Cool Christmas Gifts 2010

With Christmas less than two months away, the holiday shopping season is about to be in full swing just about everywhere.  In Chicago, The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival officially kicks off the Christmas shopping season, with numerous fun family activities including the Mickey Mouse parade illuminating over one million lights along Michigan Avenue.  Once the official season kicks off we’ll see plenty of options to choose from. Among the choices available are some pretty stylish gifts to consider while shopping for family and friends, or even for you this year.

Sparkle and function are high on my list this Christmas.  I’ve been scouting and scoring my favorite stores and websites and have come across a surprising array of high-style gifts at really great prices.  For instance Swarovski’s crystalline ballpoint pen and Tiffany & Company’s signature blue mug which both get 5 stars at $25 or less.  My policy is to give only what I’d want to receive.  With that thought in mind, I’d better start shopping soon!

Happy Holidays and happy shopping 2010!

Holly    Flicker Charm

1.  The swan logo of Swarovski Crystal is synonymous with some of the best known cut crystal in the world. With retail locations around the world, walking into a Swarovski Crystal store is an illuminating experience.  With gifts ranging from $24 and up, it is a popular and classy place to pick up high-quality gifts that sparkle and delight.  Best know for crystal jewelry, gifts can be found for the home, office and Christmas tree.  The items featured above range in price from $24 – $130.  The annual edition Swarovski snowflake is one of the most prized collectible ornaments on the market today.

At A Glance image

2. With e-books sales close to 10% of all books sold in the US alone, e-readers are obviously a gift that a lot of folks would be happy to find under the tree this holiday season.  This number is expected to rise with the continued popularity of e-readers this 2010 holiday season.  There are a multitude e-reader options on the market to choose from, with the Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook and Sony Reader topping many lists as the most popular.  E-readers have also become more affordable with prices starting at $139 for the highly rated Amazon Kindle 3.  The Kindle is compatible with many of the most popular electronic devices on the market such as iPad, Android and Blackberry, making it a popular consumer choice in this market.

3.  I suspect Apple TV will be a popular gift to give and receive this holiday season.  Small, quiet and energy-efficient, this device takes up little space on your entertainment shelf.   Priced at just $99, Apple TV allows you to stream HD movies, Netflix titles and TV shows instantly.   You also get access to YouTube, movies from the iTunes store and all music and videos on networked computers running iTunes.  There’s a lot more to this little device than meets the eye which will delight a lot of apple fans this holiday season.

4.  The blue box with the white satin bow stands for unmistakable quality all over the world.  Tiffany & Co. has a few great gift options at $25 and under.  At just $15 each, the hand-blown champagne flute and all-purpose red wine glass look even better up close and the Fifth Avenue mug in bone china is perfect for the chic and elegant recipient on your list.  These lovely gifts come with your choice of the signature white or a red satin ribbon for the holiday season.

Hint – A Tiffany signature blue and white gift mug was available for just a short time on the website.  The demand was so high that most locations have sold out already!  Keep an eye on the site or contact you local store to find out about future availability.  It is gorgeous and sells for $25!  A steal if you can get it.

5.  Chocolate, but not just any chocolate.  I received a box of Kurn’s handmade chocolates as a birthday gift and had to hide them from myself!   Handmade with high-quality ingredients, the unbelievably good Dark Chocolate Marshmallow Pokie is one layer creamy caramel with Virginia pecan pieces topped with a layer of marshmallow and coated in dark chocolate.  Scrumptious!!!  At $15.95 for a half-box, these candies are a real steal.

Joseph Joseph Folding Colander  Joseph Joseph 12 by 16-Inch Worktop Saver with Mini Mosaic Design        Joseph Joseph 3-in-1 Design Rotary Peeler

 6.  Every now and then a company comes along and reimagines the most basic products and makes them better, or at least more interesting.  Joseph Joseph is one such company.  Founded by twin brothers Richard and Antony Joseph in 2003, this team has won global recognition and multiple awards for their stylish and innovative home wares designs.  The folding colander, mini mosaic design worktop saver and three-in-one rotary peeler are enough to make a cook smile with glee!  These and many other Joseph Joseph products can be found at and other popular retailers across the US.

7.  I first discovered Native Shoes at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.  They remind me a lot of the immensely popular brand Crocs but have more style, edge and flair.  Styled after Chuck Taylor Converse, Keds and other popular names, the Corrado, Jefferson and Miller are antimicrobial, super lightweight and very comfortable slip-ons.  They’re unisex, come in adult and children’s sizes and are available in colors from red to bright yellow.  You won’t need to gift wrap the ultra cool box designed with a shoulder strap making it a cinch to carry.  Quite a cool shoe!  Available at

UGG® Australia 'Coquette' Slipper (Women)UGG® Australia 'Dakota' Moccasin (Toddler, Little Kid & Big Kid) UGG® Australia 'Byron' Slipper (Men)

8.  Ugg Australia’s sheepskin and fleece lined boots are known the world over for their comfort and warmth.  This company has come quite a ways since 1978 when Australian surfer, Brian Smith, introduced his Ugg brand sheepskin boots to the US selling 48 pairs his first season in business.  The Ugg brand grew steadily and was acquired in 1995 which led to continued expansion.  The Ugg brand is now licensed in the US and over 100 other countries.  Like Ugg boots, Ugg slippers are super comfy and are known to be worn indoors or out year round.  Favorite styles and great gift options are the Coquette for women, Byron for men and Dakota moccasin for toddlers, little kids and big kids.  Tidings of comfort and joy for the feet!  Available at  Nordstrom and retailers worldwide.

