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Holiday Guide Gifts

Present Perfect

What to get and where to get it before it's too late

Yeah baby, yeah: Put some kink into your holiday at Mt. Vernon's Object. Top it off with an East German guard hat from Sunny's Surplus.
Sino of the Times: Present baseball superpower meets future world superpower in Chinese-ideogram Yankees cap.
Put the ˘X÷ in Xmas with a mistletoe belt buckle.
Baltimore's American Dime Museum can help out if you wantto give someone a little head this holiday season.
Eartha Kit: The Global Explorer gets you where you need to go.
Don't know the date? Enoch Pratt Free Library can help with its sepia-toned 2000 calendar.
Supping Shiva: Have lunch with a Hindu God, or at least with a divine Archie McPhee lunchbox.
You can never have too many shrunken skulls on hand.
It's Not a Tumor: Haussner's lives on in a giant ball of string.
Fowl Play: Chickenfoot is fun for the whole family.
The Baseball Tarot will help divine how long it takes for Mike Hargrove to get fired.
The millennium doesn't officially land until 2001, but you can raise a spoon to the calendar inevitability a year early with Cheerios' Millenios.
Bone up on Formstone and marble steps in The Baltimore Rowhouse by Mary Ellen Hayward and Charles Belfoure.
Put the universe of Baltimore-area Judaica at a friend or relative's fingertips with the Baltimore Jewish Times SourceBook .
Matador Records' three-disc 10-year aniversary set Everything Is Nice features tunes by Pavement, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Cat Power, Modest Mouse, Yo La Tengo, Guided by Voices, Sleater-Kinney, and other artists.

Holiday Guide 1999

Obey Santa A few nights back, as visions of Holiday Guide deadlines danced in our heads, we settled in before t...

Present Perfect What to get and where to get it before it's too late

Nogged Mixing the Holiday Cocktail That Drinks Like a Meal | By Brennen Jensen

Think Gobally, Buy Locally The Importance of Shopping Small | By Andrew Reiner

List Servers Browsing the Best Online Holiday Cards | By Natalie Davis

Posted 11/17/1999

Wearing

East German Guard Hats

Eastern-bloc military and police units were not known for their fashion sense—under communism, gray was always the new black. But if there's one thing they know about in that part of the world, it's how to keep warm, and exude authority while doing it. This approximation of an East German guard hat—tufted with faux charcoal fur and fronted by a little silver "badge"—will keep your friends' and relatives' heads toasty even as it advertises their droll sense of post-Berlin Wall irony. (They'll also fit your proletarian budget, retailing for $9.99 each.) And if America's 223-year romance with capitalism sours, well, they'll blend right in come the revolution. Sunny's the Affordable Outdoor Store, various locations.

"Obey Giant" T-Shirts

Artists, ever the mysterious types, like to let their work speak for itself—except for faux-propagandist Shepard Fairey. Fairey's vaguely threatening posters and stickers, featuring the likeness of the late acromegalic wrestler Andre the Giant and the injunction "OBEY," grace walls and poles in this city and quite a few others. Citing German proto-phenomenologist Martin Heidegger, Fairey contends in a manifesto on his Web site (www. obeygiant.com) that his work serves as a cultural Rorschach of sorts: "The sticker has no meaning but exists only to cause people to react." Aid the provocative Giant's cross-cultural commodification by buying Fairey's visually arresting T-shirts ($17 from Chaser Merchandise) emblazoned with the images of militant folks such as Jesse Jackson, Fidel Castro, and Ming the Merciless—all backed, of course, by the vigilant presence of the Giant himself. Chaser Merchandise, www.chaser.net/giant.html.

"Official" Chinese-Ideogram Yankees Knit Cap

We threw ye olde quotation marks around "official" because we can neither confirm nor deny that the storefront shops and street vendors around Lexington Market are in, uh, full compliance with the licensing rules and regs for apparel and accessories in re Major League Baseball, not to mention the likes of Mr. Tommy Hilfiger and the FUBU concern. But so what? Enjoy the edgy thrill of a possible illicit underground-economy transaction and help Santa Claus fill your special New Yorkophiles' order for the wintry months ahead with a sporty knit cap proudly stating their affinity for the (sigh) yet again World Champeen New York Yankees. O's fans, take some small solace in the possibility that the ideogram/English combination might more accurately approximate "I Hate the Yankees" instead of "New York Yankees," as the publicity-shy proprietors of two separate Lex Market-area storefronts assured us while repeatedly declining to have their shops photographed. Lexington Market environs.

