Holy heck! Is it already that time of year? Is Fall really officially here? How the hell did that happen? I was just browsing through questions on Lockergnome, and noticed a thread talking about Halloween Costumes. It’s ONLY September 23rd! Do we need to worry already? Great. I have no idea how to dress Wicket and Pixie this year. I need some suggestions, y’all.
It shocks me to find Christmas displays in the store earlier every year. I’m telling you… this year we’ll start seeing plastic Santas and gift wrap before Halloween ever gets here. It’s insanity! We as consumers are being pushed to spend, spend spend more and more – while fighting the fact that we don’t have as much to part with.
Do you start planning for the holidays this early, or are you one of those who tend to go a little crazy when you see witch costumes on shelves when we finish the 4th of July?
As a young teen, one Holiday season, my parents decided to spread the cheer to an underprivileged family in our area. We were to take a few kids out shopping with us, each of them was given a small stipend (with which to spend on gifts for their siblings). I remember that day vividly – never feeling more grateful for the things I had been given in seeing what others did not have.
So, when Sears offered to sponsor a $500 shopping spree under their ‘Don’t Just Give a Gift, Grant a Wish‘ effort, I didn’t think twice about what I wanted to do with the gift card. It’s all about the toys at Christmas – and even though we don’t have kids of our own, Ponzi and I both thoroughly enjoyed taking a trip across town and down memory lane as we tore through the “Toy Shop.” The goal: to find $500 worth of toys to give to a local donation center.
Now, before I continue, I must again point out that Sears gave me this opportunity. I received the $500 gift card from IZEA, but these experiences are 100% my own. What would *YOU* do with this $500 – spend it on yourself or on somebody else? I chose the latter.
We filled a shopping cart and a half with new toys and remakes of yesteryear. I remembered getting a set of magic tricks for Christmas one year, so I snagged a magic kit from the shelf. I also remembered getting lost with a Rubik’s Cube on Christmas morning, so that was another must-buy. Then there was a time I really wanted a microscope (I still remember my onion skin slide), so a little bit of science made its way into our “buggies” – that’s what Ponzi calls ’em. Oh, and I can’t remember a single childhood Christmas that didn’t have a Star Wars something in it, so I snagged a few figurines, too.
We circled the Sears Toy Shop a few times, making sure we saw everything. Hulk Boxing Gloves: you don’t wanna see me when I’m angry! Chatterphone: rotary dial! Lincoln Logs: time to build something! Operation: don’t touch the sides! Let’s grab some Play-Doh, too – and we can’t leave without taking a few NERF balls with us. They make a portable Lite Brite now?! Man, I wish I was a kid again. For an hour, I felt like one.
Ponzi saw some toddler toys she used to chew on. Well, not HER toys – but the same kind. There were a few other baby items we thought would make wonderful presents for some kid this Christmas season. The game Don’t Break the Ice (which I had received as a birthday gift one year), a tea set, a couple of Barbie dolls, a Hannah Montana UNO card game (another childhood birthday present), a Mr. Potato Head, and… oh, so many memories. We weren’t just buying toys, you know? We were buying future memories for children – who will hopefully carry those memories into their adult lives.
It felt good. It felt really, really good.
Hours later, I walked into a local donation center and asked if they accepted toys. One guy asked: “Depends on what condition they’re in.” I told him they were brand new, and his eyes lit up like *HE* was a kid on Christmas morning. The whole place was buzzing with excitement. We unloaded the toys and I thought to myself: “I’ve gotta make this a new Christmas tradition.” So, thank you Sears, for giving *ME* the gift of happiness.
But Wait, There’s More…
It’s time to share some of that happiness with some of you. Another contest is upon us (Official Rules). I’ve created three separate Sears gift bundles worth ~$500 apiece: LEGO Wonderland, Star Wars Smiles, and Family Game Night. These, much like the aforementioned shopping spree, were inspired by my own childhood Christmases. If you’d like to receive one of them, it’s super simple to qualify:
Leave a comment on this post with the bundle you desire (and why).
