The gift guide concept has gone stale. You already know what to expect: a list of categories with predictable gift ideas. What to get Mom: Something gender stereotypical, like an Instant Pot (which, to be honest is pretty amazing but also kind of like giving yo’ mama a to-do list). What to get the outdoor enthusiast: A bunch of cool gear that you can’t really afford and will just make the cheap canteen you ultimately do buy look sad.
This year, we’re getting real.
We’re letting you peek into our private letters to Santa. Here’s what we want for the holidays. Hint, hint.
We’re sure it will inspire you, too. After all, it’s our job to find the coolest stuff in Boulder. May this holiday season be totally local and, well, a little loco (in all the best ways), too.
Mom, bookworm, weightlifter, freak
1. A Jen Herling print, jenherling.etsy.com, $60
I’m obsessed with Jen Herling’s unusual paintings. To me, they blur the boundary between playfulness and darkness. This Boulder artist says her art is guided by her subconscious and influenced by the natural world, her inner world and the perceived separation between the two. I would love to hang any of her prints in my living room, but one that tickles me is called “Puppet Play,” showing two hands wearing bird puppets. It made me think of playing with my daughter, but it’s beautiful and unique even without my happy memories attached.
2. “Bones of my Grandfather: Reclaiming a Lost Hero of World War II,” by Clay Evans, Boulder Book Store, 1107 Pearl St., Boulder, $20
I love reading more than I love donuts. (That’s the maximum amount of love.) I’ve been hearing rumbles and cheers for this book, written by a Boulder author, and I want nothing more than to find it in my stocking this Christmas morning. In part because I know Evans is an excellent wordsmith (bonus: he worked for Travel Boulder), and in part because I’m moved by the topic. In this book, Evans works to find and repatriate the remains of lost U.S. service people, including those of his grandfather. As the granddaughter of two war heroes who are also my life heroes, this theme hits my heart hard.
3. Umba Hooded Cape, Umba Love, 2043 Broadway, Boulder, $48
Yeah. I want a cape for Christmas. It’s my belief that we, as a human race, wear too few capes for how much magic surrounds us. This is a cape you can wear anywhere. An everyday cape, if you will. Superhero casual. It’s rayon (i.e. soft, wrinkle-resistant and lightweight), hooded and has thumbholes (<– life!). Toss it over your outfit on the way to yoga instead of a lame hoodie or jacket. Umba is such a cool store that embodies the soul of “old Boulder,” in that it’s ultra creative, playful, a little odd, heartfelt and hard to pin in any existing category. “Gypsy love pirate” is the vibe. Gimme that.
4. The Aspen insulated water bottle, EcoVessel, 5435 Airport Blvd., Unit 104, Boulder, ecovessel.com, $31.95
It ain’t easy trying to drink at least a gallon of water every day but how else is a miniature-sized powerlifter like myself gonna get her gains? Not only is my aggressive water-consumption a part-time job, but it’s complicated by the fact that the ice-maker is busted on our fridge (seriously, has anyone ever invented a fridge with a reliable ice-maker?). I’d rather lose 10 pounds on my deadlift than drink lukewarm water (OK, that’s a lie, deadlifting is life) so I not only want but need an insulated water bottle to keep my agua chilled.
Boulder-based EcoVessel makes gorgeous, stainless steel water bottles, like the 25-ounce Aspen TriMax. It claims to keep drinks cold for up to 100 hours and hot up to 20 hours. Many other insulated bottles can’t handle both temperature extremes. Plus, stainless steel cleans way better so if you use the bottle for protein powder like a real gym d-bag, which I am and will absolutely do, you don’t have to worry about that rotten protein odor that grows on plastic if not washed 18 seconds after use.
