Gift Ideas for Each of the 12 Days of Christmas
From cookbooks and chore coats to world-class art and smart ovens, here’s how to wow everyone on your shopping list.
Photos courtesy of the manufacturers
Dish This Out
Keep it local for the foodie in your life with a gift of the East Bay Cooks cookbook ($32.99). Former San Jose Mercury News food writer Carolyn Jung has assembled 80 signature dishes from 40 local establishments spanning a multitude of cuisines. A sampling of the diverse recipes includes Vik’s Chaat & Market’s moong dal, Nido’s shrimp alambre tacos, Gaumenkitzel’s pork schnitzel, Tay Ho’s hue dumplings, Shakewell’s braised short ribs, and the Local Butcher Shop’s chocolate chip cookies made with leaf lard. Beautifully photographed by Eve Kolenko, the cookbook also features chefs from Alameda, Danville, Dublin, Walnut Creek, and Pleasanton. East Bay Cooks, Figure 1 Publishing, 208 pages, $32.99.
Get a custom house portrait from Pamela Baron for the new homeowner or that special someone who spends all of his free time renovating his house. Known for her whimsical greeting cards and art prints of Victorian facades, plants, and animals, the Rhode Island School of Design graduate creates 9-by-12-inch house portraits in watercolor, India ink, and gouache on paper that take three to four weeks to complete. Custom house portrait, $525 for 9-by-12-inch portrait. See PamelaBaron.com for details.
World Renowned Art
The Canvia digital picture frame is a centerpiece for any sitting room. Once connected to your home WiFi, this screen downloads and displays artwork from artists and museums around the world at an interval you specify. Users can access a host of free artworks, filter art by period, or subscribe to access even more beautiful images. When the lights go low, this frame automatically adjusts to the radiance in the room, all the way down to complete darkness. You can also hang it in either portrait of landscape mode, and it automatically changes the artwork displayed. Canvia Picture Frame, $400, Canvia.art.
This powerful everyday laptop is sleek, lightweight, and runs any modern computing task you can think of as a desktop user. It’s even powerful enough to satisfy your favorite computer nerd or the budding young student in your life. As a Windows computer, the Dynabook performs well enough to satisfy the needs of a Fortnite or League of Legends addict. As a work-a-day notebook, it can compile code, it can Photoshop, it can run VMs, and it can do all the other important computery things Silicon Valley demands from serious business hardware. Toshiba Portege Dynabook A30, $1,500, Us.dynabook.com/computers-tablets/laptops/portege.
Share Your Story
Every family has a story to tell. The hard part is getting that story onto paper. Oakland’s Stories to Last helps you to capture your story and craft a lasting document for your family and generations to come. Owner and writer Linda Hamilton will conduct interviews, organize photos, do research, craft a story, and publish your story in book form. Those with a limited budget can opt for a short story to last instead of a full-blown family history. Video is also an option. A great gift idea for an older family member. StoriesToLast.com, 510-301-1997, price depends on scope of project.
Scents to Send You
Bring home nature to your favorite outdoors lover with Juniper Ridge’s line of personal fragrance (i.e., cologne) in scents of white sage, desert cedar, coastal pine, and redwood mist (each $35). Handmade in Oakland from wild-harvested ingredients, the gender-neutral scents are guaranteed to be free of paraben, phthalates, preservative, dye, and cruelty. Who doesn’t want to smell like a fog-drenched forest, crisp ocean air, spicy resin, or sun-baked wood? For burly mountain men and wood nymphs alike. Juniper Ridge fragrances are available at Oakland Supply Co., Jack London Square, 427 Water St., Oakland, and JuniperRidge.com.
