Tag Archives: Planet Earth

Christmas Gift Ideas for Your Wife (and mother of your kids) | 2009 Edition

Update: The 2010 editions of the Christmas Gift Guides for Your Wife / Girlfriend is now online.  Follow the link for more 2010 Christmas Gift Guides.

Wendy is the world’s hardest women to shop for and the suggestions from Amazon Gift Central just inspired sarcastic mocking comments.  Wendy asked me to put together a short gift guide for you clueless husbands out there who are like one guy I know who bought his wife a watch every Christmas for over a decade.  Of course there are the staples like jewelry, watches (unless you have done it every year for a decade), and more jewelry but if you are looking for something a little different, here is my list.

Of course before I get to the list, I need to tell you a story from Wendy.  Years ago she was working Christmas Eve at the Safeway on 8th and Cumberland.  In the morning it is really busy but by noon, it quiets down except for people running in for snacks for the road and people who have forgotten a few items.  Around 4:00 p.m. when the store was empty a guy comes in and desperately says, “Do you sell any jewelry that my wife would like?”.  Wendy was polite but wanted to suggest he just move out now as he is going to be in the dog house for a long, long time.

  • CBC Radio Retro Reporters Bag :: This has road tested for a year as I got it for Wendy last year and it is in still new condition.  Wendy uses it as a camera bag, diaper bag, road trip bag, and everyday running around town bag.  Made of durable cotton canvas with rugged adjustable strap. Small inside pocket. Two snap positions for smaller/larger contents.  Measures approximately 12″ high, 14″ wide and 3″ deep expanding to roughly 7″.  The only thing that Wendy didn’t like about the bag is that it snaps up and not zippers up.  That being said, she hasn’t lost anything out of it so it hasn’t been an issue and like I said, it stood up well.
  • iPod Touch :: Wendy never had any interest in having an iPod Touch until she started to play around with mine one night.  While the iPod Touch is pretty cool, she fell in love with the apps.  I like the idea that I can sync it up with Google Calendar and Google Contacts which means that Wendy and I are on the same page with our schedules and our phone books.  While we are a Yahoo! family, there is a great Yahoo! app in addition to great Dopplr, Flickr, Twitter, and other stuff that makes things like better. In addition to the practical apps, there are also some fun games that Mark loves when I am in meetings, waiting in the car while running errands or even heading to the lake.  It also has the amazing NFB app which allows you to download NFB videos and watch them later.  I can see it getting used a lot at the cabin.  While an iPhone is a great gift as well for the right person, not everyone wants to pay the extra for a Rogers/Fido/Telus/AT&T contract.  Regardless whether you get her an iPod Touch or a iPhone, she will be happy.
  • Nintendo DS Lite or Nintendo DSi :: I never really thought of this as a gift idea for Wendy but several women at work have one or want one.  When I brought it up to Wendy, she thought it was a great idea because of how easy it is for her to play against Mark and his Nintendo DS Lite which makes it into a great family gift.  Everyone is suggesting Brain Age but don’t forget the Namco Museum Classics.
  • I know Sarah Palin’s autobiography is a big seller right now but instead why not get her a book by someone that has actually accomplished something in life.  I recommend Madame Secretary by Madeleine Albright.  It’s a bit long but documents a fascinating time in American’s foreign policy where there was great achievements and big mistakes.
  • Don’t let the computer geeks in your life get all the cool toys, get her a Kodak Zi8 camcorder.  While at first glance all of these cameras are equal, Kodak’s Zi8 is really a step above in quality.  It has full HD 1080p video. You get sharper videos and less blur thanks to built-in image stabilization.  There are no cables to worry about–just swing out the USB arm to upload, share and charge.  You can share on Facebook and YouTube with ease–built-in software makes editing and uploading simple.  It is compatible with PC and MAC (Use with Apple iLife Suite of products) operating systems and is compatible with iTunes for syncing with Apple TV, iPhone and iPod Devices.  If you are looking for some other options, don’t forget the Flip Hino HD or the MoviePix HD (which I review here).  While it isn’t HD, I have grown to like the Coby Snapp camera.
  • Electric Fondue Set :: Wendy loves a good fondue (me not so much) but one of the problems is getting the heat settings correct with candles.  These electric fondue sets not only look cool but allow you to keep the chocolate/cheese melted without creating that wonderful burnt fondue smell.  If you want to stay old school, Jysk has a great 23 piece fondue set.
  • 10 Piece Chromium Frame Set :: If the person you are shopping for is a photographer, why not spoil her with his great 10 piece frame set.  Make sure you shell out and pay for her prints made as well.
  • Suddenly Sauna Foot Spa :: This comes from Bath and Body Works but it is a foot treatment that starts with disposable booties that slowly warm up when you add water to them.  Apparently women love them and they come with hand spas as well.
  • Wendy is legendary for taking my tools and never putting them back.  It drives me insane.  I have thought about booby trapping them but instead a better solution would be to get her a toolkit for herself starting with this designer toolbox.  Sadly you know that your tools will end up in here as well but at least they will be put away… someplace.
  • Sangean WR-11 AM/FM Table Top Radio :: CBC Radio and NPR sounds so much more profound coming from a wooden radio.  Speaking from personal experience, there is something about sitting around a radio on a hot summer day, sipping iced tea, while reading a good magazine.
  • While I am a fan of paper, have you thought of giving the gift of ebooks with a Amazon Kindle?  It’s only 10.2 ounces, lighter than a typical paperback.  It downloads books in Under 60 Seconds over the 3G Wireless network.  Despite that, you have no annual contracts, no monthly fees, and no hunting for Wi-Fi hotspots.  It’s battery can run for one week.  You still have to pay per download in Canada but at least we can get it here now.
  • If you don’t think they want a Kindle, how about Sony’s Digital Touch Reader? By supporting both industry standard formats, ePub and PDF, you can access books at Sony’s eBookstore, check out books from public libraries, access over 500,000 free public domain titles from Google, as well as sharing sites, online aggregators and personal publishers (Internet access is required).
  • 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 doWendy 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.  It’s a great way to spend an evening of together as a family (if she isn’t tired of you by then)

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.

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.