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december 2011

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2011 better

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B E T T E R

Gifts T

he look on a child’s face when he opens the perfect gift is the reason cameras were invented. It’s the look of the season, and the reason we love to give presents no matter what holiday we celebrate. We challenged our editors to hunt down the best. They called and shopped; clicked and reviewed—and we love what they found. Inside you’ll find our picks for: fashion, beauty, food, books, entertainment, children, tweens, teens, fitness, travel and high tech. Inspired? Maybe even coveting a few of these for yourself? Then “like” us on Facebook too, and you’ll be automatically entered in our 25 Days of Giving —where we give one reader a gift from this guide each day. Please note that prices are average retail and are rounded to the nearest dollar.

P H O T O B Y N AT H A N I E L P E R R Y

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Holiday Sparkle By Kathryn Achenbach FA S H I O N E D I TO R

Don’t we all love opening that one box that has something truly special inside? Whether it’s a brilliant gem, creamy leather or a fabulous shoe, go ahead and ask for one splurge-worthy item this year. Don’t forget that it’s also the season for parties, so treat yourself to a festive pre-holiday dress or accessory that can make the rounds.

VALENTINO GOLD SPARKLE BALLETS The iconic ballerina, jazzed up for the holidays with shimmering gold microstuds. $645, Shirise, 341 Park Ave., Glencoe 866-SHIRISE, shirise.com

Make It Better readers receive 15% off their purchase at Willow Boutique! GOLD NECKLACES Layer on the gold chains and pendants this winter and bring a little warmth to your day. From left: Lisa Stewart starburst pendant, $85, Sarah Miller chain and pearl necklace, $138, Jenny Bird leather and chain necklace, $145, Rachel Olesker bead and cameo pendant, $165, Danielle Welmond pearl and cord necklace, $320, Henri Lou druzy pendant, $150 Willow Boutique, 1060 Gage St., Winnetka, 847386-6869, willowboutique.com

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Make It Better readers receive 15% off their purchase at Willow Boutique! HOUSE OF HARLOW SUNGLASSES Cool, cool kitties will love this modern interpretation of cat-eye sunnies. $138, Gavin, 1939 Central St., Evanston, 847-328-7407, shopgavin.com

 TOMS CASHMERE SHOE If you like your canvas Toms, you’ll love the luxurious cashmere version with its preppy plaid print. $150, Chalk Boutique, 2611 Prairie Ave., Evanston, 847-4240011, chalkboutique.com

CARLA MANCINI WOVEN BAG This gorgeous tawny basketweave leather purse will be your go-to accessory for shopping, lunches, the office—it’s a multi-tasker. $595, Willow Boutique, 1060 Gage St., Winnetka, 847-386-6869, willowboutique.com

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CHALCEDONY DROP EARRINGS, A pair of 18 karat white gold, chalcedony and diamond earrings. $2,000-$4,000, Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, lesliehindman.com

CAROL PERETZ COCKTAIL DRESS The LBD raised to another level with lace and just a little sparkle. Black tie, cocktails or romance—you’re ready to celebrate in style. $1,650, Frances Heffernan, 810 Elm Street, Winnetka, 847-4462112, francesheffernan.com

 NINA “FRIEDEL” PUMP This elegant satin pump has a classic silhouette and embellished bow, adding glamor for December and beyond. $84, Lori’s, multiple locations, lorisshoes.com

EBEL CLASSIC SPORT LADY WATCH A stainless steel bracelet provides a smooth feel and fit. The mother-of-pearl dial with diamonds and a diamond bezel combines luxury and sport. $3,000, SmartJewelers, 936A Willow Road, Northbrook, 847-673-6000, smartjewelers.com

YIGAL AZROUEL LEATHER JACKET Spring may feel far away, but this quilted jacket in dove leather is a must-have splurge for the upcoming season. Why not give yourself something to look forward to? $1,495, Chalk Boutique, 2611 Prairie Ave., Evanston, 847-424-0011, chalkboutique.com

TIFFANY CELEBRATION RINGS $3,300-$14,000, Tiffany & Co., tiffany.com

ADRIENNE LANDAU RACCOON INFINITY SCARF Keep her warm and stylish with this classic accessory that has become a must-have for the fashionable gal. $525, Gavin, 1939 Central St., Evanston, 847-328-7407, shopgavin.com

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Wrapped in Warmth BURBERRY SCARF The classic Burberry pattern amped into a modern and manly scarf. He’ll love the feel of the soft cashmere (even if he won’t admit it!). $375, Nordstrom, Westfield Old Orchard, Skokie, burberry.com MARK SHALE BELSTAFF RACEMASTER CARDIGAN Full-zip cardigan with outerwear detailing. Throatlatch collar. Woven wool shoulder, pocket and piping details. $395, Mark Shale, markshale.com

TUMI ALPHA BRAVO MCGUIRE DUFFEL We’re not saying wheels are for wimps, but this masculine bag taps into that old-school vibe, while still neatly holding everything. $345, Tumi, Westfield Old Orchard, Skokie, tumi.com

 TRUNK CLUB Based in Chicago, Trunk Club ships a hand-picked selection of awesome clothes straight to the door of men who don’t like to shop! Try everything on at home, keep the items you like and return the ones you don’t. We love the free shipping and hasslefree returns. Shirts $90-$250, Denim $125-$220, 312-266-8700, trunkclub.com

