Hometown Holiday Gifts

Dec 4, 2009
Leaders in Leather purses

Leaders in Leather purses

Just like Dorothy’s oft-quoted words from The Wizard of Oz, we at Hometown Pasadena believe there’s no place like home—Pasadena, that is—for holiday shopping. The perfect gift awaits each person on your list right here in our own towns, from Pasadena to Montrose. And remember, every dollar you spend at an independently owned store puts 68 cents back into our own community, compared to 43 cents for national chains.

Here are gift ideas from the  team:

For Mom
We just love the purses and accessories—in all shapes and sizes—from Leaders in Leather at Koi. Inspired by vintage designs, the line is handcrafted in South America in red, teal, orange, green and brown leathers. It’s just the little extra kick your mother needs for the new year. Small change purses are $18, French wallets, $68, clutches, $78, and large totes and shoulder bags, $178. For an extra added attraction, everything in the store (except vintage items and furniture) is 20% off through the end of December.
Koi, 1007 Fair Oaks, South Pasadena, 626.441.3254.
— Mary Jane Horton

Fred and his fancy bottles

Fred and his fancy bottles

For Dad… and Grandpa
Fred Fedail is our able guide when it comes to paternal gifts. Let’s start with Gramps. For a Port drinker, Graham’s Vintage Porto 2000 is a dilly, with a whopping 98 points from the Wine Spectator. Fragrant and plummy, a bottle will set you back $125. You, Grandpa and a roaring fire: Cheers! As for Dad, ‘if he’s a bourbon guy, this will be a Christmas to remember for your gift of Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve: 23 Year. At 95.6 proof, it is the only 23-year-old Kentucky bourbon sold in the U.S.A.—one of only 3,000 bottles produced, each one numbered to prove its provenance. So gather the sibs to pitch in and share in the joy and the $269 price tag—or just go for it and be Daddy’s favorite, at least for this Christmas.
Gerlach’s Liquors, 1075 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena, 626.799.1166.
— Jill Ganon

Molly models the latest in canine holiday headwear

Molly models the latest in canine holiday headwear

For Your Pet
Giving your pet a gift this Christmas? Why not benefit dogs, cats and bunnies who aren’t so fortunate? Purchase your silly dog antlers or sparkly cat toys (and even basics like food and shampoo) at the Pasasdena Humane Society Pet Store. All profits benefit the shelter, and prices are competitive with the chains. Manager Jennie Kelley gets the store all gussied up for Christmas with pet-themed ornaments and holiday cards; staff favorites include comfortable bamboo collars and irresistible plush squeaky toys (Busy Bee, anyone?). While you’re there, consider giving a gift to the Humane Society in your animal’s name. Or to make the ultimate, Seussian holiday gesture, get your pet a pet! According to the shelter’s Kevin McManus, if you’re home for the holidays it’s a great time to adopt a new family member. Consider it the gift that keeps on loving, but just remember that you have to plan ahead and see the website for its (famously exhaustive) procedures.
Pasadena Humane Society, 361 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena,
— Mel Malmberg

Bittersweet boxed goodies

Bittersweet boxed goodies

For a Client
Visions of sugarplums are all very nice, but what about gifting the real thing? Bittersweet Treats is an Alhambra-based purveyor of all things sugary, and it delivers in the Pasadena and Los Angeles areas, with the treats all boxed and adorable. Owner Danielle Keene produces a vast kaleidoscope of gooey goodies, including honey-lavender ice cream, delicious brittles and creative cookies, all detailed on the website. You can assemble a lavish gift basket or send a more modest mix and match—even create unique combos of sandwich cookies and fillings. For gifts of $25 and under, Danielle recommends Barreos (custom sandwich cookies), red velvet whoopie pie or mint chip ice cream. For around $50, you can send 20 chocolate cupcakes with salted caramel frosting, or a lemon meringue or chocolate crunch cake. A bit more ($60) gets you an ice cream sundae social for 12; for $100, she’ll create a dessert buffet.
Bittersweet Treats, 310.614.4458,
— MM

Djembé drum

Djembé drum

For a Teenager
Every teenager is into music, but nothing’s more boring than another iTunes gift card. Instead, inspire them to make their own tunes with a gift from Old Town Music. The hot item for many a teen these days is a ukelele; Old Town has fun, brightly colorful ones for just $29, but if the kid in question might actually play, consider splurging on the burnished, richer-sounding Lanikai one for $80. If percussion seems more appropriate, the djembé drums ($130) are totally cool. And anyone would want one of the big Hohner Chrometta harmonicas ($100-$138), as well as plenty of less expensive harmonicas. You can throw in lessons, an instructional DVD and/or sheet music—they’ve got it all.
Old Town Music, 42 E. Colorado Blvd., Old Pasadena, 323.681.2418,
— Colleen Dunn Bates

Ukeleles at Old Town Music

Ukeleles at Old Town Music

archer-arroyoFor Your Husband
You’ve gone the ironic (or not) socks/underwear/tie route. You’ve given him all the man-jewelry he can possibly wear (that one bracelet). He’s got a great watch, and a functional wallet; he’s gone sky-diving and wine-tasting; and you’ve even considered getting him a ride on the newest zeppelin (prices as high as the airship itself!) or naming a star after him. Now it’s time to man up and get seriously hometown and outdoorsy on him: archery lessons! The Pasadena Roving Archers, 75 years young, meet in the gorgeous Arroyo Seco. If your Robin Hood doesn’t know his arrowhead from his tailfeather, they hold introductory lessons every Saturday morning (arrive at 8:15 to secure a spot; donation $5). A series of basic lessons is $60. Bonus: If you get him hooked (or strung?), the gear can fill a very large Christmas stocking for years to come.
Pasadena Roving Archers,
— MM

motif-pajamasFor Your Wife
Show her you really love her by not getting her that miniature French negligee you’ve thought about, and instead head to Motif for these French-patterned jammies by Loungerie ($130). Made of linen with a satin finish, they combine comfort with just enough elegance, and they cry out for a leisurely Sunday with a latte and the New York Times. If she’s overloaded on PJs, remember that every woman needs a little pampering. One of our personal faves is the facial at Amadeus Spa. Other than a few uncomfortable moments during extractions, it’s a 90-minute treatment ($120) that is soothing, peaceful and indulgent, leaving skin feeling better for weeks afterward. Make sure she gets there early to relax in the spa first.
Motif Gifts, 1389 E. Washington Blvd., Pasadena, 626.398.5038,
Amadeus Spa, 799 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, 626.578.3404,

