Product Reviews: The Luxe List: Holiday Gift Picks 2016
With statistics revealing that nearly half of Americans are planning to use a digital device (desktop, laptop, smartphone or tablet) as a primary means of purchasing holiday gifts versus just over 33-percent of folks planning to beat the streets and shop in-store, digital mobile consumerism has clearly come of age. I myself am indelibly on the hunt for great gifts and gets that can be bought online with all of the comfort and convenience that affords. Given the National Retail Federation finding that personal holiday spending this season will reach the second highest in the 13-year history of its consumer survey, it seems cyberspace will be one busy place this year.
In the spirit of easing and expediting your efforts, here are this year’s holiday gift picks in the tech, style, wellness, foodie, sport, self-care, beauty and kids categories that can all be purchased lickety-split via a viable Internet connection.
***** TECH *****
VocoPro TabletOke (www.BestBuy.com)
Having a summer soirée? Getting together for family game night? Do you just looove to sing? How about karaoke to add even more fun into the mix! VocoPro makes that easy with the TabletOke—a digital karaoke mixer with two digital wireless microphones and a built-in Bluetooth music receiver that’ll turn a smartphone, tablet or laptop into a fully functioning karaoke machine! All you need is a sound system or portable powered speaker with an 1/8″ audio input to connect to the TabletOke and you have the setup for a great karaoke party. You can connect to the TabletOke via Bluetooth with any compatible device that connects with the included 1/8″ to 1/8″ cable. Search for thousands of songs on the Internet, or use any of the many karaoke apps available on either the iTunes store or marketplace for Android users.
BIT by Polk Boom Wearable Bluetooth Speaker (www.PolkBoom.com)
BIT by Polk BOOM is a wearable Bluetooth speaker that can be securely clipped anywhere on the body (such as attached to a t-shirt, backpack, pocket, and such) to create your own bubble of sound while out and about. Not only is this speaker sweat, dirt and shock-proof, but the BIT also allows cyclists, hikers and runners to keep listening to their favorite music without hindering their ability to hear cars, approaching cyclists and other potential outside dangers. The BIT on-the-go speaker also boasts a built-in speakerphone and a three-hour battery life.
Jabra ‘Freeway’ In-Car Speakerphone (www.Jabra.com)
The Jabra Freeway is the most advanced in-car speakerphone that delivers clear, noise-free calls and powerful music performance with 3-speaker Virtual Surround Sound. One of the first in-car speakerphones to have 3 speakers coupled with Virtual Surround Sound. Sound so clear, you’ll think you’re talking to a passenger in the car. Also great for playing your favorite music. Prefer your car’s sound system? Just use the FM transmitter to send music and calls directly to your car radio. You will be ready for those long road trips with up to 14 hours of talk time and 40 days standby time. The Jabra Freeway turns itself on and off automatically using the built-in motion sensor. Start the car, and your Jabra Freeway is ready to use so that you can stay fully focused on the road. Once you’ve left the car, it turns off to save battery.
Caseology Fashion Phone Cases (www.CaseologyCases.com)
Caseology phone cases are stylish “tech-cessories” designed to protect your phone while also complementing your unique style. Reportedly one of the best-selling cases on Amazon, Caseology combines modern aesthetics and premium materials to offer phone cases that are high-quality, slim and protective. Cases are available in on-trend colorways such as rose gold, matte black and turquoise, with designs often paired with distinctive features like leather detailing, geometric patterns and translucent backings. They don’t just look good, they also protect your phone, of course, thanks to shock absorbent TPU and polycarbonate bumpers. Raised edges around the camera, ports and front display screen also help keep phones safe from drops and scratches. Caseology cases are available for iPhones 4s to 7 Plus models, Google Pixel, Samsung Galaxy and Galaxy Note models, as well as select LG and Motorola models.
