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Ross examination

Diana Ross puts her indelible spin on holiday classics such as "The Christmas Song," "Winter Wonderland" and the title song on the CD Wonderful Christmastime—a collection of holiday recordings from Diana Ross that were first issued in 1994 and have been widely unavailable since. ( There are also covers of non-holiday tunes such as Stevie Wonder's "Overjoyed" and the gospel classic "Amazing Grace," among other songs. ) ( $12.59; )

Staying in the Loop

Located in Chicago's theater district, The Dearborn ( co-owned by lesbian Amy Lawless and her sister, Clodagh ) serves some pretty cool dishes, ranging from Not Billy's Scotch Egg to honey lavender-glazed duck breast to caramel apple churros. Make someone's day by purchasing a gift card to this spot. ( Various prices; )

Heavy Petal

A cute stocking stuffer, Petal is the newest sparkling beverage to lead what's been called the "rose revolution." Flavors include Original Rose, Mint Rose and Lychee Rose—and the drink has zero calories, zero sugar and no caffeine. Also, since it's just blooming ( pun intended ) in the industry, you'll be ahead of the game. ( $27.48 for a variety pack; )

I'll drink to that

From the popular Italian liqueur, DISARONNO ( an amaretto-like liqueur ) has partnered with Italian fashion house TRUSSARDI to launch a limited-edition bottle dressed in the brand's notable texture and greyhound logo. ( In addition, the limited-edition collaboration will also be available in six mini-bottles. ) Look fashionable and drink fashionably with the brand DISARONNO wears TRUSSARDI. ( Various prices; )

'Bone' ranger

Haven't heard of the book Children of Blood and Bone? Where have you been? This first book in a new West African inspired fantasy series ( think Black Panther with Magic ) has sold more copies in its first six months than any first book in a major young adult franchise since Harry Potter. Be sure to check out this book ( which, of course, is being made into a film ). ( $14.24; )

An Epic snack

Gay-owned, Indiana-based Epic Popcorn is the first NGLCC ( National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce )-certified popcorn company—and it offers more than 65 rotating flavors, including Dill Pickle, Fruity Loops ( my fave ), Pizza, Cinnamon Toast and much more. However, you can also feel healthy about eating this, as Epic features non-GMO corn, pure coconut oil, 100% non-tans-fat cheese and gluten free flavors. ( Various prices; )

'Histories' lesson

Julian Gill-Peterson's Histories of the Transgender Child uncovers a previously unknown 20th-century history when transgender children not only existed but pre-existed the term "transgender" and its predecessors—playing a critical role in the medicalization of trans people, and all sex and gender. ( $24.95-$100; )

It's a mystery to me

If you like your British murder mysteries, they rarely come better than Vera—and the very popular series ( with Oscar nominee Brenda Blethyn ) is now in a box set through Acorn with sets one through seven. And if you're really into this subgenre, Acorn TV is available in a gift subscription for just $49.99/year. ( $219.99; )

Pacman fever

Addicted offers swimwear, underwear, fetish attire and casual clothes for the man who likes to let it hang out—so to speak. Exhibit A: PacMan-style underwear that shows a video character gobbling something other than those dots… ( Various prices; )

Here's the dish

Give the gift of sushi-making this season. Chicago Japanese restaurant Arami offers hands-on, authentic sushi demonstrations on the third Wednesday of every month. The hour class, by Arami's Executive Chef Joseph Fontelera, includes a hands-on ( edible ) maki and temaki instructional followed by a three-course prix fixe dinner. ( $60 each; ).

