A is for Apple. As in iPod, iPad and iPhone. If there’s someone on your gift list this year who has been especially nice, reward him or her with one of Apple’s latest and greatest gadgets. Prices are pretty standard, but deals can still be found. Check out the Apple Store at www.apple.com or call 800-MY-APPLE. Or go to Target’s online store at www.target.com for holiday specials and sales.
B is for books. Whether they’re books on tape, or e-book portables such as the Kindle or Nook, or even just the old-fashioned paper variety, the gift of books is always a foolproof present. Pick out a bestseller or buy a gift card and let your recipients decide for themselves. You can’t go wrong – or run out of titles – with a literary pick. Shop Barnes & Noble Booksellers in Antioch at 925-978-1031, or log on to Borders Books at www.borders.com.
C is for cookies and cupcakes and cakes (oh my!). A bit of sweet makes every holiday complete, and designer cakes and cookies can be works of art as well as pleasing on the palate. TLCakes in Brentwood offers amazing confections for that special someone on your list this season. Call Tena Parish at TLCakes, 925-513-3688, or go to www.tlcakes.com.
D is for donation. Get into the true spirit of the holidays this season by making a donation in your recipient’s name to a local charity or organization. For animal lovers on your list, make a contribution to HARP (Homeless Animal Response Program), or if you think it would be appreciated, surprise them with an adopted dog or cat. Call 925-431-8546 or go to www.harp-rescue.org. For the non-animal enthusiasts on your list, a donation to the countywide Meals on Wheels or Friendly Visitors programs can help to make a huge difference in the life of a senior citizen. Call Senior Outreach Services at 925-937-8311, or hop online and search for East Contra Costa County Charities – you’ll find a wealth of worthwhile groups.
E is for earphones. When the happy sounds of the holidays become a little more jolly than you can stand, the gift of a quality pair of earphones – or ear buds – might be the gift that keeps on giving. Bose, known for its high-tech audio products, has come out with a new pair of ear buds this year, but plenty of manufacturers offer top quality at respectable prices. Locally, try Target or Best Buy for a wider selection, or hop online at www.amazon.com and see what you can find for that special someone. You might be inspired to pick up a pair for yourself, too.
F is for flowers. Nothing says Happy Holidays in so many ways. Whether it’s a holiday centerpiece, Christmas wreath or a one-of-a-kind bouquet, Ribbons N Roses in Brentwood can help. Call them at 925-634-4180 to place an order. Good Scents in Oakley has been serving local residents for years with creative designs. Call them at 925-625-5550 for location and store hours, or log on at www.freshscents.com.
G is for gold – and other gems. If you’re stuck for a last-minute gift for that special someone on your list, you can’t go wrong with the gift of gold. Earrings, necklaces and watches for him and her are exquisite ways to make this a holiday to remember. For custom designs or more traditional looks, G. Anthony Jewelers in Brentwood can take the worry out of shopping. Call 925-308-7114 for store location and hours. If it’s a more exotic, one-of-a-kind gemstone you’re looking for, you can find it at Cre’me de la Gem in downtown Brentwood. Call 925-516-6200 or log on at www.cremedelagem.com.
H is for History. Did you know that 12 inches of snow fell on East County on Jan. 6, 1883? East Contra Costa Historical Society’s 2011 Calendar, which costs $10, is the perfect gift for the history buff in your life. Filled with dozens of factoids and prominent dates in East County history, the calendar also features classic historical photos – some published for the first time. You’ll learn something new every day. To purchase the calendar, call Kathy Leighton at 925-634-0917.
I is for Inner Peace. We could all use a little inner peace during the madness of the holiday season, but for the candle fanatic on your shopping list, try Scentsy, an alternative to scented candles. Place the scented cubes on a Scentsy warmer and inhale exotic scents such as Reggae Sunset or the calming scents of Inner Peace, which exudes an aroma of lemon and cypress. Visit www.scentsy.com to find a Scentsy consultant near you who’ll help you pick out the perfect scent for every member of your family.
