Its become an annual tradition — each year, I cull some of the more interesting things I stumble across in my travels; I also pull some items off of my own wish list.

Last year, we got lots of great feedback about the breadth of gift ideas — so to kick off the season, here is the first round of Shopmas ideas for those of you who have loved ones on your holiday shopping list who have been very, very good.

Go effect your own personal stimulus package, in various price ranges:


James Taylor at Christmas $4.50

James Taylor singing your favorite Christmas songs,  nice and easy pop and jazz  selections, and an occasional ballad. A seasonal no brainer, perfect for your office’s Secret Santas.


L’Occitane Baume Après Rasage, Cade (After Shave Balm for Men), 2.5-Ounce Tube  $29.

I am a difficult shave, subject to razor burn, ingrown hairs and shaving bumps. This was a surprise find from a Canadian friend — light, non greasy, with Shea Butter — its a bit pricey, but this one tube has lasted me 6 months and counting!


Californication: Third Season ($17.50)
Californication: Fourth Season ($23.49)

Last year, I mentioned seasons 1 and 2 — a few of you told me you how much you loved the series also. Season three ties together the women in Hank’s life in a clever, bittersweet way. A “brilliant train wreck.”

The 4th season is where “Hank faces the real-life consequences for his actions in prior seasons, and if anyone knows anything about character development and progression of story, a pivotal point in every story’s duration is the point in which the characters feel truly lost and all hope has failed them.” I have not seen a second of season 4 — it was just was released on DVD — but its what I plan on doing over my winter vacation. Cant wait!


Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph by T.E. Lawrence (also known as Lawrence of Arabia) ($15.75)

It is difficult to describe exactly what this book is: by turns, it is both beautiful and ugly; It is a brilliant military history, and an apology for the necessities of war. It is a travel book about life in the desert at the time of writing.

It is perhaps most of all a colorful epic and a lyrical exploration of the mind of a great man who helped shape the Middle East as it exists today. It looks like a pretty fascinating book to read.


Magnet Balls Black Edition ($25) – Magnetic Earth Magnet Puzzle in Collector’s Tin.

I have these damned things on my desk in the office, and I am constantly fondling them.

Damned near everyone who comes in feels compelled to play with them.

Mindless, addictive fun.

George Carlin: All My Stuff ($75.49)

14 DVDs of much of Carlin’s classic work, from 1977 through 2005, including all 12 of his HBO specials.

Includes: Baseball and Football, A Place for My Stuff, Losing Things, Al Sleet the Hippie-Dippie Weather Man, Hitler, We Like War, It s Not A Sport, Why We Don’t Need Ten Commandments and Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television.  Of course, plenty of Carlin’s stuff is missing, but this is a good starter set.


Pentax Optio WG-1 14 MP Waterproof Digital Camera with GPS and 5x Optical Zoom – Orange ($281)  I have an older version of this camera — the Pentax Optio W60 Waterproof –  and while I have been very happy with it, it is ancient technology compared to this super cool looking beastie — waterproof to 33 feet; shockproof from drops up to 5 feet; crushproof, cold proof and dustproof. Its enough to make me upgrade!


Deborah Armstrong & Company: Last year, I recommended the work of Deborah Armstrong — she is a NY artisan who makes unique and lovely jewelry.

Of all the gift suggestions I have made over the years, this one has generated the greatest response.

I had gotten my wife the Petit Fours a few years ago, and she hardly ever takes them off. The Pearls collection is lovely, as is the Celtic Gold.

Not only did Deborah tell me you guys flooded her with orders from around the country, but I received many thank you emails from men who apparently made an impression on their significant others.

Prices range from $150 – $1500 — and you can do very well at any end of the price scale.
I saw this lovely serving platter at a Vagabond House and was charmed by it. If you entertain at home, this platter is perfect for serving seafood: Crabs, cockles, clams and prawns “intricately and realistically detailed and cast in pure Vagabond House pewter” are clustered to form the handles of this porcelain serving tray — perfect for Frutti del Mare! Note that the Vagabond House supports the Dory Fishing Fleet and believes  “supporting sustainable, cooperative based fishing is one small way that we can help care for the oceans of the planet and build strong, eco-minded, diverse coastal communities.”

