Charm-i-days: Uncle Envelope

December 11, 2009

Not your father's uncle. Not your uncle, either.

More likely to send you mail every month than any actual uncle on your holiday gift list.

Sure, you can give someone bacon of the month club or the rare olive oil club from Zingerman’s or even the spectacular-sounding lunar chocolate of the month club from Vosges Haut Chocolate. But Uncle Envelope has another idea for you altogether. Uncle Envelope delivers paper-based goodies each month for those of us in this digital age who still love the feel of paper in our hands.

As reported on Pop Candy, Kristin Lindner created the service and recruits artists to participate, so subscribers receive some kind of print object each month – maybe a craft, a comic, a map or a game. You can see examples of previous work on the Uncle Envelope site.

It’s sort of like adopting someone’s mailbox, making sure something delightful arrives once in a while. Just think: You’ll be giving someone on your list the gift of looking forward to peering into that mailbox and seeing something more rewarding than a 20-percent-off coupon.

Go ahead – befriend (be-uncle?) someone’s mailbox.

Uncle Envelope subscription, $36

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Charm-i-days: Penguin classics (books, not birds)

December 7, 2009

Pretty, cloth-covered books to gaze at, give away and even read.

Delightfully bookish.

As one of my most discriminating and zeitgeist-attuned readers, you’ve probably seen or read about these new Penguin editions of several classics somewhere by now. Nonetheless, I put them before you here and suggest that they’re a most suitable answer to many a gift-giving situation. Why the commotion? Sure, they’re beautiful. And sure, they’re classics: Mr. Willoughby and Miss Havisham and social conventions and moral dilemmas and all that. But I admire the books for a couple of other reasons as well.

1. The designer, Coralie Bickford-Smith, took the book’s themes into account when she created the covers. As she explained on Design*Sponge, “The peacock feather on Dorian Grey, for example, plays on the book’s themes of vanity and the superficial, whereas the leaf motif on Jane Eyre refers directly to the lightning-blasted chestnut tree, a concrete element in the text that serves as a potent symbol of the book’s central relationship.” Smart and pretty – we like that.

2. The pages feel as sumptuous as the covers look. You know how the pages on some classics feel cheap or sometimes a little gritty? Not so here. The pages are smooth and heavy and thick with importance.

So in this case, judge the book and the cover and the personality of those on your gift list all at once.

Classic books, $13.60 on Amazon

Charm-i-days: Felt bowls and vases

December 7, 2009

Handmade bowls of wooly goodness.

Deeply felt gifts.

Innovative use of textile? Check.

Stylish shapes and vibrant colors? Check.

Thoughtful application of renewable resource? Check.

Unmistakable desire to have some sitting around my house? Check.

Designed and handmade by Patty Benson, these felt bowls and vases provide an unexpected pop of color and texture. Benson combines the techniques of crocheting and wet felting and fashions bowls and vases out of wool instead of the more expected ceramic or wood. The small bowls are ideal for keeping your keys or favorite jewelry handy, while the larger ones make stunning centerpieces.

For a fun hostess gift over the holidays, consider filling the small felted plant cozy with a rosemary plant or a Tickle-Me plant, which was one of last year’s most popular Charm-i-days ideas.

Felted bowls and vases, $36 and up at Rare Device
Tickle-Me plant party favor, $5.95

Charm-i-days: Goodies for the eggnog lover in you

December 6, 2009

Here’s to putting eggnog in all the right places, from your bathtub to your purse.

Eggnog innovations and sensations.

Innovations in the world of eggnog have been gaining momentum since the most recent turn of the century – maybe this newfound love for the old-fashioned treat started with the eggnog latte. What matters is that you’re now free to enjoy eggnog not only at parties but also in the shower. Observe the enfoldment of eggnog euphoria.

Eggnog bubblegum. Ideal to give as stocking stuffers or to make a point while standing in line for the eggnog. Keep in purse or pocket for eggnog emergencies.

Eggnog shower gel and shampoo. Smells like eggnog, looks like eggnog, labeled as eggnog. Isn’t eggnog – rather, is ingenious three-in-one shower gel, shampoo and bubble bath. Perhaps you’ve never really wanted to bathe in eggnog, in which case this product isn’t for you. But you could still feel awfully clever giving it to someone on your Christmas list.

