Even though I usually don’t laud myself for my columns, I must say that this is perhaps our best Gift Guide ever! And just in time for this year’s early Chanukkah, as well as Christmas and New Year’s. (And January birthdays, too. Hint, hint. Did anyone mention the 14th?!)

560Several of us worked on it—I had experts in every category, and a bunch of my Review Panel members and I got together to sample some of the items, to make sure we would choose just the right ones to recommend to you.

We came up with an exclusive list, with only one item in each category, (except for theatre tickets, because both events are so fabulous that we couldn’t choose between them!,) so that we’re bringing you only the best of the best. [Note: I’m apologizing in advance for the plethora of exclamation points; I needed them to show just how superlative all our suggestions are.]

There’s something for everyone on here, and you can’t go wrong with any of them. Your recipients will all be thrilled! (And maybe even treat yourself to one. Or two. Or all of them!)

Let’s get to them:



order2logoMy Cup of Cake Belgian Chocolate Soufflé Cake—Lauren is the one we can all thank for this discovery! I had never even heard of a chocolate soufflé before I came to LA as a teen-ager.  Then I discovered the sumptuous dish at a famous, grown-up eatery, and I immediately knew that there could not be a classier dessert.  So, now, all these years later, when someone sent me a couple from My Cup of Cake to microwave in my own home, I could not have been more thrilled!  Mr. X and I “cooked” them up, and we were both soooo impressed with how delicious they are! And each one serves two.  He said, “These are just about the perfect gift, aren’t they?”

This is how it works:  The ingredients are all there for you, right in the cup.  All you do is open the packets, mix it all up, then just microwave the cup for a minute or two, and voilà–perfect chocolate soufflé!  If you’re one of those microwave-fearers, you can “bake” them in the real oven instead.  It takes longer, and you miss the fun of watching the soufflé rise over the cup, but it’s almost equally delicious that way.  (We both thought that it tasted a tad better in the microwave, but that may just be because we got to eat it sooner.)  The basic Belgian Chocolate one is perf, but there’s also Chocolate Salted Caramel, (which we both loved a teensy bit more.) And gluten-free-ers, have no fear—there’s one for you, too! Another bonus is that, if you give them enough notice, they’ll put your company logo right on the cups.

But even as wonderful as the taste of the soufflés is their staff.  The orders are filled by men and women with disabilities, from Madison Cortland ARC. There’s even a card in the package with a picture of the person who did yours. I love that! And every My Cup of Cake purchase supports their excellent work. Nothing is sweeter than that!



Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 3.07.51 PMGerard Cosmetics Lipsticks—Whenever I need a gift for a girly girl, (like moi,) this fabulous line of lipsticks, (with great monikers, by the way, like “London Fog” and “Mystic Moon”) is my go-to, always to rave reviews. Everywhere I go, people stop me and inquire about either the gorgeous color on my lips, or the unique, lit, mirrored case that houses the glosses from this company. (It happens to my friends who use them, too.) Trust me–every girl appreciates getting a gift of beautiful make-up, and you can’t go wrong with any of the lip items from Gerard. A bunch of us tried some of the new ones out, and especially loved…all of them!

For the holidays, our Panel suggests the new Hydra-Matte Liquid Lipstick in glittery red Ruby Slipper, or sensual nude Aphrodite. (And we all found-out that this Hydra-Matte formula definitely stays on for quite awhile!) [Note: A couple of us sparkly girls like to top them with the company’s lip glosses, for extra shine. Our favorite is “Divalicious!”]

And here’s a bit of a special personal story–I always mourn the loss of my favorite teen-age lipstick, Toast. I found a down-to-the-nub tube (or two) among my precious relics when I was cleaning-out my house in Brooklyn last year, but, of course, I would never use a cosmetics product that old! Though I must admit, I was tempted–I had never found anything like that shade. Until now, that is! There are several similar hues in the Hydra-Matte and lipstick lines from Gerard! These are perfect year-round lip shades, and I almost fainted when I tried the Buttercup! It was so much like my beloved Toast that I almost cried!!!

