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If you are out and about, running errands, picking up the kids, taking them to activities, getting the family shopping done, commuting to work, and trying to keep up with your social life, chances are your phone is not lasting as long as you are in a day.  Nothing is worse than seeing that sliver of red is all that’s left of your battery life, and you are only half way through your day, and you don’t have time to plug in and wait to recharge.

With the dismal battery life of iPhones these days, and fear sparked into the hearts of smartphone owners everywhere by the Samsung 7 battery explosions debacle, portable battery chargers have been the answer, at least temporarily, to stave off dead phone woes.

But not all phone chargers are alike, and before you buy one you should check out some important features that might make a difference in your charger being a lifesaver or a dud.

The myCharge HubPlus portable charger ($79.99) is one of the better chargers I have used, for many reasons. One feature that is rare in portable chargers is that it features a USB port, in addition to a built-in lightning and micro USB cables. The built-in USB and lightning cables can be sleekly tucked away on the side of the hub, so that they don’t tangle up with other items in your bag.

Of course, with the size and power needed to accommodate a USB port, the myChare HubPlus is a bit larger and heavier than many chargers; it would have to be, until the technology improves, to provide the juice needed to power up larger devices.

This means it’s a little less portable, and a little more weight and bulk in your pocket or bag. The flipside is that this device will keep your smaller devices running longer, lasting up to four times your device’s battery.

This extra power can come in handy on the subway, on a camping trip, or other places where you can’t plug-in for hours. Also an added feature of the HubPlus is it has a built-in wall prong for plugging directly into an electrical outlet. This is convenient because you don’t have to carry along a charger cord and charging block to re-charge your portable charger.

The bummer is that in this day and age, most household electrical outlets are spoken for, so often you will have to unplug something in order to accommodate it.

The charger features four lights on the side which show when the battery is charged up and ready to go. It also features a safe cell technology to limit the charge to give you the highest level of charge without overdoing it. It also has smart sense technology which ensures device compatibility.

Overall this is an excellent power bank for emergencies and peace of mind, if you don’t mind toying around a little extra heft.

Valentine’s Day is an occasion to express our love for those who are special in our lives.  Show your sweetheart you care with these thoughtful Valentine’s gifts for her or him that are sure to warm your loved one’s heart.

I heart dogs

For those of us who love our pets, the way to our hearts is often through our furry friends. Hugger Memories has found a way to capture our sentiments for our pets and express them in a unique art pieces using inspired fabrics. Sarah Gibson Wiley, the artist behind these creations, uses photographs and stories to render Custom Pet Portraits in the form of monogrammed style pillows or fabric art suitable for framing. These home accents are sure to become a family heirloom and a gift that preserves special memories of a pet to cherish for years to come. $225 for a single pet.


Jewelry from the sea of love

Valentine’s Day is the perfect occasion to give a special piece of jewelry, like a design from artist Wendy Mignot. Each of her unique and elegant bohemian chic creations features pearls and natural and reclaimed items from the ocean and surrounding terrain. Her pieces combine Tahitian, South Sea, and freshwater cultured pearls along with sea glass, shells, stones and ancient and shipwrecked coins, strung on soft, hand rolled-leather and tied with precision to create a one-of-a-kind piece that can be worn to the beach or a ballroom.  Priced $75 to $1,250.


The face of love

Pamper your sweetheart with Annemarie Borlind natural skin care products for that make the wearer feel beautiful inside and out. The anti-aging LL Regeneration collection with proprietary bioactive complex includes a Gentle Cleansing Milk ($43.99), a Revitalizing Blossom Dew Gel ($49.99), Revitalizing Day ($59.99) and Night Cream ($59.99), and Eye Wrinkle Cream (54.99). These cosmologist-created, vegan products, made in the Black Forest, are made from plants, deep spring water and all natural and pure ingredients like Shea butter. in laboratory tested formulations that make skin look and feel firmer and revitalized. To make you feel even better about the line, none of the products are tested on animals and all are made in an ecologically responsible manner with fair working conditions and no child labor.


I’ve got your backpack

Your loved one works hard for the money, so make carting around work stuff easy. Solo backpacks look as stylish as they are functional, with rich textures and thoughtful details such as fully padded laptop compartments, key clips, internal iPad or tablet pockets, front pockets, cloth interiors, and lightweight but durable materials. Two polished and preppy styles for her or him are the Bridgehampton Ladies Backpack, $89.99; and the East Hampton Backpack, $119.


