9 Innovative Ideas for Your Gift List

By Sara Raasch

We are told that the first Christmas gifts were gold, frankincense and myrrh. They were delivered by kings who followed a star. Things have changed since that first Christmas. What has not changed is the task of finding that one unique gift for that one special person – especially when that person on your list already has everything. No matter how you define your gift-giving, whether you shop locally or give gifts that impact our world, here are a few places to get you started:



1. You can always give a restaurant gift certificate, but sometimes choosing the restaurant is difficult. Consider CityTins — a taste of Milwaukee in a gift tin.

CityTins offers three unique gift tins, each for $25: Milwaukee Edition, Milwaukee Bar and Lounge, and the Madison Edition. Each set contains 20 coasters. Each coaster is a $10 voucher you use like cash (on a bill of $25 or more) to pay for a meal at any one of the 20 restaurants or bars in each set. The 2015 participating restaurants and bars include Blue Jacket, La Merenda and The Wicked Hop. According to Christin Cilento Ladky, co-owner of CityTins, “CityTins brings people together to enjoy good times at great locally-owned-and-operated venues.” Because CityTins has donated nearly $150,000 to local schools and non-profits (through fundraisers and in-kind goods), “It’s something everybody can feel good about,” Cilento Ladky said. Purchase CityTins online, at any Outpost store, and at many participating restaurants. The 2015 coasters are redeemable beginning Jan. 1, 2015 through Dec. 31, 2015. 600.Oro di Oliva png

2. If you prefer to give gold, check out Oro di Oliva (Gold Olive Oil), a local shop that provides olive oils and balsamic vinegars, as well as beauty products.

You can sample pairings of oils and vinegars to see what tastes good to you. Oro di Oliva offers a sampler box ($35) that includes six 2 ounce bottles of the following pairings: Basil Olive Oil / 18 Year Balsamic; Whole Fruit Lemon Olive Oil / Blueberry Balsamic; Chipotle Olive Oil / Alfoos Mango White Balsamic. Oro di Oliva has four Milwaukee-area locations: Brookfield, Milwaukee (Public Market), Wauwatosa and Whitefish Bay. Or shop online at.

  3. Did someone say, “Chocolate, please?” If someone on your gift list did, then look no further than Milwaukee chocolatier, Kehr’s Candies.

Kehr’s boasts hand-dipped chocolate and ships to any state in the country. A favorite among customers is the chocolate turtles. These turtles are so large that according to the website, “We should probably call them tortoises.” Pecans, caramel and fine chocolate make them a divine dessert and a perfectly-suited gift for chocolate lovers. You can stop in the store at Milwaukee’s Public Market or shop online.


4. If you can’t say it with bacon, then don’t say anything at all. Nothing says Christmas like a good slab of bacon or a holiday ham. Nueske’s, which has been family-owned for four generations, has been smoking meats the old European way in Wittenberg, Wisconsin since 1887.

There are many holiday packages from which to choose. Send your loved ones a ham, turkey or a combination of sausages. If you do, Tiny Tim will not be the only one saying, “God Bless us everyone.” Check out Nueske’s.

  5. If your gift recipient has a bland palate, and there’s no gift of food that will satisfy, then maybe the gift of listening could be the perfect purchase.

For the person who loves to listen to public radio, a donation to Wisconsin Public Radio could be your ticket. You can give a gift in honor or in memory of someone, and you can even get a thank-you gift with your donation. You can keep the gift for yourself or give it to your intended gift recipient. You can choose a thank-you gift according to the amount you donate: For donations of $120, you receive a WPR t-shirt; a CD “At Home With Friends” by violinist Joshua Bell or “Storyteller” by Norwegian trumpet soloist Tine Thing Helseth; or a pair of tickets to Madison’s “Whad’Ya Know” show. For $150, you can receive a coffee mug designed by Milwaukee-area artist Renee Graef. For more information go to http://www.wpr.org.


6. Is anyone on your list a tree-hugger? If so, you are in luck. You can plant a tree in celebration or in memory of someone.

A Living Tribute lets you plant a single tree or a grove of trees in a national forest or park. You can choose the number of trees and the national forest or park. Pricing ranges from one tree for $9.99 to 250 trees for $500. Check out its website for more details.


Gifts for the Greater Good

7. Heifer International provides people in need with life-sustaining gifts.

You can choose to give a flock of geese to a family in a poverty-stricken country for $20, or you can give a full goat for $120.  Each will provide food for a family. The purpose of each gift is to provide an individual or family with a gift that is life-transforming. With the gift of livestock, education and the right tools, people can make their own lives better. Madison’s Jackie Kuta has been purchasing gifts from Heifer International ever since someone donated a pig in her honor 10 years ago. “At that time, I had no idea what Heifer International was or did,” Kuta said. “What I remember was how touched I felt that someone would give me something that actually made a difference in someone  else’s life. Since that day, I have gone on to give Heifer gifts to those around me – my family, my co-workers, my friends. I am always impressed by the reaction from the recipients. It is that same genuine joy that I experienced years ago.” For more information, visit http://www.heifer.org.

TOMS photo

For every show purchased, TOMS donates shoes to a child in need.

8. In 2006, Blake Mycoskie was traveling in Argentina and found that children in a village had no shoes on their feet. Wanting to help, he created TOMS, a company that donates a pair of shoes for a child in need for every pair of purchased shoes.

Later, TOMS Eyewear was launched, to help restore eyesight to those in need. Recently, TOMS added coffee. With every bag of coffee purchased, clean water is provided to a person in need. Mount Mary English professor Lisa Terasa is a TOMS shopper. “I have made several purchases from TOMS for gifts for my daughters,” Terasa said. “I don’t mind the higher cost since they donate shoes to different countries, and my daughters love their style and quality.” TOMS Marketplace is a new addition to the TOMS site and is, according to the website, “a new destination for making a difference.” And now even Target Corporation is getting into the holiday spirit by offering TOMS items. For every Target+TOMS gift purchased, Target will be giving meals, shoes or a blanket to those in need.

one woman from Cambodia who is part of Kiva

One woman from Cambodia who is part of Kiva

9. Kiva is a company that can make a profound difference in people’s lives by empowering them with a $25 loan for them to start a business.

KIVA was started in 2005 and is an international lending website. You can choose the individual to whom you want to lend, and you can determine the amount of the loan (starting at $25). You will be repaid and can then reinvest in another entrepreneur in need. Since KIVA was founded in 2005, it has given out nearly $635 million in loans to people from 83 different countries. One hundred percent of your donation goes directly to funding loans; KIVA does not take a percentage. For an interactive video watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oiBiANPCrBs

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