Christmas is almost here and you have NO IDEA what to get. No fear, you can do it. I’m here to help. Enclosed in my gift guide are all kinds of neat, practical, and fun gift ideas. Keep your eyes open for my *Stocking Stuffer Alerts* Take my list, check it twice and get shopping!
Lexus RX 450h
A few months ago, I had the awesome opportunity to test drive the 2010 Lexus RX 450h for a week. At the end of the week, I seriously thought about hiding the car in my neighbor’s garage, I so did not want to give it back. If you were to ask me now what my next car would be, I’d say the RX 450h. It is a cross between my beloved BMW sedan and my necessary Toyota Sienna Minivan. With room for 5 and decent cargo space, I can totally see this as the car for the next phase of family life. The car is a luxury SUV that rides like a sedan, hugging the curves and handling like a sports car. At this point, you are probably wondering what the “h” stands for in Lexus RX 450h, right? It stands for hybrid. With an EPA estimated mileage of 28 City/27 highway, that’s pretty good considering the 3.5-liter V6 engine and 295 horsepower. I loved the navigation system that included up-to-the-minute traffic. We took a road trip to Palm Springs and found the traffic updates to be very accurate. The car comes with a “Remote Touch” controller in the center console that is basically a joystick that lets you maneuver through the onscreen system really easily. Although I love cars, it’s not like I’m a total gear-head genius. I ALWAYS read my owner’s manual. The funny thing was that the owner’s manual actually hadn’t been written yet when I test-drove the RX 450h! I must say, I didn’t suffer for not having it. Everything is driver friendly and intuitive. It fit Chip and Lulu comfortably in their car seats in the back seat, there was plenty of cargo room for a stroller and all our gear for a weekend in Palm Springs. I had the car for a week in which I did my normal activities and the trip to Palm Springs and back and I only used one tank of gas. Make my Christmas, and buy me one, please? The Lexus RX 450h comes with a base MSRP of $42,000, Lexus.com
When my friend Tawna excitedly told me about Dynamic Frames, I listened. After I got done listening, I checked the frames out for myself and they really are such a great idea. Dynamic Frames “look like a frame and store like an album. In other words, they serve a dual purpose of displaying your photographs and children’s artwork as well as storing them! Here’s how it works, you hang one of the frames on your wall. Your kid comes home and shows you their latest creation. You pop open the “swing front door” of the frame (leaving the frame on the wall) and place the picture in the space, then you close the door. It’s so easy and a brilliant idea. But, it gets better. The next day, your kid comes home with ANOTHER picture. So what do you do? Repeat all the steps above, but you actually leave the “old” picture in the frame and place the new one on top of it. It’s a spring-loaded storage system built into the frame. The frames are slim and look exactly like a regular picture frame and some of the models include mats. There are different frames for different needs, including: Li’l DaVinci for children’s artwork and Print-n-Frame which allows you to instantly frame your 8 1/2 x 11 images directly from your printer. When you check out the Dynamic Frames site you can see that they even have frame solutions for scrapbooking. One of the features I really like is that you can hang the same frames horizontally or vertically depending on the artwork contained or the space in which you are hanging the frame. You can group several frames together to create your own ever changing collage. As you cruise through the Dynamic Frames site, I guarantee you the ideas will become endless. The slogan at Dynamic Frames is “life changes, shouldn’t your pictures?” and I couldn’t agree more. Ranging in price from $24-$64, these frames are the perfect gift for anyone, because, who can’t use a frame? Dynamic Frames has kindly offered a discount to my readers. Enter code: TRYFRAME at check out to receive 10% off your total order.
