2019 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.        

      The Internet has made subscription web streaming services as Amazon, Netflix (a godsend for movie buffs), and Hulu (which in my opinion has the best original programming as exemplified by “The Handmaid’s Tale,” the high school humor series PEN 15, and new episodes the Kal Penn-helmed paean to the world’s borough, “Sunnyside” after NBC yanked from its Thursday night schedule without giving the show a chance to find its audience), key rivals to cable television providers when it comes to competing for our disposable income for home entertainment.

     Jumping into the streaming fray three years ago was 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. All Access is the exclusive home for the latest in the Star Trek series, “Discovery,” as well as for “The Good Wife” spinoff, “The Good Fight.” This past year CBS All Access added a reboot of “The Twilight Zone” with Jordan Peele taking over the Rod Serling narrator role to go along with every episode of the original series that ran in black & white from 1959-1964.

      Disney Plus and HBO Now just launched recently. Also new is that Food Network’s Kitchen app which has their celebrity chefs show you how to make various along with a list of all the necessary ingredients in on-demand videos. Shudder began streaming two years ago and specializes in the horror film genre.

     Sports fans now have their pick of streaming services as well. The WWE Network has been around for a few years serving pro wrestling fans. A European company, DAZN, has jumped into the streaming game for more “legitimate” ring sports as boxing and mixed martial arts. Finally, ESPN this year launched ESPN+ in which you can watch niche live events as Ivy League football as well as get caught up any documentary in ESPN’s sizable “30 for 30″ library. Other streaming options are Warner Media’s Bleacher Report Live (B/R Live) and NBC Sports Gold.

     There are plenty of other gift ideas for sports aficionados. Authentic Brands Group’s Superare subsidiary has an “X Ali” collection that features the likeness of the greatest heavyweight boxer in history on all sorts of apparel. It should be noted that with boxing becoming increasingly popular for workouts, Superare (superareshop.com) also makes all kinds of training gear.

    Fans of a team can show their loyalty to their favorite pro football team by wearing sunglasses from Oakley’s NFL collection can stay warm in the winter weather with New Era’s Official NFL Cold Weather Collection ski caps.

     If you know a sports fan who is into autographed collectibles, Panini America’s new Prizm Basketball line has limited edition autographed basketball high-end trading cards of such young NBA players as Zion Williamson, Jo Morant, and the Knicks’ own RJ Barrett. Brandon Steiner, who was certainly a pioneer in the sports collectible commerce sold his eponymous company, Steiner Sports, and has launched a new one, CollectibleXchange (collectiblexhange.com), and he has a full lime of autographed memorabilia from athletes in all sports.  

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

     TaylorMade (taylormadegolf.com) is one of the largest players in the golf industry and it manufactures drivers, wedges, and putters for everyone from the novice duffer to the scratch golfer. It also makes the bags for lugging your clubs around. If you want to have clubs custom designed for you visit a Club Champion center (clubchampiongolf.com). Interestingly, Bed, Bath & Beyond has a furniture stand in which you can place your golf bag out inside your home so that you don’t have to use up valuable closet or garage space for it.

      Anyone who enjoys tailgating at sporting events will enjoy Yet’s Tundra 45 Hard Cooler which holds up to 28 cans of beer or soft drinks.

     Country singer Dierks Bentley has created a military-themed tee shirt company called Flag & Anthem (flagandanthem.com) where all proceeds go towards scholarships for family members of disabled veterans.

    Technology has not only expanded television options, it has done so for radio as well. Como Audio’s Solo Tabletop Radio allows you to listen to radio stations around the world while iHome’s Voice as well as its Bluetooth Rechargeable Waterproof Speaker uses Alexa voice command to let you request radio stations all over the US including Sirius XM (if you are a subscriber to it), Internet radio stations as Pop Gold Radio and Rewound Radio (free of charge), and every terrestrial radio station from Entercom, Tune-in, and I Heart Radio. Some iHome speaker systems also respond to Google Assistant and Siri vocal technology.

     If you are having sleeping or even relaxing, iHome’s Bedside Sleep Therapy Machine, also known as its Zenergy Dream Mini, emits soothing sounds and changing mood lighting to help relieve tension. In addition, it also tells time.             

     Many, though not all iHome products are available at Bed, Bath, and Beyond so bring those ubiquitous coupons with you. For more info log onto iHome.com

    Speaking of clocks, La Crosse Technology’s (lacrossetechnology.com) Wi-Fi Projection Alarm Clock is a tablet style device that not only keeps track of time but is also paired with AccuWeather to give the current weather and the next day’s forecast.                 

