by Stephanie Block

Take a secret peek into my often sordid dreams and see what I hope is under the Christmas tree! (Hanuka bush? Kwanza calla lily?)

On the first day of a non-denominational, secular holiday, my true love (yeah, right, I can’t even get him to pay for a meal) gave to me…

Twelve charitable donations a-helpin’

Eleven Prada gloves and clutches a-matchin’

Ten college logo tees a-savin’ Africa

Nine Buddha Bar CDs a-jammin’

Eight Porsche champagne towers a’chillin’

Seven cat trees a-some assembly requirin’

Six Barbies a-Diane von Furstenburging


Four Ivanka Trump jewelry sets

Three Pucci champagne bottle pouches

Two Local handmade gifts from

…and a set of Playful Chef Holiday recipe cards…..!!!

Wanna know more?

1. Playful Life Holiday Gift Recipes: Don’t know what to get your own kids, not to mention all them nieces, nephews, cousins and kids of friends? Look no further than this educational, interactive gift. It’s truly the gift that keeps on giving as you and/ or your friends and family spend quality time in the kitchen (whatever that is) bonding over the making of international delights.

The five new kid-tested international recipes are (drum roll please):

-Chinese New Years Fortune Cookies

-Mexican Christmas punch

-Passover Matzah Brei Breakfast

-Kwanza Creole Bread Pudding

-Indian Dewali Delights

Don’t have the original Playful Chef Cooking Kit or Toolbelt Apron with kid-sized cooking tools? Well get thee to any of the many retail and online stores that carry these awesome products! And yes, they’re good for boys and girls. My little step, er grand, um, half-step, um, step-nephew (??) loves his apron and absolutely will not take it off.

2. Ivanka Trump Collection: I know you, and you’re skeptical. Another starlet person thingy with more wares to hawk. Does she have a degree in jewelry-ology? Well, you have to admit that a person able to shop for fine gems all her life has to know some thing about bling.

It turns out she does. Wow. This stuff is faaaabulous! And her new retail store in Manhattan (683A Madison between 61st and 62nd) is quite the experience. Do not deny yourself, though Trump you may not be…

3. Lil’ Minx Pink Stripper Pole! After two S Factor levels and one stint at Slinky Productions, I am ready to practice my moves at home. Especially since the winter is so yucky, the best place for cardio-striptease may be in my bedroom. You go, self-girl!

I want want want a pink stripper pole. They’re easy–just hire that hunky neighborhood handy man to install these removable poles and you’re good to go! You can get a traditional stainless steel, or go wild for pink, red or black.. Everyone who’s anyone in the instructional stripping world recommends them. And for $600 bucks, you can get yours CUSTOM COLORED! Yes, they can match your motorcycle, mama.

PS: Removable means that when the in-laws come to visit, your Lil’ Minx is your lil’ secret…

4. Barbie: Have you seen Barbie lately? I am an avid collector. You got a problem with that? So what if I have a rotating collection in cases on my living room wall? What do you mean you’re concerned what the men I bring home will say? It hasn’t been an issue, sadly. Anyhoo… Barbies are rad. With designers like Diane von Furstenberg, Cynthia Rowley, Anna Sui and Badgley Mischka taking turns dressing our icon, how bad could they be?

What’s coming in ’08, you ask? Oh, a little thing I like to call Grease-inspired Barbies, and the word that I heard is that it comes with a musical stand. I have my eye on not Rizzo nor even Cha Cha but of course Frenchie from the Beauty School Drop-Out scene when she has pink hair. To match my stripper pole of course!!

5. Mona Brooks, photographer to the stars, turned me onto Etsy, an amazing place where people around the world can make a living buying and selling hand-made items. This means that truly one-of-a-kind gifts abound! From Atlanta to Zanzibar, and all points in between including local listings for London, Paris, Barcelona, Seattle, Vancouver and more! Mona’s fave is the art of Rebecca Van Stralen.

6. Gifts for Cat and Cockatiels Great gifts for babies, if your babies are your pets! I know you love dogs, too, but is there not a largesse of puppy products?

A) Armarkat: Sorry to prejudice myself, but I have to shout out to the cat fancy-ing world that my cats’ lives changed when I ordered an eight-foot tall cat tree off Armarkat. Not only was it loads and loads cheaper than most other cat trees, but its whole some assembly required vibe, though terrifying, turned out to be quite therapeutically simple! It made me feel good about myself that I had actually built this tabby Taj, yet also allowed my feline friends to enjoy their natural habitat high up in the fake shelves of my cat tree.

B) Berkeley Rustic Birdhouses: My friend Mary Jo, dog owner, also told me about this wildly unusual yet typically Berkeley bird house seller. As she tells it, “This guy sells these fabulous and one-of-a-kind birdhouses, right in Berkeley! Plus, he taught a bunch of tsunami survivors in Sri Lanka how to build the little houses and sells those too. Give your local homeless birds a place to call home!” So says MJ, and I think that’s pretty cool.

7. Stunning Champagne Gift Sets: Now, let’s take a moment to set our brains on fantasy mode. Let’s say you have all the money in the world. Let us cart our Cliquot in Pucci, enjoy Perrier Jouet in matching flower glasses, and don the Dom with a Karl Lagerfeld presentation gift box. Now where to put all that pesky bubbly? Stack it in your Porsche-designed very Veuve stand. Oh, our glasses bubbleth over! Contact your most fabulous local wine and spirit shop to purchase and indulge.

8. International JetSet Music CDs: If you gift to impress (ha! my typo said, “pimpress”–I am more clever than I know!), the following music collections represent the most elite of chic establishments. Mixes by Paris’ famed Hotel Costes and Buddha Bar, and St. Tropez’s most elite hotel for hipsters, Byblos, as well as the world’s only 7-star hotel, Dubai’s Burj Al Arab… they have all thought to capture their essences in sound to enable you to recreate heaven at home. Impossibly cool, not terribly expensive, and easily transportable…just like us!

9. Fabulous Fashions: I nearly spilled champagne on my Jimmy Choos when I saw them–Prada’s matching gloves and purse. An ensemble unto themselves, one cannot tell where the glove ends and the gotta-have-it clutch begins. Clutch your hearts, fashionistas! Oh, it is too late. And did you know that outre dress designer Roberto Cavali created a collection for
H&M not costing an arm, a leg, and possibly a session of lipo?

Finally, your alma mater might use Barnes and Nobles college online bookstores and thus have logo tees whose proceeds to go Africa as part of Bono’s Edun LIVE line. With over 600 college and university affiliates, you are certain to sport University of Chicago, Texas A&M, Columbia and Vassar tee-shirts that support sustainability and hope in Africa. Go team!

10. Donations! Volunteerism!: Donate to and/ or become an active member of your favorite causes! I’m urging my friends to join Spark of course, not only for its great vision but to get discounts on fabulous parties!

But you don’t have to join Spark, I suppose. Support your local museum or symphony, eradicate a disease that has afflicted family or friends, give relief to a country in need, or give generously to a cause that personally moves you, be it environmental, political, social or religious. Save children or other mammals. Seek out your local food bank, senior center, or struggling school. Read a book, help with homework, deliver meals, build a house!

Is this altruism? Heck no! You will meet fabulous people along the way, and you will feel so warm and toasty on the inside, too. Every little bit DOES help, and all of that helping comes back to you.

Happy sales to you until we meet again!