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I kicked off my birthday weekend with a feel-good hair freshening at SalonCapri on Newbury Street. This airy spot was the perfect place for a little bit of relaxation and pampering (I was obsessed with the fact that the hair-washing chairs had built-in massagers!) Owner and Lead Stylist, Nicholas Penna, cut my hair and gave me a fresh new look while I quizzed him on all of his expert tips for keeping my salon-look going long after I left his chair.
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I love the feeling of getting a fresh haircut and leaving the salon with perfect hair — any advice for how to keep the ‘just-left-the-salon’ look going after you leave? 

NP: Right before you leave the salon, don’t be afraid to ask for a little bit of hairspray to keep your new cut in place. Hairspray gets a bad reputation for making your hair look stiff, but there are products now that will give you hold without weighing you down. Dry shampoo is a great way to extend the life your blow-out the day after you leave the salon, but it also help later in the day after the cut to add some volume back into your hair. And remember that your hair is going to change — it’ll look different the second day but with a little restyling it can be a whole new look.
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I can never seem to recreate a salon-level blow-out at home! What are some common mistakes that people make? 

NP: Spend some time blow-drying your hair, I think people sometimes forget that at the salon you have a professionally trainer stylist blow-drying your hair for around 30-minutes to get your hair to look great, most people only spend 5-10 minutes blow-drying at home. So take your time, and use some of the techniques that the you see in the salon: use clips and section off your hair, and focus on  smaller sections.
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Do you have any advice for ladies coming into the salon and how they can get the look they want? 

NP: Bring pictures! I think sometimes people are afraid to bring pictures because they think a stylist will be offended, or they think they don’t have the type of hair that’s photographed in the image. But a good stylist will be able to use the pictures as a springboard to interpret the best style for you and translate the look to your hair type.
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You look out on one of the most fashionable and bustling sections of Newbury Street, any trends you’re seeing on the streets of Boston? 

NP: We’ve been seeing a lot of fur-trimmed winter coats with this cold weather! Winter is in full force and it can really do a number on your hair. There is nothing better than a good professional moisturizing treatment for your hair to real condition it and keep it in great health during this rough Boston weather.

Thanks so much for having me to the salon and teaching me your ways Nicholas!

Please note: I received a complimentary hair cut from SalonCapri, all opinions and interview questions are my own. 

This weekend I made it a point to go check out the Eat Boutique Holiday Pop-Up Shop in Fenway, in an effort to keep my shop-local spirit alive!  The pop-up shop is run by the lovely Maggie Battista and the whole space is beyond darling — I gasped a little bit when I saw the gorgeous lettering on the windows right outside the shop. They’re fully stocked with delicious artisan food gifts — everything from cookbooks to simple syrups, tasty jams and baking mixes, and even some fun party supplies from The Flair Exchange and Knot & Bow.  I was lucky enough to stop in while Apotheker’s Kitchen was doing a tasting of their honey-sweetened chocolate covered marshmallows and had to bring home a few to add to my obligatory tree-trimming hot cocoa! The Pop-Up will be open Thursdays though Sundays until the 21st, so be sure to go check it out (and don’t forget to take a look at the jam-packed line-up of special events each day so you can join in on some tastings and demonstrations!).IMG_5447.JPGIMG_5451.JPGIMG_5450.JPGIMG_5453.JPGIMG_5449.JPGIMG_5448.JPG

I’m rounding out our 2nd annual Shop Local holiday series today with an interview with Abby of Farm and Fable — one of my favorite shops (and shop owners!) in the South End. Be sure to check out the rest of the series here.

