No mall hauls. No fighting for parking spaces. We tested dozens of gadgets and gimmicks and gizmos, and ending up with the best gifts for house and garden. Remember the prices are suggested retail prices. Never pay those; simply check a few trusty sites for better prices and values. Here, our choices in part two.
We got to hand it to Honns, a company whose gloves are the softest around. Period. End of the story. Actually, it can’t be the end of the story because you need to know a bit more. The brothers behind Honns represent the second generation of a family trade that’s been in business more than three decades. They worked with some of the best names in the business, but now lean on that expertise to create an original collection that reimagines the glove as an essential fashion piece, not a cheap winter throwaway. As one fan coos: “Each pair of Honns is made of lambskin so supple they practically baa when you put them on.” The gloves are built with pre-curved construction to provide greater comfort at rest, and finished with a touch screen-conductive thumb and index finger so you can always remain connected. Made for men and women, the gloves are available in a myriad of styles and colors . . . and the colors will tell you how special special is: wolf grey, mocha, blaze, noir, brick red, olive, wine and white gold. Prices vary.
Jay Godfrey is a designer from Manhattan whose dresses such stars as Jennifer Lopez, Taylor Swift and Kim Kardashian. He now turns his talents to dress you . . . from the behind. His M Cushions have been dubbed “the first major innovation for decorative cushions since the creation of the zipper.” How true. Inside each cushion hides a powerful shiatsu massager. M Cushion’s four deep-kneading massage nodes relax muscle tightness, and the optional heating function melts away the day’s stress. Why pay for a massage? M Cushions covers are interchangeable and machine washable. We know someone who uses the M Cushion to sooth his achy, tired feet and the results he says are “super!” May we suggest the M Cushion is the only massage cushion that should be allowed in your house? Period. $119.
An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but the apples created by Mrs. Prindables are the prescription for gifts as fancy as they are tasty. The website has oodles of choices, but we savored the Winter Wonderland Petite Caramel Apple Basket, filled with a flurry of delectable treats. Enjoy a Milk Chocolate Walnut Petite Apple, a Triple Chocolate Petite Apple, two Classic Chocolate and Caramel Pretzels, an assorted gift bag of exotic Natural Caramels and a 4.5-ounce bag of Holiday Pretzel Bites. When the eating is done, there’s a lovely leftover; a red felt basket die-cut with a snowflake edge. Yum! This is item #1930551, $39.95.
You could burn the candle at both ends trying to find the perfect one. We found it. The Jonathan Adler Hashish Candle has two wicks (for an approximate burn time of 40 hours), burns evenly, puts out no black soot and permeates the rooms with a lovely fragrance that’s . . . well, indescribable. Adler says the candle is “scandalously scented with black currant, green apple, wormwood, patchouli and moss. It’s a tempting taboo to inhale!” The candle is house in a white lidded ceramic container which is ready to reuse as a pencil holder or some other doo-dad, Yet for some odd reason, is decorated with bas-relief images of cannabis leaves. We can wax poetically, but must mention the high price: $60.
Working in the garden has just got to be a bloomin’ good time. Fiskars’ PowerGear2 tools, which have made Fiskars’ best garden tools even better, are great for both experienced and aspiring gardeners. With advancements in comfort, durability and mechanics, PowerGear2 tools use gears to multiply leverage and provide up to three times more power for cutting branches than traditional tools. The gears are optimized to help provide the most power in the middle of the cut where the branch is thickest and the user needs it the most, making cutting branches significantly easier. The PowerGear2 line has branched out, and now includes a pruner, hedge and lopper in three sizes. Prices vary.
If coffee fits you to a T(ea), we have stumbled upon the two best coffee makers on the market. We tested and tried them out, and our cups o’ Joe (and the assorted mugs o’ tea) were steaming hot, crisp and never bitter. Keurig 2.0 K250 Brewing System is just right for almost everyone on your list, especially dorm denizens whose rooms are no bigger than the grounds of coffee. This Keurig system has been designed with a smaller, more compact footprint, and is ideal for college rooms, as well as small apartments, vacation homes, tiny kitchen spaces and home offices. Pop in a K-cup and faster than you can name the seven fun and striking colors which the machine comes in (Orange Zest, White, Black, Strawberry, Sandy Pearl, Violet, Tangerine and Turquoise), Joe awaits you. And your guests; the system can be used with a four-cup carafe. $109. A second great coffeemaker maker is the series from iCoffee. Each of their machines boasts a musical name (think Opus, Mozart, DaVinci). We sipped some simply good brew with the iCoffee Opus Single Serve Brewer 2.0. We got caffeinated (happily) every time we made some java. Every cup of was smooth tasting coffee, every time And we loved that we could adjust the brewing strength. What makes the iCoffee’s work so well? Spinbrew technology steams, spins and stirs inside the K-style cup to virtually eliminate acidic and bitter aftertaste. The Dial-a-Brew feature lets you select a size from 4 to 12 ounces in 1/2 ounce. We think there’s a French press at work, deep in the bowels of the machine. iCoffee works with any of the 500 beverage varieties from more than 75 brands. $165.
Whoever invented the Nanoleaf had a light bulb hovering over his head. That’s because these bulbs—folded from a printed circuit board into dodecahedron shape, the perfect solution for getting 360° light out of flat circuit boards—are light years away from ordinary bulbs. A visit to their website will have beaming with excitement. The Nanoleaf Bloom allows user the benefits of a dimmable bulb minus the hassle of installing a dimmer switch. To initiate dimming, quickly flick the on/off switch and the bulb will start to dim down, then flick switch again to lock in the desired brightness. And its statement-making shape adds character and charm to any space and makes it a superstar in any room. Some bulbs have a polka dot pattern; others can be turned on and off with your voice! They may seem a bit costly, but the company guarantees each bulb has a long life of 27 years! Prices vary.