   Electronics technology has helped improve sleep as I mentioned above but quality bedding products also help with slumber. Gryphon (gryphonhome.com) has quietly been in business over 200 years making high quality pillow cases, duvets, and sheets. Long Island-based Bedgear has just introduced its Solar Series Pillow which promises ergonomically correct sleep while its Hyper Cotton Weighted Blanket promises to keep you warm (it weights 15 lbs.) without causing perspiration. The Purple Pillow Company (onpurple.com) makes an unusual but extremely comfortable pillow that use an elastic latex instead of goose feathers or its hypo-allergenic equivalent .

    You can’t sleep well if there is dust and other irritants gathering in your bedroom. Black & Decker, Bissell, and Dyson all make cordless vacuums and sweepers that allow you to clean tough places without impediment

   Sure, you can google almost anything that you need to know these days but there is something comforting about having the facts at your fingers the old school way. The World Almanac 2020 is still the best paperback reference. Offbeat trivia buffs will enjoy Guinness World Records 2019 and Ripley’s Believe It Or Not 2020..

    If you know someone’s size and taste, fashion is always fun. Abercrombie & Fitch (abercrombie.com) American Eagle, Vineyard Vines Lands End, Old Navy, Ace Rivington, and Haupt all make comfortable, stylish, and durable dress shirts.

      UNTUCKit has quickly become a popular brand for guys in its less than a decade in business. Founder Chris Riccobono created shirts that were not only fashionable but were meant not to be tucked in one’s pants. It’s surprising that no one thought of that concept in casual comfort before Riccobono launched UNTUCKit in 2010.

      Dockers is best known for its khaki pants but what you might be surprised to learn is that it manufactures rugby shirts which are perfect for winter leisure days.

      Hush Puppies, who had a great run in the 1960s as baby boomers will fondly recall, has been revived big time. Not only is the company still making its classic casual suede loafer but it has expanded into informal boots and dress shoes for men and women but it still puts a premium on comfort.

      Victoria Secret’s PINK brand of women’s clothing specializes in Sherpas, sweats, and pajamas which is ideal for either lounging around or running a quick errand on a winter’s day. Lily Pulitzer also makes women’s pajamas designed for cold winter days and nights.

     The cold weather means that it’s cashmere season. Johnstons of Elgin (johnstonsofelgin.com) manufactures cashmere scarves and hats while Kinross (kinrosscashmere.com) makes reasonably priced cashmere ponchos.

    Winter is about to begin but summer hopefully isn’t that far away. Havaianas and Okabashi both sandals and thongs that can be worn around the house as well as poolside.  

      Guys are just as interested in skin care as women are these days. Bravo Sierra, Jack Black (not the actor), Skinceuticals (skinceuticals.com) and Kristals Aquamarine (kristals.com) make gift sets of balms, creams, serums, deodorants, and hydrating lotions. Dove Men+Care makes holiday gift sets that include body wash and soaps.

      Winter wreaks havoc on everyone’s hands and feet. Bath & Body Works Body Cream, Charlotte Tilbury Magic Cream, Body Shop Festive Hand Cream Trio, Korres USA’s Hydrating


Luxury Hand Cream Trio, Josie Maran’s Ski Care Duo and Pure Argan Hydration Duo all help prevent and alleviate skin irritations and fissures.

      The somewhat ominously named Simply Venom (simplyvenom.com), created by a pair of anaesthesiologists, Drs. Monica Lilore and Milija Milic, is a skincare company that makes night and day creams that help eliminate wrinkles and other skin aging indicators.

      Not to be outdone, another physician, Dr. Audrey Kunin, a dermatologist, has created her own line of skin products, DERMADoctor (dermadoctor.com). One of the company’s best-selling products is Wrinkle Revenge Ultimate Hyaluronic Serum.

      Other skincare product ideas are Peter Roth Thomas Hydration Glow UpKit and Peter Roth Thomas’s Mix, Mask & Hydrate, Clarisonic’s Bright & Glowing Skin Set, Biossance, Beekman 1802, and Sol de Janeiro

      Gillette’s latest hand razor is Skinguard which purports to give the closest shave of facial and leg hair while reducing irritation and burn. For those who prefer a more old school shaving experience Gillette is offering a three-piece Double Edge Safety Razor comprised of stainless steel blades and a chrome handle. Other razor options are Gillette’s Sensor 3 and Fusion Proglide and the Dollar Shave Club Traveler for when one goes on the road. Bulldog (bulldogskincare.com) makes razors with ecologically-friendly bamboo handles and has gift sets that contain razors, face wash, scrub, and mositurizer. If you want to spend a little more Harry’s (harrys.com) makes a lot of shaving product gift box sets that range from $35 to $100. Harry’s also has a terrific weekend duffel bag.

