What to buy

Over the holiday season, otherwise easy-to-navigate shopping malls descend into mob madness as shoppers wade through piles of merchandise to find the perfect gift. Purchasing any present at all, let alone the ideal one, can feel like an uphill struggle. However, The Hill’s gift guide is here to point you in the right direction.

Le Creuset cookware

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For the cook, Le Creuset dishes add a certain je ne sais quoi to traditional home cooking. The enameled cast-iron cookware includes various sizes of French oven and casserole dishes, available in a wide selection of colors to match your kitchen’s décor. Visit their signature store in Bethesda, Md., or the factory store in Leesburg, Va., to see for yourself.

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

Jonathan Franzen’s newest endeavor is a must-read after a nine-year silence following the critically acclaimed The Corrections in 2001. The only living American novelist to grace the cover of Time magazine in the past 10 years, a Franzen publication is now a cultural event. His subject remains Midwestern America and the struggle to find meaning in everyday life. A page-turner, it is a great present for any friend or family member. 

Tea set

A tea set has added potency as a gift this holiday season. For years the preserve of little girls across the country, tea sets — like Disney’s “Princess and Me” version ($19.50) — can provide hours of make-believe for children and their dolls. Grown-ups firmly demanded their very own Tea Party in the midterm elections, and while your 4-year-old niece is unlikely to catch onto the newfound political significance of her gift, she will enjoy hours of tea party-condoned fun as you chuckle in the corner.

Oxfam

For those with a charitable disposition, Oxfam has some great gifts to offer this year. In the season of giving, you can provide a whole pound of worms to the most needy of farmers for only $18. It may not be a tangible present, but opening up a can of worms will never feel so good. There are plenty of other options, including a tribe of goats ($275), a dozen chicks ($45) or training a midwife ($150) to help those in poverty-stricken areas. Choose a gift from the online catalog, and a card will be sent to your friend or loved one while the donation goes to those in need.

Toaster

If you know any devoted sports fans that live and breathe for their favorite local team, this is the ideal present. A toaster may not sound particularly thrilling, but as well as being emblazoned with the team’s logo on the outside, each piece of toast emerges with the team’s brand imprinted on it. Instead of spreading butter on a plain piece of bread, the real sports fan would surely want to be wake up every morning to toast stamped with their allegiance. The Wizards, Redskins, Capitals and Nationals all offer the toaster on their merchandise websites for $35-$40.

Lush

Lush’s fresh handmade cosmetics are perfect gifts for mothers, sisters and daughters. With locations in Georgetown, Montgomery Mall and Tyson’s Galleria, Lush stores are rather hard to miss. Their holiday gift selections include options like the girlie Snow Fairy Gift  ($23.95), which includes Snow Fairy shower gel, Angel’s Delight soap and a Shimmy Shimmy glitter bar.

Action figures

For the political know-it-all or anyone who enjoyed some of the more unique candidates in this year’s elections, look no further than herobuilders.com, a website specializing in political action figures. 

Undoubtedly, one of the enduring legacies of the midterms will be Jimmy McMillan and his oft-repeated party’s name: “The rent is too damn high.” The temptation proved too great for herobuilders.com, who created a fully voiced miniature version of McMillan for $49.95. Also on offer — a snow globe of a BP ocean, complete with floating trash and black snow ($34.95) and a Christine O’Donnell witch doll ($39.95).

Marble framed dome ornament

A gift for the history buff, this ornament from the United States Capitol Historical Society is a festive present that really embodies the District. Due to be featured on the National Christmas Tree, the ornament’s frame is made from crushed marble from the East Front of the Capitol and molded into shape with the help of resin – leaving a little bit of the Capitol building hanging on your friend or family member’s Christmas tree. The picture inside features the Capitol dome surrounded by summer flowers. At $24.00, it would be a great gift for anyone with historical or architectural knowledge.

Jewelry

A perennial classic, jewelry never disappoints. If you’re looking for unique pieces that won’t break the budget, the local Sunday markets offer some quirky options. Andrea Haffner, who has a stall at Eastern Market in Northeast, creates her jewelry from plant materials that she dissects and reconstructs within a sterling silver framework. A small purple pendant partly made from sourwood pods costs $54. 

If you really want to splurge, Mystique Jewelers in Alexandria, Va., has some beautiful options, including Erica Courtney’s Drop Dead Gorgeous collection. Courtney, a designer whose work has been worn by a multitude of celebrities, including Julia Roberts and Angelina Jolie, specializes in jewelry inspired by Hollywood glamour. 

The astoundingly beautiful pieces have a hefty price tag — green amethyst drop charms will set you back $8,500 — but if you’re looking for something extra special for your wife or girlfriend, this is it.