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Home goods that make the holidays happy

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Holiday gifts that will make a home warm and welcoming, safe and sound

Ess-scential candles

Even if the weather outside is frightening, you can enjoy nature indoors with the warm, soft light of a candle flame and nature-inspired fragrances from the Heritage Collection by Chesapeake Bay Candle ($15-25). These stylish, modern designed candles can make a home feel cozy, homey and romantic with an array of soothing, energizing and refreshing scents naturally crafted with essential oils Available in small and large jars, two- and three-wick coffee table jars and diffuser styles in 12 scents. Available at chesapeakebaycandle.com, Target, Amazon and major home good stores nationwide.

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B to ZZZs

Give a good night’s sleep to someone you love with bedding from B Your Bed. This affordable line of luxury bedding includes extra-long bedding to accommodate thicker mattresses and bed toppers. Not only are the fabrics ultra-comfortable, all B Your Bed products carry a seal that ensures consumers that the bedding is made with verified high-quality materials, and the company guarantees the dimensions, thread counts, fill rates and materials meet specifications. The beautiful styling and patterns of these comforter sets and accessories make you never want to get out of bed, hence the company name, that promises those who sleep engulfed in this comfort being will be one with the bed. Available at www.byourbed.com.

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Smarter Home

No smartly decorated home these days can be without a smart voice-activated speaker, not just to play music but to operate all the smart devices in the home, like light bulbs, switches, window blinds, thermostats, and TVs. The 808 Audio XL-V premium smart speaker ($129) is a new entrant to the Alexa-responsive speaker systems, that works in concert with Amazon’s Alexa app, enabling the 808 XL-V to access music and book libraries on Amazon, as well as other streaming services – and it has the ability to stream the same music from another 808 XL-V simultaneously, in other rooms. It can also connect via Bluetooth to stream audio from other Bluetooth-enabled devices or serve speaker for non-Bluetooth and non-smart devices using an aux in jack.

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Watch me ne-ne

Give the gift of peace of mind to yourself or love ones with the Honeywell Lyric C2 Wi-Fi Security Camera ($169.99), an easy-to-install and use security system that keeps on eye on your home while you’re away, or inside. Using the Lyric app on a phone or tablet, the C2 streams live video and records using free secure cloud storage (up to 1 GB) and 8GB SD-card storage for back-up, so that you can download surveillance clips from the past 24 hours. The system features voice control capability using the Alexa app, sound detection, night vision, and an HD 145-degree wide-angle view that captures video in sharp 1080p high definition.

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Think in a vacuum

A freshly vacuumed carpet gives the impression of a clean and well-groomed home, and with iRobot’s Roomba, a home can have that just-vacuumed look all the time. The original and most tech-forward of the automatic vacuum brands, Roomba has developed an army of round robots designed for a variety of carpet and floor surfaces, with its most advanced units, like the w-fi connected Roomba 980 ($899), featuring smart technology that allows Roomba to be operated and programmed using an app or with voice- command devices like Echo or Google Home. While Roomba doesn’t do windows, it’s a great helper around the house that won’t complain about chores, and with its endearing Jetson-esque robotic voice, Roomba may just become your next pet, that picks up fur instead of shedding it.

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Knead a break

“I don’ like massages,” said nobody, ever. It’s true, everyone likes to get massages, so make everyone feel good right at home with HoMedics Fold-Away Massaging Shiatsu Lounge Chair ($399). Sit back and relax while this comfy no-assembly-required lounge chair kneads the neck, shoulder, back and legs in an immersive deep-kneading shiatsu massage experience, with an option to apply soothing heat, all controlled with a programmed remote. The seat adjusts for different height levels and features three massage zones that concentrate on different areas, so every family member can enjoy a massage to their liking. When not in use, the chair folds compactly for easy storage. Available online at Bed Bath & Beyond or at store locations.

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Raising the towel bar

Refine and refresh the look of any bathroom with the modern style and rich colors of bath towels from the Lacoste Court Bath Towel Collection ($17.99). These thick and absorbent towels are crafted of high quality and durable soft 100-percent Supima cotton, with luxurious fibers that offer a beautiful luster and a design that features Lacoste’s signature croc patch. The colors from the towel collection complement the full collection from Lacoste Home, in case you want to wrap up on a matching bath robe.

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AdventureLifestyleOutdoorsShoppingWomen's Interest

Girl’s guide to glamping

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Must-have gear for women who love the outdoors but also love creature comforts

Hitting the back woods and camping out does not mean you have to completely rough it.  Whether heading for the hills for a weekender with the family or a girls getaway, take along the right gear that will make your next outdoor adventure a pleasure.