Ultimate Chore Coat
Everyone needs a durable jacket with storage to spare to hold tools, farmers market produce, baby bottles, or various devices. Temescal Alley’s Claflin, Thayer & Co. offers an especially stylish version of the old-fashioned chore coat ($290) for the pocket-happy person in your life. The unisex style is the right weight for the Bay Area’s wind and fog and comes in black and natural cotton canvas, as well as railroad stripe denim. Made in America, this chore coat looks good on everyone — from construction worker to new mom to tattooed Telegraph Avenue hipster. Claflin, Thayer & Co. 470 49th St., Suite E, Oakland, 510-250-9855, ClaflinThayer.com.
Everything’s Coming Up Rosie
Already a fan of the wonderful collection of World War II homefront memorabilia at the Rosie the Riveter Trust Visitor Education Center? Don’t forget the center’s excellent gift store, where you’ll find everything “We Can Do It!” from “Climbing the Crane” sweatshirts to various versions of Rosie-embossed wine glasses. Then there are Rosie lunch boxes, Rosie dog tags, and new this year, updated-kinda-pop-art Rosie black T-shirts and tanks (shirts, that is). Also very giveable is the Rosie’s Riveting Recipes cookbook. You can order some items online — but an in-person visit is much more fun. As a celebratory plus, proceeds from the gift store help support the Trust, which is truly a sparkling East Bay gem. Rosie the Riveter Trust Gift Store, 1414 Harbour Way South, Suite 3000, Richmond, 510-232-5050, RosieCenter.com.
Bravo for Brava
The hottest new trend in the kitchen is the smart oven. While there are a number of competitors in this growing and diverse market, the Brava Oven is the top of the line. It can automatically cook anything you can cook in a regular oven, and it can do the deed with accuracy, thanks to an included digital thermometer. Once injected into the meat or other foodstuff, it communicates exactly what’s going on to the digital sensors inside. Coupled with the inward looking digital camera, this oven allows for serious precision cooking coupled with total convenience and simplicity. Brava Oven, $1,295, comes with credit towards meals, Brava.com.
If you’ve never taken the time to play with a sous vide cooker, the Anova Precision cooker will both delight and surprise. The shapely device makes the process of setting up and cooking a breeze: Choose what you want to cook in the phone-based app, then hit start, and leave your vacuum-sealed baggie of meat, vegetables, or what have you in the heated water for an hour or two. Your reward will be the juiciest steaks, tenderest fish, or most liquid yolk-filled hardboiled egg you’ve ever seen. A terrific choice for the chef who has everything, particularly if you’re in a position to eat the results. Anova Sous Vide Precision Cooker, $199 AnovaCulinary.com.
For Sake’s Sake
Tucked inside an unassuming El Cerrito strip mall is a foodie’s delight — and an ideal place to find gifts for foodies. Yaoya San Japanese Grocery recently expanded, now encompassing former neighbor Zipang, and still carries a super-fun selection of Japanese dining items and cooking utensils, such as a special grinder for sesame seeds, beauty products, and cool odds and ends. But if you have a sake fan on your list, your eyes will bulge at the enormous selection. (Who knew mango sake existed?) Then there are the seaweeds, the sauces, the dried mushrooms, and don’t get me started on the ramens. Oh, and you will not be able to resist stocking-stuffer “Pocky” Double Rich Matcha/Chocolate Biscuit Sticks. Yaoya San, 10566 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito, 510-526-7444, YaoyaSan.com.
Give Some Togetherness
Over the past few years, social science research has shown that things aren’t the path to happiness: Experiences are. Not only do we look forward to special experiences, they also create memories that can be savored long after they are in the rear-view mirror. And experiences savored together are even better, boosting feelings of human connection and strengthening relationships.
Cruise the Alameda Pointe Antiques Faire: A fan favorite for those who love vintage décor and fashion, this huge flea market (800-plus dealers) is held the first Sunday of every month. Ashby Flea Market, this ain’t: The items on sale are all at least 20 years old, so no gym socks and cheap cleaning supplies here. Even if you aren’t actively hunting for bargains, can have fun going back in time. Alameda Pointe Antiques Faire, 2900 Navy Way, Alameda, entrance is $15 before 7:30 a.m., $10 from 7:30-9 a.m., and $5 till 3 p.m., AlamedaPointAntiquesFaire.com.
