Art by Andrew McGranahan
Shopping at the mall or a corporate chain store during the holiday season is some kind of masochistic exercise. It’s best left to people with no problem not knowing where their money is going. The last election taught us a lot, but one of the more important and understated lessons we took away was to be more conscientious about where we spend our income. Amazon, Macy’s, Nordstrom… All gave money to Trump. But there is hope. According to a recent Yelp study, San Diego was the best city in the U.S. when it came to supporting local businesses. The dozen or so items in this guide are all available at local boutiques and stores, but even if readers don’t find a gift option here, we’re still of the opinion they’ll be able to find something unique and heartfelt in one of S.D.’s many indie stores.
Photo courtesy of Chemex
INSTEAD OF A STARBUCKS GIFT CARD...
For those friends who spend half their paycheck buying double-frappe-latte-whatevers from pretentious coffee shops, this stylish coffee brewer concocts the perfect cup of Joe, satiable to even the most particular coffee enthusiast. In fact, a true coffee snob will recognize the Chemex name for its distinguished designs, which won it a spot at New York's Corning Museum of Glass. The 40-ounce Chemex Coffeemaker modernizes the pour-over method of brewing by using a scientifically-designed glass frame and elegant wood collar guarantees quality in every cup. Even if you're not a morning person, the contemporary shape and user-friendly simplicity almost makes waking up every morning worth it. The local, minimalist cafe, Coffee & Tea Collective (2911 El Cajon Blvd.), has several Chemex Coffeemakers in store for $50 along with the specially made Chemex coffee filters for $15. We also recommend the pungent and rich Las Palomas coffee beans to complete the package. All merchandise can also be purchased online.
INSTEAD OF A BOUQUET OF POINSETTIAS...
In order to stray from the cliché plant gift, Craft Atmosphere, or Craftmossphere, has developed the innovative combination of moss and art. Its preserved moss frame with air plant is $38, and is a legitimate piece of framed art, just with moss instead of acrylic. These moss pieces are easy to care for, requiring a hot and dry location (aka San Diego), and occasional water spritzing. Craftmossphere's products are at Stroll Boutique (2360 India St.) in Little Italy. Additionally, Craftmossphere creates customized moss pieces when purchased online. If you want something more playful, Coyote Creative sells air plants in animal figurines. The air plant raptor is only $10 and includes both the raptor and the plant. Coyote Creative has a wide variety of animal air plants in addition to terrarium kits and other planters. Coyote Creative's products can be purchased at its Ocean Beach shop (4966 Santa Monica Ave). Also catch Coyote Creative at its Ocean Beach Farmer's Market booth every Wednesday.
Photo by Torrey Bailey
INSTEAD OF MAINSTREAM NAIL POLISH...
Your girl wants to ball on a budget. I get it. And you love how her buffed, filed, painted nails look and feel gliding across your skin, bereft of any (unwanted) clawing. But each time she pops into the salon to coat them with gel polish, there's a minimum $30 price tag. Choosing the DIY at-home Essie option is a no-brainer. But it errs on the basic side of the manicure spectrum. Maybe she can paint some stripes or polka dots, but overall they're likely to be one solid, boring shade. On the other hand (pun intended), you can go to Artelexia (3803 Ray St.) in North Park to get decals by Los Angeles-based, independently-run brand Cha Cha Covers. These can adorn one nail or all ten with hand-painted or graphic designed decals ranging from sugar skulls and Frida Kahlo's face to watermelons and sirenas. Each $6 pack comes with 15 decals that she can dip into water, apply and enjoy for up to a week. There's even a set designed exclusively for Artelexia. This beauty brand is dedicated to representing feminism, Latinas and global cultures alike so ladies can treat themselves and feel good about it as well.
Photo by Aaryn Belfer
INSTEAD OF A BOTTLE OF BUBBLY...
Hostess gifts aren't always the easiest to come by, nor are they always the first thing on our minds as we prepare to celebrate the holidays. A bottle of prosecco procured at a liquor store on the way to the party is the frequent M.O. for many of us. But fear not, last-minuters! We've gone ahead and done the legwork for you. Swing through Vocabulary Boutique (414 W. Cedar St.) in downtown to pick up a set of Rosanna Dotted Champs Coupe Champagne Glasses to offer your favorite stylish hostess. (If you're a real mensch, you'll bring the bubbly, too). These retro-themed, wide-rimmed goblets with gold polka dots are a throwback to a romantic era and while they're certainly holiday festive, they don't stay in their lane and are perfect for any occasion. Each time your hostess friend pulls them off the shelf, she'll think of you and how drunk you got at her holiday soirée. She'll smile and forgive any of your antics because: Hello, adorable champagne glasses.