Trailing ahead

Trail blazers can hit the hills running in INOV-8 PARKCLAW 275 GTX ($150) trail running shoes, built to handle versatile terrain, from road running to trails. This durable yet comfortable footwear is engineered with a membrane that bonds directly to the shoe’s upper to create a protective casing that keeps feet dry and performs in harsh running conditions yet has the fit and feel of a regular running shoe. INOV8 features a full line of women‘s and men’s running shoes and runner apparel and accessories available at INOV-8 at www.INOV-8.com or running specialty retailers nationwide.

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Shirts and skin

Whatever the weather, the Showers Pass Bamboo Merino Henley shirt ($60-76) for women and is perfect for it.  This ultimate outdoor all-season performance shirt features down-to-earth high-tech UPF 50+ protection fabric consisting of bamboo and merino fibers woven together are designed to create a soft cool touch on one side and a warm layer on the other side. The side mesh panels of the shirt are body mapped to vent off excess heat, and the flat stitching and continuous underarm panels reduce chaffing.

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Sock it to me

Suit up head to toe for any weather and step into Showers Pass Crosspoint Waterproof Socks ($27.20-$31.20), featuring three layers, including a knit exterior that feels like a regular sock, a breathable waterproof membrane and a moisture-wicking antibacterial lining so that it feels like a sock but protects like a rain booty.

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Get lit

Brighten up a camper’s holiday with the Dark Star 1000L Flashlight ($49.99) from Bass Pro Shops. This powerful beacon will illuminate any night with four light settings – low, medium, high and strobe, and the handle features a push-pull control that can adjust the beam from a spotlight to a flood light. The aluminum housing with anodized finish protects against rough wear, with a casing so solid that it could serve to wack a bear in a pinch. Requires nine AA alkaline batteries.

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Cooking with sass

Outdoor cooks will love to stir up gourmet eats in the Bass Pro Shops’ 5-Piece Cook Set ($49). This light (42-ounce) and compact set, made of sturdy aluminum, comes with a 4.7-quart pot, a 3.2-quart pot, 1.6-quart frying pan, two lids, and a handy nylon carry bag. All the cookware features silicone-coated, folding handles and abrasion- and a stick-resistant coating for easy cleanup. When it’s time to pack up, the nesting design keeps everything compact.

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Bag it

Sleeping under the stars is a dreamy experience, if you have the right sleeping bag, like the warm and cozy Slumberjack Big Timber Pro 20 ($89.95). Built for comfort, this bag features a larger footbox than tapered bags, allowing you to sleep on your back with your feet up in a natural and comfortable position, similar to a bed like experience. Equipped with a soft flannel liner, durable canvas outer shell and robust zippers – which can be joined with a second bag for two sleepers, the Big Timber Pro comes in 20 degree, 0 degree and -20 degree ratings.

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Ground up

Whether camping out in the deep wood or the backyard, avoid the hazards and discomfort of sleeping on the ground by bunking up on a Slumberjack Tough Cot ($89.95). This highly durable cot can hold up to 350 pounds and has a no-squeak steel construction to help you get a sound sleep. It features a spacious sleep surface and sits up high to give plenty of room underneath to store gear. It sets up easily (watch this video to see how easy: https://youtu.be/kbxnvpwkd8o) and comes with a carry bag for transporting and storage.

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Outdoor gourmet

Franks and beans are easy eats when you are cooking outdoors, but for those who prefer more elaborate camp cuisine, the GCI Outdoors SLIM-FOLD Cook Station ($80) has all you need for preparing meals the way you like ‘em. The station sets up and breaks down quickly with a hassle-free one-piece design. It has an aluminum counter top, a lower rack for storage and four plastic fold-out side tables. The side tables feature beverage holders, stem glass holders and hooks that can be used as a garbage bag holder or to hang cooking utensils.

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Pump it up

Why give up a good night’s sleep just because you’re camping? With a Coleman Quickbed Plus High Airbed (Queen size $59.99) , you can have a restful night’s sleep wherever you are. The antimicrobial treated sleep surface resists odor, mold, mildew and fungus that you might encounter in a camping environment, and it comes with the convenience of an included pump, so you’ll always be ready to inflate your bed, indoors or outdoors. Once you find the desired firmness, the airbed’s air-tight closure prevents leaks, and the soft top offers cushioning for added comfort. When you’re ready to pack up, the bed fits into an included carry bag for easy storage until your next adventure.

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Give three shelter

Three can be a crowd, but not on a three-dog night when you are huddled together in the Slumberjack Nightfall 3 ($169).  This lightweight, versatile and very compact three-person tent raises the bar for mountain tents. With only three poles, it’s quick and easy to set up, and the external pitch pole architecture keeps the inner tent dry even while pitching in the rain. The near vertical side walls provide plenty of interior space, and the no-see-um mesh keeps out even the littlest gnats and skeeters, to make your camp experience pleasant and pest-free.

