SN&R’s Holiday Guide 2013

Twenty-five crazy, unexpected, awesome gifts (and a few coupons)

Himalayan salt lamps reportedly purify the air by reducing allergens and electromagnetic frequencies—plus, they’re snaz-crag: snazzy and craggy.

Himalayan salt lamps reportedly purify the air by reducing allergens and electromagnetic frequencies—plus, they’re snaz-crag: snazzy and craggy.

photo by serene lusano

Holiday gifts are so last year. It’s always the same concept: giving and receiving sweaters, video games and other useless junk that you’re only halfway happy with. SN&R’s holiday guide wants you to think differently about gifts—outside the mall, so to speak. We have more than two dozen ideas for some great local (and a few nonlocal) goods—as varied as handmade handlebar hand towels and beer brewed practically in Sacramento’s backyard. Plus, we’ve got a page of DIY coupons for broke or anti-materialistic people who just want to give the gift of a free personal service. So, without further ado, prepare to be hella caught off guard by SN&R’s gift guide.

The gift of gab

Language lessons

Parlez-vous français? Perhaps not, but you can treat someone to the language lessons he or she always meant to take. Tell them to say sayonara to those Rosetta Stone CDs that bored them to death, and get cozy with one of Sacramento’s many philological societies offering classes for children and adults at every level. The future polyglot can pick up French with the Alliance Française de Sacramento, Spanish with Casa de Español, German with Sacramento Turn Verein or Japanese with Sakura Gakuen Japanese Language School. Small talk just became a whole lot cooler.,,, J.B.

Sorta-secret supper

Dinner at Tree House

A quick primer on how Tree House has grown: First, in 2010, 20-something chef Kevin O'Connor founded a pop-up dinner night with friends in the restaurant industry. It got popular. He took a gig at former downtown spot Blackbird Kitchen & Bar, left, traveled the world—and now he's back in Sacramento doing his Tree House thing. Which brings us to your gift: Visit http://treehouse for upcoming events, and then buy two tickets. Recent parties have included a northwestern United States foraging dinner and a coffee-based meal. Best sorta-secret dining experience in Sacramento. N.M.

Socks for sandals

Thong socks

Socks are the quintessential terrible, impersonal gift, somewhere between fruitcake and pajamas. So take it to the next level with thong socks. Also called flip-flop socks or Japanese tabi socks, it’s the separation of the big toe that makes this item the perfect thing to wear with sandals. Since the ones at Oto’s Marketplace only cost $1.50, heck, throw in a pair of flip-flops and make it a gift basket—’tis the season to be generous. Oto's Marketplace, 4990 Freeport Boulevard; (916) 424-2398; S.

Children come first

Ana Apple Designs baby and toddler clothes

Too often baby and toddler clothes skew too gooey cute. If you want to dress the little ones in your life with a little more edge, check out the Sacramento-based Ana Apple Designs line. We're talking onesies, bibs, T-shirts and hoodies adorned with felt appliques cut into the shape of record players, boom boxes, skulls and an outline of the state of California. Prices range from $12 to $325 (the latter for a 12-month package), and if you're feeling jealous, there are adult versions, too. Well, not for the bibs. Because that would be weird. Available at various local retailers including Trumpette (2020 I Street). R.L.

Wipe it out

Guy Wipes

Bros deserve to have soft, clean hands, too. Created in Sacramento by brothers Jordan and John Horn, Guy Wipes are large and thick enough for “manly hands” and “your most sensitive parts,” according its website. Plus, they're eco-friendly and organic. Come on, bro: It's $2.99 for a tub of 30 wipes, and there’s a free sticker with each purchase. Hella swag. J.M.

It’s a monocle. By Warby Parker. That sound you hear is the handlebar- mustache and arm-garter set trying to jam money into their computer screens. Purchase it at <a href=""></a>.

photo courtesy of

Mustache party

Embroidered mustache hand towels

Your friend with the handlebar mustache already has everything for grooming his fantastic facial hair, so get him something practical to match his upper-lip cozy. Angela Kingshill embroiders hand towels sporting mustaches worthy of a barbershop quartet. Blond, brown, black or red are available upon request. It's $15 for set of four. handtowel. J.R.

Ink your walls

Art from Reclamare Gallery & Custom Tattoo

Reclamare Gallery & Custom Tattoo has become a house of such needle-drilling wonders that people might forget there's also an eclectic art gallery inside its handsome brick building. Some of our favorites are the totally giftable, pulpy print illustrations by HaiNaNu Saulque, whose work mashes anime, 1940s-era nostalgia and tattoo edge into color-accented compositions of halcyon grit. 2737 Riverside Boulevard, (916) 760-7461,; RFH

Light up a life

LED lightbulb

Dear naysayers: An LED lightbulb is not a tacky gift. On the contrary: It will last as long, if not longer, as your love for your gift recipient—about 20 years. You can light up their life, save them money on their energy bills and claim environmental righteousness. This gift keeps on giving. Find them at home-supply and hardware stores. S.

