So. Christmas is Sunday.

We’re speaking to you, last-minute shopper.

And also to you, Mark LaFlamme.

Bag Lady and Shopping Siren still remember when Sun Journal’s intrepid crime reporter would bug out of work 10 minutes to midnight on Christmas Eve, sprinting to the local Rite-Aid or gas station to pick up something for his girlfriend/friends/beloved family members. Think a 15-pack of beer and a keychain with a name on it. (Probably not the right name, Mark admits now, but it was usually close.)

These days, Mark has even more people on his Christmas list. A piano teacher, for one. A self-described “crazy French lady” who bakes him banana bread every other week. Grandkids who have every toy ever made. A son-in-law who has every grown-up toy ever made — most of which Mark covets. A teenage niece. A surly sports reporter.

It’s a daunting list for nearly midnight, so we decided to take a last-minute trip to the Auburn Mall to help him out. And you. Because you, too, probably have a crazy baker, well-off in-law or surly sports fan in your life.


And gas station beer is so 2002.

• Scarf, Christopher & Banks, $19.96

Perfect for the piano teacher who is “perhaps the nicest person I’ve ever known,” according to Mark, which is saying something considering he has 2,562 virtual friends on Facebook and at least that many in real life.

All Christopher & Banks scarves appeared to be 20 percent off this week. We were particularly smitten with something called the “slub confetti scarf,” which featured a dark net weave base with red, yellow, purple and green confetti interwoven throughout. Will easily pair with almost any outfit — especially piano black. Give with a free Christopher & Banks handout that details 12 ways to tie a scarf, and suddenly the student becomes the teacher.  

• “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” Fashion Sketchbook, Books-A-Million, $15.99

For the LaFlamme granddaughter, or any kid age 8-ish to 12-ish. In this book, young Harry Potter fans can color, draw and design character outfits for the wizarding world of the 1920s. Almost educational! Great for she-of-too-many-toys from he-who-shall-be-sent-a-thank-you-card.  


• “Pete the Cat Saves Christmas,” Books-A-Million, $17.99

Pete the Cat is a no-risk hit for the age 2 to 8 set, so we loved it for Mark’s grandson. The hardcover book comes with stickers and a link to a free downloadable song. We’re going to go out on a limb and guess said song is Christmassy.

* Robosapien Blue, Go! Calendars Games & Toys, $89.99

With Bluetooth controls and 67 programmable functions, this 14-inch tall robot is just freakin’ cool — perfect for Mark’s son-in-law, we thought. According to the package, it’s “the first robot based on the science of applied biomorphic robotics.” According to us, Mark needs to wait until his son-in-law leaves the room and play with this thing HARD.

* Turkey Hickory Sampler, Hickory Farms, $16

In a word, based on a sample: Mmm. The turkey sausage was delicious, but what sold us on the sampler was the included honey and pineapple mustard. An interesting combo fit for an interesting woman who bakes banana bread twice a month. Because that’s curious, and laudable, and — based on a sample, since Mark shares with the newsroom — also delicious.


* A Thousand Wishes gift set, Bath and Body Works, $20

Mini bottles of scented body lotion, shower gel, fragrance mist and glittery pink hand sanitizer, all packaged in a sparkly pink cosmetics bag emblazoned with the word “wish” in gold. Perfect for any 14-year-old niece, including one who is “one of those brainy, athletic kids who already seems to have her life under control.” Because even the most under-control life can use glittery pink hand sanitizer from time to time.

* Spaulding hoopster wastebasket, Olympia Sports, $9.99

Trash can in the shape and color of a basketball hoop. So. Cool. Perfect for a certain hulking, surly sports reporter on Mark’s list. Or your average sports fan. Or really anyone who has ever successfully tossed a balled-up piece of paper from half a room away, thrown their hands in the air and shouted, “Three points!” That’s most of the population and there were only three wastebaskets left, so you might want to get going.

Think twice: About skipping other kinds of giving

There were still tags hanging from the Auburn Mall giving tree when we walked by Tuesday. It may be too late for you to buy for those particular kids (charities usually pick up gifts several days before Christmas), but think about donating to your favorite organization. ‘Tis the season.

Bag Lady and Shopping Siren’s true identities are protected by a pair of stylish, sweater-wearing Doberman pinschers (who will put out treats and water for Santa Paws) and the Customer Service counter at the Sun Journal. You can reach them at and

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.