It happens every year ...
The week before Christmas, you become one of those "works best under pressure" types. Or, more to the point, you tell yourself you're one of those "works best under pressure" types.
And that's how you wind up with safe, generic bath salts for Mom, and a really nice umbrella for Dad.
Look, just because the clock's winding down doesn't mean you have to completely sell out. There are plenty of local sources for unique gifts, even thoughtful gifts, that you can get without too much trouble at the last minute. Below, we humbly suggest a few; if you've got some others you'd like to share with fellow soon-to-be-desperate shoppers, please consider commenting on this story.
Good luck, and happy holidays!
It's been a year full of surprises: Sarah Palin quit office to avoid taking "the quitter's way out"; Michael Jackson achieved his longed-for comeback by croaking; and Tiger Woods, well, you know.
In these uncertain and fast-changing times, we'd all like to know what's coming next. So, why not give the gift of being forewarned?
Your favorite future-seeker will be pleased to receive a psychic reading in his or her stocking. Or at least a Celebration Conscious Living Store (2209 W. Colorado Ave., celebrationstore.com) gift certificate good for a session with any of the store's nine psychic readers. (Peruse their bios online.) Prices run $35 per half-hour for in-store readings and $40 per half-hour for phone readings. What a great surprise! — JT
Theatreworks' Web site (theatreworkscs.org) carries some goodies beyond the obvious tickets: coffee mugs, gift certificates to local restaurants, T-shirts, etc. Best of all, individual items and packages range from $5 to $70, and with mail delivery or box office pick-up available, there's a way for everyone to enjoy a little theater magic. — LE
In the era of the laptop, it's difficult to appreciate the artistry of publications printed on a letterpress. But there is something — maybe the lingering smell of ink, or the knowledge that each print is unique — about broadsides that can be appreciated even by those entirely unfamiliar with the tedious hours of setting type, proofing and printing.
To this end, selections from Colorado College's visiting writers, as well as other books and posters printed at the Penny Press at Colorado College (coloradocollege.edu/library/index.php/press), make perfect last-minute gifts. Offerings include the signed poem "Cloud" by the U.S. Poet Laureate, Kay Ryan, for $15.
All prints are posted on the Web site, but you might want to stop by the shop yourself. You'll get the type of feeling your computer just can't convey. — JK
The freshly crafted edibles from locally based Heaven Scent Cheesecake (heavenscentcheesecake.com) are tailor-made for the holiday season: Magi bread, English toffee, white chocolate pumpkin cheesecake and pecan pie all speak to the sweet fervor that cold air brings.
However, these are but the tip of the icing-berg. Cheesecake flavors like chocolate truffle ($34.99), blueberry ($22.99) and plain ol' plain ($18.99) are available, as are orange, raspberry and chocolate truffles ($15.99 per pound), turtles ($19.99 per pound) and chocolate pretzels ($9.99 per pound). It's online only, but with a three-day turnaround — or next-day service, if you insist — Heaven Scent could easily be your first stop for last-minute tooth-decaying bliss. — BC
You could gift your favorite foodie some locally grown produce or meat, but if you're not sure how to wrap a side of beef or a bucketful of micro-greens, a wiser choice might be to buy a Colorado-focused cookbook.
The Junior League of Colorado Springs' A Peak at the Springs, released earlier this year, includes more than 100 recipes from League members, families and friends, as well as 10 local professional chefs. For $26.95, this coffee-table format book also features photography from award-winning nature photog Todd Caudle. Available online at jlcoloradosprings.org or at about a dozen locations across town (see Web site for complete list), this cookbook will be easy to pick up and even easier to wrap. — KA
Can't decide what to get that picky girlfriend? How about a hunka hunka burnin' love?
Talk about the gift that keeps on giving — the 2010 Colorado Springs Fire Fighters Calendar (iafflocal5.com). For just $15 you can support our local heroes while making that special person salivate with every passing month. (Hello, January! Buenos días, February!)
