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Thinking Outside the Holiday Gift Box: A Baker's Dozen Unique Ideas

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Whether you are celebrating 12 days of Christmas, 8 days of Chanukah or 7 days of Kwanza, here's a baker's dozen artsy ideas to solve your gift-giving dilemmas for quirky friends and relatives!

(Image by Daniel P. Welch)   Details   DMCA

1. Make Mine Green

Spend your green on recycled art greeting cards from the Greenhouse School.   Give unique, elegant note cards and gifts, and help out some creative school kids and the environment at the same time.

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An exciting recycled art program helps to provide much-needed income for the progressive Greenhouse School in the greater Boston area.   The kids use recycled waste paper, construction paper and other donated scraps to make handmade paper from which they create stunning greeting cards and envelopes, bookmarks, miniature gift bags, ornaments, gift tags, and even wrappers for another of their projects - handmade soaps! Charming new versions of their holiday cards use repurposed tissue paper overlays for a stained glass look.

(Image by Daniel P. Welch)   Details   DMCA

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Buy their items or simply consider donating to this cutting edge school that provides a spectacular education to many underprivileged kids. It's a win-win investment in society as well as the opportunity to buy unique gifts.

(Image by Daniel P. Welch)   Details   DMCA

The school is run by OEN contributor Daniel Patrick Welch and his wife Julia Nambalirwa-Lugudde. All proceeds benefit The Greenhouse School.

Shop at

To learn more about the Greenhouse School, see archived OEN articles at

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and more:


(Image by Alicia Joy Merritt)   Details   DMCA

2. Be A Joy Magnet!

Joy Magnet Affirmative Art by awesome polymer clay artist, Alicia Joy Merritt, features words and phrases designed to uplift the spirit. Each handmade "collage in clay" is a one-of-a-kind mini work of art.

(Image by Alicia Joy Merritt)   Details   DMCA

Pieces of clay are cut, or torn into fragments, and impressed with stamps and other objects to create various textures. Several layers of clay are combined and accented with beads, charms, rhinestones, crystals or gemstones.

(Image by Alicia Joy Merritt)   Details   DMCA

Iridescent metallic pigment powders in various colors are applied for a burst of color, before the magnet is painted with sealer for durability. A rare-earth (Neodymium) magnet is glued on the back.

(Image by Alicia Joy Merritt)   Details   DMCA

Each piece is signed by the artist and dated. They are " positively unique!" Also available: special magnetic picture frames to showcase your Joy Magnets!

(Image by Alicia Joy Merritt)   Details   DMCA

Shop at

(Image by Alicia Merritt)   Details   DMCA

Merritt's work is sold internationally, and she also creates stunning, parrot-themed art jewelry at

(Image by Trish Schmiedl)   Details   DMCA

3. A-Mazing Grace

Stunning 16" x 16" dupioni silk pillows from Trish Schmiedl's Threads and Needles feature machine-embroidered labyrinth designs. Unlike a maze, which offers a choice of different paths, a labyrinth has a single path.   A full-sized labyrinth can be walked in order to enhance physical, psychological, or spiritual wellbeing, and a smaller size, such as those embroidered on these pillows, can be "walked" with a finger, for the same reasons. The American Cancer Society states that walking labyrinths "may be helpful as a complementary method to decrease stress and create a state of relaxation."

(Image by Trish Schmiedl)   Details   DMCA

Trish Schmeidl's late husband had given her a sewing machine as a wedding gift to encourage her creativity, and from that modest beginning she has developed a machine embroidery design business, selling finished products as well as patterns. Talent runs in the family, her husband had been on a US Olympic team in his youth, and later was the first visually impaired quadriplegic to earn a doctorate in Clinical Psychology.

Shop at    for embroidered silk labyrinth pillows or totes.

(Image by Trish Schmiedl)   Details   DMCA

At her site she offers embroidered silk bags for tarot cards or amulets.

