By Wayne Bell
This year’s “It List” has gift ideas available from some locally owned Northwest Arkansas businesses and a few from major retailers. Here are 15 great gifts for less than $50.
Gift Card to the Wine Cellar
Price: From $20
Find: The Wine Cellar, Fayetteville
Perfect for: Anyone 21 or older
For those of you who haven’t made it to the fabulous new Wine Cellar near Dickson Street, you are really missing out! This place rivals any big-city wine bar. Our favorite gal, Barb, is now queen bee at Fayetteville’s hottest bar. The place is packed on weekend nights and is particularly great on Friday evenings when there is live jazz. Thanks to an inventive wine list and the fantastic option of being able to sample wine in small amounts from an automated dispenser, the bar has become extremely popular. In addition to wine, there’s a full bar and a nice menu of small plates including a wonderful cheese board. A gift certificate or pre-loaded wine card would make the perfect gift for just about anyone on your list.
‘The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food’ by Judith Jones
Price: $24.95 hardback, $14.95 softback
Find: Nightbird Books, Fayetteville
Perfect for: The reader
It’s not often that I want to shout from the rafters about a fantastic new book, but this one has met the challenge. Written by the legendary editor who helped shape modern cookbook publishing, “The Tenth Muse” is an engrossing, eloquent and simple memoir detailing a woman’s life through food. The book is a true love letter to all things culinary. It is exquisitely simple and well-written, which makes it the perfect book to cuddle with on a cold winter’s night … with snacks of course.
Ray LaMontagne’s ‘Gossip in the Grain’
Price: About $15-$18
Find: Sound Warehouse, Fayetteville
Perfect for: Anyone
Last year on this very list, I listed the album “Back to Black” by Amy Winehouse and correctly predicted her Record of the Year Grammy. I’m afraid that I can’t do that this year with Ray LaMontagne since very few people have heard of him. The former shoemaker from Maine recently released his third, and most beautiful, album “Gossip in the Grain.” The folk/blues/soul singer has a stunning voice that is only topped by his beautiful lyrics. With gems like “Hey Me, Hey Mama” and “Let Me Be The One,” this is LaMontagne’s finest work to date.
Lavare Bath Soaps
Price: About $11
Find: Specialty stores
Perfect for: Those who need some stress relief
I have always cherished those quiet moments when I can unwind in a bath, with a good book, of course. The 12-ounce Lavare 100 percent vegetable bath soaps are huge. You could probably fit six regular bars of soap into one of these. My love of this brand stems from the original scents that Lavare produces. I am currently in love with the pumpkin cream and apple. However, other popular choices include fig, almond and ginseng. These are wonderfully rich stocking stuffers, which will surely please anyone on your list.
10-Piece Glass Bowl Set
Find: Williams-Sonoma, Rogers
Perfect for: The chef
It’s hard to believe that I could put something from Williams-Sonoma on this list and call it a steal. However, this set truly is. Used by just about every major chef and cook on the Food Network, Fine Living and Bravo, these mixing bowls are really outstanding. The clear glass bowls come in a variety of sizes that fit within each other and can be used as mixing bowls and even freezer vessels for ice cream. This is an economical gift that can be found within the walls of a store that usually hurts the wallet.
MUJI Cardboard Colored Pencil Set
Find: Museum of Modern Art Store (Moma.org)
Perfect for: The trendy artist
This handsome collection of colored pencils makes the perfect gift for those trendy, creative types on your holiday shopping list. Packed with an assortment of fine colored pencils, the Museum of Modern Art store offers this set in a charming cardboard tube. This is a really great find for anyone who might be difficult to buy for. Everyone loves a nice colored pencil set.
Price: About $15 a month
Perfect for: The music lover
I grew up in the Napster generation. I still know people (not me, of course) who “borrow” music from online sources. However, my partner recently introduced me to Rhapsody and I really enjoy it. For $15 a month, you can actually download and play “borrowed” music. Essentially, you look up an album you like and “borrow” it on your portable listening device or computer. You are allowed to play it as many times as you like, BUT, you can’t burn it to CD. This means you can have the music as long as you want without having to buy the CD. If you choose to, you can purchase the CD from Rhapsody at a discounted rate. It’s a brilliant concept that allows you to rent CDs and discover new artists and music that you might not have found otherwise. And, you don’t get that dirty feeling that you get from Napster and its cousins.
Price: About $15-$18
Find: Sound Warehouse, Fayetteville
Perfect for: Music savvy friend
My partner will tell you to avoid this CD at all costs, because he has been subjected to it for months. It is true; Estelle’s debut single “American Boy” featuring Kanye West (who also has an excellent new CD, “808’s and Heartbreak”) was hands down, my favorite song of the year. It is so damn catchy and well written. I hope that Grammy voters throw some love to the British hip-hop princess, preferably in the Record of the Year category. I would invest in this CD, because the entire album delivers. Imagine a British Lauryn Hill with less anger, more fun and the spirit of Eve. Estelle should be a huge star but, alas, she is not … yet. This CD will put a smile on any music lover’s face.
