From glass art to preserves and cocktail kits, Gwendolyn Richards’ unwraps her local gifting guide

The holiday season is inevitably looking a little different this year. 

Parties are postponed, gatherings need to be limited to cohorts — in an effort to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus — and many of us are dealing with smaller gift-giving budgets owing to a massive economic slump.

It’s a very COVID-19 Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa.

The most important part of the season is staying connected with loved ones, however that safely looks.

But if presents are part of the plan, then this year, more than ever, it’s imperative to think local.

Here are 10 suggestions to help you support small Calgary businesses through the season. 

1. Beautiful Blooms

Colourful flowers are such a small, cheery way to brighten a space — and a person’s day. Bridgeland Market recently launched a new bouquet subscription that allows gift giving to go well beyond the holidays. Simply select the size, regularity and length of subscription to let joy bloom into the new year

2. Silky Skin

Combat the winter skin blues with a luxe lotion from XO Treatment Room. The softness comes from aloe and apricot oil, but it’s the rich notes of tobacco, cherry and cedar that make this smell as lush as it feels. (It’s unisex too, so it works for anyone on your list.)

3. Art in Glass

Glass can balance the line between art and function — and the pieces from Jewelnotes Glassworks reflect that. From wall art and candle holders to earrings and necklaces, the pieces Michelle Atkinson creates shimmer with colour and depth.

4. Spa at Home

Bath bombs, soothing salves and body butters can help relax over the holiday season. Lamb’s Soapworks has all the ingredients for a stellar, stay-at-home spa day, from handcrafted soaps and sugar scrubs to salt soaks. Add in a candle to round out the relaxation.

5. Quality consumables

We love an edible gift — all the enjoyment, none of the storage needs. Preserved makes delicious jams, jellies, pickles, chutneys and even infused honey. Even better, they’ve taken the guesswork out of selecting individual options with their “packs.”

6. Party Snacks (Sans Party)

You don’t need a festive gathering to justify ordering a lot of charcuterie. Give the gift of luxury lunchables with a package from Empire Provisions, full of their housemade salumi and select cheeses. We may also suggest throwing in some house-smoked olives too …

7. Cocktail Kits Part I

Help someone get into the, well, spirt of the holidays with the gift of a cocktail kit. Since the pandemic began, Proof Cocktail Bar has been offering up boxes with all the fixings to mix a killer drink, from classics such as negronis and martinis to their own signature offerings, including the smoky-gingery Fire in the Pharmacy. Boxes include gorgeous glassware and all the fixings for a fancy drink.

8. Cocktail Kits Part II

Yes, drinks are on this list twice — 2020 has been a haul. Over at First Avenue Corner Store — Shiki Menya’s sister restaurant/sandwich shop — you can grab Japanese-inspired cocktail kits featuring Sugar Water Bar’s yuzu syrup and Suntory whiskey. (Grab a katsu sandwich while you’re at it — a little gift to yourself.)

9. Bring Home the Backcountry

Whether it’s the tinctures, teas, soaks or salves, everything offered by Tender Living Farm is locally grown, foraged or sourced — a uniquely Alberta gift. 

Opt for one of the gift boxes — the tea lover in your life will appreciate the sampler while the food enthusiast can get creative with the salts — or choose your own selections. Cap it off with one of the printed reusable shopping bags.

10. The Gift of Going Out … Down the Road

Support local restaurants and give those on your list something to look forward to by purchasing gift cards to their favourite spots. It’s a present that will help chefs and restaurateurs in the present and something the recipient gets to enjoy at their leisure. The ultimate win-win gift. 

Gwendolyn Richards is a Calgary-based food and lifestyle writer and author of Pucker: A Cookbook for Citrus Lovers. She is known for her love of bourbon, lemon desserts, shiny shoes and signature red lipstick — which is currently hidden under a pandemic-approved mask.