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The Procrastinator’s Guide to Good-Time Holiday Shopping

Make the first gift to yourself by savoring the Season’s Bounty as you shop.

If you’re one of those people who love to shop, you can stop reading now and go wrap some presents.    
    But if it takes eight crazed reindeer to drag you to the store during the holidays, this story is for you.
    You’ve seen the news, read the paper. You’re thinking OMG. Black Friday. Cyber Monday. Waiting overnight in ridiculously long lines. Mad dashes for sale merchandise. Customers crushed and pepper sprayed. All while shopping? Yikes!
    But holiday shopping doesn’t have to be crazed. Like you, we don’t think it should be.
    Throughout the month — far, far away from maddening malls and big-box blahs — Bay Country is jingling with holiday spirit. Look past the vast asphalt lots to the independent shops and museums, to the art shows, craft festivals and good-cheer street fairs. Sipping cider, sharing good times, you’ll be having so much fun that you’ll forget you’re shopping.
    Grab a friend. The more the merrier, and you’ll both be boosting the local economy.
    Read on — and keep your copies of Bay Weekly and our Season’s Bounty special by your side — to find your way to good-time shopping.

Antique and Consignment Shops

    Shy about giving a used gift? Get over it. Antiques are, after all, used. You can spend a bundle or just dollars on old treasures.
    Shop antique and consignment shops to find gifts with history and personality for the less conventional loved ones on your list. Got collectors to shop for? All the better. From perfume bottle collectors to fishermen to dish fanciers, you’ve got them covered.
    Whoever you’re shopping for, half the fun is in the search, as you dig through piles of possibilities. Often your find tells you who wants it.
    No need to limit your second-time-around shopping to gifts for others. Spend a little — and we mean a little — on yourself at Shoppe for Hospice dress boutique in Huntingtown Town Center. Here’s where you can score a $500 LBD for $15. Or a sparkly red one for $15. They’re all just $15, so you don’t have to wear the same dress twice.

Art Shows and Craft Fairs

    In our manufactured age, gifts that pass from hand to hand have added value. When you buy gifts from artists and artisans, you’re making a human connection that works three ways, from the maker to the giver to the receiver.
    Have a Santa collector on your list? Shop these fairs for Santas galore: Santas made from glass, gourds, starfish, driftwood, pipe cleaners and oyster shells. You might even be lucky enough to score a Rudolph toilet paper holder.
    You’ll also find paintings, fine wood furniture, silk screens, stained glass panels, jewelry and clothing. Prices range from a few dollars to hundreds.
    You may not dare buy a painting for Aunt Jane, but a hand-thrown vase or a crocheted throw — especially one made from alpaca yarn — is a good bet. Artful ornaments, which flourish at these shows, make good, affordable gifts.

Illustrator Lisa McCue signs copies of her Corduroy Bear children’s books at the ALS Artisan Boutique December 4,  with all book sale proceeds going to the ALS Association.

    Many fairs also benefit a charity, so your gifts give twice. The ALS Artisan Boutique (10am-5pm, Sun. Dec. 4, at the Sheraton Annapolis Hotel), for example, has raised over $150,000 in eight years to help find a cure for the devastating and always fatal neuromuscular disease while honoring the memory of Nancy Wright of Annapolis. At this year’s Boutique, six-dozen regional artists show and sell confections, glassware, handmade purses, paintings, photographs, soaps, turned wood, wire-wrap and capes, gloves, scarves and more. Lisa McCue, illustrator of the Corduroy Bear series, signs and sells her latest children’s books, with all money from her sales going to the ALS Association.

Farmers Markets

    Fresh corn, tomatoes and peaches are sweet memories. But this time of year, Farmers Markets rally for a final holiday hurrah. So don’t forget these purveyors of local bounty. Believe us when we tell you that somebody on your list would love a stem of Brussels sprouts tied with a big red ribbon. Or a basket of beautiful broccoli and cauliflower. How about a big jar of local honey? Real bees’ wax candles? Even oyster shell art. Jewelry, soap and lotion, jelly and vinegar makers gather at these winter markets, too, in case you don’t believe us about the Brussels sprouts.

