First up, for the budget shopper, Family Dollar has some excellent values of which you might want to partake. The 50"x60" fleece throws, for example, are a real bargain at $3 each. Toss in some $4 creepy kitty-faced slippers and you have yourself a nice little combo gift for the always-cold girl on your list. You may want to warn her to keep both items away from open flame, as the fire retardancy of the somewhat sub-par poly-blends may be a bit suspect, but who doesn't like to live life a little bit on the edge?
For the style-conscious man on your list, Family Dollar has a snappy-looking leather jacket, which you can take home for the low, low price of just $15. If you really want to splurge, another $15 gets you a matching roller bag to tack on as well. I truly wish I had a scanner at my disposal, because the quality materials that went into these items is simply too much not to share. The crinkly texture? The unexpected sheen? It really must be seen to be believed.
But enough about Family Dollar. Frankly, despite the fact that they addressed their mailing to "Neighbor" at my address, I'm really not even sure where the nearest Family Dollar might be. Besides that, I am all about Internet and mail order at this point, and I suspect you might be as well. It's ugly out there in the brick-and-mortar shops right now--the places where you actually have to fight for parking and battle other disgruntled shoppers as you struggle your way through the last difficult names on your list. Flipping through a catalog or browsing around on Amazon is really the better way to go, I say. Lucky for me (and you!), Hammacher Schlemmer is here to help.
I am not generally much of a catalog shopper, and, as such, very few catalog companies have my name on their list. Until a few months ago, the only catalog I received regularly was from some place whose name escapes me. I thought it was called Willow Creek, but a quick Google search tells me that can't be right. (If it is, Willow Creek the clothier really needs to work on its meta tags and search terms.) Whatever the correct name, it is a company that sells what I think might best be described as "Mom clothes." I say that with no offense to any mothers out there--I'm sure you're hip and youngish and would never wear appliquéd vests and elastic-waist pants. "Mom clothes" just seems like the best descriptor, particularly since my own mother is the reason I am on this mailing list in the first place. I ordered something from Not-Willow Creek one time--a sweater that my mother specifically pointed to and indicated a desire to own. I placed that order over nine years ago, and still, every time I return to my parents' house, there is a recent catalog from Not-Willow Creek waiting for me there. I could just throw them away, but I prefer to play a fun little game first, called "Would I wear anything at all on this page?" (Hey. There's not much going on when I'm at my parents' house. Any bit of diversion is a welcome one, I say.) The most amusing thing about the Not-Willow Creek catalogs, however, is they are addressed not to Stefanie [LastName], but to Stepitote [LastName]. I can actually tell which additional mailing lists Not-Willow Creek has sold my name to based on the junk mail addressed to that same lazy and incompetent typist's version of my name. (At my first apartment in the Twin Cities, I tracked companies Ticketbastard sold my name to in a similar way by noting all junk mail addressed to Stesfanie Nepf [also not my last name].)
For anyone not familiar with the Solutions catalog, I want to describe it as essentially SkyMall for the non-traveler, as it is equal parts "Now why would anyone need that?" vs. "Hm. That's actually a pretty good idea." I settled on that description before I found Hammacher Schlemmer, however, and I've since realized that the true levels of extravagance and absurdity found in Skymall are matched only by H-S, not by the far more practical counterpart from whom I've actually placed an order.
I have strayed a bit from my original Christmas-shopping theme, but I will quickly now veer back. Courtesy of the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog, I present to you the gift guide to end all gift guides. If money is no object, if your list includes that special someone who already has everything, then I am here to help, courtesy of my friends at H-S. Here we go.
- First up, we'll start with something marginally practical. Do you know someone who lives in a slightly shady, unsavory neighborhood? Are the thugs in that neighborhood easily deceived by tiny, essentially meaningless blinking LEDs? Then this faux security camera might be just the thing he or she needs. Unfounded feelings of safety come at a price, my friends, and in this case, that price is a mere $59.95.
- What if you're looking for a more traditional gift? Perhaps you want to recreate the Biblical magic taught to Christian children the world over. In that case, the original Christmas gift just might be the gift for you. That's right; you can get chunks of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, all packed in a keepsake wooden box, for the ever-so-reasonable price of $69.95. Order now; I'm sure these babies will go fast.
- Know someone with a near-empty rec room that's just waiting to be filled with an over-the-top conversation piece? Is that someone also a fan of mid-80s Tom Hanks movies? Then the classic animatronic fortune teller Zoltar may be the perfect gift for him or her. Frankly, for $8,999.95, I'd expect it to come with more than 23 potential fortunes, but who am I to judge the true value of Zoltar's magic?
- The Clear Image Night-Vision Monocular is apparently the perfect gift for boaters, campers, hikers, astronomers, and nature hobbyists, but to me it just calls up images of the ever-disturbing Jame Gumb. I sincerely hope you have no would-be Jame Gumbs on your list, but if by chance you do... don't tell me.
- The Back-Saving Child Hip Seat seems the perfect gift for newly posture-impaired parents. Forget that awkward leaning; just strap a shelf around your midriff, prop your toddler on, and go. Unfortunately, due to the apparent popularity of this item, it is currently sold out. Expect to see these on parents everywhere in the coming months, I presume...
- I personally hit a bowling alley approximately once to twice each year. (Since I was just there last Friday, I think I'm set for quite a while.) I'm guessing, however, that there are people out there with an unfightable urge to bowl, and perhaps those people can't be bothered to actually leave the house to find some lanes that aren't monopolized by league play. For just $6,999.95, the at-home Arcade Bowling Game can be theirs.
- Know anyone who thinks pulling out a laser pointer in an unsuspecting crowd is still amusing? If so, have they found ordinary laser pointers to be just not annoying enough? Well good news--you can get one with a five-mile range, for just $159.95. Whoo.
- Let's move on to culinary items and housewares, shall we? I've actually found several fine items in this department, so you can take your pick. For the lazy camper who loves s'mores but can't be bothered to twirl their marshmallow stick themselves, the marshmallow rotisserie might be just the thing. Also, I think Nabbalicious shares my disdain for novelty single-purpose kitchen appliances, but I'm too lazy to search her archives for the appropriate related post right now. Regardless, I think she and I would agree that the pop-up hot dog cooker is very wrong on many levels, but if it's right for someone you love, then who am I to judge? Finally, I have one more item to point out in this category before I move along. If you're particularly picky about your butter temperature and consistency and neither the fridge nor the cupboard meets this need, then perhaps the cordless temperature-controlled butter dish deserves at least a look.
- I found several other appliances as well... appliances that might be particularly well suited to anyone with fond memories of college dining halls or an affinity for the Old Country Buffet dessert bar. That's right: you can get a professional rotary waffle maker just like we had at Hilltop Cafeteria, or an automatic soft-serve ice cream maker that presumably rivals the best sundae bars. Frankly, I'm hungry just thinking about it, and I'm sure both would make fine gifts.
- I know this is getting pretty long, and I intend to wrap things up pretty quick. I can't forget the perfect gift for Guinness Girl, though. GG, fill this goblet right on up to the top and then tell Wilman, "What? I only had one glass!" I've got your back, GG, and if I knew your precise address, I would send one of these post-haste.