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Blow up your kayak

If you’ve always wanted a kayak but didn’t think you had the space to store one, Innova Kayaks has a solution that blows traditional kayaks out of the water. These inflatable kayaks are lightweight and constructed of heavy duty natural and synthetic rubber that will last for years, even decades.  They blow up in minutes with a high-capacity foot pump, and after the adventuring they fold up compactly and can be carries away in an oversized backpack and loaded into even a compact car. One-person and three-seater models available, with capacity up to 900 pounds. Available at dealers nationwide $399 to $1,299.

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Beauty productsGiftsShopping

A beautiful new you for the New Year

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Look your best for the holiday season and year-round with these beauty boosters

Lash out

LashControl Squeeze mascara ($18) is the only mascara with squeeze control, featuring a patented tube that dispenses precisely as much mascara as you need on your brush every time you use it. You simply pinch the tube as you pull the brush out, and access formula stays in the cylinder. LashControl mascaras are formulated with botanicals and a beeswax base to keep lashes hydrated and conditioned, with formulas to promote lengthening and volumizing, and a clearcoat that can be used as a topcoat or a brow fix for a perfect finish. Available at www.lashcontrol.com.

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Smart blonde

Look your blondest best for the holidays and year-round with Tony Odisho Ostia Collection Beautiful Blonde Shampoo and Conditioner. This deep purple formula deposits violet color on locks to highlight natural and colored blonde sheen and knocks out dullness.  Also great for grey hair. $24 for two 8 oz. bottles.

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Raise the dry bar

The Dryonizer 5500 Pink ($109) from HSI Professional is a salon quality hairdryer to-dry-for. This powerhouse of a beauty appliance has an adjustable thermostat and three heat levels to prevent hair damage from excess heat. It also features speed settings for quick drying or a lower speed for styling, for salon looks you can achieve at home.

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Exotic beauty

Keprea skincare line, developed from rare botanicals harvested in North Africa, features patented anti-inflammatory and antiaging ingredients that nourish and transform skin and protect against environmental stresses. The Keprea Multi-Active Crème Day ($69.95) is a lightweight intensely nursing moisturizer that protects and repairs skin and reduces the appearance of fine lines to give skin a smooth and healthy appearance. Keprea Multi-Active Creme Night ($89.95) it is a rich and luxuriously hydrating night treatment that renews, restores and repairs skin by infusing hydration and nourishment overnight to improve skin clarity and texture.

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Note-able looks

When you want make-up that will transform you from drab to dazzle, but you don’t want to break the bank, take Note. The wallet-friendly Note Cosmetics collection features rich-pigment shades in ultra-fine milled powders that are blendable, smooth and long wearing. Developed by leading European chemists, the formulas are infused with globally sourced botanical ingredients enriched with essential oils and vitamins, Paraben-free and never tested on animals. The holiday Shimmer and Shine gift set ($25) includes three Note best sellers: Terracotta Powder in Stardust, Eyeshadow Pencil in Pearl Beige and Long Wearing Lipgloss in Honeylove.

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Wrinkles away

The trusted name in anti-aging, StriVectin, can help you fend off Old Man Time with its high-performance skincare and haircare solutions powered by science. At the center of every formula is patented, proprietary NIA-114 technology that supercharges StriVectin products, all invented by skin scientists using a body of knowledge gathered in 35 years of research. SD Advanced Intensive Concentrate ($79, 4.7 ounce) is one of the line’s toughest wrinkle fighters, promising to reduce the look of wrinkles in just 15 days, getting you looking good just in time for party season.

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GiftsInternet of ThingsLifestyleShoppingTech

Tech the halls 2018 gift guide

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Eight smart gifts of gadgets, toys and accessories for electronics lovers

Plug into fun this holiday season with these awesome devices and tech toys that will make the holidays  electric.

We will, we will Roku

Binge watchers will love the ultimate top-of-the-line streaming device, Roku Ultra, that streams high-quality HD and even 4K video with a slim design that neatly tucks into TV cabinets or looks sleek on a shelf. For those who want to lie in bed and turn up the volume on their favorite action series and not wake up their partner with every explosion or gun battle, Roku offers private listening, which allows an individual to listen with headphones connected to a jack on the Roku remote or on a smart phone using the latest Roku app. Another great feature on the Roku remote is the ability to control volume and power up and turn off a connect TV. Like other models in Roku‘s lineup, the Ultra also offers dedicated buttons to popular networks, like Netflix and Hulu. New this year to Roku is the brand’s own free channel, chock full of premium movies and shows. Roku Ultra is available for $99 at retailers nationwide.

