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December 28, 2007

Swimming with Dolphins: Better than any giftcard

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Colleague Laura Kelly chimes in on what her kids' fave gift was:

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"My children received a group gift for them and two other cousins from their grandparents and an aunt and uncle -- advance tickets to Discovery Cove in Orlando.

At some point this year, my 7-year-old sea-loving, animal-hugging, budding eco-scientist daughter will be able to swim with dolphins . This was an expensive gift, and one that my schoolteacher-husband and I might have been hardpressed to provide. But we are thrilled (and we do have to pay our own way into the resort).

Likely, the entire extended clan, about 12 of us, will take the trip to Orlando as a family, and we will watch Hayley and her cousins interact with sea creatures in a setting that's more interactive than Sea World. And we all will treasure the memories.

Definitely beats a Toys 'R' Us gift card any day!!

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Gifts We Gave That We Love

A continuation of yesterday's theme. These are the fave gifts (or the ones that were the biggest hits) we gave to the kids in our lives.

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My 8 year old daughter is connected to her silver iPod nano. As I write this, I am sure she is jamming out to Hannah Montana at home. For my 5 year-old-son, the hit is the 5-in-1 game table (air hockey/soccer/basketball/tabletennis/pool) from Sports Authority. (This would be my husband's least fave, as he has spent the last two days putting it together.)

Suzie: She bought her neice and nephew a copy of the kid's version of John Grogan's bestseller Bad Dog, Marley!. (The book comes in a kids version and a tween version.)

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Vanessa: "Santa (my sis in law and i) got both our boys the Ikea Lomsk swivel chair. It's like having your own personal Mad Tea Party ride at home....it's fun for the kids and the adults. Yep, fun for the adults, because watching the kids try to get out without falling down after some quick turns inside will have you laughing so hard you'll fall down."

Vanessa (part 2): "The other great present was for one of our artsy nephews, the Scribbles Coloring book . It's so cool i want one for myself!"

Gail: "I always make sure to give any baby girl on my gift list, for Christmas or birthday, a real old school Raggedy Ann doll. "

Joy: My infant daughter is going ga-ga over the Fisher Price electronic drum set that converts into congos, purchased by her aunt. She can't resist clapping when the bossa nova beat kicks in.

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The wallet, the wallet

This just in! The pic of the item mentioned yesterday -- the Hello Kitty purse my colleague Suzie got. (Too cute to not post.) Incidentally, there is lots of Hello Kitty stuff at sanrio.com

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December 27, 2007

Gifts We Got That We Love

The post-holiday shopping recovery continues today. I have yet to make it to any store to return anything, or hit any sales, but I have talked with my co-workers about what their fave gifts for Christmas 2007 were.

My favorite gift: The 2008 calendar made for me by my 5-year-old son. He drew all the pics for each month, labeled all the months and wrote all the numbers!

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Suzie: Says she really should say that her fave gift was a camera lens she got from her boyfriend, but ...she sure loves the Hello Kitty wallet from Loungefly.com that she got from her boyfriend's brother's girlfriend.

Vanessa: Digs her Ballet flats from Urban Outfitters. She got them from her uncle in their fam's annual gift exchange. "This brand has really cute funky shoes," Vanessa says.

Gail: "Mine was a gift I bought myself for the new year. It's a sterling silver pendant that reads "No Excuses" and can be read backwards (in the mirror) and forwards."

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Joy: Is obsessed with her personal label-maker "Because if I have to be organized at work, it should be fun. Though so far, I've only made labels for around the house. Now, should "Current Projects" have an outline or shadow effect?"

Sarah: Is happy about the gift she gave her husband. "It's a bit old school but he loves it - a polaroid camera from Target."

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December 22, 2007

At Town Center, the crowds are back

The mall was mobbed.

No surprise four nights before Christmas, but this was the mall where an 8-year-old girl and her mom were found shot dead in their SUV with the motor running, an apparent robbery.

After avoiding the place for a week after dark, I got over it and apparently everybody else has, too. Because it was back to normal Friday night at Town Center at Boca Raton.

The restaurants had their usual in-season waiting lines.

Kids sat on Santa’s knee for a photo opp.

A string ensemble played Christmas carols.

There was no big security presence, although the lights looked brighter in the parking lot. Only one store had the wanted poster of the murder suspect taped to the cash register.

“Looks like things are back to normal,” I said to a sales clerk in one shop.

“I hope so,” she answered briefly. I could tell her employer asked her not to talk about it.

By 9:45 the place had emptied out, as it always does, even when it's open late for the holidays.

"Who shops this late?" a weary department store saleswoman said. "I do," I answered, realizing I was uneasy about walking to my car.

“I knew it was a mistake to tell you I went to the mall,” a woman with two kids in tow turned to say to her husband in a shoe department, my last stop.

