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Photograph by Steve Laufer

Beading Heart: Tamara Moon is the answer to your DIY prayers at Bead It's inhouse assembly station.

Your Metro Santa Cruz Last-Minute Gift Guide

So, here we are, with the holiday season just around the corner and your gift shopping not even begun. Meanwhile, the crowds are growing by the minute and the whole holiday thing is beginning to wear on your nerves. What's an inveterate procrastinator who still wishes to retain friendly relations with significant and semisignificant others to do?

Well, you could renounce all interest in material possessions and insist that the true spirit of the holiday season is far too profound to be tainted by crass commercial transactions. But then there's the whole problem of everyone hating you, calling you a hypocrite (especially if you have yet to renounce your own material possessions) and abandoning you to a life of solitary misery.

Fortunately, the altruistic souls here at Metro Santa Cruz have charted a middle path for the wayward consumer who wants to navigate the last-minute shopping maze with sanity and some measure of individuality intact.

So strap on your sleigh-belt and get ready for our crash course in last-minute gift-giving.

Your DIY Guide to Gift-Giving

By Sarah Phelan

For some of us, the crush of last-minute holiday shopping has us fantasizing about knitting socks for all the people on our list, sewing them dream pillows or simply giving them a signed photograph of our own self. That way, we won't have to actually leave the house.

Fantasy, however, being fantasy, may we humbly suggest a more realizable alternative: Check out Bead It, ImageSnap, Perfumer's Apprentice and Petroglyph instead. These four downtown oases can help you put a bit of homespun individuality back into the gift-giving ritual.

Bead It, 1325 Pacific Ave., 831.426.0779

It's impossible to step inside this Pacific Avenue establishment without being seduced by the vast variety of beads that are laid out in trays, including a highly colorful table devoted entirely to party glass.

Take your pick from gemstones from around the world, crystals and shells, silver from Bali and Afghanistan, African trade beads and hand-blown glass beads by local artists Kevin Leopold and Shane Young. There's also a bunch of really inexpensive choices for kids, including animal charms, ceramic beads and those irrepressibly psychedelic Fimo creations.

We see your brow furrowing as you try to visualize yourself happily making jewelry amid the holiday chaos. No worries. As store manager Tamara Steffen explains, "We can help you put it all together at our assembly station in the store."

As it happens, the highly skilled staff at Bead It don't do any bead stringing, but how difficult is that, anyway? What the staff undertake is putting those fiddly endings on necklaces and bracelets, as well as putting together earrings and helping make holiday ornaments.

Using the services of Bead It's assembly station does cost, but only in the most minimal of ways--50 cents to put together a simple pair of earrings, 25 cents to put ends on a necklace--charges which will seem well worth it when Santa and his reindeers are breathing down your neck.

Either way, you can still walk away with a wonderful gift for under $10, depending on your choice of materials.

Since weekends tend to get a little crazy in the store, Steffen recommends coming by midweek, if you don't want to wait in line.

Alternatively, you can gift someone with Bead It classes, which include wire basics, basic bead stringing, the ancient art of knotting, macramé and peyote stitch. Classes are priced $30 each, not including the price of materials, and take place 7:309:30pm, unless by special arrangement.

Bead It also carries pre-made jewelry, and while buying these pieces is definitely a cop-out on the DIY front, it does support local starving college students who make the pieces on consignment, so at least there's a humanitarian aspect to this particular cop-out option.

Meanwhile, our favorite items for DIY style were the hand-carved stones by a guy named Paulo, who apparently migrates between Oregon and Big Sur and mines and carves his own stones, which are all inspired by various indigenous representations of the human face and skull. And then there were the handmade clasps by Carl Clasmeyer, which you can integrate into necklaces and bracelets and which come in the shape of scarabs, turtles, ladybugs, dragonflies, elephants and hummingbirds, not to mention the surfer who is sitting on a shark's mouth.

