We've got ideas for gifts for the service people that make your life easier, including the babysitter, doorman and trainer, gifts that "give back," gifts for pet owners, hostess gifts and gifts with a touch of nostalgia.
Anna De Souza, eBay lifestyle editor, showed us which toys from our childhood are making a big comeback this holiday season. Some of toys include:
TEDDY RUXPIN, $100
Teddy the story-telling bear is back with some major upgrades. From a cassette player (remember those?) to now streaming stories from an app on your phone, he now has color LED eyes with over 40 animations.
SIMON OPTIX GAME, $24.99
It's the wearable SIMON challenge! With this futuristic, touch-free headset, players follow the game's patterns by waving their hands in the correct sequence. One wrong move and the buzzer will sound, signaling the end of the game.
SNES / SUPER NINTENDO, $154.99
No more blowing into the game cartridges to get them to work. This upgraded replica has 21 games are pre-loaded including Donkey Kong Country, Super Mario Kart, Zelda and so many more. You'll only get shortness of breath when you game your way to the "big boss." Four units sold per minute on debut weekend.
POP INSTANT PRINT DIGITAL CAMERA, $199.99
This updated classic allows you to instantly capture, print and share photos all from one device, just like the original Polaroid. The Bluetooth-enabled Pop allows you to instantly print photos from your smartphone through the camera, or upload anything you take on the camera to your phone or social. You can even edit pictures before you print with filters, stickers and text. Another big upgrade? The camera shoots 1080 HD video and GIFs.
Feed, hatch and clean up after your virtual pet just like you did in 1997. The charming pixelated LED screen comes in 6 shell designs. While it was the latest tech when we were children, your kids will tease you endlessly about how "old school" this was.
ZOOMER SHOW PONY, $63.99
The completely revamped My Little Pony is now the Zoomer Show Pony. An interactive pony you can feed, groom and train to perform different tricks. She moves on her own and has expressive light-up eyes that show you exactly how she feels. She knows when you're petting her cheeks and nose, and responds with loving pony sounds. Press the heart badge on her chest and she'll perform tricks, including dancing, singing or doing a figure eight. Zoomer Show Pony comes with four interactive accessories, including an apple, carrot and a sugar cube.
ATARI FLASHBACK 8 CLASSIC, $49
Take the ultimate walk down memory lane with the classic Atari, which was likely many people's first video console. There are 105 built-in games like Frogger, Space Invaders, Centipede (that then made its way to your first flip phone!), Asteroids and more. Two wired controllers keep you close to the TV, like the good old days.
GIFTS FOR HOSTS/HOSTESSES
You don't want to arrive empty handed when you go to a party or dinner this holiday season, so here are some gift ideas for hosts and hostesses. All these gifts come from The Shops at Northbridge.
NEST BIRCHWOOD PINE CANDLE
Price: $40, Nordstrom
CREAM & GOLD COZY THROW
Price: $39.99 from Nordstrom
2017 CRYSTAL ORNAMENTS
Price: $45-$75 from Swarovski
ENCHANTED HOLIDAY TRUFFLE COLLECTION
Price: $50 from Vosges Haut-Chocolat
Price: $14-$65 from Eataly Chicago
PASTICINNI (24 COUNT)
Variety of price points from Eataly Chicago
Price: $25 from Charming Charlie
'TOAST IT' COASTERS
$10 from Nordstrom
BOWTIE BOTTLE OPENER NECKLACE
Price: $25 from Nordstrom
PHOTO BOOTH DRESS UP CASE
Price: $18 from Neiman Marcus Last Call Studio
GIFTS FOR PET OWNERS
More than $17 billion is spent annually on pets. Dr. Tony Kremer, owner of Kremer Veterinary Services, shared some high-tech gift ideas.
SUREFLAP MICROCHIP PET DOOR CONNECT: THE WORLD'S FIRST APP-CONTROLLED PET DOOR
Price: $200, plus $65 for the Hub
The Microchip Pet Door Connect links with your hub (sold separately) connecting to your home router. Using the Sure Petcare app to connect with your hub, the app provides you with the following key features:
-Know whether your pets are at home, monitor long-term activity and notice changes in behavior. Receive notifications when your pet enters or leaves the house.
-Lock and unlock the door from anywhere. Create a schedule for when your pets are allowed outside or manually control the door
-Insights: Monitor your pet's activity and notice changes in their behaviour
-Intruder alerts: See when neighbourhood animals fail to enter your home preventing intruder animals from entering.
-Share app access with friends. Invite family and friends and manage their permissions. Great for pet sitting!
Available December (end) 2018.
iFETCH: THE NEW BREED OF DOG TOYS
Price: Starting at $114.99
The iFetch automatic ball launcher lets your dog play fetch to their heart's content. Dogs get more exercise (especially when the weather is cold or rainy) as iFetch can be used indoors (as well as outdoors). Train your dog to drop the mini tennis ball into the top of the toy and let them initiate the game of fetch all on their own.
iFetch provides mental and physical stimulation for small to medium-sized dogs.