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Get Gorgeous Gifts NARS THE  MULTIPLE (in ORGASM) This versatile stick adds a shimmery flush to cheeks, lips, eyes and body. Shown in the line’s most popular shade. $39, Bloomingdale’s at Westfield Old Orchard, bloomingdales.com

CLARASONIC MIA CLEANSING SYSTEM North Shore women of all ages swear by this sonic brush. Not only does it clean your face like a dream, it reduces fine wrinkles and results in a glowing complexion. Wouldn’t your sister love this? $119, Sephora, Northbrook Court and Westfield Old Orchard, sephora.com

I may be new to the beauty beat, but I’m all for giving and receiving presents that are pampering and pleasurable. The gifts I’ve discovered come girlfriend-approved, so you can feel confident putting them on your own list or wrapping them up for a friend. I even have suggestions for your man or trendy teen— ‘cause every body deserves to indulge a bit, especially at this time of year.  MASON PEARSON HAIRBRUSH These fine hairbrushes have been made in England for more than 125 years and are considered the ultimate tools for promoting healthy hair and a healthy scalp. They’re so durable, brushes are passed down through generations. $151, Merz Apothecary, 4716 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, 773-989-0900, merzapothecary.com

 JO MALONE COLOGNE With so many scrumptious fragrances, shopping for a scent is as fun as receiving one. I adore Grapefruit, but Lime Basil gets raves and Pomegranate Noir is a festive pick. $55, Nordstrom, Westfield Old Orchard, Skokie, 847-677-2121, and Neiman Marcus, 5000 Northbrook Court, Northbrook, 847-564-0300, or jomalone.com

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By Marjie Killeen

SEX & THE SUBURBS EDITOR

VERA BRADLEY HATBOX COSMETICS BAG The shape of this darling bag is reminiscent of the ‘50s, but the patterns are pure now. Two zippered pockets inside make it the perfect tote for makeup and jewelry. $46, Vera Bradley, Westfield Old Orchard, Skokie, 847-673-2176, verabradley.com

MOROCCAN OIL HAIR TREATMENT A silky-tressed friend clued me into this exotic oil. A few drops on wet hair keep it shiny and sleek. Give an insalon conditioning treatment, or wrap up the bottle on its own. Moroccan Oil Express Treatment $30 (mention MIB for 10% discount), 100ml bottle $44. Beauty & Balance Salon, 640 Green Bay Rd., Kenilworth, 847-256-2182, beautyandbalancesalon.com

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for teen girls JEWEL TONE NAIL POLISH  Gem-inspired polishes are all the rage for the season. These bright and sparkly shades make a perfect stocking stuffer or Secret Santa gift. OPI Designer Series, $10, at fine salons and spas. OPI Designer Shades: Opulence (Brown), Mystery (Purple), OPI Swiss Collection: Cuckoo for this Color (Green), Magic (Blue), Radiance (Silver)

BOLD EYES For teens, the emphasis is on the eyes, so treat your young lady to a good quality eyelash curler and some fun liquid liner in a bold shade. Japonesque Ergo Grip Curler $14, at Ulta, multiple locations and ulta.com; MAC Superslick Liquid Eyeliner in Treat Me Nice, $18, at Macy’s at Northbrook Court and Westfield Old Orchard, mac.com

MINI CRIMPER AND FEATHER HAIR ACCESSORIES When it comes to trendy hair, nothing is more “in” for girls than a touch of texture or feathers. Mini Crimper, $30, clip-in feathers, $5 each, Ross Cosmetics, 643 Central, Highland Park, 847-433-4340

FEATHER HEADBAND  $12, at Francesca’s Collections in Evanston, Highland Park, Northbrook Court and Westfield Old Orchard, francescascollections.com

for men THERAPEUTIC MASSAGE No surprise that when it comes to pampering, the main thing on a man’s wish list is a massage. Give him 50 minutes of bliss. $65 (first-time clients, mention Make It Better for $16 off), Wilmette Massage Center, 417 4th St., Wilmette 847-9290-1025, wilmettemassage.com

ART OF SHAVING CARRY-ON KIT This TSA compliant pack is a treat for a guy who logs a lot of frequent flyer miles. Contains handy sizes of pre-shave oil, shaving cream, and after-shave balm, along with a brush. Shown in Sandalwood. $50, The Art of Shaving, Westfield Old Orchard, Skokie, theartofshaving.com

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BROOKSTONE NAPFORM EYE MASK Men need their beauty sleep, too. This cozy mask cradles the face and forehead, and shuts out all the light for a luxurious slumber any time of day. Great for sleep-deprived teenage boys as well. $35, brookstone.com


Live to Eat

Now you’re cooking … By Julie Chernoff DINING EDITOR

No one likes a deadline. But there’s one thing to be said about doing this research in October: I’ve got a great head start on gifts for the holidays! And as the magazine’s resident foodie, I have a drink or dish for everyone. The wine lover, the traveler, the brewmeister, the home cook, and the entertainer… no one goes empty-handed this December.

THE OXO MANDOLIN SLICER  My new favorite tabletop appliance. The business parts—cutting surfaces and blades—are stainless steel, and it feels solid, without costing an arm and a leg. $70, bedbathandbeyond.com (now’s your big chance to use that coupon!)

