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This Season’s

HOT TOYS BY DIANE SCHLINDWEIN

AT OVER 50 YEARS OLD,

BARBIE REMAINS ONE OF THE MOST POPULAR TOYS EVER WITH GIRLS AGES 3 AND UP.

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ith the holiday season underway, experts like Christopher Byrne and representatives from Mattel/ Fisher-Price are once again predicting what toys will be popular this holiday season. For computer-savvy kids, Mattel’s representative recommended the Barbie Fashion Design Maker. “Every parent knows how difficult it is to pull kids away from tech devices these days. So why not strengthen their tech knowledge and supplement it with fun creativity?” The Fashion Design Maker helps fashionistas-in-training create custom designs on printable fabric paper with the use of an app, a tablet or a computer. At over 50 years old, Barbie remains one of the most popular toys ever with girls ages 3 and up. Future hairstylists will love the new Barbie Endless Curls doll that allows girls to curl Barbie’s hair—sans heat or water—and add streaks of color. Of course, Mattel has already released the 2014 Holiday Barbie Doll, with various versions wearing a gorgeous red gown and decked out with holiday sparkle.

CREATORS.COM PHOTO COURTESY OF MATTEL

Mattel’s 2014 Holiday Barbie Doll has dazzling details. She is also available in an AfricanAmerican version.

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For girls who like their dolls a little more “freaky,” Byrne, who is content director for aNb Media Inc. and is known internationally as the Toy Guy, predicted, “The whole Monster High Freaky Fusion line is going to continue to be hot. The big dollhouse (Monster High Freaky Fusion Catacombs) is going to be a hot ticket item, as are the dolls.” Parents and grandparents of the very young who want to give toys that focus on learning will be excited about Fisher-Price’s new Laugh & Learn Smart Stages line. These toys provide ageappropriate learning content as baby grows. Simply input a child’s age for automatic content updates or manually adjust the learning stage with a switch. This line includes the new Laugh & Learn Stages Chair, which is a child-sized seat that knows when baby sits, activating learning songs and phrases when baby stands. The chair offers three levels of play that include fresh songs, phrases and sounds that update to match a little one’s age and stage development. Santa’s young friends will also be checking under the tree for their first Thomas & Friends train, which is the My First Thomas & Friends Motion Control Thomas. Kids can control Thomas with the wave of the hand, turning any room into the famous Island of Sodor.

CREATORS.COM PHOTO COURTESY OF MATTEL

Byrne admitted to being a “big kid at heart.” That’s why he also recommended a few blaster toys. The Zing Firetek Bow shoots well and is one of his “faves”of the year. “It lights up!” And Nerf lovers won’t be disappointed with the Nerf ThunderBow, he said. “While we are in the blaster category, this one is amazing!” Of course, parents should make sure kids have plenty of room to play with these action-packed toys. One of the season’s hottest toys might just be as popular with parents and grandparents as it will with the kids. Hot

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Hot Wheels Street Hawks are expected to fly off the shelves as soon as they are stocked. This flying car is both an RC vehicle, which allows it to be steered along the ground, as well as a plane in the air.

Wheels Street Hawks are expected to fly off the shelves as soon as they are stocked. The highly sought-after flying car is both an RC vehicle, which allows it to be steered along the ground, as well as a plane in the air. Byrne called the Street Hawk “incredible” and said that dads might be borrowing it from their sons. “This toy really is terrific. It’s easy to use, and it brings a big ‘wow’ when it takes off.” – Creators.com

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Stocking Stuffers

FOR ADULTS

Because kids of all ages appreciate pulling holiday treats out of socks! BY JEANELLE HORCASITAS

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ndy Williams hit it right on the mark when he famously sang that Christmas is the most wonderful time of year. With lights strung across the rooftop, a beautifully decorated noble fir and carefully wrapped gifts under the tree, it’s easy to get caught up in the magic of the holidays. I have plenty of these unforgettable memories from childhood. However, Christmas mornings were always the most fun. Before any wrapping paper suffered the wrath of a few overly excited kids ripping their way to its contents, the first thing to look forward to was digging through the stockings. The fluffy, red-and-white oversized socks with our names scrawled across them in glittery glue were always full of the best candy, games and toys we could have ever wished for. But what happened when my siblings and I grew up? Well, luckily for me, my parents still kept the tradition alive with awesome little surprises in our stockings every Christmas. Therefore, I’m happy to report firsthand that just because you’re an adult, you don’t have to give up the fun of the Christmas stocking.

