No time of year brings our senses alive like the holidays. The sights, the sounds, the smells. People write songs about it. Can’t you just smell and hear those chestnuts roasting on that open fire and feel Jack Frost nipping at your nose?
So we shopped for gifts this year that will engage and delight the senses of everyone on your list. These gifts taste, feel, sound, smell and look good. And we’ve got the “sixth” sense covered too: Gifts that have some small purpose to do good in the world.
Bizz and Weezy sea salt caramels and chocolate-covered Oreos
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Santa will flip if you leave him a plate of these yummy, dressed-up Oreos. But that’s just one sweet offering from Olathe chocolatier Bizz and Weezy Confections, which also makes turtles, caramels and ornate truffles. Last December, We B Nuts, 9437 Mission Road in Leawood, which sells all of the chocolate company’s goodies, sold 500 pounds of B&W’s popular sea salt caramels, dipped in dark chocolate and topped with crunchy imported sea salt. Oreos, about $6 for six; caramels $14 for box of 12. bizzandweezy.com. 866-962-7953.
Season + Square signature salts
Andrea Joseph, hands down one of the most elegant women we’ve ever met, sells “everything tasteful for your home” at her Brookside shop, Season + Square, 6205 Oak St. She means tasty, too, as in the store’s signature salts and spices — Hawaiian Black Lava ($6.70), Sel Gris Noirmoutier ($6) and Molokai Red Sea Salt ($6.95) to name three — and other culinary treats like artisanal cocktail bitters, chocolates and tall bottles of amber-colored Tupelo honey, one of the rarest of honeys that never crystallizes. (We grabbed some honey, too.) seasonandsquare.com. 816-326-3148.
Stony Crest Urban Farm treats
Oh the local food goodies to be scored from the online Holiday Farm Stand sale hosted by Stony Crest Urban Farm. The “stand” will be open Dec. 1-19 at stonycresturbanfarm.com. The organic fruits and vegetables grown on the farm, at 87th and Garfield streets in Kansas City, have been turned into jams and jellies. The Anaheim, Ghost and Trinidad Scorpion peppers have been dehydrated, too. Winter squash, garlic, raw honey and holiday wreaths are offered, too. Order online and pick up your orders at locations in Waldo and the Crossroads. 816-304-2517.
J. Rieger & Co. Kansas City Whiskey
One of the hottest new liquors in our area this holiday season is really a comeback. Jacob Rieger & Co. was founded in 1887 in the West Bottoms Livestock Exchange district and made more than 100 alcoholic products until Prohibition killed the industry in 1919. This reincarnation ($36.99), which just hit shelves in liquor stores on the Missouri side early this month, pays homage to the original brand by blending corn, malt and straight rye whiskeys with a small amount of Spanish sherry. Welcome back, Rieger.
Fine Vines Ketchup
There is nothing basic about Fine Vines Artisanal Ketchup, and that’s the point. Bruce Steinberg — aka @KetchupChef on Twitter — is “looking to change the category. Ketchup is the No. 1 condiment, but it has the least amount of flavor choice in the supermarket.” His ketchups, made in KC, “change how you use ketchup” in flavors that include Sriracha, Thai ginger, black truffle and Roasterie coffee. (Yeah, coffee-flavored ketchup.) He offers recipes to show you how to use them for stir-fries, baby back ribs, even a breakfast bloody Mary. $5.99 per wide-mouth jar (because you can’t pour this thick, tomatoey goodness from a bottle), at Hen House, Hy-Vee, Cosentino’s Markets, McGonigle’s Market and some local Price Choppers. finevinesketchup.com.
Silver playing cards
There’s nothing Old Maid about these silvery playing cards from Crate & Barrel. They’ll turn poker night into an elegant affair, and the slick-to-the-touch coating makes shuffling a breeze. $9.95, Crate & Barrel. crateandbarrel.com.
