by Margaret Cabaniss
I’m trying to implement some of Zoe’s tips for having a more meaningful Christmas this year, and that means trying to finish up as much of my shopping before December 1 as I can. If you’re in the same boat, here are some gift ideas with the SlowMama reader in mind — many are handcrafted, locally sourced, or support great charities abroad — that we think anyone on your list would enjoy.
Noonday Collection. Zoe has mentioned Noonday Collection before and the great work they do with artisans around the globe to support mothers, orphans, and adoptive families. I love pretty much everything in this picture.
No. 41 bags. These bags are handmade by young women in Rwanda — orphans who have been taught to sew as a way to gain independence and valuable life skills. On top of that, each bag purchased provides 240 meals to a student in a nearby secondary school: “for one child, for one meal, for one year” (hence the name, No. 41). Not a bad trade-off for a cute bag.
Hand-dipped taper candles. Elegant tapers like these are the kind of thing I love and never buy for myself. Everything in Jenny Steffens Hobick’s “Everyday Occasions” store — including the monogrammed hemstitched napkins — would make a lovely hostess gift, or a thoughtful Christmas gift for a couple just starting out…
Kantha throw. Via Lydali, another great organization that Zoe profiled a while back, which handpicks these amazing finds from artisans whose work would never otherwise see the light of the internet. This throw (from Bangladesh) is just lovely.
Lumberlander camp blanket. I originally planned to recommend that gorgeous camp blanket and leather carrier, but the axe would make a pretty sweet gift, too. These are tools designed to be passed down to your kids, and your kids’ kids…
Oliberté shoes. Oliberté says it’s the “world’s first fair trade certified footwear.” Made in Africa from renewable materials, in factories committed to fair wages and reducing their environmental impact — plus they’re darn stylish to…er, boot.
Worker’s soap. Yes, it’s artisinal soap — but with its “hardy and strapping scent of cedar, patchouli, and tobacco,” it’s manly artisinal soap. Made in the good ol’ U.S. of A.
Pocket journal. I can never have too many journals for jotting random notes, and I am digging these sleek, minimalist Shinola notebooks (made in Michigan).
For the Kids
Custom handmade doll. This little bit is so charming. I love the idea of having a custom doll made to match your child — particularly if your child doesn’t match the commercially favored shades of pink… (But heads up: Custom orders will take longer this time of year, so be sure to plan ahead.)
Natural wood building blocks. This one is a no-brainer. Good for hours of imaginative play.
Mancala. I remember playing this game obsessively when I was younger; it’s a great introduction to strategy for little kids but is still engaging for older ones (and their parents).
Bees wrap. Natural kitchen wrap made with beeswax and cloth that you can wash and reuse again and again. I would love nothing more than to banish Saran Wrap from my life forever.
Bread bag. Plastic bags are death to freshly baked loaves of bread; this linen bread bag lets it breathe just enough. Somehow it just makes your bread look more delicious.
“Cook” tea towel. Because you can never have too many tea towels.
Acacia wood paddles. I have a wooden paddle in my utensil drawer, and it’s amazing how versatile it is. I grab it over a spoon every single time — and these are just plain gorgeous.
Stoneware growler. For the beer enthusiast in your family. I like the old-fashioned style of this guy — it looks like you could play it in a jug band. Be sure to take it by your favorite microbrewery first to fill ‘er up…
Six-pack carrier and opener. This is somehow both over the top and completely awesome. Perfect for picnics all summer long — or simply showing up every other guest at your next BYOB party. Another good one to fill up before giving, with fancy beers or fancy sodas.
Rancho Gordo gift box. Beans are beans — unless they’re heirloom beans cooked at home, and then they’re truly a thing of wonder. Put together a gift box for your favorite chef.
Counter Culture coffee. Even that impossible-to-shop-for, I-have-everything-I-need person on your list can always use good coffee. Great small-batch roasters of fair-trade beans abound, but I always have a soft spot for my home-state favorite, Counter Culture. I wouldn’t mind finding a bag of their holiday blend in my stocking this year…
Bacon of the Month club. I say again: Bacon of the Month club. Zingerman’s Deli is an Ann Arbor institution, and their (in)famous bacon club has gotten raves from chefs the country over. Yes, it’s a lot of money for bacon, but I think the price-to-joy ratio will probably balance out.
NatureBox subscription. If you’re feeling guilty about the bacon thing. Put together a box of natural snacks, then set up a recurring delivery. This one would be great for busy moms — or consider making your own.
The Telling Room, by Michael Paterniti. This one is hard to describe, but I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed it. For anyone interested in old Spain, heritage foods, travel writing, family feuds, revenge, and the lost art of storytelling.
Cooked, by Michael Pollan. I haven’t read this one yet, but it’s on my list; Pollan is always worth reading, and his latest — on the history of cooking from its earliest forms — looks like a winner.
The Kinfolk Table, by Nathan Williams. I love drooling over Kinfolk magazine’s gorgeous photo spreads and lovely gatherings, and now there’s a whole cookbook I can sigh over. Hooray!
Homeward Bound, by Emily Matchar. I wrote about this book a few months ago, and since then I’ve had some great conversations about it. I could see this one working for a book club, or for anyone who loves a good book discussion almost as much as the book-reading itself.
Seriously Bittersweet, by Alice Medrich, and The Four and Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book, by Emily and Melissa Elsen. I know nothing about these two cookbooks other than that they are gorgeous, and I am totally on board with all things chocolate- and pie-related. Give these to your baker friend and consider the hint dropped.
Event tickets. Give the ever-elusive gift of time: Buy tickets to a play, a football game, a train ride to the city…anything that lets you enjoy some time together doing something a little out of the ordinary. (image)
Museum membership. If your grandkids really don’t need another toy, consider a family membership to a local museum or zoo in their area. The kids will enjoy it all year long, and their parents will thank you for the neat opportunity to get out of the house. (image)
Donation for typhoon relief. The devastation in the Philippines from Typhoon Haiyan has been truly staggering. Consider making a donation to relief efforts in someone else’s name; the money will do far more good there than as yet another “World’s Greatest Dad” mug. (image)
Heifer International. Of course, there are worthy causes all over. I’ve always appreciated Heifer International’s concrete approach to giving: You can see exactly what your money is buying — in this case, life-sustaining animals like cows, sheep, goats, and chickens to help lift people in the developing world out of poverty.
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Any other great products, shops, or causes you’ll be supporting this holiday season? Let us know in the comments! Meanwhile, be sure to check out past year’s lists:
Lead image via Sunday Suppers; all others from their respective companies, unless otherwise linked.