We Blog the World 2015 Holiday Gift Guide

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It’s that festive time of year again and over here, we’re gearing up for parties, events and weekend getaways. December is full of plenty of entertainment options, delicious food and wine tasting events.

We’ve been keeping our eye out for interesting products over the course of the year, to bring you a fun and creative curation of gift choices for the 2015 Season. Our line up this year includes 20 Products that caught our eye from 14 brands, ranging from style, kitchen and clothing to food, gear, shoes and bags.

The categories include Time Telling Favorites, Party Time, Wellness Travel, Fashion & Wear,  Adventure Wear & Gear, Practical Travel, Beauty, Wine and Technology.

Time Telling Favorites include Danielle Wellington, Q&Q Smile Solar, What Watch and RumbaTime Watches. Our Party Time short list boasts the Lumina 3 in 1 Electric Fondue Set, Boos Cutting Boards, California Olive Ranch Olive Oils, the Crosley iJuke Box Premier, Vinturi Wine Aerator Sets, Sugarlands Moonshine & Candles, La Tienda Kitchenware & Food Bundles and Wine we’re loving from California right now stems from the wineries of Peju, Jordan, Cannonball, Portalupi and Angels and Cowboys.

Since we will be expanding our coverage of Wellness in 2016, we have added a Wellness Travel category to this year’s Holiday Guide, and brands we love include Manduka Yoga Bags & Mats, Jade Yoga Mats, Life Factory Water Bottles and Organic India’s Teas & Supplements.

In the Fashion & Wear category, we tested clothing from Land’s End and Cold Water Creek, socks from K. Bell, hats from Willaroo and jewelry from 7 Charming Sisters and Clara Kasavina.  Under Adventure Wear & Gear, we brought in Treksta hiking shoes and Osprey Duffels, which come in a variety of sizes and colors.  For Practical Travel, we recommend Briggs & Riley Luggage and the ever so innovative Myllow Travel Pillow. For Beauty, check out Trilipiderm Skincare and Chella make-up.

Lastly, in the Technology category, we looked at the latest from JBL Headsets, the Everest Elite 700 and Cruz Cell Phone Cases, while far from stylish, help to protect you from the EMF’s that emit from your smart phone. I recently wrote about EMF’s if you’re keen to learn more in an article called EMF’s From Cell Phones, Wifi and More are Real.

Let’s dive into this year’s We Blog the World Holiday Gift Guide in depth.

Time Telling Favorites

Daniel Wellington Watches

We didn’t know about Daniel Wellington watches a year ago, so were thrilled to discover such an elegant and classy line, one which is not only stylish but adaptable for the savvy traveler. My favorite from their line is the woman’s 34 mm from the Classy Collection, which creates beautiful harmony between their case (comes in silver and gold) and the exclusive Swarovski crystal index. I LOVE this watch for its feminine finesse, which is available in an ultra-thin (6mm) version as well.

Like their male watches, you can swap out your watch straps making it a great choice for travelers on the go. The Classy Collection was such a standout that we were eager to learn more about the Danielle Wellington line. Classy couldn’t be a more suiting descripter for this sophisticated brand. BRAVO!

The 34 mm silver or rose gold case is applicable with a carefully selected range of leather and NATO straps for you to vary between. The feminine Swarovski crystal dial brings just enough sparkle to the slightly larger watch face to really stand out.

It also comes with a gold face as a second option.

Fun fun fun. More information can be found at https://www.danielwellington.com/us/ which includes all of their collections and where to purchase. They’re also available on Amazon of course including the Women’s Classic Sheffield, the men’s  St. Mawe’s display with a brown leather band, the women’s classic St. Andrews style, and the Women’s Classic Bristol.

Q&Q Smile Solar Watches

How cool is a watch that is powered by light? The Q&Q folks have a Smile Solar watch series that come in a bunch of fun and vibrant colors, making a perfect gift for kids as well as adults. By changing light into energy, the watch is battery-free and maintenance-free, making it a friendly green option as well. Two thumbs up for going green!

While you can order a watch with as many colors as you can possibly incorporate into a watch face, they have more conservative options that still exude creativity, making it a piece you could even wear at a business event.

My favorite of the bunch was from their RED List SmileSolar Limited Collection. There are 12 watches in the series with advanced solar technology and the 5-bar waterproof function. The SmileSolar movement operates for about 3.5 months after fully charged, which is a great feature for avid travelers.  Inspired by the exotic endangered species such as the Nigerian Giraffe, Snow Leopard, Philippine Crocodile, Grevy’s Zebra, Sumatran Tiger, Green Peafowl and the Burmese Python (pictured below), the designs are so unique, you’re sure to stand out from the crowd.

The strap material is Polyurethane Resin and they’re priced at around $50. When you purchase a Q&Q SmileSolar watch, a portion of the proceeds is donated to TABLE FOR TWO to deliver school meals to children in Africa and Asia. More information and how to buy can be found on their site.

