When Shakespeare advised, "To thine own self be true," he wasn't thinking V-Drums or spa treatments -- or even a complete set of The New Yorker. But as we started casting around for good gift ideas, the bard's lesson seemed a good place to start. We're not suggesting that what rings our chimes will resonate with your family and friends. But we hope that reading what we want -- and why -- will help you focus on the folks
you love, and how their secret taste for, say, disco or a pet iguana might translate into something from your heart. As always, we encourage buying local. And if you decide
to add us to your list, you know where to find us.
A personal trainer. I need someone who can design vigorous workouts around my current limitations: one working Achilles tendon and a 30-mile drive to the gym. Not to be vain, Santa, but my 25th high school reunion is just six months away!
A personal framer. Trolling eBay for kitschy vintage Hawaiian art to decorate my sister's new house, I stumbled on Flowers of Hawaii, a 1938 book with 30 stylized botanical illustrations. I bought myself a beat-up copy with pristine plates, ready for framing -- and to transport me to my childhood.
A stockingful of frequent-flyer miles. With a best friend's wedding in Stockholm this spring and a can't-miss school reunion/luau in Honolulu this summer, I need a Trump-load of miles to get airborne in 2006.
iPod 60GB. Skip the Shuffle and nix the Nano -- I want the fattest iPod out there! My goal: to upload the two or three keeper songs per CD from a disused swath of my collection, and download 99-cent desiderata from the iTunes store, such as my favorite Bach cantata (#106) or disco cheese like Alan O'Day's "Undercover Angel."
A Christmas Carol, first edition.
The words of Marley's ghost stay with me between frequent re-readings: "I wear the chain I forged in life." I own several well-worn paperbacks, but Charles Dickens' 1843 original is a work of art, a five-shilling Christmas mini-indulgence in its own day, bound in salmon-brown leather with gilt lettering and hand-colored illustrations.
A piano dolly. I can't play the piano, so my husband doesn't really fathom my fascination with piano tuning and repair. Despite this, last Christmas he surprised me with an upright junker of my very own. The only problem is, it weighs a ton, and one of its little wheels is AWOL, so it's a bit hazardous to move around. A dolly would help me get my tinkering on.
Sparkly tights and legwarmers. Once the snow sets in and streets get slushy, Vermont is lacking in color. In the midst of winter doldrums, nothing brightens my day like over-the-top legwear. Clad in silver or hot-pink hose and calf-covering glitzy knits, I'll be all set to watch Flashdance when I get home.
Miniature tools. Welcome to the dollhouse. I putter around with Lilliputian puppets and models for animations and amateur theater, and my fascination with the small extends to tiny furniture. Crafting that to-scale armchair would be easier if I had a hand-drill, router and jigsaw cut down to hobby size.
Japanese-style cast-iron teapot. I love tea, but I love heavy metal teapots more. Something about hefting a hot five pounds with every pour focuses one's concentration -- you can't help but slow down and relax.
A cold bottle of ephemere. I was never much of a lite-beer girl, but ephemere changed my mind. The evanescent white fruit beer, which comes in blackcurrant and apple variations, is made by the Quebec-based company Unibroue. The delicately scented Apple contains Granny Smiths, coriander and Curaçao. Open it, and suddenly you're in the middle of a springtime orchard.
The Complete New Yorker -- 4109 issues on eight DVDs. Some people find themselves wondering in the wee hours what movie critic Pauline Kael thought of The Poseidon Adventure, or how "Talk of the Town" weathered the Great Depression. I'm one of them, but to enjoy these I would need the second item on my list.
A fully equipped Apple desktop computer that wouldn't be rendered obsolete by next year's switch to Intel processors. Because there's no way to make a laptop ergonomically correct.
Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know? by Berkeley psych professor Philip E. Tetlock. Tetlock studied 284 pundits and "expert" commentators over 20 years and found that -- surprise! -- they were no better at predicting the future than the average news reader, and often worse. A must-have for grumblers and skeptics.
A guide for the self-employed, with advice on everything from taxes to health insurance to how to keep your cat from pestering you for hourly feedings when you work at home. If this doesn't exist, it should.
A case of Flag Hill Farm Sparkling Hard Cyder, made in Vershire using the methode champenoise. Never mind the twee spelling. This is a bottle of cider just like you'd find crusty old men swigging in Normandy while reminiscing about seeing Josephine Baker in the '30s. The perfect antidote to tax code and insurance literature.
