Cheap Gifts!

Looking for last-minute items for your loved ones? On a budget? Go no further than our second annual compendium of items under $50.


Hip-Hop Energy Drinks

(various prices)

Eating all that Christmas dinner turkey is going to make everybody sleepy, but if there's a case of rapper-endorsed liquid speed waiting under the tree, the whole family can rock on and on to the break-a break-a dawn. Sure, Nelly's Pimp Juice ($48 for 24 8-ounce cans at, Lil Jon's CRUNK!!! ($21.99 for 12 8.2-ounce cans or $40.99 for 24 8.2-ounce cans at, and Fat Joe's YJ Stinger (available at and various online retailers for $40 to $50 for 24 8-ounce cans) all taste like Smarties dissolved in saline, but after her 10th can, Grandma will be too busy busting windmills and backspins to care. If you're having trouble choosing a brand, keep in mind that the Pimp Juice is giving away P.I.M.P. (Positive Intellectual Motivated Person) college scholarships. Also, YJ Stinger's "Enraged Raspberry" flavor turns a nice Christmasy shade of green if you leave it out long enough. (Single cans can be found at your local bodega.) AMY PHILLIPS

Kill Rock Stars Holiday Packs

(Kill Rock Stars, various prices)

Not only do these cornucopias of coolness from the venerable Olympia indie-record label make excellent gifts for all your hip friends and family members, but they're a great deal for you, too. For 50 bucks, you get five Deerhoof CDs, a Deerhoof T-shirt, and a cute milk crate to store it all in. Or five Sleater-Kinney CDs, an S-K T-shirt, and a crate for only $45. There are Decemberists, Bikini Kill, and Gravy Train!!!! packs, a pack highlighting KRS's avant-garde sister label 5 Rue Christine, and packs that come with sassy little KRS hot pants, all for under $50. If you want to splurge, the Compilation Holiday Pack includes 10 various-artists collections and one bonus CD for $75. Keep it local, keep it punk, keep it real . . . or else the Man wins. ( AMY PHILLIPS

Slick Chick Kit / Guy on the Go Kit

(Cookie Pots, $45 each)

If you know a woman with a bottomless purse containing entirely too many miscellaneous items strewn about, you must help her get in order. The Slick Chick Kit is a little tin to keep divas organized and prepared: Mouthwash, deodorant, nail polish remover, lip balm, facial tissues—pull out the kit and appear effortlessly flawless. Ditto the Guy on the Go Kit: Need a breath mint after grabbing coffee? Did an important lunch result in a desperate need for dental floss? The kit contains everything useful from dental floss to a razor and shaving cream, in a discreet case. ( MAIYA NORTON


Bright Balkan Morning: Romani Lives and the Power of Music in Greek Macedonia

(Wesleyan University Press, $39.95)

This oversized, beautifully printed book charts husband-and-wife team Charlie and Angeliki Keil's conversations with and experiences among the Romani people of Greek Macedonia. Generations of traditional Romani musicians —historically, social outcasts who dominate the wedding- music market with their hybrid of local and inherited sounds—tell their stories, while ethnomusicologist Charlie and sociologist and Northern Greece expat Angeliki tease out a series of profound thoughts about Romani history and the social meaning of musicianship. A CD by Steven Feld offers musical bits collected in daily life, among the ambient chatter of both the village and urban world. Heady? A little, but Dick Blau's black-and-white images and the book's luxurious feel make it perfect for the offbeat music lover on your list. DAPHNE CARR

Bright-Night Umbrellas

(Bright-Night, $21–$38)

As Seattleites know, rain is no biggie unless you have to leave the house. The dark skies and downpours can make a trip around the block feel like an obstacle course. For a gift that won't go to waste, pick up a Bright-Night—an umbrella that helps prevent curbside wipeouts. A Krypton lightbulb at the base of the canopy illuminates the space beneath it like a glowing dome so you can see where you're walking. It's particularly excellent for after-hours, and, not to be ageist, older folks who could use the extra help. The sturdy design is slightly larger than regular stick models, but not so gargantuan that it resembles a parachute. Starting at $21 for plain black or white and topping off at $38 for colorful patterns that befit any gender, the Bright-Night is a wise investment, especially around here. (425-398-4199; JEANNE FURY

Mr. T Chia Pet

(TV-Land, $34.99)

The faux-hawk was the it-boy haircut of the early '00s—just punk enough to signal "no day job" while stemming off others' fears that the wearer might bum change. But how can you give that casual renegade spirit to a loved one this holiday? By encouraging a DIY Mohawk on this Mr. T Chia Pet. The man in chains, born Lawrence Tureaud, offers a clay replica of his mean grimace, on which one might spread those little chia seeds along the ridgy strip, add water, and watch that Mohawk grow! Alas, if only we all had our own ironic head on which to project our love, fear, and bad-haircut ideas, the world might be a more beautiful place—but then there'd be no synth pop. Maybe that's why these busts were made only to promote Nickelodeon's TV Land. The Web site has some to spare, but I.P.T.F. who doesn't order one right away. DAPHNE CARR