Metal/Silver Bra and Thong

It don't look anything like the gear in the Victoria's Secret ads, but that's good, OK? 'Tis the season to boycott the giant catalog underpants store and that Ten Million Dollar Millennium bra they be pimpin', 'cause now you can support a local business (Mount Vernon's Object) for your kink and get that shapely certain someone a drop-dead-freaky metal and silver bra that looks like it's made for serious swordplay, along with a chilly chill chastity-belt-lookin' bottom with a thong back that might stop St. Nick himself from getting down the chimney, no matter how many fingers he can lay aside his nose. Not to mention you'll have around $9,999,763 change back from your 10 mil. Object, 1018 N. Charles St., (410) 547-6555.

Mistletoe Belt Buckle

Not everybody wants a present that looks like it came out of Martha Stewart Living. Someone on your list wants—no, needs—a nickel-plated steel belt buckle that reads mistletoe. They can get drunk, put it on, parade around at Christmas parties asking folks to "kiss them under the mistletoe," and generally have a grand old time. Los Angeles-based novelty company Holy Moly makes six retro-style models ($12.99 plus shipping and handling) for your gag-gift needs, sartorial foreplay for your sweetie, or something your Uncle Quentin's really going to love stuffed in his stocking. Holy Moly Corp., (323) 935-

Playing

Chickenfoot

It's like dominoes, it's like rummy, it's "like playing cards with the Flintstones," as a friend of ours describes it. It's fun for the whole family, and it's called Chickenfoot, a game invented by Louis and Betty Howsley and sold (for $25.95 to $55.95) through their Colorado-based outdoor-gear store. Each game consists of 55 decorated tiles, with more than 100 designs—animals, flowers, rustic scenes, university insignias—to choose from. (The priciest sets feature American-made tiles with hand-painted dots on one side and decorative designs on the other; the cheaper models are Chinese-made and come without designs on their backs.) With its easily understood rules—the object is to match like-numbered tiles until one player uses up all his or her pieces— Chickenfoot will likely enjoy a longer run on the card table than a trendy pastime like, say, Trivial Pursuit, and the hand-crafted sets are durable enough to be passed down through the generations. Fox Creek Store, (719) 376-5881.

Baseball Tarot

She likes sports; he likes New Age mysticism. For the spiritually mismatched couple on your list, we present the latest in synergetic metaphysics: baseball tarot cards. Yup: The superstitiousness of America's pastime meets the great American pastime of superstition in the Baseball Tarot Book & Card Set, by Mark Lerner and Laura Philips (Workman Publishing, $20). To our sorrow, Lerner and Philips do not tell us how to use our '89 Donruss Billy Ripken card to divine the future. Instead, they present the traditional Tarot deck revamped with baseball images and lingo—the suit of Cups is Mitts, Wands is Bats, and so on (including, yes, the "Ace of Bases"). The cards can be laid out for reading in a traditional Celtic cross, or in a layout called "The Diamond." A travesty both ways, you say? Maybe. But when we asked the deck about the '00 Orioles, we got the "Nine of Bats"—aka "Out." There may be something to this after all.

Twister

Yes, that Twister. "Right foot blue," "left hand yellow," and all that. Invented in 1966 (when it sold for $3), Twister is still part of the Milton-Bradley games lineup (it now retails for about $12), and it remains a great pastime for the kids. Think of it: The tikes get to engage in honest-to-God human interaction (instead of staring glassy-eyed at a video screen). But just as the songwriters tell us that love is better the second time around, you might find Twister as an adult to be more fun than ever. We're not suggesting that you play one of the various drinking versions of the game that have been developed, nor are we advocating Twister-in-the-buff, as was the rage back in the '70s. Don't gild the lily. You don't need to make this close-contact game gratuitously vulgar. Unfold the mat, set up the spinner, invite that cute couple from across the street over, and get twisted. You're bound to find it more stimulating today than when you played on the rec-room floor with your brace-faced cousin on rainy Saturdays.