Locks of love

Your Sweetie will have a good hair day and feel spoiled with luxurious hair care products from Obliphica Professional.  The heart of Obliphica’s rejuvenating formulas is the powerful and therapeutic Seaberry superfruit, a centuries-old secret to beauty, rich with bioactive compounds, that naturally nourishes, heals and protects the scalp and hair, and has been revered for its rejuvenating powers by ancient cultures since 5000 BC. The Seaberry Shampoo ($24, 300 mil. size) cleanses hair and scalp, removes impurities and softens the hair, controls static and protects hair with natural UV filters for longer-lasting color, hydration and shine. The Seaberry Mask ($38, 250 ml. size) intensely hydrates and repairs the hair, and nourishes and moisturizes the scalp. Seaberry Serum ($38, 65 ml. size) nourishes and repairs hair, while leaving a luminous, shiny and silky finish.


Sizzling hot love

Give your honey a gift that he or she will use every day and think of you. IMUSA Induction Sauté Pans are go-to every day pans that are both durable and versatile. Great for sautéing foods, making pancakes and eggs or grilling sandwiches, these pans are quintessential pieces for any kitchen. The induction bottom is suitable for gas, electric, ceramic and induction stove tops. The hundred percent ceramic nonstick coating makes cleanup easy and allows you to use less oil. Available in assorted sizes of 8 inches, 10 inches or 12 inches for all size cooking jobs.  $54.99 for a three-piece set.


Light up your love light

Set the mood for your Valentine’s Day celebration by lighting up fragrant Goat Milk Stuff candles. These soy candles last up to 50% longer than paraffin candles, and they burn slower, cooler and cleaner, and they hold their sent beautifully. They come in a variety of fragrances and colors, such as the soft pink Luv Spell scent, to suit any mood and taste. $6 each.


b8ta“What’s old is new again” is a philosophy that one would never imagine apply to technology, but B8ta proves it does.  The world is migrating to online commerce, but nostalgic consumers once again crave the brick-and-mortar store experience. Clicking to buy is convenient, but the missing link is a sales person to explain the benefits and features of a product, and the opportunity to see, feel, and test an item before you purchase it.

Today many items consumers would have never dreamed of buying online, such as furniture or prepared meals, are shipped door to door in days; but sometimes there is a disconnect between the consumer and the seller. The savviest of the new commerce entrepreneurs are bridging the old school and the new way of doing business, such as online mattress seller Luxi, which is now developing a complementary program where customers can try out their product in a retail store and then purchase it either in-store or online for the same price.

B8ta has ingeniously harnessed the best the best of both worlds with their pop-up like retail stores where they consign traditionally online only products, such as eero Wi-Fi extenders, Pearl RearVision rearview automobile camera, or Muse brain-sensing mediation headband.  The cleanly designed storefronts resemble single-brand showplace stores, such as Apple, Sony or Microsoft store, but of course B8ta sells unlimited brands.

So far the stores are only on the West Coast, naturally having outlets in tech hubs in Northern and Southern California, with outposts in Santa Monica’s “Silcon Beach,” Seattle, Palo Alto, Burbank, Aliso Viejo and Livermore.

Having an actual retail store where consumers can go to handle the merchandise and speak to a knowledgeable sales person can make the difference between browsing and buying. When I recently went into the store in need of a portable battery charger, I was sold on the Flux, which was displayed at B8ta along with approximately 100 other devices, when I was able to see in person how thin the device was, and I was able to hold it in my hand to feel how lightweight it was. No number of YouTube unboxing videos can demo this experience.

B8ta has combined the tactile with the virtual experience of modern shopping with each of the items displayed near a video tablet on which a prospective customer can watch explainer videos. Enthusiastic black-shirted tech geeks stroll the isles eagerly awaiting the opportunity to answer questions about the merchandise.

The customer can also check on specs and other information from the video screen, including a countdown of the number of the product left in inventory.

So whereas some experiences don’t require a personal interaction to make them fulfilling, such as was the case when consumers were able to pump their own gas and never look back at the days of gas station attendants, buying tecnical products has not achieved this status, and signs are it will not, as the success of B8ta is proof positive that a hands-on shopping still has a place in the tech age. 


Love those “in” and “out” lists for the New Year?  Here’s one from CARE.COM , with their predictions for parenting and workplace trends for 2017.


