Saturday, November 29, 2014

An Unplugged Gift Guide

They say Black Friday won't be quite as black this year, more "Black-ish" if you will. The reasons cited are several. Everything is always on sale somewhere. More people shop online and stay away from stores. But perhaps the biggest reason is that the traditional start of the holiday shopping season has been usurped by Black Thursday (formerly known as "Thanksgiving"), and indeed, the entire month of November.  

Call it Red-Green Mission Creep, but there's no denying the evidence. Target started pushing their gift catalog on November 10, Staples a week later. And both were beaten by the biggest Santa of all, when Walmart kicked things off on November 1. It's some kind of retail Darwinism, where the traits that have made the day after Turkey Day such a success are grafted onto every other one preceding Christmas. The resulting beast is a reindeer with a hump that can endure long stretches of seasonal shenanigans without breaking for water. At this rate, does anyone doubt that the Easter Bunny will soon be using a sleigh to get around?

However, having more time doesn't lessen the central question: what to put under the tree? Leaving aside the littler ones in the audience (and the myriad of tie-ins to "Frozen" and "The Hunger Games") what do the big kids want? To be sure, tech will be the big winner. Aside from getting those on your list an upgraded pad or game console, there are innumerable gadgets to accessories your device. Headphones and Bluetooth speakers along with wearable alerts, both fitness based and other, will top the list. I mean, who wouldn't want a Ringly, a ring that pairs with your iPhone, then vibrates and/or changes colors depending on if you get a call, a text or have a meeting. (I mean, I don't want one, but I'm sure plenty do.)

But what if you just can't bring yourself to buy another something that has a cord? Well, there are still plenty of options out there for the Luddites on your list. Try some of these on for size.

For sheer fun, what's better than flying a paper airplane? Nothing, unless it's a paper airplane with a motor. Just make your favorite design, then get the PowerUp 2.0 Electric Paper Airplane Conversion Kit. This little propeller and rechargeable battery pack hooks onto your glider front and back, and off you go into the wild blue yonder.

Know someone prone to swear, and but catches themselves at the last minute and veers off into more family friendly territory? For your favorite G-rated excitable boy or girl, consider the F-Bomb paperweight. It's just what its name implies: the letter "F" married to a round ball with a fuse sticking out. Use it to hold down your wireless phone bill or other papers that would normally have you cursing a blue streak.

If someone you know always has a water bottle with them, but also likes the flavored variety, maybe the Flavor Infuser bottle is a winner. Looks like a regular water bottle, but with one important addition. Inside is a central tube covered with lots of little slots. Into the tube goes lemons, strawberries or whatever fruit your well-hydrated friend craves. Five to ten minutes later, you have it: DIY blueberry H2O.

Oh, OK: one techy thing. The problem with most electronic games is that they are designed to be played alone or connected to someone far away. But sometimes a game can bring us together. If you and your significant other crave some friendly competition as well as some "us" time, but you can't bear to put down your pad, check out the iPad Foosball table. Other than the fact that it's just 12 inches long and 6 inches wide, it has four spinners on each side just like its full size cousin. But for this Lilliputian version, rather than a hard surface and real ball, just download the app, place your iPad in the center face up, and prepare to yell GOOAAALLL!

There're lots more possibilities. A DIY macaroon kit. A stapleless stapler. An OCD cutting board with grid lines. And there's always a new Nerf gun. The latest model, the Zombie Strike Clear Shot, is perfect for when you are feeling threatened by a blank faced ghoul. Of course, you could just ask your husband nicely for the TV remote, but this holiday being armed is a good plan B.


Marc Wollin of Bedford only wants no bills under his tree. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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