Overwhelmed with holiday shopping? Check out our curated selection of unique gifts.
Cooking with the Force
The next edition of Star Wars isn’t due until December 2015, but that doesn’t mean we can’t, um, preheat the oven, so to speak. That R2-D2 ($20) sitting on the counter is not just a rad little tchotchke, but also a functional kitchen gadget. The body of the iconic beeping droid is a set of four measuring cups (1/4, 1/3, 1/2 and 1 cup), while the detachable utility arms turn into a set of nesting measuring spoons (1/4, 1/3, 1 tsp., and 1/3 tbsp.). For the Star Wars fan, this is the droid you are looking for.
This gift is for the gluten lover: beer bread. Hailing from Tennessee, Soberdough’s beer bread mixes ($8) make baking a snap and are the perfect stocking stuffer for the beer-guzzling chef in your life. Simply choose your flavor (currently available: classic, “cinnful” raisin, green-chile cheddar, honey wheat, roasted garlic, rosemary, “buffalovin’” wing, pumpkin spice, and cranberry orange), add a beer (each mix comes with a handy-dandy beer and bread pairings chart to help select the perfect beer for your bread), combine in a baking tin, bake and enjoy.
Can’t decide on a flavor? Try the “Pick 6” bread sampler package ($46), and choose six different breads. Or, sign that baker up for the Bread of the Month Club (starting at $72 for three months), which includes two different bread mixes a month, beer pairing guide and recipes to boot, sent directly to their home. This is a great gift for the home brewer in your life.
Looking for something sweet this holiday season? Why not try Norman Love’s book, Artistry in Chocolate: A Story of Love ($40). The 84-page coffee table book is filled with beautiful photographs of Norman Love’s delectable chocolate confections, as well as some of the stories that helped shape the success of Norman Love Confections.
And since this book will incite a chocolate craving, we recommend grabbing a few Holiday Chocolate Gift Boxes (prices range from $13.25 to $95) – one as a gift, and one for you.
Every kid loves a good toy. Now, pair that with a seamless educational bent, and you have a toy that even parents can enjoy. Here’s a few that make for a smart, fun time:
Everything Is Awesome
Chaos Tower is like a cross between LEGOs, an Erector Set and the board game Mouse Trap, all rolled into one. Created by MindWare, Chaos Tower ($140) has kids creating their own Rube Goldberg-type contraptions of perpetual motion. Recommended for kids eight and up—though this is one of those presents purchased by parents so they can join the fun—more than 600 pieces allow kids to construct machines as tall as 6 feet or as wide as 5, complete with an array of trampolines, chain drives, AC-powered motors, swirling vortexes and more—it’s a physics and kinetics lesson in disguise.
Hungry, Hungry Hippos this is not. Designed for children aged three to five, The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Game ($22) by Educational Insights is a fun board game rife with educational opportunities. Here’s the game in a nutshell (zing):
Your squirrelly friends are hungry for some acorns. Armed with a “squirrel squeezer,” players take turns spinning the color wheel, and then sneak corresponding colored acorns to their tree stump.
The game, which can be a riot when watching a few tykes try their hand at the “squeezer,” helps reinforce color learning, develops strategic thinking and hand-eye coordination, encourages social skills (specifically waiting their turn), and helps bolster attention skills. All said, that’s pretty good for board game.
Mad Hungry Scientists
Making chemistry fun, especially for a youngster, can be difficult. Now try to make chemistry fun while having them eat cabbage. Impossible you say? Balderdash; at least when it comes to Copernicus Toys and Gifts’ Edible Chemistry Kit ($18). Created for children 10 and up, this STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) style gift lets mini mad scientists transform cabbage into fizzy drinks, color changing foaming jellies and more, giving kids even more incentive to eat their vegetables.
Remember the ant farm? The plastic terrarium took children underground to view a complex and intricate colony of ants, digging tunnels and living their lives all within view of a windowpane. Frey Scientific’s Root Vue Farm ($35), is doing the same thing with gardening. The award-winning terrarium/self-watering grow kit is designed to give curious young gardeners an opportunity to watch carrots, onions and radishes grow before their eyes (over time, of course), with a window offering views of the vegetables as they sprout, roots taking hold and greens breaking the surface of the soil. For kids five and up, the self-contained unit—the kit is self-watering—is a great way to teach youngsters about plant life and the source of food.
For the Home Bar
The brown liquor craze that has swept the nation has a lot of people questioning, what gives? For those that have not quite developed the palate, there is a pretty big difference between the stuff sitting on the top shelf, and the stuff out of sight behind the bar. So what’s the difference? Time and oak. Or at least that’s what the cats at Time and Oak Whiskey Elements believe.
Whiskey Elements ($28, six elements), wooden comb-looking sticks, can do what a whiskey barrel can, but in hours, not years. They are made of oak and cured with a proprietary method that infuses flavors like Maple-Vanilla-Oak, and Mellow Smoke and Oak. When soaking in a decanter of whiskey, the vertical cuts in the elements allow for more direct access to the wood capillaries. This infuses the whiskey with flavor while removing toxins and giving it a richer color, all in just a day.
