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Bowen's Whiskey

Custom knife maker Larry Lehman holds his personal knife, which is made of Arizona Desert Ironwood. The three-inch blade is made of high carbon high chrome stainless steel. All the knives he makes are one of a kind.

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Larry Lehman used hand-forged Damascus steel to make this knife. It has a minimum 125 layers, which gives the blade its unique pattern.

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The handle of this custom knife by Larry Lehman is made from water buffalo horn. Each knife that Lehman makes is unique.

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John and Terri Sprotti, owners of Pepper Delight pepper jellies and jams.

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Pepper Delights gift sets available for Christmas.

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Locally made Bowen's Whiskey won a silver medal in the 2014 World Whiskies Awards in the American whiskey/non-bourbon category.

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Casey Christie / The Californian Saige Bryan practices her jumping skills with her horse at the PDM Stables. Riding lessons are a wonderful gift for young horse lovers.

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Dylan Ryan makes a nice jump while training at the PDM Stables on Muller Road with instructor Heather Giragosian. Give riding lessons as a gift for the budding equestrian on your holiday list.

Home for the holidays is a wistful Christmas wish, but shoppers also can apply the sentiment to their gift lists. The staff at Eye Street has come up with dozens of very cool products and services -- some fairly new, some perennial favorites -- that should impress even your pickiest loved one. And all recommendations on our list -- from hand-crafted items, to books, to music, to spa treatments -- have some tie to our unique spot here in the great Central Valley. While our gift guide by no means encompasses all the wonderful goods available in Kern County (what list could?), these are things that stood out to us in 2012.


Some Christmas gifts last a season, while others can last a lifetime.

Bakersfield custom knife maker Larry Lehman of Lehman Custom Knives hand-crafts products so unique they definitely belong in the latter category.

Lehman, 62, has been operating full time from his home workshop for five years after retiring from the real estate appraisal business, personally handcrafting and detailing knives for daily use or for admiring inside a favorite display case.

Seated proudly in front of his latest collection of knives of varying shapes and sizes, Lehman offered up a verse from the John Keats poem "Endymion" to describe his works.

"'A thing of beauty is a joy forever,'" he said, holding up one of his latest prized pieces: a small stainless steel blade with heavy hollow grind. The handle is crafted out of water buffalo horn with streaked scales, nickel silver pins and red liners. "These are also meant to be used."

Customers can visit Lehman's website -- lehmancustomknives.com -- to become acquainted with his independent knife-making history, crafting techniques, and to view photos with description and stock availability. (At the present time, Lehman has 14 completed knives available for purchase.)

"Some knife companies have model lines, which mean there are more than just one. What makes these 'custom' is that no two blades are alike, and all are one of a kind. I only sell what's ready."

Lehman said it can take up to 40 hours to craft all necessary raw materials into each final product. From a small cutting knife to a larger blade meant for hunting and outdoor life, each is made with only the highest quality U.S. and Japanese steels and woods and animal horn handle materials purchased under strict guidelines to ensure their sturdiness and resistance to wear and tear. Lehman said he's always kept his prices accessible to fit most budgets; knives run between $155 to $400, depending on size and design.

"This has never been about making money. It's a rewarding accomplishment, something tangible you can show off."

Before offering a tour of his garage workspace, Lehman opened a book containing photos of every knife he's made, adding that one of his inspirations is the survival knife in the 2000 film "Cast Away," a tool Tom Hanks' character put to many uses.

"By and large, I think most of the collectors and customers that buy are gonna use them at some point. If they don't, they can always take them out and admire them, which many of my regular buyers do."

If it can work for Tom Hanks on a deserted island, it just may work for the cast of the upcoming "The Hangover Part III."

The production crew for the movie, which shot in Tehachapi in September, visited Lehman while on the hunt for unique-looking knives for the film. The team had discovered Lehman's website after striking out in Los Angeles.

"They called me up and said they liked what they saw on the website, and I said they had to hurry," Lehman recalled. "I was on my way to a wedding that day."

After high-tailing it over the hill, the crew texted photos to the decision-makers in Hollywood, eventually purchasing three knives: a shiny 13-inch Bowie knife; a small, camel-bone handle knife; and a midsized Damascus steel knife, characterized by its distinctive band patterns in the blade. Lehman said he's not sure whether the knives will appear in the film, but he'll watch closely when the movie is released in the spring.

"It's pretty cool they ended up in Bakersfield and at my place."

• Lehman Custom Knives: Ranging from $155-$400, each Lehman Custom Knife comes with a form-fitted sheath and is packaged with a letter of authenticity from Lehman. Knives sold online, via mail order or locally by appointment. 665-9822 or lehmancustomknives.com.


