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Home for the Holidays Gift Guide 2012

by Mark Thompson
EDGE Style & Travel Editor
Wednesday Nov 28, 2012
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It’s beginning to look a lot like...

Yeah, yeah. Blah, blah. It’s the most wonderful time of the year - but not for those of us running hither and yon in a mad dash to make sure that everyone on our holiday lists is happy and gay.

If you’re looking for gifts that might last a little longer than a bottle of bubby, then you could do worse than peruse some of the selections from this year’s "Home for the Holidays" gift guide.

For those who love to linger at home in front of a cozy fire (or stay buried in bed all winter long), here are some gifts that might provide a bit of solace and warmth during the long winter nights.

After all, most of us dream a little dream of some place beyond our realm of comfort.

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Glitterati: "Tattoos Hornets Fire"

Some people just can’t get enough of Lisbeth Salander, the girl with the dragon tattoo. The heroine of Stieg Larsson’s "Millennium Trilogy" has become a one-person cottage industry for Swedish tourism as evidenced by the crowds of aficionados lining up for the "Millennium Trilogy" tours.

For those diehard fans and armchair travelers, Glitterati has published "Tattoos Hornets Fire," a stunning photographic homage to Larsson’s hometown that affords viewers a gumshoe’s perspective on the city of hornets, fire, and tattoos.

Photographers Christopher Makos (a protegé of Man Ray and a member of Andy Warhol’s inner circle) and Paul Solberg, who work collectively as The Hilton Brothers, have created a mesmerizing mise en scène that evocatively complements Larsson’s sense of place while showcasing the darker side of Stockholm’s storied beauty.

Published in collaboration with VisitSweden, the Swedish tourist board, "Tattoos Hornets Fire" features 300, four-color photographs, as well as text by Elizabeth Daude, one of Stockholm’s most acclaimed tour guides. Daude, who’s been described as a "Hitchcock blonde dressed in black," provides incisive commentary and insider history to accompany The Hilton Brothers’ luminous photographs.

Designated one of the "Top Ten Travel Books of 2012" by Publishers Weekly, "Tattoos Hornets Fire" would marry nicely with a first-class ticket to Stockholm on SAS Airlines - but even without the air tickets, "Tattoos Hornets Fire" makes a beautiful gift for the Scandinavian lover in your life.

PRICE: $50.00 / 160 pages
LINK: "Tattoos Hornets Fire"

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Aleksandr Kargaltsev: "Asylum"

One of the year’s most compelling (and visually arresting) photography exhibitions of 2012 was Aleksander Kargaltsev’s project "Asylum," which explored the lives of gay men who fled Russia for the United States because of the violence and hatred they have encountered in their motherland.

Photographed around the city of New York, the nude youths are poignant reminders of the dire situation of the LGBT community in Russia (and other countries around the world). The subjects’ nakedness serves as a metaphor for courage and the shedding of fear in the young men’s pursuit of individual freedom and personal liberty.

Signed by the author, the 56-page photo book is flexi-bound, with text by Stephen Rae and Ivan Savvine. Shipping is free - around the world.

PRICE: $49.00
LINK: Aleksandr Kargaltsev "Asylum"

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Molton Brown: Myrrh Muske & Cypress Candela

The first three Christmas gifts came from the magi: frankincense, gold - and myrrh. Of course you knew that, if only from singing Christmas carols door to door with your hopelessly sentimental family.

You can still sing the lyrics, but maybe you’ve forgotten that myrrh is one of the most aromatic fragrances of the season. A natural blend of an essential oil and a resin, myrrh is redolent of leather and earth, with a sweet smoky note that evokes incense.

Molton Brown’s Limited Edition Myrrh Muske & Cypress collection captures the seductive opulence of the coveted resin that was worth its weight in gold in ancient Persia. The single-wick candle is blended with top notes of cardamom, cypress, and ginger. Heart notes of cedarwood warm the atmosphere before settling into base notes of black pepper, gaiac wood, moss, and patchouli.

Packaged in an elegant Molton Brown gift box, the Myrrh Muske & Cypress Candela is presented in a heavy frosted glass vessel.

Beautiful enough for the "King of Kings" in your life.

PRICE: $49.00 / 6.3 oz.
LINK: Molton Brown Myrrh Muske & Cypress Candela

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Victor Haim Photography

Art is life - and how wonderful it is when the art in one’s home reflects the philosophy by which one lives.

During Hurricane Sandy, New York’s Ali Forney Center was completely destroyed, leaving thousands of vulnerable LGBT youth without shelter.

Photographer Victor Haim is donating 50% of the proceeds from all of his sales in December to Ali Forney Center, the unfunded support network for homeless or displaced LGBT youth in New York City.