SouthEndShop_01Tell me a little bit about yourself and your shop, and how you got started.
Abby: I grew up in a 300 year old farmhouse with a family that loved to garden and cook so a lot of what I do is a product of my childhood and is really second nature to me. I started cooking when I was old enough to stand on a stool and stir a pot. I worked in and out of the restaurant industry over the years but took a big old detour and went to law school. I became a product liability litigator at a big law firm. It will surprise no one that for a girl happiest barefoot in a garden, gathering herbs for dinner with her big goofy dogs by her side, law firm life wasn’t a great fit. I was determined to get back in to food so I went to work for Joanne Chang at Flour Bakery. It was during that time that I worked on a concept that would allow me to combine my love of cooking, vintage and all things entertaining related. I really wanted to create a kind of clubhouse for people who are as geeky as I am about food and that is really at the heart of Farm & Fable. 

SouthEndShop_04Are there any go-to items that you offer that you always recommend for holiday gift giving? 
Abby: I love the holidays because it is the one time of year that we really embrace tradition and sentimentality. I think that a good holiday gift should be selected with an eye to either traditions you already have or new traditions you want to start. In my family, traditions always center around food. That’s why for grown-ups I suggest our handmade recipe card boxes from Belle & Union or our keepsake recipe journals from Celina Mancurti which include a page with each recipe for “Notes for Future Generations.” I just love that. For tiny chefs we have the sweetest apron sets from Oddette Williams. I love to decorate gingerbread houses with my nieces and nephews and having their own special apron makes that time seem even sweeter. 

SouthEndShop_07This is the time of year that we always need hostess gifts? What are you recommendations for the best thing to bring when attending a holiday party or visiting someone for the weekend?
Abby: A good hostess gift is like a good houseguest: helpful, pleasant to be around, thoughtful, and doesn’t take up too much space. I love the two gifts sets we have from Farmhouse Pottery. One has a great hand-thrown, hand-glazed salt pig along with Maine farmed sea salt. The other has a small hand-thrown, hand-glazed syrup pitcher along with Vermont maple syrup. They both come packaged in a reusable wooden box complete with gift card. We tie them up with a red grosgrain ribbon and they are ready for gifting. 

SouthEndShop_03You are a bit of an experts on cookbooks given the selection in your shop — what are your favorite new books this year? Any cookbooks that you always go back to for great holiday recipes? 
Abby: This fall was a fabulous season for new cookbooks. I am loving A Boat, a Whale & a Walrus from Renee Erickson. It is arranged seasonally and by menu which I really love for home cooks. I’m also really enjoying Jeremy Sewall’s New England Kitchen which I think makes a great gift for any local food lovers (or people like me who can’t stop eating at Row 34 or Lineage). 

SouthEndShop_05One of my favorite things about shopping local is the way that the community supports each other — what are your favorite places to shop in Boston? 
Abby: I am so lucky to live and have my shop in the South End. I managed to get all of my holiday shopping done in one afternoon without leaving the neighborhood. For my sister-in-law I got a cozy sweater at Flock (and one for myself). For my sister I got a sparkly fun necklace from M. Flynn. For my nieces and nephews I stopped by Tadpole for books and toys. For my mother I picked up the cutest embroidered potting apron from Niche. For my father I went to Urban Grape for a special bottle of scotch. For my brother, brother-in-law and boyfriend I went straight to Sault because Philip’s taste is impeccable. For my friends I stocked up on lip balms and lotions from Follain. I’ll swung by Olives & Grace for stocking stuffers. Of course my own list includes a few of fabulous vintage pieces from Pioneer Goods (hint, hint). 

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What would you tell someone that’s thinking about shopping local this year? Any words of wisdom about why you think it’s important? 
Abby: When you shop local you aren’t just supporting the store you walk in to. Lots of local shop work with other local makers to fill our shelves. Our cutting boards are from South Boston. Our oyster knives come from Cambridge. Our copper pots and pans are from Rhode Island. Shopping with little shops like mine keeps a whole host of business afloat.

All photos credited to local Boston photographer: Bring to Light Photography.

All this week I’m sharing my 2nd annual Shop Local holiday series on the blog. Hear from the best of local shop owners about what they’re loving this season and where they love to shop!  Today we’re talking with Philip, owner of Sault New England — one of the most beautifully curated shops I’ve visited — and the eye behind the gorgeous @SaultNewEngland instagram handle.  Check out the rest of the series here.