Thinking in a vacuum

Neat freaks can take a break from constant cleaning with iRobot’s Roomba, a vaccum robot that will do the work for them so their home can have that just-vacuumed look all the time. The original and most tech-forward of the automatic vacuum brands, Roomba has developed an army of round robots designed for a variety of carpet and floor surfaces, with its most advanced units, like the wi-fi connected Roomba 980 ($899), featuring smart technology that allows Roomba to be operated and programmed using an app or with voice- command devices like Echo or Google Home. While Roomba doesn’t do windows, it’s a great helper around the house that won’t complain about chores, and with its endearing Jetson-esque robotic voice, Roomba may just become your next pet, that picks up fur instead of shedding it.

Click tap, my phone was taking a bath

For the tech enthusiastic who has everything, give them the peace of mind of a bacteria-free cell phone with phone soap ($59.95). This sanitizing unit that looks like a mini sunbed, uses UV lights to kill germs on your phone in 10 minutes. The unit features an opening to thread through a phone cable, so the phone can charge while it’s in use. Available at www.phonesoap.com.

Tic Talk

The Mobvoi TicHome Mini ($99) is a great new entrant into the works-with-Google-Assistant family. This speaker has rich audio quality, especially for its size, and this portable, compact unit comes in a variety of attractive colors to spruce up your countertop, desk, bathroom vanity (it’s splash resistant) or wherever it sits, ready to respond to your commands. Using the Google Assistant app, it can access the massive knowledge base of Google search, and can play music from a number of streaming services like Pandora. Also, the TicHome Mini can untether from its USB charging cable and run on its internal battery, either operating as truly wireless Wi-Fi streaming speaker or a Bluetooth speaker.

Own your stuff

While you cozy up in front of the TV this holiday season, save some money for your family with a TP-Link Archer CR700 Wireless Dual Band DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem Router ($159), a modem-router combination that can replace the unit that the cable service provider makes you pay to lease each month. Owning your own equipment is not only more convenient and less expensive in the long run, you will own the most advanced technology that often can perform better and faster than the no-frills devices the cable companies buy in bulk and rent to subscribers. The Archer CR7000 also features Parental and Access Control using a web management page that allows you to safeguard your network, restricting who can join and what content users may access while on it. Check compatibly with your cable service provider.

Strong arm

Spark the engineering spirit in young builders with the Hearthsong Hydraulic Arm Edge ($49.98, ages 10 and up), a working arm that kids assemble and then learn to maneuver using sequences that move its six water-powered levers to make the arm turn, lift, lower, and move blocks and other items to create structures using the arm’s grippers and its super-strong suction cup. As a feel-good bonus, when consumers purchase a STEM toy from HearthSong before December 11, 2017, and Bayer will donate the full value of that toy to Toys for Tots to buy STEM toys from HearthSong at a discount and donate up to $250,000.

 

Fast and curious

Kids can ramp up on the latest augmented reality technology with Osmo’s latest fun, mind-challenging game, Hot Wheels MindRacer ($59.99 on Amazon, ages 5 and up). This interactive game expands the boundaries of play with the classic play experience of Hotwheels cars with the power of mobile computing. Using tokens for a boost and real Hot Wheels cars – each with their own unique skills and personality quirks, players rev up and launch the toys into a fantastical computer-generated racetrack where winning takes both speed and smarts. A special note: this game is the first-ever Hot Wheels product marketed on the package, “For boys and girls!” (iPad sold separately)

Just watch

Give the gift of peace of mind to yourself or love ones with the Honeywell Lyric C2 Wi-Fi Security Camera ($169.99), an easy-to-install and use security system that keeps on eye on your home while you’re away, or inside. Using the Lyric app on a phone or tablet, the C2 streams live video and records using free secure cloud storage (up to 1 GB) and 8GB SD-card storage for back-up, so that you can download surveillance clips from the past 24 hours. The system features voice control capability using the Alexa app, sound detection, night vision, and an HD 145-degree wide-angle view that captures video in sharp 1080p high definition.

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FashionGiftsLifestyleShoppingWomen's Interest

Seven stylish gifts for the fashionista on your list

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Dress up the trend setter on your shopping list in these styles that will keep her happy all season

These boots were made for power walking

Shout “I’m here” without having to say a word in Miss Garcia Hedera boots ($479.16), a bold red skin boot that makes the statement, “unstoppable” with every step.  The eye-catching color and design is partnered with a soft texture that makes this high-fashion footwear are rare combination of a boot with knock-out style that is a pleasure to wear.

Sisters of the partying jumpsuit

Stand out at your holiday party in a Joseph Ribkoff Jumpsuit ($279) that is the best of both worlds.  Both playful and elegant, this one-piece silky knit outfit flows and moves, so you can dazzle the room and dance the night away. The sequined appliques highlight the décolleté and shoulder area to form a rounded neckline, complemented by a tailored zippered back and slender waist-tie belt that flatter the figure.

