Locally-Handcrafted Unique Host/Hostess Gifts Now Available

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Friday, December 19, 2014, 5:00 am
Alice Dreger

Invited to someone’s home this holiday season and in need of a host/hostess gift? You could bring the typical gift of a bottle of wine, or you could bring something different—a locally-produced handmade gift.

When I went to Mackerel Sky looking for such options for ELi readers, owner Linda Dufelmeier told me that when she and husband Tom went into the business of art for everyday life, people weren’t even thinking about focusing on buying products made in the USA. But today many consumers are conscious of reducing their carbon footprints and supporting local economies.

Located in downtown East Lansing, Mackerel Sky currently has a wide variety of Michigan-made gifts for hosts, including well-balanced, hand-carved wooden spoons by furniture maker Bill Silvey (in the $30 range) and, from City Bird, coasters made from recycled Detroit tires ($18 for a set of four). At the shop, you can also find Michigan Mapleworks’ small cutting boards made in the shape of the lower and upper peninsulas ($18 for the lower peninsula, $30 for the upper).

Mackerel Sky also has products made in Kalamazoo by weaver Nancy Crampton, including snowmen ornaments ($20) made from hand-spun and hand-dyed yarn. Crampton’s “fish toys for cats” ($8) are also available. These are made from hand-woven fabrics and filled with organic catnip. Small whimsical garden sculptures from Carruth Studios in Waterville, Ohio ($35 and up), can be hung indoors, including in sunrooms and kitchens.

Visitors to the JayCee’s sale last weekend at Hannah Community Center encountered another host gift option made by ELi’s calendar team of Val Thonger and Ken Sperber. I call these “electric champagne”: the couple take wine bottles destined for the recycling bin, drill a subtle hole in the back of each, and light them up with a small string of lights (see photo at top).

We have a number of these around our house to brighten up dark Michigan winters. The clear bottles with colored lights look bright and appropriate to the winter holidays. Blue bottles with white lights inside look like a starry sky, so I have a set of three lighting up my solarium windows. The green wine bottles with white lights look in-season on a mantle all year round. And the green wine bottles with red lights inside look like they contain electric merlot.

All work well as nightlights in a guest bathroom or on the kitchen counter. When we are having a holiday party, we line our walkway and front steps with the lit bottles. Sperber says that they use only lights that are UL-listed and state on the label they are safe for indoor and outdoor use, but he recommends against leaving them outside during stretches of harsh weather. To arrange to see and/or purchase some “electric champagne” ($15 for one bottle, $25 for any two), email KenandValLights@yahoo.com.

Finally, another unique locally-produced gift is available in the refrigerated cases at the East Lansing Food Co-Op and Foods for Living: Kenzoil, made in Howell, Michigan. If you’ve tried Kenzoil at one of the local farmers’ markets, you know it is a rich olive oil-based blend of fresh garlic, basil, and spices. Kenzoil is vegan, raw, dairy-free, gluten-free, and nut-free.

I sometimes use Kenzoil to make simple but popular appetizer plates, including thinly-sliced bread served with a bowl of Kenzoil, and shrimp (locally-grown, of course) pan-fried in Kenzoil. You can also take Brussels sprouts, trim off the woody stem, slice them in half, and fry them in Kenzoil, and serve them next to a dish of toothpicks. You might not think of Brussels sprouts as an appetizer but this dish always leads guests to ask me for the “recipe.” (Recipe? Brussels sprouts plus Kenzoil.)


This article originally ran on November 20, 2014.

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