Post to your twitter account if you have one, making sure you include – #Sears @chrispirillo http://bit.ly/giftwish – and whichever bundle you desire in your tweet.
Make an entry in your own blog if you have one, making sure you link back to this particular post URL and mentioning which bundle you want (and why). I register most trackbacks after I’ve received at least one click from your permalink to mine.
You can enter once by commenting, once by twittering, AND once by posting in your own blog (that’s three chances to win what you want). The winner will be selected at random, mind you. So, which one of these gift bundles do you want most?
10 Cool Lego Mindstorms by Astolfo, David
10 Cool Lego Mindstorms Robotics Invention System 2 Projects by Ferrari, Mario
Adjustable links with Mini Kinght
Building Robots With Lego Mindstorms NXT by Astolfo, Dave
Extreme NXT by Gasperi, Michael
Forbidden Lego by Pilegaard, Ulrik
Getting Started With Lego Trains by McKee, Jacob H.
Jin Sato’s Lego Mindstorms by Sato, Jin
Lego Mindstorms NXT-G Programming Guide by Kelly, James Floyd
LEGO Star Wars: Ultimate Collectors AT-ST
Programming Lego Mindstorms NXT by Bishop, Owen
Star Wars Smiles
Clone Wars Blaster Game
Clone Wars Galactic Heroes: Trooper
Han Solo Bobble-Head
Mad About Star Wars by Bresman, Jonathan
Mr. Potato Head: Star Wars – Artoo-Potatoo with Princess Tater Figure
Robot Chicken: Star Wars
Star Wars – The Best Of
Star Wars Clone Trooper Helmet
Star Wars Clone Wars Plug N Play Game
The Complete Star Wars Encyclopedia by Sansweet, Stephen J.
The Rise and Fall of Darth Vader by Windham, Ryder
Family Game Night
1 vs. 100 DVD Game
Dance Maker Truth or Dare Mat and a Tote Bag
Disney Villains Combo: Checkers and Tic Tac Toe
Griddly Headz Racing Game
Harry Potter Scene It? Game
High School Musical 2 Deluxe Plug N Play TV Game
Karaoke Pop Culture Hip Hop/R&B Vol. 1
Monopoly Here and Now World
No Brainer Board Game
Sea Monster Board Game
WordSpot – Bookshelf Edition
Yahtzee Free For All
For whatever it’s worth, I received the Millennium Falcon for Christmas when I was a kid – it was my very first Star Wars vehicle. I came close to buying it separately for myself, but couldn’t justify the expense (or figure out where to put it). My first LEGO kit was also a gift from Santa Claus.
I’ll also be using funds generated from this post to make further food bank deposits and donations to other charities. We’re all trying to make this a very Merry Christmas (Happy Holiday) for as many as possible.
This is as close as it gets to receiving a Christmas / Holiday card from me. It’s not that I don’t care, it’s just that… my handwriting has gone downhill in the past decade, and everybody already knows what happens with me throughout the year – so it’s relatively pointless to do once-a-year recaps.
I’ve been listening to Christmas music non-stop (almost) since the channels came online not long before Thanksgiving. Today, we’re going out to pick up a fresh-cut Christmas tree down the street – then likely trim it with decorations and lights at some point this evening. I’ll splurge and have another half cup of lite Nog (which still weighs in at 140 calories). Last night, Ponzi decided to throw our inflatable Grinch onto the back porch, then we officially welcomed the season by watching both the classic Grinch cartoon as well as “A Christmas Story.”
Oh, and I finally found a gingerbread house kit that didn’t come with ANY hydrogenated ingredients. That’s a first! The makeshift munch-worthy domicile remains under construction for the moment. Actually, it’s still in the box – I’m afraid to open it. Those poor gumdrops will never make it to the frosting! Maybe we’ll put ‘er together in front of the live stream tomorrow night, considering we’re likely to be snowed in. It’s going to be very cold tomorrow.
Typically, only higher elevations in the Seattle area have White Christmases. Maybe I’ll just forego using shampoo and conditioner for a week, then scratch my head a few times on the front porch. I might be able to cover it!
