The holiday gift-buying time is in full swing, with Christmas and Chanukah just around the corner. Over the past week, I’ve given you ideas from Hill’s Kitchen for gifts under $10, and gifts for the cook, novice or not. This is the wrap-up, cool gifts under $50. (OK, that pun was bad, but I couldn't resist.) These presents are practical, but also beautiful or whimsical enough to have caught my attention as I walked through a store filled with goodies. And as always, we’ll end with a couple of mitzvah gifts – good deed presents that make a corner of the world better while you honor a friend or family member.
Marble cheese board & slicer
This nifty and beautiful board almost made my “cute-and-under-$10 list.” At $11.99, it is affordable, but it has the look of an expensive gift. Plus it’s small enough to give someone without much storage space. This board would work well for meat or vegetable paté (using a small knife instead of the slicer), as well as cheese.
Unbreakable glass water bottle
I watched Leah Daniels, the owner of Hill’s Kitchen, purposely drop this bottle from about 5’ up in the air to demonstrate that it is unbreakable. I cringed as it hit the floor, but she was right. And the colorful wrap surrounding the bottle makes it more attractive than most of the bottles I’ve seen. Although most people would probably use it for water, it’s fine for any cold beverage, including iced tea or iced coffee.
Zippered lunch bag
Bringing lunch to work is a great way to save money and eat healthy food. Still, if you have to keep it in the office refrigerator filled with crumpled paper and plastic bags, it's a bummer to have to figure out which one is yours. A lightweight, brightly colored lunch bag is my solution to that problem. With a zipper and padded sides, this bag seems sturdy too. It’s $25 and comes in lots of whimsical patterns.
Recycled paper cutting board
These neat boards from Epicurean come in varying shapes and sizes. Hill’s carries several sizes, beginning at $11.99. With plenty of choices under $50, I figure the whole line deserves mention. A recent innovation, these boards have advantages over ones made of plastic, glass, wood or bamboo. Plastic and glass boards are dishwasher-safe, but they damage the cutting edge of your knives. Also, once plastic boards have lots of knife cuts they hold onto harmful bacteria. Wood and bamboo boards are better for your knives, but not dishwasher safe. These boards, made of paper, are both dishwasher safe and knife-friendly. They also have appeal to those who want to buy US-goods that are environmentally friendly, as they are made from paper grown in certified U.S. sustainably managed forests.
Mitzvah (good deed) gifts
Inspiration Corporation – This nonprofit began with a café where homeless and low-income Chicago-area residents could eat in a dignified atmosphere and also learn food service skills. Now its social enterprise restaurant, Inspiration Kitchens, has 2 branches and the organization provides employment, supportive and housing services for those in need. I learned about the organization through one of its dedicated employees, my daughter Eleanor, who is working there this year through Avodah. I’m incredibly proud of her and delighted to highlight the innovative way Inspiration Corporation uses the restaurant business to help people.
Solar cooker project – No one should have to choose between making food and staying safe. But for the women and girls in the refugee camps of Darfur, that choice is a cruel reality when they venture outside the camps to seek firewood. This project provides them with solar cookers and teaches them how to use this simple tool to make food without wood.
SOME (So Others Might Eat) – Founded to feed the hungry, this Washington DC-nonprofit provided close to half a million meals last year through its dining rooms and programs. I highlight SOME because it does wonderful work in my community. If you live elsewhere and prefer to give locally, consider a donation to a similar organization serving your area.