11/30/2013

"Beyond the Box" Gift Ideas for Any Occassion


Tired of the same old selection of gifts from the same old selection of stores?  Surely I can't be the only one who recognizes the irony of trying to shop for unique/meaningful/personal gifts at big-box stores that tailor to uniformity? 

One solution is to shop via novelty catalogs - except that novelties that appeal to one person on your list rarely appeal to anyone else.  (Also, I have a pretty low tolerance for "gag" gifts, the staple of too many novelty catalogs - they're funny for about a minute, after which they just become a waste of money.)  Another solution is to shop at quirky small businesses: this can be wonderfully rewarding, except that it's getting difficult to find these types of stores anymore.  A third option is to create homemade gifts, which is a lovely alternative ... if you have that kind of time. 

Over the years I've enjoyed challenging myself to identify gift options that go "beyond the box" - or at least "beyond the big box store".  The following list pulls together a number of my more successful inspirations.  If you have other ideas for unique gifts, please share them in the comments section below - can always use new ideas! 
  • Baskets/kits.   Two reasons baskets/kits make great gifts: (1) you can customize them to suit all ages, genders, interests, special needs, and budgets; and (2) they allow you to combine many small gifts, which is often easier than coming up with a single "big" gift idea.  Indeed, this is such a versatile idea, I've devoted a whole separate post to lists of possibilities.  Yes, there are companies out there that specialize in making these, but I suggest you consider taking the initiative and choosing a selection of items that your giftee will find meaningful and useful.
  • Storage. Almost everyone could use more storage. What woman couldn't use one of those hanging jewelry holders for sorting/storing their bling? What man can't find a use for a bucket caddy for their tools? What apartment dweller wouldn't be grateful to receive a compact gift-wrapping storage solution? (Need ideas? I recommend the Container Store website.)
  • Pets. It’s a risk, but under certain circumstances, pets can make a lovely gift.  Aquariums/fish bowls are relatively low maintenance (betas are the lowest maintenance of all); alternatively, you might consider hamsters, birds, hermit crabs, butterflies ... even colorful frogs. When my sister moved into her first “solo” condo (no roommates), I gave her a fish in a bowl, just so she would have someone to talk to when she came home. She’s been thanking me for years.
  • Plants. If a pet seems like too much, what about a plant? An indoor herb garden or mushroom farm for a cooking friend? An exotic plant for their house or office? A bonsai tree for someone who needs a little inner peace? Even friends with brown thumbs will have trouble killing a terrarium.
  • Subscriptions. Give the gift that lasts all year: a subscription to a movie service, television service, or magazine. A 6-month subscription to Netflix, for instance, is surprisingly inexpensive. If they’re a sports nut, perhaps a year-long subscription to a sports cable channel might be appreciated. And don’t diss magazines as cheap: once you look beyond the drug store display, you discover that there is a whole universe of high-quality specialty magazines out there, covering almost every conceivable interest.
  • Tickets. Do you have any local entertainment venues? Check their upcoming events and consider giving the gift of tickets. Because shows are one of those things people tend to cut from their budget when things get tight … imagine how much pleasure your giftees will derive from being able to attend something special without having to feel guilty about spending the money!
  • Life-long Learning. Sign them up for a class to learn more about something they’ve always wanted to do: arranging flowers, woodworking, decorating cakes, using photoshop, decorating cakes, playing piano, ballroom dancing, sewing, tennis, singing, creative writing, etc. Because you’re never too old to enjoy learning.
  • The Gift of Nostalgia. Give the gift of memories: take the time to track down an item that will remind them of their history. If you know them well, pick something that reminds them of the town where they grew up (a book, a calendar, a framed photo). If you know them less well, consider a gift that will evoke the decade in which they were teenagers - a collection of music, movies, food, or books representative of the decade. Finally, there are lots of "the year you were born gifts" to consider: everything from gorgeous leather-bound original copies of the front page of the New York Times from the day they were born to those ubiquitious "The Year You Were Born" books in stores like Hallmark.
  • Books. There’s a book out there for everyone, even folks who don’t like to read. Simply make a list of things that interest your giftee (travel? hobby? geneology? crafting? zombies? politics? humor?) and head to your local book store to see what’s available. If your giftee is a bookworm but you don’t know what they have, consider an autographed book by a favorite author or a “theme” gift comprising books that all have something in common: they’re all funny, or romantic, or related to a particular period in history. Don't forget to look in the "book accessories" section either: often book stores carry a selection of book lights, lap desks, blank books, and bookends that work as gifts in and of themselves.
  • Ties. No, I don’t mean those awful ties sporting snowmen, tikis, or bikini-clad women. You’d be surprised at the number of online companies offering high-quality ties with designs that tastefully, subtly “nod” to any number of hobbies/passions. For instance, I recently bought my history buff son a tie imprinted with scenes from the Breaux tapestry depicting the Norman conquest, and a colleague of mine in the science department has a whole collection of science ties (periodic table, DNA, molecules), and a lobbyist relative of mine enjoys ties with a patriotic theme.
  • Teeshirts. Again, not talking tacky (though sometimes tacky can be fun). You’re a quick internet search away from tasteful, witty teeshirts appealing to every imaginable career/passion/hobby/age/predilection. (A search on "literary teeshirts", "video game teeshirts" or "Dr. Who teeshirts" is probably all it will take to direct you to an appropriate website.)
  • Framed share of stock. Pick a company that your giftee would find meaningful and buy them a single share of stock, suitable for framing. I once bought my husband a single share of Home Depot stock, in recognition of the time and money he’s spent there in the process of restoring our home.  Now, every time he treks back to the store to pick up something he forgot to buy, he at least has the satisfaction of knowing he's boosting his own dividends!
  • The Gift of Generosity. In their name, donate to a cause that they are passionate about. Various online charities will allow you to donate to animal shelters, poverty relief, war relief, environmental protection, and other eminently worthy causes.
  • Umbrellas. This may sound like a bit of a dud, but think about it: can anyone have too many umbrellas? Even if you have one for the house, you could always use another for the car, and still another for work .... These days you can choose from a wonderful selection of styles, from dashing Burberry-plaid brollies to whimsical "raining cats and dogs" models for toddlers. FYI, golf umbrellas make a great gift for mothers with small children - they're large enough to provide cover for two!

