Unclutterer’s 2016 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Wrap up

2016 gift giving guideThis wraps up the 10th anniversary of the Holiday Gift Guide here on Unclutterer. I hope this series of posts inspired you to give uncluttered, organized, and/or useful gifts this year. To recap:

And speaking of “wrapping up” here is an interesting video on using furoshiki, a traditional Japanese wrapping cloth that can be used for wrapping gifts. If you’re handy with a sewing machine, consider uncluttering a closet and converting a favourite shirt, dress or blanket into re-usable gift bags.

 

Feel welcome to explore our previous Gift Giving Guides for even more ideas: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Unclutterer’s 2016 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Buying a laptop for school

2016 gift giving guideWhen I was a high school and college student, computers only existed in the school’s library or in the computer lab. Today, they’re as ubiquitous as group projects and starchy cafeteria meals. Elementary school students will be introduced to computers, and by the time they’re in junior high, kids will receive, complete and turn in homework assignments digitally. As such, a laptop makes a great gift for many students. In this article, I’ll go over how to approach this shopping task. The first thing to determine is what type of computer they’re going to need. The best source for an answer is the school itself.

Ask the school

My first bit of advice applies to buying any school supplies: check with the school. The IT department at your student’s school — junior high, high school or university — has probably published minimum requirement guidelines. For example, something like these recommendations from my alma mater. They’ll include the preferred operating system, hardware requirements, security concerns and so on.

You’ll notice that the guidelines I linked above are for architecture students. Those studying different disciplines will have their own requirements. Again, checking with the IT department is the best way to start. For example, my kids’ school uses Google Classroom extensively, and therefore suggests that students use Chromebooks.

The specifics

The school’s guidelines are a good starting point, but there is always a little leeway. If the school is suggesting a Chromebook but you would prefer to buy a Windows machine or a Mac, you may be able to do so.

Consider how your student will use his or her machine. For instance, should you buy a bigger/heavier or smaller/lighter machine? Will it be carried from class to class or sit in a cart between assignments? Perhaps it will stay home and not travel to school at all.

Next, look at internal storage. A solid state drive (SSD) will perform much better than a traditional, mechanical hard drive because it is fast with super snappy search and retrieval. But if the student will mostly do word processing, a less expensive hard drive is just fine.

Lastly, look at peripherals that you’ll need. A sturdy, ergonomic mouse is a good idea, as is a good laptop stand. A simple bag is useful as well, especially if the computer will be traveling to and from class.

What to buy

With all that said, here are my picks — one of each operating system.

Chromebook

11282016_delll13chromebook

 

The Dell Chromebook 13 is a fantastic little computer. At $430, it feels like a laptop that cost hundreds more. It’s got a fantastic keyboard, a solid, quality trackpad and enough “oomph” to get kids through their assignments with ease. The eleven-hour battery life is a bonus, as is the 16 GB solid state drive and 4 GB of RAM. This is the Chromebook I would buy if I were in the market.

PC

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If you prefer a Windows operating system, consider the DELL XPS 13.3″ Ultrabook. It offers a great-looking display and has small, portable body. It’s perfect for any coursework assignment. The aluminum body will take minor bumps and scrapes (let’s face it, kids aren’t always kind to their things).

Mac

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For most students, a MacBook Air will serve their needs. I recommend an Apple-certified refurbished model like this one. The Air is ultra portable, features startup times that are incredibly fast and has access to Apple’s ecosystem of apps and services. Plus, Apple laptops retain their resale value very well.

A laptop makes a very nice gift indeed, and hopefully this guide helps you choose the very right one. Happy shopping.

Feel welcome to explore our previous Gift Giving Guides for even more ideas: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Unclutterer’s 2016 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Black Friday

2016 gift giving guideYou may be someone who enjoys heading out to the stores on Black Friday. Maybe it’s a family tradition, and maybe some things on your list have great Black Friday prices. (If you’re not a Black Friday fan, it may console you to know that some people expect there will be better deals for many things in December.)

But whether you shop on Black Friday or on other days, the following are some thoughts to consider:

Try to avoid gifts that will become clutter. Over the past few days we’ve provided some suggestions that may help you out with that. But no matter how careful you are with your gift selections, once in a while a gift will not work well for the recipient. So take it in good spirits if a gift you gave winds up getting returned. Make things easy for your gift recipient by including a gift receipt when one is available.

