Whimsy Delivered Monthly

By Rachel Beckman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 17, 2006

Does anything say Christmas like 12 months of bacon? What about a dozen insect-loving plants? For last-minute gift givers still searching for a bit of quirk, these offbeat gift-of-the-month clubs might be the ideal solution. Go online, sign up and slip a little note in your loved one's stocking that points out they'll have 12 times a year to remember how creative and thoughtful you are.

Bacon of the Month Club

Not only do the folks at the Grateful Palate send out a pound of artisan bacon to their members every month, they add a helping of whimsy. The club's welcome kit includes silly stuff, such as a toy pig, a T-shirt, a membership card and certificate, a comic called the Bacon Strip and their official pig pen. In honor of 2007 being the Chinese Year of the Pig, they're also throwing in a rubber snout. Bacon flavors range from the traditional (maple-cured, pepper and applewood) to the exotic (Cajun-style and cinnamon). $140 for the bacon (the Grateful Palate is offering 10 percent off all December orders) and about $115 for shipping to our area. http://www.gratefulpalate.com or 888-472-5283.

Mix Tape of the Month Club

For a certain generation, nothing brings back high school memories quite like the rattle of a Maxell cassette tape. Making a mix tape was a labor of love: Coming up with a theme, decorating the cover, and agonizing over song choice and order for maximum emotional impact. For Ryan Goldman, a District resident and founder of the International Mixtape Project, the beat goes on. Every month, Goldman sends an e-mail to his project's members -- and there are hundreds all over the world -- with another member's name and address to send a mix tape (a name that remains mainly for nostalgia's sake; most everyone burns CDs). If the person you're paired with doesn't mail anything, Goldman sends one himself. It's only $10 to sign up for the first six months, but members cover their own shipping costs. http://www.myspace.com/mixtapeproject

T-Shirt of the Month Club

If your giftee loves wearing those faux vintage tees from Urban Outfitters but hates it when someone walks by wearing the same one, check out Threadless.com. Anyone can submit designs, then the online community's members vote on which T-shirts are best. (Winners have their designs produced and often get sweet results: Zach Braff wore a baby-blue Threadless tee on an episode of "Scrubs.") More than 600 people submit designs every week, so competition is stiff. Tees picked for 12 Club come from the pool of winning designs. Styles in 2006 included an astronaut, a cartoon carrot and a few swirly abstracts. $200, including shipping. http://www.threadless.com/12club or 773-878-3557.

Carnivorous Plant of the Month Club

Forget Venus' flytraps and Audrey II in "Little Shop of Horrors." This club by gardening outfit Sarracenia Northwest introduces its members to 12 of the roughly 600 species of carnivorous plants that exist worldwide. If owners care for their plants properly, they could still have all 12 come next December, says Jacob Farin, co-owner of Sarracenia Northwest. The company sends members an e-book about getting carnivorous plants to thrive (yes, you have to remember to water them). Apartment-dwellers should sign up for the Tropical Plant Club to receive plants that will thrive indoors; the Grown in the USA Club is for plants best grown outdoors. And don't worry: Carnivorous plants won't eat your cat. "Well, unless you cut it up into really small pieces," Farin jokes. Sarracenia Northwest is offering $24 off orders placed in December. $191.40, including shipping. http://www.cobraplant.com or 503-630-7522.

Gag of the Month Club

Ashton Kutcher's elaborate shenanigans on "Punk'd" must cost thousands, but California-based company the Gag remembers that simple can be sidesplitting, too. Members of its Gag of the Month Club get a bevy of classic pranks: think chattering teeth, fake cockroaches, hot pepper chewing gum and trick birthday candles. Owner Jeff Ferguson says the club has been around four years and has about 500 members. The welcome package starts the fun off right with an original Whoopee Cushion, which has provided pranksters cheap laughs for decades. $67.99, plus $4.99 shipping, but three- and six-month memberships are also available, for $19.99 and $36.99, respectively, plus shipping. http://www.thegag.com or 800-984-3424.

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