• Jewelry by Diana Campbell Rice: DCR features contemporary jewelry in a variety of finishes, using eclectic charms, vintage beads, Scrabble tiles, carved silver flowers and other unusual items. Other works include necklaces and earrings in silverplate, sterling silver and brass finish. Her pieces are sold at Arina's Gifts and at special events, including the upcoming Holiday Charm Jewelry Show, 5 to 8 p.m. Dec. 17 at Metro Galleries, 1604 19th St. Prices range from $20 to $60 at Arina Gifts, Town & Country Village, 8200 Stockdale Highway, Suite B-2. Contact Rice at 319-6163.

• GTG Bottle Art: Tara Henson designs unique necklaces, keychains, cheese plates, vases, glasses and lamps from wine and liquor bottles. Her products are sold at Arina's Gifts. Prices range from $12 to $110 at Arina Gifts, 8200 Stockdale Highway, Suite B-2. Contact Henson at 602-284-1057 or geskegirl@gmail.com.


• Tom Christenson: Christenson operates a one-man custom furniture shop in Bakersfield and has clients all over the world. He designs and builds elegant furniture using mahogany, ebonies -- a species of dense black wood -- walnut and cherry. Each piece is unique, designed to suit the client's personal taste.

Be patient about delivery, though. Christenson said, "From start to finish, it takes about six months to finish -- and a quite a bit of that time is spent discussing the design." Prices range from $750 for a small table to $10,000 for an executive desk. 345-0862, Tom@tacwoodesign .

Edible delights

Sweet treats

If you feel like you're in a gift-giving jam, a couple of local businesses are ready to help you out with a selection of jams, jellies and more.

Pepper Delight has been in operation for about a year, but its roots are a decade old. Before Terri Sprotti moved to Bakersfield with husband, John, and son, Christian, she started making jam from the fruit of the plum tree in the backyard of their Bay Area home. Turning out a bounty of jam, she struck gold when she decided to spice it up.

"We had so much, and I got sick of it. To mask the flavor of the plain plum jam, I tried habanero plum.

"We use only habanero because of the flavor and the taste and the way the pepper reacts with the jam. It allows you to enjoy the jam, then you get the warmth of the pepper."

The company currently offers eight flavors: roasted red pepper, raspberry, harvest peach, strawberry balsamic, cranberry and pomegranate, which are seasonal; and pineapple pepper and peach mango (both in regular and extra hot).

Uses for the jellies run the gamut, from a topping for ice cream or cheesecake to a glaze for meats (try John's favorite, raspberry, on ribs). Sprotti includes recipes along with each jar and gift pack.

Sprotti, who works part time as a cook for St. John's Lutheran School, stays busy publicizing the product locally (Saturdays at the F Street farmers market and other events) and at the coast (including Art in the Park in Shell Beach).

Also hard at work making the local rounds are the ladies behind Window Sill Pie Co. Drillers alumnae Shawna Fowler and Marah-Stelle Jackson got started when sharing an apartment downtown last year. A graduate of Le Cordon Bleu San Francisco, Fowler, the pastry chef at Curtis' Catering Affairs, tried her hand at jam, and Jackson followed suit.

"We made every flavor combination we could think of: spiced plum, spiced apple butter, butternut squash butter, pear apple, cranberry rosemary chutney, red wine marmalade and pear ginger with Wild Turkey," said Jackson, a sales manager at Macy's.

After sharing with friends and co-workers, the pair decided to go into business, selling jams, curds and pies through website Etsy and events -- including First Friday -- at The Foundry. The duo emphasize seasonal fruit flavors in their products.

"The intention with our jam is that the fruit should be the foremost flavor, the sweetness shouldn't be overpowering, and when you taste the jam it should be very nostalgic of a certain time of year."

The pies, available in 5- and 9-inch sizes, are seasonal, with flavors including eggnog custard with gingerbread crust and a mincemeat pie for Christmas, and a "seductively sweet chocolate champagne pie" for New Year's.

Jams include the popular sangria marmalade, thyme pie with pear, persimmon and pure grape. Along with topping toast, desserts and sandwiches, the jam makes a great mix-in.

"My favorite thing to use our jam in are cocktails," Jackson said. "A whiskey sour, but it has some jam and some sweetener. Vodka with a little scoop of strawberry jam. It's a really easy way to get away from buying a premade mix."

Customers have until Tuesday to make jam orders and Dec. 16 for pies (with Christmas pies set for a Dec. 23 delivery). The pair will have an assortment of goods and gift packs for sale at the Christmas Bazaar at The Foundry gallery on Tuesday.

