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Holiday Guide Feature

Present and Accounted For

City Paper's Annual Guide to Buying People Stuff

Posted 11/15/2006

We know, you've only just started recovering from the madness of the campaign season, and you're still eating leftover Halloween candy that hasn't even gotten stale yet. But here we are heartlessly reminding you that the winter madness has only just begun. Don't blame us, we're just the messengers. The tidings of retail hell soon to come are not our creation. And no matter how deep your Christmas denial runs, once you've digested that last bit of Thanksgiving turkey, you're sure to feel the holiday shopping panic set in.

So here's a list of things we'll be putting in our friends' and families' stockings this year, all lumped into almost, but not entirely, capricious categories. We've got suggestions for ways to deck out the minds, homes, bodies, and dependents of all the people on your list that go beyond the usual I-had-to-get-you-something-but-I-couldn't-be-bothered-to-care-what sweaters and scented candles. Not that we didn't love those, really. And if you happen to be a friend of ours, consider this our Christmas list.

For Their Minds | For Their Bodies | For Their Homes | For Their Kids, Pets, and Consciences

For Their Minds

I Keee You!!! A Collection of Over-Heards

Atomic Books, 1100 W. 36th St., (410) 662-4444,, $7.95.

The two somewhat lengthy introductions lend this book more explanation and gravitas than it needs, so feel free to skip 'em and dive right into these amusing illustrated bits of overheard conversation. The quality of each entry depends upon a delicate balancing act between the funniness of the overheard (the ones featuring dumb hicks get old after a while) and the skill of the cartoonist (several of whom are CP contributing artists, so insert a big ol' conflict-of-interest alert here). But when the two come together like peanut butter and chocolate, hilarity ensues-see especially Betsy Bartow and Jeffrey Brown's "Poor Andy." I Keee You!!! is compact and inexpensive, so get one for yourself, too.

Daniel Higgs Ancestral Songs

True Vine, 1123 W. 36th St., (410) 235-4500,, $15.98.

Young indie white ladies, if your man neither shaves nor bathes with daily regularity, have we got just the CD to stuff in his stocking. Lungfish's enigmatic shaman, Daniel Higgs, has molted his latest slab of indelible sounds for the soul's ears, Ancestral Sounds, and it's every bit as sonorously levitating as any of his various solo excursions in recent years on Jew's harp, solo electric and acoustic guitars, and his own awakening voice-all of which are on display here. Let him tune in and turn on with "Moharsing and Shoenhut" while you-well, you can always remind him that getting it for him means you never have to listen to it if you don't want to.

Good God! A Gospel Funk Hymnal

Various Locations,, $18.98.

It isn't often you can give the same CD to more than a couple of people on your gift list, much less a couple of generations, but this new comp from obsessive reissue label Numero Group will fit nicely in any number of stockings. The twentysomething hipster is gonna dig it, 'cause crate-digger comps of obscure swank from the International Decade of Funkiness (1966-'76) are hot these days, and the Numero folks dig deep. The aging music nerd is gonna dig it, because not only is the music amazing, but the people at Numero are also fiends about packaging, liner notes, and other stuff that turns on Mojo readers. And you can even slip a copy to some of your elders, because all this chicken-scratchin', horn-blastin', James Brown-style get-down is put to the service of gospel music (everything got funky during the IDF), and no one but the staunchest deacon or creakiest grandma is gonna be able to avoid a little "praise Him" and maybe even a little wiggle.

Tony Millionaire's Premillennial Maakies: The First Five Years

Atomic Books and other independent bookstores, $24.95.

Like Drinky Crow, we like the sauce. And, also like Tony Millionaire's quasi-existential creation, we can't always handle the sauce as well as we think we can and have been known to harbor violent thoughts and hang around people itching with venereal diseases-but, you know, such is life in Baltimore. This here venerable alternaweeklytabloidmagazine didn't start running Millionaire's horizontal tease until circa 2002, so if you want to catch the Maakies' nascent 1994-'99 run without scouring for back issues of Williamsburg's Waterfront Week, nab this choice, wide-screen compendium of its first five years.