Eating and Drinking

Chocolate Clubs

What's the best gift you can imagine giving someone for the holidays? Get those minds out of the gutter—there's no way we can think of to package sex (metal bra and thong notwithstanding). But there is the next best thing: chocolate. The online food and wine seller GourmetMarket.com offers an easy way to send your loved ones a gift that's deep, dark, and unforgettable—chocolate-club memberships ($24.99 to $49.99 a month). There are three options. The Chocolate Lover's Club gets your giftee a half-pound or more of assorted chocolates every month, or a special creation from a particular chocolatier chosen especially for the club. The Couverture Club is for kitchen mavens, delivering 11/2 to two pounds of bars made especially for cooking and baking. The Premier Chocolate Club offers selections from both, to the tune of at least two pounds a month. You can sign up a friend for as many or as few months as you like. And who knows what you'll get as a sweet thank you? GourmetMarket.com, (800) 913-9247 or www.gourmetmarket.com.

Spiced Wine

As New Year's Eve nears, the champagne market becomes absurd, but you can still charm your friends with a gift of the grape. Maryland's own Linganore Wine Cellars offers two holiday spiced wines that, with the help of some fresh fruit and a crockpot, can either liven up the party or help a shopping-weary couple unwind by the fire. The Spiced Apple, bottled under the Frederick County vineyard's Berrywine label, gets mulled with fresh apple and pear slices; the Spicy Regatta wine, Linganore's holiday red, calls for oranges and pears. These are dignified, festive wines; nobody gets tanked on them. You've got the egg nog and bubbly for that. Berrywine Plantations/Linganore Wine Cellars, 13601 Glissans Mill Road, Mount Airy, (410) 795-6432), or local wine stores.

Gino's East Pizza

Ah, the Holy Trinity: crust, tomato sauce, and cheese. If your gift list includes a Chicago transplant who's always yammering about Baltimore's dearth of great pizza—or a local pizza lover who wonders why Windy Citizens get all weepy over their hometown pie—make their holidays happier with a care package from Gino's. No, not the defunct fast-food chain owned by that Colts lineman, but Gino's East, home of the classic big-shouldered Chicago deep-dish for more than 30 years. Featurefoods.com, which specializes in dishes from signature Second City eateries, will deliver lipid oblivion in the form of a golden crust piled high with toppings and cheese to the gastronome of your choice. Prices start at about $19 for an 11-inch cheese pie—which, believe us, will feed a family. Make sure the giftee knows from whom this bounty came, so you can get invited over for dinner. Featurefoods.com,www. featurefoods.com.

Millenios

So you took a little day-trader flyer on some Microsoft stock with what was supposed to be the Christmas Club money for the kids' presents, and now 'Tis the Season, staring you right in the face. Well, here it is: This year's—no, this millennium's—most economical, educational, nutritious, delicious gift for the kids when the budget's a little tight or maybe even nonexistent. For three bucks or so (depending on where you buy groceries) you can get each of your little tax deductions their very own personal time capsule! According to the good folks at General Mills, makers of vitamin-enriched Cheerios® breakfast cereal and now once-in-a-lifetime Millenios™, the actual "collector" Millenios™ box is your child's chance to get involved in the March of Time itself. They've taken the opportunity to provide some fill-in-the-blanks ideas to get those little minds started, with some "Millenios Predictions" of things to come: "By ____, the U.S. Mint will no longer make $1 bills, only $1 coins." Or: "The first woman will be elected President of the United States in ____." Or howabout: "The Red Sox will win the World Series in ____." Honest, it's on the box. Although that last one sounds a little personal. Maybe one of the scientists down at the Millenios™ lab lost a few bucks on the playoffs.

