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The (Not Quite) Last Minute Gift Guide

Because there's no time like today to ward off the panic of tomorrow.

By Curtis Cartier, Traci Hukill and Jessica Lussenhop

It's two weeks till Christmas, 11 days till Chanukah and the Solstice and 2.3 weeks till Kwanzaa and Boxing Day. There's still plenty of time to shop for holiday gifts! Right?

Wrong! In another week the parties start, the work schedule cranks up in anticipation of holiday vacation and traffic gets horrible within two miles of any commercial district. Now's the time to strike.

So take this list, pack an energy bar and dive on in. Two weeks from now, when everyone else is freaking out, you'll be glad you got it done before the last minute.


Stylish Mom
Whatever to get for Mommy Dearest? You can't go wrong with a scarf, and The Hat Co. on Pacific has scarves in spades. Ultrachic burnout velvet, cushy cashmere and luxurious chenille can be hers for $25-$50. If Mom has a Parisian streak, consider an assortment of gorgeous, jewel-like neckerchiefs for under $10 each.

Party-Throwing Mom
Ladies like pretty things, and AnnieGlass is full of them. Right now the maker of handmade glassware is having a rip-roaring sale on its iconic serving bowls and platters. You know the ones--sleek and classic, with straight or ruffled edges and those distinctive gold or silver bands around the lip. They're usually $71-$225; right now shoppers can snap 'em up--carefully--for $43-$122.

Frazzled Mom
The poor woman needs a break, and Kiva is just the place for her to get it. The group pool might not necessarily be her cup of tea, since everyone out there is naked as a jaybird, but an hour or two with one of Kiva's 17 experienced massage practitioners can make a new woman out of her. And when Mama's happy, everybody's happy. An hour runs $70, two hours $135.


Standard-issue Dear Old Dad
No, this is not a joke: a thick, cozy pair of wool-silk blend socks by Wigwam or some comfy Smartwool moisture-wicking hikers will make that man glad he got up in the morning, and people don't buy fancy socks for themselves. Do the good deed for $15-$20 at Sockshop and Shoe Company or just down the street at Bugaboo, both in downtown Santa Cruz.

Surfing Dad
Joy awaits the Pops who paddles out. Circumstances have conspired to allow O'Neill to hold a one-time-only holiday version of its Labor Day/Memorial Day sale, right through New Year's Day. Savings of 25 to 50 percent mean men's and women's wetsuits start at $129.95. Rash guards can be had for $20 and boards start at around $400 with the 25 to 30 percent discount. It's all happening at the O'Neill Wetsuits Holiday Event location, two doors down from O'Neill's 41st Avenue store in Capitola.

Hog-Riding Dad
For the father who wears fringe, there's a bevy of coffee-table books about motorcycles at Capitola Book Café, and most of them are on sale. Photographer Tom Zimberoff's Art of the Chopper ($15.98) and Art of the Chopper II ($19.98) are tastefully laid out with gorgeous photographs and informative essays on custom bikesmiths. Art of the Chopper II features a foreword by Metallica's James Hetfield and a good piece on Santa Cruz's very own Scott Long, owner of Central Coast Cycles. A handsome leather-clad issue of American Chopper: Fine Art of the Custom Motorcycle ($24.95) is an Orange County Cycle vehicle with less steak but more sizzle, perfect for the guy who likes his bike hobby televised.

Self-Respecting Dad
Show us the guy who doesn't like to pimp his ride, even if it's an off-year Pontiac, and we'll show you a man whose spirit is broken. The gift of pre-paid car washes from Whalers on Soquel Avenue, in six- or 12-packs, keeps the old fellow feeling dapper, and what a bargain to boot: six basic car washes start at $65.


Sleepy Sister
How nice was she really? Was she good enough to get a pair of cowboy-themed pajamas by PJ Salvage ($68) at Pacific Trading Co.? Thick flannel "boyfriend fit" two-piece PJs come in a variety of adorable patterns, many of them involving bucking broncos. These won't score many points with her boyfriend or husband, as they provide pretty much head-to-toe flannel coverage, but she'll like 'em plenty, and after the way you two used to fight, that's all that counts.

Socially Conscious Sister
The No Enemy zippy hoodies ($71.96) at Paradise Surf Shop have so many things going for them that we scarcely know where to start. These little numbers, in rich brown, turquoise, plum or green, are soft and comfy, have pockets and feature simple but gorgeous designs like the marine-themed "ebb flow" or "small is beautiful." They're also made of organic cotton right here in Santa Cruz, which means no slave labor, no pesticides and no bad juju.

New-Age Sister
Does your female sibling regularly discuss the quality of other people's energy and various ways of manifesting abundance? If so, she might enjoy a copy of astrologer Rob Brezsny's latest book, Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia, a peripatetic hop and skip through the world's religions and the mind of the Freewill astrologer himself. Packed with amusing, bite-size anecdotes and insights, Pronoia has the added benefit of serving as an inexpensive antidepressant. Just pick it up, turn to any page and feel better. Really. Available at independent bookstores and online.

