Local First!

If ya gotta shop, why not buy items made right here in Southern Arizona?

It's that time of year again: Black Friday is right around the corner, and you need to start thinking about what your favorite auntie might like to unwrap.

Some people love shopping, but to others, finding the perfect gift can be agonizing. We hope that this gift guide, which profiles some awesome locally owned businesses and locally produced items, will make the process easier—whether you're a regular Santa Claus or more of a Scrooge.

While everyone else is camped out in front of Walmart waiting to pick up a pair of thick winter socks or the old standby iTunes gift card, take a leisurely stroll to one of these fine establishments. Avoid not only the crowds and mass-produced doodads, but also the curse of buying another run-of-the-mill gift.

Be it a present for your sweetie or a gift for your grandmother, you can find something on our tidy little list. In fact, this list is worth checking twice.

Jar of Raw Honey From Holly's Little Farm

Available at Rincon Market, Aqua Vita and Caravan Foods

461-3632; hollyslittlefarm.com

If you haven't experienced raw honey before, the time has come. Holly's Little Farm makes some excellent honey, and it's way more natural and a lot better for you than the store-bought variety.

Raw honey is the concentrated nectar of flowers. It's honey as it is found in the beehive, or as it is obtained through extraction. Basically, it's as natural as natural gets.

The types of honey available from HLF depend on the time of year. There is a desert blend and a mesquite blend, as well as spring and summer honeys.

Raw honey is great for baking (which is a big deal this time of year), for use as a spread, or as a sweetener in coffee or tea. It's also naturally great for digestion. So if you eat too much stuffing, try a little bit of honey and ginger. Just sayin'.

This year, send a little love from the Arizona bees.

Share Love Gift Basket

Kuumba Made

410 E. Fort Lowell Road

881-5550; kuumbamade.com

Kuumba Made products are so cool that they're sold nationally—but did you know they are actually made in Tucson?

The location on Fort Lowell is not only the packaging facility, but also a retail outlet. You can buy a whole range of Kuumba Made products there, including lotions, fragrances and other treats.

Kuumba Made merchandise is all-natural. When you buy something from Kuumba Made, you're not buying artificial colors and scents; you're buying products made from ingredients that actually come from the planet. Kuumba Made uses a variety of herbs, plant extracts, resins and oils in its merchandise.

Because it has so many great products, we recommend putting together a Share Love gift basket. You can call to order, or head down to the store in person to pick the items for your personalized basket. If you are going to buy a Share Love basket, though, know that something like this will take a bit longer to put together. So plan ahead if you need it by a certain date.

Kuumba Made exemplifies the kind of quality you expect from Tucson-produced goodies.

Socially Responsible Coffee Beans

eXo Roast Co.

403 N. Sixth Ave.

777-4709; www.exocoffee.com

eXo Roast Co. recently opened its doors at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Seventh Street, but the company is already making a name for itself by roasting some of the best coffee in town.

These folks don't fool around when it comes to java; they roast their beans in small batches in a gas-heated, cast-iron roaster to bring out a lot of flavor.

eXo buys high-quality beans from growers around the world, but social responsibility comes first and foremost. eXo wants to be sure it is supporting growers that have environmentally friendly practices and fair-trade ethics.

The roasts represent different coffee-growing regions of the world, from Ethiopia to Guatemala. The beans available for purchase change on a weekly basis.

eXo's most-exclusive roast features beans from Kenya. The beans come from a farmer who is fastidious when it comes to quality control. Consequently, the yields from his farm are small, and sell for a higher price.

Any coffee connoisseur would love to receive a bag o' beans for the holidays. And what's better than drinking a cup of coffee that is not only delicious, but ethically produced and procured?

Build Your Own Candle Basket

Rustic Candle Co.

324 N. Fourth Ave.

623-2880; www.rusticcandle.net

The Rustic Candle Co. has been offering lovely handcrafted scented candles to the masses for years. In fact, it's a purveyor of fine scents in general: The store also carries incense and sage.

Gift baskets are available, and there's free wrapping, so why not have fun choosing a basket full of glorious aromas? With scents like "Heartthrob" and "Boyfriend's Jacket," you could even get a theme going.

All the candles are hand-poured and made in small batches, so each one is a unique creation with a handsome, homemade look. Plus, they'll probably make your house smell better than a can of air freshener would.

Rustic Candle also has candle holders, plates, incense burners and wall sconces.

When it gets chilly outside, there's nothing quite like lighting some candles and relaxing in their glow.

Not So Gringo Salsa

Available at Food Conspiracy Co-op, Rincon Market, and Dickman's Meat and Deli

624-4821 (Food Conspiracy)

Fair warning: Be wary of this salsa. During the first few bites, it seems sweet, tangy, salty and downright pleasant. It lulls you into a false sense of security: It will burn your tongue and make you cry. In a good way.