RumbaTime Watches

Now for a line with beautiful colors! We really liked the RumbaTime watches, largely for their fun and diverse collection of both sporty and casual watches as well as more elegant ones you can wear at all those holiday parties. Take a look at the elegance factor built into even their casual suede line, which is my personal favorite. What’s also fun is that they offer the similar look and feel in denim, which comes in a dark blue, a soft faded blue and red.

 

They refer to the line as their SoHo Suede collection, which embodies Americana culture from the 1970’s, and can easily be styled with every look, from eclectic and funky to tried-and-true rock ‘n’ roll. There’s also the Orchard Gem Mini which we liked – again, color meets style and elegance, so perfect for evening outfits and also comes in a variety of colors. You can browse their current collection at RumbaTime which includes specs and prices.

 

What Watch

You’d think we’re obsessed about watches over here, but I’m one of those travelers who can’t live without one and I always bring 3 with me on the road. We personally think watches make great gifts because they’re compact, light and stylish. While I try to keep my bags condensed as much as possible when I travel, I need the variety and they’re small and light enough to pack more than one.

We loved the classic designs from What Watch, especially for men. I just love the elegance of the model they call CLASSIC and with good reason. With it’s iconic, refined features, the classic model pays tribute to the heritage of watchmaking. It’s polished stainless steel case provides a classic feel, with both comfort and durability, while it’s hardened mineral glass provides a rugged surface that is made to last.

When we saw this, we immediately thought of its appropriateness for the male travelers among you who appreciate a sense of adventure but don’t want to wear something gawdy or plastic. Sure, the waterproof over-the-top durable ones are great when you’re surfing or skiing, but you also want a watch you can wear out at night as well. Bravo for the CLASSIC from What Watch!

What else is cool is that they offer a wide variety of color watch band options so you can swap them out depending on your mood for the day or night — love it!

Personally, I’m more of a fan of the traditional classic design shown above, but for the modern and hip among you, they also offer a black minimalistic option with a seamless, thru-body thermoplastic strap as well as a clean dial that eliminates distractions and shifts the focus to the pattern of your moments. The below watch is available in black and white which makes it a flexible choice as it will go with anything in your closet or luggage when traveling. It’s priced at under $180.

I hadn’t heard of the brand before, but apparently they’re from Switzerland originally but now have a presence in New York, so it’s no wonder they know the art of watchmaking. Their watches combine digital and analog, technology and style, in distinctive and original ways.  That’s their goal….and we think they’ve reached it!

It’s Party Time…

Boos Cutting Boards

While you might not think a cutting board belongs in a Stylin’ section, think again. There are ordinary cutting boards and then there are those from the folks at Boos who have been manufacturing elegant styled boards, counter tops and butcher blocks  for 125 years. This is a company committed to quality, incredibly evident by not just the styles available but the finish of the boards themselves.

Based in Illinois, they’re one of the oldest manufacturers of premium quality food service equipment and butcher blocks in the US so butcher blocks and cutting boards are not all they do — they make steel dish tables, work tables, sinks and shelving as well as custom fabrication and furnishing as well as kitchen counter tops.

It was their butcher blocks and cutting boards that we began to take a closer look at , especially since they use all American Hardwoods (Hard Rock Maple, American Cherry, & American Black Walnut) in their production of gourmet furnishings. Have a look at the deep rich textures that first caught our eye and you’ll see why we were more than a little intrigued. Let’s just say that not all cutting boards are the same and the more you do your research, the more you’ll realize that it pays to go with a quality board.

What’s really nice about their products is that they’re largely customizable. Below is both a lighter wood colored with slots for knives – while clearly usable, they make attractive boards you can use for entertaining. Notice the difference in height between the two boards — we love that with Boos, you can personalize size and color/wood shades depending on your preference or need. It’s important that the board is at least 1.5 inches or thicker as it helps to prevent distortion and warping, something we didn’t realize until we did our research. You’ll start to notice that lower quality boards tend to be on the thinner side and well….they don’t last long before they start to warp.

For more information on the variety of their products, visit their consumer website: http://www.johnboos.com, where they also include links to how to customize and more, as well as tips for care. Be sure to order some protective oils to service your boards on a regular basis, which will help preserve the quality of your boards. Here’s the page for how to find a dealer near you.

Lumina 3 in 1 Electric Fondue Set

This fall, we discovered this sophisticated Lumina 3 in 1 electric fondue set by Trudeau. The set comes in a beautiful copper color, making it an elegant addition to any table when you’re throwing a party, whether it’s a large gathering over the holidays or a small dinner party. We thought this set would make a perfect gift for the holidays when you’re more likely to break out the cheese and turn an otherwise ordinary event into a fun-filled one.

