Christmas & Holiday Gift Guide for your Wife, Girlfriend & other Important Women in Your Life | 2014 Edition

Each year I put together some holiday and Christmas gift guides for the people in your life.  Wendy wrote the first one and here is my first one; a holiday and Christmas guide for the women in your life.

Wendy is hard to shop for.  She never makes a list until it’s too late and doesn’t really crave a whole bunch of things which makes Christmas (and birthday) shopping hard.  In case your wife is awesome like Wendy but hard to shop for, here are some Christmas gift ideas to consider.

Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Star K Heart Shape 8mm Love Pendant Star K Heart Shape 8mm Love Pendant

The alluring Original Star K Heart Shape 8mm Love Pendant, crafted in 925 Sterling Silver. This beautiful design is set with 1 Heart Shape stone prong set , 1 stone prong set colorless Round Cubic Zirconia. This product measures 8 mm wide, 18 mm long and is a great looking while affordable necklace and pendant.

iPod Nano 16gb

Why would you get her a iPod Nano when she probably has a smart phone.  Two reasons.  Smartphones tend to fill up with apps and if you have a 8gb or even a 16gb iPhone, she may not have enough room to have much music on it.  The second reason is that she may have an Android or a Blackberry meaning that managing your music with iTunes is a pain in the neck.

Apple iPod Nano

An iPod Nano gives her 16gb of storage in an extremely compact package.  It may not do everything that her phone or an iPod Touch does but it plays her music really well at an affordable price.

Big Jambox

Wendy has always loved music and has always wanted a massive stereo system.  Since we have a small home, the dream has never come true.  Lucky for Wendy there are some excellent compact speaker systems as options. Here are a few of them.

I have traditionally recommended the Bose Wave home audio system.  It provides legendary sound, is $499 but has fallen behind the times.  It bugs me that even with the new version you have to add an optional and costly Bluetooth receiver to stream music wirelessly from your iPod.  Yet if the women you are shopping for still prefers CDs to iTunes, it is probably the best audio system you can get for her.

For the iPod/Android crowd, I am suggesting you get her a Big Jambox.

Jambox Big Jambox Speakers

The Big Jambox turns any mobile device (phone, tablet, media player, computer) into a portable, hi-fi sound system that wirelessly delivers amazingly clear, full audio at any volume.

Faux Mink Throw Blanket

Help keep her warm this winter with a faux fur blanket.  Perfect for outdoor, watching TV. Stay warm this winter and feel great with this faux fur throw. Unbelievably soft and plush. Dynamic decor piece to throw over a couch or chair, it serves as a fashionable, functional accent piece. Perfect blanket to cuddle up on a chilly evening without any of the guilt and cost of using real mink fur.

Olympus E-PL7 16MP Compact System Camera with 14-42mm Lens

Olympus PEN E-EL7 camera

I bought Wendy an Olympus PEN last year and she loved it.  Over the year we added a couple of lens (I recommend the Olympus 40-150mm, the Olympus 45mm f1.8 (Wendy’s favourite lens), the Sigma 19mm, 30mm and 60mm prime lens) a new ThinkTank sling bag, and some other gear.   The result was we took a couple of thousand photos over 2014 and had a great time together.

The advantage of a mirrorless camera system like Micro 4/3 system (which is used by Olympus and Panosonic) is the size of the cameras and the lenses.  It means in practical terms that you take this camera places you would not take a DSLR.  With 16 megapixel sensors, good (but not amazing) low light sensitivity (if you want great, you need a Sony A7s), you get amazing photos that you can enlarge to almost any size.

If you want something small but with a traditional DSLR form factor, take a look at the Olympus OMD E-M10 for $750.

Canon T5i with 18-135mm lens

If she is looking for more traditional DSLR, then look at the Canon Rebel T5i with the 18-135 lens.  She will be impressed at how simple it is to create breathtaking photos with ease. The incredible image quality and performance starts with an 18.0 Megapixel sensor and Canon’s DIGIC 5 Image Processor. A continuous shooting speed of up to 5.0 fps allows for fast action capture. 9 cross-type AF focus points help ensure crisp focus throughout the frame, and the Hybrid CMOS AF system enables speedy and accurate autofocus when shooting in Live View mode. In addition, the camera is compatible with Canon STM lenses for smooth, quiet AF performance.