Eggnog taffy. Tastes like eggnog and comes in a twist-tie box as appealing as any eggnog carton. Nine out of ten shoppers prefer twist-tie boxes.

Eggnog bubblegum from Archie McPhee, $3.50
Philosophy eggnog shower gel from Sephora.com, $16
Sweets eggnog taffy from Drugstore.com, $3

Charm-i-days: Plan + man = can

December 4, 2009

The can lives on, as inspiration for us all.

The Man Can can’t, but you can.

Proof at long last that idea of a man with a can has staying power (or is it the subconscious idea of a man in a can?), the Man Can at Delight.com is sold out. We grieve and move on. This doesn’t mean the guy on your list has to go can-free. Make your own man can plan by picking up a galvanized metal pail at a hardware store and filling it with manly goods from Kiehl’s, the Body Shop, Sephora, Burt’s Bees or Small Flower (maybe it sounds girly, but they have a solid selection of  gentlemanly, natural skin products). If you’re feeling ambitious or especially merry, create a Man Can-like label of your own for the pail.

For more container-related ideas for guys, consider the Christmas tree in a can from Fred Flare or the moon jar lamp from Elsewares (after featuring the sun jar lamp last year, it only seems right to give the moon its due).

If cans aren’t classy enough for you, Delight’s brother site, the Gent Supply Co., also has non-can-related gifts for guys, starting with a page of Sterling Cooper-inspired ideas for “Mad Men” fans. Hubris not included.

Man Can, in your hands
Christmas tree can, $12
Moon jar lamp, $40
Gent Supply Co., prices vary

Charm-i-days: Saints in your pocket and a drug-free high

December 3, 2009

Illuminate someone on your holiday gift list by pairing a righteous book or two with just the right accessory.

Saintliness, now found in pockets and boxes.

Jason Boyett’s Pocket Guide to Sainthood: A Field Manual for the Super-Virtuous Life captures the glory, the shame and the silliness of saints throughout history. Starting with St. Ambrose and ending with St. Vincent de Paul (surprisingly, not the only saint who was captured by pirates), Boyett irreverently chronicles the miracles and trivia surrounding everyone’s favorite saints – and also the ugliest one. Boyett includes the saints’ miracles but also tidbits he generously labels “what not to venerate,” such as, you know, mass slaughters and the like.

Boyett’s consistently entertaining tone and unexpected asides create an amusing backdrop for what’s actually a highly informative book. The section about Mother Mary, for example, will clear up her status once and for all for any confused non-Catholic. The book lists a glossary of saintly terms as well which saints to call upon for any occasion from watching television to paratrooping.

Flaunting the holy.

So what to pair with this “witty, weird and sometimes even wise” – as reviewer Daniel Radosh declared – book? A plastic tribute to St. Clare, patron saint of television, of course. I personally have had this beatific statue from Archie McPhee unobtrusively positioned near my television for several months, and I’ve never felt more enriched by my small-screen viewing. Alternately, pair the book with a saints bracelet from Signals.

175 ways to transcend.

For a book with fewer religious trappings but more spirituality than you can shake an incense stick at, give someone on your list Get High Now (Without Drugs) by James Nestor. I mentioned the Get High Now website earlier this year, but you can’t very well wrap up a website and put it under the tree. (Not that I’m saying you aren’t clever. You are – I know you are. I’m just saying it’s easier to wrap a book.) Actually, the book isn’t about spirituality per se or New Age-style meditation: It details the science behind drug-free highs and which techniques – meditative and otherwise – are proven to work.

Nestor advocates against trying every technique he mentions (avoid the bee sting approach, he stubbornly insists) and includes surprising hallucinogens such as giraffe liver. Some of the techniques, though, are as simple as breathing, which is the first of the suggestions that Nestor himself tried years ago as he uncovered research that an eccentric uncle left behind when he died. His uncle’s notes eventually became this book, which is fascinating and funny and gives you more than 175 ways to alter your consciousness.

2 transcendence aids.

You’d think giving a person 175 ways to change his or her life would provide enough holiday cheer, but go one more step and throw in some Buddha mints, a tin of Badger meditation balm that smells like sandalwood or my favorite incense – the desert pinion sticks really do smell like you’re having a mountaintop experience with a fire crackling nearby (no cloying aroma, I promise).