Amy Sedaris' I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence

Various Locations, $27.99.

Got friends whose parties always consist of a bag of chips and a salsa jar sitting on the kitchen table and no room in the fridge for your BYOB? Cut them out of your life. Kidding. Buy them this most entertaining book on entertaining, and you best just go ahead and buy one for yourself at the same time, because once you start flipping through the pages it ain't gonna get wrapped. With as much advice on throwing theme parties (use clamshell ashtrays for a seafaring fest) as being a good host and guest (if one person is smoking inside, wait to light up. No one likes a smoky room-except for smokers. See how this advice thing might actually teach you something? And did you see how we created a smoking theme?), I Like You is tricked out with recipes, illustrations, lists, and photos taken in Amy Sedaris' very own apartment, proving she freaking knows atmosphere. Sedaris is inspirational, helpful, and funny as shit, but her recipes for Greek food-she's Greek, you know-are worth the admission price alone.

The Wire Season 3 DVD Box Set

Various Locations, $99.98.

As Season 4 winds to its conclusion-and yes, we have seen it, and no, we're not giving anything away-you can catch up with The Wire's rogues gallery of both cops and criminals on the DVD box set of Season 3. Following Season 2's swerve into working-class dockside politics, the third chapter moves uptown into the city's boardrooms and back offices. And while it'd be all too easy to draw cheap, ironic lines between the world of drug dealers and the cesspool of city government, The Wire proves, as so often, that it's just way too smart for that. And more than anything, it retrains its focus on the saga of the Barksdale crew, especially doomed Stringer Bell, the closest thing television has ever had to a character out of a Greek tragedy going for community college credit.

Homicide: Life on the Street Complete Series Megaset

Various Locations, $299.95.

The Wire rules our TV world right now, but every so often we do miss the slightly less wrist-slitting days of NBC's Homicide: Life on the Street. And, series fans, you know what we're talking about: Kellerman's fatuous hubris, Pembleton's feral passion, Luther Mahoney's shrewd game playing, Bayliss' punchy curiosity, and those indelibly great beings best known as Michelle Forbes and Yaphet Kotto. Now you can relive all six years of Baltimore: home of the misdemeanor homicide with this 35-disc behemoth that comes packaged in its own file cabinet. Yes, it's pricey-but with 122 episodes and a smorgasbord of extras, it more than delivers the goods.

Paul Reed Smith SE Singlecut

Various Locations, about $800.

Founded in Baltimore, crafted in Maryland, Paul Reed Smith Guitars made a name for itself over the past decade or so, outfitting Carlos Santana, Dave Navarro, Mark Tremonti-and even NASCAR-with fiery axes that slam and cost many thousands of dollars. Introduced six years ago, the Singlecut model had to beat back a legal challenge from Gibson that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to hear Gibson's appeal in June. Thanks to that decision, those on a budget now have options. This year the company introduced its Singlecut SE student edition. Made overseas to PRS specs, it features a solid mahogany back and neck, flamed maple finishes, and strong hardware. It's still not cheap, but hey, it's a Paul Reed Smith.

For Their Bodies

Uli Loskot

Ostrowski's Polish Sausage

Ostrowski's, 524 S. Washington St., (410) 327-8935,, $3.79 a pound.

Every year, around this time, the baskets start coming. You know the ones, full of smoked meats and unidentifiable cheeses. They have the shelf life of plutonium and tend to sit next to the fruitcake until you're hungry, bored, or stoned enough to choke down a summer sausage with a side of semisoft. If you're giving from the meat family, how about something a little more perishable: dee-licious Ostrowski's famous polish sausage. They've been hand-making it since 1919, and it'll work for the traditional Polish Easter and Christmas feasts. It might not last as long as a beef stick, but think of all the extra fruitcake space it'll lear up.


Uli Loskot

Bubble Roome 100% Goodness Bar Soaps

Double Dutch Boutique, 3616 Falls Road, (410) 554-0055, $4.95.

