Countdown to the Holidays

Some people embrace the winter holidays with such eagerness that their gift-shopping is done before the last trick-or-treater has trundled off their doorstep. This Countdown to the Holidays is for the rest of us, hopefully serving as a guide, a reminder and an inspiration for those who leave holiday shopping until a little bit later. Or a lot later. Or maybe until the very last moment.

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The Gift of Great Cheese

The gift that goes with everything, and some great things that go with it  


Forget the sock monkeys and the finger puppets. You can find more creative gifts for stocking stuffers and holiday bashes if you just raid your local purveyor of quality food. Pair a local cheese with artisan crackers, jam, chocolates or spirits, and you’ll be the person whose name everyone wants to draw for next year’s white elephant party. Here are five local hunks that can round out a gorgeous board or be given separately with divinely edible schwag.

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Who’s a Good Dog?

Locally made dog biscuits are an always welcome gift for you-know-who

"Being vegan myself, I was used to reading food labels and I thought 'Why aren't I giving the same attention to my pets’ food?'" That’s what led Marlene Doyle to create Lucky Dog Treat Company in 2007. "I felt I could put out a product that contained only organic ingredients with no preservatives and things that people could easily read and understand and know where it came from."

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Book Share: Local take on “Book of the Month” club

Books make great gifts, and so do CSA shares, but for a truly unique gift, you can give both. The Head and the Hand (THATH), publishers of The Rust Belt Rising Almanac, recently started a Community Supported Publishing (CSP) program. For just $50, members get five books and four chapbooks. “A CSP membership not only gives us a solid and secure budget for our planned editorial calendar, but it also allows us to make really well-crafted books for our readers and shareholders,” says THATH founder Nic Esposito. “The CSP allows THATH to treat its readers like a community and not just consumers.” Allow at least one week for shipping. 

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Story by Jon McGoran.


This story is from page 30 of our Countdown to the Holidays feature in our December 2013 issue.

The Gift of Sharing: All manner of CSAs are great for inspired gift-giving

Winter Harvest delivery from Farm to CityYou know that giddy feeling when, long after birthday or holiday celebrations are over, one more package comes in the mail? Or someone gives you a magazine subscription, and you keep getting little bonus presents all year long? That's what it's like to give (or receive) the gift of a CSA share. And while CSAs traditionally refer to shares of locally-grown produce, there is a whole new batch of CSAs that offer more than fruits and veggies.
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Cultural Affairs: Giving the gift of going

Lantern Theater Company: A Child’s Christmas in Wales, through Jan. 5, 2014. Starting at $20, St. Stephen’s Theater 10th & Ludlow Sts.

Philadelphia is a world-class city, exemplified by our vast and varied cultural institutions, large and small — from the orchestra and the ballet to indie rock and story slams to live theater ranging from Broadway shows on tour to community theater and avant garde. The gift of tickets to one of these treasures can be life-changing to the recipient, and life blood to the institutions. See the list after the jump for a few of the possibilities. 

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Boozy Infusions: Holiday spirits get a personalized twist

Instead of trekking all over town to collect ingredients for a fruitcake that you’ll spend weeks dousing with whiskey, why not just give the whiskey? The gift of a bottle might not be anything new, but these wintry infusions give it a unique and personal touch. All will be welcome additions to the most creative mixologist’s arsenal, but they’re dynamic enough to be enjoyed on the rocks, with club soda, or mixed with warm cider for a hot toddy. Scour thrift stores for pretty bottles or jars, and finish them with handwritten tags. 
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Homebrew for the Holidays: Giving the gift of beer

In a craft-beer-driven city like Philadelphia, it’s little wonder that some of the most popular holiday gifts begin with water, malt, hops and yeast. If you plan to give a home-fermented creation, start early, says Nick Less, co-owner of Philly Homebrew Outlet (1447 N. American St.). Most beer styles can be completed in about a month, except for extra high-alcohol ones, which take longer to mellow. But for novice brewers, says Less, it’s better to start with a low-gravity formula (4-6% alcohol) anyway.
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Craft Cheer: A trio of local artisans offer upcycled gifts

Reclaim Collective's (l to r) Ashleigh Loeffler, John Jones and Devon McNuttThree local artists who are serious about sustainability have teamed up as Reclaim Collective to sell their wares and educate Christmas Village patrons on their creative processes. Collective members Wise Owl Shop, John Jones Glass and Saffron Creations will be conducting demos for market-goers to enjoy as they browse the trio’s extensive collection of products.  “I’m looking forward to getting our work out there on such a large scale,” says Devin McNutt of Saffron Creations. “It’s just going to be a lot of exposure for local handmade crafts. It’s good for the environment and our local economy.”
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Honey Sweet Holidays

For holiday gifts and treats, try these great recipes preserved in honey


In my family, no holiday gathering is complete without an array of jellies, chutneys and other condiments. We typically have at least two dueling versions of cranberry sauce, some manner of chutney, and a jar or two of homemade jam to eat with warm scones.

Recently, I have found myself using less sugar and more honey in my beloved holiday condiments. The resulting preserves are still plenty flavorful, but without the teeth-aching sweetness they once had.

When it comes to preserving with honey, there are just a couple things you should know. The first is that you’ll often end up with a slightly softer set than with sugar. Second, honey-sweetened preserves don’t keep as long as sugar-sweetened ones. If you don’t think you’re going to get through a whole batch quickly, either can or freeze it for longer storage.

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