Amazon Gift Ideas

December 1, 2011

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Christmas is around the corner, and people are turning to the internet more than ever before.  I’m a big fan of Amazon … are here are some gift ideas from the big A.

If you’re in the market for a 100+ inch TV and have $40,000 burning a hole in your pocket, you can snap up this Panasonic 103 inch model.If you’re a bit more budget conscious, you can get the 85 inch model for under $20,000. 
The Kindle Fire is Amazon’s entry into the tablet market.  It’s better than a standard eReader, but not quite as good as an iPad.  But if you’re new to the tablet game, it’s a relatively inexpensive ($199) set of training wheels.  For a rundown of all the current Kindle models, read my review.
The world is slowly shifting from DVD to Blu-Ray.  We’re still a DVD family, but there are rumblings of getting a Blu-Ray player lately.  If you get a WiFi-enabled player, you can stream NetFlix to the players.  Don’t forget HDMI cables.
Smurfin’ Awesome
I like Stephen King’s writing, but am not a huge fan of his genre – so when he steps outside the box a bit.  In 11/22/63, his characters go through a portal and arrive before JFK’s assassination.  Interesting.
Baseball’s just around the corner – time to snap up a jersey of your favorite player.
I’ve seen these in stores, and it seems like a pretty slick idea.  3 slow cooker (crock pots) in one base.  Three separate controls, but just one power cord.  Here’s another variation on the theme.
 Not enough room at the kitchen table for all the guests?  Maybe a card table is the answer.  Need more space?  This table will seat 8.
Looking for a new game to play?  Try Phase 10.  The rules are easy enough for kids to understand, but the strategies of other players can make it difficult to win.
My kids love this game.  The youngest (not quite two) just likes to play with the fish. 
 Don’t forget the dog.  I know nothing about dog toys, but a friend tells me that Kong toys are the most durable dog toys he has seen.
If I have to explain why you’d want to buy a coffee mug shaped like a toilet, then you’re not the type of person that would buy it anyway.
If you’re not sure what to buy, you can opt for an Amazon gift card.


OK, that’s my motley selection of Christmas ideas from Amazon.  Are there any cool items you would recommend?


Great Winter Gifts

November 9, 2011

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It’s raining and snowing today in Iowa – with a nasty windy making the weather even less pleasant.  Winter is right around the corner.  Winter is my least favorite time of the year, but there are some creature comforts that can help get you through the winters.  Here’s a list of items you might consider giving to loved ones as a winterizing gift.

(Disclosure: we earn a commission on the sale of any of these items).

A Kindle.  Whether it’s the $79 model (at left) or the high end $199 Kindle Fire, spending long hours curled up on the couch reading on a Kindle is great way to pass time when there’s a blizzard howling outside.  If you’re not sure which model to buy, I gave my thoughts in a previous article.

If you’re the frugal sort, you can justify the cost by looking at the vast amount of public domain works you can download for free.

While you’ll pay more for a Kindle version of a book than used paperback, you can also tote around hundreds of books on a Kindle – much lighter than a backpack filled with the paper version.  Also easier on the environment.

If you’re looking for a good book to get you started, I’d suggest Lawrence Block’s short story collection, Enough Rope.  This is a massive tome with lots of great stories.  I already own hardcover and paperback versions, and am tempted to buy the Kindle version.

An electric blanket.  Blanket + Heat = Good.
Baseball: A Film by Ken Burns.  Nothing screams “warm weather’ like baseball.  Watching this 20+ hour miniseries might make you forget that it’s cold outside.
Portable DVD player.  Want to watch movies without disturbing everyone else?  Nab a battery-powered DVD player.
Or, if you have money burning a hole in your pocket, you can drop $2500+ on a 65 inch 3D TV.  Hey, it’s currently $400 off, so you’re basically making money when you buy it.
I stubbornly cling to the belief that I should be able to remove the season’s snowfall with nothing more than a shovel.  If you’re not bound by such convictions, a snow thrower makes life much easier.  You can spend a little money ($99 for the Toro snow shovel) or a lot ($2000 for a Husqvarna 27 inch two stage model with power steering).
Always have a set of jumper cables in the trunk of every car you own.  They should last for many years, so resist the temptation to buy the cheapest set.  Buy a good, heavy gauge set (lower number is better).
Unfortunately, the best jumper cables in the world are useless unless you can get a jump start from another car.  A portable jump-starter doesn’t have that limitation.  It’s a portable, rechargeable device that charges your battery from its own battery.  One caveat – make sure to keep it charged.

If you’re constantly having to get a jump start, verify that the problem is the battery (rather than some part of the charging system, such as the alternator) and get the battery replaced.  Most people can replace a battery themselves.  While a battery isn’t exactly cheap, trying to stretch the battery’s life to save a few dollars is a bad idea – as you’ll find out if you get stranded.  Over its life, a battery will likely cost you less than $20 per year.  If you have any concerns that the battery is dying, replace the sucker.

If you must be outside in the cold, some hand warmers might help you avoid freezing to death.  Buy the 40 pack and have enough to get you through the winter.  Well, through December, maybe.
Picked up a hoodie to stay warm.  With the race for the White House heating up after Christmas, a nice Electoral College themed hoodie might be appropriate.