Monday, December 5, 2011

TRANSITION AREA: Michele's Top 20 Holiday Gift Ideas

The internet is teeming with gift guides for the holiday season, so I may as well jump on Santa's bandwagon. Here are my top 20 gift choices for the athletes, wanna-be athletes, or the comfy couch potatoes.  If you'd rather avoid the commercialism of the holidays or if the economy has left a big lump of coal in your back pocket, I've also included some more eco-friendly ideas (meaning both ECOlogical- and ECOnomy-friendly).


1.  Cuisinart Classic Waffle maker ($39.95):  I recently found a recipe for vegan waffles and I was thrilled!  Vegan or otherwise, waffles are quick to whip up thanks to this mini round waffle maker.  Great for individuals, it heats up quickly, has a ready to use/ready to eat indicator light, and is easy to clean.  

2.  VitaMix ($449-$649, depending on the model): O.k., so you may have needed to be extra good this year for Santa to bring you a VitaMix because it's not cheap; but, I've put it on the list because it's by far, hands-down, without a doubt, no questions asked the best "blender" out there.  I say "blender" because that really doesn't do it justice.  I had three blenders - each of went to crap in a matter of months - before I broke down to buy the VitaMix a few years ago.  Yes, it's a lot of money up-front; but, it has a 7-year warranty (how many cheaper blenders would you buy in that amount of time?), and it's so much sturdier and hard-working than other "blenders."  You can make soups, smoothies, pizza crusts, peanut name it.  If I was stranded on a desert island, I'd want my VitaMix...

3.  Keurig Mini-Plus Brewing System ($99.95):  I never really drank coffee until my boyfriend introduced me to the Keurig.  I'd never make a whole pot of coffee, so the Keurig individual cups are perfect.  I hate that the K-Cups are so wasteful, so hopefully they can at least come up with recycled or recyclable K-Cups soon. At any rate, the Keurig Mini is perfect for the office or even if you're traveling to take to a hotel because it's small and holds just enough water for one cup of coffee, with options for three cup sizes (6, 8 and 10 oz).

Keurig Mini-Plus in 3 colors

4.  Hydros Self-Filtering Water Bottle ($30, but on sale for $25 or less on many websites):  I'm totally putting this on my Christmas wish list year (hint, hint Santa)!  No more plastic water bottles, no more icky water out of the fountain at the mall...This made-in-America, BPA-free self-filtering water bottle is perfect for on-the-go so you can filter out chlorine, chloramines, and particulates from your tap water.  (Not recommended for use with lake/stream/river water, so don't try to filter the stream water on your hike!  The website notes that "Hydros filters are intended to be only used with municipally treated tap water or well water that is regularly tested to be microbiologically safe.") 
Hydro self-filtering bottle (in orange)
5.  Wrap-n-Mat (various sizes starting around $8):  I have one of these and I wish I had more.  These are foldable, reusable, easy-to-clean cloth mats are great for bagels or sandwiches to take to work or in the car.  You can save money by not using plastic sandwich bags, which in no time will make up for the cost of wrap-n-mat.  They also come in lots of cute designs that kids will love (and adults!). 

6.  Pack-It cooler/lunch bag ($19.95, but on sale now for buy 1 get 1 free):  My mom bought me two of these for my birthday and I love them for traveling.  The bag folds up to be stuck in the freezer and when you're ready to go, the gel pack will stay cold for 10 hours.  Perfect for lunches for day trips or snacks/drinks for post-workout. 


7.  Yogi Organic Tea ($4.99 for 1 box of 16 tea bags):  I love the Yogi teas - they have so many different kinds that you're sure to find the right one for your mood or ailment.  Plus, they have inspirational little sayings on them, which I love.  

8.  Vega Sport Endurance Bars and Protein Bars ($2.99 for the Endurance bar and $3.49 for the Protein bar):  A great stocking stuffer.  I hesitate to tell you that these are vegan because you probably wouldn't know the difference.  Whether you're vegan or not, I urge you to try these!  Developed by vegan triathlete Brendan Brazier, these bars have blown me away!  A lot of vegan bars, and even some sports bars in general, are rather lackluster.  The Vega Sport line, however, is delicious!  I ate the Endurance Bars during Ironman Arizona and they were great for my stomach.  Whether you're working out or not, these are a nutritious, healthy, yummy snack!

