By Stacey Cervellino
Christmas. One mention of the word and I think, long lines, hot department stores, and too much eggnog. Gift giving at Christmas time, shouldn’t cause a nervous breakdown, and for those of us who don’t shop for Christmas all year round, here are a few places to make gift giving easier and more enjoyable. 57th Street, just a few blocks from Christmas Central, aka, Rockefeller Center, is a Christmas shoppers best friend. Midtown, while overflowing with tourists during the holidays, is also packed with Christmas spirit and one of the largest concentrations of high-end shops, department stores, and specialty stores.
The Greenhouse Spa
127 E. 57th St.
The Greenhouse is a full service spa, specializing in facials and body treatments. They are know for their Japanese Silk Booster Facial, spa packages, and massage therapy. A Greenhouse Spa Package includes a facial, massage, scalp treatment or foot conditioning treatment and makeup makeover for $275, a Massage a la carte is $110 for 60 minutes, and the Greenhouse Facial is $110. Celebrating a first Christmas together? The Couple’s Paradise is a great gift for newlyweds. It includes a couple’s massage, lunch, the ultimate spa manicure and pedicure all for $450. And for the man in your life: the Men’s Escape Package for $225 which includes a Gentleman’s Facial, a Sports Massage and a foot or hair and scalp treatment.
The Greenhouse uses and carries products by Lather, an all-natural plant based synthetic free cosmetic line. Go to the Lather website at www.lather.com, and under the resources tab, you’ll find a guide to the natural ingredients and essential oils used in their products, described in detail.
The Cranberry Sugar Rub and Bamboo Foaming Body Scrub both for $38 are a steal and smell good enough to eat. Speaking of which, the Chocolate Fix for $32 makes a great gift for chocoholics. The Dutch Mocha Body Buff and Belgian Chocolate Whip are infused with semi-sweet chocolate and will moisturize and exfoliate your skin without leaving you smelling like a cookie.
Other gift ideas from Lather:
The Candle Sampler for $18, comes with 6 votives all in a reusable tin, in scents like clove, milk and honey, and brown sugar.
The Head to Toe for $25 gives you a chance to pamper yourself with AHA hand cream, Lavender foot cream, Manchua body butter, and the heavenly Bamboo and Lemongrass foaming Body Scrub.
For your metro sexual friends, boyfriends, and brothers: The Men’s Set, complete with Lather’s clove Soap (please go and smell this soap!), Almond Shave Cream, Ultra Light face lotion and the Bamboo Face Scrub for $45.
And for some winter pampering, the Dry Skin Rescue Kit for $35. Most of these gift boxes are $10 off of the original price for the holidays.
Make an appointment to visit the spacious spa that offers a steam room, skylight lit café, and a friendly and knowledgeable staff (Marc knows his stuff) and visit the Lather website to order gift packages or to look up the healing properties of the very biblical essential oil, Frankincense.
125 East 57th St.
Mon-Fri 10-8 Sat 10-7 Sun 11-6
Daffy’s is definitely hit or miss, but if you’re looking for gifts for Grandma and the Aunt you only see once a year, Daffy’s is the perfect place. The store is full of Italian Wool sweaters from $14-$40, handmade wool scarves for $14, Angora Sweaters for $14, and DKNY wool coats for $89. Daffy’s is also a good place to find stocking stuffers: colorful wool tights by HUE for $10 and note cards and candle holders for $4.99. For friends with children, they’ve got a great selection of children’s designer shoes: buy little Chelsea some Moschino Red and Gold tie-ups originally $125, now $33.32. For you? Again, it’s hit or miss, but right when you walk in, check out the lilac rabbit fur short jackets circa 1970 for a mere $90.
461 Park Avenue @ 57th Street
New York, NY 10022
Bookstores are THE foolproof place to do your Christmas shopping. In fact, my brother and I usually head to Borders or Barnes and Noble on Dec. 22 for our last minute family shopping. Borders is full of gift ideas. The Charles Brown Christmas CD for $12.99 or the smooth sounds of the incomparably romantic Nat King Cole: The Christmas Songs for $16.99 could evoke a tear or two from Ebenezer Scrooge himself.
Borders has countless books turned films: Steve Martin’s Shop Girl (he’s a hilarious writer), In Her Shoes, Memoirs of a Geisha (read before you watch!), and Capote’s masterpiece, In Cold Blood.
For James Patterson fans, the new hardcover is 30% off, and for those die hard Simple Life fans; Nicole Richie has taken pen to paper and written the book The Truth About Diamonds. Shockingly, the book chronicles the tale of a rich girl and her rich friends.
Also on the shelves, a beautiful new novel by John Irving and the new Frank McCourt novel, Teacherman. There are shelves of biographies, political works, and for sports fans: The ESPN Universe College Football Encyclopedia %20 off of $50. For the intellectuals in your life, surprise them with the Complete New Yorker on 8 DVD CDROMs 20% off of $100. The perfect gift for writers, historians, teachers or anyone who loves a good reference tool and a good read.
Other gift ideas:
Photo books and art books. There’s a fun book called a Brooklyn State of Mind for your Brooklynite friends, which includes essays and stories about Brooklyn and it’s famous and not so famous inhabitants.
Journals, calendars and note card sets. Perfect for office gifts, or to add a little something extra and personal to someone’s Christmas gift. Desktop calendars like the Jeopardy Daily calendar and 365 Bottles of Beer, or the Hollywood Kisses note card set for $13.95, and colorful journals ranging from $9.99 are fun inexpensive gifts. There’s also a great recipe holder binder/book with a fifties housewife on the cover. And for $20 you can buy a friend or co-worker an oversized Paris themed calendar. They can cut out the prints after each month, frame them, and viola! Instant art.
