Christmas


layers-with-ciggie

 

NOTE: I love this illustrator’s style! Clicking on the image will take you to his portfolio on iStockphoto.com

Not in the xmas mood yet? I’ve got two tricks under my Santa hat for you:

1. Get your rhythm going with Peter’s 2011 Squirrel Christmas song, The Family Tree.

2. And if you’re the silent type, head over to google.com and type into the search box, let it snow, hit return and sit back with your hot cocoa.

Now go get your Merry on!

Anyone who knows me knows that my favorite confections are from Allison’s Gourmet. Allison has mastered the art of making vegan caramels, brittle, toffee, truffles, cookies, fudge, bark candy and more. And you know how hard it is to find really great confectionary treats that are vegan, fair trade and organic. Yeah, there are a lot of chocolate bars in the stores but not a lot of gift-worthy, high-end goodies that you can be confident sending to loved ones or business associates while still being able to sleep at night.

Her treats are so good they’re our preferred holiday gift for clients 2 years running. And of course, they work for employee bonuses as well, not to mention Valentine’s Day, birthdays, etc. And now you can enter to win a $20 gift certificate toward anything in Allison’s Gourmet Store. Yep, just read further.

The mastermind that is Allison.

If you haven’t heard about Allison’s Gourmet confections before, you may have seen Allison’s recipes in VegNews magazine. Same chic, same dogged dedication to veganizing great classics whether they’re for dinner or treats.

Gena at Choosing Raw wrote a great backgrounder on Allison and yeah, it totally makes me look like a lazy pixel pushing schmuck. But hey, if we don’t have people like Allison to look up to as heroes, we’d all just be a bunch of aimless mouse potatoes and then were would the world be?

Toffee, caramels, truffles, cookies, how will you choose?

My personal favorites always lean toward the caramels, toffees and brittle. She even has salted, salted chocolate, and chipotle caramels along with traditional vanilla. Lots of varieties of toffee and brittle too.

If you lust after chocolate truffles, Allison just launched a new palette of flavors this month! I did order a box for my own personal employee bonus this year and they are indeed silky, flavorful and very decadent.

And let’s not forget the cookies, brownies, fudge and other delectibles. We received a gift box of the cookies yesterday at work and I am totally hooked on the Butterscotch Pecan even though it was a limited edition. So the next time that flavor swings around on the seasonal schedule, be sure to snag some.

We have a winner! Congrats Meryl!

Random Number Generator select Meryl from among the entries submitted prior to 9am today, Chicago time (per the contest rules). Congratulations Meryl!

Is your mouth watering yet? So enter the contest already!

Allison is providing one lucky Snarky Vegan reader a $20 gift certificate for anything from her online store. I will announce the winner on December 23rd so you can choose to give the gift certificate as a stocking stuffer (printable pdf certificate), keep it for yourself or use it for New Years or some future special event.

I’ll make this very simple: you can enter up to 6 times in the pool to win a $20 gift certificate from Allison’s by leaving a separate comment for each of the following:

  1. Look through Allison’s Gourmet store and leave a comment with what you’d like to buy from her gourmet shop.
  2. Leave a second comment if you care to divulge how you intend to use the giveaway.
  3. Tweet about this giveaway using this bit: “Enter @SnarkyVegan’s contest to win a $20 gift certificate @allisonsgourmet for vegan truffles, toffee, caramels! http://wp.me/pdVnX-Dg”
  4. Either like Allison’s on Facebook or post about this giveaway on your wall: “Enter SnarkyVegan’s contest to win a $20 gift certificate @allisonsgourmet for vegan truffles, toffee, caramels! http://wp.me/pdVnX-Dg”
  5. Follow Allison’s on Twitter.
  6. Follow SnarkyVegan on Twitter.

Deadline for your comments is 9:00 am December 23, 2011. Drawing will be among comments left prior to 9:00 am CST (Chicago Standard Time ;-) I will send out the gift certificate immediately but you MUST ENTER WITH YOUR CORRECT EMAIL ADDRESS when leaving a comment.

US residents only, sorry.

Legal disclaimer: Yes, I know Allison, I order her goodies for our clients at work and no, she’s never given me anything for free or in return for my patronage. I just think she’s an awesome happy person whose groovy vibe rubs off on everyone she meets. And I’m a whore for supreme toffee to go with my single malt.

