Here's round two of my holiday shopping guide, because there's more to life than clothing and jewelry — I hear shoe leather tastes disgusting.
Because boredom is the worst, gifts to entertain are always a hit.
My mom and dad get me a half-season pass to Perseverance Theater every year for Christmas. I still usually go to the earlier shows — how could I resist God of Carnage? — but it's nice to have a set of two tickets for the remaining three shows courtesy of my parents. Predictable gifts aren't bad gifts if they are good gifts. Even a pair of tickets to one show would be a great gift for someone in your life.
Other shows I'd like tickets to include the 2014 Wearable Art Extravaganza (I missed the deadline to enter this year), some of the concert series performances put on by the Juneau Arts & Humanities Council, or performances by the Juneau Symphony, Juneau Lyric Opera, Opera to Go, Theater in the Rough, Juneau Jazz & Classics or pretty much any of the performances by our local arts groups. I am sure I missed some. For some of the organizations, tickets may not be available in time for your preferred gift-giving holiday (especially since Hanukkah's past), but an IOU that comes to fruition is totally acceptable.
The Gold Town Nickelodeon offers advance sales of tickets online for some shows. It's also notable that the Gold Town not only shows films, but also hosts fun events like Not-So-Silent Film series — live musical performances accompanying silent films! — and occasional variety shows. The theater in generall is a great fit for the person in your life who likes indie films, foreign cinema or thought-provoking documentaries, plus all the wacky fun that comes with having owners like Mark Ridgway and Collette Costa.
If it's Hollywood blockbusters and major films you like, Gross Alaska offers gift certificates. A gift certificate for a film can be a great stocking stuffer.
For those who prefer playing out all the action in the mind's eye, there are plenty of options for buying books in town.
Alaska Robotics is the go-to place for buying comic book compendiums or graphic novels, with offerings from big labels like Marvel and DC, as well as smaller and indie labels. I happen to be a big fan of graphic novels and find myself browsing and buying at Alaska Robotics pretty regularly. They have a section showcasing works from local artists, which is certainly worth checking out.
Rainy Retreat Books is a great stop for new or used books. The collection is vast and varied, but maybe the best part is how knowledgable the staff is. The staff might be just one person — Royce — but every time I venture in looking for something specific, he's been able to help me find it or, possibly more useful, find something else to read that fits the bill. I can't remember specifically what I was looking for one day, but he suggested The Glass Castle as something to meet my needs and I couldn't put it down.
Observatory Books is Dee Longenbaugh, whom I've written about before. Just as interesting as poring over the rooms packed floor to ceiling with books is talking with Dee. I've found some gems in the stacks, including some old collectibles. Dee mostly focuses on Alaska books, so any history buffs would probably enjoy browsing or chatting. She also has a collection of old maps and let me feel the one from the 1600s.
Hearthside Books, with locations downtown and at the Nugget Mall, has a large selection of books, including the current bestsellers, but also local offerings. It also has a great selection of games, which has certainly led to some entertaining nights. Apples to Apples, anyone? Or if you want to end the night sort of hating your friends, but wanting to get together to play again as soon as possible, a game of Settlers of Catan might do the trick. If you want a little more friendly competition and to laugh a lot, Munchkin is a game I never knew I'd enjoy so much until I played it. There are tons of games for all ages at the valley location.
Because I'm still really into visually appealing things, I also recommend art as a gift.
Sometimes art is a big investment, and probably reserved for someone you're really, madly in love with and with whom you share a house with a bare spot on the wall. You can visit any of the galleries this month that hosted a show and find great art, most likely for sale, unless everyone snapped it up during the First Friday Gallery Walk. I'd give you the list here, but Amy already did all the work — look for her First Friday roundups the first Thursday of each month.
Art doesn't have to be crazy expensive, a lot of artists offer more affordably priced prints. The JACC has a gift shop, the Juneau Artists Gallery has prints, Annie Kaill's, I think, as does Alaska Robotics. There are also photo prints, including some great wilderness photos from Wilderness Peaks Gallery. A lot of artists and photographers make prints available — it's worth asking.
We also have so many Alaska Native artists making more than silver jewelry, but also carved masks and paddles or other lovely pieces. There are a number of places downtown that have Native art for sale, some open year-round. It can get expensive, but materials are sourced locally and handmade by local people.
Many of these options might be viewed as being passive activities, something to sit and enjoy, but sometimes a great gift can be the materials or tools to make something. Some notable gifts I've received over the years include a sewing machine and a Kitchenaid Mixer.
For kitchen gadgets, the first place I'd check is Gourmet Alaska. This is also the place to go if you think you might have a potential home brewer on your hands. It's stocked with everything from little gimmicky items to Le Creuset dutch ovens, from jars of truffled sea salt to bags of hops and barley.
It's also not a bad idea to check out Just Super, which has a section dedicated to kitchen gadgets. That's where my Soda Stream came from — everything's better with bubbles!
For a town as packed full of artists, artisans and crafters as Juneau, the selection of stores offering art and craft supplies is limited and the offerings tend to be limited as well.
