Category Archives: Christmas gifts

Give the Gift of a Great Adventure

Christmas has always been about family and lots and lots of presents.  The neatly stacked, meticulously wrapped gifts waiting under the Christmas tree to be savagely opened in a matter of seconds were the product of Santa lists generated with the help of store catalogs and ingenious, brain-washing ad campaigns.  Passing fads like Cabbage Patch dolls were elevated to the level of gotta have at any cost and parents feel the pressure to purchase the “coolest” toy or gadget of the season.  And this cycle of “latest and greatest” presents is passed on to future generations programmed to keep up the tradition—Ho!, Ho!, Ho!

Is there a better way to celebrate and make holiday memories that will last way beyond the toys that have lost their appeal or worn out?  Hello, daughter.  She has always appreciated the “gotta-have” gifts but with her love of family and adventure she created a new gift-giving model that changes the emphasis from toys and gadgets to memorable experiences that became more of a tradition than the old PeeWee Herman doll.  She’s all about exploring and new interactive experiences like hiking, skating, horseback riding, ocean kayaking, bicycling the CicLAvia (Los Angeles), riding roller coasters, interactively drumming with Ringo Starr at the Grammy Museum, touring the Hearst Castle and the Will Rogers ranch, visiting the animals at the San Diego and LA zoos, Legoland, visiting movie sets and stars at Universal, and anything else that creates a special memory that doesn’t come from Amazon.

This past Christmas was no exception when our gift experience was a tour of Warner Brothers (WB) Studios.  It became one of her most creative and memorable Stephanie great adventure gifts.  We hopped on a tour guide driven golf cart and we were off to see amazing displays of movies and movie making.  We entered the worlds of stars like Clint, Superman, James Dean, Wonder Woman, were assigned a Harry Potter house by the sorting hat, viewed and touched hundreds of props including JFK’s famous Presidential desk, dozens of chandeliers, old and new phones, and anything else you’ve seen in the WB movies, a Batman car show, and on to the final interactive part of the tour.

The tour was spectacular but the interactive defines my daughter’s idea of what a complete adventure should be.  You don’t just sit and watch if there is an opportunity to become part of the action.  We sat on the Friends sofa, toured Ellen’s set, and then the “Holy Grail” of the interactive displays, an opportunity to ride the Bat Cycle in front of a green screen and create your own short Batman movie.  So, with not much urging, I was nominated to be Batman while my wife and daughter recorded my beyond talentless, but energetic, performance.  This is a video of me as the next superhero totally fulfilling my daughter’s mantra of immersing yourself into an adventure and disregarding all self-respect.

We have been gifted all sorts of experiences from my daughter and have tried to return the favor with her family.  We still can’t resist finding the latest and greatest cool gift to put under the tree but from all our Christmas’s past we can remember all the cool experience gifts but would be hard pressed to tell you what was under the Christmas tree.  Lesson learned!  And as an added gift to my daughter, she gets Dad pay back by watching his less than star performances.

Christmas and Holiday gifts

fitbitSANTASince Christmas decorations are up and we all are in the giving spirit I’m going to give you a list of my favorite gifts for Christmas or whatever real or made up holiday you celebrate. It might seem early to you but maybe the people who don’t take down their colored lights are right—never too early for a holiday. You can also use this list as a guide to gift giving on all occasions: birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, mother’s/father’s day, …or just because you woke up in a good mood. I have also supplied links (underlined or picture link) to amazon (my retailer of choice for a lot of good reasons) for most of these amazing gifts. I’m a very active guy so some of my gift suggestions are going to require the recipient to get off their butts. All are reasonably priced with most being under $100. I’ll give a short description and testimonial for each and then links to the products so you can see all of the cool technical and practical features. Here we go!

  • If there was only one gift in the world for me it would be a book. You give the gift of knowledge, drama, mystery, romance, adventure, history and memories—all for a reasonable price. Whenever I shop for books it always brings me back to my Cape Cod days of reading paperbacks on the beach stupidly selecting Jaws as one of my early beach reads—still reading on the beach but with an eye on the surf.
  • All my beach paperbacks are long gone to friend’s libraries or have disappeared into the book twilight zone. Now most of my reading is with e-books using the Kindle Paperwhite, 6″ High-Resolution Display (212 ppi) with Built-in Light, Wi-Fi – Includes Special Offers which is my favorite electronic device that actually has the feel of a traditional paperback and to me is the perfect way to read books and maintain my library electronically with instant access and no book cases needed.

    My kindle has let me rediscover the classics like To Kill a Mockingbird and discovered great books like The Devil in the White City and laugh out loud books like The Shit my Dad Says. My whole library fits on this little device—love technology! It has a backlit light so I can read at night without bothering my wife (a good thing) and the innovative E-ink lets you read in the brightest of sun or light without glare. I’ll let you follow the link to see all of the cool technical features. You’ll want to add a Kindle Cover, Black, NuPro, Kindle Paperwhite Case, Kindle Touch Case, Folio, Kindle Cover. The inexpensive fabric works great to protect and feels like a book binder.
  • Amazon Prime goes hand in hand with the kindle and all of the gifts I am recommending. For $99/yr you get FREE two-day shipping for eligible purchases. Members also get access to Amazon Instant Video and the ability to borrow books for free from the prime listings. Amazon Prime more than pays for itself and the free 2 day shipping works for “prime items” no matter what the cost or size. Amazon even includes reviews of the products and alternatives to help you decide if you’re going to click that buy button. Prime buying/shipping has let me avoid crazed shoppers—packages delivered to my door. Learn more about prime membership as a gift or for yourself.

