Gifts from on high
Looking to get a little Jeffersonian in your gift choices this holiday season? Instead of marching your December houseguests through Monticello’s gardens and parlors, give them a taste of Charlottesville’s favorite founding father that they can take home with them. Monticello’s online gift shop offers a wide selection of period plant seeds, from the Lewis and Clark Seed Sampler, a collection of Monticello’s Favorite Flowers, or any from a laundry list of vegetables (beets, kale, pumpkins) that dotted Jefferson’s own garden. If seed packets aren’t your idea of excitement, though, Monticello’s shop has some other interesting finds. For example, if your Saturday yard work (or TV-side lounging) is just too classy for the ordinary t-shirt, you may require the added nobility of a $48 Jefferson work shirt—a TJ-approved muslin number with wooden buttons. Requisite presidential busts and the always-essential "historical chocolate" are also available to round out your gift list.—Lee Vanderwerff
When I came across etsy.com, touted as "your place to buy and sell all things handmade," I was on instant Kitsch Alert. I imagined lots of unfortunate sweaters and Elmer’s-crusted popsicle sticks. But, what I found was stuff that’s not kitschy at all, but unique, well designed, and interesting. For cheap, too! My favorite way to search this site is by color. Spin your mouse over ebbing dots of color and click to find a fuschia embroidered belt or a sunny set of paper notecards. Once you’ve found one item you like, Etsy will show you a web of who else liked it and what other items they have their eye on. With thousands of colorful thumbnail close-ups of beads and clasps and bookmarks, this site is like a candy store for adults who can’t resist cool-looking things.—L.V.
Blogger and DIY-er John from Arkansas doesn’t just have a chip on his shoulder. He has an entire aging Queen Anne Victorian on his back. Currently on year five or so of his long journey to renovate the house he’s dubbed "Devil Queen," John shares his personal trials and mistakes as well as DIY tips he’s learned through lots of trial and error. Even though he clearly gets frustrated (and goes so far as calling his project a "whore of a house"—ouch), after five years, he knows what he’s doing. He reports on fixing faulty water heaters in a house that was built before indoor plumbing and gives steps for carefully puttying and sanding antique hardwoods so that you won’t have to tackle the same job again any time soon. Faithful to the online social network of DIY-ers and to getting the job done right, the Devil Queen blogger is a voice that is both hilarious and helpful.—L.V.
You probably are already pretty aware of how "walkable" your neighborhood is. Is it possible and convenient for you to walk to grocery stores, coffee shops, restaurants, bookstores, schools, parks, libraries and bars from your house, or does it take you 10 minutes via car to even get to the gate of your gated community? Walkscore.com factors the walkability to a whole slew of destinations in order to give any address a "walkscore." Its calculations and scores, based on Google Maps’ listings of local businesses and residences, are sometimes a little flawed (it doesn’t factor in bodies of water that might be in pedestrians’ paths, and some business listings are outdated), but overall, this tool could come in handy if you’re researching neighborhoods that you’re considering calling home.—L.V.