1 Pondering what to get the booze enthusiast in your life now that Four Loko’s changing its formula? Consider one of Paul McGee’s how-to classes for the budding mixologist. McGee, drinkmaster for hip hang the Whistler (2421 N. Milwaukee, 773-227-3530), is teaching a weekly two-hour Cocktails 101 course starting January 16, covering topics like booze history, bartending basics, and how to make your own signature drink. Participants get three drinks during class and a handbook to take home.
2 Pity the pooch at the dog park whose winterwear is a tattered sweatshirt from his owner’s alma mater! Local crafter Corinne Niessner, author of Doggie Knits: Sweaters & Accessories for Your Best Friend, offers hand-knit sweaters for little four-leggers. They come in wool, mohair, and cashmere, depending on how luxe you want to go.
3 Make your parents or grandparents happy by giving them a nice picture of you. Better yet, give it to them in this frame made from reclaimed barn wood by local craftsman Eric Erf. It’s rustic but not rough, and nice enough that it’ll class up any cubicle.
4 Hometown pride begins in the cradle with these cute “Bean Baby” onesies depicting Cloud Gate in the Chicago flag’s aqua and red. Organic cotton; sizes run from newborn to six months.
5 It’s a big year for electronic books, which don’t tolerate coffee spills and cat barf the way the other kind do. This handcrafted wool felt owl sleeve, which fits the newest Kindle, is water repellent and lined with cotton. It also features a removable strap and a Swarovski crystal on each eye for a little flair. Laptop cases also available.
6 Come winter, who wants to leave the house for dessert? That’s right, no one. For those who spent their summer nights queued up for scoops of Mexican hot chocolate or goat cheese cashew caramel at Black Dog Gelato in Ukrainian Village, Black Dog is offering a gelato subscription: six monthly deliveries of a half gallon of the flavor of the month to your home or office.
7 Every year at this time, record stores are crowded with overpriced box sets filled with outtakes should have stayed taken out. But Bruce Springsteen’s Darkness on the Edge of Town six-disc collection—three CDs and three DVDs—is all killer and no filler, the Boss at the dawn of his prime. The obligatory remaster of the proper Darkness album is welcome, and the replica of Springsteen’s notebook is neat, but the two discs culled from the Darkness cutting-room floor, the Promise, are the real meat. They contain all the lovelorn ballads, car songs, and hymns to the radio that got cut because they didn’t fit with the album’s blue-collar aesthetic. The DVDs include a making-of-Darkness documentary, candid 70s rehearsal tapes, and live footage that showcases the band at its stupefying zenith. If you can’t swing the whole box, The Promise comes as a stand-alone ($18.99).
8 How better to tell your favorite woodsman or -woman that you love the way they split your wood than with an ax that’ll last them a lifetime? Lehmans, the online outfitter of choice for the Amish, offers a range of hickory-handled beauties, including the Penobscot Bay Kindling Ax. Made by Snow & Nealley in Maine, it comes with a leather sheath and a lifetime guarantee.
9 One of the many things that sucks about winter is trying to activate the screen of an electronic gadget that refuses to register the touch of your frosted finger or clawing of your mittened paw. Echo Touch gloves eliminate the problem with “eLink” fabric patches, designed to interact with touch-screen devices, on the tip of each thumb and index finger—so you can dial or scroll without having to expose your hands to the elements. They come in a variety of colors and sizes, from small to extra large.