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Happy St. Nicholas Day. What’s in your shoe?

The shoes were placed by the front door with care last night. Okay, to be honest, the almost-17-year-old just left them there out of habit, but the two girls were all over it. They still love the Feast of St. Nicholas. Somehow it’s like the unofficial start of the season around this house. Read more

Skip the mall this year. Trust me, it can be done.

A lot of  my friends  and family members are already wrapping Christmas gifts, which I find truly astounding because I haven’t even started shopping. Haven’t bought a single gift. Haven’t even thought about buying a single gift. But I can tell you this, when I finally do start shopping it will not be at either of the local malls. I’m not a mall person, especially during the holiday season, and I like to support local businesses. So my goal every Christmas is to avoid the mall at all costs, to buy only within the confines of my own town, or, when absolutely necessary, online. I still have young kids, so some things have to come from the big guns and not from local artisans. Read more

Local goodies for last minute shoppers

Before I get started on local gift ideas, let me just say that I have not set foot in a mall this Christmas season, which is always my goal. I don’t like malls any time, but I especially don’t like them before Christmas. And I figure if I made it this far, I’m home free because there ain’t no way I’m going to a mall or anywhere within a five mile radius of a mall in the coming week when all those crazy shoppers are fighting for parking spaces and sale items.

So…if you live in New York’s Capital Region, it’s just a short drive to my town where you can find lots of cool stuff without the nasty crowds. (And if you’re not in this region, get creative and look for similar shops in small towns near you.)

First I’ll start with food. Of course. In keeping with the theme of this blog, these suggestions won’t just be any foods but food with a spiritual connection.

Trappist Preserves make a nice, yummy gift or stocking stuffer. Although you can always buy them online HERE, folks in Delmar can pick them up right at Hannaford. That’s right, jelly and jams made by monks sitting on the shelf next to Smucker’s. Whodda thunk? Chiara will accept no other jelly on her PB&J. She prefers seedless red raspberry, although they make loads of flavors, typical and not so typical — like hot pepper mango jelly or Kadota fig preserves.

Cheesecake by the Nuns of New Skete is available in the refrigerated case at Delmar Marketplace, and word on the street is that it is unbelievably good. So this may be on my dessert list this year. This, too, is available through online orders (HERE) if you can’t get to the store or want an unusual flavor, like Irish cream or Kahlua. Or if you just need regular cheesecake deliveries, no matter what the season. Yum.

Moving away from food but keeping in our spiritual mindset, just walk across the street and head to Peaceful Inspirations, where you will find so many cool things you won’t be able to decide what to get. I have to restrain myself every time I’m in there or I would leave with arms loaded down with books and earrings and angels and wall hangings and incense. (For Facebook friends keeping score at home, this is where I purchased the myrrh incense I mentioned the other day.) One of my favorite items is a lotus candle holder (see photo at the top). They have them in so many beautiful colors and sizes, with stands or without. A really nice little gift for someone special. And they have tons of other things related to the spiritual quest, from meditation bells and Mala beads to books on Our Lady of Guadalupe and Celtic art to salt lamps and peace flags. And if you go there, you’ll be right around the corner from Perfect Blend, where you can get a coffee and something delicious to eat. (No, I am not being paid to advertise for these places.)

Of course, I Love Books is right next door to Perfect Blend. See how many places you can go without ever moving your car? At I Love Books you will have your pick of wonderful merchandise, but be sure to stop by the Local Authors shelf where you can get my book, “Walking Together: Discovering the Catholic Tradition of Spiritual Friendship.” (You can also get it online or wherever you buy your books.) Makes a great gift — for a friend, obviously.

Leaving I Love Books, head back across the street to the Breathing Room, a little yoga place where you can buy gift certificates for classes, yoga equipment, CDs and more. Don’t you feel more peaceful just thinking about it? Ooooommmmm.

Finally, if you are in the area tomorrow, Saturday, December 18, the Delmar Farmers Market will have its last day of the season inside the Bethlehem Central Middle School from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Hair of the Dog will be playing the entire time. Shopping and a show. For free. Can’t beat that, can you? Lots of local vendors. Stop by, but bring your reusable bags and even your reusable coffee cup. Think green Christmas.

Anyone else around here have any good ideas to share? Please do so in the comment section. And remember, even if you don’t live here, there are sure to be similar shops somewhere near you. Avoid the malls and the inherent headaches. Shop close to home.