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Christmas Gift Guide for the Men in Your Life | 2015 Edition

It’s Wendy again.  I am here to write and publish this year’s inaugural Christmas Gift Guide on jordoncooper.com.  As is custom around here, this is for all of the men on your holiday check list.  So whether you are shopping for a husband, boyfriend (hopefully you aren’t shopping for both), father, kids, or friends, I’ve got gift ideas for all of the men in your life.

Audio

Does anyone use CD’s anymore?  We don’t.  If we do get them, they are immediately ripped and then imported into iTunes to be played on our iPods.  From there they are played via Bluetooth.  So here is a selection of portable Bluetooth devices that will sound amazing anywhere that you bring them, even if the guy you are shopping for loves to play Bon Jovi.

Amazon Echo

Amazon Echo is designed around your voice. It’s hands-free and always on. With seven microphones and beam-forming technology, Echo can hear you from across the room—even while music is playing. Echo is also an expertly tuned speaker that can fill any room with immersive sound.

Echo connects to Alexa, a cloud-based voice service, to provide information, answer questions, play music, read the news, check sports scores or the weather, and more—instantly. All you have to do is ask. Echo begins working as soon as it detects the wake word. You can pick Alexa or Amazon as your wake word.

Think of it at Siri for your home… or for you Iron Man fans out there, it’s getting close to what Jarvis is.

Amazon ECHOAmazon ECHO

Bose SoundLink Bluetooth Speaker III

Bose SoundLink Bluetooth Speaker III

The SoundLink Bluetooth speakers are among the most popular — if not, the most popular — portable wireless speakers in terms of sales.   I have listened to it a couple of times while out and about this year and they sounds amazing while filling a room beautifully.  Not only that but if you bring them on the road with your or even just into the backyard, they have a 14 hour battery life.

  • Purchase at AmazonHouse of Marley Chant Portable Bluetooth Audio System 

    House of Marley Chant Portable Bluetooth Audio System

    Jordon has wanted one of these for a while.  This spring he went out and bought one.  It is battery powered (charges via a USB cable) and is a constant companion.  It is small enough to toss in a bag on a road trip which makes travelling a little more pleasant.  If you are buying for a road warrior or just someone who likes to chill outside while listening to music, this is a great gift idea.

  • Purchase at AmazonLogitech UE Mini BoomLogitech UE Mini Boom

    This is what The Wirecutter says about the Mini Boom

    This is the second year in a row that we’ve picked the Mini Boom as our top pick, but it’s the first time I’ve personally heard it. As an audio reviewer with a quarter century of experience, people often ask me what portable speaker they should get. It’s a difficult question to answer because they come in so many styles and sizes, and widely range in price, but the Mini Boom makes it easy.

    There’s so much to like about it and so little to dislike. In fact, if all my stuff disappeared tomorrow, the Mini Boom and our home Bluetooth pick would be the first audio products I’d buy. It plays about as loud as a large flat-panel TV set, and because it’s only about the size of half an orange, it’s easy to take almost anywhere. It sounds good enough that you can hear almost every element of a music track, from the cymbals all the way down to the lowest notes on a guitar (although maybe not the lowest notes on a bass).

    I have always thought of Logitech in terms of mice and trackballs.  Then Jordon went out and got a set of Logitech surround sound speakers for our television and I was surprised at how good they sound.  They had a way better sound than our soundbar and in 5.1 Dolby surround sound.  This little speaker has won a lot of awards and a lot of acclaim.  Logitech may not have the name that Bose does but it is a third the price and the sound quality is worth it.

  • Purchase at Amazon

Electrohome Archer Vinyl Record Player Classic Turntable Stereo System with Built-in Speakers

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Backed by over 100 years of manufacturing high-quality audio products, Electrohome is pleased to introduce the Archer Turntable Stereo System: a fully automatic turntable with built-in speakers housed in a 60s-style suitcase that blends vintage charm with twenty-first century convenience.

Enjoying the classic style of a retro 60s turntable doesn’t mean you have to miss out on 21st century convenience; play songs from your smartphones, tablets, or USB flash drive using the system’s AUX and USB input. For private listening, simply connect your headphones and drift away into the world of vinyl without disturbing a soul.