Shiitake Mushroom log

(Wine Enthusiast, $29.95)

Festive and functional, this hearty, organic hardwood blossoms with edible 'shrooms right before your eyes. According to the directions, "Just water and place in a cool dark place like your wine cellar, and in 10 days you'll have a crop." Wow—it's just like those space crystal kits you got as a junior scientist! Even better, it's supposed to bloom for up to four years. If worked properly, the shiitake mushroom log could be the ticket to dinners with organic-gourmet friends far into the future. ( DAPHNE CARR

HotFlash! the Menopause Game

(Dream On, $27)

Menopause might make things seem a little bleak or rocky for the average woman, but there is hope! This game makes light of the uncomfortable transition to Hormone Free Haven—literally. No more sitting around with sweat stains, forgetfulness, and irritability. Gather two to eight pre-, peri-, or postmenopausal women, grab some popcorn, and learn about what happens to a woman's body. When you land on Hotflash, you can force your girlfriends to tell their deepest, darkest secrets. Think of it as a game of truth or dare for grown women. Play strategically in order to avoid landing on Weepy Way, Lustless Lane, Insomnia Aisle, and the Forgetful Forest. ( MAIYA NORTON


(, $26)

OK, like, you fill the tub with water. And you pour this powder in, and the water turns into, like, jelly! Or like those Moshi pillows with the micropellets inside, the really soft ones. And then you get in the water, or whatever it is, and it's warm! And soft! And it smells supergood! It's really soft and warm and like you're inside a, a, a kind of heated slushy! It's soooooo relaxing! And when you're done, you pour in the other powder, and it'll all go away, but you don't want to do that for a while because it stays so soft and warm! And the Jellybath powders do all that because . . . let me put on my science-geek hat here . . . oh, wait, I can't reach my hat because I'm naked in a tub full of warm jelly!!! ANGELA GUNN

Travel Spice Kit

(World Wide Books and Maps, $24.95)

My girl, Jenny, grew up in a bland, gray world. A tiny jar of paprika lasted a generation because its only use was for "color" atop deviled eggs. Now, Jenny enjoys experimenting with tastes—her motto is, "You can't go wrong with curry." Which brings us to the Travel Spice Kit, containing 15 tins of spices, including Cajun, Italian, Chinese, and Mexican blends, curry powder, ginger, cinnamon, kosher salt, and cracked pepper. At 4 inches by 7 inches, the metal kit is sturdy enough to pack for overseas or overnight. As a bonus, this might prompt Jenny to take over in my kitchen. (4411A Wallingford Ave. N., 206-634-3453, JOANNE GARRETT

Bondage Duckie

(Big Teaze Toys, $24)

As if a sex toy shaped like everyone's favorite childhood bath buddy wasn't sleazy enough, the folks behind the popular I Rub My Duckie waterproof personal massager have gone and dressed up our little yellow friend in S&M gear. Yep—he's all decked out in a black corset and spiked collar, with a ball gag in his beak and a pair of handcuffs at his side. None of this lessens the deliciousness of the vibrations emanating from his head and tail. AA batteries are included; fantasies about Bert and Ernie are not. (Available at Toys in Babeland, 707 E. Pike St., 206-328-2914; AMY PHILLIPS


Shania Twain: Up! Close & Personal

(Mercury, $19.98)

Designed after Elvis Presley's 1968 TV comeback—complete with sexxxy open-collar black-leather jumpsuit—the live-in-the-studio performance DVD Up! Close & Personal finds Shania Twain communing with her closest soccer moms VH1 Storytellers–style: Perched atop a wooden stool, the singer big-ups teen pregnancy before "I Ain't Goin' Down," shouts down critics for dissing "Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?" and tries to explain her and Mutt Lange's forbidden love with "You're Still the One." Musically, the show's model is Jay-Z's Roots-backed Unplugged, since here Twain scales back Lange's disco-twang production in favor of support from Alison Krauss and Union Station—basically roots music's own Roots. What's cool is that the pairing doesn't come across as a mea culpa to pop-phobic alt-country partisans, but instead provides a back door into songs whose radio-ready luster can sometimes sacrifice intimacy. Heartwarming holiday moment: Twain practicing her head bang before a rollicking rendition of "You Shook Me All Night Long" by her hubby's old pals AC/DC. MIKAEL WOOD

And It Don't Stop: The Best American Hip-Hop Journalism of the Last 25 Years

(Faber & Faber, $16)

