A Historic Date that Rings a Bell

“Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you.” Those were the words spoken in the first telephone call made by Alexander Graham Bell on this date in 1876.

The call did not travel far – Mr. Watson was only in the next room. It was several months before Bell and his assistant were able to converse at a distance of 10 miles and more than three decades before the unique gift of instant transcontinental communication would become common.

But how very far we’ve come since. Although Bell was an innovative and prolific inventor, he likely did not envision the day we would carry smartphones in our pockets.

81174_300x300And Bell certainly did not have to worry about running out of juice on his phone. That’s a modern problem that we’ve solved with the One Year Smartphone Backup Battery. Unlike most rechargeable backups that lose their charge after a few months of inactivity, this smartphone battery holds its charge for a full year. It can completely charge an iPhone, Android or iPad Mini in under three hours.

82661_300x300Aside from making calls, one of the most popular uses for a smartphone is as a camera, and instant prints capturing the moment make great unique gifts for folks you meet in your travels. This palm-sized printer prints pictures directly from your iPhone or Android. The printer stores unobtrusively in a pocket and connects wirelessly to a smartphone to print 2″ x 3″ color photos in about a minute.

86371A_300x300Do you ever find yourself frustrated by your smartphone’s tiny onscreen keyboard? Here’s a Bluetooth device that instantly projects a laser-generated virtual keyboard onto any flat, opaque surface. The laser device recognizes keystrokes in three dimensions by an optical sensor that detects finger placement and can distinguish between a finger hovering and actual contact with the “keys”.

While Bell’s invention was amazing for its day, the smartphone has shaken up our social lives, our shopping habits, how we conduct business and how we communicate with friends and family. Only the future will show what unique gifts of connectivity these technological Swiss army knives will give us in the years to come.

Irish I Had These Unique Gifts

The luck o’ the Irish falls upon us all this month when we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on March 17. It’s a day of commemorations, festivals and parades in many countries around the world, with celebrations in such diverse locales as Malaysia, Switzerland, the Caribbean island of Montserrat and even on the International Space Station.

In Ireland, March 17 primarily remained a religious holiday until the mid-1990s when the Irish government began a campaign to use the day to highlight the unique gifts of the Irish culture. No, not green beer; rather elements of Celtic life such as the beautiful Gaelic language, Irish stepdance and the influence of today’s Ireland, a creative, sophisticated and innovative country with international appeal.

At Hammacher Schlemmer, we’re celebrating the traditions of the Emerald Isle with these genuine Irish goods, ideal unique gifts for anyone with an appreciation for the Old Sod.78855_300x300

This genuine walking stick is handmade in Ireland and bears the same name as the town traditionally known as the source of its origin centuries ago—Shillelagh. Made from blackthorn, the wood species used exclusively to make each shillelagh, this wood is selected for its superior weight-to-hardness ratio. Sold only through Hammacher Schlemmer, no two sticks are identical, so each one made is unique.

84392_300x300Perfect for staying warm while curled up with a good book, this lady’s reading shawl is made in County Kildare, Ireland. The shawl features traditional wide patch pockets useful for tucking away a paperback or e-reader, as well as a pair of glasses. Its enveloping design covers the full back, chest and upper arms while leaving the hands free to turn pages.

79264_300x300This genuine Irish tweed patchwork quilt is handcrafted in County Donegal, Ireland by an 88-year-old bespoke tailoring firm. Tweed patchwork’s appeal lies in its superior heat retention, durability, and charm. Each tweed square is woven from the fine coat of purebred Suffolk and Texel sheep, breeds renowned for yielding a dense, warm fleece. Each quilt is truly the only one of its kind, and a Hammacher Schlemmer exclusive.

So don your shamrocks, tuck into a plate of corned beef and cabbage, and raise a toast of Irish whiskey or good stout beer to the Emerald Isle!

Celebrating a Century of Flying High

Exactly 100 years ago today, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics was established as a federal agency. An important predecessor to NASA, the purpose of NACA was to undertake, promote and institutionalize aeronautical research. The agency began just over a decade after the Wright brothers gave the world the unique gift of controlled human flight.

The agency was first created during World War I to coordinate war-related projects. The UK, France, Germany and Russia already had aeronautic committees and it was these agencies that served as models for the American agency. Through its years of research, NACA pioneered aeronautic innovations such as a series of airfoils that are still in use today.