ImageSnap, 110 Cooper St., Suite 100E, 831.425.SNAP, or visit www.imagesnap.com

Photographs always make a great gift, especially when mounted in classy frames, superimposed on mouse pads, splashed across jigsaw puzzles or used to personalize T-shirts, sports towels, tote bags, pet tags or luggage labels. (Imagine how much harder it will be for people to try and steal Mom's suitcase at the airport, if her face is splashed over her luggage tags.)

"We usually turn things around within 24 hours and we do same-day printing of photos and Christmas cards," says ImageSnap store manager Kevin Ross, noting that the cards are sent to an ecological printer, the store ships its products worldwide and website orders take priority over everything else.

"We're a locally owned store, not a big chain. Maybe our look is less Santa Cruz, but the owner Stephen Manousos is a local resident," says Ross, pointing out that the coin purses, tote bags and project bags onto which you can print images are by Mackerilla Design, next to the Red Lantern in the Santa Cruz Arts Center.

"If people are rich beyond your budget, or already have everything, our store is the perfect place to make a unique gift," says Ross, adding that there are several ways to opt out of the DIY option, such as splurging on the store's wide range of memory cards, mouse pads and mini basketball goals.

But for those of you intent on using your own photographs, as the basis of your gifts, same-day printing and enlargements are the norm, everything is done in house and nothing is shipped out. Not to mention that ImageSnap boasts a handy viewing station where you can preview your shots in 'contact sheet" mode, before choosing the ones you wish to be converted into hard copies. And then there's the friendly staff, who will help you navigate the software which makes the miracle of printing your baby's face on a table-top possible.

As Ross says soothingly, "We're the technicians and the artists, or employees are either in school or have degrees in art."

Perfumer's Apprentice, upstairs, 1319 Pacific Ave., 831.466.0288, www.perfumersapprentice.com.

The prospect of visiting the heavenly Perfumer's Apprentice is always enticing, but even more so when it involves sidestepping the heavy pre-holiday foot traffic on Pacific and slipping up the stairs to this peaceful sanctuary above Pacific Thai for a cozy hour of perfume-making. For those allergic to perfume, consider that Perfumer's Apprentice's owner Linda Andrews says perfumes used to give her headaches--until she took a workshop with master perfumer Mandy Aftel and realized that her real problem had been with synthetic scents. As a result, Andrews makes sure that everything at the Perfumer's Apprentice is made from the highest quality essential oils, all of which are suitable for making aromatherapy blends. That means that you can sniff and mix scents, which range from chamomile and moss to patchouli and rose, without fear of olfactory overload.

What's more, you get to totally call the shots in this serene oasis, where, for a starting price of $15, you get to access a scent station, create your unique fragrance with a custom label--and choose one skin care product to showcase your new perfume.

With over 200 oils available, and tea and cookies at hand, a session at Perfumer's Apprentice is in itself a great gift--and perhaps the last hope for strained mother-daughter relationships.

So, take up the Perfumer's Apprentice's ridiculously reasonably priced starter package and spend an hour sitting at one of the wooden perfumer's tables, sniffing essences and mixing fragrances, which you then get to add to any one of Andrews' products, including exfoliating hand, body and foot cream and anti-wrinkle rejuvenating face cream.

Petroglyph, 125 Walnut Ave., 831.458.4ART.

If your idea of homemade pottery involves struggling with uncooperative clumps of clay, which somehow transform themselves into hideously asymmetrical objects that your unfortunate friends then end up using as doorstops, think again at Petroglyph. Set at the corner of Walnut Street and Center Street, safely away from the holiday rush, Petroglyph delivers ready-made pottery, leaving you free to exercise your full range of artistic talents on less dangerous tasks--like painting your pre-made piece.

Choose from a wide range of items, which include piggy banks (that also come in the shape of hippos, flowers, goblins and T-Rex) long-stem bud vases, curvy oil bottles, mugs, square salad plates, dog and cat bowls, menorahs and tree ornaments.

