Tuesday, December 1, 2009

l'étoile's Guide to Holiday Cheer 2009

Content shared with Secrets of the City

Wasn't it just yesterday that we were putting together our 2008 Holiday Guide? We swear it was. Time flies! l'étoile has had a wonderful year, and we are so thankful for every last moment of it. For our readers, our collaborators, our muses, our staffers, our friends and families, and of course the crazy/cool creative community of the Twin Cities -- you truly are the fabulous fodder which spurs us on! This year's holiday guide (which could go on and on and on, really) is filled with great gift ideas (of local origin), entertaining advice, do-it-yourself holiday fun, and of course, some festive fashion tips. Enjoy, and have a spectacular holiday season!


Photo by Stephen Stephens for l'étoile agency


Stop yourself from going to the "Maul" this holiday season and instead, spend your hard-earned dough at independently owned local shops and on Twin Cities artists' wares. Not only will you feel good about supporting local peeps, but you'll likely walk away from the situation with an uber-original gift for that special someone.

Below you'll find some of our top picks for holiday gifting, but you simply must check out our big GUIDE TO HOLIDAY SHOPPING EVENTS which we've been updating left and right with cool local holiday sale events.

EC Designs

Emily Johnson is one of our favorite local jewelry designers, and her sweet and witty necklaces for EC Designs make a perfect holiday gift for the fashion plate in your life. When shopping for a friend of family member you're grateful for, consider expressing your thanks in a literal way with a Wishbone necklace. The designer's signature Heart necklaces are a lovely way to express your unwavering affection, and her Minnesota necklaces (a local cult favorite featuring an adorable heart-shaped cutout over the location of the Twin Cities) show the world that home is where your heart is. Order online at ecdesignstudios.com.

Theater All Year

Presented by Secrets of the City, Theater All Year ticket vouchers offer you an easy and affordable way to enjoy a huge variety of Twin Cities theater offerings throughout the season! The perfect gift for the dramatic-types in your life, they'll be able to use the vouchers to reserve seats for any of the hundreds of designated performances by some three dozen theater groups. There’s no standing in rush lines, no hassles, just the opportunity to step out and sample new stages and theatrical experiences. And if you're lucky, they'll take you with them! A package of 6 ticket vouchers is just $99. Sweet deal! Available at Sorella Wine Shop, Max's Jewelry and Gifts, or online at TheaterAllYear.com.

Ruby3 Designs

Ruby3 designer Anna Lee's feminine hats, clips and fascinators have always made great gifts. But what we're really craving for the approaching winter months is her line of cold weather hats. Ruby3 debuted a new series of faux fur hoods during MNFashion Week this fall, and since first sighting them on the runway, we've been planning out how to work them into our winter wardrobe. The hoods are lined with warm and cozy polar fleece fabric, so not only will you look chic, you'll stay toasty as well. Though these hoods make a perfect gift for a friend, we're going to be honest: we really just want them for ourselves. Ruby3 is available at I Like You in Minneapolis and at the temporary MNFashion Holiday Boutique in Gaviidae Common. For more info visit ruby3.com


There is something so luxurious and indulgent about giving beautifully scented candles for the holidays! But why pay high prices for designer candles at department stores when some of the very best scents and formulas are available from local, lady-owned product line, Thymes? We particularly love their Frasier Fir and White Persimmon fragrances, both perfect selections for home. If you're shopping for someone with a more adventurous nose, try the Tamarind Lychee candle. Thymes is not just about awesome candles, however, they offer a wonderous selection of bath and body products that run the gamut from skin care to perfume to baby products and more. We're completely in love with their Moonflower perfume, which comes in an affordable roller-ball gift-size option, complete with added micro glitter to give your skin a subtle, sparkly sheen. Thymes is available at numerous specialty shops around town, search for retail locations and shop online at thymes.com.


Is there anything not to love about this local design store? While the indie retail shop may claim its heart belongs to robots, any newcomer can tell its devotion extends to all arms of the pop art scene. Find limited edition vinyl and plush toys, jewelry and accessories, collectibles, screen-printed apparel and designer tees, uniquely designed home goods and arts & culture-themed books and zines. Plus, their gift cards, tailored stationery and mini figurines make for great stocking stuffers. Call it niche; call it cute. Just don't confuse it with a kid's store. Visit ROBOTlove online at robotlove.biz.

