Picking, wrapping and giving gifts is my favorite part of the holiday season, tied with eating all the tasty food that abounds, so it was only natural that I’d put together a gift guide for the year. I’m so excited to share this selection of gifts with you, each so charming, one of a kind and quality made I’ll be gifting them to my own nearest and dearest*. I’m confident each one will delight its recipient, and in many cases become a new heirloom to be treasured and shared for years to come. Bisou pawpicked some of her very favorite items that she’s sure the cats (and cat parents) on your list will adore, and I’ve rounded up my favorite home wares, kitchen staples and beauty obsessions that I love not just because they’re beautiful and functional, but because of the hard working and dedicated folks behind them.
It’s easy to fall into the big box store trap when it comes to gift shopping, especially when your list is long and during the holidays there are a million other things to do. But what better time to support small businesses and the talented craftspeople who put in long hours this time of year so you can gift their wares to the people you love? I’m making it extra easy to support family- and women-owned businesses, makers who lovingly handcraft every item they sell, and brands committed to responsible and animal-friendly practices by including some of my favorites here.
*To my closest family and friends: avert your eyes now, or there could be spoilers. You’ve been warned! To everyone else, read on for our favorite picks for all the cats and human people on your list and watch in amazement as your gift shopping pretty much does itself this year!
– for the ladies in your life –
It was Meow Meow Tweet’s brightly colored and cat-centric packaging that first caught my eye, but their highly effective and always vegan formulas that keep me coming back. The brand’s founders, Tara and Jeff, use only top quality essential oils and botanicals in their handmade creations, which are as nourishing as they are utterly charming. I never thought I’d put bar soap on my face, but then I met Meow Meow Tweet’s facial soap; I rely on it for a daily dose of moisture, gentle exfoliation and the loveliest scent. In fact, everything I’ve tried from MMT smells amazing. A must give for any animal lover/vegan/beauty addict/person you want to pamper on your list.
You never know when you’re going to need a paper bag; P packs his lunch in one every day, I keep ripening fruit in them on the counter. But even if you reuse and recycle paper bags, they’re not the most sustainable thing around, and they inevitably rip. Enter WAAM Industries’ waxed canvas lunch bags! Not only are these paper sack alternatives super functional, they’re also pretty darn attractive (so many color options!) and really durable. The lunch bag is the perfect size for a container of leftovers or a sandwich and snacks, and each one is made in Minneapolis by husband-and-wife team Hanna and Andrew, who carefully source their materials from within the US. P officially has the most sustainably and stylishly packed lunch in the staff room.
I’ve always liked the idea of having my own signature fragrance but have found most I’ve tried to be too fruity, too pungent or they’ve just made me sneeze (thanks for scenting the entire newspaper, smelly samples!). Lelabo Fragrances, which first caught my eye because they are 100% vegan and cruelty free, are another story. Each of their fragrances is hand blended and bottled to order, and it’s clear that just as much care and intention went into creating their unusual and intoxicating scents. The discovery set allows you to try each of Lelabo’s fragrances before settling on your scent. My favorite is the Bergamote 22 – citrus, amber, musk and vetiver, oh my! Lelabo fragrances come gorgeously packaged with the recipient’s name printed on the label, the perfect personal touch on a gift for someone you really, really like.
Essie Day, my favorite Portland jewelry artist, makes the kind of versatile, easy to wear pieces you (or a lucky person on your list!) will find yourself reaching for on a daily basis. I had the pleasure of hanging with Essie in her studio while she put the finishing touches on these earrings and ring, so I can tell you first hand how much care she puts into every piece she crafts, from design to finish. Her rings are perfect for stacking, and her hammered brass earrings can be made with sterling silver posts for sensitive ears. If you need a gift for an enigmatic girlfriend or hard to please sister and have no idea where to start, you can’t go wrong with anything Essie’s made.
I’m a fervent ceramics enthusiast so narrowing down my favorite ceramic artists is a difficult task, but Katie Coston’s Illyria Pottery is a standout I had to include. Katie makes each and every piece in her Oxford studio, which doubles as a charming shop I would love to visit one day. Her adorable kitty Lucie Maud pitches in to help her craft gorgeous tea pots, dinnerware and jewelry, with pieces to fit every gift budget. This speckled saucer is perfect for holding rings or kitchen spices, and I have my eye on the matching bowls and Katie’s perfectly shaped hand jug next. It’s worth noting that shipping rates are very, very reasonable for those of us located here in the U.S.!