Reading, Watching, Listening

The Baltimore Rowhouse

"[It's] as much a part of me as my own two hands," H.L. Mencken said of his Union Square rowhouse. Be they two stories or three, wood, brick, or Formstone, rowhouses are much a part of Baltimore itself. But did you ever stop to wonder why? Rowhouses weren't invented here, and we're hardly the only American city that's chock full of them. Enter The Baltimore Rowhouse by Mary Ellen Hayward and Charles Belfoure. This newly published book ($30 from Princeton Architectural Press) goes a long way towards explaining how Mobtown became renowned for rowhouses, tracing the evolution of this most adaptable form of urban architecture, and covering everything from humble 9-foot-wide workers' rowhouse to palatial Mount Vernon brownstones of the well-heeled and well-bred. The book takes on added relevance as the wrecking ball increasingly rubs out our rowhouse legacy—add someone you know to the army bent on preserving our homegrown housing.

The Barry Levinson Collection: The Baltimore Series

So your mom's both a movie lover and a proud Baltimorean, but she's not someone you really care to explain "tea-bagging" to. Give her this handsome collection of videos by Charm City's other cinematic bard, Barry Levinson. The box, just released by Warner Home Video and retailing for $44.99, contains Levinson's first three odes to his hometown—1982's ensemble comedy Diner, 1987's character study Tin Men, and 1990's ambitious family epic Avalon—and room to add his latest made-in-Baltimore joint, Liberty Heights. Perfect for playing spot-the-landmark drinking games with a little holiday cheer.

Baltimore Jewish Times Sourcebook

Did you know that Maryland is Israel's 25th largest trading partner? That nearly 20 years ago Baltimore became the first large U.S. city outside of New York to have an eruv (a zone, established by the Orthodox Jewish community, in which Sabbath restrictions are eased to allow Jews to perform necessary tasks outside the house)? And did you know that Ours Truly is home to a slew of kosher-food stores, Jewish prayer groups, and social activities and community services geared toward Jews, from nutrition counseling and addiction treatment to outdoor clubs and singles networks? Put the universe of Baltimore-area Judaica at a friend or relative's fingertips with the Baltimore Jewish Times SourceBook ($6.95), 160 pages of local information on all things Hebraic. It even includes a guide to the Jewish year, for those who could use a little boning up on holidays and rituals. Available at newsstands and bookstores or from www.jewishtimes.com.

Everything is Nice: The Matador Records 10th-Anniversary Anthology

By now, the music industry has pretty much reissued and/or repackaged just about every vintage body of work worth boxing up. If you must spend money on musical gifts this holiday season, why not try something new? Everything Is Nice is not a boxed set per se, nor is any of the music particularly old. This bargain-priced three-disc package (we've seen it listed from $9.99 to $12.99) celebrates 10 years of music from trend-setting indie label Matador Records, leaning heavily on the label's restless last few years. The resulting CDs—featuring cuts from Pavement, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Cat Power, Modest Mouse, Yo La Tengo, Guided by Voices, Sleater-Kinney, Boards of Canada, Pole, and Pizzicato Five, among others—play like super-sharp mix tapes instead of didactic history lessons. And Everything Is Nice's cross-section of late-90s indie music works for several gift-shopping niches. Alt-rock daytrippers who may have heard of Pavement will get a peek at other potential musical crushes; dyed-in-the-wool Matador fans will be happy to have the disc of unreleased tunes and rarities. And if you're buying for someone a generation or two younger and considerably cooler than you, they'll know your heart was in the right place even if they already have it.

The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook

At last, a gift for the man or woman who worries about everything. Give that paranoid pessimist (or James Bond wannabe) the tools to live through a host of life-imitates-action-movie disasters: quicksand, avalanches, alligator attacks. The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook by Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht ($14.95 from Chronicle Books) offers detailed strategies for dealing with life's nasty little surprises, from surviving an earthquake to breaking down a locked door to landing a plane. (Our favorite is the advice for escaping from a mountain lion: "If you have small children with you, pick them up—do all you can to appear larger.") Besides advising you to cower behind toddlers when confronted with hungry beasts, this compact, illustration-rich book offers lots of useful first-aid tidbits that may come in handy in less-than-catastrophic situations—and some that may be especially relevant to those of us who live in Baltimore City ("How to Treat a Bullet or Knife Wound"). Better safe than sorry.

