|Head of the class -- Learning skills and studying are much more fun with toys such as the colorful 'Learn to Dress Cube' that teaches lacing, bow tying, zipping, snapping, Velcro closure, buttoning and buckling for ages 2 to 5, by Let's Learn & Play, $19.99. Older kids will love the 'Factor Frenzy' talking multiplication game with build-in scorekeeping for up to four players ages 6 and older by Learning Resources, $29.95. The iQuest interactive talking handheld organizer (lower left) is designed to download cartridges of school textbooks to help students study, and it also has an electronic calendar, address book, calculator, electronic notepad and a Merriam-Webster dictionary by Quantum Leap, $59.99 (most textbook cartridges are $14.99; ACT/SAT test prep cartridge is $24); all from Teacher's Stop (4315 Bienville St., 483-7867).|
|Bring joy to the mundane -- Add a bit of playfulness and humor to everyday tasks with colorful helpers (all available in a range of hues) such as (back l-r) a pink 'Mr. Cold' liquid soap dispenser by Massino Giacon, $41.50; a green 'Anna G' cork screw by Allesandro Mendini, $63; (front l-r) blue 'Elvis' tape dispenser by Koziol, $14; a red 'Otto' dental floss holder by Stefano Pirovano, $17; and a yellow 'Mr. Suicide' tub stopper, $25.50; all from Pretentious Whimsy (3119 Magazine St., 896-5846; www.pretentiouswhimsy.com).|
|Giant fun -- A different take on the popular game Operation, Don't Wake the Giant challenges players to use electronic tweezers to steal back things the giant has taken from the King, such as a cat, bag of gold, etc., without touching the edges of the recesses that hold the purloined treasures, $14; the Space Boy flashlight has a colorful retro case and includes a Morse code flash key and a siren by Schylling, $8; both from Big Life Gifts (3117 Magazine St., 895-0049).|
|Play with your food -- Sushi by Ryuichi Yoshii is a hard-back book with beautiful color photographs of sushi dishes, a history of the cuisine, recipes and explanations of techniques to help you create your own meals, $18.95. Serve those taste treats on beautiful sushi dining sets that include two leaf-shaped ceramic plates with raku finish, two sauce bowls and wooden chopsticks, $28.50 for two place settings; all from Belladonna Day Spa (2900 Magazine St., 891-4393; www.belladonnadayspa.com).|
|Groom in luxury -- Guys like luxurious grooming aids as much as women do, especially when they're nicely packaged and are fun to use. Start with an antique English travel kit in a leather case that includes a manicure set, brushes, canisters and a travel mirror, $85; a new stag-horn razor and badger-hair brush set, $133, plus a three vetivert shaving soaps, $9; all from Hove Parfumeur Ltd. (824 Royal St., 525-7827; www.hoveparfumeur.com).|
|Private stock -- Win her heart (and other things as well) with an evening of mischief that starts with a black net mini skirt and bikini top outfit, $34; a rhinestone flask, $239.99 (filled with her favorite alcoholic libation); a jar of 'espresso dream chocoholic body frosting,' $7.99; and, of course, a paint brush to apply it, $1.99; all from the new Hustler Hollywood (111 Bourbon St., 561-9969).|
High-definition fun -- Record legally to your heart's content with a digital video recorder service that allows users to record and play back both standard and high-definition television programming whenever they want. It also enables customers to pause and rewind live TV, record up to 60 hours of programs on the DVR hard disk, and watch a program they've recorded at the same time they are recording something else. The DVR set-top box can be leased from Cox for $9.99 per month, and the DVR service is $4.99 a month and is available to all Cox Digital Cable subscribers. To order, call Cox Communications at 304-7345 or log onto www.cox.com.
