2009 Omaha Gift Guide
The Holidays mean different things to do different people, but most people can agree with these lines from Top Gun:
Maverick: I gots the urge….
Goose: …the urge to splurge!
I think that’s how it went, right? Or was that Sex in the City? Whatever.
If buying gifts is in your future this Holiday Season, we’re here to help. And the best part? We’ve featured some local Omaha businesses, too! Click on our 3/50 Project badge on the right panel to learn more about supporting local businesses (buy local and 68% of your money stays local vs. 43% at national chains!).
Every Christmas has a “must-have” gift. In the past, it’s been 1998’s “Furby,” 1996’s “Tickle Me Elmo,” 1982’s “Cabbage Patch Dolls,” and 4000 BC’s “pants.” This year, we’re putting our money on the Kindle.
The Kindle is a digital book reader. The size of a magazine and the weight of a paperback, the Kindle is capable of carrying more book’s than the average reality show contestant reads in a lifetime. You’re right. Bad analogy. But at 1,500 books for the Kindle, and a whopping 3,500 for the Kindle DX, you should be set for awhile. With free 3G wireless, books, magazines, and newspapers can be purchased and downloaded anywhere in as little as 60 seconds, no computer required. Take that, waiting!
Sure, there are some tradeoffs, chief among them the feeling of a good book in the hands. However, the Kindle’s electronic-ink screen technology goes a long way to alleviating the biggest complaint with previous readers: outdoor readability. Book club prez, bibliophile, and Omaha.net contributor, Mari Partyka, glowingly describes the Kindle in her last post. Yet, ultimately she decided that she still wanted to hold onto her books, sparking a little friendly debate among the commenters. Weigh in below on what is surely the must have gift of the season!
Bond no. 9 Fragrance from Trocadero
You know that friend that always looks well put together? She always has those, “Wow where did you get that?” accessories? Yea, that friend is Trocadero.
One of the most eye catching items in their store this season has to be the line of Bond fragrances. I was walking, and the bottles caught my eye. Seriously.
Named after New York neighborhoods (rumor has it they’re picking Council Bluffs next year), these perfumes come in a variety of long lasting scents, from light florals perfect for a quick lunch date, to the rose-musk of their signature scent, when the night out becomes the morning out. OK I completely made that last line up. But it could happen in Omaha, right? Right?
Trocadero, located in the Old Market, carries no less than 15 different Bond scents, starting at $148 (and don’t tell anyone, but many are suitable for men as well!). There’s a sale on until the 12th, but don’t take it from me, sign up for their mailing list and receive monthly updates and fashion tips for yourself.
If that person is a friend, however, it might be wiser to head to Crystal Forge in the Hot Shops Art Center of downtown Omaha. There, you’ll certainly come away with something you haven’t seen before. On a recent trip, I made out (stop being immature!) with a very reasonably priced six pack of tumblers made from Red Stripe beer bottles. Other gifts include vases, plates, and even some seasonably appropriate ornaments.
Without a doubt, the coolest things Crystal Forge offers are classes in glass blowing. The weekend-long workshops are limited to three students, guaranteeing personal attention. For $350, you will come away with a skill few have (sorta like web copywriting) and some beautiful pieces of glass art with a story attached. More information can be found on the Crystal Forge website.
(the video above was shot with a Flip!)
Flip Video Camera
While we merely lust after the Kindle, probably not to find one under the tree, we use and can whole-heartedly endorse our next gift idea. The price of video cameras has been falling for years, and video can finally claim its iPod-esque killer app: the Flip Video camera.
The Flip can record in both standard def and 720p HD. We use for a lot of the video on the site, especially when we don’t feel like lugging around the heavy cameras with all those pesky "features."
The Flip just shoots good video. That’s what it does. It comes in a variety of flavors, depending on amount of recording space and size of the camera, the newer Mino being significantly smaller than the already teeny Ultra. The 4GB Flip Ultra supposedly starts at a very reasonable $149.99, but a little sniffing around on Amazon shows the Ultra going for as little as $89.99.
Our advice? Spring for the extra money on the UltraHD to improve video quality, regardless, and then decide whether you’d like to spend a wee bit more for the smaller, but functionally similar, Mino.
If you want a truly customized gift, Flip gives you the option to design your own. Choose your photo wisely, and Flip will print it on a brand new Mino (or leave it up to the professionals, and a lengthy list of sweet designs).
Writing a gift guide is a lot like writing a Pulitzer-prize winning piece of non-fiction. Fine. It’s not really like that. But at least some of the elements are there: you need to convey facts, make it personal but detached, and surprise your readers a little. Well I had “give the gift of a tattoo” all penciled in as the surprise the readers portion of the guide. What a failure.
You see that guy in the picture? That’s Edwin Luciano. His wife bought him the giftcard that is allowing an otherwise kind person to repeatedly jab needles into his arm. Sorta describes marriage, huh? The tattoo is an homage to a family member who had a similar design. After the only surviving photo of it was lost, Edwin came to Big Brain.
Smitty and the team work with all sorts, from first timers like Edwin to rockers in their mid-20s covered head to foot in ink. If you’re in the mood to give the gift of permanent body art, Big Brain’s online store is a much better alternative than the bic-based henna you tried to pass off last year.
Give the Gift of Food
Theoretical physicist/male model Derek Zoolander once posited: “moisture is the essence of wetness.” Brilliant. So, does that make food the essence of life? I say yes.