The 3 in 1 set includes a 67-ounce copper pot, white ceramic double boiler insert (for cheese and chocolate — YUM!!), a stainless steel fork guide, six stainless steel fondue forks with color coded tips, recipes and instructions. Additionally, the set comes in an attractive photo gift box.

Retro and chic, it really makes for the perfect party dish, and allows guests to be their own personal chefs. It’s perfect for meat, cheese or chocolate, so even the vegetarians can partake in the celebrations.  We’re a fan of retro stuff in general (note our inclusion of the Crosley Vintage Radio) for example. It’s a festive way to serve imported cheeses, savory meats and scrumptious chocolate.

The tri-ply copper pot offers superior heat conductivity and comes equipped with a ceramic double-boiler insert for either cheese or chocolate. Its polished 18/8 stainless steel interior is easy to maintain and clean and the stainless steel fork guide keeps fondue creations in place.  It is available through Amazon at around $149.99.

California Olive Ranch Olive Oils

Hey foodies, check out these rich and smooth extra virgin olive oils from California Olive Ranch. They offer a variety of great tasting extra virgin olive oils, ranging from mild to peppery.  Truth be told, we’ve heard of these guys since they’ve been around for quite awhile (1998) and the fact that they’re west-coast based and we head to northern California quite a bit.

One of their claims to fame in addition to owning their own ranches, is that they’ve helped family farmers throughout Northern California develop previously unusable farm acreage into olive orchards. Through modern tech methods, they have apps that chart the history of each orchard and in the process, they use sustainable production methods every step of the way, which is something we always applaud.

While they have a ton of choices on their site — www.californiaoliveranch.com — we loved the 3 pack of specialty oils since they make a perfect gift. In the pack is a 500 ml bottle of fruity Arbequina, a 500 ml bottle of nutty and complex Arbosana, and a 500 ml bottle of robust Miller’s Blend, and it comes already packed in a lovely gift box, ready for wrapping. Not only does that make it more convenient, but it provides a selection of three very different unique tastes from their line.

We should also mention their Limited Reserve, which will be out in time for the holiday season. Seasonally available immediately after harvest, their finest first cold pressings from the first weeks of harvest is bottled intentionally with olive fruit suspended in oil for a “burst” of olive fruitiness. They recommend that you consume it within 9 months of harvest. All-American version of the Italian Olio Nuovo tradition is a great choice for those who already have a serious olive oil palette – YUM!

There are olive oils for cooking and tasting and you can use them for both, however we use olive oil mostly to create concoctions for salads and vegetables. Below is their Mild & Buttery sweet oil, which is perfect to drizzle over seasonal asparagus or other delicious vegetables — we plan to explore a variety of options as we prepare various menus this holiday season.

Crosley iJuke Box Premier, a Party Standout

Since the holidays is all about celebration, we couldn’t resist a find we discovered earlier this year by Crosley. Crosley’s iJuke Premier is a stand-out for any party celebration, especially the holidays given its vivid bright colors.  It makes for a nice addition to a game room as well. The iJuke Premier brings back old fashioned rock-and-roll but as a smaller tabletop version. You can dock and listen to your iPod and CD’s while tapping into the jukebox’s dynamic full range stereo speakers. How about that eye-catching neon lighting and stylish wood finish?

They also have some fun vintage radios, such as our favorite, The Ranchero which comes in black and red.  The Ranchero features a clean “new-stalgic” look with a touch of vintage flare and an acoustically tuned and ported speaker enclosure.

Even though it’s primary a radio and is designed to just offer you an analog AM/FM radio tuner, you can also connect your MP3 player or other external audio device to the back, including an iPhone or iPod, if you want to play something off your playlist. Sure sure, there’s online radio and I do listen to Pandora and Spotify especially when I travel, but when you want to capture the imagination and be brought back in time while connecting to local radio stations wherever you happen to be, I love the idea of this ever so fun and retro Crosley radio.

We tested it out in a retro kitchen, where it makes an obvious conversation opener when people walk in. A couple of different jukebox types can be found on Amazon – here and here. More information on their site at www.crosleyradio.com including other radio and audio products.

Vinturi Wine Aerator Sets

We get a lot of pitches throughout the year, but at holiday time, it increases ten fold, so it’s hard to sift through the noise. How many food and wine accessories can there be I found myself asking? Some are fun and certainly put a nice design spin to a carafe or wine holder, but this year, we discovered something particularly useful for the wine lovers out there and we know from our readership clicks that there’s a lot of you. Introducing the Vinturi Wine Aerator Sets….

Vinturi offers wine aerator sets for both red and white wine, or you can buy only one on it’s own. The one we took a look at is the Vinturi red wine aerator and white wine aerator set, which can be used to quickly and conveniently aerate wine by the bottle (or get this)….by the glass.  Talk about convenience!

With an aerator that is specifically calibrated for red wine, there’s no need to wait for hours during the traditional decanting process. The other night, Anthony pulled out a 2002 Barolo 15 minutes before we were due to sit down for a steak dinner at home and I had to give him the face — “C’mon, you know that gem needs to air for hours before our first sip.”

