Spork vegan cooking classes
Always been curious about vegan cooking but maybe were a little put off by the air of solemnity that so often goes with it? That won't be a problem with Spork. Sisters Jenny Engel and Heather Goldberg may be serious about their cooking, but they also know how to make it fun. $70 at www.sporkfoods.com.
San Francisco Baking Institute class
The highly regarded baking school offers two-day workshops in bread making or patisserie. It's a terrific, though perhaps self-interested, gift, true, but why not have your friends learn how to make boule, rye bread and pain au chocolate? $398 at www.sfbi.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.
If your friend is a liquor snob, don't attempt to buy him or her just any bottle of gin for the holidays. This kit comes with a stainless steel strainer and funnel, a 2-ounce tin of botanicals, 2-ounce tin of juniper berries and two glass bottles with corks for the finished product. All your friend will need to get started is some vodka and a little creativity. We dare your gin snob friends to turn their noses up at this one. $54.95 at www.williams-sonoma.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
The Gourmandise School cooking classes
Choose from a variety of classes in preparing sweets and savories (from chocolate making to Thai cooking), and learn from top local chef instructors, including Roxana Jullapat, Stefano DeLorenzo, Gill Boyd and Sonoko Sakai, in addition to in-house chocolatier Ruth Kennison. Classes are 100% hands-on unless otherwise noted. Starting at $85 at thegourmandiseschool.com.
Tenaya Lodge retreat
Start 2015 with some "me" time, with a wellness retreat Jan. 16-19 at Tenaya Lodge, just a few miles from the southern entrance to Yosemite National Park. The package includes guided hikes, yoga, spa treatments, sessions on healthful living, cooking seminars and, of course, the majestic beauty of the setting. All lunches and dinners are included. $889 for one person, $1,119 for two, www.tenayalodge.com.
Sleep-away camp, girlfriend getaway — a long weekend of bonding and learning, with games and workshops with experts in business, parenting and health. The bug juice is spiked, but the singalong and the s'mores are not so different than they've always been. Occurs periodically in several places around the U.S., including Oceanview Retreat in Malibu in March, April and September. First-time campers pay $1,199. www.campowerment.com.
Off the Saw woodworking class
Always wanted to learn woodworking? The 1-year-old Off the Saw in downtown Los Angeles is offering an Intro to Woodworking workshop once a month. The $200 fee includes all tools and materials. Gift certificates are also available. Workshops scheduled for next year include lamp making, tool sharpening, dovetailed step stool, rush weaving and timber framing. www.offthesaw.com/workshops.
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 www.otherwild.com and womenscenterforcreativework.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.
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.
Modern calligraphy class
Learn calligraphy using a wooden pen and pointed nib dipped into ink with artist, illustrator and calligrapher Maybelle Imasa-Stukuls Jan. 24-25. Each person will learn the alphabet and receive a personalized calligraphy starter kit which includes a black ink, pen holder, nib, practice book and sheets. The Poketo Store is in the lobby of the Line Hotel, 3515 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. All supplies included. Light snacks and drinks will be provided by Roy Choi's Pot Cafe. $225 at www.poketo.com/collections/workshops-alpha-desc.
Designer boot camp
Need help redecorating or remodeling? Learn the basics of the interior design business from celebrity interior and textile designer Kathryn M. Ireland. At boot camp, students will learn about project management, how to do a thorough budget, furniture layouts and fabric selection. Jan 22-25 and March 19-22. $3,500. (323) 965-9888, Ext. 200.