• Pepper Delight: $8-$15 for jellies; gift packs of three 4 oz. or three 8 oz. jars for $15-$25. pepperdelight@gmail.com, facebook.com/terrisprotti, available most Saturdays at the F Street farmers market.

• Window Sill Pie Co.: $6-$8 for jams/curds; pies: $5 (5-inch) or $20 (9-inch); gift set of 8 oz. jam and a 5-inch pie, $15. windowsillpieco@gmail.com; online at facebook.com/WindowSillPieCo and etsy.com/shop/windowsillpieco; will also be at the Christmas Bazaar at The Foundry, 1608 19th St., on Tuesday.

• Murray Family Farms: The family-owned farm has two stores filled with locally produced food items. Baskets, ranging from $20 to $40, contain a variety of citrus (oranges and tangerines); nuts (almonds, walnuts or pistachios); and jelly or honey. 6700 General Beale Road, 330-0100; and 9557 Copus Road, 858-1100. MurrayFamilyFarms.com

Consider gift certificates and sweet arrangements from any of the following local businesses -- but don't forget to place orders ahead of time!

• Dewar's: No local Christmas list is complete without the beloved chews from the longtime business. Assortments range from 12 oz. boxes ($12.29) to 1-, 2-, 3- and 5-pound boxes ($14.49 to $72.45); chocolate boxes range from $19.99 to $85.96. 1120 Eye St., 322-0933; 2700 Calloway Drive, 587-2056; and 11320 Ming Ave. Suite 300, 665-1102. dewarscandy.com.

• Aunt Mae's Sweet Tooth: Toffee from this Delano company can be found in several local stores, including Luigi's and Cafe Med. Orders also can be placed online. 725-5200. AuntMaesSweetTooth.com.

• Moo Creamery: Gift certificates available starting at $5. 4885 Truxtun Ave. 861-1130, moocreamery.com.

• Sweet Surrender: Offers trays of cookies and goodies ranging from 24 to 60 pieces. Cookie baskets range about $26.95 to $250, assorted trays including brownies, bars and more go between $44.95 and $110.95. Delivery available. Gift card and certificates start at $5. 6439 Ming Ave. 835-8530, sweetsurrenderbakery.com.

• Frosting Ink: Arrangements start at $10 and can include cake pops, cupcakes, cookies, brownies, cookie sandwiches, whoopie pies, marshmallow treats, bars and cobblers. Gift certificates are also available starting at $5. 1818 G St. 326-1818, frostingink.net.

• Smith's Bakeries: Variety is the keyword at this Bakersfield mainstay. Cookies available in one-dozen bags for $6.79 or trays from $19.95 to $34.95. Most arrangements are custom orders, requiring three days' notice and varying in price. The main Smith's location offers a limited supply of logo coffee cups, T-shirts, hoodies and Rupert the Christmas pig T-shirts. Gift certificates start at $5. Main bakery at 2808 Union Ave. 325-6357, smithsbakeries.com.

• Gimmee Some Sugar: Arrangements, including embellished brownies, cupcakes or cookies range from $20-$50; gift certificates start at $15. And ask about the bakery's special holiday poinsettia red velvet cake. 2100 19th St. #D. 321-9922, gimmeesomesugar.com.

• Cupcakes N Crema: Offers gift certificates from $5 to $25; gift cards for $30 and higher. 4715 Coffee Road. 588-1800, facebook.com/CupcakesNCrema.

• The Cookie Jar: Arrangements, cookie trays and bouquets range from $10-$125, and can include brownies, cheesecake brownies, pecan, german chocolate or lemon bars, cookie cutters and aprons. Gluten- and sugar-free cookies available with advance notice. Gift certificates start at $5. 1717 20th St. 861-1002, facebook.com/anitascookiejar.


• Tom's Peppers: Started in 2002 by retiree and home gardener Tom Davis, Tom's Peppers specializes in smoked salt and pepper as well as a variety of chipotle rubs for meats, vegetables, chili and more. Now run by son Mike, the company plans to add new products to its site and reach out to more local businesses to stock its spices in 2013. $3.99-$12.99. Rub, smoked salt and smoked pepper available at all Lengthwise Brewery locations. tomspeppers.com.

• 13-Acres Olive Oil: Bakersfield's Hill family owns 13 acres of farmland near Visalia, where they raise olives, which are pressed and made into this boutique olive oil. $20. Sold at Luigi's Restaurant and Deli. 13acresranch.com.

• Chipper's Salsa: The locally produced Chipper's products include two "speeds" of salsa -- hot and mild -- as well as a savory seasoning. $4. Pizzaville USA, 700 Oak St., 323-8116. chippershotsalsa.com.

