Like in years past, our holiday gift guide highlights cool buys from local artisans, shops and businesses. This year is, of course, a little different 'cause many of you (us, too) won't be unloading quite as much dough on presents as we might otherwise have.
But, whatever you do spend, spend it locally. And hopefully this time next year, we'll all meet back here, glad that the bad times are behind us.
The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego's gift shops (at both the Downtown and La Jolla locations) are two go-to spots for unusual gifts for creative-minded folks. Some items that got our attention: Nahui Ollin handbags made from recycled candy and gum wrappers ($175 for a large handbag, $24.95 for a wrislet—only available Downtown); stainless-steel stag salt and pepper shakers ($26.50 for the pair) and Choe & Tomlinson's “Self-Portrait” mirrors—beautifully detailed wall mirrors that allow the viewer to “interact” with his or her reflection ($45). www.mcasd.org. If you like the look of the Ollin bags but are squeezed for cash, Edelmira and Miguel Angel Muñoz's ReciclArte caught our eye on a visit to Rosarito a few months back. You can find them at Pueblo Plaza, Benito Juarez No. 4356, in downtown Rosarito.
Soos Rocks' vintage zodiac charm necklaces ($45 apiece) are just some of what you'll find at Pacific Beach's tucked-away Lily Grace boutique on Turquoise Street. Owner Jackie Simpson searches DIY site Etsy.com and design blogs to uncover cute, affordable accessories for her small shop. Decorated with swaths of baroque wallpaper and hot-pink chandeliers, Lily Grace is chock-full of affordable finds, from cozy sweaters to cute lingerie. The best part? With few exceptions (a leather jacket being a recent one), nothing in the store costs more than $100, and most stuff falls well below that steep price point. In other words, it's perfect for recessionistas and their gift-buying friends. 949 Turquoise St., Pacific Beach, 858-488-1848. www.lilygraceonline.com.
Most shrink-wrapped gift baskets go in the re-gifting pile, but not the gorgeous and glam creations at Hillcrest's Cathedral. Baskets start at $50 and include any type of candle from the store, along with whatever other chic home design or gift items catch your eye. (Style-savvy owner Amy Capano will help you personalize it.) A chocolate-brown box, colorful moss and cellophane complete the package. We suggest you choose from Voluspa's luxurious, limited-edition Seasons collection: candles that look as gorgeous as they smell. We love the ones that subtly resemble ornaments, but not so much that you'd ever dream of putting them away after the holidays. 435 University Ave., Hillcrest, 619-296-4046. www.shopcathedral.com.
Who would've thought that Metallica's “One” could ever be made into a child-, er, baby-friendly tune? The Rockabye Baby CD series is made up of soothing lullabye renditions of aging-hipster (and -rocker) faves—like Metallica, Pixies, Tool, Radiohead, The Cure and The Ramones. There's nothing cheesy about them, either—this is really good stuff (in other words, you don't need to be a parent to appreciate the CDs). M-Theory Records in Mission Hills had a good selection of the CDs last time we checked. 915 West Washington St., 619-220-0485.
FeelIt, the tribal-chic East Village boutique and art gallery embraces a concept that uni-named owner markalan calls “creative retail”—an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink style of stocking that makes it a pleasure to pore over every corner of the store. FeelIt carries original artwork (showcased in monthly art shows), vinyl records (markalan's also a DJ), jewelry for guys (manly leather bracelets) and gals (carved Indonesian pendants) and clothing. We're especially keen on the men's shirts by local brand Stiska. Designer Michael Stiska's vintage-inspired line takes its cues from the military, work-wear and Western, along with skate and street culture. 909 E St., East Village, 619-865-7048.
Few people walk past Kate Ross Shoes / Kalos Design without noticing Britton Neubacher's stunning eco orbs. Each delicate glass terrarium holds its own little user-friendly, sustainable plant-scape (meaning one not need be a green thumb to care for these little beauties). Kalos (3827 30th St., North Park) carries the largest selection we've seen, but Neubacher's site lists other vendors: Grounded in Encinitas (897 S. Coast Hwy.), Jett Gallery in Little Italy (989 West Kalmia St.) and South Park's Pixie Salon (2236 30th St.). The orbs start at around $45, and by purchasing one, you're not only supporting a local business, but a local artist, too. www.tendliving.com.