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FOR THE TECHIES • Flash drive. Storage, storage, storage! Techies are always out and about, and this is the perfect bite-size gadget for them to back up important data. Find a supercool flash drive that matches your loved one’s personality. • Phone case. Techies are always rockin’ the latest and greatest, so a new case to show off—and protect— their new Android, iPhone 6, etc., is always a great choice. OtterBox and Speck Products are some of my personal favorites because of their durability. They offer a variety of colors and patterns from which to choose. • Portable charger. These work wonders for the techies who are always on their phones, as their battery’s charge dwindles throughout the day. You can find some fashionable portable chargers at Urban Outfitters. Advertising Supplement to Fairfax County Times | November 2014


Those are just a few of my favorites, but in a world where technology is everywhere, the choices seem endless. FOR THE WINE CONNOISSEUR • Wine glass charms. A glass of wine by itself is delicious, but a glass of wine with lovely dangling charms is the cherry on top. Wine glass charms can be found in many stores, but I absolutely love the assortment that Pier 1 Imports has to offer. So take your pick and give the wine connoisseur in your life a little flair. • Wine to wear. This is a great gift for anyone you know who isn’t afraid to flaunt his or her love of wine. Nylon’s “Less Whine More Wine” T-shirt at shop.nylon. com is a definite must-have. STOCKBYTE/THINKSTOCK • Wine-to-go tumblers. These tumblers are just what the wine connoisseur needs for the beach, the barbecue or even the tailgate party. Order the affordable and adorable pair of Vino2Go insulated tumblers from Amazon.com and you won’t be sorry. FOR THE RUNNING JUNKIE • Over-the-ear headphones. Running with regular headphones is always frustrating because of the constant cord twisting and tangling. Over-the-ear headphones solve that problem and allow the runner in your life to blaze trails cord-free. Sports Authority is among the retailers that offer a wide range of styles. • Armband. If you would like to complement the over-the-ear headphones, add an athletic armband to the mix. With her mobile phone and keys tucked safely around her arm, your running junkie will be able to focus completely on the path ahead. These armbands can be found just about anywhere, such as at the athletic store mentioned above or at your local Target. • Comfy sole inserts. Sure, there are a ton of lightweight shoes advertised to make you faster, but comfort is always key. The runner in your life (and the runner’s feet) will thank you for these after those tough 10-mile runs. You can purchase good quality sole inserts on runnersworld.com. And as an extra treat, toss in a few GU energy packs to jump-start the runner for those long distances. FOR THE SPA LOVER • Candles. What’s better than one, two or three candles illuminating the corners of the bathtub with a sweet vanilla aroma filling the room? They are a must-have for spa lovers, as they create the relaxed ambiance they know and love. Of course candles are available pretty much everywhere, but you can’t go wrong with Yankee Candle or Bath & Body Works. • Soothing face mask. Get the full spa effect with a soothing face mask. It not only is great for the complexion, but also will leave the spa lover feeling refreshed and wonderful. You can find some great face masks at Ulta and Sephora. My favorite is The Body Shop’s Tea Tree Face Mask. • Tweezers and manicure set. A great pair of tweezers and a manicure set can be integral to a beauty routine. My favorite tweezers are Tweezerman, which can be found most beauty stores. Plus, when the steel gets dull, you can send them back to be sharpened by the company itself. Also, Ulta sells a great travel-size manicure set to keep those fingers and toes looking lovely. If you would like to do a little extra for the spa lover, add an Essie nail polish in her favorite color or some flavorful tea. All of those suggestions include items that I know my family and friends wouldn’t mind receiving. However, you know your loved ones best, so use your better judgment when personalizing their stocking stuffers. Just because we’re getting older doesn’t mean we have to lose some of our favorite childhood pastimes. –Creators.com COVER: GIFT: ISTOCK.COM/EIVAISLA; BACKGROUND: ISTOCK.COM/BLACKJACK3D. GIFT IDEAS: METRO CREATIVE GRAPHICS

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Don’t Forget

YOUR PET

PHOTO COURTESY OF CREATORS.COM

BY ANICA WONG

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ogs, cats, birds and rabbits are no longer just pets. They are part of our families. They go on vacation with us, sleep with us and, in some cases, eat the same food we do. Because we consider them furry (or feathered) family members, it’s no wonder that we also include them in our holiday gift giving. Whitney Trayer, a sales associate at Quality Paws Natural Pet Inc. in Denver, said that more and more people are buying Christmas gifts for their dogs and cats. “Things that are Christmasy, or a hat—like reindeer ears—sell really well,” she said. Danielle Jarock, the owner of the store, said she sees a 20 to 30 percent increase in sales during December. And she’s not alone in this growing trend. According to the American Pet Products Association, Americans are projected to spend more than $58.5 billion on their pets in 2014. This number has increased by 4 to 6 percent