You get full HD video, the ability to plug in a shotgun or lavaliere microphone, and access to the enormous Canon EF-S lens family.  You can get a kit with a 18-55mm lens but for the extra $200, the extra range of the 18-135mm lensis worth it.

Teardrop Terrarium
This is a fun gift.  It is an Air Plant with clear glass hanging terrarium wide with glass bottom. Kit includes pebbles, moss, glass globe and air plant.  The kit is a great addition to any room at any price.
 
Speaking of gardening…
 

The Gardener's Garden

The ultimate garden book – both a collection of gardens from around the world and a resource for those seeking inspiration on garden design and planting. Featuring over 250 permanent gardens by leading garden designers, horticulturalists and landscape architects, from the 14th century to the present day, and covering all key types and styles of garden, this well‐illustrated compendium combines images, text, key information and captions for each of the featured gardens, appealing to both amateur and professional gardeners, as well as garden designers.

Samsung Chromebook 

Samsung Chromebook

Samsung’s Chromebook laptop has been deemed by many to be a success. Lightweight, inexpensive and practical as everything operates off your Google Drive, the Chromebook is great for any career woman on the move.

Chromebooks are great if you are comfortable with using Google Apps but if she is the type that wants to do more with a computer, check out the Acer Aspire E-11 Netbook.

Acer-Aspire-E-11-Netbook.jpg

It runs Windows 8.1, has 2gb of RAM, and is totally silent as it is cooled passively.  No fans means no noise.  It’s only $200, runs iTunes, some games, Microsoft Office (or Open Office).  An amazing netbook for the money.

Jean Dubost Laguiole 3-Piece Cheese Knife Set

Jean Dubost Laguiole 3-Piece Cheese Knife Set is a great holiday gift for anyone who loves hosting a great dinner party and doing so in style.

This set of cheese service knives includes a spreader for soft cheeses like Montrachet a serving knife for Gruyere and Gouda and a cleaver for hard cheeses such as Parmigiano. Sparkling stainless steel handles carry the signature logo of the Laguiole ‘Bee’. A wooden gift and storage box completes this gourmet set.

 
Gold Pendent
Initial jewelry is all the rage. The 14k Gold Circle Disk Letter "A" Pendant showcases a simple yellow-gold design. Resting from an 18-inch cable chain is a gentle yellow gold disk. A capital letter is engraved in the middle of the disk, to personalize the pendant. The simple design is a jewellery box must-have for accessorizing a day-to-day look. A wonderful gift for the holidays.
 
Fast and convenient, the AeroPress Coffee and Espresso Maker makes one of the best cups of coffee you’ll ever taste. This innovative uses the ideal water temperature and gentle air pressure brewing to produce coffee and espresso that has rich flavor with lower acidity and without bitterness. It makes 1 to 4 cups of coffee or espresso (enough for 1 or 2 mugs), features a micro filtered for grit free coffee, and takes just 1 minute to make coffee (actual press time takes only 20 seconds).  It’s the number one selling coffee press on Amazon for a reason.
 
Aeropress Coffee

Bose QuietComfort 15 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones

Wendy works full time and then has to come home to a household of two sons and me.  In other words she puts up with days that make mine seem like a meditation retreat.  Give your wife a break from the chaos with these noise cancelling headphones.  If you are on a budget, check out the Sony MDR-NC7 Noise Cancelling headphones for about $40 or JVC HANC250 Noise Cancelling Headphones for about $120.
 
Sennheiser HD202 Headphones
I leant Wendy my noise cancelling headphones for a flight to Winnipeg.  She never gave them back.  She will love a pair of great sounding headphones.
 

I’m a Mom…
 

I'm a Mom

She’ll love this mug.

Timex Women’s "Ironman Traditional" Sport Watch

Timex Women's Ironman Traditional Sport Watch

Wendy has sensitive skin and watches irritate her horribly.  So when I gave Wendy this Timex Ironman watch, she had some serious doubts over whether or not she could wear it.  A year later, she is still wearing it every day.  Because the watch and band are all one piece, it is an incredibly comfortable watch to wear.  Because it is from Timex, it takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’. 

 
The R H Forschner by Victorinox Chef’s Knife features an 8-inch blade that is 2-inches wide at the handle. High carbon, stainless steel blade is hand finished at Victorinox in Switzerland by skilled craftsmen. A special tempering process is used to produce an edge that can be resharpened over and over again, so the knife can keep its original sharpness throughout the entire life of the blade.
 