[UPDATE: After reading Colleen's excellent post on the relationships between corporations and bloggers, I felt the need to update this post since it is a gift guide that lists products I am recommending. My update is at the end.]

Buying gifts for vegans may be challenging enough but what if your favorite vegan is also an avid gardener? What do you need to know?

First I’ll list some of my favorite groovy gifts that I think are perfect for gardeners, especially vegan gardeners. Then I’ll give you a few pointers to help you stay out of trouble while shopping for your favorite vegan gardener. And BTW, I’ve listed some extremely affordable items and some that well, shall we say, may be so nice you’d get lucky this season ;-P

Snarky’s Top 10 Great Gift Ideas:

1. Ethel Gloves

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Ethel Gloves makes a special vegan gardening glove that I actually own and absolutely love. It’s the Garden 4X, a tough and classy glove that even I can’t wear through. I’m really hard on gardening gloves, typically going through 2 pairs in a season. My fingertips generally poke right through because I like to make holes for seeds with my hands rather than a trowel. But after a full season, my pair of Garden 4X black bamboo gloves are holding up just fine. No sign of letting my middle finger loose in the dirt. These gloves also use vegan latex that does not use casein during manufacturing. A very thoughtful gift for a vegan gardener. (And if black isn’t your vegan’s style, all their other colored bamboo gloves are also vegan, they just don’t have the reinforced fingertips that the 4X does.)

2. Seeds!

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D. Landreth Seed Company is the oldest continuously running seed house in the US and one of the oldest companies. In fact, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were both Landreth customers! Landreth ran into financial hardship this year and most of the gardening world has fretted about it for months. So any gift you buy from them will go towards saving this American institution. I’d recommend the catalog of course, as it’s a work of art and full of gardening information. They also have little “Seeds In A Sack” that make great stocking stuffers. They’re all awesome so there’s no way I can single out just one. Besides, you know your gardener best: would they like the Olde Fashion Zinnias collection, Antique Vines for the Garden or Heirloom Tomatoes?

3. German Design

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Weck canning jars are a totally BPA-free and beautiful option for organic gardeners. Yes, I said BPA-free. You know that white rubbery liner in the lid of traditional canning jars in the USA? Yeah, that—don’t go lick it now—it’s made with BPA. The Weck jars use an old fashioned rubber and reusable gasket instead. How well do they work? I’ve heard stories of German great grandmothers still using their jars from the beginning of the last century and they haven’t killed anyone yet. The only problem with these jars is that I don’t want to use them as gifts. No, I’m kinda selfish that way. Oh, if you’re in the Chicago area, you can buy these at Green Home Experts.

4. Garden Art for the Kitchen

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Vetegabowls makes insanely cool food serving bowls that look exactly like garden fruits and vegetables! They are slip cast and glazed to match the colors and actual textures you’d find in a cantaloupe, tomato, grapefruit, onion, honeydew melon, oranges, etc. I adore these bowls and think a set of these would be an awesome gift. (DH, that’s a hint dood, just in case that wasn’t clear ;-)

5. Gear

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Autonomie Project Inc. has a lot of great products but I’m especially excited about their new fair-trade and vegan rain/gardening boots! The rubber in these boots is certified by the FSC for sustainable forestry and the makers receive a fair trade premium on their wages. When looking for gardening boots, remember these things: they are often labeled “rain” boots, consider the calf fit (if your vegan may have large calves, best to skip this item or buy a gift certificate), and the pattern/color.

Fun gardening socks from Garden Shoes Online come with lady bugs, bees, turtles and sunflowers. The more colorful selections are also vegan because they’re made with nylon, CoolMax® and Lycra® rather than latex. Latex is made with casein from cow’s milk so steer clear of anything with that fiber as well as wool and silk.

6. Books

Veganic Agriculture Network has a nice book list of tomes that would be appropriate for a vegan gardener. If you can’t score an out-of-print copy of Veganic Gardening by Kenneth Dalziel, I’d snag Growing Green which is also a source of info for organic gardening without animal products.

7. Luxury

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Moxie Organix has some really nice soaps and lotions that would help a gardener maintain soft hands after a long day digging in the soil. Lavender or rose petal would be great scents for a gardener.