It’s also the gift that keeps giving you gift ideas. From speakers to vintage records, there will always something you can keep adding to this gift.

Now on to headphones for those times when you don’t want to listen to what they are listening to.

Sennheiser HD 202 II Headphones

Sennheiser HD 202 II Headphones

These amazing headphones are the #1 best selling over the ear headphones from Amazon and for good reason.  They are consistently rated as excellent.  The Sennheiser HD 202 II are closed, dynamic hi-fi stereo headphones. Good insulation against ambient noise and a deep bass response make them the ideal companion for DJs – or anyone who likes to listen to modern, powerful music without disturbing others. High efficiency drivers for maximum performance.   Jordon bought me a pair to replace my other Sennheisers that Marley chewed up.  What you notice about them is the sound but also how comfortable they are.  You can listen to them for hours.

  • Purchase at AmazonIn Ear HeadphonesDon’t let them keep using the Apple earphones that came with their phone.  Upgrade their in-ear headphones with Brainwavz Delta Red In Ear Earphones With Remote & Mic.

    Brainwavz Delta Red In Ear Earphones With Remote & Mic

    Never heard of them?  Here is what The Wirecutter has to say about them.

    If I wanted to buy a cheap pair of earbuds to replace the ones included with my mobile device, I’d get the Brainwavz Delta with Mic. After spending 32 hours researching literally hundreds of in-ear headphones under $40, then seriously considering 179 and testing 68 with our panel of audio experts (40 last time, 28 this round), we came to a decision: The Brainwavz Deltas are the best for the money. Our panel unanimously voted them the best sounding of the entire bunch, plus they fit comfortably in most ears and are a total steal.

  • Purchase at AmazonPanasonic RP-TCM125-A In Ear HeadphonesMy next suggestion is ones that we are big fans of around here and that is the Panasonic RPTCM125A Headphones Blue.  They were the winner last year on The Wirecutter and are runners up this year.  Here is why we love them.  The sound is excellent, the price is fantastic but they are so comfortable.  We have bought them for Mark and the advantage of getting these over more expensive headphones is that when the dog chews them, they get lost or stolen, it’s not the end of the world.  Great quality, comfortable, affordable price.

    Panasonic RP-TCM125-A In Ear Headphones

  • Purchase at AmazonComputersWe spend all of these hours in front of our computers and for many people. they are still using the same keyboard and mouse that came out of the box with their desktop or laptop.  Upgrade their computer with a new keyboard, mouse, or trackball.  It’s a great gift and his hands will thank you for it.

    Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard

    Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard

    If the guy you are buying for spends a lot of time in front of computer as a writer, photo editor, or coder, get him a keyboard that is better that what came with her computer.  Perhaps one of the best ones out there is the Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard.  It is split in the middle, has a nice touch and feel, and has a built in pad for your wrists.  Studies are inconclusive on whether or not they prevent carpal tunnel but they are a lot more comfortable to type on than a desktop or laptop computer keyboard.

  • Purchase from AmazonLogitech M570 Wireless TrackballLogitech M570 Wireless Trackball

    A trackball is something that so many people I know have loved as soon as they have gone to it yet it isn’t something that many of us are going to go out and get for ourselves.  One of these or a Microsoft Sculpt or Arc Touch mouse and the sculpt keyboard would be a great gift for any one who spends some time in front of a screen every day.

  • Purchase at AmazonLogitech HD Pro WebcamLogitech HD Pro Webcam

    Being seperated from family is tough.  So whether you are shopping for your husband, boyfriend, or father, treat them with a high definition webcam.  You can get one for them so you can benefit or get one and place it on your own computer so they can see you better.  Ideally you will both have one so you can have conversations in 1080p High Definition video.

    Breathtaking full HD 1080p calls on Skype, with the sharpest video-call picture available. 16:9 widescreen keeps you all in the picture. Easy HD 720p video calls on Yahoo! Messenger, Gmail Voice and Video Chat and most other favorite IM services.

    If he is still getting by on a 640×480 screen, upgrading to a Full HD webcam will make a world of difference.

