Unique Hostess Gifts at EL Small Businesses

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Friday, November 20, 2015, 7:33 am
Alice Dreger

Above: terrarium makings at Clever Clover

Been invited to be a dinner guest or house guest this holiday season? Whether your destination is local or in a distant state, consider picking up a gift for your host or hostess at one of East Lansing’s many locally-owned small businesses.

You’ll find a wide variety of host/hostess gift options in downtown East Lansing. Clever Clover, on Grand River Avenue near Abbot Road, offers all the makings for original terrarium sets, including many different, beautifully shaped glass holders to which you can add a wide variety of colored sands, small polished stones, and air plants. You can put together the set you design and bring your host or hostess a finished product meant to sit in the window or hang in the bath, or if you’re visiting a household with children, you can bring the makings and help the children construct the terrarium.

Clever Clover also has large scented candles in colorful glass holders and a variety of whimsical heavy papers that can be used as gift wrap, as posters, or for dressing up a holiday side table for a party. Some of the papers feature colorful butterflies, others old maps, and still others 1950’s style advertising for Paris, San Francisco, and New York City.

As previously reported by Ann Nichols in Ann about Town, the Grove Street Gallery (across from the Grove Street parking ramp) is a treasure-trove of locally-made arts, including pottery and wearable art. While the options at Grove Street Gallery are ever-changing—which makes it always fun to visit—right now you are likely to find handmade soaps as well as packages of hand-screened cards suitable as small gifts.

It’s hard to know what to suggest from Mackerel Sky, because the options for host gifts there seem almost limitless. For Hanukkah, the store has fun cards that turn into pop-up menorahs, and menorah candles. If your host is a cook, check out the elegant handmade wooden spoons, the ceramic brown sugar “keeper” (keeps brown sugar soft), the glass spoon rests, the silver and marble salt cellars, and the bright French dishcloths.

Going to a house that enjoys cocktails? Mackerel Sky has stem markers (those little trinkets you put on wineglasses to keep track of whose is whose), wooden mojito muddlers, bar tools, and a wide variety of handmade cocktail glasses. If you’d like to gift something that says “Michigan,” check out the “Great Lakes: Unsalted” wooden coasters, the Michigan mitten potholder, or the Lower Peninsula cookie cutter that comes attached to a “Greetings from Michigan” postcard map.

Want to bring an attractive box of sweets? Newly-opened Velvet (near the Broad Museum on Grand River Avenue) will mix and match chunks of handmade fudge or individual chocolates for you. The staff of this family-owned establishment is always happy to make suggestions about gifts and to take the time to do an elegant wrapping job for you.

If you feel like you have to bring a bottle of something, think about bringing a bottle full of holiday lights! ELi’s calendar team of Val Thonger and Ken Sperber take their neighborhoods’ empty wine bottles, clean them, drill a subtle hole in the back of each, and light them up with a small string of lights. These illuminated bottles—clear, blue, and green—have become so popular with friends and family, Val and Ken now sell them to folks in East Lansing on request.

The bottles of electric cheer, made with UL-listed indoor/outdoor lights, brighten up front porches, kitchen counters, side tables, and mantles, and make great nightlights for guest bathrooms. To arrange to see and/or purchase some “electric champagne,” email KenandValLights@yahoo.com.

On the east side of town, Foods for Living is a great place to pick up locally made delicacies for a made-in-Michigan gift bag or gift basket. Besides a nice selection of Michigan wine and locally-roasted coffee beans, you’ll find dried fruits grown in Michigan. Foods for Living also features fresh bread from Holt-based Stone Circle Bakehouse, a vendor of the East Lansing Farmers Market.

In the refrigerated section of Foods for Living, you’ll find Michigan-made Kenzoil, a favorite of my household. Kenzoil is a savory blend of extra virgin olive oil, fresh garlic, and herbs, including basil. It has no nuts, gluten, dairy, or sugar and is vegan, so it makes a great gift. You can fry shrimp or vegetables in it—I like to use it to fry sliced brussels sprouts—or just dip chunks of bread in it as an appetizer. Right next to the Kenzoil, there’s a wide selection of products from The Brinery, a Michigan fermenter. Check out the pickle options, or if you want to bring the makings for a wicked Bloody Mary, pick up a bottle of the tomato kvass. It’s made of tomatoes, water, salt, horseradish, black peppercorn, smoked paprika, celery seed, coriander and dill seed.

If you’re visiting a house that enjoys the wildlife in its yard, on the west side of town you can visit Wild Birds Unlimited for bird-attracting treats, including hummingbird feeders and seed-encased pinecones. Whether you’re pro- or anti-squirrel, Wild Birds Unlimited has you covered: choose either adorable corncob feeders designed to make squirrels happy or allegedly squirrel-proof bird feeders designed to thwart our fuzzy-tailed neighbors.The store also always has a nice selection of greeting cards, sun catchers, and ornaments, as well as specially-made window stickers that you can barely see but that will keep birds from accidentally flying into your windows.

Finally, if you need to bring a “dish to pass,” don’t miss our article on fake-it-like-you-made-it potluck options offered by locally-owned restaurants!


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