        • Since I’ve always been a dreamer and need to put my ideas on paper I carry a Canson Universal Sketch Paper Pad 5.5 x 8.5 “: 100 Sheets with me to record my creative gems before they get lost in my busy mind. I think everyone has great thoughts and dreams that should be noted in picture or word. The little sketch pad is one of my favorite gifts to give/receive and doesn’t need batteries. Make sure the sketch pad or journal you order has a binding that lets the pad lay flat for easier doodling or writing down your words of wisdom. This is a great gift for your artist, author, or dreamer.
        • I do get out of my book reading and doodling chair to walk a quick 3 miles after work and my iPod nano (you can purchase at apple store, Best Buy…) with Mediabridge Sport Armband for iPod Nano – 7th Generation (Black) and Sennheiser PMX 685i Adidas Sports In-Ear Neckband Headphones – Blacklet me escape into the world of music or listen to the news on the built in FM radio. I, like everyone, think that I have the best song playlist (heavy on 60’s, 70’s– Beatles, Jefferson Airplane, and throw in some Queen and Alan Jackson along with the comedy of Lewis Black, some bio-feedback meditation, and an occasional audio book or podcast). The iPod lets me live in my own media heaven. This package of stress relief is over the $100 dollars but worth every dime.
        • Although I love to walk, winter walks do present a problem since sundown comes early and I need to see where I’m going and more important vehicles need to see me so I don’t become a speed bump. I’ve tried all sorts of reflective gear and flashlights which help with my visibility but never quite did the job. Flashlights are great for night vision but are a pain to carry and the reflective gear like vests make you visible but don’t help you see obstacles. A google search lead to the solution—the Knuckle Lights (SILVER) which has a strap that wraps around your hand so it’s easy to carry and has three settings: high, low, and strobe. They put out plenty of light although the battery life with 2 AAA batteries is short so maybe you want to throw in a battery charger and light up someone’s life with the whole package.walking with light cartoon
        • I’ve always been a very active person and am in awe of gps watches that use satellite signals to keep track of my walking and running activities: time, distance, and pace. On my last birthday I added to my high tech activity-recording devices with the gift of a Fitbit One Wireless Activity Plus Sleep Tracker, Black which is like a pedometer on steroids without any gps satellite capabilities. It’s just a simple mechanism that magically keeps track of the steps I take recording distance walked or run, calories burned, steps climbed, how well I’m sleeping and as a bonus it gives you motivational messages and you can upload all your activity online with graphs, charts and and achievement awards. After I calibrated it by timing the steps taken in a given distance it’s as accurate as my high tech GPS watch.  I even have a helicopter award for climbing a ton of stairs—thanks Fitbit buddy. Fitbit becomes your Jiminy Cricket whispering in your ear to take the stairs instead of the elevator. Buy somebody a workout friend and motivational coach by getting them a fitbit.
        • All my mental and physical exercise makes me thirsty so I reward myself with my favorite coffee in the morning and finishing my day with a beer. You can’t go wrong with the gift of a six pack of beer, craft or basic, or a pound of coffee from your favorite bean company. I personally like Highland Gaelic Ale (brewed in Asheville, NC) and Starbucks Italian Dark Roast coffee.
        • Along with the running, drinking, walking, rocking and reading gifts you may want to give your giftee or yourself a break and entertain them. Most of us reluctantly use cable with hundreds of channel choices but actually view the traditional over-the air stations 90% of the time.  I have a busy life with the gifts I’ve listed so the monthly $150 cable fee seemed silly.  I cut the cable 2 years ago, purchased an Mohu Leaf Paper-Thin Indoor HDTV Antenna – Made in USA and now get (HD quality) the main stations, PBS (Downton Abbey), Fox, and some miscellaneous stations. Just make sure the person you are giving the antenna to or if it’s a self-gift that they/you can receive the stations before you cancel cable and this link should help.

          You also might want to package the antenna with the gift of a Roku LT Streaming Media Player to give instant access to movies and TV. Just hook it into the side of your TV and unlimited entertainment is a click away. It’s simple and has a very cool name that rolls off your tongue—RO-KU.

      • And finally my favorite gift of all time was from my wife, another book, but a very special book, that totally changed my life. I’ve been drawing and painting since I was 2 years old creating thousands of cartoons and illustrations. I stopped drawing during my college years and my construction life era. I met the love of my life and she dug up some of my old drawings and talked me into revisiting my god given talent and start drawing again. Our first Christmas together she bought me a book, 2015 Artist’s & Graphic Designer’s Market (Artists and Graphic Designers Market), which lists hundreds of places to sell all sorts of artwork. I started by selling a few cartoons and eventually hooked up with a children’s book publisher which led to writing and illustrating over 45 coloring/activity books and I went on to a lifetime career in graphics. How’s that for a life changing gift. Inspire a creative friend or family member and get them Artist, 2015 Photographer’s Market or 2015 Writer’s Market: The Most Trusted Guide to Getting Published. You may change someone’s life.

That’s my list! I use all of these products and have no problem recommending them as great gifts. Holidays and gift giving rock and if you get into it consider joining the “never take down holiday light cult” so every day can be a celebration.  Most of my links are to Amazon since they always seem to have good prices, an amazing selection, and 2 day shipping with a prime membership.  Gift giving rocks.