Are you stuck trying to cook up a creative gift for the master griller in your life? Do you need a present for an avid reader, but are out of novel ideas? Times staff members curated a collection of outside-the-box gift suggestions, categorized according to the interests of the intended recipient -- and the writer. Each list features three items, one each at a low, medium and high price point. So whether you're buying a gift for a wine lover or a movie buff, an avid reader or a cat fancier -- we've got it wrapped up.
The master griller
Spatula tongs. The griller in your life likely has a spatula and a set of tongs. This combines the best of both, making flipping burgers, steaks, chicken breasts and even roasts much easier than with a singular tool. These can be found in any number of places online and kitchen specialty stores.
ManGrate. This is a cast-iron grill plate that sits on top of the grate of your existing gas or charcoal grill and uses radiant heat instead of convection to sear in juices, giving meat a better flavor and reducing flare-ups. Essentially, it gives you that restaurant quality flavor (as well as those cool grill marks). Search "Mangrate specials" online to find discounts, and consider buying more than one grate. The individual grates are kind of small, so you'll want at least two, if not four, and the specialized brush to clean them. mangrate.com
Big Green Egg. These bad boys ain't cheap (a couple hundred bucks depending on the size and any accessories you add on), but for the serious griller, they operate as a standard charcoal grill, a smoker and an oven. The Big Green Egg is derived from an ancient clay cooking device known as a "kamado," and claims to be the only outdoor cooking device you'll ever need. Watch any TV show featuring Bobby Flay or a BBQ competition and you'll probably see one of these. Cozy Pools, Spas and Hearth in Mount Airy is the only authorized Big Green Egg dealer in Carroll, although there are dealers nearby in Glyndon, Cockeysville, Ellicott City, Frederick and Shrewsbury, Pa. biggreenegg.com
-- S. Wayne Carter Jr.
The movie buff
"Akira": 25th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray: Regardless of your appreciation for animation, this is a must-buy for audiophiles looking to show off their home-theater sound system. The original Blu-ray release of the film featured an unheard-of 192kHz Dolby TrueHD soundtrack -- a "hypersonic" track the film's composer and neuroscientist Shoji Yamashiro claims surpasses the human limits for hearing, but alters the brainwaves of listeners. Evidence supporting Yamashiro's claims is iffy, but this is an amazing film that looks and sounds beautiful in this anniversary edition, the first released since the original Blu-ray went out of print. http://www.funimation.com/shows/akira/products/anime
"Guillermo Del Toro Cabinet of Curiosities: My Notebooks, Collections and Other Obsessions" by Guillermo Del Toro and Mark Zicree. Del Toro is the imaginative favorite of both the art-house crowd -- with films such as "Pan's Labyrinth and "The Devil's Backbone" -- and blockbuster fans -- with "Pacific Rim" and "Hellboy." This book provides a peek into the director's mind with reproductions of his notebooks, a tour through his second home filled with props, sculptures and curios, and interviews with the eloquent director himself. http://www.harpercollins.com/books/Guillermo-Del-Toro-Cabinet-Curiosities/?isbn=9780062082848
"Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman" Box Set: Though lesser known in America than James Bond, the first film in the Zatoichi series, "The Tale of Zatoichi," came out the same year as "Dr. No." In only 11 years, the series managed to put out 25 films, two more than Bond has been able to crank out in his entire 50-year film history. Criterion has packaged together these 25 films -- ranging in genre from action to comedy to psychedelic drama -- in a beautiful box set, with each film decorated by artists such as Ming Doyle, Paul Pope and Bill Sienkiewicz. http://www.criterion.com/boxsets/1012-zatoichi-the-blind-swordsman
-- Jacob deNobel
The dapper gentleman
Ties from TheTieBar.com: A tie might seem like a boring gift, but not when it comes from TheTieBar.com. The website offers great quality ties with both modern and retro patterns. Opt for bold pattern on a skinny tie or bowtie for the more fashion-forward guy. If you want to spend some extra money, add a matching pocket square or pair of suspenders. http://www.thetiebar.com
Warby Parker Sunglasses: Warby Parker offers incredibly stylish sunglasses without having to spend hundreds of dollars. Whether his style icon is JFK or Maverick from "Top Gun," Warby Parker has sunglasses that fit everyone's personal style. Not sure about ordering sunglasses online? Don't worry about it. Warby Parker allows you to select five glasses and send back the ones you don't want for free. http://www.warbyparker.com
ESQ by Movado watches: No man should ever have to resort to taking his phone out of his pocket every time he wants to know the time. A well-crafted, stylish watch is a perfect accessory for any men. For incredible Swiss watch craftsmanship without the huge cost, choose an ESQ by Movodo watch. ESQ offers incredible watches that range from the leather-banded dress watches to the oversized pilot watch. http://www.movado.com/esq-movado.html
-- Christian Alexandersen
The wine lover
Spanish Red Wines, $8.99-$25: Garnacha is the Spanish name for Grenache, the predominant grape in the justifiably famed wines from the Chateauneuf-du-Pape region of southern France. Those wines can go for hundreds of dollars per bottle. A good Spanish Garnacha can be found for $8 to $25 and will feature much of the same rich, spicy red fruit, minerality and acidity that make the more expensive French wines so good with leg of lamb and prime rib. Some notable Spanish wines to look for are Capcanes Mas Donis Barrica, Las Rocas and Bodegas Borsao Tres Picos.
