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The Gift of Thrift

Let's face it: this will not be the Christmas/Chanukah/Solstice/Kwanza of Wii or iPhones or $300 handbags or trips to Aruba. This will be the holiday season of tchotchkes, little things that smell good and quirky luxuries that won't break the bank. Herewith, a selection of goodies from local merchants that are guaranteed to please the recipient and actually leave the giver with funds for food and rent.

By Michelle Camerlingo, Curtis Cartier, Traci Hukill and Jessica Lussenhop

$10 and Under

Heart-Shaped French Soaps at Scentsations (60 cents each)
They're tiny, they smell divine and five of them equal the cost of a latte. But these little jewels are just the start of the story at Scentsations, a postage-stamp-size emporium packed to the rafters with scented French soaps, candles and bath salts for under $10. 402 Ingalls St., Suite 16, Santa Cruz.

Used Board Games at St. John's Helpful Shop ($1)
Simply buy a classic board game from this 55-year-old charity-based thrift store, then make up a story about how your father played this set of Clue in the POW camps of Vietnam with shrapnel lodged in his pencil hand, and boom! It's a priceless heirloom. 101 Capitola Ave., Capitola.

Bicycle Décor at Bicycle Trip ($3.50-$8.95)
Pimping one's ride is a simple pleasure whether it's got four wheels or two. Multicolored Spokey Dokes beads, shimmery handlebar streamers or a Big Band Bugle Horn are cheap ways to give an old cruiser a little panache. 1127 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz.

Bath Bombs at the Farmacy ($6)
A warm soak is the perfect weapon against wintry weather, and Bath Bombs are the fizznitz. Like giant Alka-Seltzers for the tub, they spin, whirl and swirl while releasing scent and skin-softening agents. The Farmacy carries a wide assortment ranging from Pink Flirtini to Off to Bed Sleepyhead to Oh My Achy Muscles. Massage Melts, Tub Truffles and Shower Butters are also available for under $10. 1101 Pacific Ave., Suite C, Santa Cruz.

The Reflyer at Eco-Goods ($7.95 large, $4.95 small)
This here's an eco-friendly gift that's perfect for Frisbee aficionados of all ages. Made from consumer-recycled polyethylene, this disk can be thrown, flicked and tossed with an approving nod from Mother Nature. The branch pencils ($9.95) are a great gift for co-workers and make for quirky stocking stuffers too. 1130 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz.

Elephant Poo Poo Paper Natural Ornaments at Eco-Goods ($8.99)
Elephants produce 220 pounds of dung a day--a perfect ingredient, it turns out, for recycled and odorless paper products. First, naturally dried Number Two is collected (quite a job), then pre-rinsed with water, leaving only, um, fibrous materials. The fibers are then placed in boiling water and dyed. Fibers from banana trees and pineapples are added to the concoction and voilà--poo poo paper! A percentage of the profits from each item goes to welfare and conservation efforts for elephants. 1130 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz.

Sea-Monkeys at Paper Visions ($9.95)
You're a little bit older and wiser now, and you know that they don't play tennis and that you can't put lipstick on a brine shrimp. That doesn't mean that grown-up kids can't enjoy their 1960s fantastic plastic world, the days-long humping or relish the fact that you're now tall enough to put them where cousin Billy can't drink them when you aren't looking. 1345 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz.

Herbal Spell Bag at Sacred Grove ($5-$10)
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and this magical pharmacy has the cure for what ails your Secret Santa, be it trouble in love, lust, school or the stock market. Just approach and spill your guts. The witches dispense over-the-counter pouches filled with a custom mixture of herbs, with names as exotic as deerstongue and dragonsblood, to help draw in a crush or ward off Henry Paulson. 924 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz.

Tiki God Soap Dispenser and Toothbrush Holder at Surf 'N' Shack ($10)
If you're going to have a soap dispenser and toothbrush holder in your bathroom, they might as well look like tiki gods. For a genuine luau experience, stuff the toothbrush holder with slow-cooked Kahlua pork and fill the soap dispenser with tasty Mai Tai cocktails. 117 Capitola Ave. Capitola.


Mouse Cheese Grater at Chefworks ($10.75)
Too cute for words. The mouse's belly grates the cheese, which winds up inside the mouse, which has to be taken apart in order to retrieve the cheese. No, really, it's cute, and it'll pique the kiddies' interest in making their own grilled cheese sandwiches. 1527 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz.

Easel Desk Calendars at Bookshop Santa Cruz ($12.95)
A clean aesthetic and novel stand-alone design makes this 8-inch-square calendar kind of hard to resist. Vintage postcards make up each month's visual; themes include baseball, pie, Craftsman bungalows, cowgirls, travel trailers, lucha libre and whatever else the retro-obsessed brains at Found Image Press could come up with. 1520 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz.

Cohiba Cigars at Ron & Bridgette's Place (around $13)
Once past the line of desperate nine-to-fivers who snuck out to replenish their Camels and Newports, the shopper at Ron & Bridgette's sees a glass case of fine, fat cigars just waiting for a special occasion. Cohibas are their top of the line offering; just describe your beloved smoker's tastes in order to choose from a selection ranging from the light and slender to the Lewinsky-worthy. 1114 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz.