If you stuck a bar of Dove into someone's stocking, they might think you were trying to tell them they're dirty, and also possibly that you're cheap. If you give 'em a 100% Goodness Bar from Brooklyn, N.Y.'s Bubble Roome, you're saying that they're cute enough and special enough to deserve an invigorating handmade spearmint and eucalyptus bar soaping up their curves, or a basil and lime exfoliating bar taking off just enough of that treasured epidermis to get it all clean and tingly. Bubble Roome bars smell good, they feel good, and they look good, and the price point is mighty good, too.

Uli Loskot

Shoulder Bag

Lexington Market, inside the main hall between the Paca Street and Faidley's entrances by the stairs, $10.

Does your pal still cart around the messenger bag she or he bought in the mid-1990s? Do you want to get them a new one but can't pony up the $200 for the new design that he or she is eyeing? A good in-the-meantime option is to go with a going-out alternative: one of these $10 over-the-shoulder bags from a Lexington Market stand. (OK, some people might deem it a "purse," but as long as you pick a color wisely it won't look too femme.) With a stiff canvas satchel with one pocket and a tough-enough strap, this compact bag is just perfect for porting one or two paperbacks, the latest New Yorker, wallet, keys, cell phone, etc., and whatever fliers you get passed that evening. And, no, it doesn't come from some Malaysian sweatshop: This baby is made in india, people-says so right on the tag. And there's no child labor in India, right?

Uli Loskot

Bluebird Artisanal Coffee

Chesapeake Wine Co., 2400 Boston St., (410) 675-2424,, $12 a Pound.

Since Key Coffee flew the coop, we have thoroughly enjoyed Zeke's. The small roaster, run by Key alum Thomas Rhodes, has ably helmed the role of metro caffeine enabler. So we were doubly excited when we heard that another Key alum, Erik Rudolph, along with business partner Zorana Grdjic, opened Bluebird Artisanal Coffee Roasters in an old warehouse in Greektown. Bluebird specializes in Earth-friendly, people-friendly coffees that are fair trade-certified, stamped by the Rainforest Alliance, or organically grown. Getting Bluebird is a bit of a hitch, though, as it's only available over the counter at one Canton location. But keep checking the shelves at Whole Foods-they will be stocked there soon.

Something Naughty

Chained Desires, 136 W. Read St., (410) 528-8441,, $13-$50.

Sure, jolly old Saint Nick is a dude, but when it comes down to strapping on the Kris Kringle identity, Santa is not gender specific; s/he's equipped with whatever makes you jingle all the way, so hold the mistletoe down low for that certain someone who stuffs your stocking and surprise them with naughty and nice gear both from the Bad Santas at Chained Desires, who have stocked the shelves for your silent night (ball gag), not-so-silent night (riding crop), hole-y night (g spotter), and anything from a fun set of leather thigh cuffs or faux fur-lined wrist restraint cuffs, to a jolly o-ring garter belt to slip into under that funny red suit to hold up the ho-ho-hose.

Naked Skin Aviatrix Flight Kit, $36.75.

Local skin-care line Naked Skin offers all kinds of decadent cleansers, butters, washes, and polishes to make your skin look and feel great. But picking the right product for yourself can be tricky, never mind trying to accurately and without offense diagnose your friends' dermatological flaws. So let's just avoid that by giving the Aviatrix Flight Kit. It's a goody bag filled with Naked Skin items that will help your friend keep from feeling like a dried husk when she gets off the plane. It's got travel-sized cleanser, toner, and pore purifier, and an oil that promises to moisturize and fight wrinkles. There's also a solid lotion bar to keep the skin below your neck supple, lip balm for all those bon voyage kisses, and adorable little exfoliating shower flowers. And you can feel good about giving Naked Skin products to the beauty-fixated ladies on your list because they don't test on animals, use predominantly natural ingredients, and give an annual donation to the House of Ruth.

Uli Loskot

Nike Air Force 1's Bmore Edition

Various Locations, $129.99.

