2017 Mother’s Day Gift & Travel Guide

      It is impossible to express one’s love for the woman who raised us and made us who were today through one day of recognition and a gift. Nonetheless we should all put a little thought into a thank you even though mom will probably say that it’s not necessary.

      Woodside native Jim McCann started what has become the most famous name in the floral industry, 1800Flowers, in 1971. Back then the idea of purchasing floral arrangements through a toll-free phone call was revolutionary. Over the years, McCann has expanded his business to include all kinds of gift baskets. Nevertheless bouquets remain the company’s bread and butter and this year the company has created Mother’s Embrace and Bouquet of Bloom floral arrangements which run between $60-$70.

      Harry & David’s is known for its sweet confection gift baskets including one designed especially for Mother’s Day which features juicy Royal Verano Pears. Savannah Bee and Stonewall Kitchen also make fine gift baskets in a wide array of categories.

      Chocolates may be caloric but they do contain anti-oxidants. Francois Payard, Ghirardelli, See’s, and Godiva all make premium chocolates in a variety of sizes and price points. If you are worried about allergens, Vermont Nut-Free Chocolates are the way to go and you don’t sacrifice any taste with their confections.

      There are more options than ever for buying stylish jewelry pieces without breaking the bank. Auburn Jewelry (auburn-jewelry.com) and Chloe & Isabel (chloeandisabel.com) both make numerous pendants for under $150 while Article 22 has plenty of earrings in that price point. New York jewelry designer Alex Woo has silver and gold pendants that will run anywhere from $100 to $600. Epicureans will get a kick out of Delicacies Jewelry which produces pendants with small metal sculptures of food at the base.

      If you are going to buy mom jewelry, be sure to pick up a can of Colle, (colleproducts.com)  a cleaning mousse that keeps valuables from getting tarnished by age.

     Watches are the most popular form of jewelry and the great news is that companies as Timex, Fossil, and Little Neck’s own Armitron produce quality timepieces for under $100 that look as if they cost three times that amount. If you are willing to spend more to get a high quality timepiece, the House of Horology (www.hohwatches.com), founded by Forest Hills High School alum Lawrence Leyderman, has watches that rival Rolex and Tag Heuer but have a price that is not even half of those respected high-end brands but are every bit as good. Another high-end timepiece alternative are the collections from Bulova, a company which for years made its  headquarters in Woodside.

     Handbags are always popular. Vera Bradley is known for its lively cloth pocketbooks and weekend duffels. Be Brilliant (bebrilliantbags.com) makes totes and clutches in the $200-$500 neighborhood. Hammitt produces a full line of handbags but it is best known for its crossbody bags which range from $300 to $600. If mom is a business executive she will enjoy Lauren Cecchi Black Mezzo handbag which can double as a briefcase.    

      There is no shortage of perfumes on the market but choosing the right one is not easy. Sephora has a gift box that the company smartly calls “Favorites” that contains perfumes from Dolce & Gabbana and Versace. Former Jackson Heights resident Tara Durkan started a fragrance company in L.A., Dossage, and Dossage 8 for Her is a tongue-in-cheek tribute to Chanel No. 5. A UK beauty products company, Simon James London, has created Empire Fragrances, a line of perfumes that is licensed by the hit Fox Television weekly hip-hop soap opera, “Empire.” Also on the entertainment-related front, the late legendary actress Elizabeth Taylor created a fragrance in her later years called White Diamonds that was known for its floral scent. Although it hasn’t been advertised much in recent years, the brand is still a good seller.

      There was a time when one might feel self-conscious using any kind of skin care product. Not anymore. These days folks of all ages are using anti-wrinkle cremes and anti-aging serums.

     There is no shortage of quality producers of these products and that has led to competitive pricing in a very upscale industry. Vichy Laboratories (vichyusa.com),Moroccan Oil, Eve Lom and Tammy Fender both make high quality anti-aging serums as well as a host other skincare products. CeraVe produces numerous hydrating cleansers and while European Wax Center’s Strut 365 line of products include body wash, lotion, and polish. Vichy’s LiftActiv purports to reduce wrinkles. If you want even more choices of quality skincare items log onto kiehls.com or visit one of the many Kiehl’s locations.

