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November 30, 2007

Miss Katie's Moves to Aventura

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As you're holiday shopping at Aventura Mall, be sure and check out the new Miss Katie's Charm School. After several years as first a store and then a kiosk at the Galleria mall in Fort Lauderdale, the girly girl's boutique has brought its adorable merch to a much bigger space (two times larger than its previous space) and, as owner Katie Adler says, it's "packed with gorgeous new magical items for girls of all ages." (Alert: Don't miss the new shoe department!) You can also still find stuff at the website.

K.V.W.




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Holiday Gifts 2007: Tropical Ties

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If you’ve got necktie wearers on your holiday shopping list, give them some South Florida style with a tropical-themed silk tie from South Beach Ties. The three-year-old Miami-based company was started by two couples —Shawn and Evans Crews and Christian and Teresa Thornburg —and now offers 30 different designs with decidedly South Florida motifs.

Where else would you find ties featuring bikinis, manatees, stone crabs, guayaberas or palm trees? Made in Italy, the men’s ties are $65. For the committed necktie wearer, there’s even a tie of the month club: 12 ties for $550. Bow ties are $46 and a bow tie and cummerbund set is $105. Women’s scarves are $46. There are even kids ties for $48. The company will soon add belts and sandals.

(Hint: If you put Sun-Sentinel in the comments portion of the online order form, you will get free Priority shipping.)

-J.T.

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November 29, 2007

Holiday Gifts 2007: Cookies for everyone

It’s not the big Christmas gifts that get you. But every year, it’s the endless list of “oh, I really should get them SOMETHING” people. The teachers, the hostesses, the neighbors, the coaches. A crafty person would probably make something for all of them. But who has the time?

Here’s a tasty solution: Cookies by Design.

The site (and their 230 shops nationwide, including seven South Florida locations) sells handmade cookies. And not just cookies — cookie cakes, cookie bouquets, cookie houses (for the holidays, of course), cookie baskets, cookie ornaments, cookie cards and cookie pops (on a stick).

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There are the usual flavors of cookies (chocolate chip, peanut butter, oatmeal raisin) and an amazing assortment of decorated cookies (cartoon characters, snowmen, trees). You can also get customized photo cookies. And some same-day delivery is available.

After you get past those holiday gifts, Cookies by Design offers corporate gifts and wedding favors, as well.

(Note: This item comes from MCT wire service)

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November 28, 2007

Holiday Shopping 2007: Many Happy Returns

Sure we all wish that everyone will love the gifts we give them this year, but reality bites. Sometimes we do miss the mark.

We don't want to include the sales receipts in a gift, but it's a good idea to keep the receipts on file and let those on your list know that you have them in case the gift fails to please.

The folks at Consumer Reports say returning unwanted gifts may be more difficult this season because some store return policies have become stricter. Many retailers require receipts. Some are charging fees for restocking and open boxes or missing packaging.

Stores are keeping their own lists and checking them twice. Folks who have a reputation for returning, especially without a receipt, may be stuck with their gift. Some retailers including Kmart, Lowe’s, and Wal-Mart, use computer systems to monitor how often a customer returns items without a sales slip and may refuse to take the item back.

Before you buy, check the policy. Info often is available on the store’s Web site. Or you can call customer service line or visit the local store.

For more advice, see the January issue of Consumer Reports:

- C.V.S.

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Holiday Gifts 2007: Ending Wrap Rage

This is the holiday season to chill out. And one of the best ways to do it is to make opening all those difficult to open plastic packages that contain toys, tools and other gifts.

The promoters are calling the new "Open It" tool "the ultimate Wrap Rage Cure." The product was created by a group known as "Designing Women" with the Zibra Company. Open It contains a cutting tool, dual-head screwdriver and retractable cutting blade. Use it to get what's inside clamshells, toy packaging, boxes, CDs, DVDs and battery compartments.

Suggested retail is $10.99. It's available at Walgreens and The Home Depot. For more information, see www.wrapragecure.com.

Make this one a present to yourself this year. -- C.V. S

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Holiday Gifts 2007: For Italian Cinema Buffs

Ah, that sophisticated friend who is so hard to buy for. What to do? What to do?


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When this idea came to me in a email, I flipped. The "Italian Movie Night Gift Basket" gave the Italian part of my heritage goose bumps.

The gift box includes a decoupage window in a Portofino pattern, the two DVD collector's edition of La Dolce Vita, the two DVD deluxe edition of Cinema Paradiso, a Life Is Beautiful DVD and a packet of microwave popcorn.

It sells for $129 at www.dreamofitaly.com.

The site also has a variety of other gift baskets on Romantic Italy Travel Basket, Rome Travel Basket and Venice Travel Basket.

Ciao -- C.V.S.

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November 27, 2007

Holiday Gifts 2007: A seed of a gift idea

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For the nature lover in your life (especially one who lives in parts of the country where it's cold and wintry for many months of the year): send them a windowsill garden that keeps giving the entire year.

From Red Envelope, it's called Year of Seeds and includes 12 colorful pots, each of which correspond with a different type of seed. All they have to do is put the included soil pellets and seeds into the pots add water, and watch the plants come to life, a month at a time.