A portable FM receiver -- the kind other folks at the gym strap on their arms, so they can listen to the TV over the hum of the treadmills. Since I'm too snobby to watch television at home, this is my chance to learn what Tony Danza and Kelly Ripa sound like -- not to mention all those music videos on MTV.
If that receiver also played CDs, I could tune out Gwen Stefani and pop in The Kronos Quartet's You've Stolen My Heart: Songs From R.D. Burman's Bollywood. I love Bollywood's over-the-top musical numbers, which sound like Phil Spector-meets-Ravi Shankar. Legendary vocalist Asha Bhosle sings liltingly along with the strings.
OK, I'll say it: I'd like a gift certificate for my first-ever professional massage. At 48, I figure I'm finally old enough to get over my embarrassment and pay a pro to make my body feel good.
Now that I've gotten that secret off my chest, here's another: I crave a leather jacket. The classic motorcycle style. Dark brown. Really buttery. Sometimes I go into Champlain Leather in Burlington just to stroke and smell them.
Blackflower chocolate truffles, hand-crafted in Shelburne, come in amazing, sweet-and-spicy varieties, such as chili vanilla bean, wasabi ginger and Sherry vinegar with Spanish paprika. If I'm going to blow my diet, it better be for something exceptional.
New passport. Fee: $55. Federal security surcharge: $12. Execution fee: $30. Ability to flee the country if Karl Rove & co. bring back the goosestep: Priceless.
New couch. Nothing with overstuffed cushions, straight backs, sharp edges or upholstery that's easily punctured by a dog's toenails. Rule of thumb: A good couch is like a good sex partner: gentle, accommodating, easy on the rump and comfortable in almost any position.
Snow blower. In suburbia, you're nobody unless you can send the white stuff flying off your driveway without breaking a sweat. Give me a self-propelled blower with power steering, a 13-horsepower engine and tracks like a Sherman tank.
Polarized sunglasses. Remember the good ol' days when there used to be an ozone layer? Then a $10 pair of drugstore shades sufficed. These days, serious peeper protection from nasty UV rays is a must. Sadly, the current fashion in eyewear is so alien or insect-like. I prefer the classic Ray-Ban Wayfarers, just like Jake and Elwood wore.
A dog sled. In the dead of winter, it's dark by 4:30 p.m., which leaves little time on workdays for running the dog. But a one-dog sled (with headlamp) would be ideal for burning off some of that excess puppy fuel. And, I could commute on it when gas prices spike above $3.
The Ironman 112M spinning bike. I just can't haul my butt to those crack-of-dawn classes. I'd rather feel the burn while listening to the evening news (which also burns me up), and then jump into my own shower. At $895 the bike is kinda pricey, but I believe I'm worth it.
A Power Puff Girls lunchbox. For years I had a blue, boxy, insulated thing that carried its last meal the day the zipper got stuck with my lunch trapped inside. I'd prefer a PPG unit, but that might be hard to find since the big-eyed urchins seem to have slipped in popularity. (And Dora the Explorer is no substitute!) Second choice: The 1950s-style, construction-worker classic -- black, metal, with a dome for the Thermos.
A day at the spa. Sometimes a girl just needs to be rubbed the right way. Not to mention rehydrated, buffed, scrubbed, polished and pampered. If Santa wants to go all out, he'll spring for the thick-and-cozy bathrobe, too.
A Calphalon Nonstick Omelette Pan. Because one of my life goals is to cajole some eggs into a classic, elegant omelette without it falling apart or sticking to the freakin' skillet.
Bonus stocking stuffer: An "Impeach Bush" bumper sticker. 'Nuf said.
Hydrogen fuel cell motorcycle. My friends marvel that I haven't driven a car in more than a decade. Guess I'd really blow their minds tooling around on one of these. The 50 mph, Emissions Neutral Vehicle looks like something out a Bond flick but costs a mere $6000 -- laser guns optional. The downside? It would be tough finding a filling station outside of California.
The King Kong 2-Disc Special Edition DVD. With director Peter Jackson about to unleash his ritzy remake, what better time to watch the 1933 original? Jackson isn't alone in his gorilla fetish; I spent countless childhood hours studying a grainy VHS copy of the film. The Kong lore included in the extras is sure to drive this monkey bananas.
A romantic dinner at Parima. This time of year, any chance to relax with my significant other is greatly appreciated. Add some delicious vegetarian Thai food and a few exotic beverages and the experience is even lovelier. The way to this man's heart is definitely his belly.
