COOL: Christmas ornaments at WordsWorth.

I’ve gotten two versions of it, so I’m assuming a lot of you have seen it too: An e-mail warning readers not to buy gift cards, or much of anything else, at a long list of national chain retailers that are supposedly closing a number of stores or going out of business altogether. One of the versions I got even kicked things off with “This checks out on Snopes!”

Except that it doesn’t.


There was a lot more truth in one version of the e-mail I saw than in the other, but even the truthier one had some inaccuracies. Rather than try to nail down all the details here — I don’t have enough space, if nothing else — I’ll let you do your own fact-checking:



On to cheerier things.

My Favorite Thrift Store has opened in the space formerly occupied by Paddywack’s, on Van Buren just north of Markham. The store benefits Our House, a shelter for working homeless families. It’s worth sticking your head in — there’s a lot of women’s clothing, of course (and the prices are right — $15 or less for suits, $5 or less for dress pants and jackets), but also men’s and kids’ clothes, toys, household items, and a few intriguing antiques. I left with a Fisher Price Little People barn for $3 — it sells for $33 new, so even considering there weren’t actually any Little People to go along with it, it was a fantastic deal. I did not leave with a 35-piece set of Wedgewood china ($165), a Barlow pocket knife ($5), a vintage boxed piece of Kryptonite ($6.50) or an antique miniature play kitchen ($125) that the clerk said came with a note saying it was a birthday present in 1931. WANT.


Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and donations are welcome. Looked to me like they could use more toys and kids’ clothes.

• I’ll admit, the billboards sucked me in: I had to go by the Container Store to see the “Gift Wrap Wonderland” it’s been advertising so heavily. My take: I’d need a whole other Christmas shopping season just to choose the wrapping paper if you set me loose in that place with an unlimited checking account. I have never seen such an expansive collection of paper, bags, boxes (utilitarian and decorative), tags and ribbon.

To be honest, though, I had a lot more fun digging through the tables of stocking stuffers. The Container Store has a ton of them, from goofy to what-took-them-so-long-to-come-up-with-this useful. I liked the clear rubber snowglobe balls ($4), the fold-up, clip-on-your-belt-loop reusable shopping bags (in patterns/colors for men and women, $5-$10), and a round recipe conversion fridge magnet ($10) that instantly doubles, triples or halves various ingredient amounts. This would have saved me from dumping more than one batch of cookie dough in the trash, let me tell you.

• Coolest Christmas ornaments I’ve seen this season: The origami ornaments from One Hundred 80 Degrees at WordsWorth Books. There’s a Santa, an angel, a crane, a nun, a penguin and a snowman, all $13. Someone invite me to an ornament exchange so I can buy one of these and then not show up.


• And finally, the coolest bathroom I’ve ever seen in any retail establishment ever: The Heights Toy Company. If you’ve got kids of a certain age you’ve probably known about this for awhile, but I just discovered it last week. I don’t even want to describe it because it would ruin the surprise. Just look for the sign in the far back right corner that says “go down the stairs and follow the river.”


Gift suggestions? News?