Tools, Toys & Other Just-Right Joys

Grit's Great Big Gift Guide has something for everyone on the list.


Leeners You-Make-Kit brand Deluxe Cheese kit

courtesy Leeners

Content Tools

The gift-giving season is upon us once again, and now you need to add “buy or make presents” to your growing end-of-year activity list. If you haven’t yet thought about what you might give your friends and loved ones, our gift guide is sure to get you headed in the right direction. And if you want to drop some hints of your own, just circle a few of your favorite things and leave the magazine in a strategic location.

This year, Grit’s Great Big Gift Guide includes ideas to liven up your own parties with a touch of tradition, and some new product ideas to create new traditions. Some of our choices are handmade and/or homegrown – sure to become heartfelt treasures you might never have discovered on your own. Other ideas range from the practical to the tasty to the entirely whimsical. And for the folks who have everything, we’ve even included a couple gifts of charity.

Gift-giving expectations and budgetary realities easily can overwhelm the happiness and joy associated with the holiday season. So whether you’re searching for something for that special someone, or a simple hostess gift that just says “thanks,” remember that the best presents are those given from the heart. Let us help make your gift giving count this year. 

Freelance writer Patsy Bell Hobson hangs her Christmas stockings on the mantle in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

Simple Cheese

Making your own cheese is easy with Leeners You-Make-Kit brand Deluxe Cheese kit ($89.95) complete with press for making hard cheeses. The kit comes with most everything needed to make cream cheese, feta, mozzarella, cottage, cheddar, jack, Gouda and more. Leeners is committed to the home cheese-maker, and its kit includes easy-to-follow recipes and tips on how to get it done with raw and pasteurized milk while using commonly available kitchen equipment.
Where to buy:
Phone: 800-543-3697 (toll-free)

Hard-Working Green

John Deere’s Gator XUV serves as a practical utility vehicle weekdays and a recreation vehicle on weekends. The XUV ($10,999 and up) is a heavy hauling four-wheel drive workhorse with a safe, comfortable ride. It’s rugged enough for remote hunting and fishing expeditions, yet practical with a 1,000-pound cargo box capacity. The XUV flies over rough terrain at a maximum 30 mph; a child-safe keylocking speed limiter kit can reduce the top speed to 20 mph.
Where to Buy: For more information or to locate a dealer near you, visit the Web site at

Christmas in a Click

Kodak’s new Easyshare M-Series zoom digital cameras have digital image stabilization and are so easy to use, they’ll help your parents into the digital age. One in the series, the 8 MP pocket-sized M883 ($199.95), has built-in face detection technology. The M753 (shown, $149.95) offers 7 mega pixels and more face colors to chose from. The entire series is sophisticated technology that is cute enough to be a fashion accessory.
Where to Buy: Kodak Store Online,, or your local camera dealer.

Easy Outdoor Cooking

When it comes to cooking outdoors, who doesn’t love the fire-and-smoke approach to a traditional barbecue grill and pit smoker, or get a thrill out of dropping a bird into sizzling hot oil in a turkey fryer? But face it, there are days when you’d rather spend the time doing something more productive than fussing with the fire – and now you can with the Orion Cooker.

The Orion Cooker ($149) is a smoker, charcoal-fired convection oven and steamer rolled into a beautifully rendered stainless-steel package that’s lovely to behold and simple to use. Imagine placing that turkey in the cooking chamber, lighting the charcoal (located outside the chamber) and returning in a couple of hours, or less, to a perfectly cooked bird. Want a little smoky flavor? Just add wood chips inside the cooking chamber along with the bird. Worried about drying out that precious breast meat? Just add your favorite basting solution to the drip pan. With the Orion, anyone can create tender smoked meats – no experience necessary.
Where to Buy: Ace Hardware, Bass Pro Shops, or
Phone: 866-891-3663 (toll-free)

Wrenching Experiences

Loggerhead Tools offers the Bit Dr. as the cure for the common tool. This amazing little American-made bit-driver makes a perfect stocking stuffer for anyone who needs to turn screws – which is just about everyone. Equally at home in a kitchen drawer as it is in a well-equipped toolbox, the Bit Dr. ($24.95) is a perfect pocket-sized companion to any traditional multi-tool.