  • Purchase at AmazonTabletsSo many of us have tablets now that we have even started to upgrade our older ones.  If the person you are shopping for has a tablet that is more than a few years old, it is time to upgrade it.  New processor, better battery life, and overall performance makes this upgrade a great gift.

    Amazon Fire 7” Tablet

    Amazon Fire 7" Tablet

    $49.99 for a tablet! Are you kidding me Amazon?  Despite the really low price, it has a Quad-core 1.3 GHz, 8 gb of storage (expandable of course), a VGA Front-facing camera + 2 MP rear-facing camera with 720p HD video recording.   As for battery life, it offers up to 7 hours of reading, surfing the web, watching video, and listening to music

  • Purchase at Amazon (where else?)Google Nexus 9” TabletGoogle Nexus 9 Tablet

    If the Kindle Fire is the best Android budget tablet out there, then here is the flagship, the Google Nexus 9.

  • 8.9” IPS LCD display with 4:3 aspect ratio constructed from Gorilla Glass 3
  • Dual front-facing speakers with HTC BoomSound
  • 8MP rear camera – 1.6MP front camera
  • 64-bit NVIDIA Tegra K1 Dual Denver @ 2.3GHz CPU
  • Micro-USB 2.0For the accept no compromises Android user out there, this is the tablet they want.
  • Purchase at AmazoniPad Mini 4Apple iPad Mini 4

     

  • Purchase from Apple

Give the gift of a great book this year.

The Generals: Patton, MacArthur, Marshall, and the Winning of World War IIDevotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship, and SacrificeBetween the World and MeDestiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker BushThe Betrayal: The 1919 World Series and the Birth of Modern Baseball 81 Days Below Zero: The Incredible Survival Story of a World War II Pilot in Alaska's Frozen Wilderness

Kenneth Cole Reaction Leather Messenger Bag

Kenneth Cole Reaction leather messenger bag

 

Upgrade his shoulder bag or backpack with a leather 4 inch double gusset flapover portfolio/ 15.4 inch computer case with pull through handle.  Stylish enough to take to work everyday and rugged enough to take with him on the weekends.

Fossil Card Wallet

Fossil Men's Bradley Slim Card Case

If he already has a great looking bag or maybe you are looking for something less expensive, check out the Fossil card wallet.  Jordon went to one of these a couple of years ago and he has loved it.  Low profile, fits in any pocket and carries enough cards and I.D. to keep you going while forcing you to ditch the other stuff that clutters up a wallet and weighs you down.

Timex Expedition Field Watch

Timex Expedition Field Watch

The Timex Expedition field watch were inspired by the field watches issued to soldiers during the first half of the 20th century and look great with a wide variety of get-ups. While there are more expensive name-brand versions out there, if you’re looking for a simple, yet handsome-looking watch, this is perfect.  You can spend hundreds on a field watch but it’s hard to beat the quality you get from a Timex Expedition for the cost you are paying.

Spend your hard earned money on other things with the money you save on this watch.

Outdoors

Nikon Travelite VI 8×25 Binoculars

There is always a pair of binoculars in Jordon’s day bag.  For years they have been a pair of Nikon’s because you can’t beat the quality of the optics for the cost and portability. Nikon Travelite 8x25 Binoculars

A rubber armored carbon fiber body offers lightweight and impact-resistant performance, and the contoured body with textured gripping surfaces provide slip-resistant handling, making the Travelite VI well-suited for sightseeing on vacation and glassing the ball field from the stands.  Reviewers in multiple publications have said that these are the perfect balance between power and weight with no compromises either way.

Gerber Ripstop I Knife

Gerber Ripstop I Knife

Jordon started to carry this in his pocket because he wanted something small and functional for work.  This fit the bill perfectly.   He has one for every day use and then he keeps packed and ready to go in his day bag.  He likes this knife because it is big enough to do what he needs it to do most days but small enough to fold up and fit comfortably in his front pocket.  It’s also small enough that when he pulls it out at work, no one goes, “HE’S GOT A KNIFE!”.  Instead they often go, “cool” and want to take a look at it.