I discovered The Shoul (pronounced like “shoulder” minus the “der”) while attending the California Women’s Conference this past October. I was strolling the expo area when I happened upon two nice ladies sporting shawl-wrap-scarf-ish items. I was intrigued and began to speak with the founder who told me she invented The Shoul for travel. I tried a red one on and was hooked. It instantly transformed my outfit. I proceeded to wear my new shoul for the rest of the conference and became even more hooked. You can throw it on so easily and it warms you right up. Made of acrylic (they also sell a cashmere blend), the shoul looks sharp and high end with a nice richness of color. The acrylic fabric is lightweight, easy to wash and maintains a nice finish without pilling or snagging. What I really like about the shoul is that it is so compact and lightweight that it fits in my purse and I can whip it out and put it on and it doesn’t look like it was jammed into my purse. The design of the shoul is such that it stays on your shoulders easily without any fussing or shifting. It also is a one size fits all and is a flattering look for all body types. Did you hear me? One size fits all and universally flattering! Did I just find you the perfect gift for everyone on your list or what? To add to that, I gave a black one to my oh-so-hip and trendy architect friend, Katie, for her birthday last month. She loved it and said she was wearing it for some important meetings she had the next week. I also gave a black one to my Swedish mother-in-law the day she flew in from Stockholm last month (early Christmas present, because I wanted her to have it to wear sooner!) and she really likes it, too. I can’t wait to get one in camel for myself next. What more can I say? Stylish, convenient, versatile, perfect for travel and only $42. Order Shouls for every female on your list and relax for the however-many-days-left-until-Christmas. Available online at TheShoul.com
As a crazy, overworked mom with two babies, I rarely get the chance to wear jewelry. If I do get the chance, I want it to be baby friendly and non-fussy. Dillon Rogers has some really great items that are hip, practical and easy to wear. I actually found out about Dillon Rogers when I won a gift certificate from them. Celebrities love Dillon Rogers, if you’ve read a fashion magazine over the past couple of years, no doubt you have seen a picture of someone wearing a Dillon Rogers original. The personalized leather bracelets have been their top sellers. I, however, am smitten by their personalized disc name necklaces. They are a really stylish and interesting way to wear your kid’s names, or any names or words you want. I have a silver 18” necklace with two discs with Chip and Lulu’s names engraved and I love it. I also own a medium personalized leather bracelet in brown with Chip and Lulu’s names on it. Something I love about the whole idea of having your kid’s names on jewelry is that it makes me stop and think in the middle of my typically crazy day and really focus on what’s important to me. Really a blessing. The next thing I want to get is a metal ID message bracelet that says “Lucky”, because I’m all about luck. Dillon Rogers has so many swell gift ideas from belts to cuffs to key rings, all with options to personalize, there is no doubt you will be able to knock a few gifts off your list with an order on their site. To make that order a little sweeter, Dillon Rogers has provided my dear readers a discount code: SIMPLE, when entered at checkout will give you a 15% discount off your total order and is valid until 12/30/09 at DillonRogers.com
Words to Sweat By *Stocking Stuffer Alert*
Maybe I’m getting a little personal, but, I gotta tell you, when I work out, I sweat. And I mean sweat, as in drenched. No way I can just go “straight to brunch with friends” after a workout. I need to towel off and hit the shower. I’m all about sweating, inspiration and personal messages and Words to Sweat By is all about all that. Their catchphrase is “Workout Towels with Attitude” and with sayings like “whatever you do, don’t hold your breath” and “10 more reps and that cupcake is history” printed on your towel, they get you through your workout with humor. When you are on the stairmaster and your legs are screaming, all you really can do is laugh or cry and I choose the former. In addition to the “humorous” towels, they also have “motivational” ones with sayings like “Strength. Compassion. Peace.” At just $8, Words to Sweat By workout towels can fit into anyone’s holiday budget and into anyone’s Christmas stocking. Words to Sweat By is offering my readers a special promotion: Buy 3 towels, get one free. Just leave a “message to seller” at checkout specifying which towel you would like.
