LEO’s Third Annual Highly Useful Eccentric Holiday Guide
So, the holiday season is upon us, and after watching a bunch of campaign ads, we will now be subjected to all manner of advertising telling us that the only way our loved ones will really know we love them is if we buy them that expensive yet clichéd gift, like a diamond or a Lexus. (Actually, most of us are probably wondering where those people are who will actually give us cars.)
Then there’s that other cliché — it’s not the price of the gift that signifies how significant the recipient is in our lives, it’s the thought that counts. While many of us at LEO wouldn’t mind receiving expensive gifts (hint to our publisher), we know that a thoughtful and eccentric gift, no matter what the price, holds particular significance — especially when it is something purchased in our fair metropolitan area.
But the holidays aren’t really about gifts, and community spirit isn’t built on shopping (no matter what government officials told us after 9/11). Community is built by spending time in useful ways and connecting with others by donating time for worthy causes and sharing experiences. In the arts, that can include music, theater or visual art. It’s that notion that prompted LEO to expand its 2006 Holiday Guide to include such events where you can connect with fellow citizens and support local groups.
But we haven’t forgotten about gifts. And to help with your shopping, we combed the area and compiled a list of some of our most eccentric finds. So without further ado, here is LEO’s latest Highly Useful Eccentric Holiday Guide. —Elizabeth Kramer
Teas by the Special Tea Company
COST: $10 per can (20-30 cups per can)
WHERE TO FIND IT: Amazing Grace, Rainbow Blossom, Weeds of Eden, Why Louisville Store, and online at www.specialteacompany.com (572-8862)
WHY BUY IT?: Cultivating health, local independent wealth and good taste — all reasons to purchases teas from this young mom-and-pop business. Louisvill-ians Garrett Petters and Maura Schmitt deliver an all-herbal, organic menu of teas — from White Ginger to Green Yerba Mate — as well as brewing accessories. Suggested blends for the winter holidays are the tangy Blackberry Clove and cozy Herbal Chai.
WHO WILL MOST APPRECIATE IT?: Those who celebrate with a cup of kindness year-round and know Mother Nature personally. —Cindy Lamb
Louis Roederer 1999 Champagne Cristal
WHERE TO FIND IT: Costco Wine Shop, 5020 Norton Healthcare Blvd. (near Interstate 71 and the Snyder Freeway)
WHY BUY IT?: Champagne, the real thing from France, is one of the most luxurious wines in the world because it’s hand-crafted in the individual bottle, a true artisanal drink in a world of mass-production. And unlike great, age-worthy red wines, you don’t have to cellar it for years before it’s ready to drink. At the extreme high end, Cristal is hot, and sells at well over $200 a bottle. It had been the liquid bling bling, beloved of hip-hop stars who drank it straight from the bottle and presided it in lyrics. That is, as illustrated by the photo of Diddy dumping out about $450 worth, until many prominent rappers boycotted it after Cristal’s managing director dissed the hip-hop crowd and its link to the elixir. Still, sophisticated wine enthusiasts won’t say no to a taste of it.
WHO WILL MOST APPRECIATE IT?: Wine “geeks” — of course — and some rap stars (not including Jay-Z and P Diddy). The best thing about this bubbly is that you don’t have to be a wine expert to appreciate its subtle nuances. —Robin Garr
Chef for a Day at The Seelbach
WHERE TO FIND IT: The Seelbach’s Oakroom or by calling 807-DINE
WHY BUY IT?: For the fun and education that come with spending a day with Chef Todd Richards in The Oakroom, and for a hands-on taste of a chef’s life in a fine restaurant, followed by dinner where you and your friends can taste the goodies that you helped cook.
WHO WILL MOST APPRECIATE IT?: “Foodies” and wannabe chefs and anyone who enjoys fine food and cooking. —Robin Garr
Elephant Dung Paper Products
WHERE TO FIND IT: Just Creations, 2722 Frankfort Ave., 897-7319
WHY BUY IT?: Paper is always a useful and creative gift. This gorgeous and colorful collection of greeting cards, note cubes, stationery and journals has a most interesting origin. The hard-working and bark-chewing elephants of Sri Lanka digest 420 pounds of food and drop dung 16 times per day on average. There is no end to the recycling possibilities of this waste material. The lovely parchment in pastels and deep hues should eliminate any shopping doubts about the season’s most unusual gifts.