Beginning with Sally Baines' 1981 piece on break dancing for The Village Voice, "Physical Graffiti," all the way to Ta- Nehisi Coates' 2003 interrogation of 50 Cent, "Keepin' It Unreal: $elling the Myth of Black Male Violence Long Past Its Expiration Date," also from the Voice, this book aims to encapsulate the history of hip-hop as well as hip-hop writing within its pages, and it comes close. Edited by former One World editor in chief Raquel Cepeda, And It Don't Stop is strongest when it's at its most critical: Coates, Charles Aaron ("What the White Boy Means When He Says 'Yo,'" from Spin, about the rise of the pasty, suburban B-boy), and Harry Allen (eulogizing Jam Master Jay). Still, it's spotty: What is Emil Wilbekin's puff job on Mary J. Blige doing here, for instance? And nothing at all on Southern hip-hop, aka the biggest pop music on the planet for the past half-decade? Nevertheless, there's enough good stuff here to satisfy even casual hip-hop fans. MICHAELANGELO MATOS

Mutated Bunny With Plushies and Jenna Jameson Jiggler

(, $15.99/$14.99)

The karmic balance of the universe cries out for a little—wait, sorry, LOTS and LOTS and LOTS—of freakishness during this, the first Christmas of the be-normal-or-pay-the-price second term of King George II. The Jenna doll—not technically a bobblehead, given that the head is not the bobbling region —will remind your lucky giftee that even the most cartoonish and vanilla sexual fantasy objects can become "dirty" again in the right sociopolitical climate. And one or two of Alex Pardee's haplessly mutated Bunnywith plush dolls—Bunnywith Tentacles, Bunnywith Siamese Twin, and so on—will invoke the lighter side of our crippled health care system and gutted environmental protections. Happy holidays! ANGELA GUNN

My Neighbor Totoro

(VIZ, $14.95 per volume)

Hayao Miyazaki's animated tale of two little girls' adventures with the uncanny in an idealized summery countryside is one of the touchstones of Japanese popular culture, a work that appeals to all ages of viewers without having to aim off-color innuendo over the heads of the little ones to keep the adults interested. In my opinion, it's the finest animated family film ever—yes, even better than Dumbo. Disney at long last will be releasing the film on DVD this spring, but in the meantime, parents who like doing things with their kids and want to encourage the moppets to read for themselves should take a look at this new print version of Totoro. It's a curious hybrid: printed in comic-book format but illustrated with cels from the film, printed back-to-front and left-to-right Japanese style, with English dialogue balloons but sound effects in Japanese characters. There's a glossary of character-to-noise correspondences in the back (front) of the book, but our product testers found it more fun to make up their own while leaving the reading to their elders. ROGER DOWNEY

Schott's Food & Drink Miscellany

(Bloomsbury, $14.95)

Ah, randomness. British writer- compiler Ben Schott clearly grew up on books like The People's Almanac, compendiums of strange, fascinating, bizarre, and useful information that conflate those categories and scatter their findings like leaves across a lawn. (Wrong seasonal metaphor, probably, but it's Seattle— we don't have snow here, apart from when a quarter-inch falls every other year and the city spends the afternoon it takes for the stuff to melt losing its collective mind. But I digress.) His previous volume, Schott's Original Miscellany, caused an appropriately small-scale sensation; it's small (4 inches by 7 inches), slim (143 pages), and brimming with odd little facts and figures. The sequel, devoted to food and drink, is not just interesting but useful in an admittedly scattershot kind of way: The back inside flap, for instance, pictures a thermometer with ideal temperatures for the cooking and storing of various things alongside it in appropriate places. The book is equally whimsical; whether you plan to dismember a heron (p. 19), need help deciphering French cooking terms (p. 77), or wish to be briefed in the varieties of eating competitions (p. 130), it's all here, and its jumbled order gives it an adventurous feel. MICHAELANGELO MATOS

The Rough Guide to Superheroes

(Rough Guides/Haymarket, $12.99)

Every so often, a book appears that embiggens the heart of even the crustiest reporter or the biggest geek—and literally shouts "stocking stuffer!" This is that book, a pocket-sized compendium of every comics superhero—from Batman to the Black Panther—in the known universe, along with their archenemies, creators, costumes, and ("Let's roll, Kato!") catchphrases. In short: It rocks. The graphics are cool, too. You could geek out with this book for weeks, be you a pimply teen or drooling oldster or a hipster trying to be down with every bit of cultural ephemera on earth. PHILIP DAWDY

Blank Journals

(Ex Libris Anonymous, $11–$16)

Somewhere in Olympia, Jasmine and Jacob Deatherage are contending with a lot of books with no covers, having recycled same as kitsch-nifty lids for blank, spiral-bound journals. The Deatherages bind in interesting illustrations, maps, inscriptions, and so forth, too, so the insides are at least as unusual as the exterior—and that's before your gift recipient gets around to sketching, journaling, or whatever else it is s/he does with such things. Eleven dollars is the price on, but if you really want to be a friend to books, get yours at the Seattle Public Library FriendShop for $14 and $16. ANGELA GUNN


