Share a piece of Pennsylvania this season
The old saying — “You can’t go home again” — may or may not be true.
You can, however, send a little piece of home to friends near and far with this eclectic selection of Pennsylvania-centric gifts. Some are made here, some celebrate the area and some are just plain cool — pierogie soap on a rope, anyone? Have other ideas for unique gifts from our fair corner of the world? Comment below and let us know.
Send a taste of Pennsylvania
DeLallo Italian Marketplace in Jeannette has Christmas with a taste of Western Pennsylvania — and Italy — covered.
Along with pre-packed gift baskets such as Pizza Night, Pesto and Pasta, and Italian Masterpiece, available to order online, other pre-packed baskets are available for purchase at the store.
In addition, the popular specialty grocer is offering personalized gift boxes that can be shipped to family, friends or clients.
Know a great cook and/or host who will welcome a gift designed for a “foodie?”
Customizable boxes can be loaded with choices from artisan cheeses, dried and cured meats, sweet snacks and gourmet spreads. DeLallo staff will arrange the selections in a gift box, attach a customer’s personalized message, and ship it straight to the recipient, its website states.
The holiday gift boxes range in size, and are priced from $60 to $150.
A gift of beauty, indoors and outside
Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is offering a membership holiday gift, giving recipients year-round access to ever-changing exhibits, exclusive events, unparalleled beauty and serene tranquility, its website says.
Membership cards will be packaged in a festive holiday card, with alternate designs available on request. Gift givers also can add a personal message. Memberships should be purchased by noon Dec. 14 to help ensure arrival by Dec. 25, the site adds.
Gift memberships purchased Dec. 15-21 will include an email certificate purchasers may share with the recipient, with cards arriving after the holiday.
Memberships range from $60 for students and seniors on up to $1,250 for a Henry Phipps Associate membership, with various options, from family to grandparents, in between.
Details: 412-315-0656 or phipps.conservatory.org
Glittering gifts from Fallingwater
Among the holiday gifts available from Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece designed for Pittsburgh’s Kaufmann family, are wine glasses and tumblers etched with the fairy tale home in the woods’ logo.
The glassware is produced by Rolf Glass of Mt. Pleasant, according to the Fallingwater website. A set of four wineglasses is listed for $54, while a gift box of four tumblers is listed at $48.
Signed, matted and delivered
With subjects ranging from sports and music to beer and beyond, the whimsical drawings of Pittsburgh-based illustrator Mark Brewer would be welcome in just about any stocking.
Give your favorite classic rock enthusiast a likeness of Bob Dylan or the late Tom Petty, depicted with angel wings and titled “Free Fallin.’”
Bird watchers, bike riders and golfers — Brewer has them covered too.
The artist’s last name is something of a happy accident, as Brewer definitely knows his ABVs from his IPAs. He is the author and illustrator of “Brewology, An Illustrated Dictionary for Beer Lovers” (Skyhorse Publishing Inc) and writes a column titled “What’s Brewing?” for the Tribune-Review.
Tick your favorite beer snob or average Joe Six Pack off the list with a print from Brewer’s “Brewology” series.
Brewer’s pieces, created with archival ink on acid-free paper, come signed in pencil, matted and fit into 16-by-20-inch frames. The $54 price includes tax.
Yinz need to warsh yer hands
Remember Ralphie in “A Christmas Story” chomping down on a bar of Lifebuoy?
The Pierogi on a Rope from Swissvale-based Regent Park Naturals looks good enough to eat — but trust us, you’re better off bathing with it.
The dumpling-shaped soap is one of a line of traditional cold-process soaps handmade by Andre Parquette of Murrysville. It contains all-natural ingredients, including essential oils, and comes in a variety of scents that reference Western Pennsylvania: Black and Gold, Babcia’s Original, Monongahelan Winter, Slovakian Harvest, Allegheny Forest, Appalachian Meadow and Original Scent (which we hope is butter and onions). The bars are $10.50 each, or three for $25.
Parquette says Pierogi on a Rope is “a great stocking stuffer for Pittsburghers of all ages, especially ‘displaced yinzers’ who can’t make it home this holiday season.”
An archaeologist who works in cultural resource management, Parquette has been making his line of natural-ingredient soaps for about six years. According to his website, he forages ingredients such as roots, barks, seeds and wildflowers from “the rich botanical resources growing throughout the hills and valleys that surround our three rivers.”
Other offerings at $8.50 per bar include Old Slovak Traditional Cabbage Soap, Jaggerberry and soaps made with dandelion, sassafras, cranberry and sumac.