 
 
 
 
 

11/19/2013

Book Look - Team of Rivals, by Doris Kearns Goodwin


Just – wow! Admit I approached this enormous volume with some trepidation – could even a subject as vast and fascinating as the life and death of Abraham Lincoln hold my interest for so long? The answer is a resounding yes! This riveting and superbly-told tale of Lincoln’s life and political career not only held my interest: it kept me up nights, pinned me at home on beautiful weekend afternoons, and had me turning down invitations for lunch so that I could bolt down my food while reading.

Obviously, Doris Kearns Goodwin is a wonderful storyteller. But it helps that her protagonist is such an extraordinary individual. Over and over again I was amazed by Lincoln’s wisdom, his decency, his patience, and his extraordinary political acumen. Goodwin’s intent here, it’s pretty clear, is to focus on the latter of these attributes. While most Americans know of Lincoln’s moral courage, his social legacy, and (of course) his exemplary oratorical skills, few (I’m betting) fully appreciate his political genius. Over and over again he pulls political miracles out of his hat – extracting victory from defeat, forging unforgeable compromises – armed with little more than an unwavering moral compass, an encompassing empathy, humility, patience, and a seemingly endless stock of jokes, puns, and folksy anecdotes. Few anecdotes illustrate his politicla genius as clearly as the fact that he staffed the major posts of his new cabinet with political rivals …. or that, in time, those same rivals became his most adamant supporters.

I thought I had a fairly good background knowledge of Lincoln’s life and his administration, but by the end of the second chapter I jettisoned this misconception. Goodwin’s scholarship is as exceptional as her storytelling skills. Scarcely a page passed without exposing me to some startling new bit of information, constantly enhancing and challenging my preconceived notions.

