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December, Day 1: Holiday Shopping Guide

1.December 2010

And we’re back! Last year, I was inspired by one of my fellow bloggers to do a month-long marathon of daily blog posts, which was really ridiculous, but also was a LOT of fun!  This month I’m going to do the same thing, so check back here every day in December for recipes, holiday gift ideas, the blow by blow of my Big Holiday Party planning, lots and lots of photos, as well as a few giveaways here and there!  Stay tuned for details!  Also, if you have any requests for this year’s month of blogging, leave them in the comments!


To kick of this year’s Festival of Blogging (a.k.a. Darby O’Shea Procratinates For A Whole Month), I thought I’d reprise the Holiday Gift Guide.  Last year, I told you about some shops in Boston that I love.  I still love them but I have a few additions.

More importantly, though, tell us in the comments what you’re buying for your list of lucky gift recipients this year!  Do you know of any excellent gift guides?  What do you buy for the gal or dude in your life who has it all?  What’s your favorite Etsy shop this time of year?  What do you recommend for cheap good do-it-yourself style presents?  (Stay tuned here for a few DIY gift ideas in the coming weeks.)

New additions to my Boston list:

  • Brattle Book Shop: (Downtown Crossing) Bar none my favorite used/antiquarian book shop in Boston.  They carry everything from cheap paperbacks to cookbooks to antique etiquette guides to noir-y pulp paperbacks to crazy expensive and rare first editions.  The alley next to the store is piled high with books that cost between $1 and $5, so be sure to wear a warm coat to poke around for some real steals.  They have a whole section of Baedekers up on the Third Floor (have I ever mentioned that I wanted one of those?  Thought so…) and apparently a First Edition of Moby Dick, if you’ve got $50k sitting around.

  • Acquire: (North End) Another store specializing in beautiful, random things, Acquire has design and decor items that make me swoon.  Their aesthetic is clean and modern with dashes of antique nautical inspiration and a taste of the Victorian, which I love.  On their website look at The Goods and buy the following for me: a vintage seltzer bottle, a set of those stemless champagne flutes, and a set of duck-egg blue laquered boxes.  It’s definitely an aspirational-shopping experience, but it’s worth a visit just to see the beautiful things.
  • Shake the Tree: Just down the street from Acquire and with a few more acquire-able options for us po’ students.  They have beautiful things: clothing from small design houses, leather goods, home goods, like a set of nautical themed melamine plates, and Jonathan Adler design items. Beautiful beautiful.
  • Leavitt & Pierce: A Harvard Square Institution.  This is my go-to for hard-to-shop-for-but-stylish men.  Dan and my dad have both received fancy shaving gear from here and they have all manner of money clips, card cases, games (think backgammon, cards, fancy poker chips), and other manly paraphernalia.  They also have a huge selection of tobacco and an impressive selection of imported soaps.  There’s also a little jewelry store in the back of the store that has beautiful, reasonably-priced baubles. Also, their display windows never cease to delight me.  I take photos of them every chance I get.

  • Clark Gallery: (Lincoln, MA – reachable by commuter rail) I happen to be a big fan of the Clark Gallery (not least of all because one of my nearest and dearest is the director).  They represent an amazing group of artists (you can see their roster on the website), put together thoughtful shows, and indulge browsers like me as well as the high rollers who can actually purchase some of their big ticket items.  But!  You should know that they also sell some truly exquisite jewelry that is actually within reach for the … less … lucratively endowed among us.  For instance, they have a whole line of handcrafted Mexican jewelry by Elena Solow/Blue Jaguar featuring lovely bird and bow and flower motifs and semi-precious stones and a collection of handmade silk jewelry by Catherine Craig that you simply must see to believe (the best bit is that the organization she works with – CPALI – distributes the profits from the sale of her jewelry to local silk farmers in Madagascar). If you ARE in the market for Art, check out Tabitha Vevers, who paints weird Botticelli-esque nudes on gilt seashells (I am obsessed with owning one of these someday), and Janet Rickus, who paints super-realistic portraits of vegetables and fruits.  They’re my particular favorites.  The gallery also represents a number of really amazing photographers (including one of the gallery’s owners!), each of whom is better than the next.  To browse and get an idea 0f what they have, go to the opening of their annual Salon Show on December 4 (my birthday!) from 4-6.  I’ll be there.

