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Shop Green, Shop Cool, Shop Local -- great tech and environmentally friendly gifts from around Ohio

Ohio authors Lucy Snyder and Gary Braunbeck can be downloaded on your eReader.
Ohio authors Lucy Snyder and Gary Braunbeck can be downloaded on your eReader.
As the holiday shopping season kicks into high gear after Black Friday’s $11.4 billion debut, up 7 percent over last year, there are a more than a few consumers looking to buy local this year. And given you live in Ohio, let us be the first to say: You’re in luck.  Rather than just purchasing items from big box retailers--or having quality questions about items produced overseas--Ohioans have the chance to buy cool Lightsabers (OK, they’re candlesticks) or load up a new Kindle with Ohio authors.

Balancing your desire to buy local and have it regarded as a cool and thoughtful gift is a delicate challenge, we know, but there are some interesting options for all ages available from designers, manufacturers, and innovators around the state. Here are the ones we think you'll dig the best:

Topozoo---For the Kids
Created by the Geared For Imagination toy company in 2010, these colorful construction kits are designed in Fairlawn and produced around Northeast Ohio, with parts coming from Akron, Independence, and Wooster. Designed for ages three and up, each kit is constructed from 100 percent formaldehyde-free, recycled wood and cardboard, and uses certified child-safe color stains.  GFI president Ryan Hamilton is a long time veteran of the toy business in Ohio and worked to create the colorful toys based on customer demands: “We kept getting customers looking for products that were US-made and eco-friendly, and we got tired of having to say, ‘no,’ to that question.” This season will also feature new “Create and Color” sets, made entirely of recycled cardboard, for kids to customize however they like. Not sure which set kids may like? Hamilton had an easy answer: “Dinosaurs have been number one from the very beginning.”

Kitchenaid---For the Chef of the House
An iconic design which appears in nearly every cooking show on TV, the Kitchenaid stand mixer is an American icon and favorite of home cooks and professionals alike. First produced in Troy in 1919, the Kitchenaid factory in Greenville produces 16 different variations on the basic design in an incredible variety of colors and finishes, hand mixers, blenders, and attachments for the stand mixers to help accomplish almost any kitchen task. Kitchenaid also offers tours of the historic factory and a dedicated “Experience Center” in Greenville, perhaps offering the chance to take your personal kitchen God or Goddess on a holiday season day trip and bringing a few appliances home as a souvenir.

Boogie Board---For the House Note-Leaver
Looking for a unique and reusable alternative to a child’s writing pad or the pile of sticky notes around a loved one’s desk? The answer may be the Improv Electronics Boogie Board, designed and produced in Kent. Using a unique Reflex LCD screen, the writing surface reacts to pressure from the included stylus and cleanup is as simple as hitting an “erase” button on the top of the tablet.  Available in a range of sizes, Improv also offers magnetic mounting kits for placing the tablet on metal surfaces, a “message center” for home or offices, and a new “RIP” model that allows you to save work from the tablet and upload it to your computer at will.

Etch-A-Sketch iPad Case---For the “I Love All Things Vintage” person
The original Etch-A-Sketch, produced in Bryan by the Ohio Art Company, is an instant connection to childhood for most adults, and was so influential that it was named one of the most creative toys of the 20th century. This fun iPad case is offered by nerd merchants ThinkGeek, who maintain their main distribution and warehouse center in Columbus. With versions available for the iPad, iPad 2, and a smaller model to fit the iPhone, this nostalgia charged case offers impact resistant ABS plastic AND works with the official etch-a-sketch app available on the iTunes store.

eReader loaded with Ohio authors---For the Book Lover
For the literary geek on the go, nothing is better than an eReader with their favorite novels available at the touch of a fingertip. This holiday season features the release of the new Amazon Kindle Fire and Kindle Touch, while Barnes & Noble counters with their new Nook Tablet and an updated Nook Color. What can make this gift truly stand out, however, is to take the time to pick up a few books from some of the many award winning authors who make their home here in Ohio.  A few award winning suggestions from the Ohioana Literary Society include forensic thriller Defensive Wounds by former Cleveland coroner Lisa Black, short story collection Memory Wall by Anthony Doerr, Amish suspense novel Fall from Pride by Karen Harper, sci-fi adventure Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, Wicked Circle by Linda Robertson, or supernatural thriller Switchblade Goddess by Lucy Snyder, a sequel to 2010’s Stoker Award Nominee novel Spellbent. For those more interested in non-fiction, this year’s Ohioana Book Award was for A Secret Gift by Ted Gup, the fascinating story of a contest held in Canton during the depression where a newspaper ad offered $10 to interested families in distress if they could write a letter explaining their hardships, and how those gifts changed the lives of 75 Northeast Ohio families.

Air Picks---For the Household Rock Star
Looking for a great stocking stuffer for the rock star in your life? The new Air Picks from Ohio Art may be the perfect stocking stuffer. Each air pick fits on a keychain and comes pre-loaded with songs ranging from the Rolling Stones’ Satisfaction to Hendrix’s Wild Thing. It allows you to rock the classic guitar riffs without the burden of amps, cables, or having to learn how to actually play the guitar.

Lightsaber Candlesticks---For the Jedi-wanna-be
Another ThinkGeek exclusive, these officially licensed table decorations help you to combine your festive holiday spirit with the urge to crush the Jedi and stamp out the Rebel Alliance. Available in December, the candlestick can detach from the base to provide a perfect imitation of Darth Vader’s iconic red lightsaber, and even features three red candle “blades” in the package, though it can also accept normal taper candles you may have around the home. A perfect yet romantic surprise for anyone you know who dreams of a galaxy far, far away.

Sous Vide Supreme + Under Pressure cookbook---For the Healthy Cook 
Sous Vide, also known as vacuum cooking, is a technique often featured on shows like Top Chef and Iron Chef America where food is vacuum sealed and then cooked under a carefully controlled temperature water bath. This technique allows for unique and healthy dishes that are almost impossible to create any other way, but until recently was the exclusive domain of restaurant kitchens and professional operations. The Sous Vide Supreme is one of the first attempts to make this available in the home kitchen. With two sizes available, these “water ovens” are professional grade tools used in several Ohio restaurants available at consumer grade prices.

The perfect companion for one of these kitchen gadgets is the Under Pressure cookbook written by James Beard award winning chef Thomas Keller and Cleveland food writer Michael Ruhlman, providing detailed guides to time, pressure, and temperature to cook almost any food item along with recipes used at Chef Keller’s celebrated French Laundry and Per Se restaurants.

indiePub Games---For the Gamer
With smartphones and tablets an integrated part of our cultural background, it’s no surprise that games and apps for these devices are becoming a cottage industry. indiePub, based out of Cincinnati, is a publisher dedicated to helping individual designers and hobbyists collaborate and develop games for iOS, Windows, Xbox Live Arcade, PSN, or Android devices and taking them through the publishing process. With game types ranging from the enchanting musical puzzle game Fractal  to upcoming steampunk platformer Vessel, it’s likely you can find something interesting for the casual or hardcore gamer on your list.

Happy holiday shopping in Ohio this year!
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