Up A Lazy River

“Up a lazy river by the old mill run
The lazy, lazy river in the noon day sun
Linger in the shade of a kind old tree
Throw away your troubles and dream a dream with me…”

For Father’s Day, grab your family and take Dad floating on the river or lake for a relaxing holiday.  Present him with his own Big Bobber Cooler so he'll relax and enjoy the ride with a cool drink.
This cooler is amusing, and practical:
+ Easily seen in the water so he won’t lose it when coasting through the rapids

  + Can be tied with a cord to his inner tube, kayak or fishing boat to keep it arm’s length away
  + Meets the code for coolers on the rivers (yes, many rivers have a cooler size restriction—a relief that he won’t have to walk it back to the car when the park rangers are policing the river for outsized coolers)
 Spice It Up:  Get him ready for the trip with Keen Newport sandals. This brand is one of the best waterproof sandals out there.  

Keen sandals are better suited for summer activities than flip-flops because they have a protective rubber toe and grippy soles to prevent injuries on slippery rocks, and the cut-outs allow air to keep feet cool.

No doubt he will end up wearing them all summer long whether swimming, working in the yard, or hanging out on the weekends!
Then, stock the cooler with a six pack of various craft beers (at some stores they are sold in singles), so he can sample a variety of tasty beers.

Or, for a non-alcoholic twist, buy a cool selection of old school sodas like Big Red, NeHi, IBC Root Beer, etc.


Where to buy: 

The Big Bobber cooler can be purchased at Academy, Bed Bath & Beyond, BassPro Shop, or WalMart. $29.99
Keen Newport Sandals are available at many sporting goods stores including: REI, Whole Earth Provision Company, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Cabela’s. Keen’s have styles for both men and women in a variety of colors $100.00

Note: Be sure to check for sales—I bought a pair at 50% off at Whole Earth Provision Company. REI shows them online on sale for $69.99
Craft Style Beers: Check your local liquor store for a variety of Craft beers in the can (no glass allowed at the Lake or River!).  For guidance, check out the Craft Beer Brewers Association website called Craft Beer or the Beer Advocate. on average $7.00-$18.00 per six pack

Retro Soda Pop:  Old fashioned sodas can be found at local gourmet grocers or look at these websites online: Vintage Soda Company and Dr. Soda. $1.29-$1.50 per
Note: Careful with the retro sodas as most are packaged in glass bottles.  While they will fit in the Bobber, it is best not to have glass in the pool/lake/river.

Holy comic books Batman!

Need a birthday gift for your kids, your grandchildren, your niece or nephew?

Consider a Comic Book Subscription of the child's favorite cartoon character: Spiderman, Superman, Batman, Scooby Doo, The Archie’s, Peanuts, Iron Man, etc.

Growing up, my brother and I collected comic books by the hundreds. I can vouch that comic books are a great way to encourage a child to read, and to learn the hobby of collecting. While you can surely buy a stack of comics from the bookstore, it is a thrill for a kid to receive mail delivered each month to their home specifically addressed to them. A comic book subscription is an excellent birthday/Christmas/Hanukkah gift for boys, girls, tweens, and teenagers.

When purchasing a book, beware that each book is marked either for “All Ages” or “T+” for 13 and older (usually in the lower left hand corner of the cover page). This indicates the content in the book. The T+ can include adult themes, violence and language, whereas “All Ages” is suitable for children.

Your local comic book store can provide guidance on the book best suited for the age/personality of your recipient.

Spice It Up:  Pick out an archival storage box to stow their new comic book each month.
This will protect the books, keep mom happy by preventing clutter, and allow the kids to easily find the books to read over and over again.  Plastic boxes are fine, or you can buy the more expensive archival boxes that protect paper on par with an antiquarian library. $3.99-$40.00 

Note: I recommend avoiding the magazine holders that are upright as the comic books are not thick enough to stand, and will crease if stored in this manner.

Once you select the comic book, then add a colorful sticker of the character on the box. This will make it special, and the child will know exactly where to find their books. $2.99-$5.99

Alternate idea: If buying for a youngster, a storage box may not excite them the day they receive it. Instead, consider an action figure of the character to bundle with a single issue of the book. Action figures are readily available at Target, Toys R Us, Wal-Mart, etc.

