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Pottery Tips from Sasha Wingate of BellJar

Sasha Wingate, 36, owner of Mission District home accessories shop, the BellJar, invites us into her home in the Excelsior district to view her collection of dainty white pottery and milk glass. The early 20th-century pieces run the gamut from hobnail vessels to ruffle-edged bowls by McCoy to classic 1930s cornucopias—an impressive, and decidedly feminine, grouping that adds a soft edge to Wingate’s midcentury-inspired home.

Do you have an elusive piece that you covet?

Another Gift for the Holiday Drinker: The Flip-Top Shaker

The Flip-Top Shaker -- The best innovations in the world of cocktail in the last few years have been historical, archival in nature. That is, the recovery of old recipes, techniques and ingredients through the scholarship displayed in such books as David Wondrich's Imbibe and in events like The Alembic's occasional Savoy Cocktail book nights, where guests are invited to choose antique recipes from the great compendium of the 1930s. Recently, though, I was sent a sample of the Flip-Top cocktail shaker from a company called Metrokane.

Stocking Stuffers for Food Lovers

Sure, an orange at the toe of the stocking is still a nice touch, but here are seven other goodies to slip in the sock.

1. At Christopher Elbow’s Hot Chocolate Lounge in Hayes Valley, you can enjoy a rich mug of any number of his signature drinking chocolate—treat yourself, then buy a tin and treat a friend. $16, available at the shop (401 Hayes St., 415-355-1100) or online.

An 'Anonymous Postcard' to the Moms of Mill Valley

Does Governor Blagojevich know how bad his hair is? If he’s been too busy lately to watch late night comedy maybe someone should send him a note suggesting he reconsider his locks.

The Rocky Horrification of The Sound of Music


You’d be surprised at the number of people who harbor a latent desire to sit in a dark theater with a few hundred strangers and sing in chorus, “You Are Sixteen, Going On Seventeen.”

Nothing unites folks more than shared nostalgia. Reliving some of your favorite childhood things along with a roomful of stranger bonds the crowd, swiftly and inextricably.

And, in this crummy economy, maybe knowing that a gaggle of spunky kids had to wear drapes for play clothes -- and still managed to escape the Nazis, can make us feel a little better about thrift.

Aronofsky, Rourke Make Triumphant Returns with The Wrestler

Fresh off his disappointment at the tepid reception that greeted The Fountain, his 2006 tale of immortal love starring fiancée Rachel Weisz, director Darren Aronofsky went back to the drawing board and perused a list of ideas he’d come up with in film school. It was there that The Wrestler, his astonishing new drama about a W.W.E.-style ring warrior sputtering down the stretch of a hard life and punishing career, was born.

Aronofsky, who admits to being the furthest thing from a wrestling aficionado, found himself struck by the countless stories of men who rose to fame in the sport by mercilessly abusing their bodies with performance-enhancing drugs and acts of pure physical torture. He was stunned that nobody had tackled the subject in a movie.

Whitney Smith Pottery at BellJar

While pledging to buy local all year can be a rather severe lesson in restraint (fresh raspberries should never be passed up, even in December), buying local for the holidays can be like  the best sort of treasure hunt. And with as much talent as there is in the Bay Area, you're bound to come away with thoughtful and unique gifts for the whole list. Don't know where to start? How about ceramics from Oakland based artist Whitney Smith? Her sprout vases are perfect for a stem of daffodil (seasonal/local be damned!) or just as a cluster on a mantle. See more of Smith's work here, or stop by BellJar in the Mission to sit some in person.

The Best Tracks of 2008 (Bay Area Edition)

'Tis the season for "best of" music lists around the web. We've got one of our own to add to the mix - our roundup of what we think are the seven best songs to come out of the Bay Area this year. So listen up, and then go out and support these bands immediately. (Read: catch them before they're playing mega tours and you're paying stupid ticket prices to support things like light shows, pyrotechnics and RVs).

Here's the list.

Not in the Holiday Spirit Yet? Chanticleer Can Help.

At 8 p.m. last Saturday, in a pitch-black St. Ignatius Church, an audience of some 1,300 people sat motionless in the dark. What kept us that way was was 12 male voices, unaccompanied by anything but candlelight and including one astonishing soprano, singing 15th-century plainsong. I couldn't get a photo, of course, so the above shot (of Chanticleer rehearsing before the show) will have to do. There's something about this music that made me think, Why bother with anything else that's been composed in the last, oh, six hundred years?

Warehouse Sale at Branch

With all the sales going on already, it seems after Christmas is bound to be a madhouse this year. Start getting your elbows in shape now with deal wrastlin' at Branch's Warehouse Sale this Saturday. Pretty much everything will be 25% off, so you can be sure to stuff all your stockings with extra home decor care. And to sweeten the pot, expect a free mystery gift with any purchase - oohlala. It's all going down Saturday 11 to 6 at 245 S. Van Ness Ave, Suite 304 (in the Post Tool Building).

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