Still not using a kitchen scale for measuring? What are you waiting for? Particularly when it comes to baking, measuring ingredients by weight is not only more accurate, it's also more revealing. When you understand the importance of the ratios of ingredients, a whole new level of experimentation is opened up to you. Widely available from $25.
Love gifts that make you laugh aloud? Dare you not to at least titter when you see the yellow-banded sweetlips on the cover of "Ocean," written by Carol Kaufmann and created by Dan Kainen. What's so hilarious about a fish whose mouth the author describes as a "big blubbery piehole"? Well, this is a Photicular book, which means sweetlips moves, as does the octopus, shark, sea horse, sea turtle and more on subsequent pages. Info: $25.95, Workman Publishing, lat.ms/1zbzpA5, and at bookstores
Panforte from Emporio Rulli
Panforte is dense, chewy, a little sweet from honey and slightly bitter from cocoa, rich with winter spices and studded with candied fruit and almonds. And, as you can probably tell from that description, making it yourself is a real project. Thank goodness for Bay Area confectioner Gary Rulli. His version is among the best around. $27.50 for an 18-ounce cake at www.rulli.com.
Acacia wood paddles
Still using wooden spoons? Why? Paddles are so much more useful. With their flat blades, you can scrape the bottom and get into the corners of pans much more easily than you can with a rounded bowl. Cookbook author Michael Ruhlman, who has created a minor sideline creating cooking products he wished he had, sells a set of three in different sizes. Three for $29.95 at shop.ruhlman.com.
Giant Mason jar cocktail shaker
Regular Mason jars are for amateurs. Why not shake up four drinks at a time instead of one? This giant jar will help your favorite cocktail maven whip up a batch of mint juleps fit for a crowd in no time. The embossed glass Mason jar comes with a custom screw-on collar, strainer cap and lid. $29.95 at www.cooking.com.
Corti Bros. “Exquisite” Whiskey
This is a real oddball drink — not really whiskey-like at all, aged by Amador Distillery in old barrels from sweet Mission del Sol dessert wines. The result has been described as a combination of Bourbon and fortified sweet wine. One taster's description: "Easily the most exciting and unique whiskey I've tasted this year. And one of the few moments in recent memory — if not the only moment — where I've looked at the price and said, 'That's it?!'" $49.99 for a 750 milliliter bottle, $29.99 for a 375 ml bottle from Corti Bros., (800) 509-3663.
Selfie Remote Camera Shutter
Brookstone has come up with a clever solution to getting your entire gang into your school reunion selfies or capturing you and your friends in front of an amazing landmark. The Selfie Remote Camera Shutter uses a light stand that fits in your pocket and a wireless remote that doesn't require Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. The remote works up to 33 feet away, making it a snap for travelers looking to put less of themselves and more of their surroundings into their selfies. With free downloadable app. Works with Apple or Android devices. Info: $29.99, lat.ms/1s0wmq5
Coasters from Post Studio offer an irrepressibly cheerful piece of Pop Art for your tabletop. Made from birch, they are available in four designs and are coated with waterproof resin. $30 at www.postispost.com.
Pastry mat with measures
Keep your countertop clean with this non-skid silicone mat. At 24-by-16-inches, it's generous in size, including measure marks and measurement rings so you can tell right away if the pie dough you're rolling is the proper size. Perfect for cookie and pastry dough, it's even great for candy. Best of all? It's dishwasher safe. $32 at www.pamperedchef.com.
Smoked Tasmanian ocean trout
The same exquisite smoked Tasmanian ocean trout used by famed Sydney chef Tetsuya Wakuda of Tetsuya is now available from Kai Gourmet, the L.A.-based seafood company that delivers to your door. Serve the delicate smoked fish from the remote southwest coast of Tasmania on its own or on thin slices of rye — and the next morning on a bagel or bialy with cream cheese. $32.50 per 1.1-pound pack at www.kaigourmet.com.
Vim & Vigr socks
Compression socks can ease leg pain from hours of standing, but they're often far from fashionable. These black-and-white striped cuties make healthful living more appealing. $32.95, Landis Labyrinth, 140 N. Larchmont Blvd., Los Angeles, or at www.vimvigr.com.
Design your own floral arrangement at Fleurish, floral designer Amy Marella's new do-it-yourself flower bar in Brentwood. Guests can select from nine custom FleurKits per season, which include everything needed for their arrangement: a vessel, flowers and specialty trimmings, plus a box for easy transport. FleurKits start at $34.95, and a 45-minute studio fee at the flower bar is $5 and may be reserved in advance. www.youfleurish.com.
Sometimes it's the old-fashioned solution that's the most elegant. This Los Angeles company recycles fabrics and makes pillows by hand, filling them with old-style remedies. We felt partial to one filled with eucalyptus leaves and oil and rice for texture. Use it to relieve congestion or stress or to ease headaches. Depending on your preference, it can be frozen or warmed in a microwave. Each one is unique. $35 at Mother's Markets, Whole Foods and boutiques including DeTox Market, 8380 Beverly Blvd., L.A., or find stores at www.wellnessbags.com.
Beer nerd game
Sure, your friends enjoy throwing back a couple of beers, but how much do they really know about their favorite drink? Whether they're beer experts or just casual drinkers, they can have some fun with a nerdy beer board game with questions about stouts, hops, brewing techniques and a blind taste test. $35 at Amazon.com
Wine and cheese tote
For the stylish outdoorsman or frequent Hollywood Bowl concertgoer, this tote bag is fully insulated with thermal foil and comes with a divided compartment designed to hold two bottles of wine. There's also a wooden cutting board, cheese knife, two acrylic goblets, coordinating cotton napkins and a wooden-handle corkscrew bottle opener. $38.50 at www.thewinebag.com.