WHO WILL MOST APPRECIATE IT?: Those who share the Just Creations philosophy of fair trade and a healthy global environment. People who write, recycle and are fans of Dumbo. Your favorite Republicans. —Cindy Lamb
WHERE TO FIND IT: Scout, 801 E. Market St., 584-8989, www.scoutonmarket.com
WHY BUY IT?: As the cliché goes, “The eyes have it” (whatever “it” is). But a gift of cufflinks made of baby-doll eyes that open and close is definitely no cliché. This gift could be a fun way to perturb the paranoid while fastening French cuffs.
WHO WILL MOST APPRECIATE IT?: The staff of expensive hotels and restaurants who wear French-cuff shirts for work — and with supervisors who have developed senses of humor. Dressy patrons of the opera, ballet, orchestra and theater who wear French-cuff shirts for entertainment (and who have a date who has a sense of humor). —Jo Anne Triplett
Record Players (Old and New)
COST: $75-$300 (old but serviced); $129-$249 (Made by Crosley Radio)
(The pictured 1960s vintage General Electric Wildcat portable stereo turntable is $125. The 1950s vintage RCA Victor turntable that plays 45-RPM records is $75.)
WHERE TO FIND IT: Magnetic Tape Recorder Co., 601 Baxter Ave., 587-1848
WHY BUY IT?: Record players are more than history lessons for younger folks; they commemorate the music of yesteryear, with their ability to play 33 1/3, 45 and 78 RPM records, especially ones that have not been released on CD. They also resonate musical memories from youth (once upon a time, in the 1960s, there was a little girl who took her portable record player on her porch to play “rock band” with the neighborhood girls). Many newer models, such as the new Crosley Radio turntables the store will have in time for the holidays, include CD burners allowing old vinyls to be recorded in a digital audio format. In this great Louisville shop, owners Charlie and Marlene Green also are able to offer educated consultations on almost any form of audio equipment.
WHO WILL MOST APPRECIATE IT?: Music lovers who want to listen to music on record discs. —Elizabeth Kramer
Glass bottle stoppers by Mark Payton (assorted)
COST: $68-$116 (My favorite is the devil’s head for $88. Other stoppers include a jester, funny-looking man, hands and stars.)
WHERE TO FIND IT: Glassworks Gallery, 815 W. Market St., 992-3056, www.louisvilleglassworks.com
WHY BUY IT?: Insert it in an open bottle of wine or champagne to keep it fresh while making it artistically appealing. Beyond the devil’s head, other stoppers guaranteed to be conversation-starters include Elvis and Frankenstein.
WHO WILL MOST APPRECIATE IT?: Any economically minded follower of Bacchus. —Jo Anne Triplett
Local Watering Hole Wear
COST: Varies, but probably $10 or so
WHERE TO FIND IT: Your favorite local bar
WHY BUY IT?: Besides running up a large tab and signing over all rights to your liver, nothing says “I love this bar” more than covering your body with your favorite bar’s logo. Who wouldn’t want a shirt that says, “My grandma went to the Back Door, and all she got me was this stinkin’ shirt!” (OK, so the Back Door may not have that one in stock, but it should.)
WHO WILL MOST APPRECIATE IT?: College kids, bar regulars and Grandma. —Sara Havens
Caricatures by Scott Hilton
COST: $75 (5”x7”); $100 (8”x10”); $150 (11”x14”)
WHERE TO FIND IT: Contact the artist at www.wshilton.com or 664-3253 (Offer ends Jan. 12, 2007)
WHY BUY IT?: This is definitely a personal gift, and the object of your affection — i.e. the person of whom you want a drawing — doesn’t have to be a politician or a celebrity. Hilton has set up his Web site to take orders. He also promises to “hand-deliver your finished original artwork to your door.”
