If you are scrambling to pick up some gifts for friends and family last minute, don't fret. Here are four excellent ideas of places you can go in town where you can buy pretty sweet gifts for your loved ones last minute and still come out looking like a hero. 

That you will be keeping your money local is a positive thing, and a big deal for these outfits, too. 

Merry Christmas, y'all. Assuming, you are into that sort of thing. 

:: Champaign Surplus :: 

When we did our annual Holiday Shopping Guide last month, I made it a point to highlight two independently owned boutiques that have been around Downtown Champaign for a long while. Pretty quickly, my inbox and the comments section of the magazine site started to fill up:

“What about Champaign Surplus?”

Yes, what about Champaign Surplus? Fact is, they are just as worthy of a mention and more on Smile Politely for this type of thing in that they are A) an independent store and B) in Downtown Champaign. I just didn’t think of it, because honestly, I genuinely didn’t think of it as a clothing store, but I am wrong, and when I am wrong, I like to say so, and apologize.

Listen: I don’t hike. I don’t camp. I don’t ski. I don’t wear heavy winter clothes, or active wear. I don’t have a Swiss army knife. I don’t have a canteen. I’ve never really had the desire to pursue this type of living. My parents took us to Turkey Run when we were kids, but we drove our asses back home to sleep. We just didn’t camp or ski or do any of the sort of rugged outdoor things that other people do.

But lots of people do camp and ski and do rugged outdoor things, and for literally 70 years, since 1947, this store has been serving the Champaign-Urbana metro area, and that is worthy of tremendous reverence and your shopping dollars. To read more about the store and its history (which is profound and super interesting) click here.

Beyond that, they are about as adaptive as any store around as far as combatting the endless minefield that has put local mom and pop shops up against a wall. Earlier this year, Champaign Surplus introduced the concept of a “Locally Shown Price Match”. It’s a pretty great thing.

Basically, it means that no matter what you are interested in buying, they will guarantee you the best possible price on any item over $30.00. Literally, they will do it without you even asking about it! So you don’t have to take a photo of it, or  go to Amazon while browsing. You can just buy it and rest assured that at Champaign Surplus, they are putting your needs in mind first.

That is what I call impeccable service. Honestly, it makes me want to buy a tent.

Maybe I will I buy a tent. What? You don’t think I will? Oh really? Why? Oh, OK. Yeah, fine. OK. Yeah, watch me. I am going to get a tent, all right. Just you wait. Don’t think I won’t do it! I will buy a tent and one of those gas burners, and I’ll be cookin’ baked beans and fryin’ up eggs on a chilly morning at the foothills of some mountain out in Utah before you know it. Gonna grow out a big beard, buy one of those thermal coats that protect against Siberian winds. Maybe I will buy a kayak too, fer chrissakes!

I can change my life. I can just leave. Maybe I should. I should just leave and go off the grid. All I need is a tent, and a knife, some rope, and some baked beans and whatnot. I will be good. And you will be glad.

Next stop: Champaign Surplus. I can just leave this life, damnit.

:: Jane Addam’s Book Store ::

Books. Not the sort that you listen to, or that you read on your screen, but genuine, old fashioned books. These are still a thing. I know that because I just read one. Oh sure, it wasn’t some sort of amazing high density novel or anything. It was A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, and I read it through as I do every few holiday seasons to remind me of just how dynamic and powerful those characters are, and why we keep coming back to them once a year, every year.

Jane Addam’s Book Store in Downtown Champaign is a perfect place to find rare and used books, and that can make a great, thoughtful gift for most anyone in your life. Also a mom and pop shop, the Elmores do a fantastic job of keeping the place open and relevant, three stories filled with novel after novel, tome after tome. It is good for your mental health to open up a book. You should think about gifting that piece of health to someone you love.

:: Orpheum Children’s Science Museum / Spark Musuem :: 

For those of you that have kids like me, this time of year can be a real drag. It’s OK to admit that December 26 - oh, say, April 15 is just trash around the Midwest. It’s grey and cold. It rarely snows anymore, thanks to global warming, which was caused solely and completely by Dick Cheney in the year 2004.

The days are short. It’s hard to find healthy and creative activities for the kids to do, and next thing you know, you are eating Oreos out of the carton while watching episodes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and are saying things like “Oh shit! Miyamoto Usagi? That rabbit slays!”

But to combat that, I recommend a membership to either The Orpheum Children’s Science Museum, or to Spark Museum + Play Cafe. Both offer children plenty of activities to keep them occupied for hours and will have them running around, getting the much needed exercise that they deserve.

Kids sleep better at night when they get that sort of engagement, and once the kids go to sleep, you can sort of go back to being a normal human for a few hours. It’s the only chance we all have of survival basically.

Plus, a membership to one or the other offers a Reciprocal Membership for half off the cost of admission at the other, and at literally hundreds of other Science Museums for Children across the country. As a family that travels for work frequently, it's come in the clutch more than a few times. Plus, the Children's Discovery Museum in Normal is just 45 mins away, and is one of the most impressive set ups I've seen anywhere. 

Point being, a membership does a body good, does the brain better, and helps to support the local economy in so many important ways. A great gift for just about anyone with kids between the ages of 2 - 11 years old. Solid! 

:: Talk Wild CSH ::

Owner Liz Faermark has started Champaign-Urbana’s first ever “CSH”, which is Community Supported Herbalism, and honestly, it has me pretty impressed, and excited to support it.

Talk Wild Herbs will offer four deliveries of herb-based remedies, balms, salves, aromatherapy, soaps, and more starting in 2018. Her credentials are stacked in this arena, as she works for Delight Flower Farm and at Red Herring Restaurant

If herbal remedies and homeopathic solutions are part of your well-being, I’d say this is good way to further endeavor into that part of your life. And in this case, it's one of those gifts that will literally keep on giving throughout the year. 

If you sign up before January 1, 2018, the cost is on a sliding scale — no questions asked — between $190.00 and $270.00. Pick up is free, or you can choose to have it delivered for an extra $20.00 more. 

The process is simple. Sign up on this sheet here. Done. 

So, what comes in the quarterly box? Plenty. Here is an idea: 

  • Spring: tonic teas, tinctures and body oils to wake up the body from its wintry rest
  • Summer: salves and balms to soothe sunburned skin and mosquito bites, cooling teas
  • Fall: finishing salts and infused honeys, steams and elixirs to keep the immune system strong
  • Winter: dry broth blends and teas for warming the body, oils and salves for dry skin

Whether we want to believe it or not, most of what we need to feel well, and to be well comes from the ground upon which we stand. That Liz at Talk Wild recognizes that and is willing to share it with her community is a testament to her spirit of generosity and to the sort of city we live in. 

I am going to leave you with this picture of comfrey root, which is one of the more essential herbs in organic gardening, or so I am told. It's color is so majestic and filled with life. It is the sort of picture that makes me happy to be alive. Today, officially, was the first time in six months that the days will start getting longer. We are back on the path towards the light. A CSH subscription from Talk Wild is, to me, the perfect gift for anyone who gives a hoot about their health, and about this local economy.