Growing up my favorite gifts from my mom were always the little, unique, unexpected finds that she could only have found in little, unique, unexpected shops.
One of a kind miniature doll house furniture, hand-painted music boxes, a butterfly pendant with the artist's signature on the wing.
Yes, my mom was brilliant at discovering gifts and to this day most of them now live in my daughter's room and, no surprise, they appear to be her favorite belongings as well.
So, this is my love letter to the small shops. The places owned by people you won't find in the malls or online but instead must be tripped upon while walking through your neck of the woods or discovered while on a journey to a foreign neighborhood away from your comfort zone.
This is how I shop. This is where I shop. I search for that one-of-a-kind very special something for that very special someone.
It's not hard to do. I go to Monrovia, Larchmont, South Pasadena, Sierra Madre, La Canada, Los Feliz and, of course, right here in Studio City. And when I'm visiting other cities or countries I try to find the streets that seem less traveled, the window with a cat asleep inside, the stoop where the owner is watering a plant, the doorway with a welcoming welcome mat.
These people need me just as much as I need them.
Without them I would have never found the sailor stacking doll that sits on my daughter's desk, the periwinkle blue dress that was always a favorite for New Years Eve, the spoon that hangs with my mother's incredible spoon collection, the gold tooth fairy box that has held all my daughter's teeth.
And, even more than the items... the stories. The tales behind the items, the history of the shop and the owner, the keepers of the keepsakes.
Over this past weekend my daughter and I had the best time "small shopping." It was so much fun that I thought I'd simply write a column to remind folks to do it more often.
Bring your daughter, son, best friend, lover or simply a date with yourself and take a moment to drive somewhere. Park your car. And walk.
You will most likely enter a shop where coffee and cookies are being offered, people are talking to each other, soft music is playing, and treasures are for sale.
And, perhaps, you might just help keep a "We're Open" sign in the window of one more small shop.