Best yet, there’s always some great deal on their site, or something free with purchase. So, you can pick-up something for yourself, while you’re gifting others! If that’s not a win-win, I don’t know what is!



Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 5.41.09 PMChella—This brow and skin care company has so many great products, (many of which I’ve used for a few years now,) that we INAM gals had trouble choosing just one to suggest. (My poor brows are in desperate need of a visit to their Brow Bar, which I hope to do soon. And I’ll tell you all about it, of course.) But when we discovered their Anti-Fatigue Eye Mask Kit, it was all over for us. This is exactly what we all need to get through the many holiday soirees looking our best!!! And each box also contains a sample of their eye cream, to complete the experience the right way.

A few of us tried-out the eye masks over Thanksgiving, and we all saw eye-opening results. (Pun not intended, but it works.) Even Mr. X noticed that I looked less tired, for the entire day and night! The kit is very easy to use. And fun, too. You just use the liquid activator to saturate the eye pads right in their little tray, and then apply them under the eyes for fifteen to twenty minutes while you get otherwise ready. (I usually put my purse and wardrobe together, and then write for a bit.) When you remove the pads—voilà! You look like you haven’t been partying hardy all season! And each box comes with a sample of Chella’s wonderful Eye Cream, so you can add a drop of that for extra protection. Each set of eye masks are one-time use, so the box of four comes in really handy. It’s such a thoughtful gift for your hard-partying (or -studying or -working) pals! It shows that you’re paying attention to their lives. (Or at least their in-need-of-refreshing looks!)



I just had to put two in this category, because they’re equally fabulous! And tickets to a wonderful show are always perfect, and appreciated, gifts, for everyone. Both shows will be in Los Angeles for the holidays, but those of you around the country will get your chance to see the second one at some point.

Photo by F. Scott Schafer.

Photo by F. Scott Schafer.

Peter Pan and TinkerBell–A Pirates Christmas—This musical at the Pasadena Playhouse is the latest in the series of British “pantos” that the Lythgoe family brings us every December. They’re shows that take a classic fairy tale, and make it very funny, for both kids and adults. All the songs are modern, hip, recognizable music. Even Mr. X loves these pantos. They’re totally full of non-stop laughs, fun, and surprises. And having this year’s show be based on Peter Pan makes it that much more special. For me, anyway. But who doesn’t love Peter Pan?! (Except Captain Hook, of course.) I promise—this is not just a show for children that adults will like, too, nor just a show for grown-ups that children might like. It’s a show that everyone will love! You’ve got to trust me on this one. [Note: My review will be up right after the opening on the 9th. But I can tell you right now—it will be glowing!]

And get there early, if you can. The Pasadena Playhouse courtyard becomes a Winter Wonderland, with holiday crafts and activities, and sometimes even photos with Santa. December 9—January 3

Photo by Martin Girard.

Photo by Martin Girard.

Cirque Du Soleil’s Kurios–Cabinet of Curiosities—I have never seen a Cirque du Soleil production that was less than spectacular, so I have high hopes for this edition. And Kurios is even too big for their former Santa Monica Pier space; this time, the famous blue-and-yellow Grand Chapiteau [big top] will be setting down stakes at Dodger Stadium! I can’t imagine anyone on earth not being thrilled with a gift of tickets to this show. It’s so much more than a show, though—Cirque du Soleil is an event! One which all my pals look forward to. To me, it’s either a fabulous romantic date, or the best family fun ever. [Note: My review of this one will also be published shortly after the opening on the 9th. And I have a strong suspicion that this one will be effusive, as well. That’s why I’m recommending them as holiday gifts! Duh.]

And for my non-LA readers, the show will travel to at least five other venues around the country after this, so check the site below for those dates. In LA December 9-February 7.



untitled_bagThe Oemi Parkside Diaper Bag—I must confess: I often use a quilted diaper bag as my purse! And I get many, many compliments on it! But my new mom associate, Lila, (who just had her third baby, so I consider her to be an absolute expert in these matters,) has a much better (leather) one than mine, which she absolutely loves. So, for many reasons, we’re suggesting hers to you.

