7 Cyber Stocking Stuffers You Didn’t Know Existed!

I know, you got all excited because you thought that that’s a Monet painting. Gosh, thanks! Well, close. It’s all mine, with some creative photo editing. The photo is of Harrison’s Cave, Barbados – yep, RiRi’s haunts. Yes, I know you didn’t even know it existed; hence this article……you’re catching on!

Okay, enough yapping about me, let’s talk about you. So it is that time again, the time of giving and receiving, caring and sharing, pumpkins and turkeys (okay, so the last two have nothing to do with Christmas stockings, I got lost in the moment there, I was following the sugar trail!), a time when we remember our friends and family (who we’ve neglected all year, or who neglected us, ahem!), and we busy ourselves with creating the list for the plump, jolly, ho-ho-ho fellow, to come struggling down the chimney with all the goodies we wished and hoped for, and gave hints about….consistently and neurotically (wink! wink!).

And it is also the time when we look into the future and visualise a new ”me,” the one who will be more fit; who will lose weight, eat less sugar, fit into the dress we bought 5 years ago. We go into a trance-like stare envisioning ourselves working on the tanning and the toning, and trying new and exciting things, such as bungee jumping, parasailing, or more grounded, staying-alive-oriented things, like yoga, tap dance, or Frusen Glädjé (yea, I wandered again, but….that’s still around, right? all 31 flavours?).

Okay, so the last one is obsolete (I’m quite sure it was marvellous , but it would not have lasted in the stockings anyway…..neither will Haagen Dazs, so don’t even ask for it), and we must be more realistic about our choices. So, here are a few carefully researched  items that won’t break the bank, will fit into the stocking, will not mildew, and most importantly can be purchased remotely, in the emarket, without you being separated from your couch and coffee….I know, the important things in life! Although, from a fitness perspective, if you did get off the couch and walk to the store, you may lose a pound or two…oh, but then you may get distracted with the Haagen Dazs, so, scratch that, stay with the plan. Go cyber!

1.  FITNESS. BeNow Fitness – An amazing, full service gym, featuring personal training, and myriad  activities including yoga, TRX camps, and a jungle gym that is not unlike a hard-core military set-up.  Gold’s Gym – open 24hr – who can beat that! My favourite there is the cardio cinema – movie and workout in the same place, just like home – okay, minus the gym….and the cinema (sigh!).

BeNow Fitness, Indy

And if you find  yourself being a starving artist in NYC (ahem!), and becoming crushed with the $99/month prices of the major franchised gyms (names deliberately omitted), then try NYC Recreation Centres. Their full-service facilities, all over the city,  include pools, yoga classes, and tennis courts. No excuse for not maintaining that girlish figure. And the best part? No complaints from the bank either – membership is $150/annum; yes, I said annually, and I didn’t stutter!

2.  TANNING. Sun City Tanning – Okay, let the first one who is free from pondering the coveted embronzened, tanned look, cast the first stone….Hmm! Just as I thought, no stones a-throwing! ‘Cause we all love a good healthy shading, right?

With over 275 locations in the 21 states nationwide, Sun Tanning City, is now married (indeed, merged would have been a better word, since we’re talking business, but I chose married, so live with it) to Today’s Tanning Salons, an LA based company. Combined, these two companies  probably own all the UV airspace zones on the US landscape, right?…..I’m just saying!  So can you blame the rest of the nation for referring to the Californians as air-heads? Oops, did I say that out loud!?

Alright, don’t get your noodles in a knot, I  have spent a good deal of time in The Golden State, yes in LA, and on the Monterey Peninsula….hmm, so maybe that explains certain peculiar traits, because I’m definitely not blonde. Focus! To get back to the subject, Sun City Tanning provides all the perks and promos you need to get going on your quest to rival Beyoncé and Rihanna, our modern-day Cleopatra and Nefertiti.

3. DANCING. Since we are such a transient society, let’s travel here for a moment. Allow me to take you on world tour of dance venues. With such an eclectic repository, I could not pass up the opportunity to share: Beijing Ballroom (Beijing); Tango Experts, famed Cirque du Soliel dancers, (Seattle); DNI Tango (Buenos Aires); Jazz Kitchen (Indianapolis); West Coast Swing, with Eric Byers, one of the best in the West (Midwest, that is) Indianapolis); 312 Movement (Chicago); Tango Earth (San Diego); Negracha Tango (London); Strictly Westie (NYC); Piel Canela (NYC); Mariposita , (Buenos Aires); La Viruta (Buenos Aires), where you can dance all the dances, from 3pm, hasta la madrugada for a modest admission price of 40 pesos; Tango New Delhi (India); Frankie Martinez, the salsa dance guru (NYC).

Now, I can end this list with a string of venues in Sosua and Cabarete (República Dominicana), but I don’t want to lead you down the Epicurean path, since you are such nice, church-going folks; however, the aforegoing list, not exhaustive, boast some of the best instructors in their field, and some of the most gifted and welcoming folks that I have ever met. They are certainly ones  that I would highly recommend to anyone who is considering improving their dance repertoire, or embarking on a new dance journey.

4. ACTING/MODELLING: If you are in The Emerald City, Jodi Rothfield, John Jacobsen (The Film School), will give you all the best in-person, on-camera, and audition coaching that you can ever need. Their instruction is designed towards not only nailing the auditions, but also augmenting and advancing your skills to serve you well throughout your life and industry career. In Indiana, Jim Dougherty will bring you face to face with the reality of studio and stage, and Karl Niemiec’s techniques will test your mettle as you face your worse critic – yourself – on camera.

Theirs are both tried and true methods of instruction, and the sine qua non for every actor’s toolkit. Then when you feel good and ready for the big time, grab yourself an agent or agency: local, specific, national, regional, or international, depending on your pursuits – remember, it’s all about you!