Loggerhead Tools has been wowing the tool-using public for several years with its award-winning and innovative line of Bionic tools, including the Bionic Wrench, Bionic Grip (pliers) and Bionic ImmiX (multi-tool). If these tools aren’t already in your special someone’s tool chest, they ought to be.
Where to Buy:
Phone: 888-564-4374 (toll-free)

Still not convinced your tool-lover will be fully sated? Consider giving a set of GearWrench’s X-Beam combination wrenches this year. These innovative tools include an open-end wrench at one end and a ratcheting box wrench at the other. And to make it even more interesting, the X-Beam ($15 and up depending on size) has a wider, super-strong crossbeam, which increases the wrench’s hand contact area by 500 percent over traditional wrenches. The award-winning tool offers greater user comfort and control, and it is also the first hand tool to be accepted into the American Arthritis Foundation’s Ease-of-Use commendation program. For other GearWrench innovations, visit the Web site at .
Where to Buy: Sears, NAPA and other leading tool retailers

Helping Hooves

Last year, I gave my mother a water buffalo for Christmas; she was thrilled. Since Mom has spent a lifetime caring for others, she was happy to continue that tradition with a donation in her name to Heifer International – an organization devoted to caring for the earth and ending world hunger and poverty (see “Where a Little Means a Lot,” in Grit Gazette).

This year, why not just buck the materialistic mayhem and present your friends and family with a card acknowledging the gift of a water buffalo (or sheep, chickens, goats or geese) to a family or village in need. Needy folks around the world will be thankful for your extra effort, and you’ll be able to deduct the expense ($10 and up) from your taxes to boot.
Where to Buy: Heifer International,
Phone: 800-422-0474 (toll-free)

Pop Until You Drop

Popcorn doesn’t get any better than this; give popcorn grown, packaged and shipped by family-owned Riehle Popcorn Farm in Indiana. Choose from 15 specialty varieties, including hull-free popcorn, organic popcorn and ladyfinger hulless microwave popcorn, as well as a variety of popcorn seasonings. Host a gourmet popcorn party this winter and try every variety and seasoning. I’m keeping the white cheddar seasoning to myself; after all, there are limits to one’s generosity. (Prices range from $9.95-$50 for gift sets and $18.99 for the mini sample of 13 varieties.)
Where to Buy: Riehle Enterprises LLC,
Phone: 812-212-2202

Look for Treasure

Children (ages 5-12) learning about metals in science classes can continue the lesson in their own backyards with the National Geographic Backyard Treasure Hunt Metal Detector ($14.99). Easy to use and super sensitive, the detector is perfect for young learners and features a detachable handle for handheld scanning. Who knows what treasures might be buried around an old farmhouse?

Walkie talkies have long been a favorite communication toy among young adventurers. National Geographic is helping spawn the next generation of explorers with the National Geographic Walkie Talkies ($9.99). Durably made, these devices can handle the most rugged young adventurers. Keep in contact with your youngest trailblazers, 10-4, Eleanor? Safety and science for adventurers ages 5-12.
Where to Buy: Target Stores,

Keeping it Cool

We all scream for ice cream, and what’s better than an all-natural gourmet treat served up in decorative metal cans? SheerBliss Gourmet Ice Cream makes a perfect hostess gift or a decadent ending to a holiday feast. The premium ice cream comes in such flavors as Pomegranate with Dark Chocolate Chips, Mediterranean Coffee, Vanilla with Pomegranate Swirls or Dark Chocolate. Or save the can all for yourself for a bit of solitary snacking.
Where to Buy: Visit the Web site,, to find a store near you.
Phone: 954-334-3200

Footed Pajamas

At last, there’s a cure for icicle feet. The Big Feet Pajama Co. offers the footed-pajamas that you loved as a child, now in adult sizes. Big Feet Pajamas are unique, whimsical, practical and, more importantly, they’re just plain comfortable. Choose from flannel, cotton knit, micro-polar fleece or wool cashmere fabrics (cotton and knit flannels, $39.99; micro-polar, $44.99; and cashmere, $119.99). There’s even an old-fashioned red union suit with traditional back flap that is cute enough for any costume or pajama party. Snuggle up in His and Hers matching footie pjs on a cold winter’s night – what could be more romantic than that?
Where to Buy: Big Feet Pajama Co.,
Phone: 888-682-3338 (toll-free) or 702-456-3338