Garden and Wildlife Centers

    When skies, ground and trees are gray and your feet are cold and tired from beating the pavement, garden centers thaw your attitude — and give you great shopping. Under the big greenhouse, it feels like spring but looks like Christmas. Santa holds court and hears wishes, trains run on time through villages with no zoning issues and Christmas decoration reaches its bright and enviable height.
    This is a no-brainer for the gardeners on your list. They all lust after hand tools, seeds, books and — the most coveted — gift certificates for spring.
    Or you can give growing gifts right now. Beyond the ubiquitous poinsettia — always a great gift — consider Christmas cactus, amaryllis, paper whites and orchids. Winter is shutting the garden down, but an herb basket grows an indoor cook’s garden till spring comes to the rescue.
    A big bag of birdseed — or a birdhouse, birdbath or bird feeder — is a good gift for birds and bird lovers, who at 48 million are a big bunch. Surely one of them has landed on your list.
    Garden and wildlife centers also know how to deck out a tree. Shop here for huge selections of ornaments. As well as angels, icicles and pickles, you’ll find blown-glass vegetables, pinecone raccoons and birch-bark birds for more nature lovers on your list.
    Among our favorites: Greenstreet Gardens, Homestead Gardens and Wild Bird Center of Annapolis.
    Nature lovers also love nature center memberships. For as little as $15 a year, you can join Calvert County’s Battle Creek Nature Education Society and help provide quality environmental education programs to students and adults.
    American Chestnut Land Trust, Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum, Jug Bay Nature Center, Kinder Farm Park, Quiet Waters Park and the gardens of many historic homes — the list of possibilities for memberships in nature centers and their friends’ organization is long, so match the center to the tastes of the nature lovers on your list.

Museums and Historic Places

    The out-of-town visitors have already checked in, and you haven’t checked off half the people on your list. What to do?
    Hit the museums, and shop while they gawk. Museum gift shops are stocked by imaginative people who’ve thought of gift possibilities you never dreamed of.
    Visit this time of year, and you’ll find historic places decorated for the season and many offering workshops that teach you how to make historic holiday decorations for gifts or for yourself.
    On December 3 alone, you can make an historic Williamsburg wreath at William Paca House, seasonal wreaths at Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum and custom wreaths under the guidance of Historic Londontown’s expert wreath makers. All thumbs and out of time? Buy already-made kissing balls, wreaths, swags and garlands at Hammond Harwood House.
    If all your friends have too much stuff, give a gift that never needs to be dusted: the gift of a membership. You’ll not find a museum or historic house that doesn’t want members. And maybe you’ll get invited to go along, with free entrance, when you can look rather than shop.

Town Crawls

    Small-town shopping with happy people thronging the sidewalks makes us feel like we’ve slipped into a nostalgic holiday pageant.
    Chesapeake towns and villages band together this season to lure you out to play and in to shop. Shopkeepers deck their walls and lay out, if not a feast, certainly tables of nibbles and potables. The streets are illuminated and crowded with other partiers. These street festivals are safe and fun, and you can find a whole lot of gifts as you shop-hop.
    In many of these town parties, you’re on foot, so you can add a little bar hopping to your evening. Every Chesapeake town has bars, and most restaurants as well as shops, galleries and entertainment, so you can combine a night out with your shopping.
    In Annapolis, parking meters are wrapped in holiday bags, for in December, parking is free — though the two-hour limit still holds. To cover distance, hop the Connector trolley, which is free for the season, or flag down an eCruiser, where your fare is your tip to the driver.

    South County Christmas Crawl is a running daytime party that lasts two weeks, from December 1 to 15, and stretches from Harwood south to Friendship, with stops in Galesville, West River and Deale. You’ll be traveling some of the prettiest roads in the county, so drive slowly, enjoy the scenery and hope for good weather.