There are so many lessons here that I wish modern politicians would embrace: do the right thing for the right reasons, no matter how unpopular; always allow your political opponents to save face; invite – don’t avoid (or worse, squash)- dissenting opinions; compromise always trumps conflict; and, above all, always put the good of the nation above your own personal ambitions. Alas, since our politicians seem to be too busy doing the wrong thing for the wrong reasons, humiliating each other, squashing dissenting opinions, seeking out conflict, and placing their own interests above those of the country, perhaps it’s up to us U.S. citizens to absorb the lessons from this book on their behalf and then let them know the standards against which we intend to hold them accountable!

I don’t give out many 5 star ratings, but if I could give this 6 stars, I would. This is one of those rare volumes that has permanently changed the way that I view our country, our political system, our destiny, and – above all – the potential of ordinary Americans to accomplish extraordinary things.

11/17/2013

Gift Ideas for Everyone on Your List! 150+ Gift Basket Ideas


Christmas gift giving time again?  Struggling to come up with ideas for everyone on your list?

If you're having trouble thinking of one big gift, consider instead a basket full of smaller items based on a theme.  Baskets can be customized to suit every gender, every age, and every passion imaginable.  Think of that "hardest to buy for" person on your list ... bet you'll still find a basket idea below to suit!

Tips for a great gift basket:
  • Stick to practical/useful things.  Gag gifts are funny for about a minute, then they're just a waste of money. 
  • Shop online.  You'll find the widest, most unique selection of basket stuffers there.
  • "Basket" is a relative word.  If at all possible, choose a container that relates to the theme. 
And now, here are some ideas to get you started ....

