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The Home Stretch 

Gift ideas for the last holiday shopping days

By Photos by David Richmond

Weekend helpers
Make traveling (or staying home) comfortable and fashionable at the same time with durable Dansko slip-on shoes in plaid or cranberry felt, $115 each, or gray clogs with embroidery, $120. Give your girl a mod-print weekender with compartments inside by Tepper Jackson, $56.95, and a matching makeup bag, $16.95; filled with a trio of Kiss Me lip balms in "yummy red," "sugar cookie" and "peppermint patty" flavors by Philosophy, $25.95 for the set. Also tuck in some healthy treats such as Immuno Booster homeopathic oral spray to help battle recurring infections, slow recoveries or tendencies toward colds and flu, by Sprayology, $24 for a month's supply; and a bottle of Healing Treasure Immune Defense capsules by Vibrant Life Chinese Botanicals, $29.95; all from Earthsavers (3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Lakeside Shopping Center, Metairie, 835-0225; 5501 Magazine St., 899-8555; 3414 U.S. Hwy. 190, Mandeville, 985-674-1133).
Fresh idea
You can find a delicious gift that will please almost everyone on your list no matter their age at Robert Fresh Market (5016 W. Esplanade Ave., Metairie, 885-7005), which offers gift baskets, gourmet meals to go, special gourmet deli selections and wine and fine spirits, or wrap up a gift certificate and let them do their own shopping.
Book of beauty
Adorable and utilitarian at the same time are makeup palettes (lip gloss, eye shadow, blush) contained in "The Quickie Chronicles" boxes, which are designed like the covers of racy old-time novels with storylines on the back (there are a host of titles and color palettes). Shown here are Heartbreaker, $30, and Temptress, a mini palette, $18, both by Too Faced, from Beauty 101 (2728 Magazine St., 895-2869).
Make her sparkle
There'll be a joyful sparkle in her eyes, her smile and on her ears when she unwraps round-cut diamond stud earrings in a white-gold setting. Diamond sizes start at a half-carat total weight for $550 and go up to 4 carats total weight for $19,900, all from Boudreaux's Fine Jewelers (701 Metairie Road, Metairie, 831-2602; 4550 Hwy. 22, Mandeville, 985-626-1666).
Noteworthy presents
Get someone organized with robin-blue file folders with red birds and branches on them by Cavallini & Co., $14.50 for a dozen; and fulfill all their needs for thank-you notes and other correspondence with dark pink fold-over note cards with a light pink outline and envelopes by Jack and Lulu, $32.50 for a box of 25; a metal wax seal press with an initial on it by Aladine, $24; blue fold-over cards with pink trim and an initial on the front by Rosanne Herskind, $12 for 10 cards and envelopes; and fuchsia enclosure or place cards with envelopes by Crown Mill, $12 for 25; all from Scriptura (328 Chartres St., 299-1234; Lakeside Shopping Center Annex, 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 219-1113; 5423 Magazine St., 897-1555; www.scriptura.com).
Green backs
Dress your guy in clothing that is attractive, durable and can go anywhere. Start with a woven olive plaid button-front shirt with a front pocket, $49.99, and top it with a woven, textured olive jacket with a fleece lining and four zipper pockets on the front, $155. Keep his hands warm with "troller" gloves for work and skiing that are made for temperatures as low as 5 degrees Fahrenheit, $69.99; all by Cloudveil of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, available at Massey's Professional Outfitters (3363 Severn Ave., Metairie, 885-1144; 816 Hwy. 190, Covington, 985-809-7544; www.masseys.net).
Fancy footwork
Vibrant colors add pizzazz to this thick, hand-knotted 100 percent wool Persian Gabeh rug, $150, from Talebloo Oriental Rugs and Antique Gallery (2015 Magazine St., 581-9700; www.talebloo.com).
Natural Wonder
Artist Booker Morey hand-processed these Japanese maple leaves to reveal the natural details of their veins and encased them in a roomy frame that retains their three-dimensional quality, $95 (other types of leaves in frames and coasters are also available), from Interiors & Extras (324 Metairie Road, Metairie, 835-9902; www.interiorsandextras.com).
Uncommon scents
Premium-grade components give Circle E Candles a wonderful fragrance from the first burning to the last, plus they come in square glass canisters that can be reused when the candle inside is burned down, $22.67 for the 28-oz. orange patchouli, which burns 150 to 165 hours, or $15.21 for the 12-oz. "The Smell of Christmas" candle, which burns up to 80 hours. Circle E Candles are available exclusively at One 2 One Salon & Spa (8216 Oak St., 862-0010).
Improve the view
Dress your favorite girl or guy in quality designer sunglasses such as sleek, rectangular lenses in black frames with large Swarovski crystals on the earpieces by Dior, $265; along with a hard-side glasses case that looks like an evening bag with a shoulder strap, $14.95; a pair of burgundy-frame wraparound sunglasses with engraved silver decorations on the earpiece by Gucci, $220; or tortoise-shell frames with silver beading on the earpiece by Ralph Lauren, $86; paired with a golden brown suede hard-side case with faux snake leather, silver studs and a suede handle, $14.95; available from St. Charles Vision Outlet (837 S. Clearview Pkwy., Jefferson, 733-0406; 817 W. Esplanade Ave., Kenner, 712-3551; 1844 N. Causeway Blvd., Northlake Shopping Center, Mandeville, 985-626-8103; www.stcharlesvision.com).
Vocal threads
Departing a bit from its usual designs of cleverness using vegetable themes, the local Wearable Vegetables has branched into cocktail, barbecue and fish lines such as a navy T-shirt with a light blue logo that says "Sea bass run. Run bass run," or a gray "I passed the Louisiana Bar Exam -- Pat O'Brien's, Snug Harbor, Tipitina's, Cat's Meow, Checkpoint Charlie's, Port of Call, Cafe Brazil, Napoleon House, Howlin' Wolf, Maple Leaf," $19.99 each; or a hand towel for the barbecue that says "Nice Buns," $8.99. Designs also are available on aprons and sweatshirts, all from Wearable Vegetables (816A Hickory Ave., Harahan, 486-1117; 800-WEARVEG; www.wearablevegetables.com).