Victorinox 8-inch Chef's Knife

If you are looking for an entire knife block set, check out the Zwilling J.A. Henckels 7-pc Knife Block Set for $120 which is almost $150 off.  The set includes an 8-inch chef’s knife, a 5-inch serrated utility knife, a 4-inch paring knife, and a 2-1/2-inch peeling knife, as well as a sharpening steel and a pair of shears. All components fit within an 11-slot hardwood block, which offers four extra slots for future knife acquisitions.  She’ll love it. You’ll love it.  You’ll pass them on to your kids.
 
 
It brews the perfect cup of tea every time.  It is the most efficient, simple and clean way to steep tea. Simply add tea and water at the correct temperature, then put the tea maker on your favorite mug to drain.
 
Teavana Tea Steeper
 
 
WKRP in Cincinnati
 
Like most people with a sense of humour, Wendy is a huge WKRP in Cincinnati fan.  Join everyone’s favorite radio DJs—the rockin’ Dr. Johnny Fever (Howard Hesseman) and the soulful Venus Flytrap (Tim Reid)—as they weave through the inner-office antics of the crazy WKRP staff; including the station’s program director Andy (Gary Sandy), indecisive manager Arthur (Gordon Jump), advertising executive Herb (Frank Bonner) and, of course, the station’s lovely receptionist, Jennifer (Loni Anderson). So sit back and enjoy the sound of uproarious laughter as you watch all episodes of this iconic series.
 
Of course the reason why it was so long of wait to be released was the hassle in obtaining the rights for the original music.  This set has 90% of the music in the set.  The missing music is the music industry being, well the music industry.
Hamilton Beach Breakfast Sandwich Maker
Forget the fast food drive-through. With the Hamilton Beach Breakfast Sandwich Maker, you can enjoy a hot, homemade breakfast sandwich in under 5 minutes. Simply place the ingredients inside, build the base of your sandwich in the bottom layer, place the egg on the cooking plate and close the lid. Slide the cooking plate out and your sandwich assembles itself. Open the lid and your hot breakfast sandwich is ready to eat. The included recipe book provides a variety of breakfast sandwich options, from the traditional egg, ham and cheese to the unique cheddar, apple, bacon and egg croissant sandwich.
 
 
I have a Nike+ Fueband and when I use it, it works great.  It has been supplanted in both men and women’s minds by the FitBit Flex activity tracker.  It tracks steps, distance, and calories burned and shows you how you’re stacking up against your daily goals. At night, it tracks your sleep cycle, helps you learn how to sleep better, and wakes you silently in the morning. Access your stats anytime on your computer, tablet or from leading smartphones – both iPhone and Android.
 
In the age of tablets, Kindles often get relegated in our minds.  If you are buying for a serious reader, there really is only one option and that is a Kindle.  Wired gave it’s predecessor the Kindle Paperwhite a score of 9/10 which is the highest score they have ever given.  Then they come out this year and say the Kindle Voyage is even better.
 
Kindle Voyage
Here is what you want to know: Yes, the Kindle Voyage is better than the Kindle Paperwhite. It’s thinner, faster, brighter, lighter, newer, has a better screen, has more memory (4GB vs last year’s Paperwhite’s 2GB) commands more magical elf armies, owns a Ferrari, and is nicer to your grandmother.

iRobot Roomba 880 Vacuum Cleaning Robot For Pets and Allergies

iRobot Roomba vacuum

The iRobot Roomba 880 is the ultimate high performance robotic vacuum cleaner. Featuring the revolutionary new AeroForce Performance Cleaning System and AeroForce Extractors, it’s proven to remove up to 50% more dirt, dust, hair, debris and harmful allergens from all floor types and is virtually maintenance free.

Of course the best part of this gift is that it saves you and her time, time that you can spend together.

If you are looking for cooking, baking, or ideas for the foodie, check out Wendy’s Christmas & Holiday Gift Guide for the Cook which she posted over at The Cooking Blog.

The JordonCooper.com Christmas Gift Guides

So there you go.  I assume I have forgotten, many, many ideas so let me know what I have forgotten the comments below.  You can check out the other Christmas and holiday gift guides while you are at it.