BMW Performance Driving School: I’ve done course at Limerock and Sebring, but always wanted to try this particular one. These aren’t race classes, but rather, aim to “extract the highest level of performance from an automobile by its driver under any circumstances.”  My high performance driving school was one of the most memorable gifts I ever received. The BMW prices range from “Not Bad” to “Holy shit” )


That is our first version of Holiday Shopping Ideas!  More to come next week…

Category: Consumer Spending

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27 Responses to “Holiday Shopping Ideas!”

  1. Disclosure: None of the vendors here pay me for this — they are here because I find their products interesting or I have purchased things from them in the past and I have been pleased with their wares.

    I get a modest fee from Amazon for any product linked to, but more importantly, I get a rich trove of data that allows me to do things like this: Books Bought By Big Picture Readers (November 2011)

  2. DrungoHazewood says:


    I bought that coffee maker that you recommended a while back, and it was great. We always joke when the grinder reaches top speed “Centrifugal isotope separation underway”. The blades are dull, but it grinds the beans to powder in 10 seconds. The beans go a lot farther, but I had to be careful not to end up in caffeine rehab. That camera looks sweet, and I drop, punt and submerge things a lot. My cellphone has a shock absorber and a porthole on it.


    BR: Ahhhhh, the Capresso 465 CoffeeTeam TS 10-Cup Digital Coffeemaker with Conical Burr Grinder and Thermal Carafe

  3. louis says:

    Thanks BR

  4. Liquidity Trader says:

    I gave my love the Petit Fours last year, and was duly rewarded.

    Great call.

  5. Casual_Observer says:


  6. chris says:

    ¨…a difficult shave.¨

    The answer: hair conditioner/creme rinse. Seriously. I use cheap stuff and a 1 litre bottle lasts about 6 months.

    Wash your face, slap on a little conditioner, shave it off. Best shave you’ll ever get. And razor blades last longer because they rinse clean.

    Thank Neil Gaiman for the tip. He put it on his blog several years ago and I say, hanks Neil!” every morning.


    BR: I use a variety of things, and they are remarkably similar to conditioner

    Jack Black Beard Lube Conditioning

    Billy Jealousy Hydroplane Super-Slick Shave Cream

  7. chris says:

    Er…¨Thanks Neil!

  8. mathman says:

    From Marketwire:

    “MerchantCircle, the largest social network of local business owners in the nation, today issued the results of its seventh Merchant Confidence Index, a survey of local business owners across the country sharing their confidence levels in the current economy, and their expectations of future revenue, marketing spend and hiring. The results of the 2011 Q4 survey of more than 2,500 local merchants indicate that business optimism has decreased over the past six months. The current MCI score is 59.4 out of 100, down 6 percent from the score of 63.2 in June 2011.”

    “Merchants are adjusting their expectations as their overall confidence in the economy recovery has waned,” said Darren Waddell, EVP of product and marketing at Reply!, Inc., the parent company of “We are seeing merchants continue to tighten their belts and either maintain or reduce their marketing budgets, and also slow down hiring, as hopes of near-term economic improvement have declined.”

    It’s been a rough bunch of years lately, and i’ve been reading accounts of kids asking Santa for basic necessities – like toilet paper – for xmas. Many families forego the gift giving or postpone it til after the holidays, when almost everything is deeply discounted (even more than Black Friday) to rid the stores of “old stock”, and many people return what they got for the cash and or to re-buy it at a cheaper price.
    The whole Christmas buying extravaganza is dying with the economy for many and will continue to do so as austerity becomes the rule.

    Happy shopping!

  9. Julia Chestnut says:

    I would highly, highly recommend “Maneaters of Kumaon” by Jim Corbett. Absolutely one of the best books I ever read, and back in print. Talk about a memoir of another time – and this guy was the real deal.

    I am also a huge fan of Beryl Markham’s “West With the Night.” Aviatrix who attempted the Transatlantic passage the other direction – Europe to the US.

    Neither of these people is the controversial figure D.H. Lawrence represents, but I consider that a plus. They are both spectacular reads, both in the story they have to tell and the excellent craftsmanship with which they tell it.

