Annual News & Schmooze Hanukkah Gift Guide

Ellen Futterman, Editor-in-Chief

We will have barely cleared the dishes from Thanksgiving, when Hanukkah shows up a few days later — in November, no less.

If like me, you’re behind in your Hanukkah shopping — or haven’t even started! — perhaps some things in the Light’s News & Schmooze Annual Gift Guide will strike you as the perfect present for a friend or relatives. All of this year’s eight selections (one for each day) have local Jewish tie-ins, so there’s that.

The amount of artistic talent in the St. Louis Jewish community is truly astounding, and while space here precludes all of it from being reflected in this gift guide, stay tuned for upcoming stories in the Light about local Jewish creative types.

So, sit back, see what strikes your fancy, and hope that should you decide to have your gifts shipped, delivery makes it to your home by the time Hanukkah ends Dec. 6.

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1. Bobbing and weaving

Woven camera strap and belts by artist Jeane Vogel.

Artist Jeane Vogel, a member of Central Reform Congregation, may be best-known for her award-winning photography, but her fiber artwork is equally as compelling. Using organic cotton or a mix of cotton and bamboo, Vogel weaves scarves, belts, guitar and camera straps, dog leashes and more that make for great one-of-a-kind gifts. Scarves range in price from $65 to $110 while guitar straps go for $69.

Vogel said she has been weaving since she was a kid, but has been doing it seriously the last five or six years.

“I do a lot of tapestry weaving, mostly for exhibits and galleries, but it’s one of those things that as you get older, it’s something I wanted to be serious about,” Vogel said. “I have the time and the energy and ability to do it.”

You can check out Vogel’s work Thanksgiving weekend at the St. Louis Arts Chamber Commerce Show at the new Kirkwood Performing Arts Center, or anytime on her website: www.vogelfiberart.com.


2. Laying our cards on the table

Cards by Barbara (above) and Jim (below) Winnerman.

Jim and Barbara Winnerman, who have been married for 53 years and belong to Congregation Shaare Emeth, make handsome note cards that have been quite popular at various farmer’s markets and craft fairs around town.

Barbara is a professional calligrapher and artist who has been hand-painting note cards for 20 years. She can personalize them with a name if the buyer so desires. Each card is hand-painted separately and there is no printing involved. She also hand-paints on the envelope.

A pack of five cards without a name is $20 plus $1.25 postage (per pack). For a name to be added to each card, the pack is $25, plus $1.25. You can check out her five styles at https://itsawinnermancard.weebly.com/.

After Jim retired, he started drawing — something he always thought he could do but never had the time. His cards all depict hand-drawn animals, with clever captions.

“The captions are more difficult to come up with than the art, actually,” he said. 

Any four cards are $13, plus $1.25 for mailing for each set of four cards.

Check out his offerings at https://itsawinnerman.weebly.com.


3. Not dead yet

If you’re thinking, “Wow, that’s a great title for a book,” then you’d be right, though someone already claimed it. Actually, two people claimed it, co-authors Barbara Ballinger and Margaret “Meg” Crane.

Ballinger lived in St. Louis for more than a decade and was a colleague of mine at the Post-Dispatch. She belonged to Temple Emanuel and later attended United Hebrew Congregation.

Crane worked as a senior writer for Federation (and previously for the Jewish Light) before retiring in 2013. She belonged to Congregation Shaare Emeth.

Today, both women live in New York — Ballinger in the Hudson River Valley and Crane in New York City. Nevertheless, they continue to write books together, including this latest one (“Not Dead Yet: Rebooting Your Life After 50,” Rowman & Littlefield, $32).

The book tackles subjects such as maintaining a close circle of friends, dating and romance, coping with physical and emotional challenges and much more in ways that are sometimes humorous but mostly extremely helpful. A variety of experts weigh in on many topics with easy-to-decipher information on estate and end-of-life planning, downsizing, moving and discarding possessions thoughtfully and dealing with an increasing number of health ailments. And the authors include plenty of anecdotes from real-life people discussing how they have navigated growing older. (One of my favorite chapters, “Do You Really Want an Old Geezer,” points out that shivas, wakes and funerals might be a better alternative to dating apps among the 60-plus set.)