The Real Leroy Mercer (Is John Bean)

It began as one man's attempt to amuse himself—prank phone calls to a slew of hapless merchants, in which the caller presented himself as an unsatisfied customer (sometimes as "Leroy Mercer," or "Bill Morgan just this side of Maynardville") who gets progressively more unreasonable and irate as the minutes tick. ("Ain't nothin' for me to whup a man's ass," he promises one.) The caller was an East Tennessean named John Bean, and after his death at age 33 in 1984 his friends assembled the tapes for posterity. Several hundred generations of dubbing later, the cassettes hit the road with truck drivers and traveling bands, and even tickled the troops during the Gulf War. The Jerky Boys and Roy D. Mercer cashed in on Bean's blueprint with less imagination, but no one ever did the Prince-Albert-in-a-can shtick with as much harrowing wit. Seventy-four minutes of Bean's "greatest hits" have emerged from the bootleg circuit on an official CD release, The Real Leroy Mercer (Is John Bean) ($16.99), and it's an ideal gift for adolescents of all ages. A list of retailers is available from www.asswhupper.com.

The Lord of the Rings

For many adults of a certain age (and, usually, a certain gender), the first experience of getting utterly lost in a book—of curling up with it for hours at a stretch, unable to put it down—involves J.R.R. Tolkien's masterful trilogy of hobbits, wizards, goblins, elves, and one nasty piece of jewelry. With Peter Jackson's three-part film adaptation on the horizon, now's the time to get reacquainted with Middle Earth, and Houghton Mifflin is doing its part with a very handsome new single-volume paperback edition ($20; $45 for a boxed set that also includes Tolkien's whimsical prequel, The Hobbit). Maybe it's wishful thinking, but we figure this epic parable of good and evil might be just the thing for that teen from the sword-and-sorcery side of Planet Sega—or that nostalgic semi-grown-up—on your list.

Recreating

Bookbinding Classes

What with the boon in memoirs, stores are full of beautiful blank books to give journalizing friends. For a few bucks more, you can give your loved ones the know-how to make their own journals. The Seedbed of Irony Press in Bolton Hill offers gift certificates for its Saturday bookbinding workshops. For $25, your friend can attend a 21/2-hour morning class and walk out with a handmade, soft-cover blank book; $50 buys the five-hour class, which yields the more complicated hardback volume. And your recipient doesn't just make a book; instructor Rebecca Childers focuses on instruction, so her students can create countless first editions at home. Don't be surprised if you receive a handmade journal next Christmas. The Seedbed of Irony Press, 1500 Bolton St., (410) 727-3871.

Golden Eagle Passport

Ah, to be young. Ah, to be old. Ah, to be alive and able to appreciate Earth's natural beauty and history's epic sweep—and do it for free. Give your loved ones the gift of Fort McHenry, Shenandoah National Park, and Antietam National Battlefield—and, if they're ambitious traveling types, the Everglades and the Grand Canyon too. Those are just a few of the more than 150 admission-charging national parks, monuments, historic sites, and wildlife refuges they'll get access to for a full year with the Golden Eagle Passport, available for $50 from the National Park Service. The pass can even be a one-shot gift for the whole family—one covers the cost per carload or an entire walk-up family group. A little card might not be much fun to unwrap, but think how much fun it'll provide all year. Send payment to National Park Service, 1100 Ohio Drive S.W., Room 138, Washington, D.C. 20242, attn: Golden Eagle Passport.

Doing Good

Andrea Perry Memorial Fund

When Ella Thompson died unexpectedly in May 1998, it was like an arrow through the heart of KidsGrow, one of the city's more laudable out-of-school education programs ("Missing Miss Ella," CP, 11/11/98). KidsGrow teaches kids the importance of looking after their immediate environment, via hands-on experience such as creating neighborhood gardens and planting trees. Thompson was a KidsGrow staffer, and a tireless volunteer in her Franklin Square neighborhood. When she died, some of her friends—including author David Simon, who made Thompson a central character in The Corner, the book he co-wrote with Edward Burns—began the Andrea Perry Memorial Fund, named for Thompson's daughter, who was murdered in 1988 at the age of 12. The fund continues Thompson's work in Franklin Square and other parts of the city that sorely need it. If you're in the giving mood this season, this is a charity that keeps on giving long after the last yule log burns out. Andrea Perry Memorial Fund, (410) 448-5663.

