Holiday gift guide for the last-minute Santa

Four shopping days are left and if you’re like me, there still are names on your holiday gift list that aren’t checked off. No problem – there’s still time to match that special someone with a present and some of the best gifts are right under your nose. Now stop freaking out and go get your stuff done so you can relax.

Consider Mt. Philo. It’s a local treasure, a gift from the town of Charlotte that we get to enjoy year-round. My canine friend Sophie found the leg of a dead animal up there the other morning, which is a wonderful gift for a dog. If your loved ones are more discerning, Vermont State Parks offers a selection of gifts available by phone and online. A vehicle season pass to get you into every state park next season only costs $90; for $139 you can get the pass plus two one-hour boat rental coupons, an insulated backpack, a deck of cards and a Frisbee. Other pass value packs are available at lower prices. has other gift items, too, like t-shirts, drinkware, and gift certificates.

I’ve heard a lot of people this year saying they have too much stuff — for many, the gift of an experience is fun to receive, and if you’ve the giver and a little self-serving, you might get lucky and be invited along. Memberships to local museums give all year round. Check out the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum; a family membership is $100 and includes a 20 percent discount at the gift shop and the Red Mill Restaurant, plus early registration and discounts for camps and programs. Shelburne Museum offers several membership levels. Its Barnstormers group is particularly fun, and membership will include an exclusive invitation to their February soiree. This year’s theme is Eye Candy, which ties in with their current “Sweet Tooth” pop art exhibit.

Some might hesitate to revisit the scene of their recurring nightmares, but an ACCESS class at Champlain Valley Union High School gets you back to school just for fun – no worries about forgetting to study for the most important test of the year or showing up for class with no pants on. Classes are available to anyone in our community, for unusually small fees, and make a great gift for the adventurer on your list. Get someone a one-week Argentenian cooking class. Corral a group of pals and learn how to play bridge. Sign someone up for songwriting or welding or beekeeping basics or meditation or homesteading or fiddling or wood carving… check them out at

Giving to others always feels good. If you do it on behalf of someone else, you’ll both feel good. And maybe give them some chocolate, too, just for fun. Nonprofits that directly engage your community like your town library, the school’s PTO, or the food shelf in your town are all causes that you can see working to tangibly lift up those around you. Many are facing unprecedented need this year. Other causes that I personally find to be meaningful are the Cancer Patient Support Foundation, which helps Vermonters from all over the state, and the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, a tireless national organization.

Finally, the best experiences ever are what I consider the gold, frankincense, and myrrh of my life: jewelry, alcohol, and books. Charlotter Sara Nelson makes lovely, simple pieces that translate well from day to evening and aren’t too expensive. Sara Marie Jewelry includes her signature beaded bracelet, earrings, rings, and more on her website and in local boutiques. Shelburne jeweler Matthew Taylor, who’s located on Harbor Road or at, makes unique, meaningful, meticulously crafted fine jewelry that is to die for.

Shelburne Vineyard has a wine club, where you can sign someone who’s 21 or over up for automatic wine deliveries (wine in your pajamas!) for $80 to $220 per year. The liquor stores in Shelburne and Hinesburg have a wide selection of tequilas; get your pal or your mom the fixings to make margaritas, crank up the wood stove, and pretend you’re in Mexico.

Finally, books. “Vacationland” by John Hodgman was a favorite this year, as was “Manhattan Beach” by Jennifer Egan, “Theft by Finding” by David Sedaris. Charlotte author Stephen P. Kiernan’s novel “The Baker’s Secret” hit national best-seller lists for independent booksellers. And if you still haven’t read the Neopolitan Series by Elena Ferrante, stop reading this, stop shopping for other people, and go buy them for yourselves.

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