Britt Neubacher and her Tend terrariums are a San Diego success story. But to stay on top, you've gotta innovate. This year, she introduced a new style of terrarium— she calls them "Micro Cosmic Pyramids" because of the rare succulents they contain. They're, arguably, more masculine than previous terrariums—perfect for a hip bachelor pad or corner-office desk. Find them at Pigment (3827 30th St. in North Park).
Message on a bottle
If you think wine-as-a-gift is a cop-out (we don't), make it a little more personal with an engraved bottle. San Diego company Etching Expressions pretties up bottles of popular brands of wine, champagne and spirits (or, you can supply your own) with custom engraving. You can even get Dad's mug custom-etched and hand-painted on a bottle. Impressive stuff. Prices vary depending on order size.
Florida designer Martha Bennington's combined her talent for jewelry making with her love of scavenging to create cuff bracelets ($18) made from discarded license plates. Each one's unique, with a soft backing and a unisex appeal. Find the industrial-retro-chic accessories at Mixture (2210 Kettner Blvd. in Little Italy).
To fully understand the awesomeness of this little camera beast, you have to watch the video of how it works. It shoots digital photos and video (the lens is in its eye) and picks up sound, too. There are little magnets on its paws, so you can affix it anywhere. Pick one up at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park with a small, attachable monitor ($285).
There's something perfect about this tote—maybe it's the red ink against the dark denim background, or the beatnik typeface. Whatever it is makes this a perfect gift for a West / East Coast transplant or someone who eschews fancy handbags. Find it for $20 at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego's X Store (700 Prospect St. in La Jolla).
Sometimes, a gift's packaging is as cool as the gift itself. Design-minded coffee purveyors Coffee & Tea Collective (2911 El Cajon Blvd. in North Park) has available a handful of attractive gift sets. We particularly like the simple brown-glass 16-ounce container of freshly roasted beans and diner-style mug. Find it at the shop or online for $25.
Speaking of packaging, (see "Cool beans"): Harney & Sons tea tins are so pretty, especially when there's a bunch of them stacked next to each other. You can find the eye-candy display at Rust General Store in Old Town (2720 Calhoun St.). Pick up a tin or two ($9.50 each) to give a tea drinker. The Vanilla Coromo comes highly recommended. (If tea's not what you're looking for, check the back wall at Rust for equally cool spice tins.)
While tea shopping at Rust General Store, we couldn't help but spot the display of Dietz lanterns. Modeled after the ones sold by the iconic lamp company in the mid- to late-1800s, they're powered by kerosene or lamp oil (or citonella for outdoor use) and come in red, blue, black and silver. Get one for backyard barbecuers or someone with an eye for unique-yetuseful decorative items. The lamps range from $19 to $26 depending on size.
Back to basics
It's the modern hipster's weapon of choice: a slingshot. Not any old slingshot, but one made from an actual tree branch. Created by The Original Tree Swing, you can pick one up at Aloha Sunday (3118 University Ave. in North Park) for $22. It's recommended for ages 5 and older, but we can think of a few guys five (six? seven? eight?) times that age who'd love this.
Jen Jansen's known for her tintype photography, a process that results in photos that look like they were shot a century ago. She uses the same process to make her tintype pendants, which feature a photo of an old-school camera (a Brownie, Polaroid or 4x5) on a piece of an old 35-mm film canister. Perfect for a photographer or lover of old things. The pendants are $30 each and available at jenjansenphoto.com.