Reruns, but no less loved than last year:

If you’re interested in taking a short road trip to buy gifts, here are a couple other ideas:

In and around Northampton, MA

  • Essentials: This is where I spent the bulk of my spending money in college.  They sell beautiful paper and stationery, lovely homegoods (especially Provençal textiles and custom furniture), perfume (they sell my favorite from Fragonard as well as the whole line of Demeter Fragrances.), fabulous jewelry, and crafty goods (rubber stamps and the like), as well as a few carefully selected books guaranteed to please (That’s where I bought my copy of If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler).  You can do some shopping there online.
  • Scandihoovians: The source for all things Scandinavian.  They carry the widest selection of Trollbeads and Pandora beads I’ve ever seen (and I realize those things are divisive, but I like them), and other jewelry I love, particularly Pilgrim designs and Lotta Djossou.  They also have home furnishings and clothing and accessories by Scandinavian designers like Marimekko and other, less well known, but equally fabulous ones.  You can also order some of their products – not their whole range – on their website.
  • Northampton Wools: A truly great knitting/crochet supplier.  They also give classes.
  • Faces: Faces is Essentials’s cheeky younger sister.  Here you can get all your necessary hipster gear as well as dorm-style furnishings (some of it very stylish indeed), fabulous stationery (and they have a card club – buy 10 get one free, or something), great cheap jewelry and accessories (feather headbands, anyone?), and a wall of cheap, fabulous sunglasses.  They also have a good photo booth in the back of the store and an Art-o-Mat in the front of the store.
  • Rebekah Brooks: Inside Thornes Marketplace (where you’ll find many other lovely stores), Rebekah Brooks sells stunning handmade jewelry and some carefully selected decorative items.  Occasionally they carry handmade living terrariums.
  • The Photo Booth: Also in Thornes.  It’s the best photo booth ever.  Upstairs.
  • Montague Bookmill: (Montague, MA) “Books you don’t need in a place you can’t find” says it all.  Good, cheap used books and a lovely cafe attached.  This is worth the trip more for the place itself than for the goods, probably.  I’ve written about it here before.

In Newport, RI

  • Thames Glass: This is a really cool glassblowing studio – they have really gorgeous ornaments, oil candles, trinkets and doo-dads.  I’m currently lusting after these Mermaid ornaments they have – they look like half snake, half woman, almost.  Very creepy, but beautiful.  But!  The coolest thing they do is give lessons!  You can go in for a 20 minute lesson and make your own ornament!  It costs almost exactly as much as buying one of their pre-made ones, but you made it!  And they etch your name on it, with the date.  I could see this being an awesome annual tradition.  While we were there, there was a couple making an ornament for their baby’s first Christmas.  Here’s a picture of the one I made!

In New Hampshire:

  • The League of Craftsmen: The retail gallery I went to is in Center Sandwich, but they have amazing handcrafted things – paper and photos and pottery and jewelry and clothes, etc.  My favorite thing I saw there was a print by Carol Travers Lummus.  She makes fabulous images.

Last but not least, here’s my wish list:

  • Boring, but I NEED a puffy winter coat and some boots.  Also some clogs.  And other shoes.  It turns out I’m much more likely to spend random money on books and food than on clothing items I actually need.
  • My Amazon Wish List is pretty up to date these days.  On there you’ll see a variety of cooking items (big shock) and books.
  • I still desperately want a Yashica Mat (124G, preferably, but I’m not really picky).  Or pretty much any old, lightweight TLR.
  • Books for fun reading!
  • Clothes: Sweaters, warm and pretty.  Jackets, cool, blazer-style, military inspired, etc.  A puffy warm winter coatBoots.
  • Jewelry.
  • A pretty cake plate.  Antique or new.  Not too plain.
  • I would also please like a whole set of dishes from Louis Mulcahy.  They ship to the US!
  • 15 grand to go spend three months in Ballymaloe.
  • These dishes from Rosanna Inc.
  • One additional thing: Gift Certificates to The Cambridge School of Culinary Arts

If you’re still in doubt, check out these gift guides:

9 Comments leave one →
  1. 1.December 2010 09:53

    Great blog post! I die for vintage cake stands too. We saw an AMAZING store in LA dedicated to vintage cake stands. It was Heaven. But what’s better than vintage cake stands? Vintage cake stands on Etsy.

    Swoon-worthy Cake plate #1 –

    Swoon-worthy Cake Plate #2 –

    • Darby O'Shea permalink*
      1.December 2010 10:09



  2. 1.December 2010 10:17

    Great post! Without the Harvard Bookstore, Cardullo’s and Leavitt and Pierce Santa would not make it to our home.

    I’d like to leave a local plug for the Made in Fort Point artist store and Bob’s Your Uncle both near my work in South Boston – near the Hood Bottle. They both have fun and unique gift ideas.

  3. Darby O'Shea permalink*
    1.December 2010 12:24

    Deep South Magazine has a pretty nifty gift guide:

  4. 9.December 2010 21:02

    Amazing suggestions, Em. And many, many thanks for the mention! xo


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