  • Food baskets
    • Chocolate basket.  Chocolate fountain (or fondue set), chocolate foodstuffs (chocolate covered fruits, nuts …), gourmet hot chocolate mixes, chocolate tart shells for filling with whatever!, chocolate “bottles” filled with liquer
    • Wine & cheese basket. Wine, glasses, decorative wine stoppers, wine pairing book, wine glass charms, cheese cutting board, selection of crackers & cheeses
    • Cocktail party basket. Cocktail accessories (shakers, stirrers), book of cocktail recipes, novelty cocktail napkins, drink straws/umbrellas, specialty cocktail glasses, The Drunken Botanist (book)
    • Beer & bacon basket.  Specialty beers (especially craft beers), bottle top opener, beer bottle cozies, bacon recipe book, specialty bacons, bacon salt
    • Foodie basket. High-end cookbooks/cooking magazines, exotic ingredients (jams, spice mixes, etc.), unique kitchen gadgets, dishes, glasswear
    • Crockpot basket.  Crockpot (use as basket), crockpot cook books, novelty soup and spice mixes, potholders.
    • Food for busy people basket. Quick cook-books, kitchen implements that speed up time-consuming task, 1-2 ingredient mixes (soups, breads, cookies, etc
    • Diner basket.  Diners, Drive-ins and Dives book, diner food recipe book, plastic food baskets, red/white check tablecloths, paper straws, malted milk mix (for milkshakes), plastic swords (for skewering your sandwiches/burgers)
    • Other food basket ideas
      • BBQ basket
      • Bread basket (bread, scone, and cracker mixes)
      • Breakfast foods basket
      • Campfire cookery basket
      • Coffee basket
      • Comfort foods basket
      • Fall flavors basket
      • Gluten-free basket
      • Coffee basket
      • Cheese basket
      • English Tea basket
      • International basket (foods from a specific country)
        • English pub food basket
        • French cuisine basket
        • German wurst basket
        • Kiss Me, I’m Irish basket
        • Italian basket
        • Indian food basket
        • Mexican meal basket
        • Russian food & vodka basket
        • Spanish tapas basket
      • Jellies, jams and apple butter basket
      • Manly foods basket
      • Pasta basket
      • Spices of the world basket
      • Soup basket
      • Spring/summer/winter/fall foods basket
      • U.S. Cuisine basket
        • Cajun basket
        • Country cooking basket
        • Maine seafood basket
        • Midwestern basket
        • Tex-Mex basket
      • Vegetarian basket
  • Hobbies/Passions
    • For the birds basket.  Bird feeders, hummingbird feeders, birdseed, bird ID book, binoculars, birdsong identification CD 
    • Very superstitious basket.  Tarot cards, palmestry book, horoscope book, incense, magic stuff (book of card tricks for adult; Harry Potter stuff for child), rabbits foot, lottery ticket
    • So you want to be a writer book.  Writers Market (latest version), fountain pen, moleskin journal, coffee, magnetic poetry set, thesaurus
    • Jigsaw puzzle basket. Jigsaw puzzles (regular, 3D, solve-a-mystery), rollable jigsaw puzzle mat, jigsaw puzzle glue.
    • Family photography basket. Frames, albums, photo paper for printers, specialty lenses, tripod, selfie stick, book about photography, subscription to photography magazine
    • Aspiring writer basket. Moleskin notebooks, engraved pen, dictionary, portable tape recorder,  style guide, books on how to get published, subscription to writing magazine
    • Green Thumb baskets.  Garden utensils, gardening gloves, gardening stool, garden stakes (for identifying plants), garden "bling" (statues, birdbaths, garden orbs, etc.), hand lotion (for gardening-roughened hands!).  Even better, customize the basket by including materials to create one of the following:
      • Butterfly garden basket
      • Cooking herbs basket
      • Fairy garden/terrarium basket
      • Gardening tools basket
      • Hydroponics gardening basket
      • Perennials bulb basket
      • Vegetable garden basket
    • Craft baskets.  I won’t bother with separate lists for these because you’ll find everything you need at the appropriate craft outlet.  Instead, I’ll list craft basket ideas – pick one your giftee will enjoy!
      • Cake decorating basket
      • Calligraphy basket
      • Candle-making basket
      • Card-making basket
      • Christmas crafting basket
      • Flower arranging basket
      • Geocaching basket
      • Jewelry-making basket
      • Mosaic basket
      • Needlework basket (sewing, cross-stitch, embroidery, quilting)
      • Origami basket
      • Pottery/sculpting basket
      • Scrapbooking basket
      • Sketching/painting basket
      • Woodworking basket
    •  Baskets for other hobbies & passions
