What the Locals are Buying for the Holidays

Boy, do the holidays make my brain hurt. I love giving as much as I love receiving, but when you give a dud present, it's written all over the receiver's face -- and that's a bummer. I could pore over holiday gift guides until I'm blue in the face but I never see anything that grabs me. So I went to some local stores for some ideas. Here's what retailers in the metro area are flagging as this year's must-have items:

Toys: This year is all about finding unique toys not made in China. Sorry Mattel, but it may be a slow holiday season for you. At least two local toy stores -- Kinder Haus in Arlington and Noodles & Noggins in Clifton -- report that people are already requesting American, European and Asian (other than China)- made toys. Some of the most popular items include wooden toys by Plan Toys , a Thai company, American-made puzzles made by Lauri Toys , a line of wooden toys by Haba, a Chinese company that's won the trust of toy sellers, American-made wooden blocks by Uncle Goose, Canadian-made mosaic kits by Orb Factory and hand-painted figurines by Papo, a French company. Both Sue Pyatt, owner of Kinder Haus, and Jacquie Lambertson, owner of Noodles & Noggins, say the trick to buying toys this year is to visit smaller retailers who can direct customers to the safest, most unique toys in demand.

Books: The holidays always bring out a series of new cookbooks and according to Mark LaFramboise, the book buyer at Politics & Prose in Washington, this year is no different. Some of the most popular are "The Art of Simple Food" by Alice Waters, the maven of all things wholesome and organic, and "1080 Recipes," the definitive guide on Spanish cooking. Other popular non-fiction titles include "Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain" by Oliver Sacks and "Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA" by Tim Weiner. And since Washington is wonk central, Politics & Prose is also seeing demand for political and history books such as "The Conscience of a Liberal" by Paul Krugman, "The Day of Battle: The War of Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944" by Rick Atkinson and "The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War" by David Halberstam. In fiction, the popular titles this year are "Bridge of Sighs" by Richard Russo, Amy Bloom's "Away: A Novel" and "Out Stealing Horses" by Per Petterson.

Jewelry: There's nothing like a little bling to put a smile on your face. Nationally, color gemstones in chunky designs are in vogue this season but Washington is still stuck on diamond studs, diamond bracelets and diamond hoop earrings and just about anything with pearls, according to Scott Engle, owner of Lynn Jewelers in Washington. Yellow gold is also getting some attention these days after a long love affair with platinum and white gold. The Silver Parrot in Alexandria has seen some demand for long open link necklaces in sterling silver, as well as turquoise pieces, says Patrick Dunn, owner of the small jewelry shop.

Electronics: We're lost and we want to listen to tunes while we find our way. At least that's the trend at Radio Shack in Chantilly. The electronics store saw a strong demand for GPS devices by Magellan and TomTom and MP3 players by Apple and Microsoft during the post-Thanksgiving rush. Microsoft's Zune even gave Apple's iPod some competition when the store's iPod supply sold out last weekend. The store also ran out of digital photo frames, another item expected to be popular this season, says Shin Gai, a store manager. MyerEmco, a 10-store chain in the Washington region, is seeing the demand for flat-screen televisions, as well as high-definition DVD players, particularly Blu-ray machines, says Keith Wimer, a company spokesman.

So what are you buying this year?

By Tania Anderson |  November 29, 2007; 3:06 AM ET Holidays and Special Occasions
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

I'm glad to see that people are looking for American Made Products. There is a site that helps you find American Made goods like toys, clothes, shoes and more. It is http://www.americansworking.com

Posted by: AmericanMadeDave | November 29, 2007 10:13 AM

Love the Silver Parrot - great recommendation.

Posted by: Silver Gal! | December 3, 2007 8:26 PM

Hi-I think the Torpedo Factory is worthy of comment within this subject. We have 170 artists, fine art and fine craft. There is so much to see and also to buy. The next 2 Thursdays some (not all) of the studios are open. There's ceramics, jewelry, painting, sculpture and mixed media and so much more! Other hours are from 10-5 everyday. Come to Old Town and visit the Torpedo Factory. www.torpedofactory.org.
Happy Holidays.

Posted by: Kim Jones | December 6, 2007 6:59 PM

sorry! I meant to say studios are open late the next 2 thursdays until 9...but the rest of the days are 10-5, 7 days a week.

Posted by: Kim Jones | December 6, 2007 7:02 PM

My favorite gift so far is this satin pillow "cap"...I just splurged on expensive anti-wrinkle cream and I can tell it doesn't rub off at night like it used to. You can google it if you want one. (Great for traveling too...no yucky hotel pillows!)

Posted by: Anne Comber | December 7, 2007 1:36 PM

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