WHO WILL MOST APPRECIATE IT?: Anyone. If they don’t, then we pity the fool. —Elizabeth Kramer
Distinctive Designs of Flowers and Foliage
WHERE TO FIND IT: Lavender Hill, 360 Spring St., Jeffersonville, (812) 288-2388, www.lavenderhillflorals.com
WHY BUY IT?: Foliage and flowers are ever-changing gifts of life, and Lavender Hill creates unique designs that can tend toward the traditional or evoke Asian styles of arranging, such as the simple and linear forms used in the ikebana style developed in Japan. Parrot tulips, turban buttercups, peonies, orchids and wheat grass are just some of owner Carolyn Minutillo’s favorite flora to work into designs, which include charming terrariums. The shop also has decorative items and uncommon toiletry products.
WHO WILL MOST APPRECIATE IT?: Those who love greenery year-round. —Elizabeth Kramer
WHERE TO FIND IT: Creation Gardens, 609 E. Main St., 587-9012,
WHY BUY IT?: Want a little controversy with your calories? You can enjoy both, in one of life’s most indulgent culinary treats, when you chow down on a whole foie gras, available in Louisville to the restaurant trade and to consumers at Creation Gardens. Because foie gras is made by force-feeding ducks and geese to fatten their livers, a procedure that some consider inhumane, this savory goodie has been banned in Chicago and is under fire in New York, California and elsewhere. The issue hasn’t gained much traction in Louisville, though, says Creation Gardens President Ron Tournier, whose supplier — Hudson Valley Foie Gras of Ferndale, N.Y. — reports that Louisville consumes a disproportionate amount of the stuff. A whole fresh ‘Grade A’ foie gras weighs in at 11/4 to 2 pounds and sells for $45 per pound. Or you can get a tasteful 4-ounce tub of foie gras mousse, suitable for dipping or serving on toast points or eating at midnight right out of the refrigerator, for $15.
WHO WILL MOST APPRECIATE IT?: Gourmets and gourmands — assuming they’re not vegetarians. —Robin Garr
WHERE TO FIND IT: Speed Art Museum, 2035 S. Third St., 634-2700, www.speedmuseum.org
WHY BUY IT?: In 1767, the English mapmaker John Spilsbury invented the first jigsaw puzzle depicting a map of the world. Soon puzzles were used to teach students geography. Later puzzles went beyond maps to depict art, photos and marketing icons, like Mickey Mouse. Because your list probably includes many people who could never even begin a map of a puzzle (in a recent survey for the National Geographic Society, 63 percent of Americans aged 18 to 24 failed to correctly locate Iraq on a map), this puzzle of the “Mona Lisa” could make them feel a bit smarter. It has only two pieces with the answer key included. No cheating!
WHO WILL MOST APPRECIATE IT?: All those who are “puzzle challenged” or just plain haters of puzzles. —Jo Anne Triplett
Huber Winery’s Spiced Apple Wine
WHERE TO FIND IT: At the Southern Indiana winery, of course, at 19816 Huber Road in Starlight, (812) 923-9463, www.huberwinery.com. (Call ahead for directions if you’ve never been. Once you discover this place, you’ll wonder why you’re so late for the party — Huber’s is the heaven of Hoosierland.)
WHY BUY IT?: It’s crisp, sweet and delicious and damn near makes for the best and most unusual companion to tote along to all the holiday parties. Plus, it’s the Wine of the Month at Huber’s, which means supplies are limited. Run, don’t walk.
WHO WILL MOST APPRECIATE IT?: Anyone with a swallowing mechanism. —Sara Havens
Sarcastic and Affirmation Eight Balls
WHERE TO FIND IT:
Artist & Craftsman Supply,
1860 Mellwood Ave., 895-7889,
WHY BUY IT?: It’s just like the ones of yore — you ask it a “yes” or “no” question, but when you shake it you get new answers like “you’ve got to be kidding” and “you look marvelous.” Alternate questions between the different balls and the combined 20 messages on them will pick you up and put you right back down again. Just as we all need a little positive encouragement now and then, we also need to “get real” occasionally.