      There is no shortage of hair care products. Rahua makes shampoos from only natural ingredients and has quickly become a salon favorite. Other quality hair care products are HSI Argan Oil Shampoo, Joico K-Pak (joico.com) and the Sun Bum’s Revitalizing Shampoo. Blazon (blazonbrush.com) makes stylish hair brushes that gently keep your strands in shape.

     Perfumes and colognes are always popular gifts because they are easy to carry and they more often than not can be bought in gift sets where you get a lot of useful bonus items. Ulta sells a variety of Kate Spade perfumes. Viktor & Rolf’s Bonbon and Flowerbomb fragrances are sold individually and both are also available in gift boxes that come with body cream and shower gel. Proenza Schouler’s Arizona two-piece gift set contains a fragrance and body oil that carries a scent that brings the beauty of the Sonora Desert to mind. Giorgio Armani’s Passione Eau de Parfum Holiday 2019 is a floral fragrance that comes in a red lacquer glass battle to add a romantic touch.

     For guys Ulta sells Dior Sauvage and Coach for Men cologne while Ralph Lauren Polo Blue EDP Collection is sold at various retailers.

      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.

     Callista Crafts, Labante, Lambertson Truex (Lambertsontruex.com) all make high-end handbags, purses, and backpacks in all sizes and price ranges. If you want quality but are on a tighter budget look into Pop Bags USA (popbagsusa.com). 

     Buxton makes  high quality wallets, billfolds, portfolios, and many other leather goods for both men and women. T.Anthony (tanthony.com) also makes high-end leather wallets as well as its famous luggage.

       Vince Camuto (vincecamuto.com) is an excellent one-stop online shop where you can find leather totes, handbags, and all kinds of clothing and fragrances from the famed designer in a wide array of price points that should fit most budgets.

      Watches are the most popular form of jewelry. Little Neck’s own Armitron makes fashionable and affordable watches while Woodside-based Bulova makes higher end timepieces. G-Shock’s GBD 800 line of watches will not only tell you the time but also how many steps that you have taken during the day. It retails for $99. If you want a affordable luxury, Michele’s Deco Sport line has plenty of choices that run in the $500-$600 range.

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

      Another delightful resource for finding products from entrepreneurs is The Grommet (thegrommet.com). Among the varied items that caught my interest were the Yunmai Premium Smart Scale which not only gives your weight but also body fat and other health measurements, and Todder leather belts which use the highest quality leather, are handstitched, and are made in New England.

      Most of us can’t afford a Carrera sports car but stylish Carrera sunglasses are another story. Other high fashion sunglasses options are shades from Salvatore Ferragamo and Longchamp Paris. For those with tighter budgets, Polaroid has a huge selection of frames including classic aviators that rival Ray-Ban as does Maui Jim. If you like old school Hollywood glamor in your frames check out Big Horn (bighornHK.com) and Vuliwear (vuliwear.com)     

      Harry & David’s (harryanddavid.com) has long been a major player in the gift basket industry. Their Grand Christmas Gift Basket contains pears, fruitcake, and arguably its most famous product, Moose Munch Premium Popcorn. You can add a bottle of wine for an extra price. The company also has a subscription Fruit of the Month and Veggie of the Month club fort hose who want a healthy surprise arriving in the mail a dozen times a year.    

     Popcorn aficionados can order gift box sets from Double Good (doublegood.com).

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

    Big Spoon Roasters (bigspoonroasters.com) out of Durham, North Carolina makes nut butters, healthy snack bars, and jams from scratch and have gift sets of their various products.  

     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). If you want top quality chocolate products that come in all kinds of gift packaging then try MarieBelle (mariebelle.com).      If kosher candy is a consideration log onto tobitobin.com. Tobi Tobin is a younger version of Martha Stewart as she also makes fragrances and candles and she’ll undoubtedly expand into other lifestyle products.

      A non-chocolate guilty pleasure is Amy’s Wicked Whoopie Pies from Maine (wickedwhoopies.com).

      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.

     It is easy to find quality American wine at bargain prices that rival undrinkable (in my opinion) budget brands as Barefoot and Yellowtail. Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon and Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi Chardonnay should please red and white fans both aesthetically and in their wallets as it retails for $8.