For the Neighbors
I give my neighbors books, because knowledge is power! Even if they’re not into gardening, all the selections below are packed with eye-popping, luscious color photos, and they might even cause some inspiration.
desert-plants-book— Designing with Succulents, by Debra Lee Baldwin (Timber Press, $29.95). This photo-and-information-rich book is gracefully designed and written for both serious study and casual browsing.
— California Native Plants for the Garden, by Carol Bornstein, David Fross and Bart O’Brien (Cachuma Press, $27.95). An invaluable guide with detailed photos and care recommendations for California native plants for all garden solutions.
— California Gardener’s Guide, Volume VII, by Nan Sterman (Oxmoor House, $24.95). Popular garden writer Sterman is a horticultural authority who writes in a practical, informative style on Southern California garden design and care.
— Desert Plants: A Curator’s Introduction to the Huntington Desert Garden, by Gary Lyons (Huntington Library Press, $24.95). A handsome, often droll guide to the expansive succulent collection at the world-renowned Huntington Botanic Garden.
All these books (and many more) are available at the Descanso Gardens or Arboretum gift shops, Huntington Library bookstore or Vroman’s. Don’t forget, members of each of the area’s botanic gardens receive purchase discounts of 10 to 20 percent.
— Sandy Gillis

marit-rae-braceletsFor Your Best Friend
What woman can resist a little jewelry? The colors, the sparkle! Marit Rae’s semi-precious gemstone bracelets—available at Therapy (316 E. Colorado Blvd., Old Pasadena, 626.568.9905) or e.g. page (2507 Mission St., San Marino, 626.799.2000)—are just the ticket for your loyal and loving best friend. They  come in a choice of many quartz-based stones and materials, including garnets, labradorite, abalone, turquoise tiger’s eye, freshwater pearls, wood and more. Each has a little gold-plated charm—perhaps a peace sign, fleur de lis or leaf. The best part is they’re just $38 each (except for the gold ones, which are a bit more). You can buy two or three in the same color, or mix and match to really make a statement.

gator-golfFor a Child
There aren’t many places like Tom’s Toys left in the area—or dare we say, the whole country. This huge, independently owned store is a great place to visit right now—Honolulu Avenue during the holidays has a truly festive vibe. Here are two age-based ideas from Tom’s:
Preschool: Bring the miniature golf course home with Gator Golf Play-at-Home Mini Golf Game, from Elefun and Friends ($24.99, ages 3 and up). It has putters, balls and an alligator head to collect balls. Best of all, the parts snap together easily and stow neatly.
Elementary School: Kids 8 and up (or younger with a little help from parents) will get a kick out of making their own 3-D globe from Ravensburger. These jigsaw puzzles come with their own stands and have a variety of designs, from an aquarium-like underwater scene to African animals. $29.99 for a 240-piece puzzle and $39.99 for the 540-piece size.
Tom’s Toys, 2281 Honolulu Ave., Montrose, 818.249.2178

leon-levin-sweaterFor Grandma
For years, before Draper had even met Damon, we were at Draper’s every Christmas, shopping for sweaters that Grandma would love. We know this because she actually wore them, though they were still wrapped in tissue in her sweater drawer when she died at 92that’s just how Grandma rolled. This Leon Levin acrylic sweater, modeled at right by saleswoman and great sport Joyce, is hand loomed and manufactured in a timeless cardigan style, just like it’s been for the past 49 years. Available in 13 colors, it’s machine washable, cuddly and a steal at $58.
Draper’s & Damon’s, 396 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena, 626.449.4410.
— JG

For the College Student or 20something
To make the most of the fortune you’re paying for college, $59 will get you the Olympus VN-6200 1GB Digital Recorder so your diligent student can record up to 444 hours of morning lectures, whilst taking a little snooze in class. And this model enables your student to download the morning’s audio files to PC or Mac. olympus_vn_6200For your kids on the far side of college—y’know, the 20somethings having the flashes of genius all day long? The hand-held Olympus® VN-6000 1GB Digital Recorder for just $39 is not as high-tech (you can’t download its audio files to a computer) but it has real retro appeal and is just the ticket for recording those great scenes for the film he or she is writing. It also has an alarm feature for that necessary first-job wake-up call. Gee, thanks, Mom and Dad!
Radio Shack, 813 Fair Oaks Ave., South Pasadena, 626.799.5294; 825 N. Lake Ave., Pasdaena, 626.798.1432; and other locations;
— JG

3 Responses for “Hometown Holiday Gifts”

  1. […] Hometown Holiday Gifts | Hometown Pasadena […]

  2. Nan Sterman says:

    if you’d like a signed, personalized gift copy of California Gardener’s Guide V II, please visit

  3. Thanks for all the great tips on where to Christmas shop locally, it makes the whole experience so much more tolerable. I’m going 100% Ma and Pa this year and vow not to turn to the big crowded malls in desperation!



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