Cardboard chess set
A lot of chess sets have pieces made of something heavy, like marble. But not this compact, take-anywhere set fashioned from, of all things, cardboard. There’s something throwback about the feel of the light-as-air, 3-D pieces in your hand. And no more trying to find a place to store the chess set. Just stuff it back in the flat box. $14.95, Crate & Barrel. crateandbarrel.com.
With a hat like this we say, “Bring it on, winter!” Its cloud-like softness comes from the fiber of Bob and Claudia Hey’s Ad Astra Alpacas in Baldwin City, Kan. They sell alpaca apparel, blankets, teddy bears, finger puppets, rugs and more at their Farm Store, open 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays and 1 to 4 p.m. Sundays. (No online orders.) Hats range from about $26 to $35, depending on the style; some have matching gloves. One of their newest products: alpaca bootliners that wick away sweat and keep toes toasty. A holiday open house kicks off the season from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 29 and 30. 168 E. 1700 Road, Baldwin City, Kan. adastraalpacas.com. 785-594-6767.
Doc Lerner skin care
Aaron Lerner of Kansas City pays homage to and carries on the legacy of his late father, local physician Scott Lerner, with his unisex line of all-natural, handmade skin products called Doc Lerner Quality Goods. He calls it “skin care with a purpose,” a necessity born out of his own experience with severe plaque psoriasis since childhood. The luxuriously creamy Face & Body Lotion ($24.99) is his “signature” product. The coconut-almond lotion “stick” ($11.99) is something we’d never seen before. At Milagro Midwestern Spa & Collective, downtown Overland Park; Skyline Salon, downtown KC; Eclectics Gallery and Amara Salon, both in Waldo, and on Etsy.
Sleepover! Help someone tap into their little-kid side this winter with a pair of comfy, cozy — and yes, a little silly — adult “Onesies.” We actually want everything from GeltFiend.com, the Hanukkah sweaters, the “Yeah, But I Get 8 Nights of Presents” baseball shirt and “Jewey accessories” like the “dreideltooth” — not houndstooth — patterned scarves. (The Onesies are $74.) Check out the website to see what happened when a certain fat guy in a red suit dropped in on a Hanukkah celebration. We hear that he lit the menorah like a pro.
All Jayhawks fan need this in their Christmas stockings. Filmmaker and KU professor Kevin Willmott’s sixth full-length movie, “Jayhawkers,” is now out on DVD. The flick is a sports biopic that recounts how former Jayhawk and NBA legend Wilt Chamberlain helped blur the lines separating blacks and whites in 1950s Lawrence. Former KU forward Justin Wesley plays Chamberlain, and the movie was shot mostly around Lawrence. DVDs ($20) and Blu-rays ($22) at Barnes & Noble in Kansas City, Topeka and Wichita, and online at Jayhawkersmovie.com.
Classical music from nuns
You cannot celebrate the holidays without music. May we suggest the beautiful sound of religious women singing like angels? The sisters of Benedictines of Mary, Queen of the Apostles in Gower, Mo., topped Billboard’s classical charts last year with their CD of sacred music, “Angels and Saints at Ephesus.” (They followed it up this year with “Lent at Ephesus” and six years ago recorded “Christmas at Ephesus.”) Proceeds help pay off the abbey’s debt and help the women expand the monastery grounds. $15 in major bookstores or BenedictinesofMary.org. Gloria in excelsis Deo, indeed.
Scarlett Garnet earrings
Jingle someone’s bells with these handmade earrings that gently “ring” as they dangle from the ear. They’re from Scarlett Garnet, the jewelry company launched in 2006 by friends Garnet Griebel Booth of Kansas City and Katie “Scarlett” Miller of St. Louis. Their “San Francisco Treat” earrings ($64), with a faceted pyrite, are from their new Wanderlust line. Intricate cuts and interesting combinations of copper, brass and stainless steel are the company’s signature look. Prices range from $27 to $130. At Shop Girls, Birdies, Donna’s Dress Shop, ScarlettGarnet.com and ScarlettGarnetEtsy.com. For an appointment at Griebel Booth’s studio in Northeast KC, call 816-914-5739.