BONUS: Mention l'etoile and automatically get 15% off your purchase!

Art by Michael Cina

Original work by a world-renowned artist for as low as $15? Color us amazed. Big name, locally-based graphic designer Michael Cina applies his brilliant color theory tactics to abstract painting, and has put up an online shop just in time for the holidays. Peruse these reasonable priced, handmade works of art that come both framed and unframed. Cina's recent (and quite prolific) body of work runs along a theme of bulbous, multi-hued patterns and abstract layerings. Those familiar with his digital work will certainly draw comparisons between the use of color and balance of white space in these mixed media paintings. We liken this artist's work to clouds in the sky - it's really up to the viewer's imaginative interpretation. And for prices this low, you'll easily be able to snag impressive gifts for the art appreciators on your list. Visit the online store at michaelcina.bigcartel.com

Fun fact: Not only is Cina's work in the personal collections of certain l'étoile staffers, but one of his pieces served as inspiration for local art curator and fashion designer Emma Berg's 2010 collection, which will debut at Voltage: Fashion Amplified in April.

Museum & Theater Gift Shops

The holiday shopping season just wouldn't be complete without a quick pop into some of our favorite museum gift shops! The always chic Walker Gift Shop is certainly a sure bet; Ladies will love a pair of local jewelry designer Karin Jacobson's whimsical "Tornado" earrings ($85). Personally, we're coveting the custom Walker Art Center planners. The Weisman Gift Shop is a winner as well, with a stellar mix of handcrafted gifts, jewelry , toys, books, and more; we'd scoop up some chocolate from local artisian B.T. McElrath and possibly some limited edition Adam Turman prints! The Guthrie's gift shop offers beautiful gifts hand-crafted by regional artists, plus show-specific merchandise. Buy your loved one a pair of tickets to an upcoming show, then top it off with a corresponding gift from the onsite shop! And of course, we adore the MIA's gift shop, which offers all sorts of snazzy handcrafted gifts, art books, and classic and contemporary art prints. We're still chuckling over the featured item t-shirt that says "Please Don't Lick the Art" ($22.95). The Science Museum is a good bet as well; snap up fun, educational science-y gifts such as books and games, also posters, jewelry and decorative do-dads. Last but not least, we have to give a shout out to the SOO Visual Art Center's gift shop, which features pieces by local artists such as Amy Rice, Deuce Seven, Greg Gossel and Jennifer Davis, as well as tons of locally-made jewelry items and clever knick-knacks!

And of course, no plug for museum gift shops would be complete without a suggestion to give the gift of membership to said museums! The year-round gift that keeps on giving, your recipient will be privy to members-only special events, first peeks at exhibits, curator talks, shopping discounts, ticket discounts and more. A very thoughtful gift, if you ask us!

Shuga Records

The latest addition to the local record store circuit, Shuga Records, was created by Chicago DJ, “Shuga Rose,” and is a spin-off of one of the largest online record shops out there. The new-ish physical location in Northeast Minneapolis features nearly 400,000 high-quality recordings on inventory, many from Shuga's personal collection. The shop also offers low-priced used records and 12''s, newly released vinyl and CDs and a free bin of records and album-cover art – all good fodder for the audiophiles and music collectors on your list. Not to mention it's an awesome place to hang out and gift search; with in-store performances, a DJ booth, vintage turntables, listening booths and visual wall art – including a 50-ft mural from Broken Crow. For location and more info or to shop online visit shugarecords.com.