A piece entitled "Smoke Signs" is particularly timely, evoking the damage sustained by Hurricane Sandy, while also connoting the phoenix rising anew.

Priced according to their size, Haim’s images are powerful metaphors of the strength within the LGBT community.

PRICE: $80 - $500, based on size and frame
LINK: Victor Haim
Ali Forney Center

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Martha Stewart Holiday Collection: Puppy Pillows

If there’s someone on your gift list whose favorite m.o. is "cheap and cheerful," well then, here’s something cheery - and if not quite cheap, most definitely chic.

Who doesn’t love a beagle? And particularly one wearing a festive red seasonal sweater. And who can resist a Jack Russell?

These whimsical decorative 18" x 18" puppy pillows feature applique details, with a gingham plaid border for the beagle and a tufted grid pattern for the Jack Russell.

Made of a cotton/flax/acrylic/wool combination fabric, the pillows also spot clean - in the event of a doggie boo-boo.

Coordinating throws are also available, in the event that you and your puppy want to sleep through the holidays.

PRICE: $49.00 each
LINK: Martha Stewart Holiday Collection Puppy Pillows

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Joya & Hervé L. Leroux: "Giroflée" Black Porcelain Candle

Late in the madcap, free-for-all romp that marked the Nineties, fashion designer Hervé Leger debuted what became known as the "bandage dress" for its ability to make the wearer look bound in Ace bandages - and still look incredibly chic and sexy.

Hervé Leger is now Hervé L. Leroux and to mark Monsieur Leger’s new identity, Joya, the New York-based design studio, has created a stunning matte black porcelain candle inspired by Leger’s signature silhouette.

Handcrafted in New York by Joya and ceramic artist Sarah Cihat, the porcelain candle features a bias cut edge in honor of Leger’s signature creations with a fragrance redolent of giroflée, the ancient flower from Leger’s garden that has a powerful, seductive scent reminiscent of cloves.

Founded in 2004 by Frederick Bouchardy, Joya (meaning "jewel" in Spanish) produces candles and home fragrances, which are composed of perfume oils with no alcohol and are immediately responsive to a person’s body temperature.

The collaborative "Giroflee" candle blooms into notes of jasmine petals, magnolia blossom, gardenia, and tuberose, before settling into a musk and cedarwood drydown. The overall effect is every bit as sultry and seductive as Leger’s original body-conscious designs.

Caveat emptor: the gift of this candle will produce smoldering consequences.

The Joya & Hervé L. Leroux "Giroflée" candle is the first signature scent for the Hervé L. Leroux brand and launches exclusively at Alchemist (Miami), Henri Bendel (New York), Colette (Paris), Hervé L. Leroux (Paris), and online at Joya Studio.

PRICE: $75.00 / 7.1 oz
LINK: Joya & Hervé L. Leroux "Giroflée" Black Porcelain Candle

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Sierra Club: Public Bike

Given the devastation unleashed upon the planet during this past year, you might think about a gift to Mother Nature.

And what better way to show her the love than with a custom Sierra Club bicycle? Made by San Francisco-based Public Bikes, the first official Sierra Club bicycle combines European-inspired design with comfort and performance.

Public Bike’s founder, Rob Forbes, was the mastermind behind Design Within Reach - which means that the Public bicycle is no slouch in the design department.

Painted in a customized glossy green and finished with the Sierra Club logo, the Sierra Club Public bicycle is easy on the eyes and as good for your glutes as it is for Mother Earth.

Founded iby John Muir in 1892 in San Francisco, Sierra Club is one of the most largest and most influential environmental organizations in the State. A portion of the sale of each Sierra Club bike will go back to the Sierra Club to support the organization’s mission to "explore, enjoy, and protect the planet."

Sierra Club bikes will be available for a limited time. Order by December 25, 2012 for delivery in June 2013.

PRICE: $595.00
LINK: Sierra Club Public Bike

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Organic Bouquet: Dried Lavender Wreath

As the adage goes, beauty is as beauty does - and when you’re dealing with something as beautiful as flowers and plants, you want to know that beauty isn’t only skin deep.

The largest online provider of eco-friendly and organic gifts, Organic Bouquet employs over 60% women, while providing workers in underdeveloped countries with everything from zero-interest loans, childcare, healthcare, education, environmental protection, and supplies.

Focused on responsible practices in every step of production, from the grower to the final consumer, Organic Bouquet offers flowers that give back. Organic Bouquet flowers are not only grown with the environment in mind, but also the company is mission-based, helping mothers in underdeveloped areas around the world.

Organic Bouquet also carries a selection of "Flowers for Good," with bouquets benefiting over 55 charities, which means that you can give flowers for the holidays while also helping your recipients’ favorite charities.