Leatherman Skeletool CX Multi-tool

Get back to basics — the very cool basics — with Leatherman’s Skeletool CX.  It keeps weight and volume to a minimum while still having the tools he will need.

Leatherman Skeletool CX Multi-tool

Stanley Mountain Vacuum Coffee System

Stanley Mountain Coffee System

The thing that stops so many people from camping…the perception that they have to "suffer" out there and can’t enjoy the comforts of home. Instead, Stanley said, "Oh no, nobody goes without good coffee while camping…not on our watch!"

The entire system might look a little bit like overkill, but when you keep in mind the fact that the components are all useful for other purposes this system does far more than just make coffee.

First of all, they thought of everything with this kit. The bottom (outside) layer is the pot to heat your water, complete with latching pre-installed handle. Just give the small button a squeeze to lift it up or put it down. This layer is obviously a great pot for heating up your meals too, especially if you pre-pouched it and just need to reheat with a hot water bath. The next layer is the French press plunger, and yes, if you pour really, really carefully, you can strain other foods with it (like pasta) when you’re not making coffee. The next nested layer is the famous Stanley vacuum bottle, so basically you use your kit to make a whole pot of coffee and then pour it into the bottle to keep it hot. The lid that closes the bottle actually has a small twist off lid the store your coffee grounds, and the exterior lid twists apart to form two cups.

Gourmet coffee.  In the woods.  He’ll love it.

If he likes to cook and grill, check out these fun books for aspiring chef.

Big Bob Gibson's BBQ Book: Recipes and Secrets from a Legendary Barbecue Joint The Essential Guys' Cookbook by Company's ComingCompany's Coming Cooking With BeerEat Like a Man: The Only Cookbook a Man Will Ever NeedGordon Ramsay's Sunday LunchThe Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science

While you are at it, consider upgrading his grill.  The Weber Original Kettle Barbecue is the best selling grill on Amazon and is less then $100.

Eagles Nest Outfitters DoubleNest Hammock

Eagles Nest Outfitters DoubleNest Hammock

Light and compact enough for backpacking, yet robust enough for backyard luxury, the popular ENO DoubleNest Hammock sets up in seconds and has plenty of room for 2.

Moleskine Classic Notebook

Every man needs to keep a journal and this basic, yet classic Large Plain notebook is one that he will want to keep this thoughts and projects in. This reliable travel companion, perfect for sketches, thoughts and passing notes, has a cardboard bound cover with rounded corners, acid free paper, a bookmark, an elastic closure and an expandable inner pocket that contains the Moleskine history.

Sphero BB-8 Droid

Sphero BB-8 app enabled droid

This gift hits two big things in your guys life

  • It from the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie which if he is like most guys, is dying to see.
  • It’s a programmable robot which he wanted since Tomy released the Omnibot.

This is THE toy of the holiday season and is one that the entire family will get a kick out of.  If the guy you are shopping for still enjoys a remote controlled car, a drone, or just having fun, make sure you check out this gift and pick up one early, they won’t be around as we get towards Christmas.

  • Authentic Movement: Guide your BB-8 with a smartphone or tablet
  • Listens & Responds: BB-8 recognizes and reacts to your voice
  • Holographic Messaging: Record and view virtual holographic videos with BB-8
  • Autonomous Behavior: BB-8 has a mind of its own – explore the Star Wars galaxy together
  • Adaptive Personality: Your BB-8’s unique attitude and actions evolve as you interact

 

Adobe Photoshop Elements 14 | Corel Paint Shop Pro X8

Adobe Photoshop Elements 14Corel Paint Shop Pro X8

If he is a creative type and a photographer, get him some software that will fuel that creativity.  While the Adobe Creative Cloud is excellent, you have to pay for it monthly.  As an alternative Adobe has Photoshop Element and Corel has Paint Shop Pro 18.  Both will help him (and you) create your best photographs ever whether you are using a Nikon D810 or a iPhone 4.

Blue Microphones Yeti USB Microphone

Blue Microphone Yet USB microphone

If he is a podcaster or musician, check out the Blue Microphone Yet USB microphone.  It allows you to record just yourself, a conversation with two people or an entire room of people.  Great sound, solid design, and a lot of fun as he takes his first steps towards being an internet sensation.

