A Gift of Wow
The Weekly’s list of easy-but-amazing local gifts – yes, you can give Father Time, or the entire ocean – makes economic stimulation fun.
Thursday, December 13, 2012
As this paper hits the streets, it’s Dec. 13. And if you follow the tradition of giving the people you like gifts for Hanukkah, Christmas or Kwanzaa – or, hell, just because everyone else is doing it – there are two ways to approach the last-minute shopping crunch.
You can go big-box/big-URL. Or you can go local.
Going loc takes a little more strategy, but the payoff is a deeper connection with the community you live in, with extra points for creativity and thoughtfulness.
If someone you love plays stringed instruments, for example, you can backpack 6 miles into the Ventana Wilderness and hit up homesteader Jack English, who inlays exotic horns and native shells on his one-of-a-kind, handmade violin bows.
Or you can consult this list, which lays out truly mind-spinning local presents – like feng-shui flow, puppy obedience and even flight – that are a bit easier to get to.
Of course there are countless other options for unique, local gifts all around Monterey County. Think of this, then, as a sampler tray of the places and things that make us smile during the holidays.
There was a painful moment early in John Steinbeck’s marriage when his mystery novel pitches were falling flat, and the couple had to sell their pet duck in order to eat. A Life in Letters ($30, Steinbeck Center) is his rollicking, rough account of a varied personal and professional life. For another generation that helped shape American letters with roots in the region, check out The Voice Is All, a brand-new biography of Jack Kerouac by Joyce Johnson ($33, Pilgrim’s Way). It’s surrounded by traveler-friendly books – mostly paperbacks with an emphasis on truth-seeking journeys. For the authoritative account of local history, visit Cooper Molera Adobe’s bookshop, with a wide selection of illustrated children’s books, cookbooks and historic geekery on everything from wars to whaling.
Cooper Molera adobe, 525 Polk St., Monterey. $1-$80/gifts; $9-$40/books. 649-7111, www.parks.ca.gov/mshp.
Steinbeck Center, 1 Main St., Salinas. $3-$50/gifts; $10-$100/books. 796-3833, www.steinbeck.org.
Pilgrim’s Way, Dolores between Fifth and Sixth, Carmel. $7-$50. 624-4955, www.pilgrimsway.com.
A Tour of Otter Territory
It’s not legal – or advisable – to give someone a kidnapped sea otter. But a gift card to Monterey Bay Kayak can be deployed either at Del Monte Beach by Wharf Two or Moss Landing’s north harbor for upwards of eight hours paddling through paradise with those fuzzy buggers. Or make it a whole lifetime by way of one of the used and demo kayaks on sale for as much 60 percent off. Stand-up paddleboards are available for rent too (with classes on weekends).
Monterey Bay Kayak, 693 Del Monte Ave., Monterey; 2390 Highway 1, Moss Landing. Kayak: $30/day; standup: $30/two hours; $400-$700/used kayak. 373-5357, www.montereybaykayaks.com.
Mother Nature’s Secrets
You can hike up to the top of Huckleberry Hill to get the lay of the land on today’s Peninsula, or you can leaf through reproductions of century-old maps. For a more rigorous exploration of local history, give the gift of research assistance ($50/hour) to peruse over 80,000 California images in the collection. These maps won’t get you very far hiking, but navigation classes at REI can teach the novice how to read a map and compass, or tips on snowshoeing or ultra-light backpacking. Or join a local historian for a two-hour tour of familiar spots in Monterey, Carmel or Pt. Lobos, to illuminate the archaeological findings you might otherwise miss.
California Views, 469 Pacific St., Monterey. $55-$1,200; two-for-one sale through Christmas. 373-3811, www.caviews.com.
REI, 145 General Stillwell Dr., Marina. Free. 883-8048, www.rei.com/stores/marina.htm.
California Legacy Tours, by reservation. $30/person. 324-3304, www.calegacytours.com.
Say you have a dog that defeats every security measure you have and manages to scatter garbage everywhere, everyday. Or what if Fido can’t resist the allure of a ripe basket of dirty laundry and eats socks as if they were kibble? Maybe you just have a high energy pup who needs to play, play, play like there’s no tomorrow. Pacific Grove’s Zoom Room can take problem owners and turn them into responsible ones, because really, there’s no such thing as a bad dog. There are tons of group classes and private lessons available, from basic agility to “urban herding” to essential manners for puppies.
Zoom Room, 120 Central Ave., Pacific Grove. 717-4580, www.zoomroomonline.com.
