Gifts Good Stuff

Small, Inexpensive Camcorder for Sharing Experiences

flip.jpgIf you have a loved one who won’t be able to be with you for part of your holiday celebrations, you may want to rush out and find a Flip video camera. The Flip is a very cool piece of gear; it’s about the size of a rectangular cell phone and it’s incredibly easy to use — basically point and shoot.

But that’s not the best reason to get it. If you want to share holiday joy (or any other experience) easily and quickly, this little critter is your best friend. The Flip comes with an audio-video cable that plugs the camera directly into your television. Hit the play button, and there’s your video where everyone can see it. How easy is that?

At around $99-130 (USD) for the standard model (1 GB of memory), and $120-150 (USD) for the Ultra (2 GB) this camcorder is cheaper than many digital cameras. No, it won’t make cinema-quality video, but it does make terrific memory videos. It’s so small that you’ll never be tempted to leave it at home, and it’s so easy to use that there’s just no excuse not to film away.

If you’re filming for someone like my dad, who’s in a nursing home and finding it increasingly difficult to focus on details, you’ll want to remember to frame people and objects so that they can be identified easily.

After the holidays, we’ll be using ours to snap everyday things that may interest Dad — this would include dogs we encounter, our bad cats at play, odd or vintage motor vehicles, and stuff we see on local outings.

If you’ve got a youngster who may be participating in the holidays from a couch, bed, or chair, you might consider putting him or her in charge of recording the festivities. Judging from reviews on Amazon, kids as young as four can use the Flip, though I’d expect that eight and up is generally more realistic, at least for semi-independent use.

Recording time is 60 minutes; built-in software accommodates Windows and Macs, lets you upload films to YouTube and other sites, and capture frames for still photos. Reviews make it clear that if you’re serious about editing, you’ll need to buy separate software just for that. But that’s getting technical — here at GA, we’re more interested in the social side of things.

Flip is powered by 2 double A batteries; ours came with two cases and a wrist strap. I’ve seen them at Sam’s Club and Costco (though I see Costco doesn’t have it online today). Sam’s sells it only in the stores, not online. Amazon has them in stock, but you won’t take delivery by the 24th. Don’t let that stop you; there’s a whole new year ahead!

At Home DIY Everyday Gear Gifts Nursing Home

Calendar with Date Marker

call-tag.jpgDistinguishing one day from another is one of the difficulties of living in a nursing home. Sometimes it’s also an issue for people who don’t observe a routine outside of their usual living space.

Knowing what the day and date are and anticipating activities and holidays are important tools for keeping mental skills in good shape.

I was pleased to find this calendar last year for my dad. The daily squares are large enough so that I can note activities in large letters; my dad can easily read the calendar from his wheelchair.

This calendar also has an uncommon feature: a date marker. This is a red rectangle that slides on a transparent strip of plastic. The plastic band wraps around the calendar; you move the rectangle each day to the correct date. If Dad doesn’t remember what activities are on today’s schedule — or if he’s confused about what day it is — the rectangle cues him.

The only drawback is that it’s boring! We solved that in Dad’s room by hanging three different calendars (all showing Golden Retrievers, of course) next to this calendar. They’re folded so that only the glossy photos of dogs show.

On the first of the month when I change the page of the large calendar, I also flip the canine calendar pages, revealing three new dogs-of-the-month. Practicality and glamor; you can’t beat the combination!

I found this calendar in an office supply store last year, but haven’t seen it this year. It’s called AT-A-Glance Wall Calendar with Additional Features, and I found it online at

Members of the DIY crowd could probably find a number of ways to implement a similar date marker on almost any wall calendar by making a bright cardboard rectangle and cutting a clear plastic strip from holiday packaging.

Everyday Gear Gifts Wheelchairs

Accessory Bags for Wheelchairs, Walkers, Scooters and More

Managing the ‘things’ of everyday life is complicated if a wheelchair, walker, crutches or the like are also part of life. Where do you put the stuff you want, or like, to have with you as you during the day? I’ve seen a lot of bags that are theoretically mobility equipment friendly; most are poor adaptations of ordinary bags and neither well designed nor well made.