Consider whether or not your gift recipient wants a gift at all. Recently I’ve noticed some people asking that any money that would have been spent on gifts for them be donated to charity instead, with a list of preferred charities being provided.

If you can afford to do so, you may want to participate in a program that gives holiday gifts to low-income households. I really enjoyed shopping for the women I “adopted” this year, going through their wish lists and getting them everything from socks to sweatshirts to nail polish.

Remember that some gifts are best when not bought too far in advance. For example, most chocolates, such as these truffles from Sweet Mona’s, will last quite a while. (I called the store and spoke to Mona about their shelf life.) However, some chocolates need to be eaten fairly quickly: 14 days from shipment, 30 days from receipt, etc.

Look at shopping options beyond the malls and the online choices. I’ve found fine gifts for people on my list at local shops and at some of the many art and gift fairs that are held this time of year. And if you’ve got the time and skills for homemade gifts, they can be wonderful when given to the right people. I just received a handmade quilt, and it’s one of the best gifts ever.

Stock up on thank-you note cards (or general-purpose note cards you can use when writing those thank you notes). If you need help writing a thank-you note, the late Leslie Harpold has good advice.

Feel welcome to explore our previous Gift Giving Guides for even more ideas: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Unclutterer’s 2016 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Tech for the person who has everything

2016 gift giving guideCome holiday time, there are three types of people to shop for: there are the people who are easy to buy for, the ones who are difficult to buy for, and finally, those individuals who seem to have everything they want or need. Their tastes are clearly defined, so you can think of a thousand and one things they’d love to have, but it seems like they already have them.

Fear not! In this article, I’ll list cool tech gadgets for the person who (seemingly) has everything.

Let’s start with the Microsoft Universal Foldable Keyboard. This handy device folds up for tidy storage and easy travel when not in use. It is compatible with iPads, iPhones, Android devices and Windows tablets. Plus it’s very easy to use, simply unfold it to turn it on and close it up again to turn it off. Once the Bluetooth connection is established you’re good to go.

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When you’ve finished a long day at work, relax with these outdoor holiday lights with built-in Bluetooth speakers from Bright 11222016_speakerlightsTunes. It sounds kind of silly, but hear me out. Often times people will use what I used to call “Christmas lights” for all sorts of decorating. They look great on a porch, for example. This set includes small Bluetooth speakers that are compatible with nearly all smartphones and tablets. Just set them up, make the Bluetooth connection, and choose your favorite playlist.

About a year ago, I bought The Roku Smart TV for myself and I just love it. Not only is it one of the least expensive Smart TVs you can buy, it got rave reviews from CNET, and I can see why. It is easy to set up, has great picture quality, and this TV is a serious unclutterer. Since it has so many services built in (Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go, Amazon Prime and many more), I was able to toss my Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV. No more set-top boxes sitting around, no more pile of remotes. It’s a fantastic device.

Finally, let’s switch from the home to the car for the Automatic Pro. It’s an adapter that plugs into a port under the dashboard on most cars sold in America. It then uses 3G connectivity (at no additional charge) to share information with its smartphone app. It helps you diagnose engine trouble, keep track of where you’ve parked, alert emergency services if you’re in an accident, and more.

Additionally, it lets you keep track of your car’s whereabouts. Kids driving on a long road trip and you want to be sure they’re safe? Or, car stolen? Now you know exactly where the car is. Alert the police and make a recovery.

There you have some cool gifts for those people on your list who seem to have everything. Happy shopping and enjoy your holiday.

Feel welcome to explore our previous Gift Giving Guides for even more ideas: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Unclutterer’s 2016 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Gifts for clutter-prone rooms

2016 gift giving guideThe holidays are a time to gather with loved ones, feel a deep sense of gratitude, and receive presents! I kid of course…kind of. We all have a list of things we would love to have but we would never buy for ourselves. In this article, I’m going to point out several such items for the areas of the home that are very prone to clutter: the home office, the kitchen and the shed or garage. These items will delight the unclutterer on your list.

