Jenice Armstrong: You can choose the 10 winners of Jen's Favorite Things for Christmas

Jenice-promo
Jenice Armstrong (center) with Pennsylvania Ballet dancers Alex Ratcliffe-Lee (left) and Lauren Fadeley. (Sarah J. Glover / Staff Photographer)

Sure, we stole the idea from Oprah Winfrey.

But why shouldn't Philadelphians get free stuff, too? That said, don't expect any 2012 Volkswagen Beetles courtesy of us. Nuh-uh.

But we did round up some really cool stuff:

* Cupcakes from Brown Betty Dessert Boutique, which makes the most delicious cupcakes in Philly.

* A holiday hairstyle from the new b2 salon in Center City.

* A decadent VIP cheese basket from DiBruno Bros.

* Tickets for two to George Balanchine's "Nutcracker" at the Academy of Music.

And, yes, we're giving them all away. To you! And you! And you!

So, who gets all these wonderful goodies? We're going to leave it up to you.

This year we want to pay it forward by asking Daily News readers to tell us who they think deserves these gifts.

Maybe you know of a self-sacrificing special ed teacher. Or a longtime unemployed person who really needs encouragement and some new makeup shades, too.

We'll read all of your nominations and select 10 winners, each of whom will receive one of every item on our holiday gift list worth more than $1,000.

To enter the contest go to philly.com/myfavoritethings. Please include your nominee's name, telephone number, address (work or home) and the hours they are typically there. Make sure we know who you are, too. You can also mail us at the Daily News, 400 N. Broad St., Philadelphia, Pa. 19130. Keep it brief, please. All entries must received by Dec. 9. We'll announce the winners before Christmas.

Now, sit back, sip some eggnog and savor the season.

I love how our Favorite Things feature is focused on giving instead of getting.

Oprah would be proud.

'THE NUTCRACKER' TIX

It's not Christmas in Philly without the Pennsylvania Ballet's performance of George Balanchine's "The Nutcracker." (If you can't make it in person, you can catch some scenes on Comcast's video wall from now until New Year's Day.) But nothing beats being in the audience of the Academy of Music experiencing the magic of this classic tale.

$60 for two tickets, Academy of Music, Broad and Locust streets, Dec. 10 through Dec. 31. www.paballet.org.

RUANA WRAP

I keep one of these cozy, 100 percent cashmere ruanas in my office for chilly days. This is no granny shawl - this one stays put, which means no readjusting when you're supposed to be working and it looks snazzy tossed over practically anything. Although it's not completely shed-proof, I love the luxurious feel. Wrapped up in it and sipping a cup of tea, I feel snug and warm.

$99.99, Marshalls/T.J. Maxx.

 

READING MARKET GIFTS

My idea of a perfect Saturday is to grab a stack of blueberry pancakes at the Dutch Eating Place, then leisurely make my way through the various stalls at the Reading Terminal Market, picking up a loaf of pizza bread at Beiler's Bakery and maybe a pie, before making my way to the fresh produce stands. I often stop by Salumeria for sliced turkey before selecting pastries at Termini Bros.

Gift certificates are a great way to share this smorgasbord of good food. They're available in the Reading Terminal Management Office, which is on the mezzanine behind Spice Terminal. Cash, credit cards and corporate checks are accepted. No personal checks.

$25 Reading Terminal gift certificate, Reading Terminal Market, 12th and Arch streets. For more information, log onto www.readingterminalmarket.org.

NIKE RUNNING SHIRT

If you're a runner, you know that you can't run in just any old thing. This half-zip pullover has no seams that mysteriously chafe, the sleeves are extra long and the thumb opening helps keep your hands covered on frosty mornings. I actually completed the recent Philadelphia Marathon wearing this and felt good the entire race. Added bonus: a portion of the cost benefits Lance Armstrong's cancer charity Livestrong Foundation.

$75, Nike stores and www.nike.com/livestrong.

 

PHILLY WINE TOTE

Originally designed to cart wine to BYOBs, these sturdy canvas wine totes make great holiday hostess gifts, especially if the recipient lives, works or plays on one of the iconic streets listed on it. Here's another bonus: The bags are designed locally and produced in the United States, so you can feel good about that, too.

$20 at www.weheartphilly.com and at Open House, 107 S. 13th St.

CUPCAKES

I consider Brown Betty's the best cupcakes in Philadelphia. Instead of the tired blah yellow cake batter that most cupcakes are made of, these are flavored with real vanilla, lemon, almond or even pineapple pound cake. Scrumptious. Can somebody give me an amen? Or better yet, another cupcake?

$18 for a half dozen; Brown Betty Dessert Boutique, 1030 N. 2nd St.; Brown Betty Petites at 269 S. 20th St. and in Liberty Place.

RECORD COASTERS

Old enough to remember vinyl records? These have been recycled and sized down so that they fit neatly under drinks. They're double-sided just like records used to be and laminated to protect the labels. Some of them show a little wear and tear, but that adds to their retro appeal. Six to a set. An added green bonus: They are made in Philly from records salvaged by dealers, collectors and in some cases, personal collections.

