Here’s an ongoing list of our favorite gift ideas for under $25, sold in Brooklyn or made by locals. If you have a great find for this daily post, please send photos and descriptions to faye [at] brokelyn [dot] com. And check the site every day through Christmas.
#1 “Hand soaps”
We were working on an altogether different item when we came across this irresistible little dish of “hand soaps” from Cog & Pearl, the Park Slope eclectica shop for Design*Sponge obsessives. So tickled were we by these sudsy sculpturettes that they inspired a new series: each day until Christmas, we’ll be highlighting one fun, under-$25 gift item that you can buy in Brooklyn. Our first entry: a green organza bag featuring roughly this array of 10 hand soaps for only $20. Buy it online or in-store at Cog & Pearl if we haven’t snarfed them all first.
#2 Book covers
Remember when you had to wrap schoolbooks in brown paper bags to protect them (and give you a place to etch your love for HazMat/Bel Biv Devoe/Lance Bass?) You won’t be tempted to doodle on the arty covers created by the Wiliamsburg-based Book City Jackets crew for the devoted pre-Kindler in your life. They come in sets of three; limited-run Artists Editions are $15, while the type-based Reading List and Bookshelf trios are $11. We like them because 1) a well-dressed bookshelf is a sign of refined readerliness and 2) you can cleverly disguise titles like this. Buy online and get free domestic shipping on orders of $25 or more, or $5 off of orders of $50 or more (with discount code BCJ2009). Or buy them at Blue Ribbon General in Boerum Hill, or the Gifted Market in Manhattan.
#3 D-ring mug
This lightweight stainless steel coffee mug to latch onto your backpack, belt loop, dog leash, pierced eyebrow… whatev. The cup, which weighs 5 oz., holds 12 oz. of liquid and only costs $12.95 from a store called Green in BKLYN. We like it because we went to a hippie college with people who put those clips on everything just to show how mountainy they were. While we don’t climb rocks (they probably didn’t either), we do love coffee and hate paper cups. The mug is available at Green in BKLYN, a homey little eco-everything shop in Clinton Hill/Ft. Greene (432 Myrtle Ave., 718-855-4383) that opened this past Earth Day.
#4 Rap-history poster
Do you need a gift that says both “happy holidays” and “you mean nearly as much to me as Doug E. Fresh, Kid ‘N’ Play, Wu-Tang Clan and Big Daddy Kane combined?” We were turned on to this poster, The History of Rap, from Halcyon the Shop in DUMBO. The poster features sketches of 469 of hip hop’s most important figures in approximate chronological order (going as far back as Cab Calloway and James Brown), with trading-card style info on the back. And lest you think artist Kagan McLeod is just some sucka MC, he’s got a Flickr pool of the real-life versions of the rappers holding the poster. Find it along with other music, art and DJ-centric gear at Halcyon the Shop, 57 Pearl St., 718-260-9299.
#5 Brokelyn t-shirt
Still searching for that perfect gift? We’ve rolled out our brand-spanking-new crop of Brokelyn t-shirts, that rare gift beloved by hipsters and total dorks alike (we should know). The new bunch, logo courtesy of our shmancy designers, the Heads of State, includes a grey black & white in short-sleeve ($15); and our first venture past the elbow with red and brown long-sleeve versions ($18). This holiday, consider our new look for yourself, your loved ones or, at least, try to help rid the world of these.
#6 Robot planter
Plants can be burdensome and Chia-pets are soooo nineties. I, Grobot is the perfect little planter that fits into a 3-x-3-inch square on the edge of a desk. It’s shorter than a coffee cup (without the grass) and comes in a tiny red box with everything you need to turn a workspace into an instant conversation starter—ceramic body, legs, grass seeds and two soil pellets. (The water’s on you.)
It’s a festive stocking stuffer to help cubicle dwellers get a little more green into their fluorescent-lit lives, and it’s just the right degree of impersonal to give to someone who you don’t want to send any mixed messages to. Also, we love movie puns.
I, Grobot is $10 at the Clay Pot in Park Slope at 162 7th Avenue, (718) 788-6564.
#7 Happy Hanukkah from Brooklyn cards
We had a bit of consternation over whether to include these “Happy Hanukkah from Brooklyn” cards in our $25-and-under gift series because 1) a card isn’t really a gift and 2) they cost $18 for six, which isn’t technically a bargain. But we couldn’t stop thinking about them since our first encounter last week, and so we gave in. Aren’t they fab? Available at Annie’s Blue Ribbon General Store in Boerum Hill, 365 State St. at Bond, 718-522-9848. You can also buy them online, but the clock’s a ticking—the holiday starts Friday night.
#8 Herbal slippers
When the weather outside hits that degree of “not even worth it to go out”, what could make curling up with a good book in front of a crackling fire (or this if your apartment has no fireplace) any better? Warm, herb-infused slippers. Made from Minkee material (super-soft polyester fabric usually used for baby blankets) each slipper is filled with lavender, lemongrass, peppermint, rosemary, and chamomile and can be warmed in the microwave or cooled in the fridge. Coming in right at $25, these Herbal Slippers can be found at Uncommon Goods, an online marketplace full of creative gifts with its headquarters here in Brooklyn.
