After more than 20 years living Puerto Peñasco, I rarely go north of the border, except to visit family. When I do go north, rarely do I shop, since I can get nearly everything I need here. The exception used to be my annual Christmas shopping trip – an exhausting ordeal I had come to dread. After a 225-mile drive, brave the crowds, trudge from store to store, then bring everything I purchased 225 miles home for wrapping, then get all to the border for mailing – crazy! Several years ago, I thought, “Wait! Why not shop here in Paradise?” Motivation was high; one trip to the post office at the border to get everything mailed – the time and miles I would save were big incentives. Once I got into the Christmas shopping frame of mind, the shops in Curios la Choya and the Old Port overflowed with gifts perfect for my family and friends.

I have learned that part of the Christmas shopping frame of mind is to refocus; by that I mean try to picture the things you see in a different setting. Those lovely embroidered blousesandstylish wool capes hanging from the rafters behind ceramic monkeys with shot glasses in their hands would look very different if seen on a mannequin in the display window of Saks Fifth Avenue!  Shelf upon shelf of Talavera dishes stacked as high as space allows just does not do justice to the individual pieces; select one lovely fluted dish, isolate it from all the others, and it reveals itself as a hand-painted one-of-a-kind work of art that is also functional.

My eyes opened to the Christmas gift potential of all kinds of things in the shops – who couldn’t use an extra blanket? The rich stripes of the traditional serapes that seem to be in every shop will add a splash of color to any decor or be perfect to keep in the car for emergencies. What about Christmas ornaments? The variety of Christmas ornaments and decorations available in local shops are amazing – there are charming traditional ornaments made of hand-woven straw, sculpted tin stars, beautifully painted ceramic ornaments, hand-blown glass ornaments, even seashells – all priced for giving. Toys are simple, often hand-made, inexpensive, and children love them. I have to mention the nacimientos – absolutely charming nativity scenes – also in every style from primitive to sophisticated, all handmade, some funky and interesting, some absolutely gorgeous.

One recent year, just before leaving to spend Christmas with family in Nevada, I learned that my stepmom would be hosting a Christmas luncheon with about 10 of her friends in attendance. There would be a $5 gift exchange. What?? I don’t know most of those people! And I am leaving tomorrow! I went to the grocery store and bought very small bottles of real (not imitation) vanilla, little packages of cinnamon sticks, 2 boxes of Abuelita chocolate tablillas, and a package of brown lunch bags. I printed gift tags entitled “Mexican Hot Chocolate Kit” with instructions for using the ingredients in red ink, and “Merry Christmas!” on the reverse side of the paper, then cut them apart and punched holes in one upper corner of each. Everything, plus a roll of thin red ribbon from my craft supplies, and the paper punch, went into a small box to go with me. Once at my destination, I filled a dozen bags, each with vanilla, a package of cinnamon sticks, and one chocolate tablilla. I folded down the tops of the bags, punched 2 holes & tied the bags closed with red ribbon, with the printed tags attached. Each gift cost under $4, and the ladies loved them! Now picture the vanilla, cinnamon sticks, a whole package of chocolate tablillas, and 2 hand painted Talavera mugs in a handmade basket, and you have the makings of a gorgeous high-end gift basket for pennies on the dollar, if you are willing to assemble the basket.

The many gift options here in Paradise will dazzle you! There are so many things in the local shops that would make perfect gifts – there truly is something for each and every one. I find the right gifts for everyone on my list, because I focus on individual items. The shopping pace is slow and friendly, and the prices are very attractive. I cannot wait for Christmas – I am so anxious to see if everyone likes his or her gift as much as I enjoyed shopping for them here in Paradise – Merry Christmas to all, no matter where you are, and no matter where you shop!