SouthEndShop_19Welcome Philip! Tell me a little bit about your shop and how you got started. 
Philip: After working as a Visual Merchandiser for over 18 years I decided I would try my hand at opening my own retail shop. SAULT Opened in the fall of 2011 with the idea of creating a shop that would be focused on guys clothing and some gift products.  It’s a small shop but still feels easy to shop around and explore. Its worth the trip in if you find yourself in the South End of Boston.

SouthEndShop_22I personally find it super hard to shop for the guys in my life — are there any go-to items that you offer that you always recommend for holiday gift giving? 
Philip: It always depends on the guy, Tech is big with the iPhone, and we have wood covers for them along with some fabric covered cords that are cool and unusual. Winter accessories are always good — we have leather iTouch gloves that are perfect for a guy who’s into fashion. We also have a great assortment of personal care items that bundle well together: add some shave cream by Urasa Major, Razor by Harry’s, and  a few bars of beer soap to one of our Dopp kits by Owen and Fred and you have a personalized gift for any guy.

SouthEndShop_21How about some smaller items in the shop? Any good stocking stuffers?
Philip: Stocking stuffers are always a great seller. We have a ton of great gifts for every type of guy from your brother to your grand pop and every man in between: wallets by Jack Spade,  Cashmere blend socks, cool bottle openers made in the USA,  and even the classic nostalgic balsa wood plane that was a staple for every all American kid.

SouthEndShop_20One of my favorite things about shopping local is the way that the community supports each other — what are your favorite places to shop in Boston? 
Philip: Some of my favorite shops to buy gifts for the ladies in my life just so happen to be in the same neighborhood as our shop. My favorite shops are PATCH NYC, Hudson, Olives & Grace and Niche.   

What would you tell someone that’s thinking about shopping local this year? Any words of wisdom about why you think it’s important? 
Philip: Shopping local is so important to your community and town. Local business give back more to their areas in so many ways. It increases foot traffic and lowers crime, Small shops help create a sense of community and culture to neighborhoods that reflect the people who live there and help to raise the value of surrounding real estate.  Shopping local is a true investment into your neighborhood.

All photos credited to local Boston photographer: Bring to Light Photography.

All this week I’m sharing my 2nd annual Shop Local holiday series on the blog. Hear from the best of local shop owners about what they’re loving this season and where they love to shop!  Today we’re talking with Jason Owens of Bee’s Knees Supply Company in Fort Point. Check out the rest of the series here.

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Tell me a little bit about yourself and your shop, and how you got started.
Jason: I started cooking as a teenager from the school of Grandma. Eventually I started working my way from being a busboy to owning my own restaurants, and Developed a passion for curating food and beverage for my menus and decided to open a store selling the things I love and that are made in a way I admire.

What’s the secret to picking out items that make for a great, cohesive gift box? 
Jason: Each gift box ends up being different. Customers usually pick a theme and we customize it to their needs. The only “secret” is to ask questions. You need to know about people receiving the gift to make sure the chosen product will fit their life style. The goal is always to make them enjoy something they like or have them discover something new they end up liking.

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Are there any go-to items that you offer that you always recommend for holiday gift giving? 
Jason: A good bottle of wine, unique beer, irresistible chocolate, one of our wine shop gift items and some specialty items along with recipes that people wouldn’t ordinarily splurge on — and never forget to grab a greeting card!

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This is the time of year that we always need hostess gifts? What are you recommendations for the best thing to bring when attending a holiday party or visiting someone for the weekend?
Jason: Create a customized gift box, grab a small gift item, like something from Mackenzie Childs or keep it simple with bottle of wine or craft beer in a nice gift bag.
BeesKnees4One of my favorite things about shopping local is the way that the community supports each other — what are your favorite places to shop in Boston? 