Every year I come screeching up to Thanksgiving with the idea in the back of my mind, that I need to get my photo Christmas photo cards ordered. I usually just take the easy route and order some cookie cutter design from my local bargain warehouse. This year, November was crazy and I really pushed the envelope (pun intended) and didn’t get my order in until December 1st. I had my cards in 3 days from Paperspring and they look really unique. It was easy to upload my photos and try different combos out. I really like photo cards that allow me to have more than one photo and Paperspring offers several options, I went with “Snow Stars: Spruce” and designed it with one photo of Chip, one of Lulu and one of them together. It’s really cute. If I say so myself. Another cool thing about the ordering process is that you get the option to order just a few more envelopes. I ordered 5 extra because, I always screw up about five envelopes each year and get all stressed out about not having extra envelopes. Brilliant and simple that Paperspring has this option. They also have other types of holiday card choices, including DNA which stands for Digital Name Art and you just have to see it to understand. They also have all your typical stationery store type invitations and announcements all in their unique designs. While I was ordering my Christmas photo cards, I also ordered some of my family photos on their StickyStock. StickyStock is like a post-it note, but it’s not at all sticky, you can literally put it on a wall or fridge without any adhesive. The ordering process for the StickyStock is not ideal at the moment. It’s difficult to go back and actually see what you’ve ordered and I was forced to fly a bit blind. However, I’ve spoken with the folks at Paperspring and they have let me know that they are rolling out a new order process in early 2010. They provided really good customer service and were easy to get on the phone, which is important to me. I’m really pleased with the StickyStock pictures and would order them again. You can view a video demo of StickyStock in action at Paperspring.com. For those of you who procrastinate like me, they are currently offering site wide complimentary free shipping. Simply select 2-day shipping at checkout and it will be free. So, yes, Virginia, there really is time to get your Christmas cards out!
I’ve been a fan of simplehuman ever since I spotted their Grocery Bag Holder in a store several years ago. When I met one of the reps from simplehuman, I was really interested to hear about their wide variety of shower caddies. The shower setup in one of my bathrooms is quite strange. A simple hang-over-the-shower-neck caddy doesn’t really work. After discussing my needs, we settled upon the Tension Shower Caddy which retails for $119.99. I must say, that as long as you have a floor, a ceiling and a corner, there is no way this caddy won’t work for you. In fact, it will even work if you have a bathtub/shower combo as you can just put it in the rim corner. The tension shower caddy is height adjustable and comes with three vertically sliding shelves so you can customize their position to fit your stuff and needs. I have some tall bottles and it’s nice to set a height that works for them. Chip and Lulu have started taking showers a bit, they might jump in with me or I’ll put them both in and do a quick hose off after the beach or something. I have a shelf adjusted to “toddler height” so they can get their products on their own. Who would’ve thought of that feature without actually trying it out? Ha! Adjusting the position of the shelves is easy: simply flip up the small tab and slide the shelves up or down. Flip the tab back down to lock the shelves in their new position. The caddy also has two hooks for hanging items like mesh sponges. There is a swing arm double hanger that can hold facecloths or small towels. Other features include a built-in soap dish and razor holder. It’s also really easy to install, no tools needed. I’ve seen these at Bed, Bath & Beyond as well as The Container Store and of course, simplehuman.com
There seems to be no end to the items you can put your family’s photos on. When the PR guy from Hallmark e-mailed me and asked if I’d like to take their new Personalized Party Plates for a spin, I had to chuckle. It’s either funny, cute or egotistical, right? I mean, here’s a slice of cake and you can look at my face as you eat it! But, since I have two little kids and lots of parties, I was game to try it. You can order the Personalized Party Plates in packs of 10 for $10. To be sure, $1 per paper party plate is not inexpensive, but, they are personalized and made to order, so there’s that. The ordering process was fairly easy, you choose the plate you want, you can then choose to add a photo or text or both. The only bump I encountered was using