These accessories, from Adaptable Designs, are different. They seem to have been made by people who really understand how they’ll be used. Here’s a sampling of what Adaptable has to offer.

sidepouch.gif The “Sidekick Wheelchair Pouch” is meant to attach just below the seat of a manual wheelchair, on the inside of a manual wheelchair armrest, or on the outside of a power chair armrest. One pocket is fleece lined for glasses; there’s an open bellows pocket for bulkier items, and a zippered pocket for smaller items or for privacy. The zipper has a ring pull for easier use.

pouch.gifAdaptable’s “Versa Crutch Pack” would make even a six-weeks’ tour with crutches much more pleasant. If you’ve ever tried to handle a purse, a cell phone or a planner while swinging through life on crutches, you’ll see the utility of this bag. According to the website, this pouch’s

roomy main zippered compartment fits wallet, checkbook, comb/brush, medicine, etc. — even an occasional sandwich.

This one’s for standard crutches, forearm crutches, some power chairs and some scooters. In a typical thoughtful Adaptive Designs touch, there’s a strap to stabilize the pouch, so it doesn’t develop a rhythm of its own while you’re moving.

armorg.gifIf a backpack is overkill, and something like the Sidekick Pouch isn’t quite big enough, the “Just Right! Organizer” might be perfect. Like the bags above, it uses hook and loop straps to attach to

the inside armrest of manual wheelchairs; the inside or outside of scooter and power chair armrest; scooter tillers; [and] bedrails.

Whew. Here’s a partial description:

Fold-over zippered flap pocket is an ideal place for keeping checkbook, wallet and other valuables. Ring-type zipper pull is particularly helpful for those with limited hand dexterity. Keep the flap out to “hide” the contents of the outer bellowed pockets. Tuck the flap inside the main compartment if open access if preferred — the zippered pocket is still easily accessible.

There’s much more! Adaptable’s website is particularly user-friendly; you’ll find lots of information about which kind of equipment works best with which accessory, and specific size information, too.


DIY – Covers and Pouches for Mobility Aids

DIY – A Simple Cupholder for a Wheelchair

Pockets for a Wheelchair

At Home DIY Everyday Gear Gifts

DIY – Laptop Desk for Chair or Bed

ben-desk.jpgI’ve never liked chairs much, and work at my desk only when there’s no other option. My preferred writing mode is in, or on, a bed or couch, stretched out with my laptop in front of me. For a long time, I used a Targus laptop desk that I originally bought for travel. I like it very much, but I don’t much like having the weight of the laptop on my thighs for hours at a time.

Eventually I ran across IKEA Hacker, and discovered this mod of IKEA’s Benjamin stool. If you compute in bed or in a chair by necessity or by choice, this portable desk might enhance the experience. It’s been a great solution for me.

It took me just about 40 minutes to turn this $20 purchase into a terrific laptop desk. I use it every day, and it’s a pleasure every time. Mr. Smiley, on Hacker, used a $6 coping saw to do the cuts; I used my $6 hacksaw.

My version is a little taller than the one shown on Hacker; I had to trim the stool’s legs twice to get the height exactly where I wanted it, and the angle just right. (It’s smart to leave the stool too tall at first, if you’re not sure you’ve got the height calculated perfectly.)

Of course, this laptop desk isn’t adjustable once you’ve made it, but if $140 for a Laptop Laidback is a bit much, this could be a fine compromise.

I cut a piece of gripping mesh to fit between the laptop and the desk, which keeps the computer from sliding around. My laptop stays nice and cool, and so do I, since its underside isn’t in contact with my body. The desk’s relatively high clearance means that my lap and legs don’t feel cramped and don’t get numb when I work for hours, and if I sit up properly, the keyboard is at a perfect ergonomic angle. That’s good for my wrists and hands, too.

If you scroll down on the IKEA Hacker page, you’ll see a few more amusing variations on this theme, though nothing as useful as this particular “hack”.

Games/Recreation Gifts

Attractive Interlocking Cards for Construction Play

cards.jpgBuilding structures with playing cards is a fine amusement, but requires an extremely stable surface, a good eye and a measure of simple good fortune. These cards, produced by Eames Office and designed by Charles and Ray Eames, have six slots each, which allows them to interlock securely while minimizing the need for exceptional skill or luck.

From the Eames Office toy page (which also explains the history of the cards):

The images are of what [the] Eameses called “good stuff “, chosen to celebrate “familiar and nostalgic objects from the animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms.”

The related Eames Gallery offers the House of Cards in several styles and sizes: Small ( 3 3/4 by 2 3/4 inches), Medium ((7 by 4 1/2 inches), or Giant (11 by 7 inches). Quantities and images vary by size; there’s also a set featuring images of Eames textiles.