Where to Buy:

Subscriptions - can be purchased online at DC Comics, Marvel Comics, or at Things From Another World (they are the direct source for all Dark Horse Comics). $17.99-$39.99 for 12 issues

Comic Book/Single Issue - When presenting the gift, buy a single issue at Barnes & Noble or your local comic bookstore to bundle with the subscription confirmation. An actual issue of the book will make it more tangible for the child. And, don’t worry, if the child seems unsure when receiving it—once the subscription starts they will be thrilled! $2.99-$3.99

Note: Most subscriptions take 4-6 weeks to commence. So, either purchase well in advance or write a brief note marking the expected start date so they will know it is not lost.

Storage Box - Container Store, Staples, JoAnns, Target, and more all have storage boxes and archival boxes to suit.

Stickers- Comic book character stickers can be purchased at your local comic book store. In Dallas, try Keith's Comics at locations near SMU, Carrollton, and Frisco.

Luck Be A Lady!

For a graduation, a milestone birthday, a bridesmaid gift or a bon voyage for a friend who is moving away, you want to bestow good wishes.  These Dogeared brand necklaces are stylish, and meaningful gifts to express this sentiment.

The Lucky Cat is fun, and a conversation starter.  The small size keeps it from being too "cutesy" for an adult.  It wears well from day time at work, to casual sweats on the weekend, to out on the town at night.
The 100 Good Wishes, though pricier, is unique as it lists out the 100 good thoughts and wishes.  Each "bead" on the necklace represents one of these wishes, and there are exactly 100 beads on the necklace. 
We can all use good vibes, good karma, and blessings--whatever your beliefs--and this necklace is a magnet for all if them! 
This is one of my favorite necklaces because it layers beautifully with other pendant necklaces.  Personally, I have one in silver and one in gold just so I can combine it with my other jewelry depending on what I am wearing. 

The strand is one single long necklace that you can wear long or double up as shown.

In addition, this necklace works for any age—from teenager to grandmother.  It is just that good looking, and subtle.

Spice It Up:  The lucky cat legend is a charming Asian tale of a cat that brings good luck.  This festive statuette is a great addition to double down on the good luck from the necklaces.  
For a graduate’s college dorm room, a housewarming gift, a co-workers desk, or a going away gift for a friend who is moving, the Lucky Cat gift box offers Feng Shui and good luck for any space. 
This particular one includes the decorative box to display the cat, along with a booklet describing the legend of the Lucky Cat.

Where to Buy:
Necklaces:  Dogeared jewelry has numerous necklaces with charms that have different sayings included in the box. 
The styles are available in both silver & gold so you can pick which best suits the recipient.  The brand can be purchased online or in stores at Nordstrom, NeimanMarcus, Bloomingdales and other stores. 
Dogeared products range from $38.00-$140.00 and include sentiments such as: Faith, Good Luck, Friends Forever, Life Is Beautiful, etc.
Lucky Cat necklace $58.00 

Good Wishes necklace $90.00-$100.00 (price varies slightly depending on whether it is gold or silver)

Box is roughly the height of a iPhone
Cat is height of a standard Lipstick
Lucky Cat Statue: 
I found this one at Barnes & Noble on the display stands near the counter.  Though Barnes & Noble shows that they are sold out for online order, I have seen them in the actual stores as recently as this week.
It is also available through Amazon.  If you cannot find this particular statuette, google “Lucky Cat” online and you will find many other similar cat statues.    $9.95

Beach Blanket Bingo!

Sunglasses & beach
towels from Tuesday Morning
Summer is upon us and that means sitting by the pool, floating the river, or hanging out at the shore!  The natural gift for Teacher Appreciation, Graduation, or summer birthdays is a large monogrammed beach towel to enjoy by the water.

To personalize the beach towel, initials work well.  Or, add a bit of whimsy by embroidering nicknames on the towel. 

My good friend, Meg, is a precision sunbather so we christened her with the nickname of “Sundial” as she coached us through catching the best rays at the beach.  This towel will make her laugh!  If your recipients don’t have a nickname, give them one:  Rock Star, Shop Girl, Smarty Jones, Twinkle Toes, etc.
This gift works well for guys, too, though I recommend keeping the monogram small, and the nickname not too embarrassing.