    Rock guitarist Dave Matthews started Dreaming Tree Wines a few years ago. It was easy to dismiss Matthews as yet another celebrity who dabbles in the world of vino but his wines have won serious competitions. In addition, Dreaming Tree contributes a portion of all proceeds to environmental conservation organizations. Befitting of a company with an owner who is a well-known musician, Dreaming Tree has put out a gift set that includes a bottle of its Crush Red Blend with a wine cork that doubles as a bluetooth speaker. 

    Joseph Carr, the founder of Josh Cellars, may not be a celebrity vintner but his Lake County, California vineyard produces terrific Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot.   

    Fans of harder liquor will enjoy imbibing on Dewar’s 25 (Dewar’s 12 is also available for those wanting a less expensive taste of the brand), Buchanan’s 18 Year-Old Special Reserve, Oban 14 Year Old, Talisker 14 Year-Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky, The Glerothes Whisky Makers Cut, 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 Redbreast 12 Year-Old, Craigllachie 17, Aberfeldy 16, Grant’s Family Reserve, Glenlivet Founders Reserve, Chivas Regal Ultis, Chivas Mizunara (think whiskey with added Japanese spices), Aberlour A’bunadh Batch No. 54. Johnnie Walker is arguably the best-known brand in the world of scotch whisky. Last year Johnnie Walker introduced its White Label to go with its Red, Black, and Blue Label scotches. This year Johnnie Walker has an even ritzier version of its high-end Blue Label with a Ghost & Rare Glenbury Royal Edition that retails for $350. Sip it with care!

      For rums, you can’t go wrong with Bacardi, Captain Morgan, or Brugal 1888. Tequila aficionados will enjoy 2019 Limited Edition Patron Silver Tequila 1-Liter (which comes in a very decorative bottle), Patron Estate Release, Tequila Don Julio Reposado Double Cask Lagavulin Edition, Jose Cuervo, Altos Anejo or any of the three choices from Cazadores: Blanco, Reposado, Anejo, and Astral which hired actor Jonathan Goldsmith,“the world’s most interesting man” in those fun Dos Equis beer ads, for their TV and print ads. NBA legend Michael Jordan has entered the tequila market with his Cincoro brand.

     Gin aficionados will enjoy Beefeater, Hendrick’s and Tanqueray No. 10. 

     Vodkas tend to be pedestrian spirits in my opinion but Belvedere is dressing things up with its Luminous Silver Sabre Bespoke Edition. It’s a needless mouthful but it is smooth sleek metallic bottle with lighting at the bottom that illuminates. The bottle can be engraved. There’s a reason why Belvedere calls itself “super premium vodka.”  

     Aperitifs 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 Espresso Creme Cream or Kahlua original Coffee Liqueur It should be noted that Bailey’s has come up with special decorative bottles for the season.

    Sparkling liquors are always popular for New Year’s Eve parties. A bottle of Maschio Extra Dry Prosecco retails for around $14. If you want to splurge, Meiomi Coastal California Wines is debuting a sparkling wine for $27.

     Staying hydrated is important for health. SodaStream’s Fizzi transforms tap water into seltzer. SodaStream also sells fruit flavor drops for those who prefer their seltzer to not be as bland.

      Woodside native Jim McCann is the founder and CEO of the most successful floral retailer in the world, 1800-FLOWERS. This year the company is promoting a Night Before Christmas  Holiday Flower Tree which is an arrangement of roses and white carnations that is sculpted to resemble a small Christmas tree as the name indicates. There are many other floral options such as the Dancing Through the Snow Sleigh bouquet at 1800Flowers.com.

     Decorative scented candles have become a popular domestic item. Chesapeake Bay Candle and Yankee Candle both have a wide array of jar and pillar candles that will freshen up any room.

      Hopefully you won’t need candles for emergency such as a blackout but one should always be prepared. Maglite’s ML3000L sturdy and long flashlight provides well over 400 hours of light with just four “D” batteries. You can also consider keeping it in your car in case of a roadside breakdown at night.

       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.

      New York Sports Tours (newyorksports.tours) is the Gray Line of the Big Apple for sports fans. It began operations this year and it transports guests on a small chartered bus to various historic locales that have had a great impact in sports history. After the tour concludes guests can enjoy a dinner at Keen’s Steakhouse, which itself possesses a ton of sports memorabilia while chatting with a sports celebrity such as former Yankees outfielder Mickey Rivers, sportscaster and Douglaston native Mary Carillo, and former New York Cosmos goalie Shep Messing.

     Happy holidays!

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