Tagged: Christmas gifts

The 5 Days of Gifting, the Book Lover

Posted by Christine A. Shelly
The book lover is a tricky specimen to shop for. See a book you think they’d like? They may have already read it. Or have read reviews about it and decided against it. The sheer magnitude of available options in titles, genres and authors creates an excruciating challenge to shopping for a book lover without giving away your gifting plan. Rather than risk spoiling your loved ones’ Christmas Day surprise, here are a few ideas to help.   Typewriter Laptop Case by Ted Baker ($49;  Amazon) typewriter-laptopMany’s the classic literary jewel that’s been crafted on a typewriter such as the one depicted on this laptop case. And while a vintage typewriter might be a fabulous gift, they’re expensive, not to mention they’re a tad bit too heavy and awkward to lug to your local coffee shop. Next best thing: a snazzy, inspired laptop case that gives you instant cool points wherever you go.   Repurposed Book Clutch Purse ($40; etsy.com) book-clutchThe Case of the Curious Christmas Gift has been solved by you and Nancy Drew. Carolyn Keene’s classic series is given new life as a fashion accessory by an American artist on etsy.com. She’s also crafted a washable wallet from the pages of the book to carry your cash or credit cards. Perfect for your fashion forward book loving friends.   Litograph Literary Temporary Tattoos ($5 for two; litographs.com) temp-tattooDoes your book lover have a bit of a rebellious spirit? Check out the beautiful, memorable temporary tattoos inspired by classic lines of literature available from the artists at Litograph. Your book lover can literally keep their favorite lines of their favorite novel close to their heart. Or ankle. Whatever they choose.   Library Card Coaster Set ($20, outofprint.com) librarycard-coasterWe’re old enough to remember the days when librarians rubber stamped a date on a card to loan you a book. Commemorate those days gone by with these colorful and historically accurate library card coasters. Sturdy enough for your coldest drink and artsy enough to spark a conversation.     Literature-inspired iPhone cases ($25, outofprint.com) If you have a book-loving friend who also appreciates a bit of irony, this custom iPhone case may be the perfect gift for them. Fans of George Orwell’s 1984 may wish this case was made of RFID-deflecting aluminum.           This wraps up our gift idea series for this year. Here’s wishing you and yours a healthy, safe and happy holiday season and best wishes in the New Year.   #Christmasgifts #giftideas

The 5 Days of Gifting, The Animal Lover

Posted by Christine A. Shelly
You know the profile: this person spends at least a third of their day looking at cat memes, penguin cams or wild horse rescue websites. Their vehicles carry paw print decals in the back windshield and they are twice as likely as your other friends to have donated to a wildlife preservation organization. So what do you give the biggest fan of our four-legged (or double-winged) friends? Put your paws together for this little list of ideas.   World Wildlife Fund Adopt-A-Species ($25 and up; worldwildlife.org) tigerHave a loved one who’s obsessed with narwhals? Why not “adopt” one for them? With a gift of $25 or more to the World Wildlife Fund, you can symbolically adopt an endangered species and your friend can receive a plush toy, a species reference card and other tokens of appreciation. Your donation will go toward conservation efforts.     Humane Society of the United States ($10 and up; humanesociety.org) animalsocietyA donation to The Humane Society of the United States helps support animal rescue efforts, shelters, and training nationwide. For $10 or more, you can provide a holiday gift in honor of your loved one. They will receive a personalized greeting card with a special message – donations of $25 or more also include a year-long subscription to HSUS’s All Animals magazine.   Custom Pet Pop Art ($289; allpopart.com) dogpopartYou always knew Sparky was a superhero. Now you can have him immortalized the way you see him: in colorful, hand-drawn graphic splendor. Simply provide the good people at allPopArt with a photo of your pet pal and voila! You now have a vibrant, cherished keepsake for your animal-loving friends and family.     No/No Green Seed Ball Wild Bird Feeder (about $8, Amazon) birdseedballWe can’t forget fans of our fine feathered friends this holiday. This steel sphere deters squirrels and provides fresher seed for wild clinging birds to enjoy. Simply fill it, hang it outside and enjoy the delightful wonders of bird watching that are sure to follow.     Unlikely Friendships, by Jennifer S. Holland (about $8, Amazon) unlikely-friendshipsAs any animal lover knows, we humans can learn a lot from our furry and feathered cohabitants of the planet. Jennifer Holland is a National Geographic writer who has captured unusual tales of inter-species friendship. It’s a little treasure of a book that is sure to warm the heart of whomever receives it.       #giftideas #Christmasgifts #animallover    

