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Humble gift suggestions from humble City Pulsers

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Retro Mini Video Game Consoles

Honestly, I love the gift-giving potential of these things. As a gift, retro mini video game consoles strike a perfect generational balance in their capacity as an entertaining novelty. These bad boys have big stocking-stuffer energy. Give one to anybody between the ages 10 to 18, and you’ve given them an interactive toolbox to peruse the classic video games of yore. Give one to anybody above the age of 25, and you’ve supplied them with a fully loaded hypodermic needle of nostalgia.

If you’re reading this, you’ve obviously noticed that I’ve gone with the broad suggestion of any retro mini console, rather than a particular unit. There’s an important, childhood-memory-specific reason for that. For most of us, asking our parents for a video game console was a meticulously researched process. Chances are, your family couldn’t afford a Sega Genesis AND a Super Nintendo. You had one shot to make the right choice. Therefore, most of us have a soul bond to the line of consoles we grew up with, and the daily middle school lunchroom debate over whether Sega or Nintendo is “most awesome” will carry on within our hearts forever.

Thankfully, just about every major game company has jumped on the mini console bandwagon. Was your loved one a PlayStation kid? Boom. Get them a PlayStation One Classic. Are they a Nintendo fan boy? Sega fanatic? Purchase accordingly. But if you were purchasing for somebody too young to have this deeply ingrained sense of electronic tribalism, I’d ultimately recommend the Super Nintendo Classic. As of now, it’s probably the most difficult to obtain but it arguably has the best lineup of games among the competition. Most big stores such as GameStop, Target, Amazon or Best Buy will carry retro game sets which can range from $30 to $130.

Sriracha Key Chain

What may seem like a gag gift actually has crucial utility. Obviously, you can always stock up on hot sauce at home, but out in the cruel world access to sauce is not always an option — until now. For a hot sauce addict, the benefits of having your favorite nonperishable condiment familiarly strapped to you like Harry Callahan’s fantastical .44 Magnum are immediately noticeable. Imagine, if you will, a world in which you possess the ability to proactively customize every fast food or takeout dish you cross paths with on your daily commute. Bland food will literally never be a threat again. The bad flavor threat level advisory system forever remains at green. You have a lifetime passport to flavor town in your pocket, your purse, clipped to your belt loop, or whichever method you chose to carry your keys.

During my time at Michigan State University, my daily sustenance consisted of a gamut of sodium-packed miniature food dishes that were prepared with either boiling water or a microwave. My lifeblood was dull snacks, and in the rat race of academia you are already doused in a torrent of dullness. The ability to garnish those ramen noodles with Sriracha, Tapatío or Texas Pete gave me a life-affirming splash of spice. I personally credit my survival of sophomore year to this hot sauce key chain. But, at the very least, it will get a cheap laugh. The hot sauce dispensers can be found on Amazon.com for anywhere between $7 to $15.

— Skyler Ashley

 

‘Nancy,’ by Olivia Jaimes

The “Nancy” comic strip has been around since the ’30s, but its 2018 makeover by the brilliant young creator Olivia Jaimes is a modern miracle. Finally, there is a book-length collection of the new “Nancy” — the first of many, I hope. It’s available at Schuler Books, Barnes & Noble and many other retailers. Most readers think of “Nancy” as baby simple and beyond corny, even though critics have long dissected “Nancy” creator Ernie Bushmiller’s solid-as-a-brick-house graphics like a Rosetta Stone. (See “How to Read Nancy,” a book length treatise that deconstructs one Nancy daily strip from 30 different scholarly standpoints.)

When Jaimes took over the strip — the first woman to do so — she deftly slipped Nancy into the 2010s without missing a single spike on her famous hairdo. Nancy still lives to loaf, squirms away from responsibility, strives to eat the maximum amount of candy and does all the other Nancy things, but now there is always an irreverent twist: When a devil sits on Nancy’s shoulder, urging her to steal Sluggo’s hot dog, she uses the devil’s pitchfork to help herself. The new Nancy is tech savvy and totally obsessed with her phone. She constantly texts her pal Sluggo and freaks out when the reply is less than instantaneous. She even studies robotics at school, albeit begrudgingly. The ubiquitous tech is not a superficial update.

Who but Jaimes could have known that the constant paranoia and junk-food affirmations of social media would fit so neatly into Nancy’s picket fence world? Best of all, Jaimes has baked juicy layers of philosophy, self-awareness and meta-commentary into the cake. In a recent strip, Sluggo off-handedly tells Nancy that all good things come to an end. “They do WHAT??” she screams, in giant block letters, with a look of sheer terror on her face. I don’t recall any stronger reminder of mortality since the doctor slapped my butt on the day I was born. Order a print of the comic at gocomics.com.

— Lawrence Cosentino

Car maintenance at Mike’s Detail Shop

Only those without a vehicle won’t welcome this gift.  The rest will really appreciate a spruce-up from Mike’s Detail Shop.

At his Grand Ledge garage just west of Fitzgerald Park, Mike Lunden can make a car, truck, jeep, van or whatever look better than new.

I bought an exterior detailing gift for my wife last Christmas. We liked the results so much, we bought a complete exterior, interior and engine cleaning for her daughter. 

I was so pleased by how her car looked, I paid for a similar package done to my car— including the meticulous attention to wheels and tires.  I will be taking it back to have it done again.

Lunden does all the work by hand and avoids hiring inexperienced help. His rubbed waxed jobs go through a three-step process. Interior and engine cleanings involve extensive steam cleaning. Lunden is a fussy guy who makes sure every facet and every job is showroom quality.

The base price for the complete works is $200. That varies with the type and size of vehicle, and its condition. Cleanups and dry times also vary. Lunden never rushes and at least a couple of days can be expected for his service.

He will negotiate levels of detailing and specific requests. Mike’s Detail Shop is at 12872 Partlow Ave., Grand Ledge. Schedule an appointment at (517) 622-4435.

 

MSU Dairy Gift Boxes

I adore the Michigan State University Dairy Store’s 15 distinctive gift boxes.  At least one of the selections is sure to make any Spartan fan happy.  The choices can also please die-hard Ohio State supporters or any cheese lovers. I can complete a shopping list at one site.

The boxes of dreams are made of premium milk from MSU cows with a high fat and protein count. I find their smoked cheddar to be especially flavorful with a firm texture.

The least expensive box is a 16 oz. block of MSU’s unique chocolate cheese — not my favorite — for $9.95. The priciest is a $64.95 “Artisan Deluxe” package with 8-ounce blocks of Beaumont, gvrass-fed cheddar, aged Gouda and more.

If worried the awe of your gift will be gobbled up to soon, tack on some dairy store memorabilia including a mitten-shaped cutting board ($29.95) or a “Go Green with Ice Cream” T-shirt ($15.)

The MSU Meat Lab contributes summer sausage and snack sticks to the “Hunter’s Box” and “Protein Pack” selections. The “Box” includes jalapeno and smoked cheddar and the “Pack” comes with a 1-pound bag of cheese curds.

My favorite combo is the “Spartan Sampler.” Eight-ounce blocks of mild cheddar, smoked cheddar, jalapeno pepper and Colby Jack are available for less than $25.

For a complete menu and online ordering, go to canr.msu.edu/dairystore/cheese. Boxes can be prepared at Anthony Hall (517-355-8466) or MSU Union Dairy Store (517-353-9988).

— David Winkelstern

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