For more info about labyrinths see my OpEdnews article, Walk the Pavement to A-Mazement: World Labyrinth Day, May 1

at click here

(Image by Jerry and Esther Hicks)   Details   DMCA

4. Take One Meditation And Call Me in the Morning

Got any gift recipients who want better health, more money or love? The answers to life's problems are in a book and CD set, "Getting Into The Vortex: Guided Meditations CD and User Guide," by Jerry and Esther Hicks.

I loved the CD and the restful music. I am familiar with the Hicks' Law of Attraction work--they were the featured experts on the short-lived, first edition of the movie, "The Secret." They've also been on Oprah's radio show several times, and I've enjoyed hearing their "take" on life, over the years.

So I expected these meditations to be good. But I didn't expect the remarkable results I got immediately.

A couple of days after receiving my copy, I couldn't sleep due to severe sinus congestion. Then, in the middle of the night, I suddenly began to get very sick, very rapidly. So I put on the 15-minute meditation for physical wellbeing, and listened to it as I drifted off to sleep.

Four hours later I woke up rested, with no symptoms, and ready for the day! I was stunned. Am I listening to these meditations every night now? You betcha!

Shop at , where you can also see video clips, and download a free "Law of Attraction" intro CD. Also available on the publisher's website,, as well as Amazon and other online booksellers' sites.

(Image by Royal Himalayan)   Details   DMCA

5. A Gift Worth Its Salt

Royal Himalayan Pink Crystal Salt is the first choice of many of the world's renowned chefs for enhancing the flavor of their signature cuisines.

Over 100 Million years ago, the foothills of the Himalayas were covered by an ocean. The salt trapped there by the shifting of the earth's crust congealed into perfect crystalline structure. Royal Himalayan Pink Crystal Salt contains over 84 minerals in the same proportions found in human cells. When water and salt combine they activate to harmonize cell metabolism, by supporting acid/alkaline balance, re-mineralization of the cells, maintaining proper electrolyte levels.

Your favorite chef will love the combo pack, which includes the 16 oz. bag of Royal Himalayan Pink Crystal Salt (coarse) and a Kyocera Salt mill, made from mostly glass with a very durable ceramic grinder, so that no metal comes in contact with the salt.

(Image by Royal Himalayan)   Details   DMCA

Also available, their award-winning "Bliss Mix." Ingredients: Organic Pistachios, organic Himalayan Raisins, organic Mulberries, organic Gojiberries, finest Hawaiian Macadamia Nuts, organic Cashews, organic Cacao Nibs. One of the best ways to bliss out for the holidays.

Shop at:

(Image by A and J Bakery)   Details   DMCA

6. Look Ma, No Wheat!

Kids and grownups with allergies have often been unable to participate in holiday culinary fun. But now they can with the Allergen Friendly Gingerbread House Kit. It is free of most allergens including peanut, tree nut, wheat, gluten, soy, egg, dairy, and sesame. A & J Bakery's kit includes pre-baked gingerbread house pieces plus allergen-free candy for decorating it. Now, when the enticing scent of gingerbread fills your home, even folks with allergies can nibble on a piece of the yummy roof!

The kit comes with prebaked gingerbread pieces, allergen-free candies, and an assortment of non-edible decorations. You make your own icing (they include a couple of recipes, I made the vegan version, with Trader Joe's organic confectioner's sugar and water) My house was fun to build and nibble!

(Image by Meryl Ann Butler)   Details   DMCA

For a somewhat more mature gift try "The World's Best Biscotti." Their claim is no exaggeration. Allergy-friendly, the orange cranberry biscotti I tried was without a doubt the best biscotti I have ever tasted, wheat-based or otherwise. They offered a stunning burst of flavor plus lightly crunchy, textural bliss--miles ahead of those tasteless, rock-hard imposters. 29 scrumptious flavors are personally handmade by the owners who say, "we never cut corners and we'd rather explain the price than apologize for quality." No wonder they've been featured as "Snack of the Day" on the Rachel Ray Show - twice!

A & J Bakery has one of the only 100% Nut and Gluten Free Dedicated facilities in the country.

