Making a list, checking it twice
EC and DC Staff’s Best Bets for Holiday Shopping
The idea of making a donation in someone’s name is great in theory but the reality is that giving a tangible gift is so much more fun. Thanks to PACT (www.wearpact.com) you can give physical gifts this season that will make the world a better place. Philanthropy in the form of eco-conscious “socks with soul” and “altruistic underwear,” PACT clothing is cool for all the right reasons and it will keep your loved ones warm.
PACT describes itself as a movement disguised as a clothing company. Each season the company designs a new collection “inspired by someone doing something good: whether it’s about clean water, sustainable food, or affordable housing” and then invests its profits in one such solution-oriented, community-based project that creates independence. This year it’s The Empowerment Plan — a project in Detroit that hires and trains homeless women to make self-heated, waterproof coats that turn into sleeping bags at night for those living on the streets.
“The focus is on the system to create jobs for those that desire them and coats for those that need them at no cost. The importance is not with the product but with the people,” PACT writes.
The company’s green manufacturing policy regulates organic clothing produced in sweat-shop-free facilities. For example, “socks are made with organic yarns at an eco-concept factory in Turkey powered by wind energy.” PACT packaging is “printed with vegetable based inks on paper made from FSC controlled wood in a factory powered by wind energy and the carbon impact is off-set by Climate Partner.”
The nearest physical stores can be found in King of Prussia or New Jersey or you can order online. A free sock box comes with every order over $100. Gift cards are also available.
— alicia grega
From comfort food to creating an ultra-comfy sleeping environment, here’s a few ideas for making life just a little bit more pleasant for family and friends on your holiday list:
1. Mattress pads and body pillows. If there’s one thing we learned from watching our pets this year, it’s that they really appreciate cozy beds. Cats are especially particular about where they perch and snooze, and we’ve noticed that their favorite nooks are ensconced in layers of padding and mooshy warm blankets. So we’re taking a page from their book on comfort this holiday season and buying mattress pads as gifts for our family and friends. It’s hard to understand how much this will make a difference in your night’s sleep if you don’t have one, but trust us, once you add that fluffy layer to your bed, you’ll never want to sleep without one again. Look for mattress pads that are hypo-allergenic, and avoid anything with down feathers as many people are allergic to down. You can find mattress pads at your favorite department store, with basic models starting at about $40 and those with additional features, like heating elements, starting at about $120.
Another great way to add comfort to your bed or couch is with a body pillow. Again, look for the word “hypoallergenic” so your gift doesn’t prompt a sneezing fit from your loved one, and be sure to pick up a plush cover to go with it. The cover is really imperative because most likely the person you’re giving this to will only have average sized pillow cases at home, which just don’t fit properly even if you double them up. We found great options at Boscov’s and Target. The pillows cost about $10 and the covers are in the $10 range as well. The only down side to adding a body pillow to your bed is that you’ll probably have to fight the cat for it.
2. Fudge. You don’t have to be an expert candy maker to whip up a batch of one of our favorite comfort foods — fudge. If your grandma’s recipe is just too complicated, we have two simple solutions: try the recipe on the back of the jar of Solo Marshmallow Crème (www.solofoods.com/recipes/fabulous-fudge), or pick up a Carnation Famous Fudge Kit at the grocery store. Both are fast, easy and really economical. For less than $10 and a time investment of about 20 minutes, you can make enough fudge for several gifts. Packaging is easy, too. Pick up half-pound or 1-pound candy boxes and some ribbon at A.C. Moore, Michael’s or Jo-Ann Fabrics, and you’re good to go.
3. Remote car starter. There is not a human alive who wouldn’t love the gift of never having to scrape his or her windshield and climb into an ice cold car ever again. With the nasty winters we get in northeastern Pennsylvania, this is one of the best ways to make someone special on your list extra comfortable this winter. This is one purchase that does require some research to find just the right model and price (you can expect to spend a few hundred dollars by the time you buy the starter and pay for installation), but it’s well worth it. Talk to your mechanic for recommendations on models and installation.