All this week I’m sharing my 2nd annual Shop Local holiday series on the blog. Hear from the best of local shop owners about what they’re loving this season and where they love to shop!  Today we’re talking with Justin, the absolutely darling shop owner of  Pioneer Goods Co in the South End. Check out the rest of the series here.

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Welcome Justin! Tell me a little bit about yourself, your shop, and how you got started.
Justin: When I was a kid, I was really into lots of forms of art. I got a calligraphy set for my eighth birthday and I even took lessons on how to airbrush. I was also always rearranging my bedroom and styling it different ways to make it feel homey. My mom, as an interior designer, was always scouring yard sales and auctions and dragging me and my brothers along. I always fought it back then because I was into sports and more bro-centric stuff, so I purposely stifled my creativity for a long time. It wasn’t until much later that my mother discovered Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint and I started helping her on a big project for a client that I found this marriage of practical creativity where you were creating something that people could admire but actually use that it began to seem like something I could pursue. Annie Sloan talked my mom into opening her first retail outlet and not long after, we both decided that I would come aboard and do something similar in Boston. Her shop is called Maison Decor and is very French and feminine in decor. My first shop on Harrison Ave was the second Maison Decor and began with the same French leaning aesthetic. The longer I was at the helm of that shop, the more I started pushing it my direction of rustic Americana and making it my own. We decided not to renew the lease on that space with the understanding that I would continue to search for a bigger space in the South End, and when I found the space at 764 Tremont, Pioneer Goods Co. was born.
SouthEndShop_24You work to restore a lot of the beautiful pieces you sell in your shop, I’m sure it can be hard to say goodbye to some of them! Any advice for giving handmade gifts at the holidays?
Justin: I used to get very attached to pieces I sourced and/or refinished, but I’ve gotten much better at letting them go. It gives me the freedom to go out and find that next great piece. As for handmade gifts for the holidays, the options are plenty. As much as I’m partial to handmade or refinished home goods, I also love baked goods or homemade food items. Two years ago I made a variety of different pickled vegetables and last year I made apple butter and bacon jam. What I really encourage people to do is to not overlook the card portion of the gift you give. It’s so rare that we get to say what we really mean to those we love, and a beautiful handwritten card can be extremely memorable. My mom always said to us as kids, no matter how much money you have, you can always scrape together three bucks for a card. Years ago when I was managing restaurants, I chucked the idea of the $20 secret Santa and asked all of the servers to write something thoughtful or funny or both in either a handmade or store-bought card. We went out to a bar and sat around a big table and everyone read their cards aloud to each other.There were laughs and tears and lots of hugs–it was so awesome.
SouthEndShop_25I always find it so much harder to buy gifts for the guys in my life, as a guy and a local shop owner — what would you recommend as great gifts for the men on our shopping list?
Justin: Guys can definitely be tough to buy for–I know I am. I don’t think you can go wrong buying a guy something he’ll actually use. Trust me, he’ll appreciate it. Does he like to cook? Why not get him a kick ass cast iron pan or some really nice chef’s knives. If he’s a cyclist, buy him some tools for working on his bike. I know it sounds cliché, but most guys I know love stuff that can be put to good use. If he’s a stylish guy and into clothes, chances are he’s already bought himself the shoes he wanted or a jacket he was eyeing. Maybe that’s a guy who would appreciate cedar shoe trees or really nice wooden hangers for his closet. You can’t go wrong with practical.
SouthEndShop_27Are there any go-to pieces in the shop that you always recommend for holiday gift giving?
Justin: In my shop I always lean toward a one-of-a-kind antique as a gift. I had a bust of Indian chief that was so cool that I guarantee you couldn’t find anywhere else. Something like that adds instant character and intrigue and often has a really cool story behind that you just cant get from a mass-produced good.
 