$29.95, Busybee Homestore & Design Center, 7th and South streets and at busybeephilly.com.

FACE THE FUTURE

Made by the same folks who created the Sonicare toothbrush, the Clarisonic facial cleansing devices reportedly remove six times more dirt and makeup than an ordinary washcloth. Since it has a 60-second timer, I think it's partly because it makes you pay closer attention to your skin. I know I feel like I'm cheating if I don't keep scrubbing until it signals me to stop. In 2007, Oprah declared the Clarisonic "a miracle massage for your face." I wouldn't go quite that far, but I'd be lying if I said my face doesn't feel a whole lot smoother after using it. Recently I was scrubbing away when it occurred to me that someone should make one to use all over. The Clarisonic PLUS does just that. It comes with three brushheads (deep pore, body and sensitive) plus spa products from bliss.

$238 at QVC (item number: #A218419), www.qvc.com or at 888-345-5788.

TERRY ROBE

Nothing like a big, terry cloth robe to bring out your wild side. I fell in love at first sight with this spotted leopard robe that's roomy without being bulky. Every guest room at the Hotel Palomar in Center City is stocked with a leopard print and a zebra print version. (They even have child-size animal print robes.) You could check into the hotel to try them out, but you can also buy them online.

Regularly priced at $90, the robes are currently on sale for $72 at kimptonstyle.com.

 

FINGER CANDY

Everything at PNK Elephant is trendy and deceptively inexpensive. Last year, I bought big, flashy cocktail rings like these for my three sisters and each cost just $14. Add in the fact that the shop is owned by Kijafa Frink, the girlfriend of Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, and the baubles become a conversation-starter. The gold-tone, rhinestone ring that we're giving away covers most of your whole finger. The black one is more subtle but still has a wham-glam effect.

$11 each, PNK Elephant, 5th and South streets and www.pnkelephant.com.

LUXURY THROW

When temperatures dip, it's time to snuggle up under a nice cozy throw. This snazzy knit one by Bloomingdale's Hudson Park Loft Collection has a raised diamond design and comes in trendy colors such as steel, espresso and eggplant. My favorite is the deep purple one, because that color goes with practically anything, but I really wish I could have all three.

$135, at Bloomingdale's in King of Prussia, Willow Grove Mall or at www.Bloomingdales.com.

HOLIDAY HAIR

The official hairstylists for our annual Sexy Singles feature, the creative folks at Bernard's Salon and Spa, can handle all kinds of hair. I've witnessed the magic they can work in even the shortest time. But with locations in Cherry Hill and Marlton, until recently Bernard's has been out of the way for many Center City dwellers. Not any longer. Earlier this month, they opened b2 in Center City, which makes it easier than ever to stop by for a holiday updo. As an added bonus, b2 is giving away some Unite Eurotherapy Smoothing Shampoo and Conditioner, and Unite Eurotherapy Lazer Straight Relaxing Fluid, valued at $9 each.

Holiday hair updo or other styling, about $75, b2, 777 S. Broad St., www.b2salon.com.

 

VIP CHEESE

I ordered one of DiBruno Bros.' cheese platters for my last New Year's Eve party and tried to eat it all by myself. So, I can only imagine what would happen if I bought one of these VIP cheese baskets: 3 1/2 pounds of cheese (house-aged Asiago, a ball of sharp provolone and, my favorite, Parmigiano Reggiano) plus sopressata, olives, olive oil and sea salt crackers from The Fine Cheese Co. Also included: Italian candies and imported biscotti. This makes a great gift, but why would you want to give it away?

$124.99, DiBruno Bros. with locations at 17th and Chestnut streets; 9th and Carpenter streets; Market at the Comcast Center at 17th Street and JFK Boulevard; and the Ardmore Farmers Market.

GLAMOUR ON THE GO

The all-in-one makeup collection I've been using for the past couple of years is in a big, clunky train case, so it doesn't travel well. This one by Laura Mercier comes in a faux snakeskin organizer, fits in your purse and has almost everything you need - eyeliner, eye shadow, blushers and brushes, all in the latest colors. It's portable glamour.

$98, available at retailers such as Nordstrom and Bloomingdale's and on lauramercier.com.

HANDMADE SOAP

The Blood Orange Margarita scented bar in this three-piece, all-natural soap set is so scentfully citrus I'm tempted to taste it. Instead, I'll wait until the next time I'm at El Vez and sip their blood orange margaritas, which inspired this soap. The bar of Sea Clay soap has real French green clay to draw out skin impurities and the Ocean bar smells fresh and clean. All soaps are locally-made and produced in micro batches. For the price, it makes sense to buy a few to have on hand for last-minute gifts.

$20 for boxed set of three, duross and langel, 117 S. 13th St. and in Haddonfield, N.J. durossandlangel.com.

 

TRES TOFFEE CASHEWS

Society Hill Snacks makes these big buttery, toffee-coated cashews in small batches in original copper kettles that the company's former owner used to make them in back in the 1950s. From an old Venezuelan recipe, they're actually made up on Torresdale Avenue. If you can eat just one, you've got way more control than I do.

$20 at DiBruno Bros., societyhillsnacks.com.