Capital Region

Gift ideas for everyone in your life — from local small businesses, and online

Top left — For the bohemian: Succulant dish gardens from Faddegon's Nursery in Latham; Top right — For the host(ess) with the mostest: whimsically designed aprons from Betsy Olmsted in Saratoga Springs; Bottom right — For the artisan: unisex tie-dyed short sleeve shirts and sweatshirts from Bluebird in Schenectady. Bottom left — For the grandkid (who has everything): The card game Bold Made, available online. (Mary Cirincione photos) 
PHOTOGRAPHER:

Top left — For the bohemian: Succulant dish gardens from Faddegon's Nursery in Latham; Top right — For the host(ess) with the mostest: whimsically designed aprons from Betsy Olmsted in Saratoga Springs; Bottom right — For the artisan: unisex tie-dyed short sleeve shirts and sweatshirts from Bluebird in Schenectady. Bottom left — For the grandkid (who has everything): The card game Bold Made, available online. (Mary Cirincione photos) 

Holiday season is challenging enough without the added stress of scouring for the perfect gift. You know the annual battle: Finding the right gift for the right person at the right price point… We call that the elusive gift-giving trifecta.

Lucky for you, we’ve scoured on your behalf to find a variety of options that will help you shop small this season (as in small business) for everyone in your life — from the “mom who does it all” to the “grandkid who has it all,” as well as the foodie and the social butterfly — both locally and online, for whatever suits you and your lifestyle best.

The overbooked family (of two, three, four, five…)

Local: Snag a gift card directly from the Scotia Cinema box office in any amount you choose and give the much-needed gift of quality time. Plus, how many of us have been to a theater in the past 18 months? Dare I say it, but catching a movie on the big screen sounds like a solid family outing once the cold weather truly hits. Plus, this theater has a sense of nostalgia about it, too. (scotiacinema.net)

Online: Go big and gift something which will ensure the whole family has a successful 2022: A customizable organizer from 1 Thrive ($100+). I gifted one to my brother, sister-in-law and nephew to help them figure out daycare drop-offs and pick-ups, finagle meal planning, schedule off-sites for work and even their date nights. You can choose from any of their pre-designed options or let them customize something that fits their needs exactly and I promise, it will be seen as a tangible lifesaver. We’re talking draw-on calendars, chalkboards, cork boards, file holders — everything they need to get and stay organized. (1thrive.com)

The #momboss (who’s juggling a dozen things, at any given time)

Local: What busy mom doesn’t need to caffeinate to take charge of the day, and then find something to help them relax when they’re trying to settle in for the evening? Tea is just the ticket, plus, few things are better than a cuppa on a cold winter’s day or night. If you’ve never dined at one of the three area Whistling Tea Kettle locations, you’re missing out, but it’s their tea that will keep you coming back for more — Luckily, they have a tea shop inside their restaurants where you can buy loose leaf teas, herbal blends and fruit tisanes in sample bags ($3), four-ounce ($15 and up) and eight-ounce bags. My personal favorite is their Blood Orange Fruit Tea (bonus: it’s caffeine free), but they offer several seasonal teas such as Apple Cider Donut, Gingerbread Cookie and Winter Dream. (thewhistlingkettle.com)

Online: When you’re grappling with stress and a busy household, organization can be the one thing that keeps you from feeling as though you’ve gone overboard. Plum Paper ($50+) offers a completely customizable planner — you can literally choose everything from the cover graphic to the layout (vertical or horizontal), the starting month to the starting day (I prefer planners which start on a Monday, but that’s me), as well as whether you need extra pages for shopping and to-do lists. If you have goals you want to hit, there’s a place to build those into your weekly pages, as well. Give a gift card and let the #momboss in your life design the perfect one for her. (plumpaper.com)

