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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Last-minute Gift Guide for the Serious Procrastinator

Forget the good intentions, folks. They won't help you now. Once again, we revive the time-honored tradition of "panic shopping," that seasonal adrenalin rush that keeps life so interesting. But never fear. I'm back, with a second installment of the official Good Life Northwest Gift Guide.

No standing in line at the post office, no watching for the U.P.S. truck, and no worries, with these instant gratification ideas. The chance to cross that last name off your gift list is only a few clicks or a phone call away.

1.) A MEMBERSHIP-- Who wouldn't love to learn they just received a year's membership for a gym, a museum, club, or any organization they have an interest in? So many times we put others first and don't indulge in these things that we could enjoy all year long.Here are a few of my favorite suggestions:

Sound Experience    You've read plenty of my blog posts about the 1913 schooner Adventuress, Puget Sound's own environmental ship. Membership has many benefits, but you could also simply make a gift purchase of a single sailing experience. Be sure to check out the options. A nice alternative to the same old boring gifts, and it all goes to help preserve this historic ship while educating the public.

Cornell University Lab of Ornithology I mentioned the lab's own gift suggestions in my gift guide post last week, but just take a look at their site in general and see all it has to offer. I've blogged about them many times and we're on a first name basis. Of course you can't go wrong with Audubon either. Both organizations' memberships include subscriptions to their outstanding magazines.

National Trust For Historic Preservation  Again, the magazine alone is worth the price. Your gift can help preserve our nation's history, much of which is threatened.

YMCA   Give someone the gift of a "Y" membership and you'll give them the gift of better health in the new year.

2.) TICKETS - Here's a great waste-free gift that gives the recipient something they might not indulge in for themselves. Take a look at the theater, special event, or travel options in your own home town. Here are a few ideas: a ride on a train, plane, or even a ferry boat, movie tickets, musical theater, comedy, a special exhibit or concert, or maybe even a lecture with a celebrity, like this one, that benefits Seattle's Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance.

Please click on the following links to my recent articles on University Place Patch for last minute gift, waste free gift solutions that help support the arts in Pierce County.

Shopping for Gifts in an Artful Way(Video)

Take in the Fun at "Joe's Diner"(Video)

3.) TIME - I'm not talking about a new watch folks. I'm talking about giving a gift of time, yours or theirs. It could be a homemade gift certificate for babysitting, errand running, handling chores, or maybe taking over for a few hours for someone who is a caregiver for an elderly parent or other family member who needs a constant presence. How about giving an unhurried phone call to a lonely person, maybe an older relative who would rather hear your voice and know you care than receive any material thing?

4.) YOUR LOVE - The most important gift of all never cost anyone a dime. And this last one, my friends, is what Christmas is all about.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Good Life Northwest Holiday Gift Guide

The rainwater gurgles through the downspouts outside my window here in Tacoma on this dark night of Dec. 9, 2010. But here in my cozy office, what do I care? If you read my previous post, you know I'm happily home in the Northwest again and working on my promised list of gift ideas. You won't see these items in any newspaper insert or TV ad.

Here they are, in no particular order.

1. A RAIN BARREL   No joke. Check this one out. It's the gift that keeps on giving year 'round. I wrote a blog post about Dan Borba's rain barrels in 2009. Note: GUYS-- I wouldn't recommend this one for your wife or girl friend unless she has specifically requested one. It could definitely land you in "the doghouse." (However, maybe I should ask Dan himself how this gift goes over with the ladies. I've noticed that he's always smiling. Hmmmm...)AND THEY'RE ON SALE THROUGH THE END OF DECEMBER.

2. THE FYDDEYE GUIDE TO AMERICA'S MARITIME HISTORY by Joe Follansbee is  NOW AVAILABLE ON KINDLE for only $6.99. Here's a great gift for anyone, anywhere, with an interest in old ships, lighthouses, maritime museums, etc. across the nation. Perfect for people who like to explore the nation or for arm chair travelers. Read some online reviews, including mine, here.

3. A HAND-CRAFTED GIFT FROM "BEYOND THE BEACH"  Barry Crust, of University Place, Washington, makes one-of-a-kind walking sticks, canes, sculptures and birdhouses from Northwest woods, including driftwood. Here's my profile of him on University Place Patch. His original wood-burned designs accent his creations.