Screen Printed Poster Art

Fact: numerous nationally-known screen print artists call the Twin Cities home, making it pretty darn easy for you to scoop up sweet, limited edition art prints to jazz up your walls! l'étoile is lucky to have not one, but two, collectives as regular contributors to our weekly JagerCon sci-fi night at Clubhouse Jager. Both Squad 19 and Who Made Who have churned out some amazing, limited edition poster prints for our geeky soiree, which are dearly coveted by the hipster nerds who show up each week. Celebrate Who Made Who's 2nd Anniversary at their shop on December 12th with a killer 2-4-1 poster print deal! Squad 19's website offers a slew of hot prints of some of your favorite local bands and more! However, if you're looking for the perfect gift for the nerd in your life, you can always stop down to the JagerCon 1st Anniversary Party at Clubhouse Jager on December 15th from 9pm to 11pm to buy your favorites out of the dozens of sci-fi movie-inspired prints by both of these talented collectives for the discounted price of $10 each. Play sci-fi trivia with us at 9pm -- the grand prize is one of pretty much every print ever made for JagerCon!

I Like You!

If this NE boutique likes you, feel honored. Their new store-front – located on the same block as the Red Stag and the Fox Tax gallery – is the core of local artistans and craft goods. Everything at I Like You is handcrafted and affordable, from knitted doggie sweaters, adorable handmade baby clothes, and bound journals featuring artwork from local artists to stencil paintings, jewelry designed from vintage buttons & bottlecaps, and fashionable hand-sewn laptop bags and clutches. Find one-of-a-kind greeting cards and stationery as well. Oh, and did we mention the entire floor is covered in plush Astroturf? So, kick off your shoes and stay a while. For location and more info visit ilikeyouonline.com

Digtal Crush Photography

It's no secret we adore our staff shutterbugs from Digital Crush Photography, and we certainly aren't opposed to sharing them with you. Through December 31st Digital Crush is offering steep discounts on photo sessions, including $100 OFF their one hour portrait sessions (regular price $300) as well as discounted event photography (price depends on length of event). Buy a gift certificate as a fun holiday surprise for your family or your favorite aspiring musician or model -- or maybe just for yourself (who doesn't want a glamorous Facebook profile image, after all?) Printable full color gift certificates are available, and have no expiration date. Let DC shoot your face this holiday season! Visit them online at digitalcrushphoto.com or e-mail info@digitalcrushphoto.com

Blacklist Vintage

We definitely haven't hid our love for Eat Street's cutest boutique, and why should we! Vanessa Messersmith and Jennifer Sapiro's huge collection of vintage good makes it the one of the best vintage shops in town. Don't be fooled by its modest demeanor, the charming shop is stocked with authentic vintage apparel, jewelry and home décor from the '50s to the '80s. And don't forget those fashionable guys on your list! Blacklist's entire upstairs is devoted to the masculine side of vintage with classic fedoras, great jackets and stylin' boots. Need help finding the perfect vintage gift? Their friendly staff always has great advice. Plus, Blacklist also has a working Ms. Pacman console to lighten your shopping woes! For location and more info visit blacklistvintage.com

Bone Adventure

And for those who want to pamper their pups and kitties this season, there's Bone Adventure – the local, independently owned pet store with eco-friendly and homemade products for dogs and cats. Like its empire-esque counterparts, Bone Adventure features all the basic pet supplies, but with a great twist – au-naturale food, treats, fun toys and pet grooming products. Don't let your pets miss out on the fun -- your beloved pooch and/or kitty are always welcome inside the store! And for those looking for an extra special doggie gift, Bone Adventure specializes in B.O.B (Bottle of Broth), a locally made canine brew that comes in a variety of flavors including chicken and beef flavors – it's like beer for dogs! Visit their Northeast location on East Hennepin store or for other locations check the website at www.boneadventure.com

Rox Jewelry

One of our favorite chicks on the planet, Robyne Robinson, has been hand-making her own line of stunning jewelry for years and we can't get enough of it! Rox Jewelry pieces are the kind of accessories that demand to take center stage with their eclectic array of semi-precious stones, metals, unique beads and creative craftsmanship. Find the perfectly bold statement piece to pair with a simple, elegant cocktail dress or throw on one of her chunky stone necklaces with a casual outfit to immediately add some eye-catching pizazz! If there's one gift you should give yourself this holiday season, we say it ought to be Rox Jewelry. However, if you're not stylistically selfish, anything from this gorgeous collection would make a brilliant and thoughtful gift! For more info and to find numerous retail locations visit roxmpls.com

