Shopping Got You Stumped? Try These Stocking Stuffers
Lingerie BarbieLingerie Barbie might be made out of Silkstone--an amazing new material that has the durability of vinyl but the look and feel of porcelain--and she might be part of Mattel's new Fashion Model Collection (complete with redesigned face), but her look is decidedly retro, like something Grandpa might have ogled in his '50s pinup rags. Available in both blond and brunet, Lingerie Barbie ($39.98 while supplies last) comes clad in white-satin bra, panties, and stockings and strappy pumps, accented with a serious smolder in her redesigned eyes. This ain't no doll for little girls--unless you're trying to encourage them to grow up to be Gypsy Rose Lee. There's even a new Lingerie Barbie slated for 2001 release with all-black finery. Yow! Maybe this will be the Barbie that inspires Ken to demand anatomical correctness for his 40th anniversary. Barbie Showcase, www.barbiecollectibles.com or (800) 491-7514, or area toy and department stores.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer ToysSo you've got a nostalgic Gen Xer on your holiday list--or you are a nostalgic Gen Xer, and you want to foist your nostalgia on the next, unsuspecting generation. What to do? Check out these plush collectibles--stuffed-toy replicas of the cast of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the beloved 1964 animated TV special from the studios of Rankin-Bass ($6.99 for one, $14.99 for a set of two). There's Rudolph and Santa, of course, but also Hermey (the lisping elf who pined for a career in dentistry), husky outdoorsman Yukon Cornelius, the Abominable Snowman, and some of the orphaned Misfit Toys, including the hapless Charlie-in-the-box. Sure, in 30 years your now-baffled offspring will present their own baffled offspring with Barney and Pokémon plushies, but this season you're the cultural commissar. Seize the power. Suncoast Motion Picture Co., various locations.
Cunt Coloring BookHow many vaginas have you seen? We're not talking about that little triangle of hair you see in practically every movie these days. We're talking about the labia, the clitoris, the vaginal opening, and all the other lovely parts that make up your lady bits. For the average straight woman, the answer is probably "not many." Many women haven't even taken the time to look at their own. Tee Corinne decided not to take this vaginal estrangement lying down. The result is one of the most beautiful, truly girl-positive coloring books ever made, Cunt Coloring Book ($7.95). Corinne's illustrations show the wide variety of shapes and sizes of vaginas--they look like flowers, seashells, even mysterious landscapes--and the book features a nice anatomy lesson as well. Plus, it's written in four languages, so your recipient can learn to say clitoris in French, Spanish, and German. You might want to throw in some crayons. Atomic Books, 1806 Maryland Ave., (410) 625-7955, www.atomicbooks.com.
Orioles-Letterhead T-ShirtsIf the genuine Memorial Stadium seat and genuine Memorial Stadium brick aren't enough for the O's die-hard on your list, give that booster a bit of the doomed old ball yard to wear, sort of. The sports-memorabilia mavens at Mitchell and Ness got their hands on actual stationery from the 33rd Street offices of the then-spanking-new 1954 Orioles and transposed it--graphics, address, phone number, and all--onto 100 percent cotton T-shirts, available for $19.95 from the online Cooperstown Collection store. (The "letterhead line" includes 20 other baseball teams of yore, among them the Orioles' immediate forebears, the 1953 St. Louis Browns, if you're a real die-hard.) Relive the days of the bug-eyed-bird logo, when the O's were the new kids on the block and if you wanted to reach 'em you dialed Chesapeake 9-3800. Cooperstown Collection, www.cooperstown-collection.com.
Spoon Popkin HatsWinter hats look dorky. And don't delude yourself--that "ski band" thing looks even worse. But what are you gonna do? Even we know enough to protect our precious craniums from the chill. We found the solution this year with hats crafted by Sowebo-based artist Spoon Popkin. Available for $22 from Object in Mount Vernon, Popkin's fuzzy, felt-y hats come in bright red with devil horns or animal print with little ears. Not only do they keep noggins toasty outside, but they're cute enough to be incorporated into indoor couture. If your manly man isn't secure enough to wear little leopard ears, get him the furry tiger-ears hat; he can play wild animal to your li'l red devil--and that should keep you both warm all winter. Object, 1018 N. Charles St., (410) 547-6555.