SouthEndShop_30One of my favorite things about shopping local is the way that the community supports each other — what are your favorite places to shop in Boston?
Justin: I love the retail scene in the South End. I always shop at Olives & Grace, Sault New England, and Niche Urban Garden supply. Those shops are so awesome. My wife Madison recently introduced me to Follain, and I swear by their activated charcoal soap. That said, I probably pour most of my money into Render Coffee. I buy their pour over coffee nearly every day and pick up a bag of Counter Culture coffee beans once a week.
SouthEndShop_31What would you tell someone that’s thinking about shopping local this year? Any words of wisdom about why you think it’s important?
Justin: I implore everyone to shop local, but of course I’ve got a vested interest. The best thing you can do is talk to the shop owner about what they are digging in their shop. Nobody will have as much passion about what they carry and they will always steer you in the right direction. It’s an experience you will never achieve going to the mall.
All photos credited to local Boston photographer: Bring to Light Photography.
I’m super excited to be kicking off my 2nd annual Shop Local holiday series on the blog today!  First up, we’re talking with Tara Foley, owner of Follain in the South End of Boston. Check out the rest of the series here. SouthEndShop_12Welcome Tara! Tell me a little bit about yourself and your shop and how you got started.  Tara: When I graduated from college, I moved to NYC and was trying to get healthy — practicing yoga, racing triathlons, eating locally and clean; so when I found out about the toxic chemicals in my beloved beauty products, I became really upset, and realized there was no beauty store in NYC or anywhere else where I could buy safe and effective products, only.  So, in 2009 I started a blog — The Naturalchemyst — about healthy beauty products, and then I quit my job soon after to learn more about these products, working on a lavender farm in France, and for a skincare company in Maine.  Then I moved to Boston to get my MBA at Babson.  Immediately after winning a business plan competition for the concept, and graduating from my MBA (May 2013) I opened the South End shop in July 2013.  Now, our mission is to change the way women and men approach the products they apply to skin.  
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Are there any go-to items that you offer that you always recommend for holiday gift giving?
Tara: Our deodorants!  Conventional deodorant is filled with aluminum, which is extremely toxic.  Our little product is an expression of how much you care about your loved ones’ health and future…  We also love the fluffy marshmallow-y texture of our RICA body butter, which everyone loves for thirsty winter skin.  Healthy (lead and pthalate-free) candles are always a good option, and — last but not least — a refillable bottle of Follain liquid hand and body soap is the gift that keeps giving!  
SouthEndShop_14This is the time of year that we always need hostess gifts, what are you recommendations for the best thing to bring when attending a holiday party or visiting someone for the weekend?
Tara: People always turn to entertaining and house items for hostess gifts, but we encourage you to treat the hostess herself with something indulgent that she’ll love!  Our RICA bath tea is a great hostess gift, because it does both — it looks gorgeous in the bathroom and provides a decadent aromatherapeutic treat to help the hostess unwind!
SouthEndShop_17One of my favorite products at Follain was the lipstick I recently bought — any recommendations for which products can help create a great holiday-season make-up look?
Tara: We love golds and greens for holiday parties, like the RMS Solar cream eye shadow, Ilia Linger lipstick, and Vapour Viper eyeliner. 
SouthEndShop_13One of my favorite things about shopping local is the way that the community supports each other — what are your favorite places to shop in Boston?
Tara: We’re obviously partial to our great friends in the South End, like Olives & Grace, Farm & Fable, Flock, Twelve Chairs, Urban Grape…the list goes on!  For anything we can’t find in the South End, there are other awesome Boston neighborhood shops like Forty Winks in Harvard Square, Dress and Good in Beacon Hill.  
SouthEndShop_18What would you tell someone that’s thinking about shopping local this year?
Tara: There are SO MANY great reasons to shop locally — but to help put things in perspective, think about what your Boston neighborhood would look and feel like without all the cute, love-filled independent shops.  Would you want to live in a place with impersonal big box stores, only?  If not, then support your shopkeeper friends who have a story — and who know your story!
All photos credited to local Boston photographer: Bring to Light Photography.