• Texas Marshalls Barbecue: KUZZ radio personality Geoff Emery (aka Ken Marshall) sells his barbecue sauces, assorted hot sauces and other seasonings in several local markets and online. $3.99-$11.75 for rubs and seasonings; $4.95-$5.95 for sauces. TexasMarshallsBBQ.com .


E Aveda Salon and Spa

Pop in at the Park at River Walk shopping center to pick up the holiday package, featuring a 60-minute facial with peel, revitalizing eye and lip treatment, tea in a keepsake cup and your choice of: a hair wash and blowout, makeup application, paraffin hand and foot treatment or a brow and lip wax. $149. 10930 Stockdale Highway, Suite 104. 654-0317, esalonspas.com.

Essentiels Spa Et Beaute

Consider a mini-massage or facial, both priced just under $50, for those you want to pamper this year. Gift cards can be purchased to go toward any service at the spa, including nail treatments or pricier massage or service packages. Essentiels also has a variety of gift sets from their major vendors, starting at $18 and ranging to everything from makeup to hair conditioning systems. 9000 Ming Ave., Suite K. 654-0321, edayspas.com.

Pure Essentials Day Spa

For the busy man or woman in your life, check out express treatments at this downtown day spa. These mini-indulgences, including fast-results facials, quick peels and facial lifts, can be fit in on a lunch hour. Treatments cost $45 or less, and you can add microtreatments such as paraffin masks or lip rejuvenation for $5 to $10. 2021 E St. 633-0220, puressentialsdayspa.com.

La Petite Day Spa and Boutique

In addition to its normal services, this spa offers two holiday packages. For $99, the Sugar and Spice package offers a peppermint manicure, 30-minute hot stone massage, eyebrow wax and a haircut and style. The Naughty and Nice package ($149) includes a peppermint pedicure, a one-hour hot stone massage or sugar plum facial, haircut and style, along with $25 toward any boutique purchase. 5301 Office Park Drive #360. 323-7700.

Urban Oasis Spa

This spa offers a wide variety of services that are easy on the budget. Manicures start at $20, spa pedicures run about $50 and a haircut and blowout combo comes in at $45. With unique detoxifying skin services, the spa offers the purifying back facial -- a 60-minute treatment to massage, detoxify and soothe the back, for $85. 1910 19th St. 873-4001, urbanoasisspa1910.com.

La Dolce Vita Salon

Pamper the man in your life with the salon's Mars package. For $160, it features the just for men facial, a manicure and the Renoir massage, which is a combination of the Swedish and Shiatsu massage techniques. For newlyweds or other lovebirds on your list, look into couples massages, facials and pedicures offered in the same room. 2100 19th St. 861-4900, ladolcevitabeauty.com.

La Ti Da Salon & Boutique

The full-service salon located in the antique Georgian Building on 18th Street offers facials, waxing, manicures and pedicures. Massage therapists are also on site offering 30- to 90-minutes sessions. But one of their big draws is the onsite boutique offering not only products for body care, but also fashion. A wide array of purses, rings, denim, tops scarves and outerwear for women is on hand with prices in every budget. 2025 18th St. 631-1112.


Horseback riding

It's inevitable: For as long as there have been Christmas lists there have been (and always will be) those kids who lovingly scrawl that dreaded four letter word "pony" at the very top.

The good news: Riding lessons are a reasonably affordable way to make your horse-crazy kid's holiday wishes come true.

"If there is a horse on the list for Christmas, get lessons," advised Tina Price, owner and instructor of Ready to Ride Ranch. "Not only will it provide immediate gratification, it's a great gift because it really gives kids the opportunity to decide whether riding is for them or not."

Once you've decided lessons are something you want to pursue, there are a number of important factors to keep in mind: cost, safety and one of the oldest debates in riding, English or Western?

If you're unfamiliar with the horse world, you may think the choice between English and Western riding may come down to little more than choosing a saddle -- one has a horn to hold onto, and one doesn't. But each style comes with its own set of particulars from fashion (cowboy boots vs. jodhpurs and paddock boots) to competitive events, which may become a consideration.

Ready to Ride incorporates both English and Western into the lessons (Price also accommodates those who would rather focus on one or the other), whereas PDM Stables trains specifically in hunter-jumper, one of the two dominant forms of English riding. While the two stables differ in the types of lessons offered, both Price and Heather Giragosian of PDM agree that for learning the basics, English is the best place to begin.