Both the Red Wine and White Wine aerators feature patented technology and a stylish but classic look. When aerating your wine, you simply listen for the sound, which is unique to all Vinturi aerators and is indicative of its authenticness. They’re made from specially formulated acrylic with an easy to grip silicone body and both aerators come complete with a no-drip stand for properly displaying the device and keeping wine off surfaces when not in use. We recently tested it out on a Cannonball Cab, and Zins by Portalupi and Angels and Cowboys — oh so delish! Yes, you really can tell the difference!

The Red Wine aerator includes a filter screen that protects your wine from bits of cork and sediment which is great — how  many times have you gotten unwanted sediment in your glass?

You simply place a glass under the Vinturi aerator and pour your wine through the opening, which as mentioned above, can be done into your glass or a carafe. When wine is poured into the Vinturi, its internal patented design creates an increase in the wine’s velocity while simultaneously decreasing its pressure. This difference in pressure draws in the proper amount of air, which mixes with the wine for the right amount of time, and delivers a better bouquet, enhanced flavors and a smoother finish.

As wine breathes, it opens up and releases its intended aromas and flavors. We loved this simple but effective product and thought it was a perfect choice for a holiday gift when you might just be pouring more wine than normal. What a great purchase for yourself or for a family member or friend. The set includes one Vinturi Red Wine Aerator, one Vinturi White Wine Aerator, two No-Drip Aerator Stands and a filter screen and is priced around $50. More information including a useful video can be found on their website at https://www.vinturi.com. 

Moonshine Anyone? Meet Sugarlands Distilling Company

I don’t know about you but it seems everyone in my circles has at least one friend who is serious about their whiskey. I’ve been learning a bit more about whiskey and bourbon given my annual treks down to Louisville Kentucky for Idea Festival. My knowledge of bourbon has increased and while, like my uncle, I like them aged, woody and smokey, there are so many variations to bourbon, whiskey and moonshine that it largely depends on your palette, so it’s worth exploring several styles until you find one you love.

Apparently according to TripAdvisor, Sugarland’s Distillery is currently ranked the #1 distillery experience in the U.S. and #2 worldwide (behind only Guinness), which is a nice stat to be able to tout. While some of you may know a bit about whiskey and perhaps even bourbon, how about moonshine?

If you ever manage to get to their Tennessee-based distillery, you can also listen to live music, Appalachian storytelling, and head out on an outdoor adventure tour in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park historically known as “moonshiners’ paradise.”  What is nice about their offerings for the holidays however is the wide selection of moonshine flavor choices, such as Blueberry (pictured below), Southern Sweet Tea, Blackberry, Lemonade, American peach and old fashioned Apple Pie, to name a few and depending on which one you pick, you’ll get a 40 proof at the low end, all the way up to 100 proof. (yes, really).

Imagine a Dynamite Cinnamon moonshine around the holidays? It starts off sweet and ends with some heat. The drink meets the mouth like a candy coated hot coal and works as a spicy shot or a kick to any cocktail. Nice!

If you’re not a drinker, they also have something for you. Imagine a sweet butterscotch smell coming from a candle burning in your living room while sitting around the fire? They also have Silver Cloud, Sweet Tea and Lemonade aromas to choose from and they’re only $12.99. Tons of fun and most definitely a creative and unique gift idea! More at http://shop.sugarlandsdistilling.com/.

Spanish Flare with La Tienda

For the best of Spain, La Tienda has such a variety of items, it’s impossible not to find something you either need or is far too much fun to pass up. While you can get wine (and wine collections) on their site as well as cava, sherry, Sangria and wine accessories, we are doing a round-up of fun California wines later this month, so we thought we’d focus on some of the other delicacies they do so well, such as olive oil, their cookware and tableware, as well as other food items that are perfect for the holidays, like chorizo, paella, ham and cheese.

And, listen to this, it’s not just any ham — they have whole bone in-hams, whole boneless hams, sliced hams and grilling porks and for cheese, since the cheese is SO delicious in Spain, we had to try some out. They offer cow, sheep and goat cheese or combinations of all of them. Sweet! They even do vinegars, nuts and seafood and with such a wide variety of choice, it’s hard to know where to begin.

While you might find meat an odd thing to find on a Gift Guide, I’ll be honest with you, when it showed up in a box specifically designed to keep it cold, I was impressed….and we were excited to try it out. There’s something alluring about meat (and cheese) arriving on your doorstep.

In this case, the Spanish flare was there. Central to Spanish cuisine is the parrilla, or grill, fueled with natural charcoal or grapevine cuttings. Depending on the region of Spain, you will enjoy grilled chorizo, butifarra, chistorra or morcilla sausages, sizzling hot and full of flavor. Grilled lamb chops and aged steak are a favorite, but acorn-fed, free-range Ibérico de Bellota pork is arguably the finest meat for the grill.