The seeds include petunias, marigolds, pansies, lobelia, alyssum, zinnias, impatiens, baby's breath, dianthus, cosmos, poppies and sweet peas. The cheery colored earthenware pots are as pretty as the blooms.

It's $70, but consider that it's like giving a $6 gift each month for the whole year. What a bargain.


K.V.W.

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November 26, 2007

Holiday Gifts 2007: A few things from the new C&B

Made my first visit to the new Crate and Barrel furniture store at Boca Town Center. What a fun place to browse!

Some items worthy of gift-giving:

Love the Helena Laptop bag, on sale for $29.95. It's made of polyester and padded and comes in a fun brown-red-taupe stripe pattern.

I am not one to buy a lot of holiday-themed dishes, but I like to get them as gifts! These Holiday tree cocktail plates, come in a set of four for $19.99.

For the naughty child or adult on your list: Give em a bag of coal! These are filled with black licorice hard candy.

K.V.W.

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Tales from the inbox: You want free shipping, we've got it

Woke up this Cyber Monday morning to dozens of e-mails offering free shipping. Among the retailers:
Lucy.com
Walgreens.com (w/$25 purchase)
Avon.com (w/$10 purchase)
CompanyStore.com (use code T7NFD3KA)
Dell.com
LandsEnd.com
BaseballExpress.com (use code FREEXT28)
HPshopping.com
Eddiebauer.com (use code NVFS7)
Endless.com (shipping is actually negative $5)

There are plenty of other sites offering free shipping, but those involve purchases from $50 to $100.

This list will give you a good jump start.

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November 24, 2007

Dishing on dishes

fitz.jpgSmartbargains.com has a really pretty holiday dinnerware set on sale, Trees in gold by Fitz & Floyd. A 16-piece set is $59.98.

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November 23, 2007

Best Buy, Sawgrass ... a welcome refuge for Black Friday shoppers

By 10 a.m. Friday, the heavy crowds which had lined up overnight at Best Buy Sawgrass had dissipated and the barracades were gone, but the shopping mania continued as a steady flow of late-comers entered the game.

On approach to the Best Buy, the bumper to bumper cars lined up in the parking lot were evidence of the shortage of parking spaces, but the backlog cleared quickly as cars quickly pulled in and out.

Latecomer Amos Pierre of Oakland Park had no intention of lining up early to get into the store. He left home at 7:30 a.m. but still found good deals, leaving the store just after 10 a.m. Pierre bought a Dynex shredder, a laptop and monitor.

Though door-buster deals were going fast and some sold out, other sales continued throughout the morning, including DVDs for $4.99 each, Sony SR 42 hard drive digital camcorders for $499.99 (with accessories bundle) and a Dynex digital picture frame for $79.99.

At noon, the Best Buy floor was abuzz with activity as hot-ticket items like high definition televisions, MPs players, portable DVD players, and computers continued to fly off the shelves.

--Arlene Satchell
Staff Writer

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Comp USA, in a slower mid-morning shopping groove....

Across the street at Comp USA, a few minutes before 1 p.m. the scene was decidedly calmer with fewer people milling about the store at 12170 W. Sunrise Blvd

Many sale item displays no longer had prices posted, a sign that some supplies had been exhausted, but shoppers were searching for deals.

"We didn't wake up early enough for the bargains," said Carlos Sanchez of Sunrise as he shopped with companion Susan Cain at Comp USA.

They were shopping for MP3 players, black DVDs and memory cards and had been to Best Buy and Circuit City earlier in the day.

The prices are better at Comp USA and Best Buy, Cain said.

--Arlene Satchell
Staff Writer

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Circuit City (Pembroke Pines and Sunrise)

Pembroke Pines resident Bob Cain got a head start on his Black Friday shopping when he lined at 11 p.m. Thursday at the Circuit City in Pembroke Pines.

Despite waiting for hours and staying until 5 a.m., Cain left the store disappointed, failing to get the $299 Acer desktop computer he wanted.

While sale vouchers had been handed out to customers, none reached Cain and to make matters worse, some shoppers began offering their unused vouchers for sale at $60 apiece, Cain said.

Determined, Cain continued his quest at the Circuit City at 12300 W. Sunrise Blvd, where the nine-year Black Friday veteran got lucky, finding the Acer desktop computer in stock.

Jennifer Cole of Wauchula was visiting sister Kim White of Cooper City and the two were out shopping for Black Friday bargains at Circuit City.

Cole bought the King of Queens DVD set for $12.99 and White, the House DVD set also for $12.99, originally priced at $50.

An earlier shopping stint at Wal-Mart proved fruitful for Cole, who came away with gifts for her daughter -- a Fisher Price Chicken Dance Elmo and a Barbie VW Beetle both priced at $10 each.

Frank Bozarth of Davie had a different shopping strategy Black Friday, especially as he and his wife recently lost their jobs, casualties of the construction downturn.

To avoid the lines and still get good bargains, Bozarth shopped online, but opted for in-store pickup.

"Only parking seems to be a problem," said Bozarth after he pulled into the Circuit City lot around 1:25 p.m., a little surprised to find he didn't have to wait for an open spot.

