It’s Not Too Late: Here are 10 splendid, shareable last-minute gifts
By Lou Fancher
Instead of stressing to uncork stuff stuck in the supply chain, spin in any one of 10 new directions to scoop up gifts that range from spendy to sexy to selfish to star-filled.
1. Give the Solar System: a Chabot Space & Science Center membership (chabotspace.org)
Support science, and the nonprofit Chabot’s mission to introduce people of all ages to the latest space research and educate everyone about the solar system and planet Earth, with an annual membership. With membership levels ranging from “Astronaut” to “Stellar Society,” one-year access to the institution located on 13 acres in Redwood Regional Park in Oakland is only the beginning. The Chabot features a 241-seat full-dome planetarium, hands-on exhibits, a giant-screen theater, a Challenger Learning Center, family-friendly First Friday events and research-level telescopes available to the public for weekly live viewing in the Western United States. Memberships include unlimited free shows in the digital planetarium, discounts in the gift shop, free or discounted participation in camps and special events, and free or discounted admission to science centers and museums worldwide through the ACM and ASTC Passport program.
2. Satisfy a Sojourner: An annual U.S. Park Pass (usparkpass.com)
The America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass opens the gates to 2,000 federal recreation sites across the country. The annual pass covers entrance, amenities and day-use fees for one driver and all passengers in a personal vehicle at per-vehicle areas. Or, up to four adults at sites that charge per person. Children age 16 or under are admitted free. With an $80 annual pass, in the Bay Area or nearby in California alone, pass cardholders gain access to national parks such as Sequoia-Kings Canyon, Yosemite, Muir Woods, Alcatraz Island, San Francisco Maritime, Pinnacles and others. Perfect for families, retirees and anyone with the itch to travel.
3. Gifts of Serendipity: Sweet July (sweetjuly.com)
Slip into Ayesha Curry’s shop in Oakland and find “sweet” gift bundles for foodies; Sweet & Savory Beauty Butter Sets from 54 Thrones; stunning CanDid Art Lola earrings and necklaces for adults and teens, and adorable reversible quilt jackets for kids; along with Brown Sugar Babe and other nail polish shades from People of Color; a variety of goods from Black-Owned businesses; and goods that include kitchen, dining, living, wellness and bedding items. Allow serendipity to lead the selections—and if nothing suits, the flagship store has a lovely cafe for get-togethers, and the always-available quarterly Sweet July Magazine offers tips for entertaining and self-care, seasonal recipes for dishes and drinks, and creative ideas for crafting that make a great gift for Ayesha fans and followers.
4. Spendy Gift: an overnight stay at the Claremont Club & Spa (www.claremont-hotel.com)
Go all out and line up the Presidential Suite or another suite experience for a loved one. With Bay views, bar areas, sitting rooms, master bedrooms and baths, and more—the 1,700-square-foot Presidential oasis comes with all the bells and whistles, including slippers and Nespresso machines available on request—they’ll find themselves in heady territory. Be extra spendy and toss in a visit to the spa. Treatment rooms and healing products abound—including two not-to-miss couples suites—and 50- and 80-minute massage experiences are available Friday to Sunday. The best feature is that one can choose to go anytime that fits their schedule. If one weekend is booked, flexibility allows another opportunity for sheer indulgence to prevail. Prices vary, depending on the suite, but trust us, it’s spendy.
5. Sing it strong with Sonic, Swinging and Strumming: Give a season subscription or tickets to Oakland Symphony; or gift certificates and tickets to Yoshis, or Freight and Salvage events (www.oaklandsymphony.org, yoshis.com, thefreight.org)
Turn up the volume in 2022 with opportunities to sink into the plush architecture of the Paramount Theatre and celebrate the East Bay treasure known as OS with a January concert featuring Amy Beach’s sumptuous Symphony in E-minor, stage and screen star Debbie Allen’s Playlist in February or a season finale wrap-up with storied conductor Leonard Slatkin on the podium. Over at Yoshi’s the new year’s lineup includes the Pacific Mambo Orchestra, Gerald Albright, Mads Tolling and his Mad Men with Bernie Williams, Leela James, the Glen Miller Orchestra and so much more. Freight & Salvage in Berkeley is no less buzzy with Hot Tuna Acoustic, Mark Hummel’s 30th Anniversary Blues Harmonica Blowout (a Big Walter Tribute), Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Booker T. Jones, and more, plus a fine list of storytelling events, and extensive hands-on music workshops and classes led by professionals in the field.
6. Cinematic Celebration: Honor an Oakland star by streaming Swan Song (tv.apple.com)
Available on Apple TV+ as of Dec. 17, sign in using an Apple ID account. For those who don’t have an account, Apple TV+ costs $4.99 per month, and is also available as part of the Apple One bundle. Following his appearance in the award-winning flick Moonlight, Mahershala Ali’s latest film, Swan Song, positions him at last as the lead character. Swan Song chronicles the final weeks of a terminally ill man who must say goodbye to his family, even as a clone takes his place in order to spare his family the pain of grieving his loss. Ali serves as a producer for the film written by Oscar-winning writer/director Benjamin Cleary. All that said, bring kleenex, because watching Ali rise up on the Big Screen, in a narrative with such pathos, is likely to cause East Bay folks to weep with empathy while simultaneously sprouting tears of joy.
