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The War

Guest Post: Christmas Gift Ideas for the Brother In Law | 2009 Edition

This is Wendy and this is what happens when Jordon doesn’t log out of his weblog and leaves me unattended.  Since Jordon handles most of our Christmas shopping, I don’t have to spend as much time thinking about Christmas gifts as Jordon does.  By far the hardest person to shop for on our Christmas list is my brother in law Lee.  Since he is an important part of our family and our Christmas, a great uncle to the boys, and the only family we have, we don’t just go through the motions.  So in honor of Lee, here is a list of Christmas gifts for those that are hard to shop for and my contribution to this site’s Christmas Gift Ideas.

Here is Lee’s profile.

  • He has a PSP Go, PlayStation 3, and a Wii which in some ways gives one some variety in shopping for him for Christmas.
  • He has an apartment that looks like it should be in Apartment Therapy.  It’s almost intimidating buying anything for his apartment.  It’s actually intimidating to hang out in his apartment.  Of course living in an apartment means that he doesn’t have a lot of storage.
  • He drives an Acura sports car that is worth 20 times more than my car.
  • He works hard at Case New Holland in the city which means that he doesn’t have a lot of time for hobbies.

He is Jordon’s brother and an uncle to the boys which means that Lee is an expert shopper himself.  He is also a single male so he does things like single males do, when Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare came out, he bought it that day so I guess it means that we aren’t getting that for him.

Star Wars The Clone Wars: The Complete Season One :: The Clone Wars movie was horrible but the series is actually pretty good.  Like a lot of animated movies, the series seems to be getting better with the second season but Season One of the Clone Wars is pretty good all by itself.

Air Hogs Dualing Helicopters :: Okay let’s do the math.  Remote control + Helicopters + a rather competitive family + the ability to shoot each other down + a big open field at the cabin = a pretty good Christmas gift.

Survive! by Les Stroud :: Since he a) often forgets his cell phone b) often has Mark and Oliver with him, knowledge of some basic survival skills would be quite useful.  If he wasn’t over watching the DVDs here, you could give him all three seasons of Survivorman on DVD.  You can order them from the Les Stroud Productions storeSeason 1 | Season 2 | Season 3.  We have all three DVDs and they are a lot of fun to watch.  You can also order them from Amazon as well.  Season 1 |Season 2 | Season 3.  In case you just want to see how Les Stroud survives in the American wilderness, you can order this DVD as well.

Bushnell BackTrack GPS :: Lee will never get lost again with the easiest to use personal location finder for around $50. Just mark the location and BackTrack will help him get back. He can use it at the mall and stadium parking lots, at the festival, the park, for travel or your next outdoor adventure.  Wired has a quick real world review and it looks like Cabela’s is one of the few places you can get it in Canada.

The War: An Intimate History by Ken Burns.  Jordon read this book this summer and thought it was amazing.  He spend hours reading the book but then went back and just soaked in the photos.  I don’t think there is such a thing as a good war. There are sometimes necessary wars. And I think one might say, “just” wars. I never questioned the necessity of that war. And I still do not question it. It was something that had to be done.  You can also give your favorite in-law the mini series on DVD as well

I can’t see Lee joining the competitive BBQ sub culture but in case he does, here are secrets for success as a professional griller.  Whether it’s chicken, ribs, butts or brisket, this cookbook has recipes, directives, insights and guidance on how to slow cook competition-quality meats. Better than any restaurant, these competition and backyard secrets will have beginning barbeque aficionados slow-cooking masterpieces in no time at all.  Even if he doesn’t turn pro, he will make life better for everyone this summer at the cabin.  There is also Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ Book: Recipes and Secrets from a Legendary Barbecue Joint.   Winners of the World Championship BBQ Cook-Off for six years in a row and with hundreds of other contest ribbons as well, nobody does barbecue better than Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q in Decatur, Alabama. Chris Lilly, executive chef of Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q and great-grandson-in-law of Big Bob himself, now passes on the family secrets in this quintessential guide to barbecue.

Apple iPod Touch :: I have been pining for one since I started to play around with Jordon’s and it would make a great gift for Lee as well.  While Mr. Rider fan is at it, the first thing he can do is go and download the new Rider App for the iPod Touch.

MEC Camo Shoulder Bag :: Since Lee spends some time with us at the cabin, some cool luggage to toss in the back of the car with his gear and clothes are in order.  While he is travelling, some custom Saskatchewan Roughriders luggage tags might be a cool stocking stuffer.  If you are shopping for someone who does some hiking, don’t overlook the Maxpedition Vulture II backpack.

