Gift Guide to Local Christmas Shopping

We probably all know, at least intellectually, that it’s better to shop local. Here in the heart of the Golden State, you can find so much in your own backyard. Behold, your local gift guide for Christmas shopping.

Let’s start with foodstuffs. In our consumer age, a lot of people have more than they need and a lot of people we love spent decades acquiring their collections of possessions and do not need one more teacup or tie from us. Consumable items to the rescue!

Jars of Delicious

Gift trio from

You cannot do better for canned preserves than buying from Jars of Delicious. Feeling feisty? Try her cactus pear jam. Feeling traditional? Strawberry Rhubarb. Want to pretend you are on a private island? Pineapple Mango. The list goes on and on. Basically, every flavor is delicious (a whole jar of delicious, really) and I particularly fancy her jar of cherry pie filling because when it comes to pitting that many cherries, as they say, “ain’t nobody got time for that.” Her regular-size jars cost $7.

Nutty Gourmet

Maple Cinnamon Walnut Butter from

Jam is great for your scones, morning yogurt, or fancy latticework pie, but if you’re buying for a child, consider this, who doesn’t love peanut butter and jelly? That’s right, these core ingredients come at a premium for my children. Consider a loaf of bread, a jar of delicious and a $5 jar of nut butter from Nutty Gourmet. The sky’s the limit when it comes to flavors and, like Jars of Delicious, it’s a Hughson-born business and we like to support our own.

J.J. Ramos Farms

But maybe you need to be a little fancier than a PB&J gift basket (but why? I ask). Head over to J.J. Ramos Farms for a truly impressive selection of locally made items from olive oils, dried fruits, nuts, meat, eggs, milk— oh sorry, thought I was making my grocery list. You get the idea. And as I understand it, you might just get a little help putting together your fabulous gift box or basket from their staff. They’re located at the corner of Whitmore and Geer in Hughson.

M&J Farms

Still among the list of consumable items, as in, items you use up, are the adorable sheep milk soaps by M&J Farms. Milk-based soaps are basically the best. You can wash your hands over and over again without cracking your skin and make hand-washing less a chore than a healthy ritual and moment of silence away from the chaos of the world. $6.

Miss Potts Attic

May be an image of christmas tree and indoor

If your gift recipient is a collector and not a minimalist, visit Miss Potts Attic on Tully Rd for a wide variety of items from antique to relatively new pieces on consignment. I stopped by to buy a ring for my daughter’s birthday and left with four very well-priced vintage rings, a jewelry box to hold them, and a $4 chandelier. The staff was amazing at helping me shop and find the best item for her. Whether artwork, glassware, furniture, novelty items, there really is something for everyone. Help the environment by not buying new or shipping from Amazon; help a local business by giving them business, help yourself with a one-stop shop and the joy that comes with finding the perfect gift via serendipity rather than an algorithm. Win-win-win-win.

Lightly Used Books

Buying for a book bug? You could go to Yesterday’s Books in Modesto (new and used books), which is excellent, but I prefer to go to the slightly closer Lightly Used Books in Turlock. Used book stores can often special order new books from publishers so you can avoid Amazon altogether and thus support authors and local bookshops in one fell swoop.

Investment items

There really is so much more out there. For high-end items, see Shoebridge & Co. on Etsy for handmade furniture (made locally near Hughson)

or wind chimes by Casey Music Service for perfectly tuned custom chimes (full disclosure, this Casey is my husband). The Harry Potter chimes are a favorite but I am personally fond of my F9 chord set. 

Happy shopping and Happy Holidays!

Malls were meccas for Black Friday shoppers back when Valley View was new

Let’s bring the joy back to gift-giving by making the shopping experience itself a treat for ourselves and others because as you may have heard, every time you purchase from a small business, the owner of that business does a happy dance.

Previously published in the weekly column, “Here’s to the Good Life!” in the Hughson Chronicle & Denair Dispatch.

P.S. I know not all readers here are from or near Hughson, CA. You can use these sellers’ websites or visit your local vendor events to see whose selling what in your area.

Good Gifts, Charlie Brown

Gift Giving 101

The Best Guide for Gift-giving This Year

Between the Christmas Basket Toy Drive and the upcoming Christmas festivities, there was a good deal of talk about gift-giving (and getting) in our house. It was time to take matters into hand and offer a gift-giving lesson as part of our school day. Sitting at the dining table, I got out the flimsy Target dollar section whiteboard and blue dry erase marker and printed the words, “Good Gifts Charlie Brown.”

In our home, gifts may be purchased, made, or given from what one already owns, but all these options must meet particular criteria to be a good gift. Note, this lecture was given to a six, eight and ten-year-old.

Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash

Criteria #1: a good gift is not broken.

Mainly applicable when regifting something from around the house or an item you’ve loved. You may not mind the chip in the dish, the snag in the blanket, the missing doll foot, the crack in the toy teapot, but unless this is a hot collector item and you know the recipient has a yen for it, skip any pieces that are broken.

Criteria #2: a good gift is complete.

Sugar bowls without creamers, a nearly complete Lego set (unless your thing is giving bags of miscellaneous pieces, this one is flexible), a crocheted project you just did not feel like finishing (even if you call it a blanket for a doll). The gift should be whole and complete, whatever that means for its given category.

Criteria #3: a good gift is (mostly) recognizable.

It is okay if as your recipient pulls out item after item from the gift box if you exclaim out of unbridled excitement, “it’s a bedding set!” or if you need to explain how something works, but if your recipient could end up with a face expression implying “what do I do with this?” your gift may need some work. It is okay to introduce someone to something new, but the less recognizable the more uncomfortable the recipient may be in attempting to show gratitude.

Criteria #4: a good gift is a thoughtful gift.

The best gifts are ones that are selected by asking oneself what does the recipient (1) want, (2) use, or (3) need? We should not choose gifts based on what we want, but what we think will best please the recipient.

How do we know what the person will want, my son asked, or more accurately, complained, “but I don’t know what Ace likes…”

How do we know what a person will like? We ask what does this person do, use or say?

How does he spend his time? How did you pass the time when you were last together? In what projects have you seen him engaged? What toys did you two play with (in the case of Ace)? Knowing all this, what’s something you could buy? Legos!

What do we see Grandma doing? Baking! What does she use? Cookie sheets! Cookie cutters! Baking things! What should we buy her? Baking things!

Planning to make something instead of buying something? Excellent! The effort that goes into homemade items shows great thought. But just because I can make white linen pillowcases doesn’t mean that Farmer Tom wants a set. Thoughtfulness wins over the effort in this case.

And lastly, Criteria #5: a good gift does not empty the bank account.

If I want to buy a flask for Farmer Tom, Legos for Ace and cookie cutters for Grandma and after picking all my items I find that they will cost $30 and I have $20, I need to pick something else. There isn’t more money. I should not purchase on credit hoping I can work it off pulling branches for my parents.

If I add up all the items and they cost $30 and I have $30, great! Hold it, it should not empty the bank.

I should decrease my budget of what I can spend so I am prepared in the case of future emergencies (like an opportunity to buy a cookie when we are out shopping). Plan your budget ahead of time and adjust the gift-giving plan accordingly.

I hope this tutorial has been helpful, either in your own gift-giving or prepping the smaller ones among you for the future.

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash
Previously published in the weekly column, “Here’s to the Good Life!” in the Hughson Chronicle & Denair Dispatch.