Gift Guide 05
(MONEY Magazine) – Gift giving isn't just about what you give--it's about the person you give it to. Your spouse gets a considerably different gift than your receptionist (or so we hope). That's why MONEY's 2005 Holiday Gift Guide is organized by recipient. To find the best gifts, we asked chefs, gardeners, department store buyers and a slew of other pros what they're loving right now. Read on and see how, this season, it's personal.
Gifts for Friends
Sure, they're popular, but nothing says "we're not that close" like a gift certificate. A gift to a friend is a gift to someone you know, hopefully pretty well, and what you give him or her should reflect that. The gifts below speak to various personal pursuits, whether they're in the kitchen, in the garden or on the road.
1) Shell Games Caught up and down the East Coast, these Maine lobsters from Lobster Gram (which David Ross, chef at the Lake Lawn Resort in Delavan, Wis., swears by) arrive at your house alive, packed in Styrofoam coolers with cold packs and bubble wrap to keep the cargo from wandering. $95 to $235 LIVELOB.COM
2) Now Ear This The iPod is great. Its included earbud headphones? That's another matter. Logitech's Curve headset has comfy foam earpads and wraps around the back of the head, with added earclips to keep it secure. And like the iPod, the Curve has a certain sense of style: It comes in lime, graphite and clear. $30 LOGITECH.COM
3) Business-Class Bedding Hotel sheets range from sumptuous to sandpapery, so frequent travelers will appreciate this 100% silk sleeping pouch. A favorite of Anne McAlpin, author of the travel guidebook Pack It Up, the DreamSack can be cleaned by hand or machine and air-dries quickly. $72 DREAMSACK.COM
4) Green Thumb, Not Sore Thumb For serious and beginner gardeners alike, Rumford Gardener's Windsor Tool Set has comfortable rubbery handles and is made of die-cast aluminum, so the tools are both light and durable. "Gorgeous, but really practical too," says garden designer Jon Carloftis. $27 AMAZON.COM
5) Desktop Al Roker Weather stations used to have all the design appeal of a ham radio. Philippe Starck's Basic Weather Station, however, is as cool to look at (in a retro-modern kind of way) as it is to use. The forecaster can predict up to 12 hours of local weather, while the clock syncs with U.S. atomic clock data. $75 MOSSONLINE.COM
6) Global Kitchen Knives Knives for the holidays? Just make certain that you're giving them to a good friend. Recommended by chef Gary Leiser of Las Vegas' Steiner's Pub, this razor-sharp cutlery from Japanese maker Global has a different design from most Western knives: The blade has a V-shaped cross section, as opposed to a flat blade with a beveled edge. This creates a knife that's both sharper and more durable than traditional French or German models. $31 to $86 COOKING.COM
Gifts 101 FRIENDS If the invitation reads, "No gifts over $20," don't show up with a magnum of Krug--you'll come off looking obnoxious.
Gifts for Colleagues
Giving gifts in the workplace isn't the easiest thing to do. You want to express your friendship, but you don't want to give anything too personal, lest it be misconstrued. You also don't want to be too extravagant--a fancy gift could cause co-workers to wonder whether you're being paid a lot more than they are. Below, gifts that are creative, practical and always professional.
7) The Best Way to Revive Your Spirits Fine scotch glasses can go for as much as $60 apiece. Spiegelau's Single Malt Scotch Glasses, recommended by Virginia Philip, master sommelier at The Breakers hotel in Palm Beach, Fla., offer the same level of quality at a fraction of the price. Just like costlier versions, they have a flared lip that's used to enhance the taste of the liquor, as well as a centuries-old glassblowing tradition (Spiegelau has been making glasses since 1521). $40 for a set of six WINEENTHUSIAST.COM
8) The Best Liquor You've Never Heard Of There's been an explosion in super-premium vodkas and gins lately, but what's more impressive than some made-up European pedigree is good old American know-how. Tito's Handmade Vodka of Texas and Cascade Mountain Gin of Oregon taste great, says Russell Hibbard, owner of the Bamboo Room blues club in Lake Worth, Fla., and are more interesting than the usual overpriced rocket fuel. $18 to $25 TITOS-VODKA.COM or BENDISTILLERY.COM
9) The Write Stuff Architect and housewares designer Jack Arnold knows about form and function, which is why his favorite pen is from German maker Lamy. Most fancy pens cost a lot because of their decoration, not their writing ability. The Studio model has a sleek, modern look that does away with anything unnecessary. $70 to $125 LAMYUSA.COM
10) Time's Up Anyone who's had to set (and reset) a travel clock knows the frustration of fiddling with tiny buttons and dials at every new location. This 12-sided World Time Clock has a city from a different time zone etched on each side. Just roll it so that your local city is at the 12-o'clock position and you're all set, so to speak. $75 MOSSONLINE.COM
11) The Fuel-Efficient Flashlight Self-powered flashlights are great, unless you spend more time charging them than using them. The Dynamo Flashlight gives your wrist a break--wind it for 60 seconds and you get 20 minutes of light. Another nice touch: It uses LED bulbs, which never need to be replaced. $25 SHARPERIMAGE.COM
12) How to Be Heard Loud and Clear Cheap wireless headsets for mobile phones are, well, cheap, while expensive ones are often overkill. Plantronics' Explorer 320 Headset is just right. With one-touch controls, voice dialing and up to eight hours of talk time, it has a good set of features and an even better price. $70 PLANTRONICS.COM
Gifts 101 COLLEAGUE You give down the corporate ladder--not up. Giving a gift to your boss, unless he or she is a genuine friend with whom you socialize outside of work, may be perceived as brownnosing. Because it is.
