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By Miriam Raftery

November 27, 2012 (San Diego’s East County) --  Looking to support our local economy while choosing special holiday gifts? We’ve scoured East County to find truly unique gifts made and sold locally. What could be finer than to receive an alpaca sweater spun and woven with locally grown wool? Or a hand-stitched quilt, locally crafted jewelry  or a delectable freshly baked dessert? Perhaps your gift recipients would savor local wines grown in the Old World style, camel milk soaps scented with frankincense and myrrh, or intricately hand-beaded  pottery.

Search no more! You’ll find all of these delightful items and more in our “Gifts from the East: 2012 Holiday Shopping Guide” below:

1.   Camel’s milk soaps and lotions:   Oasis Camel Dairy in Ramona  ( milks their camels daily and produces a fragrant variety of luxurious, moisturizing lotions (lavender or milk and honey).  They also offer camel milk soaps in several scents, including some that make great holiday gifts: pomegranate, gold/frankincense/myrrh, and more. 


2.   Sophie’s Gallery:  You’ll find a wealth of gifts hand-made by developmentally disabled adults at Sophie’s Gallery, located on Rea Street in El Cajon just off Magnolia one block north of Main Street. Jewelry, scarves, ties, artwork, decorative items and much more await those seeking truly one-of-a-kind gifts from East County.  A few items (cards and art prints) are also available online at


3.   Cozy Corner Quilts:  Orva and Ralph Knudson are known as Julian’s “Quilt People”, turning out hand-made works of art in the form of quilts and comforters. Their shop, located in the Wynola Farms Marketplace, also carries hand-made hats, pot holders, jewelry cases and more, plus they take orders for custom embroider.  For more information, see


4.   Unique Alpacas:  This Jamul-based alpaca farm features a ranch store complete with many gift items made from the luxurious wool of alpacas. Options range from sweaters,  scarves, caps and vests to Alpaca teddy bears for that special child on your gift list.  Visit and click on the “farm store” tab to start shopping.


5.   La Serenissima Wines:  What could be finer than a gift of locally produced wines?  East County now has some 50 different  wineries!   One of our favorites is La Serenissima. Vintner Tony Tiso has generous provided wine tastings at several of our events, much to the delight of our guests. His wines are made in the Old World Italian style, unfiltered, without chemical fertilizers, in the mineral-rich soil of Warner Springs in the mountains of East County. You can now order their wines online at  or call ahead to visit the winery and take a special tour.


6.   Hand-beaded pottery at Crossroads and Treasures:  Located on Highway 78 in Santa Ysabel, Crossroads Treasures features a wealth of gifts from Native American jewelry to gemstones and fossils.  Our favorite finds, however, are intricately hand-decorated planters and pottery inlaid with glass beads and tile mosaics, created by Earl Strech, a 94-year-old artist and retired stone mason.  Learn more at


7.   Sweet treats from San Diego Desserts:  What better way to celebrate the holidays than with some luscious freshly-baked desserts?  San Diego Desserts offers a wealth of options ranging from a chocolate Grand Marnier cake to truffles, tarts, pies, and many more specialty confections.  Located in the college area, it’s a sure way to satisfy the sweet tooth of those on your gift list this holiday season.  Visit their online store here, or visit in person for even more temptations:

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