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Thursday, Dec. 15, 2005 04:43 pm

Bits of Springfield

Clueless and running out of time? Here are some capital-city gift ideas.

Haven’t figured out what to give this holiday season? We sent our intrepid reporters all over Springfield, looking for interesting and offbeat gift possibilities and emphasizing, whenever possible, local businesses and items unique to the capital city. Here’s some of what they found.
’Tis the season to indulge, and treats from Incredibly Delicious are the perfect way to regain those calories you’ve managed to burn off since Turkey Day. The food artists at Springfield’s favorite spot for desserts and everything baked present a fine list of holiday eats, including stollen, a traditional German Christmas bread containing fruits, nuts, and marzipan ($18.95); and a gingerbread-man kit complete with 10 cookies, icing, coconut for hair, Red Hots for eyes, and everything else you need to create a gingerbread lad ($16.95). But the clock’s ticking: Holiday orders must be placed by Friday, Dec. 16, and orders for pickup must be received by Tuesday, Dec. 20. Incredibly Delicious, 925 S. Seventh St., 217-528-8548

Every year, there’s a star gift, the one that no one forgets, either because it gets passed around and isn’t put away until everyone’s unconscious from too much baked ham and eggnog or because, simply stated, it’s obnoxious. So put chaos back in Christmas this year and get the kiddies — not your own, for heaven’s sake — some noisemakers from ErgAdoo. The store, located next to the offices of Illinois Times, has a dandy selection of kids’ musical instruments at reasonable prices, including “beginner band sets” featuring your choice of xylophone, kazoo, and castanets or recorder, harmonica, and jingle stick (think tambourine-on-a-stick) for $9.99. Add a set of maracas or cymbals for another 10 bucks, and you’ve got a gift that will keep on giving for hours and hours and hours and hours. Whoever said that Christmas is all about kids got it only half-right: There are also in-laws to consider. ErgAdoo, 1320 S. State St., 217-544-9466

Somewhere along the way, tins of popcorn as holiday gifts got a bad rap, but there’s nothing better than options, and Del’s Popcorn gives you the choice of kettle corn, cheese, caramel, butter-and-salt, among others. Prices for the three most popular flavors depend, of course, on type and quantity: Butter-and-salt runs $9.90 for a half-gallon and $10.95 for a gallon, cheese costs $11.80 per half-gallon and $13.70 per gallon, and caramel is $13.15 per half-gallon and $14.70 per gallon. For popcorn aficionados, one can include three flavors in larger tins. The most popular blend — cheese, butter-and-salt, and caramel — ranges from $21.20 for 2 gallons to $41.65 for 6-and-a-half gallons, and Del’s other signature flavors cost a bit more. Arguably the best popcorn around, Del’s is made fresh with central Illinois corn. Del’s Popcorn, 213 S. Sixth St., 217-544-0037, www.delspopcorn.com

Details in Store Ltd. indulges the fantasy of many a girl — ice cream in the bathtub — with a yummy stocking-stuffer: ME! Bath Ice Cream. When you drop one of these fragrant orbs into the tub, it fizzes to produce an aromatic bath that’ll leave your skin soft. Details in Store stocks eight of the product’s 34 scents; the best are Summer Rain and Land of Milk and Honey ($8). For those with an eye for good hygiene, Details stocks Primal Elements’ Soap by the Slice. Not only do these little slices of heaven smell good and leave your skin soft, but they also provide a decorative touch in the bathroom. Details in Store stocks several holiday-themed Soaps by the Slice, including Candy Cane, Holiday, …To the World, and Holly Berry ($6.75 per slice). Details in Store Ltd., 214 S. Sixth St., 217-523-9600, www.detailsinstore.com