A dried lavender wreath, for example, is hand-crafted with deep purple and fragrant lavender. Paired with silver ornaments and a silver pillar candle, the 16-inch diameter wreath makes a lovely and fragrant centerpiece for a sideboard or a console.

In addition to eco-friendly florals and plants, Organic Bouquet also carries a wide variety of organic gifts, including gourmet wine, treats, and gift baskets.

PRICE: $69.95 / 16-inch wreath
LINK: Organic Bouquet Dried Lavender Wreath

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Agraria: Bitter Orange Crystal Cane Candle

One year while shopping at Gumps in San Francisco, we encountered the most beautiful home fragrance, which was so seductive that we privately began to spritz it all over our clothing. Not surprisingly, this fragrance was created by Agraria, one of San Francisco’s most cherished shops.

Founded in 1970 on Nob Hill in San Francisco, Agraria was green long before it became de rigueur for anyone with an ounce of heart and political soul. The company’s woven palm leaf containers are collector’s items - particularly the round hatbox that was filled with eight liters of potpourri. What began as a small shop on Taylor Street has now become America’s largest and oldest luxury home fragrance company.

Agraria’s signature fragrance, Bitter Orange, blends a wave of warm clove with bitter orange and a touch of cypress for a fragrance that has become one of the most popular holiday fragrances throughout the world. To inhale Agraria Bitter Orange is to be transported to a halcyon holiday season that evokes the worlds of Dickens and Dylan Thomas amidst a myriad Yuletide memories of plum pudding and marzipan and pine boughs and oranges.

Made of vegetable-based waxes and topped with a silver-plated lid with the Agraria crest, the crystal cane candle is presented in a woven crystal glass vessel that can be recycled for use with tea lights.

The eight other Agraria fragrances, available in a full line of home fragrance products, can be found in the finest shops - and at InterContinental Hotels & Resorts around the world. But if you want Christmas Past and Christmas Present and Christmas Yet to Come all wrapped into one, then Agraria Bitter Orange is your Pandora’s box to Christmas Always.

PRICE: $35.00 / 3.4 oz.
LINK: Agraria Bitter Orange Crystal Cane Candle

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Todd Trexler Posters

Back in the day, before cell phones and computers, there existed at the far western edge of the continent a mythical gay paradise called San Francisco.

And in this West Coast Oz, there lived a panoply of extraordinary creatures, such as the Cockettes and Sylvester, Divine and Mink Stole, and an entire pantheon of other demi-gods and gay goddesses, many of whom were resident peformers at San Francisco’s iconic Palace Theatre.

Fortunately for those of us who reside in the somewhat less flamboyant 21st century, Todd Trexler was there then, at the Nocturnal Dream Shows at the Palace, creating posters of these legendary phenomenons - and now, for the first time in forty years, Trexler is making his posters available for sale.

If you know someone who lives for the glories of San Francisco’s gay heyday, then Trexler’s posters are a fantastic conduit to a past where Sylvester and the Cockettes were truly marvelous superstars.

PRICE: $19.99 / 11" x 17" poster
$65.00 / original size
LINK: Todd Trexler Posters

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Ski Vermont: Sandy Relief Poster

Who doesn’t love Vermont? Ice cream and ski slopes and leaf peepers - and the Trapp Family! This holiday season, Ski Vermont is returning the love by helping those communities hard hit by Hurricane Sandy.

Ski Vermont’s first endeavor, Operation Mountains of Love, generated nearly $40,000 for the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund - and now Ski Vermont will be donating 100% of the proceeds from the sales of its iconic poster series to Sandy relief from now through December 31, 2012.

Perfect for the dorm room or the ski lodge, the 20" x 26" Ski Vermont poster is a reminder of Ski Vermont’s ongoing fundraising efforts in the face of disaster. Sugarbush Resort will continue to match donations until it reaches $25,000 and, in addition to the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund donations, ski resorts throughout Vermont are exploring fundraising options that will channel donations directly to smaller organizations serving severely impacted communities.

Need a gift for a ski bunny? Buy the Ski Vermont poster and a couple pints of Ben & Jerry’s - and help Vermont help others.

PRICE: $15.00 / 20" x 26"
LINK: Ski Vermont Sandy Relief Poster

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Jonathan Adler: Jet Set Destination Candles

Maybe you know someone who’s still grieving for the loss of summer. Or maybe you and your posse didn’t make it to all those summer destinations you planned to hit back in April.

If you’re still yearning for that wild week in Acapulco or that lost weekend on Shelter Island, Jonathan Adler’s jet set destination candles are the next best thing to being in a chic seaside locale. The collection of candles includes Acapulco, Capri, Palm Beach, Big Sur, and Shelter Island (as well as Aspen, for a touch of the alpine).