Glove LinersMost "practical" gifts fail in one of two ways: Their usefulness is either so obvious that they're unexciting ("Gee, socks!") or so obscure that the recipient is nonplussed ("An electric egg addler, you say!"). The trick is to give people something they didn't know they needed. If it's made of something fancy, so much the better. Case in point: silk glove liners, available for $6.95 at downtown's H&H Outdoors. Most people don't think they need gloves to wear inside their gloves, but give them some and they'll figure it out. It's not just the extra warmth--it's a matter of flexibility, literal and figurative. Glove liners provide an option between fumbling around with gloves on and freezing one's bare fingers off. Suddenly it's possible to jot a note, dial a phone, or use an ATM in subfreezing weather: The bulky outer glove slips off, and the liner-clad hand stays warm while executing feats of digital dexterity. We typed this whole entry while wearing one on our right hand, just because we could. H&H Outdoors, 424 N. Eutaw St., (410) 752-2580.
Bodyperks"Men love them, women envy them." That's the theory behind Bodyperks, "the latest fashion accessory for your breasts." They're attention-getters, see? No more waiting for cold drafts! Even Ebenezer Scrooge and the Grinch dig a pair of stiff nipples, eh? Imagine the look on your sweetie's face when she unwraps a set of her very own "lightweight, natural colored, silicone nipples that you insert into your bra and place directly on your own nipple" ($19.95 plus shipping). We predict she'll never forget this gift or the thoughtful person who bestowed it upon her. Your funny little honey might want to create her (or hey, they're not marketed this way, but how about his?) own look "and wear them with tight T-shirts, sexy halters, dresses, twin sets, swimsuits, and more." Personally, we like to wear them on our forehead, which guarantees all kinds of attention when we hit the nightspots. Bodyperks, www.bodyperks.com.
Key Coffee RoastersJava-love goes way back in our family--memories of Dad percolating a gooey pot of joe over the gas stove bring feelings of well-being. The smell alone is enough to lighten our step in the morning hours. Win the heart of a sibling who shares those associations with the gift of coffee--coffee roasted at the Broom Factory in Canton. Key Coffee Roasters will send coffee anywhere for $8-$10 a pound (plus shipping) and they have up to 30 varieties, from Peru Andes Gold to Colombian to Kaui Reserve. Forget about the flavored shopping-mall coffees--this is the real stuff, rich, flavorful, and strong. We've been drinking Key Coffee for years (it's available at Eddie's Market at Charles Village, City Café, and the Daily Grind coffeehouses, among other outlets), and just look what it's done for us. Key Coffee Roasters, (410) 675-1335.
Berger CookiesWe love Baltimore's own ridiculously top-heavy baked delight so much that we've embarked on a mission: We are going to spread the gospel of the 1-ounce-cookie-that's-more-than-half-icing-by-weight to the world (or at least the parts of it we're friendly with) via the Internet so we don't even have to get up off of our fat Berger-loving asses. The company maintains a Web site (not to mention a toll-free phone number), via which you can dispatch its heavenly morsels in the familiar 15-ounce packages as well as festive 1- and 2-pound holiday tins ($2.99, $11.99, and $15.99 respectively, plus shipping) to your loved ones via the mails. And you can put it on plastic, so--like that extra inch of waistline--you can put off worrying about it until later. What's next? The ability to send someone an oral orgasm and another pound of butt directly over a modem? Berger Cookies, www.bergercookies. com or (800) 398-2236; all holiday orders must be received by 1 P.M., Dec. 19.
See's Gourmet LollypopsWhenever we find ourselves out West, we head like lemmings to the nearest See's Candies to load up on their "Lollypops," which are more addictive than heroin but harder to find back East. On our last trip, we were disappointed to find that San Francisco-based See's has discontinued our favorite flavor, peanut butter, but the recent addition of four new varieties--chocolate raspberry, vanilla, sassafras, and cinnamon--has helped ease the pain. These amazing pops also come in chocolate, butterscotch, and café latte. Spread some sugary nirvana to your sweet-toothed loved ones with bags of 30 ($9.50) or 60 ($18), assorted or single-flavor, available online or from kiosks open during the holidays at a handful of local malls (the See's Web site lists locations). They're even certified kosher, so you can send anyone to lolly-land, no matter what holiday they celebrate. See's Candies, www.sees.com.
