Presents of Mind: Our Holiday Gift Guide

Presents of Mind: Our Holiday Gift Guide


Our holiday gift guide takes the guesswork out of the shopping season.

Stumped about what to buy for everyone on your list this year as the holiday frenzy descends upon you? No need to worry, because we have your holiday shopping all wrapped up. Our gift guide offers creative, cool suggestions, from suitable hostess gifts and sweet bangles for moms to ideas for the eco-conscious and the latest must-have gadgets for dad.

Stromer ST2

Europe’s e-bike craze has yet to take root in America, but it’s just around the corner. Brett Thurber and Karen Wiener met while they were both students at UC Berkeley, got married, and started an electric-bike dealership out of their Oakland apartment in 2009. Now, they run The New Wheel, a Bernal Heights bike shop, where nearly everything they sell is sleek, European and highly juiced. You can put a refundable $500 gift deposit down to reserve “the Tesla of electric bikes,” shipping this spring: the Stromer ST2 for about $7,000. New Wheel is offering test rides. The Stromer has twice the battery power of most high-end e-bikes, enough for up to about 100 miles on a charge. A good e-bike boosts you up hills without sweating up your business suit. The Stromer naturally has its own app and all kinds of built-in special e-features—including anti-theft system, GPS, and rider controls—and comes with a super-fast battery charger, in-molded lights, and touch screen display—which works with bike gloves. That may be $6,900 more than Mom and Dad paid so long ago, but that Stingray with the banana seat didn’t come connected to the cloud. The New Wheel, 420 Cortland Ave., San Francisco, 415-524-7362,


Huckleberry: Stories, Secrets, and Recipes from our Kitchen

Gifts for gourmands often result in edible returns, so do yourself—and the recipient—a favor and pick up Huckleberry Bakery and Café’s new cookbook. The recipes from the famed Santa Monica bakery focus on breakfast and brunch, with an affinity for baking. Café owner and author, Zoe Nathan, approaches baking with a casualness that makes it seem effortless, encouraging maple bacon biscuits, blueberry brioche, and banana poppy seed muffins to appear on your home kitchen’s weekday menus. The cookbook’s focus on fresh, healthy ingredients mirrors the East Bay’s priorities, a great reminder that cities outside of the Bay Area are also leading the culinary revolution. Available at Mrs. Dalloway’s Literary and Garden Arts, 2904 College Ave., Berkeley, 510-704-8222,



Journals and Bestsellers

What better way to support a long-running independent Bay Area institution than to drop into one of the locations for Pegasus Books, in the Rockridge district of Oakland or on Solano or Shattuck in Berkeley. Peruse a collection of one-of-a-kind gift cards—from the macabre to the hilarious—or pick up a handmade journal, a niche comic book, and/or a locally crafted zine. Browse through a plethora of used and new books for the latest nonfiction bestseller, pick through a fine selection of knick-knacks, or just purchase a straightforward gift certificate. Ask the knowledgeable shop owners for advice if you get stuck. Available at Pegasus Books, 1855 Solano Ave. and 2349 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, and 5560 College Ave., Oakland,



Crimson Horticulture Rarities

A small succulent or a unique vintage romantic flower arrangement would be the perfect pick to take to the next holiday party you are invited to. Owners Allison Futeral and Lonna Lopez specialize in putting together rare plants for both the collector and the newbie to plant accruement. Take it up a notch and invest in an entire plant garden to hang on a wall inside or outside the house or create a unique long-lasting terrarium sure to be remembered as the most exotic gift of the year. Inside the shop, indoor and outdoor succulents abound. The owners are available to talk about more complex pieces or entire garden designs. They don’t balk on educating every visitor with basic tips for long-term care of their beautiful plants. Crimson Horticulture, 470 49th St., Oakland,



Bow-Wow Bling

’Tis the season of the pampered pet, and if you want to guarantee that your precious pooch is treated like the best in show, make a stop at Holistic Hound. From top-tier treats such as freeze-dried chicken necks, duck feet, and beef hearts to home accessories like fluffy bedding, stuffed toys, and delightful food and water dishes, this Berkeley boutique has the finest in furry friend finds. Fill a stocking with salmon and sweet potato cookies or pick up a hide-and-seek snack game to keep Fido entertained. Other Santa Paws–worthy options include quality collars and match ing leashes, charms to add a bit of bow-wow bling, and even cookbooks. Holistic Hound, 1510 Walnut St., Berkeley, 510-843-2133,


Terror in Meeple City

It can be tricky, finding a board game the whole family will enjoy. Well, this holiday season remember one thing—everyone loves destruction. Formerly entitled Rampage, this family-friendly board game lets two to four players take control of a rampaging monster tasked with destroying buildings and eating the inhabitants, Meeples. Players flick wooden cars and monsters and use their breath to knock down buildings filled with Meeples in the 3-D, destructive environment. There’s enough chaos to keep the little ones entertained as buildings topple and Meeples scatter across the board. Adults will appreciate the strategy and skill involved in efficiently navigating and destroying the board, which quickly devolves into a ruined landscape. If that doesn’t scream “holiday season,” what does? Available at EndGame, 921 Washington St., Oakland,


Free Form Industries

What if there were a secret sign that identified you as an Oaklander? Something that encompassed authentic grit, high-tech and modern design? Something like tiny shipping cranes dangling from your ears? Those are a thing, and you can get them in a rainbow of colors, designed and 3D printed by Emeryville’s Free Form Industries. The company also makes earrings and pendants in the form of the Oakland tree and the new Bay Bridge. Gifting beyond the East Bay? Free Form Industries does the Transamerica Pyramid, the Golden Gate Bridge, and a topographical map of California. The intricate little icons are printed in nylon ($14–$20) or stainless steel ($35–$40). Gold-plated and sterling silver versions ($100–$120) are cast based on 3D-printed models. Find them at Modern Mouse, 2223 South Shore Center, Alameda, 510-814-8830,; Hatch, 2054 Mountain Blvd., Oakland, 510-339-7346,; the Oakland Museum of California Store, 1000 Oak St., Oakland,; and other local boutiques.


Handbrewed Soaps

The next best thing to drinking in the shower might be Oakland’s Handbrewed Soaps, which makes cold-processed soaps infused with homebrews, wine, coffee, tea, or chai. Alyson Noel Swihart is the master soaper behind the line of beverage-based beauty products available at Jack of All Trades as well as local retailers such as Oakland Supply Co., Oaklandish, and Hatch. A deep whiff of the bars reveals bar smells—hoppy, spicy, earthy—but won’t leave you smelling like an Irish Spring downstream from a distillery. Whether you lather up with a Merlot Wine Soap to compliment the Christmas leg of lamb or conjure up some suds from a bar of Spice Ale Beer Soap as a little hair of the dog, Handbrewed Soaps pair well with any occasion.



Multipurpose Pretties

Nowadays, we love jewelry that is versatile, a statement piece that can put the finishing touch on an outfit for a holiday party and then be worn to the office the next day. For something that pops, or sparkles, check out one-of-a-kind jewelry at Viv & Ingrid in Berkeley. The delicate gold hoops, rings, and earrings—more often than not embellished with dainty gemstones or charms—could be gifted to a best friend, wife, or even a coworker. And for a mom in your life? Pick up the birthstone charm necklace. Delicate semiprecious stones shimmer against a 14k-gold monogram letter and gold-filled paillette that could easily have a name or birthday etched into it. Available at Viv & Ingrid, Oxford Hall, 2142 Oxford St., Berkeley, 510-524-0662,


This article appears in the December 2014 issue of Alameda Magazine
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