This year, instead of sharing a week of gift guides I decided to mix things up and think a little more local! I’m sharing interviews with local Boston business owners to get their tips for holiday gift giving, entertaining, and attire! Today we’re getting the dish on what to wear for the holidays from the stylish Jessika of Holiday Boutique:

photo 1K: The holiday season is upon us, and with party  invitations piling up, I want to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe so I have something to wear! Any advice for how bring in new pieces that can update things you might already have in your closet? 

HB: I suppose the most obvious answer is accessories!  But think beyond jewelry… I love wearing colored opaque tights this time of year.  Instead of basic black, try red or cream with a staple dress you already own.  Try a vintage fur collars or scarves; a skinny scarf looks super chic folded and pinned —  I like to wear one in place of a necklace with a cashmere sweater.  I’m also mad for shoe clips — they can transform a boring pump into magic.  Also something as simple as a fabulous manicure or professional blow-out can make you feel just as great (sometimes better) than buying a new dress.

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K: In the age of email and text invites, it can often be less than clear what the attire recommendation is at different holiday events. What is your fail-proof outfit advice for holiday party dressing?

HB: Holiday party dressing should be festive and celebratory.  I’d much rather show up to an event slightly over-dressed than under-dressed.  I avoid leggings or denim for evening events and take full advantage of dresses and skirts.  My go-to is generally black this time of year, but I also LOVE mixing in a statement color via a clutch, shoe or even a simple barrette.  Red always pops on black, as does gold and leopard.  Another go-to for me is cream —  I’m a fan of winter whites– especially in lace.  It’s classic and feminine.  If you’re the hostess you’ll have even more freedom to experiment.  Vintage pieces can make an incredible one-of-a-kind statement… try a vintage kimono and ballet flats! Soooo chic!

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K: New Years Eve is my absolute favorite holiday, but I’m a little bored with the glittery cocktail dress look — what kind of looks do you recommend for counting down to midnight?

HB: New Years Eve is a fabulous excuse to do something slightly unexpected or even a little gutsy!  Try a headpiece, hat or turban!  If you want a little sparkle, a sequin beret is a darling choice — especially if the rest of your look is simple.

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K: Any fun trends you’re excited about bringing into Holiday for, well, the holidays? 

HB:   My shop never gets too into “trend”– though this year we are embracing tartan and pom-poms!  A classic plaid cashmere scarf and a knit hat with a giant pom-pom on top is both cute and cozy.  We also love our re-worked vintage fur vests.  For accessories, we’re all about a big, bold vintage inspired pin that can instantly make almost anything feel and look special.  Our hand beaded monogram clutches are uber popular and a major (personal) statement piece.

Thanks to Jessika for all of her great advice! Don’t forget to #shoplocal on this holiday season! 

This year, instead of sharing a week of gift guides I decided to mix things up and think a little more local! All this week I’m sharing interviews with local Boston business owners to get their tips for holiday gift giving and entertaining. Today we’re talking with Sofi, the darling owner of Olives and Grace:  

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K: The holidays mean lots and lots of parties — I’d love to know your advice on what to bring as hostess gift for parties big and small?

OG: I believe the greatest gifts are those that can be shared.  When heading to a party, I suggest bringing a gift box with an assortment of edible gifts that make great additions to a party. Some favorites are locally made Q’s nuts (try the Rosemary and Sea Salt.. perfect compliment to a cheese plate!), Morris Kitchen’s Ginger cocktail syrup (add a splash to a glass of Prosecco), and Lark Cookies of any flavor will be a hit. The Jam Stand has a delicious and unique Blackberry Jalapeño jam that I love, and we just got in a bacon popcorn which I can hardly keep on the shelves.  When you show up with a well-executed foodie-box, you’ll be a treasured guest!

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K: Any good gift ideas for the guys? I have a few tricky men on my list that are tough to buy for! 

OG:  Yes!  The Mason Shaker and Shake, their cocktail recipe book, have been a huge hit this year for men’s gifts.  Guys love a good drink, and now they can play around with muddling, shaking, and mixing up concoctions for at home cocktails.