Potted Basil PlantDécor is often a gift, but rarely does décor itself do any giving. It just sits there, maybe looking nice, generally collecting dust. If it's a houseplant, it might chip in a little O2. Whoopee. But give a friend a basil plant and you're not just supplying a pleasant accent of pale-medium green in a warm clay-colored pot--you're adding a contributing member of the household. For scarcely more than you'd pay for a few half-wilted bunches of cut basil in the supermarket, you can supply someone with an indefinite supply of the fresh herb. They can nip off a sprig and throw it in the pot every time they make tomato sauce, or let it grow unchecked and then harvest a whole bunch for pesto. Brighten their living room and their table. Maybe they'll have you over for dinner. Green Fields Nursery and Landscaping Co., Falls Road and Northern Parkway, (410) 323-3444.
Let's PretendWhen adults give children's books as gifts, they tend to look for the titles they loved as kids--The Cat in the Hat, Madeleine, etc. Get out of your own childhood! Give a new book a chance! Let's Pretend ($5.95), a board book for ages 3 and under, showcases beautiful illustrations by local artist Chevelle Moore and a sweet story by Dessie Moore (no relation). One of the Moores' two Jump at the Sun books, Let's Pretend shows a little girl trying different grown-up tasks. It's innocent, it's fun, it's beautiful, and it's blessedly devoid of "message." You might want to buy yourself a copy while you're at it. See what kids' books published after 1960 look like.
This Is Spinal Tap DVDWhen it comes to gift-giving there's a thin line between clever and stupid, but you can't go wrong getting your DVD-compatible friends this new edition of one of the funniest movies ever made. Tap 2000 ($29.98) presents Rob Reiner's classic 1984 mock rockumentary in shiny wide-screen digital video with more than an hour of extra footage, an interview with the filmmaker, and running commentary by stars Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, and Harry Shearer--in character as dim-bulb heavy-metalists David St. Hubbins, Nigel Tufnel, and Derek Smalls. This is the disc that might single-handedly break our resistance to DVD. But enough of our yakking--tap into the holidays.
Jimmy Corrigan/David BoringBeing a literate, erudite City Paper reader, you already know the comics cognoscenti have declared 2000 the Greatest Year in Arts Comics History. You've already perused the various graphic novels and alt-comics collections released this year and picked your favorites. But what about your less-refined loved ones? Why not cut them in on the bonanza? Start them out with two of this year's best: Chris Ware's Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth and David Boring by Daniel Clowes (of Eightball fame), both from Pantheon Books, a Random House imprint with a history in the genre (it released Art Spiegelman's groundbreaking Maus in 1986). Both are dark family dramas: Corrigan ($27.50) concerns an emotionally vacant everyman's reunion with his long-lost father; Boring ($24.95) is the tale of an obsessive 19-year-old's search for life's meaning after his best friend dies, his dream girl disappears, and he is the victim of a violent attack. You know comics can be, and often are, art; now turn on your wannabe-hip cousins.
Oi to the World!Put some holiday cheer back into your friends' record collections with the manic punk-rock sounds of the Vandals. The band's 1997 collection Oi to the World! (Kung Fu Records; $7 CD, $5 cassette or LP from the Vandals' Web site) offers everything your pals could want in yuletide tunes: catchy guitar riffs, machine-gun drumbeats, and lyrics that truly capture the spirit of the season. Take, for example, these inspiring lines from "Thanx for Nothing": "You selfish asshole, I hope you die/ Choking on your putrid pile of presents 6 feet high." For the churchgoers on your list, there's a deliciously off-key ska rendition of "Here I Am Lord." And for anyone with siblings, there's the timeless classic "A Gun for Christmas": "I'll get a gun for Christmas to protect my other gifts/ I'll only tell you once, stay the fuck away from my shit." Happy caroling. www.vandals.com.