#9 Password notebook
A little more on the practical side is a password reminder book for the person in your life who can never seem to remember how to log onto Ebay or OkCupid. This totally unnecessary (a 79-cent spiral would probably work) but nevertheless festive 50-page notebook has room for 2 entries per page with separate lines for the account name, username, hint, and password. Don’t forget to tell the recipient that if they ever lose it, you are not to he held liable for the unexplained Piperlime purchases. It’s $13, also from Uncommon Goods.
#10 Airmail wallet
Since we got one at the Brooklyn Flea a few months back, it’s proved to be tops for eye-grabbing gawking from jealous admirers and has led to lots of “ooh”s of wonderment from many a cashier. Made by DUMBO-based Dynomighty Design, the Air Mail Mighty Wallet ($15) is both durable (built out of the same microfiber material as air mail envelopes), and flexible, so it’ll swell to accommodate as many credit cards, receipts or bills (oh to have that problem) as you need to carry. Also consider it for the vegans on your list: Do you know how hard it is to find a decent non-leather wallet? Check out the company’s other designs too, including an MTA map, loose-leaf notebook paper and a dot matrix printout. Buy the Mighty Wallet online or check the site to find a store that sells it.
#11 Toy Block iPod Dock
Considering that LEGOs have spawned a whole sculptural movement, why shouldn’t the little colored blocks play music from your iPod too? At $25, the Toy Block iPod Dock is a tiny, ultra-portable dock that’ll fit into any nook or cranny of your studio-sized kitchen. The sound’s not quite BOSE-quality, but it blasts away with surprising oomph. Great for camping trips too! Insound, the online store for all things audio, is opening a pop-up store in Williamsburg (303 Grand St.) on Dec. 17, and they’ll have these docks in stock then, including a few other colors (some are only $20, but we like the silver).
#12 Boudoir mirrors
If you have a design-y friend who’s been big into those mod, one-dimensional takes on fussy classics (chandelier decals on walls, picture frame stickers and the like) these “boudoir” mirrors from A & G Merch are a natural next step. Delicately gracing a dressing table or hung on the wall for last-minute spot checks, they’re ideal for that 19th-century damsel living in a Boerum Hill brownstone. Mirrors are sold in store for $10 a piece, or on the web, five for $49.
#13 Pigeon feather in a tube
Maybe you know a Brooklynite in absentia or maybe you’re a recent arrival yourself and want to show all the folks back home just how ironic and cityslickery you’ve become. Or better still, you know someone whose job it is to concoct kooky moneymaking schemes. In that case, BROOKLYNrehab’s “NYC Souvenir” is perfect inspiration because, well, look at it: it’s a test tube, a cork, a piece of cleverly printed oaktag and a damn pigeon feather picked off the cobblestones and it’s selling it for $14. It’s actually pretty cool, but then so is most of the stuff from BROOKLYNrehab’s Alyssa Zygmunt, a fashion designer by day who Etsies at night. Order the feather here.
#14 Letter tote
Every gal in Brooklyn needs a wardrobe of grocery totes to elevate a market run into a stylish eco moment—and we’re digging Loyalty & Blood’s bags monogrammed with florid, scrolly letters so grand they practically defy the canvas.
The large size is $28, but the smaller version ($24) is a chicly compact 14″-W x 16″H x 3″D. (Tell her it’s an evening tote.) Available online through Loyalty & Blood, a quirky online store run by Williamsburg-by-way-of-Austin couple David Denosowicz and Maggie Doyle.
#15 Gallon of gravity
If only Newton had had one of these, his theory would have been such an easy sell. This $14 gallon of gravity from the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co. is the perfect gift for anyone you think is taking the world just a bit too lightly. Why spend a very real $14 on a gallon of the invisible stuff that keeps us all with two feet on the ground? Because the Sam Potts-designed packaging has a cool retro look, and all the proceeds go to 826NYC, a Brooklyn non-profit that helps kids with their writing skills. You also can purchase other intangibles like immortality, omnipotence, anti-matter and intelligence both online and at the Park Slope store. And if a gallon’s a bit much, pints are available too (in-store only).
#16 Travel bottles
There’s nothing a miser hates more than travel-size anything, ie., getting gauged for convenience’s sake. That’s why we dig GoToob, the endlessly refillable and stylish little bottles made of soft yet rugged silicone with a no-drip valve so you don’t have to unzip your dopp kit in fear of discovering goop everywhere. The 2-ounce bottles are approved for all airplane carry-ons, are food safe (FDA) and 100% BPA and PC-free. Plus, they just feel really nice and expensive-like, and there’s also a little suction cup attached, so you don’t have to worry about cluttering up the hotel bathroom no matter how many people are sharing it. They’re $9 each at Flight 001, 132 Smith St., Cobble Hill, (718) 243-0001.