"It's easier to transition from English to Western," Giragosian said. "English provides beginners with a stronger foundation. It requires you to use your muscles and your balance a little bit more. With Western, you can kind of sit back and hold on. English hunter-jumper is probably one of the hardest positions to learn, so if you can master that, you'll be able to change and go any way you want."

Both stables take precautions to ensure that their students are safe and develop into strong, confident riders. Helmets must be worn at all times, and lesson lengths and the provided lesson horses are matched to age and skill level.

PDM offers lessons for children as young as 4, but both Giragosian and Price recommend starting lessons at ages 7 to 9.

For younger children, Price's "groomer" lessons may be the best way to go. These 30-minute sessions, held once a week, cover the basics of horsemanship.

"I've been doing this a very long time," said Price, "and kids are either very comfortable around horses, or they're not. These lessons teach them where to be, where not to be, how to tie, how to brush, how to walk them, how to stop them. At that age, that's really about what they can handle. And the kids that keep coming back are the ones that are really going to ride."

Again, cost varies from stable to stable. Group lessons are generally sold in monthly packages, ranging from $160 for four lessons held once a week at Ready to Ride, or $220 for two lessons per week at PDM. In addition to the fixed cost of the lessons, there are a few additional investments you'll need to make before sending your child into the arena: boots and a riding helmet.

PDM provides students with helmets; Price's students must purchase their own (she recommends Rosedale Farrier Supply across the street, which sells helmets in a variety of colors for about $40). The prices of riding boots (paddock boots, if you're opting for PDM) vary greatly, but are required after the first lesson at both PDM and Ready to Ride.

• Ready to Ride Ranch: Offers groomer lessons for ages 5 to 7, English and Western riding lessons for 7 and up, specializes in flatwork. $60 for four groomer lessons, $160 for four riding lessons (plus cost of helmet); gift certificates are available. 13093 Meacham Road. 588-1891.

• PDM Ranch: Offers lessons for riders 4 and up, specializing in English riding and hunter/jumper training. $40 per group lesson, or $220 per month (two lessons per week); gift certificates available. 7500 Muller Road. 333-2070 or pdmstables.com.


Those thrill-seeking, outdoorsy, adventure-loving types are pretty tough to shop for. After all, you can't exactly bottle up adrenaline, put a nice bow on it and stick it under the tree. Well, now you can -- sort of. Skydive Taft provides affordable, tandem (you and an instructor) skydive jumps, and it's more than willing to print out a couple of gift certificates for you to slip inside your budding James Bond's stocking. The safety restrictions are fairly minimal: no severe heart conditions or respiratory problems, and all jumpers must be at least 16. Aside from that, the sky's the limit. Holiday discount, good now until the end of December: $169 per jumper (reduced from $189). 765-JUMP (5867) or skydivetaft.com.

Whitewater rafting

Even during a warm fall, you might not be particularly inspired by the idea of water sports as a gift, but rafting and kayaking -- when practiced safely -- are among the most popular and entertaining outdoor activities in Kern County.

"Whenever we go to a trade show, everyone comes up to us and says, 'Oh, you're the ones with the whitewater rafting!'" said Joanie Haenelt, marketing and promotion association for the Kern County Board of Trade.

With rapids ranging from moderate Class II to expert-level Class V, the Kern River has been a mecca for water sports enthusiasts from all over the United States. Six companies operate tours in the Kernville area, with trips lasting from about an hour -- known as the "Lickety-Split" -- to day trips in both the Lower and Upper Kern River, to two- and three-day treks.

Riders must be at least 6 years old and weigh no less than 50 pounds to participate in the shortest trips, which travel along the Lower Kern and encounter moderate rapids. Age minimums increase with the intensity of the rapids and duration of the trips.

"All the companies run the same stretch of river, and all of them try to match prices," said Paul Armes, guide manager of Sierra South rafting company. "So basically you have six choices up here."

Armes said companies also give private classes in kayaking and rafting, which can start for as little as $100 for a full day and include all the equipment and accessories.

"Basically you just show up in your swim trunks and we give you everything," Armes said.

Gift certificates are available.

Because it's off-season, some sporting goods are on sale, and many accessories, especially those that carry company logos, make good stocking stuffers -- hats, sunglasses, T-shirts and similar items.

Prices start at $31 for children, $37 for adults for short trips, up to $799 for multi-day, expert-level excursions. Group rates are generally available. Check out: Eagle Rafting, 800-375-7395 or eaglerafting.com; Kern River Tours, 800-844-7238 or kernrivertours.com; Mountain and River Adventures, 800-861-6553 or mtnriver.com; Kern River Outfitters, 800-323-4234 or kernrafting.com; River's End Rafting and Adventure Co., 366-7003 or riversendrafting.com; Sierra South Mountain Sports, 800-457-2082 or sierrasouth.com; or Whitewater Voyages, 800-400-7238 or whitewatervoyages.com.