People have been getting aggravated over parking, Bozarth said, shopping since the wee hours at Sawgrass Mills Mall, Broward Mall and now at Circuit City.

--Arlene Satchell
Staff Writer

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New garage at Town Center expected to curb some of the parking crunch

You can usually tell the holiday shopping rush at Town Center by the number of cars parked on the grass by the mall’s main entrance.

The cars were on the grass en masse Friday, but if shoppers searched they might have found one of the mall's 1,000 new parking spaces in a two-story garage by Bloomingdale’s.

The garage, which opened just a week ago, is expected to curb some of the parking crunch at Town Center during the holidays, said Venetia Tiberi, the mall’s marketing director. Shoppers may have missed the garage today, though there are signs to the new spaces, Tiberi said.

“Before long, people will notice,” she said.

-Kathy Bushouse
Staff writer

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No mall madness at the Gardens

It seemed more like a busy Saturday than Black Friday at the Gardens mall.

The mall opened its doors at 8 a.m. At 10 a.m. parking was still plentiful. Some stores -- the Apple store, Macy's, the Gap, Bath and Body Works -- seemed busy, while at other stores clerks stood outside to beckon passing shoppers.

The longest line: Starbucks. The scene hardly evoked images ofa post-Thanksgiving shopping frenzy.

A manageable pace of the holiday rush was just fine with Faith Higgins, 22 of Port St. Lucie. She left home at 6:30 am to hit the sales here, two counties to the south.

"It's very casual," Higgins said. "I like that."

-- Kathy Bushouse
staff writer

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November 21, 2007

Holiday Gifts 2007: Toys R Us on Black Friday

If you are inclined to hit Toys R Us on Black Friday, check out this email I got today. Sounds like there are plenty of ways to save money.


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The Door Busters deal goes from 5 a.m. to noon Friday. You can see the deals if you go into the store today (Wednesday); then buy on Friday.

There are also deals on toysrus.com. For example, free shipping on many items. And some savings of up to 60 percent if you shop online on Thanksgiving Day.

K.V.W.

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Nancy Corzine comes to Palm Beach

Nancy Corzine, the Los Angeles designer that clients love for her sophisticated style with touches of Hollywood Glam, is opening her first retail location in Palm Beach on Nov. 23. I can't wait, even though most of the stuff is way out of my price range.

Why PB?

She says she has traveled to Palm Beach several times over the past few years and fell in love with its glamour, elegance and old world charm.
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If you're a Corzine fan, this is the place to buy her furniture and lighting designs, beaded pillows, silver, crystal and antiques and collectibles. Prices range from $35 to more than $50,000.

Can'tt afford anything else? You may be able to spring $35 for a candle from her new collection.

But, if the hype is right, it will be more than a store. It will feature seasonal trunk shows and exhibitions of photography, illustrations, fine jewelry and rare collectibles.

The store is located ay 375 South County Road, between Chilean and Peruvian Avenues. The 2,000-square-foot space formerly was used by designer Lars Bolander. Hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. -- C.V.S.

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November 20, 2007

Design for the dogs


LAP OF LUXURY WITH KAREN


16850 Jog Road, Delray Beach; 561-637-3856 ; Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday
through Saturday; lapofluxury withkaren.com.
Owner: Karen Grossman

Wow factor: If ever there was a pampered pet store fit for the likes of Paris Hilton, this is it. You can find everything from mosaic inlaid pet beds to Australian crystal collars and designer duds for doggie. What also makes this store stand out is the glass-enclosed grooming salon, which allows clients to see how the poochies are being handled. Grossman's husband, Lee, is knowledgeable and can explain the differences between types of leashes. (Buy the $45 Zip Lead for better control, he advises.)

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Editor's picks: The pet furniture is elegant - with options such as the mosaic bed ($2,500) and chaises ($595-$795). But what really will blow you away is the selection of pet clothing with brand names such as For Pets Only from Italy and Ruff Ruff Couture. Expect to pay $225 for a cashmere sweater, $75 for a hoodie with a toy in the pocket and leather outfits with Chanel and Sgt. Pepper themes ($495-$550). And don't miss the crystal collars ($175-$450), bassinets in pink or blue ($150) and a huge selection of dog carriers, including a gold leather Chrombones with fringe ($1,100).

Design for less: At first, it may not seem like this is a shop for bargains, but you can find pet T-shirts ($20), cute squeaky chew toys shaped like passports and computers ($5-$20) and treat containers with the dog's image on the lid ($30).

Trivia: The five adorable long-haired dachshunds ages 4 to 10 in the company logo belong to the Grossmans and are often found wandering around the shop. Karen Grossman owned Karen's for People + Pets in New York City for about 30 years. The shop received the Robb Report's Best of the Best award in 2004. - C.V.S.

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Holiday gifts 2007: Baskets that give back

They look fab - with intricate designs, bold colors and ethnic roots. And there's another bonus: They're a holiday gift you can feel good about because they help poor women in Africa.

The Rwanda peace baskets could be the perfect present for those folks on your holiday list that love global decor and enjoy gifts that give back. The Rwanda Path to Peace Project, which provides woven baskets handmade by Rwandan genocide survivors, helps provide food, medicine and shelter to the women, whopreviously made only about $1 a day.
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Here are a few of my faves:

Big Sky Fruit Bowl ($40) is designed with white shapes that appear to be floating over the cerulean blue of the sub-Saharan sky.