You can place the monogram in the center of the towel, but I prefer to place the name in the front left corner so that when you have it laid out on the chaise your feet will rest just above the letters on the towel.  That way, the Cabana Boy will know exactly who to bring the Pina Colada to!
Spice It Up:  Add a pair of inexpensive sunglasses, a summer beach novel with a handmade bookmark (place a list of suggested reads on the bookmark), or flip flops!
Check out these imprintable flip flops you can customize with a logo or message.  “Bring Beer” is hilarious, but if you want to tone it down, add a school name like “SMU” or a fun saying.

Where to Buy:

Towels - you can buy monogrammed towels at Swoozie’s, though they tend to be more expensive ranging from $25.00-$50.00.  Tuesday Morning currently has a large stock (in-store not online) of high quality beach towels priced at $9.99-$14.99.  The fabric is thicker and much nicer than the ones you see at Target, etc. 
Monogram - Have them monogrammed at a local store like this one in Dallas at Willow Bend Mall called EmbroidIt!  There are a variety of font styles to choose from, and prices vary depending on the size and number of letters.  The style featured here is called “Hobo.”  $10.00-$20.00

Sunglasses - Walmart, Target, Tuesday Morning for cheap glasses. $6.00-$20.00

Flip Flops – Customized sand imprint flip flops can be ordered online at Flip Sidez at Etsy. $19.95

Ready, Set for College!

High school graduations are just days away, and you need a gift for a graduate.  To start, consider what the grads could use in the fall when they head off to college.

Now, think back to your own college days…hiking across campus to class with your backpack, socializing at keggers, and running out of allowance money a week before the end of the month...

Ah, those were the good 'ol days!

An iPhone wallet is a perfect gift for a new graduate. It is small enough to stuff in a Backpack (who wants to lug a giant purse around), and keeps a student ID and phone safe.

For the girls, you can find many cute styles, though I recommend the wristlet type.  Wristlets are desirable because you can still dance at a party without losing your belongings!

KateSpade, Coach, and Tumi all have very nice iPhone wallets/wristlets and you can certainly spend the $80.00+ for these lovely cases.  But, remember, the reality of a college student's wallet is that it will have beer spills, pizza stains, and crushed edges from sitting under a stack of books.  Basically, it's not worth ruining an expensive one.  

So, stop by Target and buy the stylish ones like these two affordable examples.
 I like this Black & White Polka-Dot wristlet because it fits a phone that may already have a protective case (like an Otterbox), and allows for a few extra items. This is soft faux leather so it is not heavy to carry like real leather, and you can spill all the beer you want without staining the cover! $14.99

An alternate style is the hard case found in this light gold wristlet edition.  It is a bit smaller, and fits the phone in the case (sans cover) and serves as a protective case in itself.

The gold is a bit more glam for nights out on the town!

In addition to graduates, this is a neat gift for a 21st birthday or 30th birthday as she heads out clubbing with her besties!  $12.99

For the boys, the iphone wallet combo is simple and sleek.  This is available at Target, as well.  $39.99
Note:  Another option is to go to the website for the bookstore at the college of their choice.  Oftentimes, there will be cases with the school colors.

Spice It Up:  Add gift cards to the wallet! 

Whether studying for exams, or just needing late night munchies after the cafeteria is closed, a little junk food is a real treat for the college student! 

Tuck a few gift cards from various fast food restaurants in the wallet.  These will be their “emergency” kit when they truly need it!

Note 1:  Pizza tends to be expensive.  If you choose to do this, select one like Gatti’s or CiCi’s that have pizza buffets.  This way they can make the card last longer than just one pizza at $20.00.  Otherwise, $5 or $10 increments are sufficient at most fastfood places.
Note 2:  Possible cards include: Pinkberry, 7-11, Starbucks, Einstein’s, McDonalds, Whole Foods (if you are trying to avoid the junk food), Pizza Hut, Taco Cabana, Chick-Fil-A, Taco Bell, Wendy’s, Whataburger, etc.  Be careful about convenience store or grocery store cards--a friend of mine spent his first semester using his gas card to buy copious amounts of beer until his father figured out he wasn’t filling up his car!

Note 3: Be sure to tell the recipient that the gift cards in the wallet are real and are not just display cards!

