The office gift exchange was announced and—out of desire, guilt, or distraction—you put your name in the hat (or, if you work at Portland Monthly, in the plastic Halloween cauldron). Now you are obligated to buy someone…something. But you are busy. You are overwhelmed with the tasks someone actually pays you to perform at your job. You are regretting your decision to be a joiner. No problem. Here’s my gift to you: 10 local presents under $25 that you can happily hand your coworker with minimal fuss or real effort. You will look thoughtful. You will seem engaged. You are welcome.
I’d estimate that a good 70 percent of Secret Santa presents exchanged at the PoMo holiday party are purchased at Wildfang. Yes, the chic tomboy shop’s West End outpost is downstairs from our office. But even if it were across the street—nay, across the city!—we would still make a beeline for their excellent gifts. Newest purchase? A quartet of cheery little notebooks featuring drawings of Dolly Parton, Michelle Obama, besties Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, and, wait for it, “Reigning Supremes” Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Elena Kagan (see image above). There are also individual Badass Babes candles for $28 a pop. They smell like the future, obviously. $18 at Wildfang
My officemate Mike cooks all the damn time. He makes homemade pesto sauce every summer, freezes it, and then eats intensely aromatic pesto pasta with sausage at his desk all winter long and makes me convulse with jealousy. I would like more coworkers to be like Mike. Therefore, I shall gift them one of his not-so secret kitchen weapons—the microplane. It makes short work of everything from Parmesan to lemon zest, adding layered flavor to any dish. Bonus: You could wear it to a fancy dress party, Wonder Woman-style, strapped down your back in order to discourage sex pests. $14.95 at Kitchen Kaboodle
Got an Old Portland aficionado on your list who trends more Zefiro than Satyricon? Winsome big band/Thomas Lauderdale enabler/local institution Pink Martini hawks a teeny hand-cranked music box that plinks out their signature tune "Sympathique" (video proof, here). Et puis, je fume FTW!!! $8 at Pink Martini's online shop
The greatest gift I have ever received from a coworker was a handmade Christmas tree ornament of John McClane (Bruce Willis) crawling through a Nakatomi Plaza air duct. It was a lot. I teared up. This book, which contains cheerily bloody shootouts and stanzas like “John took off his shoes, ‘making fists with his toes’ / It actually worked: ‘Well what do you know!’” is not that ornament. But it comes close. $15 at Powell’s Books (it’s out of stock at the moment, but you-know-where sells it too)
For that well-liked, socially conscious workmate who often misses deadlines? Put your passive aggression toward good use with the gift of a calendar that contains actual dates while simultaneously “[highlighting] one meaningful action you can take every week to further gender equity.” $25 at the Women's Foundation of Oregon online shop
Who wants $20 sweet bean juice? The coworker who takes the office cookie exchange to Great British Bake Off levels of intensity. That person may appreciate being gifted some raw materials to vault their baked goods to an even higher level. (So, really, it’s also a present for you too—the best kind of present.) Cocanu Chocolate’s Sebastian Cisneros is a flavor master who macerates twice (twice!) the usual number of vanilla pods in order to make this insanely potent elixir. PoMo food critic Karen Brooks calls this stuff “vanilla extract from the Gods!!!” And she has a James Beard award, so I’d trust her. $20 at Cacao or Cocanu online
You can’t afford to give your coworker a gift certificate for all the dumplings at Kachka. But you can enable them to swill like they’re at Portland’s fave Russian drinking den by purchasing them a bottle of the house’s irresistibly spicy horseradish vodka, made in collusion with Portland’s New Deal Spirits. $27 at New Deal Distillery Tasting Room and some area liquor stores
I usually buy these kits for children. But what are coworkers, really, but overgrown children who Slack all day long? DIY crystal kits are basically like Chia Pets but cooler. Plus, SCIENCE. $9.99 at Oodles 4 Kids
There’s always a crusty bottle of Sriracha and Tapatio in our office fridge with somebody’s name Sharpie’d on the side of it. And you sneak one little squirt to top off your rice bowl, because, really, who's gonna miss it? Those squirts add up, people. Bestow your gainfully employed heat-lover with some seriously good locally produced sauce that they can take home and never unwittingly share with you—the Habanero Carrot Curry tastes good on literally everything. $11 at Made Here PDX, Tender Loving Empire, New Seasons markets and at the Marshall's online store.
Warning: Conflict of Interest Below
PoMo Style Editor Eden Dawn spends her off-hours commanding Claws Out, an indie nail polish brand that flaunts colors like Uterus, Darcelle, and Liberty and gives 20 percent of every sale to groups like Planned Parenthood and the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization. It’s amazing and we shy away from ever writing about it in print because, duh, JOURNALISTIC ETHICS. But I don’t know of any other local polish that funds groups trying to keep our country from turning into an authoritarian regime/dumpster fire, so I’m cool with bending the rules right now, OK? Plus, that Nude glitter polish is frickin’ fabulous (and funds benefit National Organization for Women). $15 at Project Object and online