We also love their pottery, which comes in serving and tableware. Why? It’s fun and brightly colored in an oh so Spanish style. And, the prices are right, which is great for even last minute holiday gift buys. For example, how about this stunning Mediterranean Blue Terra Cotta Sangría Pitcher?  What a better way to serve the famous Spanish cocktail OR even water on the table for a dinner party than with this bright Sangría pitcher? I personally love the color since it combines earth tones with Mediterranean flare. Apparently, the pitcher is made in the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains.

If you’re a cheese lover, you’ll love their selection. We particularly fell in love with their Villajos Reserva Manchego Cheese which you can get in a four pound box – what an incredible gift idea?  If you love cheese, you know that sheep and goat cheese from Spain, Italy and Greece is to die-for! And, you’ll also know that it’s not that easy to get high quality imported cheese at most grocery stores in the states — even specialty ones in higher profile cities like San Francisco have their limitations. Why not splurge on the holidays?

Their Villajos Reserva is an authentic handmade, raw sheep’s milk cheese cured for over one year. Many connoisseurs apparently rate this Villajos as the best Manchego in Spain. The cheese is “homemade” – made in small quantities by two brothers from milk supplied by local shepherds. Oh so yum!

It is made with raw milk from the Manchega breed of sheep, which are tended by shepherds in the hills surrounding the village. As story has it, the family collects the fresh milk and makes the cheese within hours of milking in order to preserve its natural aroma and taste.  Because the milk is so fresh, it does not need to be pasteurized which would tone down the rich flavors of the cheese. And yup, it has won a bunch of awards, including Gran Seleccion Medal Winner for three years in a row — two thumbs up!

While we’re on cheese, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention their olive oil selection. They have everything from Reserve to more standard extra virgin olive oil. While we tried a more standard olive oil in their collection, we WISHED we tested something that caught our attention after the fact – the Mas Tarres Extra Virgin Olive Oil Siurana, which is a fruity mild oil but in a signature whiskey bottle. Looks absolutely delish and also beautifully presented, which makes for a great holiday gift selection.

Head on over to https://www.tienda.com/ for a ton of browsing fun.

Wine Wine Wine…..

As you know if you read us regularly, we love wine and we love exploring different vintages and regions of the world. Below is a list of 5 of our favorites from California, all of which make great gifts this holiday season. My recommendation is to put together an eclectic case for a friend or two. Then, for yourself, order a case of each. After all, wine just gets better with a little time in your cellar. Be sure to read our separate write-up on these wines which will come out later in December.

  • Jordan Vineyard & Winery: I’m a bit biased here since I’ve been drinking their creamy Chardonnays for years (so so delish) but they make a lovely Cabernet as well. If you’re a Chardonnay lover, you really can’t beat the quality of Jordan. Based in Healdsburg, CA:. More info at www.jordanwinery.com.
  • Peju Wines: Am in love with their Chardonnay. The Peju Chard was the only white wine we have tested the Vinturi aerator on so far — it really made a difference. Based in Rutherford, CA (Napa). More info at www.peju.com.

  • Cannonball Wines: Based in Healdsburg, CA: We’re particularly fond of their Cabernet Sauvignon and will dive into more detail on their wines later in December. More info at: www.drinkcannonball.com.
  • Angels and Cowboys:: This wine is a collaboration between Cannonball co-founders, Yoav Gilat and Dennis Hill, and Northern California graphic artist, Michael Schwab. Surprisingly rich, smooth and balanced – we paired it with a ribeye and it was perfect! More info at: www.angelsandcowboyswines.com.
  • Portalupi Wines: Based in Russian River Valley, CA. So far, we’ve only tasted their Old Vine Zinfandel but since I’m a long time Zin lover, I was in heaven. We paired it with a boar pasta and an Italian prosciutto to start. More on them in a later post as we do more sampling and pairing. www.portalupiwine.com

All Things Wellness

Manduka Yoga Mats & Bags

Manduka is a recognized name in the world of yoga but I had never seen one of their mats or know anyone who has used one and so, we were curious. It turns out that their Manduka PRO Limited Edition is one MONSTER mat so we couldn’t resist giving it a try. If you are after comfort, comfort, comfort, this is the mat for you. This very dense thick yoga mat has a boat load of extra cushioning and comes in two different sizes: 71 inches long and 26 inches wide and a quarter inch thick  and the larger one at 85 inches long, 26 inches wide and a quarter inch thick, but the latter weighs in at around 9 pounds.

Bear in mind that with the extra thickness comes extra weight and also the need for a larger yoga bag. That said, the extra comfort will spoil you so that you never want to use a regular sized yoga mat again. It’s great for hot yoga because of its traction and of course, it’s size. Its slip resistant, non-sticky material makes it a fabulous choice for longer sessions as well.  They have a lifetime guarantee as well which is a nice added benefit and makes it worth the $124 price point.

