2016 Holiday Gift Guide

The holiday season is certainly a joyous time but it can be stressful when it comes to finding a gift for the special people in your life. Here are some last-minute gift ideas that will hopefully inspire.

Electronics and technology have become the marquee items in the world of consumer goods. As is generally the case with electronics, prices have tumbled rapidly.

Whereas a few years ago the battle for personal computer supremacy was between Apple’s Mac and everyone else’s Windows PC, today the main tech skirmish involves smartphones with Apple’s iOS system vs. nearly everyone else’s Android. Apple fans will enjoy using the iPhone 7 while Samsung is now the unquestioned leader in the Android field with its latest offering, the Galaxy S7. Samsung had a rough year because of incidents where its Galaxy Note7 caught fire and the company was forced to recall them. Google is now in the hardware business as it launched its first Android smartphone, the Pixel.

Tablets are catching up to laptops in the area of portable computing and there LG, Lenovo, Acer and Samsung compete with the industry’s leader, Apple’s iPad. Kurio makes a wide array of tablets for kids which all have parental control (kurioworld.com). Dell’s Alienware line of laptops is a favorite for those who enjoy partaking in sophisticated video games but it can be used for general purposes as well. It’s also a good idea to protect your devices from breakage with sturdy cases from Otter Box.

Speaking of video games, Nintendo Entertainment Systems is bringing back classic games and its original gray box controller (albeit with modern technology) from 30 years ago as they are reviving Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, and Super Mario Bros. as part of its NES Classic campaign.

The Internet has made subscription web streaming services as Hulu (which in my opinion has the best original programming), Amazon, Netflix, and the WWE Network, competitors with cable television’s premium channels as HBO and Showtime. Jumping into the streaming fray this year is CBS All Access which allows viewers to watch almost any show that was ever broadcast on the Tiffany Network just as Hulu does the same for a good chunk of the Peacock Network library. CBS All Access also contains every Star Trek episode ever made. Another new streaming option is Cennarium which concentrates on the fine arts. You can watch operas, concerts, and theatrical productions from all over the world via Cennarium.

Devices as Roku, Amazon Fire, and Google Chromecast, when plugged into the HDMI ports on your television give Internet sites the same picture quality as those from TV channels.

Sure you can google almost anything that you need to know these days but there is something comforting about having the facts at your finger the old school way. The World Almanac 2017 is still the best paperback reference. Offbeat trivia buffs must possess Guinness World Records 2017.

This is a big year for music books in the publishing industry. Bruce Springsteen, Phil Collins, and Beach Boys co-founders Brian Wilson and Mike Love have all published autobiographies. Rock music fanatics who pride themselves on having encyclopedic knowledge about their favorite artists will enjoy a trilogy of books from Black Dog & Leventhal’s “All The Songs” series which look at the complete works of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan. These aren’t for marginal followers as each song ever recorded by these artists is analyzed in depth and the stories behind them are fascinating. Be careful of getting a hernia however as each of these books comes in at around 700 pages.  Fans of the FX Emmy Award-winning animated spy spoof, “Archer,” will love the just-released coffee table book, “The Art of Archer” (Dey Street Books).

sp-1108_expandedFor the tailgater out there, the next level of tailgating essentials is the flask lantern. This compact helpful gift doubles as a solar powered light and also something to hold your favorite beverage. Secur Products has created this product called the SP-1108 that functions as a flashlight, water bottle, storage, and is waterproof.

If you know someone’s size and taste, fashion is always fun. American Eagle, Lands End, Ace Rivington, and Haupt all make comfortable, stylish and durable dress shirts. The arrival of winter means that hat, scarf and gloves season is upon us. Calypso St. Barth (which also makes  fragrances), Vineyard Vines, Bearpaw, and Shaw Lux (shawlux.com) all make outerwear accessories to keep us warm on those Arctic days. Minnie Rose (minnierose.com) specializes in ponchos and others pullovers.

Hats are back in style. Bollman Hat Company (bollmanhats.com) makes fedoras and western lawman hats through its Bailey division and has a sizable selection of berets and bell-shaped headwear made popular by Hollis’s own RUN-DMC back in the 1980s though its Kangol subsidiary. Wallaroo Hats (wallaroohats.com) out of Denver makes an array of wide-brim hats for both men and women.

downloadRanda (randa.net) sells Tommy Hilfiger belts and Chaps ties while ties.com is a one-stop for ties, tie racks, tie clips and the like. BasicOutfitters.com is an online retailer that sells everyday staples as socks, underwear, t-shirts, and jogging pants that range from $15 to $30 for most items.

Guys are just as interested in skin care as women are these days. Both Jack Black (not the actor) and Kristals Aquamarine (kristals.com) make gift sets of balms, creams, and body bars. Korres Butter Luxury Collection (korresusa.com) is a gift set sold at Sephora that purports to improve skin elasticity. If you prefer using argan oil as a skin moisturizer you might want to check out Josie Maran’s website, josiemarancosmetics.com.

