Gifts are well-intentioned efforts to be generous to other people and gift guides can be a lot of fun to write. This year, I am doing away with the pretense that it’s possible to put yourself in the shoes of anyone else but yourself: a good gift should be something you want to give to yourself in the first place. This was a bit of a problem because after finishing the guide, I ended up spending a lot on myself. Sorry kids! Mommy was doing research!
(Just kidding. Kathleen, I’ll be stopping by Labyrinth this weekend because BY JOVE, YOU NOW CARRY LEGOS AND I CAN’T EVEN.)
By the way, if you haven’t entered our contest, you still have time! Just make sure that you take either a selfie or an artistic photo of your purchases, upload it to Instagram and tag it with #ShopCapitolHill and #TheHillisHome. Voilà!
8th Street/Maryland Avenue (I’m really pulling for this to become more and more shops every year!)
If you haven’t taken a stroll down 8th Street below Maryland Avenue, well… I don’t blame you. Most people seem to think all there is in this area is a 7-Eleven. This is a shame, as we have glittering gems in this otherwise sleepy area of the neighborhood: Music on the Hill, Hunnybunny and Jacob’s Coffeehouse.
First up, Music on the Hill, 801 D Street NE, is not just the destination to send your little tykes to learn their musical ABCs after school: They also sell instruments for all budgets (and levels of music aptitude), as well as the most adorable ornaments, commissioned by owner Lindy Campbell from Etsy elves. My favorite one is a beautiful ornament ball made of sheet music which I call the MistleDo (similar to the one pictured above). My thoroughly made up rule is that if you hang this ornament up on a doorway, like I did, you must sing a favorite holiday song. Don’t roll your eyes at me: It’s better than some sort of parasitic vegetation ball that forces you to kiss people/come to terms with your relationship status. Anyway: Music is the gift here, and you can buy lessons, sheet music, ukuleles or a shiny, beautiful new guitar –whether an affordable acoustic like the Recording King Dirty 30s Harmonella ($175) or a solid spruce and rosewood Eastman Acoustic Grand Auditorium ($900). Whether you just want to gladden your heart and strum a few chords or rock out like a deity, they have you covered.
Across from the music store, Jacob’s Coffeehouse, 401 8th Street NE, has recently changed management, while improving the quality of its coffees and breads. The counter is artfully decorated with a thoughtful assortment of stocking stuffers: Beautiful shortbread cookies, torrone studded with nuts, and fancy teas are just begging to offer them for hostesses, coworkers or anyone who needs a dainty treat. We all need dainty treats. We all do.
I haven’t sung the praises of Hunnybunny Boutique, 311 8th Street NE, enough. Partly it’s because I want to keep all the products they make all to myself, so you shall never know the secret to my smooth skin and lips. I want to keep them a secret and be the only one who benefits from some of the best beauty products I have ever tried. But this is the season of giving, so if you want to be as amazed as I am that just a little dollop of their body butter can really work miracles on chapped, stubbly and thirsty skin, then please make sure you go soon. As if the promise of better skin weren’t enough, you will probably have your purchase rung up by either Nya or Zuri, one of the young owners of the boutique. Prepare to aww and possibly buy more than you meant to.
H Street has slowly become a nightlife mecca and a restaurant hub. There are a few great shops you can hit for specific tastes:
If you are into vintage looks, or one-of-a-kind, the C.A.T.Walk Boutique, 1000 H Street NE, is your stop. The store alone is a treat to walk into, decorated with geometric patterns and mirrors. But walk into the store so that Carolyn can help you get something for that special fabulous someone. You know you have one on your list. (It’s me.)
For your furry baby, you have to go to Metro Mutts, 508 H Street NE, obviously. From fluffy beds to things that make noise (so much noise) to doggie baked treats to gourmet food so your meow or mutt can have a holiday feast, Metro Mutts has you covered in this part of town. Also, they have a photo booth event coming up this weekend, so…..
More hostess gifts, or the winning entry at your potluck: Dangerously Delicious Pies, 1339 H Street NE. Yes, you heard me: The most precious gifts are wrapped in pastry. No one needs another set of towels that say HAPPY HOLIDAYS, but everyone needs food. Make sure you call ahead of time to check availability, and to order ahead, as they do require a 72-hour advance notice for whole pies.
For the coolest cat you know, or maybe the one with the largest coffee table, Maketto, 1351 H Street NE, is the place you go. You can buy that special snowflake (me, again) some really cool bracelet from downstairs, or socks from Happy Socks, or you run upstairs and you buy them one of the absolutely gorgeous photo books or magazines for sale. There is also the Guerrilla Vending Machine where you can buy maneki-nekos in vibrant colors and other cool things. It’s the kind of gift where you’re gonna have to double up, because you’re going to want to keep everything. Just remind yourself before you walk in, “I am cool enough to be in here,”– because you are, you cool cat, you.
North of Massachusetts Avenue
Ah, Union Station. We know that there’s a mall there, but we seldom take advantage thereof. I’d like to highlight local things to buy, see and do here, but since the stores are all rather large chains, you are best served by taking a stroll to see the Norwegian Christmas tree and the train display. Don’t forget to be properly awed by the wreaths at the entrance! But there are other fun things in this area, too.
What else is there up here? Well, I know what some of you are thinking: NOT THE HILL. But you can walk here and there are local businesses!
Obviously, REI is going to be a hot destination. You will shop there, full-stop. Let me direct your attention to the tiny coffeeshop sharing space with the gorgeous, ruggedly handsome tenant at the Uline Arena: La Colombe, a small business based out of Philadelphia. Make sure you get yourself a pour-over sometime and just go aaah, spa. While you drink your coffee, you can pick thoughtful coffee gifts that you may have been tempted to pick at another larger coffee retailer. My favorite is the La Colombe Baby Onesie.(Click to buy.) Sure, it just says “coffee baby” on it. But I owe caffeine a lot of sanity and thanks, and therefore “coffee baby” is a subliminal meditation to remind young parents that they have a friend in coffee. A gift that can soothe 4 a.m. tears? I just helped you pick it out.
I will finish my guide by pointing you to Union Market. Yes, I’m not giving a shoutout to any business in particular: you’re ALL amazing <3
The bottom line: Do yourself a year-round favor and patron our small businesses. Support your neighbors, save yourself a long drive, keep your dollars in our tax base, and discover the joy of shopping with friends who look out for you.