Although there might not be something here for all those pesky, hard-to-buy-for people on your list, we hope it’ll help get those ideas flowing again. We also hope you’ll pick up what you need right here in East County. Remember, shopping locally not only saves gas and time, it helps your neighbors and your neighborhood by supporting their business and keeping tax dollars close to home.
A is for Autograph
Although plenty of athletes’ John Hancocks have appeared from time to time on an item at the Man Cave Consignment store, it’s hard to say what might be there when you stop in. That’s because sports memorabilia is only one of the things you’ll find at the premier East County spot for stuff men like to surround themselves with. There are radio-controlled vehicles, beer signs, tools, fishing gear, clothing and something for just about any testosterone-producing loved one on your gift list. Man Cave is located at 3850 Balfour Road in Brentwood (the same center as Tummies to Tots to Tweens, consignment for the non-male consumer in your family). Visit www.mancaveconsignment.net or call 925-420-5614.
B is for Bluetooth
Hands-free communication in the car isn’t just easier, it’s also the law. For those on your list who simply can’t stay off the phone, you can rest assured they’ll be able to keep both hands on the steering wheel as they chat. You can get all the Bluetooth systems and accessories you need at Brentwood Car Audio and Security Concepts, where they’ll also be able to help you with car alarms, radios, amplifiers, speakers and more. Find them at 4525 O’Hara Ave in Brentwood. You can also call them at 925-308-7677, but be sure to pull over to call until your Bluetooth is installed.
C is for Cruise
You might not have the time and money to embark on an Alaskan adventure or a jaunt to the Caribbean, but that needn’t keep you marooned on shore. Captain Morgan’s Delta Adventures sails from Discovery Bay in the 55-foot Rosemarie, and keeps up a regular schedule of outings on our fabulous Delta. From $39.95 per person up, you can be part of a group outing or a private cruise for just you and your group. Cruises can go by the hour – an ideal choice for a stress-free visit to your favorite waterfront restaurant – or can be arranged for overnight adventures to Old Sacramento or other destinations. See all of what Capt. Morgan has to offer on www.captainmorgansdeltaadventures.com, or call 925-383-5346.
D is for Dog
Many will recognize this as the “P is for Puppy” item listed here a few years ago, and although you might be finished with giving pets as gifts, perhaps you’ve reached the point where you feel the need to give a gift TO your dog. If that’s the case, contact the friendly folks at Pampered Pets (in Brentwood and Tracy). A bath, brushing, nail clipping, ear cleaning, hair cut and gland expression will not only result in a happier hound, but a more cuddly canine as well. Pampered Pets brings more than two decades of experience, and customers across East County will attest to their work. Call 925-240-0676 or visit www.thepamperedpetgroomingandspa.com.
E is for Environment
… as in: go out and enjoy it. The East Bay Regional Park District offers more than 112,000 acres in 65 parks, and provides more than 1,200 miles of trails for hiking, biking, horseback riding and nature study. The district covers both Contra Costa and Alamedacounties, meaning there are lakes, shorelines, campgrounds, interpretive and recreation programs, picnic areas, indoor/outdoor rental facilities, golf courses and more. Visit their website – www.ebparks.org – and pick an activity to enjoy with your loved one. They’ll appreciate the great outdoors, as well as the time they’ll get to spend with you.
F is for Furby
… that little interactive ball of fur whose ancestry dates back to the 1990s. There’s a whole new line of Furbies out there, ready to learn English and develop personalities based on how you (or your kid) treat it. This generation of Furby comes with a distinct advantage: a free app is available that helps you translate Furbish. The app also works with iPod Touch, iPad, and iPhone with iOS 4.2 or later. Already one of the most-requested gifts this year, you can find Furby at Target, K-Mart, Walmart and most any toy store near you.
G is for Gymnastics
The Little Gym at 3850 Balfour Road in Brentwood offers one of the rare and delightful things that teach, entertain and improve the health of the little ones, but also provides a way to tucker them out that’s more relaxing than chasing them around the house. The Little Gym’s three-part philosophy – Get Moving, which fosters flexibility, strength, balance and coordination; Brain Boost, which nurtures listening skills, concentration and decision making; and Citizen Kid, which promotes sharing, teamwork, cooperation and leadership abilities – will enhance your child’s emotional and physical development. Find out about their introductory programs online at www.thelittlegym.com/brentwoodca or by phone at 925-634-0034.
H is for Homemade
Whether you bake it, glue it, knit it or simply pop a bow on it, when it comes to the heart of the holidays, you can’t beat the gift of homemade. From simple Christmas ornaments to mason jars filled with treats or elaborate gift baskets, the sky’s the limit for do-it-yourselfers who wait all season to put their creativity in high gear. Fortunately for the rest of us, there is Pinterest (www.pinterest.com) the online bulletin board that offers a variety of how-to gifts that are easy on the budget and simple to make. Once you decide on a project, you can load up on supplies from Target, 5769 Lone Tree Way in Antioch; Dollar Tree, 57 Sand Creek Road in Brentwood; and Michaels Arts and Crafts, 5501 Lone Tree Way in Brentwood.