A dramatic gift

Sacramento Area Regional Theatre Alliance membership

Please your theater buff with the keys to this theater town and buy him or her a membership in the Sacramento Area Regional Theatre Alliance for $40. SARTA is the umbrella organization that supports local community theater and sponsors the annual Elly Awards, which honors the year's best work on stage. Membership benefits include discounted tickets, membership in the talent database, access to SARTA's impressive script library and the opportunity to become an Elly voter. 1001 Del Paso Boulevard, (916) 443-8229, K.M.

Willy Wonka-esque

Nugget Markets gourmet-chocolate selection

You know that scene in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory where the kids go crazy over the sight of an endless river of chocolate? Yeah, that’s sort of how I feel whenever I venture near the gourmet-chocolate section at a Nugget Market grocery store. The Woodland-based chain finds some of the tastiest, most unusual and downright deluxe chocolate treats around. Hint: They make perfect holiday stocking stuffers—hefty prices be damned. Sure, some of the featured candy bars and truffles run upward of $10, but when we’re talking about something as delectable as Wild Ophelia’s Peanut Butter & Banana Bar (a steal at just $4.99, actually), it’s totally worth the cost (and the calories). Various locations, www.nugget R.L.

Decorative decoupage

Trays from Why Girls Go Astray

Help your gift recipient get all lacquered up with Andy Lowry’s Why Girls Go Astray line of decorative decoupage trays.

photo by steven chea

Add a touch of vintage to someone's home's décor with these decoupage-under-glass trays. Made locally by Why Girls Go Astray, these trays come in many sizes and designs (and cost anywhere from $17 to $70)—but all have that funky vintage look. (916) 753-0358, J.M.

Fit for a monk

Tibetan singing bowls

Make beautiful droning and chantworthy music with loved ones this gift-giving season with Tibetan singing bowls. Scott Farrell, co-owner of Zanzibar Fair Trade in Midtown—which stocks a collection of vintage, antique and contemporary Indian, Nepalese and Tibetan singing bowls—says the latter were originally used by monks for their alms (and meals). Tapping and gliding the mallet around the rim of the bowl makes the inverted bell sing for the user's meditation, relaxation and enlightenment. Zanzibar's bowls are $30-$250—and sometimes, into the thousands. Zanzibar Fair Trade, 1731 L Street; (916) 443-2057; S.

Create some buzz

Beginner’s beekeeping kit

Nancy and Fred Stewart, owners of Sacramento Beekeeping Supplies, have put together kits to get the novice beekeeper started. The basic kit comes with a one-story hive, basic bee protection for one person, a smoker and a beginner's how-to book. It doesn't come with the bees, but SBS can provide those, too (for an extra cost). Bees not only provide honey, but also pollinate yards, aiding the growth of vegetable gardens and fruit trees, according to Fred Stewart. So, basically, you could reap the tasty rewards of garden-fresh vegetables and local honey from your friend's garden. That's something to buzz about. Basic beginner's kit prices vary due to choice of hive, around $170-$400. Sacramento Beekeeping Supplies, 2110 X Street; (916) 451-2337; J.R.

Just brew it

Basket of local beers

There's a drunk in every family, which means a gift basket brimming with bottles of locally brewed goodness will do just fine. SN&R recommends growlers from Track 7 Brewing Co. (3747 W. Pacific Avenue, Suite F) and Berryessa Brewing Co. (27260 California 128 in Winters), plus a 22-ounce bomber bottle from Knee Deep Brewing Co. (645 Fifth Street in Lincoln). Throw in a little Ruhstaller (its hops are grown just off Interstate 80 in Dixon), plus some Hoppy Brewing Company (6300 Folsom Boulevard), Rubicon Brewing Company (2004 Capitol Avenue), and, if there are growlers by then, Bike Dog Brewing Co. (2534 Industrial Boulevard, Suite 110 in West Sacramento) and New Helvetia Brewing Company (1730 Broadway). This should keep your uncle hammered through the new year—hopefully. N.M.

Foodie fodder

Local Roots Food Tours

The perfect gift for your favorite foodie: Local Roots Food Tours offer four regular tours and some seasonal specials. Walking tours average three-and-a-half hours, include multiple stops for food, and cost $55-$69. All of the tours include a “culinary concierge” to answer questions, provide insight into the food, and keep things moving smoothly. And, yes, the tour offers gift certificates. (800) 407-8918, K.M.