Gore Vidal's American ChroniclesGore Vidal is such a brilliant essayist and social critic that we sometimes forget he's also one of 20th-century America's most acclaimed writers of fiction. Since 1967, the 75-year-old solon has been combining his skills as novelist, polemicist, and historian to trace our national journey from frontier backwater to colonialist empire to militarized, corporatized superpower colossus. Earlier this year, Vintage rereleased the first six volumes of what it calls "The American Chronicles Series"--Burr, Lincoln, 1876, Empire, Hollywood, and Washington, D.C. (paperback, $15-$16 each), and Doubleday recently published the final installment, The Golden Age ($27.50), which ends with a millennial benediction on the state of the union by a character named . . . Gore Vidal. Presidents and press barons, warriors and wits both real and imagined spin across the pages of Vidal's entertaining and enlightening alternative history of these United States.
Globe PostersYou've seen them in varying shades of screaming neon on telephone poles and vacant buildings all over Charm City. Sometimes people even pull 'em down and keep 'em--the ultimate testimony to the artistic power of a Globe poster. The folks at Globe have been making cool concert posters for more than 70 years right here in Baltimore, U.S.A., and they're still going strong--big-time pop stars such as Bob Dylan, Snoop Dogg, and Beck have had Globe execute posters for recent tours. You can buy reproductions of these as well as older classics promoting the likes of Gene Pitney, Jimi Hendrix, Patsy Cline, Funkadelic, and Moms Mabley, even. They're printed exactly as they were decades ago, using original screens, hand-cut wood blocks, and turn-of-the-century letterpresses. Each poster features the GLOBE POSTER--CLASSIC imprint at the bottom, and prices range from $10 to $50. We stapled one of ours to the telephone pole out back and then ripped it down to give it a little more authenticity. Globe Poster Printing Corp., 3705 Bank St., (410) 685-8787, www. geocities.com/globeposter/catalogframes.htm.
The Ladies of Rylstone Calendar"I love, I love, I love my calendar girl/ Yeah, sweet calendar girl . . ." When Neil Sedaka co-wrote this syrupy rock ditty, he probably wasn't thinking about the Ladies of Rylstone Calendar (Workman Publishing, $10.95). Sedaka sings of junior proms and sweet-16 birthdays. The "girls" on this calendar--members of a British "pastoral women's service organization"--haven't seen sweet 16 in decades. Oh, and they're posing nude. From the nation that brought us trouser-free middle-aged men in The Full Monty comes a 12-month celebration of midlife womanhood. Ranging in age from 45 to 66, the Ladies of Rylstone wear only pearls and smiles as they engage in various domestic duties. It's really quite tame and tasteful (no ankles-to-earlobes smut), and it's for a good cause: All royalties go to fight leukemia, the disease that felled Ms. February's husband. Workman Publishing, www.workman.com.
Crab-Shell OrnamentsYou see them everywhere--on doors as knockers, as stuffed toys on kids' beds. Occasionally you might find them steamed on top of a pile of paper, or, progressively less often, swimming around the Chesapeake Bay. Clearly, now is the time for hoarding a specimen or two of the not-quite-yet rare and elusive blue crab for the perusal of future generations. And what better way to do it than with these hand-decorated and -painted tree trimmings made from the hard shell of the only crustacean that matters? Scenes on the back-fin side (that's the inside to those of you who don't hail from the province) include a reindeer, a Santa, or an angel; each goes for $12.99, about the cost of a pound of lump on a good day. Crabby Dick's, 201 E. Pratt St. (The Gallery), (410) 332-1859.
Ten Thousand VillagesYou're looking for dinnerware for the parents in your favorite department store, shopping to the sickly strains of lite jazz, and, aha! there's a nice set. But your gut tells you that life probably ain't so good for the person on the other side of that MADE IN GONDWANALAND sticker. Besides, it's pretty expensive. Someone, somewhere is making a killing. When you loop down to Fells Point and browse the selection at Ten Thousand Villages, you can be sure everything you pick up--from Kenyan skin drums to Vietnamese water puppets, from silver jewelry to that wild set of stone dinner plates with fossils embedded in them--is made by a person who's been paid a fair wage. The store stocks a delirious array of worldwide goods, much of it pretty inexpensive, made by cooperatives in developing countries. That's something your mom would appreciate. And you get to shop to world beat, not Muzak. Ten Thousand Villages, 1621 Thames St., (410) 342-5568, www.villagebalt.com.
