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Seek holiday oddities for your strange friends? Look no further
Wacky gifts from outside the box
Wacky is not shy. No shrinking violet or meek wallflower, wacky doesn’t cower from the light or hide in the shadows or wait for you to call it. It seeks you out. To wit, our annual wacky gifts guide. We didn’t search for any of this — it came to us in a giant unwieldy sack of e-mails and desk junk, not unlike that sack Santa forces those reindeer to haul on a sleigh around the globe every Christmas Eve. It was a tough job separating the wacky wheat from the chaff, but Christmas 2009 produced another bountiful harvest of products off the wall and under most anyone’s shopping radar. Ingenuity has its limits, but wacky knows no bounds. We’ve got rugrat robots that do the dirty work, a way to jazz up your toilet’s look and a means to stop the epic odors emanating from it. We’ve got a sporty hovercraft that debuted at the Olympics and mechanical spiders that move with fingertip command. We’ve got silver and swine-flu soaps. We’ve got a way for your baby to rock out in the womb. We’ve got jewelry and a personal door and passkey for your already-spoiled pets. Plus, we’ve got chocolate mousse-flavored reindeer Peeps, and pickle Popsicles. What more do you want, you ungrateful kids?!!
Patagonia’s “Where’s Waldo?” socks and beer-opening belt buckle.
The pitch: Dare to wear these socks, then crack open a beer with the belt buckle to take the sting out of whatever social embarrassment ensues.
Availability: http://www.patagonia.com or 800-638-8484 (or Patagonia retail locations). The socks are $18.50, the belt is $29.
The buzz: Our good friends over at Patagonia in Ventura were the ones who conceded the socks have a “Where’s Waldo?” style due to the super-bright stripe patterns and almost-kneecap length. The Tech Web Belt includes an aluminum buckle that can open a cold refreshment.
Swine flu soap.
The pitch: “Of course we know that our soap can’t cure swine flu,” Soapourri.com owner Cindy Helgason advised from headquarters in West Des Moines, Iowa, “but we hope that seeing this cute piggy at their sink will remind everyone to keep washing those hands!”
Availability: http://www.soapourri.com or 515-222-0144. Cost is $9.95.
The buzz: The generous 6-ounce pink glycerin soap piggy is scented in natural peppermint essential oil and will come stretch-wrapped on straw in a reusable wooden crate. If you’re sick of swine flu references, check out the Web site’s rubber ducky soap and the football soap that comes in a fudge brownie scent.
iRobot’s Roomba, Roomba Pet Series, Scooba and Looj.
The pitch: Need extra time and fewer chores? Let iRobot put in the elbow grease — also known as: Can we get any lazier?
Availability: http://store.irobot.com/home/index.jsp or 800-727-9077. Prices range from $129.99 to $319.99.
The buzz: And you thought “I Robot” was just an Isaac Asimov novel, Will Smith movie or Alan Parsons Project album. Actually, the idea of saving a little tread on the back and knees sounds enticing as you watch these robots, which look like glorified hockey pucks, zoom around the floor gulping up spills, pet hair, pine needles, dust and the like. The iRobot Scooba is billed as an automatic floor washer. The Looj reportedly clears gutters.
Wow toilet tank.
The pitch: Put some pizazz into that pale white porcelain.
Availability: http://www.wowtoilet.com or 714-791-8124. The tank costs $89.95, the posters cost $4.95 each.
The buzz: The Wow Toilet folks down the road in Westminster view the tank as a way to add to the bathroom decor at home, and as a ready-made billboard in the commercial world. It’s easy, and silly — buy the transparent toilet tank, then insert a poster. They have floral designs, fish, beer, the famous Las Vegas sign and even Kobe Bryant. When it comes to the throne, the imagination and cheesy possibilities run wild with equal abandon, so we’ll let you insert your own potty humor joke here.
High-end pet jewelry from Cuddly Ruff.
The pitch: Bling bling for the bite-and-bark crowd.
Availability: http://www.cuddlyruff.com or 646-845-0220. Silver tags range from $49.95 to $259, gold tags range from $945 to $2,495. Necklaces range from $50 to $1,130 for the pearl model.
The buzz: On the hopefully rare day when your pet runs off to cause mayhem on the streets or wager on the ponies at an illegal offtrack-betting parlor or what have you, it can’t be caught with anything less than a designer ID tag when it’s rounded up by the authorities. Right? Even further proof that the ways we pamper our pets is a bottomless but joyful pit.
ScrambleScoop golf ball retriever.
The pitch: A quick pickup on the go — subtitled, “Can we get any lazier II?” (The sequel).
Availability: http://www.scramblescoop.com or 800-590-8484. Cost is $16.95.