Fit for a queen

A perfect holiday shirt is one that inspires the spirt of season and makes you feel like yourself, like the CINO’s beautiful Buckingham Mixed Print ($130), designed by Cinthia Menaloscino. You can roll up your sleeves up for a casual and comfy look or button up for work or a holiday party in this 100% cotton and rayon mixed-print and plaid crinkle button-down shirt with a contrast print trim. Like its name, this shirt is a royal classic.

 

Chic sleep

The whole family can cuddle up in matching Bedhead PJs sleepwear that will bring warm feelings all season long. These premium pajama sets are finely tailored and adorned with trendy and fun patterns, like Dignified, Dogs, Wildlife, Ski Village, Champagne and Strawberries, in styles from stretchy knits to cozy flannel to luxury silk, all locally cut and sewn in Los Angeles, California. Available in infants and kids and grown-up sizes, $48 up to $289.

 

Wear it out

When you want to relax but still look fashion-forward, the Royal Robbins collection of stylish causal clothes are functionally fashionable, made to wear on your off-hours, wherever you go. The Long Distance ¼ Zip for Women ($75) is a form-fitting second-skin base layer that keeps you warm under layers or looks sleek worn by itself, in a delicious deep Raspberry Crush color and made with an ultra-soft brushed-back midweight spandex-blend fabric with flatlocked seams for smoothness and thermoregulation technology to wick moisture and keep you dry and comfortable. When temps dip, raise your mountain fashion up into the altitude with a Cable Mountain Hybrid Full-Zip ($99) sweater, a two-tone mix of soft-blend front panels with form-fitting rib knit sleeves and back for a sleek yet comfortable sweater to wear anywhere.

Girl’s Choice

The little fashionista on your list will love apparel, accessories and shoes that stand out by MyChooze.com. This adorable line of apparel and footwear for young girls features fashions that are perfect for school, play and parties. There’s even shoes and fashions for mom to “twin” with her daughter. Fitting with the brand’s name, with each purchase Chooze allows you to choose from five family charity causes to which a portion of every sale is donated.

Best dress

The woman-on-the go on your list will feel free in a Nuu Muu dress ($65-$88) that wears well from the yoga studio to the grocery store and even the office.  This exercise and everything-else dress is made of a comfy and silky polyester-spandex blend that moves with movement and won’t bunch when layered. Perfect for travel, the stain and tear resistant fabric is SPF 50+ and dries quickly without wrinkling. For moms and daughters, there’s also matching kids prints ($48).

 

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GiftsShopping

Six stocking stuffers that will knock their socks off

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Surprise your secret Santa with one of these great gifts that come in small packages

Stocking up on socks

Stuff stockings with stockings, er, well, socks, that will give the recipient good feelings head to toe. Balega Limited Edition Grit and Grace socks ($14) from Enduro are made from US yarn and spun in South Africa, and for every pair sold, the company donates one dollar to Breast Cancer Prevention Partners. These stylish and colorful socks feature high heel tabs that line the inside of the shoe your shoe for added comfort, along with ventilated panels and a proprietary Drynamix moisture management yarn.

Grab this

GrabbitSTICK ($24.99) equipped with MagnetPAL ($12.99) a cross between a telescopic selfie stick and a mini fishing rod, this gadget dangles a powerful magnet that an pick up metal stuff in hard-to-reach places, like that thumbtack you dropped down the garbage disposal.

The measure of a man (or woman)

A great addition to any tool box, the etape16 digital tape measure ($29.95 plus shipping and handling) is a handy device for hobbyists, woodworkers, seamstresses, DIYers, decorators, and anyone who needs an accurate and easy way to measure things. The large battery-powered digital display and button wheel functions make readability and usability easy, to save time and frustration and reduce errors in measuring tasks. An auto-shut-off features ensures long battery life of up to 64 hours of continuous usage.

In box

Phonephiles value their smartphones more than anything, so give them an Otterbox ($34.95 and up) to keep it safe from drops and scratches. The best-known brand in cases for mobile phones and tablets offers a style for every taste and levels of protection that suit the user, from slim pocket-ready styles to heavy-duty styles that can take a beating. The Build Your Own Case series features a variety of shell and slip cover colors to choose from to create a distinctive case, or for a clean and crystal-clear look, the Symmetry Series offers a see-through Clear Case or a variety of designer patterns, limited edition styles and even holiday-themed designs.

Do you hear what I hear?

Audiophiles will hear holiday carols, and their favorite tunes, crystal clear with Audio-Tecnica’s ATH-CKR55BT ($99) in-ear headphones. Featuring newly designed 10.7 mm drivers and Bluetooth wireless technology, these tiny powerhouses deliver full-range audio with a built-in amplifier to enhance the audio’s depth and resolution. Designed for on-the-go listening, the stylish headphones, available in black or blue, feature a neckband with a conveniently located in-line mic and easy-access controls for answering calls, volume and music and video playback on compatible devices, plus a handy clip to attach to a shirt collar for secure, tension-free use.