8. Sprouting Supplies

A brick or two of coir fiber makes a great gift for the gardener who starts seeds indoors for Spring. The bricks are small enough to even fit in a stocking while causing a lot of funny head scratching over what could that be? I get my bricks at Green Home Experts in Oak Park, Illinois. When checking your local source, compare pricing with sizes (big box stores sell smaller bricks for a full brick price) and compare the source of the coir itself.

Chamomile tea, believe it or not, would be a nifty stocking stuffer for a gardener because not only can they drink it when pests are bumming them out, it’s a great fungal deterrent. In fact, many professional growers spray it on the soil’s surface to fight Damping Off in tomato seedlings. A great little crafty gift could be a box of chamomile tea bags and a spray bottle. You could even craft up your own Healthy Seedling or Fight Damping Off label for the bottle.

9. One-of-a-Kind Glass Garden Sculptures

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Barbara Sanderson is a glass artist specializing in hand-blown art glass for gardens. Her Fiddlesticks and Flowers are amazingly beautiful. You can often find Babara at various flower and garden shows around the country as well as art shows. She’ll work with you to combine glass, water, light and gardens to create lovely and stunning outdoor spaces. If you can’t afford her larger works she also creates Christmas ornaments and other holiday glassworks. Her Halloween pumpkins are always groovy and I’d love to have some of her originals in my garden.

10. The Holy Grail of Gifts!

The Holy Grail of Gifts!

And finally, the Holy Grail! Whether you wanna be rewarded with sex from xmas until New Year’s Eve or simply awesome food for the rest of your life, I’d totally recommend giving your vegan the new Blendtec’s Total Blender Designer Series. It’s a super badass blender that can handle anything your organic gardener can grow. Seriously. But check first to make sure your vegan hasn’t already ordered it or that ‘other’ brand of blender. The Designer Series model is so badass, it includes the WildSide jar which is a patented 5-sided jar allowing a better vortex during blending and wider at the base for easier removal of thick nut butters, a nearly 4-inch diameter blade, and a new touch interface like on the iPhone. AND a 7-year warranty! Oh yeah baby, it can handle just about anything including those twigs and leaves you think your vegan eats.

And THAT my fine fiends, is the best of the best, the most unique, and perfectly vegan-friendly gifts for organic gardeners!

Read onward for some tips on what to avoid when shopping. It seems tricky sometimes but it all makes sense, I promise.

Things to watch out for:

  • Leather gardening gloves and leather tool pouches: Many gloves have leather palms or are fully constructed from leather, a big no-no for vegan gifts. Also, most tool companies like Felco, Fiskar and Corona sometimes bundle leather pouches with their pruners. Best to just buy the awesome pruner and ignore any bundles that include leather.
  • Manure or animal ingredient plant foods: Not that you’d give your gardener crap for xmas, right? But anyway, you’re going to have to read the labels on these. Avoid brands that include manure or feather, fish, bone, and blood meals. Best to stick with plant-derived ingredients like kelp or seed meals like cottonseed. It also goes without saying that most vegans will also be organic so steer clear of chemicals like Miracle-Gro (the cosmic blue stuff).
  • Pesticides: This is a tricky area. Some vegans may be ok killing insects while others are not. Safer to just not go there.
  • Animal hide journals or notebooks: Garden journals are quite popular these days and are awesome gifts for keeping a diary of what’s been planted. However, I’ve seen a few that are leather bound. Look for a label that says, “man-made materials” or go with canvas or paper coverings.
  • Boots or garden shoes: Again, watch out for leather. A gift certificate from a place like Zappos may be safer than actually trying to find a poly boot that fits the foot of your vegan Cinderella, depending of course on how well you know that foot.
  • Wool socks: Garden socks can be a really fun gift, many come with ladybugs and flowers woven into them and are quite charming. Just read the label to ensure there’s no wool or silk. Bamboo would be a nice fiber to find and is soft and resilient. Or see the links above for cool and fun socks.
  • Vermiculture or ‘Worm bins”: Best to steer clear of this as well. Not all vegans would be happy with worms in captivity although some are. Unless you know your vegan gardener well, safer to look for other gift ideas.
  • Homesteading Books: Watch out for homesteading books that include chapters on raising cows for milk, beheading chickens or butchering pigs. Go for books that focus on veggies and such.

