Elves are Santa's handy helpers when it comes to keeping watch over who's being naughty or nice.
This holiday season, you can "adopt" elf dolls for $29.99 from a variety of Midlands stores through the Elf on the Shelf and Elf Magic programs.
Both types of elves - the reserved and shy Elf on the Shelf and the mischievous and sometimes raucous Elf Magic, according to the tales - take nighttime trips back to the North Pole to report to Santa on your family's behavior.
The Elf on the Shelf comes with a decorative storybook and watches the household from afar - at the top of a Christmas tree or on a high shelf.
Part of the fun for children is seeing where the elf has moved each morning.
"Every time he's moved, you know that he's reported back to Santa whether you've been good or bad," said Melodie Ingwersen, owner of Creative Kids Toy Shop on Saluda Avenue in Five Points.
Elf Magic also reports back to Santa. But these elves can be carried around during the day.
They come with a poem, a Santa bag and a bottle of North Pole snowflakes.
Elf Magic can be requested through a letter to Santa, which can be dropped off at a mailbox at Creative Kids.
When you're finished playing with it for the day, it comes to life while you are sleeping.
"At night, in order to let them go free, you sprinkle snowflakes on them," Ingwersen said.
Some are more mischievous than others, depending on the personality of the family, she said. Some elves have been known to toilet-paper a living room overnight or dump clothes on the floor; others might merely leave notes around the house.
Sometimes, the elves will be called back to the North Pole for a few days to help finish a project and then will reappear when they are finished. (This usually happens when the family is extra busy, too.)
Ingwersen said both types of elves bring an extra dash of magic to the holiday season.
"There's a little bit of that excitement each morning about what has the elf been up to," she said.
Elf on the Shelf has dozens of host stores in the Midlands. Details: elfontheshelf.com
Elf Magic is hosted in the Midlands at Creative Kids. Details: elf-magic.com
If you want to skip the elves and go straight to the big old Jolly Elf himself, check out the tech-savvy Santa waiting at Columbia Place mall on Two Notch Road.
Children can still sit on his lap to whisper Christmas wishes, but parents also can use shopcolumbiaplace.com to get video messages about how he and his elves are preparing for Christmas Eve, as well as download a Dear Santa letter and coloring pages.
Visitors can sign up their children to receive text messages from Santa throughout the season. To cover his cell phone bill, he charges $5.49 for three messages and 99 cents for a Christmas morning message.
Use the Web site to get information on Santa's hours, photo packages and discounts and a holiday coupon book.
More details: (803) 788-4678
Caffeine fix in Irmo
Looking for a caffeine fix in Irmo? Look no further. Coffee Cabana is now open at 6903 St. Andrews Road.
It opens at 7 a.m. weekdays serving a variety of coffee drinks and some pastries. Lunch options include a homemade chicken salad sandwich, deli sandwiches, soup and a variety of coffees and smoothies.
Owner Tara Kleinschmidt said she uses as many local products as possible, including Turtle Creek Coffee.
The store also hosts events, including baby showers and Bible study groups. And she plans to bring in local musicians and host a poetry night on Fridays.
After the first of the year, the shop will become a cyber cafe with four computers. Patrons can buy membership cards for computer time.
Grand opening celebration is 5-7 p.m. Dec. 15.
- Want to give art as a gift this holiday season? You can find more than 100 pieces for less than $1,000 each at if ART Gallery, 1223 Lincoln St., in the Vista. Owner Wim Roefs said people are still buying art, but they aren't spending as much on it. So he has stocked the gallery with pieces priced from $150 to $999. The gallery features dozens of artists from South Carolina and several throughout the country, the Netherlands and Germany. Info: ifartgallery.blogspot.com
- Shop Saturdays. Verve, a furniture and home accessories store, has added Saturday hours. The store, at 1127 Gregg St., will be open 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays. Weekday hours will remain the same. Info: verveinteriors.com