5. Unicorn Topia, mountainblends.etsy.com, $35
Maybe it’s because I’m a mom, or maybe it’s because I believe unicorns are real, but I want some Unicorn Topia in my stocking. Boulderite and yogi Alexandria Boespflug creates and sells her own, self-mixed essential oil blends (like one called the Ethereal Blend: jasmine, rosemary, Roman chamomile, lemon, patchouli and fractionated coconut oil). The Unicorn Topia is a blend created by her 8-year-old, “made for a believer.” This scent — made with pine, geranium, cedar, jasmine, vanilla and fractionated coconut oil — is “sweet like candy, grounding like nature and bright like fairy blossoms,” as the description reads. You know. Like a unicorn smells. Mountain Blends claims the scent enhances intuition and creative thinking. Who can deny the latter? Plus, I love the idea of supporting a thoughtful 8-year-old.
6. Dermal Remodeling with Danny Neifert, Skin Harmonics, skinharmonics.com, 805-450-1686, $225-$325
If there’s a skincare product or facial treatment, I’ve tried it. And then two years ago, I tried Danny Neifert and have never touched another product again. Neifert, who works part-time in Boulder, is a skincare genius like no other and the inventor of Dermal Remodeling. It’s a fusion of medical and holistic skin care approaches that is science-based. It address skin at the root level by packing it with nutrients and moisture and basically spoiling it.
There’s never anything abrasive, no chem peels, no lasers, no microdermabrasion. Neifert says these might show short-term results but over time, they accelerate aging and damage skin in ways it can never fully recover from. You just keep going back for more scraping and poking and peeling for that initial improvement before a sharp decline; you know, like a drug fix.
The facial includes a unique pore-irrigation treatment, a cleaning unlike anything else out there. It relies on a methodology for keeping your pores clean and glowing, and the profound “dermal nutrients” give lush, deep, unfakeable luminosity.
Personally, I love the idea of just loving on my skin so much that it can take care of itself. Low-maintenance beauty. No abuse in the name of care. And the results speak for themselves. My skin looks better today than ever. It’s hydrated, fresh, plump and (dare I say?) dewy. Yes, I dare. I never thought this was possible at Colorado’s high and dry altitude.
Oh, and while these facials are pricier than many, you only need a one once a year, so they end up way cheaper in the long haul.
7. Lingerie at Christina’s Luxuries, 2425 Canyon Blvd., Unit 100, Boulder, christinasluxuries.com, $110
I don’t know what’s happened to me. I never used to be a pink person. I was black, from hair into my veins and soul. But I can’t stop ogling rose-colored clothes, especially undergarments, nightgowns and other such accessories. Maybe I’m growing soft and my Goth-ness is fading.
This Christmas, I want a nightie that’s simultaneously adorable, comfy and sexy. My go-to for all undercover wear is Christina’s, and it doesn’t disappoint, with the Noor Dreamer Teddy in La Rosa. It’s basically a jumper lined with lace that you can wear to bed. Will I try to wear it in town layered with other clothes? Possibly/probably.
Charity: Dance To Be Free, dancetobefree.org
Dance has the power to heal and transform. That’s at the heart of this nonprofit that started in Boulder. Dance To Be Free brings dance classes to women in prison. Trained volunteers take simple but powerful choreography to inmates to help them process stress, heal PTSD and gain confidence, self-awareness, self-expression and leadership. I attended a Dance To Be Free class at the Denver Women’s Correctional Facility, danced with the inmates myself and spent time talking with them afterward. I learned firsthand the impact this nonprofit has had on them and how it is helping turn around their lives.
As we enter a new year, I think about rebirth and new chances. I think about how true agape love shines when you choose to love people who may not be the easiest to love. These are often the people who need it the most.
Freelance lifestyle writer, University of Colorado graduate, mom of a Boston Terrier
1. Bruce Henderson’s print of Pearl Street, brucehendersonphotography.com, prints also available at Art Mart, 1326 Pearl St., Boulder, starting at $40
Capturing the dynamic personality of Pearl Street in a single photograph is a tough task. But photographer Bruce Henderson rises to the challenge, performing some cool tricks with his camera to seamlessly weave multiple Pearl Street blocks into a single print. To do so, he takes a series of photographs in a 360-degree arc, builds a single panorama image and then warps the horizontal image into a spherical shape. The end result is a photograph that you can get lost in while hunting for iconic Boulder images — like the flower bed planters, storefronts and the Tom’s Tavern sign. I spent nearly a decade working on Pearl Street, so for me, it’s a “walk down memory lane” — in photograph form.