1.Grit-Style Parenting  Say goodbye to participation trophies, and hello to teaching kids some grit. Recent studies have shown that the characteristic of grit is the key to happiness and success, and in a world that increasingly values entrepreneurship and the failure that may come along with it, parents are letting their children figure things out on their own and even fail. By teaching children not to quit at the first sign of a setback, parents are showing children how to be resilient, autonomous and that persistence pays off whether there’s a trophy or not.


2.The Minimalist Parent  The minimalist movement that was sparked by Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up has trickled down to parenting. In lieu of all the “stuff” that children quickly grow out of and tired of, parents are electing for a more pared-down lifestyle for the entire family. These minimalist parents of 2017 are eschewing the multitude of toys, clothes and art projects that come with the parenting territory and only saving items that spark joy, while selling or donating the rest to local charities or parent groups like the ones found on BigTent.com. When it comes to activities, reexamining their children’s schedule and eliminating any sports or lessons they don’t truly enjoy is also on the minimalist parent’s agenda.


3.Post-Gender Parenting  From an increase in unisex names in the last decade and the movement to ban the word “bossy” for girls to the elimination of gender toy segregation by mass market retailers and the call for gender-neutral graduation gowns, gender neutrality is being welcomed by a new generation of parents. These post-gender parents are challenging gender stereotypes in an effort to raise their children in an environment where they aren’t confined to the pressure of gender bias and where kids can simply be kids…whether that means learning how to code, to play rugby or to take ballet. This cultural shift means that children have more choices than ever before, and what parent doesn’t want that for their child?

4.Truly Flexible Workplace Programs – There’s no question about it. 2016 was the year about paid parental leave. While companies will continue to engage in a parental leave arms race, Care@Work, the enterprise arm helping companies support their working families, predicts leading employers will also take on expanding the notion of flex time for 2017. According to a Care@Work Better Benefits Survey, 17% of people would likely leave their job for one that offered a flexible work scheduleBut beyond offering flexibility in working hours, companies are recognizing that true flexibility for America’s diverse workforce means many different things. Whether it’s a reduced work week à la Amazon.com’s 30-hour work week pilot program, job-sharing opportunities, or the ability to work from home several days a week to avoid long commutes or for no reason at all, the traditional, full-time schedule in an office is no longer a “one size fits all” model for today’s workforce. Most importantly, leading organizations who are committed to true flexibility are actively encouraging the use of these workplace programs to help mitigate commonly-held fears of being professionally penalized for actually taking them.


img_3534Two years after it has been established on Larchmont Boulevard, Salt and Straw is still blowing up the sidewalk every night of the week. Even on a Tuesday night at 10 PM, there is a line out the door and 20 people long outside the ice cream shop. In a town where indie shops come and go in a blink of an eye, it is a testament to Salt and Straw’s superior product and a bit of marketing prowess that it is still immensely popular.


Now with several locations throughout Los Angeles, including Studio City, Venice Beach, the Arts District downtown, and a new location opening in West Hollywood, the ice cream shop draws a steady stream of crowds who crave its signature savory flavor of sea salt with caramel ribbons, almond brittle with salted ganache, double folded vanilla, and chocolate gooey brownie and the adventure of enjoying samples of its out-of-the-carton flavors such as black olive and goat cheese brittle, freckled woodblock chocolate, avocado and strawberry sherbet, honey lavender, Silencio black tea and coconut strawberry Stracciatella. 



Tiffany, the manager at the Larchmont store, graciously explains the many flavors to guests, unfrazzled by the lines pouring in the door, she maintains a smile and pleasant demeanor as she efficiently multitasks, ringing up customers and scooping out samples, setting up a tasting flight of four flavors, and giving newbies a 101 lesson in Salt and Straw’s secret sauce, so to speak, which is sourcing its fine ingredients from local purveyors with the best local, organic and sustainable ingredients, and hand making their ice cream in small batches, adding imported flavors from small hand-picked farms from around the world, and changing up its seasonal menu to delight the tastes of its customers.


Most customers prefer their scoops in cups, though those who splurge for a dollar more can have their scoop served up in a house-made waffle cone that is to-die for.  For those who want to be truly indulgent, their cones can be slathered with whip cream. For those who can’t get enough, hand packed pints are available for takeout.