Let's face it: Shirtless firefighters never get old. So forget the fruitcake this year and go for the beefcake. — JAS
EvolveFISH (evolvefish.com) is a local, Web-based family business "dedicated to countering the destructive aspects of religious zealotry." In its arsenal: a "Top 10 reasons beer is better than Jesus" bumper sticker ($2), a "Have you threatened your children with eternal damnation today?" button ($2), and the classic "Come the Rapture, can I have your car?" magnet ($3.70). You get the idea. Worth noting: Should an act of God befall your purchase, EvolveFISH offers replacement insurance for $5. — BC
The Colorado Christmas Basket, for $75 or $100, includes everything from caramel and jalapeño popcorn to Aspen cider and elk and buffalo sticks. There are other baskets, too, at Colorado Gift Baskets (coloradogiftbaskets.com), and all can ship within 24 hours. The business operates out of a home, so pick-up isn't an option, but since it's here, Colorado Gift Baskets can quickly deliver your order to a local residence or business.
And if you need another one-stop choice, create your own basket by driving to The Wines of Colorado (8045 W. U.S. Hwy. 24, Cascade, winesofcolorado.com). Walk through the restaurant, pick up bottles and accessories, and be as frugal or extravagant as you wish. — RR
The holidays are the perfect time to force indulgence for those on your gift list that you're unsure what to give. Try the only Russell Stover store in town, at 3660 Austin Bluffs Pkwy., where you can find novelties such as caramel and marshmallow Santas and coconut wreaths for as little as 49 cents each, or a five-pound box of assorted chocolates for $59.95. For the seriously addicted, there's Santa's Sleigh, packed with $149.95 worth. There are plenty of sugar-free goodies, too. — PZ
For those who live in apartments, or simply don't want to drive the spouse away, musical instruments can be something of a challenge. Neighbors are not, as a rule, fond of Marshall amps. Or, for that matter, bagpipes. (You're never alone with a bagpipe, I always like to say.) So when buying that special gift for the aspiring or accomplished musician on your list — assuming he or she doesn't live a hermetic life somewhere due west of Divide — consider a visit to Cripple Creek Dulcimers (740 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, dulcimer.net/store).
You might, for instance, opt for a hammered dulcimer. It's kind of like a little harp that you hit with hammers, except that they're little hammers, with cloth-covered mallet heads. Delighted neighbors will think angels have broken into the apartment next door.
Or go for an actual harp — not the kind that Harpo Marx used to play, but Irish harps with names like the County Clare 22, the County Kerry 24 and the County Cork 26. The shop also sells bowed psalteries and Native American flutes, but now you're moving toward the Henny Youngman and Zamfir end of the neighborhood-annoyance spectrum, in which case you may as well just go with the Chinese gong. — BF
Sure, chocolate makes a nice holiday present, but consider some locally produced, small-batch cacao products as a more special gift. You can always procure something from the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory (rmcf.com, featured below), Patsy's Candies (patsyscandies.com) or the Pineapple Daisy (thepineappledaisy.com), all of which provide options ranging from berries hand-laced with Belgian chocolate to custom-molded bars. But IzzyBelle Chocolate (izzybellechocolate.com), based in Castle Rock, also makes a line of rich, bottled chocolate sauces in flavors like peanut butter, orange, raspberry and toffee. Made from Scharffen Berger chocolate and incorporating organic ingredients when possible, they can be found at Whole Foods or ordered online. — MS
Colorado Springs is a thrift-store playground, with numerous Goodwills, Arcs, boutique shops like Swish and Eve's Revolution and, to my pleasant surprise, the Assistance League of Colorado Springs' Bargain Box (211 E. Costilla St., 475-1029). This small but well-stocked establishment carries mainly clothing and housewares, with a respectable amount of toys, accessories and magazines. Items are in great condition for thrift-store fare, and the prices are even better: Evening shoes (for a co-worker's party outfit) rang up at $5, and my brand new, thick-and-cushy bathroom rug at $2.
The Bargain Box is run entirely by volunteers, and proceeds benefit Operation School Bell, which last year clothed more than 4,000 local children and teens. The charity enterprise is now in its 40th year, and the thrift store has resided in its current location since 1975. Where have I been all this time? — EA
It's possible that the last-minute gift you've been looking for is in Jessica Seybold's guest room. Beyond the pounds of soap drying on a huge rack, inside the walk-in closet, sits the product inventory of Bearski Bath and Body, the business Jessica started in May with her husband, Christian.