 COMIC BOOK BAKING SUPPLIES For your budding Rick Bayless: Marvel has the perfect incentive for boys to stay in the kitchen. They will be your superhero with a Hulk spatula and a Captain America or Spiderman apron. Iron Man joins the party in the Hero Cookie Cutter Set and the Cupcake Decorating Kit. $12-$25, williams-sonoma.com

MELAMINE “POTTERY”  It looks like Tuscan or Provençal pottery, but it’s actually melamine! Washable, durable and fantastic-looking—for the mom who won’t settle for paper plates. $14-$68, Ellen’s on Elm, 841 Elm St., Winnetka, 847441-5240, ellensonelm.com

 MICHAEL ARAM PRODUCTS If you’re a Michael Aram fan like me, you will be thrilled at the chance to meet him and see his whole product line at Peachtree Place. He’ll be in town December 15. The man is Handsome with a capital H. $99 each, mixed metal and glass canister topped with a golden pomegranate, or hammered metal and olive branch-accented olive oil pitcher, Peachtree Place, 303 S. Happ Rd., Northfield, 847-249-2626, peachtreeplaceonline.com

ZINGERMAN’S FOOD TOURS  High-end specialty food mecca Zingerman’s of Ann Arbor, Mich., provides “guided travel to the source of the food,” with behind-the-scenes visits to artisanal producers. Fabulous meals, lovely and unique hotels, cooking classes, and small groups are strong selling points. We went to Tuscany in October and it was amazing. $4,900 per person, 888-316-2736, zingermansfoodtours.com

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Bottoms up ... Cookbooks “GIRL IN THE KITCHEN: HOW A TOP CHEF COOKS, THINKS, SHOPS, EATS & DRINKS” BY STEPHANIE IZARD Top Chef winner and Girl & The Goat chef/owner Izard shares her secrets of cool. $30 “MOMOFUKU MILK BAR” BY CHRISTINA TOSI Ever since Make It Better Entertainment Editor Liz Logan brought in a batch of Tosi’s compost cookies, I’ve been a fan. Can’t wait to see what else this NYC pastry chef has up her sleeve. $35 “THE MOZZA COOKBOOK: RECIPES FROM LOS ANGELES’S FAVORITE ITALIAN RESTAURANT AND PIZZERIA” BY NANCY SILVERTON, MATT MOLINA AND CAROLYNN CARRENO I’ve eaten here, and I loved it. Plus, Nancy Silverton is a longtime star of California cuisine. $35

MR. BEER HOME BREWING’S PREMIUM EDITION BEER KIT AND SPIEGELAU’S BEER CONNOISSEUR GLASS COLLECTION Try your hand at creating your own small-batch brew. It’s easier than you think! Both $50, Backyard BBQ Store, 1147 Greenleaf Ave., Wilmette, 847251-2272, backyardbbqstore.com

LOCAL LIQUORS FROM FEW SPIRITS AND NORTH SHORE DISTILLERY The perfect hostess gift for the ghost of Frances E. Willard! Smooth White Whiskey and American Gin are distilled and bottled in house by FEW Spirits owner Paul Hletko of Evanston. From Lake Bluff’s Northshore Distillery, try the Sol Vodka, with notes of citrus and chamomile, and the mysterious Sirene Absinthe Verte from their Artisan Collection. $24-$60, available at Schaefer’s, Binny’s Beverage Depot and Sunset Foods

“THE FOOD 52 COOKBOOK: 140 WINNING RECIPES FROM EXCEPTIONAL HOME COOKS” BY AMANDA HESSER AND MERRILL STUBBS I’m a devotee of this website, and the magazine is a compilation of greatest hits, voted on by other crazy food people. Potential for awesomeness is high. $35 KITCHEN STICKY NOTES They’re a must with any cookbook purchase; these are sticky notes with a purpose! $13, papersource.com

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Great Reads

For the sci-fi fan … By Kelly Konrad EVENTS EDITOR

I could spend forever and a day in a bookstore. I love wandering the aisles, browsing the cover art (much like I do wine labels!) and taking pleasure in finding the perfect gift for everyone on my list, all in one place. Here are a few suggestions for everyone on your list. For more of my book reviews, visit litzyditz.com.

For the techie … “STEVE JOBS” BY WALTER ISAACSON A biographical treatment of the late tech genius by THE definitive biography writer of our generation. The best part? There’s no “unauthorized” in the title. Jobs cooperated with Isaacson from the get-go, participating in dozens of interviews in the last two years and offering full, unvarnished access to family, friends and business associates. $35

For the dreamer … ”THE NIGHT CIRCUS” BY ERIN MORGENSTERN A magical, twisted tale, “The Night Circus” is racing up the best-seller list, and for good reason—it’s a pageturner of a debut novel. The love story of Celia and Marco grabs the reader from the very first page, and makes you wonder if you just try hard enough, is there magic in everyone? And when is Le Cirque des Reves coming to town? $27

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“11/22/63” BY STEPHEN KING Gen X’ers like me grew up on Stephen King, and the master of suspense never disappoints. His newest tome centers on a high school English teacher with a student that has a secret—a time portal back to 1958. Now, if you had the chance to go back in time and save JFK, would you? $35

For the dads … ”THE ART OF FIELDING” BY CHAD HARBACH Harbach’s first effort at fiction has already won over the likes of Jonathan Franzen, James Patterson and John Irving. Given that the plot features baseball, this might be the book that your club saves for the end of the year—a good reason to invite the guys along to the holiday shindig. Bonus? Some of the most interesting character names in a long time—try saying Skrimshander five times fast. $26

For suspense fans … “THE NIGHT STRANGERS” BY CHRIS BOHJALIAN Full disclosure, here— Bohjalian is one of my favorite authors. But even if you have never picked up one of his books, I can guarantee you’ll want the answer to what the heck is behind the bolted door in the basement. $25