Don’t know the difference between a Chardonnay and Chablis? Bordeaux from a Barolo? You don’t need to be an oenophile to know the best way to pack a couple of bottles of vino. The PackIt Double Wine Bag is a freezable bag folds up to roughly the size of a thick paperback book. It secures with a handy Velcro tab for compact storage. This gadget, made from food-safe, non-toxic poly canvas and waterproof EVA, is like having a mini wine fridge in the palm of your hand. (It also boasts a shoulder strap.) The entire bag goes in your freezer overnight (12 hours) to activate its built-in freezable gel that keeps two bottles of 750ml-one liter bottles of wine chilled to the perfect temperature for up to 10 hours. A staple for parties and outdoor concerts, this travel cooler bag is also great for large bottles of water, juice and other non-alcoholic favorites. There’s even a removable divider inside so you can customize the fit to your bottles. $19.99.
Perched on high heels for too many hours? Work boots aching your feet after a long shift? Stop suffering and stay fashionable. Superfeet, the world leader in supportive, comfortable insoles for the running, outdoor adventure and podiatry markets, has unveiled its first-ever collection designed for fashion-oriented footwear. Formal to casual, women’s heels to men’s wingtips, Superfeet’s me and GO insoles deliver ample support in your favorite footwear without adding extra bulk. Based on podiatric science—and used heavily in the active lifestyle industry since 1977—Superfeet’s insoles are proven to induce comfort, aid in support and relieve common foot ailments. The new collections take advantage of Superfeet’s tried-and-true anatomical profile but are designed specifically for the most unbearable of footwear, like narrow dress shoes and sky-high heels, making them more comfortable than ever. GO, made up of five insoles, incorporates high end materials like carbon fiber and super-soft suede fabrics, starting at $59.99. The colorful, three-style me collection rings in at $29.99 and is ready to rock straight out of the box—no break-in period required. Now your shoes will feel as good as they look.
Everyone has it: That mid-afternoon sluggish feeling. A trip to the vending machine a bag of chips and a bar of candy works. Bad move. That’s what seven friends knew when they decided to find the better way to snack. They quit their jobs, camped out in a friend’s spare room for months and after a lot of testing and hard work, graze.com was born—snacks that show off the tasty side of health. Today, those fine folks have developed a range of over 100 delicious snacks (from pure fruit to wholesome treats and dips and dippers) that are sent to subscribed customers in customized boxes. Take almonds. Most people think that an almond is just an almond, but once you’ve tried their Californian almonds with their sweet yet spicy salsa mesquite seasoning, you’ll never look at an almond in the same way again. The treats arrive in sealed plastic portions; each one Is not only yummy but contains essential vitamins and minerals or a source of protein. Visit their website and try a sample for free (just pay $12 postage!). Love ’em? The treat will arrive once a week for $11.99 each. Don’t like an ingredient? Trash it using their rating system and you’ll never receive it again. Graze boxes are designed to fit into a standard mailbox. Need to stop your deliveries? No problem, easily stop and start your deliveries online at any time.
The battle continues. Electrolux or Dyson? Which is the better vacuum? Which maintains its suction? We tested two. And love them both equally well. They both suck, and that is meant in the best customer-friendly way. The Electrolux Ergorapido Ultra Cordless Vacuum Cleaner 2080 features 180° EasySteer maneuverability which makes it easy to turn and vacuum corners with a 10-inch cleaning path. The DustSpotter LED lights promote visibility in dimly lit environments. Its two-in-one, self-standing design features a removable hand unit. The crevice tool and dusting brush store in the handle for easy access. Once fully charged, the 14.4V Lithium TurboPower battery provides up to 30 minutes of run time (full charges can be replenished in as little as four hours.) The self-cleaning brush roll allows tangled hairs and fibers to be released by simply pushing down on a pedal. If we had to lean toward one over the other, it’s the Dyson V6 Motor Head Cordless vacuum. Its digital motor creates the most powerful cordless vacuum the 15 cyclones, arranged across two tiers, work in parallel to increase airflow and capture more fine dust. The overall cleaning performance beats most full-size corded vacuums without the hassle of a cord. Its direct-drive cleaner head provides 75% more power on carpets than the Dyson V6 vacuum. The HEPA filtration captures allergens. Like all Dyson cordless vacuums, this machine easily converts to a handheld for quick clean ups, spot cleaning and cleaning difficult places. Get this: Simply push a button and the Max Power mode provides six minutes of higher suction for more difficult tasks. Once charged, the batter lasts for up to 20 minutes of run time. One downfall: The Dyson doesn’t vacuum high pile or shag carpets or throw rugs. The suction is too much! Unlike the Electrolux Ergorapido EL2081: this Dyson has a docking station stores and charges the machine so it’s ready to use. Electrolux Ergorapido $149.99; Dyson V6 Motor Head $439.
Think of these pieces of jewelry as magnetic. Literally. UNO Magnetic is a jewelry system that uses metallic chains and patented magnetic charms to allow people the ability to express the energy they want to give off . . . and energy they want to attract. Founded by award-winning architect and interior designer Luis Pons in 2011, UNO Magnetic creates fashion-forward interactive magnetic jewelry for men and women. All UNO products are globally sourced and locally made in the Wynwood Arts District in Miami, Florida; all charms are manufactured using only the finest naturally sourced materials. No plastic is used in any UNO jewelry. The collection offers a wide range of chains and charms to create the complete accessory. It can be worn as a necklace, bracelet, belt, anklet and many other ways. Select from an array of chains and magnetic charms to express love, friendship, courage or whatever you want to communicate. With more than 300 charms, UNO helps you convey your own personal style and desires. Various prices.