— Aaryn Belfer
Photo by Matt Lewis
INSTEAD OF THAT HORROR BESTSELLER...
Instead of gifting the latest Stephen King mega-seller, get your horror aficionado the States of Terror trilogy, available at Verbatim Books (3793 30th St.) in North Park. This locally published anthology series has a killer concept: writers pick a state and write a horror story based on the regional monsters, legends and lore (New Jersey's Jersey Devil, for example). However, these stories dive deep into the lesser-known monsters that fill American nightmares, showcasing the esoteric, eccentric and diverse fears that define our great but tumultuous nation. For example, San Diego writer Jennifer Corley's chilling take on South Carolina's infamous and silly-sounding Lizard Man of Scape Ore Swamp reinterprets the legend into a frightening commentary on Southern racism. Lauren Becker's entry takes on the Demon Cat that is purported to haunt government buildings in Washington, D.C. (although it's now difficult to imagine anything scarier in D.C. than the president-elect). It's fun to see how each author interprets the prompt—the stories range from pulp to poetic—but there's an unabashed love of genre, monsters and America that runs through each story, and if that doesn't restore some patriotic pride, then you're as doomed as the characters in these books.
— Ryan Bradford
Image courtesy of The Good Stuff
INSTEAD OF A BOX OF CORPORATE COOKIES
Three cups flour, two cups sugar, one stick of butter, bake for 11 minutes and VOILA! Burnt holiday cookies. If your kitchen skills are questionable, but buying corporate-mall desserts is not your style, pick up a batch from The Good Stuff Cookie Co. located inside 5&A Dime (828 G St., Downtown). Packaged in mason jars of six, the original Good Stuff Cookies are, in essence, mini-cheesecakes. They're rich and so moist that they verge on cookie dough. These cookies are satisfying to say the least, but supporting local brother-sister shop owners Jason and Darcie Huggins is the whip on top. The combination of Darcie's cookies and Jason's streetwear in the store might seem unusual at first, but it works when you can tell the items they carry are from personal passions. At $12 a jar, the Truffle Shuffle-inducing stacks come in cheesecake, chocolate-cheesecake, s'mores and chocolate-peanut butter flavors. They are the perfect, thoughtful-enough gift for your co-worker, neighbor or winter booty call. Or Santa. Santa will definitely like them.
— Carolyn Ramos
Photo by Kate Howard
INSTEAD OF A TRENDY ADULT COLORING BOOK...
The '90s fashion resurgence became clear years ago with mom jeans, quickly followed by tattoo-style chokers and confirmed by Pokemon Go. The decade also tapped into our old school creativity with coloring books, aka the essence of my childhood. Rather than pages of Jasmine or Ariel outlines, 2016 took coloring books for a twist by filling them with Ryan Gosling physiques, R-rated fantasies and expletive-laced mandalas. So I'm going to take it down a notch, refer back to an age of innocence and suggest a product that's even more nostalgia-inducing than a coloring book. Fuzzy. Velvet. Posters. These were the gold standard of coloring practices, and now a UCLA-alumnus has made them available to adults at Little Dame Shop (2942 Adams Ave.) in Normal Heights for $15. Don't worry about staying within the lines on these. The velvet borders soak up any wine-induced pen swerves. So, keep the bottles coming.
— Torrey Bailey
Photo by Beth Demmon
INSTEAD OF GENERIC HOMEBREWING KIT...
Homebrewing is a rite of passage for aspiring brewers, but it can also be an irritatingly precise hobby easily abandoned by the impatient. Expert guidance is key for success (that and proper sterilization techniques) and despite big-box stores such as Walmart, Target and Bed Bath and Beyond cashing in on the craft beer craze, their generic homebrewing kits just don't measure up. With bare-bones equipment, inferior ingredients and no hands-on instruction, it's no wonder most of these cheap kits face near-instant abandonment after the would-be brewer's first attempt. Skip the frustration and go straight to the connoisseurs of craft at The Homebrewer (2911 El Cajon Blvd). Its $300 starter kit includes everything needed for a successful homebrewing experience, plus 10 percent off your first batch of ingredients (either from a box or custom recipe) as well as entry into its Intro to Homebrewing Class (a $20 value). Upgrades are easy with their all-grain expansion kits, and they carry a huge variety of malts, yeast, hops and adjuncts for those who actually want to try homebrewing vs. those who just want to look cool.