For fashionistas and gossips ... ”JACQUELINE KENNEDY: HISTORIC CONVERSATIONS ON LIFE WITH JOHN F. KENNEDY” BY CAROLINE KENNEDY AND MICHAEL BESCHLOSS Read the book, then bring the audio format to your next book club meeting, where everyone can eat, drink and listen intently as one of America’s most iconic women dishes, ever

so candidly, to Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. on life in the White House and being a part of the Kennedy clan. $33

For the spiritual … ”BLUE NIGHTS” BY JOAN DIDION Fans of “The Year of Magical Thinking” may be eagerly, if awkwardly, anticipating Didion’s latest effort, which centers on the loss of her adult daughter, Quintana Roo. While tragic, early reviews suggest another astounding piece of honest, heartfelt writing. $25

For our girls … “OUR BODIES, OURSELVES” BY THE BOSTON WOMEN’S HEALTH BOOK COLLECTIVE It’s the 40th anniversary edition of the book our mothers gave us when we were tweens. And it’s the perfect starter for some of the most intimate conversations we need to have with our daughters today. $26

For our boys … “HOW TO BREAK A DRAGON’S HEART” BY CRESSIDA COWELL Cowell’s books make a great series for younger boys who are advanced readers and older boys who maybe aren’t—friendship, loyalty and courage are perfect themes for just about any age. $13

For the kid in all of us … “EVERY THING ON IT” BY SHEL SILVERSTEIN Forget that it’s Shel Silverstein, or that it seems as if it’s geared toward your kids. Or don’t—maybe this is the book that inspires a mother-child month in your book club. $20


Artsy-Fartsy and Fun

For the audiophile ...

By Liz Logan

A R T S & E N T E R TA I M E N T EDITOR When it comes to “artsy-fartsy” presents, I’m always inspired by my loved ones: My mom, Gloria, a painter; my dad, Dan, a poet and photographer; my brother, Andrew, a studio recording engineer; and my boyfriend, Evan, an industrial designer with an eye for all things cool and functional. As A&E editor, I am lucky to attend the theater frequently, and occasionally I get to interview some man-candy like Matthew Morrison!

 CHICBUDS FAUVETTE SPEAKER This portable, 3-inch, 2-watt speaker produces clear sound and is remarkably loud—the perfect stocking stuffer for a music lover. $35-$40, chicbuds.com

 “THE LOST NOTEBOOKS OF HANK WILLIAMS” This album features the neverrecorded lyrics of country great Hank Williams (Bob Dylan’s much-lauded inspiration) set to music by rock and country stars, including Jack White, Sheryl Crow, Merle Haggard and Lucinda Williams. $9-$13, wherever CDs are sold

AUDIOTECHNICA ACTIVE NOISE-CANCELLING IN-EAR HEADPHONES  These earbuds (model ATH-ANC23 QuietPoint) reduce background noise by up to 90 percent while delivering high-quality sound, and they won’t fall out of your ears! $46, amazon.com

For the movie and TV lover ...  “PLANET EARTH” If your family doesn’t already own this mesmerizing, six-disc BBC nature documentary, the holidays are the perfect time to change that. Even if you’re not a National Geographic type, you’ll love the sexy British accent of narrator Sir David Attenborough. Limited Collector’s Edition $100 on BluRay or $80 on DVD, Special Edition $80 on Blu-Ray or $60 on DVD, wherever DVDs are sold

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“BRIDESHEAD REVISITED” 30th ANNIVERSARY COLLECTION In this British mini-series based on Evelyn Waugh’s novel, quintessential hottie Jeremy Irons plays an army captain who becomes mixed up with an aristocratic family, and Laurence Olivier plays an Emmy-winning role. Best enjoyed over tea and crumpets— or, strawberries and Château Lafite! $70 on Blu-Ray or $60 on DVD, wherever DVDs are sold

“BRIDESMAIDS” For the family that’s knee-deep in wedding planning and in need of a laugh, Kristen Wiig’s spot-on comedy is worth enjoying again and again and again! $35 on Blu-Ray and DVD, or $30 on DVD, wherever DVDs are sold


For the art lover ...  MODERN NOTE CUBE SET Let the modern art lover show off their avant-garde taste at the office (or at home) with these note blocks featuring the work of Jackson Pollock, Joan Mitchell and Gerhard Richter (clockwise from the top). $36 ($32.40 for members), Art Institute’s Modern Wing Museum Shop, artinstituteshop.org

For the sports nut ...

MULTI COLOR WALL CLOCK This ultra-flat plastic wall clock adds a burst of color to any room, and it’s sure to please the artsy types who love clean, contemporary design. $40 ($36 for members), Art Institute’s Modern Wing Museum Shop, artinstituteshop.org

For the theater lover ... Snap up these tickets! “COME FLY AWAY” Your favorite Sinatra fan will get a kick out of this tribute musical featuring classic songs from “Ol’ Blue Eyes” set to choreography by Tony Award-winner Twyla Tharp. January 10-22, 2012; Bank of America Theatre, 18 W. Monroe St., Chicago. $32-$95, 800-775-2000, broadwayinchicago.com

2012 MASTERS GOLF TOURNAMENT TRAVEL PACKAGE For the golf fanatic, nothing beats this trip to the exclusive Masters in Augusta, Ga., including admission, lodging, transportation, some meals, an official Masters souvenir and more. April 5-8, 2012. $3,195-$7,755, 800-9249993, sportstravel.com