The Food Bank for Monterey County doesn’t make meals for our hungry neighbors, but it provides food to the organizations that do, like Dorothy’s Kitchen and the Salvation Army. You can be part of the lineage that gets hot meals to hungry people: Go to www.foodbankformontereycounty.org, click on “Ways to Donate,” then on “Buy Food for a Hungry Family.” That brings up a grocery list of sought-after food that you can purchase with a credit card. Another way is to put non-perishable food in one of more than 1,000 holiday-drive food bins located at county libraries, stores and fire stations through Dec. 31. The online route stretches your dollars further because 41 food banks pool their food purchases. A donation to the Food Bank through the Monterey County Gives! campaign (through Dec. 31) triggers a matching contribution to support nutrition classes for kids and their parents. The Food Bank’s food isn’t necessarily local (though area restaurants routinely donate), but the recipients sure are. And that counts.
Food donation barrels, various locations. 758-1523, www.foodbankformontereycounty.org. To donate through the Gives! campaign, visit www.montereycountygives.com.
From whimsical swirls to utilitarian geometry to pop icons, there’s a spectacular range of artworks on the @Risk Gallery walls. The stories you’re likely to hear while browsing or reading from the well-stocked library are at least as diverse, as Salinas’ homeless population in Chinatown gathers at this gallery/studio/coffee shop. It’s a budding microenterprise that’s harnessing the long-marginalized creativity of the artists living and working on these streets. Seventy-five percent of the proceeds go directly to the artist; the rest supports the gallery operator, Dorothy’s Place, which provides a spectrum of homeless services.
@Risk Gallery, 19 Soledad St., Salinas. $10-$125. 757-3838, www.dorothysplace.org/@riskgallery.
Alien Flower Art
Some flowers are romantic, some are quaint, and some are just beautifully bizarre. This last group is the domain of Bettina Wromar and Mike Astone, the wife-and-husband team behind Astone’s Protea. They’ve been growing more than 200 varieties of the remarkable South African and Australian plants in Aptos since 1981 and have been a fixture at the Monterey Peninsula College farmers market for more than a decade. Their seasonal wreaths, made from fresh-cut proteas, look like they’ve been graced with the plumage of tropical birds, or perhaps sprinkled with some extreterrestrial seeds. Either way, it’s a gorgeous upgrade from the fir-and-hollies classic. They’ll last in full color for two to four weeks, then dry nicely for posterity.
Astone’s Protea, 7160 Freedom Blvd., Aptos and MPC Farmers Market (Fridays, 10am-2pm), Monterey. $45 for 18-inch, $70 24-inch, others to order. 622-3735, www.astonesprotea.com.
This mom-and-pop studio adds a bright pop of art to the NPS neighborhood, with its ceramic Mexican planters, terra cotta wall sconces, peaceful garden sculptures, carved wooden bears, quirky seahorses and gurgling fountains. Presiding over it all is a chainsaw-art dragon as tall as a building. Co-owner Jorge Rodriguez says the metal peacocks ($69.50+) and flowers ($25+) are always his biggest sellers. But some of the burlwood pieces, carved from the knobby feed of redwood trees, are crafted onsite and literally embody local history: He’s got pieces salvaged from Monterey’s historic Larkin House Adobe and the San Carlos Cathedral. Prices are negotiable, with a 10-percent locals discount, and an additional 5 percent for military.
Burlwood Industries, 1299 Del Monte Ave., Monterey. 641-9180, www.crystalrosecollection.com.
A timepiece enthusiast can waltz into Gaspar’s Jeweler’s in Monterey and, for $25,000, purchase a watch with 8 ounces of rose gold. The Carl F. Bucherer watch is banded in American crocodile leather and sold in only about 40 stores in the United States. It also features 30 – and 60-minute timers and has a power reserve to show the wearing time before it needs to be wound again. If you like the idea of wearing art on your wrist, call this the Picasso of watches.
Gaspar’s Jeweler’s, 447 Alvarado St., Monterey, 375-5332, www.gaspersjewelers.com
The Entire Ocean
The most glorious, mysterious and massive adventure is literally in Monterey County’s backyard. Only few people tap its glory like they could – namely, with a tank and BCD. With some study and application of buoyancy, native species, safety, dive tables, buddy management and more – plus some in-water training – the ocean is your oyster. And your harbor seal. And your gumbo chiton.