  10. rd says:

    Lawrence of Arabia’s emoirs are highly recommended.

    They are highly relevant today. We are still paying the price in blood and money today because the cynical British leadership did not want to follow his recommendations on how to re-structure the Middle East after WW I. Lawrence essentially predicted the sectarian strife that we are seeing regularly in countries because of how their borders were drawn. The British leadership wanted those borders so that there would be strife and they could use divide-and-conquer approaches to maintaining control.

  11. solanic says:

    How could you forget one of the most fascinating pieces of plastic to go from idea to, EGADS!, production?

    The brilliant Sony Remote:

    I mean brilliant in that it is a steaming pile of [fill in blank here].

  12. rtalcott says:

    Try T. E. Lawrence by Liddell Hart

  13. [...] Check it out here PERMALINK Category: Consumer Spending. [...]

  14. Edoc says:

    Good lord, a James Taylor christmas album. No thanks.

  15. Singmaster says:

    Ditto Edoc. Be careful who you give James Taylor too.
    I’d file for divorce if gifted with JT. I’d quit a company or leave a store that played him over the intercom.

    Highly recommend alt to BMW: Skip Barber


    BR: I am a proud graduate of their high performance driving school!

  16. Singmaster says:

    And for slippers, a Christmas staple, how about buying Made in USA.
    Found these company by googling. Good value. Slippers appear well made.

  17. plasticfantastic says:

    Racing schools are great, but as another driving education alternative, I’ve found I’ve got a lot more out of local clubs (specifically Porsche Owner’s Club) out here in CA… PCA is also good in some regions, BMW clubs, SCCA, etc…

    Far more seat time for the money, and you take it from autocross to time trials to wheel-to-wheel racing.

  18. tradylady says:


    Some great sounds! My son has 2 songs I think you might enjoy: The Reign (features the legendary Jordanaires and the Memphis Horns) and Santa’s Wearin’ Blue This Year and written with (Wind Beneath My Wings) John Colgin… both can be listened to here:

    And his debut album (not yet released) can be heard here for free until it’s release. Wonderful music! Thanks

  19. tradylady says:

    oops… you can listen to his album for free, here:

  20. streeteye says:

    good stuff.

    if you’re into Corvette ZR1 (poor man’s supercar) or radicals, and Vegas ….

    A Lambo or other supercar for a day could be cool too.

    along musical lines -
    Pink Floyd boxed set… with 1974 live performances of Dark Side of the Moon

    Larry Carlton – Christmas At My House

    have/like the magnetic balls … similar stuff at thinkgeek and edmunds scientific

  21. abqhudson says:

    BMW Driving Schools are top notch fun. Highly recommended!

  22. glengarry says:

    Thanks for the great ideas. Here’s a couple:
    I’m also a tough shave and found this great product:

    For a great way to hear your music throughout your home, from your library, radio or music services, all controlled from your smartphone or tablet:

  23. vanderal says:

    Just got off the phone with Deborah Armstrong (yes, she answers her own phone!). She’s buried today thanks to you, and very appreciative. Guys who are looking for an awesome gift for wives, daughters, girlfriends, etc., should make this phone call first. Deborah will make you look great – ordered a piece for myself, just in case my husband doesn’t get the message:)

  24. My wife has gotten 6 separate pieces over the years, ever since I found the Petit Fours.

    Deborah is terrific, and has always done right by me . . .

  25. [...] of great comments for our first list (Holiday Shopping Ideas!), so lets give this one another go round. As part of our annual Shopmas tradition, I cull some of [...]

  26. Buce says:

    Barry, I think you might want to go slow on Lawrence. The more I think and read about him, the more I tend to the view that he is a figment of his own imagination–or perhaps the imagination of Lowell Thomas, who road to fame in the sidecar (and as the promoter) of the Lawrence legend. You can find lot of deconstruction on the web–not all of which I would buy. There’s a fairly skeptical/subtle/sympathetic account of Lawrence and the ambiguities of fame in John E. Mack, A Prince of our Disorder.

  27. [...] For those of you still with some jingle burning holes in your pockets, have a looksee at our holiday shopping ideas. • Holiday Shopping Ideas! [...]