I always wanted to be able write one of those breezy shopping columns in the December issues of the New Yorker. The writers, no longer anonymous, imbue their gift guides with the essence of New York and the traditional tone of the magazine.
But my life isn't that of a breezy New York writer. After a harrowing day with 6th graders and interim report cards, I headed back into town on route 5, into the low winter sun. I passed workers shoring up -- well, is it Fulton Hill on that side? Then came Poe's, some closed bars, the open train station. I took a left on 12th, swung around the fountain in search of parking and back onto Cary -- and took possession of a newly vacated spot just in front of Fountain Books. I prefer to shop at locally owned businesses. And it was on the way home. In the narrow, tall-shelved shop, I picked up a well-reviewed book I wanted for a gift, and took a look around. Most of the hot knitting books are in stock, for the DYIers on your list. I liked the looks of All Things Alice. A diverting table of holiday gift books ranged from Nick Wood's 360 degree picture books to (in the under $8 range) The Little Book of Christmas Stress.
At the antiques store one door west, none of the things I liked best had a price tag on it. There's lots of silver, some glass and porcelain. Of the little mid-century in stock a few things are notable. For drinkers in a traditional relationship (or with a fine sense of irony), I suggest the cocktail shaker marked "ours" with it's male silhouette glass marked "mine" and female figure marked "yours." Also making use of the silhouette technique are some of those 1930s-40s pictures that often bear the name of your bank or butcher. A great one with the skiier on the glass was backed by simple snow-covered fir trees in muted 40s colors.
As I got into my car, I thought I heard my name. I glanced around quickly, not because I think Shockoe Slip at 4 p.m. is dangerous, but because I feared responding to someone talking into a cell phone and not to me. P is persistent, though, and eventually got my attention and dragged me across the street to the combined Museums Shop. Here I found a multitude of things to recommend to you. Pretty scarves, handsome serving dishes with landmark Richmond buildings, plush cardinals that sing, and even packets of astronaut ice cream can surely find a place on your gift list. For $10 the julep - er, tea - drinker, in your life gets a small kit for growing and brewing mint tea: seeds, cups, fabric tea bag.
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