If you're looking for stocking-stuffer ideas for San Diegophiles, Arcadia Publishing's Post Cards of America series recently issued a set of vintage-photo Balboa Park postcards. The 15-card set ($7.99) includes shots from the 1915 and 1935 Panama-California Expos, both held at the park, as well as some extras, like the shot of “Jiggs” and “Maggie,” the pipe-smoking orangutans who became a popular San Diego Zoo attraction in the 1930s. Check with the Museum of San Diego History's gift shop in Balboa Park to see if the postcards are in stock. 619-232-6203.
The sneaker freak in your life will flip out when he (or she) opens a pair of seriously pimp custom kicks from Milo, an eye-candy modern boutique-cum-gallery in North Park. Milo teams up with local, national and international artists to create some of the dopest shoes in the world. Check out the Obama Nike Blazer by Melissa Cook. They're red, white and blue and feature a portrait of Mr. President-Elect on each shoe. The pair rings in at $400, but think of how fly your honey will look on Inauguration Day. Not all of the kicks are quite that pricey—but none are inexpensive, either—so save this shopping stop for that special someone. 3824 Ray St., 619-543-0024. www.miloshoesandgallery.com.
Pacific Beach's Great News! kicks some serious cookware-store butt. We never leave this shop without picking up something (no claim here of being top chefs), making this the perfect place for gifts for a range of people who enjoy time in the kitchen or over the grill. For stocking stuffers, there are Le Cruset and Mario Batali cooking utensils in a variety of colors. For grill fiends, grab a set of glow-in-the dark meat thermometers, each one calibrated for a certain kind of meat, or a set of pre-seasoned skewers. In the never-knew-you-needed-it category, the DaysAgo digital counter keeps track of how long something's been in the fridge. One of our favorite items was the Le Crueset 22-ounce teapot, which comes in five different colors ($24.94). 1788 Garnet Ave. 858-270-1582. www.great-news.com
It's rare when there's not at least a few people standing around Maria Vitakis' table at the Hillcrest Farmers Market, admiring her vintage typewriter-key creations. While there are a handful of folks out there making jewelry from the keys of old Remingtons, Coronas and others, Vitakis is the only one who sells her wares locally (as far as we know) and for prices better than you'll find anywhere. Ten bucks gets you a key on a silver chain (letters, symbols or “command” keys) and for a little more, there are rings and leather bracelets (many suitable for guys) that integrate keys. Plus, your gift recipient will also get a cute little card telling him or her the brand name of the typewriter from which the key was “rescued.” You can find Vitakis at the southwest corner of the market (Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.) or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Gaslamp location of Pannikin Coffee & Tea is less a traditional coffee shop (there's not a whole lot of seating) and more a cute gift shop where you can also order some excellent coffee or tea to sip while shopping. This is the spot to hit up for a friend who's in love with a certain color—shelves of tea pots, cups, saucers and mugs are organized into oranges, reds, greens, whites, blues and every shade imaginable. Pick up a one-of-a-kind mug and wrap it up with some loose-leaf tea and your pick from the insanely huge selection of tea strainers (every shape, size and design imaginable). This is also the spot for creative stocking stuffers—everything from Dia de los Muertos-inspired ornaments to hand-painted wooden tops to one of the more diverse stock of international candy and chocolates in town. 675 G St., Downtown, 619-239-7891.
Delight the do-gooders in your life with a gift that supports a worthy cause but is also super-cool. The Spring Valley-based nonprofit Invisible Children got its start when three young filmmakers stumbled upon the brutal war in Northern Uganda. For nearly two decades, rebel soldiers have abducted children and forced them to fight. To avoid such a fate, kids spend their nights fleeing on foot to safety. The filmmakers tell the story of this “night commuting” generation in a short film, for sale on the organization's website. (Go to www.invisiblechildren.com and click on “Shop the IC store”). Or, you can choose a DVD focused on one child; it comes packaged with a traditional Acholi bracelet made by craftswomen in displacement camps. The nonprofit peddles cool T-shirts, too. Proceeds go to building schools in Northern Uganda and hiring tutors to work one-on-one with the kids. It's your chance to help these invisible children have a more visible future.
