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11.23.11

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Phaedra

Just a Little Something

This holiday season, less is more fun

By Jessica Dur, Anna Freeman, Traci Hukill, Cat Johnson, Samantha Larson, Jacob Pierce and Tessa Stuart

Are we over big yet? Are we finished with oversized, puffed-up stuff that takes up too much room and winds up in storage? Then go small this holiday season with gifts that are small in size but big on style.

For the Mad Man in Your Life

Teroforma whiskey stones ($20)

Chiseled chunks of Vermont soapstone will lower the temperature without diluting your giftee's favorite dram. To use: toss the stones in the freezer for a couple hours before the imbibing begins.

For the Aspiring Spike Jonze in Your Life

Magnetic / detachable fisheye lens ($19)

This lens, compatible with the iPhone4 or the iPad2, creates photos with curved edges and a 180-degree angle of view, giving images a spherical look—and it's just plain fun. It's also a great way to make videos and photos look something like the Beastie Boys might have filmed circa 1992. Guaranteed, there'd be Ad-Roc, face distorted and stretched out, huge mocking grin, all made better by the nifty fisheye lens effect. With this sweet little gadget, amateur photographers and skate / bike / snowboard videographers can make every day a bubbled-up, bugged-out Check Your Head kinda day. Immensely portable, it's easy to slip into your pocket for a day documenting extreme sports (and PBR drinking) at the skatepark or on the slopes. So watcha' watcha' watcha' waiting for?

For the Compulsively Tidy Tea Enthusiast in Your Life

R&M International no-drip tea strainer ($4.95)

All finicky tea drinkers know how vexing it can be to lift a tea infuser from a perfectly steeped cup and have no saucer to rest it upon. Tea puddles on a raw tabletop—disgusting! Possibly unsanitary, even! The no-drip tea strainer solves the problem with a built–in drip–catch base. The entire apparatus is affixed to a hook that fits nicely over the side of a mug. Sanity and order at last prevail.

For the Wannabe Rapper in Your Life

Tooth jewels ($20–$200)

Since the dawn of time, humans have bejeweled their appendages, phalanges, nasal septums, ear conches and just about any show-worthy body part. Now it's time to give those long-neglected bicuspids their due attention. Once solely the domain of hip-hop stars, tooth jewels have infiltrated the mainstream market, and with good reason: less invasive than grills, they are affordable, subtle and temporary. No drilling is involved, either—jewels are bonded to the teeth in 20 painless minutes (either by oneself, or more commonly, a dentist). Unlike bulky braces, these tiny gems won't trap errant corn kernels, leave no mark once removed and even encourage better oral hygiene, given all that extra attention to the pearly whites. And, hey, the worst that can happen to a tooth jewel—coming loose and being swallowed—results in nothing more than a little bling down the porcelain king.

For the Hungover Bro in Your Life

Black Braun BNC002 travel clock ($30)

The other day a friend and I were talking when all of a sudden she said, "Oh no, I have to go. I have to get a nap in before the kid and the hub get home. Would you call me back at 2:30pm to wake me up?" I ended up spending the next two hours hyperaware of the time, only to have my friend call me right on time to let me know she didn't need a wake-up call after all. Needless to say, she will be getting an alarm clock as her holiday gift. I had heard that a current SFMOMA exhibit spotlighted the designs of Dieter Rams. A former Braun designer, Rams' modernist approach to function and design was exactly what I had in mind: simple to use with clean, classy lines. The winner of my shopping spree was a Black Braun BNC002 travel clock ($30). This stylish reissue and rough equivalent to the original 1987 AB1 model will provide anyone with a sure-fire way to awaken whenever needed, no phone call necessary.

For the Eco-Conscious Gadget Addict in Your Life

Joos Orange solar charger ($150)

This whiz-bang contraption converts an hour of full sunlight into three hours of pleasure yakking on the phone. According to the website, it can also keep the iPad rocking, the video camera filming, the night vision goggles skulking and the small medical refrigerator humming—all without tapping into nasty fossil fuels.