Local and local-ish releases that caught our eye -- and ears -- this year.

• Buck Owens: "Live" At the White House (... And in Space)"

"From the White House to outer space and the moon! Buck Owens really got around!" That's the promo line Omnivore Recordings came up with for this freewheeling, no-frills CD -- a description that's pretty apt, come to think of it. Buck and the Buckaroos barrel through classics like "Together Again" and "Sam's Place," which, yes, you've heard a million times before. What you haven't heard, or at least not in awhile, is just how loose and goofy these guys could be when they started cutting up and bantering between songs. Bonus: The great Susan Raye -- the "girl Buckaroo" during the late '60s and early '70s when these recordings were made -- tries to class up the proceedings, but overgrown boys like these can't be tamed. $14.95 at Buck Owens' Crystal Palace and omnivorerecordings.com.

• Red Simpson: "Hello, I'm Red Simpson"

He's not as famous as Buck or Merle, but if there was an award for sheer creative bounty during the Bakersfield Sound era, Red Simpson would win it. Rumor had it he wrote so many songs, he had to haul them around in a suitcase. But now a German independent record label has put the prolific Simpson's output together in a much more convenient package: a five-CD behemoth of a boxed set that's worth every penny of the $150 list price. The folks who put this together left no stone unturned: 165 songs, 26 of them previously unissued, and a 108-page biography drawing on interviews with Simpson and others. Astounding. $149.99 at amazon.com.

• Korn: "The Path of Totality Tour: Live at the Hollywood Palladium"

The Bakersfield nu-metal rock veterans released a wildly inventive fan favorite with this mammoth multi-format music and concert package. Filmed before a sold-out crowd to celebrate the band's controversial foray into dubstep/electronica music, the concert shows the group in top form. Joining the band throughout are many of the collaborators from the studio project "The Path of Totality," including dubstep music hot shot Sonny "Skrillex" Moore and others. There's also a cross-section of Korn classics given a renewed live treatment, plus bonus material, including interviews with the band elaborating on their latest milestone. It's a must for diehard Korn collectors and hard rock fans who'd enjoy some headbangin' for the holidays. $17.99 (CD/DVD combo) or $24.99 (CD/Blu-Ray combo), available everywhere.

• Joel Jacob : "Here Comes the Light"

The Bakersfield singer-songwriter's first praise and worship project is a follow-up to his brilliant debut album, "Makeshift Motive." From the battle cries of "Give Thanks" to the boot-stomping anthem "Here Comes the Light," these four tracks are as much at home being blasted through your car stereo as they are being sung at church. $3, at joeljacob.bandcamp.com.

• Lucky Ned Pepper: "Get Lucky"

Former Smokin' Armadillos members Rick Russell and guitarist Josh Graham re-entered the scene with a clever collage of country imagery on their full-length debut, which includes the single "I Remember the Music," along with fun-loving tracks "I Oughta Own this Bar" and "Cowboy Thing." There are a few glimpses of the Armadillos in the threading, but the overall fabric of the 11-track disc stands as a reminder of Bakersfield's everlasting country spirit. $15.99 or $8.99 (digital download), available everywhere, including luckynedpepper.com.

• Dub Seeds: "Skunk Face"

The second full-length release by this trio of fun-loving party guys will spark up any party with tropically inspired surf sounds in the spirit of Sublime and Pepper. $10 at World Records, shopworldrecords.com; available digitally.

• Various artists: "Dreams of the San Joaquin"

This new collection of songs pays homage to various country and folk musical styles with tales from California's San Joaquin Valley. Co-written and produced by Grammy-winning father and daughter team Randy and Maia Sharp, former Johnny Cash band guitarist Jack Wesley Routh and singer Sharon Bays, all 12 original tracks chronicle the struggle and dreams of migrant workers displaced by the Dust Bowl. A beautifully affectionate tapestry steeped in the musical traditions of the San Joaquin Valley.

• Zen Road Pilots: "Zen Road Pilots"

Former Billy Satellite bandmates reunite on this new venture, featuring Bakersfield singer-songwriter Monty Byrom showing off his guitar rock roots. The album, a mix of soul and a late '60s Bay Area rock vibe, proves Byrom hasn't lost his touch for grooving out of bounds. $13, at zenroadpilots.com


2012 releases with a Kern County connection.