Here is a pair of hair grooming stocking stuffer ideas. Xtava makes salon-quality electric products for the consumer. Their Allure Jet Set Travel Hair Dryer comes in a stylish travel tote bag. You probably want your hair to hold in place after drying and Kendra Platinum Hi Def Hairspray 16 sold on ulta.com is a good choice.

A healthy stocking stuffer Safe Catch Tuna, which  is introducing a new pouch perfect to throw in a gym bag, backpack or purse. Safe Catch is the only tunabrand in the world that tests every single fish it sustainably catches for mercury, ensuring that your fitness efforts are not tainted by filling your body with heavy metals like mercury.

There is no shortage of handbag designers but most of them are not well known. Baggalini, Deondra Jeree, Laudi Vindi (individual spelled backwards), and Be Brilliant (bebrilliantbags.com) make clutches, wallets, and handbags in various sizes and price points.

If you are willing to spend in the four digits on quality handbags, Judith Leiber Couture is sold in such tony shops as Neiman-Marcus, Saks 5th Avenue, and Bergdorf Goodman. Tyler Ellis (tyler-ellis.com) also makes pricy handbags.

Indiana-based Vera Bradley has been around thirty years and became well-known for its patchwork-styled cloth totes. The company has expanded into leather pocketbooks, duffel bags, backpacks, as well as women’s ear muffs, gloves and scarves.

Buxton makes  high quality wallets, billfolds, portfolios, and many other leather goods for both men and women.


Watches are the most popular form of jewelry. Long Island City’s own Armitron makes fashionable and affordable watches.  HOH Watches, which was founded by Forest Hills High School alum Lawrence Leyderman, makes timepieces that rival Tag Heuer and Rolex at a fraction of their prices. His Bedlam line has long been popular with knowledgeable watch fans and he just launched his latest timepiece, the Chronspire Basilisk, at the just concluded Art Basel in Miami. If you are looking for solid value, Sears sells Structure watches for around $30.

Auburn Jewelry (auburn-jewelry.com) and Ritani (ritani.com) are two good online sources for pendants, bracelets, rings and cuff links. If you prefer non-metal jewelry, Elyse Ryan (elyseryan.com) makes bracelets and necklaces from gemstones while Fenton Glass Jewelry (fentonglassjewelry.com) makes earrings, bracelets, and necklaces from hand-blown glass beads that are created in its West Virginia factory. Roman & Sunstone (romansunstone.com) sells costume jewelry that very much looks like the real thing but at a fraction of the price. If you are a fan of the offbeat, Delicacies (delicaciesjewelry.com) sells 14 K pendants with your favorite food item at the base such as pineapple, tomato, fish, wheat, etc… and they range from $160 to $400.

The Artisan Group (thartisangroup.org) is a great resource for finding jewelry, stationery, bath and spa products and much more.

Most of us can’t afford a Carrera sports car but stylish Carrera sunglasses are another story. For those with tighter budgets, Polaroid has a huge selection of frames including classic aviators that rival Ray-Ban. Maui Jim also makes stylish, reasonably priced shades.

Hugg-America pillow lets you rest your head on a detailed map of the USA while Madura makes all kinds of traditional throw pillows. If you want a pillow that really works hard for you then pick up M Cushion’s (mcushion.com) Shiatsu massage pillow that will relieve the tension and pain in nearly every body stress point. If you sleep on your sides and always find it hard to get comfortable, Snuggl makes a long and thick L-shaped pillow that practically resembles a mattress (thesnuggl.com) and may improve the quality of your sleep.

Savannah Bee and Stonewall Kitchen make a variety of upscale bath products and they also have great gift baskets.


Godiva and Ghirardelli both make fine confections, but if you worry about allergens but still want great taste, try Vermont Nut Free Chocolates (vermontnutfree.com) Another guilty pleasure is Amy’s Wicked Whoopie Pies from Maine (wickedwhoopies.com). Amy is getting some local competition these days from a New Yorker, Elizabeth Fife, who gave up investment banking for a career in whoopie pie baking. She started a company called Batter And Cream and the good news is that they will ship her delicacies anywhere. Eleni’s (elenis.com) makes a variety of kosher baked goods which make for ideal Chanukah gifts.

Inexpensive snacks and beverages make for ideal stocking stuffers that will be appreciated.  Welch’s Fruit Snacks and WTR MLN WTR (as “Watermelon Water” but in actuality it’s cold-pressed watermelon juice) have health benefits while satisfying nearly anyone’s sweet tooth at the same time. Cookie connoisseurs will love tins of Royal Dansk Danish Butter Cookies (which is celebrating its 50th anniversary) and Walkers Shortbread Assortments. Barkthins’ Dark Chocolate Gingerbread and Peppermint Pretzel products are tasty bite-size holiday treats. Nabisco has expanded its Oreo line into a new direction as the company has teamed up with a European chocolatier, Milka, for the Oreo Chocolate Candy Bar and the Oreo Big Crunch Chocolate Candy Bar. To help wash down all of these treats with a hot beverage in chilly weather you can pick up a tin of Teavana’s White Chocolate Peppermint Tea and accompanying Red Gradient Infuser Mug.