Many people consider this the most magical time of year; in fact, Christ might not have been here were it not for a little holiday magic. Friends and loved ones will be as surprised as Joseph was on hearing the news of his fiancee’s pregnancy when they find their very own sword-through-the-neck magic tricks under the tree. Springfield native and illusionist Mick Valenti, who claims that in 1977 he became the first magician to be buried and escape (the International Brotherhood of Magicians cannot confirm this), has opened Imagine That Magic next to his computer repair shop just in time for the holidays. Besides his sword trick, Valenti offers the “hand chop” and a variety of street-magic illusions (e.g., card tricks, floating money). Prices range from $2 for a simple card trick to $2,000 for a special-order levitation-illusion kit, but, Valenti says, you’re really paying for the secret. Imagine That Magic, 1016 W. Lawrence Ave.; 217-726-9440, www.imaginethatmagic.com

No doubt friends and relatives who aren’t lucky enough to live in the Land of Lincoln are pining for a piece of Great Emancipator memorabilia. We found a range of possibilities, from the kitschy to the cultivated, the somber to the sassy, the inexpensive to the exorbitant. At the Studio on 6th, we found cool, colorful Lincoln art created by Springfieldian Annette Curry Johnson. Her work on display at the shop ranges from $550 for a large (27-by-40-inch) original acrylic painting to $75 for beautifully framed limited-series prints to $6 for infant onesies. All of it is inspired by Lincoln or local landmarks; all of it is whimsical and humorous without being irreverent. Her painting commemorating the rechristening (and Lincolnization) of the local airport is our favorite. Tinsley Dry Goods sells something straight from the heart of Illinois — statues of Honest Abe, hand-carved from Illinois coal. A bust (about 6 inches tall) costs $10.95; the depiction of Lincoln walking and carrying a Bible is $8.95. A variety of Lincoln tees, including a series of dancing silhouettes called Funky Abe ($16) and a more serious portrait by Thomas Trimborn called “Lincoln in Thought” ($24.95) — are exclusive to the store. For the feminist on your list, don’t miss With Hearts on Fire, Peggy Dunn’s collection of stories about women in the Civil War, published this year by the University of Illinois at Springfield. Bound to resemble a diary, the book features beautiful marbleized papers along with the stories of heroism.
For the ardent Lincoln-lover, consider a rare portrait of the pre-presidential Abe. Just $250 will get you a 16-by-20-inch print of one of Alexander Hesler’s photographs, presented in a handmade Illinois walnut frame. These prints, made from large-format plates owned by the Illinois State Historical Society, are also part of the benefits package for new members who join the ISHS with a pledge of $1,000. For more information, contact ISHS at 217-525-2781 or visit www.historyillinois.org. At the opposite end of the spectrum is Mr. Lincoln’s Souvenirs & Gifts, where the Lincoln bobblehead ($14.95) is the first thing that catches your eye when you walk in the door. For stocking-stuffers, check out the Lincoln spoon rest ($3.95) and everybody’s favorite, Lincoln shot glasses ($4.95), overflowing with potential puns. For the younger set, there are spooky T-shirts featuring Lincoln’s home rendered in glow-in-the-dark acrylic. Of course, no place has more Lincoln loot than the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum. And, yes, you may enter the gift shop without paying $7.50 to tour the museum. Simply tell the lobby staff that you’d like to spend all of your money, and they’ll wave you right into the museum store. There you can buy Abe and Mary Todd Lincoln’s dinnerware — or at least reproductions of their china — starting at $44.99 for a single dessert plate. If you can’t afford the John McClary statue of Lincoln made exclusively for this store ($400), try the Lincoln Cameo Christmas ornament, set in a gold-plated frame, for just $24.99. Other popular items include Wisconsin-made stoneware mugs ($16.99) and the stark-white Starbucksish java mug for $9.99. Staffers tell us that the most popular items are books, especially David Herbert Donald’s Lincoln ($20) and James C. Humes’ The Wit & Wisdom of Abraham Lincoln ($9.99). And last, because Lincoln obviously had enough wit to merit a book, perhaps he wouldn’t mind our mentioning a pair of his-and-her T-shirts for those who are more fond of Lincoln than of his adopted hometown. You know the ones — they’re at Prairie Archives, tucked away on the side, where a row of books dead-ends into a wall. The one featuring a standard, sober portrait of Lincoln, reads, “They’d have to shoot me to get me back to Springfield.” A shirt featuring a portrait of Mary Todd reads, “I’d have to be crazy to live in Springfield.” Priced at $16 and available only in adult sizes, these shirts sell by the hundreds each year. The Studio on 6th, 215 S. Sixth St., 217-522-8006 Tinsley Dry Goods, 209 S. Sixth St., 217-525-1825 Mr. Lincoln’s Souvenirs & Gifts, 603 S. Seventh St., 217-525-2060 Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, 212 N. Sixth St., 217-558-8844, www.alincoln-library.com Prairie Archives, 522 E. Adams St., 217-522-9742