It's a golden era for sneaker culture right now. There are more shows, conventions, and boutiques dedicated to expensive, fluorescent, glow in the dark, and see-through exclusive kicks and the snobs who collect them than ever before. Most people couldn't imagine paying $500-plus for something you plan on sticking your sweaty feet in, especially here apparently, which is probably why the whole sneaker boutique culture doesn't really fly in B-more the way it does it other cities. Nike knows that, too, because the simple, charcoal gray on black gives a classic no-frills dignity to the limited-edition Bmore AF1's. At $80, it's a cool everyday, blue-collar street shoe that's limited edition enough to still earn a gasp from even the snootiest sneaker head.

Uli Loskot

Box of Wine From Bin 604

Bin 604, 604 S. Exeter St., (410) 576-0444,, $99.

Certain folks don't get a tingle or a jingle when unwrapping a gift of alcohol, and that's their prerogative-bah humbug. If all the people you associate with are like that, just quit reading right now and let those of us who enjoy the gift of wine have our fun. We would love, love, love to get a box of a dozen bottles lovingly assembled by the wine experts at Bin 604, wine chosen for its drinkability and, let's face it, availability. The box is also filled according to season, and they change it up every month, meaning in the winter months you'll delight in more of the cozy red. Please note: This is not a gift for the wine connoisseur or a rich uncle, but for your sister who entertains, that couple you gave an empty wine rack to for their nuptials, a friend getting over his divorce. Hell, give it to anyone you regularly welcome into your home, and they're sure to never come back emptyhanded.

OhMiBod, $69 (heh).

Is there a lady on your list who likes music? We mean really likes music, as, like, more than a friend? Then get her the OhMiBod, a vibrator that attaches to your iPod and pulsates to the same beat as your favorite songs. It's a 5.5-inch-long and 1.13-inch-around sleek minimalist tube that almost looks too cool to be a sex toy. And if you're not sure which songs that rock you will also rock your, um, world, OhMiBod's web site links you up to suggested playlists by satisfied OhMiBod customers. They even offer some specially made DJ sets. One suggestion, though: Don't use OhMiBod while listening to songs by your friends' bands. That's just weird.

EWA Training Program

M510 Country Ridge Lane, Essex, (443) 858-2755,, $2,000.

"It's all fun and games until someone bangs their head on the corner of the coffee table, isn't it?" That's what Grandma used to say, followed by, "No more wrestling in the damn house already!" Oh, if only there were something like the Eastern Wrestling Alliance around when we were kids. EWA's training facility is the only professional wrestling school in the Baltimore area, and for just $400 down and negotiable monthly payments, you or your adult loved one can learn to be a wrestler. Open Monday to Friday with training usually lasting from 6-9:30, it's perfect for whoever you have in your life who has dreamed of putting on tights and a mask and cape and slamming people through a wooden table covered in thumb tacks. And don't we all know someone who has that dream?

A Bike

Various Locations.

We're not talking about any special kind of bike, nor are we committing to any price range. It can have caliper brakes or disc brakes, 24 speeds or one speed. The seat can be a gel-infused ergonomic butt pad or a hard piece of leather. Wheels can be narrow and road-rated or fat and knobby. We just want you to go buy a bike. Swell the ranks of bicyclists in this city, force the maniacs to heed our number. Put yourself or a loved on two wheels. Commute to work. Bike in your neighborhood. Get a messenger bag to pick up groceries. Use less gas. Exude fewer emissions. Lose weight. C'mon, who doesn't love waking up to a new bike?

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Old Navy Oxes Ripoff T-Shirt

EBay (maybe), price unknown.

The only thing better than a rare band T-shirt is a band T-shirt that might not actually exist. You may have heard that Baltimore's own Oxes are now tussling with the legal department at cheap-togs monolith Old Navy for a show flier the company ripped off for one of its T-shirts. Since these shirts are presumed to be part of a collection from a few seasons ago and unavailable even if their legality wasn't under dispute, it's a real collectors item. Now, we've never held one of these shirts in our hands, though we did see one on eBay right after the story broke that mysteriously disappeared a few days later. So maybe you'll be able to find one of these shirts and maybe not. Because we'd in no way intimate that those upstanding Oxes would ever pull off some kinda conceptual art prank in public. No sir.