There’s no stopping Christmas now. Even Wicket and Pixie are getting in on the action:
This is Scott Crews’s submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own:
(1) Sufjan Stevens – Songs for Christmas
Why You Aren’t Listening to It: Sufjan Stevens hasn’t had any mainstream attention (no matter how much his fans think he should).
Why You Should Listen to It: If you’ve never heard of Sufjan Stevens, it’s almost impossible to compare him to anyone else. “Sufjan Stevens: Songs for Christmas” is full of creative instrumentation, laid back tempos, and vocal harmonies, but it doesn’t have a lot of “over-production” that most albums suffer from these days. There are a few traditional Christmas songs on the disc. And it gives a lot of bang for your buck: he made the album into 5 CDs (over two hours of continuous music), and he doesn’t just do Christmas songs. It is a fantastic collection of music to get you in the Christmas spirit.
(2) MercyMe – The Christmas Sessions
Why You Aren’t Listening to It: Because when your top 40 radio station got done playing “I Can Only Imagine,” you were okay with it.
Why You Should Be Listening to It: Because what made “I Can Only Imagine” a hit makes MercyMe a great band, and it isn’t their fault that your radio station played that song into the ground. The Christmas Sessions contains all the Christmas classics with new arrangements and amazing vocals. Tracks to check out: “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear” and “Joesph’s Lullaby.”
(3) Mariah Carey – Merry Christmas
Why You Aren’t Listening to It: Because geeky guys don’t listen to Mariah Carey.
Why You Should Be Listening to It: Because there’s a reason it’s a top selling Christmas CD every year. It’s really, really good. It is important to realize that “Merry Christmas” is from back in the day when Mariah Carey was still making REAL music, and not the booty-pop garbage that her producers are pumping out now. It is possible to like this CD and completely preserve one’s manliness. Tracks to check out: “Silent Night” and “Joy to the World” NOTE: On iTunes, there are two editions of this CD – one is 7.99 and one is 9.90. From what I can tell, there is no difference… so save two bucks if you can!
(4) Andy Williams – The Andy Williams Christmas Album
Why You Aren’t Listening to It: Because if you’re under 30 years old, you’ve probably never heard of him.
Why You Should Be Listening to It: Because Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra are good… and Andy Williams is just as good (or probably even better). Sure, listen to Frank the rest of the year when you want big, smooth, classic vocals. But for Christmas, Andy Williams hits a home run. Check out “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of The Year” and “The Christmas Song.”
(5) Relient K – Let It Snow Baby… Let it Reindeer
Why You Aren’t Listening to It: Because either you’ve never heard of them or you don’t like pop/punk at Christmas.
Why You Should Be Listening to It: There are two reasons to listen. The first is if you like pop/punk music (surging drum beats, driving guitars, vocal harmony). The second is if you like phenomenal Christmas music. If that is you, don’t go buy the entire CD. But DO go buy the two tracks “I Celebrate the Day” and “Silent Night / Away In A Manger.” They sound nothing like the rest of the CD, and “I Celebrate the Day” is a beautiful Jimmy Eat World-esque piano ballad… and literally the greatest song ever written about Christmas. Don’t go another Christmas without this song – you’re only doing yourself a disservice.
Okay, there you go. What do you think? What albums did I leave off? Remember: it’s the music that we AREN’T listening to… so, “Now That’s What I Call Christmas” is NOT eligible!