      • Dog-lover/cat-lover basket
      • Fishing basket
      • Hiking basket
      • Hunting basket
      • Historical era themed basket (Civil war, Victoriana, regency, medieval, 1950s, etc.)
  •  Sports
    • Baseball basket. Score tracking book, peanuts, Baseball Atlas, baseball 365-day calendar, tickets to a game, coaching clipboard/whistle/stopwatch
    • Bicycling basket.  iphone handlebar holder, water bottle, pedometer, sunscreen, fanny pack, travel bike repair kit
    • Let’s get Physical basket.  Pedometer, pass to local gym, exercise log, yoga or exercise mat, arm weights
    • Tailgating basket.  Tailgate grill, tailgating recipe book, tailgating games, favorite team gear (banners/pennants, shirts, scarves, foam fingers, blankets, etc.)
    • Other sports baskets
      • Football basket
      • Soccer basket
      • Basketball basket
      • Golfing basket
      • Bowling basket
      • Ice skating/skiing basket
  • Literature related baskets
    • Book Lovers basket.  Book-themed book bag, Bookopoly board game, 1001 Books to Read Before You Die (book), bookends, book light, library card-themed socks (or pillow), book-themed notecards/postcards, old book-scented candle.
    • Curl up with a good book basket.  Fuzzy blanket, fuzzy slippers, book support (holds book open), book light, bookmarks, mug + hot chocolate selection, glasses case
    • Bard basket.  Collected works of Shakespeare, Shakespeare artwork cards, BBC performances on DVD, "Will Power" teeshirt, Shakespeare insult accessories (coffee mug, bandaids), Shakespeare bobble-head.
    • Jane Austen basket.  Jane Austen books (one or more, preferably in some sort of pretty binding), Jane Austen action figure (yes, there really is such a thing!), Jane Austen accessories (jewelry, notecards, teeshirts, calendars), Various film adaptations on DVD, books about Jane Austen, books featuring Jane Austen characters (but authored by others)
    • Harry Potter basket.  Hogwarts and/or quidditch apparel, Hogwarts cloak, wand, Hogwarts-themed stationary items (cards, notebooks), Harry Potter-themed confections (ex: Bertie Bott's Every-Flavored Beans, Chocolate frogs), full set of Harry Potter books, butter beer recipe
    • Other book theme baskets
      • Humorous books basket
      • Romantic books basket
      • Pirate books basket
      • Vampire books basket
      • Travel books basket
      • Poetry books basket
      • History books basket
      • Crime solvers book basket (with Sherlock Holmes hat for verisimilitude!)
      • Lord of the Rings basket
      • Favorite author basket (Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Chandler, Dickens …)
  • Getting Away from it All baskets. 
    • Camping/outdoors basket.  Handwarmers, carbiners, wool socks, headlamp, national/state park pass, book of campfire recipes, book of hiking trails, hiking stick, tree identification guide
    • Dinner & a movie basket.  Movie tickets, restaurant gift card, popcorn & specialty salts, movies on DVD, fuzzy blanket.
    • Night on the town basket.  Entertainment book (the one with all the local coupons in it), book about local attractions & road trips, gift cards/coupons/groupons to restaurants, travel flash for booze of choice, bowtie and cologne (if for man), earrings & shawl (if for girl)
    • Picnic in the park basket.  Picnic backpack, groundcloth and/or picnic table tablecloth (consider the ones with elastic around the edges, so they don’t blow away in the wind), picnic foods cookbook, travel dishes/cups/cutlery, food storage containers
    • Anglophile basket.  Earl Grey tea, printed tea towels, scones mix + clotted cream, books about England (British history, British monarchs, British pubs …), Burberry scarf (or umbrella), Union Jack accessories (flag, handbag, apron …), DVD of some ineffably British production (Downton Abbey? Bridehead Revisited?)
    • World travel basket.  Electric outlet adaptors for foreign countries, passport satchel (stores your passport safely beneath your clothing), guidebooks/phrasebooks/maps, luggage organizers/straps/tags, neck pillow for airplane, power strip (because hotels never have enough power outlets), travel valuables safe
    • Life’s a Beach basket.  Beach towels, waterproof iSpeakers, beach cooler, disposable waterproof camera, beach umbrella, sunglasses
    • Road Trip basket.  Road trip books/magazines, road atlas (large print atlases are easier to read!), road trip board game, car cooler, road trip music CD, road trip food, listings of local events
  • Lifestyle baskets
    • I Live in My Car basket.  Hands-free cellphone holder, lighter port extension cord, lighter port plug adaptor, lighter port-powered cooler, novelty car storage, car trash can 