       Mineral Fusion is quietly rivaling Avon, Maybelline, and Estee Lauder as a full service manufacturer of beauty products as it makes its own line of lipsticks, eye shadow, mascara, moisturizers, body lotions, and shampoos.  

      Two  of Mineral Fusion’s bigger rivals in the full service beauty sector are Sephora and Shiseido. Lipstick Queen is a website to explore for hip moms who are not too shy to wear loud loud colors.

      Hair products are a tricky purchase because nearly everyone is particular about they want to use on or for their scalp. Conair, Drybar, and Rusk make hair dryer and curling irons that make hair look fuller as do shampoos as Dr. Marder Scalp Therapy, Grande Hair Nutra Peptide, Austin Kyle, and Paul Brown. Evo Hair (evohair.com) humorously claims that it can tame the strays and has a pussycat on its homepage.    

      Eyelashes are getting almost as much attention these days as hair is in the beauty industry. Grande Lash and Palladio Beauty’s Lash Obsessed Mascara are sure to bring attention to mom’s eyes.

      Summer is coming and that means so is sandals season. Ocean Minded and Havaianas both make sandals that can be worn as part of everyday fashion as well as on the beach. The same can be said for those durable clogs made by Crocs or the stylish, durable as well as American-made spa shoes produced by Oka-B. For more stylish summer dress shoes check out the collections from Bearpaw and ELOQUII.

    Foot comfort is important around the house as well. Dear Foams (dearfoams.com), and Very Lovely Soles (verylovelysoles.com) both make quality inexpensive slippers. If you want to splurge, Minnie Rose (minnierose.com) makes cashmere slippers.

     The arrival of warmer days means that the sun is out for more hours and that its rays are quite direct. Coola, Kiss My Face, and Coppertone all make sunscreens with high SPF counts that maximize skin protection.   

      Sunglasses are also a must to prevent damage ocular damage. Safilo is the leader in the field of fashionable and functional eyewear as they have stylish frames in various price points from ritzy Jimmy Choo and Fendi that run north of $300 to the surprisingly affordable Marc by Marc Jacobs in the $125 neighborhood to their OXYDO and Polaroid lines that run under $100. If you think mom would like the round rimless specs favored by most famously John Lennon and Meg Ryan, you should check out Scanlan Theodore (us.scanlantheodore.com) For the classic Marilyn Monroe/Jackie Onassis look check out Tura Eyewear (tura.com) or Kenmark’s Vera Wang Collection. Those who prefer the classic metallic aviator frames should look into either Carrera or Revo. If you know mom’s prescription you can get her stylish reading glasses at Flutter.com

      If your mother loves to be in the kitchen, Pottery Barn, Sur La Table , and Crate & Barrel have every type of cookware imaginable. Kohl’s has exclusive deals with the Food Network and celebrity chef Bobby Flay for kitchen products.. Black & Decker’s Electric Kettle is perfect for brewing tea or coffee while its WiFi Slow Cooker lets you control the cooking process remotely for large dishes. If you are not sure what to get a mom who loves to be in the kitchen, you can get a gift card from Home Chef which sells both kitchen appliances and the food that mom needs for her recipes.

      There is nothing wrong with moms imbibing every now and then. Wine is believed to have cardiac benefits (the redder the better). If you want to buy American and not spend a lot of money, Woodbridge by Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon and Josh Cellars Pinot Noir are both recommended. Those who want a blend of red and white wines should try roses from Australia’s Kim Crawford or Italy’s Ruffino. Both Campari and and Aperol are ready-to-serve cocktails from the bottle.

      There are those days and nights when no one wants to leave the house. Both GrubHub and Seamless have gift cards that you can use to have food delivered from your favorite restaurant by going to their websites.

      Candles are decorative, soothing, and provide soft light at night. The problem is that there is always the risk of fire or melted was ruining furniture. Flipo’s Solare line of flameless candles (flipo.com) give you all of the benefits of luxury candles without any of the drawbacks.

      Staying in shape is important for everyone. Ryka is one of the few athletic shoe companies that makes running shoes and other types of sneakers exclusively for women. Sperry makes a comfortable slip-ons which are perfect for a stroll on the boardwalk or a boat ride.