This is a great book for aging boomers getting close to retirement because it offers all kinds of ideas on using that extra time productively, instead of squandering it. And for those already in the thick of their golden years, Ballinger and Crane provide insights into overcoming challenges that can impede folks from fully embracing this new stage of life.

“Not Dead Yet” is available at local area bookstores and amazon.


4. A honey of a children’s store

Zoe Kaemmerer and Angela Giancola at their shop, Honeycomb, located in the Botanical Heights neighborhood.

Honeycomb, owned by native St. Louisans Angela Giancola and Zoe Kaemmerer, might just be the perfect paradise to shop for unique children’s clothing, toys and books in an atmosphere that defines the notion of “chill.” Should your children or grandchildren be tagging along, there’s an area of the store designed for interactive play so that kids can easily entertain themselves while grownups shop.

And believe me, shop is what you want to do here because the merchandise is so inviting. The owners have curated pretty much everything from sustainably made clothing that is buttery soft to books, games and toys that embrace a child’s curiosity and creativity — and are just fun to play with.

This is the kind of store where grandmas — OK, I’m projecting here — can get lost for hours. Among Honeycomb’s many treasures are “Hats of Faith,” ($9.99) a children’s book that explains how religious people of various faiths wear different head coverings to show their love of God; a quartet of spinning tops with different size bases ($12), which can help ready toddlers for the dreidel game; and Slumberkins ($48), a series of plush animals and companion board books designed by therapists and educators to build children’s confidence, resilience and emotional health while promoting bonding with their caregivers.

Giancola, by the way, is married to Israeli native Ben Poremba, whose restaurants Elaia and Olio are located across the street. The store, at 1641 Tower Grove Ave. (online at www.ihearthoneycomb.com), is also a few doors down from Union Studio, another locally owned shop featuring the work of over 130 St. Louis artists.


5. Etcetra

Abstract painters Mark Witzling and Cindy Larimore are amazing artists whose works are available at Green Door Gallery in Webster Groves and Artisans in the Loop, respectively. Looks for more in-depth stories about each of them and their work in the upcoming months in the Light.

Witzling also is the executive director of Craft Alliance, which is a one-stop shop for Hanukkah gifts should you be shopping for jewelry, ceramics, glass, textiles, home décor, wooden designs and more. It moved last year from University City to St. Louis, at 5080 Delmar Blvd.

“We have 150 artists represented in our shop. There’s some unique menorahs there — and all sorts of items that would make wonderful Hanukkah gifts,” said Witzling. “The price range is from inexpensive to very nice gifts and wonderful jewelry, with an amazing variety. We look for the best quality work but want to make sure there is a mix of local artists as well as the best nationally.”

Witzling, who grew up in St. Louis and belongs to United Hebrew — he served as a board member there — is a contemporary abstract oil painter whose medium is oil and cold wax — think of it as cake frosting that he blends into his paint. His work ranges in price from $300 to $7,000, though his larger, more expensive works tend to be commissions.

Self-taught artist Larimore creates colorful abstract artwork starting with plexiglass and glass as a canvas. She then utilizes reverse painting, which involves applying layers of paint to the back of a transparent material so the artwork can be viewed through the unpainted front side. The technique starts with the details completed first and then the background is layered, creating a finished piece of art that is viewed through the glass. 

“I love colorful, happy art, and that’s the goal of what I am doing — bringing color and joy to people’s world,” said Larimore.

In addition to decorative wall art, Larimore paints tabletops, which run about $300, smaller Judaica pieces, as well as decorative hearts and coasters, among other pieces. Several of her pieces are available at Artisans in the Loop, 6511 Delmar Blvd., as well as on her website, www.artbyclari.com. She also will be selling her pieces at John Burroughs’s Unique Boutique Sunday, Nov. 21, and at the St. Louis Arts Chamber Commerce Show at the Kirkwood Performing Arts Center Thanksgiving weekend.


