2019 Anteater’s Gift Guide

by Lilibeth Garcia

This time of joy can be a time of stress when it comes to getting the perfect gifts for loved ones. Our 2019 holiday gift guide will make your life easier by narrowing down your options and highlighting the best products and experiences the UCI community has to offer.

With something for everyone – from a foldable kayak for outdoorsy types to a book about a little-known L.A. figure for history buffs to iridescent glass straws for the eco-friendly – this list has gifts that will be treasured year-round.

The Hill

All your UCI-themed holiday needs are covered at The Hill bookstore. Gift 7 fluffy inches of cuteness with a mini anteater plush animal and a UCI holiday sweatshirt, or buy a UCI holiday stocking to stuff with all your favorite items from this list.

Sustainable Fashion

Launched by philosophy alum Aras Baskauskas ’02 and his wife, Christy Baskauskas, Christy Dawn features vintage-inspired women’s clothing. The garments are handcrafted in Los Angeles using repurposed excess fabric from larger fashion factories. With a commitment to “honor Mother Earth,” the label has also begun to grow its own cotton by supporting farmers in India using regenerative practices.

Courtesy of Christy Dawn

Comfy style

International studies alumna Bianca Gates ’00 co-founded Birdies, a shoe company that makes stylish flats with the comfort of slippers. The casual footwear is crafted with lush fabrics that will make you feel as good as you look.

Courtesy of Birdies


Sheena Yaitanes ’06, who merged her love of artistic expression with her academic studies of chemistry and biological sciences at UCI, created Kosas. The cosmetics company is at the forefront of a revolution in the beauty industry, emphasizing simplicity and comfort. The lipsticks, blushes, foundations and more flatter all skin types, can be applied effortlessly and are made with botanical ingredients.

Courtesy of Kosas
Dance Visions


With performances on Feb. 20 to 22, UCI Dance Visions is the annual premier dance concert of the season, featuring stunning choreography by UCI dance faculty and showcasing the talent of undergraduate and graduate performers.

On Friday, March 6, the UCI Symphony Orchestra will present its winter concert. Listen to music by composers from all over the world, performed by an orchestra that has been around since 1970.

Celebrate Music at UCI,” on May 18, will feature an exciting array of performances by Department of Music students and faculty – including instrumental and vocal ensembles of all sizes, diverse forms of traditional music and jazz, and new works by UCI composers.

On May 9 and 10, UCI Opera will present “The Scarlet Letter,” based on the classic novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne and adapted by Lori Laitman, one of the most distinguished composers of art song and opera in the 21st century.


Dreamers and Schemers, by Barry Siegel, is a narrative nonfiction book about Billy Garland, a young man who arrived alone in Southern California in 1890, a time when Los Angeles was a mere frontier town. Through sheer imagination and willpower, he would go on to put L.A. on the map as one of the world’s greatest cities. Siegel directs UCI’s literary journalism program.

Books from M.F.A. graduates

Small Silent Things, by Robin Page ’03, is about Jocelyn Morrow, a woman who feels out of place in her privileged life and is forced to face a tragic childhood after her mother dies. This debut novel explores the themes of parenthood, identity, lust and the legacy of trauma through a lyrical and powerful new voice.

Cruising: An Intimate History of a Radical Pastime, by Alex Espinoza ’04, explores the practice of gay cruising – from ancient Greece to Grindr. Via archival research, oral accounts and his own personal experience, Espinoza examines the political and cultural forces behind this underground phenomenon.

The Body Papers: A Memoir, by Grace Talusan ’99, explores her life as a Filipino immigrant and survivor of cancer and childhood abuse. Although her family history is threaded with pain and violence, Talusan learned storytelling from her parents. The memoir is interwoven with government documents, medical records and family photos.