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annually since the association began keeping track in 1994. By way of comparison, the craft beer industry will reach $20 billion in 2014, according to Mintel, a market research group. In 2013, people spent $55.72 billion on their pets, most of which went to food ($21.57 billion), followed by vet care ($14.37 billion) and then supplies/over-the-counter medication ($13.14 billion). That last category lends itself to a lot of Kongs, which are dog toys, tennis balls and catnip toys, especially around the holiday season. And not only are our four-legged pals getting gifts placed under the tree, but they also are getting stocking stuffers. “People come in to fill a (pet) stocking,” said Trayer. Dog treats of all shapes, sizes and colors are artfully placed. Santa-shaped treats are particularly popular stocking stuffers. While it may seem that all of the goodies are going to the dogs, Trayer also noticed that along with shopping for their own pets, owners typically buy for others once

they are in the store. Shoppers think about all of the other people for whom they wouldn’t necessarily buy a gift, but would be happy to buy their dog or cat a little something. “People love that. ‘You got something for my dog!’” Trayer said, mimicking an excited pet-gift recipient. Gifts can be as diverse as the animals you are shopping for. For some, a rope toy and a big bone will do just fine. For those with fancier tastes, a blinged-out collar and high-end kibble might be the ticket. And high-tech gadgets aren’t just for humans anymore. The Tagg pettracker device, which can be affixed to a dog’s collar, tracks his every move and can even send notifications to a phone when he gets out of the safe zone, which is usually the backyard. The options are endless, and there’s no doubt that whatever you pick out for your favorite furry companion, you’re sure to get some extra-slobbery kisses or deep purrs. –Creators.com Advertising Supplement to Fairfax County Times | November 2014


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FIT GIFTS What to get the health and fitness buff

CREATORS.COM PHOTO COURTESY OF BROOKSTONE

Fitness trackers are one of the top fitness gifts this year.

BY SHARON NAYLOR

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f you have a health- or fitness-minded person on your holiday gift list, it’s easy to choose a present that will be appreciated and used. Laura Holmes, editor and chief media director at Gifts.com, said that when health and fitness are top priorities in a person’s life, you can tap into one of the top gift-giving categories for healthminded people. Holmes, who is into weekend 5Ks, mountain biking treks, spinning, yoga and posting about healthy recipes on social media, points to the following categories to help you select the perfect gifts: • Tech. “There are so many cool tech tools to aid the fitness fan in setting her goals and tracking her successes. If she doesn’t already have a sleep and activity tracker, this is the perfect gift, as it gives her an overall view of what she’s accomplished every day,” Holmes said. Fitness and sleep trackers are available as a wristband or a necklace that delivers data to an app, showing daily mileage, nutrition and even sleep patterns. You’ll even find “smart” water bottles that keep a person hydrated on the go and remind him when he hasn’t met his daily water goal. And would you believe there is a smart fork (HAPIfork) that lights up when the person holding it is eating too fast? You can find that at hapi.com or Amazon.com. • Yoga. Top gifts here include mats, carryall bags, yoga blocks, and stylish clothing and grip yoga socks. Add yoga DVDs and gift certificates to your recipient’s nearby yoga center, and your friend can personalize her practice even further, and perhaps have the funds to attend a special sunrise yoga or meditation class taught by a notable, visiting yogi. • Cooking. Health-minded gift recipients know that wellness happens from the inside out, so consider health-themed cookbooks and cooking gadgets, such as spiral vegetable peelers, to help make meal preparation healthier. Small appliances such as yogurt makers, blenders and even pizza stones help get home-cooked nutrition on the menu. Advertising Supplement to Fairfax County Times | November 2014