According to Petroglyph's studio general manager Richard Morse, the turnaround on items at Petroglyph is two days, though he acknowledges that as the holidays get closer, turnaround may be three days.

For a basic fee of $9.75 for adults and $7 for children, plus the price of your pre-made Petroglyph item, you get to take as long as you want to sit in the store's airy showroom and fiddle as much as you please with your pottery choices. This basic charge also includes the cost of paint, glaze and firing your item(s).

Pottery pieces run from $4 to $50, giving you plenty of scope within your gift-giving budget.

And, as Morse assured us, no previous experience in decorating pottery is necessary, since a Petroglyph staffer is always on hand to give you tips on sponging, speckling, etching and other paint techniques.

As for holiday-season specific gifts, Morse notes that a big favorite with parents is to bring their kids in to put a footprint or handprint on a bowl, mug or platter that's destined as the gift of the doting grandparents.

'We always have snowmen, luminaries, holiday plates and mugs, and holiday figurines like snowmen, penguins and Santa Stamps."

Signed for the Times: Last-Minute Used Book Shopping

By Rick Kleffel

In a sense, signed new books and used first editions actually require that you wait until the last minute to buy them. And Santa Cruz, with all its bookstores, is perfect place for the last-minute Christmas gift shopper. Those of us who hang back and wait for the moment know that the most onerous part of picking the perfect present is making up our minds. Infinity is just too many choices! But the bounty of Santa Cruz's bookstores will help you narrow down that selection, to ride the wave of indecision to the peak of inspiration. There it is, right in front of you. Had you come earlier, it might not have been in stock. And you pushed things to the point where there is no later. But here it is, the obvious choice--a new, signed book, or a delightfully obscure first edition. You've met and made your match, and now all that's left is the smile of the face of your lucky recipient. And you don't have to tell anybody how much you enjoyed browsing through the stacks. Nor do you have to tell them about the gifts you bought for yourself.

Westside Stories, 847 Almar Ave., Santa Cruz; 831.457.2021

If you're looking for a wonderfully oddball selection of signed first editions, or simply lots of great wood shelves filled with books, you'd be well advised to drive the recently renovated Mission Street to the Almar shopping center. Prepare to spend longer than you planned in Westside Stories. Behind the counter you're likely to find Jesse Case-Gabbard and behind Jesse you're going to find a wonderfully eclectic selection of used books. Now here's the thing about this section of the gift guide; I'm going to talk about the books I saw when I went on my very non-last-minute tour. Your mileage and especially your selection may vary, but the idea remains the same; there's plenty of great inspirations that slip in and out of the shelves of our local bookstores.

Actually, I didn't have to even get into the store before I saw my first treasure, a boxed paperback set of Lawrence Durrell's Alexandria Quartet. Durrell's hothouse literary romances, Justine, Balthazar, Mountolive and Clea are a wonderfully obscure literary experiment in which a series of events in Alexandria in the years before World War II are narrated by three different friends, lovers and acquaintances. It's dense, intense and resolutely strange. Inside Westside Stories, the shelves behind Jesse are filled with more treats. I'm sure one of our readers will run to pick up the inscribed edition of Timothy Leary's The Politics of Ecstasy. Kem Nunn's surf noir The Dogs of Winter, also signed, is every bit as good as the better-known Tapping the Source. For the kids, there are more Hardy Boys Mysteries than I ever knew about. There's a first edition copy of Polish sci-fi writer Stanislaw Lem's cryptic thriller The Chain of Chance, and for your seasonal selection David B. Barret's World Christian Encyclopedia. And this is just the first store.

Logos Books, 1117 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz ; 831.427.5100

Yes, everyone knows Logos. But not everyone looks at Logos and thinks, "You know, if I descend into the stacks, I bet I can find the perfect present for a Manly Man." But dive downstairs, and check out their selection of used mystery hardcovers. There you'll find, if you're lucky, something as bicep-enhancing as Gilt-Edged Bonds and More Gilt Edged Bonds by accept-no-substitute Ian Fleming. Yes, these two books are exactly what you think they are. Big, thick, heavy-lifting omnibus editions of the classic James Bond novels in perfect condition volumes straight out of the 1960s. By virtue of the fact that they are collected novels, they avoid the quadruple-digit price tag you'll find on first editions, but they have all the cheesy charm of a very young Sean Connery burring, "Bond--James Bond."