NACA was dissolved on October 1, 1958, when NASA was launched to accelerate the U.S.’s progress in the space race with the Soviet Union.12629_300x300

Delve into all the historic moments of the U.S space program with this personalized book of New York Time articles. Procured from the archives of The Times, the book presents momentous highlights that span the beginnings of the “Space Race” from the first satellite to the potential of commercial space travel. The bound book is personalized with the recipient’s name, making it an ideal unique gift for any aficionado of space flight and exploration.

86424_300x300You can share your love of space with the kids or grandkids with this Pop-up Space Station. This pop-up tent serves as the interplanetary command post for young space explorers. The tent’s four tunnels evoke the sprawling modules of a space station and “dock” with openings in the tent’s walls.

86802_300x300And your small astronauts will marvel at this little remote-controlled astronaut, seemingly out for a spacewalk around the International Space Station. Twin rotors propel him for safe indoor flight. A pair of diode lights in the rocket backpack give the illusion this spaceman is controlling his weightless wandering himself, ideal for a moment of astral wanderlust.

Today, space exploration has moved beyond the efforts of government entities to the private sector. Only time will tell what successes will be met by SpaceX, Virgin Galactic and other aeronautic entrepreneurs.

Get Some Shut-eye in the Public Eye

Tomorrow is National Public Sleeping Day. Every February 28th, it’s a day to acknowledge the unique gifts of good physical and mental health gained by getting enough rest. While we don’t recommend sleeping through a meeting with your boss, we do agree that a well-timed nap can do wonders for one’s psyche and well-being.

Too tired to celebrate? Lucky you, we have several unique gifts that will help you enjoy a restful nap on a plane, a train, a park bench or anywhere.

84391_300x300This head-enveloping pillow blocks out noise and light to create a private zone for catching a quick power nap. The pillow allows users to tune out their surroundings, creating a dark, quiet microenvironment ideal for achieving a deep, restful sleep whether stranded in a crowded airport or recharging between meetings at work.

86878_300x300Here’s another wearable pillow that creates a private zone for catching a quick snooze on the go. This ring-shaped pillow covers the eyes and ears, while its breathable band blocks light and muffle noise. This easy-to-carry pillow can also be used as a neck support.

When there’s no headrest available, this travel pillow provides one instantly. Superior to “horse collar” pillows that merely keep the head in one position, it creates an instant side support by sitting on the shoulder while a 3′-long strap wraps comfortably around the opposite wrist, hand, or leg, keeping the pillow in place while your head rests.

84845_300x300So turn off your electronic gadgets, get 20 winks and enjoy the benefits and unique gifts you’ll enjoy when you feel refreshed from that little siesta.

Snow Kidding, It’s Almost Spring

It’s been another brutal winter! But after relentless waves of frigid arctic air and historic depths of snow in the northeast, we can breathe a collective sigh of relief that it’s almost over.

This Sunday, March 1, is the meteorological start of spring and the unique gifts the season gives us: soft, warm breezes…longer days…buds promising leaves and flowers soon to come. Nature is nearly ready, but are you ready to shed bulky clothes in favor of lighter, tighter and trimmer garb?

If your well-intended new year’s resolutions to hit the gym frequently have fallen by the wayside, you may find it easier to work out at home. But where to store bulky exercise equipment? We have the solution with a few exclusive-to-Hammacher Schlemmer items that fold away for easy storage when not in use.82354_300x300

This recumbent exercise bicycle folds in seconds to half its set-up size for unobtrusive storage under a bed or in a closet. What’s more, this recumbent model encourages users to sit upright and pedal with correct spinal posture. The bicycle has a menu of workouts and displays your heart rate, exercise time, speed, calories burned, and distance traveled.

83905_300x300For walkers, this motorless treadmill folds to only 14″ high. No tools nor removal of any parts are needed for the walking platform to fold flush with the handlebars to enable storage in a closet or against a wall. The treadmill surface adjusts to four different incline heights, heart rate sensors are built into the handlebars, and it has eight levels of resistance.

84168D_300x300Whether at home or traveling, this portable fitness center provides a rigorous, full-body workout, yet folds to the size of a briefcase. Small enough to fit in an airplane’s overhead bin or store under a bed, the compact gym contains everything needed for intense aerobic, strength, and circuit training. Also included is access to an online fitness community, making it an ideal gift for road warriors who want to maintain a workout routine.

With any of these workout aids, you’ll be ready for spring sports or swimsuit season in no time!

Drone Sales Expected to Soar

With regulations proposed recently by the Federal Aviation Administration, commercial use of unmanned aircraft—commonly known as drones—soon could be flying high.