• Deliveries. A monthly delivery of fresh fruit, veggies and herbs makes healthy cooking convenient, said Holmes, who also said that if your recipient is ultra-healthy, she’ll probably prefer organic produce, so look into the company’s organic specifications before ordering these deliveries in weekly, monthly or quarterly packages. In addition to these four categories suggested by Holmes, consider some of the other hot fitness gifts this year: • Slacklining gear. In slacklining, a bouncy, high-tension piece of webbing is stretched between two solid objects—perhaps trees—just a few inches off of the ground. The exercise is akin to tightrope walking, which is good for balance, lower body fitness and core work. Slacklining gear is available in sporting goods stores and on sites such as REI.com. • Balance boards. Balance workouts may also be done on balance boards, also known as Indo Boards: flat boards set atop a round middle piece. The exerciser then stands atop the board, balancing from side to side. Yoga is also practiced on some Indo Boards. • Jump ropes. Jumping rope may remind the fitness buff of childhood play, but it’s a hard-core workout. These days, there are also cordless jump ropes to add some tech to the workout. • Hands-free dog leash. This gift allows a dog to run alongside his owner with the leash clipped securely to a piece of gear. • Gift card to an alternative therapy session. This could be for an aromatherapy session or an energy healing session with a licensed practitioner, or for an adventure your health-minded gift recipient has been longing to experience. • Hiking supplies. Fitness-minded friends who hike or camp will enjoy new outdoor activity gear, such as a hydration backpack or a personalized flask and carrier. Camping enthusiasts will know the intricacies of top-model camping gear, so if you’re not an experienced camper, a gift card to an outdoors store such as REI is a safe bet. –Creators.com

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TECH GIFTS for Baby Boomers BY CATHERINE MCNULTY

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MICHAELJUNG/ISTOCKPHOTO

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aby boomers have developed much of the technology we use today. As their generation moves from working to retirement, they continue to be tech-savvy. There are even websites devoted to boomers and technology, such as Boomer Tech Talk. AARP has a section on its website for it, as well. The holidays are the perfect time to get your favorite boomers—be they parents, other relatives or friends—some new technology. Let’s begin with the basics: a smartphone. Most people who already have one wouldn’t know how to function without their smartphone, but a smartphone can be intimidating for those who have never used one. What makes it a great boomer gift is that it enables so many different forms of communication. You can call (yes, people still do make phone calls on these), text, share photos, FaceTime or Skype, and use social media. As families are spread out farther and farther, the ability to contact loved ones in so many different ways is key to staying close. Speaking of social media, how about a gift that doesn’t cost anything but would be a great way to spend time together? That’s right, it’s time to get your parents or grandparents on Facebook—or any other social media platform you think they would enjoy. The boomer generation came up in a world where people expected to lose touch with one another over the years. But today, more and more boomers are using social media to find people from their past. Isn’t it worth having your mom like every one of your posts for a few months if you know she can reconnect with high school classmates she hasn’t seen in 30, 40 or even 50 years? Advertising Supplement to Fairfax County Times | November 2014


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THE HOLIDAYS ARE THE PERFECT TIME

HINKST DISC/T

mount. Many have to take more medications than they are used to, or ailing health can make it difficult for them to take care of themselves. Some solutions are easy. There are automated medication dispensers to ensure someone is taking medication at the right time and with the right dosage. There are talking clocks and apps to gently remind someone to take medication, as well. Remember those old “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” commercials? Life Alert, the company that made them, is still around, and all of that has gone digital now. There is, in fact, an app for that. Personal emergency response systems are a new type of technology aimed at helping those with health issues. Life Alert is one of the many companies that run such a service. What is provided through the service varies from company to company. Certain businesses offer GPS to paramedics to get them to your loved one faster; others keep digital medical records that can be forwarded to an emergency room or a doctor in another country when your loved one is traveling. –Creators.com

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TO GET YOUR FAVORITE BOOMERS—BE THEY PARENTS, OTHER RELATIVES OR FRIENDS—SOME NEW TECHNOLOGY.

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Many boomers are already smartphone/social media adoptees. And many haven’t slowed down in retirement; they’ve sped up—and hit the road. It’s a great way to spend retirement, driving around the country, chasing the good weather and seeing the sights. For someone who grew up tracing interstates and highways on a paper map the size of architectural plans (never to be refolded correctly), GPS is a godsend. If your favorite boomer is on the road and you’re concerned about something bad happening, get him OnStar, an automobile security, navigation and communication system, so he is always connected to help. A subscription to satellite radio would also be a great gift. There are plenty of lonely stretches of highway where the AM/FM signal fades out. A lot of boomers spruce up their houses as they head into retirement. Why not? The kids are gone, and they’re probably sick of looking at the same furniture. So what kind of technology can make the home life of a boomer better? It could be something as simple as getting keyless doors. They’re more secure, and they are fewer keys to keep track of. Another simple gift: getting all of a boomer’s entertainment technology—TV, cable, stereo, surround sound, etc.—on one remote. No one actually enjoys having a basket of remotes on the coffee table and trying to remember which one does what. As much as technology can supplement our lives and make them easier, it can also help save and prolong lives. As many boomers age, health concerns become para-

