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December 06, 2016

Holiday Gift Guide 2016: Philly gift ideas for novelties, books and toys

Shopping Holidays
2016 Holiday Gift Guide Submitted photo/for PhillyVoice

1) A rabbit hug cushion from Japanese-themed boutique Omoi Zakka, 2) A screenshot from 'Dragon Fin Soup,' a locally developed video game, 3) A snowball dog toy available at Doggie Style, 4) Tegu magnetic wooden blocks, available at East Passyunk Avenue toy shop, Tildie's Toy Box, 5) A Polydactyl 'shrimp taco,' made from cotton and polyester, and filled with organic catnip.

Where to start?

That's the yearly conundrum so many of us face this time of year, bombarded with advertisements and social pressures to discover the perfect gift. Joyous as it may be to congregate for the mass unwrapping of gifts, the process of getting to that moment can be...well, exhausting. 

In the spirit of offering a jump-off point for this year's search, catch 25 local ideas that'll at least get you started – everything from a cocktail recipe book to coal that cleans. 

Novelties & Housewares

1) South Fellini Philly-themed pins. Intent on showing off the "pretty and gritty" of South Philly, South Fellini's Tony Trov and Johnny Zito opened their East Passyunk Avenue novelty shop this year for precisely this sort of occasion. Go for the pins –ideally the Wawa Jawn, but their newly released East Passyunk logo pins will also do just fine. ($12, or 1507 E. Passyunk Ave.)

2) Michael Malizia custom drawings. Wanting something a little more personal? Hoboken sketch artist Michael Malizia transforms memories – think: photos of a since-gone pet or a scene from a home video – into an artwork. This is one that, surely, will stick around for generations. ($650-plus,

3) Yowie bottle opener. Most of us can agree that bottle openers aren't the most sightly objects stocking our kitchen. Yowie, the online shop that operates out of the Italian Market, is offering a colorful Pat Kim bottle opener that promises to not "be banished into the utensil drawer." Sold. ($36,

4) Japanese-style apron. This open-back apron is made from reclaimed linens with customizable pockets. To boot, 25 percent of proceeds are forwarded to Urban Agriculture. Consider it a good starter gift for the family's cook-in-training. ($88,

5) Philadelphia tree ornament. If the tree's looking devoid of Philly representation this year, this one's a no-brainer as a stocking stuffer or bonus gift for mom or dad. Go with the AIA Design Center's ornament, which packs in depictions of One Liberty Place, City Hall and the Liberty Bell. ($25, or 1218 Arch St.)


1) "Cooking for Two: Your Dog and You!" by Brandon Schultz. Brandon Schultz, who authored last year's "Cooking for Two: Your Cat and You," returns with what's essentially the canine version of the same book. Inside, find recipes for people that are accompanied with comparable dishes for dogs. Naturally, you'll want to pick this up for the dog-lover in the family. ($13,

2) "Give Me a Fast Ship" by Tim McGrath. With the opening of the Museum of the American Revolution looming on the horizon (April, if you're wondering), there's never been a better time to indulge in colonial history. Start with this history of the Continental Army's navy, detailed by local historian Tim McGrath, who sits on the board of the Independence Seaport Museum. ($17,

3) "Colonial Spirits" by Steven Grasse. Grasse serves up 50 colonial cocktail recipes, recalling the age of the original craft distillers – when colonials used the elements to concoct the most palatable drinks they could. To spruce up the gift, pair it with ingredients for one of the cocktails. ($25,

4) "The Christmas Coal Man" by Joe Kulka. Want a Christmas tale for your kids with a local spin? Immerse them in the story of the man who mines for the coal that fills stockings across the country – crafted by Moore College of Art & Design alum Kulka. ($18,

5) "The Mighty Odds" by Amy Ignatow. For the preteen, give the adventure of middle-school-age kids – all from vastly different backgrounds – who mysteriously inherit a slew of superpowers. Fun but insightful, it's a mighty coming-of-age story for anyone entering that awkward period of life we all love to forget. ($16, or Children's Book World in Haverford)

Food & Drink

1) Victory Brewing Company Java Cask Beer. This much-sought-after seasonal dark brew blends together a sweet bourbon flavor with coffee notes and a stout base. But, be careful. It packs a wallop with a 14.3 percent alcohol by volume (ABV). ($15, available at Victory brewpub locations in 750-millileter bottles)

