Holiday Gift Guide 2018: Unique Choices, Best Buys & All Out Luxury!

I am big on picking out the quirky as well as the practical around the holidays! If someone wants alpaca socks, I will get them but probably add a little special something! Luxury food items are something few people can resist and always make for great holiday host gifts or for anyone who can’t resist a treat! Health and beauty-oriented items that really work are also some of the most wanted gifts every year. Here are my top choices and I hope that they will give you some great ideas!I love Qyksonic for both its major tightening and cleansing benefits. It is the most sanitary way to cleanse your face, plain and simple–and it needs no replacement heads. You get 300 uses in one charge. Many have claimed not only severely reduced scarring and fine lines, but they have also said that they have firmed up loose skin! The Zoe model is the newest and most popular, and is usually priced at about $149. To check out the colorful Zoe and other models (including minis) for yourself, go to www.qyksonic.com.The Como Musica is a great sounding multi-room wifi music system–and this is the opinion of sound experts/press from around the world, not just casual listeners like you and me. The SpeakEasy has Google Assistant built in so you can dim your lights and ask to hear your favorite SiriusXM station in succession. You will love the way the Musica looks as well–it has a furniture grade wood veneer. It has a single slot integrated CD player that plays CDs, CDR and CD-RW (decoding MP3s and WMA files) and features internet radio which provides 30,000-plus free stations. You can connect your smart TV, too! The Musica is considered one of the finest personal audio units on the market and was personally developed by audio pioneer (and Como founder) Tom DeVesto. You can make an audiophile CD collector very happy with one of these; it’s available for purchase in black, white, hickory and walnut for $599 at www.comoaudio.com.Amazon’s Echo Show second generation is a device that really lives up to the hype! Last year everyone was so hyped to finally have a virtual assistant device with a screen and now the second generation offers so much more than the first–it looks sleeker and sounds better. On the newer model Show, the speaker is moved to the rear and the plastic bezels have been removed —the new 1280 x 800 device looks mimics the look of a flat-screen TV. When it comes to watching movies in bed or lying on the couch, you might actually prefer using the new Show to using your big screen TV. Retail price is $229; order at www.amazon.com.I fell in love with Sugar Wish’s amazing Pop Up Sweet Shoppe–featuring 18 pounds of the sweets of your choice for $250–the minute that I laid eyes on it at a holiday press preview. I thought it was the ideal setup for a holiday event, birthday party or shower. Your guests can scoop the candy–which is set up in bins like a real candy store–into plastic bags with the enclosed professional scooper. The packaging and candy are so colorful that they will immediately put a smile on you and your guests’ faces. Hey, you don’t even have to have guests to enjoy this–we won’t tell anyone if you want to eat all of the candy yourself! Sugar Wish also has awesome candy “Santa Grams” if you want to gift a smaller quantity of candy–this service lets the recipient pick out their own candies online that get boxed and then mailed out ASAP. The Sugar Wish site lets you order as little as two quarter pound bags of the candy of your choice (packaged in their famous blue box) for $18.50 but they have many gift options for the sweet tooth folks in your life. Peruse and order these crowd pleasing products at www.sugarwish.com.

