Eat, drink and be merry

One of the top 10 trends in holiday shopping this year is food gifting. As people become less interested in frivolities, practical gifts are increasingly appealing. When belts are tight, and weather’s cold, nothing is more welcome than physical nourishment in a pretty package. Food or beverages make classic hostess gifts and can be chosen easily when time is scarce and require very little wrapping. Here are some of the best places in Ventura County to find the perfect food (or drink) gift for any budget.

Farmer and the Cook
339 W. El Roblar, Ojai

A small all-organic grocery store with produce, dairy, dry goods, bulk bins, bulk herbs and spices, makes for easy gift-giving for foodies or anyone who likes to get creative in the kitchen. Specialty ingredients and fun kits such as the Mole Kit and Roasted Pumpkin Seed & Chipotle Salsa Kit. Fans of the old City Bakery in Ventura will enjoy the City Bakery Cookbook for sale here.

We Olive
294 East Main St., Ventura

A taste of California is a lovely gift for loved ones afar. Organic and infused olive oils, tapenades, vinegars, pastas and associated accoutrements for the sophisticated palate.

1The Wine Rack
14 S. California St., Ventura

Specializing in locally-grown gourmet foods including olive oils, salsas, lavender butter, honeys, wine and more — elegant custom baskets of all kinds are available in range of price points.

Rocket Fizz
105 S. Oak St., Ventura

The Willy Wonka version of a wine cellar, Rocket Fizz stocks literally hundreds of varieties of sodas in bottles. From nostalgic favorites like Moxie to fruit beers, fashionable flavored mineral waters and everything in between, you can tie a bow on a six-pack or put together a basket and toss in some of their vintage candies such as Mallo Cups and Vanilla BUNs.

Herzog Wine Cellars
3201 Camino Del Sol, Oxnard

Award-winning wines in creative ensembles for the cook, the sweet lover, the woman or just the average wine lover.
McGrath Farms
1012 W. Ventura Blvd Camarillo

A staple among locals countywide, the folks at McGrath Family Farms are offering beautiful, colorful fresh-to-order gift box/centerpieces in the $25 range for the holidays with fruits, veggies, flowers and herbs. Honeys, jams, nuts and inedible holiday wreaths also available.

2Somis Nut House
4475 E. Los Angeles Ave.

Classic and family-run, this is everyone’s favorite stop for nuts, nut butters, dried fruit and candy gifts. Baskets and gift boxes galore, handmade and designed by “mom.”    


All that glitters really is gold

by Paul Sisolak

Just because the economy has made some of us tighten our belts this Christmas season, doesn’t mean that there aren’t affordable, quirky and prestigious gifts under $25 that may look expensive, but really aren’t. There’s nothing funny about going broke buying things we really couldn’t afford. That’s why we found some cheap, yet quality and practical gifts that are not just lighthearted in nature, but easy on the wallet, too. Your family, friends, and your bank account, too, will all thank you.

3A gem of a gift
Are they rocks, or are they soap? A quick glance at the shelves of boutique owner Kelly Rose’s shelves and one might think that her collection of sharp-edged, colorful stones are some decorative accompaniment from an archaeological dig or fossil hunt, worth hundreds, even thousands, of dollars in value. Not so! These are honest-to-goodness bars of soap in disguise, and they’re packed with skin-friendly ingredients like Vitamin E, jojoba oil and glycerin. What’s more impressive is that each Soap Rock is actually infused with the minerals they’re named after: turquoise, jade, malachite, marble, rose quartz and the like. Each bar is guaranteed a long life in the soap dish, just like the stones they represent. It’s a shower and geology lesson in one. ($16 for a massive 6 oz. bar)

And in what looks like a hybrid of a bubble bath, science project and Jell-O, is another bath product line with its own unique split identity: a “Virtual Blanket” called Jelly Bath. But it’s not some kind of Internet quilt we’re talking about; it’s a unique tub soak with a gel-like consistency that gives one the real deal, spa experience for a fraction of the price. Rose at Rock Me carries three varieties, ranging in price from $10-$24.

Rock Me Makeup
2460 Las Posas Road, Ste. E

A dash of fancy makes it look classy

You’ve spent all your hard-earned cash on presents for friends and family, but there’s still that obligatory office Christmas party to go to. And that nice bottle of Mouton Rothschild ’04 or Dom Perignon ’99 you dream of pouring into your unrequited coworker crush’s champagne flute is just a bit out of your price range by a couple (read: several) Ben Franklins. Alas, all you can manage is to show up to your soiree equipped with Two Buck Chuck from Trader Joe’s. But have no fear; you can dress up your bottle of budget spirits with one of many snazzy bottle neck decorators offered by the Old Town Camarillo gift shop. Beaded, feathered, shiny or jangly, they’re a great and classy alternative to gift bags. Plus, they’re reusable, good for color coordinating with whatever wine you’re corking open, and work well as standalone table décor ornaments sans a bottle of red or white. ($17 each)

Savannah West Fine Gifts
2235 Ventura Blvd.

