In the snowless cities of Southern California, Christmastime often seems a bit like springtime, and as a result, it can be hard to get in the proper holiday frame of mind.
If you're one of those who longs for a white Christmas amid the palms, here's a little toddy to cure your yuletide blues. As far as we know, it won't turn Southern California into a Currier & Ives New England, but it's guaranteed to get your Christmas juices flowing.
Step 1: Take the family to visit Santa's Village, one mile east of Skyforest on California 18, south of Lake Arrowhead.
Step 2: Browse among the holiday floral and craft supplies at establishments like Stats, which has five stores in the Los Angeles area, or Moskatel's, which has 15.
Step 3: Go to downtown L.A.'s Olvera Street during its Christmastime Las Posadas celebration.
Step 4: Visit at least one of the Southland's Christmas stores, those specialists in holiday fantasy. To help you with this part of the cure, here's a sampler of shops that offer the gift of Christmas excitement. Some of the stores below are open year-round, others only for the holidays.
The Treasure Chest Christmas Store, 540 Myrtlewood Drive, Calimesa, (714) 795-1220. Between Redlands and Beaumont on the way to Palm Springs. Open seven days a week, year-round. Christmas hours 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday through Thursday, 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays.
The regular Palm Springs/Palm Desert clientele at Donna Seaton's 4,000-square-foot store often compares the trees to those seen in Europe. Seaton's son, Tim Summerhays, designed the displays of 25 trees, including one 8 feet high with 84 strands and 4,400 lights.
You will find custom-made wreaths, ornaments and tree trimmings.
The Christmas Cat Gift Shop, 520 Bartlett Road, Big Bear Lake, (714) 866-7397. Open year-round. From mid-June through December, hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
Inside the cottage of Roy and Carol Arnold, Christmas tree lights shine on cat dolls, cat cards, cat cushions, cat jewelry, cat music boxes, cat shirts and cat toys.
The Arnolds believe they carry the largest group of cat items in Southern California. "Our specialty is pictures," Carol adds.
Non-cat items include "I Believe in Santa" sweat shirts, handmade quilts and gifts from the Ozarks.
The Christmas Shoppe, 815 Naomi Ave., West Arcadia Hub Shopping Center, Units J and K and Annex A, Arcadia, (818) 574-8199. Open seven days a week; Christmas hours 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Outlets also open through Christmas at the Eastland Shopping Center in West Covina, (818) 915-8489, and Puente Hills Mall in the City of Industry, (818) 964-1139.
Marilyn Palfrey's Arcadia shop displays colorful theme trees, barrels of unique ornaments and artistic wreaths. She will custom-design arrangements on the premises or at your home to match your decor.
The gift items in the annex include silk flower arrangements, antiques, pictures and prints.
"My customers find almost anything they need here to decorate the house for Christmas," Palfrey says.
The Christmas Guild. Permanent locations: 1575 N. Placentia Ave., Placentia, (714) 961-0402; Tustin Plaza, 13681 Newport Ave., Tustin, (714) 730-1141, and 21301 Hawthorne Blvd., Torrance, (213) 316-5564. Also 11 seasonal locations, including Brea Mall, (714) 990-4796; Del Amo Fashion Center, (213) 214-3772; Orange Mall, (714) 637-2029; South Coast Plaza in both Crystal Court, (714) 546-9331, and the Nordstrom Wing, (714) 546-2520; Beverly Center, (213) 652-6212; Sherman Oaks Fashion Center, (818) 907-9268; Santa Monica Place, (213) 458-6541; Century City Shopping Mall, (213) 277-3989; Topanga Plaza Mall, (818) 883-8121, and Horton Plaza in San Diego, (619) 696-9988. Open seven days a week; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays noon to 5 p.m. (Hours may vary slightly at mall locations.)
Owners Cathy and John MacDonald say all their stores feature settings, as they might appear in your home, of trees and other items.
There are 29 theme trees bearing names like "On the Wings of a Dove," "Shimmer and Shine," "Baubles, Bangles and Beads" with handblown ornaments, a moose-laden "Mooseltoe and Kisses," and nautical-themed "Neptune's Treasure."
More than 25,000 ornaments can be found in each Christmas Guild store, the MacDonalds say, along with collectibles from many countries and one-of-a-kind gifts.
Nancy Kramer, manager of the the Topanga Plaza store (6600 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Canoga Park, (818) 883-8121), says she will show customers how to shape a tree, light it, hang ornaments and develop their own themes.