You Live Once cushion
Flip the humorous cushion over and you'll find "so, think twice …" $39 at Bo Concept Los Angeles, 434 N. La Brea Ave. and Santa Monica, 328 Santa Monica Blvd. All retail stores listed at Boconcept.com.
McConnell's ice cream
Just because it's winter doesn't mean that your friends don't crave ice cream. The Santa Barbara-based, family-owned ice cream company makes custom gift packs (they ship with dry ice), so choose your favorite flavors (salted caramel chip, Eureka lemon and marionberry, Turkish coffee or holiday peppermint stick) and add a free customized message. $40 for a four-pack, $60 for a six-pack (shipping cost not included) at www.mcconnells.com.
Baker's Creek seed collections
An heirloom seed collection is a great gift idea for home gardeners — and especially for kids who want to become gardeners. Growing food from heirloom seeds is a great way to watch the growing process, then to experiment with cooking and eating your produce, but it's also a great way to learn about issues of biodiversity and sustainability. Baker's Creek, a Missouri company that specializes in non-GMO and rare seeds, has seed collections that are inexpensive starter kits or collections that run up to $1,295 for 1,000 seeds for those interested in seed preservation. $40 at www.rareseeds.com.
Haptic Lab's Sailing Ship Kite
Kids and grown ups alike will fall for Haptic Lab's sailing ship kite, which is handcrafted in collaboration with Balinese artisans. The kites make beautiful decorative objects for the home, but do indeed fly. The larger kites ("Flying Dutchman" and "Ghost" ships) are $76; the smaller designs are $40 at Haptic Lab, A+R, Poketo, and Plastica.
Jay Street Ashti pillow cover
West Elm collaborated with the Brooklyn-based Jay Street Block Print Company to design the soft velvet Ashti pillow cover, which is handcrafted by Craftmark-certified artisans in India and features hand-stitched pom pom trim. Available in four colors. $43 (pillow insert, $9) at www.westelm.com.
Aplat tote bag
This organic cotton canvas tote is just the thing for the person who is always bringing a dish to the potluck. Washable and reusable. $44 at www.aplatsf.com.
Fredericks & Mae dartboard
Fredericks & Mae silk-screened dartboard and darts. From $44 at Fredericks & Mae.
Japanese bread knife
Bakers and anyone with a serious bread addiction will appreciate this Japanese bread knife from renowned blade maker Gesshin. Extremely thin, it moves through bread easily, resulting in minimal crumbs. With hard-crusted breads, the trick is to apply as little pressure as possible in order to get an even slice. $45 at www.japaneseknifeimports.com.
Colorful Tentacle Wall Planters are a whimsical way to cheer up your favorite plant lover's interior or exterior living space. Available in three sizes as wall planters and standing planters in orange, green and blue. Starting at $45 at www.pottedstore.com.
Greenbar Distillery whiskey
Greenbar Distillery Slow Hand Six Woods Malt whiskey $46 at Bar Keeper, Silver Lake.
For the aspiring chef, health foodie, or constant gardener, Malibu-based One Gun Ranch (www.1gunranch.com) offers farm boxes ($45-$350) or watering cans ($30) pre-planted with chemical-free, nutrient-rich biodynamic soil and culinary herbs, flowers, mixed lettuces or a customized planting (allow two weeks); also sold as DIY farm box kits ($60-$225) including seeds, compost, planter and instructions. To order, call (310) 456-3810.
The Echo Park retail space and studio Otherwild and the Women's Center for Creative Work combine forces to host regular DIY workshops focusing on craft. In the works for January/February: tie-dye with Maricolous Textiles, basket-weaving with Nanette Sullano, basic medicine making with Homestead Apothecary and improvisational quilting with Have Company. Classes range from $45 to $130 at otherwild.com and Women's Center for Creative Work.
Stilts always seemed so cool, but they're often hard for kids to maneuver. Geospace has come up with an S-band design to make it easier for youngsters to manage. The Walkaroo Jr. Lightweight version is meant for people 110 pounds or lighter. They have foam handles, and the foot rests can be moved as the walker gets more proficient. $46.99 at Geospace and at Amazon.com.
Foreign Building Blocks
Forget ABC building blocks. Uncle Goose blocks are available in 21 languages, including Hindi, Persian and Hebrew. $47.99 at Tweak and Yolk, Uncle Goose.
Mastrad macaron baking set
If you love macarons, why not try making them yourself? And with a kit that includes a pastry bag and tips and a mold for the cookies, plus a recipe book, they're pretty foolproof — or more than you'd think for the exquisite French sandwich cookies. This is an especially great gift for the teenage girl in your life. (Bonus: Get her ingredients and food dyes too.) $49.99 at www.kitchenkapers.com.
BEM Speaker Band
A wireless Bluetooth speaker with a built-in microphone. It pairs with a smartphone to work as a speakerphone, keeping your hands free if you're dealing with, say luggage, and its buttons help you accept calls or play and pause music and switch tracks. Its square shape makes it a bit large for the wrist of most women. Info: $50, lat.ms/1A2vuWr
Tom Ford for Men beard-conditioning oil and comb
$50 at Neiman Marcus, Beverly Hills and Tom Ford.