Journal of a new Cobra Recruit

Hilarious

June 18, 1986

Boot camp’s still a lot of fun. And I’m learning a lot. Today we did more mental learning stuff than exercise. We received a lecture about our main enemy, the G.I. Joe team. Seems that Uncle Sam is so nervous about COBRA that he set up an elite team of soldiers just to try to fight us. I couldn’t be more proud. I had no idea I was signing on with a bunch that was this important. I guess the Joes have stopped us at pretty much everything we’ve ever tried to do. But believe me, is that going to change now that Steve Loring is a member of COBRA!

Sarge said all kinds of funny things about how dumb the G.I. Joe team is. Like, they just have one person who’s good at each thing they do. So they just have one guy who can fly a plane, and one guy who knows how to drive a tank, one guy who can fly a helicopter, one guy who can fight in the desert, and so on. They even have a whole aircraft carrier (for their one plane and one helicopter) with just a captain and one sailor to run it! Sarge was like, “What the heck kind of outfit is that?” and we were all just in stitches. Then this one recruit (I think it was Renfro, but I didn’t get a good look at his eyebrows) says, “But if they’re so dumb, how come they always beat us?”

Sarge made Renfro go out and run around the track and yell “COBRA!” for an hour.

June 20, 1986

Real boring day. I was all ready for some more physical training, but instead Sarge led us into a room full of phones and made us cold-call people and ask them if they wanted to switch their long distance to COBRA. During the break, Renfro asked Sarge when we became a long-distance provider. Sarge explained that we had to do something to make money if we were going to afford a private army with hundreds of tanks and planes and a Terrordome, not to mention all the expenses from the Serpentor genetic engineering project. Working the phones was demoralizing, and people were usually pretty mad when we called them, but it felt good to be doing my duty for COBRA. In between calls, I amused myself by thinking of cool one-liners I could say if I ever got the drop on one of those G.I. Joe bums.

June 21, 1986

Awful exciting day today. First we got to do our airborne training. They loaded us up into a plane, and we flew up and then jumped out. Our chutes had the big, scary COBRA symbol on them. It was awesome. But it was hard, because we were supposed to keep yelling “COBRA!” all the way down. It was tough to get enough breath to yell right at first. Sarge says it just takes practice.

After that we finally got to do weapons training. About time! They gave me a rifle and pointed at the target. I held the rifle up to my cheek and sighted down the barrel, just like I did when I went deer hunting with Grampa. Boy, did Sarge go apeshit over that! Got in my face and started yelling at me, asking how I expected to scare someone if I just stood there all quiet-like and shot so carefully. Sarge is a great teacher because he doesn’t just criticize. He showed the right way to shoot. What you do is you start shooting your gun wildly and run towards the target as fast as you can and, in your scariest voice, you yell “COBRA!” We worked on that all afternoon, and just before we broke for dinner, I actually hit the target! Sarge and everyone else were so happy for me that they were about to cry. Told me I’d just set the record for marksmanship in COBRA boot camp. I wanted to call Mom and tell her the good news, but she thinks I work for the phone company.

Of course later he becomes a hardened vet.

June 11, 1987

Another whirlwind day. I found out that Renfro, a buddy of mine from boot camp, is also stationed here at the ‘Drome. That made my day! We had breakfast and caught up—his jaw just about dropped through the table when I told him about the day we had the Joes on the run, only to be stymied by the sudden appearance of Sergeant Slaughter. (Who knew that a pro wrestler would be so devastating in combat? I hate the team he fights for, but that Sergeant Slaughter is a true warrior. He’s a gallant foe, worthy of my steel, and, across the gulf of war, I salute him.) Renfro’s assigned to one of the gun crews on the roof of the complex. He says it’s OK. He sees a lot of action, because Joe planes are always buzzing us and he’s ordered to take potshots at them. That’s fun, he says, but not very satisfying, because he’s almost positive that the Joes in the planes can’t hear him yelling “COBRA!”

After breakfast, I reported for my first duty shift as a guard in the War Room. Should be quite an education. Lieutenant Boyken says I have to stay sharp, because we get Joes invading the compound about once a week. Man, those guys burn me up. Someone really oughta do something about them.