    • Portable Businessman basket.  Portable projector, business card holder, business card scanner, portable printer, laser pointer, international plug adaptors, power strip, extension cord, multi-USB port, portable power backup device, portable hard drive, USB drive
    • "Pimp My Closet" basket.  Novelty hanging storage (for shoes, sweaters, purses, scarves, belts, shoes, hats), novelty hangers (for skirts, slacks, lingerie), clothing storage bags, cedar chips
    • Word Lover basket.  Scrabble, crossword puzzles, books about words,
    • Alma Matre basket.  A selection of items representing their favorite university: shirts/sweatshirts, scarf, cups/glasses/mug/flask, throw rug, lanyard, bumpersticker, keychain, Christmas tree ornament  
    • Hanging out on the Deck/Porch/Patio basket.  Fairy lights, all-weather pillow, plastic dish/cup set, potted flower, side table
    • Sleep Tight basket.  Cozy pajamas, fuzzy slippers, furry throw rug, pillow, white noise machine, body pillow, book light
    • Favorite brand basket. What brands are they loyal to? Disney, Coca-Cola, Nintendo, John Deere, Jordans, Harley-Davidson, Starbucks, NPR, Hallmark, Oreos, Aeropostale, NFL, BBC, Dairy Queen? Create a basket of themed items around their favorite.
    • New Age basket. Crystals, incense, tarot cards, books about new age topics, new age music, windchimes
  • Baskets for men
    • Manly man basket.  Include: man-food (beef jerky, sunflower seeks, nuts, specialty beers), Car air fresheners, Flashlight, He-man movies, Tools (multi-purpose tool is always fun!), Art of Manliness handbook, Manly underwear, Shop towels
    • Mad men gift basket.  Include: Good brandy + glasses, hip flask, cigars, bar guide, bar tools, cuff links, monogrammed handkerchiefs, shoeshine kit, cologne, wool scarf.
    • Home repair basket.  Hammer, screwdrivers, superglue, duct tape, WD40, tape measure, level, C-clamps, plastic binder ties, staple gun, magnetic wristcuff (for storing nails).
    • BBQ basket.  Include BBQ recipe book, BBQ grill accessories (spatulas, tongs, brushes), meat thermometer, wood chips (for adding flavor), meat thermometer
  • Baskets for women
    • Mani-pedi basket.  Manicure set, Fingernail polish, fingernail polish pens, fingernail dryer, creams & lotions for softening feet/heels
    • Romance basket.  Romance movies, romance books, scented candles, romantic music (on CD or USB drive), bon bons, mini-bottles of liquor
  • Baskets for teens
    • College survival basket.  Quarters + Laundry soap, novelty school supplies, basic tool kit (for simple repairs), basic sewing kit (for simple repairs), white board/cork board combo, composite picture frame or album (for displaying pictures of home), toga
    • Dorm room food basket.  Hot plate for warming up water, selection of instant foods, bottle/can cozy, can opener + bottle opener, washing-up supplies (small, for use in bathroom sink), Energy drinks/shots
    • New driver basket.  Tire gauge, registration folder, emergency car repair kit + book, hula girl for dashboard, car air freshener, book about simple car repair, hands-free cellphone interface, local maps
    • Music basket.  itunes gift cards, headphones/earbuds, ispeakers, drumstick pencils, music-themed jewelry/clothing
    • Science geek basket.  Novelty science teeshirt, science-themed accessories (science mugs, math formula clock, etc.), science books, science jewelry (periodic table cuff bracelet, DNA earrings), subscription to science magazine, Big Bang Theory merchandise
    • Video game basket.  Video games, video game guides, subscription to video game magazine, extra controllers, video game storage, bags of junk food + energy drinks (for quick energy during long battles), video game teeshirts/posters/novelty items
    • Other gift basket ideas for teens
      • College booster basket
      • sorority/fraternity basket
      • gift card basket
      • Starbucks basket
  • Baskets for kids
    • Glitter basket.  Glitter glue and/or glitter in jars, glitter pens, glitter paper, glittery clothing, rhinestone setting machine, glitter accessories (you’ll find these in craft, toy, or office supply stores)
    • Army man basket.  Army suplus store goods: canteen, hammock, etc., army cap or helmet, camo garb and/or backpack, entrenching tool, plastic army men (with fort, of course), customized dog tags
    • Career basket (nurse, veterinarian, etc.).  Costume related to the career, accessories related to the career, toys related to the career, books related to the caree
    • Summer fun basket. Waterguns, sparklers and poppers, pinwheels, wiffleball set, frisbee, inflatable swimming pool
