I spent a day holiday shopping in Essex and didn’t make it to ALL the lovely shops in this festive town, but here are highlights! You, Me & The Sea The hyper-creative owner of You, Me & The Sea was busy crafting Xmas trees and garlands out of driftwood the day I stopped in. This adorable shop is brimming with giftables for hosts and hostesses, your BFF, their tots, and everyone in between. I especially loved these poppy printed canvas totes and clutches, and these bottles of exfoliating sugar cubes in coconut, peach, and lemon (a perfect stocking stuffer). Good to know, there’s a fully stocked Balloon Bar for any and all occasions and this adorable rentable champagne cart (which includes delivery). For more info: https://youmeandtheseact.com J. Alden, long a destination for classic and luxe men’s wear, is now a go-to for women’s, too. These delicate gemstone and gold necklaces caught my eye and are meant to protect the wearer (and depending on the stone), offer good fortune, positive energy, and calm. Something we ALL could use more of these days! https://www.jaldenclothiers.com Weekend Kitchen You’ll always find me here at holiday-time, browsing Nancy’s inimitable picks for the kitchen and beyond. New and vintage wares include copper holiday cookie cutters, antique glassware, current cookbooks, gravy boats, and sterling servers, my favorite Appointed notebooks, and so much more tucked into this gem of a shop. Don’t miss Nancy’s exquisite handmade letterpress cards and stationery. https://www.weekendkitchenct.com Cortland Park This lovely boutique is a renowned cashmere destination, as they design their own line of sweaters. This year, they’ve delved into down, and these sweet jackets are the perfect party covering. Hunting for a festive frock? You can find it here, too. This feather-fringed number by Trina Turk is a stunner! https://www.cortlandparkcashmere.com Gris Goods & Curiosities A great gift destination all year round, it’s even better for the holidays. Among the books and puzzles and Essex-themed goodies, you’ll also find a table full of crafting accouterments. From watercolor workbooks to hand lettering guides and quill pens, you’ll find something to keep you creating during the long cold winter. https://store.griswoldinn.com/category-s/65.htm Truffle Shots/Chocolate Geeks Chocolate addicts: If you’ve never had a Truffle Shot, you are sorely missing out! We’ve written numerous times about these decadent glasses filled with various flavors of ganache. It makes for a perfect gift or dinner party dessert. What’s new here is their stock of curated and excellent chocolate bars and cooking cocoas. Stock up on your stocking stuffers and if you’re feeling peckish while you’re there, enjoy simply the best warm chocolate chip cookie on the planet. Made fresh all day long. A treat! https://www.truffleshots.com Essex Duck: a shop devoted to rubber ducks? Yup, there is one in Essex. I’m never sure what to make of this place, but if you’re on the hunt for a rubber duck decked out as a yogi, nurse or nerd, here you go! https://www.essexduck.com Puck’s Books – 55 Main Street Oh, how I love it here. I grew up in my grandfather’s NYC bookstore amid the stacks, and there is no better time spent than browsing a bookshop. This one, helmed by a millennial of all things, specializes in rare, antiquarian, and used books. For me, this is a must-stop holiday shop, as you’ll find a volume for every sort of reader (and oh yes, decorators will be happy to find collections of leather-bounds, too). Also brilliant are these wallet-books at $35 a pop. https://www.facebook.com/PucksBooks Toys Ahoy What’s better than an old-fashioned toy shop during the holidays? Absolutely nothing. SKIP the sad big-box retailers and head here for a deep inventory of Lego, Playmobile, fire trucks, train sets, and everything else that any tot desires. https://www.toysahoyessex.com Wait, there’s more! I couldn’t make it to every single store, but there’s lots more to see, eat, and do in Essex: Plenty of women’s shopping at One North Main, J. Mclaughlin, Haystacks, and Emmy’s On Main and art galleries galore will keep you busy for the day. Lunch? Here’s our list. The festive Griswold Inn serves up lunch, dinner, and a Sunday Hunt Brunch. Olive Oyl’s is justifiably famous for their sandwiches and take-out. New American lunch, or dinner (or bar) with a river view at Carlson’s Landing. The pies at Privateers Pizza Are DELISH. The Black Seal has reopened, and it’s still one of the best Burger and Bloody spots around.