Countdown to Christmas

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Its beginning to look a lot like Christmas, when the procrastinating multitudes of shoppers desperately descend on the local malls as the countdown to Christmas slips into single digits.

But just because you left your Christmas shopping until the last minute, your gifts can still look as if you hired Martha Stewart as your personal shopper if you take advantage of some of the unique shops Alexandria has to offer.

For a variety of distinctive gift ideas, check out Authentically Amish in the Foxchase Shopping Center. Authentically Amish specializes in handcrafted, solid wood furniture that is usually made to order. But they also carry a diverse selection of hand made, out-the-door gifts as well, such as beautifully quilted table runners and potholders and wooden train sets.

Particularly eye-catching was the clever and popular collapsible wooden basket/trivet, which would make a wonderful hostess gift.

Its one of our best sellers and is a unique conversation piece, said owner Chris St. Pierre, who works with 25 Amish families in Lancaster, Pa., to stock his store with a variety of high-quality merchandise.

For the females on your list, a trip to Sports Her Way in the Alexandria Commons Shopping Center is time well spent. Catering to women of all ages, the store has a variety of sports-related gear, clothing and accessories that include Under Armour, Sugoi and SportHill, all competitively priced and in a wide range of sizes.

Not just for the wine connoisseur on your list, Planet Wine in Del Ray features an assortment of gift ideas for any gourmet afficionado, from coffees and chocolates to specialty cheeses and wine accessories.

In Old Town, Kosmos Designs & Ideas has a great selection of unique gift ideas and stocking stuffers in all price ranges.

Although a specialist in furniture handcrafted from recycled teak, the shop is filled with smaller items such as beautiful sarongs, which would make a great pashmina alternative in the spring, and various sizes and shapes of candle holders, Balinese soaps and fun pottery pieces.

Particularly dazzling are the terracotta, hand-painted glass tile mosaic plates, which come in several colors and sizes and are reasonably priced.

They are exquisite pieces and very popular this year, said store manager Sue Henry while juggling serving hot cider and cookies to shoppers and ringing up purchases.

Treasure trove of toys
Just a few doors away is 10 22 Toys N Gifts, a newcomer to the King Street retail scene and a treasure trove of toys for kids of all ages.

A step inside 10 22 is like a step inside Santas workshop, with everything from the latest board games to model cars and airplanes, dolls, stuffed animals and remote control flyers.

For the adult kids on your list, there are brainteaser puzzles like Rubiks Cube and a large selection of the limited edition Toy Presidents line of presidential talking action figures.

Another relative newcomer to Old Town is The Sugar Cube, which sells a spectacular array of chocolates and candies, including a substantial selection of sugar-free chocolates.

Many of the best-selling confections are from local candy makers, like the wildly popular Tinkers Toffee or Brittle Bark, both great last-minute gifts and a more thoughtful alternative to a drug store box of chocolates.

I want to help promote and support other local businesses as much as possible, said owner Kim Theodore, who also stocks the areas largest selection of bulk candies.

The Sugar Cube also has a variety of gift baskets and will customize one using your own items, such as a bottle of wine or a stuffed animal, to truly personalize your gift. With shops like these, its never too late to make Martha proud.

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