Vinturi Wine and Spirit Aerators, $30-$60: Young wines need to be exposed to air in order to "breathe," a process that helps release aromas and flavors in good wine, and can make a cheaper, bitter wine a bit smoother, if not plush. You could pour a bottle into a decanter for an hour before you pour, but for those who need to get the dinner party started pronto, the Vinturi aerators enable you to introduce air to the wine as you pour through them. They're also far classier than pouring wine into your blender. http://www.vinturi.com/index.html
Le Nez du Vin 54 Aroma Master Kit, $399: So much of taste depends on our sense of smell. This is a deluxe gift for any wine lover interested in taking their wine appreciation to the next level and demystifying the wine tasting process. The handsomely packaged kit comes with a guide book and 54 vials of wine aromas, from blackcurrant to animal musk, to help the budding sommelier train their nose to oenological olfactory perfection. http://www.winearomas.com/master_kit.html
-- Jon Kelvey
Cat ladies and people who treat their dogs like children
If you're in a bind, go to Petsmart or Petco and pick up a toy. Any toy. That's for the REALLY cheap gift.
Cheapo gifts, cats: Any seasoned cat lover pretty much needs a cat sweater, like this one from Target for $22.99. It gets bonus points because it may just win your next Ugly Sweater Christmas party. http://www.target.com
Cheapo gifts, dogs: At first glance, a seatbelt for your dog seems like a frivolous purchase. Until you own a dog that refuses to sit in the car, and stumbles at every turn you make. This seatbelt made by Kurgo for $22.49 goes in your back seat and is a little zipline for curious dogs who like to go back and forth on the seat. Kurgo makes a ton of different seatbelt options, but this is the one that I like the best. http://www.kurgostore.com
Splurge a little, cats: To distract your cats from trying to climb on every windowsill, curtain or counter you have, a cat trapeze can be an alternative to their space. It's a little less unsightly than a cat tower, and you can cover the fabric with a pattern to make it look a little nicer. At $79.99 from catsplay.com, it's an investment, but might keep them busy while you're at work all day. http://www.catsplay.com
Splurge a little, dogs: A dog needs a dog bed, as I've learned. This zig-zag patterned dog bed gets the job done without looking hideous and comes in different colors and sizes. Prices range from $50.49 to $74.49 at Petsmart. http://www.petsmart.com
Break the bank, cats: For those who may not have a basement or a unused room to throw their cat's litter box in, a litter box enclosure is a great idea to hide the sight of the litter box and some of the smell. I've had my eye on litter box furniture for a while, though reviews can be mixed. This expresso-colored end table has a hole for the cat to climb in and out of, and a hinge for us to open it up once it's time to clean the litter box. At $202.99, it's a hefty price tag, but could probably be done on your own if you happen to have access to a saw. http://www.petsmart.com
Break the bank, dogs: BarkBox is a monthly subscription for a box of toys and treats that both my boyfriend and his dog adore. They give a good variety and offer different options for small, medium and large dogs. The single toy that my boyfriend's dog has not ripped apart is from BarkBox. In my experience, their customer service is great and they're really interested and engaged in making sure whoever purchased the product is happy. The product ranges from $29.99 for one month, to $72 for three months, to $114 for six months and $199 for a year. http://www.barkbox.com
-- Kelcie Pegher
The 'Wizard of Oz' fan
During the holiday season, there's "no place like home." That quote is only one of many recognizable quotes from, in my humble opinion, the greatest movie of all time, "The Wizard of Oz." It also just happens to be the 75th anniversary of the movie this year. And, it helps that my daughter and niece both love the movie too. We're keeping the obsession in the family.