For the Gamer in Your Life

Video game point card ($20–$60)

A world exists where people trade real money for digitally rendered items such as swords, maps, outfits for avatars, tools, downloadable games and other video game "add-ons." These items are paid for with video game points. One way to get points is to buy video game point cards. Available in different denominations for PS3, XBOX 360 and Wii, these cards provide an entry point to enhancing one's gamer profile, skill set, credibility and access to premium content. They can also be used to get movies, TV shows and apps, but sadly, not girlfriends.

For the Crack Addict in Your Life

Black Diamond Camalot C3's ($59.95)

When shimmying up a sheer rock face, it helps to have a magic life-saving device to jam into cracks so small they're almost invisible. Rock climbers can secure a hold in even the thinnest of cracks with these microcams. Said to fit into more placements than any other camming unit, the only other thing a crack climber could wish for is smaller fingertips (and perhaps some climbing tape). Available in sizes 000 to 2.

For the Disaster Preparedness Obsessive in Your Life

Kikkerland Dynamo solar radio ($24.95)

Normally, we associate emergency radios with clunky, industrial-looking schwag handed out by almost tearfully grateful public radio stations during the pledge drive. Not this beauty! Super green—both literally and figuratively—and measuring a compact 3-by-3 inches, this stylish solar radio gives users the option of hand-cranking or just chillin' in the earthquake rubble while the sun's rays do all the work of recharging the battery, leaving hands free to work on that slingshot standing between you and starvation.

For the Covert Government Operative in Your Life

Ravi Ratan flashdrive cufflinks ($100)

Sleek silver fasteners keep the cuffs of a fine tailored shirt in line with a tuxedo jacket and important documents just north of those manicured fingertips. There are two gigabytes of storage per link—that's enough space for a thousand songs, 400 photos or an undisclosed number of top-secret dossiers.

For the Surprise-Loving Toy Collector in Your Life

Kid Robot Blind Box toys ($5–$20)

Here's the deal: a run of collectible toy figures is released by Kid Robot with, say, nine different figures. Collectors generally want all of them, and casual customers generally want to pick their favorites. It's a straightforward concept, but this one has a twist. The individual toys are packaged in "blind boxes," meaning that no one—supposedly even the manufacturer—knows which toy is in which box. While it may sound like a frustrating venture into overbuying, the toys are a huge hit and the packaging is part of the fun.

For the Adventurous Lady Lover in Your Life

Lyla vibrator ($125)

These days, everything has a remote control—even the hottest vibrators. By tilting or shaking a Lyla vibrator's remote, the pleasure-giver (or receiver) can control the speed and rhythm of this toy's bed-rocking pulsations. The remote works from more than 35 feet away and also has preprogrammed patterns for multi-taskers or the lazy. This waterproof, rechargeable toy comes in three colors with a warranty to cover a full year that will probably go down in the books as vivacious. Oh, there's more: the remote vibrates too, for couples that really want to share the love.

For the Caffeine Addict in Your Life

Outdoors mini espresso maker ($19.95)

A glimmer of hope for those who long for the freedom of a weekend out in the wild but are bound to civilization by the headache they get if they miss their morning cup of joe. Small and light enough to throw in a pack, this baby brews up a single shot of espresso in just 90 seconds over a backpacking stove.

For the Gadget-Savvy Little Kid at Heart

JAWS shark iPod cozy ($18)

It's a scary world out there, filled with puddles, dirt and creepy germs trying to cling to our valuable touch screens. Luckily there's a hand-knit iPod shark cozy to protect 21st-century technology and take the edge off it, too. Based in Brookesville, Fla., Chris and Yaya have an endearing made-to-order fluffy fish design for those who want to keep their mp3 player safe in the belly of a beast. Their collection is available on Etsy, under "Chris and Yaya."

For the Wrap Star in Your Life

Furoshiki by LINK Los Angeles ($50)

A couple of strategically placed twists can turn this striped satin swath of cloth into a bag, a bottle holder, a headband, a scarf and much more. Check out Furoshiki.com for folding diagrams and ideas.

For the Sharp Shooter in Your Life

Fujifilm Instax Mini 7S instant film camera ($58)

The grandchild of the Polaroid spits out credit-card-sized prints directly into the palm of your hand, and at 4.8-by-4.7-by-2.5 inches, fits perfectly in a purse or pocket.

