Here we are, less than a week from Christmas, but it’s not too late to finish your shopping. Here we give a few items that should arrive in time for the holiday. Prime shipping, gift cards, and Steam codes are your best bet for online shopping. Just don’t ask me to step inside a store in the next week. I’d sooner print out the soon-to-be-belated present and stuff it in an envelope as a sort of holiday I.O.U.
Star Wars Art: Ralph McQuarrie Postcards
Ralph McQuarrie’s phenomenal artwork was key to the look of the Star Wars universe. Last year, Abrams published a gorgeous two-volume collection of McQuarrie’s Star Wars art. Now, the artwork is available on this set of 100 oversized postcards; the box serves as a frame. Better get two—one set for mailing, and the other to display on a shelf.
Toca Life: Pets
All of my kids love playing with the Toca Life apps, which are like a digital dollhouse: there are characters and animals that you can drag and drop into various rooms, and countless items that they can interact with: they can change outfits, eat things, hold things in their hands, sit on chairs and sleep in beds, and more. Most of the settings have some hidden secrets to look for, too, and there’s something odd going on involving sloths…
Image: Chronicle Books
Because cats. And Star Trek. Star Trek Cats combines two of nerddom’s favorite things! Based on scenes from actual episodes of Star Trek:The Original Series, the book’s scenes of cats in uniforms can take your holiday gift where no holiday gift has gone before. So, live long, and paw-sper. Read my review at GeekDad.
It’s the last week before Christmas and you have no idea what to get your parents/grandparents/friends/whomever? Buy them a digital photoframe from PhotoSpring! Extremely user-friendly, you can preload some playlists containing fun photos of yourself on the frame and then gift it to your recipient. With their permission, you can email more photos and videos to the frame over time, and they can, of course, also put their own photos on it. Share memories of family gatherings, vacations, meaningful events, or just daily selfies! Read my review at GeekDad!
Level up your Nintendo Switch gameplay.
I’ve been using KontrolFreek Thumbsticks on my PlayStation DualShock 4s for ages, and I’ve really come to appreciate the added style, control, and comfort they provide. Now that my family regularly has multiple Nintendo Switch consoles in the house at the same time, I’m also beginning to realize the ease with which KontrolFreek’s new Turbo Performance Thumbsticks, the Switch Joy-Con variant, allow us to easily distinguish one system from another—in addition to the aforementioned perks. Inexpensive, long-lasting, and effective, they’re the perfect pick-up for the new Switch owner in your life, and the simple packaging even makes them Christmas stocking-friendly. (Review product provided by: KontrolFreek)
This is all your fault, Zach Goodweather!
Being a cord-cutter sometimes means having to wait ages for your favorite cable television series to make their way to your streaming platform of choice. Thankfully, while I was biding my time, Fox Home Entertainment rolled out the 10-episode fourth and final season of The Strain in a handsomely priced DVD set. Following the drastic events in the final minutes of the season three cliffhanger, the show picks up nine months later in a world now ruled by the vampiric strigoi. This three-disc set pairs the breakneck pace of the series’ swansong with deleted scenes, a gag reel, special featurettes, and more, and it makes the perfect gift for fans of the show, its literary source material, and horror media in general. (Review product provided by: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment)
Your music has never sounded better!
Part wi-fi streaming radio, part hi-fi Bluetooth speaker, Grace Digital’s Encore+ is everything a modern stereo system should be. With deep, rich sound, built-in Chromecast functionality, and Google Home compatibility, it has all the contemporary bells and whistles in one gorgeously retro package. Setup is a snap using the dual-function tuning knob and 3.5-inch built-in display to connect to your home wireless, and then a whole new world of internet radio, local/regional affiliates, streaming services, and more are available at your fingertips. And, of course, it’s also the perfect way to share your own tunes via Google’s Chromecast Audio, Bluetooth, using its good old-fashioned auxiliary input, USB drive, or UPnP media server. Boasting everything from alarm clock features, Sirius XM, and podcast support to more sophisticated offerings like multi-room audio, the Encore+ is both an all-in-one music solution and a perfect starting point to a bigger, better home listening experience. (Review product provided by: Grace Digital)
The GameMaker Studio 2 first tutorial screen (with added GameMaker banner).
Bored with Scratch? Looking for something a little more challenging? Then GameMaker Studio 2 may just be for you, or more likely, your teenager. My son has an interest in creating games, but felt he’d moved past the more basic entryways into coding. He was thrilled when we had the chance to try out YoYo Games learn-to-code software. I love their motto too. “Don’t just play, create.” Aimed at ages 12+, the possibilities with GameMaker Studio 2 are endless. You can use it to make some great games. As you build your skills, more advanced packages are available. There’s loads of online help (including tutorials, here), though my son has needed some extra hands-on parental help. This is no bad thing. Collaborative screen time is much more desirable than the usual, “That’s enough game time now,” arguments. Year subscriptions start at $39 and are available instantly—a perfect last minute gift for teenage coders.
Image: Mission Belt
For your fashion-helpless geek this year, consider Mission Belt’s Canvas collection. This series of belts includes 40 combinations of buckles, colors, and widths, and is available in five sizes. Worried about getting the right size with short notice? Mission Belt’s design allows you to buy sizes on the safe side. Their unique buckles allow you to remove the belt, cut it down to size at the buckle end, and re-attach the belt for a perfectly fitted belt with no raw edges. I personally prefer the Sangria Red and Amber Yellow (above), for their classic but fresh appearance. Both belts are a great way to add color to a suit, class up your look for office parties, or for casual wear. Mission Belt’s Canvas line is their most comfortable to wear, and just looks classy in any style. It’s so easy to get it right, I’d almost challenge you to get it wrong.
Funny illustrations, serious zen
This time of the year, calm is at a premium. There are gifts to buy, houses to clean, productions to go see, parties to attend, liquor cabinets to secure from relatives—it all gets overwhelming really fast. So instead of another magazine subscription or gift card for that person you haven’t shopped for yet, why not give them the gift of mindfulness and calm? Headspace is a brilliant app that offers daily 10-minute meditation sessions to help teach you how to meditate and find a little bit of peace in an otherwise hectic day. There are hundreds of hours of specialized sessions, ranging from 1 minute emergency sessions available from your Apple Watch to variable-length targeted sessions for things like focus, anxiety, falling asleep, fear of flying, and a lot more. Since last year, they’ve added a myriad of single sessions for everything from being mindful at work to unwinding at the end of the day. Whatever is happening throughout your day, there’s a Headspace meditation to get you through it. There’s also a Kids section of the app so that parents and children, from 5-12, can sit down and learn this important skill together. Annual subscriptions cost $95 (billed monthly), but you can get started for free. Download the Headspace app to get started or learn more on the Headspace website.
It’s dangerous to go alone. Take this.
Wyrmwood has created the Hope Shield as a token of kindness that you can carry with you or share with someone in need. It was made specially to benefit Take This, an organization dedicated to informing the community about mental health issues, provide education about mental disorders and mental illness prevention, and to reduce the stigma of mental illness. Each shield is made from one of their Core 16 woods, with a few rare shields crafted from Gabon Ebony and featuring a rare inlay. It’s the perfect way to support a great charity and remind loved ones in your life, or maybe even yourself, that they’re not alone.