Would you believe I almost left town without a gift for the friends who invited us to stay at their home in the mountains? Dashed to the Galleria at 8 p.m. last night (great time to shop! No one there, and the center is open until 9 p.m.). I was headed to Ampersand, where I know I can always get pretty guest napkins or towels in a lovely holder – not the kind of thing one usually buys for herself, but nice to have for company and fairly easy to pack! But on the way, I felt the pull of ATAZ. Such a happy place to shop. They’re featuring some stylish bamboo kitchen accessories and bowls that are reasonably priced, but not the kind of thing I wanted to deal with packing. The Forte tea sets make for another handsome gift (except my husband told me these friends are more beer than tea), and you can’t go wrong with a striking picture frame. Yet at the last minute, I grabbed a game: Table Topics. I liked it as much for the simple, but intriguing conversation starters that I’m sure will get us through any weekend lulls, as for the contemporary clear acrylic container the cards come in. Sold!

When I have more time, I’m a big fan of buying hostess gifts – especially with a Minnesota theme – at the General Store of Minnetonka.

Just got word that Hot Mama will donate $25,000 of trendy merchandise to Hope Chest for Breast Cancer’s "A Night of Denim & Diamonds" gala on Oct. 5. Everything not sold at the event will go to the Hope Chest stores in St. Paul and Orono, where you can be sure it will be priced ridiculously cheap and you can rest assured your dollars are going to a good cause. Hope Chest profits benefit breast cancer victims in Minnesota.


I stopped by Gaviidae Common Thursday for a sneak peek of Len Druskin Man, which opens to fashion followers (and everyone else) on Friday. Given the downtown locale and men’s-only apparel, I’d been thinking this store was going to be more about dressing up. But much like the Galleria Len Druskin store for men and women, it’s more about dressing well — on your own terms, which means a display of vintage-styled North Stars, Vikings and Minnesota Wild tees by the front door (guess what I’m getting my husband and bro for the holidays!), tons of premium Lendruskinman1 denim, cashmere sweaters, fitted and funky shirts and fashion forward lines like Modern Amusement. "We had to stay true to ourselves," says CEO Michael Druskin. True to the Druskin vibe, the store is packed. But it seems more manageable than Galleria. Don’t miss the refrigerator in back, stocked with free sodas and Len Druskin-brand water. Oh, and if you know a guy who doesn’t like to golf, tell him to consider bonding with his buds over a private shopping party at Len Druskin Man. Can’t wait to hear if that catches on! In other Len Druskin news: watch for an expanded swimwear section at the Galleria store.

Could Steve & Barry’s save Lindsay Lohan? This was the question I found myself pondering as I spoke to the very poised, straight laced rising star Amanda Bynes, whose new clothing collection, dear by Amanda Bynes, is now at Steve & Barry’s stores. Bynes is 21. She, like Lohan, has been famous since she was a little girl. Her profile rose considerably this summer with her role in hit movie "Hairspray." Now, she’s got another movie coming out and the new clothing line seems to be keeping her outfitted and out of trouble. Of course I had to ask her about Lindsay and Britney. She handled it gracefully, saying she couldn’t comment on them – all she knows is this is a job and one she hopes to hang on to for a long time to come. (Read more in the Monday, Aug. 20 Pioneer Press.)  As for Bynes’ collection – which she, like every celeb, swears she is totally involved in designing (which entails a meeting every two weeks) – it targets a younger shopper than Sarah Jessica Parker’s Bitten. Jumpers, minis, hoodies and skinny jeans. All $20 or less. You’ve got to give Steve & Barry’s its props for continuing to crank out the new collections. However, I must say my Bitten t-shirts have not come through the wash very well. That’s what you get for $7.98.

Who cares what the models wore. Let’s talk about me. So here’s how my Shop Girls co-host Alexis Walsko and I looked in our Joynoelle dresses at Glamorama last night, and second picture of Minneapolis designer Joy Teiken with all of her eager subjects: Alexis, Lori & Julia and me. Tune in to Shop Girls this morning on FM107.1 from 10 to noon for the scoop on the show, the party and the fashion.

Allisonandalexisatglam_4 Joynoellewithhersubjects_2

Phones have been ringing off the hook today at Macy’s Minneapolis Oval Room – since Channel 5 morning anchor Vineeta Sawkar got a little carried away reading my article in today’s St. Paul Pioneer Press on Macy’s retiring Santabear after this holiday season. Sawkar said something to the effect of "First the Oval Room, now Santabear." She probably meant it more generally, like, the Oval Room has gone down hill since Macy’s took over, but viewers apparently took her very literally and immediately started calling the store to find out if the Oval Room is kaput. It is not. In fact, Macy’s announced yesterday it is adding two new Oval Room lines, CNC by Costume National and Y’s by Yohji Yamamoto. My guess: The callers were most interested in snagging some designer deals.

I’m a big fan of the Excelsior & Grand development in St. Louis Park. Too often, when a "downtown" pops up in the middle of a suburb, it looks like a phony facade in the middle of a huge parking lot. But Excelsior & Grand really seems to fit in. The development looks urban, but has fountains and greenery that make it an attractive gathering spot. The stores (including Q., Shorty’s Loft, Max’s, Shu and Lulu & Luigi) are locally owned and unique, there’s a variety of tenants from dog boutique to nail salon, the restaurants are varied, there’s a great park just down the hill and plenty of paths, and who could forget: Trader Joe’s.

Nevertheless, I just got word that Che Bella, one of the original Excelsior & Grand retailers, has decided to move to Grand Avenue in St. Paul. Great news for Grand (read more about that in the St. Paul Pioneer Press in the coming weeks – the new shop opens early September). But I’ve heard some rumblings that others at Excelsior & Grand are having a bit of trouble. One of the culprits: parking. Indeed, it’s tough to get one of the few spaces right next to the stores, but there is ample ramp parking nearby. I guess having to walk a bit to the shops is a little too urban for some. What do you think? Do you shop at Excelsior & Grand? If not, why not? Is it the stores, is it the parking, is it something else? Hate to see a promising new district with vacancy signs.

Kenpavesatmoa_4I can’t take everything I read in People magazine as gospel, right? So I say to celebrity hairstylist Ken Paves, you did Eva Longoria’s hair for her wedding, right? (I’m a reporter – it’s my job to confirm the facts.) And he says: "You should do your Googling, girl!" Seems Paves is quite comfortable living his life on the pages of gossip rags. He appeared at Mall of America Friday to hype hairdo hair extensions and was a bit miffed to find no more than 20 in the crowd at the start of his show. The mall blamed the bridge tragedy for low traffic – several morning tv and radio interviews were cancelled. Paves was originally supposed to appear on an outdoor stage set up for back-to-school fashion shows, but they moved him inside when no one showed up to at least attract shoppers. Seems only celeb-bingers such as myself know the name Ken Paves. Google, and all. The show did go on, and Paves made the best of it, switching the ‘dos of his J.Lo dancers in mere seconds while gyrating his tiny hips and throwing hair extensions into the audience (that help build the crowd). The man does love his hair extensions. Look for my article on that – and find out what he said he’d do if Jessica Simpson ever broke up with him – in the St. Paul Pioneer Press next Sunday (Aug. 12).