Gifts for Her
You do enough practical things throughout the year with your wife (fix up the house, plan for retirement, make sure the kids don't kill each other). Why not take the opportunity this holiday season to be frivolously, needlessly indulgent? There's little below that she'll absolutely need, but there's sure to be something she'll absolutely love.
13) For Budding Shutterbugs Are there thinner cameras out there? Yes. Ones with more features? Sure. But Fujifilm's Finepix F10 is perfect for the casual shooter. It has excellent picture quality, great reliability and a simple menu system that's extremely easy to navigate. The F10 also offers 6.3 megapixels of resolution, a 3x optical zoom lens, a 2.5-inch display and a battery that's good for 500 shots. $399 FUJIFILM.COM
14) Obvious but Also the Best It has become almost boring to say, but it's also true: Nothing beats Apple's 4GB Nano. It weighs only 1.5 ounces, has a 1,000-song capacity and offers 14 hours of playing time between charges. The Nano is already one of the hottest gifts of the year--and for good reason. $249 APPLE.COM
15) Candles Never Had It So Good Inspired by Biedermeier designs and 19th-century lathe work, these candlesticks from jewelry designer and Chrysler Design Award winner Ted Muehling work with any tabletop setting. The collection includes 17 different models that can stand alone or grouped. Available in oxidized bronze or Sheffield sterling-silver plate. $240 to $910 per stick ERBUTLER.COM
16) A Whole New Light This handblown Bubble Lamp is made entirely of glass--the body, the base, even the shade. "It can fit both very contemporary and very traditional decor," says Emmanuel Plat, vice president of the Conran Shop in New York City, who found this lamp in France. Just don't put it in the kids' room. $595 CONRAN.COM
17) The Best Way to Mix It Up The KitchenAid mixer is a favorite of anyone who's serious about cooking. This Cook for the Cure Artisan Stand Mixer adds a charitable twist: $50 of the purchase price goes to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Plus, it's pink--not the usual industrial gray or green. Other Cook for the Cure products include utensils and food processors. $250 SHOPKITCHENAID.COM
18) How to Make a Stylish Exit In an era of low-cost airlines and long delays at security, a bit of luxury can go a long way. This all-leather collection from Aspinal of London includes two luggage tags, a passport cover, and a silk- and suede-lined travel wallet with compartments for all her travel documents. $160 ASPINALOFLONDON.COM
19) Chain of Jewels Set in antique metal, this fiery (and trendy) three-strand necklace from Liz Palacios blends glass beads and Swarovski crystals for a dramatic effect. "Multiple-strand necklaces are really feminine, and the red stones signal holiday," says Pamela Perret, fashion communications director of Nordstrom. "It's an easy way to dress up any outfit." $195 NORDSTROM.COM
Gifts 101 HER You see that mixer? It's great, isn't it? But it's only great if your wife has a serious and overt love of baking and cooking. If not, steer clear--you don't want to send her the wrong message.
Gifts for Him
Guys like to justify. Something can't just be great-looking or cool; it has to have this or that practical benefit too. Sure--whatever you say. The gifts below all satisfy the desire for something indulgent, as well as the need to explain that it's really smart to own one of these useful, commonsense items.
