It's almost Valentine's Day, a time when a young parents' fancy lightly turns to thoughts of trying to rekindle the romantic fire amid crying babies, a house full of plastic toys, and hastily eaten suppers. While I could recommend the traditional route -- getting a sitter, going out for a crowded dinner at a nice restaurant, and then falling exhausted and tipsy in front of the TV -- I won't. Instead, I'll make a few fun recommendations for gadgets that might spice up your holiday.
Fair warning: I get a little racy at the end, but it's only PG-13.
Kindle Fire - $199 - Your significant other is driven to distraction. He or she needs to sit in a clean, well-lit place and read a nice book. Instead of buying one in hardcover, why not pick up a Kindle Fire and load up a few cool titles? Maybe Daddy likes romance or Mommy likes mysteries? Maybe something a bit saucier, like an interactive Kama Sutra? Something long and boring to help you both get to sleep at night -- or something exciting to keep you awake.
The Kindle Fire lets you see illustrated books, watch movies, and play games in full color while reducing all the distractions -- email, Twitter, Facebook -- that keep us twiddling on our iPads and Android tablets instead of reading.
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Personalized iPhone Case - I know what you're saying: A case? Really? Yes, really. Look: Custom cases are cool, they're memorable, and they're inexpensive. Companies like Zazzle and Uncommon offer them for about $20 to $30 -- and imagine the joy your Valentine will experience at seeing your face (or your kids' faces) on his or her phone every day. It's cooler and more high-tech than a bunch of wallet-sized photos in your purse and it shows you were actually putting some thought into the present before you ordered. Win-win.
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Ooma - $200 - Are you in a long-distance relationship? Pick up an Ooma base station. The system is basically a router that connects to your home telephone. You can transfer your old landline number or pick an entirely new one and, using tools like Ooma for iPhone, your sig. other can call you from anywhere in the world for free.
You can also send an Ooma to friends (or lovers) overseas, which allows them to make free calls to the U.S. and lets them pick up your local calls to their Ooma number. It's a great system for staying in touch and is often easier than a Facetime or Skype connection.
Dropcam HD - $149 - Are you the jealous type? Want to keep an eye on the wee ones or a pet at home or -- brace yourself -- want to put on a show for your Valentine? Try a Dropcam. This self-contained web cam plugs right into your power outlet and streams live video and sound 24/7. You can add a DVR feature for security but this is most fun for watching daily scenes at home. You can even talk back through the camera, allowing you to stay in touch in a fairly unique way.
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It's completely private and secure so there's no chance your "shows" will trickle out onto the Internet.
OMiBod - I didn't link any images to this entry in case you're reading this at work, but let's just say OMiBod sells high-tech "massagers." The coolest thing? You can connect and control these devices from your smartphone or an MP3 speaker so it vibrates in time to your favorite tunes. Your partner will be completely at your mercy as you use the included iPhone app that allows you to control intensity and patterns. Most of the devices are wireless, rechargeable, and washable. They are, in a word, a hoot.
What do you plan on getting the techie in your life for Valentine's Day?
Images via Pink Sherbet Photography via photopin cc, Amazon, Uncommon, Ooma, and DropCam