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Clutch play

Spartina 449 ( ) has an intriguing line of handbags, clutches, poncho/wraps, scarfs, jewelry and other items. Moreover, it has a touch of the South, as history, people and coastal beauty of South Carolina's Daufuskie Island serve as inspirations for the company.

A year's worth of dates

Renowned photographer Mike Ruiz ( who was on the gay reality show The A List: New York ) is the one to thank for the 2018 calendar "HeartThrobs and Hounds" ( ). The hunks in the calendar are some of the biggest male fitness models working today, including James Alexander Ellis, Dragos Sykos, Myles Leask and cover model Mike O'Hearn. It'll be something you look forward to for a year ( and then some, as there's a photo for 2019 as well ).

On Broadway

The holiday season is in full show tune swing now that the 19th volume of Broadway's Carols for a Cure ( ) has arrived. The latest compilation from the beloved series continues Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS' tradition of pairing the casts from award-winning Broadway musicals with seasonal songs that are both classic and new. Among the casts in this collection are those from Phantom of the Opera, Chicago, Kinky Boots and, yes, Hamilton.

Light touch

Those who adore the legendary sex symbol will appreciate Marilyn Monroe lamps ( ). The lamps feature a variety of Monroe cover photos from around the globe, including publications such as Life Magazine and France's Frou Frou.

Playing for time

George Michael fans, listen to this: A remastered version of Michael's 1996 MTV Unplugged performance is available as an album for the very first time as part of the deluxe box set, two-CD and digital editions. The concert took place at the Three Mills Island Studios in East London on Oct. 11, 1996, and featured George playing 10 songs from the Wham!, Faith, Listen Without Prejudice Vol.1 (Freedom '90) and Older eras in an intimate setting. The album's available on several formats, including, Google Play and iTunes.

In your write mind

Sometimes, an occasion calls for more than an Evite—and Dempsey & Carroll and India Hicks ( keep the art of letter-writing and the process of sending cards alive with its high-end stationery sets. Someone who receives one of these cards (say, myself) is likely to be pleasantly surprised by the simple elegance of the stationery—or just by the fact that something arrived in the mailbox besides a bill.

Care package

A great stocking stuffer, Kayo Better Body Care ( offers award-winning firming serum and even a vitamin boost among its products. Don't be surprised if friends and family start asking why you have that glow.

Class act

Tracy Letts' The Minutes, the Dec. 7-Jan. 28 event BLKS and the 2018 production The Roommate (directed by Phylicia Rashad) are just some of the reason any theater aficionado might appreciate a Steppenwolf Theatre gift card (

Throw together

in2green (, as its name indicates, specializes in eco-friendly items—but the throws and accessories are pretty visually stunning as well. Also, monograms and customization are possible with in2green products—including items for pets.

Diana gloss

Gallany Cosmetics ( has seemingly been under the radar in the world of makeup—but it certainly deserves to be on the stage. (Voila!) There's something for someone of every shade, and my test subjects absolutely loved the lip glosses—and they're pretty picky.

Bi the way...

In The Big Book of Bisexual Trials and Errors, Elizabeth Beier chronicles true-life romantic tales as she breaks up with a long-term boyfriend and navigates the new world of dating women. In the book, Beier tackles the complexities of sexuality and self-image in a way that anyone who's struggled with dating can relate to—not that I've had any struggles. (Commence eye-rolling.)

Looks delicious!

Delicacies' ( unique pieces allow the wearer to showcase their signature ingredient, be it through a leather and sterling silver bracelet all the way up to a diamond pave pendant. There's truly something for everyone in this line—and every piece donates to charity as well. Choosing your fave is a fun time to pasta time away. (Sorry—I couldn't resist.)

The state of tourism

Just in time for the holiday shopping season, the Illinois Office of Tourism is releasing its first Illinois Made holiday gift guide featuring small businesses across the state. Among the companies featured are Chicago's Ipsento Coffee, Cocoa Blue Chocolates (in Springfield and Rochester) and Chicago's Heritage Bicycles.

Feel the heat

Talk about unique: Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur is born of Mexico's poblano chile. These chiles are hand selected one by one based on size, color and humidity, before going through a six months maceration process involving minimal filtration (to maintain flavor), before bottling. However, it's not just about the chile; the liqueur also has hints of cinnamon, coco, and tamarind, along with herbal and wood notes.

'Change' for the better

Cindy Wilson, of the legendary group B-52s, is coming out with her debut solo album, Change (; on Dec. 1—so jump on this CD as soon as it arrives. Followers of the group will get a charge out of such tunes as "Mystic," ""Things I'd Like to Say" and "Brother."

'Dream' come true

"And I am telling you" that this makes a great gift. Dreamgirls is out in a Blu-ray Combo gift set with a Digital HD copy and on Digital HD featuring a director's extended edition and never-before-seen bonus features—including Jennifer Hudson's auditions and screen test.

Keen Anne

Anne Sylvain limited-edition handbags and accessories for women and for men are handcrafted from artistically finished leathers featuring genuine alligator, ostrich, python—and practically any other animal from Noah's ark. However, there's no denying the quality and beauty of the company's offerings—which, given their prices ($375 for the men's alligator belt, for example), would be considered investment pieces.

(Life)hammer time

Car owners, take note: Lifehammer ( can save lives. Basically an essential safety tool for anyone who might be in danger, the Lifehammer Evolution is a best-in-class car safety tool that can shatter a window in case of a roadside emergency—and it has a seat-belt cutter as well, in case that's necessary.

Winter national

Embrace the winter—or any other season—with a variety of ideas from National Geographic. Give your favorite rock climber a carabiner multi-tool gift set, binoculars or an Africa midi satchel. However, people can explore indoors as well—the book Timeless Journeys: Travels to the World's Legendary Places takes readers to sites such as Machu Picchu and the Taj Mahal.

House of pain (relief)

Weekend warriors, experienced athletes—or, basically, anyone who's dealt with pain—will appreciate Spand-Ice's Revive Tank ( The tank features a lightweight, contoured design in men's and women's styles (despite the website's main headings of "maternity" and "postpartum"), and specially insulated fabrics protect your body from temperature extremes. (Extra benefit: Windy City Times readers get 20 percent off their purchases by using the code "Holiday20.")

'Pretty' cool

Despite its controversial ending, the Freeform series Pretty Little Liars still amassed a gaggle of followers—and now is out in a box set. Also out in the same format is the binge-worthy The Vampire Diaries (that aired on the CW), which had one of the best-looking casts on television; basically, it was the Baywatch of the horror-TV genre.

Now hear this

Plantronics ( has recently launched the expansion of its sport portfolio with the BackBeat FIT Family—and that includes the BackBeat FIT 300 Series. The wireless sport earbuds fit securely and are sweatproof—and given how much some people perspire, that's definitely good news.

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