For the Downsized Audiophile in Your Life

Jawbone Jambox bluetooth speaker ($200)

By all accounts the best portable wireless speaker on the market, the Jambox comes in four cute colors (red, blue, silver and black) and is roughly the size of a block of Velveeta, according to the wags at Gizmodo. It's also really, really loud and reportedly very clean, meaning it can anchor a conference call at work, guarantee near–perfect clarity on a phone call in the car and fill the living room with thumping bass at home.

For the Chocolate Snob in Your Life

Scharffen Berger mini chocolate bar ($2.35)

These one-ounce bars from the Berkeley-based chocolatier are just big enough to provide a taste of heaven and perfectly sized for a stocking toe. And as the makers specialize in darker varieties with high cocoa content—up to 82 percent—a taste might be more than enough for us mere mortals to handle. Available individually or in a six-bar sampler.

For the Outdoor Adventurer with Back Issues

Uco micro-candle lantern ($12.95)

Heading into the back country without a pleasant and flattering source of light just because you don't want to risk permanent back injury? That's a terrible idea! This wee lantern not only provides light and a little warmth, it packs down to 2.5 inches tall and a feathery 4.2 ounces. That includes the two tea lights (one in the globe and an extra in the base), which give three to four hours of burn time apiece. In bright red, green or turquoise.

For the Indie Sock Fan in Your Life

Gumball Poodle Socks ($12)

These dual-colored striped socks are ideal for the alternative fashionista. Made in the U.S.A., these warm accessories have vertical block lettering spelling out words like "bimbo," "whiskey," "gay," "zombie," "meat," "beer," "bacon," "ninja," "Obama," "Santa" and "weed."

For the Environmentally Conscious Commuter in Your Life

The 16-ounce Nalgene ($9)

Using a refillable water bottle may reduce plastic waste, but who wants to haul around a quart-sized jug of anything? This smaller version of Nalgene's most popular bottle may be just the thing to reduce both your gift recipient's load and his or her environmental impact.

For the Droid-Loving Nut in Your Life

Perennial Tea Room robot tea infuser ($9.95)

For years, robots have been vacuuming pools, monitoring hearts and dropping bombs on other countries. So why not brewing tea or cracking nuts? The stainless steel robot tea infuser doesn't even need batteries: simply load the tiny chest cavity with loose tea and send it for a dip inside a mug of hot water. With adjustable arms that can hold on to any size mug, this whimsical robot is guaranteed to make any kind of drinker a tea-totaler.

Kurt S. Adler R2D2 nutcracker ($25–$45)

And just when you thought that R2D2 was only good for delivering the blueprints to the Death Star, our culture's most beloved droid steals the show from Tchaikovsky's mustachioed soldier with the stodgy outfit and stiff arms. That's right, folks: Star Wars has gone nutcrackers. But don't be fooled by their size—just because these wooden shell-smashers stand only seven inches tall, they will channel the Force to get at even the most stubborn walnut meat. Also available as Darth Vader ("I am your nutcracker") and Yoda ("Crack your nuts I will").

For the (Not Too) Cute Couple

Robot Tunes for Two Headphone Splitter ($12.49)

Here's a gift for the romantic, musically inclined couple who want to listen one song at the same time—without blasting it for the world to hear or being one of those obnoxiously cute pairs that actually shares one set of headphones (because, let's be honest, that's a look we can't all pull off). This earphone splitter comes with a spring-loaded, robot-shaped keychain easily removable from your set of keys.

For the Reborn Athlete in Your Life

Timex midsize health tracker watch ($64.95)

It's the time of the year to start thinking about New Year's resolutions. Like most folks, I'm choosing a more active lifestyle, planning to spend hours exploring the beautiful parks and trails of Central California, and looked for just the right pedometer. Upon discovering the Timex midsize health tracker watch, I knew I had found my personal coach.

It's water-resistant, comfortable and built for everyday wear. All I have to do is enter my height, weight, age and gender, and the watch automatically tracks my daily activity including steps, distance and calories burned. I hope Christmas comes early this year.


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