2. Pasta Jay’s marinara sauce, Pasta Jay’s, 1001 Pearl St., Boulder, $8
Pass by Pasta Jay’s around the dinner rush, and you’ll smell garlicky goodness wafting in the air. It’s the siren that lures me in to this Italian eatery on Pearl Street every single time. I can’t help it, though: The Italian eatery boasts cutesy red-and-white checkered tablecloths and a baked spaghetti dish topped with melty cheese. I recently learned that Pasta Jay’s sells jars of its signature sauce and I’d love to find one in my stocking. Yes, it’s stocked with enough garlic cloves that you could fend off a pack of vampires with your breath, which sounds more appropriate for Halloween. But our family actually snubs honeybaked hams and indulges in lasagna on Christmas, so you see what I’m getting at here?
3. Photo session with my dog, Allison Mae Photography, allisonmae.com, starting at $195
My Boston Terrier is dapper with a capital D. He’s got a collection of bow ties, is named after a male model and has two different colored eyes, which add to his allure. What I’m trying to say? I’m good enough for selfies and posing with Santa at the mall. But Tyson Barkford deserves better. Enter Allison Mae Photography. She specializes in pet photography and her gallery of dog images are, well, drool-worthy. It’s about time my dog gets Instagram famous.
4. St Julien Timeless Trio spa treatment, 900 Walnut St., Boulder, $290
Few things excite me more than having a spa day booked. (Isn’t it exciting to have something to look forward to?) With that said, I can’t imagine a better way to start 2019 than with a hat trick at the spa. St Julien Hotel and Spa has a three-hour treatment package on its spa menu that includes a full-body massage, an organic facial and a signature pedicure. Last time I was there, my face was treated to a honey mask, which gave my skin a glow better than any Snapchat filter. The hotel actually harvests honey from its rooftop. They have two colonies, with each hive housing between 20,000 and 60,000 bees. Honey from the rooftop also is used to make chocolate truffles that are served in Jill’s Restaurant. It’s the bee’s knees.]
5. Tote bag from by elke, byelke.com, starting at about $330
Each one of Boulder designer Elke Bergeron’s handbags are unique. As an example, she repurposes World War II leather suspenders or horse bridles for the straps of a bag, and uses antique fabrics and old military packs to craft handbags. Her bags strike a perfect balance of unique and traditional, and she expertly juxtaposes modern trends like tassels and metallics with older materials. Each of her bags are handcrafted in her Boulder studio, and her collection includes bucket bags, backpacks, clutches and crossbody bags. I especially love the worn-in look of her stylish totes that could be used carry anything from a laptop to a farmer’s market haul.
Charity: Boulder County’s Family-to-Family Program, bouldercounty.org/families/get-involved/holiday-giving-programs
For more than four decades, the county’s Family-to-Family Program has been helping low-income parents and guardians purchase gifts for their children during the holiday season. The program, in part, provides gift cards to those who are struggling financially so that they can buy presents for their children and carry out holiday celebrations. I think this gift-exchange program is uniquely wonderful because it allows parents to still do the shopping for their little ones. Every year, the program benefits about 400 families throughout Boulder County. A collage of thank-you notes tells stories of a grandmother who is raising her granddaughter on her own and recently lost her job and other parents who were excited to witness their children’s joy on Christmas morning.
