Which is mediocre, in case you were wondering.
First time out, I'm going to go with the holiday spirit and give you my most favoritest places to shop for Christmas gifts. I mean, we all love a good gift certificate or sweater from The Gap, but for that unique little thing for the hard-to-buy-for? You gotta get creative.
Fortunately, downtown Lawrence doesn't let me down in most situations. Let's call this an Endorsement to come for a visit, yes? I have no problem taking someone shopping! Or - I've linked up to some brands and stores mentioned, I bet you can find them near you, or at least follow the links online if you're interested.
So let's get started, shall we? In no particular order...
The Toy Store - for the dear little kiddos in your life, there is nowhere better to get some toy goodness, in my opinion. It's huge, and full of quirky, classic, and collectible toys. Think of it this way: it's everything they don't have at Toys R Us. They carry all the hipster European toy brands, like Haba. They have every toy imaginable as well, rows upon rows of dolls and bath toys and train sets and make-believe goodies. Shelves of stuffed animals that reach to the ceiling inhabit one corner, and a basement level with nothing but children's books. Heaven! This year I snagged Melissa & Doug sets, Ugly Dolls, Schylling vintage tin robots, and tons upon tons of their unique book sets. This place rocks for the younger set.
Bloom Bath & Body - lotions and soaps and soaks, oh my! This pretty and tiny little shop is a girlie girl's dream: simple glass bottles in pretty pastels, with gorgeous scents. Walls of lovely French-milled soaps. Sparkly accents abound, and they have a corner devoted to robes and pretty little underthings. It is a bit on the pricey side, but I suggest you check out the Clearance corner for sure: usually scents that are being discontinued, they still smell amazing and can be bought on the cheap and make nice stocking stuffers.
Au Marche - such an eclectic little shop that somehow pulls it all together. If asked what they are all about, I could tell you that they are a chocolate shop, a purveyor of french bath products, a European market with not just shelves full of staples but also a cold case of German sausages and English cheeses and French pates... They have a bit of everything, maybe we'll just leave it to that. I love to run in there to get Italian sauces, to grab an authentic spaetzle, to snag some Vosges and Christopher Elbow chocolates. Their treats make perfect little bits to pad a gift basket or hell - make one from all of their hard-to-find goodies while you're there, they carry boxes specifically for that purpose.
The Bay Leaf - oh, one of my favorites. This place has a special place in my heart, and would be the best little shop to pick up something for your favorite cook or baker. Or coffee/tea lover: they have a counter dedicated to specialty coffees and teas, as well as the perfect tea or coffee vessel. Their shop carries Emile Henry and Le Crueset as well as Wuesthof knives, all fitting gifts for the serious chef in your life. They also have tons of things for the casual baker or cook in this posh little shop: shelves and shelves of glassware and servingware, gourmet foodstuffs, every baking pan and specialty cake pan you can imagine, kitchen gadgets galore, and the coolest thing is their demo and class kitchen, which takes up the back of the store. It is gorgeous, with professional stoves/ovens, tasteful muted colors/counters, and mirrors angled over the appliances and countertops for participants to see every move made by the teacher. They also sell gift certificates for classes, by the way, which make a great gift as well.
Blue Dandelion - the place to pick up a few pretty things for those boutique babies. I love everything in here, I must admit. Everything you've ever seen in Cookie mag is probably in here: Hatley and BabyLegs, and Appaman and Tea Collection in their apparel room. Me-in-Mind, See Kai Run, and PediPed shoes in the loft area. Aden + Anais swaddlers, Trumpette socks, Fleurville bags, Boon feeding sets, MacLaren strollers, and Dwell bedding. And European toys. And delicate infant jewelry. And sweet baptismal sets... Um. Let's just say I can't go in here without buying at least some little thing for the Peter man. I have a problem, I am aware.
The Phoenix Gallery - this is a great little gallery with reasonably-priced artwork by locals and regional artists alike. Pottery, glassworks, jewelry, prints; they have a bit of everything in here. The kind of place where you'll find that unique little one-of-a-kind piece for the person who has everything. I can't tell you the number of times I've picked up their wind chimes or pottery for my parents, jewelry for the girlies in my life, delicate glass ornaments for friends. Great little shop.
Free State Brewery - now, you didn't think I'd make it through a list of Christmas shopping without mentioning my dear husband's version of Mecca, did you? I am happy to say that for the beer lover in your life, they sell several products emblazoned with their logo, including t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, and pint glasses. They also sell gift certificates, you know. And growlers of their beer make the perfect little stocking stuffer. Or so my husband tells me.