A foodie’s fantasy and McCormick Spice Co.’s worst nightmare, Wild Thymes spices are abundant and fresh. For the cook on your list, or anyone who likes a little zip in his or her food, consider Gumbo File ($1.96, 1 oz.) or Hawaiian Sea Salt ($4.33, 3 oz.). Wild Thymes creates seven concoctions of its own, including owner Sue Lionberger’s favorite, It’s the Pits, a barbecue rub. Wild Thymes offers custom-made baskets for an extra $5 charge, which includes wrapping. As always, the smells are free. Note: We don’t recommend free smells as a gift. Wild Thyme Spices, 2625 W. White Oaks Dr., 217-698-0029

The editor said to keep it tasteful, so we’ll skip the sex toys on the second floor of Penny Lane, especially the Glass Pleasure Wand by Don Wands ($17-$20, depending on design). Walk right past the assorted glass pipes (remember — even though they’re really small, they’re actually for tobacco) in every shape, size and hue imaginable, ignoring completely the handmade ones made in the forms of dragons, snakes, scorpions, butterflies, and other animals ($46-$61) displayed right next to the sex toys. No, what the person who has everything really needs is a portable disco ball! Found in the section on the first floor devoted to black-light posters, these table-top mirrored balls ($24.95-$31.95) will fill any room with swirling dots of light guaranteed to bring back fond memories of prom night or the time you puked at a distant cousin’s wedding. Any occasion becomes a party with one of these puppies: Just add Donna Summer, and it’s 1977 all over again. Plus, they’re portable enough to stash under a bed — perhaps next to your glass pipes and sex toys — when respectable company arrives. Penny Lane, 2901 S. MacArthur Blvd., 217-787-2996, www.pennylanegifts.com

Just pointing a bookish friend in the direction of Prairie Archives is gift enough, but a present from the fiction or literature section of Springfield’s literary treasure will really be appreciated. A 1926 nearly first edition of James Joyce’s masterpiece Ulysses ($400) would cause any serious book collector to break out in goose bumps. In addition to the Archives’ specialty sections — the Civil War, Illinois history, and Abraham Lincoln — the store is teeming with great finds. Old Hardy Boys books go for $5 a pop, but more contemporary titles, such as a hardcover copy of Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections priced at $8, are also stocked. Unearthing good books at Prairie Archives is like finding a needle in a stack of needles. Prairie Archives, 522 E. Adams St., 217-522-9742, www.abebooks.com/home/PRAIRIEA

Even if the intended recipient doesn’t own a turntable, a gift from Recycled Records is always appreciated. Shopping for an Air Supply or Jackson Browne fan? You can get out of the store having spent as little as $2 — or you could drop $1,000 on a Buddy Holly 45 that includes four songs (“That’ll Be the Day,” “I’m Looking for Someone to Love,” “Oh, Boy,” and “Not Fade Away”) in a mint-condition paper sleeve featuring a picture of the legend from Lubbock along with the Crickets. Rolling Stones, Beatles, Frank Zappa, Bob Dylan, Moby Grape, 1910 Fruitgum Company — there’s a wayback artist to fit every taste here. If your music lover is a CD-only type, throw in a record-album frame ($15) to make wall display a snap. Recycled Records, 625 E. Adams, 217-522-5122, www.recycledrecords.com

