Image: Philadelphia City Paper
You only have one week left before Christmas eve arrives, so I assume that you might be getting ready to panic and spend your hard-earned money on just anything, so you can say you gave your loved ones gifts. So I thought I'd help you spend your money wisely by compiling a list of holiday gift ideas based on clever and much-appreciated gifts that my readers have given me throughout the year as well as some gift ideas that I've used in the past.
The Life of Birds: A must-have for kids and adults who are interested in birds. I also recommend this series for anyone who teaches ornithology courses and even for people who own pet shops or wild bird feed stores -- they can play it on a TV for shoppers to enjoy. Highly recommended.
Planet Earth: I have heard some people say they were disappointed with this series, but honestly, I have no idea why this would be so. I love it and enjoy it tremendously. This series explores the animals and plants that are found in various habitat types, and also includes a special addendum after each episode that describes how they got the footage. Highly recommended for kids and adults, and for those who love nature and adventure.
Blue Planet: another amazing series from BBC. This series explores the ocean and the animals that live in it. It occasionally uses animations to make a particular point, but mostly, it relies on stunning footage. Highly recommended for kids and adults who love nature and adventure.
For those who love the pleasure of choosing their own books, or those who have so many books that you can't keep track of which they have, a gift certificate to a local specialty bookstore is always appreciated (When I lived in Seattle, my choice was always Flora and Fauna books, which specializes in life sciences, birds and nature books. In NYC, my choice is The Strand, which has millions of titles on every topic in the world).
A one year subscription to a magazine is always a good choice. As far as science magazines go, I recommend either a subscription to ScienceNews or New Scientist (both are weeklies), or a subscription to Scientific American.
A beautiful framed and ready-to-hang photograph is always appreciated -- I have featured many professional and amateur photographers on this site who have generously shared their images with me and all of you, too -- free of charge! -- I strongly encourage you to support the local talent whenever possible!
When I was giving gifts to those whom I loved, I especially enjoyed giving the gift of an experience: often, I would purchase tickets to a variety of live performances. Before I left Seattle for NYC, my favorite thing to do was to go to the Seattle Chorale Company and Orchestra's performance of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana after a fine dinner at the Mandalay Cafe, a Thai-Vietnamese-Indian fusion restaurant whose equal I have not found anywhere, including NYC (unfortunately, they went out of business recently, which saddens me greatly, but they do publish their fabulous recipes on their website).
Another fun idea is a gift certificate to the recipient's local coffee shop -- preferably one that is not a big chain. This gift is made even more special if you get your loved one a special book or magazine subscription to go along with it, or if you manage to come along with them for a quiet conversation.
If your loved one keeps pets, a gift certificate to their favorite pet store will certainly come in handy and might allow them to get that special fish, aquarium filter or expensive bird puzzle toy that they've been coveting for so long. On the other hand, maybe a pet for the petless is in order? Of course, you should always make sure that this person actually wants a pet before you get them one, but a "safe" pet to consider as a gift might be an ant farm. Yes, I am serious. Ants are fascinating pets and can often be kept on an office desk, too.
Perhaps one of your loved ones enjoys baking or cooking? In that case, rare or unusual spices or a cookbook could be just the thing they are looking for!
Another great gift is a donation to a charity of the recipient's choice -- I especially think this is a great way to help kids develop a sense of community and public good will.
What gifts have you gotten for your loved ones, either now or in the past, that you are especially proud of?
The ones I'm proudest of?
Hard, but these were perfect for a microbiologist I know http://www.giantmicrobes.com/uk/products/kissingdisease.html especially as she's a doctor as well.
The rest of them are also good, the UK shop doesn't have all the ones available in the US shop sad to say.
I guess that the most useful present I ever gave someone was my time and support when they needed help.
I like that several of your gift ideas are environmentally-friendly; that's a characteristic that many people don't consider, unfortunately. You can call the holiday "Xmas", "Festivus", "Winter Solstice", or "Whatever-mas", but that doesn't change the materialism and proliferation of cheap plastic junk.
I enjoy giving and receiving handmade items, especially if they're useful or edible. This year I've crocheted a number of totebags from "yarn" made with plastic carrier bags and newspaper wrappers; each one keeps dozens of plastic bags out of the landfill, landscape, and oceans, and is sturdy enough for grocery shopping too.