Happy Holidays, little squashes! It is fracking cold in Raleigh these days, and I’ve mostly been staying in, decorating my Domo-sized Christmas tree and making really pathetic looking cookies. I will work on the cookies later, but for now my mind is on shopping. I did most of my gift-shopping online this year, because it really is the best alternative to the inevitable half-hour mall parking lot scenario of doom. But I have this problem wherein my shopping for other people’s gifts leads to me pining for things I otherwise wouldn’t be. Does anyone else fall into that trap?

If you need some great gift ideas, here they are:

1. Vegan treats from Allison’s Gourmet Bakery

Chocolate Lover's Gift Set

Chocolate Lover's Gift Set – $42

$42 buys you gourmet vegan almond toffee, peanut brittle, and chocolate caramels. The treats are fair-trade and organic, to boot. Allison’s also offers cookie, brownie, and fudge-of-the-month clubs (for a hefty price).

A cheaper alternative: the holiday dark chocolate Godiva bar is insanely delicious and on sale at CVS right now for 3 bucks.

2. Handmade jewelry from Raleigh-based Tree Round Designs

Red Hand Blown Glass Earrings

Red Hand Blown Glass Earrings – $18

Sister team Trisha and Colleen make nature-inspired accessories and sell them through their Etsy shop, Tree Round Designs. These gorgeous hand-blown glass earrings are only $18. Another favorite of mine is their zodiac necklace.

3. Ike & Sam’s Kettlecorn

Ike & Sam's

Ike & Sam's Kettlecorn – $3.59

If you are a popcorn fan and haven’t tried Ike & Sam’s Kettlecorn, you are seriously missing out. This Brooklyn-based company makes heavenly popcorn in several flavors, including “Kickin’ Cayenne,” “Crunchy Caramel” (my favorite), and original “Sweet & Salty.” Unlike other pre-popped popcorn (a.k.a Smartfood brand), Ike & Sam’s doesn’t taste stale at all, and it’s made with only three or four ingredients, including NON-GMO corn. They do have two flavors that contain cheddar, so if you’re veeg, just watch out for those. This stuff rocks, and it’s sold online, as well as at Earth Fare and Harris Teeter in Raleigh.

4. Moustache Pig from Angry Birds

Moustache Pig

Moustache Pig Plush Toy – $14.99

This nefarious little porcine thief is Just So Cute! Get him for all the angry birds in your life. The only bummer: they don’t start shipping until January.

5. Rice Crispy Treats from Sweet & Sara

Rice Crispy Treat

Rice Crispy Treats – $1.99 each

Rice crispy treats are sort of like the holy grail of vegan desserts. That’s because they contain marshmallows, which 99% of the time are made with gelatin. I tried to make my own RCTs one time with a vegan marshmallow fluff I found at Earth Fare. They were… interesting? Luckily Sweet & Sara sells vegan marshmallows in an array of flavors, as well as marshmallowy pre-made treats. Yum!

6. Adopt a Bomb-Sniffing Rat Friend from HeroRats

Hero Rat

Adopt a Hero Rat - 5 euros/month

You know what is cooler than a rat trained to detect landmines and tuberculosis? NOTHING. That’s right, the fluffy friends at HeroRats save lives through their amazing sense of smell! So how does it work? The HeroRats organization works in Tanzania and Mozambique to train rats for olfactory detection. The giant African pouched rats they use have an incredible sense of smell, and they are actively saving lives by sniffing out hidden landmines, and by identifying tuberculosis patients whose diagnosis was missed by hospitals. The HeroRat website says:

A trained HeroRAT can clear 100 square meters in 20 minutes, equivalent to two days work for a manual deminer. A rat can evaluate 40 [tuberculosis] samples in seven minutes, equal to what a skilled lab technician, using microscopy, will do in one day.

Through the Adopt-a-Rat program, you can choose to sponsor Chosen One, Kim, Tyson, or Ziko for 5 euros a month or 60 euros a year. I first learned about HeroRats when my aunt Cynthia adopted Tyson the rat for my dad last Christmas. We all agreed it was the absolute coolest Christmas present ever. Yay for brave rats!

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