Log your statewide steps
Pennsylvania State Parks and State Forests Passport offers a challenge to those interested in exploring the Keystone state’s great outdoors.
There are 121 state parks and 20 state forest districts, each with its own special draw, according to the Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation’s website.
The passport sets up a bucket list of sorts, and explorers can have their passports stamped at each park or forest they visit, or record their own memories or photos of each stop.
You can earn a “champion tag” to hang from your backpack after submitting a form in the book documenting visits to, for example, 10 scenic views and vistas or 10 CCC parks, or that you participated in 10 environmental education programs or paddled 10 streams or lakes .
Ultimate challenge status is earned by visiting each and every park or forest, from tiny treasures like McCalls Dam State Park to the gigantic lake at Pymatuning State Park, from the highest point in Pennsylvania in the Forbes State Forest to the Delaware State Forest’s Pine Lake Natural Area, the website states.
Cost is $10.60.
Details: paparks andforests.org
Just what the doctor ordered
If someone on your gift list needs new dinnerware, we have just what the doctor ordered — literally.
The doctor is Francis DeFabo of Unity, who creates dinnerware, serving dishes and decorative homewares in his garage pottery studio.
DeFabo started to feed his long-unfulfilled artistic vision a few years back when he gave up the baby delivery part of his Latrobe OB/Gyn practice and started throwing pots. In 2017, he made 800 various-sized plates for his daughter’s wedding.
Now his eponymous Francis DeFabo Pottery offers wheel-thrown items of all sizes for a variety of uses, from his popular wine and whiskey sipping cups ($18), each carved with a unique design, to his made-to-order Mother of All Pasta Bowls ($145), a 15-inch diameter bowl with a raw milk chocolate stoneware exterior and white-glazed interior with subtle gray and pewter splatter.
You can shop for DeFabo originals on his website, or at area shops including School House Electric in Pittsburgh, Main Exhibit Gallery in Ligonier and Dv8 Espresso Bar and Gallery in Greensburg.
DeFabo donates 25 percent of all sales to Potters for Peace , a U.S.-based nonprofit that helps bring clean drinking water to impoverished communities around the world.
A pet project
Kids from 1 to 92 can enjoy “The Sorcerer’s Pet,” says author/illustrator Mary Ellen Raneri, a retired educator-turned-artist from Latrobe.
Raneri says the rhyming tale, written in a “Seussical style,” follows the title character as he tries to decide what type of animal would make the best pet.
Since retiring from teaching French and writing in the Ligonier Valley School District, Raneri has been following her muse to create art in various mediums, including paint and fiber. She’s also pursuing an associate degree in art from Westmoreland County Community College. The book grew out of a class she took on illustration.
Just like her sorcerer, Raneri is an animal lover. Proceeds from sales of the 44-page book will go to Helping Hearts and Healing Tails Animal Rescue in Stahlstown.
The $20 book is available from Raneri via Facebook. It’s also available during December at Dv8 Espresso Bar and Gallery in Greensburg.
Show your love for the run
It’s been a long time coming, but Big Jim’s restaurant in the Run in Lower Greenfield now has T-shirts. For $12, you can wear a top from a place featured on Guy Fieri’s Food Network show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” Fieri raved about the veal cutlet ala parmigiana sandwich, served on a half of Italian bread and piled high with veal, cheese and sauce.
Details: 412-421-0532 or bigjimsrestaurant.com
Wear a Yinzer jacket
Buy the loved one in your life an upcycled hand-painted jacket or graphic T-shirt for a Pittsburgh-inspired gift. They are available at Cohen’s Collectibles on Braddock Avenue in Swissvale.
The collection called “The Yinzer Couture” line is created by Pittsburgh native, Sally Ellis Del Castillo and her husband Nando, a model and actor. Her mother, Mindy Ellis, best known for her sculptures in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., is collaborating with the couple by painting portraits on the back of the jackets. They are in the process of creating a “Mister Rogers” coat celebrating the 50th anniversary of Fred Rogers’ show, “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” Jackets are one-of-a-kind and range from $95-$105. T-shirts are $25.
Dippy the dinosaur
The Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History in Oakland, The Andy Warhol Museum and the Carnegie Science Center, both on Pittsburgh’s North Side, have stores where you can buy Pittsburgh-inspired offerings that feature some of the museum’s most popular artworks and personalities such as Dippy the dinosaur. You can even find unusual pieces such as a Leonardo da Vinci watch that tells time backwards to a Warhol coloring book.