Vintage Lighters at Mr. Goodies ($15-$38)
It is not recommended that people smoke, but if they do, they ought to at least look good doing it. From the classic stainless steel flip-top rectangle to a pistol-shaped model, vintage Zippo and other brand lighters at Mr. Goodies bring a little style to the subject. 1541 Pacific Ave., Suite A, Santa Cruz.

Custom Stuffed Bear at Beach Bear & Co. ($15.95)
Stuffed bears are right alongside apple pie and Chevrolet as American institutions. And no one makes the actual stuffing process more hands-on than Beach Bear & Co. Start with by choosing a wishing star to place inside the beast, then use disgustingly adorable means to stuff, bathe and accessorize. 220 Capitola Ave., Capitola.

Pop-Ink books at New Deal ($15.95)
Merging cutesy art and high design, Pop-Ink books deliver a collection of saccharine sweet, slightly disturbing yet undeniably compelling art for the (post) modern world. Designed by Charles S. Anderson Design with punchy text by Mike Nelson of Mystery Science Theater 3000 fame, each full color book contains hundreds of images and comes in a transparent vinyl shield. New Deal also carries an assortment of hip sunglasses. Oversize, aviators, stunnas, Jackie O's--all for $10. 1101 Pacific Ave., Suite D, Santa Cruz.

Kleen Kanteen Water Bottles at Bugaboo ($16.95-$31.95)
The ultimate functional gift is also PC this year. Bugaboo has a huge selection of stainless steel and clear plastic water bottles to help your favorite eco-comrade avoid the shame of ever purchasing a bottle of Dasani again. 1521 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz.


Wood Hoop Earrings at Kitty McNeil Designs ($20)
Hip and cheap. Just the way you like it. Simple wood hoop and red stones make for earrings that can go with just about anything. Four local artists craft a wide swath of delicate and happy jewelry inside this sun-washed, cheerful gallery. 201 Monterey Ave., Unit A, Capitola.

Bambu Kitchen and Servingware at Greenspace ($4-$33)
An incredibly chic way to greenify a household, this line of bowls, plates, servingware, utensils and coasters are brilliantly colored, beautifully crafted and fit the scene whether it's with three kids or three dozen drunk friends. The perfectly pushy gift for a bride who forgot to register for a smaller carbon footprint. 1122 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz.

Demeter Fragrances at the Farmacy ($20)
A treat for the senses, Demeter has captured the essence of timeless aromas and bottled them. With scents that range from Cannabis Flower to Laundromat to Play Doh and Lettuce, these true-to-life fragrances stroke the senses and stir up nostalgia. From Angel Food to Sex on the Beach, every one of these unique fragrances is guaranteed to give a nice little lift. 1101 Pacific Ave., Suite C, Santa Cruz.

Cosabella Thongs at Amoureuse ($23.95)
These sheer, low-rise thongs are conveniently packaged in long skinny boxes, making them perfect stocking stuffers for someone who's been naughty and nice. Cosabella is high-end stuff, so this is a nice way to taste their famous rainbow of colors without breaking the bank. 1119 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz.

Cotton and Wool Crocheted Tights at Sockshop and Shoe Company ($21-$23)
Chicks dig tights. Merino wool crocheted and cable tights by b.ella in ivory, green, black and brown don't even itch. The cotton variety stays thick and stretchy through multiple wearings. 1515 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz.

Peace-Sign Necklace at Santa Cruz Gifts and Jewelry ($24)
In this new era of hope and change, this delicate peace sign dangling from its bright Australian silver chain will be a refreshing addition to any outfit, and the leather flower cuffs ($27-$34) will bring chic to every occasion. The magnifying glass necklace ($24) is an enchanting and funky accent, with a real magnifying glass pendant hanging from a long and sturdy silver chain--perfect for those with eccentric and eclectic taste.

Wooden Katana Sword at Zen Island Trading Co. (24.95)
Do you really want to buy your 8-year-old nephew a ninja sword but worry that your sister will end you on its tip? These wooden katana swords offer the heft and feel of a razor-sharp Japanese blade with the danger of only minor concussions and broken ribs. 825 41st Ave. Santa Cruz.

Flower Lights at OM ($29)
This stunning home décor accent appeals to all ages and can be used almost anywhere. Perfect for relaxation, romance and special occasions, these lights produce a soft translucent gleam that will brighten up any atmosphere and are available in nine different colors. 1201 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz.

Baby Bum Casting Kit and Hand & Foot Casting Kit at Baby Shoppe Santa Cruz ($29)
Unique and affordable art that's perfect for doting new parents who want to preserve the memory of how small their little geniuses once were. In less than 10 minutes a plaster cast can be created from baby's bottom that can be framed and displayed. Hand and foot casting kits are also available. 1101 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz.

Graffiti Writers Kit at Tycoon Apparel ($30-$50)
Art today is only controversial if you can get arrested for doing it. Help your little Picasso make his or her mark as cop-dodging graffiti writer with a couple of Krink markers for $9 each. Add a few professional paint cans at $6 each, and don't forget the custom spray nozzles at 30 cents apiece. 857 41st Ave. Santa Cruz.