The buzz: Use this glorified butterfly net to pick up golf balls while driving along in a cart. Perfect for the bend-and-squat-challenged folks who use the iRobot Roombas and Scoobas. ScrambleScoop inventor Betty Bucher, who lives in Missouri and patented her product, advised that she played too many golf scramble games where “I leaned from the cart and nearly fell out trying to pick up the ball.”
Lullabelly prenatal music belt.
The pitch: Rock-a-bye baby cranked up in the womb.
Availability: http://www.lullabelly.com or 800-592-1334. Prices range from $49 to $55; accessories such as deluxe earphones and dual earphone adapters — so mom can listen in, too — are extra.
The buzz: Plugs into your iPod, iPhone and MP3 player. Indoctrinate your infants into the pop culture with some Green Day, Taylor Swift, U2, etc. Actually, we hope you stick to lullabies — the pop culture will get them soon enough.
The pitch: Put a precious metal on your precious mug.
Availability: http://www.corsilver.com or 617-440-5623. Prices range from $14 for a 10-gram travel size to $125 for a full 120-gram bar. The full bar is billed as lasting six to nine months.
The buzz: Holy Comstock Lode, Batman, we don’t think this is what those Virginia City, Nev., miners had in mind when they struck it big in the late 1850s. It’s billed as “a wonderful facial cleanser infused with real silver to cleanse and polish skin for a luminous complexion.” Swath your face in a big enough lather and this might set off airport metal detectors. For all you money-grubbers out there, silver was going for $17.43 an ounce as of the deadline for this shimmering piece of writing.
Arbortech’s Airboard hovercraft scooter.
The pitch: Fly and ski at the same time with the world’s first personal flying disc.
Availability: http://www.arbortech.com.au/view/airboard-information or 914-630-1060. The newest Airboard clocks in around $9,700. Allow four to six weeks from sale to delivery. Not suitable for use on water, or by kids under 14.
The buzz: Identical to those used in the opening ceremonies at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia. We thought this was the perfect tool to get out of traffic jams, whistling a happy tune at the cars stuck on the freeway below as we whiz past. Alas, it rides on a cushion of air only about 3 inches off the ground and tops out at a mere 15 mph. Plus, you have to put a little physicality into it, using weight transfers for turns and operating two levers on the handlebar. But when it comes to humor, those rough-and-tumble Aussies always play along: Asked if it was possible to use for commutes, company rep Alyson McNulty e-mailed back from Malaga (a suburb of Perth): “ Lol. I suppose you could, as long as you don’t take out any pedestrians along the way!”
Remote-controlled tarantula and black widow.
The pitch: Scare the bejeebers out of your soon-to-be-ex friends who are arachnophobic.
Availability: http://www.hammacher.com or 800-321-1484. Price is $29.95.
The buzz: Twitching legs, spins, and forward and backward movement spell a surefire frightfest. Both creepy crawlies require four AA batteries and a 9-volt. Those crazy kids over at Hammacher Schlemmer always have the imagination on overdrive; while you’re on the site, check out the animatronic Tyrannosaurus rex ($199.95) and the voice-activated R2D2 ($189.95).
The pitch: Take the nasty out of No. 2.
Availability: http://poopourri.com or 972-818-8200. Prices range from $9.95 to $19.95 for women, men, pets — and diapers. An atomizer travel kit, perfect for a discreet packing in the purse, is $14.95.
The buzz: Nine essential oils are packed into a formula that creates a film on the toilet water surface that traps and diffuses embarrassing odors, the kind that can wreck a date, a dinner, a party or that lovey-dovey moving-in-together vibe. This problem hasn’t been nipped in the butt, but it will be, not long after it’s left there with just a spritz or two before flushing.
Bob’s Pickle Pops.
The pitch: “The whole dill and nothing but the dill.”
Availability: http://www.bobspicklepops.com or 877-245-6682. $7.99 gets you 10 pickle pops. Also available in jalapeño and cactus versions.
The buzz: Why? Because nothing says the holidays like green brine in ice. As the Texas-based company’s own Web site states, “This is one of those crazy ideas that should have died a quick and horrible death right from the beginning.” But on a hilarious video (http://www.youtube.com/user/BobsPicklePops, from a Food Network piece), co-founder John Howard notes that they started freezing them at a roller-skating rink and soon found kids were sucking up these frozen delights left and right. On the health front, a 2-ounce serving contains just three calories and less than a gram of sugar.
Catapult Boss Toss.
The pitch: Relieve office stress “by sending small supervisors skyward.”
Availability: http://www.accoutrements.com or 800-886-2221. Suggested retail price is $4.95.
The buzz: Catapults bosses up to 15 feet. OK, so it’s plastic executive figurines and not the real thing, but we love the spirit from suburban Seattle-based Accoutrements, which bills itself as “outfitters of popular culture” and supplies this and the Sigmund Freud Therapy Ball below. Accoutrements says the Boss Toss is great for launching over cubicle walls at co-workers.
