Hanukkah Gift Guide

Matzah Ball Cufflinks

Ellen Futterman, Editor

My Favorite Things

I’m not trying to brag or anything, but I really am an excellent shopper. I’m not sure how I came upon this talent given that my father “loathed to shop,” as he would often remind me, and my mother’s philosophy has always been “buy less but buy good.” Quality over quantity, timeless and well made probably explains why the woman has clothes she still wears dating back to the Eisenhower administration. 

Me, I’m more of a sales savant, a penny-saving hunter of the proverbial deal. The irony is that bargain shopping has cost me a lot of money over the years. So nowadays I try to keep this superpower under wraps, on the down-low so to speak, except when it comes to the holiday season. Then I go crazy.

It is with that in mind that I am pleased to announce the first of what I hope will become an annual Light holiday tradition: The Hanukkah Gift Guide of My Favorite Things. Hey, it works for Ellen DeGeneres, why not Ellen Futterman?

For months I have pored over catalogues and websites, visited stores big and small and attended more art fairs than I care to count. From all of that I have amassed a gift list that tries to take into consideration affordability, uniqueness and St. Louis/Jewish connectedness, though not necessarily all at once. Anyway, you get the idea. I kept the list to eight for obvious reasons — I mean I only have so much space. So without further ado  . . .

And remember, great Hanukkah gift ideas are often in your own backyard, or at least at one of several local synagogue gift shops. Hopefully, this list will help get you started – or finished if you’re an overachiever. Here’s wishing you a wonderful holiday season. 

1. Matzah Ball Cufflinks

Monica Roberti grew up on Long Island, not far from my hometown of Westbury, N.Y., going to one of my favorite childhood restaurants, Ben’s Kosher Deli. 

“My best friend growing up was Jewish and we would always go to Ben’s where I would have matzah ball soup and a corned beef sandwich,” Roberti explained when we spoke this week. “That’s where I developed my love of matzah ball soup.” 

So strong was that love that today Roberti designs and sells matzah-ball-soup cufflinks made out of polymer clay for $28 a pair.

 She also has a version with just matzah, as well as a combo matzah and matzah-ball-soup earring set for the ladies ($18). 

You can find these and more of her foodie designs at etsy.com or alittleawesome.com.

2. STL Style Shop

A little awesome also describes Randy and Jeff Vines’ STL Style shop at 3159 Cherokee Street. Passionate urbanists and historic preservation advocates, these Jewish twin brothers pay homage to the idiosyncratic city they love by emblazing unique St. Louis-inspired designs and sayings on T-shirts, caps, undies, totes and posters. 

The Vine brothers can also customize designs with a Jewish flair if you’d like. Pick the color, size and slogan for a T and within a minute, it’s ready (for $22.95). While you can order at stl-style.com do yourself a favor and check out their storefront in person and everything else Cherokee Street has to offer.

3. Lass & Laddie

As a new grandmother, I’m always on the lookout for something even more precious than the last ridiculously precious outfit I bought for my granddaughter. Pretty much all of my favorite things in this department can be found in one place – Lass & Laddie in downtown Kirkwood (161 W. Jefferson St.). 

How do I love this store, let me count the ways. First of all, it’s literally a small house packed with the most unusual and adorable children’s clothes, stuffed animals, accessories and even books and games, and it’s rarely crowded; second, the prices are phenomenal.

4. Soft Surroundings

Another St. Louis original is Soft Surroundings, which started here as a catalog retailer in 1999 but now has more than 40 stores nationwide. The Mothership, however, is still based in St. Louis, where upscale women’s apparel, jewelry, shoes, home decor and beauty products can be found at the Brentwood location (33 The Boulevard). 

Perusing through the company’s most recent catalog, I fell in love with a pair of velvet booties in sage green (they also come in black and burgundy, catalog orders only). Admittedly, these boots aren’t anything I need, but at $89.95, while a splurge, they won’t break the bank. And dear husby, if you’re reading this, the faux fur bed jacket known as the “hug-me cardi” ($64.95) is also on my list, and available at the Brentwood store, in light gray please. 

5. Augusta Glass Studio

If you’re after an artsy gift, look no further than anything made by the hands of Sam Stang or Yael Shomroni. Stang, a master glass blower who grew up Jewish in University City and attended Washington University, operates Augusta Glass Studio with his wife and fellow glass artist Kaeko Maehata. Their work is extraordinarily beautiful and completely functional, though also perfect for display. 

This weekend, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, the couple will host a “seconds sale” at their Augusta, Mo. studio (5508 Locust St., samstang.com), selling one-of-a-kind glass bowls, vases and other vessels at a discount due to a tiny flaw. Trust me, most of these so-called flaws are undetectable. Shomroni, an Israeli native who lives with her family in Webster Groves, is a potter who also makes very affordable, functional pieces that are as beautiful as they are useful. Craft Alliance in University City carries her work, as it does Stang’s, and she can also be contacted at yaelshomronipottery.com. 

6. Amazon

Two words that have changed my life, “Amazon Prime.” For $99 a year, it allows me to read unlimited books and magazines on any device, stream hundreds of movies, TV shows and original series, listen to more music than there are hours in a day and store my photos in Amazon Drive (I still need to learn how to do that!).  I also now check amazon.com for most any item I see in a store because it’s often cheaper on the site and Amazon Prime doesn’t charge tax or shipping. 

7. Roots N Blues N BBQ

I don’t know that I enjoy anything more than a fun  “experience” with friends and family. When I couple that with another of my loves, live music, I automatically get excited about returning to Columbia, Mo. for the annual Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival at Stephens Park held the last weekend in September (Sept. 29-Oct. 1 in 2017). This three-day festival, now in its 11th year, never disappoints in terms of its line-up, which last year included the Avett Brothers, Grace Potter, Jason Isbell, Ben Folds, Nathan Rateliff & the Night Sweats, Sam Bush and Blues Traveler, among many others. Pre-sale tickets are now available for $99 for the entire weekend of music at rootsnbluesbbq.com. Not only is that a huge savings from the price closer to the date, but it also gives you a great experience to look forward for much of the year. As for lodging, consider renting a home or condo for the weekend through airbnb.com or vrbo.com, especially if you go as a group. 

8. Local Shops

This last entry may seem like a cop-out, but whenever I’m not sure of what to get someone I amble into one of  three favorite local shops for inspiration: Silver Lady for jewelry, Giddyup Jane for accessories (and to moon over the cowboy boots) and Left Bank Books for the obvious.