Acapulco is redolent of a Mexican fruit salad served at a bonfire along the beach, while Capri evokes a crisp summer afternoon, sipping citrus cocktails al fresco. With a bouquet of white roses and lychee, Palm Beach smells like sunset cocktails. Shelter Island is a maritime romance of ocean breezes, with hints of sage and balsam.

Each candle comes in an etched brown glass vessel, with a burn time of 55 hours.

Give the complete set to your honeybunch - with a pair of tickets to his favorite jet set destination.

PRICE: $28.00 / 7.5 oz candle
LINK: Jonathan Adler Jet Set Destination Candles

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"New Arcadians: Emerging UK Architects"

Ever since Prince Charles raised his bullhorn and went on record as being interested in architecture and sustainability, British architects have been increasingly in the limelight. Fortunately, the work of an increasing number of young architects in the UK merits the attentions fixed upon them. In "New Arcadians" (Merrell, 2012), author Lucy Bullivant profiles eighteen cutting-edge architectural practices whose ethos is defined by their ecological awareness.

With over 250 illustrations and photographs, including plans, sketches and images by leading architectural photographers, "New Arcadians" features interviews with the architects who demonstrate a commitment to biodiversity by utilizing sound building practices and ecological materials.

If you’ve ever imagined a sanctuary in the woods or an urban refuge for contemplation, "New Arcadians" posits a world where architecture offers affordable, sustainable solutions to some of the planet’s more pressing problems.

The socially engaged architects in "New Arcadians" herald a new generation of visionary professionals who embody the best of their profession. Complete with an introduction exploring the key trends in contemporary British architecture as well as full biographies of all the featured practices, "New Arcadians" offers a promising template for the future of architecture.

PRICE: $49.95 / Hardback / 256 pages / 280 illustrations
LINK: "New Arcadians: Emerging UK Architects"

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Robin Hood Holiday Cards

In the largest city of what is arguably the richest country on the planet, more than one million New Yorkers rely on emergency food and more than 40,000 New York City schoolchildren are homeless.

What can you do about it? Help Robin Hood.

For more than 20 years, Robin Hood has been fighting poverty in New York - and over the past two decades, the organization has distributed over $1 billion to the most effective poverty-fighting programs. A full 100% of donations to Robin Hood goes directly to these programs.

One way to support Robin Hood - and fight poverty - is to buy Robin Hood holiday cards. This year’s three designs are by artists David Hockney, Marchesa, and Hatch.

Send a holiday card and help a kid get off the streets.

PRICE: $30.00 / 10 cards per set
LINK: Robin Hood Holiday Cards

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Merrell: "Made in Japan: 100 New Products"

Not so long ago, a label reading "Made in Japan" was synonymous with something that was destined to fall apart soon after opening, as in "What can you expect, it’s ’Made in Japan’?"

Not so anymore. More than ever before, "Made in Japan" is a sign of high quality, a marriage of the latest technology and haute design.

In her new book, "Made in Japan" (Merrell, 2012), American architect Naomi Pollock examines 100 products that exemplify the virtues of contemporary Japanese design. Each of Pollock’s choices demonstrate why Japan’s design aesthetic has produced such a fanatical global following - and how the limitations of urban space can foster beauty and innovation. A history of reverence for craftsmanship complemented by a desire for modernity has enabled Japan to rise to the top of design cultures - and Pollock’s choices reveal a society that values the concept of "monozukuri," the art of making things.

With biographies of Japan’s leading designers and an inclusive introduction to the history of Japanese product design, "Made in Japan" features the works of 80 designers whose innovative products include mass-produced utensils, gadgets, clothing, furnishings, as well as limited edition items that reveal a society that prizes industrial perfection alongside exceptional expertise. Created specifically for the Japanese consumer, the products reflect modern life in Japan, which is often marked by an insistence on sustainability.

For those who worship at the altar of high design, "Made in Japan" is a compendium of products that reward a love of beauty and a faith in the future.

PRICE: $49.95 / Hardback / 240 pages / 200 color illustrations
LINK: "Made in Japan: 100 New Products"

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A long-term New Yorker and a member of New York Travel Writers Association, Mark Thompson has also lived in San Francisco, Boston, Provincetown, D.C., Miami Beach and the south of France. The author of the novels WOLFCHILD and MY HAWAIIAN PENTHOUSE, he has a PhD in American Studies and is the recipient of fellowships at MacDowell, Yaddo, and Blue Mountain Center. His work has appeared in numerous publications.

This article is part of our "2012 Holiday Gift Guide" series. Want to read more? Here's the full list»

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