Many of us have sunny memories of visiting our grandparents and getting to play with the keepsake artifacts of our family history and culture.
Every picture, every doll, every plate had a story. To say nothing of the food. The "stuff-you-only-get-at-grandma's" food. Everything in a grandmother's home — from the mixing bowls to the candle holders to the merry tablecloth — is there because it is loved. Picture that, and you've got a great idea of what it's like to spend some time at Bestemors — the word means "grandmother" in Norwegian.
The shop carries a full array of traditional Scandinavian items and imports. There's a ton of new stuff too, but Bestemors gets points for not trying to be hip by leaving the past behind. There are Ekelund heritage linens and Dala horse-themed hats and shirts and funny faced trolls.
Locals place advance orders for the fresh Cardamon bread — delivered weekly from a Connecticut baker. Also, there's a generous assortment of cheese, beverages and traditional fish and other snacks. Foodies will definitely want to give the import section a second look.
And every time we've visited there's been at least one person bouncing around at the register because their Dansko shoes have arrived. These are the famously comfortable shoes people rave about, and Bestemors has the largest selection in New England. Your order only takes about a week, so your feet don't have to wait that long to be happy.
What you might not know is the shop also carries a solid selection of less-expensive greeting cards and a commendable selection of award-winning children's picture books.
Our favorite finds though, were the Gnomies ($16) the handmade felted and wooden figures with gentle smiles pictured at left, and the new jewelry arrivals — long necklaces with beads shaped into flowers, and elegant silver pieces like those seen here.
27 Coogan Blvd
Olde Mistick Village,
"The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world."
A visit to Garden Specialities brought to mind these words, written in 1897 by newsman Francis Church in response to a letter to the editor from 8-year-old Virginia Hanlon, asking if Santa Claus was real.
Church's answer has gone down in history because it was as emphatic as it was beautiful, and his message was this: Believe in wonder.
And if your imagination needs a boost, a visit to this shop is just the ticket.
Here you will find birdfeeders fashioned to look like gumball machines and perky, quirky-looking penguins carved from rock, as well as Connecticut resident Joe Impelluso's line of "Stone Beach Houses" — small structures made from piles of seastones.
There are garden pavers and glass ornaments and statuary. There are reflective lanterns and other gifts and just-for-fun items as well as a full selection of practical gardening tools and supplies.
The most popular items are the Corinthian Bells — unlike any windchime you've ever seen. Handmade in the United States, their soft, melodic notes make it seem like the wind is, in fact, singing.
"The way they resonate is just beautiful," said owner Cathy Sullivan. "It's very romatic and soothing." Sullivan noted that she is also proud to carry products for a company that guarantees their work for five years.
But the item that caught our attention were the fairy furniture sets — miniature wrought iron pieces that can be used to create a small, magical world in a potted plant or along a garden path.
And who knows. You might attract an appreciative fairy, or two.
27 Coogan Blvd, Building 8G
Do you know your patron archangel?
Satisfy your curiosity the next time you're in Olde Mistick Village. And take a moment to admire the delicate artistry of the angel-themed jewelry offered at Angel Haven. Although Norm Braverman, who co-owns the shop with his wife Maryna, doesn't consider himself an artist.
"I'm not an artist, just a thinker," he explained. "I have the vision but other people help carry it out."
His vision speaks for itself. Silver and gold pieces softly shine in the display cases lining the shop. Angels abound, but the store also carries Alex & Ani, Trollbeads and ocean-inspired jewelry. "We have jewelry of our own design and outside designs that are just awesome," he explained.
But the signature items at Angel Haven are the archangel coins. One side depicts an intricately etched angel and the other is imprinted with an inspirational symbol and theme. Norm chooses a new theme every year, making the coins both unique and commemorative.
The coins can be fitted into a wide variety of settings, a convenience which also makes them easy to personalize as gifts. Bracelets and necklaces are easily adjusted for length and style, and the clasps are solid and user-friendly — easy for young or old fingers. The shop's variety of charms — some whimsical, some poignant — can be staggered to hang at different lengths, so each stands out. The versatility shows thoughtfulness to how jewelry is worn by busy people with different clothing styles.
Some of the customers who visit the shop are looking for one-of-a-kind gifts. Many more are looking for inspiration, and for a piece that speaks to a hidden hope or prayer, he said; sometimes for healing, sometimes for strength.
"I hear stories all day long," he said. "When people come and share with you, it's a wonderful good feeling."
27 Coogan Blvd # 2A