      A lot of older mothers are technophobes and know little or nothing about things that a lot of us take for granted such as the Internet and email. If you’re afraid that your mom would be intimidated by a desktop or laptop computer then start her off with an inexpensive tablet such as those from Samsung, Acer, Lenovo, or the Amazon Kindle Fire. She can protect her mobile devices and laptops with cases from Otter Box. Brush Cases makes artistic protective cases that includes the famous Rolling Stones lips logo.

       Every mother deserves pampering combined with a change of scenery. There are a number of spa resorts located within a three-hour drive of Queens. Nearby spa resorts are the Spa at Norwich Inn in Connecticut, and for those in a New York State of mind, the Emerson Spa near Woodstock and the Mohonk House in New Paltz.

     The Hope Lake Lodge in the Finger Lakes town of Cortland has the Waterfalls Spa and it is located in the heart of New York State’s winery region. Nearly all of the wineries in the area are discounting their vino in May.

     The success of the Resorts World Casino at Aqueduct has forced both of Connecticut’s casinos, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun to offer better entertainment, restaurants and spas as well as deals on hotel rooms. Mohegan Sun has such fine dining establishments as Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse, Ballo Italian Restaurant, and Todd English’s Tuscany. A less formal but just as much fun, if not more so restaurant at Mohegan Sun is Hash House A Go Go. If mom is a sports fan then try to catch a Connecticut Sun WNBA game at the Mohegan Sun Arena.     


     The late spring is an ideal time to visit Maine. Queens’ own JetBlue has frequent service to Portland where there is a thriving arts and dining scene. The Freeport Outlets, located just outside of town, is still the Mecca for retail store bargain hunters. Just a little south of Freeport is Kennebunkport which has long been a favorite getaway for George HW and Barbara Bush. There are a pair of charming lodging properties here: the Cape Arundel Inn & Resort right on the Atlantic while Hidden Pond  is a more secluded resort that has a spa and is known for its farm-to-fork organic food on the property and freshly caught seafood just off of the premises. 

     If you want to give mom a change of scenery a little farther away from these parts after Mother’s Day here are some ideas.

      Raleigh, North Carolina is the mythical halfway point on I-95 between New York and Miami and the area has grown tremendously over the last decade. It’s a very walkable town as its museums, restaurants (make sure to enjoy some barbecue here), and nightlife are all near each other. The Umstead, a five-diamond resort, is located just across the city line in the suburb of Cary.

     What is great about Raleigh is that you can make a lot of day or overnight trips. Wilmington, with its pristine beaches and colonial era homes, is only a 90 minute-drive southeast. Charlotte is less than three hours away while Asheville, in the Smoky Mountains, is four hours west. Mount Airy is the picturesque small town that the late actor, Andy Griffith, based his fictional locale of Mayberry for his very popular 1960s CBS televison series, “The Andy Griffith Show.” It’s two hours from Raleigh and it’s also home to some of North Carolina’s best wineries.  JetBlue has frequent service between Raleigh and JFK.

      South Florida hotels are heading into their off-season. The Turnberry Isle in Aventura section of Miami-Dade County and the nearby Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa in Broward County both offer heavily discounted golf, spa, food and room packages compared with the December through early April peak season.

       Of course when you think of South Florida you think about its gorgeous beaches. You couldn’t blame mom if she wanted to just wanted to relax on the sands of a luxury property. In the Palm Beach area, you can’t do better than the Eau Palm Beach which is located in the town of Manalapan and was previously the Ritz-Carlton. If mom is a golfer or wants to learn the game, the PGA Resort in Palm Beach Gardens is the place to be. The PGA Resort is also known for its fine restaurants. If tennis is more of her game, the Boca Raton Resort is recommended.

       An alternative to staying in Miami Beach but still having easy access to it, is to try any of the fairly new resorts located five miles north on Collins Avenue in the city of Sunny Isles Beach. Not only is it quieter but it has a neighborhood feel with supermarkets, local stores, restaurants, and public transportation similar to that of Queens. The Aqualina Resort is a top-of-the-line property in Sunny Isles.

      Another option is to go 15 minutes north of Sunny Isles to Fort Lauderdale where one of its oldest properties, the Diplomat Hotel, has undergone major renovations and is now a full-fledged modern resort. 

