With only two days left until Christmas (likely less depending on where you shop) filling your last minute gift needs can be stressful.  And keep in mind, this isn’t any regular two days…a trip across town that would normally take ten minutes is going to drag on as if you are on D Street waiting for the drawbridge to lower.

So, what to do?  It is one thing if you already know what you are going to buy but if you don’t, this is the worst time of year to wander around the mall trying to get creative.  I have a couple of suggestions that might help.

The first suggestion is to head downtown.  I know, that sounds like a crazy idea but here in Petaluma it is actually a great idea.  Just about everything you could ever want is within a few blocks and if you aren’t sure what you are looking for I guarantee inspiration will hit you within the first couple of shops you visit.  Plus, the downtown is filled with all sorts of holiday cheer this time of year.  I can’t say it is a winter wonderland, but if we had a bit of snow it sure would come close.

What kind of stuff are you looking for?  Art supplies, books, cooking/kitchen, clothing, toys, home and garden, chocolates, art, wine, jewelry, trinkets…even tools???  They can all be had downtown so stop taking your money off to the malls of Rohnert Park and Santa Rosa.  And if you aren’t sure what your gift recipient wants exactly, get them a gift certificate for their favorite local shop.  Personally, I have always preferred a gift certificate to a gift that isn’t well thought out.  A lot of money is wasted each year because we feel obliged to buy gifts but often don’t know the likes and dislikes of our loved ones well enough to make the gift buying decision without them.

And here is the best part about a gift certificate – even if you can’t make it into the store before the fat man has cleaned you out of all your cookies and milk, you can always create your own gift certificate in the form of a nicely written card letting your sweetie know that their gift certificate is on the way.

Here a few of my favorites – when I see these under the Christmas tree I know I am going to have a good holiday.

Rex Ace Hardware – I know what you are thinking… “a hardware store???”, but you will be surprised at how much they have to offer.  First, their prices often beat Home Depot and Lowes even before you factor in the time and cost of driving to Rohnert Park.  Recently I have gotten a ladder and some Romex (electrical wire) for a couple of home projects.  Both were identical to the Home Depot brand and both were cheaper than Home Depot.  They also have an expansive home décor and kitchen section.  When I can’t think of what to get for someone, a few minutes wandering around Rex always sparks my imagination.  (They even have things like toilets and water heaters so check with them first before driving to RP.)

Tuscan Gardens – speaking of décor, head across the street from Rex and you will find some incredible gifts for the home and the garden.  I particularly like their selection of door mats and they seem to be the only place in town with “Petaluma” clothing.

And don’t forget Haus Fortuna over in the Theater District.  The owner, Karla, has filled her store with all sorts of great gifts for all ages.

iLeani and Sonoma Cutlery also have great kitchen and home gift ideas.

Just down from Sonoma Cutlery is Copperfield’s Books, always a great gift certificate location.

For clothing there are a lot of great choices downtown.  From Stink to Nan Winters to Louis Thomas the selection rivals any of the local malls.  The GF’s personal favorite right now is Shunzi.  Their colors are fantastic and she says the fit is much better than what you find in the box stores.

Jungle Vibes and Heebe Jeebe are always good spots to shop for fun gifts for the kids that you won’t find in any mall store.

The art galleries are too numerous to mention but many of them, such as Gallery One, have all sorts of great little gifts, if buying a full size painting is not on your to-do list.  And if you want to get something framed, stop in to Pelican Gallery and get a gift certificate.  That way your loved one can pick their set-up once the shopping season has slowed down.

How about a nice bottle of wine, or some chocolate, or even a pie or two?

Stop in to Vine and Barrel and ask Jason for some suggestions.  Don’t be intimidated by the selection of his shop; he has wines in every price range and often has them for less than what you are paying for the same bottle at Safeway or Luckys.