If you have knee or joint issues, this is also a great choice for you. Also sweet is that this mat is incredibly versatile on any surface, whether you’re practicing on carpet, cement or hardwood floors. It has a closed-cell surface to keep out moisture (sweat) from seeping into the mat and breeding bacteria and a proprietary Dot-Pattern Bottom to resist sliding, another godsend when you’re sweating quite a bit.

So many mats peel, flake and fade quickly, but the PRO mat is designed for sustainability and longevity in mind, hence the lifetime guarantee against wear and tear. After three uses, I started to get spoiled from this mat’s extra cushioning, although there are times when you want to use a regular sized, lighter mat, most notably at a busier class or if you’re walking or cycling to a class and need to carry it for a distance.

Manduka has plenty of options, including standard mats as well as light mats, even in the PRO version. We also tested the PROlite yoga mat (formerly known as the PurpleLite Travel Mat), which is a nice alternative for people who need a lighter, zero-waste mat with superior quality and comfort. Like its big brother the Black Mat PRO or the PRO Limited Edition pictured above, the PROlite is focused on performance and is apparently a favorite among Hot Yoga and Vinyasa Flow enthusiasts.

I typically practice Hatha or Vinyasa Flow and am not a huge fan of Hot Yoga, yet I found this mat to be a great choice and was equally thrilled with its performance after several classes. Since we LOVE fun colors here, we were thrilled to see that their mats are available in five passion-inspiring colors. The mats are two-tone which I particularly love and include a mixture of greens, turquoise, purple, and there’s even an orange combo. I went for the blue/purple choice below — FUN!

We really like their yoga bag collection as well, specifically The Local, which comes in a rich soft blue and a jade/olive green color. Like their mats, the bag is incredibly durable including its carrying strap, which is so often not the case with other bags we’ve tried out. What I have found myself doing is using this bag to carry two thin lighter mags and doubling them up during a class. Because of the super comfy carrying strap and spacious dual-zippered compartment, you can carry quite a bit in the bag and there are two separate sections, which is nice.

The Local will accommodate and protect mats up to 85 inches including room for your yoga gear and personal essentials.  We also love that they’re travel-ready and are made from really durable, 100% natural cotton canvas material. Oh yeah, and they’re stylish to boot — two thumbs up! More details at:  www.manduka.com.

Jade Yoga Mats

If you’re a regular yogi, chances are you’ll know the Jade Yoga brand since they’re fairly well known in the yoga community. That said, we had never tried one so we were keen to test them out and see how durable and comfy they really were. What drew us to them initially was their abundance of bright happy colors – if you read this site enough, you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of colors since we think purposeful use of colors can positively impact one’s mood.

Bravo Jade for offering so much color. Color, however, isn’t what they’re most known for given the history of the company which apparently started over 100 years ago. Their Harmony yoga mat way back when was the first natural rubber yoga mat. Since then, they’ve grown in popularity and in distribution. Because they use natural rubber, the cushioning and resilience are both better as is the level of comfort, which if you practice often, is critical.

True to their wellness promise, their mats contain no PVCs which means you can be assured of green non-toxic products, which is something we value highly here at We Blog the World.

Photo credit: www.mapmywalk.com.

What else did we love? In addition to the vivid colors that exude happiness and harmony, we also love their eco-friendly approach as well as well as their commitment to comfort. As I’m getting older, I’m noticing that my knees are not as flexible or as durable. Anyone else have that experience? We wanted to put their Fusion Mat to the test, which offers extra cushion for your practice, particularly useful for people with bad knees. At  5/16 inches thick, the Fusion mat is great for restorative yoga, pilates or any core fitness practice. I found it to be a godsend for an Off-the-Wall yoga class that I take when we do a lot of “knees against the wall” work.

Their Fusion Mat is available at 24 inches wide and in a variety of colors and two lengths (68 inches and 74 inches) so plenty of options to choose from. What an incredible gift for a wellness guru or yogi — and they even have purple and turquoise on the list. We LOVE this level of customization!

Speaking of purple, they also have mat towels in a wide variety of colors, including purple and look how rich and lovely they are!!

Jade microfiber yoga towels are made with polyester microfiber, weigh about 8 ounces and are super absorbent and quick drying. They’re also known to provide great grip which is great for for hot yoga or any exercise practice where you sweat a lot like Pilates. I only tried it with Hatha Yoga however and love the fact that while it does provide great grip, it’s also soft and comfortable as well.  They are sized at 24 by 72 inches and you can also order hand towels y which are smaller at 14 x 24 inches. What else is cool is that Jade provides one month’s worth of clean drinking water for one person in the developing world for every towel sold. And, Jade apparently plants a tree for every mat sold – with over 850,000 trees planted so far.

Photo credit: www.ekhartyoga.com.