The host(ess) with the mostest

Local: What hostess doesn’t need — or dare I say, deserve — a gorgeous apron they can sport as they ready their home and whatever fixings they’re serving? Saratoga-based watercolor artist Betsy Olmsted graces all kinds of items with her signature whimsical designs which include playful foxes, parrots and bunnies, as well as mushrooms, leopards, jewels and gems… the list goes on and on, but her 100% cotton pinafore -style cross-back aprons are an absolute win and affordably priced ($44 available online and in her Saratoga store). Favorites include her Christmas-themed “Wonderland” apron which has nutcrackers and ornaments, trees and snow globes, as well as “Little Things” which has nail polish and lipstick tubes, tarot cards and cameras. You might be inspired to snag one to gift and one to keep. Note, she also offers tea towels and pillows, scarves, kaftans and home accessories. (betsyolmsted.com)

Online: Angie’s Tables offers “one and done” beautifully packaged kits that are literally a gorgeous tablescape in a box — from the cloth to the napkins, the runner to the chargers, even accents like votives and napkin rings are all thoughtfully chosen and included to ensure that the table where you’re set to celebrate Christmas dinner or New Year’s Day brunch is styled to perfection. Especially if you’re due to celebrate at someone’s house, pre-gifting the tablescape while they provide the meal is a great way to share in the expense of the day. Their holiday settings ($139.99 for service for four) are timeless enough that you can change the look by swapping out the napkins for a different hue and channel your inner Martha Stewart. (angiestables.com)

The foodie

Local: Head to Cappiello’s and score the makings of a killer pizza — fresh dough, fresh mozzarella and a jar of sauce, throw them in a basket and voila, you’ve got one impressive gift. Add a bottle of wine into the mix and you may even earn a chef’s kiss.

Online: Literally, breakfast in a box—a special breakfast, that is, courtesy of SeaBear. For $100 plus roughly $20 for shipping, you can gift a salmon-lover’s breakfast for 10. With a pound of the brand’s signature lox and 6 oz. of their Smoked Salmon Schmear (cream cheese with chunks of smoked salmon blended in), as well as six each of their bake-at-home jumbo croissants and plain bagels, you’ve got enough to make a good impression, plus some everything bagel seasoning to kick things up a notch should you choose. So whether you’re looking for a gift for someone who’s expecting to host a crowd this season or are slated to be a house guest yourself and are looking for an epic “thank you for hosting me” gift (or even just shopping for a food-lover in your life), this one is sure to be a hit. (seabear.com)

The “all things natural” enthusiast

Local: Petal and Hive in Ballston Spa offers a range of sustainable plant-based beauty and wellness products which you and the recipient can feel good about. Try their Lavender Sleep Balm paired with their Lavender & Rosemary Hydrating Hand Lotion and give the gift we all need: relaxation. (petalandhive.com)

Online: A sustainable alternative to the “plastic wrap and Ziploc bag” habits most of us grew up with, Nature Bee Beeswax Wraps come in dozens of fun patterns and can be used, washed and reused time and again. Honestly, these little sheets are brilliant and easy to use for kid hands and arthritic hands alike and are ideal for wrapping sandwiches, bundling food together or sealing off an open bowl or food container. You just shape them into place (the warmth of your hands makes them super pliable) and when you’re done, all you need to do is give them a quick rinse with cold soapy water and let them air dry and you’re ready to go again. Opt for the three-pack of small, medium and large wraps ($21). (naturebeewraps.ca)

The artisan

Local: Couldn’t decide between them so here are two options from Bluebird in Schenectady: their assortment of unisex tie-dyed short sleeve shirts and sweatshirts which are made by the shop’s owner, Nicolle Broughton ($28 to $48), and their assortment of stamped mugs from Sugarboo & Co. ($19 each). The former come in a variety of soothing, earthy hues which are completely on trend and speak to the fact that comfort and beauty are key these days. The latter are microwave- and dishwasher-safe and feature beautiful little one-line love notes from pop culture heroes like David Bowie, Prince, Dolly Parton, Gloria Gaynor and Johnny Cash meaning you’re sure to find one that’s just right for whomever you’re shopping. And if you can’t decide, go with Dolly’s: “Pour yourself a cup of ambition.” (bluebird-homedecor.com)

