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Shopping for the holidays

Our 11th annual gift guide

Created date

October 23rd, 2012

Back to Basics

For every technophile hoping to find a new iPhone in her stocking, there s a back-to-basics enthusiast fascinated by simpler times. The new agrarian line of products from Williams-Sonoma makes finding a gift for plain Jane a snap (williams-sonoma.com/agrarian). Get your honey theBackyard Beehive Starter Kit($179), which includes the protective wear and tools needed to manage a hive. They also sell hive structures ($339) and books ($15-$35) to get you started. Bees are not included, but they do have a list of bee suppliers if you can t find them locally. There s nothing like the taste of freshly made butter. The DIY Butter-Making Kit($29.95) has everything you need to turn cream into a heavenly spread. Includes recipes detailing how to incorporate fresh herbs for unique flavors. Who can resist the flavor of freshly ground grain? If you have an answer to that question, here s a perfect gift for that person aHand Crank Burr Grinder Grain Mill & Clamp ($695.95 grinder/$105.95 clamp). Grinds oats, barley, corn, legumes, and wheat. Sprouts are nutritious, easy to grow, and they taste great in salads and on sandwiches.The 4-Tier Sprouter Kit ($16.95) includes everything you need to see alfalfa sprouts come to life in just three days.

Neat treats

Potted plants are out terrariumsare in. You ll find a wide variety of terrariums at Terrain (shopterrain.com). They range in price from about $25 to over $600. They also sell terrarium-making supplies for the enthusiastic do-it-yourselfer! College students drink lots of coffee, so how about a Starbucks of their very own? The ubiquitous coffee emporium has introduced a new single cup machine called theVerismo System by Starbucksto make lattes, espresso, and brewed coffee at home. ($199-$399). Even better, you ll be able to get Verismo beverage pods ($10-$15) when his or her birthday rolls around (starbucksstore.com). Once upon a time,holiday sweaterswere all the rage, but in recent years they have fallen out of style. Suddenly, they re hip again. Describing their product as not your momma s Christmas sweater, Tipsy Elves has a bunch of tacky and sometimes tasteless holiday sweaters ($65) for the grown-ups on your list. Even better, each Tipsy Elves purchase funds the company s Sweaters 4 Sweaters campaign, which donates winter sweaters to needy children (tipsyelves.com). Smithsonian magazine calls Stave Puzzles the Rolls Royce of puzzles and they certainly live up to the praise (stavepuzzles.com). These cherry-backed, five-layered, ' -inch wood polished works of art are completely hand-made by skilled craftsmen and are sure to please any jigsaw puzzle lover on your list ($150 and up).

The joys of toys

(All are available at toys stores everywhere.) If the summer Olympic games inspired a little girl on your list, she ll love theFantastic Gymnastics Doradoll from Fisher-Price. Apparently, Dora has been practicing because she performs gymnastics routines, including the splits, handstands, and back-bends (for ages 3-plus, $49.95). Cars and technology are a winning combination withApptivity Play (mattelapptivity.com), featuring screen-safe Hot Wheels you can guide through a racecourse on your iPad (not included). Other versions of Apptivity Play include apps from Fisher-Price, Monster High, WWE, Batman, Cut the Rope, and Fruit Ninja. Apptivity single packs retail for $9.99 and starter set two-packs are $19.99 (age recommendations vary; Hot Wheels Apptivity is for ages 4-12). It s back! Fifteen years after it was first introduced,FURBYis back on store shelves. Of course, technology has advanced significantly since 1998 and so has the new, improved FURBY. It is more interactive and more unpredictable than ever, but just like its predecessor, it still speaks FURBISH (ages 8 months to 8 years, $59.95).

For the bookworm

TheTitanichas been synonymous with tragedy and romance ever since an iceberg sent it to the bottom of the Atlantic on its maiden voyage in 1912. Over the next 100 years, the ill-fated ship would be the subject of countless movies, documentaries, books, and articles so many, in fact, that you might think there s nothing left to see. Think again. Titanic in Photographs(The History Press, $32) tells the ocean liner s story from a never-before-seen perspective through the camera lenses of employees and passengers. This collection of beautifully restored images chronicles Titanic s short life, from her first day in construction to her last at sea, making it a must-have for any photography or maritime enthusiast. During the War of 1812, Americans were fighting for high stakes, namely the democracy that our founders had created barely 20 years earlier. An infant nation with no real naval force to speak of was up against the vast and deadly fleet of the British Navy. President James Madison called it the second war of independence. The War of 1812and the Rise of the U.S. Navy(National Geographic, $30) presents a fascinating collection of historic documents, letters, ephemera, and artifacts to show how Americans lived up to the challenge. The Godfatheris perhaps one of the greatest films ever made, and now fans can get the entire screenplay along with the stories behind each carefully crafted scene in a single volume. Fully authorized by Paramount Pictures,The Annotated Godfather: The Complete Screenplay with Commentary on Every Scene, Interviews, and Little-Known Facts(Black Dog & Leventhal, $19.95) combines over 250 color photos and commentary on details as minute as camera angles and set design to give readers an insider s look at the making of a classic. It s a book no film buff can refuse. Baseball is the American pastime for a reason. While the game itself is great, it wouldn t be the same without a good hotdog, peanuts, and, last but not least, the thrill of being at the ballpark.Take Me Out to the Ballpark: An Illustrated Tour of Baseball Parks Past and Present Featuring Every Major League Park, Plus Minor League and Negro League Parks(Black Dog & Leventhal, $17.95) is the definitive guide to every big league stadium from the game s earliest days up through 2011. Nearly anything you could possibly want to know about America s ballparks including field dimensions, fence heights, even construction costs and crowd capacities is in this book.

Don't forget the blockbusters

Ours is a culture obsessed with youth, fame, and love. James Meeks skillfully weaves these prevalent themes together in his compelling page-turnerThe Heart Broke In(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $28). Filled with wit and satire, the novel is also a thoughtful commentary on the modern times we live in. Get ready for another big doorstop of a book from one of America s favorite authors! Tom Wolfe s latest novelBack to Blood(Little, Brown and Company, $30) weighs in at a whopping 720 pages. Wolfe, who famously took on the complex issue of race in bothThe Bonfire of the VanitiesandA Man in Fullreturns to the subject once more. This time, Wolfe lands in Miami s South Beach a red-hot melting pot of immigrants, mobsters, media hounds, and, in keeping with its Florida setting, residents of an active adult condo. Ian McEwan sSweet Tooth(Nan A. Talese, $26.95) is a must-read for literary fans of the award-winning writer best known for his novelAtonement.Sweet Toothwill surely appeal to thriller and spy novel fans as well since the story, set in 1971, focuses on a new female recruit to Britain s famed MI5. Kevin Powers The Yellow Birds (Little, Brown and Company, $24.99) may be the first great novel about the Iraq war. A veteran of that war, first-time novelist Powers tells a heartfelt story about a young soldier s coming of age. This deeply affecting tale is being compared to Tim O Brien s seminal Vietnam novelThe Things They Carried.

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