P and I once stayed in a trendy hotel complete with local coffee and a picture-worthy lobby. It would have been a wonderful stay if it hadn’t been for the fact that our room smelled absolutely horrible. Lesson learned; we now always travel with a candle to mask weird room smells and make our surroundings a little more homey. Trevor and Skylar, the husband and wife team behind Wooly Beast, have crafted an outstanding collection of hand poured scents that evoke past places they’ve lived, as well as a range of Portland- and Northwest-inspired scents like Rose City, Maple Bacon Donut and the Bearded Man. I love the whiffs of coffee and fresh dew in my Seattle-inspired Coffee in the Rain candle, and that fact that it comes in a perfectly sized travel tin.
– for the home, kitchen and pantry –
New Deal Distillery not only makes some of the most intriguing and delicious craft spirits around, they also run the friendliest tasting room in town where you can sample my personal favorite, their coffee liqueur, plus specialties like bitter chocolate vodka and a seriously spicy ginger spirit. But back to the coffee liqueur! It’s just sweet enough, full of flavor thanks to the Water Ave. coffee it’s made with and warms you up as you drink it. I’m sure it would be delicious in cocktails, but I can’t say I’ve tried any since I might have sipped a whole bottle’s worth straight. P and I will need to visit the New Deal tasting room to pick up some more, and just might attend their whiskey making class while we’re at it. If New Deal isn’t carried in stores near you, you can also order online!
See WAAM Industries above.
3. Candlestick; 4. Bud Vase | Notary Ceramics
I first came across Sarah Van Raden’s gorgeous ceramics on Instagram and soon discovered she actually lives and works in my neighborhood. Sarah is as lovely as they come, and that spirit is reflected in her timeless designs. Her work would be right at home in any dining or living room, making her pieces perfect gifts for anyone with eclectic style who appreciates the work that goes into handcrafting one of a kind wares that will last a lifetime. Keep an eye on Sarah’s website where she offers limited run items only available online! Her site also lists stockists and pop up events in Oregon and around the country.
Prior to finding Hank by Henry, all the chopsticks in our house were either splintery wood or made-in-China plastic and full of chemicals I’d rather not ingest. Not only are Allison Henry’s chopsticks the most gorgeous I’ve ever seen, they are also made with quality materials and are painstakingly sanded, hand painted and oiled by Allison herself. As someone who’s used a lot of chopsticks over the years, I can attest they are the perfect length and weight and feel just right in my hand. Each unique pair is made from durable hardwood, so the chopsticks will last a very long time if properly cared for. They’re not just utensils, they’re works of art you can eat with. Goodbye, plastic!
I generally stick to the same basic items when I grocery shop and am always on the look out for new ways to prepare them. Raw Spice Bar’s monthly spice box makes trying new flavors incredibly easy by sending three freshly ground spices to your mailbox each month. Each spice box is inspired by a different culinary region so you get to experience a range of global flavors from the comfort of your kitchen. The spices come with recipe suggestions, or you can get creative; take a look at my Instagram to see what I made with this month’s Pondicherry-inspired peppercorn chai spice! A Raw Spice Bar subscription would be a perfect gift for anyone who loves to eat and travel.
Several years ago the Polder family left behind a 9-to-5 life for one on a Tennessee farm, where they support their farming by carving heirloom kitchen wares from fallen hardwoods. Dreamware is a fitting name for their creations, because they are downright dreamy. I have used my measuring spoon nearly every day since it arrived (beautifully packaged and ready to gift!) and I am blown away by the craftsmanship, functionality and beauty of my new favorite kitchen tool. I am now coveting their cake server and I know it will be worth every penny. The cutoff for Christmas orders of dreamware is coming up fast, so don’t hesitate if you’re planning on gifting any dreamware to a loved one (or yourself – who could blame you!).
