Sunday November 25, 2012

Like many men, I find holiday shopping an ordeal. The crowds, the choices (or lack thereof), the hurry to buy, the uncertainty about my taste: All of these conspire to create stress at this time of year.

My solution has been to
go nonprofit -- to haunt the museum shops and holiday marketplaces sponsored by our many fine cultural organizations.

I won’t find lingerie or an iPhone or reader tablet, but I will discover unique jewelry, imaginative crafts, inviting books, unusual scarves and accessories, tree ornaments, games and other delights that I can give to people I care about.

For high-tech style, I go to Hardware at Mass MoCA. For art and design books, the Clark Art Institute and Norman Rockwell Museum can’t be beat. The Williams College Museum of Art shop has some of everything.

For kids, I think the Berkshire Museum shop is a delight. Its toys, games, puzzles and whatnots are educational, visually rich and hands-on.

I stopped in Friday and found unusual games and crossword puzzles at $12.95 to $29.95; Webkinz stuffed creatures at $4.75; mermaid and dinosaur trinkets for $1.95 each that grow when submerged in water and books of magnetic animal figures and ancient Egyptian artifacts for $12.95 that kids can cut out and stick to metal surfaces.

For adults, I saw all sorts of ornaments and stocking stuffers, including pewter-style snowflakes with locket centers, at $6.


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95, inscribed with messages like "Baby’s First Christmas," or "Our First Christmas," or "A Daughter is a Blessing," or even "A Very Special Caregiver." The lockets, which can be hung on a tree, open to hold a photo.

For $3.95, I saw mini Christmas tree balls with the same kinds of inscriptions, plus all the common first names you can think of.

Beyond museum shops, places like Hancock Shaker Village and the Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stock bridge are also worth checking out. The BBG is having its annual Holiday Marketplace next weekend featuring one-of-a-kind, handmade wreaths, holiday bulbs and blooms, and regional crafts.

Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day.

Admission is free. Visit www.berkshirebotanical.org.