What do you give sugar
plum fairies who have everything? We have been rendered fragile, weakened and melting from the fierce events facing us. Our leaders
seem to be in denial compounding our sense of ennui and
the apathy we feel. We have been buried alive by economic uncertainty. We have become so weary of things that don’t work, of hard-earned
money being squandered on aid to foreign countries who hate our guts
while our own homeless starve and shiver. A broken Congress, contemplates one dreadful idea after another. We are the
walking wounded in need of a respite, a place to recover from our
daily battles, a hideaway from intrusion into our emails, phone calls, our
bathrooms, bedrooms, cars, kitchens and gardens. We
sympathize with brave warriors returning from battle – never knowing what it must be like to suffer from post traumatic stress
but sensing we’ve been struck by the enormity of a simple
question. Will it ever get better? A very special shout out to
Operation Gratitude which has sent out its one millionth
package to our troops stationed overseas. We are so proud of having taken part in their wonderful project.
Bravi. Thanks to the Van Nuys Armory too. We salute all our brave military who watch over us and protect us.
We offer a few humble suggestions for holiday gift-giving, all American-made
products which should lleviate the stress of the season and help
boost our economy in the process. For those of us who
depend on Wikipedia, we would like to recommend making a donation.
Wikimedia is composed of an invisible army who provide us
with unlimited information instantaneously. How about a token of our gratitude? Before making a donation to any
charity, consult charitynavigator.org to check out its stats. You’d be surprised how much money is raised and how little is used
for its purpose or goals. Give to Wikimedia.
As much as we all use and love the efficiency of Amazon.com, if you’re trying to track down an old title which might be out of print, try the biggest bookstore in the country -- Powell’s City of Books in Portland, Oregon. They hand out maps of the premises because it’s not difficult to get lost. A friend and I once giggled our way to the women’s restroom – it was that far from our “you are here” marking. Powell’s buys and sells new and used books of every type. I bought several books in Italian, and a good Japanese dictionary at excellent prices. Warning: it’s huge so wear your hiking boots.
Apples of every sort can be found in the state of Washington – whether you favor Granny Smith, red delicious or Gala, they can be ordered and delivered quickly (and, don’t forget the apple butter and cider). Harry & David in Medford Oregon carry apples and pears too. Their comice pears are delicately sweet.
Coffee cakes made by My Grandma’s Cake is Boston, Massachusetts always taste freshly made and delicious. They have an excellent assortment of flavors: apple-walnut, blueberry, cranberry, pumpkin spice, cinnamon-walnut and their full-throttle Ted Williams all-star chocolate coffee cake.
Our search for specifically American-made products, brought us to the land of the Pilgrims, to life in New England. Our favorite Cape Cod gift idea is a set of the famous traditional Bayberry tapers – the candles have a very delicate scent. For the men on your list consider another traditional favorite – Nantucket Reds. Every gent should own a pair for that special occasion. Let’s not forget seafood. It can be put on dry ice and shipped out quickly anywhere. Nobody does it better than the fishermen of Gloucester, Massachusetts. We like Legal Seafood. L.L.Bean in Freeport, Maine is a perfect emporium for cozy, warm clothing, slippers, robes, sweaters, parkas and other gift ideas. Their flannel plaid bathrobes are the best!
OPI nail polish is headquartered in North Hollywood – about two miles from Studio City. George Shaeffer, the genius behind the brand, and I were seatmates on a Southwest flight from Burbank to San Francisco a while back. We introduced ourselves and he told me his Russian mother’s name was Irene too. We had a delightful hour of conversation. On his laptop he was able to display accounts for his nail polish in more than 70 countries around the world, including China. How did this small idea take off and become such a success? George says he wanted to make a product which would give women a lift without costing a fortune. And so OPI was born. You can buy a holiday gift tower of luscious shades at very affordable prices. Sure beats going to a psychiatrist!
The southern states offer several great favorites. Florida’s citrus fruits are excellent. Salt water taffy too. New Orleans has incredible sweets made from pralines. South Carolina and Georgia grow the best nuts and nut products in the country. I especially like Young Plantations (S.C.) for the assortment they offer at reasonable prices. Their chocolate covered pecans make you want to sit down and eat the whole tin – sinfully delicious South Carolina is home to Jackson and Perkins – their rose bushes are world famous and they’ve got huge supplies of holiday greenery, from wreaths to trees.
The Kachina is a spirit being, made in the southwestern pueblos by native Americans. There are more than 400 types of Kachina doll and they’re not just for children. New Mexico offers a marvelous array of handmade items. The pottery and tiles are decorative and festive. They are works of art that make you smile whenever you look at them. Wind chimes and handmade moccasins as well as beaded jewelry make inexpensive gifts.
With a nod to George Herbert Walker Bush we salute his funny sock collection. You can gift anyone on your list with a pair of “Cat in the Hat” socks but there are dozens of other unique designs too. Beautiful handmade quilts, made by women in quilting bees are available for purchase from sources in Amish country, by the Lakota Sioux, and groups in Iowa, Nebraska and Tennessee. If you go online you can contact these quilting bees and get an idea of the product each individual group makes.
Regional wines always make a perfect gift – Napa and Sonoma to New York State, you can find something for every palate. Maple syrup and products made with it are always a hit. My Uncle Peter owned a small ice cream parlor in Brattleboro, Vermont. I would give up several tomorrows to go back in time for a taste of his maple syrup ice cream. Black Diamond cheddar cheese is a tasty favorite. Tillamook is the big cheese leader from Oregon and they have a type for every palate. Crabs come from Chesapeake. A special tip of the hat to a dear, old pal – Joseph R. L. Sterne, retired editor of the Baltimore Sun and an apology for saying that crabs come from Maryland (but they do). If you’re into big beef, you’ll find the best in Kansas City. There’s also a well-known source for beef called Omaha Steaks (maybe you’ve heard of them).
Alaska has the awesome and much-loved Copper River salmon. Many markets carry it but you can have it shipped directly to your door.
The most treasured state of Hawaii has special offerings. The can ship their beautiful leis – round as well as broken (especially suited ceremonial ones for men) in a variety of flowers – orchid or plumeria, etc. Hawaiian Host in Honolulu has lot of macadamia nut treats – you’ll want to order some for yourself as well as gift giving. The best know shirts on the islands are made by Crazy Shirts. I highly recommend this company and their top quality t-shirts, sweatshirts and shorts. They’re always fun to wear.
No Christmas season would be complete without fruitcake. The monks at the Trappist Monastery in Carlton, Oregon have been making this iconic product for decades. Last but not least, there is a tradition of placing oil lamps on window sills of homes in many of the early American colonies during the holiday season. It’s such a pretty visual effect, even though the light comes from a tiny bulb, it lets Santa know you’re home. You can find perfect oil lamp replicas, pewter candle sticks and all sorts of Americana gifts online from Williamsburg, Virginia. Yes, Virginia, there really is a Santa Claus.
Special note for my dear cousin Guido in Sicily. We think it’s time for you to buy a new Louisville Slugger. You’ve done enough damage with your old one, why not replace it? (He aims for the knees but tends to swing wide.)
I have a list of recommended websites for all items mentioned here. If you’d like to ask about any specific product, please post a comment.