Emerald City Triple Waterglobe: The low end gift was hard to narrow down as there is a plethora of collectibles that would look wonderful in any collection. Out of all of them, this one seemed to appeal to me the most. It has three mini water globes on one piece, retailing for $62.99. http://www.funtocollect.com/emeraldcity.html
Heirloom Porcelain Carousel Music Box: This beautiful Wizard of Oz carousel combines my love of the movie with my childhood obsession of carousels -- though it would take many shifts at my part-time job to accumulate enough tips to pay for the $219.99 collectible from the Bradford Exchange. http://www.bradfordexchange.com/products/108742001_wizard-of-oz-music-box.html
75th Anniversary Pinball Machine: Finally, the mack-daddy of them all is this 75th Anniversary Edition pinball machine. It's a mere $9,000 and is available for pre-order now. http://www.pinballsales.com/shop/pc/viewPrd.asp?idproduct=155&idcategory=2
The outdoorsman (or woman)
Energizer 3-LED headlight, $13-$15: For an inexpensive stocking-stuffer, you can't go wrong with the Energizer 3-LED headlight. For about $15, it's like giving the gift of an extra set of hands in the dark -- or really cheap night vision. Think your outdoorsman already has one? Get them another -- they can use it to find the one they already have when it's lost in the dark. http://www.energizer.com/flashlights-lighting/headlight/Pages/3-led-headlight.aspx
Buck knife, $50-$75: The Buck Folding Hunter is a classic. It came out more than 50 years ago and they're still selling it today. It's a simple, rugged, all-purpose, lock-blade folding knife everyone should have at their side when enjoying the outdoors. Think your outdoorsman already has a go-to pocket knife? Check out some of their other styles. Buck makes quality knives of every description that are guaranteed to last. http://www.buckknives.com/index.cfm?event=product.detail&productID=3044
Cabela's 5mm Neostretch Neoprene Waders, $170-$180: These are warm, durable chest waders that any outdoorsman can use. They are made for waterfowl hunting, but they also work great for surf fishing in cold water. The thing about waders is they don't last forever -- so even if your outdoorsman already has a go-to pair, it would be awfully nice to have a pair of these waiting in the wings when, not if, their trusty old pair of waders springs a leak. http://www.cabelas.com/product/Footwear/Mens-Footwear/Mens-Waders/Hunting-Waders%7C/pc/104797980/c/104747580/sc/104674680/i/103895280/Cabelas-5mm-Neostretch8482-Chest-Waders-with-Lug-Soles-ndash-Regular/722182.uts?destination=%2Fcatalog%2Fbrowse%2F_%2FN-1101198%3FWTz_l%3DSBC%253BMMcat104791680&WTz_l=SBC%3BMMcat104791680%3Bcat103895280
-- Dylan Slagle
The avid reader
Bookjigs, $5.99 each: Bookjigs are bookmarks that are both sweet and useful. Not just like any old page keeper, the bookmark clips on to your book, and the ribbon that stays in the pages marks exactly where you left off reading. With over 48 styles -- most of them designed with hipster-appropriate animals like foxes and birds -- there's certainly one to appeal to everyone. At only $5.99 each, you should definitely at least make this a stocking stuffer for your reader, or buy several and pair with a sweet card as a secret Santa gift for someone in your office. http://www.remembermiro.com
An annual subscription to a literary magazine (or magazines, if your reader doesn't subscribe to a single one): Short of stopping writers in the street and shoving wads of cash in their faces, supporting the publications that support them is the best way to pay attention to new writers and still read the latest work from your regular favorites, and that is exactly what every reader wants. The New Yorker (http://www.newyorker.com) and The Paris Review (http://www.theparisreview.org) are two of the most well-known publications, but The Gettysburg Review (http://www.gettysburgreview.com), published by Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pa., consistently ranks near the top of any national list of journals. Two other great journals are The Kenyon Review (http://www.kenyonreview.org) and The Southern Review (http://www.thesouthernreview.org). Your reader will be wildly impressed if you present them with a subscription to a publication they love, or even if it's one they haven't heard of yet. Prices range from $30-$60, depending on the publication. For a list of journals from all over the country, visit http://www.newpages.com/literary-magazines.
Amazon Kindle Paperwhite, without 3G, $119-$139; with 3G, $189-$209: E-readers have been the source of much debate (but what about that great book smell? And how will everyone on the bus know that I'm reading "The Great Gatsby" and not the latest from Louis L'Amour?), but that is so 2005. If your reader is still stuck in the past, do her a favor and get her a Kindle. The nonreflective screen cannot be over-hyped, and the ability to walk through an aiport without seven hardbacks in your purse is an experience words cannot describe. If the recipient of this amazing gift throws a fit, direct them to an essay called "I, Reader" by the amazing Alexander Chee, published by The Morning News. Also, if the extra cost to get 3G seems like too much, don't worry; a lot of the places where one would use a Kindle -- a coffee shop, in an airport -- already have WiFi. http://www.amazon.com
-- Julia Eckhardt