Upstairs, behind glass but still a bargain at $45, you can find a first edition of John Keel's The Mothman Prophecies for the Agent Mulder or Scully in your life. Forget the nearly decent movie. Keel's tale is a nonfiction account of events that reads like something Philip K. Dick might have scribed after a close encounter of his own. Keel has a wicked sense of humor and surreal sensibility that will have your lucky recipient telling themselves that, "This is NOT a dream."

Bookshop Santa Cruz, 1520 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz; 831.423.0900

And speaking of the surreal, you can always wander over to the literary landmark Bookshop Santa Cruz. Engage in a bit of literary detection, and you could find yourself face to face with an all-too-reasonably priced first edition of A Ship-Wrecked Sailor by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Your detective skills will be called for as you reach beyond the used stacks and comb the shelves of new books, searching for the used gems that are hidden within. But if you can pick up a title like the Marquez novel, it's well worth the effort.

The Literary Guillotine, 204 Locust St., Santa Cruz; 831.457.1195

Nestled over on the other side of the Pacific Garden Mall, you'll find another legendary bookstore, the Literary Guillotine, where you may find a set of five perfect Mark Twain books in gorgeous leather bindings or the hot-on-the-shelves Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions by noted Marxist critic Frederic Jameson. If you or someone you really love is in need of Deep Thought, then bring in your not-so-deep pockets and prepare to thrill.

Capitola Book Café, 1475 41st Ave., Capitola; 831.462.4415

For all your signed, recent-release requirements, you need journey no farther than the Capitola Book Café. The spin-offs from their busy event schedule will help you keep a huge variety of readers happy. For the mountain climbers in your life, Bob Madgic's Shattered Air is the suburban-scaled story of a group of climber/hikers on Yosemite's Half-Dome trapped by a lightning storm. Think Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air minus the millionaires and add 50,000 volts and you'll get an idea of just how gripping this book is. Art and mystery lovers will embrace Jonathan (A Civil Action) Harr's The Lost Painting. And as of this writing, you can still find signed copies of Mary Roach's Stiff and Spook, two of the funniest, smartest books about what happens to us after we die you're ever going to be able to give as gifts.

Bookworks, 36 Rancho Del Mar Center, Aptos; 831.688.4554

Those fortunate enough to live in South County need not make the journey all the way into town. You need only get to Bookworks to pick up a signed copy of A Time to Run by Sen. Barbara Boxer. Or, if politics makes you run, run to the Hidden Kitchens of Nikki Silva. And if that doesn't do the trick you can always join J. R. Moeringer at The Tender Bar. And if you really need to escape, you can slip into the surreal alternate-history of Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. Shortlisted for the Booker Prize, this elegiac novel is sure to leave you wondering just what the world has come to. Or could come to.

Of course, all of these or none of these may be in the stores by the time you read this. In fact, you should hope for and plan on shifting stock to meet needs that you didn't know existed. That's the real beauty of last-minute used book-buying. The Truth is out there, and it's written down. All you have to do is to pick it up.

Quick Fixes for the Music Freak In Your Life

By Todd Inoue

If you haven't stockpiled enough brownie points to ask for the video iPod ($299$399), there are plenty of good things to eat up time and shelf space. Whatever: The '90s Pop and Culture Box (Rhino, $105.98) is unbelievable (ohhh!). The decade that begat grunge and MC Hammer is tidily summed up over 130 tracks on seven CDs. The nifty eight hours of music comes with a bag of coffee beans. Better grind it up because sifting through some of the lighter fare (like Candlebox, Primitive Radio Gods and Letters to Cleo) will need caffeinated assistance. For something more contemporary, think about the Live 8 DVD set ($53.98), which covers the highlights and a few complete sets from the summer concert that spanned generations and genres.

