We love how the PAM Museum Store doesn't sell hiking boots. Or backpacks. Or bicycle helmets. In fact, nowhere in its newly remodeled 2,700 square feet of unique shopping space is there a single item that says "outdoors," unless it's that coffee table book of Monet landscapes over by the entrance. We're glad that the first leg of Phoenix Art Museum's $41 million expansion project to be completed was this, our favorite place to shop for others. Because as much as we love art, what we really love is buying handcrafted jewelry, fancy art books, posters, cards, mobiles, and Yixing teapots for our friends who don't like to venture much past their own front doors. Fans of the out-of-doors might also like PAM's wide selection of unusual children's toys and activity sets, and its many exhibition-related items, but we know for a fact that our shut-in pals love this shop's assortment of Rosenthal china giftware and special-edition postage stamps, neither of which you'll find on a hiking trail anywhere near you.
Last December, we became enamored of the little wire Christmas trees we spotted at our favorite eatery, but our waiter didn't know where the little guys came from. We set out in search of them, and wouldn't you know it? We found them at Crown Import, our favorite place to shop for interior home décor year-round. During that pre-holiday trip, we found not only our fave wire trees (in three different sizes!) but some super-snazzy, all-wood nutcracker soldiers, as well. Those guys marched around under our tree and past all the other great stuff we bought at Crown, like the blown-glass Russian ornaments (one of them a tiny purple fig!) and a felt tree skirt hand-stitched with little partridges in pear trees. Crown is the one place we know of where we don't have to count the days 'til we can start shopping for Christmas stuff, because they sell most of their holiday items year-round. We're ho-ho-hoing a full three months before Christmas, and it's all because of Crown.
Like a favorite sweater, we can't resist this cozy, comfortable Scottsdale shop for all of our hand-knit needs. Sure, all knit shops have yarn, needles, and resources for various types of projects. But unravel these common threads and you'll find Arizona Knitting's true talents: customer service and knowledge woven into an environment that stresses community and comfort. Staffed by needle-wielding pros, and packed to the rafters with display pieces, this shop guarantees that you will find the perfect yarn for the perfect project. Weave in an abundant selection of commercial, imported, and handmade yarns, beautiful needles in every shape and size, and an up-to-date, complete book and pattern selection, and you've got an easy winner. Year after year, like a pattern repeat, Arizona Knitting and Needlepoint casts off any doubts that there is a finer knit shop in town.
Beading is often shoved in the category of trite hodgepodge hobbies like needlepointing or quilting. But if you check out Scottsdale Bead Supply, the swankiest bead-pushing venue in the Valley, you may see the activity in a different light. The store takes beading out of Grandma's gnarled paws and elevates the hobby to a high-class and glamorous profession. With a newly remodeled building, the gorgeous space holds endless bins and walls covered with hanging beads that gleam in the window's natural light. Everything from glass to fine stones and etched metals can be picked through here. And if you don't know the difference between thread nippers and bead reamers, the store offers classes to get you up to speed. With an in-house gallery displaying beautifully crafted jewelry and a resident kitty napping amongst baskets of beads, the place can be a nice weekend pit stop for anyone — not just bead junkies.
So, we were looking for some "stuff" to make some "art," but we knew exactly nada about jewelry-making. Just for the heck of it, we waded into the Phoenix branch of this family-owned and operated store and tried to look pathetic.

It worked! A very friendly and knowledgeable lady sidled up to us, grilled us about what we had in mind, and then took over, telling us exactly what we could do for as little as $100. Sure enough, we walked out with all kinds of cool, mixed-media materials, and were even able to use them. The store also offers gift boxes, traveling cases and a variety of silver and gold chains, fairly priced. But what delighted us most was the service, which was worth its weight in gold.

Every child is an artist — at least to Mom, who lovingly taped our rudimentary crayon drawings on the fridge. But when they grow up, only a few become real artists, while the rest of us never improve beyond stick figures. Artist Cindy Iverson just doesn't believe that. She and her husband Gary opened a bright, modern paper store stocked full of scrapbooking and craft supplies that'll make anyone look like a pro. Shelves and racks brim with Japanese paper, hand-soldered jewelry trays, stickers, knobs, and decorative papers sporting patterns from country checks to preening cats.

The staff is happy to help you determine the sturdiest paper for origami or locate the perfect antiqued keyhole knob for your family album. See what's possible with paper in the shop's small art gallery or do-it-yourself at classes on bookbinding, paper-making or letterpress. Maybe you won't come out a master artist, but at least you'll go home with something fridge-worthy.