Rare Earth Fruit Bowl ($40) features saturated colors and a pattern reminiscent of the hills and mountains of their country.


The natural-dyed baskets, made from sisal, banana leaves and papyrus,
retail for between $35-$120 online only at macys.com/rwanda. -- C.V.S.

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Holiday Gifts 2007: ‘Tis the Season of Giving and Getting

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I’m thinking about buying myself a Christmas present. (C’mon. You know you’re shopping for you when you’re shopping for them.) I’m fancying the XM radio unit at Best Buy for $85, three months’ free subscription if I treat myself between Nov. 23 and Dec. 31. Installation runs about $40.

XM radio’s a great gift idea for baseball and music lovers. But it’s an ongoing gift: regular monthly fees are $12.95. Visit www.bestbuy.com/xm for more info.

If you want to shop for yourself and the women on your holiday list, go to Bijou Brigitte at Boynton Beach Mall. Bijou Brigitte has a vast selection of inexpensive earrings, colorful necklaces and bangles. I bought sterling silver drop earnings, each only $12.90. You’re sure to find something for your niece or girlfriend here – at least a stocking stuffer.

Be warned about the store’s return policy. My receipt says, “unused products may be returned within 7 days for an exchange or store credit.” So make sure your niece or girlfriend isn’t the “return-it-for-something-I-really-want” type.

--- MARCIA HEROUX POUNDS

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Black Friday shopping tips from my dental hygienist

After my dental hygienist found out I worked for the Sun-Sentinel, she wanted to double-check on when the Black Friday ads were going to be in the paper (primarily Thursday). But then she also asked whether she could find them online. I told her about dealcatcher.com, which has a link to the Black Friday ads.

She then told me about her Black Friday shopping strategies:

-- Make a game plan of where you're going and what you're after.
-- If you're hitting the 5 a.m. deals, show up at 5:05 a.m., after the initial crush has made its way through the doors.
-- And for her, JC Penney had the best deals.

Thanks, Marlene, for the tips and for the shiny teeth.

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November 19, 2007

Rachel Zoe's shopping advice

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What to buy? What to wear? What a conundrum.

Don't we all wish that sometimes we had the bucks to hire someone like uber stylist Rachel Zoe to give us advice for what to wear to the big holiday party? After all, that's what the real stars do like her clients Salma Hayek, Jennifer Garner, Cameron Diaz and Mischa Barton. She's with Mischa, on right, below.
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Get some help or give some help to a friend with Zoe's first book, Style A to Zoe: The Art of Fashion, Beauty, & Everything Glamour (Grand Central Publishing, $24.99). It's great stuff with some insight to what the stars go through at pre-Oscar fittings.

Love her advice. Here's her checklist for putting together a star-studded look for your holiday party:

1. Classic black dress
2. Nude or black patent pumps
3. Great gold cuff or bracelet
4. The right red lipstick
5. Fishnets and black tights
6. An all-season wrap or shrug

I just love this stuff. Don't you? Tell me what you think of celeb stylists? Love 'em or leave 'em?

XO XO -- C.V.S.

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South Florida malls offer Black Friday freebies, perks

South Florida malls are planning to treat early bird shoppers to freebies and perks Friday.

The Friday after Thanksgiving — called Black Friday because it's typically a big sales day for retailers — is considered the official start to the holiday shopping season. Malls in the region are hoping to draw shoppers with special offerings.

Here's a look at what's happening:

Aventura Mall will offer early-bird shoppers valet parking and free Starbucks coffee outside the mall entrance.

The Mall at Wellington Green will pamper some lucky shoppers. The first 100 customers to purchase $500 worth of mall gift cards (in a single transaction) will receive a $100 gift certificate from SpaFinder, redeemable at any of the nearly 4,000 spas worldwide.

At The Gardens Mall in Palm Beach Gardens, shoppers can use text messaging to find out about hot Black Friday deals and promotions and be eligible to win prizes. Shoppers can text the mall at 97904 to learn about the day’s special deals.

Then, for the next eight days, Gardens Mall shoppers can text the same number to learn how to register to win a luxury gift basket filled with more than $4,000 worth of merchandise and gift cards.

-- Jaclyn Giovis

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November 16, 2007

Must-have toys

Kids want toys — lots of them — at holiday time. But finding the right toy could be a tough job this year.

Major toy makers including Mattel, Fisher-Price and RC2 Corp. have recalled millions of China-made toys since June for failing to meet federal lead paint standards or containing magnets that can become loose and pose a choking threat.

The recall list includes various models of favorite brands including Barbie, Thomas & Friends and Dora the Explorer. Not surprisingly, some of those brands also made the National Retail Federation’s must-have toys list.