Launch distance can be adjusted to 10, 20 or 30 feet with the touch of a button. The device is powered by a plug or (6) C-cell batteries, comes with three mini tennis balls (about the size of a golf ball).
BOLT LASER CAT TOY
The Bolt Laser Cat Toy is an interactive laser toy that provides hours of fun for you and your cat. Simply hold Bolt in your hand or place it on a flat surface, turn it on, and watch your pet pounce, chase, and bat at the exciting laser patterns. Pets love the random patterns they can chase across the floor, up the walls, and over furniture.
Safety: The Bolt features a Class IIIa laser with a 5mW max power output for a safe but fun play experience; requires 4 AA batteries (sold separately)
Automatic Play: The Bolt automatically turns the laser off after 15 minutes to prevent your cat from being over-stimulated and keep the game exciting
Entertaining to Cats: The exciting laser moves randomly across floors and walls which appeals to the natural hunting instinct of cats; use the mirror adjust button to control where the laser points
FLIK AUTOMATIC TEASER CAT TOY
Flik is an automatic teaser that throws then hides a string to entice your cat to play. Simply turn it on and watch your curious cat stalk Flik and try to capture the string before it pops back in the toy. Cats can't resist trying to grab the "tail" flicking back and forth, just like a wild cat stalking hidden prey.
Automatic Play: Automatic teaser throws and hides a string for your cat to attack; automatic, hands-free play
Safety: Shuts off after 15 minutes or after pressing the Off button and rubber feet on bottom prevent sliding or moving; uses 3 AA batteries (not included)
The Litter-Robot Open Air is an automatic self-cleaning litter box. The self-adjusting weight sensor detects when your cat is inside and when it's time to clean up. Once your cat exits, a timer counts down, allowing litter to clump before a cleaning cycle begins. As the globe rotates, the patented sifting system collects waste and drops it into a drawer, leaving a clean bed of litter every time. Empty the waste drawer when indicated and add litter as needed.
GIFTS THAT GIVE BACK
If you want to give a gift that "gives back," Cara Sullivan, editor of Make it Better magazine, has some suggestions for gifts that benefit a charity. The magazine has debuted its new gift guide in its current issue.
MANUAL COFFEE MAKER NO. 2 -- $120
A true coffee aficionado deserves this statement brewer, which has a pour-over so pretty that it doubles as art. Chicago Designer Craighton Berman launched his original coffeemaker on Kickstarter in 2014 and raised $100,000 in just 30 days.
EVERYTHING HAPPY BLANKIE -- $64
Buy a blanket and you get to donate one too. Just click on a featured charity.
SUDARA ANJU ROBE -- $79
Made in India, the robes features beautiful unique prints and a silky fabric.
TATCHA DEEP POLISH RICE SCRUB ENZYME POWDER -- $65
Gentle rice bran delivers the kind of exfoliation normally associated with harsh chemicals. Every full-size purchase funds a day of school in partnership with Room to Read's Girls' Education Program
ONE HOPE GLITTER EDITION SPARKLING WINE -- $59
For each bottle sold, 15 children receive a meal.
LSTN SOUND CO. ZEBRAWOOD FILLMORE WIRELESS HEADPHONES -- $125
The on-the-go headphones are tricked out with Bluetooth 4.1 and a folding headband. A portion of the proceeds funds hearing aids worldwide through the Starkey Hearing Foundation.
PACKED WITH PURPOSE -- STARTS AT $45
Chicago native Leeatt Rothschild created this specialty gifting company with a social mission. Nine gift box collections are available. The products in each gift box provide young women job skills, train homeless youth, reduce landfill waste and offer the formerly incarcerated new opportunities
PILLOW OF HEALTH WITH CAL'S ANGELS -- $49.95
The PILLOW of HEALTH's #HugOneGiveOne campaign, gives a child with cancer a pillow for every Kids Pillow sold. They work with Giving Partner Cal's Angels, a non-profit for pediatric cancer.
Elizabeth Striegel, of Gurnee Mills, showed a variety of gifts perfect for the people who help us manage our daily lives, including the door staff, dog walkers and teachers.
Here are a few of the items she brought:
Candles from Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5th
$6.99 each with many scents available including sea salt, rosewood and fig.
Corksicle canteeens from Things Remembered
The canteen, which don't leak and keep beverages hot or cold up to 12 hours, is one of the most popular items of the holiday season.
$20 - $34 each
Hats and gloves from Bass Pro Shops
Great idea for those who have to face the winter elements!
North Face/Columbia hats and gloves range from $30 - $45
Essential oil diffuser from Bed Bath & Beyond
This is the most requested item in store this season and can create a spa-like experience anywhere.
Massage pillow from F.Y.E
This Shiatsu massage pillow - $35.99
Shoe Rescue from Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5th
This product helps remove salt and dirt from shoes.
FOR THE FOODIE
Homemade holiday gifts from the kitchen is a good way to show family and friends how much you love them. Cookies and unhealthy food is not the only option. Kristen Brogan, registered dietician and "Target to Table" cookbook authored, shared some ideas for healthy and delicious food, as well as recipes.