— Beth Demmon
Image courtesy of the artist
INSTEAD OF THE TARGET TOTE BAG
Tote bags aren't the most personal gift, but given the recent plastic bag ban, totes can totes be a practical gift. The usual suspects such as Target and T.J. Maxx sell some super cheesy bags that look like they'll buckle if we put more than six bottles of wine in them (what? Don't judge!). What's more, there's no sense of fashion or individuality in those bags. So that's why we love L.A. artist/designer Sarah Faith Gottesdiener's pro-woman "You Are Nothing Without Feminist Art" tote bag ($20), which is available at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego gift shop (700 Prospect St., La Jolla) and on its website. The message is also available on t-shirts and men's sizes are also available for $28. We also love the "Stop Telling Women to Smile" totes and shirts, which help support the Brooklyn-based public art project by Tatyana Fazlalizadehwhich. While not available at the MCASD gift shop, they can be found at stoptellingwomentosmile.bigcartel.com for $18 and $20.
— Seth Combs
INSTEAD OF A BOX OF DOG TREATS...
Clothing on animals is a subjective thing. There's a thin line between eye-rolls and gushing over the unbearable cuteness. It also really helps when the animal involved is your pet. We love them so much that we think anything they do is cute, and anyone who thinks otherwise is a heartless idiot. And while sweaters on pets are one thing, donít even try to resist a dog with a scarf. Howlistic (930 W. Washington St. in Mission Hills and 2820 Historic Decatur Road inside the Liberty Public Market in Point Loma) carries stylish and totes adorbs scarves by Philly-based company Chilly Dogs that are made with organic wool and natural plant/fruit dyes. They're also free trade-friendly and handmade in the northern highlands of South America by Incan descendants. The scarves are $12.99 and, while great for dogs, chances are your cat will hate it and just use it for a scratching post. So pick up a sweater ($34.99) for the cat so they donít get jealous. Trust us, cats love sweaters.
Image courtesy of Urban Octopus
INSTEAD OF AN IRONIC URBAN OUTFITTERS SHIRT...
Appreciation of clothing as a holiday gift tends to waver by age group—younger recipients might roll their eyes at a sweater and socks, whereas the more mature friends and family members cherish the idea of being showered with bespoke outerwear. One thing we can all agree on, however, is T-shirts. You have better options than ironic MySpace Tom or Shania Twain shirts from Urban Outfitters. Urban Octopus, located inside The Glashaus in Barrio Logan (1815 Main St., Ste. B), silkscreens original designs on t-shirts (as well as posters, wood prints and other merchandise) featuring the original designs of Jere Dean. Dean's art style is surreal yet elegant, with designs that range from the straightforward—a camera or a bicycle, for instance—to more mind-bending creations such as a man with a movie camera for a head or his namesake Urban Octopus. Shirts are poly-cotton blends and range in price from $28 to $33, or for those who'd prefer a year's supply of Urban Octopus tees, its T-Shirt of the Month Club comes in six- or 12-month subscriptions, starting at $109.
— Jeff Terich
Photo by Aaryn Belfer
INSTEAD OF A ROMANTIC VACATION...
Pretty sure we can all agree that this year has been a big ole libido killer, and we're here to say that lacy underthings are not going to cut it this holiday season. What is gonna cut it—or rather, suckle it—is The Womanizer. Sure, the name could remain in the dust bin alongside 2016, but when the gift recipient is gasping, screaming and writhing like a demon-possessed Sigourney Weaver in Ghost Busters, nobody's going to care if it's called the Pussy Grabber. At $165 at Pleasures and Treasures (2525 University Ave.) in Hillcrest, this masterpiece of masturbatory devices is at the high end of sex toys and worth every damned dollar. The soft silicon tip of The Womanizer fits over your clitoris and simulates the best oral sex you've ever had, times a jillion. Trust us on this one. With varying levels of suckling/vibratory intensity, this device takes you from zero to OH GOD! in less than a minute. After that one, there's another. And another. Be prepared to stay in bed all damn day. Every damn day.
— Aaryn Belfer