Crazy Cat Lady

(Accoutrements, $9.95)

Science doesn't know what makes a Cat Person a Cat Person, but one thing is for sure: It isn't inborn. We've all known someone who, one year, couldn't stand it when your little Fluffy wandered onto their lap, and then— presto, change-o!—managed to cross over and shack up with a Cat Person, and all of a sudden they're no longer gagging when they pull back the plastic on a container of Whiskas Savory Paté. For the lifelongs or the born-agains, there is a new hero—an action figure hero. From Accoutrements, your local toys-for-grown-ups manufacturers (and the suppliers behind Ballard's favorite toys-for-grown-ups store, Archie McPhee), comes Crazy Cat Lady. Looking more like an undead, zonked he-woman than a "lady," Crazy Cat Lady comes with six kitties, one of which looks absolutely possessed. Pose them on your mantle, taunt your real cats with them, or imagine little scenarios and have Crazy Cat Lady and her posse act them out—if, you know, that's your thing. Archie McPhee (2428 N.W. Market St., 206-297-0240; also sells something called a Cat-a-Pult, which flings poor little plastic felines across the room, but we don't endorse that. LAURA CASSIDY

Kermit's Key Lime Ginger Wasabi Mustard

(Kermit's Key Lime Shoppe, $7.95)

In those hopeful days before the election, even condiments had partisan opinions. Now, it is time to examine the complexities of this nation's taste rift while spending some gift capital. How can there be so many varieties of mustard, yet they all rally under the same name? How will you know if you can peacefully coexist with one at your table? A silent force of mustard makers has been adding all means of divination to the mash—from tart berries to garlic, Dijon hybrids to zesty jalapeños—over the last few years, and suddenly people you wouldn't even suspect are eating gourmet mustard. Use it as pretzel dip or a marinade, or embrace your inner red state and put some on a big steak. If you're feeling blue, escape from it all with something like Key Lime Ginger Wasabi Mustard—a queer-friendly, health-conscious, sushi-eater-soundin' morality bender of a condiment if I've ever had one. ( DAPHNE CARR

100 Best Selling Albums of the 50s–90s

(Barnes & Noble Books, $6.95 each)

The publisher's name tells you where you can find 'em, the titles are truth in advertising, and these ready-made stocking stuffers for your chart- and/or music-besotted pals do their job with brisk authority. Sometimes too brisk—these books' selling point isn't their entry-level writing. It's the surprises; for example, the fact that 1976's Frampton Comes Alive!, in its time the biggest blockbuster in rock history, has slipped to 32nd on the decade list. Or that Pink Floyd's 1979 The Wall came out on top of the decade, rather than the Eagles' Their Greatest Hits 1971–1975 (compilations aren't tabulated, unfortunately) or Floyd's endlessly charting Dark Side of the Moon, from 1973 (eighth). Or that Garth Brooks' 1998 Double Live—for this observer, the moment he seemed to disappear from the landscape of pop at large—is actually his second-best-selling album (No. 6 for the '90s, right behind 1990's No Fences, which placed fifth). Which figures—the RIAA still counts each disc of a multivolume set separately when tallying sales, which explains why The Wall and 1968's The Beatles (aka "The White Album") topped their respective decades. The '80s leader is, of course, Michael Jackson's Thriller (1982); the '90s belong to Shania Twain's Come on Over (1997). But the '50s book is the most interesting, considering that most of these albums are barely remembered anymore except as kitsch icons: Mantovani's Song Hits From Theatreland (1955; 58th), Jackie Gleason Plays Romantic Jazz (1954; 81st), the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's The Lord's Prayer (1959; 29th). Still, the decade's biggest seller is also the most appropriate for the season: Elvis' Christmas Album (1957). MICHAELANGELO MATOS

Photo Snow Globe

(Photo Images of America, $4.49 each)

You're banging your head against the wall trying to think of something to get that quirky friend with excruciatingly picky tastes, but all you can come up with is a scented candle. Relax and explore the infinite possibilities of a photo snow globe. It's the secret weapon of gifts—something they'll deeply cherish and get a huge kick out of. Plus, it's a do-it-yourself kind of present, so it feels personalized. Search the Web for pictures of your friend's favorite personalities, print them, cut to fit, and insert into the photo snow globe. Voila! You've created a tailor-made gift that took all of five minutes and $5. Fans of Deepak Chopra, M.F.K. Fisher, the New York Dolls, or Diana Ross can proudly display their idol's image in a swank little setting. The snow globes are never permanently sealed, so your friend can swap photos at will. Genius! ( JEANNE FURY

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