Tomatin 12-Yr Single Malt Scotch at Surdyk's

We're kind of obsessed with scotch as of late. Drinking it sort of makes us feel like bookish old men that ought to be sitting before roaring fireplaces in leather wingback chairs, plotting world domination. Unfortunately we have neither a fireplace, a wingback chair, nor a feasible plan for world domination. We do, however, have wild imaginations. Giving the gift of a fine, aged scotch not only makes you look superklassy, but may even include an invitation to help drink your own gift -- and who can argue with that? Our recommendation is Tomatin 12-Year Single Malt Scotch, a classic choice that wont break the bank. Available at Surdyk's for under $20, Tomatin 12 Year is aged in traditional oak barrels, delicately balancing hints of fruit, malt and peat. The Tomatin brand produces scotches that are aged up to 40 years (and cost up to $1000 per bottle). Surdyk's carries both the 12 Year ($17.99) and the 25 year ($149.99). Stop into Surdyk's or visit them online at surdyks.com


We adore this artsy St. Louis Park boutique! Max's specializes in decadent and exotic chocolates from as far away as Venezuela, Trinidad, and Madagascar; unique jewelry by independent artisans; and artist-crafted contemporary home decor. With their constantly revolving selection of carefully curated merchandise, you're sure to find something that will put stars in the eyes of even the most picky of giftees. Not to mention, fancy chocolates make the finest of stocking stuffers! For more info and location visit stylebymax.com

Azia Gift Card Deal

What says "I love you" more than a spicy tuna roll? Give the gift of sushi this holiday season with a gift card from Eat Street staple, Azia, where you can catch sweet deals on gift card purchases. Buy $100 worth of gift cards and get another $25 FREE. And if you're anything like us, you know that $25 can go a long way with Azia's Late Night Happy Hour menu. Now is actually the perfect time to revisit this tasty hot spot, as they've just revamped their Anemoni Sushi Bar, complete with fantastic decor a la local artists! Stop in to purchase gift cards during regular business hours. For more info and location visit aziarestaurant.com.

Miyagi Salon Aveda Deal

For the beauty icon in your life, a gift of Aveda products and/or beauty services is the way to go. One of our favorite salons in town, run by some of our favorite people in town, has a sweet promo going for the holiday season! Put together a custom Aveda gift package worth $20 or more and get a $20 gift card for goods or services, free! Not only does Miyagi stock a stellar array of beauty products but their salon services are top notch. Stop in and mention l'etoile to score the deal, or visit Miyagi online at dojoforbeauty.com.

Damn Good Food: 157 Recipes from Hell's Kitchen

We've become seriously addicted to Hell's Kitchen's Peanut Butter since hosting this Fall's Project Runway Screening Parties. Lucky for us, we've got our mitts on owner Mitch Omer's new cookbook Damn Good Food: 157 Recipes from Hell's Kitchen, which features every decadent dish served at the popular Minneapolis restaurant (including the Peanut Butter). Co-written by renowned local food critic, Ann Bauer, Damn Good Food is not simply a cookbook, but a helluva good read. The book details Mitch's battle with mental illness as well as numerous rough and rowdy tales from his rock n' roll, drug-addled history. From his days as an out-of-control nightclub bouncer to his beginnings as a renegade chef, and finally to the success of Hell's Kitchen with his wife Cynthia, Damn Good Food paints the picture of a passionate, intensely interesting man with a brilliant culinary talent. Visit Hell's Kitchen online at hellskitcheninc.com for details.

l'etoile special offer: e-mail cyn@hellskitcheninc.com before January 1st to be sent an instant coupon for a free 4-oz. jar of their homemade peanut butter with purchase of the cookbook and/or any entree. Yes, the is the mighty good stuff Gourmet Magazine called "the best peanut butter we have ever tasted, ever." Also a damn good gift? Hell's Kitchen Gift Certificates, which come as oversized "Tickets to Hell."