Kids Ladybug Raincoat at Little Loves Closet ($32.50)
Kids were made to jump in rain puddles, and children's raincoats were made to make the whole process highly photogenic. Purchase of matching umbrella ($13.50) may push cuteness levels dangerously high. 110 Stockton Ave. Capitola.

Surfer Shower Curtain at Velvet Underground ($34.95)
There isn't a surf rat in town who would walk into a women's clothing store and purchase a groovy clear shower curtain with vintage-style photos of famous surfers--and there isn't a surf rat in town who wouldn't love it, which makes it the perfect gift. Also in Hula Girl and Clothesline. 1543 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz.

Ciccia Bella Cowgirl Rider slippers at Blue Moon Clothing Co. ($45)
It's high time shuffling to the bathroom in the middle of the night got a little more exciting. These slippers are snuggly but fashion-forward, in leopard or flower prints, and their cowboy boot shape means your heels aren't left out in the cold. 1129 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz.

Kitsch'n'Kouture necklaces at Graphfix ($44-49)
For the trashionista on your list, these hefty gold or silver necklaces are bold and bitchy, perfectly straddling the line between rock & roll glam and Rock of Love train wreck. The pendants are shaped like muscle cars, crossed revolvers and winged bombs, sure to get your sleigh bells a-blinging. 1229 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz.

Voluspa Reed Diffusers at Saffron & Genevieve ($46)
Graduate from Glade Plug-Ins to multisyllabic scents, including Grapefruit Mint Cuttings and Genoa Lemon Basil. While the scented oil climbs the bamboo reeds before gently floating off into the air, the presentation is something like sculpture or a floral arrangement, not something you hide behind a hefty piece of furniture. 910B Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz.

$50 and Up

Handcrafted Dolls at the Village Mouse ($50-$115)
If you're into dolls, you'll know Madame Alexander as the original collectible doll maker. If you're not into dolls, probably best to stay that way. But if for some reason you need one, these perfectly painted and dressed girls ought to do the trick. 201 Capitola Ave. Capitola.

Colorado Clothing Ultrasoft Microfiber Robes at Best of Everything ($56)
Why lounge when you can float? The giftee will yearn for unemployment or any other reason to stay in this super-soft bathrobe all day long. Best of Everything, 1540 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz.

Sanük Shoes at Big Kahuna ($59)
If the sight of brightly colored plastic Crocs has begun to make you ill, rebel against the fad with a new fad--Sanuks! Part sandal, part shoe, no neon. Lightweight, comfortable, good in the water and available in a bunch of styles; get 'em now before they suck too. 217 Capitola Ave. Capitola.

Unisex Matte Faux Leather Hoodie at American Apparel ($60)
Does anything say "You could stand to be a little more flammable" like a gift from the Shiny Plastic department at American Apparel? We think not. This is a faux leather jacket that Ma Soprano would be proud of; it's gangster gone socially conscious. Nobody gets hurt--not the cows, not the garment workers, not nobody. 1531 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz.

Ed Hardy Belt at Bubble Lounge ($65)
Love kills slowly, it's true, but life without sufficient Ed Hardy gear is positively torturous. Bubble Lounge is here to stop the pain, starting with darling leather belts with saddle stitching in the famous tattoo-style design. Ed Hardy jeans and cardigans round out the options. 110 Cooper St., Santa Cruz.

OhMiBod Vibrator at Camouflage ($85)
An ingenious little vibrator that plugs into an iPod and gets down to the beat. Experimentation is half the fun and the OhMiBod website lists other users' most effective playlists--it's the next big thing in getting psycho-pissed when your iPod inevitably fizzles out. Camouflage also carries its sister gadget, which syncs up to your cell phone ring. 1329 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz.

Cashmere Fingerless Gloves at Galla Cabana ($72)
Take a fashion tip from your friendly neighborhood hobo-soft, sumptuous and unique, these are perfect for the lady who loves to layer. Jump a railcar post haste--last holiday season the gloves, which come in a variety of colors from solids to argyle, sold out in just a week. 1364 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz.

Custom Skateboard at SC Skateshop ($125-$170)
Nothing says "I love you" like a new way to break your neck. The dudes at SC Skateshop will help you pick out the perfect deck, trucks, wheels and bearings for your very own moving ambulance magnet. And with free grip tape and a 10 percent discount for custom buyers, you'll have extra cash for your insurance deductible. 912 41st. Capitola.

Used Surf Boards at Freeline ($200-$400)
As the traditional transportation method of Santa Cruz County, the surfboard is the most iconic gift for the new resident or overdue native. And used boards are not only cheaper, they're Monterey Bay-tested for an authenticity that you can't get with a new one. 821 41st Ave. Capitola.

Long Granada Coat by Noa Levin ($300)
Get in line now and you can have it under the tree by Dec. 25. A classic coat in thick brushed cotton or denim, the Granada features a smart Napoleon-inspired design with turn-up collar and a feminine, flared cut. See the Santa Cruz designer Noa Levin's work at

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