Gifts with a difference

Dec 9, 1998 at 12:00 am


If La Niña's predicted cold weather makes its way here this winter, you'll want to be prepared from head to toe to face the cold. But for everyone who keeps having to take off their earmuffs to answer their cell phone, keeping the draft out of your ears is a challenge. The EarProTec device is, essentially, a windshield for your ears. The pieces of thin plastic, which attach to a regular pair of glasses or sunglasses, are said to work by making your head more aerodynamic and deflecting the wind and cold, leaving you more able to hear that phone ringing.

Ideal for: Bicycle couriers, winter sports enthusiasts, the aerodynamically challenged.

Not recommended for: Basset hounds, people afraid of looking silly.

Price tag: $5.95 per pair

If you really want it: 408-288-6837

ViaTV Videophone

Your television is ringing. Are you going to answer it? Yes, the future we've all been waiting for has arrived in our living rooms. Videoconferencing takes a step toward everyday reality with the ViaTV videophone, which works over regular phone lines, either as a desktop unit or as an attachment to your own TV set. It gives you a glimpse of whomever you're calling, and gives them a peek at you -- as long as you both have the devices. Of course, that's the key. Like regular telephones, they're virtually useless unless everyone gets one.

Ideal for: Best pals, grandparents, those 1-900 line users.

Not recommended for: Anyone you don't really want seeing you when you dash from the shower to answer the phone.

Price tag: $649 for desktop model, $445 for TV attachment model

If you really want it: 800-698-8927

Real Women, Real Motorcycles 1999 Calendar

Forget about cute kittens or lovely landscapes. Mark the last year starting with "19" with a calendar that has attitude. While "Real Women, Real Motorcycles" might sound like a festival of busty babes on bikes, its emphasis is on the "real." The models -- all of whom are completely nude -- are not surgically enhanced, not impossibly thin, not suspiciously young looking. The motorcycles -- nude also -- are venerable vintage bikes, not testosterone-fueled rockets. Shot in subdued black and white, there's not a degrading photo in the bunch.

Ideal for: Men and women who love women almost as much as they love motorcycles.

Not recommended for: Members of the Moral Majority.

Price tag: $12.95

If you really want it: 888-846-6228


Why send someone on an all-expenses-paid, wonderfully relaxing, culturally inspiring vacation when you can give them a getaway in a box? Well, maybe the answer is obvious, but for those on a budget, the Envira-Spa is all that and more. This space-age device plays six soothing sounds -- including ocean waves, a running stream, rain and white noise -- while puffing fragrance into the air. Breathe in lavender, chamomile, eucalyptus and other scents for up to an hour, and imagine you're someplace exotic.

Ideal for: Armchair travelers, those with good imaginations.

Not recommended for: Anyone who sneezes when they smell perfume.

Price tag: $49.95

If you really want it: 800-669-0987

Garden Bells

These brass bells, which look suspiciously like alien flowers, are meant to dress up your garden like a shiny bouquet. They wave gracefully on stainless steel wires, and clang against each other to create a range of tones that sound like a piano exploring Zen for the first time.

But they're not great just for the garden -- these make a fine musical instrument for inquisitive kids and courageous cats, both of which will get hours of entertainment from batting the bells back and forth.

Ideal for: Gardeners, would-be musicians and their cats.

Not recommended for: Those with easily shattered nerves.

Price tag: $85

If you really want it: 800-669-9696

City Bell Alarm Clock

Made by the Howard Miller clockmaking company in Zeeland, MI, the City Bell claims to be the world's loudest alarm clock. Fortunately, it also has an easily accessible off switch (right on top) for those just-can't-get-outta-bed mornings. With a spiffy, no-nonsense dial and a sleek design, it's a gift bound to open eyes.

Ideal for: Heavy sleepers, those who need a five-alarm fire to get them out of bed.

Not recommended for: People who throw their alarm clocks across the room to turn them off.

Price tag: $62.95

If you really want it: 616-772-9131

Earthy Perfumes

When you just can't remember whether she wears Opium or Giorgio, or if his favorite fragrance is made by Calvin Klein or Ralph Lauren, why not go with something your scent-lover is almost guaranteed not to have? In "Grass," "Dirt" and "Tomato," these subtle perfumes bring to mind that lawn-mowin', earth-diggin' summer feeling. They'll also make your loved one smell like a farm, but, hey, sometimes that's a good thing.

Ideal for: Back-to-nature enthusiasts, wannabe gardeners.

Not recommended for: Those with hay fever.

Price tag: $30 for all three

If you really want it: 800-822-9600

Sport Sub

For everyone who's ever been dumped off a Jet Ski, here's a new twist on underwater sports. The Sport Sub is a tiny submarine that can hold two or three people, depending on how cozy they want to get. It travels about 5 mph at depths of up to 130 feet. It costs about the same as a good sport utility vehicle, but instead of taking you off-road, it takes you really off-road -- where you can get up close and personal with shipwrecks, strange fish and other underwater delights.

Ideal for: Scared scuba divers, do-it-yourself espionage aficionados, fans of Titanic.

Not recommended for: Anyone prone to singing "Yellow Submarine" repeatedly upon receiving this gift.

Price tag: $30,000

If you really want it: 604-220-4141


"Kegels" are exercises doctors recommend for helping cure urinary incontinence. They require no special equipment -- unless you're the type who has to have gear for absolutely every activity you do. On the other hand, this device (yes, it really exists) is not quite in the same category as a StairMaster or a set of weights. If it looks like a stainless steel vibrator, and is used like a stainless steel vibrator, well then, it must be a ... Kegelcisor!

Ideal for: Those who adore euphemisms.

Not recommended for: Frequenters of airport X-ray machines or
anyone who already has a videophone.

Price tag: $79.95

If you really (really) want it: 800-669-0987