    • Old fashioned toys basket.  Wood building blocks, simple musical instruments, slingshot, marbles, jacks, chess/checkers, hobby horse
    • Sleepover basket.  Novelty sleeping bag, pillow, novelty pillowcase, Ouija board, deck of cards, flashlight, novelty PJs, novelty slippers, popcorn
    • Baking basket. Baking mixes (muffins, cakes, cookies), frosting, baking with kids cookbook, aprons, kids’ mixing utensils, measuring cups, cookie cutters, decorating supplies.
    • Scouting basket. 
    • Electronics Maker basket. Erector sets, other building sets, robotics kits, simple motors, solar panels, wire, batteries
    • Woodworking Makers basket.  Wood scraps, dowels, nails, exacto knife, hammer, handsaw, C-clamps, Gorilla glue, tape measure, woodshop/tool guide, whittling knives, project idea book, toolbox, safety glasses
    • Collection kickoff basket.  Every kid loves collecting.  Why not get them started with a collection-kickoff basket?  Following are some of the more popular collectibles:
      • autographs
      • baseball or other trading cards
      • book series
      • charms
      • coins 
      • comic books
      • figurines (animals, nutcrackers)
      • fossils
      • fountain pens
      • keyrings
      • matchbooks
      • music boxes
      • politican memorabilia
      • postcards
      • rocks/minerals
      • snow globes
      • stamps
    • Other baskets for children
      • Art supplies basket
      • Astronomy basket
      • Card game basket
      • Cheerleading basket
      • Dr. Seuss basket
      • Dress-up basket
      • Fairytale basket
      • Favorite animal basket (puppies, kittens, frogs, horses …)
      • Favorite book basket
        • Winnie the pooh basket
        • Harry potter basket
        • Paddington bear
        • Nancy Drew
        • Anne of Green Gables
        • Percy Jackson basket
        • Alice in Wonderland
        • Captain Underpants
      • Lego basket
      • Magic basket
      • Train basket
  • Other
    • Fireplace basket.  Pinecone fire starters, decorative wood matches (the long ones specifically made for starting fires), decorative fireplace grill or screen, log carrier (for bringing in wood), utensils for cooking over fire (toasting forks, etc.), chemicals that turn your fire different colors
    • Retro basket.  Foods/candies from their childhood, CD or USB drive full of music from their childhood, favorite movies from their childhood on DVD, book commemorating the decade they were born in, newspaper from day they were born, retro holiday decorations (so evocative of childhood!)
    • Rainy day basket.  Jigsaw puzzles, movies on DVD, activity books (crosswords, Soduku), tea/coffee, umbrella (boring ones are everywhere; why not go online and buy something more fun?), deck of cards + book of card games, cozy socks, coloring posters + markers, harmonica
    • Emergency Preparedness basket. Solar/crank-powered radio, flashlight/batteries, water purifiers, collapsible water storage, sterno, lighter/matches, whistle, dust masks, can openers, garbage bags, parachute rope
    • Sharknado basket.  Shark-themed DVDs (Jaws, Shark Week), book about sharks, shark mug (the one with the shark on the bottom cracks me up), stuffed shark, shark oven mitt, Sharky’s Diner vintage children’s game, shark tooth necklace, gummi sharks
    • Warm Wishes basket.  Warm PJs, warm slippers, fuzzy blanket or throw (electric?), wool socks, kit for winterproofing windows & doors, space heater, fuzzy scarf/gloves
    • Gift Wrapping basket. Wrapping paper, gift bags, tissue paper, curling ribbon, bows, gift tags, scissors, transparent tape, card-making set
    • Family game night basket.  Selection of board games, snacks, playing cards, poker chips, pad and pencil for keeping score
    • Tech support basket.  USB stick drive (novelty shapes are everywhere: animal shapes, Star Wars shapes, etc.), SC cards, printer ink, recharging cords/adaptors, rechargeable batteries, keyboard cleaning kit, waterproof ipod case, USB hubdog, iPhone/ipod stand
    • Office Supply basket. Useful supplies to have around the house (staplers, tape, scissors), novelty office supplies, variety of post-it products (tabs, arrows, etc – wonderfully useful!
    • Tiki basket.  Tiki candles/torches, tiki cups + drink umbrellas, book of tropical drink recipes, tiki decorations (string lights, etc.), dried tropical fruits + macademia nuts, retro tiki surfboard postcards/notecards, retro tiki teeshirt
    • Zombie apocalypse preparedness basket. Seriously … Amazon carries dozens of zombie-themed gifts, including: Zombie Survival Guide, other zombie-related books (something new or the mother of them all, The Serpent and the Rainbow), zombie survival playing cards, zombie license plate holder, baseball bat
      •