University Avenue, Palo Alto
An abundance of books, cards, stationery and traveler's accessories can be found at Paperwhirl. Monogram luggage "Eye-D" tags by Inventive Travelware are a big hit with jet setters at $5 each. A crucial gift for any large-bag-carrying friend, Kikkerland's silicone purse light for $9 helps search through the the interior of any bag. Equally practical, Umbra's popular keep-all envelope travel organizer is priced just under $10. Journals by Chronicle Books and Paper-Oh provide a canvas for writers and artists to illustrate every adventure for under $15. Enthusiastic hostesses will love receiving the $7 black-and-white-striped paper napkins adorned with metallic "Celebrate" script, made by Inviting Company for Slant Collections.
It's hard not to smile upon entering Palo Alto Sport Shop & Toy World. Emoji stickers priced at $7 per pack are a humorous approach to pleasing any phone fanatic. Tickle the fancy of any video gamer with Lucky Forest mushroom banks, which resemble the mushrooms found in old-school Nintendo games at $12 each. Vintage ABC's diverse assortment of $13 rubber stamps are a choice gift for artists of all levels.
A bounty of kitschy gifts can be found next door at Five Ten Gifts. Give your favorite foodie a brightly hued set of flower or heart shaped measuring spoons or cups for $10. For an even more festive food-themed touch, pack them into one of DCI's juicy-looking, fruit-shaped zipper pouches for $9. Kikkerland's travel sewing kit is a $4 steal suitable for anyone, and its travel chopsticks make a great companion at $10.
Santa Cruz Avenue, Menlo Park
Village Stationers (also located on California Avenue in Palo Alto) is a hot spot for cards, stickers, journals, stationery and office supplies — boasting a "unique pen bar." Towering aisles display a full selection of boldly colored writing utensils, sorted by brand, color, pen-tip thickness and ink consistency — similar in form to a department store makeup counter. Any student, teacher or snail mail buff will treasure the kaleidoscopic of boldly colored pens inside one of the zipper pouches or reusable shopping bags by Baggu, all offered for less than $15.
Located just across the street, Cheeky Monkey Toys is the prime destination for all things gamesome. Coloring books, stuffed animals, playing cards, games and children's toys are a big hit, but Copernicus crystal growing kits spark curiosity in aspiring scientists and engineers of all ages; kits in volcano, sequoia, coral reef or autumn themes are offered at $13. Sightseers and Dr. Seuss lovers will get a kick out of the "Oh, the Places I've Been" journal for $13. For a buddy who loves to tinker, Toysmith's $13 neon colored pin art frame will provide hours of entertainment. Fridolin's miniature version of a popular wooden box labyrinth game is only $4 — and it's small enough to fit inside a stocking. Just as diminutive, the $10 Bluetooth shutter remote for smartphones will please friends who are perpetually snapping group pictures.
Castro Street, Mountain View
Mountain View is quickly becoming the tech mecca of the Bay Area, but the boutiques of Castro Street are a secret source for the fashionable. A plethora of eye-catching, rare handcrafted jewelry and locally created gifts can be found around the corner on Dana Street at the Mtn. View General Store: colorful drop earrings by Laura Starbird of RockStarBird, embellished jeweled earrings by Danielle White Designs Jewelry and one-of-a-kind upcycled wine foil necklaces by designer Bonnie Beard of Booze 2 Bling — all $15 and under. Outside of the accessory realm, the store also stocks jars of red and white wine jellies created by FaithAnn McPhail at Post Road Farms for $14.
Back on Castro Street, shoppers can find a rainbow collection of jewelry at Boutique 4 (also on Santa Cruz Avenue in Menlo Park). Assorted earrings, lace headbands, necklaces, cloth coin purses and bangle bracelets range from $4 to $12. Finding a trend-forward, standalone gift isn't always easy on a budget; Noelle boot sock toppers are offered for $14. The store also features a large wall display of shimmering temporary tattoos — but these are not the vending machine tattoos from the past. These $10 metallic temporary tattoos by Lulu DK are stylish enough to be adorned by makeup lovers of all ages.
East West Bookstore is chock full of goodies for serenity seekers. Hugger Mugger's yoga mat bag for just under $13 is ideal for the yoga-mat-toting pal on your list. ToeSox are $15 socks that feature a tactile surface that helps feet adhere to floors and yoga mats. For $8 each, the mandala coloring books by Peter Pauper Press offer pages full of meditative "me time" coloring therapy. A collection of $11 face masks by Spa Comforts aim to combat puffy eyes, headaches and congestion: an essential gift for red-eye flying travelers. Still not sure? For a universally pleasing gift, the medley of teas by Brew Peace and Republic of Tea won't disappoint at $8 per tin.
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