I also applaud their commitment to community. It turns out that they commit to giving away 1,000 mats for programs where yoga teachers volunteer their time to teach people who wouldn’t ordinarily get to try out yoga, such as in shelters, hospitals, rehab centers, prisons, schools and others. More coolness for Jade – two thumbs up!

Juicepresso Platinum

We’re huge fans of juicers here, especially of greens and alkalizing food, such as kale, spinach, ginger, celery and apples. Meet the Juicepresso, which touts itself as the smallest footprint of any in-home slow juicer. Internally housing a powerful DC motor, it is guaranteed it to last at least seven years with daily juicing, which so few juicers can claim to do.  Inside the clear plastic drum lies Juicepresso’s greatest feature: its patented three-in-one screw.

What’s also nice is that the Juicepresso has only one internal part, making it easy to clean, a godsend after my nightmare experience with Kuving’s top-of-the-line juicer — it was so unreliable that I had to return it a few times after it blew up in my kitchen and in a few cases, got so stuck I couldn’t separate the pieces to wash them.

For those who are new to juicing, it’s one of the healthiest ways to cleanse your system, and what a better time to start than right after the holiday season. Blenders and mixers actually destroy nutrients due to friction and heat, so it’s important to get a juicer that has a cold press process. Juicepresso’s cold press process squeezes out the vital nutrients in both fruits and veggies.

Cold press juicers operate at a very low speed, slowly squeezing juice out of fruits and vegetables. Using the slow juicing or cold press juicing method, a slow juicer creates very little friction and no heat. This effectively retains all the enzymes and nutrients in fruits and vegetables, producing juice with no separation. Cold pressed juice does not oxidize quickly and can last for up to 72 hours in the refrigerator. The pulp that is produced is also much drier, meaning that the maximum amount of juice has been extracted from fruits and vegetables.

 

Apparently cold press juicers also produce up to 40% more juice than high speed juicers. My recommendation is to stick to as many green veggies as possible and toss in a couple of sweet additions to balance it out, like carrots, apples or even a lime. Other great additions that make a juice a little more filling include celery and cucumbers. One of my favorite combos is a mishmash of kale, spinach, celery, cucumbers, apples, ginger, carrots, and flax seeds. Or rather than carrots, try the same combo with blueberries. After I pour the juice into a glass, I top it with a sprinkle of chia seeds and a few almonds. Oh so delicious!

The Juicepresso has an elegant and chic design, so it’s a welcome sight for any kitchen regardless of your style. Because it’s narrow, we found it easy to store as well.

New to their line is the one we tested out, their Platinum product (shown above and below), which features several key upgrades including a wider, slanted chute design that will minimize prep time by accommodating larger fruit and vegetable pieces. I can’t emphasize how important this is if you juice a lot. So many juicers don’t have wide chutes, making it a messy process every time you juice. This was one of the key attributes we loved about the juicer design.

The optimized motor in the Juicepresso Platinum offers increased torque for more efficient juicing and they now include a lid for their BPA free juice pitchers, which is another nice feature. In addition, there’s a new  juice cap that will keep juice in the cylinder without drips and dribbles until your juicing experience is complete — you can see it in the above photo, something which reduces countertop messes.  Two thumbs up!

More info at: http://juicepressousa.com/.

BPA-Free Water Bottles From Lifefactory

Here’s what we love about these oh so fun-colored water bottles you can get online or in one of your favorite holistic supermarkets, such as Whole Foods. First, since you’re starting to learn just how bad plastic is for you and the environment, it’s time to change your patterns and buying behavior with that growing knowledge. The Lifefactory water bottles produce their caps in polypropylene (PP#5) made of silicone, all of their components are made in the U.S. or Europe where the standards are generally better than “some” parts of Asia, all materials are FDA approved and they are BPA-free and phthalate-free.

They have a standard top, a Flip Cap (our favorite and we think the most practical of the choices) and a straw option which will appeal to many. We LOVE the fact that there is such a varied selection of fun colors, which makes you more likely to want to carry it with you everywhere.  The Flip Cap provides a narrow-mouth spout for on-the-go drinking. The medical-grade silicone flip top seals with the polypropylene (PP#5) cap and the pivoting handle provides a great way to carry the bottle and stow out of the way while drinking.

Their glass bottles offer a pure taste with no leaching from plastics or metals (BRAVO!!)  and their wide-mouth access makes it easy to add ice cubes, citrus slices or tea bags. The above bottle is a large 22 ounce version which is perfect for a long gym workout, although they also offer 16 and 12 ounce versions as well with the same top variations.

New to their line is the 16 ounce Glass Mug with Cafe Cap which provides protective insulating foam sleeve for hot beverages. We love this and I have started using it for my hot morning tea as I drive to the gym in the morning. It keeps your beverages warm for up to one hour and has a one-hand open/close which makes it great for driving, a pivoting handle which makes it easy to carry, and a spill-proof seal for safe transport. Like their other products, the materials are safe and healthy so there’s no leaching or taste residue like you get from plastic. We like the more sophisticated colors for this product, such as a deep muted plum and espresso (our two favorites). The below option also comes in blue, sage and orange.