Spoiled Sister
Now that it's someone else's turn to wait at the bathroom door, why not present Sis with unique and luxurious body care items? Staff of Life carries sweet little silk and velvet stockings stuffed with Green Valley Spa items--think intoxicating juniper and peppermint-scented foot bath, foot balm and exfoliant and lavender body scrub--for $20-$29. If she's a hard-core earth mama but doesn't want to sacrifice beauty, try the all-natural Moroccan Lipstain Kit ($23.95), made from koolikoo flowers gathered by Berber women in the Atlas Mountains. The lip color from the clay tagine guarantees a look that's très tribal.


Baby Brother
Whether he's 5 or 50, some little brothers never grow up. Comicopolis in downtown Santa Cruz has the entire line of Ugli Dolls in two sizes, perfect for whimsical office décor or for cultivating future funkiness in a wee tot. Pair one with a selection from the alternative comics, like the Essex County series by Jeff Lemire ($10-$15), The Rabbi's Cat 2 by Joann Sfar ($22.95) or books by Jason ($10-$12) like Why Are you Doing This? and The Living and the Dead.

Unemployed Brother
The market ain't treating some brothers so hot, so he may as well treat himself, at least in preparation for upcoming job interviews. Farmacy carries several lines of high-quality coiffing kits, including the Dermalogica Shave System ($36). The kit includes products to exfoliate, smooth, protect and perfume, so whether he just crawled out of a cave or a market collapse, a few moments of pampering will have him feeling like a million bucks.

Skater Brother
For the bro who brims with counterculture piss and vinegar, The Krate has a new shipment of Upper Playground hats by Jeremy Fish ($39.99) that successfully refunkify corduroy, pinstripes and fuzzy pink bunnies. In the same spirit of redefining an old material's moxie, jackets by HomeRoom ($38-165), a San Francisco-based company, breathe new life into plaid and houndstooth.

Mountain Man Brother
He's only happy with a two-foot beard and stinking like a grizzly bear, so buy your fresh-air frère a big-ass stainless steel knife at Bugaboo, from brands like Benchmade and Columbia River ($30-120). These knives are just cool, some with black colored blades for "tactical" work--you know, all that stealth beer drinking and undercover fish gutting.


Endlessly Self-Denying Girlfriend
Whether it's pretending you've never noticed her extra adipose pockets or picking her up off the kitchen floor awash in shame and melted Rocky Road, the Yoga + Chocolate Gift Box at Sky Meadow Apothecary & Spa ($46) is the right thing to ease her Lean Cuisine-addled brain. The kit includes seven chocolate bars inspired by the seven chakras, a corresponding yoga workout, and music and information on how each confection stimulates and synchronizes her senses, with exotic ingredients like curry, green tea and sesame seeds. Encourage her to indulge and reap the good karma.

GGG Girlfriend
She's always been there for you, and on there for you, and under there for you, and then this one time--well, you know. For the perpetually playful, the Sexy Gift Bags at Pure Pleasure ($38-$165) help old flames break new ground--like the Show Me the Ropes kit, the Come With Me kit and the always outrageous Beginner Harness kit. Each has been lovingly assembled with instructions, the most genre-appropriate lubes and toys, and like any good Extra Value Meal, is less expensive than buying each item individually.

Booty Call/The Just One of Those Things Girl/The Fling
If you're trying to stay classy without sticking your neck out too far for a lady friend, you can't go wrong with booze. Vinocruz downtown has a wide selection of better-than-everyday wines. Suggestions include the Vidovich Vineyards 2003 Cabernet ($20) or the Catherine Kennedy 2005 Syrah ($27). A true modern gentleman can go as far as the Black Ridge Vineyard Cabernet blend ($49) or the Sonnet Pinot Noir ($40), which at 750 milliliters is a gift as temporary--but just as memorable--as your fling.

Glamour Girlfriend
A real lady dresses quietly but accessorizes audaciously. Give her one-of-a-kind baubles without breaking the bank with Judi Wyant Antiques' large selection of costume jewelry earrings ($50-$100). Many are old-fashioned snap-ons and all of them demand attention, with big, bold rhinestones in juicy colors to bedazzle-up any ho-hum holiday dress.


Cookie Monster Kid
The sooner kids learn to cook, the sooner parents won't have to. Start the child slavery process early with a 12-piece baking set for kids from Chef Works downtown and watch the kitchen turn into an adorable war zone. Includes tart molds, a pastry brush, rolling pin and tons of other mini baking accessories, all for $13.75 (bandages and Neosporin sold separately).

Always Dirty Kid
If you don't trust your children to work in the kitchen, send them to the fields! A youngster's watering can from Probuild Gardening Center on River Street costs $20 and holds this collection of miniature gardening gear, including a plastic rake, shovel, spade and gloves. Add a few seed packs for $2-$4 each and laugh while your offspring toil in the sun.

Dancing Machine Kid
With the way kids are bumping and grinding to hip-hop, a little traditional belly dancing isn't going to hurt anyone. This besequined purple-with-gold trim two-piece outfit, from Serpent's Kiss near the Clock Tower downtown, forces the tummy to tango. Highlighted by its jingly brass coin belt, the get-up should fit girls between 6 and 9 years old.

Delinquent Kid
Graffiti, like all fine arts, is best developed at a young age. Give your little Banksy a head start for $16.25 with this sidewalk chalk "Stomperz" kit from Lenz Arts on River Street that includes stencils and chalk pads for perfect patterns on private property. Add a bandana mask and have playmates watch out for cops for a more realistic tagging experience.

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