Shure MV88 iOS Digital Stereo Condenser Microphone

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Another option for the aspiring radio star is this Shure microphone for any iOS device with a Lightning connector.  Compact enough to fit in a pocket and be with you anywhere at anytime.

  • Apple MFi certified compatible with all iOS devices equipped with a Lightning connector
  • Matched cardioid and bi-directional 1 cm cartridges for best-in-class audio
  • Mid-side architecture for a phase-perfect, clear stereo image
  • 5 DSP preset modes (Speech, Singing, Flat, Acoustic Instrument, Loud)
  • Automatically adjusts EQ, compression and limiting for optimal results
  • Innovative hinge/rotation design supports multiple recording angles, including video applications
  • Free ShurePlus MOTIV recording app featuring 24-bit/48 khz .wav (uncompressed) recording,control over DSP mode selection, microphone gain, stereo width, raw mid-side adjustments, wind reduction, capsule selection, Left-Right Swap, 5-band EQ and compression/limiting
  • All-metal construction engineered to withstand the most demanding recording conditions

 

Zippo Lighter

Zippo Lighter

Since 1932, Zippo has been making the finest and hardiest fire-making machine around. The Zippo is refillable, and nearly every part is replaceable, meaning the engraved metal casing given to your guy that will last just about forever.  Even if he doesn’t smoke, he’ll love having one.

Victorinox Swiss Army Knife

This is the knife that MacGuyver (and the Swiss military) made famous –

  • 2 Blades, 2 Screwdrivers, Wood Saw and other handy tools
  • Corkscrew, Reamer and Key Ring
  • Toothpick and Tweezers

Camper II Swiss Army Knife from Victorinox

Christmas-Gift-Guide[2]Holiday Gift Guides

Christmas Gift Guide for Teenage Boys | 2012 Edition

A couple of weeks ago search results looking for Christmas gift ideas started to appear so I knew it was time to dust off the Christmas Gift Guides and start on 2012’s.  As usual, I start with the kids and move from there.  If you have any idea or feedback, let me know in the comments.

Shopping for a tween or a teenager is hard.  Amazon suggests MacBooks, they all want $600 iPhone and if you get it wrong, they will hate you forever.  Welcome to shopping for a teenager.  Here are some ideas that are cool, won’t break the bank, and may actually inspire them.

HTC Desire CI have long been a fan of Virgin Mobile prepaid for teens.  You can control their data, their minutes, and if something goes wrong and the phone is lost, you aren’t hit with a massive phone bill or contract.  Everyone wins.  The HTC Desire C ($149) has the newest version of Android Ice Cream Sandwich, a 5 megapixel camera, and a sound system that is by Beats by Dre.  It’s only $149 upfront and you can either put that on their no-contract plan or go prepaid.  It’s not a Samsung Galaxy III or a iPhone 5 but for someone that is 12 or 13 years old, they don’t need a better phone than you.  If  you really want to spoil the kid, you can get them some Beats by Dre headphones ($149) to go with it but a more fiscally sound and responsible choice may be these highly rated and fairly inexpensive JVC Xtreme-Xplosivs headphones ($14.99).

Kodak Playsport video cameraWhile Kodak has fallen on hard times, it still makes a great little compact camcorder in the Kodak Playsport ($80).  It’s shockproof, rustproof, and waterproof to a depth of 10 ft. Since it is designed to be used on the go, it has built-in image stabilization to smooth out the ride. It also has a share feature making it easy to get the video onto YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.  If you want more stability from a manufacturer, check out the Sony Bloggie camera (or the Sport model).  All are great options for your young aspiring filmmaker.

Of course they will need some adventures to film.  Geocaching is extremely popular all over the world and Magellan has created the eXplorist GC Waterproof Geocaching GPS ($119).  It easily connect to the Geocaching.com User Community and perform "Send to GPS," create and sync Pocket Queries, and upload Field Notes. Pre-loaded with the most popular geocaches in the world.  Additionally, the product comes packed with common outdoor GPS features, such as waypoint creation, a worldwide base map, active tracking, and trip odometer.