The list, released this week, is based on a survey of nearly 8,000 consumers:

Top 10 toys for girls
1. Barbie 2. Bratz 3. Dolls (generic) 4. Dora the Explorer 5. Disney Princess 6. Disney Hannah Montana 7. Nintendo Wii 8. Webkinz 9. Elmo 10. American Girl

Top 10 toys for boys
1. Transformers 2. Video games 3. Nintendo Wii 4. Cars (generic) 5. Spider-Man 6. Legos 7. Thomas the Tank Engine 8. Xbox 360 9. Elmo 10. Remote controlled vehicles

Visit the Consumer Products Safety Commission Web site for more information about toy recalls.

--Jaclyn Giovis

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Holiday Shopping 2007: A body scrub even Goldilocks would love

This item comes from the Washington Post.

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When it comes to body scrubs, are you like Goldilocks? You know, the grains are too big. Or too small. They don’t lather enough. Or they lather too much.

Here’s one that may be just right: Kiehl’s Soy Milk & Honey Body Polish, from the company’s luxuriously moisturizing Creme de Corps line. Sweet almond oil, jojoba butter and hydrating soy milk proteins soften my perpetually parched skin, while not-too-rough, not-too-smooth bits of ground loofah slough evenly without sandpapering off four layers of skin.

And, oh, the scent: deliciously creamy, subtle yet familiar. Like babies and sugar cookies and soft, fleecy blankets — simply dreamy.

Goldilocks never had it this good.

Find it: $27.50 at fine department stores and www.kiehls.com.


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November 15, 2007

Give a gift card, get a gift card

Want to know one of your Christmas or Hanukkah gifts? Chances are pretty high, you’ll be getting a gift card.

Gift cards will be one of the most popular gifts this holiday season. According to a recent National Retail Federation survey on the topic, 87.7 percent of consumers plan to buy two or more gift cards this holiday.

The survey found the average shopper will spend $122.59 on gift cards, up about $6 from last year. Total gift card sales will total $26.3 billion this season, compared with $24.8 billion last year.

Here are some tips for buying gift cards:
1. Know the store’s gift card policy to avoid problems such as expiration or additional fees.
2. To ensure you receive the full value of a card, only buy from reputable retailers not online auction sites.
3. Ask for a receipt and a gift receipt in case the gift card is lost or misplaced. Some retailers will reissue a gift card if there’s a proof of purchase.
4. Know the difference between a store-issued and a bank-issued gift card. Bank-issued cards often have expiration dates and associated activation, transaction, maintenance, and inactivity fees.
5. Find out if there are ways to personalize your gift card by adding a creative design, photo or message.

-- Jaclyn Giovis

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Holiday Gifts 2007: Petable purses

We have have someone on our list who has everything she could possibly want, but I betcha she doesn't have one of these doggie-inspired handbags from Fuzzy Nation Couture.

These purses are sure to be a conversation starter. Check out the options in two price ranges -- couture and non-leather line.

The custom line is made of metallic leather or faux alligator, allowing eight popular dog breeds to live in someone else's skin.

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Paris Hilton's Tinkerbell,right, would surely so a doubletake with the "Gold Chihuahua" bag, a limited edition available by special order. It sells for $130.

Another cutie is the "Red Crocodile Dachshund," left, a leather limited edition that sells for $180.

The non-leather line is avilable in Chihuahua, Boston Terrier, Pug, Scottish Terrier, Dachshund and Bulldog. They sell for $59.

They are available on line at fuzzynation.com.- C.V.S.

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November 14, 2007

Ladies and gentlemen, the Toys R Us Black Friday ad

Here it is.

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Holiday gift idea: Calorie-free candy canes

Here's a post from the Sun-Sentinel's fantastic weight-loss blog The Skinny:

candycane.jpgFound: While browsing about About.com, the cutest gift idea for any woman subjecting herself to Atkins, South Beach, Weight Watchers, you name it. (Ladies, just forward this blog url to your main gift-giving guy -- or your mom.)

The gift recipient shouldn't really eat the candy canes, but she can bask in peppermint-infused shampoo, shower gel, bubble bath and body souffle (whatever that is). The line is named Candy Cane of course, courtesy of Philosophy.

The company refers to its edible-friendly naming conventions as "100 percent calorie free" and "won't add an inch to your waistline." (Well, they're not lying unless you gobble soap gel with a body oil chaser.)

Other yummy offerings that might make you consider that chaser: Apple Cider, Hot Cocoa, Cinnamon Buns, Gingerbread Man, Cookie Exchange, the list goes on. (Not a food group, but don't forget Sugar Plum Fairy.)

Ahem, significant-other types: This is pretty cute stuff for your favorite dieter or healthy eater to unwrap for the holidays.

Hint, hint.

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Holiday Shopping 2007: Buyer beware

The Firecracker Tabletop Tree looked fabulous in the Gump's catalog. And the description was tantalizing: "Fabric firecrackers, silky tassels, and mini coin purses combine with chili peppers, Gloriosa lilies and tangerines for a fresh take on holiday color. Our faux tree is arranged in an oxblood-glazed ceramic container and accented with 70 sparkling white lights."

It was going to be my attempt at simplifying holiday decorating, which has evolved into a time-consuming event over the past few years. Putting up five trees was getting to be way too much hassle. Martha Stewart I'm not.