For those looking to wow that special woman in your life, a luxury fragrance is a great way to show you care. But what to get? For pure femininity, Dior’s J’Adore collection is a can’t-miss. The Eau de Parfum ($115 for 3.4 oz.) is subtle yet fresh, with notes of rose, violet, amaranth wood and mandarin, while the Dry Silky Body Oil ($55 for 5 oz.) moisturizes and soothes skin, all while giving just a hint of fragrance that is the perfect compliment to the parfum. Available at Saks Fifth Avenue locations.
Looking for a stocking stuffer for the beauty queen in your life? For the holiday season, NARS has taken its iconic pink tone, Roman Holiday, and is dressing it up for the limited edition Modern Future Roman Holiday set. The collection ($49) comes with lipstick, nail polish, blush and a keepsake box to house the beauty products.
Exotic Skin Care
In the semi-arid region of Sous valley in southwestern Morocco, a thorny, gnarled tree known as argan grows. Upon this tree, a marvel of evolutionary adaptivity, grows a small fruit with a thick, bitter peel that protects a rather unpleasant tasting pulp, which contains a very hard nut that houses one to two small seeds. This fruit takes more than a year to mature, ripening in the heart of summer. And though the argan tree and its tough fruit may seem more trouble then they are worth, Moroccan women have been producing an oil from the oil-rich seeds as a way to treat, moisturize and soothe the skin for centuries.
Fast-forward to modern day, argan oil is now known as liquid gold, a “miracle” beauty product praised for its anti-aging properties. Produced by women’s cooperatives in the Sous valley through an incredibly labor-intensive process, argan oil has been hailed for its versatility for hair, body and face.
One of the leading producers of this luxury beauty product, Marokissime, is bringing this elixir to the United States through Miami-based Le Beau Maroc. In addition to the 100 percent pure argan oil ($95 for 4.2 oz.), Marokissime also produces an equally rare prickly pear oil ($135), also highly sought for anti-aging properties. It takes nearly one ton of prickly pear seeds to create just one gallon of oil. Combining the best of both worlds, Marokissime’s Argan and Prickly Pear Anti-Aging Face Cream ($170) might possibly be the closest thing the beauty world has to a time-machine, leaving skin looking younger while hydrating and fighting free radicals.
Bath & Beauty
Most have heard of farm-to-fork. But what about farm-to-soap? That’s the onus behind The Herb Appeal, an all-natural beauty, and bath and body company based in Fort Myers. Specializing in salves and balms, soaps, scrubs, bath and spa products, essential oils, laundry powder detergent, and more – the product list is constantly growing as new products are developed in the “herbal kitchen.” Using all natural ingredients and herbs grown in proprietor Jeannine’s own garden, everything sold is free of synthetic ingredients and preservative chemicals, while still maintaining an affordable sticker price. What’s more, everything is handmade, giving each and every product an artisan’s touch.
- The Herb Appeal can be found at Neighborhood Organics art the Shoppes at Vanderbilt Farmer’s Market and on Etsy.
Don’t forget man’s best friend this holiday season. Proponents of taking gourmet cuisine to the dogs, Top Dog Kitchen specializes in jerky treats made with premium and grass-fed cuts of meat (and sweet potato), and no added preservatives, chemicals, sugars, salts, fats or dyes, as well as baked treats made with whole ground oats and peanut butter (corn, wheat and soy-free). Meaning all that’s left is gourmet, healthy treats that are not only good for that four-legged family member, but will make for a happy pooch to boot.
- Top Dog Kitchen can be found at Third Street South Farmers Market and Shoppes at Vanderbilt Farmer’s Markets, as well as at their store in the Pelican Larry’s plaza (7795 Davis Blvd.).
Have a DIYer in your life? Know someone who would like to be? Why not give woodworking a try? Think eighth grade woodshop class. Now, inject it with human growth hormone. Remember all those high-powered tools that the advanced classes got to meddle with—lathe, bandsaw, shaper—while you toiled away with hammers, nails and precut wood? Now its time for you—or your loved one—to imitate Tim “The Tool-Man” Taylor (safely of course) and take up a woodshop course at Palmetto Ridge High School.
Part of the school’s Adult and Community Education program, the woodworking course gives students a hands-on approach to creating their own DIY project, all under the tutelage of a certified master craftsman. The course, which meets every Thursday, 6-7:30 p.m., from January 15 through February 19, will cover a multitude of woodworking topics, from wood and wood products, woodworking techniques, tools (both hand and power), machines, adhesives, fasteners, finishes and much more. And though this seems like a lot to learn in just six weeks, it’s a breeze as the instructor walks students through the hands-on project, with topics coming up organically as student’s individual work comes to shape.
- Shop/Course fee costs $89 with an additional $15 material fee.
- To register for the winter session (January 15-February 19, 2015), click here.
Feel Good Fashion
When it comes to fashion, be a good-deeder this holiday season and get that fashionista in your life an accessory that’s trendy and does good for others. These accessories not only look the part but the philanthropic onus behind the product helps those in need – how haute is that?
