BY PATTI EWALD | Times Staff Writer
Holiday gift-giving is supposed to be a joy — at least that's what retailers want us to believe — and, for the most part, it is.
We all, however, have at least one person on our list for whom it is nearly impossible to find the right gift. You know who it is on your list, right?
Aunt Martha is too picky. Uncle Brian always has been insatiable. Grandpa already has it. Diane would have bought it already if she had wanted it.
With that in mind, here's a list of cool stuff discovered online, suggested by friends or pitched by the companies that make the products. The one thing they have in common is I like them, and would buy them for myself or as a gift. And the prices? I tried to keep it realistic. In other words, you won't find a luxury yacht here, but there are some things costly enough that you might have to get someone else to chip in with you.
. LG Art Cool
It's a piece of art on the wall. It's an air conditioner. It's a piece of art on the wall. It's an air conditioner.
Surprisingly, this new duct-free split system is both.
It hangs on the wall but you can't just take it out of the box, hang it there, turn it on and cool off. It first requires the installation of refrigerant and electrical lines in the wall so it can be connected to an outdoor condenser unit much like a regular central A/C system. The big difference between the Art Cool units and a central A/C system is the Art Cool units act independently of one another, allowing you to cool rooms to different temperatures.
Although it would cost $10,000 to $12,000 to convert a house from central A/C (up to eight units can feed into one outside condenser), Kevin Barnum of Victor Distributing in Clearwater said doing so can cut cooling costs as much as 60 percent — and, he says, the Art Cool units last 20 years.
Single-zoned units that allow you to cool only one room used to be a bandage "but they have become a whole-house solution," he said.
How do the Art Cool units work? The top of the artwork tilts out about 6 inches. Air is pulled in through the top and travels to the outside unit. The resulting refrigerated air is blown out the sides of the painting (you can insert your favorite image in the customizable picture area). Barnum said the unit removes 3 pints of water from the air an hour and runs silently.
A remote control allows you to raise and lower the thermostat on each unit. Coming soon is an app that will allow you to power and adjust the units from a mobile device.
Cost: $3,500 for a single unit or $10,000 to $12,000 to convert a whole house
Contact an A/C contractor for purchase information.
m Delsey Quilted Rolling UnderSeat Tote
Tired of trying to find a spot in an overhead bin on a plane? This rolling tote fits under most seats. It has a main compartment for clothes and shoes, plenty of interior pockets for toiletries, and an easy-access front organizer for tickets, passport and reading materials. (A padded compartment helps protect iPads or tablets.)
Price: $49.99 at ebags.com
m Klogs by Latitudes
A favorite of nurses and others who are on their feet a lot, these polyurethane-soled shoes provide shock absorption and an energy return that protects the feet, back and legs. The arch of the shoe offers support, the toe bar helps to reduce friction, and the heel cup provides cradling for even weight distribution.
Many styles can be worn by both men and women and come in full and half sizes, as well as normal and wide widths. They also feature slip resistance.
Price: $50 to $125 (find a local retailer at klogs.com)
Traveling Makeup Mirrors
Sure is tough to apply makeup when you're on the road and all that's available are regular mirrors. These two — one lit, one unlit — pack well and should help you keep your mascara on.
• The 10x Magnifying Home and Travel Mirror has a 6 3/4-inch mirror that detaches and folds flat for traveling.
Price: $29.99 at bedbathandbeyond.com
• The Floxite 12x LED Lighted Folding Vanity and Travel Mirror operates on 4 AA batteries (included) or an AC adapter (sold separately).
Price: $59.99 at amazon.com
m The No Blind Spot Rear View Mirror
This is the rearview mirror used by police officers and professional race-car drivers to eliminate blind spots. The patented, seamless mirror has a 180-degree field of vision (standard interior and exterior mirrors combined offer only 52 degrees) that provides a reflection of rear traffic across a five-lane highway. This panoramic view allows a driver to monitor adjacent vehicles when merging or changing lanes without turning his or her head. The mirror, which reduces headlight glare 50 percent, clamps over most existing rearview mirrors without requiring tools or adhesives.
Price $59.95 at hammacher.com
Gtech AirRAM Vacuum Cleaner
Who wants a vacuum cleaner for Christmas? Anyone who has ever fought with a heavy vacuum when trying to drag it from one room to another.
This 7.7-pound sleek little model has no cords to get caught in (it's battery-operated) and no bags to change; lint and dirt are compressed into tidy bales in an easily emptied tray. It cleans both carpeted and hard-surface floors (without adjusting anything), picking up crumbs caught up against the wall without having to attach hoses and nozzles.
Its rechargeable battery, which takes four hours to charge using 100 watts of electricity, provides 40 minutes of power.
The AirRAM is also smart; it allows users to connect it (via USB) to a computer to calculate electricity saved and even find out how many calories were burned while vacuuming.
