At the end of this turbulent year, some manufacturers have created new products specifically to address perceived popular needs, while others offer new products that find fresh resonance in these times.
Our friends at Magnetic Poetry Inc. in Minneapolis, have concocted two marvelously inventive ways to express our inner patriotism--and more. The America Kit, the latest of Magnetic Poetry's vast selection of theme word sets, provides more than 400 magnetized words and word fragments relating to America, democracy and cultural values. From "independence," "individual" and "opportunity" to "freedom," "jazz" and "baseball," there are words for the patriot as well as the poet (see "soar," "dream" and "imagine"). Nor would it be complete without "America," "USA" and, in an unusual move for the company, "God" (yes, with a capital "G").
For wordsmiths who want to make a bigger statement, literally, Magnetic Poetry also offers USA Bumper Magnets, a set of 24 one-and-a-quarter-inch-high magnetic tiles emblazoned with key patriotic words, plus a roughly four-by-six-inch American flag magnet. For bold use on any steel surface, including bumpers, car and truck doors, lockers and, of course, refrigerators. Call (800) 370-7697, fax (612) 638-1079, www.magneticpoetry.com.
AMCAL, the Concord, Calif., based publisher of calendars, journals, stationery and gifts, has among its huge selection a number of charming Americana-inspired lines. The Deb Strain "Hope Lights the Way" collection includes large and small journals, note pads, frames and mugs bearing a nostalgic image of Old Glory juxtaposed with lighthouses and sailboats in a folk-art manner. Warren Kimble presents an "Old Glory" ensemble of large and small journals, mini-addess books, note pads and cards, mugs and magnets that feature a bold image of an early American flag, also with a folk-art feel. Call (800) 824-5879, fax (800) 645-6006, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, www.Amcalart.com.
Not quintessentially patriotic but definitely inspirational, Quotable Cards of New York City aims to provide food for thought (or humor) with its series of all-occasions greeting cards, journals, note pads, photo albums, boxed cards, magnets and calendars that use a single quotation as content and design. From the typographically bold in black and white to colorful mixtures of type and photography, each design reflects the essence of the quotation offered (including Philander Johnson's "Cheer Up! The worst is yet to come!"). Call (212) 420-7552, fax (212) 420-7558, email@example.com, www.quotablecards.com.
For those who like their inspiration decidedly droll, the literary wags at World's Greatest Minds in Bath, England, are tickled pink to tout not only their popular Expresso line of greeting cards--b&w photo images with wise, witty and endearingly naughty quotations from such favorites as Dorothy Parker, Mae West, Jane Austen, H.G. Wells and St. Augustine--but also the debut of coordinating T-shirts, mugs and coasters, cleverly packaged in metal tins or foil coffee bags. World's Greatest Minds also does stationery, gifts and books. Call 01 225 421 555, www.worldsgreatestminds.co.uk.
Loyalty, obedience, love--man's best friend inspires refreshingly old-fashioned sentiments in utterly delightful (if not downright, ahem, fetching) postcards and T-shirts made by the dog-lovers and purveyors of fabulous canine products at A Tail We Could Wag in Ketchum, Idaho. Both postcards and T-shirts feature classic shots of handsome hounds in action and are made of high-quality materials. Call (866) 726-9247, fax (208) 726-4947, www.tailwags.com.
For a bit of that fancy-free frolic we all could use more of in 2002, let Rocket USA of Forest Park, Ill., specialists in old-fashioned tin toys made from vintage and new designs, give you the giggles with new Wacky Wind-Ups, three-inch tin wind-up toys lithographed with cool retro designs. Available in four series, encompassing spacemen and aliens, eyeballs, walruses, crabs, octopuses and ladybugs, among others, each toy has a big wind-up key that, when wound, sends the toy on an unpredictable path of fun. Call (708) 358-8888, fax (708) 524-9665, www.rocketusa.com.
When in need of a bedtime hug (and who isn't these days?), look for endearing, beautiful children's toys like those by eeBoo Corporation of New York City. EeBoo bases its products on the original art of well-known and well-loved children's book illustrators. New this year are sturdy, adorable sewing cards of friendly and circus animals created especially for eeBoo by illustrators Melissa Sweet and Dan Yaccarino. Stationery, building blocks and photo frames all feature charming images from enchanting books. The Friendly Bear Family, a set of three felt bears (two parents and one child), comes in five different colors; the largest bear hugs the other two in a Velcro embrace. The toy equivalent of comfort food. Call (212) 222-0823, fax, (212) 678-1922, e-mail eeBoo@bellatlantic.net.
To help pass time magically (particularly useful for adults as well as children during bleak winter weather or vacation travel delays), M.J. Moran in Meriden, Conn., introduces the board game Wizards & Whirlygigs. At first glance a traditional checkers game for youngsters age eight and up, Wizards & Whirlygigs kicks it up a notch with a battery-powered talking crystal ball, wizards' hats, magic stars and some new rules of play. Just one of this company's charming amusements for kids and friends of all ages. Call (800) 656-6726, fax (203) 235-2817, www.mjmgames.com.