You’ll never buy run of the mill jam again after trying Three Little Figs; it just won’t cut it once you’ve had this stuff. I tried their Balsamic Fresh Fig jam at a market a couple years ago and was immediately hooked on the sweet yet savory flavor. After trying the Cabernet Cracked Pepper and Tomato Tapas jams that accompany the Balsamic Fig in this gift set, I am declaring TLF’s owner/chef, Liz, a jam genius. I love that the jams are carefully made in small batches with locally grown ingredients, so you can support a small business and farmers at the same time. This set comes packaged ready to gift and is accompanied by cheese and food pairing suggestions that I will be trying if I don’t eat all the jam with a spoon first.
– for your feline friends –
If you follow cat accounts on Instagram, there’s no doubt you’ve already seen Amy’s crazy popular paper cats portraits. But did you know she’ll also turn your cat (or any pet) into a set of gift tags with custom messages? Any cat lover would be thrilled to have their fur baby in paper form, and the best part is they’ll receive Amy’s designs as a .pdf so they can print as many as their heart desires. I’ll be adorning all my Christmas packages with Bisou tags (didn’t she do a wonderful job capturing Bisou’s features? Even the tipped ear!). If you scroll through my Instagram feed, you’ll find Amy’s Halloween and Birthday tags, too. All the cool kitties want to join the #papercatclub.
2. SHRU: The Intelligent Cat Companion, $119; extra tails $6 | PDX Pet Design
Calling SHRU a cat toy is a little misleading, because it’s actually an interactive animal that runs around your house to your cat’s endless entertainment. You can recharge it by USB (no batteries!) and choose from several modes – it responds like a real animal would and turns on throughout the day without any human input. I might be biased when it comes to Tara and Jason, the inventive geniuses behind PDX Pet Design, because they’re our Portland neighbors and have dedicated their professional lives to making cats happy, but Bisou is not. She is very discerning when it comes to her toys, and she loves SHRU 100% because it keeps her on her toes (paws?) and provides a stalking and hunting outlet she was missing as an indoor cat, pre-SHRU.
When I adopted Bisou the humane society sent her home in a sparkly purple collar with a little black bow. It was the day I fell in love with Bisou, and also the day I fell in love with Sweet Pickles Designs, the maker of said collar and bow. Shana, the human behind the brand, was first inspired to make cat accessories for her kitty, Pickles, because of a lack of cute ones on the market. Shana has filled that niche with dozens of the cutest and most creative collars and accessories you’ll ever see. Whether your cat’s style is glitter, vegan suede, a holiday pattern or the lovely Rifle Paper print pictured here, he or she will look extra dapper in a Sweet Pickles collar. Best of all, they’re all expertly handmade by Shana here in Portland. Don’t forget to check out her gorgeous new slumber party beds too!
When Bisou’s Tabby James catnip came in the mail, she could smell it through the box and the sleek glass bottle it came in. I’d previously thought she wasn’t all that interested in catnip, but it turns out she’d just never tried the good stuff. This catnip is super potent and organically grown right here in the Pacific Northwest and comes in an airtight bottle to seal in freshness (not that you have to worry about it lasting long with cats around). Because it’s free of harsh chemicals, I’ve sprinkled it on the floor, stuffed it into toys and even baked it into treats and Bisou goes crazy no matter how the catnip is delivered. If your cat is going to be inhaling, rolling around in and eating something, it might as well be the best, right?
This handmade coiled rope bed (with linen slip covers way nicer than what I sleep on) is the most luxurious bed a cat could dream of, and I like it too because it’s downright gorgeous. I especially love the Intertidal Collection, with yarn-dyed linen slip covers inspired by the sea (the Slate color is pictured here). Kristen and Bollini, the human-and-cat team behind Siamese Social Club, have worked tirelessly to craft beds, toys and accessories that cats will genuinely adore and are durable enough to stand the test of time. Kristen puts such care and skill into each item she produces and her dedication is tangible in every stitch.
For the cat lover who can’t move around her apartment because of the numerous cat beds and toys strewn everywhere (yes, I am describing myself), consider making a donation in her name to her favorite shelter or animal rescue. Our shelter of choice is the Oregon Humane Society, which brought me Bisou three years ago. I will be forever grateful for the work they do for the animals in our community like Bisou, who are in need of forever homes. OHS is a no kill shelter, and animals are welcome to stay as long as it takes for the right human to come along. If you make a donation to OHS in a loved one’s name, they’ll send that person a card – you can pick from several adorable designs.