Local first, there are two yarn shops in town for those who are into fiber arts. There is Seaside Yarns, located in the Wharf building, and there is a little shop in the Senate Building called Skeins. Both offer yarns and fibers of all types, as well as knitting needles, hooks, other notions and books. Knitting and crocheting are not bad hobbies to pick up in a climate that calls for scarves three quarters of the year. Yarn and such can also be found at JoAnn Fabrics and most likely also at the box stores in town, but for the best quality and most knowledgable staff, the specialty shops are the way to go.
If you're into sewing or quilting there are a couple local options. Raintree Quilting is located in the valley, sort of near the AT&T store. While 'quilting' is in the name, the shop offers machines and notions that would work for any sewing projects, and there are classes offered on topics ranging from beginning sewing to learning your serger, quilting and making a kuspuk. They carry Bernina sewing machines and also offer tuneups and repairs, I believe.
I always thought it was kind of strange, but Ben Franklin has a section for quilting or other crafts. It's where I got my hoops, floss, needles and bits of fabric when I started embroidering. It doesn't have the same large selection as JoAnn Fabrics when it comes to craft supplies, but you might be surprised at what you'll find for the creative person in your life. They also have plenty of miscellaneous knick knacks, novelty items and toys.
And though I wish all my crafting needs were met by local shops, sometimes, as you may have guessed, a trip to JoAnn Fabrics is necessary. Or maybe frequently. They carry sewing machines by brands like Singer — that's what I have — and aisles and aisles of art and craft supplies, plus a large selection of fabrics. Quilting fabrics are available at other locations, but I think JoAnn probably has the best selection of fabrics for making garments.
For the best selection of art supplies, and my art professor friend might get mad at me for saying it, since it might throw off ordering, the University Bookstore might be the place to go. Because students in the art program are learning the best practices and tools for creating fine art, the supplies available there can be of a more professional quality than what is found at box stores that are aimed more at hobbyists.
Alaska Robotics recently started carrying a small selection of art supplies, mainly pens for inking comics, but I wouldn't be surprised if they expanded the selection if people show more interest.
I mentioned that Raintree Quilting offers sewing classes, but there are other creative classes available locally as well. I think each of the yarn shops might offer occasional classes or group sessions where advice can be asked. Cooking classes are offered at Chez Alaska, or keep an eye on the Community Schools programs that show up in our mailboxes. There are a lot of classes offered inexpensively with local talents in many areas. The Canvas offers community art classes as well, from painting to stained glass window-making. They offer classes for adults and children.
Now the list will get a little less structured, it's time for miscellaneum!
Fudge is a hot item around the holidays. The Alaska Fudge Co. is open for the holidays. It's the kind of gift you send to someone you have no idea how to shop for. Maybe send it along with a calendar. I know there are plenty of calendars made by local artists, whether you want photos of the Alaskan wilderness from Chris Miller or Mark Kelly or you want illustrated bears by Pat Race.
Other sweet items wouldn't be a bad gift either. The little ice cream shop in the Wharf, Chilkat Cones, has a great selection of sweets as well. And the cones imprinted with formline designs make a great gift as well.
If you need something savory to counteract all that sweetness, it turns out Jerry's Meats offers gift certificates. Everyone loves their smoked salmon.
And Pie in the Sky offers gift certificates, "Pie-o-u" certificates, actually. I guess miscellaneum has become food items so far — maybe because it's dinner time as I type.
These sweet and savory treats might best be served at a party, and parties often require nice serving items, like a platter or pitcher from Annie Kaill's, or maybe something quirky and used from The Mustard Seed, the consignment shop in the Holy Trinity Episcopalian Church — I got an amazing punch bowl there.
Another gift that would go great for the person who loves to host parties or enjoy the finer things in life might be a fancy bottle of Alaskan Brewing Co.'s specialty beers. A smoked porter? A barley wine? They also offer plenty of swag.
There are also more and more regional breweries and distilleries, offering anything from spruce tip flavored beers to smoked salmon flavored vodka. Haines recently debuted a new distillery, offering vodka in a bottle adorned with a Sitka artist's octopus painting. I may want to look at it more than drink it, but my roommate tried it and I think it passed the test for flavor.
Generally I find Trove to be a store filled with things that I want but can't really justify having, like little bird-shaped wine glass ornaments so you can tell your drink from your friend's drink, but it might be a great option for a holiday gift. Annie Kaill's offers a selection of little items that are similarly not-quite-necessary but fun to have. I think Juneau Drug and Just Super may rival these two larger stores with their offerings. Do you really need a case for your iPhone? Maybe not, but my iPhone never gets confused with anyone else's with its floral case I got at Shoefly. Do you need coasters? I don't, but people who are more concerned about keeping rings from forming on their wooden end tables might.
And don't forget gifts for the pets and pet-lovers in your life. Wee Fishie Shoppe has lots of cute items and toys, and the Gastineau Humane Society has gear and toys as well. Beau the Dog likes treats most of all, but he may be getting a logic toy to make his treat-getting a little more challenging.
You know how there are some people in your life who seem to have everything? I mean, they already have a distant star named after them. They have a table saw and a corkscrew that looks like a penguin and a collection of fancy olive oils. Sometimes it's nice to make a gift to a charity they would approve of in their name. In lieu of gifts for that person, give to someone who needs something more. It's really easy to get caught up in materialism this time of year, so let's not forget to look out for those who might be a little more needy. Some options might be to "adopt" a child or family to give gifts, or to donate to the food bank or to groups providing meal boxes for Christmas.