HIGH PERFORMANCE DRIVING SCHOOL Car guys (and girls!) will learn the skills of a professional racecar driver as they take souped-up BMW-Z3s on thrill rides around the second longest racetrack in the U.S., under an expert instructor’s supervision. $895 for a half day, $1,395 for a full day, $2,495 for two days, Autobahn Country Club, 3795 CenterPoint Way, Joliet, 815-727-7234, teamstradale.com

“LEGALLY BLONDE: THE MUSICAL” The musical version of Elle Woods’ adventures will thrill your tween girlie-girl (or me) and a friend. Help her dress the part by enclosing the tickets in a cute pink purse. January 18-April 1, 2012; Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire. $45-$48, 847-634-0200, marriotttheatre.com

Choose your own theater adventure! For hardcore theater fans, perhaps the smartest choice is a gift certificate that can be applied toward a ticket purchase. We recommend these theaters for their spring shows: “THE ICEMAN COMETH” I predict that theater giants Nathan Lane and Brian Dennehy will rock the Chicago theater scene in Eugene O’Neill’s drama about a bunch of ragtag drunks in a saloon. April 21-June 10, 2012 (single tickets on sale March 2, 2012); Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago. Tickets approximately $25-$116, gift certificates and gift subscriptions available, 312-443-3800, goodmantheatre.org “A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC” In this tale of two couples’ love lives, Stephen Sondheim’s awardwinning lyrics capture all the pleasure and the pain in songs such as “Send in the Clowns.” May 1-July 8, 2012; Writers’ Theatre, 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe. Tickets $35-$75, gift certificates and gift subscriptions available, 847-242-6000, writerstheatre.org

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The Gifted Child

 MONSTER RATTLE For the littlest Lady Gaga fan on your list, these handmade, soft rattles are cute enough to display when not being gnawed and squeezed. And they’re from a local Etsy shop! Ages 0-2. $9, etsy.com/shop/ shawnasmithhandmade

By Laura Hine

EDITOR IN CHIEF

MAGNA TILES Popular with boys and girls, it’s a building toy that encourages imaginative play (shhh!). More is better, so even if they have some, add to the collection. Ages 6+. $50+, Three Wishes, 1515 Sheridan Rd. Wilmette, 847-251-8622, threewishestoys.com

 PLAYMOBIL FALCON KNIGHT’S CASTLE The newest and coolest Playmobil set. Warriors for boys, fantasy for girls—it’s a toy that will last through several siblings. Ages 4-10. $105, Lake Forest Toy Station, 270 Market Square, Lake Forest, 847-234-0180

PENGUIN ENCOUNTER For the young animal lover, a face-to-face with a penguin is unforgettable. Ages 4-6. $111 (one adult/ one child, includes admission), Shedd Aquarium, 1200 S. Lake Shore Dr., Chicago, 312-939-2438, sheddaquarium.org

Kids still love to open something shiny and new. Parents want that shiny and new thing not to require a million batteries or make a lot of noise. So this year, when I’m shopping for my nieces and nephews, these are the gifts that will keep everyone happy—and maybe even playing together—for hours.

 CALICO CRITTERS So cute, I want a set for myself. The plastic is covered with a little fuzz, so they’re pleasant to touch. And they have baby animals— awww! Ages 3+. $20+, Children’s Gift Shop, 310 Happ Rd., Northfield, 847-441-5975, thechildrensgiftshop.com

 REVERSE CHARADES In this twist on regular charades, everyone acts out the word and one person guesses. Available in regular and junior editions for the under 6 crowd. $24, marbles thebrainstore.com

 AMERICAN GIRL OUTING Put away the catalog, and take your daughter or niece to the palace of girldom. Bring her doll for a hairstyle, and stay for tea or lunch. Reservations a must (online only). Ages 7+. American Girl Place Chicago, 835 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, 877247-5223 americangirl.com

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By Laura Hine

EDITOR IN CHIEF As the mama of a tween, I promise you that no matter what they say or how plugged in they are, tweens want to connect with you (parent, auntie or grandparent). So this list is heavy on ideas you can experience together.

The Gifted Tween

LOADED DERVISH LONG BOARD The cooler version of a skateboard, this is your chance to show your kid how you used to carve it up in the ‘80s. $321, Shred Shop, 3801 W. Oakton St., Skokie, 847-855-7669, shredshop.com

 BABYCAKES BAKER These mini-sweet bakers are super fun for the budding Gale Gand in your family. Coordinate with friends’ mothers and you can have a mother-daughter baking party. $25-$30, bedbathandbeyond.com

 WOLVES HOCKEY GAME Affordable and family-friendly hockey action. Real fans? Wrap the tickets up with a team jersey. $22.50 and up, Allstate Arena, Rosemont, 800-THE-WOLVES, chicagowolves.com

 LOCKER LOOKZ The school year has started, but come the end of winter break, she’ll look forward to going back to school if she can bedazzle her locker with wallpaper or a mini chandelier. $26, Wishes Toy Wonderland, 1885 Tower Rd., Glenview, 847-657-9474, wishestoywonderland.com

BOWLING AND A BAND Too young to go to Schubas, but if they love live music, gift them a night at The Alley. Under 21s (with parents) are allowed for bowling and most live shows (on Fridays and Saturdays). Wrap with a T-shirt from their favorite band. The Alley Highwood, 210 Green Bay Rd., Highwood, 847-433-0304, bowlhighwood.com