For the home office

There are many fantastic digital organization tools available. Still, there is nothing like a paper planner, and my favorite by far is the Hobonichi Techo. This Japanese brand day planner/notebook has been on my desk for years. It features thin yet remarkably durable paper that resists ink bleed-through. It can be used as a notebook, planner, journal or sketchbook. The spine features lay-flat binding, which I love, and it is sized for travel. There are cool covers available too, if you want to go all out.

field notes notebookJust like the Hobonichi Techo, I have a fierce loyalty to Field Notes notebooks. While the Techo sits on my desk, the Field Notes notebook is in my back pocket, all day, every day. It is a durable tool that’s ready for work. Anything I need to capture in the moment – an appointment, an idea, a request or a task to add to a project – is written in my notebook. At work, people simply say to me, “…put it in your notebook,” because they know that’s just what I’m going to do. Field Notes are stylish, sturdy, and small enough to fit in a shirt pocket. I’m literally never without one.

You’ll need a pen for all that writing, and you can’t go wrong with a Fisher Space Pen. (And yes, it did go into space.) This rugged, compact pen can write at any angle (for the times when the only flat surface is a vertical wall) and on almost any material – including wet paper! It’s the perfect companion to the Field Notes notebook.

For the kitchen

11212016_dishrackCan a dish rack be beautiful? If you’re thinking of the Polder KTH–615 Advantage Dish Rack, the answer is “yes.” The Polder is strong and stable with a small footprint. It’s also got a huge utensil rack that can hold an impressive collection of forks, knives and spoons without falling off. For those days when you’ve got more dishes than usual, the slide-out tray will accommodate them all.

The bakers on your list will love the Joseph Joseph 20085 Adjustable Rolling Pin. Here’s what’s really cool about this rolling pin: with a simple adjustment, you can ensure that you’re flattening your dough to a specific, uniform thickness. Baking demands precision and this tool lets you achieve just that. No more worrying if the dough is too thin.

For the garage/shed

11212016_toolboxNothing beats a good set of tools, except the container you use to store them all. While big metal toolboxes are nice, I love the Jobsite Work Box by Milwaukee. The great feature here is that the Jobsite Work Box stores tools vertically in slots, completely eliminating the jumbled pile of tools that nearly every other toolbox contains. It’s lightweight, portable and very durable. There are other boxes that offer vertical storage, and most are much more expensive than the Milwaukee.

There you have it. If you know someone that would like one of these items but wouldn’t go out and buy it him/herself, go ahead and purchase it for that person. Demonstrate what an insightful gift-giver you are this holiday season.

Feel welcome to explore our previous Gift Giving Guides for even more ideas: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Unclutterer’s 2016 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Long-lasting kitchen gifts

2016 gift giving guideThis year my husband and I are celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary. In honour of this occasion I am presenting a list of items we bought or were given early in our marriage that we still own and use all the time. These items have not only lasted through 25 years of marriage but ten household moves – four cross-continent and two trans-Atlantic.

Mixing Bowls

mixing bowls with lidsPyrex bowls with matching lids are amazing. Made from durable glass so they are oven, microwave, fridge, freezer and dishwasher safe. They nest inside each other so they take up minimal space in cupboards. Because you can seal the bowls with a lid, you can mix ingredients and store them on the counter or in the fridge and do the final preparations later. They can also double as serving bowls or, snap on a lid and easily take a salad to a potluck dinner.

Flatware

stainless flatwareGood quality stainless steel flatware means you will only ever need to have one set because it is durable for every day use and nice enough for meals with special guests. Stainless steel is dishwasher-safe (easy to clean after dinner parties) and unlike silver, it never requires polishing. If this is a gift option for someone you know, I suggest a classic design that is not likely to go out of fashion or out of production. Look for a pattern that also has matching serve ware (butter knife, slotted spoon, etc.).

Cookware

If ceramic cookware had been available when we got married I would have appreciated a set with lids that fit both the pots and the pans. We did receive a lovely stainless steel pot that is still in wonderful condition. If you give or receive a gift of ceramic cookware, get a set of nylon cooking utensils – essential to protect the ceramic coating. Our set of utensils has lasted through our entire marriage.20161118_ceramic_pots_set

Bakeware

I love our bakeware set. It is dishwasher-safe, can be used in the microwave or oven, and can be easily transferred to the refrigerator or freezer. I wish our set had included plastic lids. It would be much easier to store items in the fridge or freezer, or to take them to potluck dinners. Since bakeware lasts a long time, if you’re considering this item, choose a classic pattern that will coordinate with all types of décor.20161118_bakeware

Knives

I recommend an excellent set of kitchen knives. Check out our post from 2011 for our list of recommended kitchen knives.