So many convenient ways to reach enlightenment these days.

Pocket Guide to Sainthood, $11
St. Clare statue, $5
Saints bracelet, $30
Get High Now (Without Drugs), $10
Buddha mints, $2.50
Badger meditation balm, $8
Juniper Ridge incense, $8

Also of note …
Christmas post on Jason Boyett’s blog
Get High Now site

Charm-i-days: Cake card holder

December 1, 2009

In a word, yum.

If you like it, then you shoulda put a cake on it.

The Charm-o-Matic is declaring this cake card holder from The Curiosity Shoppe 2009’s cutest stocking stuffer. This illustrious honor went last year to Tokyo Milk lip balm, and this year’s winner is equally pastel-ish in overtones with a slice of realism and old-fashioned goodness.

I’m endlessly fascinated by depictions of food from bygone eras, whether they’re gorgeous, elaborate Cavallini reproductions or the more unfortunate remembrances of the Gallery of Regrettable Food. So when it comes to a nostalgic-looking, food-related item that I can carry around with me, I’m utterly powerless to resist.

The pink-frosted, yellow layer cake featured here looks like the delicious birthday sweet your grandmother may have made for you once a long time ago. Except, you know, you can put this one in your pocket.

The card holder can accommodate business cards or IDs and is handmade in Los Angeles.

Cake card holder, $12

Charm-i-days: Pomaireware plus adoration

November 27, 2009

Pass whatever’s in that fetching casserole dish, please.

So much to adore, so little time.

Ideal for the people on your list who fancy themselves domestic, these Pomaireware fish- and pig-shaped dishes are more than cute – they’re versatile, lead-free (unlike some clay dishes) and fair trade-certified. Sounds like a stylish and peaceful way to bake.  These pots from Delight.com are happy in the oven, on the stove or in the microwave, and they may lure all kinds of people into the kitchen. Handmade in Pomaire, Chile.

Consider giving a dish along with a similarly endearing “I adore you” dish towel from Blue Q or an inspiring cookbook:  See NPR’s list of best new cookbooks in 2009 for ideas.

Pomaireware Handcrafted Bakers from Delight.com, $35.50
I Adore You Dish Towel from Blue Q, $9.99

Charm-i-days: ‘Keep Calm’ bandages

November 10, 2009
keep_calm_bandages_urban_outfitters

King George VI didn't see this coming.

No, seriously – keep calm and carry on.

Now that the bright, World War II-era “Keep Calm and Carry On” replica poster has been popular for a few years, you can find the design not only hanging in sophisticated homes (hmm, maybe I’m biased) but also emblazoned on tote bags, T-shirts, golf balls and coffee mugs. Of course, you could also pick up one of the spoofs that advise freaking out or eating cake instead of keeping calm. Even better than that – and ideal for a stocking stuffer – go for these bandages available at Urban Outfitters.

The sentiment of the British poster, designed anonymously during the war and hung around London as an encouragement to its beleaguered citizens, will surely sustain you through any paper cut or splinter wound as you apply the bandage and stiffen your upper lip.

Keep Calm bandages, $8
Keep Calm T-shirts, $20

It’s time for the 2009 Charm-i-days gift guide – we’ll lead up to the holidays one charming, thoughtful gift at a time.

Let the surfeit of charming gift-giving commence

November 9, 2009

Sparkly charm-i-days to you and yours.

wrappingpaper2

Wrapper foreshadowing of charm to follow

It’s that time of year again, charmers. Time for early onset reindeer decorations in stores. Time for eggnog lattes and gingerbread man bubble bath.

Again this year, I’m doing my best to bypass my cranky interior monologue about commercialism and the entirely wrong-seeming tableaux of Christmas trees sitting helplessly next to discount Halloween candy. Instead, I’m easing into the cheer-making spirit by embracing it. Gently. So that means it’s time for the 2009 Charm-i-days gift guide: We’ll lead up to the holidays one charming, thoughtful gift idea at a time.

That said:

With that trumpet-like prelude, the gifting can begin. And oh, it will begin …  shortly.

Buy Nothing Day, Free
Hundred Dollar Holiday, $12