No-Sweat Gift Guide

Zito Gallery, 122 Ludlow Street, 646.602.2338, zitogallery.com


It's easy to miss the drab office-building facade of Elizabeth Center. Just follow the Chinatown pre-teens down the building's escalator to the basement and you will find a veritable maze of shops selling Mashimaro scented erasers, Pucca-illustrated mugs, soft Piyo Piyo bedroom slippers, and Astroboy cell phone holders. These anime baubles, which range from $2 to $12, will make whimsical stocking gifts for your 10-year-old cousin or for friends who can't resist gel glitter pens decorated with dewy-eyed pandas. As the Japanese say, so "kawaii" ("aww, so cute")! CATHY HONG

It's a Mod, Mod World gets dolled up for the holidays.
photo: Kate Lacey
It's a Mod, Mod World gets dolled up for the holidays.

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Elizabeth Center, 15 Elizabeth Street, no phone number

Trying to find the ideal present for recent NYC expatriates is a puzzle, which is why the ceramic Parthocups ($20)—inspired by disposable coffee cups—at Our Name Is Mud are as reliable as a 24-hour deli. Their look is absolutely faithful to the original (right down to that shade of not quite powder blue)—although stretching a flat lid over them might be something of a challenge. The cups are also available in ornament size ($7). Our Name Is Mud's glazed offerings aren't only useful for out-of-towners; anyone who got a relationship pink slip for the holidays will appreciate the Ex-Boyfriend in Hell votive candle holder ($10), while the lively ceramic menorahs ($50) add a little extra brightness to Hanukkah. Those interested in giving out teapots and plates with a personal touch can grab some spiked nog and head to the store on Thursday and Friday nights; it's BYOB night, when the ceramics are at your disposal for inscribing while imbibing. MAURA JOHNSTON

Our Name Is Mud, 59 Greenwich Avenue, 212.647.7899


What do you get when you hybridize FAO Schwartz with a fetish emporium? That test-tube baby would be It's a Mod, Mod World, an East Village specialty store with stock that could make the word eclectic blush. A combination of religious kitsch, queer culturama, and bona fide collectibles makes the store a destination for downtown hipsters, action hero fanboys (and girls!), retrophiles, and even crunchy granola types—Mod is big on recycling. Bejeweled clocks dominating the walls are made from empty boxes of Tide, Cat Chow, Oreos, mac and cheese, and Irish Spring, among others ($18 to $60). Think Wonder Woman lunch boxes ($15) next to "reworked" Barbie dolls—Fetish Barbie, Giraffe Barbie, and Kali Hindu Goddess Barbie—probably not what Mattel had in mind ($60 to $200). Vinyl shoulder bags boast both Che Guevara's face and ads for Japanese whorehouses ($24); imported cowboy hats and purses from Thailand made from soda cans ($15 to $28) hang beside tank tops proclaiming, "I Only Sleep With the Best" ($27). Of course, there are the requisite Slinkys, Pez dispensers, lava lamps, soaps, picture frames, shower curtains, change purses, trinkets, kiddie toys, racy magnets, buttons, cards, and nontraditional holiday ornaments. Don't miss the goldfish pond in the back. NIKKI MOUSTAKI

It's a Mod, Mod World, 85 First Avenue, 212.460.8004


Stuck having to take your Midwestern relatives to see the Rockefeller Christmas tree? Block off an hour or two for the massive and intriguing Kinokuniya Books. Caffeinate at the silent, time-warped café before you browse Kinokuniya's selection. For your dog-loving best friend: an adorable, species-spanning photo book, aptly titled The Dog, packed with enigmatic translations ($21.75). But not all your pals are dog freaks or bookworms. Scan a huge selection of CDs (from pop to Takeshi Kakehashi Plays Mozart, $18.95), DVDs, and videos. Akira Kurosawa's Drunken Angel runs $19.95. There's anime, manga, Yu-Gi-Oh action figures, clever New York map books, a range of calendars, stationery, and Japanese gift-wrap paper ($2.50). Spread that out among the film nerds, geeks, and aesthetes. Now, snag a mini-rice cooker for your cousin in college ($29.95) and a limited edition Hello Kitty doll/book set ($14.95) for the kid sister! You have enough left over to buy your lame F.I.T. friend a Swedish style magazine in Japanese ($17.40), and Origami—the Complete Guide to the Art of Paperfolding for your retired parents ($27.50). People better get you awesome gifts this year, because giving is all about getting paid back in equal amounts. CHELSEA PERETTI

Kinokuniya Books, 10 West 49th Street, 212.765.7766

Though Brooklyn's once down-at-the-heels Fifth Avenue has gained attention recently for its upsurge in fashionable bars and restaurants, the strip still retains enough of its immigrant Latino heritage to make it the perfect spot to satisfy your spiritual friend's Afro-Caribbean religious needs. Along with parts of Williamsburg, this western fringe of Park Slope has long been one of the richest in the city for practitioners of Santería, the medley of Catholic and Yoruba religious traditions found mainly in Puerto Rico and Cuba, and is a good place for a holiday nod to the orishas (deities). At Botanica Universal las Mercedes you can buy a Justo Juez or fragrant Chango Macho devotional candle ($2 and $2.50, respectively), a statuette to receive the Santería orisha of Olocum ($18) or peacock feathers to adorn the orishas of Ochun, goddess of love, and Yemaya, the mother of the waters ($1 each). Herbs such as sandalwood and mint are also available, running $2 a portion. If you have a friend heading away on a trip, a block away, pick up another candle for Oya, ruler of the winds and the cemetery gates ($2), at Bontanica San Miguel, and your friends could be forgiven for thinking you are auditioning for the role of the babalawo (as the faith's priests are called) for your little posse. MICHAEL DEIBERT

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