Mai Couture Beauty Phone Charger (www.MaiCouture.com)
The all new Mai Couture Beauty Phone Charger not only provides a reliable and portable charging system for cell phones and other devices, it also contains both a LED-illuminated mirror and a 5x magnifying mirror—perfect for on-the-go hair and makeup spot checks. Whether you need to amp up your look or charge up your phone, this lovely little gadget—that is compatible with iPhone, Android and other smart devices—will help get you through the day and those nights out on the town. What’s more, this portable LED light source comes in super handy when you’re inspired to take a selfie in a dark or dim area. You can have instant illumination when and where you need it, never more suffering the fact that your smartphone won’t accommodate flash photography in selfie mode. The gadget is available in Glam White and Rose Gold. This is yet another example of how Mai Couture continues to revolutionize beauty for gals-on–the-go.
***** STYLE *****
ClaudiaG Handbags (www.ClaudiaGCollection.com)
Perfect for the fashionista in your life are designer handbags from ClaudiaG, which is a brand by designer Claudia Gutierrez offering beautifully handcrafted and sophisticated bags as well as versatile accessories and on-trend jewelry. ClaudiaG’s Fall Collection items are all really gorgeous and make great gifts for the style seeker. I especially love the new Willow Fringed Cross body handbag, which is highly functional and stylish–it’s great as a day to day bag or for carrying as an oversized clutch for nights out. It has the signature purple nylon interior lining, a zipper-closure, and is accented with decorative ClaudiaG Leather drops—that’s a dangling adornment that are another signature of the brand. The Nyx Clutch is another bag I really like from ClaudiaG. It’s a sophisticated design made with polished details in genuine leather and handmade silver rhinestones cover the bag, making it a real attention-getter. The purple lined interior has enough space to keep all of the essentials for a night out! My favorite of the season, though, is probably the Olivia shoulder bag. It’s made with luxurious fox fur and genuine leather is a true a show stopper. It’s a more dramatic bag that’s also accented with the signature ClaudiaG Diamond drops and purple lining, and has a variety of pockets throughout the inside. From handbags to accessories, apparel items and more, this brand has something for every fashion-forward gal.
Chamilia ‘Treasure Necklaces’ (www.Chamilia.com)
Wear a symbol of what you treasure most with the new Treasure Necklaces collection from Chamilia, a Swarovski Company. Six delicate sterling silver disc pendants complete this sweet collection, each featuring an engraved sentiment on the front—Love, Friend, Family, Mom, Sister or Daughter—and Chamilia’s iconic hummingbird logo on the back. Beautiful sterling silver, open-filigree frames are electroplated in 14 karat gold and lay freely on top of the discs, which hang from 18″ sterling silver chains with a 2″ extender. This collection is destined to be a classic and is pretty much perfect for any female in your life. It’s outstanding for holiday gift giving in a way that expresses love and a reverence for those treasured relationships in your life, all year through.
‘Picture Your Street’ Personalized Photo Art (www.PictureYourStreet.com)
Ever drive by a street sign with a name on it and want to have it? Well, now you can! Picture Your Street locates, photographs and creates artwork out of authentic U.S. street signs that feature familiar first names. Each work has a photo of an actual street sign sourced from all over America, with each name image being unique. There are more than 1,000 names to pick from, from the common to not-so-common. A handsome addition for any room, the black and white photos are double matted and framed under glass in black wood. You can pick from one photo, a double, triple, quad and quint. Picture Your Street makes a unique and personalized gift not just for the holidays, as it’s also ideal for housewarmings, new baby, weddings, birthdays and other important milestones. Create a collage representing the whole family for your wall, or decorate the man cave. With this name-based gift for adults and kids (guys and gals), you just can’t go wrong.
3DLightFX 3D Deco Lights (www.3DLightFX.com)
Perfect for everyone on your list this holiday season are the amazing 3D Deco Lights from 3DLightFX. Designs include Deadpool and BB8 from Star Wars, perfect for the man cave. They also come with a super cool crack sticker that makes it look like the light is bursting through the wall. The huge collection has other options from Marvel, Batman and much more. Kids love their Paw Patrol and My Little Pony lights! They’re battery operated and stay cool to the touch, so you can put them anywhere.