It began innocently enough. We wanted to commemorate our husband's 1978 bar mitzvah with a scrapbook of mementoes we'd recently found (the invitation; the snapshots of him reading from the Torah; the commemorative blue denim yarmulke handed out to each guest), and ended up with a full-fledged hobby inspired by our new favorite store.

Scrap Happy Sisters is more than just a great place to buy the coolest scrapbooking supplies (although it's certainly that, too); it's a way of life, one involving pretty paper both hand- and machine-made; miles of swell stickers and trim; boxfuls of memory-enhancing page templates, and row upon row of beautifully bound books to paste them into. We met several kindred spirits on our first visit there — people who know the importance of finding the perfect photo corner, who warned us against using anything but the most acid-free paper for mounting old playbills, who didn't laugh when we asked for those little wax envelopes for pressing flowers in.

We're looking forward to attending one of Scrap Happy's one-hour digital scrapbooking classes, and we're counting the days 'til the next "Late, Late Nighter," the store's Friday-night bash where scrapbookers hang until the wee hours (some of the parties go 'til 2 a.m., and everything in the store is 15 percent off!), nibbling complimentary snacks and comparing glue sticks. Frankly, we're glad to have become Scrap Happy.

If you're hot for grommet tools and ink pads, or if hearing names like Our Lady of Rubber, Staampotique Originals and Stampington & Co. gets you excited, you're definitely a Frenzy Stamper. This tiny shop is packed with stamps in every conceivable pattern and size, as well as enough glitter and ink to fill every sheet of fancy paper in the place. We have no idea what a grommet tool is — and, frankly, no desire to learn — and we still managed to fill our arms with various hues of hot pink stamp pads, teeny paper flowers and several shades of glitter. We don't know what we'll do with any of it (probably hoard it, like we do all our other unused craft supplies), but it's good to know that Frenzy Stamper has plenty of classes to instruct us in the ways of the stamp world, if ever we're so inclined.
Yes, we know that most of you still work 9-to-5-type jobs, punching in, punching out (and wanting to punch the supervisor about half the time!). Lucky us, we don't. That's not to say, though, that this journalism stuff takes anything less than, say, 60 hours (okay, boss, so it's only 50) in an average week. Some of us still tromp down to the office every weekday and stare endlessly at our computers with the intensity of Talmudic scholars.

Others prefer an off-the-beaten-path locale where we can get a little work done in our own weird way. In this case, we mean setting up shop (and laptop) in a corner of a popular north Phoenix restaurant that's one part coffee shop, one part health cafe — observing the world of pretty people in spandex, business types in suits, young mothers with their little ones, and the occasional big-time athlete hanging out.

The friendly folks who work the spacious room at Soma don't give a hoot if you take up space for hours on end, sipping on an iced tea as you "craft" another masterpiece at the keyboard (or just try to get the damn thing done). In fact, Soma's staffers embrace the restaurant's regulars, both figuratively and (if you're lucky) literally. And here's another thing we've seen for ourselves: We'd bet as many deals of all kinds get brokered at this eatery as anywhere around.

We know, we know. The coffee thing is over-priced, over-hyped and over-caffeinated. Who really needs four shots of espresso a day? Um, we do. Which is why we were curious, on a recent Saturday morning, about a big sign in front of a tiny drive-thru just off the Arizona State University campus. The sign read, "FREE COFFEE."

We burned rubber, getting in line. And it was there we learned all about Dutch Bros. Coffee, a chain of coffee shops based in the Pacific Northwest. Sound familiar? Not quite — these folks are from Oregon (well, they're actually Dutch, but they started the company in a tiny town called Grants Pass, Oregon) and they own almost a hundred shops, rather than almost a gazillion. The coffee was cheaper than the other guy's (even on a day when you have to pay) and tasted great, with specialty flavors like Almond Joy and Milky Way. We even loved the cute cups, decorated with a windmill and a bunch of tulips.

The D.B.'s motto is "All roads lead to Dutch Bros." Not quite — at least, not yet, here in Arizona. But if you're in Tempe, we recommend you stop by; syrups and whipped cream are always free, and even the tall, er, we mean small drink comes with an automatic double shot. Truth be told, it's more of a drive-thru than a house, but such is the way of our coffee culture these days.

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