All absorbing

Clean freaks will love to scrub with stylish and squeaky clean Skura Style sponges.  These cellulose wonders offer patented foam technology, an antimicrobial coating and a print-to-fade logo and subscription service that help take the guesswork out of sponge replacement. A four-pack of sponges is $12 per month.

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Eat & DrinkGiftsLifestyleShopping

Five delicious gift ideas for the foodie on your holiday list

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Give the epicureans on your shopping list something to savor with these tasteful gifts

Belly up

What’s better than bacon? How about bacon as often as you want it? This pork-happy dream can be a reality with Tender Belly, the bacon specialists who use vegetarian-fed pedigreed heritage pigs from sustainable Iowan family farms to create their flavorful, fine-restaurant-quality signature thick slices of yummy bacon – with no antibiotics, no nitrates, now available via a monthly subscription. Order up a three-month subscription ($177) of four pounds of glorious, delicious dry-cured and cherrywood-smoke bacon shipped door-to-door at the beginning of each month. Or, for smaller appetites, order strips by the pound ($14.75).

 

Bake by numbers

The baking beginner on your list will feel like an accomplished chef with Scratch and Grain baking company kits. These color-coded ready-to-bake kits make homemade baking fun and easy. Just follow the step-by-step instructions and whip up delicious treats made with organic, high quality ingredients. Kits cost between $5.49 and $8.49 and include snickerdoodle, classic sugar cookies and limited-edition holiday sugar cookies. Other cookie kits include chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, gluten-free chocolate truffle, and chewy peanut butter gluten-free. There’s also cupcake kits and organic pumpkin markets. Available at www.scratchandgrain.com

Cool beans

Stock up the foodie on your list, with mixes for soups, chili and baking like Old-Fashioned Chili Mix ($5.95) , Chocolate Brownie Mix ($5.95) , Golden Cornbread mix ($3.95) or Gourmet Popcorn kits ($5.95) from the Women’s Bean Project. Each product is lovingly handmade by women who support themselves and their families through their work for this philanthropic-minded company that gives opportunities to disadvantaged women. Gift baskets and other items like dog treats are also available from www.womensbeanproject.com.

Hostess helper

Your hostess with the most-est will appreciate your gift of exquisite desserts and treats from Matthews 1812. Baked in Connecticut-based and shipped nationwide, these delicious serving-size party pleasers, like Bourbon Pecan Minis ($20) or Bourbon Fig Cake )$33), are the perfect hostess gift, or great for serving at your own holiday gathering.

Meat me

Carnivores will salivate for delicious and tender steaks from Greensbury, a dedicated leader in the grass-fed movement, with its origins in the Amish farms of Pennsylvania and now ranching in Texas, Ohio, New Mexico and Illinois. This beef-by-mail company delivers exceedingly high-quality meat products from cattle raised humanely and sustainably, free of hormones, steroids and antibiotics. The taste and quality of the meat comes from careful cutting, vacuum sealing and boxing of the meat, using only natural enzymes and a 21- to 28-day wet aging process. The company also sells premium seafood, pork, lamb, poultry and game products. Two six-ounce fillet mignon steaks cost $43.99. Subscriptions offer a reduced cost for regular customers.

 

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GiftsLifestyleShopping

The ultimate click-and-gift online holiday gift guide

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Save a trip to the mall by filling up your virtual shopping cart with these great gifts

The holidays should be a season of joy, not a marathon of stressful shopping. Make it easy on yourself and order up these sure-to-please gifts, all available online – and in stores – if you must, for everyone on your list.

 

Knead a break

“I don’ like massages,” said nobody, ever. It’s true, everyone likes to get massages, so treat yourself and your family to luxurious massages that will make everyone feel good with HoMedics Fold-Away Massaging Shiatsu Lounge Chair ($399). Sit back and relax while this comfy no-assembly-required lounge chair kneads the neck, shoulder, back and legs in an immersive deep-kneading shiatsu massage experience, with an option to apply soothing heat, all controlled with a programmed remote. The seat adjusts for different height levels and features three massage zones that concentrate on different areas, so every family member can enjoy a massage to their liking. When not in use, the chair folds compactly for easy storage. Available online at Bed Bath & Beyond or at store locations.

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It’s anyone’s game

Before you know it, the weather will be warm again, so give the airheads in your life the ultimate flying disc game, KanJam, so they can brush up on their dinger and deuce skills. A favorite collegiate game that has made its way to schools, parks, campgrounds, beaches and backyards everywhere, this disc tossing game has its own lingo and has inspired leagues and national tournaments for championship titles. Equipment consists of two clip together bottomless buckets and a disc, making this game easy to pack and play anywhere.  $39.99 on Amazon and at retailers nationwide.