WHO WILL MOST APPRECIATE IT?: Anyone with low self-esteem (“You’re good enough”) or inflated ego (“In your dreams”) — which means just about everyone. —Jo Anne Triplett
Handcrafted Kayaks and Canoes
WHERE TO FIND IT: By calling craftsman Dennis Pigeon at 439-5481
WHY BUY IT?: Louisvillian Dennis Pigeon, a local kayak and canoe enthusiast who has paddled waters all over the country, made his first kayak in 1996. Since then he’s gone to make other kayaks and canoes, some from plywood and others using redwood, western red cedar and sassafras. He made a lightweight, Greenland-style kayak for himself by building a frame that he constructed to custom fit his body and covering it in canvas that he waterproofed. With his infectious love for boating and the care he puts into making his stellar boats, he creates true works of art.
WHO WILL MOST APPRECIATE IT?: Anyone who loves gliding across a body of water in a kayak or canoe and appreciates expert craftsmanship. —Elizabeth Kramer
Jesus Action Figure
WHERE TO FIND IT: Artist & Craftsman Supply, 1860 Mellwood Ave., 895-7889, www.artistcraftsman.com
WHY BUY IT?: Because we have religious freedom in this country and you can. The moveable arms let you pose the figure in various stages of blessing, plus it has gliding action wheels on the bottom. It’s Jesus on the move!
WHO WILL MOST APPRECIATE IT?: Christians with a sense of humor and those who need to update their “Dashboard Jesus.” —Jo Anne Triplett
Bacon-Strips Gift Wrap and Packing Tape/Jesus Gift Wrap and Packing Tape
COST: gift wrap, $3.50 each; packing tape, $4 each
WHERE TO FIND IT: ear X-tacy
WHY BUY IT?: What could be more fun than needling your Kosher friends during The Holidays by wrapping and sealing their Hanukkah presents with bacon? Heck, how ’bout wrapping and sealing your Christmas presents with multi-colored images of Jesus! Huh? Yeah! The bacon looks real enough to get you on the goyim list. The Jesus image looks like frames on a reel from one of Warhol’s static films. You ain’t gonna see that in “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”
WHO WILL MOST APPRECIATE IT?: Anyone who remembers Bass-O-Matic fondly, or, currently, is into Sponge Bob. —Fairleigh Brooks
Flamenco Dance Lessons
COST: $100 gift certificate (can be used for group, private or semi-private classes)
WHERE TO FIND IT: Flamenco Louisville, 235-3998, www.flamencolouisville.com
WHY BUY IT?: To emancipate a range of emotions — from light to dark inner passions. Side effects may include toned arms, higher butts, stronger legs and peace of mind. No partner required. Appropriate for all ages and body types. (According to dancer and teacher Diana Dinicola, some of the most respected dancers in Spain are men and women decades older than the typical ballet dancer.)
WHO WILL MOST APPRECIATE IT?: The I-always-wanted-to-dance crowd, the took-dance-when-I-was-a-kid people, the I-can’t-get-my-significant-other-to-dance-with-me folk and international adventurers. —Elizabeth Kramer
WHERE TO FIND IT: Crescent Hill Trading Co., 2720 Frankfort Ave., 896-6110
WHY BUY IT?: Reflect for the holidays! With proprietor Margaret Thomas’ ever-changing inventory of time-honored treasures, her collection of mirrors may have played host to hundreds of years of faces and form and have frames made of many types of materials — from barn wood to bamboo, tin to mahogany. And so many sizes — there are hand-held mirrors for the vanity, accent ovals for the hall, dressing mirrors for the boudoir and majestic beveled glass for mounting over mantles.