June 19, 1987

Ugly day in the War Room. Today I saw an operation fall completely apart. The Commander and Destro had this great plan where they could infiltrate America by starting a chain of fast-food restaurants called Red Rocket. Unbeknownst to the public, the giant red rocket on the top of each franchise would actually be a real missile, and all the restaurant employees would be undercover COBRA troops. (Major Bludd was excited about the additional revenue the Red Rocket joints would provide; COBRA’s long-distance-phone arm is having an off year, and our operating budgets are way down.) Of course, those darned Joes somehow twigged to the plan, and the whole thing came crashing down. It was pretty disheartening to see the COBRA brass arguing about where the project went wrong. Destro was so upset he even broke protocol and called the Commander “fool” a couple of times. I could tell the Commander was hurt by this, but, being the great leader he is, he wisely understood that it was just Destro’s passion for the mission speaking.

June 24, 1987

Got one of my fondest wishes granted today when I was ordered to stand guard in a conference room where the COBRA brain trust was having a strategy meeting. Wow, what a gathering of the minds. The Commander, Destro, Major Bludd, the Baroness, and Dr. Mindbender, all throwing out ideas. It was fascinating, just watching the process. They talked for hours and hours, mostly about reviving the Serpentor project; the Commander and Destro were getting pretty hoarse by the end. There was a fridge full of sodas in there, but those two couldn’t drink through their masks. Poor guys. I can relate; same thing happens to me all the time with my uniform mask. Nobody said COBRA was easy.

Through the meeting, Dr. Mindbender kept glancing over at me … I think he was winking, but it was tough to tell because of his monocle.

June 28, 1987

We sure seem to have a lot of ninjas on the COBRA payroll.

July 4, 1987

DISASTER. I was back in the War Room today, standing guard during the afternoon shift. Major Bludd was using the giant telescreen to talk to the COBRA satellite crew when suddenly the wall exploded and a whole mess of Joes came running in.

We fought ‘em hard. I was squaring off with that silly sailor they keep on the team, the one who brings his parrot into battle with him. I pretty much had him on the ropes, because he insisted on fighting with a pirate pistol and a set of grappling hooks. That’s no match for a laser rifle and a good set of lungs to yell “COBRA!”

But then this huge guy in a Chicago Bears jersey runs in, swinging around a giant iron football. He’d knocked out a couple of the boys before I recognized him: William “the Refrigerator” Perry! I’m ashamed to say this, but I turned and ran. I remembered what the Fridge did to my Packers last September, and I’d be darned if that was going to happen to me. Everyone else must have been thinking the same thing, because we all retreated, and the Joes have possession of the ’Drome for a little while, at least. Dang it! Why, Fridge, why?

So now we’ve retreated back to COBRA Island, and everyone’s hard at work figuring out how we’re going to get even with those rotten Joes. I’ll leave the planning to the brain trust, but you’d better believe that, whatever they come up with, I’ll be right on the front line yelling “COBRA!”

Return to sender?

University of Chicago receives incredible package for Dr. Indiana Jones and would like to identify its sender.

Package for Dr. Indiana Jones

What we know: The package contained an incredibly detailed replica of “University of Chicago Professor” Abner Ravenwood’s journal from Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. It looks only sort of like this one, but almost exactly like this one, so much so that we thought it might have been the one that was for sale on Ebay had we not seen some telling inconsistencies in cover color and “Ex Libris” page (and distinct lack of sword). The book itself is a bit dusty, and the cover is teal fabric with a red velvet spine, with weathered inserts and many postcards/pictures of Marion Ravenwood (and some cool old replica money) included. It’s clear that it is mostly, but not completely handmade, as although the included paper is weathered all of the “handwriting” and calligraphy lacks the telltale pressure marks of actual handwriting.

What we don’t know: Why this came to us. The package does not actually have real stamps on it— the outside of the package was crinkly and dirty as if it came through the mail, but the stamps themselves are pasted on and look like they have been photocopied. There is no US postage on the package, but we did receive it in a bin of mail, and it is addressed to the physical address of our building, Rosenwald Hall, which has a distinctly different address from any other buildings where it might be appropriate to send it (Haskell Hall or the Oriental Institute Museum). However, although now home to the Econ department and College Admissions, Rosenwald Hall used to be the home to our departments of geology and geography.

If you’re an applicant and sent this to us: Why? How? Did you make it? Why so awesome? If you’re a member of the University community and this belongs to you or you’ve gotten one like it before, PLEASE tell us how you acquired it, and whether or not yours came with a description— or if we’re making a big deal out of the fact that you accidentally slipped a gift for a friend in to the inter-university mail system. If you are an Indiana Jones enthusiast and have any idea who may have sent this to us or who made it, let us know that, too.