Feel welcome to explore our previous Gift Giving Guides for even more ideas: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Unclutterer’s 2016 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Experience Gifts

2016 gift giving guideExperience gifts can be one good way to avoid clutter, although you still need to select them with care to match the recipients’ interests. The following list goes beyond the common gifts (such as a gift certificate for a massage) to give you some more food for thought. Although the examples come from selected U.S. cities, you may be able to find something similar in other areas.

Because some people want to give something tangible, I’ve also suggested books you could match with these experience gifts.

One reminder: If using your gift will cause the recipient to incur significant additional expenses (babysitting, parking, etc.) then consider including some cash to cover these expenses or arranging to have them pre-paid, when possible.

Visits to local attractions

There’s a saying about tourists seeing places that long-term residents never do, and that can certainly be true. In my area, the Winchester Mystery House is a well-known place that I’ve never visited in the 40+ years I’ve lived in the San Francisco Bay Area. The ticket prices always seemed a bit high, but I’d definitely go if someone got me a ticket. You may know of similar places your gift recipient would like to visit.

It’s always easier on the recipient if you can buy a gift certificate rather than tickets for a specific day. If the website doesn’t mention gift certificates, try calling. That’s what I did for the Winchester Mystery House, and I found out that gift certificates are indeed available.

If you’d like to include a book, one option is Side Walks — a journal that encourages readers to explore their cities.

Museum gift cards

We’ve mentioned museum memberships on Unclutterer in the past, but a gift card (or gift certificate) allows the recipient to purchase a range of things: admission (or a membership), classes, food and beverage at the museum café, etc.

Of course, the gift card can also be used at the museum gift shop, which will result in more stuff, but that’s the recipient’s choice.

These gifts can work for both adults and children. Just a few of the museums that offer gift cards are the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, the Terre Haute Children’s Museum, and the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History.

Appropriate books will depend on the type of museum and the age of the gift recipient. For adults interested in natural history museums, you might choose Stuffed Animals and Pickled Heads: The Culture and Evolution of Natural History Museums. Children ages 8 to 12 might like Animalium: Welcome to the Museum, which has gorgeous illustrations.

Arboretum and state park gift cards

As with museum gift cards, these are an alternative to memberships or annual passes (which can also be great gifts). The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum notes that its gift cards (which can be used for admission, membership, classes, restaurant meals, etc.) never expire. The Morton Arboretum has a long list of things the cards can be used for, including chamber concert tickets, tram tours, and Mother’s Day brunch. They can be bought in any denomination, so you can spend the amount that works best for you.

Arizona State Parks gift cards can be used for day use, overnight camping, and cave tours (as well as gift shop purchases). Ohio State Parks gift cards and certificates can be used for camping, cabin or lodge rentals, six state park golf courses, boat and bike rentals, etc.

An interesting companion book might be Unseen City: The Majesty of Pigeons, the Discreet Charm of Snails and Other Wonders of the Urban Wilderness.

Ball park tours

Most of these tours require you to buy tickets for specific dates and times, but Wrigley Field tours are available via gift certificate. Others might offer gift certificates if you called and asked — if not, you would need to coordinate with your gift recipient. If you want the gift to be a surprise, you could always give a greeting card saying, “Good for a tour of the ball park. Let me know a good time for you and I’ll buy the ticket.”

One possible book to partner with this gift is the novel Bang the Drum Slowly. For children, books from the Ballpark Mystery series might be fun.

City art and architecture tours

There are all sorts of city tours available, many focused on food and beverages and others focused on the city’s history. But some of the most interesting-sounding tours are ones like these:

Of course, there are many wonderful books about art and architecture that could get paired with a gift certificate or tickets for such tours. One book to consider is The Architecture of Happiness.

Feel welcome to explore our previous Gift Giving Guides for even more ideas: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Unclutterer’s 2016 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Convenient tech

2016 gift giving guideTechnology offers the promise of convenience and ease. These awesome tech gift ideas deliver on that promise. From taking notes to the ultimate bedside charging cable, we’ve collected the best tech gifts that add convenience to your day – or night. Let’s get started with those who work in both the digital and analog world.

The Wacom Bamboo Folio Smartpad is a clever and useful device that marries hand-written and digital note taking. On the right, it’s pen and paper. Take notes, write text, plan world domination. When the planning is complete, simply hit a button and the information is transferred to your iPad, iPhone or Android device where you can share, enhance or continue your work digitally. The final product can be shared as JPG, PNG, PDF or WILL file formats. As for the Cloud, you can export directly to Dropbox, Evernote, and OneNote.wacom smartpad

The Tile Slim is a treasure for the wanna-be organizer who is prone to misplacing certain items (I’m raising my hand here). Once attached to smartphone, keys or whatever else you’re likely to lose, simply pair it with the mobile app and you’re a tap away from finding that pesky wallet. It’s not flashy but it is very useful.