Where to Buy:
Wristlets are available at most department, and gift stores.  I found these at Target (wristlets)$12.99-$14.99

Mens' phone/wallets are available at student bookstores, department stores or try Target (Agent 18 men's phone/wallet). $39.99
These are great gifts for Graduation, For Him or For Her, For 21st Birthday, For 30th Birthday (headed out clubbing)!

Sip, Sip Hooray for the USA!

Most everyone has given a bottle of wine as a gift at one time or another.  It is a convenient, and universally appreciated gift. 

Be patriotic, and support the U.S. vineyards by sharing their wines.  Chateau Montalena is one vineyard that has a fabled history in Napa that will swell your patriotic heart!

California wines were dismissed and ignored by Europe’s wine elite for many years until the 1976 Judgment of Paris competition.  Set during the bicentennial year, the competition established Chateau Montalena and Stag’s Leap wineries as world class.
If you are looking for a nice gift for Him or Her, for Mother's Day, for Father's Day, to honor an Anniversary, to celebrate a Date Night, to be patriotic for the 4th of July, or to recognize an Achievement the chardonnay from Chateau Montalena is excellent.  $45.00 per bottle
Spice It Up:  Make a simple gift of wine special by adding a copy of the book Judgment of Paris by George M. Taber.  The book chronicles the history of California wine country, and the 1976 Paris competition which literally blew the lid off the closely held European wine industry to level the playing field from California to South America, New Zealand and beyond.  Whether your recipient is into wine or not, the book is a fascinating tome about the region’s fledgling start, and the transformation of an entire industry.  $13.37 for softback edition

Even better, include a copy of the movie Bottle Shock which is based on the book.  Some of my favorite actors are in this movie: including Alan Rickman, Bill Pullman, and Chris Pine (and, yes, even with the blonde “spicoli” wig, Chris Pine is still a handsome devil).  The movie is a fun watch for guys & gals in for a laid back evening.  As soon as it starts, you will want to uncork your bottle to sip as you watch!  $4.99-7.99 for unused/new DVD
Note 1:  The movie has some language and a love scene, but still fairly mild.

Note 2:  Bottle Shock is a very different story from those of you who have seen the movie Sideways.  Sideways is a great movie, but it is raunchy and melancholy.  Bottle Shock is an upbeat, inspiring tale about the underdog who succeeds.  Unless you are sure of your recipient’s humor, I recommend going with the milder Bottle Shock.

Where to Buy: 

Wine:  Chateau Montalena can be ordered online from the vineyard or at your local fine wine shop/liquor store.  While you can find it at the big discount stores, I like to support the local “mom & pop” stores who are working hard to make it in the business, and who provide a personal touch. 
 Note 1:  If you can’t find Chateau Montalena, try Stag’s Leap which was one of the other winners.  Also, try Grgich Hills Estate wines which are produced by Mike Grgich who originally worked at Chateau Montalena as the winemaker back in the 70s before starting his own vineyard.
Note 2:  If you do not want to spend for such a pricey bottle of wine, your local store can guide you to a very good $10.00 bottle of wine from California in keeping with the spirit of the book and movie.  As the story unfolds, you will see the California vineyards banded together to support each other because “If one succeeds, we all succeed.” 

Book:  Barnes & Noble, Amazon and most bookstores carry the book in the Wine/Food History section.

DVD:  Vintage Stock/Movie Trading Company carries 2-3 copies in each of their stores which is an easy pickup locally if you need the movie right away.  It is also available to be shipped on Amazon and Barnes& Noble online.

End Note:
The timing of this gift idea is bittersweet as Jim Barrett of Chateau Montalena passed away on March 14th of this year at the age of 86.  By following his dream, Barrett built a quality vineyard, and his success helped lift the fortunes of many in Napa Valley.  Read more of his pioneering spirit at Wine Spectator.


Music to His Ears

When considering a gift for men, from age 8 to 88, they all want electronics. Unfortunately, that big screen TV, iPad, or gaming gadget are way out of the price range for my gift budget...

Never fear—I found the best affordable techy gift for all the boyz in your life!

Skullcandy Pipe is a mobile audio dock for your iPhone/iPod. It is hip, and functional.

The Pipe has a slick appearance in silver or black chrome, and is small enough to rest nicely on a desk at the office or in a small dorm room. To top it off--it has an ultra-thin Clicker! $44.00-$48.00

Originally, I bought this for my brother who loves it and uses it constantly. He takes it with him to listen to music while fishing, traveling, at the office, and in the backyard for BBQs.  The sound is impressive, and can be adjusted loud for a bash or soft for background music while working.