the photo editor to move the image within the specified image range on the plate. I found that the up, down, left and right arrows didn’t “respond” initially. In fact, I found that I had to click in one direction and then go back to click the direction I wanted in the first place. So, my advice is to keep at it if you can’t seem to move your image at first. It took me designing a couple of plates before I figured this out. I then easily went back and fixed the plates to my satisfaction. I tried 5 of my kid’s photos in 4 different plate designs: Cowgirl, Green Camouflage, Cinderella Dreamland and Mickey Clubhouse. You can also name each of your plate designs and have the name printed on the back of the plate. I had an interesting thing happen after I placed my order for the 5 sets of 10 plates. I received an e-mail saying that they made an error and did not include the names I had selected on the back of the plate in my original order. They went on to say they were re-doing the order and sending that out. So, I received my first order (without the names on back) and then the next day received the second, corrected order. Honestly, it wasn’t a big deal and really a minor detail, but since they do offer the naming feature, I think it was the right thing to do to send me an entire corrected order. It seems they may be working out some issues, but, I don’t see any reason not to order. Their customer service seems to be very good. The end product is what I would consider a sturdy, high quality paper plate. I’m happy with them and would definitely use them for my parties. The plate also has a glossy coating which adds to the durability. Regarding size: they state that the plate is a 9” dinner plate. I measured the ones I received and the width at the widest point is just over 8.5” with 7” of usable plate surface. Looking at the plate, I would say it’s more dessert size or appetizer size. Colorful holiday motifs are available for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. In addition, more than 250 plate designs including birthday, wedding, graduation, pet birthday, baby celebration, retirement and anniversary, are all available. Now through 12/31/09 receive free shipping on party orders over $10 by entering code: party919 at checkout when you order on HallmarkParty.com.
Although there are so many new toys out on the market, I am still drawn to many of the ones I remember from when I was a kid. Mr. Potato Head seemed to be stuck in a fashion rut when I was playing with him as a child. Nowadays, he has so many variations, and a wife, the characters you can make seem endless. Two new variations to the family this year are Fryer Fighter and Captain Potato Chips (HasbroToyShop.com, $9.99). Chip loves pirates and firemen (as do most toddlers) so I particularly wanted to review those two. Fryer Fighter has the fireman’s hat and fire extinguisher and Capt. Potato Chips has the eye patch, hook and peg leg. I think the most fun is when you have a whole bunch of Mr. Potato Head parts and you can get all wacky and creative. Continuing with the pirate theme, the Nerf N-Force Marauder Long Sword (HasbroToyShop.com, $17.99), lets you be all swashbuckling without getting hurt. Chip has the one in red and although he has fun with it, I would recommend it for bigger kids as it is fairly long. The toy that probably got the most use in our house when I was growing up was the Sit-n-Spin, I can still picture the royal blue with yellow/orange decals. I can even remember what it was like spinning around so fast and seeing the 70’s decor spin by in all it’s psychedelic colors. The Sit-n-Spin of the new millenia is frankly, not as cool as when we were kids. It also makes crazy music that adds to the roar and craziness that is a house full of kids and their stuff. But, it is still a must have in my book, so I went ahead and bought one for Chip and Lulu at Target for $20 and I had a coupon for $10 off so it was a really good deal. I anticipate they will play with it more as they get a bit older. Continuing on my walk down memory lane, we come to Toss Across, except now it’s Electronic Toss Across (Mattel.com, $29.99). I’m convinced that the only difference between our parent’s parenting and ours is that we need more batteries. Basically, it’s just a glorified game of tic-tac-toe that combines eye-hand coordination. The game is fun and is something I actually like playing even has an adult. They have single and multi-player levels as well as several more games programmed in. UNO Moo! (Mattel.com, $20.00) is a fun game designed for preschoolers based on a simplified version of UNO. The object is to be the first to get rid of all your barnyard animals by matching color and figures to get your animals in the barn. Both Chip and Lulu had fun playing Uno Moo! and the game is cute and perfect for toddlers.