November 23, 2012
Gifts like these might not be the most romantic if you're buying for your wife or girlfriend, but that doesn't mean you can't find cool stuff that brings a smile to someone's face. Focus on products with great design or things that make someone's life a lot easier and you'll make your giftee happy.Lamps are such an integral part of our everyday lives that you'd think there would be more companies like Bitplay trying to inject a little more fun into them, because the Bang! desk lamp is nothing if not a great conversation starter. Though it looks pretty unassuming at first sight, the lamp comes with a gun-shaped remote controller that is used to turn it on and off. Firing the gun at the lamp's infrared sensor not only turns off the light, but it causes the lampshade to fall over like it's playing dead. Then, when you shoot it again, the light turns back on and the lampshade returns to its original position. The lamp also features a sleek white design that will fit just about any modern décor or office setting, and it's extremely durable, which is likely part of the reason why it costs so much. There are certainly cheaper lighting options available, but the Bang! lamp is one of a kind. Single serving coffee makers are all the rage, so you can expect to hear a lot about them this holiday season. Naturally they make great gift for many people on your gift list, from the busy professionals, young students to moms and dads. We tested the new Verismo System by Starbucks and liked the system very much. Starbucks knows coffee, so any coffee maker with their brand name on it can be expected to meet a high level of quality, and the Verismo system lives up to that standard. As soon as you pull it out of the box you can tell that it's well-made and beautifully designed as you can see from the photos above. It has a small footprint so it will fit in nicely on most kitchen counters without taking too much space. The system is very easy to use, and all of the parts work seamlessly together. It's easy to add water, clean by rinsing and also adjust the drip tray grate to adjust for different size cups. The machine warms up quickly in about 15 seconds so you can get your coffee fix right away when you need it. The system uses pods like other single serving coffee makers, but here you use Starbucks pods that use the exact same coffee that Starbucks uses in their cafes and in their packaged coffee. Keurig may have cornered the on-the-go market with their wide range of single-serve coffee makers, but if you're a serious coffee drinker looking for a more sophisticated machine, you can't go wrong with the new espresso/coffee combo from KRUPS. The coffee side features a typical glass carafe with a 10-cup capacity, removable cone filter basket, and an anti-drip device that lets you pause brewing to serve without worrying about spillage. And for those in need of something a little stronger in the morning, the other half of the machine can make espressos and cappuccinos, with features like a 19-bar high pressure pump, a removable water tank system, a multi-directional steam nozzle, and a control panel with pre-programmed buttons for 1- or 2-cup espressos and temperature selection. Better yet, it's compatible with ground coffee and all types of pods, so you don't have to go out and buy something special (like Keurig's expensive single-serve cups) in order to use it, and the stainless steel finish looks great in any kitchen. There are so many wireless and portable speaker solutions on the market today that it can get overwhelming when it comes time to make a decision. The AQ SmartSpeaker distinguishes itself from the pack by working directly with Apple's AirPlay technology to stream music from ITunes on your Mac, PC or iOS device, or from sources like Spotify or Pandora. The SmartSpeaker also works with Android devices via the "AQ Play" app in the Google Play store, so nobody will feel left out. Sound quality from this 24W unit is great, and the speaker delivers 10 hours of wireless playtime or 20 hours via the auxiliary connection. You can even connect your USB device for a quick charge, which is becoming more and more important these days with any mobile system. The SmartSpeaker is small and easy to move, making it a great solution for any room in your house or that impromptu party that just broke out in the dorm room down the hall, and you can pair the SmartSpeaker with other units for multi-room sound. Bonus! When we saw an ad for these NFL logo slow cookers, our resident New York Giants fan had to have one. Crock-Pot slow cookers have traditionally been marketed to women, and they have always been a great kitchen staple across America. The concept is awesome—you put meat, vegetables, potatoes, and/or rice, canned tomatoes, broth and whatever else your recipe calls for, let it cook slow for 8-10 hours and you have dinner ready when you want. For Sunday football, these are great for chili, hearty soup, or for keeping hot dogs warm in a slow cooker full of water. And what better way to tailgate than to show off your team logo while you're doing so? Another great feature of this particular slow cooker is that there are latches on both sides in order to clamp the lid on tight, and also a small hole in the cover to allow steam to escape. So the NFL themed Crock Pot is efficient AND looks great on Sundays. Dyson has revolutionized the vacuum cleaner market and is now the gold standard in that area. Many now realize that a Dyson can make your life so much easier with the superior technology. Dyson keeps moving forward, and their recent innovation takes people back to canister vacuums of the past. The DC39 is Dyson's first canister vacuum with Ball™ technology for stable maneuvering around the tightest corners. The unit is remarkably light and easy to maneuver, and the canister will be preferred by many over the upright vacuums as they make it so easy to get around and under furniture and also handle tough areas like carpeted steps. Check out our review for all the details. The DC39 makes for a great gift because it's such a great product. Of course you might want to include something more personal or traditional like flowers or chocolate, but many women and men will appreciate something as good as the DC39. Though it's still going to be a while before we have robots around the house to clean up after ourselves, simplehuman's rectangular sensor trash can at least provides a touch-free alternative to dealing with garbage. The sensor sits on top of the can just in front of the lid and features a multi-sense response system, which means that it reacts and adapts to your behavior so that it won't unexpectedly close before you've finished using it. And in case you accidentally slam the lid down or overstuff the garbage, the clutch system will temporarily disengage to prevent any damage to the motor. Available in two different sizes and wrapped in an aesthetically pleasing, fingerprint-proof stainless steel finish, the "smartcan" also includes an integrated charcoal filter that helps neutralize odor and a removable interior plastic bucket that makes cleaning a breeze. Our only complaint is that it takes 6 C batteries to operate, unless you buy the optional AC adapter, which really should have been included considering its rather high price tag. Is there someone on your gift list who has trouble sleeping or staying cool at night? If you're looking for a unique gift idea, check out the innovative PolarPillow and give the gift of coolness. The scientifically formulated gel technology of this product is designed to regulate body temperature, which has been linked to a better night's sleep and improvements involving insomnia and other sleep disorders. Thousands of micro air-beads will work to keep you cool while you sleep and also provide a stable sleeping system that contours to the neck and head. It requires no electricity, water or refrigeration – the pillow works all by itself. We tried it out and right away you can feel the difference. The pillow is heavier than you might expect, but the overall experience is very comfortable. We love to cook, but as hard as it can be sometimes, we try to stay on the healthy side. Of course, like most guys, we do like to make steaks, burgers and wings and some heavier soups, chilis and pastas. Indulgence is something reserved for holidays or for special Sundays. Such is the case with the new James Beard cookbook—a compilation from 12 of Beard's books. We thumbed through it and noticed that almost every recipe calls for A LOT of butter. Beard was an American chef, but there is no doubt that some of his techniques are classic French. And on that note, the two recipes we tried were Gruyere soup and Beef Bourguignon Saute. Total amount of butter for both recipes—somewhere around two sticks. But the thing is, these recipes were fairly easy—time consuming, but easy. And the best part was that we learned so much, like taking a cooking class from a master. In particular, we learned how to make an amazing sauce for the beef dish. But wait, there's more—literally. There are 450 recipes, including appetizers, pasta, soups, entrees, sides and desserts. In other words, we have 448 more to try.