Hop a ferry: No need to have a well-heeled friend with a yacht when you can take the ferry across the bay whenever you’d like. Head over to SF’s ferry building, then head right back home — the ride is experience enough. Alameda Ferry Terminal, 2990 Main St., Alameda, adult round trip $14.40, youth round trip $7.20, free under 5, SanFranciscoBayFerry.com/route/alameda/sffb.
Hike the Oakland hills: Research shows that being in nature makes you kinder, happier, and more creative. Plan out your route on the East Bay Regional Park District’s website, grab your walking shoes, and ignore your phone to place all your attention on your loved one and the view. Trail maps available at EBParks.org.
Learn how to kayak: Treat your nearest and dearest to sea kayak lessons through Cal Adventures at the Berkeley Marina. Anyone can try out the sailing, sailboarding, and kayaking courses offered through Cal’s Rec Sports program. A seven-hour weekend class will certify you and your giftee to be able to rent kayaks whenever you’d like. Cal Adventures, Berkeley Marina, $110 for a seven-hour basic course, kayak rentals $20 per hour once after passing the basics class, RecSports.berkeley.edu/cal-adventures.
Play a little pinball: Take your nearest and dearest to play some mean pinball at the funky museum-cum-arcade. The Pacific Pinball Museum has more than 90 machines, dating from the 1940s to the present day. The vintage games are fun to look at with their hot rod and cowboy themes, but nothing beats the speed of the pinball games of the 1980s and 90s. A flat rate gets you all-day play. Pacific Pinball Museum, 1510 Webster St., Alameda, $20 adults, $10 kids, $50 family pack (two adults, two kids), PacificPinball.org.
Sign up for cooking classes: Treat the foodie on your list with a cooking class for two at Kitchen on Fire in Berkeley or Oakland. You can learn how to make dishes from Japan to the South of France as well as honing your knife skills and boosting your sauce mastery. Kitchen on Fire, 6506 San Pablo Ave., Oakland, and 1509 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, classes start at $75, KitchenOnFire.com.
Take in a night of theater: Treat a budding actor to a night of drama at Alameda’s community gem, the Altarena Playhouse. Upcoming 2020 performances in this converted grocery store include Dreamgirls and Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, as well as special events like holiday singalongs. It’s the only Bay Area theater-in-the-round. Altarena Playhouse, 1409 High St., Alameda, $30 adults, $27 students, Altarena.org.
Taste a little wine: Head to Alameda’s Rock Wall Wine Company for an amazing view of San Francisco as you sip some wine. You can choose five wines to taste from a long list of everything from your standard reds and whites to sparkling and desert wines. Treating your extended clan to a tipple? Make reservations if you have eight or more in your group. Rock Wall Wine Company, 2301 Monarch St., Alameda, tasting fee of $20 is waived if you purchase a bottle worth $30 or more, RockWallWines.com.
Tour Vasco Caves: The landscape and flora at Vasco Caves Regional Preserve in Livermore is so fragile that the only way to see it is as part of a group guided tour. The preserve is home to 10,000-year-old Indian cave art, as well as endangered red-legged frogs and tiger salamanders, and a variety of nesting raptors. Tours include a 1.5- to 2-mile hike led by a naturalist. Vasco Caves Regional Parks Preserve, Livermore, $35-$40, EBParks.org.
Visit Children’s Fairyland: Got nieces and nephews? Show them the delights of Lake Merritt’s Fairyland. The low-tech precursor to over-stimulating mega-parks like Disneyland, Fairyland is beloved by kids up to 8 years old for its storybook sets, tiny trains and other rides, live animals, and expansive gardens. You’ll find yourself digging the puppet shows and singsong nursery rhymes, too. Be sure to get a magic key at the door. Children’s Fairyland, 699 Bellevue Ave., Oakland, $12 for kids and adults (free under 1 year old), magic keys are $3 (worth every penny), Fairyland.org.