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K: You have lots of tasty treats in your store — which items to you recommend make it into our baskets for holiday entertaining? 

OG: I get really excited when people buy the Kinfolk Table cookbook, it has about 400 pages of farm to table recipes, shared stories, family traditions, interviews and more.  It is one of my favorite products I’ve ever had the pleasure of carrying in the store.  

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K: What gifts in your shop are you most excited to share with customers this holiday season? Any hot sellers we should be adding to our Christmas shopping lists? 

OG: Tilly Doro jewelry — the designer uses various materials for her pieces, so in one bracelet you might have fabric, brass, and beads. I love all the textures and personalities in her work. Salt Cellars is a husband and wife run company that makes walnut serving boards, we love having them over for demos, and our customers have completely fallen for them. Neighborwoods coasters are another favorite of mine — they make map coasters that have the neighborhoods carved out in cedar.  We carry various cities, and those make incredible gifts.

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Thanks to Sofi for all of her great advice! Don’t forget to #shoplocal on this holiday season! 

This year, instead of sharing a week of gift guides I decided to mix things up and think a little more local! All this week I’ll be sharing interviews with local Boston business owners to get their tips for holiday gift giving and entertaining. Hopefully it’ll inspire you to hit Main Street for small business Saturday this weekend and support local business! First up, the fabulous duo, TJ & Hadley, owners of the Urban Grape:

K: I love to bring a bottle of wine to a holiday party, but sometimes I’m nervous I might bring something that people don’t like … what do you look for in a wine to bring to a party? 
UG:  We tell people who are looking for a wine to bring to a party to look for something that’s fruit-forward — fruity, juicy wines — and something that has a bit of acidity helps too, the acidity makes you want to drink more. It also helps to pick a bottle that’s not a well-known brand, you can learn a little bit about the specific wine and the region or vineyard that comes from, and tell the story of the wine to give the hostess a little background — it’ll make the wine a little more memorable. One other tip: if the wine is supposed to  be served chilled, bring it at the appropriate temperature so if your host wants to open it that evening it’s already ready to go.

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K: What do you look for in a bottle that’s going to make a holiday gift? 
UG: If you’re looking to give a bottle of wine as a gift, and you’re not completely sure what the person drinks, we usually ask people: do they travel to certain places? Do they like certain types of cuisines? That can usually help narrow down a region of wines to start with. It’s also fun to pick a theme, you can put together a sampler back of a few different wines from the same region, or of the same grape varietal to give them a tasting of different types. Or put together a cocktail box that has all the ingredients for a special mixed-drink (and don’t forget fun accessories like a shaker!).
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K: As owners of a wine shop , I assume you’re quite popular and get invited to lots of holiday parties — any good entertaining tips you can share for the holiday season? 
UG:  Our motto is: keep it simple. Focus on quality elements, but keep everything pared down — your guests will feel more comfortable  if they’re not presented with tons of options. We usually stick to serving one signature cocktail, and 2-3 types of wines. People also spend all this time working on a perfect menu or hiring a great caterer, and then they let wine be the afterthought and just buy whatever is on sale — think about the wine just as you would planning the food menu. We tell people to bring in their menu to the shop and we’ll help pick things are going to not just go well with the food, but even elevate it.

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K: My favorite holiday is New Years Eve — what do you tell people who are intimated by picking out champagnes for a New Years Eve soiree? 
UG: Look for sparkling wines made in the champagne method — it’ll give you the taste of a champagne but at a lower price point. Smaller producers will also give you more bang for your buck, their attention to detail will give you a better quality, and they tend to spend much less on marketing than bigger brands and those cost savings get passed on to you. If you find a brand you like, at the beginning of the holiday season, buy a case of it and split it up to bring to various parties, give as gifts, and save some for yourself to enjoy too!
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Thanks to TJ & Hadley for all of their great advice! Don’t forget to #shoplocal this holiday season!