Ever notice how manufacturers get particularly creative around the holiday season? How items you never even knew existed are suddenly touted as things you need, want or can't live without?
This year is no different. We poked around in malls, department stores and boutiques of the county to see what's new or just plain strange. And once again, from the same league of minds that brought us electric socks, pocket fishing poles and the salad shooter, there's a fresh batch of oddball items.
Burger Makers Revisited
Everybody knows how irritating it is to wait for that old-fashioned frying pan to heat up. After all, when you want a burger, you don't want to stand around all day. You want it NOW!
This seems to be the general idea behind Nordic Ware's Micro Max II. According to the box, you just preheat the two-handled grill for "three to four minutes" and then fold the two sides together for "sizzling brown burgers, microwave fast." Obviously, this is a clear advantage over having to wait three to four minutes for the antiquated method.
We're not sure we understand the motivation for creating this, but something tells us that, the inventor of the device, which sells for $24.99 at Sears in Oxnard, must have had a terrible childhood experience with a frying pan.
Pushing Their Buttons
Is there a frustrated, angry guy on your shopping list? Is he the type of person who would love to express his irritation and disgust with the world but can't quite find the words? If so, The Final Word may be the perfect present. This pre-programmed, hand-held electric voice synthesizer allows you to "say things you'd rather not say yourself." The device, the manufacturer informs us, is especially useful for telling off "pushy salespeople, IRS agents, nosy neighbors, lousy drivers, ex-spouses and know-it-all bosses."
And hey, talk about articulate. Users can make a bass voice that says everything from "Drop dead" and "Stupid jerk," to "You're a dope" and "You're an idiot." Unfortunately, medical insurance is not included for "The Final Response" from people forced to listen to this pocket-hostility device.
We found it for only $16.95 at Wharfside Gifts in Oxnard.
Now here is a creative gift idea: an Electronic Firecracker that allows children to flip a switch and hear two explosive sounds at decibel levels just short of making your ears bleed. Best of all, according to the box, children get to "enjoy it over and over, not just once!"
This, we decided, is the perfect gift for that family down the street--you know, the ones with the nice children who have those surly parents who leave their garbage cans out all week. If you don't want to give it to someone else's kids, consider putting it under the tree for your own. Just think of how many hours of fun they will have when they take it to your ex-spouse's house on weekends.
We discovered it at Radio Shack in Ventura for the value-packed price of $9.95.
Do you know someone whose eyes are as red as a blood-bank storage closet? Then give the gift that gives the gift of sight: Lumiscope's Eye Ease Facial Massage, available at Target in Simi Valley.
Sure, they may look like a pair of plastic goggles your kids use to pretend they are the Red Baron. But the manufacturer informs us that "by promoting circulation, Eye Ease relieves eye strain."
Each pair operates on a single battery and has removable eye shields "so you can enjoy a facial massage while you watch TV."
We don't know about you, but for $14.99, we think we might just switch off the TV, lie down and put a few cucumber slices on the old peepers.
Beyond Collars and Leashes
Most pet owners already know how difficult it is to find fashionable clothing gifts for Phydeaux and Fluffy. And when you can find the clothes, try and find a dressing room.
We were gratified to find both problems eliminated at Pet Club in Simi Valley. Animals are welcome inside the store if accompanied by a human owner. There's also an array of Doggiduds for every canine fashion statement.
In addition to holiday-colored sweaters for your pooch, a yellow rain slicker, similar to the one your child wears to school, costs only $19.99.
Just don't expect your fine-figured furry friend to fit into a perfect size 8, especially since the size 16 raincoat we examined didn't look big enough to fit a cocker spaniel.
Can't decide what to get that overweight friend or relative this year? Then here's a simple solution sure to be appreciated, especially around the goody-filled holidays: The U-Pig Diet Plan, also available at Wharfside Gifts.
For only $14.95, this thoughtful, lifelike pig sits in the refrigerator and gives off a loud "Oink" when exposed to light. By simply opening the refrigerator door, weight-watchers are given a gentle reminder they need to stay away from diet no-nos.
Go With the Flow