Holiday Gift Ideas: Thinking Out Of The Box

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The old holiday “clock on the wall” is steadily ticking away, and if you’re one of the many who are still looking for a few innovative gifts — something different, non-traditional and memorable — then it’s time to step it up a notch or two and to start thinking out of the box. Maybe even out of the giftwrap.

So, from deep within the Carey Brothers vault of “Gifts with a twist... that are hard to resist,” here are a few unique items that our friends and family will be finding under the tree (or in the house or on the porch) this holiday season.

For the longest time, you have been able to send mouth-watering steaks and fancy fruit to just about anyone anywhere as a special holiday gift. Now, you can do the same with ice cream!

Recently, while in Nevada, we came across the best-tasting ice cream ever! Now, there are a number of upscale brand-name favorites out there, but nothing in our opinion comes close to the rich, mouth-watering designer delights offered up by Tahoe Creamery.

The company opened in 2000 with a secret family recipe for gourmet ice cream that began way back in New England in 1948. Trusting it would be as successful today as it was for over 50 years back east, the owners set out to continue the family tradition way out west.

Starting with a few local restaurants, the all-natural, hand-crafted gourmet ice cream (with the kooky flavors) took off like a rocket and quickly grew into a booming statewide franchise. Today, Tahoe Creamery ice cream is sold in restaurants, super markets and company shops all throughout Nevada and is growing to communities outside of Nevada. The company also ships countless pints overnight to thousands of loyal customers nationwide — like us.

So, if you’ve got someone on your list who just might like a pint or two (or more) of Tahoe Harvest Pumpkin Fest, Tahoe Funk Chocolate Hunk or Tahoe Trip Mint Chip, then visit www.tahoecreamery.com, place an order and try to be there when it’s delivered.

Here’s another unique holiday gift that represents “thinking out of the box.” Actually, it’s more thinking out of the “tool box.” Grip-Tite is a company dedicated to producing extraordinary tools that are innovative, easier to use, have more holding power and get any job done faster and better.

The new, award-winning Grip-Tite Super Wrenches — that easily remove rusted, damaged and severely rounded nuts and bolts where conventional wrenches just spin — are the latest offering that just won the SEMA Automotive 2009 “Best New Product” Award. Grip-Tite Super Wrenches hold, capture and turn nuts and bolts in hard-to-reach places like none other.

If you’ve got a handyman on your list who would greatly appreciate no more dropped fasteners or scraped knuckles, then visit www.mygriptite.com or your local Sears store. Offered in both Inch and Metric six-piece sets for under $49.99. A great gift for handy women too!

Maybe you would like to make a friend or loved one feel just a bit more secure this holiday season. If so, then you should check out Schlage keyless entry locks and the new wireless Schlage LiNK™ option. Electronic keypad entry locks and deadbolts — using four-digit access codes — are now both practical and affordable, offered in the $120 to $150 range.

Schlage LiNK™ also offers the first and only DIY wireless system allowing 24/7 remote control for keypad locks and other home management functions via the Internet. Lock or unlock doors from anywhere, add/remove access codes and control lights. Options include adjustable thermostat ($149) and cameras ($149 wired/$179 wireless) to see who is coming and going. The Schlage LiNK ™ Starter Kit ($299) offers choice of keypad lock (deadbolt or lever-handle) and everything needed to set-up a Z-Wave® wireless system. Monthly subscription is $12.99. Available at Radio Shack and www.amazon.com or visit www.consumer.schlage.com for more retailer locations. For those tired of fumbling with keys or nervous about handing out extras to visiting guests and service providers. It’s the gift that keeps on giving (security) day-after-day and year-after-year.

Here’s one we’ll bet you never thought of. Recently, while on vacation, the hotel we stayed at had a European-style bidet in the bathroom — and ever since, our wives have been hinting... strongly.

Being smart enough to take a hint, we also started investigating how to solve the bidet dilemma without totally remodeling our baths to the tune of mucho dollars. Then, we found the perfect solution: the Washlet S300 “all-in-one” bidet-style toilet seat by Toto.

Providing an unsurpassed experience, the amazing S300 converts any toilet into a combination toilet and bidet. With the addition of an electrical outlet and the simplicity of changing a toilet seat, the Toto Washlet S300 cleans, soothes and pampers with five warm water cleansing modes; a warm air dryer; an adjustable cleansing wand; a wireless remote; an automatic air purifier; and a heated SoftClose seat with temperature control. At your command, the Washlet S300 offers an integrated, self-cleaning nozzle that extends to release a warm, soothing stream of aerated water providing the ultimate in personal cleansing. While it won’t be found under our tree this year, there will be a big red bow on the seat in our bathrooms. If your gift-getters would appreciate a little Euro-style pampering too, then visit www.totousa.com too — just like we did.

So there you have it. Something for the sweet tooth, a great new idea right out of the “tool” box, state-of-the-art remote-controlled security and a little upscale “southern comfort” for the home. This year, you can be a super-Santa — with great gift ideas — or simply surprise yourself with the perfect gift that you’d just love to have. That’s what we did. Ho, ho, ho

For more home improvement tips and information visit our web site at www.onthehouse.com.

Tip

Ceramic Tile Over Vinyl Floors

Ever since the “Roaring Twenties,” ceramic tile floors have been the cat’s pajamas. But if you’ve already got a vinyl floor that’s looking kind of worn and shoddy, how are you going to say “twenty-three skidoo”? Tear it up? Throw it out? Start from scratch? You don’t have to. Here’s why — and what to do.

Even if your floor is worn, as long as it isn’t loose and coming up, you can put new ceramic tile directly on top easily. First, use a belt sander to score the vinyl surface. Then apply two coats of bonding agent to help the adhesive hold better. Next carefully lay out chalk lines. Start laying tile from the center working outward toward the ends.

Keep it simple; use pre-mixed mortar, working on small areas at a time. Let it dry a full day before you grout, then use diluted white vinegar on a damp cloth to remove the haze and make it shine. You won’t believe the difference. Your little bungalow soon will be looking like the Hearst castle — and you’ll be putting on the Ritz. And that’s the On The House tip for today.

Question and Answer

crack-up of a Floor - That isn’t funny

Question: Cracks are forming within my concrete slab foundation and are causing problems with my flooring. My master bath floor tile has developed a 4-foot crack (tiles, not grout) and I see a ridge forming underneath my vinyl kitchen flooring. What is the best way to approach this problem? I have a little over a year left on my Homeowners warranty. Is this a structural or cosmetic problem?

— Seth

Answer: This is definitely not a cosmetic problem and unless properly repaired will not only continue, but it will probably get substantially worse. First, contact the warranty company (in writing) and tell them what’s happening (include photos). Then, we suggest that you make a “structural repair.” This is where a licensed structural engineer surveys the problem and designs a repair that will “hold permanently.” He will probably suggest that you remove the vinyl and the tile flooring and the concrete slab beneath. The slab (and possibly some of the underlying substrate) is then replaced in accordance with the engineer’s specifications.

Following the engineer’s advice to the letter is really important. Removing bad soil and replacing it with a proper substrate (compacted rock, loose gravel, whatever) and then keying the new concrete to the old with steel bars epoxied into the old and protruding into the new are just of few of the things that will probably have to be done.

By the way, the structural engineer will probably require you to provide a soils report. Often these are on file with the builder of the home or the local building department. If a cosmetic repair is all that is made there is a huge possibility that you’ll be making the same repair again in a year or so.

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