Nuts about Fruitcake

The monks of Assumption Abbey in Ava, Missouri, bake a dark, rich and oh-so-moist 2-pound cake from a recipe perfected by world class Chef Jean-Pierre Augé, who at one time served the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Loaded with raisins, pineapple, currants, citron, walnuts and an infusion of golden rum, the 2-pound cake ($28) is aged for four months. It really is the best fruitcake I have ever tasted.
Where to Buy: Assumption Abbey Bakery,
Phone: 888-738-0117 (toll-free)

Merry Mushrooms

Young scientists and the gourmet in your kitchen can watch mushrooms sprout and grow a week or two after opening this earthy gift. Choose from several varieties including blue oyster, brown oyster and the ever-popular and oh, so healthy Shiitake. ($15.95 and up).
Where to Buy: Gourmet Mushrooms & Mushroom Products,
24-Hour Order Line: 800-789-9121 (toll-free)

Soft Skin

Most of us don’t equate “goat milk” with “great scent,” but this soap smells fabulous. Goat milk contains vitamins and minerals known for moisturizing and rejuvenating skin. The skin benefits from the exfoliating nature of the milk’s lactic acid, as well as vitamins A and D, which help give strength and suppleness.

Goat Milk Soap and Goat Milk Lotion with Orchid Oil from Canus actually do contain real orchid oil, a restorative nourishment for dry skin, with a scent that is rich, but not-too-sweet floral. The Goat Milk Lotion with Orchid Oil ($11.50), a 16-ounce pump bottle, is a great companion to Goat Milk Soap with Orchid Oil ($3.50). Our friends at The Spa Shop in Eureka Springs have recommendations to relax, renew and restore. Just ask.
Where to Buy: The Spa Shop,, Phone: 800-453-1252 (toll-free); or the Canus Goat’s Milk Web site,

Bloom Where You’re Planted

Charley’s Greenhouse & Garden has every kind of greenhouse, but I love the charming yet practical (and very English) greenhouse for over-wintering my tropical plants and for getting a head start on spring gardening. The Cambridge Greenhouse is built for gardeners who want an economical and functional hobby greenhouse – and it’s easy-peasy for the do-it-yourself gardener with pre-cut parts drilled for easy nut-and-bolt assembly. (The one shown here is an 8-by-10-foot Cambridge Greenhouse, $2,110.)
Where to Buy: Charley’s Greenhouse,
Phone: 800-322-4707 (toll-free), 24 hours, 7 days a week

It’s in Hand

If I had only one garden tool, this would be it. The CobraHead® precision weeder and cultivator ($24.95) is a multipurpose garden tool with a steel fingernail® blade that edges the garden and removes weeds in quick order. I love this tool for container gardening and around closely spaced miniature roses and herbs. For stand-up weeding and cultivating, a CobraHead® Long Handle is available.
Where to Buy: CobraHead,
Phone: 866-962-6272 (toll-free) or 608-423-9119

Wearing Bionic Gloves and carrying a Cobrahead weeder is the perfect way to combine my favorite gifts. With styles for equestrians, golfers and gardeners, as well as for driving and dress, Bionic Gloves ($39.95) were designed by an orthopedic hand surgeon, Dr. Jim Kleinert, and won the Ease-Of-Use Commendation given by the Arthritis Foundation. I put the gloves on and went out do a few chores; they felt so good on my hands, I literally forgot to take them off when I came indoors.
Where to Buy: Bionic Gloves, (Buy online or locate the dealer nearest you, including Target and Home Depot)
Phone: 877-524-6642 (toll-free)

Fresh Bread, Anyone?

After the hungry work of opening presents, it’s off to the kitchen for warm, fresh bread. The versatile new Zojirushi Mini Bread Machine ($179.95) kneads and bakes a 1-pound loaf. The mini has five bread settings, plus settings for yeast dough, baked cakes (quick breads), jam, cookie dough and pasta dough.

The 13-hour delay timer guarantees you will have hot, fresh bread when you come home after a long, cold day.
Where to Buy: The Baker’s Catalogue,
Phone: 800-827-6836 (toll-free)