If you don’t want to wait in line, head for the shop earlier in the evening, before 8 PM, which in Larchmont Village is about the time diners finish eating at the local restaurants and go for a delectable dessert. The shop is small but easy to find. Just follow the trail of people walking down the street with the red and white cups in their hands, cooing about the incredibly good taste of the ice cream they are eating.


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Most basements are underutilized real estate, often used for storage, home gyms or kids’ recreation rooms. By warming up these subterranean spaces with a few creature comforts, you can create an inviting apartment, perfect for grown children living at home, house guests or home-sharing.

Bedding buy

Let the sunshine in your basement boudoir with blooming florals from bluebellgray, the flirty and fashionable bedding that Lena Dunham slept pretty on in HBO’s Girls. Add uptown style to your downstairs space with the collection’s assortment of bold and bright or subtle and elegant patterns of duvet covers ($270, with closeout styles priced as low as $37), sheet sets ($75-$165) and decorative pillows ($85-$100) to create the look and mood you want. Available at Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s.

bluebellgray-paintbox-embroidered-duvetbluebellgray-sheetsGet FLOR’d

Polished concrete floors of unfinished basements is a vogue look, but it can be cold and hard on feet. Warm up the space…

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If you want to bring your holiday party hostess something more exciting than the usual potted poinsettia, or if you have a foodie on your gift list, here are some exquisite, tasteful hostess gifts that your host will appreciate and savor.

Hit oil

A gourmet household cannot live without olive oil, and the most discerning of restaurants and kitchens and world-class chefs like Chef Ori Menashe of LA’s Bestia prefer the exquisite taste of Ranch Olive Oil. With so many flavor varieties there’s a blend for every dish, but for the true connoisseur, there is Reserve Collection, which includes 500 ml bottles of fruity Arbequina, the nutty and complex Arbosana, and the robust Miller’s Blend, in a three-bottle gift box ($59.99) perfect for a hostess of good taste.


Daily grind

Every gourmet cook uses plenty of salt-and-pepper, but that doesn’t mean the most common of spices must be contained in ordinary shakers. Trudeau’s elegant Professional Stainless Steel Salt and Pepper Mills not only could look fabulous in the kitchen or on the table, but they precisely grind and distribute just the desired amount of spice. These sleek mills are constructed of resistant 18/8 stainless steel and feature a unique carbon steel grinding mechanism for peppercorns and spring-load technology to ensure a consistent grind selection.  A stylish piece to add to any kitchen, each set comes in an attractive gift box. $119. At gourmet cooking stores or www.trudeau.com.


Warmth by chocolate

With temperatures dropping below freezing, warm up inside with legendary GODIVA premium Dark Chocolate Hot Cocoa.  Made with highest quality all-natural ingredients, this hot chocolate mix is the ultimate hot chocolate indulgence that delivers a rich, smooth, and velvety drinking experience. If coffee is more your taste, GODIVA’s Chocolate Truffle Coffee, made with specially selected coffee beans from around the world, features melt-in-your mouth GODIVA chocolate flavor with a medium-bodied roast. $15 for 10-servings canister of cocoa or $14 for a 10-ounce bag of ground coffee. Available at GODIVA stores nationwide or www.godiva.com.


Raw and unfiltered

Honey is always a sweet gift, and Rice’s Lucky Clover Honey Raw and Unfiltered Honey is even more special because it is not processed, therefore it retains all its flavor, vitamins, minerals and delicious taste. Locally sourced from family beekeepers and available nationwide online, this completely raw, unfiltered delicacy is naturally high in antimicrobial and antibacterial properties and delivered pure honey taste in both hot and cold drinks and in recipes from desserts to entrees. $6.50 for 16-ounce squeezable bottle.  Available at locations from Whole Foods to Walmart and online at www.riceshoney.com.


A real charmer

Make your party guests feel special with their own glass charm that expresses their unique personality with distinct Simply Charmed magnetic wine charms.  Using strong magnets to keep them in place on just about all drinking glasses or mugs, these tiny ornaments help guests know which glass is there’s when they set it down. The charms come in cute and quirky designs, such as emojis and seasonal or hobby related ornaments and even charms made from Swarovski crystals. Though the magnets are strong and generally do not move, these are not recommended for children because of the danger of accidentally ingesting magnets. Available for $5.99 to $26.99 at http://www.wineswithcharm.com


Greet and Meat

Bring the treat of meat to your next party with Hickory Farms Signature Party Planner Gift Box filled with hearty treats that satisfy their carnivore and gourmet cheese tastes.  Each box includes three sausage flavors, four cheeses, two nut mixes, and condiments.  Available at $42 at hickoryfarms.com.