Here’s Lila’s take on it: “This is the perfect diaper bag!  It’s sub-title should be ‘fashion meets function.’  Fashionable moms can carry it without sacrificing style because, in addition to it being uber-functional, it’s great-looking!  (Trust me on this one–as a mom of three very young ones, I see diaper bags all the time.  Sometimes even in my sleep!)  The Oemi Parkside Diaper Bag features a gorgeous classic look; housed in luxurious leather, the shape is perfect, and it’s big and roomy.  The impeccable quality is seen throughout.  There are two deep pockets on the exterior, for bottles/phone/keys or the like, and five interior pockets for all your baby necessities.  And, of course, it comes with a changing pad.  (Non-mom Karen asked what that was for!)  And, because it’s crafted of leather, this is a gift that will last way beyond the infant years–when the diaper use fades away, it will then double as a purse, a work bag, and even a carry-on travel bag.”

Lila also pointed-out, “Here’s a bonus: Oemi is a charitable company that gives back. They donate their Signature Sleepers every winter to low-income and homeless mothers of infants, and also give a percentage of sales to several charities. You gotta love supporting these types of businesses, especially at this time of year.”



1875828xlDebbie Lee Cuff Bracelet—You don’t really have to be a kind person to buy this bracelet for someone, nor to wear it, but I love that a portion of the sales goes to Speak Out Against Bullying, Inc. So, that’s a bonus, especially during the holidays when we should be a bit more charitable, but the bracelet itself is fabulous! This is another of Lauren’s finds, almost by accident. She was wearing one to a classy ladies lunch recently, and even though she’s always rocking a bunch of jewelry, this big silver cuff, with a set of raised “lips” on it, really stood out.

Each one comes with your choice of lip colors. Since the design is to help the above-mentioned anti-bullying campaign, I chose black lips because I feel they represent the evil words of a bully, to remind people how prevalent bullying is. (Also, because most of my wardrobe is black! I never said I’m not shallow anymore.) But for fashion purposes, the red is also great. Actually, all the colors are! And you can choose for the cuff to be crafted in gold or gun metal, if you prefer those to silver. There’s a cute touch to the gift, too—each piece of jewelry comes in an adorable blue-with-white-polkadots organza bag. And they’re all made right here in the USA. So, with this one gift, you can be kind, fashionable, and patriotic!



50-Year-Shelf-Life-Canned-WaterBlue Can Water—Water may not be your typical gift, but this one may wind-up being the Gift of Life, if ever your area is involved in a natural disaster. It’s super-thoughtful. Bottled water has less than a year’s shelf-life. But Blue Can Water (which is housed in an aluminum can–duh) can stay good and safe for fifty years! OMG! And in earthquake-or-hurricane-prone areas, such as Los Angeles and the entire East Coast, that’s almost a necessity! Mr. X and I keep two cases of Blue Can on hand at all times, just in case. I also keep a few cans in my car because if they wind-up in there for awhile, (which is dangerous with bottled water,) I have no qualms about cracking one open when necessary. Plus, the pretty blue cans look really cool. (Especially if you’re blue-eyed and vain, as I am.) People always ask me about them. I think they’ll look especially appropriate as Chanukah gifts, (or table accoutrements,) where the hue of the exterior will fit right in with the decorations!

With this gift, you also know you’re doing a good thing because Blue Can is a supporter of the Emergency Water Foundation. That non-profit organization helps public institutions, business organizations, schools, and public offices with the preparation and compliance of their Disaster Awareness Plans, including  the pre-staging and management of emergency water supplies. So, this water is a gift to everyone!

And that is it for this year. Whew. Happy gift-giving! I hope we made it easier for you.



  1. Pingback: HOLIDAY: HAPPY HANUKKAH 2015


Leave A Reply