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Gift Guide: Last minute ideas for last minute people

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

By Kim Crow, Pitsburgh Post-Gazette

There are only seven (seven!) shopping days left before Christmas. It's time to get serious about The List -- and those one or two people whose wishes always confound you. Here are a few ideas for those hard-to-buy-for folks in your life:

Parker's Sensa Cloud 9 is so cool that it removes all stigma from pen gift-giving.

For literary types: Does Grandma like to read in bed at night? And does Grandpa like to sleep? Help them both out with the LightWedge, a personal reading light that illuminates only the page being read and leaves the rest of the room undisturbed. It clips on to the book's flap, and shines a bright white LED light across the page for glare-free reading. The LightWedge Original is for hardback books and retails for $34.95; there's another version of the LightWedge for paperback books that retails at $24.95. Both are available at local book stores and through

"I gave her my love ... and she gave me a pen." Even if John Cusack's memorable line in "Say Anything" did give fine writing instruments a bad rap, the Sensa Cloud 9 pen ($24.99) is a writer's dream: smooth and non-smearing, with a comfy gel grip and sleek, modern lines, available in many contemporary colors. This way, you can give someone your love and a pen. Available at specialty stores and office supply stores including J R Weldin Co., Downtown (412-281-0123).

For hipsters: From famous hipster artist Shag (aka Josh Agle) and mixologist Adam Rocke comes "Shag's Around the World in 80 Drinks," a playful take on the Jules Verne classic that features cocktails from exotic spots across the globe. Shag's '50s/'60s-inspired illustrations are what make this little book so cool. Another Shag offering is "The Sinner's Datebook" a 2004 desk calendar loaded with sly, boldly colored illustrations and wry pop culture notations (on April 16, 1943, chemist Albert Hoffman took the first LSD trip). Both are available for $12.95 at major bookstores, online at or by calling 1-800-326-4430.

Gen-Xers can prove their dominance in pop culture knowledge with The 90's Game. Players are asked to identify movie quotes, sing TV theme songs, recall sports statistics and rattle off product slogans in both this game and its counterparts, The 70's Game and The 80's Game. For $29.95, the game can be found at Target,, www.the90s or 1-866-752-9807.

Adventurer lovers: Does the hubby fancy himself a fly guy? Give him a trial run with a $49 introductory pilot lesson. Be A Pilot is a nonprofit organization that seeks to educate the public about flying through programs such as these. Register online at or call 1-888-BE-A-PILOT to receive an Introductory Flight Certificate, which can then be presented at more than 1,800 participating flight schools nationwide.

Stumped on a stocking stuffer for a 12-year-old? Present him or her with the timelessly cool, gross-out facts found in the Guinness Book of World Records. The 2004 edition has an additional 750 categories, including a pumped-up sports chapter. It's available for $27.95 at most retail outlets.

For those who like to be pampered: Know someone who lives on a busy street or corner? Help them block out the night sounds with a soothing Aromatherapy Sleep Machine ($29.99) by LifeWise. It features six soothing sounds (a babbling brook, an ocean tide, falling raindrops, etc.) and includes a handy little pillow speaker. Available at Radio Shack, there's also a programmable timer and aromatherapy pads that can be used with a favorite aromatherapy oil.

Speaking of aromatherapy, Carla's Concoctions is an exclusive line of aromatherapy products that includes oils, lotions, sachets and bath soaks. Made from organic herbs and pure essential oils, Carla's Concoctions are favored among celebrities such as Julianne Moore and the cast of "Will & Grace." The Lavender Nourishing Lotion is particularly nice; prices range from $6 to $30 and products are available online at

For tiny ones: Babies might be the easiest folks to buy for, but one book series not to overlook are the Amazing Baby Activity Play Books. The series was created based on extensive research into how babies learn. The books combine bold colors and black and white patterns to stimulate sight, textures and flaps to encourage motor skills, and squeakers and rattlers to illustrate different sounds. Titles include "Amazing Baby Listen and Play" and "Amazing Baby Touch and Play." $15.95 at most bookstores.

Commercial pop artist Shag's latest collaboration with mixologist Adam Rocke is "Shag's Around the World in 80 Drinks," featuring cocktail recipes from around the globe.

Any mother can tell you that Baby Einstein videos and DVDs can be a lifesaver. Critically acclaimed, the videos feature combinations of objects, music, art and language that transfix babies everywhere -- which would explain why nearly 90 percent of infant videos sold last year were part of the Baby Einstein line, according to Business Week magazine. New this year is Baby Santa's Music Box, a sensory excursion of blinking lights, ornaments, sleigh bells and Santas, accompanied by traditional melodies from across the world. $14.99 for the video, $19.99 for the DVD, available online at and through retailers such as Babies 'R' Us.

Animal lovers: Debra Johnson, a local artist and animal foster home caregiver, has been creating ornaments for friends and family for years. The Observatory Hill resident is going public this year, offering Custom Pet Keepsake ornaments, hand-painted with an image of your favorite pet. As a bonus, a portion of all proceeds are donated to animal welfare organizations. Price is $39.99 each, plus shipping; allow two weeks for delivery -- ok, so the gift might be a little late! But it will be worth the wait. Call 412-931-0174 or e-mail her at

The Audubon Society, in association with Wild Republic, has a new line of plush birds that come complete with real bird songs provided by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The line includes a series of Backyard Birds (Northern Cardinal, American Goldfinch, etc.) and Water Birds (Mallard, Common Loon, etc.). Each stuffed bean-bag bird comes with an educational tag, detailing the bird's features and habitat. Prices range from $6 to $8 and the birds are available at local Hallmark stores, the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania and the National Aviary.

For bargain hunters: is a new online comparison-shopping site for consumers looking to find the right product and the retailer or e-tailer where they will find the best bargain. The site includes all the big boys, such as Wal-mart and Target, not to mention hundreds of smaller retailers.

Kim Crow can be reached at 412-263-1308 or .

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