The 5 Days of Gifting, The Foodie

Posted by Christine A. Shelly
The Foodie is a fun person to shop for. Because food. Cooking. Eating. It’s all glorious. Your particular Foodie may have their own special interests – whether it’s European pastry-making or Brazilian beef – but we’ve done our best to select a variety of fabulous foodie gifts that will make your pal’s mouth water. Foodie Dice (About $25, Uncommon Goods) foodie-diceIt takes a certain type of adventurous personality to be a true foodie. Now your foodie can explore culinary adventures by leaving dinner in the hands of fate with the Foodie Dice. A simple roll can yield a multitude of flavor combinations just waiting to be discovered.  Five dice contain options for center of plate protein, grain or carb, bonus ingredient, herb and method of cooking. So when the family asks what’s for dinner, the answer is as easy as a roll of the dice.   The Spice Lab Gourmet Sea Salt Collection ( $55, Amazon) spice-lab-saltsGive someone you love the gift of variety this holiday. This award-winning collection is one of four available from the Spice Lab, and includes 11 different salts from around the world plus a reference card with food pairings. Which will your foodie like best: the Apple Wood Smoked from El Salvador, the, the Cyprus White Flake, the Pacific Blue Kosher or one of the many others?   Micro Green Kits ($48, Uncommon Goods) microgreensFor the truly DIY food lover, growing your own organic spices or vegetables is a must. These ready-to-grow kits are made from recycled aluminum and contain USDA-certified seeds and organic growing medium. Sprouts are salad-ready in 7-14 days. The spice kit includes Japanese mustard, daikon radish and edible chrysanthemum sprouts. Veggie kits include red cabbage, mini-carrot greens and Tom Thumb pea greens.   Suburban Cheesecraft DIY Cheese Kit (etsy, $50) cheesecraftSpeaking of DIY, this crafty kit provides instructions and tools for the industrious foodie who wishes to make their own fresh cheese.  All you need is milk and a sense of adventure. This makes more than 40 pounds of different types of cheese – including mozzarella, ricotta, goat cheese, paneer and queso blanco. Me gusto queso!       Bamboo Bread Knife ($12, MoMA) bamboo-knifeAny foodie knows that your kitchen is only as good as your cutlery. This beautiful knife designed by the Museum of Modern Art is as sturdy as it is gorgeous. It can swiftly slice even the crustiest baked goods – and it’s made from sustainable bamboo. A fantastic addition to any foodie’s collection.     #giftideas #Christmasgifts #foodie #gourmet

The 5 Days of Gifting, The Movie Buff

Posted by Christine A. Shelly
Just about every family has a certified movie fanatic in their ranks. The kind that injects quotes from their favorite movies into each conversation. Whose eyes light up at the name “Kubrick” or “Lumet.” And who has a distinct opinion on the 70mm IMAX versus the 4K digital debate. What kind of gift would earn rave reviews from the cinephile?  We have some contenders. The Story of Film: An Odyssey, by Mark Cousins  (amazon.com, about $36) story-of-filmIrish film historian and critic Mark Cousins crafted this documentary on the history of cinema in 15 unique hour-long episodes. It debuted in 2011 on More4 and aired on Turner Classic Movies in September of 2013. It takes a decidedly personal approach to film history and includes loads of clips from classic movies as well as interviews with legendary filmmakers from around the world.   Netflix subscription (the gift that keeps on streaming, about $8/mo) netflix-subscriptionWith a basic Netflix subscription, your film fan can watch some of their favorite films and television programs online or from their television. The Netflix services offers more than 2,500 films at your fingertips for a starting subscription price of $7.99/month.     X-Men Blu-ray Complete Collection + Cerebro Helmet  (get it online here) xmen-blurayWho hasn’t suffered just a teensy bit of helmet envy when watching Cerebro in the X-Men films?  Now your film fan can claim their very own with this complete collection of X-Men films and bonus Cerebro helmet.   Movie Night Snack Pack (prices vary) snack packNo movie marathon is complete without a bucket full of your favorite snacks. Gift packs like the one shown here can be ordered for delivery from Amazon, but you can also easily pick up a ceramic or sturdy paper popcorn bucket (or two) from your local craft store and load it up with your fan’s go-to treats.     Mondo collectible movie posters (Mondotees.com) mondoCombine rock and roll concert posters with classic film posters and you have collectible artwork sure to hold a prized space in any movie fan’s living room. Mondo artists have made a name for themselves by re-imaging classic movie poster art in contemporary art style. These are limited-edition, numbered and signed pieces of art sure to give your movie buff something to applaud.       #Christmasgifts #giftideas #moviebuff  

A Different Christmas Poem — Honoring Our Military

Posted by Debi Teter

militaryauthority.com military christmas poem

This poem comes via the Vietnam Dog Handlers Association. The credit reads: “A Military Christmas Poem as shared by Doug Davis and was posted by “LCDR Jeff Giles, SC, USN.”