Roland V-Drum. While some know me as a guitarist, my secret fantasy is to pound the skins. But apartment living isn't conducive to late-night, rhythmic rackets. While $3500 is a lot to spend on fake percussion, it could be worth it; if I don't like the internal sounds, I can replace them with other samples using computer technology. Sounds perfectly geeky.
A Supreme Court nomination. So what if I don't have any previous judicial experience? Judging from recent nominations, it may no longer be a prerequisite. And unlike other candidates, I'd be perfectly forthcoming under senatorial interrogation. I'm a pro-choice, pro-gay-marriage, environmentally conscious political realist who loves long walks on the beach and vegan pizza. Who could refuse me?
My house has been without heat since the furnace conked out November 19, so the first item on my list is the high-efficiency Weil-McLain boiler model Ultra 80, complete with a new, dual-pipe hot-water system. The appliance and installation will cost around $13,000. Perhaps Santa could also spring for the removal of our ancient, asbestos-laden steam boiler.
Families Like Mine: Children of Gay Parents Tell It Like It Is. In its review, the Rocky Mountain News described Abigail Garner's 2004 book thusly: "Its contents may not be what people on either side of the gay parenting debate wish to hear -- but that's its great strength." I'd like to read it before my partner gives birth to our first baby in February.
A Subaru Outback 3.0 R Wagon, starting at $28,995. At last, a family car that's safe and fun to drive, and has fewer than 138,872 miles on it! I would happily make do with an Outback 2.5i, starting at $24,795. Please note: I prefer the Willow Green Opal / Moss Green Metallic color combo.
"Lost," Season Two, on DVD. I know, it's not out yet. I rented the Season One DVDs and watched them on my laptop, but haven't been able to watch Season Two, since I don't have a TV. Last I saw, Walt was kidnapped by pirates! I'm also still waiting for Season Five of "Six Feet Under."
"Orange Sky II" by Gillian Klein, $550. I've coveted this painting since the South End Art Hop last fall. It evokes a romanticized urban environment that I associate with my childhood in metro Detroit, and with the bohemian lifestyle I'm giving up to become a parent.
Low-cut long johns. I resist the cold by wearing impractical outfits, but eventually don the johns -- silk, usually -- when I start to lose feeling in my thighs. But where the jeans leave off, the skivvies keep on going. Hip-hugging BVDs, anyone? Deeper Doeskin™ decolletage? Winter wouldn't be so bad if our long underwear stayed under.
A little woodstove. Beats drilling for natural gas off the coast of Florida. Plan B: backyard sauna.
A tango partner. I don't mean this euphemistically; I really would like to get in touch with my inner Argentinean and, by all indications, stepping out sola is not an option. Along with the dance lessons, a Spanish tutor, por favor.
Something to read . . . other than Seven Days stories. Preferably long, fact-filled tomes that will make me feel less like a dilettante. This winter's got Shelby Foote's 3000-page The Civil War: A Narrative written all over it. In a pinch, I could always burn it for fuel.
A Dutch oven. My boyfriend will definitely interpret this as a fart-joke reference, but it's the big, heavy pot I'm after -- a cast-iron Le Creuset goes for $250 on sale. Not to be confused with a crockpot, this cookware is perfect for soups, stews and other long-simmered stuff. And, without it, I'll never get into the International Dutch Oven Society.
I love the bar at One Flight Up, but hate that it takes me at least two flights to get anywhere -- or nowhere, what with all the airline delays. So for my plans to ring in 2006 on a Costa Rican beach, and other, work-related travel next year, I'm asking for unlimited private jet service through South Burlington's Heritage Flight.
I'm not sure when, if ever, the city is going to grant my wish by plowing the Burlington Bike Path. And I'm tired of the dirty looks I get at the gym when I exceed the stingy 30-minute treadmill time. So I'll also have my eyes, and hopefully one day my feet, on a Nordic Track 7600R Reflex Deck, the Rolls Royce of indoor rollers.
Of course, I do have some cross-country skis and snowshoes that could use a good dust-off, so I'd also like a membership to Williston's Catamount Outdoor Center.
I've long scoffed at noisy, smoke-spewing snowmobiles, but for some reason, the Dark Side is calling my name this winter. Add a Ski-Doo Mach 2 to the list.
If all my praying to Ullr, the god of snow, pays off, we're in for some serious dumps this winter. So, just in case, I'll add a Black Diamond Lynx Telescoping Shovel, for digging myself out of avalanches. Or maybe I'll clear off the bike path myself.