Adults with a sweet tooth who like to imbibe should try the wine-infused chocolates from Fredericksburg, located in Texas Hill Country (fbgwinery.com) which is quickly rivaling Napa Valley when comes to producing quality American wines.

Speaking of American wines, Dreaming Tree, ONEHOPE, Mark West, and Woodbridge by Mondavi are inexpensive but quality brands. Epicurious.com, the Conde Nast website devoted to food and food-related gadgets, has just debuted a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Chardonnay that be utilized equally well for cooking or imbibing. If you want a very good and inexpensive white wine, New Zealand’s Kim Crawford produces a smooth Sauvignon Blanc.

For those who prefer harder liquor, Dewar’s 12, Oban 14 Year Old, Macallan, McIvor, and Highland Park are fine mid-priced scotches but if you are looking for more expensive top-shelf whisky you have to go with Craigllachie 23 Years Old, Grant’s Family Reserve,

Glenlivet Founders Reserve, Chivas Regal Ultis, Aberlour A’bunadh Batch No. 54, or Johnny Walker Blue. Ketel One is quickly approaching both Smirnoff and Stolichnaya in terms of vodka popularity. For rums, you can’t go wrong with Bacardi or Captain Morgan while tequila aficionados will always enjoy Patron (Select gift bottles come in a silver and pewter handcrafted cask), Tequila Don Julio 1492, Jose Cuervo, Altos Anejo or any of the three choices from Cazadores: Blanco, Reposado, and Anejo. Gin aficionados will enjoy Hendrick’s and Tanqueray No. 10.

68040-1Aperitifs are understandably popular this time of year. Bailey’s Irish Cream is a safe standby but if you want to try a liqueur with a little more spicy pizzazz, go with Bailey’s new Pumpkin Spice Irish Cream Liqueur or Kahlua Chili Chocolate. If you want to have a bit of artistry to go along with you liqueur, Disaronno has a new eye-catching label designed by the Italian fashion design firm, Etro. Braulio and Solerno are other good liqueur options from Italy.

The most popular New Year’s resolution is to exercise. Ryka’s Dynamic 2 and Achieve lines of running shoes provide well-cushioned support to reduce the tension in the legs when striking the ground. Sorry, guys; Ryka only makes shoes for women. On the other hand, Brooks Running and Altra Footwear (altrarunning.com) manufacture terrific running shoes for both sexes. I am a fan of Altra’s Torin 2.5 shoe which gives needed room in the big toe area. A good general purpose athletic shoe, although it is pricy, is New Balance’s 990 line which is made in the USA.

Boxing has become a popular workout option because of its cardiology benefits. Everlast has long been synonymous with ring sports thanks to its training equipment and apparel which are available at Sears. Wearyourambition.com sells t-shirts, baseball caps, and apparel that you can wear to the gym.

Franklin Sports, best known for its batting gloves, makes sports equipment, apparel, and indoor games for all ages.

St. Jude Hospital in Memphis treats children with serious diseases without ever charging one cent to their families. One of the ways that the hospital sustains itself is by selling a variety of items which are all made by well-known manufacturers. Please log onto giftshop.stjude.org

I can’t think of a place that has more to offer both its residents and visitors than New York City. A great way to enjoy the beauty of our area as well as take in a great meal with top-notch entertainment is to sail with either Spirit Cruise or World Yacht.

CityPASS (citypass.com) is a ticket booklet that allows you to see a lot of New York attractions (including a boat ride around NYC on the famous Circle Line) for one fixed price. The catch is that you have to do it all within nine days. CityPASS is available for other American cities.

Few things are exhilarating as traveling to exotic locales. The understandable concern is what happens if you or a loved one gets sick overseas or on a cruise. Medjet is a membership service that will transport you to the medical center of your choice if you become ill and need to be hospitalized. A membership is certainly a thoughtful gift for anyone who packs a suitcase.

While it’s nice to travel to warm climes, air travel and hotels during the holiday week tend to go through the roof in most places that have palm trees. There are bargains however at many nearby places. The Sands Casino & Hotel in the Lehigh Valley town of Bethlehem offers both gaming, nightly entertainment, and many gourmet restaurants. Philadelphia, just 100 miles southwest of Queens, obviously has many historic sites but the City of Brotherly Love now rivals New York when it comes to being a foodie destination thanks to its many hip restaurants in Center City. The National Museum of American Jewish History, located a block from Independence Hall, is a great way for all to celebrate Chanukah.

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