      Southern California is a great alternative to Florida and it’s generally not anywhere nearly as humid. The Hyatt Regency La Jolla and the 101 year-old Grande Colonial in the village of La Jolla are two of San Diego’s best hotels. The Grande Colonial offers breathtaking views of the sun setting over the Pacific while the Hyatt Regency La Jolla offers easy access to many of San Diego’s best neighborhoods such as University Town Center. It’s top-floor concierge level is among the best that I have experienced.

      San Diego’s best-known hotel is actually located just off of its coast on Coronado Island. The Hotel del Coronado was built in 1888 and is still going strong. It has kept up with the times however as it has not only a modern spa but offers spin, yoga, and other exercise classes on its beach.

       Another good Southern California option is Palm Springs’ Triada Hotel whose bungalows and villas will make mom feel like an old-time movie star. Just down Highway 111 in the Coachella Valley from Palm Springs is the Ritz-Carlton in Rancho Mirage which has many fine dining establishments and whose spa boasts of a treatment called the Desert Wildflower Poultice Massage. One of the hip, newer properties in the Springs is the Moroccan/Mediterranean-themed Korakia Pensione.

         Beverly Hills, as we’ve been reminded over the years through numerous films and television shows, is synonymous with wealth and good living. Hotels as the Peninsula, the Beverly Hilton, and the Montage all have restaurants and spas that are popular with the locals and offer them as parts of packages for visitors who stay at their respective properties.

       West Hollywood is located right next door to Beverly Hills but it’s closer to LA and hotel rooms there are far less than what you will pay in the old 90210 zip code. West Hollywood has plenty of nightlife and some of Southern California’s best restaurants. The Ramada Inn & Suites on Santa Monica Boulevard with its outdoor pool and modern rooms is certainly not your grandparents’ Ramada.

        Sedona, Arizona is about a two-hour drive north of the greater Phoenix area and it’s always about 20 degrees cooler which is helpful as we head into mid-spring. It has a vibrant arts community comprised of folks who were drawn to the town by the area’s beautiful red rock mountains. You won’t find big chain hotels here but rather luxurious boutique ones as L’Auberge  El Portal and Orchards Inn.

       If you want to get the best bang for your buck for a vacation for mom, you can’t go wrong the Grand Palladium Resorts in Punta, Cana Dominican Republic. All meals and beverages are included in the price as is most of the other amenities. Vacations in the Dominican Republic are about half of the cost of neighboring Caribbean getaways. Just as it does with most warm weather spots in our hemisphere,  JetBlue has service to Punta Cana from JFK as it does to most destinations in the Caribbean.

       Cruises are another travel option.

      Norwegian Cruise Lines now has four-day sails between Miami and Havana, Cuba. A key advantage is that you don’t have to worry about finding a hotel in Cuba since you are sleeping in your cabin on the ship. Keep in mind that the vast majority of American credit cards are not operational in Cuba as of now.

      MSC Cruises out of Fort Lauderdale doesn’t have the ad budget that the bigger lines such as Carnival and Princess have but they sail to many destinations in the Caribbean and Central America. They are known for their top-notch cuisine and amenities.

       Of course mom can have a lot of fun just staying in our area. The Spirit of New York which docks at Chelsea Piers has a three-hour dinner cruise and cabaret entertainment has made it a popular venue for celebrations of all kinds. World Yacht, located four blocks west of Times Square at Pier 81, also has brunch and dinner cruises. Hornblower has dinner cruises that leave from Pier 40 in SoHo.

     The Big Apple has no shortage of spas to help mom unwind. Red Door and Oasis Day Spas offer everything from facials to massages at their various New York area locations.  For a listing of the best spa deals in the area, log onto spaweek.com.

     The warmer weather makes it easier to get around and enjoy New York’s many attractions such as taking a boat ride around town on the Circle Line, going to the Empire State Building Observatory, and visiting our world famous museums as the Metropolitan, Modern Art (MoMA), Natural History, and the Guggenheim. Both CityPASS, and its chief competitor, New York Pass, sell booklets/cards that will allow mom and a guest access to all of the aforementioned for a price far less than paying for each attraction individually. The trick is that you have a limited amount of time, anywhere from three to nine days, once you get started.

      Happy Mother’s Day to all!

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