***** FOODIE *****
Aervana Electric Wine Aerator (www.aervana.com)
Here’s a gadget that’s designed to help people enjoy wine at its best in an innovative, effective and fun way. Invented by Louis J. Christen III, a consumer product inventor and wine enthusiast, this device is intended to help people enjoy wine the way winemakers envision. Five years of development and testing gave him and his team time to effectively craft a superior way to aerate wine in seconds. The Aervana uses a patented, advanced process that provides proper aeration with half the effort. It’s the only wine aerator designed to keep wine sediment in the bottom of the bottle and not in your glass. It also helps reduce tannins, acidity and sulfides and pours a perfect amount of aerated wine with each and every glass. With it, you can say goodbye to messy decanters or aerating time delays. The gadget boasts a sophisticated, sleek modern design, food safe materials and takes just seconds to use. Pouring is so easy. Just press the button for a perfect amount of aerated wine…every time. With the Aervana, there’s no lifting, aiming, holding or spilling. The technology allowing the simple push of a button for instant wine aeration can give you more freedom to enjoy wine in any environment, in any quantity, quickly and easily. Cheers!
Allen Brothers’ USDA Prime Filet Mignon and Burger of the Month Gift Boxes (www.AllenBrothers.com)
Allen Brothers’ USDA Prime Filet Mignon and Burger of the Month gift boxes make the perfect, luxurious gift for the meat-loving man in your life. An iconic, century-old purveyor of certified USDA Prime and Choice meats, seafood, ready-to-eat entrees, and decadent desserts, Allen Brothers’ legacy is built on its commitment to providing only the highest-quality products, hand-selecting each cut of meat and aging it to perfection. A staple of top chefs, restaurants, and hotels across the country, brand loyalists include Nobu Matsuhisa, Mario Batali, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and David Burke, and the Four Seasons. Each Prime filet is slowly wet-aged for buttery tenderness and delectable taste. Trimmed of all exterior fat, the filets are beautifully- marbled to deliver full flavor. The Burger of the Month service boasts a shipment of their special blend burgers every month, for customers to grill and customize to taste. Burger varieties include Wagyu, Elk, Triple Beef Blend, and more. Allen Brothers’ sole focus is to ensure that the world’s finest beef and other foods are enjoyed by all.
PRIME by Chicago Cutlery Block Sets (www.ChicagoCutlery.com)
These PRIME by Chicago Cutlery knives are the perfect blend of form and function to help you effortlessly prepare for your soirées all year through. Redesigned from tip to grip, this collection features an ergonomic handle with a Responsive Touch Technology grip, so the knives conform to the user’s hand, giving you remarkable control and making it comfortable to chop tons of veggies, meat and poultry for your apps and entrées. The company’s 5 Piece Magnetic Block Set is perfect for the culinary entertainer, showcasing a sleek black finish and contemporary curves while protecting your knives without hiding their beauty. This set includes an 8-inch Chef knife, 5-inch Partoku knife, 4-inch Paring knife, 8-inch Bread knife and one magnetic block with extra slots for you to add knives you may already have for easy access. Their other Digital Tablet Holder Block design is perfect for the novice cook as its slanted face and angled steel lip provides a great resting place for digital tablets, recipe books, how-to videos and notes. You can slice, dice, chop and mince without getting your technology messy! This block does not come with knives, but has seven empty slots for you to add some of your own.
Three Bridges Creamy Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese Kit (www.ThreeBridges.com)
For that foodie in your life who, like me, loves all things cheese—and convenience—here’s a truly fresh gift idea that’s also smart for those holiday food-laden soirées: Three Bridges Creamy Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese Kit. Unlike traditional boxed mac and cheese, Three Bridges Creamy Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese Kit is a simple, honest and better-for-you mac & cheese made with clean, fresh ingredients. This includes hormone-free cheese. You won’t find any powdered mystery cheese dust here! This is indulgent comfort food that it’s free of preservatives, artificial ingredients, fillers and other “bad stuff” found in conventional boxed mac & cheese. It cooks up in just three minutes. Just add a 1/2 cup of milk over stove top and stir. No microwave or colander required! It’s never frozen, always ready-to-go in the fridge, also making it very easy for older kids to make for themselves. Gift a supply of this sumptuous dish, serve it as a side to a holiday feast or include it on that party buffet table. Find this item at Super Target stores nationwide.