• "Fangirl" by Ken Baker

Baker, an entertainment journalist and former goalie for the Condors, still has a soft spot for his old stomping grounds, setting much of his new young-adult novel in Bakersfield. He wanted his teen heroine to be a wholesome everygirl rather than a cooler-than-thou big-city type, so he traipsed over the Grapevine from his Los Angeles home on regular research trips to capture the voice of local girls. Though a bit angsty for anyone over 21, the book's themes of fame and falling in love in a digital world will resonate with the YA crowd. $9.95 at Barnes & Noble (there were several autographed copies available early last week).

• "Wildcat Play: A Mystery" by Helen Knode

Novelist Knode -- who grew up in a family of oil folk -- sets her rip-roaring murder mystery in the dusty oil town of Wilson, which sounds a lot like a dusty oil town in these parts named for a different U.S. president. The author, who clearly knows her stuff, has populated her whodunit with all manner of people drawn to the punishing work of getting oil out of the ground, from the lowliest roustabout to the bolo-tied big shots. It rings true and isn't a bad yarn. $18.72 at amazon.com.

• "Going to the Bad" by Nora McFarland

The former Bakersfield television news photographer wraps up her crime triology with this novel, which puts heroine Lilly Hawkins (also a TV photographer) in situations that are as amusing as they are dangerous -- including a shoot-out in the midst of Bakersfield's famous tule fog. $15 at Russo's Books.

• "Pit Stops 2: Adventures with Kara" by Michelle Sathe

When Pine Mountain Club resident Michelle Sathe hit the road last year to promote her book, "Pit Stops: Crossing the Country with Loren the Rescue Bully," she picked an able travel buddy: Kara, a pit bull looking for a home. Sathe and her canine companion set out on a similar path as her last trek -- 30 states in 50 days -- aiming to bring awareness to America's homeless pets and improve the breed's reputation. Part of the proceeds from the book (and limited-edition Kara bookmark also available) go to support animal rescue and advocacy efforts. $16.95-$20 (for bookmark) at pitstopsbook.com.

• Comics by Erwin Ledford

It's been a busy year for local freelance graphic designer and comic artist Erwin Ledford. Along with recently handling the layout design for Crooked Folk's debut CD and promoting his art at First Fridays downtown, Ledford also put out two books. Published in February, "The Plainest Plane's Plainest Pictorial Periodical" is a collection of short stories and illustrations. "Lil' Erwin," released in October, is a mini-comic devoted entirely to stories inspired by the Bakersfield native's childhood, following the adventures of an "overly sensitive, overly imaginative little kid.""The Plainest Plane's Plainest Pictorial Periodical," $2; "Lil' Erwin," $5 (plus $1 for shipping). plainestplane.blogspot.com.

• "Girly Stories" by Chelsea Brewer

Whether it's a health scare or heartbreak, moments in a woman's life can change everything. Chelsea Brewer took inspiration from her life and the women around her in this collection of 12 short stories. $9.95 for paperback, available at Russo's Books, amazon.com; $4.95 for eBook, lulu.com.

• "Gifts Given" by Doug Davis

Music educator Doug Davis (who founded the Bakersfield Jazz Festival) recounts the summer of 1956, when his hometown of Clinton, Tenn., was at the forefront of school desegregation. He was just 8 at the time, but the events of that momentous August day remain vivid in his memory. $23.95 at Russo's Books.


The Californian's e-book division put together several releases this year, including fascinating reads on the Basque in Bakersfield, the legendary March Meet at Famoso Raceway, Bakersfield High School's undefeated 2011 season, and the great quakes of 1952. Filled with photos, analysis and the memories of everyday people, the e-books are a great chronicle of our unique history. Prices and formats vary; books.bakersfield.com.



If you're looking for a one-of-a-kind gift destined to become a family heirloom, consider commissioning an artist to do a portrait. Although the artwork is unique, the choice of subject matter is boundless. It could be a portrait of yourself or a loved one -- and that includes a favorite pet. Or perhaps you'd like to have the artist turn a faded sepia or black-and-white photo of an ancestor into a colorful painting.

Centuries ago sitting for a portrait was a favorite pastime for members of the aristocracy. But these days, no matter where you are on the social scale, it's much less time-consuming, mainly because most artists are happy to work from a photograph.

One thing that makes the portrait unique is the medium used. Will it be done in oils, acrylics, pastels, watercolors, pencil or pen and ink? The artist will help you make that decision before the work begins.

Be aware, however, that completion of the portrait is not immediate. It could be a timeframe of two weeks, or as long as a month, so you'll need to hurry if you want it in time for Christmas. Unless you want it to be a surprise, consider making arrangements with the artist beforehand and presenting the recipient with a personal gift certificate.