    December 2 and 3 may be the best time of the year to explore the tiny isle of Solomons, for the Solomons’ 27th annual Christmas Walk. Santa’s in town, 2,000 luminaries light your way store to store. Saturday night, boats decked out in light displays parade up to the Patuxent River Bridge.
    You’ll have fun strolling Solomons, but don’t get sidetracked: Shopping is your mission. Essentials aren’t what you’ll find in the shops of this quaint waterfront town. Look for atmospherics to accessorize your friends’ — and their dogs’ — Bay-centric lifestyles.

    December 3 and 4 is the Antique Dealers of Calvert County Christmas Open House, where shops have been known to serve turkey, champagne punch, ham biscuits and salmon rolls.
    Start Saturday at North Beach, where Santa leads the annual Christmas parade along the Boardwalk. Antique shops cluster in this little Bayfront town, so your Buster Browns won’t be busted, and you’ll have plenty of energy to climb in the car and head south down the holiday antique trail.

    Midnight Madness takes over historic Annapolis and spills down West Street and into West Annapolis on two Thursday nights, December 8 and 15, from 6pm to midnight. The town Christmas tree shines, and everything is bright, lovely, crowded and fun.
    Many stores offer special pricing plus lots of wine and personal attention to encourage you to buy. Buy what? Heirloom silver spoons, rings, beads and bangles, soft warm clothes, hand-thrown pottery, gourmet foods, toy trains and teddy bears, dog treats — and whatever else strikes your fancy.
    At the Gifts that Give Hope Alternative Gift Fair at 44 Maryland Avenue, you can even give a gift that’s really needed in the name of the person on your list who has everything.
    Look beyond the storefronts, too, for gift certificates for restaurants, concerts, historic tours and theater, including Colonial Players, right off State Circle.

    Prince Frederick is a charming town when you see it on foot. It’s even better at Christmas, when the Calvert Garden Club has greened the historic Courthouse with a traditional Della Robbia wreath and the square and gazebo with swags and garlands. Saturday, December 10, is the time to see for yourself, for that afternoon shopping pedestrians take over the usual auto-mobile town center for Art Walk Prince Frederick.
    Artists exhibit and musicians perform as you walk and shop along Duke and Main Streets and in Prince Frederick Center. Collaborating to make your shopping fun with open houses, music and demonstrations are 10 locations, from art galleries to Calvert Hospice to Linden House, the home of the Calvert County Historical Society. Take this occasion to step into the heart of the community and shop for gifts to be found nowhere but Prince Frederick. Look for specials, including $1-a-ticket raffles of each store’s specialty, with your dollars benefiting the Safe Harbor family shelter.

    It’s a Wonderful Life in West Annapolis Saturday, December 17, when the village within our capital city goes warm and fuzzy with nostalgia for the times we love best. Horse-drawn carriages soften the mood of the auto age, Santa visits and George Bailey reminds us that, despite appearances, it is a wonderful life.
    Even shopping is wonderful here, where the holiday pulls you from festive streets into fabulously chic boutiques with charming specialties, both new and gently used for artful friends: art supplies, paper and home wares, children’s clothes and oddities from tie-died duct tape to false moustaches and tattoos.
    You’ll be doing good while buying, as a portion of all sales benefits Lighthouse Shelter, Salvation Army and the SPCA of Anne Arundel County.


Meet an Artist

    Never can tell who you’ll run into on the art trail.
    Lynn Simarksi, Bay Weekly columnist turned photographer, shows what she’s been up to lately on the Bay in her first photo show, Watershed Moments: Contemplative Photographs of the Chesapeake Bay, opening December 3 at River Gallery in Galesville.
    “Living aboard a 40-foot trawler through all four seasons, cruising from one end of the Chesapeake to the other,” Simarski says of her years on the water, “opens intimate moments and places to view. While anchored in fog, secure at the end of a dock, or kayaking up a wending creek, I am witness to the calligraphy of dew or frost or light. Transitions in space and time — where water meets banks and shores, and as one season gives way to the next — present an ever-shifting palette.
    “The Chesapeake’s geography still harbors special places, holdouts of the Bay’s essence. But what I photograph today may not be there tomorrow.”
    Learn more at www.chesapeakewinter.com.