9.  Rescue Chocolate Bars (variety of different chocolates at different prices):  Based on Alicia Silverstone's recommendation on her website The Kind Life, I really want to try these chocolates, so I'm putting them on my list too!  Put your money where your sweet tooth is - 100% of the net profits from these chocolates go to animal rescue organizations!  The chocolates are vegan, kosher, and hand-crafted in Brooklyn, NY. 

Skin Care: 

10.  Skin Care for Athletes (prices vary based on type of product):  I don't think you have to be an athlete to enjoy the benefits of these.  I'm a little leery of recommending something I haven't personally tried, but these sound so wonderful that I'm adding them to my list also.  (My Santa list is getting a little long...).  Skin Care for Athletes is cruelty-free (no animal ingredients or animal testing in the product or any of the raw ingredients), paraben-free, fragrance-free, and certified organic.  They sell cleansers, moisturizers, bath salts, and body washes.  For an independent review of the products, click here.  

11.  Nature's Gate Lotions ($8.99-$12.99 depending on size and type):  This lotion isn't as inexpensive as other brands, but it's cruelty-free (notice that I'm a big advocate of cruelty-free), paraben-free, and just down-right soothing.  It's not heavy or greasy and my skin always feels great afterwards.  


12.  It's hard to recommend just one book when there are so many good ones out there, so check my Books I Like tab for my recommendations.  My real gift-buying recommendation is this:  try to avoid the big-name booksellers this year.  Use a retailer like Better World Books, where every book sold online helps fund high-impact literacy projects in the United States and around the world.  The company commits that for every book sold on their website, they will donate a book to someone in need.  They also offer free shipping and the option of purchasing carbon offsets for your shipment.  Alternatively, host your own holiday party book exchange and ask your guests to bring the books they've already read to exchange them with books from other guests.  Everyone gets a new book, they recycle, and it's FREE!

For the Athlete or Wanna-Be Athlete:  

13.  Zensah Compression Leg Sleeves and Arm Sleeves (leg sleeves $39.99; arm sleeves $29.99):  I've already talked about the benefits of compression gear in an earlier post, but I'm just in love with the Zensah compression leg sleeves.  I've been meaning to get a pair of the compression arm sleeves, but may need to add this to the Santa list.

14.  One More Mile Shirts (short-sleeve $26.99; long-sleeve $29.99):  Shirts-off to One More Mile for the witty sayings on their shirts.  I have several of these wicking shirts and the sayings crack me up:  "I'm only doing this so I can post a picture on Facebook." "I thought they said "Rum."" "If found on ground, please drag across finish line."  And my favorite "In my dreams I am a Kenyan."

15.  Swim Caps with Funky Designs: Swim Outlet has tons of cute swim caps with designs from Santa to sharks to flowers.  Show some attitude with your swim!
Festive swim cap

16.  Princeton Tec headlamp for running ($26.95):  Running at night requires the runner to see and be seen.  The Princeton Tec LED headlamp is lightweight (78g) and has 146 hours of burn time.

17.  Knog Beetle LED bike lights ($22.95 for front and back light each):  Cyclists also need to see and be seen at night and these Knog Beetle lights are easy to clip onto the bike before taking off on your early morning or nighttime ride.

White light for front, red for back
Misc. Stocking Stuffers:  

18.  Road ID (starting at $15.99, depending on the version):  Anyone running, biking, walking, roller-blading, hiking, or doing any type or outdoor activity needs a Road ID. The Road ID provides your name, emergency contact information, and medical information.  It literally can be a life-saver.  If you get nothing else on this list, get the Road ID.

Road ID  
19.  Give the Gift of a Race:  Give someone you love the gift of a race next year.  There are several websites like (which has numerous sporting events including running, lacrosse, soccer, tennis, cycling, and triathlons) and that let you search according to your desired sport and area of the country.  If you know someone who's been itching to do a 10k or marathon, or if someone just needs a little inspiration to get off the couch, give them a homemade gift card for a race next year.

20.  Sponsor an Animal:  Despite my long Santa list, my favorite gift actually is the gift of sponsoring an animal.  Sponsor a homeless or rescued animal this season on your behalf on in someone else's name.  There are countless rescue organizations that need your support and when you sponsor an animal, your dollars go toward the feed and care for a particular animal.  Farm Sanctuary (that I linked to above) is just one example.  There's also the Best Friends Animal Society or any number of local animal shelters in your area that you can find by using the ASPCA's shelter finder.

Happy Holidays!

Have another gift-giving recommendation? Let me know....

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