Online: If you’re shopping for someone with an artistic flair, whose heart skips a beat when they hear the phrase “handmade,” then head to Ecletticos and browse their line of home goods and ceramics. Every piece they offer is a purposeful work of art, designed to elevate routine moments in our lives — like our morning beverage. Let’s be honest: a well-made, well-designed mug is a “can’t-go-wrong” gift for obvious reasons, but when it’s also striking to look at, well then you’ve found a gem. Their Nepal or Atlas mugs ($54.99) feature a mountainous landscape pattern around the base and are glazed to perfection, with an engraved ceramic lid and removable strainer so you can brew your tea or make pour over coffee. Honestly, they’re gorgeous and anyone with an eye for design would be tickled pink and refuse to drink out of a boring mug ever again. (ecletticos.com)

The bohemian

Local: Faddegon’s Nursery in Latham has an incredible variety of ready-to-give gifts, but their succulent dish gardens ($30) include five or six small succulents of different varieties tucked into a concrete planter. They’re a statement piece without being fussy, although the best part about them is that they’re a breeze to care for so you can feel confident that your gift won’t be overwhelming or wilt within weeks. Just water when dry, give them some sun and enjoy. You can take it from me, I own one. (faddegons.com)

Online: Handmade feather earrings that aren’t just a statement piece — they’re also a piece of art — from Babaloo will delight any boho queen. We’re talking peacock feathers, guinea feathers (striped!), pink and orange plumes with gold leaf accents… all handmade, made to order in an eco-responsible, ethical way in Lexington, Kentucky. Sounds like a win-win. (babaloojewelry.com)

The over-21 social butterfly

Local: Give the gift of social laughter via a gift card (any denomination you choose) to the Mopco Improv Theater so they can attend a show with a friend or three, or even book an improv class for themselves. Shows range from $5 to $15 a person, and four-week workshops are also offered seasonally (from $60 to $120). (mopco.org)

Online: Small enough to tuck into your purse or pocket when heading to a friend’s house, Last Call is one of the simplest card games for the over-21 set. Easy to understand and easy to follow (no matter how much you’ve imbibed) it encourages you to get to know your friends even better, and also sip your drinks (responsibly, of course). With “superlative” cards, “competition” cards, “whodunnit” cards and even “do it or drink” cards, you can bring some extra energy to any social gathering. Available on Amazon.

The adventurer

Local: Why not help inspire someone’s next adventure into the great wide open, wherever that might be? A quick stop at The Open Door in Schenectady yields several solid options including “Scenic Driving New York,” ($24.95) by Randi Minetor and “50 Hikes in the Adirondack Mountains” ($22.95) by Bill Ingersoll which are perfect for someone seeking to stay a bit closer to home or “111 Extreme Places in Europe That You Shouldn’t Miss,” ($20) by Patricia Szilagyi, for someone hoping to take advantage of a favorable euro exchange rate and cheaper-than-normal flights to the continent. (opendoor-bookstore.com)

Online: An adventure blanket — perfect for the beach, a picnic, a tailgate or cozying up in front of a fire (indoors or outdoors) — is a must-have for any free-spirited explorer. Designed by a mother-daughter duo in San Diego, Nipomo’s handmade woven blankets ($86) pay homage to their Mexican heritage and come in a range of earthy, vivid hues and a variety of geometric patterns. Each one is handcrafted by skilled weavers in Mexico and comes with a leather carrying strap to ensure that they can be toted anywhere and everywhere. Even better? They’re machine washable, get softer with use and are sizable, measuring roughly 83” by 51”. (nipomo.co)