And, I admit, I loved it so much I bought one for myself! I even gave it for a Bar Mitzvah gift and a high school graduation gift--the Skullcandy logo is hip and the gadget cool enough for even the most jaded of techno teen boys.

iPhone docked to play music
This is a great gift for any guy or gal, but is especially great for Birthdays, Father’s Day, Bar Mitzvahs, Graduation, Christmas, etc.

Small Coke bottle for scale comparison

Spice It Up: Is he stuck in a rut listening to the same few songs he downloaded from Itunes 3 years ago? Bring him up to date with a Mix of The Month membership from DJ Lucy Wrubel. Lucy has traveled the world, and her playlists are infused with her eclectic exceptional style! $25.00-$165.00/yr
This gift is truly worthwhile because her selection ranges from hip new artists to retro favorites. When you don't have time to figure out what to download--she's got it all!
Where to buy:

Skullcandy can be purchased online at Skullcandy, or from Amazon.  I  purchased mine from one of those large electronic vending machines you see in airports & shopping malls.  The box includes an adapter to plug into the wall, but you might want to add batteries to the gift.  The Clicker is especially handy--it is so thin and light, see comparison to my Ipod in the picture below.  $44.00-$48.00
DJ Lucy Wrubel's Mix of the Month  http://mixofthemonth.biz/ in online and has two levels of membership: LoFi for 12 months for $25 which sends out a monthly recommended playlist you can download yourself from iTunes, or you can purchase the Box Set at $165 annual membership which mails you the monthly playlist on cd to burn along with other features.
Check out DJ Lucy Wrubel at her website http://lucywrubel.com/ to listen to some of her sample tunes


Tea For Two…and Two For Tea

Sometimes you need a “go-to” gift that is not too expensive, yet appeals to everyone from acquaintances to family.  For me, that gift is two tea cups. 

Whether it’s for your mother, your daughter, grandmother, a friend’s birthday, the start of a new job, a get well for a sick friend, a co-worker, or teacher appreciation, this gift works for everyone!

Spice It Up:  A way to personalize the gift, is to buy some special tea to pair with the cups.  Republic of Tea makes wonderful tea with unusual flavors.  If you look at the label there is a sentiment tied to the tea like “Good Fortune” or “The Perfect Tea.”   I paired the Dragon Oolong tea of Good Fortune for a friend’s birthday who was also starting a new job.  A nice wish for new beginnings!

While the cups are plenty, if you want to add to the gift, include a saucer with the cup.  This is always handy for placing the teaspoons or sugar on the side. 

The crowning touch is to add a box of special sugar cubes.  I recommend buying a couple of boxes to keep handy when you need to add them to a set of cups for a gift.

Option:  If your recipient is not a tea drinker, substitute the tea with a pound of nice coffee or hot chocolate mix.  Some tasty brands include Illy, and Starbucks. 

Where to Buy:

Tea Cups:  Tea cups can be purchased almost anywhere, but my favorite place to find unique and colorful cups is Anthropologie.  They always have a selection of festive dishes, and the cups/mugs range from $8.00-$16.00 per cup. 

Tip:  Anthropologie maintains a sale rack of dishes in each of their stores.  Check this out to see what cute mugs are available that have been marked down.  This is a good way to keep the cost down as the sale items are 20-75% off depending on the item.

Alternate store: Check out your local antique mall for inexpensive retro mugs or tea cups.  Look for a variety—they do not need to match.  Prices will range from $1.00-upwards depending on the quality of the porcelain/pottery.

Tea:  Republic of Tea is available in most gourmet grocery stores like Central Market and Whole Foods.  Recommended flavors are the Blackberry Sage, English Breakfast and Dragon Oolong tea.  $8.99-$14.99 per box.  
Celestial Seasonings are available in most grocery stores including Tom Thumb.  Recommended flavors:  Mandarin Orange, Lemon Zinger, Sleepy Time tea. $2.99-$4.99 per box.

Sugar Cubes: Sugar cubes are available on Etsy in a variety of shapes including pink teapots, Bridge/Card game emblems (Spades, Hearts, Clubs, and Diamonds).  $6.00-$25.00 per box.