Unwrapped! Gifting Outside the Box

Giving goes rogue this season with our list of 5 offbeat (but exceptional) ideas

Holiday shopping promises to frustrate us this year, with supply chain crunches, inflation, labor shortages, Omicron… we feel you! This season, we present some creative ideas to spread joy and cheer without a mad dash thru commercial consumerism. Bonus: absolutely none of these gifts will fund a tax-dodging billionaire’s joyride to outerspace.

      1. Name a Shark (or Penguin) for Scientific Research – More fun than the “symbolic” adoptions offered by practically every wildlife non-profit on google, these two programs allow you to name an actual, specific animal currently being studied by researchers: the name you choose becomes a part of their documentation. How cool is that?
        Somewhere off Americas’ east coast, there’s a 166cm lemon shark named “Aunt Carolyn” being tracked by the University of Miami. A $50 donation covers the cost of a tag, but for $3000 you can follow your shark via satellite. Either way, you get a certificate with photo, ID#, species info, and the name you selected. Learn more on the University of Miami shark research site.On the other side of the globe, in a colony of Magellanic penguins, a scientist named Mike selected for us a chipper young female, just starting off on her very first clutch of eggs. We got a super nice email providing information about the species as well as interesting details about “our” penguin (for instance, she nested under a shrub instead of burrowing). We also got photos! In addition, we’re getting at least 7 more updates and, oh yeah, our niece named her “Pingo.” All this for a $59 donation to the Organization for the Conservation of Penguins. PRO TIP: you’ll find a ton of customizable items to commemorate your adoption on Etsy (we did a charm necklace for the niece). 
      2. Mobile Bike Service For most of us, few chores are easier to put off than bike maintenance, especially if you have more than one bike to service. Just getting them to the shop can be a headache (likewise bringing them home when they’re done). Spins Mobile Bike Shop is a game-changer. Based in Roxborough, Scott drives all over the area to work on bikes at his clients’ doorsteps. Tune-ups, inspections, repairs, overhauls, accessories – he even sells/builds bikes. His prices are comparable to other bike shops we’ve used, and his service could not be easier. Give the gift of having your bike(s) ready to roll for spring — fun for the whole family! Contact: spinsmbr@gmail.com/267-626-0383
      3.  Driveway Detailing   Speaking of services that make housecalls, a good car detailing can be a transformational experience, almost like getting a new car. MobileAutoSalon.com uses special vans that are kitted out as self-contained washing stations, bringing all the water & power they need to get a car sparkling inside and out (while leaving no trace behind, as well). Purchase services online, then your giftee can schedule at their convenience (basic wash starts at $40). Credit cards accepted for payment and tips! FYI: They do boats, motorcycles and RV’s too.
      4. Etched in Stone Delight friends and loved ones with their very own mini-monument at the Falls of Schuylkill Library – a 4×8 red brick fixed prominently in a garden path, to customize with 2 lines of text (a maximum of 16 characters each, including spaces). It’s been a generation since the last “Buy a Brick” sale, here’s a scarce opportunity to memorialize a pet or family name, an important date or even a quote.
        Some stand-outs from the current walkway include  “Beauty is Truth,” “Happy Years in East Falls,” and “Thanks Gail for the Brick Idea.” Get yours by calling 215-848-5131 or emailing fallslibraryfundraiser@gmail.com. $100 per brick, while supplies last.
      5. Fine Art with Four Legs NW Philly is home to the Delaware Valley’s preeminent pet portrait artist. Jay McClellan’s modest studio on an unassuming street in East Falls belies the artist’s renown. You’ve likely seen his splashy dog-centered paintings in local restaurants and public spaces –  his bold colors, graphic patterns, and rich emotional palette are quite unique and unforgettable. Jay’s work has attracted attention from celebrities to multi-million dollar corporations, yet his prices for commissions are surprisingly affordable (for fine art). Compositions are a collaborative process: Jay makes an effort to know every dog he paints. Inquires: jaymcclellan.comOn a budget? Make your own Jay McClellan “original” at benevolenthound.org, Jay’s animal welfare non-profit. Choose from 21 breed-specific artistic renderings that you can print out and color as you like. Just $2 per page, or order a whole book for $15. Mugs, markers, pet bowls, etc also for sale – proceeds help support the humane treatment of all creatures.

      We hope we’ve inspired you to consider alternatives to the usual seasonal exchange of stuff. Happy Holidays!

      PS: When ya gotta shop, buy local! East Falls Farmers Market is open all year, and has an incredible variety of vendors — from farm-fresh food to art, crafts, spirits…  In addition, this December it’s an extra-special “Winters Market” every Saturday before Christmas: the 4th, 11th and 18th (10am – 2pm under the Twin Bridges). Stop by for music, hot cocktails, holiday bargains and more. EastFallsFarmersMarket.com.

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