Even though Black Friday and Cyber Monday are behind us, we have a feeling you’ve still got some shopping left to do. Looking for ideas and inspiration? Welcome to Store Reporter’s first Special Edition Holiday Gift Issue. We’ve got plenty of both.
Warm and luxurious
For the woman who loves a soft touch, The Cottage Monet in Rockville has a cashmere “dress topper” that can be worn in many different ways — as a poncho, as a cowl neck, off the shoulder, or even as a scarf. This is great for frequent travelers, as it can be taken on a plane or into a restaurant, then rolled into a carry-on, hand-washed and laid it out to dry. It’s 100 percent cashmere, priced at $150, and available in 54 colors from blues to greens to pinks to neutrals. “I love the paprika color, but grey has been very strong this year,” says Cottage Monet owner Caya Cagri. “It’s the new neutral.” Find this, as well as other great gifts from Vera Bradley, Vietri, Thymes, Mariposa, Trollbeads and more, at The Cottage Monet in Rockville Town Square, 36 Maryland Ave. Click here to see the store’s Facebook page, click here to get in touch by email, or call 301-279-2422.
Fun and festive
Here’s the perfect gift for your mah jongg maven friends: Six colorful soaps made to look like mah jongg tiles, complete with rank and suit decorations. Perfect for the powder room of the person who’s hosting the game, or wrap them individually as a trinket for everyone in the mahj group. $18.50 at Leila Jewels in the Cabin John Shopping Center, 7737 Tuckerman Lane, Potomac. Leila has plenty of other great hostess gifts priced under $30, from wine stoppers to candy bowls to a wide variety of vases — as well as lovely jewelry and Judaica. Call the store at 301-299-5675 to check availability, or click here to browse Leila’s new website.
The gift of fitness
Do you know someone who will soon be making a New Year’s resolution to get into shape? Perhaps they’d appreciate a package of classes at Barre Belle Studio, an intimate gym at the border of Potomac and Rockville that’s dedicated exclusively to the ballet barre workout. Located at 12500 C Park Potomac Ave. (off I-270 and Montrose Road), Barre Belle offers a warm and inviting atmosphere with limited class sizes that are appropriate for varying levels of fitness. For new clients only, Barre Belle is offering three-class passes for $45 (good for 30 days from first use) and one-month, unlimited-class passes for $150. And for those who might stress about what to wear for their workout: Barre Belle also carries on-trend Onzie Yoga Apparel and Great Soles gripped socks. Update: Barre Belle Studio has closed. Read Store Reporter every week to find out about other local places to get a great workout.
Wearing your heart on your sleeve
Store Reporter has been testing out the Microsoft Band, a fitness tracker/smartwatch that’s expected to be one of this year’s hot gifts at the newly opened Microsoft Store. The $199.99 gadget, which the store gave us to review, can count your steps, monitor your heart rate, navigate your running route, offer a weather forecast and analyze your sleeping patterns. It also promises to integrate with your phone (even the ones from Apple and Samsung), adding the ability to check texts and emails from your wrist. We found that last part to be a challenge, as we weren’t able to maintain consistent connectivity with our iPhone. But as a fitness aide and general window into tracking your everyday health, we also found a lot to like — including a running total of calories burned and guided workouts that buzz your wrist when it’s time to change from squats to lunges. Click here for more information on the Microsoft Band, or check it out in person at the Microsoft Store, Westfield Montgomery Mall, 7101 Democracy Blvd.
Little things that are sure to please
The Stocking Stuffers section of The Container Store is a great place to find easy gifts with universal appeal. We particularly love the in.bag Handbag Organizer ($24.99) which makes it easy to switch your stuff from purse to purse (plus you can add a matching Cosmetic Pouch and Duo Eyeglass Case for $14.99 each). Other winning gifts this year include the fish-shaped Nibbles CableKeep for iPad Charger ($12.99) and the Finger Ring Bumper Case for iPhone ($19.99), which lets you loop your phone around your finger to help prevent drops. We’re also impressed with the Kelvin.23 Multi-Tool ($29.99), which packs a hammer, a measuring tape, a flashlight, a magnet, a level and a 16-bit screwdriver into one very compact piece of equipment. Click here to shop Stocking Stuffers at The Container Store online (some are on sale at greatly reduced prices this week), or visit the store in person at Congressional Plaza, 1601 Rockville Pike.
Sounds from the past
In case you haven’t heard, vinyl is back in a big way this year. While sales of CDs and digital music are suffering, vinyl records are continuing a four-year upswing: In fact, last week was the second-highest week for vinyl sales since 1991. If you know an adult who’s still holding onto a favorite record collection — or a teen who’s just starting one — this might be the year to buy a new turntable. You can find them everywhere, from Nordstrom to Target to the $98 one shown here at hipster hangout Urban Outfitters. (Click here for details, and click here for our Nov. 6 issue to read more on Urban’s role in the vinyl craze.) And for those who want to turn back the clock even further, we recently spotted the charming Gramophone for iPhone ($199) at Restoration Hardware on Wisconsin Avenue NW. With a solid wood base and a speaker horn that replicates the ones from decades ago, this Gramophone amplifies sound with the power of pure physics — no electricity involved. Click here or stop at a Restoration Hardware store in D.C. or Tysons Corner to check it out for yourself.
For the teens on your list: Something plaid and flannel
Our Teen Store Reporters tell us that plaid flannel shirts are all the rage at local high schools this year — a look that’s equally popular with guys and girls. Shirts can be worn fitted and close to the body; oversized with a tank top underneath; or simply tied around the waist as an accessory. Choose one with long sleeves that can be rolled up to three-quarter length for a different look. We like the one shown here from Target ($22.99). Click here for details and additional colors.
Happy feet for teens and kids
For sporty kids and teens alike, we hear that Nike Elite socks are on plenty of wish lists this holiday season. They come in a wide range of colors and patterns, they’re warm and comfortable, and in this area they’re popular with both sexes from elementary school to high school. Plus, they’re relatively easy on the wallet. (For example, the pair shown here is $14 from Foot Locker at Westfield Montgomery Mall.)
For kids (and their parents): Family games you won’t mind playing
Blue Orange and ThinkFun, two innovative companies that make great toys for families to enjoy together, have sent us some of their new games for review this year. One of our top picks is Battle Sheep (about $25), a strategy game that combines elements of chess, Blokus and Settlers of Catan — but with playfully illustrated cartoon sheep that soften the blow when you get “fenced out.” (Click here for details.) Spot it! is a fast-moving matching game with several new versions this year — including one that’s waterproof and another that teaches the alphabet with characters from Disney’s Frozen. (Even if your kids can’t read yet, don’t assume that means they won’t beat you at this game.) There are more than two dozen different Spot It! games (priced from $9 to $13). We also like Puzzle Battle ($15), a deceptively simple speed-puzzle game for two players (click here for details) and Last Letter ($13), which reminded us of a word game we played with our siblings on family road trips (click here). You can buy all these games online, of course. But we recommend supporting our local toy stores.