In our Nov. 17 Gift Guide, we featured awesome items made locally—rather than focusing on independently owned stores, as we have in years past. And it was a lot of fun.
However, only a limited amount of awesome Tucson-made holiday gifts can fit into one Tucson Weekly feature—and we felt kind of guilty about omitting the other awesome homegrown gifts we found while exploring our town's indie stores.
So here you have them. Since we always like to harp on the fact that Tucson's locally owned operations are the best around, do browse the entirety of the stores (or websites) that sell these lovely gifts. That way, you can find a multitude of other locally made presents that didn't make it into these pages.
Oh, and go shop now. The holidays are almost here!
PRICKLY PEAR CACTUS JELLY
1840 E. Winsett St.
Homemade jelly is an absolutely delightful holiday gift, and if you don't have the time or expertise to make it yourself, then you'll need to buy it—and you'd better make sure that whatever you buy is made by a person, not a machine. Otherwise, you might as well gift-wrap a jar of Smucker's.
Even better, you should make sure the condiment in question has a Tucson flavor—specifically, the sweet-tart flavor one of the Southwest's most-iconic items, the prickly pear.
Cheri's Desert Harvest makes jams, jellies, candies and more from the prickly pear and other Southwest sources—and, man, are they good. Our recommendation is the "Cactus Patch Preserves" gift basket ($19.95), which contains prickly pear cactus jelly, "cactus marmalade," prickly pear cactus honey (honey flavored with a bit of cactus juice) and cactus apple jelly (a blend of Granny Smith apple jelly plus prickly pear jelly). You can also buy individual jars of various types of Tucson-themed condiments for stocking stuffers (about $4).
3061 N. Campbell Ave.
If you have a gardener on your gift list, there's no chance you can buy him or her anything more useful and straight-outta-the-Southwest than seeds for tepary beans. These beans were first grown here by the Hohokam Indians—said to be the ancestors of our region's own Tohono O'odham tribe—between A.D. 300 and 500, along with cotton, jack beans and certain kinds of squash. These beans are perfect for Tucson gardeners, because they're one of the most drought-resistant crops in the world, capable of growing in areas with less than 16 inches of rainfall a year. The beans vary slightly in price depending on the variety.
Of course, tepary beans are just one of the incredibly cool crops that come out of Southern Arizona—and the Native Seeds/SEARCH store has just about any Southwest heirloom seed you might think of, from beans to gourds to chiles. The store also has non-seed stuff like cookbooks, T-shirts, American Indian crafts, soaps and salves.
If you need a gift for a plant-lover without a green thumb, you c-an "adopt a crop" for him or her—donating money to be used to continue the conservation farm run by Native Seeds/SEARCH to sustain native plant strains that could otherwise go extinct. This present doesn't even require a trip to the store—just head to the website.
"WINTER SNOWFLAKE" WAX WARMER
832 N. Independence Ave.
If you're not quite sure what to get as a gift for someone—really, anyone—candles are always a possible answer. But nowadays—because everyone knows they are an answer—it's important to make sure any candle gift is pretty darn special. One way is to make sure it was made in Tucson.
Another way is to make sure it's healthy for your giftee to light, and that the fumes are OK to breathe in. Sorry to give you another thing to be paranoid about, but did you know that paraffin wax is linked to cancer? It's sad, but true.
When Tucson artist Andrea Teal found out about that, she decided to make her own 100 percent soy candles, now sold under the Blue Daisy Candles brand—and they make wonderful, unique gifts. Our favorite Blue Daisy gift idea is the "Winter Snowflake" wax warmer ($12): Just put a tea light candle in the bottom, and one or two cubes of (soy) wax on the top, and it'll glow throughout your holiday.
'JOURNEY OF DREAMS' BY MARGE PELLEGRINO
411 N. Fourth Ave.
Looking for another reason to be a proud Tucsonan? One thing a lot of us don't know is that Tucson sits at the center of the Sanctuary Movement, a campaign to provide safe havens for refugees from around the world.
The young-adult (and adult-friendly) novel Journey of Dreams ($15.95), written by local author Marge Pellegrino, documents the trials and tribulations of one family's journey from war-torn Guatemala to our little city. After much of their Guatemalan village is razed, Tomasa, Manuelito and baby Maria set off with their papa on a journey to the U.S Southwest for safety—and we won't give any more away. This book is perfect for any youths who need to get familiar with the problems of the rest of the world—or anyone who just loves good storytelling.
A few copies of this novel are available at Antigone Books, but we recommend you call first to determine availability—or just buy one through Pellegrino's website. (Barnes and Noble will also have copies, but you won't catch us telling you to patronize those chain stores here.)