Borders also carries an impressive DVD and books on tape collection for children and grownups.
6 West 57 St. @ Madison Ave.
New York, New York 10019
Club Monaco is the edgy workingwoman’s paradise: brocade skirts, velvet pencil skirts, oversized sweaters, and cashmere shrugs, all a bit pricey, but surprisingly well made. Holiday wear has taken over the store just in time for office parties and other gatherings. I tried on the famed Sexy Strapless Silk dress, featured in In Style Magazine. The color is a jewel-toned fuchsia, but the fit was so-so and the fabric didn’t drape quiet as well as I had hoped. For $199, I like my dresses to fit like a glove.
On the bright side, Club Monaco has fantastic sales. A gift certificate might be in order for after Christmas bargains for men and women. The men’s section in particular features Cords and Dress Pants for $49, Cord jackets for $39 (great for layering in winter), and cotton Button Down Shirts for $19.
The women’s sale section had less in the way of gift ideas, although the jeweled Princess Cardigan for $80 would be great for mom or sis. For yourself, there is a nice selection of tweed skirts for work, a pretty Victorian Shirt for $39, Jacquard jackets for $100 (great for mixing and matching), and a sweet silk red and brown shirt dress, $89, with tiny puffy shoulders, a mandarin neck line, and a thin sash to complete a polished yet sexy work to after work look.
The sales help at Club Monaco are approachable and will actually try to help you find a size if they don’t have it on the floor. Shop away.
3 W 57th Street
New York, NY 10019
Mon-Sat 10-8, Sun 11-6
Across the street from Club Monaco is Coach, full fantastic gift ideas. Coach has definitely added a bit more “bling” to its image over the years. It began as a small family business in a downtown Manhattan loft. They created their first handmade handbag in 1941, using glove-tanned leather, inspired by, of all things, baseball mitts. I remember buying my mother a traditional Coach leather handbag in the 80′s and thinking how simple and elegant the design was. Some of these classic styles have returned and are available online from $168(the basic bag)-$298 (the Stewardess bag).
Everyone has gone ipod crazy, and Coach is one step ahead of the game, offering up luxury ipod cases and ipod shuffle cases, decorated with peonies, ladybugs, and butterflies all leather with detailing, from $78.
The wallets are gorgeous and will run anywhere from $88-$200. A coach wallet is a great grownup, “here’s something that will last you a long time,” gift. The coin purses are adorable, great for taking out dancing-a bit pricey but full of sweet details like rabbit fur, and the leather flowers and butterflies. The wristlets are $78-$178 and come in tweed, traditional leather, mosaic, suede, metallic, patchwork, shearling, and python motifs-something for everyone from your friends in Soho to your mom in Des Moines, Iowa.
Leather charms are $28 and key ring charms are $38-$58. The oversized leather charm key ring for $98 is fun, well made and will add a little elegance to your life.
Treat your friends in style this Christmas.
The Sharper Image
New York City
10 West 57th St.
New York, NY 10019
I’m not advocating random gift giving at Christmas time. I think one should give gifts that have meaning and that are well thought out. But let’s be honest here, there’s a lot of pressure at Christmas time. We’re forced to give gifts to people, like my father, who need absolutely nothing or folks who we might see once a year…. this is what stores like the Sharper Image live for. Since ipod mania hit the streets there have been a series of speakers made just for ipods and mp3 players. Gone are the days of the bulky stereo system, and 5 CD changers. You can play 1,000 songs or more, and your “stereo” will only take up about a foot of space. Sharper image offers the isphere, a round speaker system that makes it look like your ipod is chilled in a bucket of ice, for ipods and mp3 players for $149, an isplash waterproof mp3 player for the shower for $129, and the idog for $34.95. Not only does idog act as a speaker, but he dances to the beat and his cute little expressionless, eyeless, lipless face, lights up as he dances.
Other fun items are the compact Sharper Image Stair climber for $149.95-great for space saving, and the Portable DVD/CD player for $399.
Brasserie 8 1/2
9 W. 57th St. (Midtown West)
between Fifth and Sixth Aves.
Featured long ago on Sex and the City, Brasserie is a stylish bar and restaurant with large portions, and enormous bar, and a fabulous spiral staircase leading down into the restaurant. The pre-fixe menu offers a three-course lunch for $25 and a three-course dinner for $35. The buffet-style brunch is Sunday from 11am-3pm. Brassiere is also a great place for after work drinks or stop by after that boring work party for some elegant drinks, good conversation, and guy watching.
60 W. 57th St. @ Sixth Ave.
At the end of our journey down 57th Street is Rue 57. Part French Bistro/part Japanese Sushi bar, Rue also offers a great cocktail hour with an amazing selection of free munchies while you sip your wine or martini. Brunch is Sat and Sun, 11am-3:30pm.
After shopping you might want to wander down Fifth Avenue to see the tree at Rockefeller Center, the windows at Saks, or St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The Radio City Christmas Show is a fun way to spend an afternoon with the family, and for late night holiday fun, check out Tommy Femmia as Judy Garland, singing all her Holiday Hits or The Christmas Radio Hour, a trio of cabaret singers singing holiday classics and hilarious new Christmas songs, both at Don’t Tell Mama 43 West 46th Street.
Call 212-757-0788 for tickets, $15.00 cover with a 2 drink minimum.