Museum of Industry Bricks

Did your grandfather build Liberty ships in Fairfield? Aunt can vegetables in Canton? Brother ground spices at the Light Street McCormick plant? If you know folks who rolled up their sleeves and worked in Baltimore's various industries, why not give them the gift of recognition by having their name engraved on a brick at the Baltimore Museum if Industry? These commemorative bricks will be placed on the museum's Industry Terrace (a handsome waterfront patio) or along the Harbor Walkway (by the museum's entrance). There are two options: Standard-sized bricks, with room for two lines of 15 characters each, cost $75; 8-inch-by-8-inch bricks with twice the writing room are $250. Besides honoring blue-collar Baltimore, the money goes to help the nonprofit museum's effort to preserve and present the story of Mobtown's labor days. Oh, and did we mention your gift is tax-deductible? Everybody wins. Baltimore Museum of Industry, 1415 Key Highway, (410)727-4808, ext. 106.

Stuff

Shrunken Heads

Real skin! Real hair! Real shrunken heads? Well, not exactly. The skin and hair are real, all right . . . real goat skin and hair. Back in the day, adolescent boys would save up their lunch money to order "heads" like these from the back pages of comic books for the express purpose of scaring their little sisters. The American Dime Museum, Baltimore's newly opened showplace of sideshow memorabilia and general weirdness, scored a box of these baseball-sized goat goodies and is offering them at $25 apiece. That may sound like a lot of lunch money for a nasty little novelty item, but museum curator Dick Horne says he's seen hairy little noggins like these go for upwards of $200 at Internet auctions. (Like everything else these days, they're collectible.) As a bonus, their handy "shrunken" size makes them perfect Christmas-tree ornaments; just put a hook in the hair and find a prominent branch. Be sure to invite your sister over to admire your tree. The American Dime Museum, 1808 Maryland Ave., Baltimore, MD 21201; (410) 230-0263.

Eartha Global Explorer

Microsoft asks in its TV commercials, "Where do you want to go today?" Our question is, "How the hell do we get there?" Enter the Eartha Global Explorer, available in both CD-ROM ($49.95) and DVD ($59.95) versions, an electronic globe that allows you to zoom in on any place in the world. It's invaluable for anyone planning a trip to a foreign country. (Want to know the best way to get from Antwerp to Brussels? Take the N-16.) The DVD version has a particularly funky feature, allowing you to do 3-D flyovers and zoom-ins. It's like having your very own spaceship. The manufacturer, DeLorme, offers all sorts of other geography-related products, including an extremely detailed North American atlas for you domestic types. DeLorme, (800) 452-5931 or www.delorme.com.

Pratt Library Calendar

Yeah, it's kind of self-congratulatory, what with its "Every Person's Favorite Library" title and more-historical-than-thou sepia tones, but is there any city institution that can more legitimately toot its own horn than this calendar's subject, the Enoch Pratt Free Library and its 113-year annals? With unsolicited testimonials by lauded local guys Mencken, Mfume, Tupac (who provides our favorite line: "So heed my advice 'cause it's not hard/ to get yourself a library card"), and others, plus archival shots of the Pratt's bindery and many of its branches, this calendar is a classy, inexpensive ($8) way to introduce the distracted bibliophile in your midst to years beginning with "2." It will also serve to remind him or her of the huge ongoing debt we all owe to our fine free library. Central Library, Enoch Pratt Free Library, 400 Cathedral St., (410) 396-5494, and all branches.