The keys to love

Sentimentalists will cherish the Giving Key Classic Key Necklace ($42), the gift that keeps on giving and inspiring. Originating with a caring gesture symbolized by a New York hotel room key, the Classic Necklace is the signature token of the brand’s collection of imprinted keys that symbolize the Pay-It-Forward concept of passing on the gift of a good deed or giving support to a person in need. Available at www.thegivingkeys.com.

Wear-ever clothes

Outdoorsy types on your list will love Craghoppers style, the rugged yet fashionable and comfortable clothing line that is versatile enough to go from the campfire to a casual dinner. For women, the jeans-style Ester pants ($70) are made from fabulously stretchy skinny cord fabric and are practical and agile to pair with a variety of tops. For men, the Kiwi Classic Thermic Jacket ($140) is a perfect ally on chilly days, with a waterproof outer layer and high-loft insulated lining that keeps out the cold in style. Available at www.craghoppers.com.

Kids Rock

Inspire budding geologists with Hearthsong’s  Dr. Cool Giant Geode ($19.98, ages 6 and up) which includes one of the largest geodes available anywhere, for kids to crack open and discover the beautiful crystal formation hidden inside. It’s the best way to explore geode treasure, just like geodes found in the desert for a volcanic ash bed. The kit includes educational information and instructions for breaking open the geode, which is a great way to start or build up a rock collection. Available at www.heartsong.com. As a feel-good bonus, when consumers purchase a STEM toy from HearthSong before December 11, 2017, and Bayer will donate the full value of that toy to Toys for Tots to buy STEM toys from HearthSong at a discount and donate up to $250,000.

Warm feet

Know anyone with cold feet? Warm their heart, and feet, with Heat Holders ($9.99-$20.99), touted as the world’s warmest thermal socks, that will keep their toes toasty in luxurious comfort, whether they are sitting around the ski lodge or lounging at home. These thick and cozy socks, made with a specially developed heavy bulk yarn and long pile cushioning, are designed to trap warm air close to the skin keeping your feet warmer for longer. Heat Holders also makes awesomely warm hats, scarves, thermal underwear and throw blankets. Available at www.heatholders.com.

Tri this

Photography buffs on-the-go can get steady shots wherever they shoot with the MeFOTO Backpacker Air ($125), a tripod that is lighter and smaller than most professional styles but comes loaded with high-performance features. Ideal for smartphones, compact cameras, action cameras and small mirrorless cameras, it features a removable selfie stick with a Bluetooth remote, and it comes in several stylish colors. Available at www.mefoto.com.

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BusinessShopping

It’s the season for customer success as new shopping rites change

shopping

As the surge in cyber shopping and social media influence on buying decisions has proven to retailers, the landscape for those selling goods and services has altered dramatically in the past few years. No longer do companies have the opportunities interact face-to-face with their customers or even communicate with them on the phone.

To compete in the new paradigm, companies that understand the rapidly evolving manner in which consumers, influencers, and companies share information are quickly adopting subscription-based revenue models to measure customer experiences and predict business growth will be the ones that survive and thrive.

Those who utilize this type of customer success platform are developing and maintaining valuable loyal customer relations. Whatever business a company is involved in, relationships are key to success. To develop meaningful and loyal relationships, companies need to understand the user behavior of their customers and they need to engage them and anticipate their future needs.

To achieve customer success, companies must monitor customer health indicators and chart a course for correction so they can identify and drive new revenue opportunities. They also need to uncover customer needs to prevent user frustration, and they need to speak to customers when and where they are most likely to listen.

When a company follows these tenets, they can accelerate a customer’s journey from adoption to advocacy, thereby assuring their customer understands and appreciates their value proposition, which will optimize the company’s return on its investment.

Many technology platforms, such as Salesforce, Zendesk, #Slack and Gainsight have made the job of organizations and their sales associates easier, but to fully integrate these platforms and make them applicable to a business, there must be meaningful analysis and then action to enhance or correct where a company is succeeding or failing in meeting its customers’ needs.

B2B platforms, such as UserIQ, serve more than to provide messages and alerts to customers by empowering companies to foster growth. They aid with on boarding and retention and boost expansion and advocacy by combining user intelligence, targeted engagements, and customer health to give customers what they need to be successful at any stage of their business.

The most savvy and wisest of companies are adapting quickly and utilizing the latest technology that synthesizes and analyzes big data into usable information that can help them to keep their customers and encourage their customers to not only stay loyal but to spend more and become advocates and bring new leads to the company.

For any company that has looked for solutions to counter churn, these innovative technologies are helping companies to focus on excellent customer service, production and improvement of their lines of products and services, and a better bottom line without guesswork.

As entrepreneurs and consumers move into a new era of how we buy, we are transforming the ways that we decide what and from whom to buy, companies that are adopting technology platforms will lead the way to better products and services and a better buying experience for everyone.