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Skincare guru, dog person, motorcyclist, blanket enthusiast, eater of all things food
1. Sanitas Lemon Cream Scrub, Pharmaca, 2700 Broadway, Boulder, $32
While this scrub isn’t one of their flagship products, it’s one that has held a special place in my heart after more than a decade. The citrus-infused emulsion smells heavenly and is a wonderful way to get your skin glowing this winter. Dry winter air and indoor heating do a number on your skin, and the best way to rehydrate is to start by exfoliating that dead outer layer first. I also love that the brand is local and takes so much pride in its products.
2. “Eat Drink Shine: Inspiration from Our Kitchen, Gluten-Free and Paleo-Friendly Recipes,” by Jennifer, Jessica and Jill Emich, Boulder Book Store, 1107 Pearl St., Boulder, $30
Triplets Jennifer, Jessica and Jill Emich live in Boulder, Colorado and run the popular Shine Restaurant. Their debut cookbook reflects their eating philosophy that food is the centerpiece of our lives, used in times of celebration and healing, bringing together family and friends. As a supreme hostess, I like to keep a repertoire of recipes to cater a meal to any guest, with any dietary restrictions. Dishes like seared pork chops with braised cabbage and fennel; dairy-free mac and cheese; and decedent grain-free brownies are sure to impress at my next gathering.
3. Utah dendrites, Nature’s Own, 1215 Pearl St., Boulder, $125
If you’ve walked Pearl Street Mall, I’m sure you’ve been greeted by the friendly dinosaur at Nature’s Own, a Colorado-based company with its warehouse right here in Boulder. The item I need most from here is a Utah dendrite. My countertop needs this rock. Often mistaken for fossils, the crystalized magnesium takes on the most beautiful tree-like shapes. It’s a little “canvas” from nature I’d love to own.
4. PopSockets Grip, popsockets.com, $10+
What began as a solution for headphone storage has evolved into a stylish and practical phone essential. And it all started in a garage here in Boulder. The PopSocket has helped a small-handed person like myself keep a better grip on my phone. I have a solid hold while snapping photos and less hand fatigue while texting. And thanks to its slick accordion design, the PopSocket can be used as a phone stand one second then collapse to fit in my pocket the next. I just upgraded to a new phone, so I need a PopSocket before this slippery son of a gun does a faceplant in my driveway. I’ve seen them available in numerous stores up and down Pearl Street and online. The last one I actually bought to support a local school fundraiser.
5. Bath Butta’ Bomb, Spinster Sisters Co., $6.50
I don’t know why I love a bath when I need to unwind. But the one thing I’ve found that really takes it next level is a bath bomb. I’m pretty sure the bubbly fizz is half the magic. I can’t get behind the ones that coat the tub in glitter and dyes… because I find nothing relaxing about being reminded I’m going to have to scrub my tub later. But I do love these bombs from Spinster Sisters Co. These fizzy Bath Butta’ Bombs are specially made with kaolin clay, a great detoxifier that helps remove excess dirt and oil from your skin. Pair that with the butta’, incredibly moisturizing and soothing cocoa and shea butters, and you’ll leave your bath feeling like a new person.
Charity: A Precious Child, apreciouschild.org
Every year I participate in fundraising for A Precious Child. I also round up gently-used clothing, toys and books from my neighbors for their donation center. As I’m shopping on Amazon, I look for the amazing “add-on deals,” and I add those to my cart as new gifts I can provide to their Precious Gift program, one aimed at making sure children in need have a gift on their birthday. I like this charity because it has so many great programs to help Colorado and Boulder County families, from Basics 4 Babies, to Fill a Backpack, to Give Art and Give Sports. A great gift idea for someone who doesn’t really want a gift this year is a donation in their name to A Precious Child. It warms my heart every year that I can help and provide a toy or warm blanket to a child who would have gone without.
Mom, dancer, fashionista, jewelry-lover
1. The Shimmer Star Ring, Art + Soul, 1505 Pearl St., Boulder, $2,350
Artist Adel Chefridi, of New York (he grew up in Carthage-Tunis), creates stunning handcrafted fine jewelry that you can find at Art + Soul on the Pearl Street Mall. I am especially drawn to his 18-karat gold, diamond Shimmer Star Ring. And/or if my Secret Santa is feeling even more generous, there’s Adel Chefridi’s Nostalgia pendant/necklace, made with 18-karat gold, diamonds and ruby for $4,620.