The FAA’s proposed rules are now open for public comment and are expected to be finalized in 2016.

Don’t expect that any time soon a drone will deliver unique gifts from your favorite online source (Hammacher Schlemmer, of course!), but the new regulations will open the door to widespread use of these small aircraft by real estate agents, Hollywood filmmakers, land surveyors, and photographers.

The FAA also ruled that hobbyists won’t need any certification or licensing for recreational use of drones, although they have issued a framework for safe and legal use.

In keeping with our well-earned reputation for innovation, we were among the first to offer drones to our progressive-minded customers. If you’re looking to send a drone of your own into the skies or you need a unique gift for someone who has just about everything, consider these two options.

12518_300x300This is the flying camera drone that sends live video to a smartphone from up to one third-mile away. A remote controls the aircraft, displaying live video on a smartphone connected to the remote’s dock. Easy to fly, its autonomous flight system manages all four of the drone’s propellers simultaneously, while you focus on taking pictures and video.

A shorter-range choice is this flying camera drone that captures high-definition pictures and video from up to 300′ away. Built-in gyro stabilization keeps the drone level, enabling 86970A_300x300its built-in HD camera to snap video and pictures without undue shaking. A press of a button also sends the drone into a perfectly executed 360° loop.

So whether you’re ready to hop onboard this fantastic flight of technology or whether you’re content to view virtual YouTube magic carpet rides, our minds have only begun to imagine the potential of drones’ unique gifts of flying fantasies. Basic regulations are needed to govern by whom and where drones can be flown in order to prevent mid-air disasters, as well as unwanted surveillance by the government or other entities.

The Key to Your Healthy Heart

February is the season of hearts. There’s Valentine’s Day, of course, and throughout the month, we recognize American Heart Month.

In partnership with The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, health care professionals, The American Heart Association and private sector entities have teamed up for the Million Hearts® initiative. The goal is to prevent one million heart attacks by 2017. The initiative puts a spotlight on high blood pressure as a leading cause of heart disease and stroke.

Do you or someone you know need to take control of monitoring your blood pressure to gain the unique gifts of better cardiovascular health? We have some ideas to make checking your numbers easy, right in the comfort of your own home.

75439_300x300The Best Cuff Blood Pressure Monitor earned The Best rating from the Hammacher Schlemmer Institute because it was the most accurate and had the most comfortable cuff. Each monitor’s measurements were compared to readings taken by a registered nurse. The Best model performed nearly 2-1/2 times more accurately than lesser models. Panelists preferred The Best model’s cuff because it did not over tighten like other monitors and was smooth against the skin.

86268_300x300If accurately reading small numbers is difficult for you, this cuff-style blood pressure monitor displays clinically accurate readings on an oversized LCD display that’s easier to see than other monitors. The monitor uses the oscillometric method, a technique recommended by the American Heart Association for its accuracy and clinically proven to provide accurate readings for hypertension.

81575_300x300This wrist blood pressure monitor earned The Best rating from the Hammacher Schlemmer Institute because it displayed a 94% accuracy rate when readings were compared to those taken by a cardiology nurse. Panelists lauded The Best model’s automatic inflating cuff because it “felt nice around the wrist and was easy to put on.”

American Heart Month is an ideal time to takes steps to keep your heart healthy. Self-monitoring is a unique gift to yourself and a great way to get started!

Presidents Day Shopping for the Chief of Stuff

On Monday, we will honor the men who have led our country with giant sales on mattresses, marathons on our favorite cable TV channels and, for many folks, a three-day weekend.

Presidents Day is perhaps the quirkiest of all federal holidays because we can’t all agree on who it honors or even on how to spell it. The U.S. government officially lists the day as honoring George Washington’s birthday. Many states include Abraham Lincoln in the celebration, some include Thomas Jefferson, and several states list it as a day to honor all presidents.

Nor is there agreement on where to place the apostrophe. Sometimes it isn’t used at all (Presidents Day), sometimes in the singular (President’s Day) and often in the plural (Presidents’ Day).

Hammacher Schlemmer has a presidential history of its own. Numerous Chief Executives and their families have been known to shop with us for unique gifts.

12191_300x300Herbert Hoover favored our bar supplies. Likewise, we suspect any president or CEO or even a retired person with oenophilia would appreciate this unique gift: a dual-temperature wine credenza that stores both reds and whites at their proper temperatures.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt liked to shop our kitchen supplies during his time in office. Today, he might appreciate all we have to offer in a selection that’s bigger than ever.