Le Cave's Bakery
1219 S. Sixth Ave.
Going to a holiday party? Or hosting your own, and you just don't have time to bake? (Or you suck at it?) The next-best thing to you baking the obligatory pumpkin pie is getting one from a lovely local bakery like Le Cave's—and, hey, we hesitate to say it, but the pie from Le Cave's may be better than the one you'd make.
Le Cave's is locally famous for its doughnuts—which aren't exactly holiday fare, but who are we to lay out boundaries?—but the bakery also rocks at pastries, cookies and pies of all sorts. We chose to spotlight the pumpkin pie, because, well, that's our favorite kind of pie, and Le Cave's makes a wicked one (for just $6.99). But as we've made clear, you can swing by this place to get any of your pastry needs. (Of course, if you're getting a pie for your own party, you might want to at least smush the side or poke the middle for authenticity—so people believe you made it.)
YOGA CLASS PASS
140 S. Tucson Blvd.
Holidays should be a time of relaxation, cheer and health. But for people with relatives visiting, the holidays can be super-stressful—and for people who don't have any family around during this season, they can be pretty depressing. Oh, and when it comes to health, just take a peek at our enthusiastic pumpkin-pie blurb above, and you'll be reminded that the holidays generally aren't too good for the body.
Enter Blue Lotus Good Heart Yoga—literally, enter it, and buy a gift pass for anyone you think could use a trip there. The studio is cool—expansive wooden floors and serene blue walls help people relax even before they start doing moves. And when they do start, they'll get their endorphins going and banish any blues they might be feeling. Finally, yoga is the perfect exercise for helping people get healthy gently—that is, it might not burn off all the calories from the pumpkin pie, but at least it's an exercise that won't have you cramping up or groaning from working out on a full stomach. A monthly unlimited-class pass is $50.
120 S. Avenida del Convento, No. 110
Moccasins have been worn for centuries by native peoples across North America. But there are actual Southwest-style moccasins that are associated exclusively with tribes in ... well, the Southwest.
Those moccasins would make for a very Tucson-style gift—and, in fact, they've been hand-crafted here at San Agustin Trading Company for more than 40 years by owner Jesse Aguiar, one of the best moccasin-makers around. Nowadays, the family-owned business hires a small production staff that produces 30 to 50 hand-stitched pairs of moccasins per day. Their moccasins are sought after around the world, because no other company uses the traditional ways of hand-cutting and hand blind-stitching. These shoes are truly a special gift—beautiful, comfortable and totally stylish to boot.
One way to go is with the classic one-button style ($45 to $75), but we really like the four-button style ($150) and the leather ballerina moccasins ($65). Who knew there were so many types?
MEDALLION NECKLACE BY CHRISTY LONG
3022 E. Broadway Blvd.
What holiday gift guide would be complete without mentioning at least one piece of exquisite jewelry to give to your wife or girlfriend in exchange for a little mistletoe make-out session? We just don't happen to think that every kiss begins with Kay.
Our search for a jewelry jackpot began (and ended) with Bon, a boutique run by a mother and daughter that is full of hand-picked eclectic items, from couch pillows to barrettes to tiny felt finger puppets with animal heads. One necklace we found is made of hand-carved shell beads in the shapes of roses, all hand-knotted on silk thread, with a beautiful vintage religious medallion hanging at its center. Its $310 price tag is fitting, considering the fine craftsmanship by local jeweler Christy Long. Of course, price should be no object when you're buying for your ladylove—but if she accidentally sees the receipt, she'll probably love the necklace even more.
RECLAIMED-METAL ROBOT BANK
422 N. Fourth Ave.
And finally ... the kids' stuff. Pop-Cycle on Fourth isn't exactly a toy store; it carries everything from home furnishings to clothing to art. But all the merchandise is wacky enough for a kid to love—and it's all handmade from sustainable, organic and up-cycled materials. Most of the artisans are local, including the owners. A few things they sell are made out of town, but are fantastically fun enough that they're allowed.
Since the item we chose to profile fits the "fantastically fun" criterion, we broke our own rule to choose only stuff made right here in Tucson. See, this particular item was made by Aaron Voigt in ... Phoenix.
But before you throw this article down in disgust, check out what we chose: awesome and hilarious-looking coin banks made out of welded pieces of old cars and knickknacks to form crazy-looking, clownish robots. There's a good selection, but we can't describe our favorite, because we have no knowledge of the car parts that constituted it. We think it would make a great addition to any kid's room, and might even help a child save some coinage. Maybe your child giftee could even pay you back for the gift ... someday, since the robots are $80 to $100.