November 24, 2015
As the "Christmas Creep" gets closer and closer to Halloween and Black Friday steadily becomes a maelstrom of good sales and bad behavior, shopping for gifts that your loved ones actually want gets harder and harder. The average shopper is inundated with holiday picks from major retailers, but smaller brands and more thoughtful gifts often get lost in the shuffle.
Thus, for our first Philadelphia gift guide, we'll be highlighting some of our favorite local creations -- books from area authors, crafts from local artisans and knick knacks that remind us of home.
Below, you'll find our favorite gifts for readers, animal lovers, gaming and gadget fiends, folks itching to be pampered and the hard-to-shop-for. In part one of our gift guide, you'll find gifts for sports fans, food and drink items, housewares, toys for kids, clothing and accessories.
Peruse our suggestions, then share who you'll be shopping for this season with us in the comments.
1. "Dewey Bob" by Judith Schachner: The story of a funny, fuzzy raccoon who's collected everything but a friend, Dewey Bob is a beautifully illustrated story for children about friendship and curiosity. ($13.50, Amazon.com and Children's Book World)
2. "Cooking for Two: Your Cat & You" by Brandon Schultz and Lucy Schultz-Osenlund: Loaded with recipes that are (safely) shareable with your cat, including dishes like breakfast frittatas, consider it the perfect gift for bachelors and bachelorettes who are serious about setting a placemat for their furry bedfellows. ($14, Amazon.com)
3. "Coup de Foudre" by Ken Kalfus: A collection of 15 short stories that range from funny to farcical, the book's marquee tale is a novella-length societal dissection of the sex and scandal in the life of a high-powered New York executive. It's a treat for those unafraid to question conventional thinking. ($16, Amazon.com)
4. "2 a.m. at the Cat's Pajamas" by Marie-Helene Bertino: A Philadelphia- and Christmas Eve-set read that intersects the lives of three of the city's most invested jazz lovers -- including a 9-year-old aspiring jazz singer. It's a laugh-out-loud adventure best read by those in-the-know about Philadelphia culture. ($10.60, BarnesandNoble.com)
5. "Searching for Grace Kelly" by Michael Callahan: An engaging, where-did-the-hours-go novel that's as much about the maturation of three young women as it is the storied past of the Barbizon Hotel (once home to Philadelphia icon Grace Kelly, if you're wondering). Snag a copy for young women about to take a slice out of life, or for any historical fiction fan who appreciates details that animate a version of New York long ago gone extinct. (BarnesandNoble.com, $13)
1. Chilly Dog Sweaters red and white scarf: Beyond offering a selection of sweaters that could have you "Aw-ing" for hours, this Delco-based operation also offers 100 percent wool, South American-made scarves that are just as cute but easier to put on. ($15.99, ChillyDogSweaters.com)
2. Signature Bonz all-natural dog treats: Another Delco-based business, Signature Bonz makes strictly all-natural dog treats. Pick one up on-the-cheap at Litterpaw Pet Supply, or order in bulk online. ($1-$3, Litterpaw Pet Supply and SignatureBonz.com)
4. The Woofer: "The Woofer" is a custom-tailored coat engineered by local entrepreneur Matthew Baron, who personally builds each sweater to be able to sync with your phone or MP3 player to blast jams from your dog. Tip: Order with a few weeks to spare before the holiday. ($100-$120, TheWoofer.com)
5. Barn Yarn Animals at Rittenhouse Pet Supply: These winsome toys, stuffed in Doylestown with catnip grown in Washington, are some of Rittenhouse Pet Supply's most popular items of the season, coming in characters that range from a witch to Little Red Riding Hood. ($2.25, 135 S. 20th St.)
1. NeatReceipts portable scanner: Weighing in at less than a pound, Neat's portable scanner -- which connects to computers through a USB cable -- reads and archives receipts and other documents, as well as organizes them through "digital filing cabinet" software. It's a dream come true for businesspeople who are always on the go or constantly submitting expense reports. ($129, Neat.com)
2. LocoXtreme: A programmable robot, LocoRobo's LocoXtreme teaches kids how to code while providing entertainment through music and interaction through gesture-based technology. Think of it as the remote-control car of the future. ($169, LocoRobo.co)
3. RESISTOR_: This card game, developed by Philadelphia game developers Nicole Kline and Anthony Amato, thematically has the feel of Risk but the time commitment of Rummy. With the promise of saving yourself from nuclear extinction in about 30 minutes, it's ideal for competitive players who love a little fantasy with their tabletop pastimes. ($20, 3850 Lancaster Ave.)
4. "Intake": Described as an updated version of "Dr. Mario," "Intake," developed by local game company Cipher Prime, melds a retro aesthetic with fast-paced shooter gameplay that revives arcade-like obsessions with high scores. Grab a copy for any gamer who loves a challenge. ($9.99, SteamPowered.com)
5. "ClusterPuck99": Think: ice hockey in digital form. In the Xbox One iteration of the PHL Collective game, it supports eight players at once, making it perfect for Christmas morning. ($9.99, SteamPowered.com)
1. Hand and Stone facial: With locations across the region and massages tailored for all walks of life, a Hand and Stone facial is a crowd-pleaser no matter what age or gender. Thanks to its 30-minute "express facial" offering, it's also a solid match for the busy bees of the world. ($49.95+, HandandStone.com)
2. The FLWRY: Entering its second year, this flower "prescription service" of seasonal blooms offers new membership starting Dec. 7. For the holidays, membership card boxes will be wrapped with Bonnie Kaye Studio homemade wrapping paper and delivered for free. ($45/month, TheFLWRY.com)
3. Lancaster Arts Hotel retreat: A wide selection of getaway packages for the romantically inclined and art-enthused make this an ideal gift for everyone from Mom to your bedmate. Splurge for the loft, and don't leave without seeing a show at the nearby American Music Theatre. (Various prices, LancasterArtsHotel.com)
4. Glass blowing with Jim Loewer: Loewer, who teaches out of his South Philadelphia studio, specializes in Japanese and American glass blowing, making everything from bowls to cups to "wearable art." Newbies start by creating a pendant. ($320 for three one-hour sessions, LoewerGlass.com)
1. 2015 Christmas Village mugs: The ultimate neutral gift, add a Philadelphia twist to this gifting staple by going with the Christmas Village mug, available at the information and hot beverage huts. Alternatively, mosey over to the Chaddsford Winery Hut and nab a free mug when you buy a glass of wine. ($3, 1500 Arch St.)
2. Ink Meets Paper holiday card, plus a charity donation: Turning Points for Children, PAWS, MANNA -- Philadelphia has no shortage of charitable causes, nor do most people lack their own cause. Opt to donate if you're totally clueless as to what to get that co-worker or boss; chances are, you won't go wrong. Then, complement the donation with a holiday card from Occasionette. ($16 for six, 1825 E. Passyunk Ave.)
4. Reading Terminal Market gift certificate: Reading Terminal Market boasts the most diverse lineup of foods the city has to offer and, by extension, the most inoffensive. There's truly something for everyone here, whether you're gifting for an occasional traveler to the city or a longtime resident. (Various prices, 51 N. 12th St. at the Management Office)
5. Philly AIDS Thrift gift certificate: A certificate for the thrift shop, a down-the-rabbit-hole treasure trove of clothes, trinkets and books, offers recipients an array of items and a fun way to spend a weekend afternoon -- not to mention a few bucks toward that next million dollars of AIDS Fund donations. (Various prices, 710 S. Fifth St.)