The homebody

Local: Once winter is in full swing, staying warm at home with tea, toddy or wine in hand is probably something most of us would find appealing, but for some it’s simply where they’re happiest or perhaps something they’re trying to become more comfortable with. If you have someone in your life for whom that rings true, we’ve found the perfect gift: ”Embracing the Dutch Art of Doing Nothing” ($19.99) by Olga Mecking. Available at The Open Door, Niksen allows the reader to let go of any guilt related to staying busy, as they learn to recharge body and mind. If the idea of cozy makes their heart flutter, “Escape Into Cottagecore: Embrace Cozy Countryside Comfort in Your Everyday” ($19.95) by Ramona Jones provides plenty of reasons to make a home they’ll never want to leave. (opendoor-bookstore.com)

Online: A scented candle can relax, transport and bring an entire season to life. Plus, what says the holidays more than cranberry, citrus, spices, peppermint and fir (albeit not all at once)? All reasons why a quality, handcrafted one makes for the absolutely perfect gift for anyone seeking to spend some quality time at home over the winter months. Each soy-based, vegan candle from Broken Top Candle Co. is made in Oregon with quality essential oils and packaged in a simple, timeless jar which won’t compete with anyone’s decor. Buy direct from their site ($15 for a 4 oz. candle) or snag a three pack from Macy’s ($38). (brokentopcandleco.com)

The self-care enthusiast

Local: Beekman 1802’s suite of goat milk products has gained national fame, but the farm itself is located in Sharon Springs and their headquarters are in Mohawk Harbor in Schenectady — and are available for sale at many local outlets, from their flagship mercantile shop in Sharon Springs to Faddegon’s Nursery, The Open Door and Pearl Grant Richmans. Although they have several scents and even pre-arranged gift sets to choose from, you can’t go wrong with a duo of their goat’s milk hand and body wash ($12) and body lotion ($12) in their Fresh Air scent. They’re gentle with a crisp citrus scent sure to please just about anyone. (beekman1802.com)

Online: Help someone find some inner zen (even if it’s fleeting, given holiday-time stress), with the Buddha Board, a small, no-mess art board designed to foster creativity and mindfulness whether they’re creatively inclined or just in need of some creative release. All you need to do is dip the provided brush in some water then place the brush to board and start sketching. As the water evaporates your masterpiece (or your doodle) disappears — just like the Tibetan Sand Mandalas which are meant to be made then destroyed. It comes in three sizes, the Original which includes a stand ($37.95), the portable Enso ($27.95) which folds like a laptop and the Mini ($17.95) and is appropriate for most ages, from children to seniors.

The beverage enthusiast

Local: Grab a 4-pack (anywhere from $9.99 to $15.99) or growler ($6 for a 64-oz. empty growler, plus the price to fill it) from Wolf Hollow Brewing Company and ensure that the sports lover in your life has something incredible to drink even if their favorite team is on the losing end of things. They have beer and ciders in every shade to suit any palate, but consider the Midnight Dreary Black IPA, their first award-winning beer, Blueberry Loud which is a fruited sour brewed with blueberries, their Lock 9 Porter or their signature Wolf Hollow Amber. (wolfhollowbrewing.com)

Online: Whether you’re shopping for someone who loves a good cocktail or someone seeking to observe “dry January,” Mocktail Club’s low calorie, alcohol-free bottled cocktails are a sparkling alternative made with clean ingredients. Opt for a variety four-pack which serves eight ($29.95 after shipping) and includes their takes on a mojito (with lime, cucumber, mint and cardamom), a spritz (pomegranate, cranberry, apple cider vinegar and lemongrass), a Manhattan (blackberries, pear shrub and ginger), and an old-fashioned (pomegranate, chili, agave and tea). If the mood strikes, you can easily spike them with your favorite spirit and have an easily-crafted adult beverage worthy of the season. (mocktailclub.com)

The overworked friend or colleague

Local: Opt for a pound ($25 and trust me, get the pound) of Uncle Sam’s “world famous” butter crunch. Nothing melts stress quite like a bit of chocolatey, crunchy, gooey goodness. If you’re lucky enough, they’ll even share. (unclesamscandy.com)