BLUE MAN GROUP Blue Man Group is hard to beat for this age group. Great group gift to give with another family, and even if you’ve seen BMG before, the show is all new (but still blue). Blue Man Group, Briar St. Theatre, 3133 N. Halsted St., Chicago, 773-348-4000, blueman.com

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CRAFT TOGETHER Artsy girls would love to explore and create with you. (Husband Hint: You can give this to your wife and daughter, and give yourself the gift of an afternoon watching the Bears!) Go to makeitbetter.net/craft for a list of knitting, beading and other crafty classes


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By Laura Hine

EDITOR IN CHIEF What do teens want? To be 21! A new car! In my house, the answers to “What do you want for Christmas?” are serious fantasies. So bringing them back down to earth, but still delighting them, is a challenge. Here are some of my best ideas for the most difficult group to buy for—the North Shore teen.

The Gifted Teen

 HOLGA CAMERA Yes, he has an iPhone and 10 other techno gadgets, but the really hip kids are going retro with 35 mm film and a Holga camera that makes odd, streaky photos that look like they’re from the ‘70s. $48, Urban Outfitters, 921 Church St., Evanston, 847492-8542, urbanoutfitters.com

 TORY BURCH METALLIC BOW CUFF Wrap bracelets are all the rage, and with a little designer insignia, even better! (Also, it’s Tory Burch at a somewhat reasonable price point.) $95, Tory Burch, 45 E. Oak St., Chicago, 312-280-0010, toryburch.com

Make It  PING PONG TABLE Better readers Cool in NYC, thanks to Susan get a 15% Sarandon’s place, Spin. Table discount! tennis gets them up and moving for a study break and gives a group something non-electronic to play. Even my husband admits giving our kids a ping-pong table was one of my best ideas. $600 and up, Games & Things, 2043 Tower Rd., Glenview, gamesandthings.com

 IPAD SLEEVE Lilly seems to be fading among the high school fashionistas, so show you’re hip and give Jonathan Adler instead. This neoprene sleeve looks great and will keep her iPad or Kindle from getting banged up. $30, Notice, 2112 Central St., Evanston, 847-905-0947, notice-this.com

 LEGO ARCHITECTURE SET For a teen who always loved building toys and then outgrew them, LEGO now makes a grown-up version of architectural landmarks. I love the Frank Lloyd Wright Robie House. $200, The LEGO Store, Northbrook Court, lego.com

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PHOTO CALENDAR Not a gift for your teen or tween, but one they can make for grandparents or a group of friends. My favorites are the ones where you can personalize the dates, with a photo of a person on their birthday, etc. $22, shutterfly.com

 LUGGAGE (WITH A TICKET TUCKED IN) Your teen is going to start to travel: college visits, mission trips or family spring break. And at some point, he or she isn’t going to be happy with your old, black bag with the wonky wheel. High Sierra are well made and have a rugged, teen-friendly look. $150 for the 26” wheeled duffle, Kaehler Luggage, Highland Park and Winnetka, worldtraveler.com

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Exercising outside the (gift) box By Christy Coughlin EXERCISE & FITNESS EDITOR

AMPHIPOD’S RUNLITE 4 For the marathoner or long-distance walker, this is a bounce-free, comfortable and easy-to-access hydration system, with a pouch for your other essentials. Customize the flasks by positioning them anywhere on the belt, vertically or horizontally. $45, Running Away Multisport, 800 Waukegan Rd., Deerfield, 847-9452929, runningawaymultisport.com

I am passionate about getting outside and going big—swimming and paddling on the lake, running the trails, biking all over town and skiing whenever it works. I also love encouraging others to be more active and try a few new adventures. Good equipment and clothing make it all possible.

SUGOI MEN’S FIREWALL JACKET IN TOMATILLO This stretchy, lightweight, breathable jacket will keep your guy warm for his outdoor workouts or after the gym. The tailored fit makes it great with jeans, too. $180, The Runner’s Edge, in Wilmette and Libertyville, the-runnersedge.com

 GOPRO HELMET HERO CAMERA This is the coolest way to catch all the family action biking, skiing or sailing thanks to image stabilization and a waterproof housing. Mount it anywhere— head, helmet, handlebars, even on your paddleboard. $300, gopro.com

SUGOI MEN’S ESPRESSO PANT Create an outfit with the midweight, loose-fitting Espresso pant. With an elastic waist, and zippers at the ankles, it’s perfect for a warm-up pant, but not too warm for the main event. $92, The Runner’s Edge, in Wilmette and Libertyville, therunnersedge.com

TRIUMPHANT TOTE This bag is great for the active gal who hits the gym, grocery, and returns a few phone calls, all before 8 a.m. With pockets galore, she can tote her workout wear, essentials for the kids, her iPad or laptop, etc., all in style. $118, Lululemon in Evanston and Northbrook Court, lululemon.com

 ADJUSTABLE PADDLE This paddle works for kids and adults with a push-pin size adjustment. $200, Shred Shop, 3801 W. Oakton, Skokie, 847-679-3060, shredshop.com

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 SUGOI FIREWALL LT GLOVE Complete the set with these lightweight, breathable gloves that he’ll wear everyday. Silicone finger and palm grips keep him safe on a bike or in the car. $35, The Runner’s Edge, in Wilmette and Libertyville, the-runnersedge.com

BIC 11’4” STAND- UP PADDLEBOARD WITH DECK PAD Get in on the SUP craze. This flat-water board is stable and easy to maneuver, perfect for beginners up to 220 lbs. $800, Shred Shop, 3801 W. Oakton, Skokie, 847-6793060, shredshop.com


By Laura Tiebert In 2011, we moved, and I spent an inordinate amount of time clearing out clutter. One item I haven’t decluttered? My passport. In 2012, I plan on buying less stuff and using my passport more. For this holiday season, I’ve picked three destinations that offer experiences that will stay with you for a lifetime, whether your travel companions are your gal pals, the kids or your extended family.