WHO WILL MOST APPRECIATE IT?: The narcissus in your life, clever decorators, antique lovers. —Cindy Lamb
Animal-Shaped Rubber Bands
WHERE TO FIND IT: 21c Museum Hotel, 700 W. Main St., 562-0773, www.21cmuseumhotel.com
WHY BUY IT?: For the same reasons we’ve been buying rubber bands since they were invented in 1845. Besides, these are just cute. The small rubber bands in assorted colors come in two types: zoo animals (giraffe, elephant, kangaroo, hippo, rhino and ostrich) and pets (turtle, rabbit, pig, dog, cat and duck).
WHO WILL MOST APPRECIATE IT?: Office workers, zoologists and animal lovers of all ages. —Jo Anne Triplett
PARC “Smart Cards” for Metro Meters
WHERE TO FIND IT: PARC, 517 S. Fourth St., 574.3817, or send an e-mail to [email protected] for other purchase locations.
WHY BUY IT?: Plastic comes to parking in this pre-paid “credit card” for use in any new meter in the Louisville metro area. This great stocking stuffer just slides through a slot and the meter prompts the parker to select the space. Time is “paid” for in 20-minute increments. Leftover minutes will be automatically refunded back to the card for later usage. The card help friends, family and employees do a brisk business along the congested curbs of the Metro.
WHO WILL MOST APPRECIATE IT?: Any motorist who’s ever gotten a ticket 30 seconds after a meter ran out. Anyone who’s spent a dollar for a quarter’s worth of parking time. —Cindy Lamb
WHERE TO FIND IT: Regalo, 980 Barret Ave., 583-1798
WHY BUY IT?: Regalo’s affordable array of rings made with beads and stones are like wearing a kaleidoscope on your hand. And like little fireworks, they signal celebration. This is holiday season, you know.
WHO WILL MOST APPRECIATE IT?: Lovers of color and spectacle on a small and portable scale. —Elizabeth Kramer
COST: $50[img_assist|nid=3278|title=Dreidel|desc=Photo by Elizabeth Kramer. This dreidel/tzedaka box, available at Keneseth Israel Synagogue, combines the traditional Hanukkah game with the spirit of charity.|link=|align=right|width=152|height=200]
WHERE TO FIND IT: Gift shop at Keneseth Israel Synagogue, 2531 Taylorsville Road, 459-2780
WHY BUY IT?: Go beyond the dreidel this year! This multi-colored bank designed in Israel combines the traditional Hanukkah game of the dreidel and the spirit of charity. A slot in the top of these intricately crafted boxes makes this dreidel double as a tzedaka (zeh-DAK-ah) box, which holds as much money as the recipient can stuff inside. When it’s full, the contents go to a person or group in need.
WHO WILL MOST APPRECIATE IT?: Anyone who seeks a unique decoration for Hanukkah or year-round to honor the story of selflessness and giving. Parents and grandparents who need a blast of warm-fuzzy will enjoy presenting this to the younglings. —Cindy Lamb
COST: $2.99 per package
WHERE TO FIND IT: Louisville Science Center Gift Shop, 727 W. Main St., 561-6100, wwwlouisvillescience.org
WHY BUY IT?: Freeze-dried delicacies are so much fun to eat. The shop has yummy vanilla ice cream and ice cream sandwiches and some very tart but interesting strawberries. The techniques used to make these dehydrated foods were developed under the auspices of the U.S. space program and this kind of ice cream was on board several NASA missions. (Today’s astronauts, however, mainly eat foods in their natural form, like bananas and brownies, and other dehydrated foods, such as macaroni and cheese or spaghetti, from packages after adding water.)
WHO WILL MOST APPRECIATE IT?: Anyone who has an adventurous outlook. Note: Does not necessarily require an adventurous palate.
Clip-On Vincent van Gogh Ear
WHERE TO FIND IT: Speed Art Museum, 2035 S. Third St., 634-2700, www.speedmuseum.org
WHY BUY IT?: Fake body parts are always fun. It’s just too bad you can’t attach this eccentric item to any part of your body. (This is a really just a plastic clip that holds papers together.)
WHO WILL MOST APPRECIATE IT?: That cutie across the corridor on whom you have a crush. Or anyone missing an ear (insert “Blue Velvet” joke here). —Jo Anne Triplett