***** WELLNESS & SPORTS *****
The Level Balance Board (www.FluidStance.com)
Your body is designed to move, but it’s likely your workspace is not. With the rise in use of standing desks, FluidStance has created the Level. This award-winning, beautifully engineered balance board that creates a subtle instability underfoot and increases your range of motion and heart rate while you work. It also fires up your core muscles and is really fun to use, kind of like surfing at your desk! It keeps you moving and adds motion to your day, but not so much that it distracts you. Indeed, you can multitask while onboard, and the mind-body connection actually helps increase productivity. From your standing desk to the conference room to the living room, The Level provides a shift where you need it most—physically, emotionally and intellectually. The Level is an exceptionally-designed tool that brings motion to any common work or meeting area.
A durable, cushioned seat and articulating pedestal, the VARIChair is designed to engage your leg, back and core muscles giving you the freedom to move throughout your day—and also promote good posture. The VARIChair’s Air-lift piston also raises the seat up allowing you to lean comfortably and the low back design encourages good posture and a weighted base so it stays put while you do the moving. Like other VARIDESK products, the VARIChair comes fully assembled, so simply remove it from the box and you’re ready to go. This chair provices dynamic range of movement both sitting and standing.
Skechers Men’s Performance ‘GOtrail Ultra 3’ Performance & ‘On the Go’ Sneakers (www.Skechers.com)
Discover new ground in more comfort than ever before with the Skechers GOtrail Ultra 3 running shoe. Ultra lightweight upper, next generation Resalyte cushioning system and aggressive traction system combine for an all-terrain running experience like no other. It also features GOdri all weather protection, helping result in a water-resistant running shoe. The marathon caliber thick cushioned midsole provides tremendous support as the well-ventilated design keeps feet cool. These shoes are designed with the athlete in mind, featuring maximum comfort, technology and performance. Another Skechers sneaker that’ll amp up your style and comfort is the On the GO design. This raise style combines performance and fashion. It’s a smooth leather upper lace up that’s a casual comfortable walking sneaker, providing extreme flexibility thanks to responsive materials, including Goga Mat Pillar technology. It’s a fab addition to a guy’s wardrobe!
PADI eLearning SCUBA Certification Gift Certificate (www.Padi.com)
Many love experiential gifts and a PADI eLearning Gift Pass is certainly a great option! PADI eLearning grants access to the first step to scuba certification whenever and wherever you are, and at your own pace, through an interactive computer-based program. Whether you want to learn to scuba dive or are already a scuba diver who is looking for a flexible way to fit another dive course into your busy schedule, PADI’s online scuba programs are a fantastic way to go. Once the first step is completed online, learning to actually dive can then be easily accomplished in three simple phases at any PADI Dive Center or Resort. With over 6,300 dive centers and resorts located around the world, certification with PADI (The Professional Association of Diving Instructors) grants access to a lifetime of travel, exploration and extraordinary memories. PADI Divers carry the most respected and sought after scuba diving credentials in the world, and the company has 136,000 professionals worldwide dedicated to introducing new divers to the thrill of scuba diving and enhancing the skills of experienced divers.
***** SELF-CARE & BEAUTY *****
Atelocollagen Skincare & Pure Gold Mask with Native Fish Collagen (www.NaturelCollagen.com)
Indulge yourself with these breakthrough products from Naturel Collagen. Great for gifting the gift of gold, the Pure Gold Mask with Native Fish Collagen (a set of 3 Masks) is a revolutionary new product she’s sure to love. Gold particles in the mask’s liquid rejuvenate the skin, and are supported by the intensive, regenerating activity of hydrated fish collagen and elastin. The mask also contains moisturizing vitamin B3, rejuvenating vitamin E, soothing Aloe Vera and hyaluronic acid—the “poster child” of plump skin. Another super effective skincare option is Atelocollagen. This deeply penetrating, low-molecular tropocollagen, atelocollagen and procollagen combination targets deficiencies in mature skin by turbo boosting collagen stimulation. Small protein aggregates in the collagen complex increase absorbability, while pepsin ensures medicinal purity. Sericin gives this fish-derived, triple helix gel its velvety finish, while rose oil soothes and heals.
