Stress Free Local Holiday Shopping!

About the third week in November a vague sense of panic begins to settle into the back of my brain when I realize I’ve not yet done any holiday gift shopping.

I’ve always been impressed (mystified really) by people who plan months in advance and have their shopping done, their gifts wrapped and shipped before Thanksgiving.  You know these people, they are the ones who have birthday cards filed neatly in a drawer months before they need them, and are standing next to you in line buying Christmas gifts in August, while you’re hoping to find a birthday gift before the word “belated” gets too old.

Adding to my panic is the fact that I hate giving generic gifts from big box stores and battling the crowds at shopping malls, and most of the people I know are at the point in their lives when they are trying to get rid of the junk in their homes, not collect more of it. 

But a few years ago, in an effort to put some thought into my gift giving before the anxiety settled in,  I decided that the gifts I give should have at least three of the following four criteria:

  • Be easy to purchase and to ship (preferably by someone else, so you
    don’t have to stand in long holiday lines balancing boxes on your hip at
    the post office); 
  • Support a local business;
  • Is something that gets used up or can be recycled at the end, such as food, candles, tickets to an event, gift certificate to dinner, etc; OR
  • Is something unique and special, not plastic and disposable.

Thankfully living on Deer Isle makes satisfying my criteria pretty easy to do, and thanks to the internet, you can buy these gifts too!  Here is my recommended list of sources for great holiday gifts that meet at least three of our four criteria, and all of them are from Deer Isle, Little Deer Isle or Isle au Haut.

Nervous Nellies Jams & Jellies is always on the top of my “go-to” list and satisfies all four of my criteria.  It’s a local business, the jam gets eaten up, it’s totally unique, and easy to send — check, check, and double check. Ann and Peter Beerits not only produce their wonderful jams and jellies right here on Deer Isle, they also carry Joan’s scone mix, Lucy’s granola, maple syrup and other

unique gifts exclusively from Maine.  Prices range from just $20 for a gift box with two jars of jam, up to collections like the “breakfast adventure gift box” for $48.35.  The best part is you can set up an account on their website to store the addresses for your friends and family, so each year it’s just a few clicks and your gift is on its way with a cute gingham ribbon, and a fragrant sprig of balsam.

Next on my holiday list are balsam wreaths from Harbor Farm on

Little Deer Isle.  They also have a website where you can store addresses for your friends and family, and with just a few clicks your shopping is done.  We’ve been sending the Blueberry Christmas Wreath to our extended family for years.  The wreath is uniquely Maine, decorated with realistic looking blueberries, fresh pine cones and reindeer moss, and comes with a nice velvet blue ribbon.  Once again my criteria is satisfied – local business, it can be recycled at the end of the holiday season,  unique and easy to send (since they do it for you).  They also carry centerpieces, swags and even a big box of balsam to be used for holiday decorations.

Deer Isle is well known for its pink granite, which can be found in famous
buildings, bridges and monuments throughout the country; and the most popular
items sold at Pilgrim’s Inn are vases made from this distinctive stone.  We use these vases on our tables and fill them with a few small sprigs of flowers from our
garden or field — they are beautiful and simple and make a perfect gift. Our friend Peter Perez of the Deer Isle Granite Company makes these vases along with cheese boards, candle stick holders, clocks, card holders, furniture and other items made from Deer Isle granite.  You can purchase these items directly through his website – local, beautiful, unique, and easy to ship!

We always know it’s a 44 North Coffee roasting day when we smell that fragrant, rich, slightly burnt toast smell, wafting across the mill pond towards Pilgrim’s Inn. If your friends and family are coffee lovers, then a gift from 44 North Coffee should definitely be on your list.  Megan and Melissa have been roasting their organic fair trade coffee and growing their small business just around the corner from Pilgrim’s Inn for the last several years.   They too have online ordering and gifts are just a click away.  In addition to their many varieties of coffee, they also have coffee gear like coffee makers, a french press, mugs, t-shirts and more.  And check out their “Island Gift Box” a uniquely Maine gift box with sea salt, evergreens and coffee beans for just $20!  Once again a gift from a local business that gets used up, is unique and they do the shipping!  Woo hoo!

Another great local business that offers online purchasing is Marlinespike Chandlery in Stonington.  Owner Tim Whitten makes beautiful and unique ropework pieces for people, boats, and dogs, as well as jewelry and accessories.  For a very special gift, consider the beach stone necklace or check out the popular rope bracelet (kids especially love this).  Some of the items are in stock, but others are made to order, so be sure to give Tim enough time to craft your special piece.

For the chocolate lovers on your list (and seriously- who isn’t?), then the almost world famous Black Dinah Chocolatiers is a definite.  Kate and Steve produce beautiful hand made chocolates from the small island of Isle au Haut just off of Stonington.The salted caramels are to die for, and if you’re

looking for something uniquely Maine, then your friends and family will love the Farm Market Collection of chocolate truffles.  Each truffle has an ingredient from a farm in Hancock or Knox County.  You can also buy Kate’s cookbook “Desserted: Recipes and Tales from an Island Chocolatier” to accompany your chocolates.  Or send a bag of their lovely sipping chocolate for your friends and family to enjoy on a cold winter day.  Once again, just a few clicks away and you’re done — with all our criteria satisfied.

Did you know that Stonington on Deer Isle tops the list for the greatest amount of lobsters landed in the State of Maine each year? And what says “Maine” more than lobster! 
Sending live lobsters from Deer Isle is especially appreciated for New
Year’s Eve dinner.  While there are many sources to buy lobster from on
the Island, our pick is Jones Lobster.  You can purchase directly from their website, in a number of different combinations for the weight and number of lobster, and they send them out next day air. There are also instructions for cooking lobster on their website if you need them.

Speaking of seafood, another great idea is some “finnan haddie” made by Richard Penfold of Stonington Seafood.  Richard is an expert when it comes to smoked fish and his products are revered by customers around the world.  We use his smoked cod in our smoked cod and clam chowder at the Whale’s Rib Tavern and are happy to email you the recipe if you want to prepare this tasty dish for the holidays.  You’ll also find frozen sea scallops from our local waters, kipper fillets and more.

Of course, there is nothing better and more local than making your own holiday gifts.  If you have visited Pilgrim’s Inn, then you know about our ever present cookie jar, filled with chocolate chip, peanut butter, oatmeal raisin, or chocolate crinkle cookies; and our
seriously delicious homemade granola made in our kitchen at the Inn. 
Recipes for some of our cookies and our granola are posted in the notes section of our Facebook Page.  Put the granola in an old fashioned mason jar with a ribbon and the cookies in a clear cellophane bag tied up with a bow.

But if you’d rather leave the cooking to us, then a gift certificate to Pilgrim’s Inn and the Whale’s Rib

Tavern is sure to please.  You can set the gift amount and it can be used for lodging, dining or both.  We are open from May – October and gift certificates don’t expire until they are used.

So in a few clicks of your mouse your  holiday shopping can be done, your sanity saved,  the local economy strengthened, the environment benefited, and your friends and family made happy.  I guess I better get started!