The first step is to sit down with the artist to discuss the size of the portrait, the mood you want it to convey, media preference, and perhaps a choice of colors, as well as any details you want to be included.

Several local artists specialize in portraits. We asked three of them, each with a distinctive style, to tell us how they work and what fees they charge. Unless otherwise indicated, the fee does not include framing.

• Nina Landgraff: Landgraff teaches art at Bakersfield College and also gives private lessons in her studio. "I love to draw people," she said. "I like to show emotions, expressions and human interaction." She also does portraits of pets. Her fees range from $120 to $500, depending on the media and the size of the canvas. She will create the portrait from life or from a photo which she will take in her studio. If the customer supplies the photo, Landgraff prefers to have three images taken from different angles. 304-7002, nlandgraff@gmail.com.

• Patti Doolittle: Doolittle is known for the realism of her work and her use of color. "Usually someone has a favorite photo they like of themselves or a loved one," she said. "I can take the photo of the subject if needed." For a 16-by-20-inch painting of an individual she charges $900. For family groups the price goes up an additional $500 for each person added. The size of the canvas is also increased. 589-9059 , pattidoolittle@bak.rr.com.

• David J. Vanderpool: Vanderpool (a graphic artist at The Californian) is noted for his keen attention to detail. A drawing that he calls "Courting" was awarded best of show at this year's Kern County Fair. "I use only graphite pencils," he said. "With charcoal the detail isn't possible." Prices, which range from $300 to $1,500, are determined by the size of the drawing, whether it's full-figure or above the shoulder, and the number of subjects featured in the artwork. He prefers to draw inspiration from a photo that he takes. On average a single 8-by-11-inch takes about two weeks. Larger portraits may take over a month, based on amount of detail and time needed to work on it. 746-4348 , email paper2pencil@sbcglobal.net.


Bakersfield Twang notecards

Bakersfield photographer Felix Adamo (a veteran Californian photojournalist) has unveiled three new notecards in his Bakersfield Twang series: a bespectacled Father Garces, a tip of the hat to the Texas Plains, and a salute to the trucking industry. Each includes an envelope for mailing to family, friends or even former residents who can't be back in Bako for the holidays. $2.50 each at Dagny's Coffee Co. and Russo's.

Capture Kern County 2013 calendar

Images submitted by Kern County photographers were voted on as the best by users of the capturekerncounty.com website and included in this striking 15-month calendar. The glossy images range from iconic Bakersfield architecture to breathtaking landscapes to how Kern County folks spend their time in the great outdoors. This thing is a beaut. $14.99 at Henley's Photo, Russo's Books and books.bakersfield.com.

"The Great Central Valley: California's Heartland" by Stephen Johnson, Robert Dawson and Gerald Haslam

Released in 1993, this stunning coffee book tome travels up the center of the state in words and pictures, offering a true sense of place and people. You've got to own this book. $49.95 at Barnes & Noble.

Other art

• Nancy Putney: Two murals that Putney has done in the last few years include a 10-by-10 foot wall depicting native wildlife at the Wind Wolves Preserve Hacienda near Lebec, and an 8-by-12-foot piece on the exterior of McKinley Elementary School's Science Building in Bakersfield. She also has had commissions for smaller indoor murals at private homes and schools. Pricing depends on how much research is needed to develop the images. In general, she charges $80 to 100 per square foot.

"I enjoy talking with people about what they hope to see," she said, "and sharing photos of my past work." 663-3844, nputney@gmail.com.

• Art shows: The Foundry (1608 19th St.) will host its Christmas Bazaar on Tuesday, offering artwork and smaller items from group members, including Christina Sweet, Donald Myers, Ashleymarie Sey Lively, Jessica McEuen, Diana Campbell Rice, Alexandra Ortiz, Teri Webb, Jason Stewart, Micky Piercy, Angela McCuan, Jorge Guillen, Jesus Fidel and Jenn Williams, along with goodies from Window Sill Pie Co. Showing now, Metro Galleries (1604 19th St.) features its annual small works show of smaller paintings, sculptures, glass work and more priced under $400. Artists include Linda Osburn, Shad Whitten, Larry Jason and Cameron Dougherty. And NXcaffe CoffeeClub ArtHouse (2995 N. Baker St.) has an ongoing art show and sale featuring artists Beatrice Moore, Imrryr LoBasso, Belinda Lopez, Veronika Lynn Cieslik, Julie Jordan Scott, Rose Lester, Donnel Lester, Steve Skaar, Brittany Koenig, Daniel Ripley and more. Hours run 6 to 7:30 p.m. Dec. 10-13, 17-20; 7 to 10 p.m. Dec. 14; and noon to 1 p.m. Dec 17-20.