My husband knew I was there, too. He waited up.

-- Marci Shatzman, staff writer

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December 21, 2007

I'm fighting mall withdrawal

I’m going back to the mall tonight.

I’m returning a tie to Tommy Bahamas, even thought it will be dark by the time I leave work.

I admit I’ve been too scared all week to go to the Town Center at Boca Raton, where I normally shop. Who wouldn’t be after a mother and child were found murdered in their car. It just makes your blood run cold, doesn’t it?

But I realized tonight -- that like any crime scene -- what could be safer? I’m sure the mall is crawling with cops.

I’m sure I’m not alone in avoiding the mall all week. Didn’t you?

I ended up at the flea market in Pompano and even hit the TJMaxx on Lyons for last-minute Christmas gifts last night. But there’s no use avoiding it. And not to make light of the subject in any way, I’m having mall withdrawal.

So I’m off into the night. Wish me luck.

-- Marci Shatzman, staff writer

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Ordering by internet: TODAY is the drop-dead deadline

Today is pretty much the last day you can order anything online and hope to get it by Christmas Eve. Most sites are giving you a deadline of either 2 or 3 p.m., so chop chop!

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December 18, 2007

Holiday Shopping 2007: Get outta my purse

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Every kid knows that if you really want to have some fun, peruse mommy’s purse for all its surprises and adventures.

This is what makes My Mommy’s Tote ($16.95) such a great toy.
The die-cut cornucopia is stuffed with more than 75 objects, from a laptop, cell phone and wallet - with removable credit card! - to keys, a water bottle and a handkerchief. The activities are endless - a spin wheel for learning the alphabet and numbers, a clock to learn to tell time, a write-on, wipe-off board, plus so many things to lift up, slide up, unfold and flip open.

Guaranteed to keep little ones occupied (and out of your real purse).

Get it here.

-- Kavita Varma-White

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December 14, 2007

An arresting deal

Know any fans of the late lamented (sob, sob...) Fox series Arrested Development? Here's a deal that you need to jump on quickly. Amazon.com has the entire series, all three seasons, for $29.99. That's a crazy good deal for a crazy funny show.
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December 13, 2007

Holiday Gifts 2007: Delicious Dipping

We took the kids to The Melting Pot for my daughter's 8th birthday this year, and they had a ball doing the whole fondue thing.

Since what they really enjoyed was the dessert part, I am thinking this will make a great joint gift. (Of course, since you can't possibly expect two kids to share one gift -- who gets to open it???--) I will turn it into two.

Found a fab $29 fondue set from Williams-Sonoma. It's a small one, with six different colored forks, perfect for kids, that uses a tealight candle under it. Comes with a box of chocolate chips. For some reason, it is nowhere on the website. (Saw it in the new catalog and a call to the Galleria Williams-Sonoma found they have several in stock, so check your local W-S store.)

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Along with it, I am getting a box of their fabulous Rubicon Fresh Vanilla marshmallows. (Comes in a box of 27 for $12.50.)

K.V.W.


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December 12, 2007

Holiday gifts for pampered chefs

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Pamper the gourmet chef or party hostess this holiday with hand soaps and dishwasher detergents that smell good enough to eat.

Fruits and Passion, a Canadian-based chain of personal care and home products boutiques, opened up a store at Aventura Mall in October. I discovered the shop last night, and it's a feast for the senses.

The Aventura Mall store is the retailer's only location in South Florida, which means there's a good chance the recipient of your gift has never heard of its brands. And the company follows an eco-friendly business model.

Fruits and Passion products and gift sets are nicely packaged. But they aren't cheap. For example, a 16 oz. bottle of the Cucina coriander and olive hand soap costs $18.

-- Jaclyn Giovis, Sun-Sentinel retail reporter

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Holiday Gifts 2007: Dazzle for less

Looking for a glitzy, but not expensive New Year’s Eve dress? Try Ross Dress for Less. I was surprised to find a line of holiday dresses for $19-$25 on the rack this week at the Delray Beach store. Some were - or appeared to be -- the very dresses I looked at over the weekend at Dillard’s junior department for $80 and up.

OK, not everybody can fit or wear a junior style (including me, usually). But much to my holiday delight, a large-sized gold lame dress fit fine.

Now I just have to find a New Year’s Eve party. Details, details.

-- Marcia Heroux Pounds

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Holiday Gifts 2007: Cool kid's boutique in Weston (and online)

I was out in Weston for a meeting today and came across a neat kids' boutique called Spider & The Fly. For the full effect, stop by and browse at 2402 Weston Road (954-659-9244). You can also shop online and find everything from leather bibs
to cute tees ($32) to handpainted stools ($95).

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K.V.W.

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Holiday gifts 2007: Give a piece of history


The ornaments we select as a reflection of how and where we have lived are the details that make our Christmas trees special.