Make sure you set the mood for your get-togethers with holiday music. From now until Dec. 25, celebrate the Holidays with unbeatable deals from Amazon Music! Throughout the season, they’ll be featuring deep discounts on your favorite Music, and launching unique events and promotions – all in the Gift Ideas for Music Lovers store. From Nov. 24 through Dec. 1, they’ll showcase daily deals during Cyber Week; in December Amazon Music will present ’12 Days of Holiday’ – a gauntlet of contests, exclusive videos, and music offers that you’ll only find there. My favorite holiday tunes include:
“Someone Ate the Mistletoe”
“Santa’s Stuck in the Elevator”
“Holly’s Jolly with Molly’s Folly”
“It’s Your Turn to Shovel the Drive”
“My Husband Sucks at Giving Gifts”
It’s never too late to start saving on trees, lights, ornaments, décor, and more. They have all of your holiday necessities, from Christmas movies and music to winter boots and cozy clothes. My favorite Christmas shows include:
“Rudolph vs Predator”
“A Few Good Snowmen”
“Charlie Brown and the Economic Collapse”
“The Mall Santa Who Smelled Like Cheese”
“A Christmas with Abe Vigoda”
Sadly, none of my favorites are available on Amazon yet – but there’s plenty more for you to get while you can!
Laura writes: “Some men are great at picking out that special gift to give to their partner. Men that are “geeks” seem to be the worst gift givers. Let me rephrase that… they are bad at giving “girl” gifts. Every girl now and again loves to receive that Techie gift from her guy: like an ipod, iphone or Blu-Ray player. However, there are times when we need to feel special – that our guy cares enough to know about what makes us a girl.”
Gift Certificates There is nothing like the gift to shop. I love this gift, but it is so important where the gift certificate comes from. Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdales, or Sephora equals good. Walmart, Radio Shack and Game Stop – bad!
Flowers Now I know what you’re thinking. But wait… don’t send flowers on her birthday. Send them after you’ve stayed up all night working on your computer and didn’t spend any time with her. Send them because you just started to think about her and wanted to let her know. Gifts are to be given from the heart, not just on Holidays. Does everyone hear that? “…NOT JUST HOLIDAYS”. Stopping on the way home from work and buying roses for $5 out of a van, and saying “here, don’t say I never get you anything” is not the way to go. Splurge and buy her flowers for no particular reason at all, with a little note to say “I’m thinking about you”.
Spa packages Awwww… nothing says “I appreciate you” more than a day at the spa being pampered. This gift says, “honey I know you work hard at your job, that you keep our home clean, that the meals you cook are incredible and because you are awesome at everything, I want you to have a day for yourself”. Bad idea – giving her massage oil and saying “we can test this out later (wink, wink)”.
Jewelry Ok men, this is important. If you are giving jewelry, try to pay attention to what she wears before buying something expensive that she will never wear. Diamonds are forever, so usually you can’t go too wrong with that. My favorite gifts include anything from Tiffany’s. There is just something about that blue box wrapped in a white ribbon that makes me melt. Bad idea – a key chain from the drugstore that says “I [heart] NY”.
Designer handbags Now this is my personal favorite. Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Hermes. OMG, this is one gift she would never expect from her guy, yet if he gives you this you feel special, sophisticated and beautiful. Make sure your handbag comes in a gift box. Most of the time the box is just as important as the bag inside (don’t ask). If you think you would never have any idea what style bag to buy, don’t fret my hairy friends. Most of these upscale stores have very talented sales associates working there – they know the latest trends and what is popular. Bad idea – any handbag that is purchased from a Box Store, or has the words “impostor”, or “replica”.
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Finally, the holiday season is coming to a close and I can give my wallet a well deserved rest. The holiday season is hectic, it’s filled with about a month of spending more money than you actually want, and receiving tons of stuff you may not actually want. But since it’s all over now, and the panic attacks have subsided, I want to know, where did you do your shopping?
In the digital age we live in, you can complete your shopping within a couple hours just by visiting amazon and a handful of other sites (not to mention you can do this from work when your boss isn’t looking). There are also the more traditional folk who prefer to duke it out with everyone else at the brick and mortar stores. So which one are you?
A lot of people finished all their holiday shopping before hand (we call these people ‘the smart ones’), be it on black friday or some other time before the holidays, but most likely you spent the last couple weeks or days scrambling to pickup presents.
Drop a comment below and let me know. Did you finish your shopping from home in the comfort of your footy pajamas, or did you spend 2 hours in line at Best Buy just hoping the guy in front of you didn’t get the very last Wii?