— julie imel
My first gift pick is for the musician in your life and it can easily serve as one of those gifts you end up buying yourself. Almost every single pair of pants I own include a mini collection of assorted guitar picks hidden somewhere between pocket lint and loose change. Picks are tiny and are easy to lose, and there always seems to be times (usually when inspiration or boredom strikes) when a pick is nowhere to be found at all. Thankfully there is a new product that can solve the problem; the DIY Guitar Pick Punch. Can’t find a pick? Make one yourself, ya lazy bum.
Just insert the material you want a pick made out of (old credit cards, gym member ships, college ids, club cards and anything else you can think of) into the DIY Guitar Pick Punch and squeeze that thing. Wah-lah! You now have an instant one-of –a-kind guitar pick! Keep the Pick Punch nearby and you’ll never be finger picking again. Check out www.pickpunch.com for more information and custom Pick Punch materials.
My second gift idea is for those who would ike to keep their hard earned greenbacks within the local economy. You can’t go wrong with gift cards, gift cards, gift cards; from local restaurants and pubs to tattoo shops and spas, the choices are limitless.
For those looking for a gift idea that glows, check out Ike Design Group. The locally owned and operated company creates one of a kind lighting, furniture and home accessories using reclaimed barn wood, tin, pallet wood and other discarded materials. All of the pieces are handcrafted by creators Bill Orner and Brian Craig. After nearly selling out of their work on the opening night of an art exhibit featuring their “Hangin’ Lamps” collection, they decided to start Ike Design Group. Not only can customers pick form listed products, but they can also lend their ideas toward custom orders and unique creations. Visit www.ikedesign.com for work samples and contact information.
Record store day may not be here for a few more months, but that doesn’t mean you can’t head on over to your local record shop to pick up all of the holiday’s newest releases. Shops like Gallery of Sound (Mundy St. and Downtown Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton/Dickson City), Embassy Vinyl (352 Adams Ave, Scranton), Musical Energi (Wilkes-Barre), Wayne’s World Music (Dallas) and Wayne’s World of Used Cd’s & More (Pittston) would love to see your smiling face this season.
If these ideas just don’t do it for you, I suggest you look into the Ernest Alexander Flask Set. It claims to be “more sophisticated than some of the stainless steel ones you see grooms buying for their best men.” I agree. Complete with a suave canvas cover, it can make the cheapskate smuggling Old Crow into the bar look like a festive 007 for only $50. Visit www.ernestalexander.com/dean-chocolate-wax-flask-set and fill’er up.
— tom graham
You don’t have to be blessed with “the crafty gene” to make unique holiday gifts that will impress even the most pedigreed Suzy Homemakers in your set. Not to keep ringing the Pinterest bell, but the site’s DIY & Crafts section is a windfall of ideas, a few of which you can even pass off on the kids to fashion for you.
The Food Network’s directions for “Recipes in a Jar” not only include the steps to create five different layered jars of colorful fixins’ but also a printable sheet of gift tags and recipe cards to accompany each gift.
Their suggestions include Curried Lentil Soup, Blue Cornbread with Pineapple, Super-Chunky Christmas Cookies, Holiday Panettone, and Spiced Hot Cocoa but its easy enough to package your own favorite recipes along the same lines.
— alicia grega
Pennsylvania has about 17 million acres of trees. That’s about 60 percent of the state. Extensive research has taught me that this collection of trees are called forests and many animals live in them. Pennsylvania has all kinds of animals — opossums, shrews, rabbits and sasquatches. Most of these animals stay away from humans and their habitat. Most of these animals.
Last week I had my first encounter. It was an average Tuesday night, so I was drunk, eating a bowl of Grape Nuts at 1 a.m. Then I saw it … the dreaded Mus musculus, or as you may call it, a house mouse.