Seven Seas Scuba, 225 Cannery Row, Monterey. $369/open water class. 717-4546, www.sevenseasscuba.com
Diane Kremer describes feng shui as a positive force that helps people feel protected and at ease in their living and work spaces. Kremer isn’t a feng shui master (and www.fengshuidirectory.com doesn’t list any in Monterey County), but the Carmel interior designer has studied the ancient Chinese art of spatial arrangement and uses it in her designs. It can be as simple as a mirror strategically placed mirror deflect a neighbor’s bad energy, or as involved as an ocean-view window engineered at the optimal angle from the door. A consultation with Kremer can help you re-position your furniture, minimize clutter and route the energy flow to cultivate peace.
Diane Kremer Design Group, SW corner of Mission and Fourth, Carmel. $375 per three-hour consultation. 709-4936,www.kremerdesigngroup.com.
Maybe buy a nice box of chocolates for someone you care about – or maybe get them a giant, screaming, insane box of adrenaline! This represents a chance to redeem all the gifts you’ve ever given that have tumbled into a reservoir of long-ago forgottenness. This they’ll remember forever.
Skydive Monterey Bay, Inc., 721 Neeson Rd., Suite 1, Bldg. 533, Marina. $199/15,000-foot jump; $259/18,000-foot jump. 1-888-BAY-JUMP, www.skydivemontereybay.com
Art for the Future
If you missed the two-day opening of this year’s Holiday Art Show at the Youth Arts Collective, you missed something special. But in the wake of that wide-eyed party, there’s a bounty of art made by the young members of this after-school program: 300 pieces from 56 budding artists. And the environment that will meet you at the gallery/studio space while you peruse the dizzy array is lively, teeming with teen spirit and messy creativity. The works start at $10-$12, average $25-$50 and top out at $300. Thirty percent of the proceeds go to YAC, the other 70 to the young artist. That’s a direct pipeline to feed growing artistic muses. The Holiday Art Show runs to February but, like other holiday deals, it’s while supplies last.
Youth Arts Collective 472 Calle Principal, Monterey. 3-7pm Mon-Fri; 12-4pm Sat. 375-9922, www.YACStudios.org.
The Weekly’s Monterey County Gives! campaign to raise money – through matching funds and you, dear reader – for the county’s more than 1,000 nonprofit organizations began in 2000. Last year, $673,000 was raised in this synergistic effort. This year, the $100,000 matching fund is in place – raised in conjunction with the Community Foundation for Monterey County, David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the Neumeier Poma Investment Counsel – and the donations from the community are growing (it was over $244,000 as of Dec. 10). This year’s range of 96 nonprofits have each submitted a proposal as to how they intend to spend the money. You can donate til midnight Dec. 31 online or by mailing checks or cash and a note about which organization you want it to go to. It’s a great way to end 2012, wouldn’t you say?
Elegance for Geeks
It’s a well-known fact: Geeks love code. They talk about it in terms of “elegance,” as in, “Hey, Mark Zuckerberg, that’s an elegant line of code you’ve written there.” So why not give the geek in your life something truly elegant, written in original code, to hang on their wall while they think deep thoughts? At Somos Media & Gallery in Oldtown Salinas, owners Will Devoe and Imelda Suarez stock a variety of prints by Los Angeles-based street artist Cryptik, who defines his work as hieroglyphics meets ancient scripts meets Eastern philosophy meets “cholo” writing. (He also does great renderings of deep thinkers like the Dalai Lama and Buddha.) An unframed, stamped-and-signed print runs about $60, while a framed version adds another $30.
Somos Media & Gallery, 262 Main St., Salinas. 422-9200, www.somosmedia.com
Lloyd’s in Carmel offers nice arch support for women with French-made Arche shoes. Starting at $285, they are made with Nubuck suede, are water-resistant and shock-absorbing. Arche makes styles across the board, from slippers and flats to boots and heels. With a huge variety of colors, you can match with nearly anything. When your feet are learning French, they’re learning in style.
Ocean Ave. at Dolores St., Carmel, 625-1382, www.lloydsshoes.com
The Opposite of Bologna
France may have the best truffles. Japan’s got the market cornered with Kobe beef. But Monterey Bay has abalone. Regulated heavily in the wild, the Monterey Abalone Company takes some stress off the situation by sustainably raising, harvesting and shipping abalone to fine dining establishments nationwide. Monterey locals can pick them up in person on the end of Wharf Two. Co-owners Art Seavey and Trevor Fay oversee all aspects of their sustainably farmed shellfish biz and produce abalone that are as close to wild as possible. Spices are nice and liquor is quicker, but for the discerning foodie on your shopping ledger, it’s hard not to impress with this gift.
