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Issue Date: October 2005 Issue


Chic to Geek: A Holiday Gift Guide

Same gift, different holiday? Not this time around. If you're stumped when it comes to unique presents for the special people in your life, keep reading. We reached deep into our mailbag and found a dozen distinctive ideas we guarantee they won't soon forget.


Liz Logan

A scarf or journal just won’t cut it this year? You’re in luck. At the end of every summer we receive dozens of pitches from companies hoping their holiday gift ideas will warrant some ink in our pages. We searched for the unusual, interesting and just plain unique to give you gift ideas for every quirky person on your holiday list.

1. Arrivederci, Language Barrier

For your jet-setter friends, Franklin Electronic Publishers’ Euro Interpreter is the ultimate communications device. This pocket-sized, handheld computer can translate more than 400,000 words in 12 languages, including French, German, Italian, Dutch, Czech, Polish, Spanish, Turkish and Portuguese. Other useful features in the Euro Interpreter include a calculator, a local and world clock, currency and measurement converters, advanced spelling correction and a databank for storing names and contact info. Five fun and educational games make those long plane and train rides just a little bit easier.

($79.95, www.franklin.com)

2. A Party with Pop

Forget Christmas carols this year, because Hasbro’s “Shout About Music” trivia game will bring tunes into your home this holiday season. The game’s DVDs challenge participants to fill in missing song lyrics, name song titles after hearing snippets, and arrange music-related events and topics in a specific order. An on-screen host leads players through several rounds in which they compete to be the first person to shout out the correct answer and win points for their team. Scores are entered onto the screen by remote control but the winner remains a mystery until after the final betting round.

($19.99; www.hasbro.com, www.walmart.com, www.target.com)

3. Pre-Teen Perfume

For all those little girls who have watched mom put on perfume with longing, the wait is over. The ultra-popular American Girl brand is launching its first fragrance, “Truly Me,” this month. The pink perfume, a blend of fresh gardenia, sweet jasmine and sparkling pear, comes in a star-shaped bottle and is designed for girls ages 8 through 12. Make a little girl feel even more like a princess this year with the entire “Truly Me Collection,” which includes a sparkling powder puff, glimmer shower wash and body cream, an eau de toilette spray, a purse spray and more.

(American Girl Place in Chicago and New York, or by calling 1-800-395-1001)

4. A Nod for the Cellpod

No, it’s not the cell phone/iPod hybrid, but something even more unusual: a tripod for your camera phone. America’s 150 million camera phone photographers know by now that it is impossible to frame a shot and still be in the picture. So make the amateur phone photographer’s dream come true with a 2-ounce cellpod that fits easily in a pocket or purse. It also snaps onto the popular cell phone belt clips. If nothing else, the gift may well spur the question, “What will they think of next?”

($24.95, www.joyinnovations.com or 1-866-943-1800)

5. Wake Up and Smell the Serenity

Is your spouse revolted by the obnoxious beeping sound his alarm clock makes? Are you ready to swat him every time he goes for the snooze? Give the gift of gentle, tranquil awakenings this holiday season with the digital Zen alarm clock by Gaiam. The Tibetan bell-like chime in this clock gradually becomes louder, naturally easing the sleeper into the start of the day rather than suddenly jolting him awake like every other alarm clock in the world. The pleasing sound can even be set to play at intervals during a meditation or yoga session. The clock can be ordered in a natural, solid walnut or maple case with a gold-tone clock face or a sleek black lacquer case with a silver-tone clock face.

($109, www.gaiam.com or 1-800-869-3603)

6. Publish Your Present

Get creative with Lulu.com’s print-on-demand services that let you order customized books commemorating your loved ones’ precious moments and memories. What would mom love more than a hardback book of her famous family recipes or a spiral-bound book of photos from the family vacation? After uploading your text and photos at www.lulu.com, you can order softback, hardback and spiral-bound books, as well as other customized items such as calendars. Lulu also offers proofreading and translating services that will help you make your book the best it can be. You can even publish your book on www.lulu.com for the general public to order or download, as long as you’re willing to fork over 20 percent of your profits. So, if mom’s recipes really are that good, you may have just found a way to pay off those stubborn holiday credit card bills.