For Their Homes

Uli Loskot

Plant From Rawlings Conservatory

Rawlings Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Druid Hill Park, 3100 Swan Drive, (410) 396-0180, $1-$20.

Not just a lovely outing for visiting relatives, Rawlings Conservatory is one of the very best places in the city to buy healthy plants at rock-bottom prices. The entrance/North Pavilion is filled with dark-green plastic planters filled with such flora as basil, neomarica walking iris, geranium, cactus, aloe vera, jade, spoon flower, and the precious goldfish, all reasonably priced-we're talking a $5 three-foot-tall tropical lily. When ready to gift, set the plant (still in the plastic pot) in a decorative ceramic planter or the beloved and practical terra cotta, and tell the lucky recipient to repot in six months or when the roots make their presence known out the holes in the base. Include a tag with notes on watering and sun-you can always ask a conservatory volunteer if you haven't a clue; they know their foliage. Just don't forget to throw a couple ducats in the donation box at the front desk on your way out; free advice should be well compensated.

Lego Ice Cube Tray, $7.99.

This one's kinda basic. It's an ice-cube tray shaped like Lego blocks-pretty cool in and of itself. The question is what can you build with them. A Viking village? The Millennium Falcon? A dune buggy? A fully working catapult to launch your freezing cat over the neighbor's fence? And do you cry bitter tears when your cold, water-based replica Middle Ages castle, pirate ship, or iron lung that you spent hours on has melted into a puddle the next day? Forget swans and flower arrangements, Lego ice sculptures are the wedding decorations of the future. Get on board now.

Metal Art

Metal Benders Inc., 5401 Pulaski Highway, (410) 325-1119,, $30-$3,000.

The guys at Metal Benders subsist on making workaday objects like tanks, crab pots, fittings, brackets and such. But the cut-metal Andre the Giant on the front door tells you they have an artistic side, too. Bring them a sketch or an actual scale drawing, and they can fabricate your thoughts out of stainless steel. They've made custom bookends, candle holders, picture frames, and all sorts of furniture. If you have a drawing, they can adapt it to sheet metal, which they cut with a superhot plasma beam. They can work with any budget, and have plans to open a small store in their shop to showcase their interesting work. "Whatever you need out of metal, we can create it," says owner Tom Saddler.

Something From Housewerks

1415 Bayard St., (410) 685-8047,, $35-$550.

While the housing boom already may be a bust, that doesn't mean people have stopped buying homes entirely, and those who have certainly are still fixing them up. So if you've got recent homebuyers or dedicated renovators on your list, get 'em something from Housewerks, which has those little extra somethings for rowhouses or Victorians or bungalows or even McMansions. Housewerks specializes in pre-war antiques and salvage-so they have plenty of doors, stained glass, mantels, and plumbing fixtures, among dozens of other things, to choose from. Just be careful when you go down to their Pigtown space. Not only is the former Chesapeake Gas Works gorgeous, but the stock is so enticing you're sure to lay down a few bucks on your house as well. All this prettiness comes at a price.

The Slanket, $48.95.

You know when you're on a plane or just hanging on your coach and you need a blanket because it's cold in your place but also want to eat or work on your laptop or use your hands in some way but you can't without messing up your blanket coverage? Check out the Slanket-it's total why-didn't-I-think-of-that genius. Basically it's a huge fleece blanket with loose, oversized sleeves, like a big comfy poncho. Now you can be warm and snug and cozy and still read or type or do whatever the hell you do with your disgusting hands.

Basket of Organic Housecleaning Products

Bluehouse, 1407 Fleet St., (410) 276-1180,, $79.95.

For the folks on your list who already have everything, but you need to get them something anyway, how about a gift for them that's a gift for the environment as well. At Bluehouse, the Earth-friendly café/coffeehouse/retail store in Fells Point, you can pick up a sleek wire basket filled with eight chemical-free, biodegradable housecleaning products that are both practical and pretty. The basket comes with floor cleaner, bathroom cleaner, dish soap, liquid hand soap, glass cleaner, and an all-purpose spray cleaner in citrus, grapefruit, or lavender scents. If the recipient of your gift is scent-sensitive (or just too picky), you can even get them unscented. The products are colorful, the basket is useful for storing under a sink or in a closet, and you can hope you've turned one more person on to an Earth-friendly alternative to cleaning products made with toxic chemicals.