I is for Ice Skating
Sharing the holidays is about more than packages, boxes and bags; it’s about spending quality time together – and what better way than an afternoon or evening on the ice? Brentwood offers two local options for skating enthusiasts. Holiday on Ice, located in The Streets of Brentwood, 2485 Sand Creek Road, is celebrating its fifth season. Call 925-513-1702 for days and times. And Winterfest, located at the corner of Brentwood Boulevard and Technology Way, also provides a turn on the ice – as well as Christmas tree shopping and kid-friendly activities. The fun continues through Jan. 6. For more information, visit www.brentwoodwinterfest.com or call 925-516-7664.
J is for Jewelry
Let’s face it: nothing says happy holidays like a beautiful piece of jewelry. Whether a dazzling diamond or tasteful trinket, gift-giving Santas can rarely go wrong with the purchase of a brilliant bauble for that special someone. The popular Pandora-style bracelet – successor to the Italian charm bracelet of the ’90s – is all the rage this year. Drop by Swarovski at The Streets of Brentwood, 2565 Sand Creek Road (925-516-8500) or Google “Pandora bracelets” for a selection and location near you.
K is for Kindle
There are a dizzying array of e-readers and tablets on the market these days, available in a variety of prices and styles, but their common virtues are ease of transport, access and ability to store hundreds of documents, books and other published items. For the bookworm on your list, check out Best Buy in Brentwood at 6600 Lone Tree Way or log on to www.stores.bestbuy.com for a location near you. You can also find the Nook at Barnes & Noble Booksellers in Antioch, or the iPad Mini online at www.apple.com.
L is for Laughter
Who couldn’t use a little more laughter in their lives, and what better time of year to enjoy a belly laugh than the holidays? Tickle that special someone’s funny bone with a gift pass to Tommy T’s in Pleasanton (925-227-1800) or Fubar’s Comedy Club in Martinez, 1150 Arnold Drive (925-295-2150). Locally, Cap’s Oak Street Bar & Grill, 144 Oak St. in Brentwood, hosts monthly dinner comedy shows. Call 925-634-1025 for dates and reservations.
M is for Music
Be it holiday tunes, rap, pop or country music, ’tis the season for the gift of song. iTunes downloads make great stocking stuffers, and a new iPod holds it all. You can purchase those Apple products online at www.apple.com or at your local stores such as Target and Best Buy. If it’s a live performance you’re looking for, don’t forget to check out recording artist Staci Frenes, who will be performing Christmas carols on Dec. 21 at 7 p.m. in Stories Bookshop, 629 First St. in Brentwood. Attendees will enjoy holiday treats while being serenaded by songs of the season at this free show. For more information, call 925-513-5610.
N is for Nutcracker
It wouldn’t be the holidays without a visit from the Sugarplum Fairy or the Mouse King, and this weekend the Brentwood Children’s Ballet Theater performs “The Nutcracker” at noon and 4 p.m. in Antioch’s El Campanil Theatre. For tickets and additional information, visit www.elcampaniltheatre.com or call 925-757-9500.
O is for Organic
When you’re stumped about what to buy your giftee, it never hurts to choose something practical, such as face wash or shaving soap. But a bar of Zest won’t cut it any longer. Tierra Mia, based in Brentwood, makes organic hygiene and beauty products with goat’s milk. The silky soaps have a heavenly scent that helps you relax while you wash. Scents include almond coffee, lavender vanilla and spearmint sage. A plus side to going organic: the soaps and lotions are gentle and perfect for anyone on your list with sensitive skin. Terra Mia products are available online at www.tierramiaorganics.com or at Oak Street Boutique, 238 Oak St. in Brentwood.
P is for Peace of Mind
The holiday season is a hectic time, so give the gift of relaxation. Dhyanyoga Centers Antioch offers yoga classes, retreats and a gift shop stocked with everything you need to find your center and welcome inner calm. Maybe your giftee has always wanted to try yoga but claims she never has the time. Well, buy her a 30-day pass so she has no excuse. After all, it would be rude to waste your generosity. For experienced yogis, sign them up for a personal retreat, a day of yoga, meditation and spiritual awakening. Dhyanyoga Centers Antioch is located at 3306 Contra Loma Blvd. For more information, visit www.dycantioch.org.
Q is for Quiet
For your giftee who wants to recharge after the holidays without lifting a finger, how about a spa day? Cabanas in the Garden is an oasis of relaxation. Offering facials, body wraps and massages, Cabanas in the Garden knows how to pamper those looking to for a fresh start in 2013. After a treatment, guests are invited to lounge in their private paradise complete with a daybed, Jacuzzi tub and TV. Cabanas in the Garden is located at 6061 Lone Tree Way, Suite E in Brentwood. For more information, visit www.cabanasinthegarden.com.