Drink This: Wine Made Simple

If you're not familiar with the clever culinary scribblings of one Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl, you've most likely been living under a loaf of Wonderbread since 1995. The longtime City Pages restaurant critic, more recently know as Minnesota Monthly's resident food and wine guru, Ms. Dara serves up some of the funniest, most endearing accounts of culinary wisdom we've ever had the pleasure of reading. Her new book, Drink This: Wine Made Simple, is a common man's guide to the art of wine appreciation. Complete with Moskowitz-Grumdahl's signature wit, this tome fills you in on how to drink good wine without breaking the bank; how to identify and properly pair it with meals; and much more -- sans snobbery. Filled with personal anecdotes as well as interviews with some of the world’s savviest critics, winemakers and chefs, Drink This: Wine Made Simple is the perfect gift for the wine connoisseur and newbie alike. The book is available at most major booksellers, though we suggest you shop local pick it up at an independent retailers such as magersandquinn.com

We asked the lovely Ms. Dara to give us a few recommendations on local restaurant gift card ideas for the wine/food enthusiast on your list, and she happily obliged:

by Dara Moskowitz-Grumdahl

Parasole Restaurants
Not sure if your gift-recipient would prefer Champagne and a chilled seafood tower, steak and Cabernet, or Chianti and pizza? Let them decide! A gift card for Parasole can be redeemed at any Parasole restaurant, including Salut (for the seafood tower), Manny's (for the steak) or even brand new Il Gatto, (for pizza and Italian grill-roasted meats) as well as other top spots like Muffaletta, Chino Latino, and more. Purchase gift cards online at parasole.com

Chef Vincent Francoual is world-class. He once cooked at one of the universe's best restaurants, Le Bernardin, and his wine list is excellent, and draws a very personal picture of the best southern France has to offer. If your gift-recipient is a knowledgeable globe-trotter, there's no finer pick than this. For more info visit vincentarestaurant.com

If your gift-card-getter doesn't like a fuss but does have a taste for the exquisite, how about something that can be used in one of the best wine-bars in the country? Heartland offers groundbreaking fine-cooking using astonishingly good, and astonishingly local ingredients alongside wines chosen not for their popularity, but for their complex flavors and overall delightfulness. For more info visit heartlandrestaurant.com


If we could gift ourselves with snarky poetic insight, we may very well buy it straight from Paul D. Dickinson. Known as the original Twin Cities "Punk Poet," Paul D. has made memorable impressions as the co-founder of the famed 1990s alternative art and music space, Speedboat Gallery, as well as a performer (as himself) in the popular Electric Arc Radio Show troupe. You can catch Paul D. every first Sunday of the month at the Riot Act Reading Series too -- December 6th he hosts along with writers/performers Mary Mack, Stephanie Wilbur Ash, Frank Henry Rawlings III and Laura Brandenburg at 10pm in the lower level of the Turf Club. We asked the punk poet to recommend a couple "Paul D. Approved" books for gifting and to whip us up a little holiday poem...complete with his signature zing, of course.

All I want for Christmas is some Colt 45

by Paul D. Dickinson

All I want for Christmas is some Colt 45
And the tiny little chance to
Pretend I'm alive
So I demand a rematch
My guns and thoughts ablaze
As I destroy the nearly toasted year
With your spaced out gaze
I demand a rematch
This time I'll be the space alien
And you be the human
Lets promise to do just three things together
Two of them being listening to records
And drinking
All I want for Christmas is some Colt 45

Paul D. Approved Book Recommendations (blurbs from publisher)

Down and Out in Paris and London
by George Orwell

This unusual fictional account, in good part autobiographical, narrates without self-pity and often with humor the adventures of a penniless British writer among the down-and-out of two great cities. In the tales of both cities we learn some sobering Orwellian truths about poverty and society. Available HERE via Magers & Quinn.

A Fan's Notes
by Fred Exley

Mr. Exley, a schoolteacher in a dismal rural New York town, finds pleasure in rooting for the Giants and his own survival in modern American society in this fictional memoir. Available HERE via Magers & Quinn.


We love a good holiday party! What's better than getting together with comrades, sharing a drink and reminiscing about the past year and all you're thankful for? Check out our suggestions on ways to make your holidays sparkle (as in sparkling wine, of course).

by Dana Lade

Local vino expert Dana Lade fills us in on wonderful wines to enjoy over the holidays. Great for gifting and/or guzzling...out of a pretty glass of course!