5.  FASHION. Women’s accessories: hats, gloves, bags! Who doesn’t like playing dress-up?!  Beautiful, stylish, and cosy, fashion hats and gloves (and other accessories) at eveningpromdance on EBay; the perfect gift for any occasion!

Ladies, treat yourself to an assortment of stunning styles of sweaters at unbelievable prices at Zaful, and TB dress, and of course, who can resist gift cards from Marshalls and TJ Maxx, where you’ll find all the latest fashion, gifts, household items, hi-tech electronic gadgets, and accessories at discounted prices!

And to complete your ensemble, my personal favourite – Franco Sarto shoes! Oh, Imelda, you were truly anachronistic!

Fellows, take a tip from a woman: I know you think you know your lady well, and you think that she loves you and will be happy with any gift you give her, true, but here is something she has been dying to tell you (and didn’t, because she really does loves you) – Car mats, radar, jumper cables, a vacuum cleaner, and a microwave oven, are all wonderful gifts, but they are wonderful for you and the entire household! For her, no! Stick with the frou-frou – trust me – and I guarantee that you will be loved even more……in more ways than one.

6.  DATING: New year, new relationships! Yeah for you, you’re finally getting out (without your bff…. withdrawal symptoms, I know)! If your upcoming resolution has you communicating with Venus or Cupid on a first name basis, with little or no response, well take heart (literally) I have  you covered in that department as well. Yes, I’ve been listening, and I have two words for you (well, it’s hyphenated, so it’s technically one word), Dating-Fit.

This Chicago-based company, a fairly new but popular operation is run by two amazing real-life Hitch –  Kevin and Nick – who will steer you towards making a cyber connection with that Adonis-looking, hulk of a man. Yes, the one you were making googly eyes at on the train, only to be blotted out like a bug in a buffalo stampede, when that giant of a woman affixed herself in your eye-path…..for the entire ride.

The good news is that more than likely he was crushed too, and is now looking for you on Dating-Fit……well, maybe at the bar….because he’s sensitive and realised that you’re still working on pushing away from the table. Hey, focus on the positive here, he did notice you! And besides, pushing is an activity, and activities burn calories….it’s a start, albeit admittedly miniscule!

7. TRAVEL: Well, where do I begin? I could give you a list of my favourites haunts around the world, but that won’t do you much good, because the mountain refuses to come to Mohamet, and Mohamet, due to poor planning, is riveted to his/her desk working feverishly at the eleventh hour, on an overdue holiday gift list.

So, all pithy quips and played out suggestions aside, here is a twist on those pedestrian adventures: try taking a hike up the Great Wall (I did not book with this company, we did the climb from Simatai and Jingshanling, independently, but these folks have a nice package for the trip); a cruise down the Nile (I booked independently, but did cruise on the same boat – the Nile Maxim); a trek through the Amazon, resting at Ariau Towers; and a zipline course along Machu Pichu, or locally at Goape.

Sentosa Island, Singapore. View from the the cable car

Alternatively, one can get really gumptious and go for Kentucky’s acclaimed world’s only fully underground zip line course, Mega Caverns. And for those who like to drink adrenalin for breakfast, you can roam freely with the Malaysian tigers, the flyiing fox, the hangry jackals, and other wildlife at the world’s first night safari in Singapore. But if, on the other hand, you yearn for a more peaceful tryst with your creator, and you enjoy swimming with the fishes, while aimlessly circling the bottom of the Blue Hole (don’t think it has one), then Itza Resort is the place for you.

Remote, romantic, and holistic. Cool breeze, swaying trees, and eco-conscious owners. This Belizean Shangri-La may be just what the doctor ordered, for both of you, or even the entire family……alright, let’s not get carried away, this is not Disneyland! Let’s keep it real – taking your entire family there would be a mess.

But here is a place where you can take the entire family: A gala event, a movie premiere in Cincinnatti. If you happen to find yourself wandering around The Queen City (please do not ask me how it acquired that sobriquet, check with Uncle Google, he knows it all), shop local. Bring the family down to see the premiere of Cinci’s own William X Lee’s Badfellaz, featuring an amazing cast of kick-ass, local, regional, and international talent (including yours truly!).

Badfellaz, photo courtesy of William Lee

Yes, tickets can fit in the stocking too, so if Cousin Jeb still resides in the Midwest, and you cannot make it down for Thanksgiving, treat him to a memorable evening – buy him some tickets – he would appreciate the family outing.

And yes, I do realise that many of these gifts require the recipient to get physical, but that is the whole idea – it is payback for neglecting you all year, remember? Then there is of course the little side plot: you see, these are memorable gifts, ones which will ensure that the recipient never forgets or neglects you, ever! Your gift, chucked full of memories of a stupendously great time, will be indelibly engraved in their memory. You will become memorialised, even canonised. Well that is, of course providing that they don’t suffer amnesia or alzheimer later in life. That would really suck! All around.

After years of being known as the greatest gift-giver, you walk into their room at the hospital, sporting the well-deserved halo, and they’d turn towards you as you approach. You smile your winning smile, and their eyes sweep blankly through and around you, as if you were wallpaper. Disappointed, you turn to leave, then they hail. You turn, excitedly, and you catch that glint of familiarity in their eyes. Your heart leaps  clear into your throat; time stops. For a heart-pounding, deep-breathing moment, your eyes lock. Then they ask you for the bedpan and a spit bowl. And without skipping a beat, they dive into a conversation about their body functions and request from you a tablet to regulate the movement of the downward flow. Oh, well, you can’t win them all!

But, let’s remain focused here: on the bright side, you’ll now have stories to tell, and you can write your own blog about exciting gifts, and stockings, and wrappings, and family, and the bloody ties that bind, and gag…. and spit.