Good. Clean. Fun.
I must begin this post with a confession: I’m not a shopper. I don’t keep up with fashion trends. I have two pair of adult high heels, one of which I got for my rehearsal dinner 26 years ago. If I do find myself in a gift store, I can’t summon a single name of someone who might be due something soon. Think, Heather, think I say as I rattle off the categories: birthday, baby shower, wedding. I try to picture the members of my extended family, their special dates, anniversaries. But no— that special someone will not occur to me until I’m out of the store and well down the road, at which point I’ll let out an aaarghy, defeated sigh. There is a moment of dread as I realize that I will have to go back out somewhere, get something for someone. And then, like a gardenia-scented epiphany, I remember: Soaptopia.
Soaptopia is a little store that opened in my Mar Vista neighborhood about 5 years ago. It is the only store that meets every shopping need I have in my non-shopping soul: it’s local, it’s affordable, it’s fun, it’s practical, and no one ever wants to exchange anything I get them there. I love everything about this store. Love that it’s a small business that sells good, pure, all-natural, homemade products. Love that all the crazy smells, the vanilla and the orange blossom, the peppermint and patchouli, the rose and the almond, all waft around in a crazy swirl. Love all the wacky soap names: Beauty and the Beach, Divine Dreamsicle, The Grapefruit Gatsby. Love the people who work there, who always treat your quest for the perfect soap or oil or lotion like it was a matter of global importance, and then package whatever little thing you buy in such an artful way as to make it look as if the recipient must be the most special person on your entire list. At Soaptopia, it always feels like Christmas.
Tomorrow a dear friend of my son’s in turning 21. “We’re taking her out at midnight for her first bar drink,” Graham told me as we drove home from lunch. We were almost there, inching towards Venice Blvd. And just like that, I smiled and changed lanes.
“I think I’d like to get her something.” He didn’t balk or ask to be dropped off first. He went eagerly in and immediately got caught up in the fun and the smells and the loofahs and the bristle brushes. I had gotten him an old-fashioned shaving brush and a cedar tub of shea butter-based foam for Christmas a few years back. He was thinking of getting his Dad a replacement tub for his own set this year. “I noticed he was running low,” Graham said. He’s thoughtful that way.
Fifteen minutes later we walked out with a gift box that displayed the soap and the slathering oil and a stick of natural lip balm. I paid for it all with a $20 bill and got change. If you need to buy a gift, this is the way to go.
Which bring up the issue of needing to buy gifts at all. There was great ad in the L.A. Times this morning for a group called JustGive. They’re not selling anything. They’re not asking you to buy anything. They’re simply encouraging all of us who know full well we don’t need anything at Christmas to indulge our spirit of generosity by giving gifts to charities. This is not a new idea but one that needs our support. You can find out more at redefinechristmas.org.
One final shill: the little ceramic angels from St. Andrew’s Abbey, my favorite monastery. Their online store— saintandrewsabbey.com— is the only place on earth where you can buy a personal angel for everyone on your list—from a beagle lover to a Buddhist to a bookkeeper— a small, daily reminder that whoever we are and whatever we love, God has his angels watching over us.
So there it is in a nutshell. Everything you need to know about holiday shopping. Give to charity (including monks). Or shop locally. And if you must buy, just remember, everyone needs soap.