The Amazon Echo Dot is a tiny device that takes online shopping to a very convenient and handy place. When connected to external speakers, the Dot listens for your voice to issue commands. It can play music, make purchases, control smart home devices and so much more. What’s even better is how easily it can be tucked away. Since it doesn’t need to “see” a remote of any kind, you can put it neatly on a shelf, behind a house plant or a stack of books. At $50, it’s affordable convenience that geeks and non-geeks will enjoy.

night cableThe Night Cable. I use my smartphone as an alarm clock, which means it spends the night charging up on my night stand. Unfortunately, the wall socket is kind of far away, so I needed a charging cable longer than what’s in the box. The Night Cable is a full 10 feet long, made of very durable material and, best of all, features a weighted knot just a few inches from the end. That way, I never have to silently shake my fist as it falls – once again – behind the table.

All of these gifts will please the convenience-loving techie on your list. Here’s hoping you find something great, and enjoy your holiday.

Feel welcome to explore our previous Gift Giving Guides for even more ideas: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Unclutterer’s 2016 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Organizing gifts for kids

2016 gift giving guideThe holiday shopping season is upon us. I’m sure that, like me, many of you have kids on your list. It’s always fun to buy gifts for kids, young and old. Of course, I’m doing so with an organizational flair. In this article, I’ll describe gifts that will keep kids organized and keep their interest at the same time.

Gifts for the Gamer

Many kids (and adults, including yours truly) enjoy playing games, both digital and tabletop. It’s a great hobby with a huge potential for clutter. Keeping things neat and easy to find makes the gaming experience much better. Here are a few great gifts that will do the trick.

You can’t go wrong with a game controller charging station. These convenient accessories store controllers in a tidy, accessible fashion while charging their batteries at the same time. You’ll find models for the Xbox One and others for the Wii, Xbox 360 and Sony Playstation. Any gamer would want these!

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The Cablebox from Bluelounge isn’t the flashiest gift but it’s such a pleasure to have. It houses almost any size power strip with plenty of room for cords. There’s easy access from either side, so place it where ever you like.

Board games come in big boxes with lots of components that must be stored in a tidy manner, or else setup will take a lot longer than it should. For tabletop gamers, I recommend the game-specific, in-box organizers from The Broken Token. These folks make the most beautiful, durable inserts for large, popular games like Dead of Winter, Lords of Waterdeep, Carcassonne and so many more. I can’t say enough good things about these inserts.

Gifts for the Student

20161114_reconbackpackA good backpack will serve your high school or college student well, and the North Face Recon is a good backpack. It’s durable and water resistant, which is good for dashing between classes on a rainy day. The Recon features several fleece-lined pockets that are friendly towards gadgets and electronics, and a vented back so you won’t arrive to school with a sweaty shirt.

For the college student, a box of “basics” is a great way to go. Grab items like bath towels, bed sheets, some dishes and silverware…all of the stuff that doesn’t necessarily receive the TLC it deserves while in the dorm.

Gifts for the Reader

Readers love to share books, but fear the possibility that they will not be returned. That’s where the Knock Knock Personal Library Kit comes in. This tidy kit lets kids act as their own librarians, affixing “return date” cards to their books via personalized front-cover pockets. It’s fun, convenient and helps guarantee that beloved books will be returned.

Gifts for the Youngster

20161114_woodblocksetI have yet to meet a kid who dreams of receiving a storage solution as a gift, so don’t wrap up Rubbermaid bins for them. Instead, look for appealing toys that come with reusable storage, like this great set of wooden building blocks.

Those with many kids will love a set of Mabel’s Labels. These super-cute labels clearly display your child’s name and come in many sizes, colors and themes (dinosaur, nature, etc.), and they stick to just about anything. Pop them on camping gear, baseball hats, sports equipment and more.

 

For more gifts for kids, feel free to explore our previous Gift Giving Guides: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Introducing the 2016 Unclutterer Holiday Gift Giving Guide

2016 gift giving guideOver the next two weeks we will be running posts for our annual Holiday Gift Giving Guide. This is our TENTH Guide and we’re thrilled!