Fells Point Creative Alliance MembershipGive your loved ones the gift of culture and support one of the city's most active artistic endeavors. The nonprofit Fells Point Creative Alliance (FPCA) offers year-round performances and gallery shows for the art enthusiast plus skill-based workshops, career seminars, and other networking opportunities for working artists. Depending on the level of affection you hold for your loved ones (and the size of your wallet), you can get away cheap with the $35 individual membership (which includes the FPCA newsletter, exhibition and program announcements, and discounted admission to events) or dig deep and purchase memberships ranging from $75 to $1,000 that come with all of the above plus ever-increasing perks. If your recipient is an artist him- or herself, $25 will buy all of the benefits of the individual membership as well as inclusion in select exhibitions and access to membership and media lists. Fells Point Creative Alliance, (410) 276-1651 or www. creativealliance.org.
Parks SponsorshipsBaltimore City parks seem to be in a constant state of flux. One director's out, another comes in. Leakin Park's image is transformed from dangerous body farm to nationally hailed urban wilderness. The parks system goes from being underfunded to, well, being underfunded. You can help alter that last bit, and give a most thoughtful gift, via the nonprofit Parks & People Foundation, which has provided educational, environmental, and recreational opportunities citywide for 16 years, regardless of who's in charge and which parks are popular. For $30, you can sponsor a child to attend Parks & People's SuperKids Camp, a summer program for inner-city youth. For $50 to $100, adopt a tree in the name of an environmentally conscious friend or relative, to be planted along Baltimore's streets or used to beautify a vacant lot. Your giftee will receive a personal acknowledgment from the foundation and recognition of his or her contribution in its annual report. Parks & People Foundation, (410) 448-5663 or www.parksandpeople.org.
Adopt-a-LambKnow someone who wants to be a wolf in sheep's clothing? And not just any sheep, but a very special sheep that comes complete with photo and adoption papers? No, they won't have to coax the hapless beast up the steps to their third-floor studio apartment. And they won't have to shop for Sheep Chow. The sheep itself stays on the prairies of Alberta, Canada. What you're giving in this deal (beside the photo and adoption papers) is a medium-weight, queen-sized virgin wool blanket made from the hair of the adopted sheep (and some of his or her friends). The rustic and natural blankets--which are, uh, sheep-colored (with accent stripes)--will make a tasteful and toasty addition to any wolf's bedchamber. The $150 package also includes a tuft of raw wool from the adopted ruminate bovid mammal (it makes a great dust mop). Give the gift that really is warm and fuzzy. Give a sheep. Prairie Green, (888) 752-4474 or www. prairie-green.com.
Squeeze BreezeSure, it's getting chilly now, but it's never too early to prepare for another summer--another swampy, sweaty Baltimore summer. Which is why you and everyone you know needs Squeeze Breeze, a marvelous gadget whose inventor we would like to personally nominate for a Nobel Prize. Squeeze Breeze ($9.99) is a battery-powered fan, which is nothing special in itself. But--and here's the beauty part, the Nobel Prize part--the fan is attached to a pump that's screwed into a water bottle, so when you pull the trigger it emits a blast of cool, cleansing mist. It's heat-relief in a bottle, the perfect accouterment for heavy workouts, un-air-conditioned beaters, August day games, and those nights when your undershirt sticks to the faux-leather couch. Interactive Design Enterprises, www5.icat.com/store/ide, but we got ours cheaper at Target, so shop around.