#17 crazy-cheap board games
You already know we love a good board game, so it should be no surprise that at least one would make our list of under-$25 gifts. There we were trolling the shelves yesterday at Family Dollar, the discounter with locations around Brooklyn when we stumbled upon Battleship, Perfection and Hungry Hungry Hippos for the inexplicably cheap price of $5.50 each. They look legit… pretty much … and isn’t Family Dollar a reputable retailer? For a quarter the price of what you’d pay at Amazon, we’re not asking too many questions.
#18 Richard Scarry book
Today’s selection is from Karen of the beautifully relaunched Brooklyn parenting site A Child Grows in Brooklyn. Here’s her pick of the day:
The children’s author and illustrator Richard Scarry is loved by graphic designers, artists and yes, kids. This house favorite, Richard Scarry’s Best Storybook Ever, is a whopping 288 pages of stories, rhymes and illustrations. It’s a compilation of Scarry’s best, so you don’t need to buy all his many books. And the thing is well-bound, which will help it last several children. For $15.99, you can get the durable treasury at Book Court in BoCoCa (163 Court St., between Pacific & Dean).
#19 Letterpress coasters
Before all you practical types start grousing that junk-mail envelopes and magazines make perfectly good coasters, remember that the whole point of presents is that they’re little luxuries that the recipient might not buy for him or herself. And so should you be invited to any stylish holiday parties, these reusable, hand-letterpressed coasters—with goldfish, butterflies or flowers—are a better-than-wine hostess gift that will ensure invitations for years to come. Made in Brooklyn by Breck Hostetter and Matt Heindl of Sesame Letterpress, they’re $17 for eight at Lion in the Sun, 232 Seventh Ave., 718-369-4006
#20 Georgia O’Keeffe poster
Back in our day, just about every sexually confused undergrad had at least one Georgia O’Keeffe poster on her wall, but who knew that the great painter of NSFW flowers also captured the Brooklyn Bridge on canvas? (If the answer is “Like, everyone, you idiot” you can totally keep that to yourself.) According to the Brooklyn Museum’s web site, this is one of the last paintings O’Keeffe made in New York before moving to New Mexico in 1949, and it’s considered “her farewell to the city where she had lived or worked and many years.”
Tell the recipient that you like how the Gothic style arches “proclaim this vast utilitarian structure a kind of American cathedral” (a goodie lifted from the Brooklyn Museum web site). Incidentally, the Whitney, which we heard is somewhere in… Manhattan?… is having an O’Keeffe show until Jan. 17 and for more choice lines here’s a mucho eleganté review written by our friend Barb. The 24-by-36-inch poster is $20 at the Brooklyn Museum gift shop.
#21 Coney Island photo
There are loads of iconic Brooklyn shots on sale around town, but this cotton-candy-colored take on a Coney Island landmark called to us with its dreamy, almost toy-like look. It’s one of the photos Brooklyn’s Mari Lowery is selling under the name Frankenkitty on the new Etsy rival site, Zibbet. As her handle suggests, Lowery has a sardonic eye, but she does the creepy doll thing without making you cringe, venturing into the established genre of spooky mannequins and bunny-costume photos with refreshing grace.
Photos are $25 for an 8-by-8-inch print. Act fast if you want to get your photo-loving friend a print in time for the 25th—your last day to order is Wednesday, and the photographer will ship it next day or priority (you will have to email her at [email protected] and pay the extra charges).
#22 75-cent gloves
We’re gonna catch all kinds of crap for posting a gift from Target, since it isn’t exactly a homespun mom-and-pop enterprise, but here goes anyway. For at least the last couple of years, Target has been selling ladies mitts, two pairs for $1.50. That means you can put a pair in your pocket, on your nightstand, in your backpack, in your glove compartment (it’s called that for a reason) hanging from the mantle in place of a stocking, dangling from your belt for a chic winter look etc. etc. etc. You will never have cold hands, nor especially warm ones, but what do you want for less than a buck? We love them, evil retailer, one-ply acrylic and all. You probably already know this, but here are the Brooklyn Targets.
#23 Beautiful skin tea
Brokelyn is officially in favor of splurgy little pick-me-ups (cause we can’t afford big ones), and a current addiction is stopping into Sacred Vibes Apothecary for a couple ounces of custom-blended tea. The chamomile/peppermint/licorice is a soothing balm for what ails us (being awake at 3 a.m.) and rest assured shop owner Karen Rose has a leafy blend for what afflicts those on your list too. Yes there are teas for eczema, arthritis and high blood pressure, but if you don’t think Constipation Relief Tea is an appealing stocking stuffer, how about one that promises beautiful skin? The cocktail of calendula, red clover, chickweed, burdock root and cleavers makes for pleasant winter sipping, and Karen says it’s like a facial in a teacup. Or maybe we said that. Beautiful Skin Tea is $10 a 2-ounce bag at Sacred Vibes, 376 Argyle Rd. between Cortelyou and Dorchester, 718-284-2890.