While the Seybolds make, package and sell products including scrubs, balms, lotions and sprays (bearskibathandbody.com) out of their 1,300-square-foot home, their kitchen soaps are especially noteworthy: Using unpasteurized goat milk from Calhan and "very strong" coffee — both brewed and in grounds — Bearski puts together scents like Café Caribe (cloves, cinnamon, sweet orange and vanilla) that replace even garlic and onion smells with rich, earthy fragrances. Jessica will personally pack and ship your order within a day or two, even if you'd like it in gift-basket form.
If you like the soap, maybe you can gift the Seybolds a house-hunting lead; they're looking for a place with "lots of unfinished basement space and accessible plumbing." — KW
At the Mayor's Breakfast in late October, Colorado College president Dick Celeste happily shilled on behalf of the Downtown Partnership and its Downtown Colorado Springs Gift Card. Given Mayor Lionel Rivera and Gazette publisher Steve Pope made the morning's other remarks, in support of doomed tax-raising Measure 2C, Celeste's spiel was probably the most valuable thing to come out of that event.
The gift card is a good deal: You can put anywhere from $10 to $500 on it (even more with special approval), and the card recipient can use it at more than 100 merchants across the heart of the city. A full list is available at downtown80903.com/giftcards. — KW
For those of us who thrive on finding one-of-a-kind items, etsy.com carries the most distinctive, handmade items — from jewelry and buttons to bags and antiques — that one can imagine. Furthermore, the "local buy" feature (etsy.com/shop_local.php) yields a large selection of treasures from local jewelry-makers, tailors, crafters and overall artists. Poke around a bit and you'll find site shops like Manitou Moxie Girls (moxiegirls.etsy.com), offering up hand-blown glass bead jewelry from Jannine Scott, and Little Shop of Orr's (littleshopoforrs.etsy.com), housing K8E Orr's funky charms and earrings. These items are perfect for stocking-stuffers and ribbon-wrapped offerings of joy alike. — LE
For your history buff friend or relative, check out Here Lies Colorado Springs, a book featuring people who are buried in the city's Evergreen Cemetery. Among those featured are Bob Womack, who discovered gold in Cripple Creek but died penniless in 1909; city founder William Jackson Palmer, who also died in 1909, and Artus Van Briggle, famous potter who moved here in 1899 as a tuberculosis patient and died in 1904.
The city has only 200 copies of this 1995 treasure left, and, "When it's gone, it's gone, because we can never afford to reprint it," says manager William DeBoer. The books cost $30 and are available at the cemetery office, 1005 N. Hancock Ave. — PZ
Even in this age of hand-held electronic devices, calendars continue to be an annual favorite for gift-giving. (You can't really hang an iPhone on the wall, now can you?) This year, wrap up the only calendar out there that helps a recipient keep track of her days and supports local mental health services. Pikes Peak Behavioral Health Group's Expressions of Hope 2010 Art Calendar features works produced by participants in the organization's art therapy program. Purchase at ppbhg.org or at local stores including Poor Richard's Book Store and Colorado Co-op for just $10. — KA
Blindworm Guitars luthier Andrew Scott makes and sells insanely hand-carved guitars, basses and other string-driven things out of his Garden of the Gods-area home as well as for Colorado Guitar Emporium (2997 Broadmoor Valley Road, coguitaremporium.com), where he also handles all the instrument repair. You can visit his Web site, blindwormguitars.com, to see the Elephant Six guitar he made for the Apples in Stereo's Robert Schneider.
Scott crafted it out of the usual meteorite dust, dinosaur bones and a combination of walnut and poplar woods. Schneider insists that while playing it, he feels like he's "holding a living creature." Unfortunately, it's a one-of-a-kind living creature, but Scott's got plenty more creations that are just perfect for your own neo-psychedelic indie-rock excursions.
Prices generally begin around $2,000, which makes it a little pricier than that Starcast electric guitar/amp starter pack you were previously considering, but you probably figured that. Scott's also been known to carve up a mean Chinese dragon violin, an excellent Giraffello (spotted cello with a giraffe headstock), and custom doors for Kinfolks, covered with forest critters happily playing a variety of musical instruments. So if you've got a serious holiday gift budget, incredibly huge stockings, and extremely music-obsessed loved ones, all your problems are now solved. — BF
For decades, American manufacturing jobs have been moving overseas. And that's led to a lot of dire consequences, from unemployment to an unstable national economic base to toys from China that contain lead and other icky stuff.