A cut above

Foodies can be snobs about their cookware and cutlery, but Crisp Cooking Tools make precision cooking tools accessible and affordable to all.  Fashioned from durable plastic materials in bright stylish colors, Crisp tools are specifically designed and engineered to save time during the food prep process, making them the perfect addition to any kitchen. In the, “Why didn’t I think of that?” category, Crisp makes unique tools for food prep tasks, such as the Zester ($12.99), a spring-loaded Cherry Pitter ($9.99), and an innovative Citrus Squeezer ($19.99) featuring a twist on collection cup, as well as standard tools like an all-purpose Straight Paring Knife ($9.99).  Available at www.Crispcooking.com


Pasta for all

Pasta began as a staple of Italian cuisine, and now it is an American favorite and beloved around the world. Explore Cuisine has created the next generation of pasta with nutritious and innovative products noodles such as Edamame Spaghetti, Brown Rice Fusili, Green Lentil Lasagne, made of beans and other clean, organic ingredients that are certified gluten-free and non-GMO, and are high in protein, fiber and iron. Some of their products include Pulse PastasBean PastasThai Rice Protein Pastas, Thai Rice Noodles, and Instant Soybean Noodle Soups. Not only are these pastas great if you are watching your weight or looking to cook nutritious foods for your family, they are tasty and satisfying like a true pasta should be.  Available at natural food and general grocery stores nationwide, $2.49 – $4.99 each, or $21.99-$25 for a six pack.


Dreaming of a white wine

As the weather gets colder outside, many of us reach for those spicy, robust red wines that make us feel warm and fuzzy inside, but many white wines have those same characteristics.  OneHope 2014 Rutherford Estate Sauvignon Blanc ($34.99) and 2014 Rutherford Fumé Blanc ($44.99) are two varietals that give you that good feeling inside, not just because of the superior grapes picked at optimum ripeness during an ideal warm summer, creating intense aromatics on the nose and great fruit character on the pallet, and the 11 months the grapes spent in French and American oak before bottling in late August, but also because for every case sold of OneHope the wine makers provide one local Napa farmworker with on-site medical care and health education.  Available at wine stores nationwide and www.onehopewine.com.


Light it up

In addition to great food, the ambiance is an essential to a dining experience. Enhance your dining room with a decorative candle in a hand-blown art glass vessel from Luxury Articles and Fragrance Company (LAFCO) that not only beautifies your room but complements the meal with its aroma  The light, fresh and green fragrance of the Celery/Thyme candle ($60) from LAFCO Home and House Collection features a  mix of crisp celery, clean white florals and a touch of thyme.  Each candle is hand poured in the USA and features a hand-centered pure-cotton, chemical-free wick and is formulated with a high soy content wax which burns cleaner than paraffin yields a 90-hour burn. The candles are scented with natural essential oil-based fragrances that burn richly and evenly, filling the entire space with fragrance.  Available at www.lafco.com.


Bubbly conversation

For those who want to enhance the lively tête-à-tête at a dinner party, Freixenet Cordon Negro Extra Dry Cava from Spain offers long lasting bubbles, by itself or as a complement to cocktails.  This sparkling wine, made in the traditional méthode champenoise, is for those that like it “not too dry,” with a palate that’s earthy with light fruits and a whiff of chocolate and flavors of plum and raspberry accented by spice with an essence of peach, melon and candied citrus flavors, culminating in a long, flavorful and smooth finish, making it excellent to pair with spicy cuisine.


Snack on

For festive get togethers or special movie nights, bring on the popcorn, but not just any garden variety.  Popcorn, Indiana, maker of America’s #1 Kettlecorn, pops up limited edition winter flavors, such as Black & White, Dark Fudge Sea Salt Caramel, Dark Fudge Pretzel Drizzlecorn and Dark Fudge Peppermint Drizzlecorn. These decadent flavors feature Popcorn, Indiana’s tender popcorn, made from non-GMO corn and free of artificial flavors, colors or preservatives, drizzled in lusciously sweet dark fudge, then generously sprinkled with delicious accents. Available at national, regional and local retailers across the U.S. and Canada in 5-ounce and 6-ounce bags, $3.49, or 20-ounce bag $10.49. Locate stores at www.popcornindiana.com.


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