Something for everyone's taste
Take some friends, or your love interest, out for a night on the town, complete with a little dancing or singing -- there are DJs on Tuesday, live music Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, and karaoke Thursday and Saturday -- a big fat half-pound Beach Burger with cheese and all the trimmings, plus a favorite adult beverage to wash it all down at The Beach House (2401 Woodlawn Ave., Metairie, 456-7470).

A true gift of New Orleans awaits those you send to Parkway Bakery and Tavern (538 Hagan Ave., 482-3047), which excels in local favorites such as its roast beef or fried oyster po-boys -- which should be renamed oh-boys -- and Crescent city traditions, plus a bountiful meal for a whole family won't even dent the bank account.

Give someone you love a European experience close to home with a gift certificate to The Flaming Torch (737 Octavia St., 895-0900), where they'll be treated to the ambience of a Parisian neighborhood restaurant while they dine on elegant French cuisine that is delicious and beautifully presented.

Also European in its flavor and atmosphere is the charming CafŽ Amelie (912 Royal St., 412-8965), which offers an intimate and romantic courtyard garden setting, where diners can enjoy crabcakes, salmon or a number of other delicacies.

Those who appreciate the tastes of northern Italy served in an elegant French Quarter restaurant where singers entertain with opera music will appreciate a gift certificate to CafŽ Giovanni (117 Decatur St., 529-2154; www.cafegiovanni.com), where Chef Duke Locicero offers a "feed me" special -- and the bloody Marys are among the best in town.

A great gift certificate for meat eaters and vegetarians alike is Nirvana Indian Cuisine (4309 Magazine St., 894-9797), whether your gift recipients seek a casual dinner or something more festive. You'll be giving them a spicy experience and one conducive to communal dining with friends if a holiday celebration is in order.

The decor evokes a plush British dining experience, but the cuisine at Bombay Club Restaurant & Martini Bistro (830 Conti St., 586-0972; thebombayclub.com) is nouveau Creole. Best known for its 100 or so specialty martini choices, Bombay also offers all sorts of other libations as well as nightly piano music and a relaxing atmosphere. Gift certificates are available.

Is someone on your gift list yearning for a Chinese experience? Then give them a gift certificate to Trey Yuen (600 N. Causeway Blvd., Mandeville, 985-626-4476; 2100 N. Morrison Blvd., Hammond, 985-345-6789; www.treyyuen.com), where the dŽcor is as authentic as the food. The restaurants were designed to emulate Chinese palaces, and the food is equally regal, with signature dishes that incorporate traditional Chinese elements with local foods like softshell crab.

Another sought-after experience begins with a gift certificate to Longbranch (21516 Hwy. 36, Abita Springs, 985-871-8171), housed in an historic 19th century hotel in a beautiful setting on the Northshore, and serving Southern cuisine with a contemporary flair cooked up by Chef Allison Vines-Rushing, who won the James Beard Foundation's "Rising Star Chef of the Year" award in 2003 for her work at a New York restaurant.

While your focus is on delectables on the Northshore, consider a gift certificate to Abita Bar-B-Q (69399 Hwy. 59, Abita Springs), where your gifted diners can enjoy a casual atmosphere and mouthwatering specialties such as smoked Louisiana boudin, spicy pork ribs, pulled pork and brisket, all in the cool setting of a converted gas station.

Give a special certificate for a Christmas Eve or New Year's Eve dinner of Louisiana contemporary fare at the sophisticated Chops Bistro and Martini Bar (111 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 218-8967), where they will be entertained with live music while they dine on such delicious fare as a filet mignon, pan-seared veal chops, sautŽed grouper or grilled redfish, and a host of other dishes.

The fusion of Italian and Louisiana cuisine can be an international treat when it's served from the lengthy menu at Semolina (100 Tyler Square, Covington, 985-898-0040; 1121 Manhattan Blvd., Harvey 361-8293; 2999 Hwy. 190, Mandeville, 985-626-8923; 4436 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Clearview Shopping Center, Metairie, 454-7930; www.semolina.com), where you can buy a gift certificate for a whole family and be sure every one of them will find something they love, from the macaroni and cheesecake to the chicken Marsala.

For a really quick trip to Greece (culinarily speaking anyway), buy a gift certificate to Mr. Gyro's (3620 N. Causeway Blvd., Metairie, 833-9228), where your guests can dine on authentic Greek cuisine that also is healthy.

If you don't want to be boxed in by a particular country's cuisine in your gift giving, buy a gift certificate for Zea Rotisserie and Grill (1401 W. Esplanade Ave., The Esplanade, Kenner, 468-7733; 1644 Hickory Ave., Harahan, 738-0799; 4450 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Clearview Shopping Center, Metairie, 780-9090; 1525 St. Charles Ave., 520-8100; www.zearestaurants.com), where diners can choose from dishes that represent the tastes of a variety of countries.

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