Duval Leroy “Paris” Brut NV Champagne, France

Duval Leroy produces the best Champagne available in the Twin Cities market for under $35. Try it by the glass at La Belle Vie or pick one up at Solo Vino for $34.99. It’s a classic brut blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay contained in a gorgeous etched bottle complete with a drawing done by local artist Leroy Nieman of a Paris street scene for Madame Leroy. As a matter of fact he did the drawing on a napkin while dining with Madame Leroy, who was so charmed by the image she had it transferred to her flagship bottling. Expect to drink a proper, toasty style of Champagne, alive with nuances of citrus and brioche. Even better, it’s sold in a rather fabulous gift box. Available at Solo Vino, Zipp’s, Kowalski’s Wine Markets

Altos Los Hormigas Malbec 2008 Mendoza, Argentina

Malbec is so hot right now. No seriously, it is. And for good reason! Wine from Argentina has European know-how behind it and doesn’t take a pricing hit when it’s sold to the US, unlike wines from Europe. The winemaker for Altos spends his Northern Hemisphere summer in Montalcino, Tuscany making Brunello. In his spare time he is producing some of the best Malbec that Mendoza has to offer. A great Malbec should always boast lush blue fruit and satisfying dryness. Perfect with most anything! $11.99-$12.99, Available at Solo Vino, Sorella, Byerly’s

Huber Hugo Gruner Veltliner 2008 Austria

Invited to dinner? Not sure what’s being served? Trying to appease your budget while showing up with a wine that everyone can enjoy? Try a Gruner Veltliner, Austria’s answer to food friendly white wine. The Huber Hugo retails around $10-$12 and nary leaves a palate disappointed. In fact, Gruner is one of the only wines that can claim to pair nicely with wine unfriendly foods, such as asparagus and egg dishes. This one offers delicious notes of kafir lime, mineral, and quenching acidity; NO OAK. Try it, you’ll like it. Available at Surdyk’s , Solo Vino, and Zipp’s


Here's a tidbit of boozy Minnesota History for ya: Our own Phillips Distilling Company was the FIRST to introduce Schnapps to America, way back in ye olde 1935. Spanning from (the original Schnapps) Peppermint to fruitier flavors such as peach, watermelon, and raspberry to festive sippables like butterscotch and cinnamon, Schnapps is a kitschy and versatile liqueur that can add pizazz to just about any concoction. We love the nostalgic connotations it holds as well -- we imagine Joan from Mad Men has sipped her fair share of Schnapps! Make your holiday party sparkle by serving a cute 'n classic Schnapps-inspired cocktail, such as the one below! For more info on Phillip's Schnapps visit phillipsdistilling.com

Chocolate Mint Martini

5 oz Prairie Organic Vodka
2 oz Phillips Creme De Menthe (green or white)
1/2 oz Phillips Peppermint Schnapps
Dark chocolate (grated or shaved)

Combine in a shaker with ice and strain into a martini glass (or an 'I Heart Mom' mug, whatever's handy). Garnish with a mini candy cane and grated dark chocolate.


Hot Dr. Pepper

This hot drink gained popularity in the early '60s and is still a perfect holiday bevie for a cold winter afternoon. Take a thin slice of lemon and place it in the bottom of your favorite mug or teacup. Heat Dr. Pepper (please, no Dr. Thunder--this is not the time to go generic) in a saucepan until it appears to be boiling (due to the carbonation, it will start bubbling before it reaches a true boil). Pour the steaming soda over the lemon and enjoy this bizarre beverage that we swear we didn't make up!


How classic is trimming the tree with the fam? Pretty classic, but now that you're all grown up it may be time to start your own holiday traditions if you haven't already. We suggest putting on a rock n' roll tree trimmin' soiree for all your favorite friends. Throw some some New York Dolls onto the turntable and serve up liberal amounts of mulled wine or warm brandy (we like ours with a dash of Amaretto and a lemon wedge) and spend an evening decorating your tree with good pals. This idea works equally well for a gift wrapping party -- why do it alone when you can rock out with booze and besties?