What can we do? Well, for one thing, we can buy American-made products. Single dad Kendall York is making this easier with his new Manitou Springs store, the American Toy Factory (906 Manitou Ave., #104). Every rubberband gun, robot and play kitchen was made right here in the U. S. of A. And prices start at just a few bucks.
York works in toy manufacturing himself — he makes super-cool football player robots that do everything from run to talk smack — and he's a repository of interesting information. (For instance, did you know that the only American-made stuffed animals are handmade?) He keeps a map on the wall with pushpins marking everywhere he's found a U.S. manufacturing job; so far, the map's pretty barren.
But maybe little efforts like his will change that. So, here's to rebuilding the American economy, one model airplane at a time. — JAS
We started with vegetables, then graduated to bees and chickens. Now the D.I.Y. trend may include alpacas — you know, those cute-as-a-button mini-llamas with thick, downy wool. In January, Peak Ranch Alpacas (19850 Beacon Lite Road, Monument, 481-6129, peakranchalpacas.com) will host a $50, half-day purse-making class with lunch and supplies included. (A hat class is slated for February.)
For the less hands-on or more allergic, this local family farm also offers handmade alpaca cards, bookmarks and statues, all available either at the ranch's home store (open Saturdays, 10 to 4) or online with same-day or next-day shipping. For a few thousand dollars each, Peak Ranch also sells alpacas themselves — as do other local ranches like C2 Alpacas (c2alpacas.com), where fawn suri Bianca (see photo above) awaits a new owner. Of course, shipping options may be more limited.
Another alpaca option: Out of Westcliffe, Springtime Farms (snugglytoes.com) offers Snuggly Toes, alpaca wool shoe inserts to keep your feet warm. Farm owner Meredith O'Neil handcrafts Snuggly Toes from wool off her 30 alpacas, which is sent to a small farm mill to be spun, then back to O'Neil to be knitted and felted.
At $39.95 per pair, Snuggly Toes last at least a season, says O'Neil, and can be washed (cold cycle with air dry, of course). She advises using them in shoes with sufficient wiggle room, and to order a larger pair for half-sizes, as they can be trimmed.
Buy here and you'll feel warm on the inside too, knowing Snuggly Toes help support Springtime Farms, which runs on solar and wind power. O'Neil hopes to have a completely self-sustaining operation someday, when she gets her goats to stop eating her vegetables. — EA
With all the togetherness of the holidays, there's sure to be at least one person on your list whom you'd love to send on a trip far, far away. Consider bestowing on those special people a B&B gift certificate. Check out Web sites like bnbfinder.com or bedandbreakfast.com to instantly e-mail a certificate that can be used at B&Bs locally or, better yet, across the United States. — JT
Why not give a gift that, by its nature, is always late? Magazine subscriptions can take six to eight weeks to start, so all you're down for on the big day is a nice card saying how you thoughtfully chose to send one related to, say, gardening, or tattoos, or video games. Two notes of caution here: It's probably best not to get your partner a magazine that really interests you. And magazines about fitness just might send the wrong message. — AL
This involves giving away one of my favorite things in life, which isn't easy. In fact, it's like revealing the location of a secret fishing spot. But you won't normally find a traffic jam at MacVan The Map Company, with its own ample in-front parking at 929 W. Colorado Ave. (633-5757), and inside, there's plenty of room for geography junkies among the maps, globes, atlases and more.
If you're buying for someone who loves to explore Colorado, you can find items that provide detail down to the most primitive national forest roads. I recommend the Colorado Road & Recreation Atlas, ($24.95), but another one to look for is the Colorado Geologic Highway Map ($6.95), with descriptions of geologic formations, 14,000-foot peaks, old mines and even dinosaur haunts. — RR
Contributors: Edie Adelstein, Kirsten Akens, Bryce Crawford, Lora Elliott, Bill Forman, John Knight, Anthony Lane, Ralph Routon, Matthew Schniper, J. Adrian Stanley, Kirk Woundy and Pam Zubeck.