Price: $349.95 at brookstone.com
Halsa Resistance Poles n
Everyone needs more exercise, and walking is one of the best forms of it. You can transform your walk into a weighty workout that allows you to burn more calories with these "walking sticks."
Simply push down on the cushion grips with each stride. The further you push the poles, the greater the resistance and the better the workout. The height of each pole can be customized and adjusted to fit your body, with the top of the pole hitting your body at underarm level.
Halsa Resistance Poles can be used on any surface in a variety of weather conditions by changing the (included) gripper bottoms; there's a rubber foot for normal road and track use, a metal stud for trail and winter walking, and a circular basket for loose surfaces like snow and sand.
Price: $129.95 at halsafit.com
m Waterhog Bombay Personalized Door Mat
This monogrammed doormat with antislip rubber backing is 2 feet by 3 feet and comes in 19 colors. It's supposed to resist fading, shedding, rot and mildew. It's a lasting reminder of the gift-giver. Order soon if you want one; delivery takes seven to 10 business days.
Price: $44.99 at brookstone.com
Even though most books can be turned into bits of data and downloaded onto a mobile device, there's no substitute for finding a real, bound, suitable-for-putting-on-a-shelf book underneath the Christmas tree. Of course, the options are endless, but here are two intriguing titles to consider:
• Separate Fountains by Patti Wilson Byars
Originally published in 1999, Separate Fountains is a firsthand account of segregation in the 1940s and '50s. After her mother became sick and bedridden, Byars, 72, was pretty much raised by a black housekeeper in small-town Georgia. She now lives in St. Petersburg and is an adjunct instructor at Florida State. A percentage of the proceeds from the sale of each book goes toward college scholarships for education majors who are single mothers or the children of single mothers.
Available from most major booksellers online. Prices vary.
• The Untold Stories of Broadway, Vol. 1 by Jennifer Ashley Tepper
She's only 27 but Tepper interviewed 200 producers, actors, directors, stagehands, musicians and other theater people in this newly released book that documents theater by theater the history of Broadway. Find out which theaters are haunted and what Barbra Streisand did after her last performance of Funny Girl that still has people talking.
Price: $19.99 at online booksellers
10 Stick Anywhere Night Light by Mr. Beams
Everyone could use a little light in their life. These LED battery-powered Stick Anywhere Night Lights with motion and light sensors light up your hallways, stairs, bathrooms, bedrooms or anywhere you want to stick them. Built-in motion and light sensors detect movement up to 15 feet away and switch off the light after 30 seconds if no movement is detected. Takes 4 AA alkaline batteries and provides 10 square feet of lighting coverage. Includes mounting bracket. They're 3.75 inches by 3.25 inches with a 1.2-inch profile, and there are three in a pack.
Price: $39.99 at mrbeams.com
Be Santa for your pets
Ceramic Pet Fountain
Made from durable, nonporous glazed ceramic that mitigates bacteria growth, this drinking fountain draws water from the basin to the top of the dome where it pools and cascades back into the reservoir. The falling stream attracts pets with the sound of trickling water and entices them to drink more often, a practice that can reduce a pet's risk of kidney disease and urinary tract infection.
A charcoal filter removes impurities. The unit, available in 72- and 128-ounce models, is dishwasher safe and plugs into an AC outlet.
Price: $79.95 or $89.95 for a large unit at skymall.com
LED Lighted Dog Collar
Don't lose Fido in the dark— and, make sure cars see him if you do. This collar has bright LEDs and three different light modes for each of the five colors available. Can be seen up to 1/2 mile away during walks. The collars, which are lightweight, water-resistant and adjustable, come in small, medium and large sizes.
Price: $22.99 at brookstone.com
For the rich and famous
For 87 years, Neiman Marcus has been offering fantasy gifts in its Christmas catalog. (And who wouldn't like to find one of these "under the tree"?)
• His and Hers Ultimate Outdoor Entertainment System with a 201-inch screen that emerges from its underground bunker. It has speakers and components usually found on ultra-yachts. Includes 300 movies and, forget the remotes, there are two mini iPads included to run the system.
Price: $1.5 million
• A 25-carat diamond and a trip into the heart of Africa to trace its history. You'll first travel to the De Beers headquarters in London to pick up your uncut diamond and meet the master craftsman who will hand-cut and polish it. Your journey continues on a vessel off Namibia's coast, where your diamond was discovered deep within the ocean floor. Back in the United States, you'll meet with New York jewelry designer Maria Canale to design your ring.
Price: $1.5 million.
• The Neiman Marcus 2014 Aston Martin Vanquish Volante
One of only 10 in the world, this "Seychelles Blue" hand-built beauty has a V-12 engine that produces 565 horsepower and is tuned to deliver 457 pound-feet of torque and reach speeds of more than 180 mph.