FAMILY TRAVEL: GIVE THEM COSTA RICA, THE ULTIMATE PLAYGROUND Heaven for active families, Costa Rica is brimming with rainforests, volcanoes and wildlife-rich parks. Families will enjoy speeding between lush trees by zipline, or floating down the rivers of Tortuguero National Park in search of hidden fauna. Spend two nights at a hotel in the shadow of the booming Arenal Volcano, where you can head off the beaten path to family-owned hot springs and tour Don Juan’s plantation. Abercrombie & Kent trip, seven days from $2,990 per person, double occupancy. Child (under 12 sharing with 2 adults) from $1,450, 888785-5379, abercrombiekent.com

Put a bow on their passport GIRLS’ GETAWAY: HIT MIAMI IN STYLE Does the man in your life wish he could give you a little time away? Tell him to look no further than Miami—and make sure to take a gaggle of girlfriends. If you love to see and be seen, make the Fontainbleau Hotel on Miami Beach your headquarters. Inside the hotel, LIV nightclub was just named one of the world’s top 10 clubs by Reuters, and Scarpetta restaurant features phenomenal Italian food. Fontainebleau Miami Beach, rack rates around $500, 800-548-8886, fontainebleau.com

If a yoga retreat is more your speed, you’ll find that in Miami, too—check into The Standard, a hotel with a holistic spa that offers spectacular cuisine based on a Mediterranean diet. After you’ve found your bliss, don’t forget to hit the shops on Lincoln Road in South Beach, or at Bal Harbour Shops, a high-end mall. The Standard Spa Miami Beach, rack rates $169-$479, 305-673-1717, standardhotels.com EXTENDED FAMILY: CRUISE ALASKA The Silversea fleet are some of the most beautiful ships that cruise the seas. These smaller, boutique vessels are exquisitely built and offer a level of service that will not disappoint. This summer, the Silver Shadow plies the waters off the Alaskan coast. Start in Vancouver and cruise north to Seward, Alaska, with stops in Ketchikan, Skagway (home of the Gold Rush) and Sitka (very close to the Arctic Circle), with stops to hike glaciers in between. From diamond-blue icebergs to rushing mountain streams, to bald eagles, humpback whales and bears, Alaska will entrance your entire family. Seven days from $4,000 per person, 877-276-6816, silversea.com

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“Joining Exclusive Resorts was one of the best decisions we ever made. They make it easy for our family to travel together, and they give us so many memorable places to go. Trip after trip, we’re reminded of how truly special Exclusive Resorts is.”

— lisa & peter meyer Wilmette, IL • Members since 2007

PHOTO <CREDIT>

So much more than just your next vacation.

Exclusive Resorts is the world’s leading private club for luxury vacation experiences, helping hundreds of Chicago families embrace life’s best moments all around the globe. Whether it’s a spacious villa in Costa Rica, an unforgettable safari in Africa, or a VIP event like Fashion Week in New York City — we make it happen, more easily and often than you ever thought possible. 866.450.1650 | www.exclusiveresorts.com makeitbetter.net

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Geek Chic

By Kimberly Carroll CEO & PUBLISHER

Call me a geek, but I just can’t live without my iPad and my iPhone. These gadgets make life so much easier and so much more fun. In that spirit, I chose tech-inspired gifts that make life better without being difficult to learn or set up. And they’re all just a few clicks away!

 JAWBONE ERA HEADSET If you need to make calls from noisy places—a soccer game, a busy street, an airport terminal—this headset is a lifesaver. NoiseAssassin technology kills background noise, keeping your calls professional and productive! The small form and etched styling make this gadget elegant. $130, jawbone.com

 APPLE IPAD-CAMERA CONNECTION Apple’s iPad Camera Connection Kit gives you two ways to import photos and videos from a digital camera: using your camera’s USB cable, or directly from an SD card. Great for travelers or anyone who likes to share photos on the go. $29, apple.com

CANVAS ON DEMAND Turn your favorite photos—digital or printed—into stunning works of art. Canvas on Demand will turn your photo into a beautiful gallery-wrapped canvas. Opt for special enhancements such as brush strokes, sepia, or black and white, or even have a treasured image restored. Sizes range from 8-by-10 to 40-by-60. Starting at $59, canvasondemand.com

 KINDLE FIRE Kindles are gifts that keeps on giving, and the newest one is a charmer! Watch videos, lend your books, install apps and delight in its iPad-inspired features. $200, amazon.com

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 ONE-OF-A-KIND GIFT TAGS Turn your cache of digital photos into unique gift tags, using Moo Mini Cards. Customize your message for the front of the cards, and add up to 100 different photos for the backs. Hole-punch and ribbon for tagging. $20 for 100 cards, us.moo.com

LUXURY AUDIO EXPERIENCE The Bose AE2 aroundear headphones deliver swoon-worthy sound to your favorite audiophile. Ear cushions make hours of wear comfortable and durable construction keeps them sturdy through years of use. $150, bose.com

EXPRESSIONABLES CUSTOM GIFTWRAP  Make that special gift even more special with wrapping paper that features your own photos and messages. Expressionables offers designs for many holidays and occasions, and swiftly delivers to your door. $15, expressionables.com Enter code MIBMAG at checkout for 15% off!