2) Rival Bros. Coffee Subscription. The subscription comes with a variety of coffee options, allowing subscribers to rotate shipments of three blends (in sum: bright, espresso and chocolate), or pay a little more to opt for the seasonal single-origin selects. Pair it with a chemex, if you really want to go the whole nine yards for your family's coffee connoisseur. ($205,

3) Miller's Smorgasbord Gift Card. Have a friend or family member who frequents the many Amish pop-up markets in the city? Treat them to a meal of comfort food at Miller's Smorgasbord in Lancaster – an authentic, long-running dining experience that everyone should cross off their Philly-area bucket list. ($25,

4) Reading Terminal Market Gift Certificate. C'mon, people. This one's a no-brainer for anyone who's coming up short on gift ideas. Quite simply, you can't go wrong with the gift of Reading Terminal. (Various prices, certificates purchasable at the Reading Terminal Market upstairs office.)

5) Biscotti Quartet Tin. Really, you can't go wrong with an assortment of pastries and candies from Anthony's Italian Coffeehouse. But the biscotti is probably the safe bet: Anthony's tin comes with the classic Gilda's almond biscotti, plus three other flavors – including a rich chocolate. ($40,


1) Rabbit Hug Cushion. Cute and cuddly, this all-ages pillow is made for stress relief and, yes, all-around joyfulness. Though it's pictured in the sherbert color and shape, longer and more diverse styles are also available if you're willing to pay a bit more. ($26-plus, or 1608 Pine St.)

2) "Dragon Fin Soup." Have a gamer in the family? Skip the AAA game purchases and keep it local. The team at Grimm Bros. carefully crafted this atmospheric action-RPG game, available for all PlayStation platforms and PC. ($20,

3) Snowball Dog Toy. A snowball your dog can actually fetch. And it's minty, to boot. ($12,

4) Tegu Magnetic Wooden Blocks. Described by Tildie's owner Michele Gillen-Doobrajh as an "heirloom-quality" product, these magnetic wooden blocks come in different colors and themes (monsters, robots, etc.). Importantly, they also make a clicking sound when they snap together. ($20 to $100, Tildie's Toy Box at 1829 E. Passyunk Ave.)

5) Shrimp Catnip Taco. Sure, Delco cat-toy company Polydactyl has a whole lineup of food-themed catnip toys, but few sights are better than watching your cat snuggle up to a shrimp taco. ($8,

Style & Beauty

1) b.a.r.e. Soaps' "lump of coal." A company cofounded by a University of Pennsylvania alum, b.a.r.e. Soaps' "lump of coal" soap was made for stockings. And with charcoal as an ingredient (it strips the pores of oils), this cheeky soap is very much functional, too. ($8.50,

2) Yantra-Healing Oatmeal Soak. Yes, oatmeal – as good a cleanser as any other. Or, at least, if the person you're buying for aims for the all-natural route. For good measure, the soak also mixes with a motley crew of other go-to natural ingredients: lavender oil, chamomile, Chrysanthemum and coconut flakes, among others. ($12, or 1707 E. Passyunk Ave.)

3) Laurel Hill Moon Phase Cuff. For the gypsy spirit in the family – at a surprisingly reasonable price, put next to most comparable products. ($68, or 819 N. 2nd St.)

4) Drape Sweater (Black or Grey). You've probably noticed the emergence of the draping sweater in the past year or so, making it a safe style choice as a gift. Keep it local with ADHD's one-size, soft-knit take on the sweater, available at Fishtown's Toile. ($60,

5) Maddy Tote Bag. Philadelphia Fashion Incubator alumna Sherrill Mosee created a tote bag that's about as all-in-one as bags get. It's a purse, an overnight bag, a laptop carrier and a wristlet (there's an attachment inside). Just when you think you've run out of compartments in this bag, new ones crop up. For: the urban mom, or anyone who enjoys the sheer novelty of having a multi-functional bag. ($170,

RELATED LINKS: Philadelphia officials offer holiday decorating safety tips | Where to view holiday lights in the Philadelphia area | Annual TOY fundraiser returns for 10th year, at new location