Christmas Gift Guide

By mid-November, a handful of houses had already put up lights and Christmas trees. I get it.  We all need a little more joy this year.  So Christmas gifts…let’s do this!

My personal goal this year is to not buy a single present on Amazon; Jeff Bezos has made enough money this year.  My suggestions are in no particular order but I have the following criteria.  Each one is either:

  • Local, small businesses (San Diego County)
  • Fair trade:  a business model by which producers/growers in developing countries or local economies receive equitable, living wages for their products.  These practices usually improve social and environmental standards in the region.

Café Juan Ana Coffee:

San Lucas Tolimán is a town along Lago de Atitlán, in Guatamala.  Most of the residents there are indigenous Maya.  As I write this, I glance at a painting of the lake and local volcano which sits on the wall behind my computer.  I spent time in San Lucas Tolimán during a graduate school immersion program.  Most memorably, I shadowed a local herbalist who noticed my discomfort one day.  He proceeded to pick some herbs, mash them into a tea and offer it to me.  I couldn’t tell you what was in that tea but my period cramps were gone for the rest of my cycle.  I also spent considerable time entertaining in the home of a local weaver.  She tried to show me basic weaving on a hand loom but my results were pretty disastrous. 

My trip down memory lane aside, the industry that sustains San Lucas Tolimán and the surrounding villages is coffee production.  I spent an hour in the main, room-size roastery.  The smell of coffee seeped into my pores for weeks.  Almost all residents are involved in the coffee industry, from the men who farm and roast the beans, to the women who stitch and weave the coffee bags.  Decades ago, the Catholic Diocese of New Ulm, Minnesota formed a missionary partnership with San Lucas Tolimán.  This partnership has allowed their coffee to be directly traded to American consumers.

The coffee is good!  Starbucks approached the town with the desire to buy their beans about fifteen years ago.  When the villagers saw Starbucks’ inflexible offering price, they firmly declined, knowing that already receive sustainable wages for their entire community.

Aunt Mary’s Italian Cookie Co.:

Since you already have your coffee, now you need to get some biscotti!  Mary and I are in the same book club, so I have had the pleasure of tasting many of her delectable varieties.  I don’t remember exactly what they’re called but her “S” shaped cookies are perfectly buttery without being super sweet.  I recommend trying as many kinds as possible and coming to your own conclusions.  Cookies may be ordered online or call Mary directly at (760) 822-1783.  If being shipped, all Christmas cookie orders must be placed by Dec. 10; pick-up orders can be received until Dec. 15.

Fair Trade Décor:

There used to be an awesome fair-trade store in Del Mar but they have since closed.  To the best of my knowledge, the only other fair-trade store in San Diego is on Orange Ave. in Coronado.  Their name is misleading because they offer much more than décor including apparel, handbags, jewelry, kids’ clothes and paper goods/cards.  Browse there and then head down the block to MooTime for a sundae; you already have yourself a lovely little afternoon in Coronado.

Faith and Fabric Design:

Like me, Jen Frost, the owner of Faith & Fabric, is also is a contributing writer to CatholicMom. Her goal is to bring the love of sewing back home.  She supports both the novice and experienced seamstress with a wide offering of classes fabrics and quilt patterns.  Additionally, she sells items like handmade quilts, tea towels and face masks in fun saint or Christian-themed fabric patterns.  It is a perfect shop for Catholic gift-giving.

SERRV International:

I still consider SERRV the “gold standard” in fair trade.  They are a nonprofit who has worked closely with aid organizations such as Catholic Relief Services for decades to develop relationships with individual artisans, growers and entire communities.  They have been in business for 70 years and currently work with 7,700 artisans across 25 countries.  In the past when I have held fair trade fairs at local parishes, I have always made SERRV products the cornerstone of my displays.  I particularly enjoy their jewelry, kitchen ceramics, chocolate and seasonal décor.  About a decade ago, I splurged and bought myself a Peruvian nativity set from SERRV.  If I could only choose one Christmas decoration for my home, I would select that nativity set over the Christmas tree every year.

Precious Petals

This sweet little boutique in Carlsbad Village for babies and girls began as a place to shop for special-occasion dresses.  Since then, they have expanded their clothing options to include everyday clothes that put the “fun in functional.”  The dresses come in bright, vibrant colors and patterns that my nieces wear again and again.  Basically if you want to achieve Super Aunt or Mommy status, shop here.  Additionally, they usually have a wonderful selection in the clearance rack.  They also have a train set in the store so my guys staying properly distracted while I shop.

Not so much for Christmas gifts, but if you are in need of large-scale screen printing services, please go to Rise Up Industries – Member of the Global Homeboy Industries Network.  Rise Up seeks to minimize gang involvement by providing gang prevention programs and post-detention reentry services.  All of that is simply a way of saying that they provide valuable job-training skills and employment opportunities.  They also sell the coffee that I drink every day when I’m in the office at the Diocese.

Hoping that you all find the perfect gifts for those you love this holiday season, cheers!

One thought on “Christmas Gift Guide

  1. I love this. Wonderful suggestions and I am not in the know of these places, (except for Aunt Mary’s cookies)


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