 BRAIN TRAINER Keep your brain sharp, youthful and healthy with this patent-pending brain-training program, developed by neuroscience experts to improve mental agility. The program continuously analyzes Free user’s performance, then shipping adapts and customizes the with code training to the user’s skills. MIBSHIP50 Mac and PC compatible. $100, marblesthebrainstore.com

CONVERT CASSETTES + VINYL TO MP3 Liberate your old media and take it anywhere your iPod goes. Plug into any USB port on a Mac or PC, connect your audio source, launch the included software and you’re off! $35, thinkgeek.com

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VODKA WITH A MESSAGE A flawless vodka and a deliciously geeky moment come together when you program your custom message into the scrolling LED. $40, medeaspirits.com


gift guide photo credits PHOTOS BY NAT H A N I E L P E R RY ( unless otherwise noted below) PAGE 32: Valentino Ballet flats, photo by Karilyn Owens. PAGE 33: Ebel Watch, photo courtesy of Ebel; Chalcedony drop earrings, photo courtesy of Leslie Hindman; Tiffany Celebration rings, photo courtesy of Tiffany&Co.; Carol Peretz Cocktail Dress, photo by Karilyn Owens; Nina "Friedel" pumps, photo by Karilyn Owens. PAGE 34: Mark Shale Cardigan, photo courtesy of Mark Shale; Burberry scarf, photo by Karilyn Owens; Tumi Duffel, photo courtesy of Tumi; Trunk Club, photo courtesy of Trunk Club. PAGE 37: Vera Bradley cosmetics bag, photo by Karilyn Owens. PAGE 38: Therapeutic Massage, photo by iStockphoto.com. PAGE 40: Zingerman's Food Tours, photo courtesy of Zingerman's. PAGE 44: ChicBuds photo courtesy of ChicBuds; Audiotechnica photo courtesy of Audiotechnica; “Planet Earth” photo courtesy of the BBC; “Brideshead Revisited” photo courtesy of Acorn Media; “Bridesmaids” photo courtesy of Universal Studios. PAGE 45: Modern Note Cube Set and Multi Color Wall Clock photos courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago; Multi Color wall clock, photo courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago; Masters Golf photo courtesy of Premiere Sports Travel; Team Stradale driving school photo courtesy of Liz Logan; “Come Fly Away” photo courtesy of Broadway in Chicago; “Legally Blonde: The Musical” photo courtesy of Marriott Theatre; theater gift certificate, Brian Dennehy and Nathan Lane photos courtesy of Goodman Theatre. PAGE 47: Monster Rattle, photo courtesy of Shawna Smith Handmade; Magna Tiles, photo courtesy of Valtech, LLC; Playmobil Falcon Knight's Castle, photo courtesy of Playmobil; Penguin, photo by iStockphoto.com; Calico Critters, photo courtesy of International Playthings, LLC; American Girl Outing, photo courtesy of American Girl; Reverse Charades, photo courtesy of Reverse Charades. PAGE 49: Wolves Hockey Game, photo by Ross Dettman, Chicago Wolves Hockey; Loaded Dervish Long Board, photo courtesy of Loaded; Craft Together, photo by iStockphoto.com; Bowling, photo by iStockphoto.com; Locker Lookz, photo courtesy of Locker Lookz; Blue Man Group, photo courtesy of Blue Man Group. PAGE 50: Tory Burch cuff, photo courtesy of Tory Burch; Holga Camera, photo by Adam Jenkins/Easterbilby, Flickr Creative Commons, flickr. com/photos/37796451@N00; Ping Pong Table; photo courtesy of Cornilleau; iPad Sleeve, photo courtesy of Jonathan Adler; LEGO Set, photo courtesy of LEGO. PAGE 51: Photo Calendar, photo courtesy of Shutterfly. com; Luggage, photo courtesy of High Sierra. PAGE 52: Sugoi Men's Espresso Pant, photo courtesy of Sugoi; Amphipod's Runlite 4, photo courtesy of Amphipod; Sugoi Men's Jacket, photo courtesy of Sugoi; Gopro Helmet Hero Camera, photo courtesy of Gopro; Triumphant Tote, photo courtesy of Lululemon; Sugoi Glove, photo courtesy of Sugoi; Stand-up Paddleboard, photo courtesy of BIC; Adjustable Paddle, photo courtesy of BIC. PAGE 54: Fontainebleau, photo courtesy of Fontainebleau; Cruise Alaska, photo courtesy of Cruise Alaska. PAGE 56: Jawbone Era headset, photo courtesy of Jawbone; Apple iPad-camera connection, photo courtesy of Apple; Kindle Fire, photo courtesy Amazon. com; Canvas on Demand, photo courtesy of Canvas on Demand. PAGE 58: One-of-a-kind gift tags, photo courtesy Moo; Luxury Audio Experience, photo courtesy of Bose; Brain Trainer, photo courtesy of Marbles The Brain Store; Expressionables custom gift wrap, photo courtesy of Expressionables; Cassette and Vinyl converter, photo courtesy of thinkgeek.com; Vodka with a message, photo courtesy of Medea Spirits.

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Make It Better 2011 Gift Guide