This year you can expect there to be suggestions on gifts that withstand the test of time, fun gifts to help children stay organized, and gifts of useful technology tools. We’ll also be sharing one of our favourite posts – fun and clutter free experience gifts.

We hope that our gift ideas will be a helpful guide for you during this busy holiday season.

For more inspiration, feel free to browse through our previous Holiday Gift Giving Guides: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Unclutterer’s 2015 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Wrap up

I’m still surprised this was our ninth Gift Guide here on Unclutterer. Regardless, I hope this series of posts inspired you to give uncluttered, organized, and/or useful gifts this year. To recap:

I also meant to include, but somehow it slipped my mind, a useful organizing product that could really help you or someone on your list this year. They’re fireproof storage bags — similar to a safe, but flexible and for items you treasure that don’t need to be locked away. The brand name is ZquaredAway and the bags come in a nice variety of sizes. The company sent me a couple to review (a small one for thumb drives and a much larger one that fits photo albums) and they’re incredible (and they didn’t pay me to say that, they really are great).

I actually threw one on my grill a few weeks ago and everything inside was safe afterward. I’ll be honest, throwing a bag on my grill was a lot of fun and made me briefly wish I’d have pursued a career as a product tester for UL or Consumer Reports.

Anyway, I hope you all have a stress-free holiday season and found some inspiration in this year’s Guide. If you’re looking for additional inspiration, feel welcome to check out our past Guides: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014.

Unclutterer’s 2015 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Experience Gifts

People I know who have received experience gifts — a museum membership, a helicopter ride — say they were some of their favorite gifts ever. The following are a few ideas for such gifts, along with related books for those who like to provide something tangible, too. I’ve provided links to some specific examples, but if any of these catch your eye you can look for similar options in other places.

If you plan to give an experience gift and there will be substantial additional costs involved (for tips or parking, for example), consider including some cash to cover those expenses or arranging a way to prepay them on behalf of your gift recipient.

Food and beverage tours

I’ve mentioned chocolate tours before, but you can find tours that focus on many different consumables. For example, you could give the gift of a pizza tour or a beer tour. To go along with those tours, you could get books such as Pizza: A Global History or The Comic Book Story of Beer.

Surfing, kayaking, and more

For the person on your list who would like to try something new, a gift certificate for kayaking, canoeing or surfing lessons might be perfect. There are private lessons and group lessons, and older children can take classes, too. For others, a gift card for equipment rentals might be welcome.

Possible books to go along with such a gift include One Inch Above the Water and Chasing Waves: A Surfer’s Tale of Obsessive Wandering.

Music and comedy

Lessons that teach someone to play an instrument can be great, but you can also consider a gift certificate for voice or DJ lessons. Comedy classes focused on improv and more could also be a fun gift for the right person. For someone who doesn’t want voice lessons but just wants to sing some karaoke, you might get a gift card for the use of a karaoke room.

Books that might be appreciated along with such gift certificates include The Art of Singing and Yes, And: How Improvisation Reverses “No, But” Thinking and Improves Creativity and Collaboration. I was also intrigued by Turn Around Bright Eyes: A Karaoke Journey of Starting Over, Falling in Love, and Finding Your Voice.

Beyond the (basic) massage

A gift certificate for a massage is often a welcome gift, but you can also consider alternatives like the use of a hot tub or a Japanese soaking tub. Another option could be a gift certificate for a specialized massage: a scalp massage, a foot massage (for those without ticklish feet), a pregnancy (or pre-natal) massage, etc.

Body Work: What Kind of Massage to Get And How to Make the Most of It might be a good companion book.

Sponsor an animal — and go visit it

A number of nonprofit organizations allow you to sponsor or “adopt” an animal. And in some cases, one of the benefits is getting to visit the animal you sponsored. For example, you can do a gift adoption at Farm Sanctuary, which entitles the sponsor to a tour to meet the adopted animal.

Many zoos also have adopt-an-animal programs that include a free admission as one of the benefits. You could always do a zoo outing without an adoption, but knowing there’s an animal you’re sponsoring might make the visit extra special.

Books about animals abound, so finding one to go along with the gift should be easy. If you adopted a chicken from Farm Sanctuary — that’s the least expensive option — you might consider getting The Magnificent Chicken: Portraits of the Fairest Fowl.

For additional inspiration, feel welcome to check out our past Guides: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014.