140373_dt.jpgI ordered the tree without flinching at its high price -- $225 plus $46 shipping for a total of $271. After all, this was Gump's San Francisco, a quality mail-order company that I had ordered from for many years. And a pre-decorated tree was going to save me tons of time.

My husband, Carter, and I anxiously awaited its arrival. When it arrived about a week later, we opened the box and were horrified. Our long-awaited tree looked looked nothing like the photo or the catalog description. It was equivalent to a tree that would cost $39.99 at a discount store. Not only was the tree fake looking, the ornaments looked really chintzy.

It had to go back. We called and complained. Gump's agreed to take it back, but wouldn't refund any part of the shipping, even though the product didn't live up to its promises. That cost us $66 for the first fee (an extra $20 FedEx fee was added) plus $34.75 in return shipping. The total: $100.75. Carter discussed the problem with a customer service supervisor, but she didn't budge or offer any incentives to make good customers want to return. (Other mail-order companies in similar situations have either paid for the shipping or offered a coupon.)

The lesson: Even if you have ordered from a mail order company for years, don't count on the quality to be the same. And be aware, if you don't like the product, chances are good you will be responsible for ALL the shipping.

-- C.V.S.

Photo: The nice-looking tree we thought we'd get (source: Gump's website)

POSTED IN: Home Decor (83)

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November 13, 2007

Sur Le Table opening delayed

Fans of Sur La Table will have to wait even longer for their fave culinary store to open.

The company's public relations machine has informed us that the new store, scheduled to open Nov. 15, will now open Nov. 30.

Sur La Table is known for a good selection of tabletop, decorations, small appliances and cookware. It also offers demonstrations by nationally known cookbooks authors.

The store, located at The Shops at Pembroke Gardens, is located at 301 SW 145th Terrace in Pembroke Pines. Hours will be 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

C.V.S.


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November 12, 2007

Holiday Gifts 2007: Tie one on

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From the "Books on random subject matter" category comes this new gem: Laces: 100s of ways to pimp your kicks ( Sterling Books, $14.95).

It's written by Ian Fieggen, a guy who made shoelace tying his hobby and promises to be the first comprehensive book on the subject. The intro is filled with fun facts (Did ya know: There are more then two trillion ways to run a shoelace through the average shoe? This is supported by some kind of math equation) and then 50 lacing styles (like double, woven, hexagram, starburst, spiderweb) and knotting methods with full directions on how to accomplish them.

The book cover looks like a shoe, with a dozen eyelet holes to practice on. It comes with five different types of laces in different colors.

It has been a hit with both my 5 year old, who is learning how to tie his shoes, and my 8 year old, who has fun trying out the different styles.

K.V.W.

POSTED IN: Holiday Gifts 2007 (64)

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November 11, 2007

Divine Find: British Marketplace and Tearoom

This week's Divine Find, as featured in today's Sun-Sentinel Sunday Lifestyle section

British Marketplace and Let’s Have Tea English tea room

6919 Stirling Road., Shops at Stirling Place, Davie, 954-584-8888. 10 a.m.- 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday, noon- 5 p.m. Sunday. Tea room hours are 11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 12:30-3:30 p.m. Sunday. www.britishmarketplace.com

Owner: David Williams

Wow factor: The floor-to-ceiling walls of British food — candy bars, tea bags, jam, sauces, and potato chips — strike first. Then you realize that this 750-square-foot shop and the adjoining 750-square-foot tea room are also stocked with football (aka soccer) jerseys, tea kettles, cups and saucers and other oh-so-British items.

Editor’s picks: A David Beckham Real Madrid soccer jersey ($75; pricey, considering he now plays for the Los Angeles Galaxy) or similar shirts (starting at $65) from such premiere clubs as Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United. Tea pots, which start at $19.99 for inexpensive pottery and rise to $180 for collectible bone china.

English for less: Tea pot-shaped tea bag holders ($4.99); Walkers steak and onion or cheese and onion chips (99 cents); Cadbury Flake candy bars ($1.99); Bistro gravy ($4.99); Ty-phoo English tea ($9.99 for 80 bags); McVities chocolate digestives ($3.99) and Sherwood’s korma or tikka masala jarred sauces ($6.99).

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The tea room: Call one day ahead to be sure the 28-seat tea room hasn’t been booked for a private baby shower or 80th birthday. Afternoon tea ($9.95 per person) includes scones, Devon cream, jam, fruit, cakes and biscuits. High tea ($19.95) adds an assortment of sandwiches that might include cucumber and cream cheese or egg salad.

Trivia: Among the food items that sell most briskly are made-in-England cans of Heinz baked beans ($1.89) and Crosse & Blackwell Branston Pickle ($4.99), a kind of relish.

— JOHN TANASYCHUK

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November 10, 2007

Holiday Gifts 2007: Give a doll; support kids in a poor country

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For a doll that gives back, check out the Karito Kids. Created by the folks at Kids Give, these are a quintet of multicultural dolls -- a modern-day, international version of the American Girl dolls.

They include Lulu (Kenya) (shown here), Wan Ling (China), Pita (Mexico), Zoe (New York) and Gia (Italy). (“Karito,“” from the constructed language Esperanto, means “charity” and “love of one’s neighbor.”“)

Each doll comes with a novel that tells a girl’s story and a passport that includes a secret activation code. Enter the code at www.karitokids.com, and a percentage of the purchase price funds Plan, an organization that supports children in poor countries worldwide. Kids can even choose how they want the money to be used, such as to benefit schools or health programs.