Greens Professor  The Greens Professor Putting Training Aid

9.  For the golf enthusiast or beginner on your list, this could be the perfect gift this holiday season.  The Greens Professor teaches perfect putting.  This product is currently used by professional tour players and endorsed by golf analyst, Jerry Foltz.  The Greens Professor develops proper putter face alignment and lets the golfer fine tune muscle memory by practicing at home, in the office or outdoors.  Class 1 laser technology is used to give instant feedback on stroke alignment.  Available at Neiman Marcus and

10.  French product designer Philippe Starck introduced the Louis Ghost chair in 2002.  Often imitated but never duplicated, these transparent durable chairs have become very popular for their modern style and form.  The Louis Ghost chair was so popular that Starck  followed it up with the Lou Lou Ghost chair for children.  A special Barbie edition Lou Lou Ghost chair is also available.  These Philippe Starck chairs are available at and other select retailers.

Courtly Check Kitchen  Courtly Check Enamel Cake Carrier  Courtly Check Enamel Pet Dish - Large

11.  Mackenzie-Childs Courtly Check enamelware is both functional and stylish.  The enamel tea kettle and cake carrier are gorgeous and make spectacular gifts.  How about a gift for the special pet in your life?  The Courtly Check pet dish is just too cute!! Mackenzie-Childs home wares and gifts are available on their website and at select retailers nationwide.

12.  Galleria umbrellas turn rainy days into an opportunity to show off what you’re hiding.  These are not just ordinary umbrellas, they’re literally works of art.  Not only are they good-looking, they’re super sturdy and open and close with the push of a button.  These umbrellas are lined with unbreakable fiberglass ribs and have a comfortable handle making them easy hold.  Perfect for a busy commuter on a rainy day in the city or a quick run to the market.



White House Tree 2010

The National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA) reports that the official White House Christmas Tree will be a beautiful Douglas-fir from Lehighton, Pennsylvania. Blue Room Christmas Tree 

The offiicial Blue Room tree will be presented to First Lady Michelle Obama by Christmas Tree farmer Christopher Botek and his family.  Botek earned this honor as the winner of the NCTA’s national Christmas Tree contest held in August 2010 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and by becoming the Grand Champion. 

The Blue Room Christmas tree was hand-picked by White House Staff on September 28, 2010.  The tree was planted by Botek on his Crystal Spring tree Farm 20 years ago and will be cut and sent to Washington D.C. where an official presentation ceremony will take place.

This is not the first time the Botek name has been associated with Christmas at the White House, his parents Margaret and Francis Botek were Grand Champions in 2006.  They travelled to Washington where they presented the White House Christmas Tree to First Lady Laura Bush.  Having followed in the footsteps of his parents, Botek calls winning the contest this year a source of family pride and an honor for the family as tree farmers. 

National Christmas Tree Association members have presented the official White House Blue Room Christmas tree since 1996.  White House staff traditionally travel to the farm where the official Blue Room tree will be selected in the early fall.  Once the tree is chosen a red velvet bow as seen in this photo is pinned to the tree to note the honor.  This year White House Director of the Executive Residence and Chief Usher; Rear Admiral Stephen Rochon, grounds superintendent; Dale Haney, White House chief floral designer; Laura Dowling and supervisor of  horticulture for the National Parks Service; Jim Adams all travelled to the Botek farm to make the official selection.

The Douglas-fir will arrive at the White House on the traditional horse-drawn carriage to the North Portico where it is  received by the First Lady.  The tree will be on display in the Blue Room throughout the holiday season.


Holiday Spending 2010

Although many of my friends and family say they will spend less this upcoming holiday season, overall there appears to be good news on the horizon for retailers.  The last few years have been downright painful with sales declines and moderate gains at best.  With sales rising for 13 months in a row as of September 2010, retailers across the U.S. have reason to be optimistic about upcoming holiday consumer spending.

After a sharp sales decline of  3.9% in 2008 and a moderate increase of 0.4% in 2009, holiday retails sales in 2010 are expected to increase 2.3% to $447.1 billion according to the National Retail Federation.   That growth remains slightly lower than the ten-year average holiday sales increase of 2.5% but would be the best increase for retailers in three years.  

Reuter’s news organization reports that U.S. e-commerce spending could be 7-9% higher than during the 2009 holiday season based on digital marketing intelligence from comScore.   Additionally, an American Express Publishing and Harrison Group poll found that affluent Americans are set to spend 4 percent more on gifts this holiday season.  The increase in holiday gift spending among this group comes from a rise in the number of affluent U.S. families, not an increase in household holiday budgets, which are due to remain flat at about $2,100.

One dim spot in all of the good news is that surveys have shown that households with a discretionary income of more than $100,000 found nearly 40 percent saying retail service has worsened and 20 percent saying product and service quality has deteriorated.

Although early optimism is higher than in recent years, the U.S. is still in the midst of fallout in the housing market and high unemployment rates.  Some surveys show consumers continuing to moderate their spending and opening their wallets primarily for necessities and few luxuries or non-essential purchases.  If these survey results are accurate, in the midst of high levels of early optimism, there is a chance that another lackluster holiday spending season could be on the horizon for retailers in 2010.