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Briefs: 'A Christmas Story' leg lamps replicated

| Saturday, Dec. 10, 2005

Fans of the 1983 film "A Christmas Story" will recall the scene in which little Ralphie's dad is overjoyed upon receiving a floor lamp resembling a woman's stockinged leg. While his wife and kids look on in horror, the family patriarch frees the tawdry tchotchke from its shipping crate and solemnly declares it a masterpiece.

Now you can horrify your family -- or, possibly, delight those who revere the holiday classic. A company called Red Rider Leg Lamps ( ) in San Diego is selling perfect replicas of the movie lamp. For just under $200, Red Rider will send you a 45-inch glowing gam, covered in sexy fishnet and perched on a black stiletto, the whole affair capped by a fringed shade.

Tasteless• Indisputably. But the perfect gift for the right person• Also indisputably. And the lamps even come in a wood crate marked "FRAGILE" -- the same foreign word that tripped up Ralphie's overexcited father. ("Hmmm. 'Fra-JEE-lay.' Must be Italian. ...")

Holiday plant buying tips

Holiday plants such as amaryllis and pointsettas can be a challenge to keep full and lush for people who don't exactly have green thumbs. Some tips on how to select and keep the plants thriving:

= Pick a plant that is not broken or bruised, and one with leaves down to its base. Cheaper plants are grown from just one branched cutting; more expensive varieties will have two or more. Typically, independent garden centers have bigger plants and a greater selection of novel varieties than mass merchandisers and supermarkets.

  • The "flowers" -- actually bracts, like the petals of a dogwood -- should be large and fully colored.

  • Pick a fresh plant by looking at the tiny yellow flowers in the center. Flowers that are still in bud or just opening are fresher than those that are fading.

  • Don't leave a poinsettia outside, even for a few minutes, especially if the temperature is below 50 degrees. Place it in a shopping bag or have it wrapped to carry it home -- especially if it is freezing and windy.

  • Remove foil from the pot, which must drain freely.

  • Place the plant in a bright, cool room and away from drafts and heat vents.

  • Water as needed, but don't overwater. Make sure a saucer under a pot is free of standing water.

  • Coaxing a poinsettia into bloom the following year is more trouble than it's worth.

    Be ready for anything over the holidays

    A holiday is no time to discover you've run out of batteries or have no way to send leftovers home with your guests or have nothing to exchange with an unexpected gift giver. Do not despair.

    Professional organizer Kim Oser, owner of Put It Away! in Gaithersburg, Md., urges stocking up on the basics "the sooner the better" before lines get longer and parking lots fill up.

  • Batteries: Buy in bulk, particularly size AA, because they power the most popular kids' stuff.

  • Food to go: For freezing or sharing leftovers, buy inexpensive containers.

  • Decor to store: Wreath boxes and ornament cartons tend to sell out quickly, so buy early. Wine boxes with dividers and fruit shipping containers (they're usually padded) are good substitutes.

  • Last-minute gifts: If someone unexpected gives you a present, be ready to reciprocate with something unisex and consumable: scented candles, a bottle of wine, fancy maple syrup or gourmet olive oil. Attach a blank tag and keep a pen nearby for quick inscribing.

  • Music: Dozens of stores sell holiday soundtracks. Or load up on blank CDs and be your own DJ, downloading from services such as Napster or iTunes.

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