Dogon Granary Door

Umri Siki, 1100 Hollins St., (410) 837-8777, $100.

If you buy one piece of true African art, it should be a granary door (or window) carved by the Dogon people of Mali, a mysterious tribe said to believe that a spaceship brought their people to Earth in ancient times. The tribe has known a precise astronomy referencing Sirius, the dog star, for thousands of years-long before European astronomers discovered it. Their granaries are protected by heavy wood doors, intricately carved with ancestral scenes from each family. No two are quite alike; the low relief carvings and iron staples and latches bespeak an intricate respect and reverence for the utilitarian. The doors protect the granaries and render them sacred. Hopefully this present will have a similarly positive effect on whoever you give it to.

Neon Sign

Sign King, 6004 Pinehurst Road, (410) 241-5210,, $800 and up.

If you've got the disposable income and a gift target who has the appropriate home bar, game room, or garage to display it in, we can't think of a better gift than an in-stock or customized neon sign from the folks at Sign King. They are connoisseurs of vintage neon found all over the country, especially the Southwest, inspiring the weathering and patina for unique neon signs that will bathe your special someone's wood-paneled rumpus room in the soothing glow of neon, just right for bringing out the color in that velvet Elvis or Nubian princess already on the wall.

For Their Kids, Pets, and Consciences

Squidfire Tees for Wee Ones, $15.

Graphic tees are hot, right? But the toddler in your life looks way better in 'em than you do. Sorry. So, go local and outfit the brat in the clever, creative, and crazycoolcute designs of Squidfire, a design-team marriage of Jean-Baptiste Regnard and Kevin Sherry. Order the lavender panda, grey cockfighter, navy and green octopus, green veggies, sky-blue cave man/dinosaur tees-all manually printed on American Apparel, natch-online and check out the new line of pretty-tough, little nose-wiper hoodies for a touch more scratch. Moms and dads and baby sitters and weird uncles all appreciate non-Disney character-related clothing on youngsters, and hey, you often have no choice but to support Target when outfitting the kitchen. Kids deserve all the DIY influence they can get.

Baby Trogdor Onesie, $17.

Alright, this gift has a pretty specific target demographic, but we know several people who fit the bill. What you're looking for is a Homestar Runner fan with a kid. Homestar Runner is a ridiculously funny cartoon web site that if you aren't wasting half your life on already you should start. You can tell fans of the site by the fact that they randomly mention things like burnination, poopsmiths, being raised by a cup of coffee, and how frightening a bear holding shark would actually be. You can tell if people have babies because they tend to be really tired, and when you call them there is often a wailing sound in the background. When you find someone who fits both bills, we promise that they will absolutely lose it over this adorable onesie with a baby version of Trogdor on it.


Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, Druid Hill Park, (443) 552-5287,, $20-$1,000.

We've all been there. Junior just had to have a monkey for Christmas and now that you've located a black-market rare animal dealer, paid him in blood diamonds, and smuggled the thing back into the country under your trench coat, you're faced with the near-impossible task of cramming the screeching animal into a stocking without 1) waking up the kids and 2) suffering painful and disfiguring slashes across the head and chest. The good people at the Maryland Zoo have come up with a solution. With packages ranging from $20 to $1,000 you can get the monkey, but they keep it over at their place and take care of the feeding, cleanup, and associated hassles of monkey ownership. You get a picture, adoption certificate, and other goodies, depending on how much you want to spend, and it's not just monkeys-Junior can get himself a Masai giraffe, Panamanian golden frog, or white rhino, among others. Even the $1,000 level seems like a bargain. Do you have any idea what it costs to feed a white rhino?

Uli Loskot

Doggy Day Care

Charm City Dogs, 401 N. Gay St., (410) 637-3647,, one day doggy day care: $27, one night boarding: $20.