TRAVERSE CITY CHERRY GRANOLA (Serves 8-10)
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1 cup of chopped pecans
cup of dried tart cherries
1/8 cup of flaxseeds
Pinch of sea salt
1 teaspoon of nutmeg or pumpkin pie spice (for holidays)
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup of virgin coconut oil
1 tablespoon local/raw honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix together. In a small saucepan, combine wet ingredients and heat over medium heat or until melted and mixed. Pour melted mixture over the dry ingredients and mix well. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread granola evenly over sheet. Bake for 15 minutes. Stir mixture on the cookie sheet and bake for another 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Transfer granola to a large decorative glass jar and serve as a gift for the holidays with recipe attached.
OVERNIGHT OATS WITH DATES, FIGS & APPLES (Serves 4)
1 cup oat groats
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 cups water
1 apple, chopped
4 dried figs (or may use 4 pitted dates)
Rinse oats and soak in cold water for 1 hour. Drain and rinse oats and add to a small (1.5 quart) slow cooker. Mix in cinnamon and then stir in 4 cups of water, apples and figs. Cook in slow cooker for 7-8 hours or overnight. Serve warm with almond or coconut milk. Print recipe and tie to a holiday themed crockpot filled with recipe ingredients, a festive dishtowel, and utensils. May even fill it savory options like chicken broth, soup mix, and spices for a different spin.
HOMEMADE VANILLA EXTRACT
3 vanilla beans
1 cup organic vodka (Local Koval Brand)
Glass bottle with tight fitting lid
Use kitchen scissors or a sharp paring knife to cut lengthwise down each vanilla bean, splitting them in half, leaving an inch at the end connected. Put vanilla beans in a glass jar or bottle with a tight fitting lid (Mason jars work well). Cover completely with the vodka. Give the bottle a good shake every once in a while. Store in a dark, cool place for 2 months or longer.
*Homemade vanilla extract lasts for years. You can keep topping it off with vodka once in a while as you use it- just remember to give it a good shake.
BANANA BREAD (Serves 10-12)
1/2 cup organic cane sugar
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon virgin coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup applesauce
3 1/2 ripe bananas, mashed with a fork
2 tablespoons organic plain Greek yogurt or Siggi's brand
1/2 cup of local/raw honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups of organic whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon aluminum free baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Beat together the sugar and eggs on medium until light and fluffy, roughly 5 minutes. Very slowly, drizzle in the olive oil, still beating the mixture on medium. Then add the applesauce and continue mixing. Add the banana, Greek yogurt, honey, and vanilla. Mix together on low speed until combined. Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and sea salt and fold into the banana mixture until thoroughly combined. Stir in toasted walnuts. Pour the batter into a greased 9 x 5 inch loaf pan. Bake for 50-55 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean. Wrap in festive holiday paper and gift to someone special.
RASPBERRY CHIA SEED JELLY
1/2 cup of pitted Medjool Dates
1/2 cup of fresh raspberries
2 tablespoons of chia seeds (chia seeds can be used in place of pectin)
1/4 cup of coconut water
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or pure vanilla extract)
Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until mixed. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator to thicken. Use in place of processed jam or jelly. Makes a delicious filling for thumbprint cookies or used as a topper for your favorite pancakes or French toast.
TRAIL MIX TREATS
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup whole almonds
1/4 cup of dried cranberries or cherries
1/4 cup raisins
1 bag dark chocolate chips
Combine nuts, seeds, and dried fruit and set aside. Melt 1 bag of dark chips over a double boiler. Line a baking sheet with waxed paper. Using a ladle, drop small dollops of melted chocolate on the waxed paper. Sprinkle chocolate with trail mixture and let cool. Sprinkle with sea salt for a delicious salty flavor if desired. Serve in festive gift bags for the perfect stocking stuffers.
For convenience, choose store-bought trail mix combinations that include raw nuts, and dried fruits without added oil or sugar.
For more information, visit: http://kristenjohnsonbrogan.com/
Instagram / Facebook Handle: @KristenJohnsonBrogan
HOLIDAY PET GIFT GUIDE
Lisa Senafe of Bentley's Pet Stuff showed unique items for people to purchase for their pets and discusses the hidden dangers for pets around the holidays including tinsel, chocolate and wrapping paper.
For more information, visit www.petstuff.com.
Catherine Brock, The Budget Fashionista, gave suggestions on "How to Say What You Really Mean This Holiday Season" with sentimental gift ideas. The goal is to ensure the gifts aren't over the top, but rather lets the person know exactly what he/she means to you.
1. Chamilia charms - readymade gifts that don't break the budget
2. Sharpie art - handmade gifts that are easy and cost-efficient
a. Sharpie coffee mug
b. Sharpie wall wart
3.If you want to create something handmade but you don't know what to say on that handmade gift, here are some examples for inspiration:
a. You can use important dates: see engraved wooden watch
b. You can use quotes: see scarf customized with an Emerson quote
c. You can use location references: see bracelet with location coordinates and pillow with state references
d. Also song lyrics, book passages, Bible passages work too! (I don't have products to demonstrate these; this is just a talking point.)
4. You can also look for bridesmaids gifts, which are usually affordable and offer some customization.
a. Engraved lipstick case