John Scalzi, a writer I really like, did a very kind thing this week: He gave writers and editors the chance to share information about their books in his blog’s comments. A type of writerly gift guide for the holidays, if you will.
I thought it might be fun to do something similar. So I’m going to use this post to highlight five businesses that have wonderful products. They are all local (to me, or to places I visit frequently) and small, but they produce some of my very favorite things. If you are looking for the perfect holiday present, hostess gift, or stocking stuffer, you can’t go wrong with any of these. (Aaaand in the interest of full disclosure, I have no ties, connections, or relatives in any of these businesses. I get nada from recommending them, other than the chance to share them with you.)
Plum Island Soap Company. My pediatrician affectionately refers to one of my children as “the creature from the blue lagoon” because said child has such dry, scaly skin. The only thing I’ve ever found that helps is this company’s baby balm. I started applying it as a diaper cream (no more diaper rash!) and moved on to coating said child from head to toe with it at night. Then I stole the jar and started using it myself. Great for chapped hands, dry elbows, or any other area. The company also makes soap that smells so good, my babies would try to eat it. Finally, they have a black licorice line of products, which means I am a customer for life. And unlike the products mentioned in this scary article, Plum Island Soap Company’s stuff doesn’t have any frightening ingredients, so you can use it as often as you like.
Three Sisters Farms In summer, our first stop at the farmer’s market is at this stall. Glenn, who owns the business with his family, is remarkably patient with all of us as we ask questions and handle products. Their beeswax candles smell like heat and flowers mixed together, and in winter I light them just to remember the sun’s glow. (Last year, my son saved his money all summer long to purchase an enormous dragon-shaped candle, which he refuses to burn. He keeps it next to his bed to scare the dark away.) I’m a particular fan of their lavender honey — I dole it out in cups of tea like a miser — but their raw wildflower honey is pretty sweet too. A jar would make an awfully nice gift for your favorite writer, don’t you think?
Bridgewater Chocolate. Back in the day, I would send these chocolates to clients, and a box of Bridgewater truffles was the best possible gift I could think of for my agent and editor. Their candies are rich and dark and sinful and if you buy them, plan to have them shipped to their final destination. Otherwise your family will find you hiding in a dark closet, clutching the box meant for Great Aunt Mabel to your chest and eating them as fast as possible. (I, of course, would never be found in such a position. I wait till the kids are at school to open the box.)
Norm’s Atomic Barbecue Sauce. I put barbecue sauce on food instead of ketchup, and Norm’s has the best I’ve ever tasted. It’s smoky and sweet with just enough of a kick to let you know this isn’t kid stuff. I bought two jars last year, meaning to give one as a gift, and by September I’d gone through both of them. His sauce is good on eggs, on french fries, on cheese sandwiches … this summer, I got smart and bought three bottles. Only one is left, so I guess I need to decide how much I really like a certain family member.
Sunny Window. Every year, I attend the same holiday craft fair, and one of the highlights is walking into the room and inhaling the scent of
Sunny Window’s products. Lavender, lemongrass soap, sage lotion … it’s all gorgeous and gorgeously displayed, and there is always something new and unique. This year, it was tiny boxes made out of orange peels, beautifully decorated and faintly scented with citrus.The owner, Nancy, also does workshops, and I’m thinking the lavender class might be just the thing to chase the winter blues AND the writer’s block away.
Batch Ice Cream. Let’s just put it out there — I’m not a fan of ice cream. Oh, I’ll eat it in summer, but give me a choice of how to spend my calories and chocolate and cake win, every time. Except that a few weeks ago my husband brought home a pint of Batch’s Ginger Ice Cream. And I ate the whole thing. By myself. I think I showed remarkable restraint by not running to the store immediately to sample their Cinnamon and Chocolate Bits, or their Salted Carmel, but one can only be strong for so long. Showing up at a holiday gathering with a few containers of this ice cream and an attractive scoop might make you very popular indeed.
My local indie bookstore. I have three that I consider ‘mine’ — two within driving distance of my home and one that I can visit only in summer. All offer personal customer service, and have turned me on to writers I might never have discovered on my own. Books are the perfect gift — they’re compact, yet they contain the world inside, and there’s one for almost everybody on your list. (And if you are buying Evenfall this year for someone, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.) Plus, you can pair the book with a meaningful experience to make it a unique event the receiver will treasure forever. Here’s a great guide to help you get started, updated for 2011.
Whew. So that’s my contribution to your gift list for this year. Now I’d love to hear your suggestions!