Locket up

Gravity lockets

Give the gift of a label. Lisa Inez DeFehr creates personalized gravity lockets by etching words and phrases into brass charms. Create a locket for new parents with their baby's info etched into the pendants so they don't forget their child's birthday. Or tell your sister that she's both “homegrown” and “real”—or “slutty.” Prices vary. J.R.

Chart some old territory

Who has two gift cards and wants to teach your giftee improv? Brian Crall of the Sacramento Comedy Spot, that’s who.

photo by steven chea

Vintage Sacramento map

Give history buffs a bit of Sacramento's past with a vintage map of the city. And there's no need to scour thrift stores or the used-bookstore racks; instead browse Etsy for carefully preserved vintage prints. Choose from color or black-and-white illustrations at a variety of prices. Some are even already framed. The fun is in studying how the area's streets and neighborhoods have changed over the decades. R.L.

Vinyl find

Tom Waits’ Nighthawks at the Diner

Remember when Tom Waits was young? We don't either. But he used to be younger. (Believe it or not, there was a time when that voice was only gnarled, not dear-God-how-much-glass-has-that-man-swallowed shredded.) And Flywheel has the near-mint double LP to prove it. Waits' 1975 live album, Nighthawks at the Diner ($34.99), is essentially a series of caustic short stories about ne’er-do-wells set to boozy jazz notes, which ought to satisfy the vinyl nerd on your gift list. Since there’s only one of these at the store, good luck to the dedicated gift-giver who nabs it first! Flywheel, 545 L Street, Suite 1047; (916) 600-4308; RFH

Good reads

McSweeney’s subscriptions

Please a culture jammer with a subscription from the San Francisco-based publishing powerhouse McSweeney's. Timothy McSweeney's Quarterly Concern ($55) features atypically designed books of humorous lit. For foodies, Lucky Peach magazine ($28) is like Cook's Illustrated on acid. For the rest, there's The Believer ($45), a beautiful mag featuring music, interviews, illustrations and more. J.B.

The gift of laughter

Sacramento Comedy Spot’s Improv 101 class

The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatres in New York City and Los Angeles are the epicenters of America's comedy scene. Thousands of would-be improvisers, stand-up comedians and actors have passed through their training courses. If you have a budding-comedian giftee who isn't ready to quit his or her day job just yet, the Sacramento Comedy Spot is offering Improv 101, a two-month class where instructor Brian Crall passes on the secrets of long-form improv that he learned at the UCB Theatre in L.A. Normally $150, it's on sale for $101. Also, UCB recently released a book, The Upright Citizens Brigade Comedy Improvisation Manual, that distills teachings on improv into 384 pages. Written by the troupe’s founding members Matt Besser, Ian Roberts and Matt Walsh, Time Tested Books (1114 21st Street) will be happy to special order it. Sacramento Comedy Spot, 1050 20th Street, Suite 130; (916) 444-3137; B.B.

Like it’s 1995

Bread maker

The 1990s are back. So, as you pull out your grungy flannel shirts, sunflower-print dress and matching scrunchies, don't forget the funnest appliance of that dear decade: the bread-maker machine. It's a perfect gift for someone you want to break bread with without needing to be there, you dig? Find one used (perhaps from the actual 1990s) online, or a brand-new one for $60-$300; home-goods stores, such as Bed Bath & Beyond, still sell these things, as if it were still 1995. As if! S.

Spruce up the walls

Photo of Tower Bridge from Ikea

Turn someone's wall into an homage to Sactown architecture for just $49.99. Ikea's 40-by-55-inch print of a nighttime photo of Sacramento's iconic Tower Bridge is available exclusively at the West Sacramento location of the Swedish home-furnishings mega-store. 700 Ikea Court in West Sacramento, (888) 888-4532, J.M.

Up their cooking game

Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op cooking classes

Sick of Tofurky? Up someone's cooking game with classes taught at the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op. The Midtown indie grocer offers classes year-round, many of which are geared toward special diets—vegan, gluten-free, etc. Want to give an early gift? Consider the Guilt-Free Desserts—Sugar-free, Vegan and Gluten-free class. 'Tis the season for indulgent desserts, after all—not to mention an ever-expanding waistline and, possibly, severe gastronomical distress. This class (you can stop making that “ew” face now) teaches how to make chocolate cookies and apple crisps using different flours and sweeteners. The cost is $45, or $35 for Co-op members. 1900 Alhambra Boulevard, (916) 455-2667, R.L.