These jewelry pieces are truly works of art. As Chefridi’s website explains, “Beauty is a language that we all accept without effort because it is the raw material of our own essence, more intrinsic than intellect and culture. More subtle than understanding. Naturally universal.”
2. Diamond Orb Halo Earrings, J. Albrecht Designs, 951 Pearl St., Boulder, $3,850
J. Albrecht is one of Boulder’s finest master jewelers. Just walking through the Pearl Street store is inspiring. The family-owned business features a workshop and beautiful showroom, lined with impressive, custom jewelry and engagement rings. Everything here is specially curated and original. Including a pair of earrings that are on my dream list.
The Diamond Orb Halo Earrings are 18-karat yellow gold and diamond earrings that were made from scratch in-house, right here in Boulder. The diamonds weigh 0.24 carats total, which sounds like a great holiday season to me.
3. Blundstone boots, Shoe Fly, 947 Pearl St., Boulder, $179
Shoe Fly, on the Pearl Street Mall, is one of my favorite places to shop for shoes. In winter time, it’s boot season, and I need a new pair. I’m drawn to the Blundstone boots in stout brown. Blundstone boots have a reputation for not only being stylish, but also durable. And comfortable. Blundstone boots are timeless and long-lasting. While their styles have changed over the years, the quality remains. These are the perfect boots to take on any outdoor adventure in Boulder and beyond.
4. Sante Fe Backpack, Mae Pelle, etsy.com/shop/MaePelle, $315
This isn’t your ordinary backpack and it’s not your ordinary handbag either. Boulderite Addie Sweeney makes stunning, handmade, leather bags out of her Boulder studio, which is named Mae Pelle. Each piece is made to order. The Sante Fe backpack is more like a backpack-purse. It’s fashionable and elevated enough to bring to a nice dinner, but it’s made with double straps like a backpack, so you could wear it while on a bike or walk without having to worry about it slipping down your arm.
It’s practical, too. The Sante Fe Backpack’s caramel color is the perfect neutral to go with anything. It’s so versatile. The bag is structured so it holds its shape. And inside the bag, there’s a clip for your keys so you don’t have to rummage through your bag to find them.
Charity: Boulder Valley Women’s Health Center, boulderwomenshealth.org
Boulder Valley Women’s Health provides all kinds of reproductive and sexual healthcare services, from screenings for cancer to STI testing to annual exams. It provides birth control, transgender hormone therapy and even has a teen clinic. The center is locally run and funded.
I want to support Boulder Valley Women’s Health because in its mission is to respect the dignity of all people and make healthcare available to everyone. It makes a special effort to reach out to people who may not otherwise have easy access to safe care, such as people on limited incomes, no insurance, teens, people with disabilities, people who don’t speak English and people in the LGBTQI community.
Dad, husband, skier, car enthusiast
1. A pair of custom skis, Folsom Custom Skis, 7100 Broadway, Denver, folsomskis.com, $1,299
Folsom makes the perfect ski that any avid skier would enjoy owning. They are custom handcrafted, designed and engineered for you, matching your skiing ability. The custom ski fit delivers an experience for inbounds and out of bounds that is matched by no other. This is a must if you enjoy skiing as much as I do. Prices vary but as an example, The Big Time Operator custom skis — a blend of progressive and traditional skis, with a true mountain shape — go for $1,299. Visit the website or Denver store to learn more about handcrafted custom skis.
2. Beautiful “art furniture,” Boulder Furniture Arts, 2055 26th St, Boulder, boulderfurniturearts.com, price varies
If you love the beauty of nature and natural wood then the nature-inspired, one-of-a-kind furniture at Boulder Furniture Arts is something you should explore. Boulder Furniture Arts in Boulder is a wonderful, local business that creates and sells stunning pieces of furniture art. This talented group of craftsmen and women has been making high-quality furniture since 1985. As they say, these will be the heirlooms of tomorrow. Boulder Furniture Art also cares deeply about sustainability.