If they are a gamer, chances are that they have grown out their Nintendo DS.  If they have, check out the PS Vita ($249).  With any gaming system it is all about the games and I am pleasantly surprised the amount of good looking games there are out there for the PS Vita (compared to the PSP).  There is Assassin’s Creed III ($39), Madden 13 ($25), or FIFA 13 ($39)

2012-ipodnano-product-initialWhile my son would love an iPod Touch ($299), I am not sure if any child needs to be online 24/7.  There is a great alternative in the new iPod Nano ($149), especially if the child you are shopping for is extremely active (or you want them to be more active).  The redesigned iPod nano now has a larger, 2.5-inch Multi-Touch display. It plays music and has Genius playlists and FM radio.  It has enough memories to watch watch movies and widescreen videos on the bigger screen. The iPod Nano tracks your steps, your runs, and burned calories and syncs to the Nike+ website to challenge friends. And with built-in Bluetooth technology, you can wirelessly connect to speakers, headphones, or car stereos.  While you are at it, you can add some amazing iHome rechargeable mini speakers as well.

If your child is a skateboarder, you may want to consider a Tony Hawk skateboard deck and kit.  I know what you are thinking, "What’s Tony Hawk a skater back when I was a kid?" and the answer is yes and somehow he is still skating and he is still pretty awesome… if you consider a 900 degree turn on a skateboard awesome.

If you teen is planning to do something awesome like that, you may want to get them a GoPro camera ($169) and a headstrap to record the madness/injury.

Sometimes the best technology and gifts are some of the most basic.  Binocular prices have dropped while the optics are still great.  A pair of compact Bushnell binoculars ($30) are perfect for a hike, some urban exploring, and compact enough to toss in a bag.  If taken care of, they will last a lifetime.

Canada at War: A Graphic History of World War II:  A visual look at Canada during World Ward II.

Canada at War follows the developments and setbacks, wins and losses, of a nation learning to stand up for itself in the midst of the most difficult war of the 20th century.

In graphic-novel format, fully illustrated and in full colour, Canada at War shows the growth of a nation’s army, navy and air force through movingly depicted triumphs and tragedies. From the disheartening losses at Dieppe and Hong Kong through the Battle of the Atlantic and the invasion of Sicily, it focuses on the human dimension of the key battles and decisions that ultimately swung the war in the Allies’ favour.

This poignant graphic account ends, after the victories of D-Day and Juno Beach and the liberation of Europe, with a final reckoning of the legacy these storied years have had on a country forged through war. Aimed at both adult and young adult readers, this very human history tells the stories behind some of this country’s most distinguishing military moments.

Christmas Gift Ideas and Gift GuidesIf I missed anything or if my suggestions made you think I was absolutely crazy, let me know in the comments. You can access the current edition and previous years list of Christmas gift guides here.

Christmas Gift Guide: Gift Ideas for Tween Boys | 2009 Edition

Well I don’t have a lot of experience in buying for tweens but Mark is officially one and I have put together a series of gift ideas that a nine year old boy would like.  A lot of friends have asked me what I was getting Mark and the kind of things he likes which is partly what this list is based on.  As a rule we spend about $100 on Mark for Christmas (gifts from me, Wendy, Oliver, Maggi and Santa Claus) and Lee spends a little bit more than that from him and Hutch so don’t think he is getting anywhere close to everything that is on this list. Since there are a couple of video games listed here, I’ll disclose that Mark has a Nintendo DS and we have a PS2 in the house so I won’t discuss many Wii, Xbox, PSP, or PS3 only games here.  You can find them at the links provided.

  • Backyard Baseball :: We have this game for Mark and he loves it.  We have a couple of sports games which has historically ignored in favor of the backyard version of the games.  The games are enjoyable enough to play that Wendy and I join in as well.  All of the Backyard games have simplified controls which is great for playing as a family.  Much taunting comes after you hit a homerun 186,000 miles or throw a zig zag ball. It limits the game play a bit but it makes it evens out the game play a bit for epic family series.
  • Backyard Football ::  Backyard Football 2009 offers 7 on 7 teams with wild arcade style power moves and comes loaded with current NFL Superstars as kids (at least one from every team). The game features new Pro Bowl and tournament modes, season play or single games, custom teams and players, un-lockables, and multiple levels. Outrageous game play and awesome power ups are mixed with authentic NFL action.  The cool thing about this version when you compare it to Madden is that Mark doesn’t have to know the intricacies of the Tampa-2 defense to win a game.