GPS :: While Jordon is always looking for a trail GPS, I was shocked to see how inexpensive car GPSs have become.

Well the truth is that we are done our Christmas shopping for Lee so my list is all speculation but I thought I would post it to contribute to Jordon’s Christmas Gift Guides and also to help some of you find a fun gift for the hard to shop for in your life.  If you have any thoughts, leave a comment below, e-mail me at wendycooper@gmail.com or check out my weblog.

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 Ideas for the Emotionally Distant Father

A friend of mine/arch-nemesis has drawn her father and father-in-law for this year’s Christmas celebration and demanded a Christmas gift guide for them.  While I am generally compliant towards requests from friends who have incriminating stories about me, this one is a hard one as I don’t have a relationship with my dad * and I don’t have a lot of use for my father-in-law so I am at a bit of a loss.  While I had to laugh at the label emotionally distant father, the problem with too many dads out there is that they don’t exactly excel at communicating what they want for Christmas.  If you have to shop for one, we feel for you.

Lucky for all of us, we do buy Christmas gifts for some hard to buy for people who are fathers and here are some of the ideas that I have come up with over the last couple of years.

Books/DVDs

  • Kicking Ass in Canadian Politics by Warren Kinsella :: If you dad talks about politics all of the time and thinks he knows more than Mike Duffy but in reality has the same leadership instincts as Stephane Dion, maybe it is time to help your dad sound more knowledgeable.  This is awesome on a couple of levels.  First of all it will raise the level of political discussion in your house but if you dad lives in rural Alberta, he will have to explain to his friends why he has a book prominently displayed by the Prince of Darkness and how he is worried his child has become a liberal.
  • Jean Chretien: My Years as Prime Minister While we are talking politics and tweaking dad a bit, I suggest you pick up either a copy of Brian Mulroney’s autobiography or Jean Chretien’s autobiography.  Which one you give him, depends on how he votes.  If he votes Conservative and has a Joe Clark tattoo, give him Jean Chretien’s autobiography.  If he has campaign photos of him and Pierre Trudeau from 1968, you get him the Mulroney autobiography but you do it with a straight face… and then when all of the gifts are given out, pull out the book he wanted from beneath the tree.  If you are American, substitute the book Sarah Palin paid someone else to write for her or something about the Kennedy’s.
  • The War by Ken Burns on DVD and The War: An Intimate History.  The DVD is a masterpiece and I enjoy it every time it comes on television but the book is special in it’s own way.  It moves between the big picture of the war and the intimate details of the conflict with ease and despite telling the same story as the the mini series, has a much different feel.
  • Some books on the War in Iraq.  I recommend Fiasco or the Gamble by Thomas E. Ricks or The Fourth Star: Four Generals and the Epic Struggle for the Future of the United States Army by Greg Jaffe.  All three books are great.
  • Band of Brothers (book) by Stephen Ambrose :: The men of E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne, volunteered for this elite fighting force because they wanted to be the best in the army–and avoid fighting alongside unmotivated, out-of-shape draftees. The price they paid for that desire was long, arduous, and sometimes sadistic training, followed by some of the most horrific battles of World War II.  Yes the mini-series is great but this book is even better and is one of the best books on World War II that I have ever read.   If he already has Band of Brothers, he may also like Citizen Soldiers: The U. S. Army from the Normandy Beaches to the Bulge to the Surrender of Germany by Ambrose as well.  A skillful blending of eyewitness accounts (gathered mostly from the oral history collection at the Univ. of New Orleans’s Eisenhower Center and from personal interviews) gives the reader an intimate feel of what war was like for infantrymen in the European theater of operations–from the beaches of France to victory at the Elbe River.
  • Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb by Richard Rhodes.  While Rhodes won the Pullitzer for The Making of the Atomic Bomb, I found this book to be even better.  Both of these books are epic endeavors of research and writing telling the story of how America started the nuclear arms race, the concerns of the scientists (and why they did it), how the Russians were desperate to find out, and the politics behind it.  All of those topics could be books by themselves and once put together, form the foundation of a couple of truly remarkable books.
  • The Invention of Air by Steven Johnson :: You can read my review of it here.  If your dad in an inventor or just loves to read an engaging story of history, this is an excellent choice for your dad as he takes a break from puttering around in the shop while working on his doomsday device and avoiding the to-do list your mother made for him.

