Want Some Ideas for Last-Minute Holiday Gifts

Try books, gift cards and of course - chocolate!

I'm sure not all completely ready for Christmas, right? All the gifts are bought and wrapped, right?

Okay, so - oops, you forgot one or two.

If I ever ran into this issue, here are a few things I'd consider.

How About Something from the Sixth Food Group?

For many that means chocolate. And at La Maison De Bonbon, 7353 W. Madison St. in Forest Park that is French Cremes.  The chocolate confection, which came with the Steger family in 1921, is still a staple at the shop - not just at holiday time but all throughout the year. Rich and creamy, these small bites of milk chocolate are hand-crafted on site.

"There's nothing artificial in them," said Radana F. Shanahan who's owned the shop for at least two decades.

You have to call or come in to the shop, though. While people can check out the website for what's sold, you have to call or come in to the store, which can be hard to spot from the street.

Just as an aside - the truffles are to die for, as are the sea salt caramels. The caramel is not like the stuff that's folded into candy bars here. It just dissolves in the mouth and there isn't the after taste that can hang on in the confection made in the U.S.

Why sweets, and why chocolate specifically at the holidays? "Chocolate is generally calming," she said. "It's something to give to someone you love - a little piece of heaven."

There are other delights at the shop, too. Call 708-366-0777 for details.

Fair Trade is a Fair Deal for All

It would be hard not to find something for that someone at Ten Thousand Villages.

The fair trade shop has items from silk boxes for knick-knacks, chocolates and jewelry to coffee, tea and chocolate - and a whole lot in between.

Clare Leavitt, the store's manager, noted there are scarves for every taste. "The variety runs the gamut from silk to different wools, viscose and rayon in lots of different colors. reds, blues, blacks, multi-color, greens.

Other gift ideas include ornaments. They come from all over the world in all shapes, sizes, colors and materials.

How About Something to Read?

For book ideas, I contacted the Oak Park Public Library - both online and in person - and the River Forest Public Library.

Here are some suggestions for good non-fiction and fiction:


Phil Edwards, Fake Science 101: A Less-than-Factual Guide to our Amazing World. The universe is like a really big world filled with really difficult questions and lots of comets. Fake Science 101 is here to tackle those questions that are too tough to really answer. Like why is the sky blue? Where did the dinosaurs go? And what's with Einstein's hair? Sounds like an interesting read.

Oliver Sacks, Hallucinations. This book is an investigation into the types, physiological sources, and cultural resonances of hallucinations traces everything from the disorientations of sleep and intoxication to the manifestations of injury and illness.

Robert A. Caro, The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson. The fourth volume of Caro's amazing series covers LBJ from the 1960 election, LBJ’s forlorn vice presidential years to the assassination of John F. Kennedy. I can't wait until the volume on his presidency comes out.

David Nasaw, The Patriach: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy. A lot's been published, of course, about Jack and Robert and Teddy and the wives. But this one absolutely sounds fascinating. The head of this country's most well-known political clan was involved in a lot of history. I'd be particularly interested in finding out about his tenure as Ambassador to Great Britain. 


There's been some marvelous fiction this year. Here's just a few titles.

Zadie Smith, NW. This novel traces the friendship of two women who grew up in a housing project in northwest London. It's her first book in years and it has topped a lot of notable book lists.

Louise Erdrich, The Round House. The winner of this year's National Book Award for fiction is a devastating story, and an incredible read. It's about a vicious attack of a Native American woman on a North Dakota reservation and how her son comes to terms with it and his culture. Erdrich was in Oak Park earlier this year - Unity Temple was packed.

Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl. I've not read this thriller, but I hear it's a good read. It's quite popular, according to both libraries.

Michael Chabon, Telegraph Avenue. If it's anything like The Yiddish Policemen’s Union of a few years ago, it should be good.

Junot Diaz, This Is How you Lose Her. Critics have described his writing as street-wise and ribald. Worth picking up to see if it holds true.

Read here for suggestions on children's books.


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