You can add some local charm to your collection with the Boca Raton Historical Society’s 2007 commemorative ornament, “Boca Raton Road.” The round ornament, designed by Boca artist Barbara Montgomery O’Connell, depicts the city’s downtown retail district that was established in the 1940s.

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This is a great gift for a family member or friend who recalls Roadman’s Department store, Frank’s Sundries, Dave’s Grocery, Eubank’s Electric or the Boca Raton Laundry.
The ornament is the 11th in a series produced by the Boca Raton Historical Society. Proceeds benefit the society’s historic preservation and heritage programs.

It sells from $18.95 at the Fire Bay Gift Shop at Town Hall, 71 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton. Shop hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday. Call 561-395-6766 Ext: 102.

C.V.S.

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December 11, 2007

Holiday Gifts 2007: Itty Bitty iPod speakers

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My 8-year-old has asked Santa for an iPod nano. (Silver, please.)

Sure, it will be pretty cool if/when the-man-in-red brings it for her on Christmas.

But then again, we're betting Mom will be pretty cool for giving this nifty gift: it's an itty bitty speaker (they fit in your pocket) that looks like a Lego and turns iPod classics and nanos into desktop speakers. Get them for $20 at thesarutgroup.com.

Oh, and as usual -- while you're on the website, check out some of their other unique offerings. We loved the Eiffel Tower salt and pepper shakers; dog-shaped cake servers; and pretty thermoses.

-- K.V.W.

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Holiday Gifts 2007: Art on the go

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When you’re a kid, you know that any boring situation -- doctors’ waiting rooms, long car rides, the sermon at church -- can be a thousand times more fun if you just have some crayons and paper. And thank goodness, these adorable crayon cases make art supplies totally portable.

These cases designed by the Piggy Story are made of cute retro fabric. The “Art to Go“ roll holds eight crayons, each in its own slot, and rolls up into a tidy, soft package. The art folio carries a dozen crayons and a 6-by-8-inch drawing pad (which can be refilled with any pad of paper that’s 6 by 8 inches or smaller).

No matter where you go, there can always be crayons nearby -- and they won’t be a broken, smeary mess on the bottom of Mom’s purse.
Find It: $15 to $20 at littlejetset.com
(This item from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

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December 10, 2007

Holiday Gifts 2007: Make it personal


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Nothing says I really thought about your gift more than a personalized present. It's the next best thing to taking the time to make it yourself.

Three Designing Women have come up with the perfect gift --- personalized stamps that go with a variety of stampable products -- foldover cards, note papers, note pads, calling cards, wine tags, gift tags, announcements and invitations. This is great stuff. It could become addictive -- like scrapbooking. Oh no, did I really admit that to you?

Check out www.threedesigningwomen.com for retailers. But their PR source says you must order before Dec. 15 in order for them to arrive in time. You can also order on line at www.roomservicehome.com.

Expect to pay about $41 plus shipping and handling for the personalized stamps and $12 each for the different types of notes and stationary.


-- C.V.S.

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December 6, 2007

Ask Santa for private jet travel

I'm thinking about buying my brother Tommy a gift card to Southwest Airlines for Christmas. But if I had $5 million to spare, I might have purchased him a gift card on Halcyon Jets.

I got a press release today that said the private jet company is offering the $5 million Holiday DreamCard for travel aboard their ultra-luxurious planes. The experience comes with a “personal concierge to assist with the travel, dining and entertainment needs of even the most discerning traveler.”

OK, so my brother isn’t that discerning.

With a Southwest gift card, I can probably guilt trip (no pun intended) him into visiting his big sis down here in Fort Lauderdale, which is a LOT more pleasant than Cincinnati, Ohio, this time of year.

But I’ve been mulling over the purchase decision for a few days. Even though they’re hugely popular — gift card sales are expected to reach $26.3 billion this year — they still feel so impersonal to me. And I thought, ‘What if he doesn’t choose to come visit his only sibling?’ I might be hurt.

What should I do? Have you ever purchased a travel gift card?

I suppose a travel gift card is one of those gifts that you buy for someone else secretly hoping that good travel karma will come your way.

Now if only I could signal Santa or the universe to send me a Halcyon Jets DreamCard.

-- Jaclyn Giovis, Sun-Sentinel retail writer

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Holiday Gifts 2007: Cute bag, will carry

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I've been getting rave reviews for my new bag, $32, which was a gift to myself earlier this month. (Hey, what's a Dec. birthday girl to do?) First spotted it in Rachel Ray magazine and ordered it online from St. Jude Children's Research Hospital's Hope Catalog. (There is other neat stuff in there, so be sure to peruse.)