Shop at


(Image by Stewart St. John)   Details   DMCA

7. Music of the Spheres

Immerse yourself in the unique, relaxing tones of Stewart St. John's newest release, Global Symphony, a collection of celestial sounds that's bound to carry you off in a dream to higher realms. The CD includes 12 mystical melodies (which just happens to be one for each of the 12 Days of Christmas) and will melt away holiday stress.

Stewart, who is a voting member of the National Academy of the Recording Arts & Sciences (the organization that awards the GRAMMYs), submitted Global Symphony in the Best New Age Album category for the 2011 GRAMMYs.

Global Symphony was selected from thousands of submissions and made the official entry list.

The multitalented St. John is a filmmaker, writer, composer, director and entertainment producer who performed for Liberace at age 10 and won a Philharmonic award as a teen.

Shop at where you can also hear clips.

St John also offers Soul Soundâ„¢ Readings, music he composes especially for the client, and delivered in MP3 format.


(Image by Snow Lion Publications)   Details   DMCA

8. Dalai Would

Each page of the Dalai Lama Heart of Wisdom 2011 wall calendar features a stunning photograph by Alison Wright and a humorous or compassionate expression of inspirational wisdom from His Holiness, the Dalai Lama.

(Image by Snow Lion Publications)   Details   DMCA

Interior pages are printed on 100% recycled paper. In buying from Snow Lion Press you enable them to publish more new and classic books on Tibetan Buddhism and you also help support Tibetans and their culture. With each order you can also choose a complimentary item from their free bonus list.

And don't miss their Dharmachakra Wheel of Dharma chimes!

Shop at

Read the Snow Lion informative newsletter, at which includes the Dalai Lama's speaking schedule for 2011.


(Image by Archie McPhee)   Details   DMCA

9. Mirth on Earth

If laughter is the best medicine, then the Archie McPhee catalog is the Mayo Clinic of gift catalogs.

If you want to give a truly "feel good" gift that keeps on giving, consider the Affirmation Ball from Archie McPhee. It's perfect for any Baby Boomer who fondly remembers the Magic 8-Ball. Just hold the viewing window level, and a cheery thought or compliment will rise to the top.

Archie McPhee says, "You don't even have to ask a question (don't you work hard enough already?). The happy face on the back will be smiling at you as you turn the ball for the next encouraging remark, such as "Your breath is so minty,' "Nice outfit,' or "Have you lost weight?'"

Before you commit to a major purchase like this, you can try the virtual affirmation ball at:   



(Image by Archie McPhee)   Details   DMCA

For Feline Navidad greetings for the spiritually inclined cat lovers on your list, Archie McPhee offers a Cat Buddha Statue. This 5" tall, polystone statue depicts a feline in a tranquil state of meditation. Also available in canine version. Bow-wow Tao now.

(Image by Archie McPhee)   Details   DMCA

Archie McPhee also offers the famous electronic Yodelling Pickle. It's the perfect holiday gift for the musicians on your list!

And oy veh, it's kosher for Chanukkah.   And not to worry, dahlink, it's truly a gift that won't be duplicated.

To try before you buy, check out the virtual yodelling pickle at  

Shop at

(Image by Archie McPhee)   Details   DMCA

10.   The Reason for the Season

If you want a gift more thematically related to the holiday, put Christ back in Christmas with the amazing Deluxe Miracle Action Jesus Figure.

According to the Archie McPhee catalog, "There is no action figure more deserving of a deluxe edition than the Son of God. This 5-1/4'' tall, hard vinyl figure comes with eight amazing plastic accessories: five loaves of bread, two fish and a jug for turning water into wine (not guaranteed to work for real)." It also features, ''glow-in-the-dark miracle hands!''  

It's a steal of a deal! And who knows? It just might work a miracle or two.

Shop at And they're still the best place for those two other essentials in life: Viking helmets and absinthe-flavored dental floss. No, I am not kidding.


(Image by Dennis Larkins)   Details   DMCA

11. Startling Art

Dennis Larkins' book "Startling Art: Revealing the Art of Dennis Larkins" (2010, Last Gasp) is perfect for startling holiday gift-giving, especially for that quirky, retro 50's/trains-planes-automobiles/Grateful Dead/UFO/art-lovin'/still-stoned-after-all-these-years/hard-to-buy-for guy on your list.