While you can get the Backyard series from Amazon.com, we picked up some of them at Wal-Mart for $10.00 a title.

  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days :: If you kid is like Mark, he has read the earlier books in this series already.  Mark is also at the age where the books of Jim Kjelgaard come alive.  You can find his classic trilogy, Big Red, Irish Red, and Outlaw Red on Amazon.com or at your local bookstore.
  • The New Way Things Work :: This is a classic book that has been re-released in an updated version.  A few items (parking meters and bicycle brakes) have disappeared into obsolescence, a few new ones have appeared (camcorders and airbags).  Either way I think it will fascinate a lot of growing minds.
  • Namco Museum for Nintendo DS :: Wow.  Pac-Man is back.  The game that defined my childhood can be mocked for it’s horrible graphics and dumb game play by my son.  Of course the plus side is that when we are at the lake and he has taken over my PSP, I have a game of his that I can play.  It also has a cooler two player mode than what we had a kid and now other DS players can hunt you down as the ghosts.  Maybe if Atari would have thought of this in the 80s, things would have turned out better for them.   Then again, the more I read about Atari’s history, a couple better games would not have saved them.
  • Aquarium :: We had aquariums growing up and Mark has had a great time with his pet goldfish and a beta.  Eventually it’s time for an upgrade and several pet shops and Wal-Mart have had small full features aquariums for under $20.  Just make sure you it has a pump and light.
  • Telescope and Binoculars :: Over the years we have bought Mark a beginner telescope and some binoculars for use up at the cabin and he has had a lot of fun using them.  The binoculars we bought for Mark were about $10 from XS Cargo and have been a lot of fun for him.  We have three pairs up at the lake and they get used for on hikes and for some bird watching.  They aren’t kids binoculars but aren’t anything that spectacular.  They serve two purposes at the lake, they are used for viewing from and for teaching Mark the importance of taking care of something (he did a great job).  The telescope we have up there is a pretty cheap one and not for serious viewing at all but on nights with a full moon, it does provide for some dramatic views.  Over the years I have bought Mark some cheap spy gear but within a couple of days, he wants the real stuff around.  Next year I hope to get him a compass and will do some map reading together.  I tend to be biased towards gifts that feed kids curiosity.
  • True Heroes Black Hawk Helicopter :: What can I say, Mark watches a lot of history channel and is starting to read some military history.  Some of my liberal friends like to chide me about Mark’s growing interest in all things military but we have had some cool and interesting discussions on Afghanistan, Iraq, and the ethics of military might.
  • Nintendo DS Internet Browser :: The Nintendo DS Lite Browser was co-developed by Nintendo and Opera and provides web browsing on the Nintendo DS Lite. The Opera browser software is stored on the Nintendo DS Lite cartridge, a memory expansion you can insert into the GBA slot.
  • Mark has all of the balls, bats, and gloves that he needs so I didn’t list anything here but I find that the strangest variations have become favorite toys.  Mark and I were in London Drugs last summer and I bought a Nerf Howler for a couple of dollars.  While he had lots of other football, this is the one that gets the use up at the lake.  Another thing that surprised me was that I bought Mark a cheap set of lacrosse sticks that have also been used again and again despite the difficulty in mastering them.
  • Mark was given a copy of Planet Earth: The Complete Series by the Reimers for Christmas and he loves it.  Not only does Mark love it but so do Wendy and I.  Its a series we will watch again and again and harkens back to the days of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom where the entire family gathered around the television to take in the sites and sounds of animals we came to learn a lot about.

Christmas Gift Ideas and Gift GuidesIf I missed anything or if my suggestion made you think I was absolutely crazy, let me know in the comments. You can access the current edition and previous years list of Christmas gift guides here.