|Loud and clear --A powered subwoofer provides the foundation and punch for an audio/video home theater system, but high performance and cutting-edge design are not always synonymous. With B&W Loudspeakers 'Pressure Vessel,' however, you can let your subwoofer take center stage. With an elegant and stylish spherical shape that matches its performance, it's the perfect gift for that audio/home theater enthusiast that you thought had everything, $1,500, exclusively at Audio Resource (3133 Edenborn Ave., Metairie, 885-6988; www.audioresource.com).|
|Dream boat -- The 8-foot 4-inch 'Jive' kayak has a classic planing hull design that allows the paddler to do all sorts of freestyle maneuvers such as cartwheels and spins but also has enough substance to be a river-running kayak and can be used for ocean surfing by Necky, $699, from Massey's Professional Outfitters (3363 Severn Ave., Metairie, 885-1144; 816 Hwy. 190, Covington, 985-809 7544; www.masseys.net).|
Tea and a tune -- What young girl doesn't want a porcelain tea set, especially when it is graced with the retro emblem of the original Barbie and comes in a black patent leather cosmetics case, $38 for a set for four guests, with a teapot, sugar and creamer. Liven up the tea party with a precious Boston terrier music box that sways its head as it plays music by Tapas, $19; both from Big Life Gifts (3117 Magazine St., 895-0049).
All about kids -- New Orleans' own award-winning Imagination Movers, all real-life dads, have just released a 40-minute DVD Stir It Up that's filled with pop, rock and hip-hop influenced songs about the things little kids think about and do, including 'The Medicine Song, 'Playing Catch,' 'I Want My Mommy' and 'Clean My Room,' along with live concert footage and music videos that both the young set and their parents will enjoy, $14.99, widely available at local book, music and child-oriented stores or from Imagination Movers online at www.imaginationmovers.com.
Have a ball learning -- Make playtime more useful with games that help kids learn about the word around them, including 'Clever Catch Life Skills' inflatable ball with questions about things kids need to know and answers to those questions by Scott Resources, $10.95; play cards with a purpose with flash cards on all subjects that have fun designs on them by Te Trend, $2.99; or go with high-tech flash cards and use an electronic power pen that self checks a child's answers by Educational Insights, $9.99 for the pen; all from Teacher's Stop (4315 Bienville St., 483-7867).
'Fore!' fun -- Give your favorite golf enthusiast a gift he or she will enjoy throughout the months ahead with the Zurich Classic Holiday Package that benefits the Fore!Kids Foundation, which supports local charities. The package includes four single-day tickets to the 2005 Zurich Classic April 25-May 1, as well as a first-edition Zurich Classic baseball cap. The package also includes a PGA golf pass that allows the recipient to play golf at discounted rates at 60 courses in Louisiana and Mississippi. The package (valued at more than $500) is $99, from Fore!Kids Foundation (342-3000).
See clearly -- What better gift for a loved one could there be than improved vision -- without the need for glasses. Dr. Jeffrey Singer uses the latest Visx technology to surgically correct vision and has performed thousands of Lasik procedures. He now is offering the corrective surgery for $699 per eye. To schedule an appointment or for more information contact Jeffrey Singer MD (4720 S. I-10 Service Road, Metairie, 456-3155; 120 Meadowcrest St., Suite 330, Gretna, 391-7550; www.jeffreysingermd.com).
A Night Out
No gamble -- You can be sure of a good time when you take a friend to the Treasure Chest Casino, whether you take to the renovated gaming floor to play slots or another game of chance, slip into the Caribbean Showroom for entertainment from performers such as the Batiste Brothers, Topcats and Harvey Jesus and Fire, or sample taste treats at the steak and seafood restaurant, the Pontchartrain Grille, or the New Orleans or international fare at the newly renovated Treasure Island Buffet, featuring seafood night on Friday and prime rib night on Saturday. For information, contact Treasure Chest Casino (5050 Williams Blvd., Kenner, 800-298-0711; www.treasurechest.com).
A night to remember -- Give a favorite person a night of charm with tickets to a performance at Le Chat Noir. Music, plays and other performances are always on tap, as well as libations from the Bar Noir. For reservations contact Le Chat Noir (715 St. Charles Ave., 581-5812; www.cabaretlechatnoir.com).