(Image by Dennis Larkins)   Details   DMCA

And this book is required reading for anyone who owns a circa 1955 kidney-shaped coffee table.

(Image by Dennis Larkins)   Details   DMCA

Larkins is a former Grateful Dead artist who also designed sets for Bill Graham's iconic "Day on the Green" music festivals, including the legendary "Monsters of Rock." Nowadays he's painting his wild and wiley visions on canvas.

(Image by Dennis Larkins)   Details   DMCA

See more images and my full book review, "Set The Raygun to "Stun': Dennis Larkins' Startling Art,"   on OEN at

Available at Amazon, Borders, Barnes and Noble. Visit Larkins' site at

(Image by Animusic)   Details   DMCA

12. Rube Goldberg and Star Wars Roll All Over Beethoven

Multitudes of people have received the farm music email hoax, which surfaced in 2006, and included a video showing a "musical machine made from farm equipment." says, "This video clip of a fabulous Rube-Goldberg-like contraption that produces catchy, mellow music by continuously shooting balls at various percussion instruments is, as usual, a clip removed from the context of its original source and sent winging around the internet accompanied by a fictitious explanation of its origins."

Snopes reports that the video is actually computer animated instruments which appear to beperforming to music with precision timing.  The title is "Pipe Dream" and it's by Animusic. Snopes notes that that the device pictured does not exist.

At least not in ordinary reality.

But while this video may not portray real farm machinery, it IS real animation! Extraordinary animation, in fact. And if there's any question about whether we create our own reality or not, this seems to answer the query succinctly and affirmatively.

"Digitally Obsessed" reviewer Dan Lopez says, "Almost hypnotically, the videos undoubtedly will draw almost anyone into them. You'll want to spy just how a certain instrument functions, or how realistically it vibrates or operates. The little details pile up to a bewildering technical achievement."

(Image by Animusic)   Details   DMCA

Clips have appeared in news shows on PBS and CNN.

Animusic's third DVD has just been released. It includes previously released animations re-rendered in full HD (Blu-ray) along with bonus material: interviews, slide shows, set construction shorts, and more, and is bound to captivate anyone on your gift list, especially animation fans, kids, parents, grandparents, musicians, home theater enthusiasts, teachers, gamer or anyone intrigued by the unique.

(Image by Animusic)   Details   DMCA

Shop and see clips at


(Image by Meryl Ann Butler)   Details   DMCA

13. No One Knows The Truffles I've Seen

If all else fails, there's always chocolate. The Royal Chocolate offers an assortment of delights, including their signature product: handmade Belgian chocolate caramel apples in 12 gourmet flavors plus a rotating seasonal flavor. Every apple is layered with caramel, and various types of chocolate, along with nuts, spices and other delectable condiments. Each finished apple is a lovely work of art that theoretically serves 4-6, but it's easy to imagine eating a whole one!

(Image by Meryl Ann Butler)   Details   DMCA

 Founded 4 years ago by Brenda Tusing and Terry Restin, The Royal Chocolate has just won the Retailer of the Year award for their large region in Virginia.

  "I am a woman of many moods, and they all require Chocolate."

If you are lucky enough to live in or visit the Virginia Beach area, you can sit by their cozy fireplace and sip a cup of their signature Maya Spicy Hot Chocolate" m-m-m-m, a delightful surprise of Mayan spices enveloped in sultry richness, it was the best hot chocolate I've ever tasted!   It is also available as a powdered mix and can shipped, along with many of their products. They ship seasonally. Shop at

Out-of-the-box thinking makes holiday giving more fun for everyone, so fill your season with some fun and quirky surprises!








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Meryl Ann Butler is an artist, author, educator and OpedNews Managing Editor who has been actively engaged in utilizing the arts as stepping-stones toward joy-filled wellbeing since she was a hippie. She began writing for OpEdNews in Feb, 2004. She became a Senior Editor in August 2012 and Managing Editor in January, (more...)

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