That's Not All ...
By Maryann Haggerty
Sometimes when you're shopping, you just want trinkets. Tchotchkes. Stocking stuffers. Gifts without a useful purpose.
Not surprisingly, there's plenty of useless stuff available to Internet shoppers, too.
The mall staples are all there. Spencer Gifts (www. spencergifts.com) has a wide selection of stuffed "South Park" dolls, as well as black-light posters and a Elvis straw holder. Sharper Image (www.sharperimage.com), which sells a much more expensive variety of novelty, has a shopping site, too. Maybe there's someone on your list who has been hinting for the Ionic Breeze Silent Air Purifier; it's on the Web, available for $229.
Or you can venture away from the stuff available at the malls, using the Internet to find little things for dedicated hobbyists.
For instance, type "gifts" and "birdwatcher" into a search engine. Your list of options includes Bird Watcher's Marketplace (www.birdwatchers.com), a Grand Rapids, Mich., store that boasts it has the Internet's "largest selection of hummingbird feeders." The site, however, does not support point-and-click shopping; after you pick your feeders, you mail or fax in the order form. But the Wild Bird Emporium (www.wbird.com) of Auburn, N.H., has a fully computerized site that offers plenty of feeders, bird CDs and other impulse purchases.
Unfortunately, I didn't have as much luck with "gifts" and "square dancer," so I needed another idea for Mom and Dad's stocking stuffers. They're big fans of public television, particularly all those British mysteries. The PBS site (shop.pbs.org) has hundreds of videos, not just the few boxed sets in most video stores.
As any longtime Washingtonian knows, the best selection of classy little gifts isn't at the mall, it's at the museums. The giant of local museums, the Smithsonian (www.si. edu), has a shopping site, but it pales in comparison with the real thing. In any category, you will find just a few items.
And my favorite Washington museum shop, the one at the National Building Museum (www.nbm.org), makes only a token online effort. There are just a few choices although the selection of watches designed by 17 well-known 20th-century architects is impressive and orders are accepted only by mail and fax, not electronically.
So take advantage of one the main strengths of the Internet, the way it makes distance meaningless. New York's Museum of Modern Art (www.moma.org) has a well-organized site with a large selection. The categories are presented in a way that makes gift choice simple. And there's a nice educational touch you can read in greater detail about a piece and its designer.
Its bigger uptown competitor, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (www.metmuseum.org), also has scores of choices, including its line of always-lovely holiday cards and its array of jewelry reproductions. Bestsellers include plenty of those things no one ever buys for themselves, for instance, the American Watercolors desk calendar and a pretty Tiffany Grape Scarf (hint, hint).
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