By the time the big day comes around, most everyone is dead tired from Christmas shopping, Christmas baking, Christmas cleaning, and Christmas drinking. Pssst, guys: There’s no better way to revive that special someone’s strength and spirits than with a trip to BJ Grand Salon & Spa, where gift certificates are available for any service. Prices top out at $542 for a full day that includes facial, hair, massage, makeup, lunch and optional limousine service. That may be a bit over the top, but there’s something here to fit every budget. A pedicure is always appreciated; prices start at $40 and go to $85 for the Seascape Pedicure, featuring moisturizing salts and oils plus foot and calf massage. Spend as much as you can afford — from the moment she walks in the door and inhales that frou-frou smell, she’ll love you for going all-out on her feet. Under no circumstances give her a gift certificate for anything having to do with her face, no matter how much she may need it. Although she may truly covet the Age Defiance package ($145-$155 for a bust-to-forehead treatment featuring self-heating mud), she doesn’t want to get it from you. BJ Grand Salon & Spa, 3300 Robbins Rd., 217-787-7770; 3055 Professional Dr., 217-753-8880, www.bjgrandsalon.com

GelGems could very well be the perfect gift, in any season, for almost anyone, but they’re particularly useful during the holiday season. With the hues and hand of gelatin, more staying power than window clings, and design possibilities limited only by your imagination, they’re a colorful and creative way to decorate any glass or metal surface. You could even use the small ones to mark wineglasses at a party. As most locals know, they’re made in a factory right here in our town. Several Springfield stores carry GelGems; Serendipity on Sixth Street offers a nice selection. Serendipity, 221 S. Sixth St., 217-528-0630

If someone you know needs a touch of Norman Rockwell (or maybe Tennessee Williams?) in their abode, sally south to the old Room Works store, now occupied by Phoenix Center’s Marketplace. Open only a few weeks, the shop features premium used furniture and knickknacks, handmade holiday ornaments and jewelry, and gifties running the gamut from candles and baking mixes to mirrors and chandeliers. Trees and wreathes, too, on your way out the door. And of course, because we’re talking about the Phoenix Center, which is using this market as an ongoing fundraiser, everything is guaranteed tasteful instead of tacky. Plus it’s all for a good cause. Phoenix Center’s Marketplace, 3425 S. Old Chatham Rd.

If you want it fast, go to Things Remembered, but for quality glass etching, go to Hale on Glass. According to Springfield natives Carol and David Hale, who studied their craft in New Mexico, most projects take a few hours but are completed with much more personal care and attention to detail than the mall store can render. Engraved smooth stones ($10), coasters ($27), and vases ($25-$50) make great gifts. Of course, religious-themed products, such as a carved likeness of the King of Kings ($130), are particularly popular this time of year. Hale on Glass, 217-638-0180, www.haleonglass.com

You menfolk walk past them, oblivious to their existence, until the day a lover drags you to a halt in front of a store window and then jerks you inside. Even more frightening is the day on which you must enter of your own volition — alone. We’re talking about boutiques — those shops in which feathers and sequins are glued to three-quarters of the merchandise. Case in point: The Studio on 6th. The store’s fuzzy can and bottle cozies ($10-$12), obviously designed with ladies in mind (most guys, you know, will gulp down a Bud Light in less time than it takes to maneuver a bottle into the neon animal-print foam and zip it up). Feathered yet cool are the album-cover tote bags featuring Johnny Cash, Tina Turner, B.B. King, and Bruce Springsteen ($35-$38). The Studio on 6th, 215 S. Sixth St., 217-522-8006

Let’s face it: The problem with Christmas is there never seems to be enough beer. Rectify this sad situation with a gift of make-your-own-six-pack from Friar Tuck Beverage. For just $7.99, you can choose from dozens of orphan beers to make up a one-in-a-million six-pack. At this price, why not splurge and give a half-rack? The wise six-pack-maker will start with a few tried-and-trues — it being winter, eschew lagers and go for Anchor Steam or Sierra Nevada, name stouts being scarce in this section — before venturing into the unknown with such weirdness as Fuel Cafe Coffee Flavored Stout (not at all bad combined with a caraway-seed-infused Cheddar cheese atop wheat crackers) or Blue Ridge Sublimator Dopplebock (who cares how it tastes — it’s got an alcohol content of 7.3 percent). Urp. Friar Tuck Beverage, 2930 Constitution Dr., 217-698-1116

