OK, some folks may object to the term “gals”. I beg your durn pardon. In my family, we use the term kindly, in the manner of “dames” – slang for women who liked to do fun things, hang out, and occasionally tell an earthy joke.
Nevertheless, we’re hard to shop for sometimes – we won’t tell you our clothing or shoe sizes, we generally have most of what we truly NEED to get through the day, and we have our own quirky tastes, about which we may have developed enough diplomacy to not hold forth with opinions full of clues. Generally, this leaves the well-intended gift giver with two options – a fruit/food basket or bath stuff.
Speaking as a middle-aged gal, I can buy my own fruit and food (although, in my heart of hearts, a modest fruit basket IS nice this time of year), and I have enough bath stuff to last well beyond my life expectancy. So, herein are some starting points and my personal favorites. All websites have been visited recently, ordered from within the last year, if not the last quarter, and shipments or emails have been prompt and polite.
Todd & Holland Tea Merchants : My knitting friend introduced me to their teas, teapots, and general wonderfulness. This is real store that has a delightful shop to visit, if you are ever in the area, and you’ll find that everyone is absolutely, positively nice as they can be. The website can be a tad hinky (if it looks like you’re getting a blank page, scroll allllll the way down), but you can make special requests or ask a question in the “comments”: box when you order, and they’ll call you back right away. They also ship like lightning -- I’ve ordered on a Tuesday and opened my box o’ tea on the very next Wednesday afternoon.
My highest recommendation goes to this tea tumbler which is a thermos for loose tea so you can take your tea with you. It’s great, and only $15.
As far as teas themselves (Teas are priced at their large sized packages. Request the sampler 0.05 lb or 0.12 lb sizes in the comments/special request box at checkout), I recommend: Jasmine Pearls (if you like the scent of Jasmine) , which is a delight for the senses, Northern Lights, a white tea with a wonderful spicy, warm aroma, perfect for chilly days, Goji Xing , a white tea with a mild melon flavor from the Goji berries, and Green Tea with Lemon and Hibiscus , which is very refreshing and light.
If you want to do something really fun and special, buy one of their glass teapots and a selection of Performance Teas . Performance teas are not to enhance your performance, they are small bundles of tea which you throw in a pot of hot water and watch them unfold into beautiful tea sculptures as they brew – which is why a glass pot is recommended. My daughter and I brew a pot of performance tea every Friday and do girl talk for a half an hour or so – it is a very nice experience and time for girl-type bonding, a good bargain at $2.50 per tea bundle.
Also, their Bee House teapots are a joy to use, not only because they are cute, but also because they are easy to clean. The lid pulls right off, the tea strainer basket lifts out, and it couldn’t be easier to tidy up when you’re done.
Faerie’s Finest : I don’t know about their other products, but their flavored sugar is great. I have tried the Citrus Burst and Raspberry Ripple and find them delightful. I sometimes like to use the Raspberry in my coffee, which makes it taste almost dessert-like, and you get good value for your money.
Bath and Bodyworks : Yes, I know what I said about bath stuff. They also have very nice socks and other textiles, and everyone I know uses their antibacterial hand sanitizers, and their antibacterial soaps are agreeable, too. I recommend the Kitchen Lemon for the soap – at $3 each, it’s a nice stocking stuffer, and it won’t make you smell like a pre-teen girl.
If your intended recipient likes wildlife, Whales and Friends has nice products. I have a penguin tote of very nice quality that I got as a gift from them.
For knitters, especially sock knitters, this year’s Patternworks has something new – sock yarn knitted into a scarf , then dyed in a funky pattern, and you knit FROM the scarf into a pair of socks. I’m hoping to get one of these this year.
Their “tools” section has all kinds of spiffy stuff, including Eucalan wool wash and a good chart holder. “Finishing touches” has nice shawl pins, clasps and purse handles.
And, finally, if you want something unique and beautiful that is not in any of the above categories, I recommend a good browse through the Art Institute of Chicago’s gift shop. I have found spectacular silk scarves, jewelry, bowls and other wonderful housewares there. Not cheap, but excellent quality and very memorable.