Holiday Gift Ideas

Miracle, the Christmas Angel, will judge you on your gift-giving abilities this year.

I am notoriously bad at holiday gift-giving. This is not to say that I am generally bad at gift-giving; it’s that I generally hate the holidays—namely the let’s keep the Christ in Capitalism part. I worked three soul-sucking years in retail and, folks, let me tell you: people are at their worst, most base selves when they are filled with the holiday spirit. Add in wage shortages and the fallout from a failed trade war with China and I’m gonna bet that we are about to have the cheeriest season of the gimmies yet. Let me help you avoid the mall and steer you clear of Amazoning the holidays. That’s why you’re here, right? You thought, “I don’t know what i’m going to get Uncle Ron this year; he has everything!” Then you logged on to the interwebs, to this very website, hoping that Ryan Ireland, that jobless fool in the VW Bus would have a list of potential, ethically-sourced, local-business-supporting gift ideas. Well, sport, you’re in luck.


Here’s an important thing: Don’t buy from Amazon. Yes, it’s fast and easy. But they are a terrible company whose main ambition is to send Jeff Bezos to outer space. Worse yet, they also want to bring him back from outer space. If you remember, we highlighted Melanie Moore, a woman who owns an operates the Cincy Book Bus. She has the reach of Amazon but the heart of human being. All of her profits—100% of profits, guys—go to underserved children in the Cincinnati school system. Instead of going to space, she goes to local coffee houses and does pop-up fairs. If you have a title you want, enter on her website and she’ll get it for you. It’s like Amazon, but for people who don’t want to support a Bond villain. 

Now, what books do we recommend? 

From this hill, my hand, Cynthiana’s wine by Paul Roberts
Funny, authentic, instructive—Roberts journey in winemaking is as real as it gets. Miracle and I delighted in reading each other passages from this book early in our trip. If someone is a wine aficionado, if they’re just curious about wine, if they wanted Sideways once and found it amusing, this is a great book for them. While I was the featured writer at The Great Lakes Writers’ Festival, I was asked what my current favorite book was. I didn’t hesitate when I answered it was this one. 

Taste, Memory: Forgotten foods, lost flavors, and why they matter by David Buchanan
Another book about booze—this time along the lines of hard cider. Buchanan is a sensory writer and you’ll often find yourself salivating as you turn the pages. Rich in description and a master setter of scenes and place, Buchanan’s touches all the senses. Pick up this book if you’re a fan of Oliver Sacks or Julia Child or if you just love good prose. 

Seabear Press
Maybe you’re looking for some children’s books. SeaBear Press makes charming books for young readers. The brainchild of Erin and Kent Barnard—both librarians!—the books are the perfect gateway into a lifelong love of reading. Their titles are sweet and Erin’s illustrations will have your child giggling and turning the pages on their own. 


The days of streaming are here to stay, but music is still one of those gifts that means you actually thought about a person and you know their tastes. An iTunes gift card means you know that Christmas is a transactional holiday. A well selected LP means you know it’s a transactional holiday, but you might still give a shit about that person. Here’s some great music by genuinely good people who are also talented. Put on their music and you can out hipster your friends. 

Jesse Speed
We met Jesse in Canada and he’s entirely too modest. Grab one of his LPs for yourself and gift one to your friends. He’s the real deal and has a catalog to prove it. 

Jake LaBotz
We saw him perform at the Listening Room in Minnesota. His music is meditative, dark, sometimes darkly funny, and moving. Pour out a bourbon neat and slap this stack of wax on the record player. 

Susan Pepper
If you want some authentic mountain music from someone with a truly unique and rapturous voice, look no farther. Susan has a deep knowledge and love for traditional mountain music, especially ballads. Once you hear her voice, you’ll want to get both of her albums. 


Here’s the gift all of gifts. Legend has is that a fourth wiseman was slated to bring a bag of java to baby Jesus, but he ended up oversleeping. Ultimately, because he didn’t try his own supply the other wisemen moved on without him. That is now why giving coffee is so traditional at the holidays. Here’s some of our favorites:

Happy Productions Coffee Club
Give the gift that keeps on giving and get someone a coffee club membership. Emma makes some of the best coffee in the land and your loved one will thank you year round for this gift. Best of all, you’ll win the long game of giving the best gift—and we all know that the holidays are all about outdoing everyone else. 

Blue Bus Coffee
We interviewed Kevin and he is anything but a coffee snob. You can choose your bean and roast and he’ll do it for you, judgement-free. Variety is the spice of life and the flavor of love this season. 


Melville White Church Gallery
If you want to really impress someone, go with art. Nothing impresses someone like a piece of art that fits who they are. Browse the selections from Kayla and Connie at their gallery and then check out their individual websites for originals and prints.

Do they own a VW Bus?

Skip the VW Bus Christmas ornament and the toy model VW Bus. Trust me, we already have tons. And don’t get me wrong, we’re always excited by the new ones, but all of us VW people are up to our eyeballs in memorabilia. Instead, find out the person’s mechanic of choice and see if you can buy a gift certificate or put $20 toward a repair that is happening right now. Or find out if they buy stuff from JBugs, M&T Manufacturing, or BusDepot and then buy an e gift certificate. Trust me, it will not go unused.

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