Read-aloud children’s books
For some gifts you have to supply the sound yourself, as in books to read to the little ones. Why not tuck a great read-aloud book in their stocking? Here’s a great place to start. Every year the Missouri Library Association lets children across the state vote on the best read-aloud books of the year. A few on this year’s list: “Count the Monkeys,” “I Dare You Not to Yawn,” “Ribbit!” and “Mustache Baby.” To see the entire list, go to kclibrary.org.
Ni-Chern dog collars
When architect Nicole Wall of Olathe was laid off from her job, she decided to focus on something that gave her great joy: her sewing hobby. So she’s making the world more beautiful with her Ni-Chern Designs, practical items such as totes, key fobs, aprons and lanyards made from colorful, eye-catching fabrics. (Ni-Chern, pronounced “Nee-Churn,” is her Chinese name meaning “little girl.”) Her dog collars ($16-$24, depending on size) grabbed our attention. Wall also donates 10 percent of her profits to KidsTLC in Olathe. Available at Made, 737 Massachusetts St., in Lawrence and nicherndesigns.com.
Funhouse 57 goodies
Oh the things that come out of Dick Daniels’ Kansas City basement studio. Where to start? His T-shirts with quirky slogans like “Bad Girl” and “Be Happy, Dammit” ($20) or the baby Onesies ($20) decorated with a grunting little “poopy”? The illustrator/painter/ceramicist was an artist for Hallmark’s Shoebox Greetings for more than 20 years before he was laid off last year. But the giggles haven’t stopped, and we’re laughing with him, especially at his wackily illustrated wooden signs. Beer good! At Funhouse57.com. (Email him for one of the signs: email@example.com)
We’re still basking in the rah-rah glow of the World Series, and if you know someone else like that, make their holidays more stylish with these retro-style Royals sunglasses from Maxx HD. The lenses are shatterproof so you don’t have to worry about them breaking when the crowds scream next year at the Series. $25 at MLB. com and $30 at Kohls.com.
Cart Wheel Shop leggings
There’s nothing more basic than basic-black leggings, but basic can look so, well, boring. Your favorite fashionista will make a colorful fashion statement in these leggings ($60) from Jessica Rogers’ Cart Wheel Shop. She’s usually tooling around town in a short school bus painted blue. But this time of year it’s parked and she’s working out of her midtown studio at the Katz drugstore building, 3948 Main St. She also sells her clothing and accessories on her Etsy page, CartWheelShop, and will be at several holiday events and pop-up markets for the holidays. See the schedule at cartwheeljess.com. 816-287-0502.
Light-up sneakers aren’t just for kids anymore now that Brandon Laskowski of Kansas City has figured out how to retrofit adult-size Nikes with LED lights. He started making over sneakers back in high school when he hand-painted designs on his own. Now he’s 29 and putting his marketing studies at Northwest Missouri State University to good use running Evolved Footwear full time. The shoes are powered by a tiny battery tucked inside the tongue. Three settings make them glow continuously or flash at two speeds. He has sold them to grandparents who wore them on cruises and 20-something followers of the electronic music scene. Definitely a gift for someone who doesn’t mind standing out in the crowd. From $170, at evolved-footwear.com.
For Strange Women perfume
Jill McKeever makes her all-natural For Strange Women perfumes and cosmetics by hand, from scratch, in her Kansas City studio. Every perfume is designed to “conjure distinct memories and emotions through the powerful but often neglected sense of scent.” These natural essences stay close to the skin so that only you and anyone who gets near you will enjoy it — perfect for this season of hugging. At Birdies, Utilitarian Workshop, Oracle Fine Curiosities, Season + Square and Leedy-Voulkos Art Center Shop in Kansas City. forstrangewomen.com and Etsy.
5B & Co. votive candles
Walking into 5B & Co Candlemakers is such a treat for your nose that you’re going to want to linger a while. While you do, check out one of the cutest packaging ideas we’ve ever seen for votives: a cardboard mailing tube stacked full of chubby little candles ($24). All the candles in the shop — in more than 100 scents — are hand-poured by the folks who work there. Check out the Chiefs Tailgater votive that smells of smoky barbecue and the Royals votive reminiscent of leather and grass. Two locations: 6231 Brookside Plaza in Kansas City (816-361-6393) and 408 Main St., Weston (816-640-5525). 5bandco.com.
