It’s never to early to start holiday shopping. Halloween’s over and Wegman’s already has its faux Christmas trees displayed. Here are two of our annual favorites – if you’ve never been, you’re in for a great surprise.

Do Me a Favor

‘At Bristol Myers Squibb we sold $1,400 worth of watches in three hours," says Dale Stokes, whose paper goods and gift company, Do Me a Favor, makes on-site visits to corporations, setting up shop at lunchtime outside the company cafeteria. Other stops on her corporate holiday Santa path include Ortho McNeil in Raritan, Becton Dickinson in Franklin Lakes, Pfizer in Bridgewater, Lucent Technologies in Whippany, Kepner Treogue in Skillman, Avaya in Bridgewater, and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital’s holiday fundraiser on Thursday, November 17, at the East Brunswick Chateau.

What are these watches and where can we get some? Stokes says they are called Swap watches and are all the rage now. For $16, you can choose a watch band – including beaded bands and ribbon bands – and a separate watch face from a variety of choices. Then you’ve got your own customized watch.

Do Me a Favor’s pre-holiday shopping event takes place Friday and Saturday, November 4 and 5, at the Lawrenceville School, where Abbott Dining Hall will be transformed into an Henri Bendel-style emporium, with individual boutiques such as Pamper Yourself and 4 Men as well as sections for babies, personalized paper and holiday cards, jewelry, handbags, and gourmet cookies and candy. The Dandelion Shop will showcase the fabulously popular Brighton handbags and accessories; JEK Designs will offer hand-knitted scarves, soon to be sold at Nordstrom; PartyLight will have candles and accessories, and Purely Gourmet will sell easy-to-prepare gourmet food.

What else is a hot gift item this holiday season? Stokes, who exhibits at the New York International Gift Show, curbed our curiosity in a phone interview. "OK, we’re going to have the item that was named Product of the Year at the gift show," says Stokes, the excitement in her voice evident. "It’s a home version of a deep paraffin hand and foot wax dip, an individual system that requires no electricity and also has aromatherapy. We’re going to be doing demos at the event." Supplies for three full treatments are $38.

OK, so that takes care of the ladies on our list. But what else? Stokes says taxi wallets are another hot item. It’s a small leather wallet, available in several different colors appropriate for men and women, that is, says Stokes, "very compact but you can fit so much into it. It’s good for people who are in and out all the time. There are all these little sections that make everything very accessible. And it’s all very secure." Normally $48, they will be available at the event for $38. Also topping the charts, says Stokes, are Mary Frances handbags. "They are all hand-beaded, exquisite bags, and they are rapidly becoming a collector’s item. This year people are calling ahead of time to put in their orders."

Stokes was right in the middle of choosing a cause for the annual Do Me a Favor holiday event (last year it was Community House, a Princeton University organization), when Katrina hit. "I knew I had to do something to help," says Stokes. She called several traditional black colleges in the region including Dillard University, Southern University at New Orleans, Tougaloo College, and Xavier University. Under the auspices of the United Negro College Fund, donations collected at the event will be earmarked to individual students in the Gulf region who, having lost their schools and in many cases their homes, need aid to continue their studies.

Do Me a Favor Holiday Extravaganza, Friday, November 4, 6 to 10 p.m., and Saturday, November 5, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Abbott Dining Hall, Lawrenceville School, Route 206, Lawrenceville (enter at the main entrance, opposite Craven Lane). Friday night: live msic by Best of Both Worlds, and special giveaways. Cash, checks, VISA, Mastercard, and Discover. 609-936-8885.

Philip David

Ever wonder where gift shops get all their gifts? Well, they go to trade shows like the New York International Gift Show, but they also buy from companies like Philip David, who represents hundreds of vendors that offer everything from gift books to toys to costume jewelry, decorative ceramics, glassware, fashion purses, kitchen items, home d‚cor items, and a plethora of stocking stuffer items like keychains, magnets, pens, and bookmarks.

For two days only a year, president Helene Nasuti opens the doors to her Quakerbridge Road offices to the public. On Wednesday and Thursday, November 9 and 10, if you get up early (people line up long before the doors open) you can feel like your own gift shop owner, as Nasuti slashes prices 50 to 75 percent off retail on all her leftover samples. Nirvana for bargain hunters. We’ve been the last two years and knocked off all those little gifts off my list – you know, teachers, neighbors, new moms, girlfriends, nieces. Throw four or five items in together and you’ve got a customized gift basket.

This year Nasuti says that in addition to the items mentioned above, she also has Christmas centerpieces, three lines of elegant candles, pre-wrapped hostess gifts, garden items, nightshirts, and lots of stocking stuffers like personalized markers for kids. But, in a little twist on the Visa commercial – bring cash, because Philip David doesn’t accept American Express (or any credit cards).

Philip David annual sample sale, Wednesday, November 9, 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Thursday, November 10, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., 3625 Quakerbridge Road (sign says Mercadien, drive around back), Mercerville. 609-588-0141.

Top Of PageAuditions

Stars in the Park, Kelsey Theater, Old Trenton Road, West Windsor. Auditions Saturday, November 19, noon to 4 p.m. Call Lorraine Wargo at 609-530-0912 for appointment.

The Arts

Capps, Peddie School, Hightstown, www.peddie.org. Seeking proposals from area artists and teachers of art for summer program. $1,000 per week. July 10 to August 4. Contact Robert Rund at 609-490-7551. Deadline is Tuesday, November 15.

Montgomery Center for the Arts has available space in basketweaving, felting, encaustic painting, and writing classes. Call 609-921-3272.

Participate Please

Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Associationseeks adults and high-school students for a monthly reading group. Relaxed and entertaining discussion will occur. Literature and the Environment: A Reading Group" will meet on November 8 and December. For more information call 609-737-7592.

Grounds for Sculpture, www.groundsforsculpture.org, 609-586-0616. Gingerbread House Contest. Purchase a kit or make your own. Submit on Saturday, November 26 by 11 a.m. All entries must be handmade.

Trenton Area Soup Kitchen seeks holiday gifts of hats, gloves, towels, socks, ponchos, hooded sweatshirts, scarves, stuffed animals, and mini hygiene kits. Deliver to TASK Monday to Thursday, 9 am. to 5 p.m.; and Fridays, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. All items should be new. 72 1/2 Escher Street, Trenton, www.trentonsoupkitchen.org or call 609-695-5456.

Volunteer Please

Helping Other People Evolve (H.O.P.E.) offers a 10-session group for recently widowed men and women of all ages. Chapters meet in Mercer and Burlington counties. Call 888-920-2201 for location and to register.

Available

www.KatrinaHealth.org is a new, free, and secure service, which provides information about the prescription drugs the evacuees are in need of, allowing doctors and pharmacists to end aid. Call 212-713-7609 or E-mail stewani@markle.org for additional information.

Princeton Center for Yoga and Health is offering free classes for new visitors. Over 40 different classes are available. Call 609-924-7294 or visit www.princetonyoga.com for more information.

The East Brunswick Public Library has added a page to its website with links to reliable information about the November 8 elections. "Elections 2005" lists the state, county, and municipal candidates and provides information about each politician. To access Elections 2005, visit www.ebpl.org and click Best of the Web. For more information call 732-390-6767.

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