Twisted sister

The Museum of Contemporary Art's store has a lot of innovative items, such as the twisted spectrum bag. Perfect for running errands or a casual night out, the faux leather bag can be effortlessly transformed from clutch to wristlet to handbag—and in a colorful way. ( $44.95; )

Leather or not

Ezra Arthur specializes in high-quality leather accessory products, whether they're wallets, belts, bags or even stationery ( with the items having been in publications ranging from USA Today to Men's Health ). Trust me: The feel is fantastic. ( Various prices; )

Air apparent

AirSelfie2 is a revolutionary pocket-size flying camera that connects to a smartphone to take hi-def photos ( 12-megapixel resolution ) from the sky. Its turbofan propellers can thrust up to 50 feet in the air, letting the user capture wide, truly original photos and videos. Your friends will wonder how you got some of those photos. ( $199.95; )

The bite stuff

Baked by Melissa's bite-sized cupcakes make the perfect gift for those who want something sweet but don't want to overindulge ( although some have argued the merits of eating a gallon of ice cream in one sitting ). ( Various prices; )

Body and 'Soul'

Chicago's Black Ensemble Theater is known for having the coolest musicals, like the current Women of Soul and A Holiday Cabaret. Purchase tickets for you and your better half, and get set for a toe-tapping good time. ( $35-$65 each; )

Bodi language

After eating some of the items in this guide, you might want to work off some of those calories at a spot like the local fitness facility Bodi Shak. Classes have such catchy names as FIRM, DRENCH, SURGE and BLAZE, and will definitely challenge your body on every level. Get a friend a gift certificate—and you might want to purchase a class or two yourself. ( Various prices; )

Game on

Hammacher Schlemmer has released The Atari Home Arcade. ( Those older than 35 may remember the name "Atari." ) A 17" flat-screen LCD displays the pre-installed games' two-dimensional graphics and colors, and people can choose from the Asteroids cabinet ( with a knob wheel control and Asteroids, Tempest, Major Havoc, and Lunar Lander games ) or Centipede cabinet ( with a trackball control and Centipede, Crystal Castles, Millipede, and Missile Command games ). ( $399.95; )

Pop and lock

The Tapplock One has much more to offer than your standard lock—and, therefore, offers much more security. The smart padlock's state-of-the-art capacitive fingerprint sensor allows you to access your items in under a second and the corresponding app can be used to give temporary, remote access to others. Your valuables ( whether it's jewelry or your great-grandmother's recipes ) have never been safer. ( $99; )

BLAQ is beautiful

Charcoal is being used for a lot more than grilling these days. Witness BLAQ—charcoal-laden skincare products that target toxins and extract impurities. Whether it's the BLAQMask or even the teeth-whitening wand, the results can be impressive—and you won't have to use those briquets. ( Various prices; )

Now and Zen

With everything happening in our lives today, it's more important than ever to take some time to relax. Buddha Board might just be the answer; as a mess-free temporary "painting" board that utilizes the natural element of water, it can be used by anyone anywhere to simply 'be' in the moment and enjoy their creativity. The Buddha Board comes in its original size, the 5" Mini Buddha Board, or the Enso, the enhanced version of the Mini Board. Release your inner artist and de-stress simultaneously. ( $14.95-$34.95; )


The website has what it calls "the largest online catalog of wall art and decor"—and, with a selection like that, there's something for everyone. Moreover, dozens of items are currently discounted at 50-60 percent. Score! ( Various prices; )

Watch this

Retro is fashionable everywhere ( although the jury is still out on fanny packs ). The Casio Vintage Timepiece Collection features those designs from yesteryear, with stainless-steel bands and even more colors. Moreover, there are other functions, such as an auto calendar, stopwatch and more. ( $49.95-$69.95; )

50 scent

Helmm is a men's deodorant and antiperspirant that smells great, looks good and actually works. With Helmm's delivery box service, you never have to think of deodorant again—and fragrance offerings ( which can be used in Helmm's reusable nickel-plated, laser-engraved zinc container ) include Trailblazer, Coastline, Hudson and Night Market. ( $25; )

Shake and bake

Evanston bakery Hewn—known for its hand-forged, artisan bread and pastries—recently launched its first cookbook, Heritage Baking, through Chronicle Books. And unlike some books on foods, this one features a lot more than recipes ( although it has 45 of those ): Through first-hand stories from Ellen King, this cookbook aims to change the way consumers look at bread. ( $29.95; )

Tee time

There are your standard workout T-shirts—and then there are SCOTTeVEST tees. The moisture-wicking shirts are machine-washable, and are even have single-zippered pockets made specifically to hold your cash, credit cards or keys. You'll wonder why you hadn't purchased it before. ( $45; )

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