Little Bread Company Gift Card
Price: from $10 and up
Find: Little Bread Company, Fayetteville
Perfect for: Anyone
Thanksgiving has passed, but I can truly say that all Fayettevillians should be grateful for the newly reopened Little Bread Company. I still remember the pangs of sadness I felt when I walked to the door of Little Bread Company this summer and saw that it was closed because of tax problems. It was a wonderful surprise when it re-opened this fall. I don’t know about the weekday traffic, but Saturday mornings have been packed since the re-opening. The joy of drinking hot coffee and eating a warm blackberry muffin in the winter is only rivaled by the joy of drinking iced coffee and a scone in the summer in Little Bread’s beautiful garden patio. I hope that everyone embraces this establishment and its hardworking employees. This would make the perfect gift for anyone who wants to support the local economy and who doesn’t want to give a gift item that may never be used. This is enjoyment.
‘Mad Men’ DVD Set
Price: About $50
Find: Media Outlets
Perfect for: The TV viewer
And the Emmy goes to Best Drama Series … ‘Mad Men’. Those words were said this past September, and yet many people probably said, “What is Mad Men?” Viewership for this AMC drama has never been particularly high and that baffles me. It might be the smartest drama on TV since “The Sopranos,” and this one isn’t even on a premium cable channel. Following the life of an ad executive, his wife and his colleagues in the early 1960s, this smartly written drama started with a bit of a cult following before winning the Emmy, Golden Globe and countless other awards. It is eerily similar in its rise to fame as the previously mentioned (and missed) HBO smash. It features brilliant acting by January Jones, Christina Hendricks, John Slattery, and the gorgeous could-be-the-next-Clooney, John Hamm.
‘Barefoot Contessa’s Back to Basics’ by Ina Garten
Find: Nightbird Books, Fayetteville
Perfect for: Your foodie friend
Garten’s empire started with a cult following, however, in recent years her empire has grown from a small cookbook line to include magazine columns, glossy coffee table books, gourmet pantry items and, of course, her popular Food Network show. In her latest, and perhaps best book, “Back to Basics,” Garten breaks down some of the recipes that have put her on the map. The newest book shows how to get the best flavors from the simplest ingredients. I fell in love with Garten’s approach years ago and now she seems to be taking off with fans across the country. This book topped the New York Times Best Seller list, and it even sold out at some local retailers. Garten has crossed the line from stuffy cookbook to beautiful coffee table book with stunning photographs that highlight her simple, elegant and above all, approachable cooking and living style. I am a bit obsessed with her writing and I would encourage anyone to purchase her books, this one in particular, for any foodie or wanna-be foodie. If you have trouble finding this hot seller, try her “Barefoot in Paris” title as it is also excellent and one of my favorites.
‘The Dark Knight’ DVD
Price: About $15 – $20
Find: Media outlets
Perfect for: The film fan
OK, I’m pretty good at predicting the Oscars. Mark my words: Heath Ledger will (probably) win Best Supporting Actor. I’m pretty sure that no one will be able to dethrone him, and who would want to vote against him? The truth is, he gave an excellent performance in the second highest grossing film of all time. The entire production was scary, devilishly fun and extremely well done. Is it over the top at times? Yes! Is it too long? Yes! Is Christian Bale a bad actor? Yes! None of that matters. Heath stole this movie and adding its widescreen version to your collection is a must.
Philosophy Hope in a Jar
Find: Luxe or Glo, Fayetteville
Perfect for: Winter skin
Oprah has put this on her “Favorite Things” list three or four times. I finally decided a few years ago to give it a try, and the truth is, it is the best remedy for winter skin that I have tried. It’s extremely light and works for both men and women. It is a pricey item, but it works. It can change the texture of your skin and is a must during the winter season, if not all year long. Larger containers are a better value, but you can give it a try for less than 40 bucks. This product is a classic for Philosophy and has been a huge seller for years. Give it a try.
Price: from $2 for a button
Find: Best bet Barackobama.com
Perfect for: The politico in your family
Anything that has our new president’s name on it became collectable the day he was elected. Many of the posters by artists are sold out. Buttons, T-shirts, magazine and newspaper covers and bumper stickers became hot commodities. For those of you who want to learn more about this man and his message, start with his 2006 bestseller, “The Audacity of Hope.”
Price: From $18
Find: Gift House Antiques, Fayetteville
Perfect for: Those needing to relax
I am always on the lookout for the perfect candle. I prefer candles with strong scents but that don’t cause your head to hurt. Essentially, I want to get the most bang for my buck, but I don’t want my head or my house to end up too smelly because of a candle. I recently reconnected with a few old favorites, courtesy of Trapp. I burn the Sugar Cane candle every night. If you haven’t had the chance to check out the beautiful Gift House Antiques, this is the perfect time to drop by.
One last thing. Chances are you are reading a free copy of the Free Weekly right now. Since the Free Weekly is supported by our advertisers, I’d like to recommend that you spend the price of a subscription with one of our retail advertisers. These businesses are the ones that bring you the free paper throughout the year.