Last holiday season, did you buy luggage for your nearest and dearest? Or calendars? Or party frocks? Bummer. In the spirit of our new reality, here are a few made-in-New-England creations that caught our eye this year. They hit the gifting sweet spot of useful/fun/fabulous. (Or tasty — who doesn’t love a food gift?)
A starring roll: Luke’s Lobster, Portland, Maine
Turkey, schmurkey: Nothing beats a lobster roll. If you can’t be with family or Friendsgiving mates this season, send them a briny taste of New England with a lobster roll bundle from Luke’s Lobster. (The company’s founder, Luke Holden, is from Cape Elizabeth.) Or get one pack for them and a pack for you and have an epidemiologist-approved virtual feast. Kits come with split-top buns and a Luke’s seasoning packet, plus fresh or flash-frozen lobster meat (a quarter pound per lobster roll). Serves four: $70-$75; serves eight: $120-$130. Available online; www.lukeslobster.com
Beach pebble soap dishes: Stone and Paper, Rochester, N.H.
This year, we’re thinking “small gifts that wow,” like these cleverly crafty soap dishes made of beach pebbles. Artist Susan Randall gently tumbles and polishes pebbles she collects in coastal Maine and New Hampshire and fuses them with marine-grade resin. Each dish is unique, studded with small bits of sea glass and pottery that Randall has collected over 40 years. “I love the whole process, from searching for stones to going to craft fairs,” Randall says. Porous construction allows air to circulate (no slimy soap) and the bottom is padded to protect surfaces. Some folks use them as sponge rests. $24; available at Good Juju in Newmarket, N.H. and on Etsy at www.etsy.com/shop/StoneandPaperllc.
Cool jewels, minus the mining: Geo-Graphic Gems, Keene, N.H.
Some people relegate ancient National Geographic magazines to the garage (fire hazard alert!) or sell ‘em by the bushel at flea markets. Not Marcia Passos-Duffy. This enterprising artist up-cycles vintage Nat Geos by marbleizing their pages to create artful “gems.” These ingenious jewels add color and whimsy to her line of jewelry and accessories. We’re smitten with her rectangular pendants ($30) and unisex, boho-style leather strap bracelets, set with colorful gems ($25.) And what young lady couldn’t use a gem-studded tiara ($28)? Available at gift shops including 4GoodVibes Gift Shop in Somerville and online at www.geographicgems.com.
Make Your Own Candy Kits: Glee Gum, Providence
Glitter slime? So 2019! Make Your Own Candy Kits are a match made in kid heaven: making stuff + sweets. Created by the women behind the cult favorite natural chewing gum, Glee Gum, the kits are for kids age 8 and up. They’ll learn a little science and some kitchen chemistry as they make their all-natural gum, gummies, or chocolate treats. Individual kits are $13.95 each. Or go big with the Candy Kit Combo, $37.95. Available at Wegmans, City Feed and Supply, Jamaica Plain; Good Health Natural Foods, Quincy. www.gleegum.com.
Because actual maps are a vanishing species: Benoit’s Design Co., Westbrook, Maine
We’re all spending more time at home, so those same old eggshell white walls can get a little boring. Share the hometown pride — and amp up your Zoom background — with a wood city map ($149) or felt-backed city banner (or coastal chart or ski trail map, $129) made in-house by Benoit’s Design Co., a family business. They make city maps for 200 plus locales (Boston included) and more than 150 different coastal charts (Barnstable, Buzzards Bay, Block Island, and Boston among them; $79). Studio and retail store, 12 Rochester St., Westbrook, Maine; www.benoitsdesign.co
Tasteful gifts for the health-conscious foodie: Nüssli118, Cambridge
Shopping for a vegan, paleo, gluten- and/or dairy-free foodie? Gastronomic guru Angela Hofmann uses organic ingredients to create toothsome treats for Nüssli118, her raw food line. Think good stuff like unrefined coconut sugar, dates, sprouted buckwheat, almond flour, whole fruits, and vegetables. The “All Our Favorites” gift set ($50) comes with Sprouted Nut Granola, Sprouted Seed Crackers, Super Dark Coconut Rounds, Superfood Blend, and Sprouted Nut Clusters. The “Spread the Joy” set ($20) is an edited version of the same. Available at Hofmann’s storefront kitchen at 2259 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, and at Debra’s Natural Gourmet, West Concord, and other retailers. www.nussli118.com.
Duly noted: E. Frances Paper, Newport, R.I.
