mac & cheese, so if you are ordering some gifts you should add a bag of that for your own kitchen!

Kid Stuff
These aren't Fair Trade or ecologically responsible or anything like that. They are just cool things I've found for the kids in my life.*

Zome Building Kits
We just gave one of these kits to our seven year old for her birthday, and my engineer husband and I are probably more enamored of it than she is. However, the cool bubble-making ideas in the enclosed booklet have captured her attention. If you know a kid that likes building, creating, and or math puzzling, there's some pretty cool stuff here.
We actually bought our kit (The Adventurer) from Fat Brain Toys, because they sell the small Bubble Kits for $9.95. I stocked up on a few of these for all of our upcoming birthday parties.

It's a Bam-Bam Diddley
If you know a kid who likes Dan Zanes and/or Jamaican music, or if you know a parent who might need some help getting through those long cold January days at home with small children, then this is the CD to buy. It's Father Goose at his best, produced by Zanes, and involving a large number of talented guest musicians. Upbeat and fun. Put it on loud and dance through the house!

L-Bow Mittens/Gloves
The kids may not be excited when they unwrap these, but trust me--if they are near snow, they will come to love them. These are fabulous mittens with a long cuff that goes up to the child's elbow (over a coat). These are perfect for playing in the snow. They may seem pricey ($24 and up) but they are worth every penny and can be handed down. Family owned company.

*If you are looking for toys that are NOT made in China, check out Allison's posts here and here.
And Bake and Shake just posted some fun guides to Etsy shops.