The Web site also has e-cards, coloring pages and more.

Find It: The dolls, $99.99 each, are aimed at kids 6 and older; books, accessories and outfits are sold separately. Available at www.karitokids.com or at Neiman Marcus.

POSTED IN: Holiday Gifts 2007 (64)

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November 9, 2007

Holiday Gifts 2007: In the affirmative

Here's something from the Sun-Sentinel blog The Skinny:

NoExcuses.jpgWe have the perfect gift for anyone determined to turn their health around. It's a sterling silver necklace with the words "No Excuses" stamped on it forwards and backwards (so you can see it in the mirror). It's $55 from Shopintuition.com and comes on a 16-inch silver chain. You also can get ones that say Breathe, Focus, Never Settle, Respect Yourself, and Love Yourself.

One of these would make the perfect reinforcement to your New Year's resolution.

(I'm so talking myself into buying one!)

-- G.G.S.

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Holiday Gifts 2007: Izods for everyone

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Saw this great deal in a Macy's ad in today's Sun-Sentinel.

From now till November 18, it's Izod Week, which means a sale of 40 % off of all Izod sportswear. That's all fine and good, but the real deal comes with Izod polos, for $22.80, normally $38.

There's more: Choose from six different colors: white, off white, lounge green, real red, sun city or midnight blue, and Macy's guarantees they'll have your size (from Small to XX large).

If they don't, they'll send you a FREE Izod polo.

One catch (which you only see if you read the fine print): Not all Florida Macys are offering this deal. The list of stores that AREN'T doing it: South Beach, Broward Mall, Galleria, Boca Town Center, City Place, Florida Mall and Westfield Southgate.

-- K.V.W.

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Bra Heaven

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It took me all of a half hour in Manhattan to find a “sample sale.” These are designer’s line samples at magnificent prices. I was walking west on 34th Street from Lexington Avenue when I stumbled across the sale. But, alas, I couldn't stay: I had tickets for a Broadway show.

If you have no time for sample sales, I have a sure bet: H&M, which has several stores in New York City. Talk about great prices! H&M is the perfect combo of style and affordability.

Sweep through the first floor and pick up a colorful sweater (everything is arranged by color with matching accessories – brilliant). Then head to lingerie.

Best bras at the best price: $14.90 for pretty, comfortable, sexy bras, with only $5.90 for a matching thong – if you dare. H&M is bra heaven, as long as you’re not Dolly Parton-size. I didn’t see any triple Ds on the racks.

If NYC is not in your travel plans, go here and click on dressing room on the left side. Then order by phone. H&M doesn’t have an online catalog, but offers a virtual model (like the one shown here) to pick your size.

--- Marcia Heroux Pounds

POSTED IN: Lingerie (27)

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November 8, 2007

Holiday Gifts 2007: For the sleepyhead

Gotta love this alarm clock for the reluctant riser in your life.

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The Puzzle Alarm Clock, $67, from bimbambanana.com is just too much fun (as long as you are not the one having to wake up!). At the sound of the buzzer, four jigsaw puzzle pieces go flying into the air. You have to gather up the pieces, put them in place and then only you can turn off the alarm.

Tell me you won't be awake after all that.

-- K.V.W.

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November 7, 2007

Designer stuff + consignment prices = good deals

Just heard about Christabelles Closet, an online consignment shop and am itching to give it a try.

Why?

How about a Marc Jacobs leather bag (which normally retails for $1200) for $500.

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Or a BCBG black dress for $18.

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Or a Lucky Brand swim cover up for $18.

The website gets daily additions and the merch looks like good quality (and good prices.) Customer feedback on the site says they package and deliver things beautifully.

One caveat: There is a no return policy. So you better be sure that the items will fit you.

K.V.W.

POSTED IN: Women's Clothing (132)

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November 6, 2007

Holiday Gifts 2007: Silver in the Soap

Now this is unique: How would you like to give (or better yet, receive) the gift of healthy, glowing skin?

This soap was featured on The View recently. (Not that that makes it anything that great... but read on.. the concept is interesting.)

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It's called Plank's Cor Silver Soap, and it's made with -- you guessed it -- silver, which is supposed to be a very effective antibacterial agent. It also has other natural ingredients in it like collagen and sericin.

The makers (who sell yoga-inspired holistic products -- find them at www.plankdesigns.com) say it's intended to even skin tone, cleanse, maintain moisture and replenish collagen.

The 120 g bar is $125 and supposedly lasts 6 to 9 months. According to the Plank website, apparently within no time people will be commenting on how fab your skin looks.

K.V.W.


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Holiday Gifts 2007: For the eco-chic pal

I discovered this really cool Website that has everything from a mango wood stool to a great tea pot.

If you're looking for some unusual gifts, check out gaiam.com.
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I just love this mango wood stool that was hand turned by Thai artisans, who used a lathe to create the gentle curves. Because it's handmade, the Web site says measurements will vary slightly, but it's about. 13"W x 18"H.

