Saturday, December 13, 2008

Have a Small Christmas

About two months ago I had the genius idea that this year we would make all our holiday gifts for friends and family. I was inspired by articles in Martha Stewart magazine ~ apparently it is "super easy" to make all natural body scrubs, lip balms and bath bombs for gifts. Martha even has tips on cute labeling and bottles. Nathaniel looked at me like I had lost my mind, pointing out that November and December for us means filling tons of orders, completing and delivering albums and doing fast-turn-around holiday portraits.

Well, it's December 13th today, eleven days until Christmas, and I have not managed to even make one bath bomb. He was totally right. What to do instead...

Being small business owners ourselves, we try to support other small business with our money. Sure, we love the bargains at Kohl's and Target. But small business really need you. In many cases, a small business is just one or two people, working what feels like a 1000-hour work-week to make their dream real.

For your shopping pleasure, we'd like to introduce you to several of our favorite small businesses, most local to Baltimore, one online in Illinois... so get going and put your dollars this holiday season into the economy & help keep a shop-keeper's dream alive!

For pet lovers
Mother Bunny is a wonderful lady. Out of her bunny hutch in Illinois, she makes the cutest, toughest dog toys you have ever seen. The bunnies come in variety of colors and textures, to suit any canine, and if your critter is smaller, try a heart or tribble toy. And not only are the toys awesome, but 100% of the proceeds are donated to non-profits that rescue racing greyhounds and put them into loving homes. Talk about guilt-free shopping! Visit Mother Bunny online and let some fluffy bunny toys hop into the home of your favorite hounds. She also makes dog collars and natural soaps shaped like dog bones (the soaps are for people).

Some of our favorite pet-shopping in the Baltimore area...
Try Pampered Paws Bakery & Boutique, located in historic Havre de Grace or the Yuppy Puppy Pet Boutique in downtown Ellicott City. Both shops have gifts, toys and more for dogs and cats.

For the stylista
Retopolitan in Ellicott City is insanely fashionable. Far from a usual antique store or vintage shop, this place is the real deal. This isn't a thrift store with worn out old crap ~ Retropolitan has style and class. It belongs in Manhattan or Boston, but the prices are way lower than folks in those area are accustomed to. Stop in to check out the wide array of vintage clothes, lingerie, shoes, hats, gloves, handbags and jewelry. You'll see some familar names, too , like Chanel and Pucci, on the racks. The homegoods are also amazing. From the collection of chandeliers illuminating the shop or the arrangements of crystal cordial glasses, you will find something spectacular for every one on your list.

Brand new on the scene is Sa Sa's, also in historic Ellicott City. It's a jewelry studio run by a charming artist named Sarah and her husband. All the work is done by her and everything is sterling silver. And totally hip. The designs are based on tattoo art. I'm very partial to her collections of earrings and she makes the most perfect, perfect silver hoops.

The store logo at Mud and Metal is "art to live by" ~ and it really is just that. Located in Hampden, this place is kitchy, crazy and completely original. We fell in love with the outrageous selection of housewares, decorative pieces, and fun, functional artwork. Everything in the shop is made by artisans and crafters from around the country. We promise, you will find something for even the person who has everything here.

For the eco-friendly
If you want to be Earth-friendly and pampered in luxury, try some bath & beauty products from Kaylala, based in Baltimore. The product line is based on emu oil, which sounds exotic (and it is), and is centuries-old Aboriginal remedy, good for everything from stretch marks to sunburn. Our favorites include their Hand Candy, the lavendar-lemonade body scrub and No. 7 ~ in the fabulous blue glass bottle. All of Kaylala's packaging can be recycled or reused and their products are 100% natural. Incredible ~ and right here in Maryland!

Always tres chic, never hippie-dippie is bluehouse, located in Inner Harbor East and a new location in Towson (we've been to both, but favor the Inner Habor locale). It's another one of those places where you are sure you just stepped out of Baltimore and straight into Soho. Everything is organic, recycled and/or sustainable, and is 100% green. They have the coolest furniture ever, Nathaniel & I have had our eye on a new bedroom set there for several months. There's stuff for home, baby, kitchen, pets, garden and even office supplies. And the Inner Harbor shop has an in-store cafe that serves fair-trade coffee and tea. Just stop by bluehouse, you will instantly feel like a cooler person.

For the Chocophile
Do you know someone who looovvvves chocolates? Try a box of truffles from Emily. She's based in Owings Mills and makes fabulous truffles and other chocolate treats by hand. We have feasted on just about every flavor she makes and though we both have different favorites, we recommend the banana cream dream, chocolate lemon tango, chocolate chili pepper, white chocolate almond, smooth earl grey, double chocolate and black sesame flavors. And that is seriously less than 1/2 of the delicious flavors she offers. The company is Truffles by Emily and you can buy in boxes of 2 to 100.

For Kids
Tired of the usual junky toys and video games? Check out aMuse, a Fells Point store committed to selling innovative toys that engage children's minds and creative energy. They offer everything from the traditional wooden blocks and cars (remember those?) to complex marble racing mazes, stuffed toys that are also nightlights that make the ceiling look like the night sky to clothing. There are toys and goodies for kids of all ages, from newborn on up. I'm rather partial to the twilight ladybug, myself.

Well... that should get you started on your shopping. As for me, I'm likely not going to be making homemade lip balms anytime soon, so I better get going myself!

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