Pura Vida Bracelets
A great stocking stuffer for that beach bunny in your life, Pura Vida Bracelets are not just a great casual chic accessory, but also help change lives. Meaning pure life, pura vida is essentially Costa Rica’s version of aloha—it’s used as a greeting, thank you and all simple retorts in between by Ticos (Costa Rican) and expats—while embodying a mantra of living life slowly. Pura Vida Bracelets embraces the Costa Rican vibe while employing more than 60 local artisans to create the bracelets—simply put: every bracelet purchased helps provide a full-time job for a local Costa Rican artisan. What’s more, Pura Vida’s charity collection donates to more than 220 charities worldwide through the sale of each bracelet sold in the special collection.
Save the Sea Turtles Braided bracelet, $15 – $3 of each sale is donated to the Sea Turtle Conservancy
By now, just about everyone has heard of TOMS Shoes – the simple canvas shoes that, for every pair purchased, a pair is given to a child in need. Since 2006, TOMS’ One for One pledge has given away more than 35 million pairs of shoes in more than 60 countries. What’s more, in 2011, TOMS expanded the platform to eyewear, giving away a pair of corrective lens to someone in need for every retail pair of sunglasses purchased. They have helped restore sight to 250,000 people thus far, with more on the horizon.
But the do-gooderness of shoes and sight was not enough for founder Blake Mycoskie. In 2014, TOMS began to tackle the very dire problem of the world water shortage with the TOMS Roasting Co. The coffee company, which deals in direct trade coffee beans, donates a week’s worth of clean drinking water—140 liters—with the purchase of just one bag of coffee.
Yvette Purple Craze, $139
This holiday season its even easier to get your hands on a pair of TOMS. Partnering with Target, the One for One mantra lives with even more appeal. And the products have gotten a boost in design, with many of the newest shoe creations getting a marked change in look from the folded cloth ditties.
Brush Those Teeth
When it comes to high-priority holiday gifts, a toothbrush is not exactly topping the list. But the Goodwell Company answer to this everyday necessity just might be the last toothbrush you’ll ever need. No, its not some powered water pic or electric gum-numbing instrument; rather, a simple toothbrush that merges design, practicality and an eye on the environment, wrapped up in one sleek package.
It’s estimated that the average person will use, and throw away, 300 toothbrushes over their lifetime. That equates to hundreds of pounds of plastic waste—from the toothbrush itself, packaging, etc. Goodwell’s Oral Toolkit aims to correct some of this needless waste. The body of the toothbrush is made out of anodized aluminum that acts as a base for three different attachments to clean those teeth. What’s more, the attachments—toothbrush with Binchotan charcoal bristles (known for its plaque-fighting and disinfecting properties), flosser, and tongue scraper—are all compostable, making for a rather odd paradox; the implement to clean your teeth of food today will be used to grow your meal of tomorrow; think about it.
The Oral Toolkit comes in three different colors—natural aluminum ($60), black ($70) and gold ($80)—one of each attachment and a rugged, anti-microbial travel case. Make it a gift that keeps on giving and sign them up for an attachment subscription—six months for $36, or one year for $70—and Goodwell will send a set of three attachments every month to unsure that mouth is squeaky-clean.
Times certainly have changed since the days when finding the perfect gift for the music lover in your life meant heading to the music store, grabbing the latest CD of their favorite band and bam, shopping done. Now, things are a bit more complicated … but they don’t have to be. This holiday season, give the gift of high fidelity and kick it old school with a turntable for that vinyl collection.
There are a few options for the cat or kitten who digs on the resonate, warm sound of a vinyl record. For the more casual fan, go with a Crosley turntable. Affordable, stylish and above all, functional, these are the best bang for your buck, and the kids will think you’re quite hip when pulling off the patterned paper. Personally, I’m partial to the Nomad ($200), a vintage briefcase-style design wrapped in vinyl that looks like it could have sat next to Jack Kerouac’s typewriter as he pounded out Doctor Sax. But don’t let the looks fool you, the Nomad is stocked with all the modern fixins, including USB interface, allowing users to record digital files of the record.
For the more serious vinyl fan, finding the perfect player can be downright daunting. However, if you are looking for something to really blow the doors off the joint, Glasgow-based Linn Products has been producing one of the world’s best turntables for more than 40 years. The Linn Sondek LP12, first introduced in 1972 has been noted as one of the most significant turntables of all time – that’s saying something. Linn hasn’t rested on their laurels, rather improved upon the standard bearer for a new breed of turntables, all utilizing the Sondek LP12 as a base. The low-noise, single-point bearing is the heart of the deck, offering smooth motion that eliminates noise, while the belt-driven platter has a high mass and is perfectly balanced, ensuring a smooth ride.
Now, for the complete machine, there are a few options. The Klimax LP12 is the top-of-the-line rotator but expensive, very expensive, starting at a little more than $19,000 – that’s starting, with upgrades, you’re looking at nearly $22K. The Akurate LP12, the mid-level Linn, comes in at a respectable $7,600. For the best bang for your buck, and an entry into the Sondek LP12 clan, the Majik LP12, with a starting price right around $3,500, will give your music fan ample sound and should earn you plenty of brownie points. All are available in an array of wood species to match just about any motif your listening room may have.