FROM FLEXIBLE BANANA HOLDERS TO BARS OF “EMERGENCY CHOCOLATE” Matthew Bird at the Curuatorium.
Best way to say “Please don’t sink, dear!”
It wasn’t all that long ago that Newport was known as much for its tough sailor bars along lower Thames as for the mansions up on Bellevue. Long before that, the tradition of nautical naughtiness was inspired by the city’s late-17th-century reputation as a place that pirates could stroll about without interference from the authorities. Rogues Island sailors still have a rep to maintain. But the maps, plotting tools, binoculars, barometers, and potential flags of surrender at ARMCHAIR SAILOR BOOKSTORE will assure you that your seafaring friend or loved one will fare well on the open ocean. The vicarious thrills offered in its namesake books might even be enough to keep your sweetheart safely at anchor a while longer. So will figuring out how to use the Astra Iiib Deluxe sextant, $695 with a whole-horizon mirror.
Armchair Sailor Bookstore | 543 Thames Street, Newport RI | 401.847.4252 |www.bluewaterweb.com
Best babying for tiny babes
Try to imagine how sensitive a baby’s skin is and then envision those chubby limbs and tummy caressed by organic cotton rompers or a soft organic wool bunting. That’s what the folks at the Saunderstown-based MIQUETTE want you to do by perusing their online catalog of cozy, comfy clothing for infants and tots. The site explains the philosophy behind their products (inspired by Rudolf Steiner’s anthroposophy) and emphasizes that organic textiles are made from materials that are grown without pesticides (cotton) or growth regulators (sheep). With items from PJs and sleep-sacks to tops, pants, and jackets, Miquette also offers the most irresistible hats: a nappy gray mouse, a striped terry chicken with orange feet dangling around the ears or a white goose with striped feet. They also have a few stuffed animals, beautiful wooden rattles, and skin care products for both mom and the babe. Indulge them!
Best place to spend the rent on a pair of sneakers
So your old lady can’t understand how you dropped two bills on another pair of ultra-limited retro Air Jordans? EXPRESSIONS SHOES gets ’em all (Elephant 3s or Maroon 5s, anyone?), but you better be lining up at 6 am with all the fiendish Nikeheads — no joke. This ain’t the kind of place to walk in and say, “Hi, I’m looking for a comfortable cross trainer today.” Expressions is straight gully, son. Similar to legendary Geller’s downtown (and Courts on Smith Street back in the day), these small NYC-inspired boutiques somehow scoop the illest, rarest Nikes north of the Bronx. And unlike questionable overseas shoe-slingers on eBay, Expressions carries only legit kicks.
Expressions Shoes | 537 Broad Street, Providence | 401.276.4292 | 50 Ann Street, Pawtucket | 401.722.5159 | 47 Eagle Street, Providence | 401.351.1697
Best reason to know friends’ birth dates
Self-described “Chief Curator” Matt Bird has described his curiosity shop THE CURATORIUM as “part design store, part Natural History Museum, part small-town gift shop.” The place’s official slogan is “Everything Deserves Curation,” an attitude that allows its offerings to include a lava lamp nightlight, a flexible banana holder that protects the fruit from bruises, bars of Emergency Chocolate, a cardboard bonsai assembly kit for people with black thumbs, an elegantly shaped plastic “spork,” Mega Morph reconfigurable insects, dinosaurs, and sea creatures, and such must reads as The Idler Book ofCRAP VACATIONS — 50 Tales of Hell on Earth. Bird ran the design showroom risd|works for five years, and being surrounded by all that creative imagination apparently has taken its toll on the poor man.
The Curatorium | 197 Wickenden Street, Providence | 401. 453.4080 |www.thecuratorium.com
Best gifts that glow
Since 1981 Matthew Beuchner has been creating beautiful hand-blown glass, on display at THAMES STREET GLASS. Especially distinctive is what he calls his “emerging form" series in which, for example, a tourmaline green or cobalt blue vase or perfume bottle rises up out of a graceful clear twist of frosted glass. Beuchner’s work is in the collections of the Corning Museum of Glass in New York and the Fraunau Museum of Glass in Germany. Or, instead of purchasing one of his studio’s pieces, you might choose to take glassblowing lessons. For $25 and 10 to 15 minutes of your time, you’ll be taught how to make a Christmas tree ornament. You can leave with a paperweight or a vase you created, for $45 and $120, respectively, with longer lessons. Gift certificates are available, for presents that don’t require your presence at a fiery furnace.
Thames Street Glass | 688 Thames Street, Newport | 401.846.0576 |www.thamesglass.com
Best place to sharpen your skills
Or your knives, as it were. CLEMENTS’ MARKETPLACE will sharpen your knives for free (three at a time, please), as a great incentive to cooking up something from the many fresh ingredients they supply, in their produce, poultry, meat, and seafood departments. Donald and Barbara Clements and their staff — it’s been a family-run business since 1980 — also turn out many products in-house, from sushi rolls to curry chicken salad, from birthday cakes to panini sandwiches. The salad bar alone is a marvel — it includes tofu, edamame, blackened or grilled chicken chunks, two kinds of feta, and wonton strips. Recent additions to these offerings are the daily “Gold Plate Specials,” just $5.99 for each entrée with two sides. The “Gold Plate” menu recently sported spicy peanut chicken, seafood paella, steak tips, baked BBQ chicken half, and lemon-pepper scallops. A great deal for a gourmet meal!