Usually dog lovers run out before [insert gift-giving holiday of your choice here] and spend hundreds on rhinestone-studded collars, cute little pet parkas, and leather leashes. But come now, what do the dogs get out of those kinds of anthropomorphic gifts? What they would really like is something they can appreciate-like a gift certificate to Charm City Dogs. Give them a week of spending their days, romping in a huge room with their canine pals rather than crated up at home while you're at work. Or maybe a doggy mini-vacation: Next time you plan to go away for the weekend, a gift certificate could be used for a few nights of cageless boarding at CCD, a much gentler and less-stressful alternative to the loud and not-terribly-luxurious traditional kennel experience. This gift idea is not only practical, it's versatile, too: it's a great gift for either your dog or for your dog-loving friends whose pooches already have half a dozen different ostrich-leather collars and more doggy-sized bomber jackets and T-shirts and booties than you can count.

Doggy Booties

Pretentious Pooch, 1017 Cathedral St., (443) 524-7777,, $39.99.

If you must kit out your canine, have we got the dog booties for you. The one accessory the well-dressed dog simply cannot do without this season is the fur-lined suede boots from Monkey Daze, available from the Pretentious Pooch boutique. Available in 10 sizes (the largest ones are cut for left, right, front, and back paws), the boots feature straps and zippers (the sneakers are even more fabulously colorful, with sequins and all manner of bling). Owner Tom Berger says he'll special order any size or style your dog may desire. "People who like footwear love footwear," he says. "The rest don't get it."

MTA Monthly Pass, $64.

Everybody knows somebody who could use a bus pass. Carless friends abound (usually due to their own endearing cluelessness), as do those who would like to lessen their car use. And then there are those who love to walk, but, given a chance, would hop the light rail, subway, or bus en route to their destinations. Monthly passes cost $64, and the one for January goes on sale just after Christmas, so give them as a New Year's bonus.

Crazy Creek Power-Lounger Air Chair, $76.

Sleeping and sitting can be major hassles for the homeless. The seating engineers at Crazy Creek have come up with a packable blow-up camping chair-the PowerLounger Air-that can make even cold hard concrete comfortable for both. Users can nod off while sitting up or prostrate by flipping out the extra flap from the seat bottom and letting the seat straps go slack. Hand them off to homeless people so they can rest easy. It costs as much as placating panhandlers for a month or so, and it's a lot more thoughtful than casting off chump change.

Maryland Science Center "Adventurer" Membership

Maryland Science Center, 601 Light St., (410) 685-2370,, $100.

The best gift you can give a parent is a place for their kid(s) to run around like maniacs for a few hours on the weekend, rain or shine. If it's educational, all the better. So you can't beat the Maryland Science Center's affordable membership program. The Science Center is the kid-tested best children's edutainment venue in town; take a tot to Newton's Alley to play with all the physics experiments/cool stuff or whisk them up to the revamped hands-on Our Place in Space exhibit and you're all set for fun and learning. Plus there are dinosaurs, a bed of nails, a planetarium, fart noises, the whole nine. It's enough to keep you coming back weekend after weekend, which the family-of-four "Adventurer" membership package allows you to do at huge savings over regular admission prices. If it's a gift, even better.

A Donation in Someone's Name to Maryland Food Bank

2200 Halethorpe Farms Road, (410) 737-8282,, how much you spend is up to you.

Maryland Food Bank collects, stores, and distributes food to a network of approximately 1,000 community food providers who then pass it on to families with children, the elderly, homeless, homebound, low-income workers, recently unemployed, and people with AIDS and other health problems, so when you're pondering another mug or "gag" gift or smelly candle for that hard-to-shop-for person who seems to have everything (and really doesn't want another mug), show your friend or loved one how lucky they are to have someone in their life who remembers there are lots of people who could use a little help. Donate via phone, internet, mail, or fax, and Maryland Food Bank will send an occasion-related card to the person you are honoring.

Related stories

Holiday Guide Feature archives

More Stories

Stuffed (11/18/2009)
The 2009 City Paper Holiday Guide

The Gifts That Count (11/18/2009)
The presents that have stayed in our writers' thoughts

The Wish List (11/18/2009)
Gifts we wish we could afford

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