20) The Best Way to Pass the Bar Exam Soda-Club's Penguin seltzer maker does offer a practical benefit to any barkeep--he'll never be out of club soda--but its chief selling point is that it's so darn cool. A few pumps of the lever (which is the penguin's beak) adds a light fizz; a few more adds bigger, heavier bubbles. Depress another lever and, as if it had been designed by James Bond's own Q, a bottle magically appears from the back. $250 SODACLUBPENGUIN.COM
21) For Road Warriors, the Gift Is in the Bag Pricey luggage is a waste of money. Not only is it going to get banged up, but it can be a signal to thieves that you're carrying precious cargo. Better to go with what the pros use. Travel guide author Anne McAlpin recommends Travelpro's Crew5 Rolling Tote, which was designed by commercial flight crews. Big enough for a short business trip, it still manages to slide under most seats. $150 TRAVELPRO.COM
22) Lights, Camera, Easy In MONEY's last test of camcorders (May 2005), another Canon product scored high in every category--except ease of use. The new Canon Optura S1 has a much easier interface while still offering a perfect blend of performance and features. $799 CANONUSA.COM
23) Slim TV, Slim Price Flat-panel prices are falling, but not as fast as everyone would like: A 30-inch set can still cost around $2,000. This display is half that price, since it uses old-fashioned picture-tube technology (which many videophiles still say is better than plasma and LCD), but it measures only 20 inches deep--only a few inches more than some flat panels once they're mounted on a stand. $1,000 SAMSUNG.COM
24) Please Be Seated For New York City garden designer Alejandro Saralegui, one of the best things to see at the Wave Hill public gardens isn't a plant but a place to plant oneself. The garden's pared-down Wave Hill Chairs look like something out of the De Stijl movement and "would look great in any garden setting," he says. For $65, you can get the children's version and plop down next to the kids. $180 to $200 WAVEHILLSHOP.COM
Gifts 101 HIM The Wife Rule applies just as much to husbands. Unless he just, say, loves carpentry, a great tool kit could be considered as much a gift for yourself as it is a gift for him--and therefore not really a gift at all.
Gifts 101 HIM You generally want to avoid giving any sort of fitness or grooming product--it can give your husband (or anyone, for that matter) the impression that you think he is fat and/or ugly.
Gifts for Children
If you have kids of your own, you don't need this guide--they're going to let you know what they want. But if you're buying for a niece or nephew, or a friend's child, knowing this year's cool toy will instantly turn you into a superhero. Move fast, though--these playthings aren't going to be on shelves for long.
25) Everything and the Kitchen Sink If you didn't know, Dora is the queen of the three-year-old set. Her Talking Kitchen features music, sound effects and bilingual (Spanish and English) phrases to boot. Toys R Us spokeswoman Kelly Cullen expects the kitchen to be in high demand: "Kids will love this because it has all the bells and whistles of a usual kitchen but they're also going on an adventure with Dora." Ages two and up; $80 AMAZON.COM
26) The Pen That Truly Is Mightier Than the Sword "This is a real George Jetson toy," says Stephanie Oppenheim, co-author of the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio, an independent buyer's guide. The Fly Pentop Computer is a talking pen that can recognize what it has written. Draw a calculator and, by tapping on the numbers, the pen will compute the answer. It will also play a drawn piano and translate words into and out of Spanish. "Tweens really love it," says Oppenheim, "and they're really hard to please." Ages eight and up; $100 FLYPENTOP.COM
27) The All-Singing, All-Dancing Robot "When we demonstrated this toy in our stores, it flew off the shelves," says Kelly Cullen of Toys R Us. Zizzle's iZ (pronounced is) is a red, green or blue robot that is also a DJ; twist and turn iZ's body parts to create your own music mix. Watch as his eyes and horns groove to the beat. Extra cool: Plug in a music player and he becomes a funky desktop speaker. Ages five and up; $40 TOYSRUS.COM
28) Brain Candy Kids can play games on the run with the Leapster L-Max or plug it into the TV for more options--write a letter on the screen, for instance, and it appears on the TV in an animated story. "It's all educational games, but for the kids, it's a video game, so they'll play with it and learn at the same time," says Toy Wishes magazine editor Jim Silver. Games teach preschool through fourth-grade skills. Ages four to 10; $100 LEAPFROG.COM
29) Building Blocks Get an Upgrade Magnetic construction sets were all the rage last year, but they were geared for an older user--most had parts that were too small for tots to use safely. Guidecraft's Magneatos uses larger parts that let younger children practice their architecture skills without running the risk of swallowing the pieces. Sets start at 36 pieces of magnetic fun. Ages three and up; $30 GUIDECRAFT.COM
30) Return of the King Furby, a computerized talking doll, stormed the toy market in 1998 and went on to sell more than 40 million units. Today's version has been significantly improved, with six times the memory of the original, notes Jim Silver. "The technology has grown by leaps and bounds." No longer just cute, Furby now speaks hundreds of words, asks questions, sings songs and dances. Ages six and up; $40 FURBY.COM
Gifts 101 CHILD One child's gift is one parent's nuisance. Dora's Talking Kitchen is a slam-dunk present, but it sure isn't silent, so check that Mom and Dad are okay with it before purchasing.