Jeff concluded the poem with these words: “Christmas will be coming soon and some credit is due to our U.S service men and women for our being able to celebrate these festivities. Let’s try in this small way to pay a tiny bit of what we owe. Make people stop and think of our heroes, living and dead, who sacrificed themselves for us.”


A Different Christmas Poem

The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light, I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight. My wife was asleep, her head on my chest, My daughter beside me, angelic in rest. Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white, Transforming the yard to a winter delight.

The sparkling lights in the tree I believe, Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve. My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep, Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep. In perfect contentment, or so it would seem, So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.

The sound wasn’t loud, and it wasn’t too near, But I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear. Perhaps just a cough, I didn’t quite know, Then the sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow. My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear, And I crept to the door just to see who was near.

Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night, A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight. A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old, Perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold. Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled, Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.

”What are you doing?” I asked without fear, “Come in this moment, it’s freezing out here! Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve, You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!” For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift, Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts.

To the window that danced with a warm fire’s light. Then he sighed and he said “It’s really all right, I’m out here by choice. I’m here every night.” It’s my duty to stand at the front of the line, That separates you from the darkest of times.

No one had to ask or beg or implore me, I’m proud to stand here like my fathers before me. My Gramps died at ‘Pearl on a day in December,” Then he sighed, “That’s a Christmas ‘Gram always remembers.” My dad stood his watch in the jungles of ‘Nam’, And now it is my turn and so, here I am.

I’ve not seen my own son in more than a while, But my wife sends me pictures, he’s sure got her smile.” Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag, The red, white, and blue… an American flag. “I can live through the cold and the being alone, Away from my family, my house and my home.

I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet, I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat. I can carry the weight of killing another, Or lay down my life with my sister and brother. Who stand at the front against any and all, To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall.”

”So go back inside” he said, “harbor no fright, Your family is waiting and I’ll be all right.” “But isn’t there something I can do, at the least, “Give you money?” I asked, “or prepare you a feast? It seems all too little for all that you’ve done, For being away from your wife and your son.”

Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret, “Just tell us you love us, and never forget. To fight for our rights back at home while we’re gone, To stand your own watch, no matter how long. For when we come home, either standing or dead, To know you remember we fought and we bled. Is payment enough, and with that we will trust,  That we mattered to you as you mattered to us.”



#militarychristmas #usmilitary #militarythanks

Gifts to Inspire Lifelong Learning

Posted by Kelli McKinney

smart gift ideasNo matter where you are in life, having a natural curiosity about the world around you will take you far.

So what better gift to give this holiday season than one that sparks the imagination?


Inspirational Gift Idea #1: Memberships to a Zoo, Museum or Park

Pardon the cliché, but this truly is the gift that keeps on giving. Every major metropolitan area (and a ton of not-so-metropolitan ‘burgs) has at least one museum, park, or zoo. These magical places pay tribute to history, music, art, nature, or science and bring the very world to your doorstep. They’re appropriate for all ages (usually) and memberships often include admission to any traveling or special exhibits – check with your organization to find out. As a military service member, you can also qualify for discounted membership rates, which is an added bonus.


Inspirational Gift Idea #2: Educational Games

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you are familiar with the universal appeal of the video game. Whether your family’s system of choice is the freestanding system like Wii, Playstation or Xbox or the  handheld tablets like the iPad, iPod, and Android , or you prefer the PC-based games, there’s a huge array of educational, intellectually-challenging games that are fun for the whole family.


Inspirational Gift Idea #3: Magazine Subscriptions

Magazine subscriptions are great. Who doesn’t love getting something special in the mail?  Not only do magazine subscriptions encourage reading, they increase the readers’ knowledge about a subject they are interested in and provide hours of fun.


These fun and imaginative gift suggestions can appeal to recipients of all ages and backgrounds.

Happy Holidays!

Five Gifts for Five Bucks or Less

Posted by Kelli McKinney

There’s nothing quite like Christmas to tempt even the most frugal among us to go bananas and blow up our budget. But who says you have to spend a lot of money on a gift to make someone’s holiday extraordinary? 

Here are a few ideas to bring big smiles without leaving big holes in your wallet.


For your forgetful-and-creative sister-in-law: The Origami Sticky Note

sticky noteYou can jot down your grocery list, and then fold it into the shape of a potbellied pig!  Fun for everyone and good for the earth.

$2.99, thinkgeek.com



For your stressed out cousin: The Bubble-Wrap Keychain

bubblewrapSqueeze each and every one of the eight rubbery “bubbles” and delight in the satisfying popping noises. Then, do it again. Bonus:  Every 100 “pops,” you hear a random surprise sound.

$4.99, thinkgeek.com


For the coworker who constantly tangles themselves up in their corded desk phone: The Bobino

bobinoAn easy, stylish way to avoid the dreaded cord tangle. Works on anything with a cord: earbuds, phone chargers, even corded phones.