(Prices vary based on number of pages and choice of binding, www.lulu.com)

7. For the Chocoholic

For the chocolate lover who withers in winter, Lather’s Chocolate Fix is the perfect way to recharge. This two-piece set includes a Dutch Mocha Body Buff and a Belgian Chocolate Body Whip. Both products are made with real semi-sweet chocolate and plant polyphenols that ward off damaging free radicals that come in contact with our skin every day. The Dutch Mocha Body Buff is made with roast ground arabica coffee beans and exfoliates skin to encourage cell renewal. The Belgian Chocolate Body Whip, made with cocoa butter and Macadamia nuts, softens and smoothes dry skin.

($32, www.lather.com or 1-877-6-LATHER)

8. Pack Some Alpaca

For luxury this winter, there’s nothing quite like wrapping up in a Peruvian baby alpaca wool throw. In soft and simple taupe, this Andean throw from London’s Molton Brown is a subtle and cozy statement for any home. Durable and hypoallergenic, the throws are handcrafted by a small family business in the Andes.

($350, www.moltonbrown.co.uk)

9. Long Johns for Little Ones

Talbots Kids offers some new twists on a holiday standard: kids’ long johns in fun prints. This year’s designs include soccer and hockey players, breakfast foods, snowmen, and of course, holiday gifts. Talbot’s well-made long johns are designed to survive kid-friendly holiday rough-housing, as well as those many spin cycles you’ll likely end up putting them through to wash out spilled hot cocoa. So why not make these soft cotton PJs the gift your kids open on Christmas Eve? That way they’ll be cozy in their beds, while visions of sugarplums dance in their heads.

($29.50, www.talbots.com or 1-800-KIDS-123)

10. Beautify Your Breath

C.O. Bigelow Apothecaries is on a mission to end brushing monotony. The company’s Margaret Josefin Breath Palette Toothpaste comes in 32 flavors, including cola, tropical pineapple, rose, monkey banana, fresh yogurt, plum, California orange, cinnamon, blueberry, caramel and pumpkin pudding, and is sure to spice up your daily routine. Aside from the great taste, this low-foaming toothpaste will wash away plaque to keep those pearly whites shining. Available in more flavors than there are days in a month, this toothpaste may actually inspire people to brush more than twice a day.

($4.50 per tube or a kit of five for $22, 1-800-793-LIFE)

11.For Future American Idols

Singing Coach Unlimited from Carry-A-Tune Technologies is a wannabe-Kelly Clarkson’s dream gift. This PC software will turn your computer into an expert vocal instructor that can teach you to sing on pitch and in rhythm. The high-tech pitch tracking system helps train your ear by showing you what note you are singing on a musical graph in real time. The 20-lesson tutorial teaches vocal warm-ups and proper singing technique. Aspiring musicians can compose songs with Singing Coach by simply clicking and dragging in the Unlimited Creativity section, while the Unlimited Fun section lets the student learn to sing every song he or she loves. Once the Singing Coach senses the singer’s range, it modifies every song to fit the voice. The microphone and headset will make even an amateur singer feel like she’s in a recording studio instead of the living room.

($99.95, www.carryatune.com or (813) 886-1955)

12. Artwork for Your TV Screen

Turn your flat-panel television into an animated work of art with new DVD screen savers from Screen Dreams. Flat-panel televisions beg to be hung in a prominent place like artwork. But, when turned off, they become a big, black rectangle on your wall. Screen Dreams banishes that ugly void forever with four different DVD screen savers that come complete with soothing sound effects. The “Living Aquarium” DVD turns your flat-panel TV into the fish tank you’ve always wanted, while the “Living Beaches” disc will transport you and your holiday guests far away from wintry Ohio. “Living Waterfalls” and “Living Butterflies” are the other ethereal escapes available for purchase.

($19.99 per disc, www.screendreamsdvd.com or 1-800-625-9000)


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