I was drawn to the bag's graphic, black and white paisly-style print. It's vinyl canvas and has red leather (faux?) handles. I ordered it thinking it would be a cool handbag. In fact, it's a bit big for that -- more like a carry-on bag. I have been using it to cart all my stuff to work (lunchbag, water bottle, etc.) and have also used it to carry stuff to the kids' soccer games. Great because if it gets dirty on the field, you just wipe it off.


K.V.W.

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Holiday Gifts 2007: Toy Wishes Ultimate Toy Awards list

Toy Wishes Magazine has announced the winners of its 2007 Ultimate Toy Awards, a program that invited the public to honor their favorite toy and children’s entertainment products of 2007. Winners were selected in 21 categories. If you have kids to buy for (especially ones that aren’t your own, which means you have no clue of what to get) this might be helpful. Since it’s pretty lengthy, here are the first five.. (We numbered them just for organization, so No.1 is not the most favorite, just the first category.)

For the rest of this list, go here.

Envelope, please.

And the winners are...

1. Favorite Action and Adventure Toy: Transformers Movie Ultimate Bumblebee (Hasbro/Ages 5 years & up/ $89.99)

2. Favorite Activities Toy: Crayola Model Magic Fusion (Crayola/ Ages 5 years & up/ $7.99)

3. Favorite Construction & Building Toy: LEGO SpongeBob Squarepants: The Chum Bucket (LEGO/Ages 7 years & up/ $34.99)

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4. Favorite Dolls & Accessories Toy: Hannah Montana Singing Dolls and Pop Star Stage (Play Along/Ages 6 years & up/ Doll: $19.99 Pop Star Stage: $59.99)

5. Favorite Educational and Learning Toy: Clickstart My First Computer (LeapFrog/Ages 3 to 6 years/ $59.99)

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December 5, 2007

Holiday Gifts 2007: An uncommonly good website

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A website where you can find something for everyone? That just may be the case with the very cool site uncommongoods.com, known for its great selection of, well, uncommon goods.

We perused quickly and found these gifts, all under $25.

For your GF (who loves shoes as much as you do): The stainless steel
high heel cake server, $15.

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For your little one (who is still a tad scared of the dark): These adorable paper lamps in a varieaty of animal shapes, $20.

For the coffee lover (especially someone who has had plenty of joe on the streets of NYC): this ceramic replica of the Greek themed paper coffee cups that were once all over New York City, $12.

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For the travel lover (who doesn't have any vacation time left): This 3D globe jigsaw puzzle, $20.

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K.V.W.

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December 4, 2007

Holiday Gifts 2007: Good buys on streets you can stroll

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Each Christmas shopping season I shove my way through the mall crowds like everyone else. I found some great deals this past weekend: 75 percent off sterling silver jewelry at Dillard’s and $30 off $100 purchase at Coldwater Creek at The Galleria in Fort Lauderdale.


But my real finds were outside the mall, on Las Olas Boulevard in the shops of downtown Fort Lauderdale. Sure, Las Olas can be pricey, but look for the small gems.

At Chicos, I found hand-crafted pins in the shapes of amusing cats and dogs. The pins are perfect for my pet-loving friends, and only $10. At Seldom Seen Gallery – always a fun place to browse, I picked up some Dolly Mamas sticky notes for $3.50 apiece. “Bring coffee and no one gets hurt” says one. For my favorite 6 year old who is a budding artist I found a Pirates “scratch and sketch” book, just $12.99.

So between harried mall runs, take a stroll down Las Olas, or Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach, or Harrison Street in Hollywood. You’ll find gifts that are unique and rediscover the true meaning of shopping.

– Marcia Heroux Pounds

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Holiday gifts 2007: Ode to Margaritaville

If someone on your holiday list loves margaritas, this gift will surely make you the best drinking buddy he or she ever had.

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This is as good as having your own bartender. The Margaritaville Frozen Concoction Maker comes in three models -- Bahamas, Key West and Fiji. The Key West (shown here) automatically shaves the ice and blends your fave ingredients for your drinks.


What I love the most is you don't have to stand by the machine all night. You can party, too. The machine can be pre-programmed to shave and blend up to three drinks. Suggested retail price is $299.99.


The Bahamas ($199.99) makes 36 ounces in one step. And the Fiji ($379.99) includes four settings to make margaritas, daiquiris, slides and smoothies. For more info see margaritavillecargo.com

-- C.V.S.

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December 3, 2007

Sur La Table opening delayed again

We are beginning to wonder if Sur La Table in Pembroke Pines will open in time for holiday shopping.

The company's public relations machine has informed us that the new store, scheduled to open Nov. 15, then Nov. 30, will now open on Dec. 7.

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Construction delays have caused the postponements, according to a company spokeswoman. But she says the store management feels confident that it will finally open Dec. 7.

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.

Photo: Holiday tree ceramics from $9.95.

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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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