A Reasonable Gift Guide 

Gifts and stores that are off the beaten path and worth checking out.

If you count yourself among the 99 Percent, chances are that you don't have major dough to drop on presents for all your loved ones. This trusty guide offers ideas for holiday gifts that won't break your bank (or credit union). Plus, all of the sellers on this list are local, so follow these suggestions and you'll simultaneously save on shopping-trip travel time and help out some East Bay businesses.

Jon Carling
JonCarling.Etsy.com
There's a good chance you've seen the illustration work of East Bay native Jon Carling. The whimsical pen and ink drawings churned out by the CCA-trained artist are sold in print ($5-$40) and T-shirt ($25) form at small shops throughout the East Bay and online. Carling's part-cutesy, part-spooky illustrations feature fanciful scenes like sword-wielding owl kings and roller skating rabbits. Pick up his T-shirts at Pretty Penny (5488 College Ave., Oakland) and at the Rock Paper Scissors Collective (2278 Telegraph Ave., Oakland), which also carries the artist's prints and books, or visit Atomic Garden (5453 College Ave., Oakland) for prints and originals.

The Bone Room
1569 Solano Ave., Berkeley, 510-526-5252 or BoneRoom.com
If you need a gift for someone who likes bones, bugs, or anything otherwise old and dead, look no further than The Bone Room, the go-to spot for cool curio from the natural world. The store sells everything from fruit-flavored scorpion lollipops ($2.50) to alligator feet key chains ($3) and dainty earrings fashioned from rattlesnake fangs ($15). And because they don't call it The Bone Room for nothing, you'll find a huge variety of bones.

Leafcutter Designs
LeafcutterDesigns.com
As a general rule, the more an object decreases in size, the cuter it becomes. That's why the World's Smallest Postal Service is indisputably the most adorable form of correspondence on earth — and it's just one of the many quirky concepts created by Berkeley artist Lea Redmond for sale via her online shop Leafcutter Designs. For $9 she'll deliver a tiny letter with a customizable message written in script so small you'll need a magnifying glass to read it (luckily a miniature one comes included with your letter — which, by the way, is mailed within a larger envelope for safe shipping). And for $10 you can go big with a peewee-size package filled with select trinkets.

Paco Collars
2905 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-848-7226 or PacoCollars.com
No good dog should go unrewarded — nor should it be confined to the same tired leash and collar. That's why the wizards at Berkeley shop Paco Collars specialize in head-turning, hand-crafted leather dog gear that's so snazzy you might want to wear it yourself (luckily, they also make belts, bracelets, and other people products). With a diverse collection of styles — from the Mini Callie, a small collar with a studded daisy pattern ($60), to The Niz, a part-punky, part-classy pyramid-spiked collar ($70) — Paco Collars has something for dogs (and cats) of all sorts. Patrons can also make custom orders.

Zee Bearded Lady
Etsy.com/Shop/ZeeBeardedLady
If you're not on Etsy — the dangerously addictive online marketplace that has pretty much every handmade item imaginable — get on it. Then stop by Oakland-based Etsy shop Zee Bearded Lady for colorful $3 greeting cards adorned with Oakland-inspired linoleum block prints. The handmade cards include images of various Oakland landmarks and artifacts, from the Tribune Tower to the magic key to Children's Fairyland. You can also find them for sale at the Oaklandish store (1444 Broadway Oakland), where they're sold individually and in four-packs ($10). Quick tip: Slap those suckers in a frame for instant wall art.

Coracao Confections
510-984-4848 or CoracaoConfections.com
The raw sweets crafted by local chocolatiers Daniel Korson and Matthew Rogers may be lactose-, wheat-, and gluten-free, but they're far from flavorless. Made with mostly nutrient-rich organic ingredients, the chocolates come in cute, mouthwatering bites like the Ginger Saffron Truffle and the Kaffir Lime Caramel Cup. Visit the company's website to order a 22-piece deluxe collection box ($44.99) or a five-piece tin ($15.99), which is also sold at the Tuesday and Saturday Berkeley farmers' markets (MLK and Center streets and MLK and Derby streets, respectively). Or buy the sweets by the piece ($1.69-$5.49) at local Whole Foods Markets (3000 Telegraph Ave., Berkeley, or 230 Bay Place, Oakland). Use promo code "CHOCOLOVE" for 5 percent off online orders through February 2012.

Oakland Grown
510-516-0653 or OaklandGrown.org
Gift cards can make hit-or-miss presents — namely because a recipient might not care for the store at which the card can be redeemed. But Oakland Grown — a network of local economy-promoting businesses owners, artists, and citizens — recently launched a gift card that can be used at a growing number of independent businesses throughout Oakland (The Express is one of three members of the collective that contributed start-up costs to launch the card program). The card, which is available in reloadable increments ranging from $20 to $200, stimulates the local economy while giving people plenty of purchasing options, from electronics at Leo's Pro Audio (5447 Telegraph Ave., Oakland) to classes at Freelove Music School (4390 Piedmont Ave., Oakland). Visit the network's website to purchase a card, find retail locations that sell it, and see a full list of businesses that accept the card.

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