Tradition is big during the holiday season, from the favored turkey recipe to the holiday-dinner guest list. And the same is true with gifts, where some perennial favorites — think e-book readers, tools, gift baskets or baby dolls — are greeted with eager arms and big smiles. But while you're wrapping up your affection in retail form, don't focus solely on the most popular items. We found lots of different ideas to bring holiday cheer. There are tons of choices, but these are all intriguing. There's an idea for everyone on your list, across a broad range of prices, including practical and fanciful fare. Merry Christmas! Related: Valerie Phillips: Need gift ideas for neighbors? Simply read on Related: Books for the holidays: Numerous books would make great stocking stuffers for young audiences
The Nest Learning Thermostat is sure to be a hot — or cool — little number as it pays attention to how you heat your house and learns to adjust itself to your comfort zone. Made by Nest Labs, it is reportedly compatible with 95 percent of low-voltage air conditioning and heating systems and looks nice, too. It's also available online or at a home improvement store near you for about $249.
You may not believe in UFOs, but have you ever wondered how many Americans do? That's one of the trivia questions you can tackle with "Wits & Wagers Party," a crowd-pleasing game for four to 20 players, kids 10 and up included. It works like this: The game poses a question and everyone answers, then they turn those answers up for opponents to consider and players decide who probably had the best answer. Points and bragging rights to those who can spot a winner. $29.99.
If you're thinking about streaming media, you might want to check out the Roku LT, which is small, affordable (around $50) and will bring the most popular streaming-video and audio offers into your home, from Hulu Plus to Netflix, Mog and beyond. It even has the ability to work with that old analog TV. You have to bring the Wi-Fi, though.
Cards aren't the only thing you can trade on the playground. For about $2 each (if you buy them in a group of 100), skateboard magnets pay colorful homage to a much-adored pastime. We liked the ones at Cafepress, designed by sk8boardin02, but you can even find some at art museum sites or dollar stores. It seems skateboard love lives in many neighborhoods.
The Pick Punch, around $26, lets you make your own guitar pick. It's a chance to let your tools be as distinctive as your musical tastes and your personality. It looks like a stapler, works a bit like a paper punch and you don't have to buy fancy materials. You can use an expired credit card, an old ID or something else entirely.
Both the young and the just young-at-heart will like the Toysmith Make Your Own Kaleidescope kit. This hobby kit provides the basics, and you add the details or choose some of its fillers. It has a removable cover so you can switch it out whenever you like and anyone who loves kaleidoscopes knows the view is never the same, regardless. $21.95.
If you've got a little spending money and you're looking at doll houses, consider the HaPe Bamboo Sunshine dollhouse, $149. It's an ultramodern take on an old classic, made of bamboo and lit by a solar panel with LED lighting. It's great-looking, too.
The Personalized Rainbow Name Puzzle Stool comes in two sizes and prices, from $65 to $76. This durable step stool spells someone's name or even serves as a keepsake birth announcement, with room for a special message or birth details. It's also capable of holding up to 250 pounds.
And speaking of personalization, do you think someone might like to protect an iPad in a cushy case with the owner's name engraved on it? The personalized iPad case is $40.
If you've got an active, engaged individual in your life, celebrate with holiday-themed energy bars. These are not the makings of your average gift basket, but the price is right (bars start at $1.50) and you can tailor them to an individual's tastes.
Rome Industries unites two passions: camping and snacky cooking. What it calls "cast iron cookers," these $20 pie irons also dish up hot, bubbly pizza, grilled cheese or desserts and other treats. For once, you'll hope Santa brings you coal!
If you struggle to find the perfect winter boots, try this instead. You can get Yaktrax Walker Traction Cleats for Snow and Ice starting as low as $8, with more sophisticated patterns costing a bit more. Think snow chains for your feet and you have the idea. They're easy to put on and take off and even come in different colors.
The Jubel self-watering plant pot is sleek and independent. Go ahead and go away for a few days; it has that plant on your desk covered. $9.99.
The people that own pets will be delighted to find an inexpensive, entertaining way to help Kitty or Pooch get some exercise in the warmth of home. The FroliCat Dart Laser Pet Toy spins a red beam in variable patterns around a full 360-degree circle, and the animals can't resist going after it. Don't let the name fool you; canines love it, too. $27.99
Dissolving Paper Shampoo ($13 for 30 sheets) is a great gift for the traveler. So is a manual portable luggage scale. Several manufacturers make them, and the manual models start at under $10, while the electric versions run about $25. Which is, we notice, not far off the price of taking luggage on the plane. Overweight is extra.
The Rock-It 3.0 by OrigAudio is a fun gift for kids of all ages who’d like to turn a tissue box, a window or a plastic cup into a speaker to play their MP3. It runs about $30. The sound isn’t as good as you’d get on big speakers, but it’s novel and more than adequate for a road trip or to liven up the office while you work.
Klaus Bosch’s handmade “Deep Sea Sand Art” is soothing and lovely to behold. Just turn the ring and let the sand drift down to new shapes in this pretty, compact desk decoration. $85. No two alike — and no one ever alike for any length of time.
Row Boat Salad Bowls are just the thing to brighten any table. They’re polished aluminum and rosewood, and you can only get them one place. $65