J is for Jive. If you want to get up and dance, think about booking an adventure with Delta Discovery Cruises. On Sunday, Jan. 23, the Live Blues with the Mike Osborne Band cruise sets off for a two-hour tour of the Delta’s scenic beauty while Osborne and his friends serenade the crowd. Enjoy a delicious barbecue lunch of chicken and ribs, homemade potato salad, baked beans and an irresistible dessert. Tickets are $59 and make a great stocking stuffer. To make a reservation, visit www.deltadiscoverycruises.com or call 925-252-9300.
K is for Kittens. These kittens don’t purr, but they’re adorable nonetheless. Joanne Bell, owner of Jeanne’s Jems, is crafty when it comes to hair bows and offers a wide variety of colorful ribbons adorned with kittens, hearts, flowers, teddy bears and more. These hair accessories can also double as gift bows for presents for darling little girls who love to play dress-up or make a statement with their ponytails. Bows come in an array of shapes and sizes. For more information, call Bell at 925-550-4000 or e-mail email@example.com.
L is for Lipstick. MAC Cosmetics (2455 Sand Creek Road, Suite 116 in Brentwood) sells more than 100 shades of lipstick as well as eye shadow, mascara, foundations, bronzers, nail polish and many more products to add a flash of glamour this holiday season. MAC also offers gift packages that help you mix and match colors to create an entire look. To complete the makeover, take a look at the fragrances and the skin care products at MAC Cosmetics’ Streets of Brentwood location.
M is for Marshmallow Trees. No need to decorate this Christmas tree. Just bite in and savor the yummy goodness of these and many other delectables sold at See’s Candies (2530 Sand Creek Road in Brentwood). An assortment of old-fashioned fudge, a box of white mint truffles or a tin of soft center chocolates – anything in See’s display case will bring a smile to those on your shopping list. See’s also offers chocolate-shaped Santas, snowmen clinging to candy canes – and the popular sour stars have returned to make this holiday season a little cheerier.
N is for Napping. You probably never thought you could give the gift of napping, but the Brookstone Holiday Store at the Streets of Brentwood has gifts that deliver luxury and comfort. The n-a-p collection features cozy blankets, fluffy pillows and soft socks that send even the most stubborn sleepers into a dreamy afternoon slumber. The n-a-p collection is so comfortable that your giftees will want to be enveloped in the soft fabrics all day long, so make sure to pick up a scarf or earmuffs to keep them warm on the go. Hurry, the seasonal store closes on Jan. 1, 2011. For more information, call 925-513-1961.
O is for Organization. We could all use some way to deal with chaos. Help your friend or relative unclutter their office with gifts from stores such as Office Depot in Antioch (925-755-8713) or Staples in Antioch (925-706-4038). If there’s a teacher in your life, a stop at Brentwood’s Just Teach It (925-240-7140) could do the trick. Organizational tools can also help college students coming home on Christmas break, looking for a fresh start when they return to their dorm room.
P is for Pride. There’s still time to get clothing adorned with an image of your kid’s high school mascot. Proceeds go back to the school, so buying a sweatshirt or blanket not only keeps the gift recipient warm during cold soccer matches, but helps your school’s athletic programs keep running. Products such as clothes and decals are also good gifts for relatives who live out of the area, but are still proud of their students. School stores are commonly open during school hours and at basketball, soccer and wrestling matches.
Q is for Queen. Want your gift recipient to get lost in a Bohemian Rhapsody? Give the timeless gift of music at Best Buy in Brentwood (925-513-4995) or at Rock Bottom Records in Antioch (925-757-7766). Both stores will rock you with a variety of tunes for the music lover in your family. If you don’t know what kind of music to buy, an iTunes gift card – which can be used for music, movies, games and apps – is also easily obtainable nearly anywhere gift cards are sold.
