Giving & Doing
Museum Gift Shop
Even with all the temptations (Japanese floral-printed ceramics and iron teapots) at the newer Asian Art Museum, SFMOMA is still the queen of Bay Area museum gift shops. Whether you're looking for a quickie memento (how about an SFMOMA baseball cap bearing the museum's trademark white turret logo?) or furniture (break the bank on a walnut-veneer armchair by Norman Cherner), this spacious shop brings a modern aesthetic home. Up-and-coming jewelry designer Alexis Bittar's floral, square, and squiggly-shaped pieces in Lucite and sterling are top sellers, and the store even has a special sections for the young aesthete, including a contemporary dollhouse made from preservative-free wood. You could kill hours browsing before you even get to the stacks of art books, postcards, and museum prints.
For fragrant and perfect pesticide-free bouquets on a budget, hit the Moss Beach-based Cypress Flower Farm's booth Saturdays and Sundays at the San Francisco Ferry Building from 8a.m. to 2p.m. (Fridays at Oakland's Jack Londong Square farmers' market, Thursdays at Los Altos's farmers' market, and Sundays at San Rafael's farmers' market). Enormous bundles of blooms such as Icelandic poppies and ranunculus run anywhere from $3 to $5 per bouquet (each bunch contains at least a dozen flowers). Too busy to pick out that perfect organic bouquet in person? Order your blooms online from a Northern Californian eco-friendly florist. OrganicBouquet.com boasts a wide selection of flowers - from tulips to roses to Gerbera daisies, lilies, and beyond - that are safe for both "farmworkers and the earth." Now that's flower power.
Looking for something unequivocally unique for a friend who has everything but would appreciate a little something more - especially if no one else has it? The owners behind Twin Concepts, twin sisters Linda Fujimoto and Mary Schwarz, spend six weeks a year scouring the hinterlands for the cute, the handcrafted, and the completely frivolous, such as four-inch-high letters of the alphabet coated in silver glitter. Their tiny Menlo Park shop effortlessly blends it all in a treasures-in-the-attic setting that will trigger every buying impulse in your body. Along with pricey, handmade Cydney Mandel shoes, you might find a plump, teapot-shaped purse in silver vinyl for only $24. If you love something, grab it. Few items can, or will, be reordered; the shop's stock is completely revamped every six weeks. Get on the mailing list now for the Auguest and holiday season sales, featuring Linda's daughter's incredible edibles.
Way to Hook Kids on Poetry
To hear some parents tell it, most kids split their free time between ODing on TV and pirating tunes for their iPods. Here's a group that's given teens - including some who've flunked out of school - a chance to prove the Barcalounger critics wrong. Reaching out to 45,000 kids annually, Youth Speaks is known for its sold-out poetry events, where teens rock the house by figuring out their feelings and empathizing with their peers'. Youth Speaks is also hooking a new generation on literacy with events like hip-hop bashes and writing workshops. Those young voices will be heard.
Gift for a Bookworm
For the nerd you love, a membership to the majestic 150-year-old Mechanics' Institute Library is a steal at $95 a year ($145 for a household). It holds a large selection of books, periodicals, books on tape, and CDs, and its ultrasoft leather reading chairs inspire napping. Wireless access and a growing DVD collection don't detract from the old-world charm. The library plays host to the oldest chess club in the States - it boasts its own grandmaster-in-residence. The chess room schedule includes slots for casual play and tournaments.