So, now that you’re prepared, what are you waiting for? You’ve only got 12 more days until Christmas! Get the compost out!

Snarky’s Product Relationship Disclosure (or rather, more info than you wanted to know)

Below I will note any relationship I have with any of the companies making the products I’ve included in my gift guide for gardeners:

  1. Ethel Gloves: Over the years, they have sent me several pairs of gloves either through events or as awards when I entered contests. None of them lasted more than a month or two because I wore through the fingertips. I guess I use that middle finger on my right hand a little too much. When I saw them at the IGC in 2010, I asked about the 4X. They explained that the fingertips are reinforced for people like me (my words, not theirs). I tried to buy a pair but they didn’t have change for a $50 so they gave me a pair to try out. I have now used them through 14 months with none of the middle finger issues I had previously. Yes, these gloves were free to me but when they do eventually wear out, they will also be the only pair I buy.
  2. D. Landreth seeds: They have never given me anything for free. I buy their seeds and love them. They don’t even know who I am.
  3. Weck Canning: They have never given me anything for free. I bought their jars last season for canning relish (which was awesome BTW), and I love these jars. I feel safer using them over the regular jars with traditional metal lids and they are way prettier.
  4. Vegetabowls: They have never sent me anything for free and they didn’t even know I was including their bowls on my list until I emailed them after posting. I just love their bowls. I hope they don’t mind me using their photo.
  5. Autonomie and Garden Shoes Online: Neither company has ever given me anything for free. I searched high and low for fun garden things that are vegan-friendly to include in my list. The boots have the added benefit of being FSC certified. But alas, I am a large woman with large calves and have yet to find any boot that fits me but I thought these may be great for other gardeners, who are skinnier.
  6. Books: There are not a lot of veganic gardening books in print or out of print. Given the less than stellar options, I’ve listed two that come recommended by another reliable source, Veganic Agriculture Network. Currently, I am on a waiting list for the out of print book.
  7. Moxie Organix: Yes, I have used samples of their soap at the Vida Vegan Con in August. They included their samples in our hotel kits so we didn’t have to worry about hotel soaps containing tallow. I loved the soaps enough to wrap the used samples gently and schlepp them home on the airplane.
  8. Sprouting supplies: no corporate brands here but I use both of these recommendations when starting seeds indoors for spring.
  9. Barbara Sanderson glass sculptures: Barbara has never given me anything for free. I have purchased her glass ornaments as client gifts in the past and they are truly beautiful. I love the quality of her glass.
  10. Blendtec: Blendtec has never sent me anything for free. I have borrowed “that other blender” from a friend and it overheated repeatedly when grinding sopping wet cashews. I also have two friends who purchased Blendtecs this past year and they use them, with no problems, for grinding nuts . Therefore I became a Blendtec Affiliate and ordered the newest Designer Series model for myself as soon as it was released to the public. I am anxiously awaiting its arrival right now and will test it immediately to compare it to the older models my friends have.

I’m sure this won’t be the end of my holiday gift list, I’ll add more as they occur to me or as the sales are announced.

For your favorite gardener:

Ethel® Gloves has launched a Bamboo Glove in time for the holidays. Not only are they made from eco-friendly bamboo fabric, they are VEGAN, containing no latex. Most latex contains casein to ostensibly give it that little extra stretch. Not only do vegans have to seek out vegan condoms, we also have to consider the latex used in clothing items. Ethel has eliminated that worry for us by also converting their regular line of gloves to contain no latex as well. BUT, there may be some of the old model Ethel gloves still in stores. If you want to ensure you get a vegan pair, contact Ethel directly, at least until the retail stores turn over all their merchandise. SPECIAL DEAL: enter BAMBOO in the coupon code box and get 20% off your orders from now until end of December. This includes non-bamboo items.

In case you haven’t heard, gardeners have been all abuzz this year about the latest weeding tool, the CobraHead®. Comes in long and short handled versions. The CobraHead is actually an very ingenious little design and actually looks kinda like a snake. Weeds will cower in its path.

