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Posted at 12:31 PM ET, 12/20/2006

Crafty Gifts for the Last-Minute Shopper

By Julia Beizer

Yep, here it is again: the last minute.

I promised myself I'd have all of my shopping done before I went on vacation last week, but no chance. Yesterday, with days ticking away, I realized that I still had a ton of presents to buy. Last night, I stopped by the Downtown Holiday Market in front of the Reynolds Center where I found presents for everyone on my list well before my usual finishing date of Dec. 24. Read on for more information about the market and a few gift ideas.

For those of you still looking -- I know, I know, I'm so condescending now that I'm D-O-N-E -- the market is a sweet option. Right in the heart of downtown, you could visit during your lunch break, or if you work out in the 'burbs like we do, head over after work (the market's open until 7).

Market shopping is a bit riskier than mall shopping: If you don't find suitable gifts at any of the market stalls, there isn't a reliable everybody-likes-this-stuff housewares place next door unless you count nearby Macy's. Also, if your giftee is less-than-thrilled, returning things is nearly impossible. I'm sure some of the craftspeople would be happy to refund your money; the challenge is tracking them down again after the holidays.

But if you are shopping for somebody like my mom, who asked only for "hippie jewelry," the market is worth a visit. Event organizers keep the stalls toasty with outdoor heaters for the 45 vendors that line up each day. Live music offers a different sort of shopping soundtrack -- some shopper sang a pretty decent rendition of "New York, New York" during last night's karaoke session.

Vendors change slightly from day to day, but last night, jewelry -- hippie or otherwise -- was the most common commodity. Prices obviously vary depending on the object, but the two pieces I decided between for my mom were $18 and $30, which isn't bad at all for a Christmas gift.

There were some other gifts that caught my eye, even though they didn't fit anyone on my list. Here are a few suggestions for last-minute shopping:

-For the budding chef: Preserved smoked seafood and bisque mixes from the Eastern Shore.
-For the yogi: Votive candles shaped like lotus flowers.
-For the fashionista: Hip bags from Denada Designs (Denada won't be at the market again until Friday).
-For little ones: Handmade kiddie clothes.
-For the world traveler: Antique maps and prints.
-For the hometown guy/gal: Paintings and photographs of Washington neighborhoods.

Keep in mind that the market ends on Friday and some of these vendors might not return, but you're still bound to find inspiration for those on your list. So get to it; the Christmas clock is ticking.


By Julia Beizer  | December 20, 2006; 12:31 PM ET
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