Giving the gift of food doesn’t have to mean fruit basket, either (or even worse, the dreaded fruit cake). Using the power of the Internet, you can give someone a gift certificate to dine at many of Omaha’s most popular restaurants. The best part is, the gift receiver gets to choose which!
Head over to Restaurant.com’s gift section for more details. $25 gift certificates go for only $10! Yes, there’s a catch: you usually have to spend $40 - $50 on the meal, and can use only one certificate. So in the end, the gift you’re giving is a half price dinner at a nice restaurant. Still not bad.
But get this! If you head on over to CouponMom.com (I accidentally typed it into my browser, I swear. In fact, this never happened, OK?) and sign up for their newsletter, you’ll receive special promo codes that can bring the price of a $25 certificate down to 3 bucks! Buy Junior the gift certificate, hand him a crisp Jackson, and you just bought dinner for two (which he’ll probably waste on the girlfriend you don’t like, anyways, but still).
There is no finer name for a product than the Lovesac. Part comfiest couch ever, part bean bag on steroids, Lovesac’s products look like the perfect addition to the coolest dorm room ever. Or home theater. Or living room. Or bathroom. Get me a Lovesac! I want Lovesac! Now! Lovesac!
Sorry, I’ve calmed down since the last paragraph. I apologize. Clothed in sexy suedes and microfibres, Lovesacs look minimalist enough to fit in in even the swankiest apartments. They’re not inexpensive by any means, but they look really freakin’ comfortable, and can be shifted around in all sorts of interesting variations, making your purchase a flexible one that can change as your décor does.
Lovesacs are for sale right here in Omaha with a company store at the Westroads Mall, but the truly lazy can happily order online, often with free shipping. Feel free to ship yours to Omaha.net Central Command. I’ll be sure to give it a test drive for you. Kick the tires, that sort of thing. I offer because I care.
Computer related gifts (backup, taxes, productivity, legal documents)
Want the digital equivalent of giving Dad socks for Christmas? Check out ElephantDrive, a cheap, one stop solution for digital backup. Boring? Sorta. Important? You betcha. The best gifts are those you absolutely need and totally would not buy for yourself. For many, ElephantDrive qualifies in this respect.
Apparently, one in ten hard drives fails each year (who knew!), and I know that personally, I’d rather go through the Japanese criminal tradition of Yubitsume (I won’t say exactly what it is, but it does translate as “finger shortening”) than lose the pictures and music I have stored on my harddrive. The website you’re viewing is absolutely super-duper backed up on our servers, and it’s sort of like insurance these days: no one’s excited about it, but everyone needs it.
What other "boring" gifts might Dad appreciate? For starters, he might appreciate it if you didn’t rely on the 1950s for your concept of gender norms. So when Mom does the taxes this year, buy her some Quicken software. They also make a wide variety of personal finance products, and even home business, healthcare management, and rental property software.
Your loved one have business aspirations? Check out the suite of web based programs from 37 Signals. Here at Omaha.net, we use Basecamp to set milestones, keep track of to-do lists, and collaborate on projects. They also offer software to track contacts, leads, and deals; share information in a group setting; and chat and share files among groups in real time. Many of their products come with functional free versions to try before you add the more expensive features.
And finally, what screams Christmas more than legal documents? Not for your family you say? Say you are building a hypothetical website for a Midwestern city and need to form a Limited Liability Corporate shell around the web property. Just say. Who would you use you? LegalZoom makes it easy.
Or imagine this yule-time convo:
Boy: Hi, Pops. It’s great to be back in Omaha for the holidays!
Older man: Oh, Junior, it’s so good having you around the house again.
Boy: Well, Mom and Dad, I wanted to get you something to brighten the holiday cheer. So, I logged onto LegalZoom and got you this easy to fill in document whereby you can transfer over your assests to me after you pass on! It’s a will!
Older man: Oh, Junior! You shouldn’t have!
A Board Game…Any Board Game
As much as we promote all things electronic (sort of comes with the territory of running a website), I have to say, I’m worried for the kids these days. Too much Guitar Hero has to rot the brain, right?
That’s why I’d like to take a second and advocate an atavistic gift from my cherished youth: the humble board game. In my time as a reckless youth, I dabbled in Pokemon, Magic: The Gathering, chess, backgammon, Monopoly, and surely others. And I am convinced I would be the world’s preeminent Dungeons and Dragons player today if only I had fallen in with the right crowd of like-minded thinkers. I ended up playing sports, and my dreams of being the next JRR Tolkien never materialized. Bummer.
Why am I so hot on board games? Well for one, I’m far too competitive for my own good. And two, they spark a certain strain of creativity, problem solving skills, and friendly social interaction not found in many other walks of life. Some of my best post-college nights involved very sober games of Risk (and one strangely pleasurable game of Yu-gi-oh! Ask your kids, they’ll know).
I recently found myself at Dragon’s Lair Comics on a random weekday (they happen to be on my route to the gym), and found it teeming with people taking part in one of their daily game nights. I have to say, I was a little jealous that I didn’t get into those games (Warhammer, D & D, etc.) more when I was a kid. Each child is different, but I spent a good few minutes talking with the staff there, and they know their games, with the selection to back it up. At roughly half the price of the latest Xbox 360 epic, Robo Mutant Bunny Killers 9, it’s hard to go wrong purchasing something that requires a pen, some paper, a few dice, and a priceless imagination.
So talk to us! Leave us a comment below with your great holiday gift ideas!