Since it can take months to make a piece of custom furniture, you won’t be able to buy one in time for the holiday season. But a great gift to me would be a trip to the store to start the process. It’s inspiring and fun to even just walk through the store. Don’t forget to check out the slab room for your own DIY project.
3. Custom ski boots, Larry’s Bootfitting, 1665 Folsom St., Boulder, larrysbootfitting.com, prices vary
If you’re going to get custom-made skis, you need custom-fit ski boots, too. (At least if you’re dreaming up your fantasy wish list.) Larry’s Bootfitting in Boulder is the place to go for that.
If your ski boots hurt your feet, you know how poor-fitting boots can ruin your skiing experience. Visit Larry the Bootfitter for a custom ski boot fit. He works magic with your boots, customizes your liners and can create custom footbeds. This is well worth your time and investment and will improve your skiing experience to a level that you can’t image. Larry guarantees he won’t sell a boot that doesn’t fit perfectly. Even if you have a difficult boot fit dilemma, Larry’s can handle anything.
4. Warm Socks, Sock Em, 1468 Pearl St., Boulder, about $15
Put some stockings in my stocking. Who doesn’t appreciate new socks? Mine have holes in them. I bet yours do, too. This new store on the Pearl Street Mall specializes in socks of every shape, size, material, pattern and even crazy socks you never could dream exist. Sock Em has socks to fit anyone’s style. My style is warm and cozy socks to bundle up in on a cold winter day. After freezing my feet on the slopes, I’d love a promise of warm and toasty toes awaiting me in back in the car or my hotel room.
5. A bottle of Blue Nectar Tequila Silver, Hazel’s Beverage World, 1955 28th St., Boulder, hazelsboulder.com, about $30 (varies by size)
Who says tequila is only for margaritas in the summer? When the weather cools down, a nice sip of tequila will warm you right up. My favorite brand is a bottle of Blue Nectar Tequila Silver. Blue Nectar makes small-batch, artisan tequila with unique flavors. Find it at Hazel’s, a great place to get your adult beverages in Boulder.
6. Handmade pet treats, PC’s Pantry, 2828 30th St., Boulder, pcspantry.com, price varies
I know this is supposed to be my wish list, but I’m giving one of my wishes to a very deserving pet. In Boulder, pets are part of the family. You don’t need me to remind you not to forget your pets this holiday season. Plus, they deserve some extra love; they put up with us humans. Let them know you appreciate it with handmade treats made with natural ingredients.
7. A gift card to a local business, Downtown Boulder, boulderdowntown.com/gift-cards, price varies
Deciding what gift is right can be a challenge. In that case, a gift card is a good solution. I always enjoy a gift card and think they are a thoughtful gift. You get the gift, plus the experience of going downtown to shop for it, which is a memorable experience during the holiday season, when the mall is decorated in countless twinkling lights.
Plus, a gift card fits anyone’s budget and they support local businesses. You can find gift cards to just about anywhere, from retail stores, specialties shops, bike stores, tours, restaurants, spas, fitness facilities, health and beauty and more. A great, flexible option is to buy a Downtown Boulder gift card. This card is good at 180 different locations, many of which are locally run and owned.
Donate to: EFAA Boulder, efaa.org
EFAA is celebrating 100 years this year, a huge milestone that’s worth acknowledging and supporting. Nonprofit EFAA helps people in the community who can’t meet their needs for food, shelter and other basics. It also supports their efforts toward self-sufficiency and financial independence. It empowers people and families to not just survive but to thrive. The nonprofit has various ways to help: volunteer opportunities, financial or food donations and corporate partnerships.
Helping out your neighbors and giving back to our community is a local cause that needs your support.