Doing Good in the Nutmeg State: The Holiday 2014 Edition

Don’t give this crap.

You’ve got a lot to do during the holiday season, and if you’re anything like me, you have a TON of people to buy gifts for. Supporting local organizations, businesses, and more will do a hell of a lot more for your holiday karma than shopping at the big box stores. You may also save what precious sanity you have left! As always, we have ideas

Give a membership to a local organization.

I’m not talking the Elks Club (what do elks do?). I mean a membership to the New Britain Museum of Art for the art lover, The Mark Twain House & Museum for the reader or writer, Beardsley Zoo or Mystic Aquarium for the animal lover. If the animal lovers in your life have a problem with zoos and aquariums, then donate to a local rescue or shelter in their name (CT Humane Society, Our Companions, and Protectors of Animals are all good choices). Have an entire family to buy for? Go for the Lutz Museum or the CT Science Center. You get the idea. It’s one of those gifts that keeps giving all year long.

Give an experience.

Seriously. Anti-Couric has been on an anti-stuff rant for years. (Anti-Couric’s Note: I have extended this to an anti-gift policy, but she refuses to listen!)  This didn’t stop me from buying her something small and hilarious this year. However, for the most part I’ve tried to honor this request by making donations in her honor, memberships (see above), or going to something. Like we saw Bill Clinton a couple of years ago for her birthday.

Give tickets to something at Hartford Stage like A Christmas Carol or Cole Porter’s classic Kiss Me, Kate.  Or one of Sea Tea Improv’s many shows. Or Peter and the Starcatcher at the Shubert. The Mark Twain House & Museum is bringing Hal Holbrook for his 90th Birthday performance in February. Old folks love that. Performances not your thing? Get someone special a staycation at Flamig Farm in Simsbury. Hell, get it for me. (Hint, Hint!) Take someone on a brewery or winery tour. I promise that doing something with someone you like is a lot more fun for both of you than another scarf or Target gift card…unless they’re in some real desperate need of deodorant and soap. Then that will serve everyone in the vicinity.

Buy local.

We all buy a lot of booze for the holidays. For parties, for gifts, or even just to handle all the family time. So go local. Some of my favorite local wines include Ole Sangria at CT Valley Winery, Gouveia’s Seyval Blanc, Sharpe Hill’s Ballet of Angels (aka Scary Baby Wine), and while not a wine, Holmberg Winery’s English hard ciders. There is a bevy of new breweries in Connecticut, but City Steam’s Naughty Nurse is still my favorite local beer. I am a fan of Back East and Thomas Hooker though! For the hard stuff, there’s Onyx Moonshine in Manchester and Peel Liqueur making limoncello, bananacello, and the like in Hard Hittin’ New Britain.

If you must buy stuff, be sure to check out local small businesses. Museum stores are great–Wadsworth Atheneum has good stuff for the arty grown ups. Hill-Stead has great Connecticut-made products worth gifting, and the Science Center has perfect presents for rugrats. One of my favorite small businesses, Plimpton’s in West Hartford, is closing soon so you’ll probably find good deals there if I don’t beat you to it. Hartford Prints! is in downtown, but if you’re lazy, you can always shop them online at Etsy. Fleet Feet in West Hartford is the perfect place for the runner in your family…or someone who should become a runner as they also offer training!