Vera Bradley is one of those brands that is a super crowd pleaser and these knit owl pattern gloves and matching scarf just screamed “ideal Christmas present” when I saw them at a multi-brand holiday preview this past summer. They feel as warm as they look, just fyi! The gloves are just called Cozy Gloves on the official VB site and have tech functionality so that you won’t miss a text and they retail for $34. The scarf (called the Cozy Scarf) has unique ribbed detailing and retails for $58. Purchase at a Vera Bradley boutique or at www.verabradley.com.I adore rich coffee and I recently encountered an amazing one at the Editors Holiday Media Showcase at the Hilton Hotel in midtown. It’s called Cafe Don Pablo Signature Blend and it’s a medium-dark roast made of 100 per cent freshly harvested and roasted Arabica beans including rare ones from Brazil and Guatemala. It’s “cocoa toned” as they say in the coffee business, has a velvety finish and has very low acidity. This is a “small batch” 20-year-old family-owned coffee company and the quality is impeccable. This coffee is my top adult stocking stuffer for Holiday 2018 and I can’t start my morning without it now. Check out Cafe Don Pablo’s other great blends as well. Order a 12 ounce bag for $14.99 (two and five pound bags are also available). Larger bags are available at Walmart but be sure to visit www.cafedonpablo.com to order the 12 ounce size as well as get details on the entire line.I’ve been a longtime fan of Bond No. 9 for a few years now but have never gotten as excited about testing fragrances ever in my life until I recently set foot into their flagship store at (where else) 9 Bond Street in downtown Manhattan. I literally saw hundreds of gorgeously bottled fragrances, most named after New York neighborhoods and many in special “blinged out” limited editions for the holidays. I have been in love with the Nolita fragrance for quite a while but visiting this stunner of a store gave me about another dozen favorites. You can find Bond No. 9 at large retailers like Saks and Bloomingdale’s but I strongly recommend a visit to the flagship store to really get what this line is about. It’s independently own, run 100 per cent by women, and the store (set in the ground floor of an old factory building) is exquisitely decorated and laid out, melding an old time elegant New York look with a modern industrial look. Staff is super helpful in helping you find fragrances to your liking and suggesting what holiday gift sets are right for you and your loved ones. You get free refills each year on your scents which really sweetens the deal. Learn more about this luxurious line and its incredible history at www.bondno9.com. They’ve got some great groundbreaking items that I am not at liberty to talk about coming out for Valentine’s Day, by the way.The Wolverine 1000 Mile Original Sneaker has the same high quality leather soles of the 1000 Mile Boot but it’s lighter feeling and more casual. These are being touted as the ultimate men’s casual sneaker because while they feel light and comfy on the feet, they can “take a licking and keep on kicking” like their workhorse predecessor. Priced at $285, Wolverine gives you a lifetime guarantee–they really have an American-based factory where they do repairs at no additional cost to the consumer. The 1000 Mile Original Sneaker comes in some great shades including navy which you rarely see a sneaker in. I would call this style “utilitarian chic meets classic punk” (there is definitely some Chuck Taylor inspiration going on here). Order at www.wolverine.com.The Smoothskin Bare UltraFast IPL Hair Removal device is created for superfast hair removal via light-based technology. I was lucky enough to test one at a recent beauty event and will be using it on a regular basis in the future. I tried it on my arm and the pulsing light movement was comfortable and effective. I saw results right away. While nothing removes hair forever, the Smoothskin Bare UltraFast greatly reduces the texture of hair to being ultra fine and inhibits regrowth. With regular use, you will be seeing less and less hair coming in (as well as the hair coming in being of a finer texture as mentioned before). You can actually see hairs fall out as you use the device, so you know that it’s working. The Smoothskin Bare Superfast IPL device comes from a UK company who are pioneers in this groundbreaking technology and they have ultra-helpful customer service. According to documented research, users see a 92 per cent reduction in hair growth in just four weeks. Retail price is $229; for more info, from go to www.smoothskin.com.The Cargo Swimmables Longwear Eyeshadow Sticks are in a league of their own. The creamy formula has great pigments and is much more dramatic than other cream eyeshadows. You will like the size of the tip which lets you also use the shadow as eyeliner or brow color. The Swimmables come in sophisticated good tubes and the product is twistable, making for easy application. This formula really lasts, even through heavy sweating and chlorinated water. There is also the most stunning of eyeshadow palettes called the Namastay Blockbuster Palette with 44 creamy shadow shades that all really work with each other. They are all great everyday wear shades with a lot of brown, gold and pink in the mix. This is a great gift item not only because of the high pigments and long lasting properties of the shadows but because of the gold and red outer box which you do not really even have to wrap! Swimmables are a real bargain at $20–as is the Namastay palette at only $39! They are available at www.kohls.com, www.cargocosmetics.com or www.hsn.com.

My chocolate of choice for Christmas is always La Maison Du Chocolat and I have been munching on the adorable little holiday elf that you see on the bottom left of this photo while writing this gift guide. Since it combines both world class milk and white chocolate over a praline center created by La Maison Du Chocolat’s renowned chef Nicolas Cloiseau, it’s a big winner for me. I think it is great bang for the buck at $26 as La Maison Du Chocolat’s individual pieces are about $80 per pound (before you ask, yes it is well worth it)! The yearly Advent Calendar ($62) is always a go-to gift as nothing is as perfect as a hidden single chocolate behind a colorful paper flap to start each of the 24 days of Advent with! The packaging is always spectacular at La Maison Du Chocolat and this year there is a green box showing a whimsical brightly colored whimsical take on the North Pole. Here are some other great holiday choices–all items are available at www.maisonduchocolat.us but my favorite place to get them is at their NYC flagship store at 1018 Madison:

  • Emotion Gift Box (20 chocolates) $45
  • Truffles Gift Box (30 pieces) $64
  • Christmas Gift Box (40 pieces) $85
  • Christmas Gift Box (63 pieces) $130
  • Christmas Gift Box (93 pieces) $194
  • Christmas Treats (26 pieces) $17
  • Christmas Treats (55 pieces) $30It did not take much for me to fall in love with the Ekster Wallet! I lose my wallet about once every 12-14 months and I usually find it but the Ekster Wallet is a game changer for people like me. Developed by three innovative guys from Holland who started a Kickstarter to fund their project, the wallet has a Chipolo that lets you find it remotely. You only have to charge the Chipolo once a month, too–and believe it or not, it is solar-powered! Ekster’s products are compatible with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa meaning you can located your lost wallet with a simple voice command. As for space in this smart-looking innovative wallet, it can hold at least 12 credit/debit cards as well as at least 20 US bills. I am using the Classic Parliament in brown and loving that is only about a 1/4 inch thick! With models starting at $29, the wonderful Ekster wallet line (as well as their remarkable cardholders) are available at major department stores like Macy’s Herald Square, Selfridge’s and Dubai Mall. To learn more, go to http://bit.ly/luxelifenyc.Birchbox has set up shop in Walgreens and Duane Reades around the country for the holidays–meaning that for 10 dollars you can walk into a store and fill up a cute holiday themed Birchbox with five of your favorite deluxe travel size products. My favorite DR location (and site of the launch party for the Birchbox Walgreens collabo) is 60 Spring Street at the southeast corner of Lafayette Street in NYC. They have a tremendous amount of product to choose from as pictured above and the brands are rockin’–one of my favorite products scored at the launch party was a coconut facial cleanser from the legendary Georgette Klinger. I picked up a wonderful eye highlighter from Laura Geller that is my glitzy go to for the holidays and I am loving my Klorane dry shampoo for that “alternate day” when I do not wash my hair. The Walgreens powers-that-be tell me that Birchboxes can also be purchased at www.walgreens.com during the holiday season and we think this is going to be a blockbuster success. Ladies just love to try new beauty products and this is the most fun and economical way that I can think of doing it!LipSense is the lip color with ultimate staying power–I have noticed that mine has lasted as long as 16 hours and I am amazed every time I wear it! (In the parent company SeneGence’s literature, it is stated that Lipsense is supposed to last from 4 to 28 hours.) It has such staying power that it has to be removed with LipSense Ooops! Remover or coconut oil. For the holidays, the LipSense folks have the ultimate kit for gifting called the Winter Wonderland Collection. There are four great colors to make any lip color buff happy: Sugar Plum (shimmery mauve), Candy Cane (a vibrant pink red), Currant (a matte berry red) and Red Glitter Gloss (a ruby gloss with soft red glitter). The WW shades range from neutral to glam/flashy to meet all of your holiday moods and occasions. The collection that includes an adorable red glitter case retails for $95. The Ooops! Remover can be ordered for $10 and LipSense Gloss (which extends longevity) can be ordered for $20. Overall, LipSense offers about 50 great lip colors to choose from. To order any LipSense lip or face product, go to www.lipsense.com.

Leave it to Hammacher Schlemmer to come up with high quality innovative products that solve everyday problems (they also have a lot of products that are “pure luxury” as well). My favorite household/office item in their extensive collection of great holiday gifts for 2018 is the Robocall Blocker. There isn’t a soul on earth who likes those constant nuisance calls that always seem to come when you are sitting down to dinner or you just putting your grandchild down for a nap, LOL! These calls are especially pesky when they have those annoying robotic voices and there isn’t even a live person on the other end whom you can ask to remove from their “call list.” The Robocall Blocker has 5,000 numbers of robocallers stored in its database and takes up very little space (it’s only a few inches wide and weighs onky eight ounces). You can edit the numbers and also add in your own. It connects to your land line with a simple cable and if a number gets by them, you have a big red “block caller” button you can hit that will block these calls in the future. No home should be without this item! Best of all, Hammacher gives you a lifetime warranty on all their products meaning they will replace any product if it breaks or gets damaged, no questions asked. The Robocall Blocker is only $89.95 and is available on www.hammacher.com.

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