6. She’s got game

Earlier this month in an online story, we introduced you to Molly Zeff, a native St. Louisan — a Clayton High grad who grew up attending BSKI — whose Boston-based company,  Flying Leap Games, developed Jewish Card Revoked ($19.99), a card game where players vote on their answers to subjective, multiple choice questions about Jewish culture and Judaism. In 45 seconds or less, players take turns defending why their answer is best. Majority rules, and the player or team with the most agreed-upon answers wins.

As cool as this game is, Zeff and Flying Leap offer several other quirky card-based games, including The Million Dollar Doodle ($30), which has been described as a cross between “ ‘Shark Tank’ meets Telestrations,” as one article stated, and “Wing It” ($30), a story-telling party game.

“You and your friends pit your imaginations against each other as you dream up ways to overcome unlikely challenges (e.g. you are being chased by a pack of rare carnivorous rabbits…) with an even unlikelier set of resources (…and all you have is an ice axe, 10 coconuts, a set of snow tires, one pound of leg hair, and a complete collection of Hitchcock films),” according to the company’s website, flyingleapgames.com.

All of the games are family-friendly, though they are suggested for ages 12 and up.


7. A mother’s love

Anya Corson, owner of Anya’s Apothekere.

Anya Corson explains that her business, Anya’s Apothekere, was built out of a maternal desire to help her daughter who suffered with food allergies. She wanted a way to improve her daughter’s gut health as well as help her to get more vegetables into her diet.

She had read about fermented honey that had been flavored and decided to experiment. From that was born a line of Anya’s own fermented honey — with garlic, red onion and jalapeno. Each 9-ounce jar, which sells for $9.99, contains only organic vegetables, honey and apple vinegar for preservation. All of the fermented honey is kosher certified as well as gluten, fat and sodium free.

“The jalapeno honey is especially good drizzled over pizza,” said Corson, who lives in Olivette and grew up attending Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel. In addition, Corson offers recipes on her website for how to cook with fermented honey, including recipes for jalapeno honey margaritas and honey glazed turkey. 

Corson also makes a line of “healthy bone soak” ($6.99) and “botanikals bone soak,” ($9.99), bath elixirs designed to help you “detox and relax” while relieving aching muscle, joint pain and inflammation.

You can find Corson’s products at the Mind, Body and Spirit in University City, the Annex in Webster Groves, Schnucks supermarkets and her website, anyasapothekere.com.


8. Emotional rescue

Examples of Stephanie Fisher’s work.

Stephanie Fisher used to make jewelry until, as she explains, “I lost my inspiration.”

She very much wanted to be a mother but at age 42, having moved back to St. Louis from Oakland, Calif, to help take care of her grandmother, Fisher just didn’t think her dream was going to come true.

“Dating in St. Louis in your forties and wanting a child is very comical,” said Fisher, whose grandfather, Geoffrey Fisher, was the first editor of the Jewish Light.

Fisher’s mother, who volunteers as a children’s advocate with a social service agency here, suggested her daughter become a foster parent. At first, Fisher said no, but changed her mind when she realized if she was going to raise a child on her own, she better see if she could do it.

On Aug. 3, 2017, a 10-day old baby girl from the neonatal intensive care unit was placed with Fisher. She says it was love at first sight. She wound up adopting Arie Leona – she chose Leona because it’s her grandmother’s name – and the adoption became final on May 15, 2019.

“I fell in love with her instantly and I actually became a foster parent to adopt,” said Fisher, now 47, who has had eight foster children in her care since she first begun taking children in. “It is really rare that you get a newborn and are able to adopt your very first placement. I feel very lucky.”

Fisher, who is hoping to adopt a second foster child, works as a hairstylist but has resurrected her jewelry business because “my daughter changed everything. She inspires me.”

Under the name MetAL + Moxie – the capital AL for her daughter’s first and middle names – Fisher sells handmade leather and metal earrings, necklaces and bracelets, ranging in price from $20 to $40. You can view her work at www.facebook.com/metalmoxie and contact her through Facebook.