4. Anything, absolutely anything, from the PACIFIC NORTHWEST SHOP I love the way the owner, Bill Evans, supports Northwest artists, artisans, food producers, authors, musicians, and more by seeking out and choosing to carry the things they create. Delight everyone on your list. His mail order business is booming, even in our current economy, so order soon.

5. A TIBBE-LINE or two, or three. For those who want to live "green," here's a way to dry clothes, indoors or out, using hangers instead of a conventional clothesline and clothespins. It's perfect for RV owners, college kids, traveling by car, small apartments, and VERY reasonably priced. Here's my blog post about inventor Rose Marie Pacheco.

6. I don't want to say I've saved "the best for last" because these are all great ideas that I personally recommend, but if you know people who love birds (and that is most of us) be sure to see the exciting offerings in the CORNELL UNIVERSITY LAB OF ORNITHOLOGY "Gift Guide for Bird Lovers."  How about the world's only mobile application for locating birds? Or maybe you'll choose birding guides with digital birds songs built in, or an illustrated weekly planner.

There you have it, dear readers. I hope you have fun looking at these links and considering buying something different as you shop for gifts this year. Don't delay!

Thanks for reading. Please come back soon.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Missing Blogger Returns to the Northwest

Warning: If you prefer Arizona to Washington in the winter, you might want to click your way out of here before I accidentally offend you. Move slowly, aim your cursor toward that X in the corner of your screen, and no one will get hurt.

I don't mean to be rude. Some wonderful people live in Arizona, like those in my husband's family (with whom we spent Thanksgiving and about nine other days) and friends of ours who talk, talk, talk about going south in the winter. Traitors. Who is left to rake their wet leaves away from the storm drains while they are gone, to keep the street from flooding? And in this economy, do they really feel good, knowing some poor sucker who works in a windshield wiper blade factory might lose his job because they didn't need to buy new ones?

That's another thing I don't understand about people who move to Arizona: all they do is hope for RAIN! So why did they leave the Northwest in the first place? They moved away from the trees, and then, if they live in a part of the state where trees can actually grow, they plant some, only to worry about drought and fire danger. On the rare occasions when it does rain, they're excited. If you overhear two women bragging about how many inches they got the night before, don't blush. It is not what you think. But some things never change; they're probably exaggerating.

Okay, okay, so the sun shines there almost all the time and your aches and pains go away. Big deal. Do they have mushrooms ready to pick right outside the back door? An adequate supply of oxygen available at a reasonable altitude? Good seafood? Ferns? Moss? Umbrellas in every color you could ever want? I think not! Not only that, people get more wrinkles. And I'll take slugs and slippery leaves in my back yard over wild pigs, rattlers, tarantulas, and scorpions any time.

When we returned to Washington, I wanted to kiss the ground. And I would have, except that I didn't want mud on my face. What I did do was take a long, deep breath of moist marine air. I could feel my lungs heave a sigh, and my parched skin plumped up like Mom's stewed prunes. My hair curled  into ringlets again, the "frizzies" springing back to life like magic. Oh, how welcome would be the sound of a seagull, a fog horn, or a ferry boat whistle, and the taste of clam chowder.

A neighbor picked us up at Sea-Tac Airport. As she drove Interstate 5 back home to Tacoma, I closed my eyes in peace, just relaxing and listening to her talk about a storm that came through while we were gone and how it broke off tree branches that, of course, we didn't need anyway since we have so many. As background music to her voice, there came the familiar hiss of drenching road spray from the tires of a monstrous truck speeding by in the lane next to us. Ahhh... home sweet home. Did you miss me?


One of the best things about being back is writing blog posts for Good Life Northwest again. In addition to this site, look for my feature stories and arts column on University Place Patch too. And don't miss the official
Good Life Northwest Gift Guide, coming on Friday, Dec. 10, 2010. I guarantee that these aren't your everyday ideas. See you then. And by the way, Arizona lovers, I was just kidding. Sort of.

Text and photo Copyright 2010 Candace J. Brown