$4, Kikkerland.com




For your quirky niece: Snow-in-a-Can

snow canPerfect for “Christmas in July” parties or whenever you feel like making a little wintry mischief. Comes with a pair of googly eyes and red scarf for potential snowman accessorizing. Snow is non-toxic and reusable.

$4, Kikkerland.com




For your favorite smartphone fan: Phoney Owl

phoneyWhoo’s calling, please? Perch the Phoney Owl in the headphone jack of your smartphone and you’ve got a steadfast companion.

$5, gamago.com





Gift Ideas for the Geek Chic

Posted by Kelli McKinney

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, that joyful time of panic-induced trips to the ER finding the perfect gifts for the beloved servicemembers in your life. And let’s face it, some military members are easier to find gifts for than others.

In the spirit of the giving season, we have scoured the malls and surfed the web to compile a collection of gift ideas for those of you needing a little spark of inspiration.

If you have someone in your life who can recite every line from every Star Trek movie, chances are good that you can find a gift for them from this composition:


The Elements Calendar

elementsMarry a stunningly beautiful image of every known element in the universe with every month in the calendar year and voila.

$11, Walmart.com




Grow Your Own Carnivorous Plant Set

plantCreate your own gauntlet of doom for the insect world with this little gem. The set comes with ten carnivorous plant seeds, plastic terrarium and potting mix plus plant decals, “bog buddies” and “swamp rocks.” 

$20, thinkgeek.com





R2-D2 Lego Kit

r2d2If you’re looking for a way to really wow your favorite Star Wars fan, look no further than the plucky little droid R2-D2.

$180, Legos.com




Hi-Fun Gloves

hi funIf your friend is as attached to their smartphone as they are their own fingers, make them happy this year with this pair of high-tech, capacitive gloves. The gloves keep digits nice and toasty while operating sensitive touch screen gadgets. Plus, the left glove has a speaker and a microphone sewed into the thumb and little finger for talking on the go.

$81, Hi-fun.com




tankbotThis micro-robotic tank can navigate mazes, battle opponents, and offer a nice little distraction during an otherwise busy day. Even better – it’s fully controllable from your iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch or Android device.

From $25, mydeskpets.com





joystick itPerfect for the game-loving tablet owner, this safe, removable joystick adds an element of real arcade action to your tablet.

$8, thinkgeek.com






Mustache Tree Ornament

mustacheGet a handle on your gift-giving with this quirky ornament. Ideal for those to whom you mustache to have a very merry Christmas. There’s not much else to add to this one.

Starting at $6, various retailers




Mac Tank

mac tankThis is a fully-functional 3-gallon fish tank inside what once contained an astounding 4 megabytes of RAM. It’s a conversation piece and a forever home for your finny friends. Each one is custom built, so contact the designer for cost.





Space Invaders Playing Cards

space invadersThe original vertical alien shooting game is memorialized on a deck of playing cards, which can be used in a recreational, alien-violence-free game of poker, Old Maid, or Canasta.

$8, summithut.com







Xbox 360 Limited Edition Kinect Star Wars Bundle

SW xboxComplete your favorite person’s home gaming system with this Microsoft gaming bundle that would make the rebels proud. And don’t forget to let the Wookie win.

$380, amazon.com






Unique Gifts for the Military Man Who Has Everything

Posted by Kelli McKinney

There are just a few shopping days left before Christmas, and if you’re still scratching your head wondering what to get your guy this year, we have just the list for you.


Star Wars Severed Arm Wampa Ice Scraper


If you ride a Tauntaun to work, a frosty windshield is the least of your concerns. But for the rest of us, there’s the Wampa arm ice scraper. If you have to scrape your windshield, at least now you can feel like a Wampa while you’re doing it.

$25, thinkgeek.com





Fire Pit


The appeal of fire is primal. Having your own fire pit is even more appealing. Fire good. Make warm. Cook food.

$89 @ Walmart




Tac Bac: Tactical Canned Bacon


If you have canned bacon, you win at everything. Period. Inside this glorious can resides eighteen servings of smoky delicious power. Eat it now, or stash it away for a future camping trip or potential apocalypse. Your call.

$20, thinkgeek.com






Belkin WeMo


With one simple device, you can control any appliance that plugs into an outlet from  your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch. I believe the phrase you’re looking for is  “mwah ha ha.”

$99 for the switch and motion bundle, belkin.com


Beardo Bendable Mo


The CO prefers clean-shaven soldiers, but facial hair does come in handy when it’s cold outside. Enter the beardo. This soft, knit cap and face-warmer comes with a  bonus seven-inch bendable mustache that the wearer can fashion into any shape he chooses.

$34, fab.com





These are just a few off-the-beaten-path ideas to make your servicemember smile this holiday season.

Wishing you all the best for a happy 2013!