Gadgets for Dad

  • Red AA battery magliteMagLite :: Every man needs their own flashlight.  At the cabin we have a million flashlights, some headlights and battery powered lanterns but everyone wants to use mine.  Mark got me a Maglite for my birthday last year and I can finally say, “Hands off, go drain the battery on someone else’s flashlight.”  Dads enjoy being territorial and petty once in a while, especially with a cool flashlight.
  • Olivetti Manual Typewriter :: The last manual typewriter in production and the perfect tool for dad to write out his autobiography, love notes to your mother or he could just set it up in the living room to pound out a couple of notes to the grandkids who will totally miss out on the fact that their note was written on a manual typewriter.  The other positive that unlike his laptop, DVD player, and home theatre system, he won’t need you to come over and fix this when it breaks.
  •  Numark TTi USB Turntable with iPod Dock Numark TTi USB Turntable with iPod Dock :: There is a good chance that your dad has some old school music sitting in his closet that he lovingly looks at but has no idea how to play his Best of Olivia Newton John records let alone get them on the iPod that you gave him last Christmas.  This should kill two birds at once.  The bad news is that his old records have found a second life and we aren’t sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing but that’s your problem, not mine.
  • Sony Noise Cancelling Headphones Since we are talking about your dad’s bad taste in music, why not give him a nice set of headphones.  Not just any set of headphones but some noise cancelling headphones.  They have long been a must have for frequent fliers but even for those of you whose dad isn’t flying to Toronto every week, they reduces unwanted ambient noise by 87.4%, providing a quieter environment to enhance his listening experience.
  • 23 and Me :: They send you a kit, you spit into a tube and send it back.  They analyze the DNA in your saliva, then tell you about your genetic ancestry, and your susceptibility to genetically linked medical conditions.  If you have a genetically linked condition, you also will know who to blame.
  • Atari 2600 Flashback 2 :: Okay, so your dad’s gaming skills started to fall behind when the Colecovision came out but don’t hold that against him and let him reconnect with the games of yesteryear and get him a vintage game system. It features the same wood grain paneling and look of the Atari 2600, and will capture the feel through two classic joysticks for multi-player competition and vintage controls. The system comes pre-loaded with over 30 classic games. No new purchases are required, just connect it to your TV and play! The system that brought you hits like Asteroids, Breakout, Centipede, Lunar Lander, Millipede, Missile Command, Combat and Pong now has them all collected on one handy system.

Outdoors

  • The Blue Pod The Pod :: If dad has a camera, he probably has a tripod or two.  If he likes to take photographs out of the house and doesn’t like the hassle of finding the perfect place for his mount, the Pod could be a great option.  Basically it is what happens when you combine a camera mount with a bean bag.  While you are at it, why not get dad a new digital camera?
  • Your dad probably has an old camcorder kicking around but new camcorders like the Kodak Zi8 are so much easier to use.  If you have grandkids, give one of these to dad, set him up on YouTube and let him go crazy or let him film himself out in the wilderness as a Les Stroud wanna be.  He will be amazed at how easy and how high quality Kodak’s camera is.
  • Leatherman :: While most men want one, it is a lot of money to shell out for a multi tool but a the same time it is a iconic brand and tool that your dad will appreciate it as a gift.  While you are at it, toss in a copy of Les Stroud’s book, Survive!: Essential Skills and Tactics to Get You Out of Anywhere or the SAS Survival Handbook.  If dad isn’t likely to read, pick up all three seasons of Survivorman instead.
  • Labatt Stubby Beer Bottle Weber Go Anywhere Grill :: Dad probably already has a kick butt grill at home but this is perfect for bringing to the beach or over to your place when you don’t feel like firing up the grill yourself.  It’s also charcoal which will bring back good memories for your father of a time when he could afford to go to NHL games, drank stubby beers, and his sideburns were a fashion statement rather than the foundation for his comb-over.  While you are at it, toss in a cookbook or two about cooking with charcoal to refresh his memory on how to do it.

* The last time I bought a Christmas gift for my dad, I called his wife and asked what she was getting him.  The answer was a Dodge Viper.  I seriously said, “Err, a model one?”  It wasn’t.  So we had my $40.00 gift and her $100,000.00 gift.  I felt like a tool.

You can find more Christmas gift ideas here.  If you have any other suggestions or comments, let me know in the comments.