Ok, we don't want you to die, but in the punk rock spirit of Do-It-Yourself, we couldn't help but say it. And while our DIY recommendations are more gifts and crafts than studs and spikes, we still feel that giving something inspired by your own creativity and know-how is way more hardcore than buying-off-the-rack. Check out our suggestions for handmade decorating and gifting that will surely impress.

For the Love of Paper!

We're pretty obsessed with Paper Source, a veritable goldmine of craftable ideas and pretty, pretty products. Our staff designer and Paper Source guru, Chris Larson, recently used materials from the cute shop to create the adorable "present hats" in our holiday party promo shoot, and they turned out splendidly if we do say so ourselves. Hit up this specialty retailer for all manners of decorative paper, ribbon, crafting kits and more. The perfect place to stock up on supplies for artsy holiday projects like paper ornament making, as detailed in this tutorial via craftstylish.com. Another great paper-related resource in the Twin Cities is the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, which offers wonderful paper art classes (workshops are a great gift, say we), as well as a fantastic gift store that sells not only really cool paper, but also really cool how-to books and handmade paper art items crafted by local artists. The possibilities are endless! For more info and locations visit mnbookarts.org and paper-source.com

Stuff your Stocking!

We'll admit we're suckers for anything Santa-related, and the Christmas tradition of hanging stockings over the fireplace is one that we find extra sweet. However, the design of anything store-bought leaves a lot to be desired (hello, cheesy cartoon reindeer and cheap acrylic fluff). Our suggestion? Make your own for the lil' ones in your life, or simply for sassy holiday decor! You can put your own kooky spin on it and at the same time make something cool that hopefully will stick around for many holiday seasons to come. It's not too tough to sew and embellish your own stocking (here's an easy pattern that can be modified) but the real fun comes in picking the fabric! Hit up Northeast's Crafty Planet to find some zany retro fabric and embellishments for your stocking, as well as pretty yarns, fun sewing patterns, and cute handmade gifts. In fact, Crafty Planet is even offering a stocking-making workshop for kids on December 12th! For more info and location visit craftyplanet.com.

Baubles for your Babe!

Attention Boys: this is an official l'étoile challenge! Want to really bring a tear to your lover's eye this holiday season? Try your hand at jewelry design! We have the utmost confidence that any guy can cobble together something stunning with the help of the wise sages at Uptown's Bobby Bead shop. Stop in and learn all you need to know about creating simple necklaces and bracelets. No need to get uber-complicated -- a single strand of unique beads of different shapes, sizes and colors -- hand-selected and hand-strung by you -- is quite impressive enough. Bobby Beads stock about a bazillion sparkly beads and embellishments and their staff can fill you in on techniques for creating a professional piece that won't fall apart -- and they may even let you work on it in the store's workshop area if you ask nicely. Unfortunately, stringing some pony beads on dental floss isn't a viable option, fellas, so seek the advice of the professionals! For more info and location visit bobbybead.com


We heart dramatic holiday classics and quirky new plays alike, and luckily for us there's definitely an abundance of both circulating around the Twin Cities theater scene this month. From offbeat comedies to Nutcrackers, our handy-dandy Guide to Holiday Performance by l'etoile's own Rob Callahan, will fill you in on some of the best of 'em. To check out the guide click HERE


The holiday season is filled with festive occasions that all demand a different style of dress. And if you know l'étoile at all, you know we don't like to be seen in the same "costume" twice. Check out our guide, complete with shopping tips and recommendations for numerous holiday occasions!

WHAT TO WEAR: JUBILEE presented by l'étoile and Blacklist Vintage

We can’t help but toot our own horn -- l'étoile is known for throwing a mean party, and this holiday season is no exception. Since it’s been the year of Mad Men and we wanted an excuse to buddy up with our friends at Blacklist Vintage, we figured ‘50s was the way to go. Do your best Betty or Joan and don a body-hugging number, all the better to show off your hourglass figure. Don’t forget the matching pearls and necklace set! Fellas, whip out that suit and skinny tie, and be sure to tuck your cigarettes into a shiny case. Bonus: Blacklist is hosting a Black Christmas shopping party on December 11 to get you ready to go for the big event on the 19th! (Jubilee, Saturday, Dec. 19; Secret location, RSVP to jubileersvp@gmail.com to request an invite to this private affair)