You may like it so much that you'll buy one for yourself as well. I'm tempted, really tempted. It sells for $299. There's also a surcharge because it weighs 25 pounds.

You can watch the tea in the glass pot as the delicate blossoms of silver needle green tea and fragrant flowers bloom in water. Each of the teaposies is flavored with jasmine, magnolia, amaranth, lily, camellia and rose. The borosilicate glassware is made with 20 percent recycled glass. Tea set includes a Tea for Two teapot with glass diffuser, loose-leaf tea, bamboo hot plate and two elegant teacups with saucers. It's $78 for the set.

C.V.S.

POSTED IN: Christmas (63)

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November 5, 2007

Holiday Gifts 2007: Play with me

OK, i'm not typically the type to go ga ga over toys, but I just had to tell you about the Girard Wooden Dolls from Design Within Reach.
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If you're familiar with DWR, you know the catalog company specializes in well-designed products with not-so-small pricetags. Alexander Girard, a designer of textiles, furniture and, yes, toys, says these "represent a microcosm of man's world and dream exhibit fantasy, imagination and humor." If that's too deep for you, they're really cute.

Girard, who loves folks art, created a collection of wooden dolls for his Santa Fe home. The folks at the Vitra Design Museum worked from his originals and reissued the brightly painted, semi-abstract and sculptural figures. The 6 to 12-inch dolls present well as a gift because they are individually packaged in a wooden gift box. Oh, yeah, the price? $145. Expensive but really cool. Grandparents' stuff. To order, check dwr.com.
-- C.V.S..

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November 2, 2007

World's largest TV in Miami this weekend!

Maybe big TVs are a guy thing. I’m not even a sports fan, but I’m fascinated with BrandsMart bringing what it's calling the world’s largest plasma HDTV to Miami Saturday and Sunday.

The 103-inch Panasonic—about the size of a queen-sized mattress—will be at the BrandsMart just off the Palmetto Expressway at 4320 NW 167th St. You can check it out 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. You can even buy one if you’ve got $70,000 to spare.

- J.T.

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Holiday Gifts 2007: Snack bowls that say when to say when

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Here's something for the foodie in your life (or better yet, maybe it's for someone who likes foodie too much!)

These are called Yum Yum Dishes, which come in sets of 4 4-ounce bowls for $22. They were created by Tracy Adler, an Asheville, N.C. mom/restaurant owner who thought there was a need for portion-control dishes. (She needed them herself after her second pregnancy when she realized she and her 3-year-old were snacking all day long.) Adler says the idea is to fill a bowl, but don't refill it. She even takes the portion control message to her restaurant, where customers can order small portions of her gourmet fare.

Made of ceramic in four colors, they have a cute saying around the rim: Yum Yum Time Is...
And then, when you get to the bottom: ...Over!

Check out yumyumdish.com, where there's a page for snacking recipes.

We loved two of them:

Chocolate Yum Yum Pie:

Crush 3 Oreo cookies and pack into the bottom half of your Yum Yum Dish. Spoon in chocolate pudding of choice (low fat, sugar free, or plain ol' pudding). Top with one tablespoon of whipped cream.

Mr. Jack Meets Miss Olive

2 cubic inches of Pepper Jack cheese cut into small wedges (yes, they will be really small wedges), and 8 medium olives. Mix in your Yum Yum Dish & Enjoy!

-- K.V.W.

POSTED IN: Holiday Gifts 2007 (64)

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November 1, 2007

Holiday Gifts 2007: Parenting Mag's top toys

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Parenting magazine's November issue is out with its annual Toys of the Year list. They chose 26 toys which were picked by kids who tested more than 100 toys for them. (Now there's a good afterschool job: toy tester) and their moms, who rated for safety, durability and annoyance factor. The toys are grouped by ages.

The complete list is here.

Two that stood out to me (for my 5- and 8-year-old):

The I Can Play Guitar from Fisher Price. Plug it into the TV and onscreen characters teach your kid the basics and some songs.

The Jam Pack Jam game from Cranium is a hoot. Kids scramble to pack items (like a tire, suitcase, chair) into a car and close its trunk. If you don't slam it shut before the timer goes off, everything comes flying out.
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K.V.W.


POSTED IN: Holiday Gifts 2007 (64)

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About the authors
Doreen Christensen has never paid full price for anything. If there is a way to save on something, she will find it and share how you can save, too. Doreen is a senior reporter covering consumer news, health, beauty and features for the online and print editions of the Sun Sentinel. A 32-year veteran of the newspaper, she previously was a senior copy editor on the universal copy desk. Doreen spends her time off hunting bargains, clipping coupons, gardening and traveling.

Justine Griffin covers retail and marine business for the Sun Sentinel. She is a Tampa Bay native who graduated from the University of Central Florida in 2010. After spending a year covering crime in St. Augustine, Fla., she moved to Fort Lauderdale and made the switch to business journalism. When she’s not writing, she’s riding horses and spending time with her whippet puppy, Josie.

Marcia Heroux Pounds is the Sun Sentinel's workplace columnist when she's not shopping for shoes. She also writes about small business, which allows her to visit many of South Florida's unique shops and boutiques.

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