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of coming face to foot with a mouse, then you know the depths of my terror. After a sleepless night, I went online to find a remedy. I don’t like the thought of poison, traps or sticky trays. My cat seems to think that mice are just moving socks; she could care less about them. My cat was once a ruthless, cold blooded killer from the streets of Pinebrook, and has since become jaded and soft.
I quickly found a solution to naturally drive mice from a home; fire. Just as I was filling my hallways with gasoline, I found an even better solution; peppermint.
Turns out rodents cannot stand the smell of peppermint. It’s too intense for the little jerks and they won’t go near the stuff. Dab a little bit of peppermint oil on a cotton ball and leave it in the areas that these dirty freaks hang out.
You can get peppermint oil from Amazon, but I went locally to Alchemy Home Company. Alchemy is an organic cleaning company dedicated to creating a sparkling atmosphere in your home using custom made cleaning products that are safe for you and your family.
I told them about my problem with my new roommate and received a bottle of peppermint scent within days. Will it work? My guess is only time will tell, but I’ve slept a little better just knowing that I’m torturing the grimy hairballs.
Now… you can give a mustache comb or a Starbucks gift certificate to your loved ones for Christmas. But think about this… mice are everywhere. As you read this, there are probably 20 of them having a tea party in your attic. They’re most likely doing it on your old photo albums. Right there, on your grandparent’s wedding album, six mice are getting down to business.
We’ve dealt with this long enough people, the time to strike back is now. It’s peppermint time.
For those family members that don’t need woodland creatures driven from their abode, I have another awesome solution. Belgian Chocolates — an exquisite gourmet experience, beautifully packaged, that will linger with you until you find yourself reaching for some more.
Belgian chocolates are so good, they will change your life. I once gave Belgian chocolates to a soiled, booze soaked transient. Not only did it change his life completely, he’s now a full time staff writer for Electric City. Chocolates are sold at LAVISH Body and Home 600 Linden Street, Scranton. Along with S’mores kits, peppermint bark, drinking chocolate, chocolate mice and reindeer pops. Prices range from $7.50 – $20. Pair anyone with a gift certificate to their salon for the ultimate pampering gift.
— eric toffey
Awesome nerd gifts
For the nerd (or gadget-lover) on your list this year, it’s quite a buyer’s market. The new mini iPad aside, there are now tons of small, inexpensive tablets — Google’s Nexus 7 and Amazon’s Kindle Fire are great buys starting at $199. New tablets also mean new accessories, and there’s a flood of new cases ranging from slim sleeves meant merely to protect the device, all the way up to briefcase-sized to carry multiple gadgets. The stylus is making a comeback as an input device of choice for some folks, and if you’ve got someone to buy for that’s a Draw Something fanatic, the stylus might be an unexpected hit.
Gamers on your list are notoriously difficult to buy for, since they tend to enjoy picking up the latest and greatest on launch day. Naturally, a gift card always works well here, but with a keen ear you might hear a title or two they skipped or were meaning to pick up at a later time. Game releases tend to come in clusters, so it’s possible there’s something on the backburner. There’s no such thing as having too many games to play!
If it seems like you’re buying for the proverbial ‘person who has everything,’ your ace in the hole is always the local hobby stores. If your giftee is a notorious release day buyer, gadget early adopter with shelves filled with DVDs, stop into a game store or hobby shop. There are tons of board games, card games, models, and other pastimes just waiting to captivate your favorite nerd. From collectible card games like Magic: The Gathering to sprawling empire-building board games like Carcassonne to intricately detailed miniature wargaming like Warhammer 40,000, there’s no shortage of TV-free games to discover. Other non-game hobbies await as well, from simple scale model building to massive model railroad construction projects. Introducing a friend of family member to a new hobby or game might be a perfect change of pace — they’ll either love you forever, or curse you eternally.
— tucker hottes