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Finding Perfect Holiday

GIFTS FOR MEN

S PHOTO COURTESY OF STATEPOINT

Wearable technology, such as USB cufflinks, makes a stylish and practical gift for men.

hopping for the perfect holiday gifts for men can easily become a daunting endeavor, but with online retailers, shoppers can better search for the ideal present with these simple tips. “It’s important to remember that a well-thought-out gift often leaves the greatest, lasting impression,” said Denis Daly Wood, founder of fourth-generation luxury men’s designer and online retailer Dalys 1895. Well-versed in luxury menswear, he curates innovative and exclusive accessories from around the world for Dalys 1895 each season. He offered these tips to make gift buying easier: • Home in on what he loves. Keep

the recipient’s interests in mind while shopping. If he spends his free time sailing or by the beach, nautical-themed cuff links or Caravaggio pocket squares can be useful gifts that reflect his interests. • Think outside the box. Everyone loves receiving thoughtful, one-of-akind gifts. Engraved items, such as sterling silver money clips, are not only useful, but can be personalized to make the gift even more heartfelt. • Make practical purchases. If the recipient is a frequent traveler, an overnight tote or weekender bag from Jack Spade, Troubadour or The British Belt Company can make stylish and practical presents. While everyone loves a good gag –CONTINUED ON 14–

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Gifts for GARDENERS of All Skill Levels

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he holiday season is a great time to shower the gardeners in your life with the tools they need to grow beautiful and delicious things. Whether your recipient already has a green thumb or is just thinking about starting a new hobby, there are some great gift ideas out there for every level of gardening interest and skill.

Herb and Vegetable Cookbook Everyone gets stumped from time to time when planning meals or figuring out how best to incorporate a fresh harvest into dinner. Consider giving a little inspiration. A vegetable gardener will appreciate a great cookbook that focuses on cuisine involving fresh herbs and vegetables. There are many options—from cookbooks that focus on vegetable side dishes to those where veggies take center stage.

PHOTO COURTESY OF STATEPOINT

Indoor Gardening Why only grow tasty vegetables and beautiful flowers part of the year? For the year-round enthusiast, consider an indoor garden. The MiracleGro AeroGarden, for example, is a soil-free garden that lets you grows herbs, vegetables, salad greens and flowers five times faster than plants grown in soil. Because it uses advanced hydroponics to create an ideal environment for healthy growth, your gift recipient won’t need expertise for a garden to thrive. Plants grown in an AeroGarden receive an ideal balance of water, air and liquid nutrients packed with calcium, iron, magnesium and other key –CONTINUED ON 14–

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gift now and then, the most well-received presents are tasteful and practical. • Set a spending limit. It may be tempting to overspend, but it is important to set a reasonable budget and stick to it. Many online sites allow you to filter products by price. Shoppers should use these to find items within their budgets. • Find versatile gifts. Finding something that satisfies a number of the recipient’s interests can be difficult, but will ultimately prove gratifying. Wearable technology, like sterling silver 16 GB USB cuff links, is a great gift that complements style and function, allowing him to store his favorite movies, music and more on-the-go. • Build in extra time. Be sure to take shipping time into account. If an item needs to be engraved or embroidered, build in ample time to ensure the gift arrives in time for the holidays. • Find a retailer with a generous return policy. Even the most thoughtful gifts might need to be exchanged. Seek out a retailer that offers free returns and other customer service perks. – StatePoint

minerals. AeroGarden also features a control panel to tell you when to add water, eliminating some of the trickier guesswork. Foodies and health enthusiasts will also be pleased to know that many of the seeds provided are heirloom varieties, and the company sources organic seeds when possible. For more information, visit AeroGarden.com. Bird Feeder Help your favorite gardener attract pollinators and add a touch of beauty to the garden with a unique bird feeder. The birds attracted by the feeder will do more than bring beauty to the recipient’s garden. They’ll help crosspollinate plants and flowers, as well. If you’re crafty, consider making it yourself, or use an online marketplace such as Amazon.com, to find a unique, hand-crafted or vintage treasure. And if your recipient is crafty, consider giving a do-it-yourself feeder or birdhouse kit. –StatePoint PIXLAND/THINKSTOCK

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Profile for The Gazette

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