Online: It’s hard to describe the Layered Living Planner ($58) in just a few lines, but here goes: it’s a tool that encourages the user to view each of their layers — dreams, relationships, creativity, career among others — that make them who they are, one month at a time, while they focus on growth and understanding to ideally make the coming year a productive, reflective one. Yes, there are calendar sections and spaces to note appointments and objectives as with a traditional planner, but the experience of using it is meant to facilitate inward exploration. (herspaceco.com)

The grandkid (who has everything)

Local: When in doubt, gift an experience that includes some good old-fashioned “get out of the house” fun appropriate for all age groups. Games at Boulevard Bowl on Erie Blvd. in Schenectady range from $3 to $4.50 per person, depending on the day and time, and Rock ‘n Bowl sessions on Friday and Saturday evenings are $15. Shoe rentals are $3.50, so consider going with an even $10, $15 or $20 gift certificate so kids can play a few rounds and grab a beverage or a snack, too. (eboulevardbowl.com)

Online for ages 3-10: Designed to make storytelling interactive, My Fabulous Storyteller by Lunii allows kids to design a short story they want to hear by choosing a hero, an object and even a location. It’s a small hand-held soft-touch device which is smaller than an iPad and screen-free (emphasis on that if you’re trying to encourage kids to spend time away from screens, especially before bed) and includes a headphone jack so kids can listen on the go or while travelling. Lunii ($79.90 on Amazon and Bloomingdale’s) plugs directly into a computer so you can download stories which are available in eight languages (adults will need to establish an account before downloading stories direct to the device, note that 48 stories are included with the initial purchase). (lunii.com)

Online for ages 7+: It’s going to take one heck of a card game to encourage the average teen or pre-teen to get away from their screen and play an actual game with friends or family this winter, once the days are cold and blustery. Luckily, we’ve got a few suggestions which should do just the trick. Bold Made — a twist on Old Maid featuring incredible women and heroes from around the world — can be played like Old Maid, Go Fish or made more challenging with some suggested twists on game play. Each card features a heroine like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Marie Curie, Harriet Tubman or Georgia O’Keefe and encourages players to learn about these women and their accomplishments while they play. There’s also Taco vs. Burrito which is a sure-fire favorite for anyone who loves fast-acting strategic card games, except the goal here is to assemble the weirdest meal consisting of food items with the highest points. Watch out for tummy aches, food fights and health inspectors. Both work well for a variety of age groups (both $19.99 on Amazon).

Online for ages 14+: Designed for anywhere from two to eight players, Unstable Unicorns ($19.99) couples strategy with — you guessed it: unicorns — and also some violence softened by humor, hence the teens-and-up suggestion. The goal is to be the first to build a unicorn army via cards while your frenemies try to throw everything they can at you to keep you from doing just that. Even flipping through the decks brings about some real laughs, and since I don’t want to give it away I’ll just say that these designers were super creative. If role-playing games are more of their thing, Here to Slay is a solid option and you only need two players to get underway, although the more, the merrier. It’s sort of like Dungeons and Dragons in that you’re trying to help your heroes slay monsters and combat foes, but it’s straightforward and easy to play (both $19.99 on Amazon).

The commuter

Local: Anyone who is on the road a decent amount can benefit from a AAA membership that will keep themselves and their loved ones safe. AAA Northway which has a location on Union St. in Schenectady, offers three tiers which you can easily gift. All annual memberships include up to four service calls a year plus mobile battery service, fuel delivery and auto lockout service, but the “Classic” ($64) includes up to three miles of towing, the “Plus” ($101) includes up to 100 miles of towing and “AAA Premier” ($133) which include one tow a year of up to 200 miles and three tows of up to 100 miles. (emember.northway.aaa.com)

Online: The SnoShark Snow Remover is designed for climates like ours where the snow can pile up just as easily and quickly whether you’re sitting at your desk or sleeping overnight. SnoShark ($54.99) is lightweight, non-abrasive, extendable and collapsible so you can reach across a windshield and then tuck it out of sight when it’s not in use. Even has a built-in ice scraper, too. (snoshark.com)

Categories: Food, Life and Arts

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