John F. Kennedy purchased an electric bed from us, a unique gift for the White House. Happy birthday, Mr. President, indeed.

83455_300x300And Lady Bird Johnson consulted with us while renovating the White House closets. Should another First Lady (or First Gentleman) undertake a similar project, she/he will find that we have several options for closet organization that would address the LOTFW’s* sartorial needs.

* Acronym for Leader of the Free World

Between a Rook and a Hard Place

Garry Kasparov was a world chess champion with a unique gift for the game that became evident even as a child. He reigned as the world champion from 1985 until 2000.

Deep Blue was a chess playing supercomputer developed by IBM and backed by a human team of programmers and a chess expert.

On this day in 1996, a six-game match of man vs. machine began. By the end of game one, a computer claimed victory for the first time. Ultimately, man would prevail with Kasparov taking the match 4-2 over the eight days of play.

A year later, a six-game rematch resulted with the computer prevailing. Some chess experts say Kasparov came into the match overconfident. Others say the computer’s capabilities had advanced over the year, and still others say the humans from IBM manipulated the computer to assure a win. Either way, IBM’s stock price surged 15% after the contest.

Nearly 20 years later, we can play chess games against our smartphones and tablets, but the game retains a stature of nobility and civility when played by two human opponents, face to face.12025_300x300

To that effect, we recommend The Barrister’s Chess Set. This set reassigns courtroom adversaries to the jurisprudence of the chessboard. The prosecution and the defense are represented by characters of law such as a bewigged judge, blind Lady Justice, attorneys, bailiffs and a partial jury. The board mimics the raised bench and jury box of a courtroom. It’s the perfect unique gift for the legal eagle in your life.

11951_300x300The games of Kasparov vs. IBM were played with standard time limits. You may prefer games of indefinite length. This is the chess set that mounts vertically to a wall, allowing for weeks-long play without interruption. An included “last move” marker signals to an opponent when it’s time for an equally crafty counter. This magnetic chess set is another option for deft vertical play and moves easily to a tabletop, while the magnetic pieces ensure the evening’s last move is preserved.

73077_300x300You may find yourself ready for tournament play. No doubt, at the tournament, you will be doing a lot of sitting, so we recommend bringing along The Portable Gel Seat. Unlike bulky seat cushions, this compact gel-filled cushion weighs only 2.5 lbs, folds in half, and is easily portable due to its integrated handle. Your level of concentration is sure to be improved!

Unique Gifts of Sweetness for Your Valentine Sweetie

According to a major U.S. polling firm, the week of Valentine’s Day is # 1 for sales of chocolate. Consider these statistics:

  • Americans spend about $350 million on chocolate during the second week of February.
  • Nearly 60 million pounds of chocolate will be purchased. Almost twice as much chocolate candy tonnage is sold during the week of Halloween, so evidently we’re buying higher-quality treats for our sweeties this month.
  • The top day for chocolate sales is expected to be Feb. 13 – if you haven’t bought anything for your valentine yet, you have plenty of company.

And if you’re still in need of completing your shopping duties, we have several suggestions for unique gifts of sweetness that will make your Valentine’s Day a piece of cake:84577_300x300

Speaking of chocolate, this Fondue Fountain sends melted chocolate cascading down its two tiers, turning dessert into entertainment. A crowd-pleaser seen at banquets and buffets, this home version animates traditional chocolate fondue by inviting guests to dip fruit, cheese, pretzels, and other snacks into the rippling streams.

84596_300x300Some would say it’s not all about the chocolate, although we may beg to differ. But here’s a nifty device that will let your sweetheart make authentic homemade Twinkies in minutes. The electric griddle cooks six cakes at a time in molds made to resemble the classic oblong Twinkie shape. The included recipe book also has instructions for chocolate and red velvet Twinkies, which themselves could make for unique gifts for Valentine’s Day.

84781_300x300February’s cold weather is no deterrent to true ice cream fans. This unique volley-ball-sized ice cream maker shakes, rattles, or rolls to churn a delicious frozen confection. Simply place ingredients into the ball’s sealed compartment and ice and rock salt into a second compartment. The ball can be shaken, tossed in place, or rolled back and forth to churn the mixture. Only 20 minutes of play yields up to one pint of rich, creamy ice cream.

More ideas for unique gifts for Valentine’s Day are available on our online gift guide. Narrow down your choices by the recipient’s gender, interests or your desired price range.