These visually stimulating cards lend themselves to all sorts of uses. They’d be great as entertainment for anyone stuck in bed (or hospital); as a tool for practicing dexterity and hand-eye coordination; as a cooperative interactive game between people of varied ages; or as a story-telling motivator in a nursing home.

The Eames Gallery online store is bizarre and impossible to navigate, but you’ll probably have to shop there to buy the Giant or Textile versions. If you’re going for the medium or small sizes, try MOMA instead.

At Home Clothing Everyday Gear Gifts

Slippers With Built-In Lights

Image of a Pair of Brightly Striped Slippers with Lights in the ToesSooner or later, just about everyone walks (or falls) into something on the way to a light switch in the middle of the night. These Bright Feet slippers are ‘bright’ in more ways than one, though, and are a marvelous way to get across a room when there are no other lights on. These are also a great alternative to a night light that is too bright or not usefully located.

Tiny, but brilliant, LED lights are embedded in the front of each slipper. There’s a sensor on one side of the slipper, which turns on the LED only when it’s dark. Batteries go in a slot on the other side of each slipper.

Image of a Pair of Pink Slippers with Lights in the Toes

Everyday Gear Gifts

Easy-to-Use, One-Handed, Spice Dispenser

Image of a Spice DispenserIt doesn’t seem quite fair that right around the time that taste buds may become challenged, dexterity may, too. If the finicky process of measuring small amounts of herbs and spices means you’re using fewer when you cook, this gadget might be just the thing you need to make dinner more flavorful again.

It’s called the SpiceShot. You hold it in one hand while pressing down with your thumb, and it dispenses one-quarter teaspoon of spice at a time. Four clicks, and you’ve added a teaspoon to your recipe. No batteries required, and not much pressure, either.

It’s lightweight and easy to grasp; five colors are available to code your favorite spices, or to create visual art for your countertop. (Is that cayenne contrasting so beautifully with the lime green SpiceShot in the picture above? Whoo-hoo!)

If you love to over-herb your pizza once it’s on the table, this container will look right at home with your modern salt and pepper shakers.

Made by Chef’n; also available from Chef’s Resource, which has better pictures (like the one above, for example). Available in black, silver, cherry, avocado and apricot.

At Home Everyday Gear Gifts

Soap Without Stress

Image of a Soap Dispenser with an Automatic SensorIn its catalog blurb, the company selling this stainless steel soap dispenser touts the way it avoids cross-contamination in the kitchen. Since you don’t have to touch the dispenser, there’s no chance of getting chicken bacteria all over the pump and sharing the bugs later with the vegetables.

But what I love about this is that it’s effortless. Place your fingers under the nozzle, and the sensor dollops the soap onto your hand. No slippery bar to fuss with; no lightweight pump to go flying; and no coordination required at all.

You might want several — it works for lotion, too.

It’s powered by three double A batteries, and pricey at $45.00 (USD) — but not nearly as pricey as actually installing a sensor into your existing plumbing. The 18 ounce capacity means you won’t be refilling it too often, either.

Sensor Soap/Lotion Dispenser from Williams-Sonoma

Gifts Nursing Home

Father’s Day Gift Suggestions

Father’s Day is next Sunday. Herewith, a list of gift suggestions to make Dad’s day especially nice. (Many of these suggestions appeared on the recent Mother’s Day Gift Suggestions post, but there are a few new ones to inspire you, too.) These items are particularly suited to fathers who live in assisted living or nursing homes, but most of them are things just about anyone might enjoy.

For TV-watching dads:

Simple Remote Controls for TV

Sleek, Super-Size Remote Control

Fun and Games:

Marble Run for Dexterity and Better Hand Coordination

Holders for Playing Cards

Engaging Hand-Held Game for One or More

More than a card:

Coloring Books For Adults

Loving company:

Companion Pets — Blondie the Golden Retriever

Companion Pets — Puzzle the Cat

For happy feet:

Slippers for Swollen or Sensitive Feet

Shoehorn With a Sense of Humor

Better than a Rolex:

Super Large Analog Date/Time Clock

Custom rims:

Spoke Guards for Wheelchairs


Mother’s Day Gift Suggestions

Mother’s Day is next Sunday, so here’s a round-up of gift suggestions for moms everywhere — all designed to make Mom’s life easier, better or just plain nicer. This list is meant particularly for moms living in nursing homes or in assisted living, but you can also find a host of other gift suggestions in the categories listed to the right (below the “Latest Posts” section).