***** KIDS *****
“Healthy” Headphones by Puro Sound Labs (www.PuroSound.com)
How loud is too loud? Did you know that one in five teenagers and adults suffer from some type of hearing loss? Sound is measured in decibels and, at 85 dB and above, long or repeated exposure can cause hearing loss, which is 100% preventable! Because people are being exposed at a younger age with the increased use of electronics, noise-induced hearing loss has reportedly increased 31% since the 90’s. “Healthy” Headphones by Puro Sound Labs are unlike anything else on the market and a great choice for parents who are concerned about hearing health but want to give their children a product that they will actually want to use. Puro’s BT2200 headphones approach to safe listening is unique. It starts with a simple formula. First, block out 82% of the background noise comparable to some of best active noise cancelling headphones on the market. Second, limit volume to 85 dB. This is the maximum safe listening level as recommended by audiologists. And third, studio grade audio quality with Pura’s patent-pending Balanced Response curve. These headphones deliver studio grade audio, engineered to deliver an amazing listening experience all within 85 decibel volume limit. This is why the headphones are safer than anything else on the market. Protect your kid’s hearing now, so they can enjoy it later.
Kidpik Curated Children’s Apparel Service (www.Kidpik.com)
Children’s preferences in clothing have evolved over the decades as has the shopping and delivery system. A new company in the children’s apparel space that’s thinking “inside” the subscription box is Kidpik. This custom-curated fashion box contains head-to-toe looks for girls ages 3-12. By combining convenience with the luxury of personal styling, Kidpik takes the difficulty, time and guesswork out of shopping for the girls in your life. Kidpik offers a super convenient, expert-based way to shop for your daughter by offering a personal stylist to help pick out clothes, accessories and shoes. Each box contains six to seven high quality items designed to mix-and-match to complete two or more outfits. All you need to do is go on www.Kidpik.com and fill out a style profile for personalized fashionable outfits delivered directly to the door!
Orianne Collins Children’s Jewelry (www.OrianneCollins.com)
Those looking for an extra-special keepsake for babies and children will be endeared by the adorable Children’s Jewelry line created by Orianne Collins Mejjati, third wife of pop-star Phil Collins. Her children’s jewelry features many whimsical, funky and original designs that’ll amuse and delight kids of all ages. I especially love the guardian little angel necklaces, available in yellow, white and pink golds, that feature white mother of pearl on the pendant portion with the angel. Too cute and very tasteful–a very lovely heirloom piece to gift a new (or soon-to-be) baby. The company’s glitter line is also adorable, with pendants that include pendants like a diamond-adorned bulldog, chihuahua, headphones and sunglasses. This designer’s pieces can be on the higher end price-wise, but if you’re looking for something special designed just for kids this is a fabulous option.
The Tillow Towel/Pillow Combo (www.TheTillow.com)
Here’s a great item for teens, tweens and anyone who love to spend time at the pool or beach. It’s called The Tillow – that’s short for towel and pillow because it’s a combination of both—but so much more. First, it’s a large and super-plush beach towel with a removable orthopedic foam pillow to provide ultimate comfort and relaxation. But, it also has a touchscreen pocket for a smartphone so you can listen to music and send messages without risk of damage to the device, and a camouflaged water-resistant storage space keeps your belongings safe from sand, water, and thieves! It also comes with a removable lounge chair belt that doubles as a carrying strap! It’s a great all-in-one product gift for all beach, pool and park goers.
Bluebee Pals Bluetooth Interactive Plush Toys (www.BluebeePals.com) – $64.99
Bluebee Pals are Bluetooth-enabled interactive and lovable plush companions that sing, read and even answer phone calls thanks to on-board lip synch technology. Designed with the intent of bringing back the plush buddy, Laura Jiencke, president of Kayle Concepts had an idea of combining traditional plush toy designs with state-of-the-art tech. The concept of an educational “huggable” plush learning companion that could be combined with a wide range of online digital content would provide children with a great source of entertainment while assisting in educating and helping to develop communication skills. The innovative lip synchronization technology Bluebee employs allows the toy’s mouth to move while you’re reading storybooks, engaging in learning apps, singing songs and much more. The award-winning Bluebee Pals will enhance a child’s learning journey in a variety of ways. They can stream any song, story app (in any language) and educational software and activities—all capture and retain a child’s attention all while promoting fun interaction. Bluebee Pals wide range of app compatibility introduce an exciting communication device that fosters educational opportunities for all children.
