WalletPop attempted to cull the the functional, fabulous and frugal from the recently wrapped International Gift Fair in New York City. Much of the show featured the tchotchkes coming to a novelty shop or airport kiosk near you, so we had our work cut out for us.
Here are my top five -- sorry, Terrorist Teapot, you didn't make the cut -- in no particular order.
Teroforma's soapstone cubes keep your whiskey or other liquor chilled longer than real ice cubs, and they don't dilute the taste, according to the maker. You just stick the Whisky Stones in the freezer and plop them into glasses when the guests arrive. Much of their value comes from the conversations they might inspire when the cocktail banter runs dry. The cubes are reusable and look cool in your Canadian Club. Nine cubes for $25, we were told, but online they're listed at $20.
The combination of eco-chic and utility makes Brelli's biodegradable clear plastic rain poncho for kids irresistible. It's an impermeable and science project rolled into one. Children can wear it as many times as they want, then bury it. Don't worry, Mom, it'll rot like apple peels! It folds into a pouch for purse or backpack convenience. Designer Pam Bronsius also makes an adult trenchcoat and poncho but the higher price removed it from WalletPop consideration. $22 for one child's poncho (red ribbons make it more for girls).
I applaud the trend toward recycled toys but usually consumers have to pay through their tree-hugging noses for them. Castaways' clever alternative to blocks or Legos keeps the price reasonable. The building materials for "Trash for Teaching" are made from industrial packing throwaways such as cardboard tubes and pen clips for fastening. Beguiling shapes and colors turn the kits into engineering challenges for older kids. Castaways start at $15, according to a rep, but online the same item was listed at $20.
Dogs have flea collars. Why can't we have mosquito bracelets? If these things work as they're supposed to, I'd throw away the DEET forever. The Superbands look like castoffs from old phone cords, but they pack enough natural oils to repel all kinds of biting insects, says the manufacturer -- and they do it for 200 hours each. We found a Web site where you can buy 50 of 'em for $55.68. That's 10,000 hours of bug-free living without that nasty chemical spray.
The final item seems to come straight out of a late night infomercial, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Lushlife's shotglass carver can carve a shotglass-sized hole out of any fruit for novel imbibing. Imagine knocking back a Calvados straight out of a Granny Smith. Lushlife also makes a similar gizmo for gouging votive candle places. $13 for the carver.
I feel compelled to mention an item to possibly spare you $40. Suck UK's Terrorist Teapot has menacing eyes peering glaring from a teapot wearing a black knit facemask with a mouth for the spout. This controversial cozy has been all the rage across the pond apparently. A sales rep told WalletPop that a well-known Manhattan teashop just placed an order. What's next? Earl Grey's Got a Gun Tea?