And gift certificates or unusual seeds from favorite seed catalogs are always welcome. After gardens are put to rest in November, gardeners love nothing more than scoping out seed catalogs in preparation for Spring. My favorites are family-owned, small seed companies such as:

  • Johnny’s Seeds
  • Botanical Interests
  • Kitazawa Seed was started by the Kitazawa family prior to WWII. After surviving the relocation camps of the war, Gijiu Kitazawa restarted his company and expanded to ship across the US. Today, they’re a source for dento yasai or traditional heirloom vegetables of Japan.
  • Renee’s Garden seed company is owned and operated by Renee who personally selects all seeds, looking for unusual and heirloom varieties.
  • Baker Creek also offers many rare heirloom seeds and maintains an old-style working pioneer farm. Can no longer recommend Baker Creek due to the lack of functionality of their shopping cart. If you don’t order by some unspecified amount of time after filling your cart, the cart empties without warning. Even if you’re logged into your account. So, if you choose to risk it, don’t run to the kitchen for a snack or take a break while shopping to water the garden. There’s no way to tell how long you have until the shopping cart dumps it’s load and you have to start over.

Allow your gardener to bring the fragrances of summer indoors this winter with Strawberry Hedgehog’s handmade soaps (vegan of course). Fragrances include pumpkin spice, lavender, spiced tea, tea-tree rosemary, and orange clove.

And finally, for gardeners of wee things, you can’t go wrong with a hand crafted fairy door from Nothin’ But Wood.

Gifts for the cook.

I’ve blogged about this vinegar before and it’s still my favorite: Traditional Balsamic Vinegar from The Olive Mill. This is a small shop in Geneva, Illinois and while they do offer many more items than the traditional balsamic, it’s still my favorite.

Most vegans I know can’t really afford expensive delicacies like Dr. Cow nut cheeses. This is why Dr. Cow’s products make nice gifts (hint hint).

Send your sweet-toothed vegans on a shopping spree with gift certificates from The Bleeding Heart Bakery who make awesome vegan pastries and cakes.

To-Go Ware makes some of the coolest lunch containers and eco-friendly bamboo cutlery. They’re also offering 30% off all purchases from now through Cyber Monday. Just enter THANKS30 into the coupon field when placing your order.

Earth First Farms rents organic apple trees and sells shares in their annual apple CSA. They do have awesome apples and IMHO, make the best organic apple cider, period. For those who don’t know, ciders are special blends that are unique to each orchard. THAT’s why they all taste different and the crap you get at Jewel is, well, crap. Personally, I’d love to have a share in Earth First’s annual CSA because it allows you to taste all the apple varieties they grown AND snag some of their awesome cider.

Make a donation on behalf of your favorite vegan via Farm Sanctuary or adopt a turkey. This is the one time where the recipient will actually appreciate donations made on their behalf. You can also buy t-shirts, buttons and other items in the Farm Sanctuary store, proceeds benefit all critters of course.

It seems like most vegans really have a thing for vampires or zombies.

That said, you might consider giving some twisted and sick artwork from Cuddly Rigor Mortis, specifically, take a look at Lychee Zombie and Peppermint Gimp.

This little Zombie Cupcake charm from Monster Kookies is also a great stocking stuffer for that vegan zombie fanatic.

Perfect kitchen knife system for the zombie in all of us.

And of course, very cool dishware from Folded Pigs.

What the hell are you going to serve the vegan who comes to xmas dinner?

Forget the Tofurky roast and look for Match Meats to win serious points with the vegans of your family. Match is ramping up sales of their holiday roast so check out their website for locations of the roast or order their products from Cosmos or VeganEssentials.

And just in case you’re serving wine with your holiday feast, check it against Barnivore’s list to ensure your vegan guests can drink it.

For XXXtra fun this holiday season:

Babeland.com is offering free shipping on all holiday orders over $50 from now until December 10, midnight PST. Unless of course you live in one of those unfortunate states that infiltrates your bedroom by banning adult toys (guess you can tell how I feel about THAT level of government snooping). Babeland is owned by Claire and Rachel, two real-world gals who are all about empowerment of women and couples—not a sleazy, icky, bigass company hocking cheap junk near truck stops. They also offer educational classes and workshops for women and couples. Claire and Rachel have even written an encyclopedic book on adult toys and um, yes, it is, um rather in-depth. Yeah, I’ve read it, ok I own it. The kind folks at Babeland are here to take the fear and embarrassment out of sex while ensuring you have a safe and friendly source for whatever toys and information you’ve been wanting.

Here’s hoping you have a wonderful Christmas and New Year!

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