Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Holiday Gift Guide 2010

Among the many joys of Louisville life is how small, and efficient, our community is when it comes to commuting. What can take an hour in Chicago takes five minutes here, and I'm beyond thankful for that. Time is money, after all, and the holiday shopping season is when we need even more of both.

On a recent afternoon, my shopping took me from the revitalized New Albany downtown to the west side of downtown Louisville, and then on to Butchertown's one-stop shopping mecca. The drive from point A to point C is only 15 minutes, so I had plenty of time left over to look around some fun, surprising, local shops.

My adventure began at Destinations Booksellers (604 E. Spring St.), where Randy Smith suggested a pair of interesting reads. Bill Bryson's "At Home: A Short History of Private Life" ($28.95), said Smith, "has a universal appeal. It's the history of the things that we live around, the rooms we live in, full of anecdotes and trivia about - for example - How did we start eating in dining rooms? It's good for anyone, 18 to 80."

On a more focused note, Smith guessed that "Daily Show" contributor Lewis Black's new, caustic collection, "I'm Dreaming of a Black Christmas" ($19.95), in which the comedian gleefully attacks all things holiday-related, would appeal to the alt-weekly set.

"I think a lot of the 'Daily Show' fans would enjoy this. It's the follow-up to his book, 'Me of Little Faith'."

That might be good for your college-aged brother, but your hip niece who reminds you of "Juno" would prefer something handmade from The Dandy Lion (310 Bank St.). Co-owner Katy Traughber goes straight to a collection of prints by artist Matt Cipov.
"I think these are amazing. I love 'em because I feel like they're really playful. I can see a guy or a girl hanging these. I haven't seen anything like this in this area yet. I kinda like the creepiness about it, too."

Both boys and girls have those times when they want to drink a little drank, but aren't supposed to. For those times, Traughber recommends any one of their various flasks, and agrees with my manly selection of one in particular: "I like the skull flask, it's got moth wings on the back. It's also got a little bit of Art Deco."

The new DL has another new neighbor within walking distance. Michelle Byrne recently opened Creative Handmade Arts Boutique (302 Pearl St.) with her husband Billy.

Billy makes some eye-catching wine bottle toppers ($25), for those of us who need to drink even more when the family's around. Michelle explains that it's the detailing that helps their toppers stand out. "He uses mainly exotic woods from South America, like walnut."

Keeping it in the family, Michelle also recommends the "Dusk to Dawn" soy candles ($16). "The soy candles are really popular. They're really creamy. My sister-in-law makes them, she's local. They're all-natural, they don't leave black soot on your walls! When the wax has burned, you can actually use the lotion as a moisturizer."

There's even more to see in downtown New Albany these days, but I'm on a mission, because this magazine loves all of Kentuckiana equally, and it's downtown Louisville's chance to impress me.

Glassworks (815 W. Market St.) is known for their glassblowing, event spaces and awe-inspiring lofts. I also know them because their gift shop has helped me buy presents for Mom through the years.

Sherry Daws turns me on to some fused glass cufflinks ($32), which are more for Dad, but hey, he needs presents, too, right?
"They're created with Dichroic glass, which was patented by NASA. When you look at it from different directions, it changes colors. A very reasonable price, and very sparkly. You'll look very special when you wear them!"

You can't leave the Glassworks gift shop without finding something that you need by the new, exclusive Glassworks Home Collection. I selected an assortment of Ball Stemware ($67.50). Daws notes, "They come in such a nice assortment of colors. Their nice jewel tones complement any decor. They're long and they're elegant, and they're crafted here at Glassworks."

More family gifts in tow, I turn around the corner, where the Frazier International History Museum (829 W. Main St.) also offers a full-scale gift shop, in addition to their more obvious attributes.

Krista McHone helps me pick out a pair of gifts for the young and young-at-heart. An LED 3D puzzle ($20.99) is fun, and educational, for boys and girls.
"In the LED series, we have Statue of Liberty, Big Ben, Tower of Pisa, Empire State Building and the White House. You light 'em up and they'll twinkle. We've got a huge Eiffel Tower one, also. I looove those. They're fairly easy to put together, too."

My wife loves three-dimensional wall art, so I pick up a cardboard Bison "trophy" ( Small - $16.99, Medium - $29.99, Large - $54.99), which is like crafty, animal-cruelty-free taxidermy. "We have brown or white cardboard, and it's also available in Buffalo, Elephant, Deer, Rhino and Moose."

We already have the deer and the buffalo at home, so I pack up my new Bison buddy and head on down the road.

Inside the Butchertown Market (1201 Story Ave.), the porcine smells of the neighbors (The JBS Swift plant, The Blind Pig restaurant) disappear, as you're transported to an overseas-style bazaar.

In Canoe Textiles, it's hard to choose between all the unique rugs, jewelry and other hard-to-find items. Kelli Wicking points me to the scarves ($118). "All of our scarves are hand-done, and this is a lightweight cashmere scarf. It's great for the winter, it will keep you warm - but it's also such a light weight that it can be worn into the spring. These are all vegetable-dyed, as well, so the colors are really vibrant. We have a large variety of them."

Another option is a Kilim wallet ($50). "This is made in Turkey. It's leather. Killims are flat weave rugs, so these are made out of the rug remnants."

In an adjoining pair of rooms, Work the Metal is busy, and my visit fell on a Monday, when I expected it would be quieter.

My sister-in-law has never met a fleur-de-lis she didn't love, and Jack Mathis is happy to show me some locally-centric items.
A coaster set (a set of 4 for $19) "is made locally, it sells really well. It's made with marble, and it's screen-printed. It has a fleur-de-lis and says, 'Louisville.' Some of them just say have a fleur-de-lis, with no words. It's a really affordable gift. They come in about 20 different designs."

I'm concerned that I don't have enough drinking paraphernalia, so I'm glad to see an aluminum ice bucket with a scoop ($30 and $10). "It's not local," warns Mathis, "but it represents Louisville with the fleur-de-lis. A lot of people will pair it with this ice scoop. That's a great gift, a good hostess gift, wedding present gift..."

Visitors to Work the Metal can now also check out the new storefront of Cellar Door Chocolates, where Erika Chavez-Graziano has found space to not only make but also sell her treats. Best of all, she's generous with handing out samples.

I can't think of a better way to reward myself, after doing so much shopping for others (and, OK, maybe a bit for myself, too). Chavez-Graziano tells me that I have to try her white chocolate pretzels ($5 for a quarter pound). "They have Christmas designs, and they are wildly popular during Christmas!"

A variety pack "is always a good hostess gift. It's good to leave in your guest room. It's one of our best sellers. They come in 5, 6 or 7 pieces." (5 piece is $6, 6 piece is $7 and the 7 piece is $8.)

c. 2010 Velocity Weekly

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