Beck fans will have to wait until Jan. 23 to get the Guerolito remix album, but there are still enough unique items worth copping for the "too-cool for school" nimrod in your life. The Director's Label Series DVD collections have been solid thus far (Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry, Chris Cunningham) and the latest release assembles four of its newest spotlighted directors for the Director's Label Series Box Set Vol. 2 ($79.98): Mark Romanek, Anton Corbijn, Jonathan Glazer and Stephane Sednaoui. Artists like Bono, Trent Reznor, Nick Cave, Gwen Stefani and Jamiroquai provide running commentary for their videos. Urban Arts released a slick redesign riffing on the 2K "John & Paul & George & Ringo" T-shirt, substituting N.W.A.'s 'Dre & Eazy & Cube & Ren' ($29) for the Fab Four. It's available through trusted hip-hop whatnot online shop turntablelab. While there, scoop up the latest Hollertronix EP No. 3 ($7.99), which spotlights Diplo and friends playing with pop songs and genres like Tinkertoys.

Is it safe to say that R. Kelly has lost his damn mind? Trapped in the Closet Chapters 112 was released on DVD ($19.98) and it's possibly the best white elephant gift this season. It's under $20 and will be stolen by intrepid white elephant participants--guaranteed. But the joke is on the final owner--Trapped in the Closet requires one viewing maximum (unless you really need to watch R. Kelly's self-aggrandizing commentary on his commentary). Other white elephant gifts this holiday season include holiday CDs by Regis Philbin and Kenny G.

Diddy protégés B5 caused a huge ruckus recently when authorities shut down a Minneapolis mall after their performance caused all matter of mayhem and four people went to the hospital. The group of five brothers--ages 1017--from Atlanta are playing the Radio Disney Jingle Jam tour coming to the San Jose Convention Center on Dec. 17. If your hearing is too sensitive to soak up the screams for an early Christmas present, pick up a copy of their new album All I Do ($13.98) or the new fully poseable Bratz Rock Angelz record ($13.98).

With a bonus DVD of a Hammersmith Odeon 1975 show and a second DVD documentary Wings for Wheels: The Making of Born to Run, the digitally remastered Born to Run 30th Anniversary set ($39.98) is sure to please the most casual or ardent Bruce Springsteen fans. It won't turn the opinions of Republicans who voted down legislation to honor the New Jersey singer, but they're too busy checking if Paul Anka can get props to notice anyway. Also celebrating 30 years in the game is Rush, who release R30--a multiple CD and DVD package ($39.98). Among the features: rare and previously unseen live and interview footage. The first DVD captures the band's 2004 Frankfurt concert filmed with 14 hi-definition cameras. The second DVD is a historical retrospective. A deluxe edition of Rush-R30 also features two CDs with the complete soundtrack from the Frankfurt concert DVD, two limited edition Rush guitar picks and a souvenir backstage pass. Sweet!

After years as a calming profundity, this year it is truly better to give than to receive. That means helping the rebuilding effort in New Orleans in unique ways. One is to purchase the Rounder Records A Celebration of New Orleans Music to Benefit MusiCares Hurricane Relief 2005 which leans on the indigenous sounds of jazz, funk and soul with the usual suspects. Another is to go to Target and gift Sound Response, 16 exclusive live tracks by artists like Dave Matthews Band, Coldplay, Radiohead and Tori Amos. And of local mention, ace photographer Scott Chernis is selling prints captured from over a decade of shooting musicians and cultural events in New Orleans.

Eight-by-10 prints go for $30 apiece with proceeds benefiting displaced musicians and their families. Superb shots for a good cause. Go to www.scottchernis.com/nor.html for more information.

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From the December 7-14, 2005 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

Copyright © 2005 Metro Publishing Inc. Maintained by Boulevards New Media.

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