Trapp and Company room spray
A room spray, you say. As a gift? You bet, especially when it comes in a beautiful bottle and smells like Frankincense and Rain, an odd yet alluring home fragrance we found at Trapp and Company, 4110 Main St., famous for its candles and scents. It smells like church and is said to be one of the favorites of company founder Bob Trapp. It’s apparently beloved by customers too, as suggested by the “Back by Popular Demand” sign on the shelf. The fragrance ($11) is also available in a candle. Trappandcompany.com.
Milagro Midwestern Spa lotion
Take a seat at the Maker Counter at Milagro Midwestern Spa & Collective in downtown Overland Park and let owner/aestheticism Ashley Smith conjure up a custom-made lotion, facial moisturizer or other beauty treat for you and someone on your gift list. (This is definitely one of those buy-two ideas. We had her create a hand lotion and face moisturizer for us, $16 each.) She’s like a beauty bartender, calmly pouring and mixing raw, natural ingredients like fragrant essential oils (no chemicals) and creamy shea butter. Smith, a cancer survivor, named her spa using a Spanish word that has a lot of meaning for her: “miracle.” 8006 Foster St. milagromidwesternspa.com. 913-338-0620.
(Gifts that do good)
Greener Life Market’s wares
There’s no reason you can’t put a smile on someone’s face this holiday and be kind to the Earth at the same time. Anything you find at Gabriella Sanders’ Greener Life Market in downtown Lee’s Summit will help you do just that. Everything in the store that opened in August — artwork, fashion accessories, home goods, children’s toys — is recycled, up-cycled, biodegradable or eco-friendly. The Liberty Bottleworks bottles are made from recycled aluminum. She carries men’s and women’s watches made from corn resin. Yep, corn. Check out the gingerbread houses made from recycled cardboard. Way easier than baking them. 227 S.E. Douglas. 816-246-2091.
Only Little Wing dolls
When she’s not trying to keep up with her two little girls, artist Jennifer Schumaker is in her home studio in Gardner, Kan. making huggable Only Little Wing dolls. She uses new and vintage materials to create dolls ($30-$42), animals, play accessories and embroidery-hoop art. She donates 10 percent of sales to KC’s Ribbon of Worth Foundation, which promotes personal and community wellness. She sells her creations on Etsy and keeps followers posted on events on Facebook and her Only Little Wing blog.
Sometimes a bag of coffee isn’t just a bag of coffee. That’s the case with Kansas City’s Messenger Coffee Co., which recently purchased controlling interest in the four area Filling Station coffee shops. As part of its “Give Back Initiative,” the company gives 10 percent of its sales back to the farming communities it works with, a way to connect the people providing the beans with the folks drinking the final product. Or, if you have a favorite charity of your own, the company will give that 10 percent to your organization. Messenger’s artisanal roasts are served and sold by package ($16.50 to $19) at several locations around Kansas City, including Benetti’s Coffee Experience, Blue Springs; Black Dog Coffee House, Lenexa, and the Filling Stations in Overland Park, midtown and Westport. Messengercoffee.co.
Beer Paws doggie treats
If someone on your gift list loves beer and dogs, grab a bag of Beer Paws Beer Biscuits doggie treats ($11.95). The KC company’s slogan: “Beer Paws is dedicated to celebrating the relationship we beer drinkers have with our dogs.” Founder Crystal Wiebe married two recession-proof industries last year — beer and pets — to create products such as bottle openers that clip onto dog collars and leashes and a beef broth-based dog “beer” made with malt extract. The Beer Biscuits, made in part from spent grains left over from the brewing processes at Kansas City Bier Co. and other local breweries, are the most popular. She pays it forward by donating some of the company’s proceeds to local animal groups, including Pampered Pom Rescue. Beerpaws.com to order and for local retailers.