Into the world of Asian culture
You’ve been having those doubts again. Those nagging feelings that your tireless Christmas tradition of giving yet another gaudy sweater, and stuffing those hearthside stockings with more pointless filler, is amounting to nothing more than empty sentiment. You know it and we know it. Instead, why not go the Asian-themed route, where most everything in Chinese and Japanese culture has some deep, eternal meaning behind it. The Gold Lion Gallery in Downtown Ventura offers plenty of affordable gems, trinkets and Eastern ephemera to make both gift giver and receiver happy. Pick up some magic moonstone eggs ($2.50 each), said in Chinese culture to eliminate negative energy from the air. Or, for good luck, a Zodiac animal statuette ($3.50). Are you a dog, a snake, a dragon?

Mini-Buddhas ($3.50), promise good luck and happiness; jade-hued elephants ($4.50) symbolize knowledge and royalty. House them in an ornately carved wooden charm box ($15-$19.50) adorned with Asian imagery. Don’t forget to pick up a Chinese money frog, too, from $4.50-$6.50 each. The amphibious prosperity bestowed upon you, gift giver, won’t guarantee you a new cash flow, but it’ll sure feel good that you saved some money, proving that there is enlightenment in consumerism after all.

Gold Lion Gallery
454 E. Main St.


For the boarder (surf or skate) in your family

Local shops offer the latest and greatest of some of Ventura County’s favorite pastimes

by Michael Sullivan

4Many residents of Ventura County are accustomed to the exciting routine of waves to street and back again. Th at is why for this year’s Last Minute Gift Guide, we went hunting for the best, most unique and interesting products on the market that will make the boarder in your family get into the holiday groove.

Fire it up, baby
Surfing is a centuries old sport, originating in Hawaii where natives rode the waves as a sort of spiritual ritual. As the sport grew in popularity, so did the need for better technology. Nearly a century after legendary surfer George Freeth cut his 16-foot board in half, surfboard design has come a long way, baby, and it continues to morph into a tool made for speed and agility on the water. And Revolution Surf Shop Company’s latest edition to its stock of surf gear is just another step in the right direction.

FIREWIRE surfboards, the latest in surfboard technology, are unique because of the materials — the top sheet is made of out bamboo, and the board is fitted with carbon fiber rods, giving it a unique flex. And Revolution has plenty of them — owner Jesse Mota is stocked up with nearly 70 boards. Although it carries a seemingly hefty price tag of $595, the reward of seeing your beloved surfer hang ten on it will make it all worthwhile.

If a new surfboard has to be put on the backburner this year, then try the Sanuk —sidewalk surfer shoes, which feel like a sandal but look like a shoe. Available at Revolution for $50.

Revolution Surf Company
1775 Daily Drive #C

701 Wendy Drive
Newbury Park

Finding a little Momentum

If you can’t surf, then skate. As surfers know, when the tide is low and the waves are flat, grab your skateboard and enjoy the urban turf. But according to some surfers, a skateboard just can’t compare to the feeling of being on a wave. Well, Carver brand skateboards are changing that. With a revolutionary new design where the front truck swivels back and forth, the most dedicated surfer has been known to set aside his or her wetsuit and give it try.

WARNING: Not for beginners. This skateboard is best suited for the well trained skateboarder and can even be used to train up and coming surfers. Currently, available only at Momentum Surf Co. in Port Hueneme for $189.

Momentum Surf Co.
607 W. Channel Islands Blvd.
Port Hueneme

Environmentally friendly and fun

Besides a broad selection of surfboards and design clothing, WetSand Surf Shop in Ventura is known for its unique knick knacks and shoes, especially the one-of-a-kind TOMS shoes where every one pair purchased, one pair will be donated to needy children. But the shop also features items that are under the radar, which are both eco-friendly and fun.

First — an interesting way to put old flip flops to good use. Bitters Co. recycles flip flops and makes them into a flexible, easy-to-roll-up mat, priced at $19. Next, ever wonder what happens to your used Starbucks and Coffee Bean coffee cups? A Short Walk has turned them into a time/tide clock for your home or office, priced at $54.95. Ever get tired of the same old Monopoly game? Try the surfing version, where you can trade in your thimble for a Woody, and an apartment at Park Place for a trip to Pipeline ($39.95). And when it comes to family fun, the Hacky Sack version of Bocce might be the perfect thing to put smiles on everyone’s face after a big Christmas meal ($35).    

446 E. Main St., Ventura