Not So Gringo Salsa should not be taken lightly. Send a jar to your friends and family who live in a state where it snows, and ask them to send you pictures of the steam coming out of their ears. (OK, it's not that hot, but they'll probably think so.) You can also find other salsas made in Tucson, and perhaps put together a care package of Tucson's spicy delights.

There's nothing that exemplifies the taste of Tucson more than a good salsa, and Not So Gringo sets a very high bar. Do your part to spread the word that a jar of Pace by comparison is just Not So Good.

Loft Cinema Gift Card

3233 E. Speedway Blvd.

322-5638; www.loftcinema.com

Give the gift of great films, some of which have been locally produced.

A Loft gift card is good for any movie event. This includes the Loft Film Fest, special screenings, Mondo Mondays, Late Night Cult Classics and the acclaimed First Friday Shorts.

At larger theaters, ticket prices have jumped in recent years. Now, you're looking at forking over $20 for you and a friend to see the newest blockbuster. If you want your mind blown by 3-D, we're talking even more. At the Loft, that amount of money is going to get you a lot further. You'll have to pass on a pair of 3-D glasses ... but is that really so bad?

Fused Art Glass Jewelry

Desert Artisans

6536 E. Tanque Verde Road

722-4412; www.desertartisansgallery.com

Desert Artisans is a fine-arts cooperative, meaning that the artists whose works are shown there own part of the business. And there is a ton of Southwest-inspired artwork available at reasonable prices.

Sometimes, galleries can feel inaccessible—things might be above your price range, or you're not sure where to look or what to buy. Desert Artisans has a bright, cheerful environment with a variety of mediums to choose from, including photography, watercolors, acrylics, ceramics, glass and jewelry. For example, artist Margaret Shirer makes fused-art glass, combining dichroic glass (glass that's covered with superfine particles of metals that reflect and refract light) with glass-art techniques like fusing and lampworking. The effect is beautiful.

You can pick up Shirer's jewelry, including necklaces and earrings, at Desert Artisans, but be sure to look around the entire gallery. There are many beautiful prints, both large and small, as well as plenty of unique items for interior decorating.

Locavore Gift Pack

Gloo Factory

238 E. 26th St.

740-0810; www.gloofactoryink.com

Gloo Factory is a print shop that not only does custom print jobs, but also makes some of the punk-rock-iest, environment-supporting-est, bike-loving-est stickers, patches, pins, T-shirts and bags on the planet. Consider shopping on the company's websites, and then avoid shipping charges by picking up the merch from the Tucson warehouse.

Gloo Factory has two websites, www.peacesupplies.org, and www.worldsbestbikestickers.com.

Since we're going locals-only for this guide, what's a better way to support Tucson than with the Locavore Gift Pack? It comes with a Locavore T-shirt, two bumper stickers, three bike stickers and a button. Also notable are the No More Deaths Supporter Pack, the Protest AZ Laws Grab Bag, and the Fixed Gear Pack for Tucson's bike lovers.

Another option is to create your own designs. The Gloo Factory offers fair-trade textiles, recycled paper and union-made T-shirts. Consider designing your own Christmas or New Year's cards, or maybe matching T-shirts for you and your sweetie. Patches, pins and stickers make good stocking stuffers, too!

Monkey Flower Chocolate Truffles

Available at Cartel Coffee Lab, RumRunner, Time Market, Maynards Market, Old Town Artisans Shops and Borderlands Brewery

248-2709; monkeyflowerchocolates.com

Forrest Gump's mom said life is like a box of chocolates. If you were to receive a box of Monkey Flower Fine Chocolates, your life would temporarily become devoted to finishing the entire box as soon as possible. So in that sense, yes, life can be like a box of chocolates.

Marjorie DeWald, owner of Monkey Flower Fine Chocolates, is a champion of chocolate-making. Not only that, but the flavors of her chocolates are very Tucson-centric. Exhibit A: the La Sonrisa truffle. This one is made with local prickly pear nectar and orange zest. What a great way to utilize one of Arizona's five C's, right?

Another chocolate offered by Monkey Flower is the Horchata Truffle, made with white rice, cinnamon and cream. There's also the Mayan Apocalypse, with cinnamon, arbol chile, vanilla and cayenne-roasted pecans.

You can usually pick and choose what you want in your box o' sweets, but the availability of some chocolates may be limited due to the need to keep it all fresh.

Although the chocolates are available at the locations listed above, you can also pick them up yourself at the commercial kitchen (140 S. Camino Seco, Suite 422). Or for $10, Monkey Flower will deliver them. A box of Monkey Flower truffles is a gift that won't soon be forgotten.