Chocolate??? – I can’t walk by Viva Cocolat without stopping in to visit Lynn and see what is new behind the chocolate counter.  Just yesterday I had what appeared to be a small pyramid made of white chocolate and stuffed with an incredible filling.  Keep in mind that recipients always offer your some chocolate back when they open their gift so it is kind of like a little gift to yourself.  Everyone likes the gift of chocolate but Sees candy just doesn’t cut it anymore.  We are sophisticated eaters so stop stuffing your pie holes with crappy chocolate – treat your taste buds to some holiday cheer by visiting and gifting Viva Cocolat confections.

Speaking of pie holes, don’t miss Petaluma Pie Company.  Although it may be too late to order a pie for Christmas (double check with Angelo and Leena to make sure), you can still stop in for lunch and pick up gift certificates.  If they still have it, try their salmon pot pie.  I am not a fan of fish at all, but that pot pie makes my top ten best things to eat in Petaluma.

POP-UP STORE – Petaluma Pie is expanding but until their renovations are complete, their new space is housing a bunch of local artists selling affordable gifts.  It is definitely worth a look.

Jewelry?  We have a couple of great jewelers here in town and a jewelry gift certificate goes a long ways towards warming your loved one’s heart.  Whether it is J Solar, Rocklin, or Hollingsworth, you are going to get a great deal and great service.

And last but not least, let’s talk about restaurants.  In my mind there is nothing better than a restaurant gift certificate under the tree.  It almost feels like two gifts – the one of anticipation of a great meal and the one of using it to take family and friends to my favorite local eateries.  These are by far the best gifts, especially if you are short on ideas.  We all like to eat and whether you get someone a gift certificate from one of their regular haunts, or introduce them to something new, they, and their taste buds will be grateful.

As you can guess, the top of my list would be a Sugo gift certificate.  If you don’t know of them or have heard of them but have never been, check out any one of my former blogs to read more about my favorite restaurant in town.

But I have some other favorites too.

Everest – best Indian food I have had in a long time.  It doesn’t seem to matter what we order off the menu; everything is excellent.  And, if you haven’t tried them before, they have a discount couple listed on restaurant.com.

TAPS – great beer but an even greater burger.  This is by far, hands down, the best burger in Petaluma…and I know a thing or two about burgers.

Hitech Burrito – best fish taco in my opinion (they use Mahi-Mahi) and I can’t resist their ‘ritto dog.  This chain is locally owned and serves up on the best in fresh ingredients.

For authentic Mexican, hit Mi Pueblo.  The food is great, is very affordable, and they keep their heaters turned up high.  Many a time I have stopped in for pick-up but stayed because the place was so warm and inviting.

Maguires – They have my favorite fish and chips but just about everything on the menu is tasty and the atmosphere is always warm and lively.

Wild Goat – best pizza and salads in town…not to mention some incredible deserts.  And they serve gluten free pastas, pizzas, and deserts if you ask.

And certainly not last or least (but the last one I will list right now) is Cordoza’s Deli.  Bonnie makes some truly incredible food, including a chili that would win awards and killer breakfast burrito that is the size of your head.  But it is her pulled pork that really gets my juices flowing.  A gift certificate from Cordoza’s would be a pleasant surprise under my Christmas tree.

Also, check out restaurant.com.  They are running a deal right now where you get $25 certificates for only….$1!!!   (Usually it is good for $25 off a $35 or higher bill.)  You can either buy for a specific restaurant or you can pick up a restaurant.com gift certificate.  The coupon code is JOY.  – don’t forget to tip the wait staff on the total bill prior to the deduction, unless they have already added it (don’t be afraid to ask.)

The great thing about restaurant gift certificates is that often you will get invited to join the party when the gift certificate finally gets used.

There are so many great places to eat and shop at in downtown Petaluma that I guarantee you will be able to finish out your shopping list in short order with one visit.  If you walk the Boulevard, Western, and Kentucky Streets you are sure to fill all your stockings.  Santa will thank you for helping him out.

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