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Still preparing for July 4? Some last-minute tips from around Chicago

There are several criminal schemes that target veterans, so experts say you should be wary of any unsolicited contact about your military benefits. | AP Photo/David Zalubowski

There are several criminal schemes that target veterans, so experts say you should be wary of any unsolicited contact about your military benefits. | AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Independence Day is a holiday to be celebrated with style, so we asked Chicago-based media producer and power shopper, Ellen Fiedelholtz (aka Ms. Ellie), to share some of her tips and product recommendations for this national holiday. (And don’t forget to check out our guide to surviving July 4 in Chicago if you’re staying in the city.)

Ellen loves to explore Chicago neighborhood boutiques in search of the perfect gifts for any person on any occasion, and the treasures she finds range from expensive to free. Her style of gifting means she pairs together items from small boutiques, large retailers, department stores, basement finds and her own junk drawers.

Ms. Ellie’s offers these recommendations July 4:

For a sweet tooth…

Sweet Mandy B’s (1208 W. Webster Ave.) has whipped up some scrumptious treats along with their regular offerings. On July 4, they’ll be open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., but their regular hours are 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday — Thursday, and 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Custom cake orders require 3-5 days notice, but they do have small pre-decorated cakes available for purchase, which can be personalized on the spot. Mandy B’s cupcakes are legendary and come in a variety of flavors and colors. Their sugar cookies — shaped like watermelons, hot dogs and flip flops — are “delish” and say summer to me.

The bakery is a wonderful place to enjoy time with friends, families and sweet treats. My son is a fan of the Double Doozy — two chocolate chip cookies around the most amazing buttercream frosting that I’ve ever had.

For an environmentally-conscious party…

I love the Independence Day plates, cups and bowls available in stores, but rather than buying plates decorated with just the U.S. flag for this July 4th, why not buy plain blue and red paper plates?

They can easily be mixed with either stripy or plain white napkins for a “July 4” look, and you can reuse whatever plates you might have left, and the red ones can even be used on Valentine’s Day — if they last that long.

If you wanted those New Years’ glasses, but for July 4…

I got some Independence Day spectacles from Marshalls — they sold three styles, one pair emblazoned with the word AMERICA in capitals, one pair adorned with an Uncle Sam hat, and one pair made of red star-shaped cutouts adorned with little white stars.

If they’re out of stock, or if you can’t find them at Marshalls, you can decorate an old pair of sunglasses or goggles with red, white and blue ribbons, stickers or permanent markers.

If you want to be cool…

  • Lori’s Shoes (824 W. Armitage Ave., plus locations in Northfield and Highland Park) sells more than just cool shoes — they also have cool-looking distressed baseball hats ($18.95) with designer stitching. The denim is my favorite.

  • Jayne has several locations across Chicago. The store manager, Joy Simmons, loves the Olivaceous Romper ($72), which can be paired with red shoes to look set and ready to go. The Miss Me Dress ($68) will keep you cool and fashionable all summer long, and the Lucky Brand Tiered Necklace ($39) and Earrings ($29) are the perfect accessories.

So there you have it. We’ve asked Ellen to share her gift bag advice on a regular basis, so watch the Sun-Times website for the next edition of tips from Ms. Ellie.