Monterey Abalone Company. 160 Municipal Wharf No. 2, Monterey. 646-0350, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hope and Health
Rancho Cielo is known throughout the region for its innovative programs that help kids on the edge get back on solid ground. And its Drummond Culinary Academy, where at-risk kids get vocational training in the culinary arts, offers up a public Friday-night experience that highlights locally grown produce. Now supporters of Rancho Cielo’s mission can take that support one step further by purchasing Lettuce Be the Change. The $20 cookbook from recipe writer and local author Adrienne Saldivar-Meier carries its own mission: using fresh produce from America’s growers to aid in the fight against obesity. Or, contribute through the Monterey County Gives! campaign to Rancho Cielo’s plan to provide young men with safe, transitional housing.
Rancho Cielo, 710 Old Stage Road, Salinas. 444-3533, www.ranchocieloyc.org. Lettuce Be the Change available at the Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital gift store, Rancho Cielo or online at www.lettucebethechange.com. Donate through the Gives! campaign at www.montereycountygives.com.
A dinner reservation at sunset on the Monterey Peninsula is the first step, but looking as good as the beautiful view is key to a winning date. For just under $500, Briono makes brightly colored sport shirts and button-down dress shirts with down and open collars. According to the sales team, striped patterns in red and blue are popular.
Khaki’s, Carmel Plaza, corner of Junipero and Ocean, Carmel, 625-8106, www.khakisofcarmel.com
OK, so it’s not always easy to get out of the house and spend precious hours in real, live shops. Maybe you’ve got to stay home for a kid who needs her nap, or it’s 11pm by the time your mind gets around to gifting. You can go local, artisanal and online by using the “Shop Local” feature of Etsy, the Amazon.com of small-batch, hand-crafted products. Typing in “Seaside, CA,” for example, turns up 575 items, from PaxtonJewelry’s silver sea-turtle cufflinks to PinkFernDesign’s lampwork-bead pendants to brienna’s surreal Victorian-inspired graphite drawings. Heck, you might even be able to arrange a local pickup and give your crafty online-merchant neighbor a high five.
Monterey County is home to some of the most spectacular outdoor recreation in the country. From mountains to ocean, stream to surf, it’s all here. And Outdoor World in Seaside has the Vasque boots needed to explore The Pinnacles, the Shimano reels to help haul in that monster lingcod and the comfy Gregory packs to schlep your kit through the wilds of Big Sur. Thanks to a bigger, better, brand-new location, the store has an even wider selection of clothing and accessories. Weather your favorite outdoors freak loves camping out in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park or stalking steelhead on the Carmel River (legally, of course), this is one local stop to make before facing the elements.
Outdoor World, 1130 Fremont Blvd., Seaside. 1-888-344-9500, theoutdoorworld.com.
No need to fish for it or cook it yourself when you’re in Monterey County – talented local chefs plus fresh-caught local seafood equal imminent enjoyment. Witness: the Arctic char at Pacific Grove jewel Passionfish, the abalone bisque at Cannery Row favorite Sardine Factory, the lavender-brined pork tenderloins at Mundaka in Carmel, the Bobby Flay-flogging cioppino at Phil’s Fish Market in Moss Landing. These restaurants and many more are prime pickings for holiday gift-certificate giving.
Check out the Weekly’s Wine and Dine guide, online or at www.montereycountyweekly.com/restaurants, to search by city or cuisine.
The Range of Human Emotion
As in, tickets to a local production. Every week, the Weekly’s calendar is loaded with almost too many events to count, from plays at PacRep and Paper Wing to concerts at Golden State and productions at the Sunset Center. In fact, what’s coming up in the next few months at the Sunset Center is world-class entertainment in our own backyard: There’s there’s famed comedian Lily Tomlin, the Second City comedy troupe, ballet and chamber and symphony music galore. Grab a cocktail before the show (L’Auberge, anyone? Or Sadies, maybe?), and you’ll be set for a classy night out.
Various events, various locations, check the Weekly’s calendar in print or at www.montereycountyweekly.com/events. For Sunset Center events, visit www.sunsetcenter.org. San Carlos Street at Ninth Avenue, Carmel, 620-2048.
What if you’re the kind of person who needs nothing except the gift of time? As in, you don’t have enough of it to accomplish the things you need to do, much less the things you want to do (like take kayak lessons or enjoy a night on the town). If there’s enough dog hair accumulated on your staircase to make an entirely new dog, for example, or all of the coffee spilled in your car makes for a funky new smell every morning, this might be you (or someone you love). Give the gift of a deep, deep cleaning, or dog walking, or yard work, or car detailing. And give it by checking out the Weekly’s Local Guide, a compendium of service-oriented businesses, broken down by geography. There’s no need to obsess over the little messes when you can be out having fun.
Local Guide, http://marketplace.montereycountyweekly.com .