I need that

Tribune Media Group

"Oh, you shouldn't have," gushes grandma as she opens a box of candy that may send her blood sugar spiraling out of control. "You didn't have to do this," says your dad, opening the third tie on Christmas. Finding meaningful gifts that people can really use makes sense in these difficult economic times. Consider giving practical gifts that can make everyday life easier this holiday season. Here are some gift suggestions for things that will make it out of the gift box.

Illuminate the holiday spirit

Petzl Zipka2 Head Lamp Dad or Aunt Ginny may feel silly the first time they strap this lamp onto their forehead but once they are able to see into the car to change the oil or peer under the sink to find the leak, they'll be sold. The light allows hands-free illumination that shines wherever the wearer is looking relieving wives and children of the tiresome task of holding the flashlight. The zip line design allows the light to be attached to the arm, wrist, nearby pole or other support. There are five LED lighting modes including night vision. The four LEDs throw a wide beam up to 90 feet. The unit can be set to blink as an emergency signal also. The headlamp runs on three AAA batteries for about 90 to 120 hours which is plenty of time to fix the faucet. The Zipka2 headlamp is sold for $34.95 at REI and other outdoor retailers.

A gift on the cutting edge Chicago Cutlery Kitchen Shears A pair of quality kitchen shears is a gift that can be used in dozens of ways. Open the package that came in the mail, snip chicken into pieces, harvest flowers in the backyard, remove those pesky tags from the new rug, trim poster board for Junior's school projects or cut out coupons to save a few dollars. These scissors come apart for easy cleaning after a messy job. They have stainless steel blades which carry a lifetime guarantee. The handles have a serrated area to serve as a grip for opening jars and the handle tips hold a screwdriver tip and a bottle opener making this a very versatile tool. Sold for $25.99 at Kohl's and many other home supply stores.

A gift that goes beyond your reach Cosco Step Stool The National Safety Council reports that falls lead all other causes of emergency room visits. Using an unsafe method to reach an object can cause a serious fall. Instead of hauling out the step ladder just to get the platter off the top shelf, it seems prudent to stand on the rung of a chair which can tip or slip. Cosco makes a lightweight step stool that folds to less than three inches thick, a width small enough to fit alongside the refrigerator. The stool unfolds with one press of a button and features slip resistant feet and steps. There is a tall handle that provides a place to hold to remain steady when climbing or reaching. Whether washing windows, putting up streamers for the birthday party or straightening the closet shelves, this step stool will come in handy. The two-step light solutions folding step stool retails for $40 at Bed Bath and Beyond, Wal-Mart and other home stores.

One for the road BlueAnt S4 When you are late, lost and desperate, it seems logical to call someone for help. But driving while dialing or holding your cell phone is risky business in most towns and illegal in others. Give your loved one the BlueAnt S4 which allows drivers to make and receive calls using only their voice. Install by slipping onto the car visor and then follow the commands for set-up. The phrase "BlueAnt speak to me" activates the system that connects to your cell phone. The device will even tell the driver who is calling and allow them to respond "answer" or "ignore". BlueAnt can accept up to two phones and offers A2DP streaming for playback of music, pod casts and directions from a GPS application on the phone. The duplex high volume speakers makes it easy to hear the call. The device can reduce the background noise from open windows or car engine so the driver's voice can easily be heard. The device retails for $99.99 at Best Buy and other electronic stores.

Almost as good as X-ray vision Sharper Image LED Magnifier Although some people claim to have eyes in the back of their heads, the eyes in front often face challenges. Reading instructions on a label or deciding whether the recipe says ½ or 1/3 cup can lead to success or failure. This handy magnifying glass can expand an image by 2.5 times and provide brilliant LED illumination when trying to read small print. This Sharper Image product can be found at Bed, Bath and Beyond and other home stores at a retail price of $9.99.

Odd but ingenious kitchen tool The foodpod by Fusionsbrands Dealing with boiling water in the kitchen is dangerous no matter the age of the chef. But the foodpod provides a safer way to boil, blanche, steam and drain foods. This silicone pouch can hold a dozen eggs, a full head of broccoli or several pounds of shrimp. Submerse the pouch into boiling water and hook the silicone tab to the edge of the pot. Foods remain completely immersed in boiling water while inside the pod assuring even cooking. When the cooking time is up, use the silicone handle to lift the pod out of the water and watch the water drain back into the pot. Pour out the contents and serve. The silicone does not stick to the food or the pot and is made with FDA food safe materials and BPA-free nylon. The clever device eliminates the need to lug the kettle of boiling water to the sink to drain the food and is dishwasher safe. The foodpod retails for $15 and can be found at kitchen specialty stores like Northwestern Cutlery in Chicago and Fuller's Home and Hardware in Hinsdale.

Give them the power Powermat 3X with Powercube Give the gift of hassle-free recharging with a Powermat. Instead of having to fumble with multiple cords to recharge his and her cell phones, iPods and other assorted electronic gizmo's every night, simply place up to three gadgets on the power mat for instant charging. The unit has one power cord and can recharge up to three devices placed on its surface. There are no cords to plug or unplug. There are several receivers available to create the custom system for your devices. The most versatile kit includes a Powermat 3X Charging Mat, a Powercube universal receiver with eight tips and a universal, international power supply for a suggested retail price of $99. Available at Best Buy and other electronics retailers.

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