WHAT TO WEAR: Transmission’s annual New Wave dance party

Jake Rudh’s weekly Transmission dance night has long been the primo choice for Wednesday night debauchery, and the night before Christmas Eve should prove to be the place to tear it up before enduring some family time. The always-dapper man knows his way around the DJ booth, so you’ll want to wear something that’s easy to dance in and can withstand a packed house. Since no one’s going to see your lower half, go for big hair and hot pink lipstick. While you’re at it, it’s probably a good time to bring out the sequins, multi-ruffle dresses, and Madonna-esque corsets. Fellas, do your best Flock of Seagulls homage and skip the popped collars in favor of skinny pants and eyeliner; if you’re really feeling festive, add a holly-red ruffled poet shirt. (10 p.m. Dec. 23. Free. 21-plus. Clubhouse Jager, 923 Washington Ave. N., Mpls.)

WHAT TO WEAR: Holiday lights & Skating in Rice Park

During the early winter months, St. Paul’s Rice Park boasts the most dazzling holiday lights display, right alongside the most fanciful, romantic ice rink in the Twin Cities. Take in the stunning view of downtown St. Paul’s European architecture and twinkling trees while holding hands with your main squeeze - in an ultra-chic warm weather ensemble, of course. Guys, a classic pea coat is the way to go. Ladies, pull out your favorite fur-collared vintage coat. Besides, what better reason could be there to don our favorite winter accessory, the muff?

WHAT TO WEAR: A night at the theater

A night at the theater requires something more than the usual jeans-and-a-t-shirt, and we personally love any opportunity to dress up. Whether you’re heading with the family to “A Christmas Carol” at the Guthrie (ongoing through Dec. 31) or the less traditional “Ballet of the Dolls: The Nutcracker (Not so) Suite” at the Ritz (Dec. 10-31), go for classic sophistication. You’ll look like a serious appreciator of the arts in all-black - a wrap dress or pencil skirt always look classy. Guys, your shirt should require buttons and a tie, and a sport coat would be ideal. Wear jeans if you must, but if so, they should be a dark, well-fitting, hole-free denim. What you wear on top is also important: leave the puffy North Face coat at home and opt to cover up in a long wool or fur-trimmed coat.

WHAT TO WEAR: New Year's Eve

There’s always a ton of parties happening for New Year’s, but wherever you go, dressing down is not an option. Ladies, think all that glitters, sparkles, and twinkles. Up the zing factor if you’re wearing an all-black ensemble with bold costume jewelry (try vintage or Betsey Johnson for maximum sparkle), a jeweled belt (Belle Reve has a gorgeous one that will add glam to any basic look), or even legwear. Guys, you can get into the act too if you find a skinny tie with a subtle sheen to wear (jacket required, though a matching suit isn’t necessary). But with this New Year’s providing our leap into the ‘10s, you could just go all-out and don a tux, complete with bow-tie - why the heck not? Keep your eyes peeled for details on the l'etoile-sponsored NYE bash at the 501 Club and the Secrets of the City annual NYE soiree at the Red Stag Supper Club!

2009 Holiday Guide Editor: Kate Iverson / Contributors: Kate Iverson, Juleana Enright, Beth Hammarlund, Jahna Peloquin / Guest contributors: Paul D. Dickinson, Dana Lade, Dara Moskowitz-Grumdahl


Arsenal of Buttons said...

Great list! Don't forget the College of Visual Arts Annual Holiday Art Sale and Auction this weekend! Friday the 4th is the Preview Sale for $25, and Saturday from 10-4 is free, and so is Sunday the 6th. Check out wonderful local artwork by the faculty, staff, students and alumni from CVA, including paintings, prints, jewelry and knitwear. CVA is a four-year private college for art and design in St. Paul. Come check out the sale this weekend!

Kate Iverson said...

Thanks! We do have that one listed in our shopping event guide here: http://letoilemagazine.blogspot.com/2009/11/letoiles-guide-to-holiday-shopping.html