R is for Red Velvet
Heavenly Cheesecake, 3101 Balfour Road, Suite F in Brentwood, serves up an array of treats that will leave your friends and family smiling this season. Cheesecake flavors include peach, vanilla bean, caramel apple, and white chocolate peppermint. But there are more treats at Heavenly than cheesecake. You’ll find cupcakes and cookies, too. These confections make excellent hostess gifts. Imagine showing up to the party with a royal red, moist, flavorful cheesecake. Hungry? You’ve been good this year. Why not buy one for yourself, too? Visit www.theheavenlycheesecakeshop.com for a list of all available flavors.
S is for Surround Sound
Don’t let the holidays become a silent night. Stop by Scheer Home Systems, 3460 Main St. in Oakley, to find the best way to rock around the Christmas tree. Scheer has the know-how to hook up the ultimate entertainment experience right in your living room. From a pair of speakers for a little background music to a network of speakers hooked up to a processor that allows you to play different music in different rooms, Scheer can do it all. They’ll even install it for you to ensure every wire is plugged into its proper place. Give them a call at 925-625-7580.
T is for Treasure
For the person on your list who appreciates classic pieces, visit one of Brentwood’s three antique stores. Antique Faire, 6675 Brentwood Blvd.; Sunflower Antiques, 240 Oak St.; and Vintage House, 735 Second St., all offer treasures to satisfy everyone on your list. From tea sets to toys, these antique shops offer a variety of ways to win over your giftees. Be patient and take in every nook and cranny – the perfect gift might be hiding among the other treasures. Your patience will be rewarded when you see the surprise on the face of your loved one.
U is for Uno
Nothing brings family and friends together like an old-fashioned card or board game that provides hours of fun without the distraction of modern-day electronics. Timeless classics for the entire family can be found at Target, 5769 Lone Tree Way in Antioch. For those looking to appease the younger generation, Battle Bunker Games, 1205 Auto Center Drive in Antioch, sells a wide array of modern games, including “Warhammer,” “Magic: The Gathering” and “Yu-Gi-Oh.” For more information, call 925-753-5219.
V is for van Gogh
The gift of art can enjoyed and passed down for generations. The Lynn House Gallery, 809 W. First St. in Antioch, currently displays paintings and photographs of 35 local artists for purchase. The gallery is open through Dec. 22 on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 1 to 4 p.m. The Gallery On Second, 741 Second St. in Brentwood, exhibits an outstanding selection, currently featuring ceramic and bronze sculptures, plus paintings in oil, watercolor and pastels. The Gallery On Second is open Wednesdays through Saturdays from noon to 5 p.m. The Galley On Second can be reached at 925-516-2741; the Lynn House Gallery at 925-325-9897.
W is for Whale Watching
Treat your giftee to an up-close and personal experience of whales and other sea life in San Francisco Bay. SF Bay Whale Watching provides whale watching and natural history expeditions from San Francisco Bay to the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary during a full-day excursion. If riding in a boat won’t suit the recipient of the gift, take them on a weekend getaway to Point Reyes National Seashore, where California Grey Whales can be seen from the shore during their southern migration in mid-January and their northern migration in mid-March. For more information about San Francisco Bay Whale Watching trips, call 415-331-6267.
X is for Xbox
If gamers are on your gift list, surprise them with a new console or video game. Brentwood Game Exchange, 7351 Brentwood Blvd., stocks an impressive assortment of new and used games and consoles to suit everyone from new gamers to fans that still enjoy playing on systems of generations ago. The store is open Mondays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sundays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. For more information, call 925-513-4650.
Y is for Yellow Lab
With the approval of your giftee, make the holidays special for people and animals alike with the gift of a pet. The Antioch Animal Shelter houses around 200 dogs, cats and other small animals currently available for adoption. Visit the shelter Tuesdays through Thursdays, or Saturdays, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Shelter staff will help you find the perfect pet to make this a holiday to remember. Several nonprofits in the area, including Homeless Animals’ Lifeline Organization and Delta Animals Safe Haven, also offer pets for adoption. For more information about adopting animals from the Antioch Animal Shelter, call 925-779-6989.
Z is for Zumba
Let the newest fitness craze dance its way into your giftee’s life by giving a gym membership to the Delta Valley Athletic Club. The club holds Zumba classes at various times during the week. The Latin-inspired fitness program incorporates international music to create fun routines that burn calories. In addition to Zumba classes, DVAC members use the 55,000-square-foot facility to stimulate mind, body and spirit through exercise, group classes and spa-massage treatments. For more information, call 925-240-2990.