R is for Relaxation. For those who give their all at the office or dedicate their time to the kids, a little relaxation could be a perfect, thoughtful gift. However, you don’t need to drive far to find peace of mind. Massage services and skin care at The Oasis in Brentwood (925-240-6274) make it an ideal mini-getaway. Antioch’s Spoiled Rotten, the Spalon (925-706-7269) is another way to be pampered with facials, pedicures and massages. Many local salons and spas offer gift certificates for anything from a minor getaway to a full day of pampering.
S is for Syrah. Wine is a gift most any adult would enjoy, but you don’t need to drive to Napa for a good bottle of vino. Brentwood’s Hannah Nicole Vineyards (925-240-9463) is well stocked with syrah, cabernet sauvignon, sauvignon blanc, viognier and many other varietals. Hannah Nicole wine club members receive a discount on the locally-produced libation. Tamayo Family Vineyards (925-513-8463) is also a great place to find a bottle of East County wine, including pinot noir and Tamayo Red 2008, a blend of seven varietals.
T is for Travel. The dream of a sunny beach or sightseeing could be just the thing to brighten someone’s chilly Christmas season – and it’s also a great gift for the family. Casey’s Travel in Brentwood (925-634-2425) handles a variety of itineraries, from a family trip to Disneyland to an exotic getaway. If you don’t want to bother with long lines at the airport, venture down to Cruise One (925-240-5740) and check your troubles at the harbor. Black Diamond Travel in Antioch (925-754-5340) is also in the dream-fulfillment business.
U is for Uggs. Give the gift of warm, comfortable feet this holiday season with a pair of Uggs. Originated in Australia, Uggs are a great fit for both men and women, and come in a variety of colors and styles. Walk down the Streets of Brentwood to DSW Shoe Warehouse (925-513-8752) to find some of the popular shoes. They can also be purchased at Famous Footwear in Brentwood (925-634-7634).
V is for View, as in the spectacular-yet-fast-changing look you get at East County after leaping out of a Bay Area Skydiving plane. Everything you need for a midweek, 11,000-foot jump – including an expert skydiver strapped to your back – can be had for $170. Other prices are available for different days and types of jumps. Thousands of satisfied tandem jumpers will tell you that skydiving is one of the most thrilling of experiences, and it’s as close as the Byron Airport. Call 925-634-7575 for more information.
W is for Website, the creation of which is easier than you might think, thanks to the folks over at Liberty Adult Education. The winter/spring course catalog has just come out, packed full of classes on not only computers and the Web, but on parenting, investing, dance and even historical picnicking. There are GED classes too, and a host of other self-improvement opportunities you can sign up for by calling 925-634-2565. Classes start Jan. 3.
X is for X-box. Whether you’ve got the hot, new X-Box 360 or you’re making do with the original a bit longer, you can put more play in your day by stocking up on games to keep it humming. You can get new and used games at The Game Exchange (925-513-4650) in Brentwood, or at GameStop (925-757-8720 in Antioch and 925-516-5965 in Brentwood). Both companies sell new and used X-Box accessories, too.
Y is for Youth, which you can support by giving something everyone already likes anyway: scrumptious comestibles from Willy’s Bagels and Blends. Pick up a gift card for Willy’s delicious coffee, bagels, sandwiches or salads, and throw in one of Willy’s custom T-shirts. Proceeds from those sales support a host of activities at local schools. Call 925-308-7534 for Willy’s on West Country Club Drive, and 925-634-2245 for the original Willy’s on Second Street.
Z is for Zamboni. While the gift of one of the famed ice-surfacing machines might be high in cost and low in usefulness for the average gift-giver, there’s no reason not to give someone a chance to see a Zamboni in action over at Holiday on Ice at the Streets of Brentwood. For as little as $10, you get a pair of skates and all the glide time you can stand in East County’s favorite wintry wonderland. The huge, covered rink is open this season until Jan. 17. For more information, call 925-513-1702.