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Beauty productsEat & DrinkLifestyleOutdoorsShoppingTravel

10 must-haves for end-of-summer

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Last-days-of summer essentials that will make the fun last

 

A hot Indian summer can last for weeks, or longer, after Labor Day, so don’t give up yet on fun in the sun. For summer’s last hurrah, do it right with these are six essentials for entertaining and enjoying the outdoors. Gear up and get outside, while you can.

Beach head

Let your groovy self go, with Violet Love chic headbands ($17 and up) and bandeaus ($24) that stay in place, at the beach, riding in the convertible, or wherever you head out or bust a move. This playful line of headwear, strapless bra tops and other accessories and apparel items features fun prints and styles and soft, stretchy lightweight fabrics that are comfortable, cute, and functional.

Throw on the towel

Distinguish your base camp on the beach with colorful Lacoste beach towels (Macy’s, $42). These stylish, crocodile-emblazoned towels are lightweight yet plush and absorbent, and their large size makes them a cross between a towel and blanket, to wrap up in after splashing in the water, or for sandphobes who want spacious ground cover when basking in the sun.

Blow up your kayak

If you’ve always wanted a kayak but didn’t think you had the space to store one, Innova Kayaks has a solution that blows traditional kayaks out of the water. These inflatable kayaks are lightweight and constructed of heavy duty natural and synthetic rubber that will last for years, even decades.  They blow up in minutes with a high-capacity foot pump, and after the adventuring they fold up compactly and can be carries away in an oversized backpack and loaded into even a compact car. One-person and three-seater models available, with capacity up to 900 pounds. Available at dealers nationwide $399 to $1,299.

Hot or not

Need to Facebook while you are on the beach? Stop being a lame-o and enjoy the beach, but if you do need your phone for an emergency, take along ClimateCase ($34.99) insulating smartphone case. The lined pouch protects your phone against extreme temperatures that can cause a phone to stop working.  The case features a multi-layered thermal system comprised of 7 mm of Neoprene and gel infused materials. Pop it in the fridge for four hours before using (or in the microwave for 20-25 seconds in cold weather), to keep your phone safe; or if the worst happens, you can restore an overheated (or frozen) phone in less than 60 seconds.

Skeeter-free

Mosquitos don’t stick to any calendar when it comes to biting season, so keep them away from you and your patio party with Thermacel Patio Shield.  ($39.99, at retailers nationwide). This sleek little portable-speaker-sized mosquito repeller burns an insect repellent mat that creates a 15’ x 15’ protection zone, perfect for a small outdoor area. It uses butane cartridges (four included, to last 48 hours) and two AA batteries to operate.

Coolest cooler

You’ve got your hands full, with beach chairs, blankets, boogie boards and kids. Free up a hand by strapping your cooler on your back, with the IceMule ($49.95 to $69.95), a portable insulated backpack that will keep your food and drinks icey cold for up to 24 hours. These padded sacks feature a heavy-duty inner and outer skin, a range of sizes and a ventilated backpack strap system.

Who wears skort skirts?

In between summer and fall, it’s the perfect time to wear something in between shorts and a skirt. The Royal Robbins Jammer Skort ($60) is a sporty and comfortable skirt with stretchy built-in shorts underneath that allow you to be active and lady like at the same time.

Shoe be do

Step out in fashion forward and comfort-driven Off the Beaten Track sandals. You can stride in style the best thing next to bare feet, on the boardwalk, at the theme park, shopping, strolling, or anywhere you want to wander in these casual go-anywhere, do-anything earth-inspired leathers, with attention to detail that will make you want to put your feet up, to show them off.  The line also features shoes and boots for all seasons, $79 to $179.

Hydrate, or dry

If summer’s sun had taken a toll on your skin, hydrate and refresh it with Vichy’s Mineral 89 ($29.50), a skincare formula comprised of 89% Vichy Thermal Water, derived from mineral-rich volcanic territory in Vichy, France, plus the addition of hyaluronic acid which ramps up the performance of the mineralizing water to boost skin’s resistance to daily aggressors, for year-round healthy-looking skin.

Snack on

When you are tossing some treats into your tote for an outing, its hard to find nutritious and yummy snacks that won’t melt into mush on a hot day. All-natural KUTOA snack bars ($23.99 fo r12-pack)are not only delicious, they are perfect for packing along to the beach or pool, soccer game, or other outing, and you can feel good about eating these oatmeal bars because they are non-GMO verified, vegan, gluten, and contain no dairy, soy, wheat, preservatives or added sugar, plus for every bar that’s purchased, KUTOA helps feed a children in need around the world. Flavors include Chocolate Banana, Peanut Butter and Jelly, Blueberry Almond, Chocolate Espresso Bean, and Cherry Cashew.

 

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