Magic School Bus Science Kits (Retail and By Mail Subscription) (www.TheYoungScientistClub.com)
Fans of The Magic School Bus television and book series will fondly recognize Ms. Frizzle and her students Ralphie, Keesha, Phoebe and Arnold. She encourages elementary school-aged students to buckle their seat belts and take a wild ride to learn something new. The bus transforms into a science lab and journeys inside the Human Body or out to Space with these two new lab kits. The Human Body Lab will mesmerize kids as they make a lung model, measure a pulse and even dilate a pupil. A highlight is the large plastic human body skeleton to put together, label and then proudly display. With the Space Lab Young Scientists will navigate the sky by learning to locate a constellation, make a solar system mobile, create a night-vision flashlight and a specialized astronomical device called the Star Pilot to locate constellations—both in the kit and in the night sky. Families can get a new Magic School Bus science kit in the mail every month with the subscription series.
FlipaZoo Pillow/Plush Toy Hybrid (www.FlipaZoo.com)
FlipaZoo, from Jay at Play, is a super-sweet and cuddly-soft collection of plush characters with each doubling as a pillow for naptime, playtime and family travel. The adorable new FlipaZoo line features more than twelve standout FlipaZoo characters that magically transform from one animal to another, and then easily flip back again. With the new line’s patented one-of-a-kind “easy flip” designs, little ones can simply hold their favorite two-sided FlipaZoo friend, “flip” its soft back, and instantly reveal a totally new FlipaZoo! There are a variety of characters available: Giraffe/Hippo, Cat/Mouse, Unicorn/Dragon, Elephant/Tiger, and Husky Dog/Polar Bear.
‘Lily the Fancipoo’ and “Piper Was Afraid” Story Books (www.Amazon.com)
Little girls, and those young at heart or fond of Maltese puppies, will fall in love with Lily the Fancipoo—the newest book by Pawz Publishing. It is a beautiful hardcover title for kids ages 5-7 with gorgeous illustrations and a wonderful message that “love” is what matters most! The book comes with an absolutely adorable Maltese plush toy, a plush mouse named Lottie who follows Lily throughout the story, complete with an adoption certificate! Lily’s hair is perfect for adding barrettes just like in the book. Another Pawz title, “Piper was Afraid,” is the first book in a series of seven by author and Illustrator Rebekah Phillips. This beautifully illustrated hardcover book teaches children to be brave…especially at bed time! The book is intended for children ages 3-5, who will have lots of fun getting louder and LOUDER as the words get larger and LARGER! The book set comes with an adorable plush Piper toy complete with his bowtie and, yes, an adoption certificate. The set also includes Cornelius the mouse who is a hidden character on each page throughout the book. Children will have fun looking for Cornelius as he hunts for his cheese throughout the story.
Pure Kidz Protein Power (www.NBPure.com)
Pure Kidz Protein Powder is a great source of protein for children (or anyone) who would benefit from supplementing additional protein into their diet. Formulated with the active child in mind, protein is an important part of muscle building and post sports and athletics recovery. Of course, it’s also an integral part in a child’s nutrition-based growth and development. Because Pure Kidz Protein Powder is designed for children, of course it must taste good…and it does! This great-tasting vanilla powder mixes easily and can be added to any of your child’s favorite foods like pancakes, muffins, chocolate milk and cereal. Of course, use it to make super tasty fruit smoothies for protein-powered nutrition on-the-go. It’s great for those kids who often skip breakfast. Created by NB Pure—a company that believes wellness is a life-long marathon that ought to be started as soon as possible. When it comes to the little ones you love most, give them the vitamins, nutrients and care they need to set a foundation of health and wellness for a lifetime.
“The Luxe List” Executive Editor Merilee Kern scours the luxury marketplace for exemplary travel experiences, extraordinary events, and notable products and services. Submissions are accepted at www.TheLuxeList.com. Follow her on Twitter here: www.Twitter.com/LuxeListEditor and Facebook here: www.Facebook.com/TheLuxeList.
***Some or all of the accommodations(s), experience(s), item(s) and/or service(s) detailed above were provided and/or sponsored to accommodate this review, but all opinions expressed are entirely those of Merilee Kern and have not been influenced in any way.***