In last year's holiday gift guide, we reflected on the fact that many of us had less money to spend on gifts than in years past. What a difference a year doesn't make, huh? In the next few pages, you'll find lots of affordable items, most under $40. And, to stimulate the local economy, everything's available at county retailers. Get those tax dollars pumpin' ya'll! Happy holidays, and here's to a prosperous 2010 for all of us.
If you're thinking of placing coal in a naughty kid's stocking, first we'd ask what century you're from, and, second, we'd call Child Protective Services on your ass. Thanks to a slew of more than 300 different sweet confections available at Cousin's Old Town Candy Shoppe (2711 San Diego Ave., Old Town, www.cousinscandy.com), if you want someone to know that they've been less-than-nice, you can do it with panache by slipping them a sack of San Diego Dolphin Droppings ($6.30) or Starfish Poop (chocolate-covered praline peanuts). Nasty? Anything but. For the slightly older kid on your list, whisk through Plaza del Pasado and over to Hot Lick's Casa de Fuego (www.2hotlicks.com), your hot-sauce one-stop shop. There, you can pick up a bottle of the habanero-based Da Bomb ($9.95), or a 5-ouncer of the suicidal Hottest Fuckin' Sauce ($14.95). Slab a sticker of A-1 on that puppy, sit back and watch the hilarity ensue.
Citizen Video (2207 Fern St., South Park) has inched beyond video store and into the boutique realm, selling a variety of goods by local artists but still carrying films, film-related products and the store's very-cool line of T-shirts. On a table just inside the door, you'll find Colleen Townend's vintage-button rings. To make them, Townend stacks buttons—in a variety of sizes and colors, all from the days when buttons were a fashion statement—on an adjustable ring base. The effect is a nifty blend of retro (the buttons) and modern (the chunky-ring look). Best of all, the rings are surprisingly lightweight. Prices range from $16 to $25, depending on the rarity of the buttons. Townend is part of a group of DIYers called Handmade Revolution that displays its wares at Citizen Video and at trunk shows. Check them out at www.thehandmaderevolution.com.
Can't afford to slip a 20 or a gift card inside a holiday card this year? Don't worry; neither can we. Luckily, Clairemont Mesa-based Green Field Paper Company (7196 Clairemont Mesa Blvd.) has you covered with its line of Grow-A-Note greeting cards. Now, instead of discarding greetings on the 26th, you can actually plant them. Each handmade card is embedded with wildflower seeds and naturally recycles into the soil as the seedlings grow. Single cards start at $3.49; you can also buy packages of multiple cards. Green Field also offers a festive line of hemp cards—to avoid yourself the embarrassment of asking, yes, they're 100-percent seed-free. You can find a list of retail locations around the county and beyond at www.greenfieldpaper.com.
What would any cool list be without Legos? The Big Shop located in Legoland (One Legoland Drive, Carlsbad, www.legoland.com) offers 8,000 square feet of bright-colored stackable goodness. The best part is that you don't have to purchase a park ticket to go brick-crazy, thanks to hour-long shopper passes available at the guest-services window. New products for the holiday season include a whole line of electronics, like an awesome digital camera ($49.99), a stereo boombox (39.99) and a 2GB MP3 player for under 40 bucks that's sure to leave Steve Jobs feeling DUPLO®-brick-green with envy. For the Peter Pan-syndrome-affected lush in the family, there's also a brand-spankin'-new corkscrew & bottle opener set that retails for a mere $6.98—proving that even though Trix might be for kids, bricks are for all.
In the bag
Toss Designs' multi-purpose zip-up bags are a blend of retro, practical and cute (not to mention gender-neutral). And, they're available locally at one of our favorite spots, Junc Boutique & Gallery (2205 Fern St., South Park, www.shopjuncboutique.com). Made of a sturdy off-white canvas with black trim, the camera bag ($22) is screen-printed with an image of one of those vintage Pentax cameras you used in your Intro to Photography class. It's padded and ideal for holding a point-and-shoot, iPhone or makeup. The sunglass case ($22) is big enough for oversize sunglasses or any of the above. If you've got a little more coin to spend, the roll-up travel backgammon set ($48), also by Toss, is quite classy.
Ask any self-respecting hipster and you'll find that the mustache is back in a big way. For years a staple amongst the extra pervy and Mexican men in their 50s, 'staches have come out of hiding and are ready to play. On the local front, East Village boutique 5&A Dime (701 Eighth Ave., www.5andadime.com) has not only incorporated a mustache into its logo, but also offers handlebar-inspired kicks, shirts and hoodies. For the fashionista on your list, the store just teamed up with local jewelry brand La [t] da and launched a lip-sweater-inspired jewelry line. With prices starting at $34, they're sure to make even the smoothest-upper-lipped lady want to get her Frida on.
Flask and you shall receive
When I was a kid, my mom used to take me to Things Remembered for the ultimate in classy gifting: the personalized item. Now, thanks to the gumption of brothers Michael and Brian Salmon, the bespoken token is back. With a new shop along North Park's artsy Ray Street, the Soul Ryde (3819 Ray St., www.soulryde.com) siblings are leading the way in tricked-out long boards and a budding laser-engraving business that allows for the customization of just about everything from belt buckles to flasks to beer mugs and portable coffee containers. We're not talking just an initial, either—the Salmons go whole hog and can reproduce entire pictures and images to a T (like the image of a certain CityBeat contributor?).
Eau de Sharpei
Talk about a triple threat. South Bark Dog Wash (2037 30th St., South Park, www.southbark.com), the company behind the canine Blueberry Facial, is back with a line of organic essential-oil colognes that not only allow for your dog or cat to channel its inner Liz Taylor, but also allow you to, as well—they can be used on pets, pet owners and as car fresheners to boot. Available in 2.5- and 8.5-ounce bottles and starting at $9.99, and with scents like Blueberry Clove and Mandarin Thyme, they're sure to make you and your pet feel like the cat's meow.
Museum stores and mesmerizing looks of unwrapping glee usually don't go hand-in-hand, but the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego's X Store (700 Prospect St., La Jolla, www.mcasd.org) is out to change that in one fell swoop. We can guarantee you that even the person who has everything does not own a Ganesha-emblazoned beach towel ($9.95), Goody Grams' fauna-topped shot glasses ($28 each) or a polystone hippopotamus statue ($40; portion of the proceeds go to the World Conservation Union). For the mini Warhols of the house, there are pop-art plush toys like the velveteen “Evil Ice Cream” ($16.50), the Shaky Bacon ($7) and, for the tiny revolutionary, mini Zapatista dolls ($11.50) complete with little wooden AK-47s. Can you say ¡Viva la Navidad!?
Under the name Oh Potato, San Diego artist Jessie Keylon creates wood pendants depicting gritty-cool hand-painted cityscapes. Ranging in size from an inch to an inch-and-a-half in diameter, Keylon affixes a cut-out circle from a page of a vintage dictionary to each wood disk, onto which she paints a cartoonish (in a good way) skyline. Most have a 1930s Manhattanish feel, but at least one was inspired by San Diego's ocean and another by the Santa Monica Mountains. And another: “I believe I was listening to Ray Charles' ‘Hard Times' as I was painting this one,” Keylon writes on her Etsy site (www.etsy.com/shop/ohpotato). You can find her pendants, which range from $15 to $35, and other work at at Maeve Riley, 2328 1/2 30th St., South Park, 619-501-3500).