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Gifts that keep giving

lau-andree-52.jpg
by Andree Lau, CBCnews.ca

I'd love to say I bake homemade cookies or lovingly jar jams and jellies over the holidays for my friends and family.

I’m a procrastinator when it comes to presents. The clock is ticking down to Christmas, not to mention various friends’ birthdays, so what to do? Bless e-commerce, is all I have to say.

For gifts of the kitchen — and economical — kind, I turn to Lee Valley Tools, established in 1978 in Ottawa with three employees, and now with stores across the country and a lovely website to boot.

spurtle.jpg
A spurtle is a traditional Scottish stir stick. (Lee Valley Tools)

On top of their woodworking and hardware products, the company has some great ideas for the chef in your life.

You know, those sleek, long microplane zesters TV chefs like to use? The original design came from a rasp tool used to shape wood. Lee Valley sells the graters for $14.50; I’ve seen them in gourmet stores for $22 and up!

The porridge lover may give you eternal thanks for a spurtle that keeps lumps to a minimum.

And a microtorch just might be the gift that keeps on giving: provide a flame that burns at 1300°C; get invited for crème brulee!

If you’re looking for a present that makes more of a difference, check out Kiva, a micro-lending website. It makes small loans to people in developing countries who don’t qualify for traditional bank credit.

You can buy gift certificates in $25 increments on Kiva’s site and allow your recipient to choose who to loan the money to. When the money is paid back, you can withdraw it or lend it to someone else.

Among the entrepreneurs are many restaurateurs and grocery store owners.

Last year, I lent $25 to a farmer in Cambodia to purchase more farmland for rice and vegetables, and $25 to a butcher in Azerbaijan who bought two calves.

They haven’t missed a monthly payment and in a year have repaid 61 per cent and 90 per cent respectively.

Now that’s a gift that truly keeps on giving.

Share your unique holiday gift ideas. What are your favourite presents to give or receive?

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Comments

Brenda

Vancouver

I love your suggestions, especially the $25 loans to the farmer in Cambodia and the butcher in Azerbaijan.

A late thankyou for the great ideas.

Posted December 25, 2008 04:42 PM

Dorothy Lefebvre

good day i hope everyone is doing find, what i would like to no is how to make hard candy's , they are xmas candys , they are called pillows candys is there anyone now a better way or any picture to show me please

Posted January 5, 2009 03:36 PM

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About the blog

From trends and culture to politics and nutrition, Food Bytes serves up tasty tidbits about food and the issues surrounding it that flavour our everyday lives.

About the writers

Amber Hildebrandt Amber Hildebrandt writes for CBCNews.ca in Toronto. Growing up on a farm in Manitoba, she acquired an insatiable appetite, but it was during a stint in Japan that she developed her discerning tastebuds and "foodie" ways.

Andrea Chiu Andrea Chiu is an associate producer at CBC Radio Digital. Though she loves to eat, cook and discuss food, don't ask her to bake. It never turns out well. She tweets as @TOfoodie on Twitter and organizes food and wine events in Toronto called FoodieMeet.

Tara Kimura Tara Kimura is the consumer life reporter for CBCNews.ca, covering a wide range of issues that range from rising food costs and the growing organic movement, to new trends in the marketplace.

Andree Lau Andree Lau is a CBC web reporter in Calgary. Her journalism career includes seven years as a CBC-TV reporter. Her own blog called "are you gonna eat that?" chronicles her eating adventures (including sampling snake and camel hoof tendon).

Jessica Wong Jessica Wong is a CBCNews.ca writer who loves to eat and cook, as well as discuss, read and watch programming about food, sometimes all at once.

Kevin Yarr Kevin Yarr, CBCNews.ca's writer in Prince Edward Island, wrote about food and beer for national and regional magazines before joining the CBC. He acquired a desire for new tastes on his first trip to Europe, and an appreciation of eating locally and in season when he finally settled down on P.E.I.

Elizabeth Bridge Elizabeth Bridge is a writer with the CBC Digital Archives in Toronto. She first ventured into the kitchen as a child to indulge a sweet tooth by baking cookies and making fudge. A student budget compelled her to be a vegetarian (for a while) and instilled in her an ongoing curiosity about food and cooking.

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