I've decided to make this an annual thing; this is the first. It's just a list of nifty products and/or great small companies I've come across recently that I think deserve a little spotlight.
Well, my first one isn't from a great small company; quite the contrary! But Apple's video Nano iPod definitely qualifies as a nifty product. I've done a bit of research, looked at them in person and even played with one at, of all places, Radio Shack. But the article that really convinced me that the Nano was more than just Apple's gimmick for the 2007 holidays was this review of the Nano on AppleInsider.Com. The photos showing the size difference between the Nano, the MacBook Pro's remote control, and the 3rd Generation Classic iPod were what really got me, probably because I have the remote and a similar iPod and was able to grasp the size difference.
One thing, though. In most photos, the Nano looks like it's made of a similar plastic as the Classic iPods, only in different colours. It is not. It's a lovely brushed anodized aluminium and it's gorgeous, much nicer in real life than in any photo.
While I love the look of Timbuk2's Marina laptop case, I've found it to be less than convenient when traveling. It doesn't stay on my shoulder well, it hasn't got much extra room for accessories, and it doesn't distribute the weight well. So, after our last trip, I went out looking for a good, practical, travel case built specifically to fit a 15" MacBook Pro. And I found the most ingenious case ever: the Higher Ground Laptrap by Shaun Jackson Design. It has a shoulder strap, and you can also buy an optional web backpack strap assembly. It's sleek while you're carrying it, but it also has a good amount of storage space. Even better, you don't have to take your laptop out of the case to use it; just unzip it, open it and you have a mini workstation.
I haven't travelled with the new case yet, but just from the fact that I can wear it like a messenger bag, slung over my shoulder and across my chest or as a backpack makes me feel confident that it's going to make an exellent travel companion.
When I was in Las Vegas, I took a walk to the Fashion Show Mall for a little shopping. In one of those gypsy kiosks that malls have nowadays, I discovered Gizmobies. Gizmobies are stick-on covers for iPods. They protect and they are somewhat reusable; the adhesive leaves no residue on your iPod. They told me that the technology is the same as that used on the decals used in car racing.
What caught my eye was this pattern in particular: Tokyo Subway Map. The covers were $20 each or two for $30 at the kiosk; I got one for my iPod Classic and one for my future iPhone. Then when I got home, I looked up their website, and discovered that they're actually based in Las Vegas and not widely known yet. I ordered another one for my future Video Nano. It turned out that the cover I bought for my Classic wasn't the right one; they have a wonderful return/replacement policy and truly amazing customer service. Mercedes actually phoned me twice to make sure of things before sending out my Nano cover and my Classic replacement; so not only a marvelous product, but also a great company to deal with.
Also at the mall in Las Vegas, there was another kiosk selling pet gifts. I bought gun_hee a fleece warm-up made by Doggles. However, when I got home, I discovered I'd gotten him too small a size. But his sweater had a tag inside with the name Doggles in it; I looked it up online and called them to ask about exchanging the fleece I'd bought for a larger size. They were happy to do so; I sent them the sweater with a self-addressed stamped envelope and I got the replacement about a week later.
Their main product is goggles for dogs, but the little jacket I got for Gun-Hee is extremely well made: it's navy blue and mint green with pine trees embroidered on the sides. What I like best about it is that it fastens (with Velcro) up the back; Gun-Hee also has a little parka which fastens up the front. When he wears both of them together (he loves to go on outings with me and Boston winters get a bit chilly), he'll be extra warm.
Another Las Vegas discovery was made at Macy's, of all places. Harajuku Lovers is actually a Gwen Stefani company, but don't let that dissuade you. This stuff is cute and well made. What caught my eye was the Sweet bag in Red Kitty Lux.
Not only a decent sized little purse that holds all the basic necessities, but look at this print!
It reminds me of Kylie; she even wears a little heart-shaped charm on her collar. The cotton fabric is plastic-coated (like those Mexican oilcloth shopping bags you see around, only nicer) and weather-resistant. And, it's cute. I've gotten more comments on it.
I came across this next item entirely by accident in a Copley Flair shop downtown, but when I saw it I instantly recognised its genius. The Driinn Mobile Phone Holder is one of those things you know you've always wanted, but just didn't know it. It's wonderful, and it's simple. It gives you a place to put your phone while it's charging, and it keeps the charger cord tidy. Not only that, but you can get them personalised with your company's logo!
Here is my phone, charging on my light green PhoneHolder:
It's a perfect solution to a universal problem.
I may have mentioned this before, but a couple of months ago, at REI, I came across a wonderful shoulder bag made by Keen out of mostly recycled waste products. The bottom of this bag is made of reclaimed rubber from their boot soles (Keen is primarily a footwear company) and the buckles are made from recycled aluminium. It's light, it doesn't attract cat hairs, and the built in handle is both sleek and elegant. I can fit two 1-litre bottles of seltzer in it and it doesn't look bulky or over-stuffed.
But what really won me over? The fact that it has a little battery-powered light inside the main compartment that turns itself on when you open the bag and turns itself off when you close it. Not only an extremely nifty feature, but a wicked handy one, especially in Boston in winter, when it gets dark so early.
So that's it, my holiday shopping list of unique things. I hope it helps.