Clements' Marketplace | 2575 East Main Road, Portsmouth | 401.683.0180 |www.clementsmarket.com
Bargain shopping and Bristol may sound oxymoronic, but one can score at SECOND HELPING CONSIGNMENTS. Owner Mary Tabor opened the shop three years ago and East Bay locals embraced the small storefront chock-full of furniture, kitchen equipment, and the usual barrage of bargains in every nook (Tabor expanded last year). It may not be a day at IKEA, but at least Second Helpings is pickier than the typical consignment shop — no schlock allowed here. For those looking to flip some stuff, Second Helpings gets 60 percent and consignees may bring up to 25 items per visit.
Second Helping Consignments | 32 Gooding Avenue, Bristol | 401.396.9600 |www.secondhelpingsri.com
Best supply source for expatriates
We’ve long suspected that coffee milk remains in your system for years, and medical studies will undoubtedly find that it does in fact alter DNA. We don’t yet know whether it’s addictive, because no one who likes it has stopped drinking it long enough to go into withdrawal. For domestic consumption or export to former Rhode Islanders, ONLY IN RHODE ISLAND will supply gift baskets containing such items as Newport Creamery’s Wicked Good hot fudge sauce, and Olneyville NY System hot wiener sauce mix. Of course they have books, ranging from Don Bosquet’s cartoons to H.P Lovecraft’s scary stories, but edibles are the mainstay. Hard-to-find items include Rhode Island Seafood chopped quahogs, the Black Pearl clam chowder and — who knew? — Kenyon’s solar-evaporated sea salt.
Only in Rhode Island | Long Wharf Mall, Newport, 401.846.5006 | 297 Thayer Street, Providence, 401.276.0600 |www.onlyinrhodeisland.com
Best source for hydrometers
Don’t just bring a six-pack to dinner, bring a baggie of Kent Golding, Fuggle, or German Hallertau leaf hops from VINE & HOPS and you can start your host on an obsession that will last a lifetime. You might throw in a grain-grinder and a bag of Weyermann malt to make sure he’s hooked. Don’t worry about the revenuers — the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms will let you brew up to 200 gallons of beer per family per year before they take an ax to your door. The home brewing store will also outfit you with wine-making paraphernalia, but you have a much better chance of avoiding the look, after a sip, that says, “Why in the world did you bother?” if you stick to making beer.
Vine & Hops | 549 Tower Hill Road, North Kingstown | 401.667.2848 |www.vineandhops.com
Best reason to love goats
Goat’s milk has long been suggested for those with an allergy to cow’s milk. And the French have hooked us on chevre-type cheeses. But who knew that goat’s milk makes a gentle, moisturizing soap? The folks at EMERALD FOREST FARMSTEAD, apparently. This small family farm has combined their love of raising goats — Nubian and Sable Saanen — with their dedication to organic farming and natural products. They pasteurize the goat’s milk and then combine it with coconut, palm, and olive oils in a cold press process to create soap. Essential oils and fragrance oils are added for scent, grains and spices for texture and exfoliating properties. Each four-ounce bar contains approximately one ounce of goat’s milk. Along with unscented, you can order almond/honey/oatmeal, lavender, sweet orange spice (sprinkled with paprika), cucumber/melon, or cinnamon/oatmeal. The soaps are molded into different shapes (lavender is a heart, cinnamon/oatmeal a quartet of bubbles), and they are terrific for sensitive skin.
Emerald Forest Farmstead | Liberty Hill Road, West Greenwich | 401.397.7252 |www.emeraldfarmstead.com
Best conscienntious shopping
If you have a passion for folk art and the crafts of indigenous peoples, you probably also ask yourself: are the people who make these items earning a living wage? Susan Letendre has founded SEVEN STORY MARKET because she asked the same questions of vendors in Guatemala, where she has traveled to collect intricately beaded bracelets and necklaces, delicately woven scarves, magically crafted puzzle boxes in the shape of animals, and heavy weavings for purses and pillow coverings, among other products. Letendre not only met the certified Fair Trade designers and retailers but she visited the workshops to meet the women with back-strap looms or the men with wood-turning tools. She brings the stories behind these objects to any home gathering of up to 10 people. And she’ll even help you solve the puzzle boxes — made from sustainable woods.
Seven Story Market | 16 Mill Pond Road, North Kingstown | 401.268.9810 |www.sevenstorymarket.com
Best pen as heirloom
Many relatives leave their jewelry, antique furniture, artwork, and the like to their descendants. You could leave them a writing instrument. Not that you’re a skinflint — just that the hand-turned wood pens made by Jim McGrath at HEMLOCK BROOK WOODWORKING are, indeed, works of art that will last you long enough to hand them down. (Replacement inserts are available at Staples or, for the rollerball, from an online source.) At McGrath’s studio or during a virtual tour, you can check out the woods, designs, and styles of pens. He also produces chrome-plated bottle stoppers with wooden knobs, Victorian-looking Christmas ornaments, and hand-turned bowls — he will customize size and wood choice (maple, birch, oak, pine, black walnut, cherry, pear, and apple). Wanting to pass on his craft as well as his pens, McGrath teaches basic to advanced pen turning and basic to intermediate bowl turning, supplying his own tools, lathes, and materials, unless you have your own equipment.
Hemlock Brook Woodworking | 70 Mill Road, Foster | 401.647.0684 | www.hemlockbrook.com