Dynamo Batteries-Free Radio

OK, maybe we're the grasshopper in that Aesop's fable, not storing up our nuts for the winter or whatever, but we've been pretty content to leave the Y2K madness to the survivalist/conspiracy types. So when we first heard about a batteries-free radio, we chalked it up as one more product to fob off on the millennium-panicked. Then we figured it out: What's the one thing that'll really be worth having at midnight plus a second on 1/1/00? Information, thatĂs what. (And maybe some music to soothe the savage IĂm-pissed-cause-I-didnĂt-build-a-stash beast.) We guarantee your friends and family will find out what they need to know with the Dynamo. All it needs to pump out clean, static-free sound on either AM or FM is a little muscle power--30 seconds of cranking for an hour or more on the air. (How long it lasts depends on how much you spend; models range in price from $22.99 to $69.99.) Even if the folks on your list feel the same way about passing through the zeros as we do, remind them about the week they didnĂt have electricity after Hurricane Floyd, or that rainy camping trip when "someone" forgot to buy batteries. SunnyĂs the Affordable Outdoor Store, numerous locations.

Hindu God Lunchboxes

Bring beauty and mystery to your loved oneĂs midday meal through the one and only Archie McPhee. The Seattle-based retailer offers way-cool lunchboxes featuring the visages of Hindu gods ($12.95). On one, youĂll find the mischievous young Krishna, the eighth incarnation of Vishnu. The front of the box shows Krishna playing the flute; the back features VishnuĂs consort, Lakshmi, and the elephant god Ganesh. Or try the Kali lunchbox: On its face, this box features the alluring but deadly Kali, the dark manifestation of the goddess Mahadevi; on the back, youĂll find the Universal Form, which is the visual representation of KrishnaĂs omnipresence. Talk about a holiday gift that will nourish body, mind, and soul. Archie McPhee, (425) 745-0711 or www.mcphee.com/bigindex/current/10439.html.

Evolutionary Skull Models

Hunters, gatherers . . . everybody likes skulls. Help your friends decorate their home or office and deliver a stinging rebuke to the Kansas Board of Education with a cranial treasure from the Museum Tour catalog. These detailed half-scale models ($39.95-$49.95 plus shipping), created under the auspices of famed anthropologist Maeve Leakey, follow humankind through the big steps, from Homo erectus and Australopithecus to Neanderthal and, finally, our own Homo sapiens, evolved enough to deny there is such a thing as evolution. The movable jaws allow you to investigate prehistoric bone and tooth structure, or you could just move Ăem up and down and make grunting noises. You can do whatever your big brain desires, because you are the goddamn lord of the jungle. Sure, in a million years some advanced humanoid will be giving the kids a half-scale model of your puny, primitive skull. Try not to think about it. Museum Tour, (800) 360-9116) or www.museumtour.com.

Giant Ball of String

For all good backward-looking Baltimoreans, the closing of HaussnerĂs has been a transcendent experience: Since the venerable eatery made everyone nostalgic in the first place, now Baltimore can be nostalgic for nostalgia itself. ItĂs nostalgia squared! So what could be a better gift for a sentimental Mobtowner than HaussnerĂs legendary giant ball of string? The 4-foot sphere, constructed from decadesĂ worth of the twine that came around the napkins, is a perfect symbol of our aggregated civic memories--not merely of German dining, but of the whole universe of bygone Pleasant Living. And Richard Opfer Auctioneering has it for sale on Dec. 18, as one of 500-odd HaussnerĂs items up for bid. Cost: None Can Say. WouldnĂt it look fine in Uncle CharlieĂs basement, with toy trains runninĂ Ăround it? And if some big spender crowds you out, thereĂs still plenty of souvenirs to be had--paintings, sculpture, ceramic beer steins. (A second auction is planned but not yet scheduled.) Or transport Uncle Charlie back in time with the catalog from the Nov. 2 New York auction of HaussnerĂs A-list art ($34 from SothebyĂs while supplies last), a sturdy and beautiful paperback with glossy full-color reproductions of the restaurantĂs high-toned nudes, snorting horses, and satirical pictures of Catholic cardinals. Richard Opfer Auctioneering, 1919 Greenspring Drive, Timonium, (410) 252-5035; SothebyĂs, (800) 444-3709).

Related stories

Holiday Guide Gifts 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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