Plexidor Electronic Dog Door and Collar Pass.
The pitch: Give your dog its own personalized door and a passkey to let itself in and out.
Availability: http://www.dogdoors.com or 800-749-9609. The Plexidor units range from $142 to $797 and include two keys. Additional collar keys are $30 extra.
The buzz: Opens exclusively for your pet via a wearable pass code collar key that is actually an RFID chip. The door can’t close while obstructed, thus preventing pinched tails or paws. We’re for anything that helps prevents unsightly and stinky pet messes in the home, but beware of opening Pandora’s box here. Pretty soon, your dog could use his door pass to smuggle in certain pooch ladies of the evening and have the boys over for poker.
Chocolate mousse-flavored marshmallow reindeer Peeps.
The pitch: On any list, holiday or otherwise, chocolate and marshmallows are like those VIPS who walk by you on the red carpet, give the bouncers the knowing wink and slip inside past the velvet ropes. No questions asked, no explanation needed. They’re just natural A-listers on any scene, got it?
Availability: http://www.marshmallowpeeps.com or 888-645-3453. Just $1.79 (suggested retail price) gets you a tray of six reindeer; that’s 2 3/8 ounces, or about 67 grams, of unbridled confectionery bliss.
The buzz: It’s uncouth to insult chocolate, much less Peeps, so we’re letting this one slide. Plus, this is about the homeliest-looking reindeer we’ve ever seen, maybe because it’s about to get devoured. Dig in!
Dr. Sigmund Freud Therapy Ball.
The pitch: Want a heart-to-heart confessional without the $400-an-hour session tab? Just shake this plastic ball up and turn it over.
Availability: http://www.accoutrements.com or 800-886-2221. Suggested retail price is $7.95.
The buzz: Combines the psychologist’s couch and the Magic 8 ball’s mystifying but enduring wit. The Freud ball’s 20 total responses include such gems as, “Go to your happy place,” “Talk about your mother” and, “You’re in denial.”
My Little Dysfunctional Family Album.
The pitch: Pile snowdrifts onto your holiday gloom.
Availability: http://www.runningpress.com or 800-343-4499. Cost is $8.95.
The buzz: Author Sean Maher’s little book admits that “Dysfunction isn’t very Christmasy,” but the pace is brisk and the pages filled with funny and unfashionable “family” photos juxtaposed with captions such as “Self-confidence is just a matter of forgetting what a fraud you are.” Other gems include “DNA should mind its own business,” “Letting the other guy take the fall can be a real time-saver,” and “I’ll bet someday they’ll find a planet out there where everybody doesn’t hate me.” You can almost feel the warmth from these chestnuts roasting on an open fire.
Dog & Cat Draftstoppers.
The pitch: If there’s a chill in your room, smother the source with these cuties.
Availability: http://www.windandweather.com or 877-255-3700. Cost is $39.95.
The buzz: When an old phone book, gum wads, ratty towels or that leftover brick-hard pizza won’t plug the gap (or your real pet refuses to lie across the cold expanse), snuggle up the bean bag-like Dog & Cat Draftstoppers to your entryways and keep the ambience warm and good-looking.
Best o’ the rest
- The latest Veggie Tales DVD, “VeggieTales Saint Nicholas: A Story of Joyful Giving,” introduces Nicky the Pepper, billed as the first new VeggieTales character in five years. Suggested retail price is $14.93; https://bigidea.com or 800-295-0557.
- Keeping things planted, the folks at VegNews have a Holiday Cookie Collection recipe book (in a first-ever digital format) for mouthwatering vegan desserts such as Candy Cane Whoopie Pies and White Chocolate Oatmeal Spice Cookies. All recipes are completely free of animal products (such as eggs, butter and cream) as well as cholesterol. It was on sale for $3 (normally $5) last we looked. Call 415-665-6397 or check out http://vegnews.myshopify.com/products/vegnews-holiday-cookie-collection.
- The Slingshot Flying Monkey with scream sounds that can be launched long distances using your fingers pretty much says it all. Shoot it and it lets out two monkey calls. Let the fun howl for $3.99 by calling 800-944-4322 or visiting http://www.handhelditems.com.
- OK, so Chicken Poop Lip Junk balm doesn’t contain any fowl fecal matter — it’s made from avocado oil, jojoba, sweet orange, lavender essential oil, bees wax and Vitamin E. But we love the name and its origin, supposedly from a grandfather who used to say if you had dry lips, put chicken poop on ’em so you won’t lick ’em. A better holiday dinner-table conversation morsel we can’t find. Cost is $4 for a .15-ounce tube; combo packs range up to $30. http://www.ilovechickenpoop.com or 316-263-7667.