We’re all stepping up our WFH game. A fun gift for a colleague — or a young person who really should be a better communicator: a pack of whimsical note cards from E. Frances Paper. Run by two sisters and a cousin out of a converted garage in Newport, the company is named after their grandmothers, Elizabeth and Frances. The Gentleman’s Pack (fine for gentlewomen too, in our opinion) includes a sailboat notepad and a set of whale-themed note cards and envelopes, in a muslin gift bag ($31). Or consider a ceramic holder with a bundle of 85 chubby Little Notes ($35). Available at Calliope in Natick and other shops, and online at www.efrancespaper.com.
Kitchen goods, sourced from the woods: Meb’s Kitchenwares, Woodstock, Conn.
“We take inspiration from these local woods,” says Meb Boden of Meb’s Kitchenwares. For the past 20 years, Meb and husband Tom Vaiciulis — who live in a log home amid 1,000 acres of woodland — have been making gorgeous pieces using only New England hardwoods — specifically, maple, cherry, walnut, and birch. Folks who cook (and don’t we all, at this point?) will appreciate a cherry chef’s spoon ($40-$43, in two sizes); a sauté spoon (Meb’s personal favorite, in cherry or curly maple, $48); or toast tongs ($28; great for flipping bacon, too). Available at www.etsy.com/shop/MebsKitchenwares.
A mask you won’t mind wearing: Isankofa Skin Care, Willimantic, Conn.
“If you can’t eat it, you shouldn’t put it on your skin,” says Sahra Deer, founder of Isankofa Skin Care. Deer began with an all-natural, aluminum-free deodorant (not a recommended gift!), and now offers an entire line of ethically sourced, food-grade skin and body products. For thoughtful gifting, we like the Magic Masque set, which includes one of three facial masques and a pottery bowl and spoon made locally by Spiral Cuts Studio ($35.) For men who shave, consider the shave bowl and brush set plus Isankofa’s shave soap ($60); made by the same potter. A fun stocking stuffer for the caffeine lover in your life: coffee scrub bar soap, made with ground coffee from our own Polcari’s. Available at Polari’s Coffee, Boston. For gift items, visit the shop at 158 Oak St., Willimantic, or buy online at www.isankofa.life.
Because “house shoes” are now a thing: Queen City Dry Goods, Williston, Vt.
Think of them as sweat pants for your feet. Designed by Matt Renna of Queen City Dry Goods in Williston, these unisex loafers ($150) and hi-tops ($160) are made of buttery soft leather, tanned in New England and sourced from US-raised cattle. Yes, they’re splurge-y, but these shoes slip on like a glove, and they go “from your bed to the mailbox,” as Renna puts it, perfect for a WFH day or a lounge-y weekend. The inside is merino wool; the outside is pebbled leather. Kiss those oxfords and stilettos goodbye. Check out QCDG’s minimalist wallets, too. To order, visit their showroom at 450 Shunpike Road, Williston, or visit www.queencitydrygoods.com.
Because caramels are awesome: Red Kite Candy, Hanover, N.H.
With Halloween canceled and Valentine’s Day looking iffy at this point, we’ll all be hard-pressed to reach our candy consumption quota (yeah, right!) Let Red Kite Candy be your go-to. The McCabe family creates to-die-for caramels in their candy kitchen, in swoon-worthy flavors like salted maple pecan, French toast, and chocolate sea salt (made with rich Belgian chocolate). Cute retro packaging adds to the gift appeal. For giving, consider the Perfect Pairing, with sea salt caramels and dark chocolate toffee ($48). 8-ounce box, $16; 16 ounces, $29. Order online, or purchase at their new candy shop at 5 South St., Hanover, N.H.; www.redkitecandy.com.
Ooey-gooey body butter: Lavender Pond Farm, Killington, Conn.
As any spa-goer will tell you, a whiff of lavender = relaxation. Give a stressed-out loved one a bit of calm with something delightfully scented from Lavender Pond Farm. The farm uses its picturesque crop of more than 9,000 lavender plants as the base of their product lines, from lotions and soaps to candles and pet items. Its ultra-rich lavender body butter ($20) is ideal for hands ravaged by sanitizer, while the lavender soap gift bag is an excellent last-minute present or stocking stuffer — the organza bag holds a three-ounce bar of lavender swirl soap, lip balm, and a lavender wipe ($12). Purchase online or at the farm store, 318 Roast Meat Hill Road, Killington; www.lavenderpondfarm.com.
Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at email@example.com