Forget about fixies. For comfort and safety, not to mention looking cool as you cruise around, nothing beats a Townie. It just so happens that the original Townie frame—which combines low, laid-back seating with the swooping lines of a classic curved cruiser—was invented by Benno Baenziger, founder of Vista-based bike company Electra. We love the 2009 Townie Holiday, which comes in four colors and has the most darling basket over the front wheel. Townies are available with up to 21 speeds (Shimano gears) and use “V”-type brakes for reliable stopping power. They also have wide saddles for butts that prefer padding. Particularly cool is the company's catalog, which features local musicians like Ray Suen and Joanie Mendenhall and was shot on location at Point Loma's Pearl Hotel. You can find Electra bikes at independent bicycle retailers—use the website to locate the dealer nearest you. www.electrabike.com
Shop local: events
On Thursday, Dec. 11 and 18, Citizen Video (2207 Fern St., South Park) is the place for a MAKE SOMETHING DAY WORKSHOP. Starting at 7 p.m., learn to make a stamped silver pendant (Dec. 11) and hand-carved stamp (Dec. 18). While you're there, browse the shop for cute film-related T-shirts and more. www.makesomethingday.org, www.citizen-video.com.
On Friday Dec. 12 and 19, Andi Brandenberg hosts BESOS NOT BOMBS at The Studio, 2502 B St. in Golden Hill. From 8 p.m. to midnight, shop for T-shirts, art prints and more. www.besosnotbombs.com. NORTH PARK NIGHTS, happening along Ray Street, University Avenue and North Park Way on Saturday, Dec. 13, features some of our favorite retailers, who'll keep their doors open until 10 p.m.—boutiques like Mimi & Red, Kate Ross, Mesh, The Rubber Rose and Material will offer sweet holiday deals. www.northparknights.org.
If you don't mind the drive, there's an ART SOIREE/GIFT SALE at Good Time City (1322 Country Club Drive in Escondido) from “noon til dusk” on Saturday, Dec. 13, featuring handmare items by local artisans. Also on Saturday, Dec. 13, from 5 to 8 p.m., ROCK PAPER SCISSORS (4976 Newport Ave. in Ocean Beach) will feature local artists alongside the shop's selection of jewelry, clothing and gifts from around the world. obrps.com. In City Heights, The Beauty Bar (4746 El Cajon Blvd.) hosts MERCADO from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 13, featuring designs by Besos Not Bombs, Igloo Shop, Steph Walker, Peacock Jewelry by Elise, giveaways by RE:UP magazine and more. Bring toys, jackets and blankets for donations. Also, from 9 p.m. to midnight, Tuesday, Dec. 16, POP! Boutique will set up shop at Beauty Bar. www.myspace.com/thebeautybar. Over a the Tower Bar (4757 University Ave., City Heights) on Saturday, Dec. 13 from 4 to 8 p.m., get your drink on and shop the MsFormaldehyde Holiday Trunk Show featuring handmade accessories by the Etsy.com artist and others.
THE THREAD SHOW happens at the Sheraton Hotel (1380 Harbor Island Drive on Harbor Island) from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 14—clothing, accessories, and handbags aplenty. $15 admission. www.threadshow.com.
One of our favorite art collectives, Voz Alta, is back, hosting MERCADO NEGRO at 1754 National Ave. in Barrio Logan. From 7 to 10 p.m. Friday, Dec. 19, through Sunday, Dec. 21, Voz's new space will be filled with handmade arts and crafts by Chicana and Chicano artists and craftspeople. www.myspace.com/vozalta.
Tuesday, Dec. 16, at Bar Basic (410 10th Ave., Downtown) and Tuesday, Dec. 23, at Johnny V's (945 Garnet Ave., Pacific Beach), SHUGARIVER presents a showing and sale of ever-changing local art, jewelry, clothing and more from 7 p.m. to midnight. www.schugariver.com.
THE INTERNATIONAL MARKETPLACE at Market Creek Plaza (310 Euclid Ave., in Encanto) takes place from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 20, featuring art, gift items, jewelry and more. www.shopmcp.com. And, through Dec. 24, HAUTE DEALS (339 El Camino Real, Ste. B in Encinitas) holds a warehouse sale on designer brands, holiday dresses, shoes and accessories for women, children and men. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. www.sdhautedeals.com.