Maybe you already canned some apple sauce, and you’re all set up with pretty caps for your Mason jars. You’re on it. But in case you find yourself seeking gifts for those harder-to-buy for members of your tribe, here are some quality goods that we’ve come across.
1. Handwoven sun hatWe can’t keep track of sunglasses, we usually forget sunscreen, but this hat comes everywhere, from the vegetable garden to the Middle East. Handwoven out of palm in a Mexican village with a 400-year hatmaking history, the hat is going strong at the end of its second season being crushed in backpacks. Choose from dozens of styles for men, women and kids. We dig our unisex gardener’s hat, whose wide brim keeps head and shoulders and even babes-in-arms perpetually in the shade. The textile lab at California Polytechnic State University said: “The brim area of these hats is excellent, in fact we have never tested anything with 0% transmittance.”
$35.99 to $50; $23 to $26 kids at Adam’s Fairacre Farms, Poughkeepsie NY or Tulahats.com.
2. Reversible apron“We make about a thousand aprons a year,” said Kathy Thomas, one of the pair that makes up Green River Aprons. “It’s ridiculous. We intended to be retired.” The business that began with the leftover material after a quilt has turned full-time for Thomas and Edith Platt of Guilford, VT. Their wildly colorful, reversible aprons are made of 100 percent cotton fabric, “fabulous material” they’re able to buy at a discount from top-of-the-line fabric houses because they are the ends of bolts. They only make about three of any particular print, and use the scraps to make napkins and coasters. Last December Vermont Public Radio listed the aprons as one of the best gifts for the kitchen. $22; $12 kids at Greenriveraprons.com, or Green River Aprons on Facebook.
3. Roamer mugTurn a Mason jar into your favorite coffee mug with this trusty leather sleeve. Carabiner the double-stitched handle onto your backpack and take it camping or to a cafe. If you’re ready to roll before your drink is done, screw the lid on to make it a to-go mug. The sleeve slides off for washing. Samwell Leather, a fledgling two-man company based in Albany, is committed to using American leather to fashion high quality products that aren’t prohibitively expensive. The mug is called the Roamer, said co-founder Daniel Fitzsimmons, because “it’s perfect for taking on adventures and it makes you want to sit around and swap stories with people.”
$30 at samwellleather on etsy.com or samwellleather.com.
4. Bourbon & vodkaEven in winter, we can now indulge in what comes out of the black dirt. We have not one but two new distilleries not only making spirits, but making them from crops grown here. Black Dirt Bourbon, from the guys at Warwick Valley Winery, is... “Delicious.” “Delicious!” (Husband Joe and I are having a whiskey tasting.) Toasty? Caramel-y? Like when your head hits a big clean fluffy pillow after a long day. (We are not whiskey tasting pros.) At Orange County Distillery, the newest venture from fifth-generation farmer John Glebocki, we recommend the vodka made from their own sugar beets.
Black Dirt Bourbon 750 ml, $45 at Warwick Valley Winery in Warwick NY. Vodka 375 ml, $27 at Orange County Distillery in Goshen NY.
5. The indoor shoeCotton kills, when you’re in the great outdoors. And when you’re inside, it kills your heating bill. With a good pair of slippers on all feet, you can keep your house a few degrees cooler than in everyone was padding around in cotton socks. So it’s hard to overspend on slippers. Glerups are made in Denmark of 100 percent felted wood from humanely raised New Zealand sheep, with a calfskin sole (outdoor model comes with a rubber sole). They’ve been around since 1993, when Danish mother Nanny Glerup fashioned the first pair from her own Gotland sheep. Best worn barefoot, their breathable wool molds to your foot over time. They come in a rainbow of colors, and models from the clog to the ankle boot.
$95 to $135, $65 kids at Glerupsusa.com.
6. The softest cheeseThere are a bunch of artisanal creameries making local cheese right now. Life is good. We asked the folks at Murray’s Cheese for their favorite. “Right now I’m hot on St. Stephen from Four Fat Fowl,” said Murray’s Ellen Mary Cronin. The first cheese from the four-person operation in the Hudson Valley’s Renssalaer County comes from the high-butterfat milk and cream of Jersey cows. Made in the style of a French Triple Creme, it spreads like butter. “It’s like the ice cream sundae of cheeses. It’s like the souffle of cheeses,” said Cronin. Spread it on breakfast toast, serve it as an appetizer or dress it up with honey for dessert.
$20 to $32 a pound (a wheel is about half a pound) at fourfatfowl.com, Twin Star Orchards and The Cheese Plate in New Paltz NY.
7. Mail bag pouchOnce a USPS mail carrier’s bag, this heavy-duty zippered pouch is just the right size to hold your life — ID, cash, kes, credit cards, change. The canvas has been distressed the honest way. Weathered graphics recall its former life (mine says “MA,” which I like), and mine also has a couple black marks, maybe from getting or over or rubbing up against the carrier’s belt... there’s no end of imagining where it’s been. The “design junkies” of New Jersey-based TerraCycle, whose is mission is to recycle the unrecyclable, have also come up with a tote ($79), a laptop sleeve ($82), a shop apron ($48), an iPad case ($55) and an upholstered chair ($950) made from retired mail bags.
$14 at TerraCycle on Etsy. 8. Pepper mill
Don Santarpia still remembers the grade he got on a book report more than 65 years ago. “It was a terrible book report,” said his fourth grade teacher, “but I gave you an ‘A’ for effort.” He’d bound it in a wood binder with raised wood letters. When Santarpia retired, he had time to get back to his passion in his Warwick basement studio, and the result is a series of pepper mills — made of exotic woods like chakte viga and purple heart, and shaped by hand on Santarpia’s lathe — that are as much a conversation piece as a spicing mechanism. No two are remotely alike.
$39 to $74 at uniquehomemadecreations.com (see site for craft fair schedule), or Craftsmen by Design in Poughkeepsie NY.
9. Kitchen towelHave you ever thought, this dish towel is too big? Us either. It’s always the opposite, whether you’re trying to squeeze one more just-washed cup onto the counter to dry, or line a bread basket. These flour sack dish towels are everything we never realized we wanted dish towels to be: big enough to swaddle a baby, beautiful enough to hang on the wall, handmade by a New England mom and dad team who are a former art teacher and former organic farmer. Featuring botanical prints inspired by plants growing around the house, they are hand-printed in non-toxic inks, and upon arrival in the mail, carry a vaguely aromatic scent. Patchouli?
$15 each; set of 3 for $40; and 4 for $52 at hearthandharrow.com.