‘Tis the season-comfort, home, spirituality top wish lists


    European vacations are out, sectional sofas are in. So are soft cashmere sweaters and, of course, Harry Potter anything-watches, calendars, candy, books, games, sweatshirts, knapsacks, lunch boxes, dolls, candles-well, you get the idea.

    The holiday shopping season is officially underway and there are plenty of choices when it comes to gift giving.

    Still, many merchants aren’t exactly sure what to expect when it comes to buying trends or business this year, especially in light of recent events. While some complain that sales have been slower than normal, others see things picking up.

    “There was a real drop after September 11,” says Toy Crazy’s Gigi Smith. “But now it’s coming back.”

    In fact, some stores are thriving. At Malibu Shaman, things have never been better. “Definitely way up,” says Scott Stuphen. “Everyone wants to relax and chill.”

    Relax while snuggling up.

    Comfort is key at Malibu Lifestyles where the racks are filled with cozy drawstring pants and zip up jackets in rich colors like midnight blue and cranberry. You’ll find unusual specialty items just across the way where Goodson’s has a glittering evening bag in the form of a Chinese take out box. Fashioned from black, red and gold imported crystals, it comes complete with lacquer chopsticks and a fortune cookie coin purse.

    At Indiana Joan’s, Kelly Bryant is getting in the Christmas spirit, decked out in a fire engine red sweater topped by a matching fox fur headband. Here, wearable fashion never goes out of fashion. “The sweater coats and washable suede tops have been doing great,” she says. “They are our bestsellers.”

    When it comes to home sweet home, art is where it’s at and the more upbeat-the better. The Skidmore gallery is showcasing colorful scenes from Alice in Wonderland. DeLoss McGraw’s whimsical paintings of white rabbits and mad hatters have become a big hit with local collectors.

    “They have a real dreamy quality and people love it,” says Rachel Choate. “We haven’t seen anything like this come around in a long time.”

    When it comes to toys, the tried and true triumphs over trend. At Toy Crazy, Santa’s little helpers are helping themselves to traditional tricycles, train sets and plush toys.

    And at Malibu Shaman, whether its crystals, herbs or oils, it’s one-stop shopping for all your metaphysical needs starting with soothing scents. You’ll find Strawberry Fields for 1960s Fab Four fans, desert patchouli for the retro set-heck, there’s even frankincense and myrrh for really old souls.

    Yoga videos and new age music are among the most popular items here, and for kids, there’s nothing like a dream catcher. The stringy, spider web-looking object is placed above the bed to filter good dreams in and keep bad ones away.

    “Just think about it,” says Stuphen. “If a kid has a bad dream, well, mom just tells them the story of the dream catcher and it’s gone.”

    Grown ups, meantime, are snapping up Zen, self-help and spiritual literature.

    “People have become more curious after September 11,” Stuphen explains. “They’re asking questions and searching for answers. They’re wondering about their own mortality and how to be a better person.” Hmmm, being a better person. Maybe that’s the greatest gift of all.