Left to right: Dreamers and Schemers by Barry Siegel, The Body Papers: A Memoir by Grace Talusan, Cruising: An Intimate History of a Radical Pastime by Alex Espinoza, and Small Silent Things by Robin Page

Children’s book

Bennie Bear’s Dream tells the tale of a lovable stuffed bear whose simple dream is to be adopted by a little boy or girl. The author, Rachel LaMar ’90, who studied social ecology at UCI, was herself adopted. Each purchase helps support foster care agencies.


Tickets are available for a host of upcoming games in men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball, baseball and soccer. Young UCI fans (13 and under) can join the Jr. Anteater Club to receive exclusive membership benefits such as complimentary admission to home games, meetings with coaches and student-athletes, and special on-court opportunities.

Foldable kayaks

Inspired by the Japanese art of origami and the lightweight frames of Greenland kayaks, Oru makes kayaks that fold up neatly and are easily portable. The boats encourage spontaneous water adventures and an overall connection with nature. Ardy Sobhani, a 2004 economics alum, co-founded the company and serves as its CEO.

Courtesy of Oru

Land surfing

When bolted to the front wheels of any skateboard, the Waterborne adapter creates the sensation of surfing on land. Inventor and UCI business information management student Patrick Dumas developed the gadget after experimenting with couch springs, shopping cart casters, scrap metal and other “Frankenstein” parts. Now the innovative skateboards are ridden in more than 30 countries.

Courtesy of Waterborne Skateboards


The Anteater Recreation Center offers a wide variety of massage services to relieve pain, relax, stimulate, and tone the body. Schedule a session or more of a Swedish massage, deep tissue massage, pre-natal massage, trigger point massage, reiki, and more with one of the ARC’s certified massage therapists.

Tea without teabags

Tea Drops makes it possible to enjoy the richness of actual tea leaves without the waste of a tea bag or the messiness of loose leaf. Made with pressed tea leaves, spices and a light amount of organic cane sugar, the “drops” dissolve in hot water like bath bombs. Options range from decaf teas such as citrus ginger and sweet peppermint to caffeinated teas such as rose earl grey, matcha and vanilla white. The company, established by economics alumna Sashee Chandran ’07, also partners with the Thirst Project to provide clean water to communities in Africa.

Courtesy of Tea Drops

Reusable straws

UCI psychology and public health sciences alumnae Christine Nguyen ’15 and Kathy Vu ’13 founded Green Turtle Co., home of the first reusable, pointed boba straws. The innovative iridescent glass and stainless-steel straws are made to last with high-quality, nontoxic materials. In addition to reducing plastic waste, the company also donates a portion of its proceeds to the Sea Turtle Conservancy.

Baked goods

With locations in Costa Mesa, Santa Ana and San Diego, Blackmarket Bakery, owned by UCI anthropology alumna Rachel Klemek ’91, is a local favorite. It features a full menu of holiday treats with special twists, from honey pumpkin tarts with torched meringue to rich chocolate yule logs decorated with meringue mushrooms. For those with a sweet tooth, gift sets with themes such as “coffee love,” “cookie love” and “flourless love” are sure to be hits.

Courtesy of Blackmarket Bakery

Keto cookies

UCI economics alum Kristoffer Quiaoit ’07 co-created Nui Foods, named after a Maori word meaning great or abundant. The company, which was featured on “Shark Tank,” has been successful in providing delicious snacks for its ketogenic and diabetic customers. Its chocolate chip cookies and snickerdoodles are made with low-carb, low-sugar, gluten-free and natural ingredients.

Courtesy of Nui Foods

The gift of giving

UCI’s FRESH Basic Needs Hub food pantry welcomes donations to its program helping students who can’t afford to eat properly. And the UCI Fund, which provides scholarships and other resources, is another worthy cause. Contributions can be made via the UCI Giving website.

Related Links

UCI Alumni Association


UCI literary journalism program


M.F.A. Programs in Writing


Claire Trevor School of the Arts


UCI Beall Applied Innovation


Anteater Recreation Center


UCI Athletics


The Hill UCI bookstore