Artist Barbara Mason has spent the last 20 years working as an ultrasound specialist, which might explain the radiant use of colors in her watercolor paintings, a medium oft criticized as drab and colorless. The mastermind behind Dragonfly Studio Creations, Mason has had artwork on display around Springfield at Illinois Department of Transportation, the Prairie Art Alliance, the Old Capitol Art Fair, Barnes & Noble, the City Arts Venue, the Illinois State Library, and the Springfield Art Association. She’s also exhibited in Chicago, Philadelphia, and Atlanta. Mason, one of few African-American watercolorists, and her reluctant-artist husband, James, approach art as a ministry from God, and their calling is particularly evident in two of Mason’s more popular pieces: “Praise Is What We Do” and “Beckoning.”
217-585-1323, www.dragonflystudiocreations.com

Professional b-ballers might, but Terry Lawrence doesn’t consider an old-school NBA jersey business attire, even if the ensemble is topped off with a color-coordinated do-rag. All guys should own at least one suit, says Lawrence, owner of Terry’s Men’s World. Lawrence sells casual clothes and hats but specializes in suits — both traditional and the stylish, sometimes colorful (at times really colorful) Stacy Adams and Giorgio Brutini shoes and suits worn by comedy kings Steve Harvey and Cedric the Entertainer. Expressing one’s individuality is great, Lawrence says, but there’s a time and place for everything. “Kids today need to learn to dress professionally,” he says. “You can wear blue jeans, but you need to be professional when you go certain places — you wouldn’t wear a throwback jersey to a wedding, would you?”
Terry’s Men’s World, 3049 S. Dirksen Parkway; 217-529-2230

Immediately upon walking into the Sumac Shop at the Dana-Thomas House, we knew that there would be a parting of the ways: Our money would go one way, and we’d go the other.     Where to begin? Obviously there are plenty of books about the house’s designer, renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright, including guidebooks to other Wright-designed properties. One title that caught our eye was Frank Lloyd Wright’s Stained Glass & Lightscreens (Thomas Heinz, $19.95), which includes a fair number of photographs of the beautiful and unique glasswork at the Springfield landmark. Susan Lawrence Dana, of course, was partial to butterflies — and they show up throughout the property, including the ornate chandeliers. The shop sells glass panels — the kind you hang in a window — with Wright-inspired designs. One beauty, new in stock, features a gingko pattern; it sells for $98. And it’s not just glasswork. You can buy neckties with Wright-inspired patterns (we caught ’em on sale for $25 when we visited last week), there are silk scarves made in Ashikaga, Japan ($48), and, new this year, candles in varying sizes, decorated with Wright art-glass patterns (one we liked, “Tree of Life,” was taken from a 1905 home in Buffalo and sells for $48). One item of interest is a pewter weed holder — that’s right, an elongated rectangular vase for dried-out prairie weeds. Wright, we were told, believed that even a lowly weed has beauty. But with the vase priced at $135, we decided to leave all those beautiful weeds, for now, by the side of I-55. The Dana-Thomas House marked its centennial in 2004, and the shop still has plenty of leftover commemorative cookbooks (A House for Susan Lawrence Dana, $18.95) and small stained-glass ornaments ($25) that incorporate the sumac-plant design prevalent throughout the house. Schlepping away goodies from the gift shop is fun, but the best part of the visit is actually touring the residence. During the holidays, there’s a Country Store, where craft-oriented items and food products are available for sale, in the basement. Stop by for a taste of hot cider. Sumac Shop at the Dana-Thomas House, 301 E. Lawrence Ave., 217-744-3598, www.sumacshop.com
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