A gift guide holiday mix from van adventures to James Bond

Sometimes, gifting is a crap shoot. You dig around and hope for the best, and you just might come up with gold.

Here's some serendipitous inspiration for those in need:

VAN LIFE: Whether in vans, campers or school buses, the pandemic grew a new crop of folks who took off on wheels after tricking out their rides. Why not gift a van life adventure? A company outside Boston Walden Campervans, has nicely done rentals with solar and hot water systems — and plenty of add-ons, including toilets. One of their rides is pet-friendly with a cozy crate. Gift cards can be had and never expire. A three-night minimum rental is required. The maximum is 30 days. No one-way trips. Prices are generally in the $300-a-night range, depending on van, season and extras. See Waldencampervans.com.

Print out and keep this handy chart of what foods your dog should NOT be given.

ANIMATRONIC PETS: Isolation, loneliness, cognitive decline. The pandemic hasn't been easy on anybody, including dementia patients. Why not give a gift of companionship with an animatronic dog or cat? Research is encouraging that such toys can do a world of good without the responsibility of a real pet. One brand, Ageless Innovation, offers several with built-in sensors that respond to motion and touch. The heartbeat can be felt and their coats are lifelike. The cats purr and the dogs can bark back in response to a voice. Dogs are $139.99 and cats $124.99. Kids might like them, too. At Joyforall.com.

Chase that tail! Dogs chase their tails for a variety of reasons: curiosity, exercise, anxiety, predatory instinct or, they might have fleas! If your dog is chasing his tail excessively, talk with your vet.

BLACK HAIR: “There is something radical about loving your hair in a world that tells you not to; it shows an incredible amount of strength and self-love.” So wrote St. Clair Detrick-Jules in the introduction to her book, “My Beautiful Black Hair ” The filmmaker and photographer turned to friends and strangers for 101 natural hair journeys. The book is part love letter to her younger sister, Khloe, who struggled after white classmates called her hair ugly. Detrick-Jules combines the candid portraits she took and narratives she collected with letters of inspiration to her sibling written by some of the women. Chronical Books. $24.95.

INTERESTING FACT ABOUT YOUR PET: Scientists believe that the world’s first known dog lived 31,700 years ago. This prehistoric dog resembled a large Siberian Husky.


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HOT SAUCE: Alice Cooper and hot sauce is a pairing that doesn't roll off the tongue, but in the world of celebrity deals in the food and beverage industry, why not the 73-year-old rocker? Turns out, the OG has always been something of a hot sauce fan and was hands-on in developing three of his own named for some of his hits: Welcome to My Nightmare (mild), Poison (reaper hot) and No More Mr. Nice Guy (medium). Cooper's favorite part of the process? “Tasting the sauces as we went along to get them right,” he said via email. Made from reaper peppers, one of the hottest around. $29.95 for all three. Also sold separately. Available on UnitedSauces.com, TheChivery.com and other top retailers.

Breathe easy. In addition to sweating through their paw pads, dogs pant to cool themselves off. A panting dog can take 300-400 breaths (compared to his regular 30-40) with very little effort.

CARGO BIKES: They're the rage among climate lovers the world over, or parents looking for a new way to haul both groceries and kids. Amsterdam-based Urban Arrow has a nice selection of electric cargo bikes, from the huge, three-wheeled Tender (can carry a boatload) to the compact yet still useful Shorty. Add-on accessories include rain covers, a poncho that connects to the rain covers, and a baby seat adapter with suspension to smooth out bumps. Sold through a network of dealers. These things are heavy and pricey — $6,000 to $7,000 for the Family model, depending on the motor — but may please just the right giftee. Head to Urbanarrow.com.

Watch Out For Your Dogs Feet in the Summer. Hot pavement can burn your dogs paws rather quickly. To see if it’s too hot for your dog place the back of your hand on the pavement – if you can’t hold it there for 5 seconds it’s too hot for your dog. On really hot days consider walking your dog in the woods, on the grass, or waiting til the sun goes down.

TED GEAR: Until we meet again, Ted Lasso, Warner Bros. has a shop full of gift options for the super fan. There's the AFC Richmond V-neck sweater, for $59.95, a team jersey for the same price, and a nice selection of hoodies, shorts, T-shirts and accessories, from socks to a “Be a Goldfish” mug. Go to the Ted Lasso shop at Wbshop.com while we wait for Season 3 of the Apple TV+ hit show.HUES & CUES: This vibrant, color-guessing game took flight on TikTok and has made its way into the hearts of families. It's also a great party game. A cue master pulls a card and lends clues on one of 480 hues displayed on the board without using the actual names of primary colors. So no red, blue, yellow, etc. Play takes about 30 minutes for three to 10 people. It looks complicated but is amazingly simple — for folks with vocabularies that differentiate hues, anyway. Guessing “grape” or “apple” won't get the job done. $24.99 from The Op. Widely available.

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HYDROW ROWER: The company that makes this high-end home rowing machine calls it the Peloton of rowers. It's sleek, quiet and — for $38 a month — comes with a Peloton-like membership full of pre-loaded watery workouts and live events displayed on a 22-inch touchscreen. It's heavy at 145 pounds but folds upright for storage with the help of a kit, sold separately. It uses an electromagnetic fabric strip as the drag mechanism to simulate the pull of water. The drag is screen controlled. It requires Wi-Fi but is not enabled for third-party apps like Netflix or Spotify. $2,295 with free standard delivery included. Shop at Hydrow.com.

INTERESTING FACT ABOUT YOUR PET: 94% of pet owners say their animal pal makes them smile more than once a day.

COMFY FLEECE: Sneakersnstuff.com, also known as SNS, has a great looking patchwork Polartec zip jacket and pants set that works for all genders. The color palette screams fall in moss, brown and earthy blue. Available on the site and in the company's brick-and-mortar stores in Stockholm, London, Paris, Berlin, New York Los Angeles and Tokyo. The jacket costs $169 and the pants $149.HIGH BREW: You may have heard of this Austin, Texas-based company selling cold brew coffee in cans, but you might not be familiar with its self-heating version. The can uses a solid-state chemical reaction to warm the liquid. Simply twist the bottom of the can, wait two minutes and shake gently three times to distribute the heat. Pull the tab on the lid, which looks like a regular go cup top, and enjoy. $20 for a four-pack. Six packs are $30. Shop at Highbrew.com.

Use Fruits & Veggies for Training Treats. Don’t have any dog treats on hand? Use some leftover fruits & veggies that are healthy for dogs as your training treats. Carrots and snap peas are Laika’s favorite snacks.

THE BONDS: With “No Time to Die” recently out and the 60th anniversary of the James Bond franchise next year, Taschen is out with a hefty, up to date book for the coffee table covering the making of every single movie. It's filled with more than 1,000 images, and features oral history from 150 members of casts and crews. Edited by Paul Duncan, “The James Bond Archives: 007” costs $200. Available at Taschen.com.


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Run a dryer sheet over your dog's fur when there's a storm — chances are, they aren't freaked out about the storm but the static electricity built up in their fur. According to Martha, this should work at least 50% of the time.


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