7. Sippable or a Millionaire’s Swag-Baggable Fare: Almanac Beer Company, Kitchen Story, UDesserts (almanacbeer.com, www.kitchenstoryca.com/east-bay-location, udessertstorysf.com/index.html)
The stalwart brewery—founded in 2011 by Damian Fagan and Jesse Friedman, and located in a former Naval hangar in Alameda—continues to rock. Orders of six 4-packs include free delivery, directly to one’s doorstep. A holiday Ugly Sweater LOVE Hazy IPA is a swell choice, but don’t overlook the brewery’s craft beer Advent beer box. It comes with 12 16-ounce cans packed in a lively faux-wrapped box, and can be configured with one’s choice of “All Fresh Beer,” “All Barrel-Aged Sours,” or a “Mixed Pack” of both fresh and barrel-aged sour beers. With beverages in the cooler, what about chow? Restaurateur Hoyul Steven Choi seems to expand his gastronomic empire hourly. With Sweet Maple and Kitchen Story + U :Dessert Story establishments popping up all over the East Bay, grab a dish-to-go featuring Choi’s signature Millionaire’s Bacon at Rockridge’s Kitchen Story—Jjapaguri, with two classic Korean instant noodles, Millionaire’s bacon and eggs; or the “Burgah” Boy Burger Wagyu Patty, showing off with Millionaire’s Bacon, white cheddar cheese, avocado, fried onion, roasted jalapeno, romaine and dill pickle aioli—are both recommended. For dessert, head North on Shattuck Avenue and select from Berkeley’s U Desserts’ menu. Instagram-worthy cakes include the Matcha Crepe Cake, served with Homemade Matcha & Redbean Sauce; Chocolate Organic Matcha Lava Cake with optional ice cream or sauce add ons; and Whole Double Fromage Honey Yuzu Cheesecake, served with homemade yuzu sauce, foam cheese and crispy strawberries. Attractive beverages for non-beer lovers—do those people even exist?—include milk teas, matcha fizzes and more.
8. Soul Soaring: Support the artists at Creative Growth (creativegrowth.org)
Prominent collections worldwide—including MoMA, SFMOMA, the Smithsonian, the Studio Museum of Harlem, Collection de L’Art Brut, American Folk Art Museum and The Museum of Everything—have acquired artwork exhibited and sold at the nonprofit Creative Growth gallery. Founded in 1974, Creative Growth offers gallery representation and a professional working studio space to artists with developmental disabilities whose practice is primarily focused on contemporary art. Opportunities for gift giving—including books, coloring books, Marion Bolton “Bird” socks, John Hiltunen playing cards and other lower-price items and original art—abound here. Standouts include Cedric Johnson’s Untitled ceramic mask, a number of pieces by John Martin and Alice Wong’s Untitled, rendered in acrylic on record sleeve. Memberships and donations made directly to the organization support approximately 140 artists with materials and instruction used in drawing, painting, video production, ceramics, wood, fiber arts, textiles and printmaking. A Saturday Youth Art program provides young adults with developmental disabilities, ages 15-22, the chance to explore art as a vocation and have their work exhibited in the gallery.
9. Sexy or Surprising: A smorgasbord of suggestionsThis gift takes a little pre-planning and thought: What turns a loved one’s love vibe up to maximum volume? Perhaps an exotic car rental and a night cruising the town, or streaming that movie never finished due to “distraction.” Don’t worry about finding silky sheets and champagne, if the living-room rug or kitchen counter and bottled water were good then, they’re good now. On a more upscale level, when a friend who’s a serial Instragram-er sends that mouth-watering pic of a Malibu Burger or a high-end plated dish at Chez Panisse or a too-good-looking-to-eat item at Bake Sum, Downtown Oaklands’ Tribune, James and the Giant Cupcake, Brown Sugar Kitchen, Everette & Jones BBQ and any other East Bay eatery, send a thumbs up or a “like”, but don’t settle for that. Dial up the establishment and purchase that dish with an online gift card. When the check arrives, they’ll discover it’s all taken care of. But make sure they’re not told in advance, ’cause that might mean they rack up the order and a generous gesture goes to waste, big time.
10. Cycle in the Sun: Cruise the East Bay on a Pedal-Powered or E-BikeBike shops throughout the Bay Area offer pedal-powered or e-bikes for purchase or rental. Wait for the sun to break through the latest mini-tsunami of rain storms and ride along the 500 mile San Francisco Bay Trail. Cross seven toll bridges, pass through 47 cities and none counties, travel in communities to parks, open spaces, schools and transit on the alternative commute corridor. The continuous shoreline bicycle and pedestrian path adventured on an e-bike is an easy, breezy, pandemic-be-gone style outing. For rentals, pick the location most convenient and choose the best model according to style of bike—city, hybrid, road, mountain, tandem, with baby trailers and other options. Prices range and an online visit to each shop website or digital rental outpost (for things like Lyft and others) will lay out the terms, along with equipment included or required such as helmets, locks, maps and whatnot. Some rental stores offer guided tours and most require bikes are returned to the original rental location.