Baltimore Holiday CardsFinding yuletide greetings suitable for both family and people you hardly see anymore ranks right up there with picking bits of coal from your stocking or recovering from an eggnog binge as a holiday "joy." In our search for "interesting" cards, we've done the do-it-yourself thing, the classy museum-shop thing (sample response from recipient: "Oh, we didn't know you, er, liked art."), and every other unoriginal card thing you can think of. Fortunately, a couple of local artists have created Baltimore-themed cards for the homesick and card-bored on your mailing list. Bill Coolahan's paintings of the Bromo-Seltzer Tower, Federal Hill, the Can Company, the Johns Hopkins Hospital dome, and Hampden's "Miracle on 34th Street" have been reduced to envelope-sized dimensions and go for $10.95 per 10. Meanwhile, someone purportedly named Barbara Noel has taken old engravings of the Inner Harbor and newer drawings of the Washington Monument and Mount Vernon Place and matched them with simple holiday greetings ($8.95 for 10). Never mind that the alleged Noel hails from Easton, Pa. Hometown Girl, 1000 W. 36th St., (410) 662-4438 (Coolahan cards); Greeting and Readings, 809 Taylor Ave., Towson, (410) 825-4225 (Noel cards).
Don't Panic! 3.0Is there a certain special someone in your life who's gonna lose their job if the boss caches them goofing off and browsing the Internet at their desk when they're supposed to be engaged in productive activity? Don't Panic! 3.0 will give your favorite Windows-based malingerer a little help. For just $19.95, Don't Panic! will instantly hide video players, music players, e-mail, ICQ and other instant messengers, and download-in-progress windows; clear Internet Explorer and Netscape browser histories, caches, cookies (not the kind you leave for Santa), Windows clipboards, and lists of recently viewed files; and launch a selected application when "panic mode" is invoked, to make it look like you're actually getting some work done. Uh, we mean it'll make it look like the person you bought this for as a gift is actually getting some work done. Panicware Inc., www.panicware.com.)
Shop the West SideTake the Metro (Baltimore's subway, remember?) to the Lexington Market stop one Saturday afternoon, pick up a bag of French-roasted peanuts at the Peanut Shoppe ("Imported and Domestic Nut Meats") at 101 W. Lexington St., and just wander. There are plenty of gift ideas in Lexington Market itself--Faidley's Seafood, Konstant's Candies, and Berger's Bakery (see page 25) will ship hometown treats to charm your faraway friends--but the real treat is the blocks surrounding it. Pick up a fedora for your pop at Ecuador Panama Hat Co. (301 W. Lafayette St.); browse the hip-hop records for your nephew and niece at Dimensions in Music (233 Park Ave.); grab a potion for your unlucky Lotto-playing sister at Lucky Star (121 W. Saratoga St.) or Grandma's Candle Shop (405 W. Baltimore St.); or just browse the numerous lot stores to find that wacky, indispensable doodad. Skip the malls for a day and sample the west side's best before downtown "redevelopment" prices this neighborhood up a tax bracket or two.
Psychic Gift CertificateThe holidays: Time to look back on the past year and regret things--the food we ate, the people we dated, the opportunities we missed. This year, give your loved ones the gift of something to look forward to, a chance to peek into the future rather than rue the past. North Baltimore's own Mrs. Virgil Mitchell sells gift certificates for her psychic services, in any denomination. Thirty dollars gets your giftee a palm reading or a tarot-card session, $45 a once-over by Mrs. Mitchell herself, and $65 a divination with crystals. For $75, she'll do the whole psychic enchilada. Relieve those you care about of the burden of free will--what greater gift could there be? Mrs. Virgil Mitchell, (410) 435-3640.
Self-Cleaning Litter BoxInformercials usually bring out our inner skeptic (which manifests itself as a finger on the remote control). So imagine our surprise last year when we lost our inner skeptic wandering the aisles of Petsmart and didn't find it again until we were out in the parking lot, clutching our brand-new Litter Maid Self-Cleaning Litter Box, as seen on TV! What a difference a year makes. We are now thoroughgoing disciples of the Litter Maid lifestyle. Free your kitty-loving loved ones from the tyranny of bending and scooping--and their cats from the tyranny of waiting for lazy humans to clean out the potty. The wonderful box comes in two varieties, Advanced Deluxe and Mega Advanced Deluxe, but don't be fooled--there's a minimal difference in size and a maximal difference in price ($159.96 compared to $199.96, according to Litter Maid's Web site), and they work the same. www.littermaid.com or Petsmart (various locations), which is usually cheaper.
812 Park Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21201