Additionally, they have sage storage containers in fun colors, available in both two and four cup versions. More details and how to order online at www.lifefactory.com.

Organic India Teas & Supplements

I’m a huge fan of natural organic supplements in moderation. One of the problems that so many people make is that they either overdo supplements, take ones they don’t need or don’t take ones that could be more useful in their daily wellness regime.

Age, body type and physical or emotional ailments all go into the formula of what you should take, how much and when. I’m not a doctor and therefore am not recommending specific supplements — please check with your doctor (personally, I’m a fan of holistic doctors who integrate both traditional medicine and eastern philosophy into their practice) and find out what vitamins and supplements are the right fit for you.

We tested some of Organic India’s teas and supplements recently, including Ashwagandha, Amalaki, Peaceful Sleep, Organic India Memory, Chyawanprasi and a few others. We also sampled some of their teas, including the Tulsi Sleep Tea and their Tulsi Cleanse Tea.  In addition to the less traditional and less known supplements mentioned above, they offer some of the standard ones which are generally known to help with things like digestion or inflammation, like Turmeric for example.

The company has been around for a long time (since the 199o’s) and was founded in Lucknow, a town in northern India by a group of people interested in holistic healing and wellness. The idea way back when was to establish a sustainable business model to support the livelihood of thousands of impoverished farmers in India by providing training and education, enabling self-sufficiency and skills that could be passed on to future generations. How cool is that? This idea became a movement as organic and biodynamic farming methods were developed and practiced.

Tulsi Tea blends come in 18 flavors! Tulsi, also called Holy Basil, is revered throughout India as a sacred herb infused with healing power and is considered to be the “Queen of Herbs.” The sleep tea, which we tried aims to help reduce stress, support your immune system, is loaded with antioxidants, has ingredients that should help to build stamina, aids digestion and is anti-aging, balances your metabolism and energy levels, as well as helps with mood. Their teas are Kosher and Halal certified and completely GMO free. Bravo!

Photo credit: www.greenerideal.com.

There’s such a wide variety of them that there’s plenty to choose from and they’d make a great addition to a holiday gift basket. Ginger is one of my favorites btw and it’s hard to go wrong with Ginger as a choice given its so great as a digestive aid and who doesn’t need help with digestion around the holidays? You can order the products online and find out more at http://www.organicindiausa.com/. 

Fashion & Wear 

Lands’ End Clothing

Okay, so Lands’ End isn’t a new name, but they consistently produce durable high quality clothing, which is a godsend for any traveler. And, they’ve got some great styles out this season, especially for men. We love their selection of both shirts and pants. Their long sleeve shirts are both stylish and durable, a necessary for any avid traveler. They also come in sophisticated patterns that are easy on the eye and sure to go with anything in your wardrobe or suitcase. They offer polo shirts, casual shirts and dress shirts and have an entire active wear line.

In hindsight, we wished we had tested out one of their offerings in linen to see the quality, especially since so many travelers love linen on the road. That said, cotton is easier to wash and more flexible on the road, but is also more prone to wrinkle.  Their shirts come in poplin, corduroy, chambray, oxford, Twill, flannel, linen and Madras.

They offer a wide variety of pant options as well, such as chinos, cords, cargo, dress pants and active pants — there are six choices of active pants for those who do a lot of hiking and outdoor activities. It seems as if cords  have always been in fashion in one way or another and they offer a variety of color and “fit” options as well as a nice Twill corduroy option which we think is a great choice for the holidays.

Since we live in California, we didn’t opt to test out the flannel lined colored jeans, however having lived for a long stint in snowy New England, I can assure you that flannel-lined jeans and jackets are a godsend in the winter months. They offer so many options as well that you can get them in a number of fits depending on your preference.

For example, regardless of whether you go for chinos, cords, cargo, dress or active pants, you can choose from traditional fit, comfort waist, straight fit, regular fit, relaxed fit or slim fit.

We have never tried out this brand despite how well known and established it is, with a strong presence in the United States. More information including how to directly order online, can be found at http://www.landsend.com/. They walk you through sizing and the site is very well laid out, so you can easily browse by material, style or type of clothing. They also offer a wide variety of options for women, but for this review, we focused specifically on the men’s line.

7 Charming Sisters Jewelry

Who doesn’t go out during the holidays, whether you’re on the road or staying local? We recently discovered a bunch of fun options that are perfect for any festive setting. Introducing necklaces and earrings from the ever so perfect for a party line 7 Charming Sisters. You’ve got to admit, it’s also a fabulous name.

New to the market, they’ll have an online store where you can shop till you drop and given the reasonable prices for their line of bracelets, necklaces, earrings and rings, you won’t have a hard time finding several things you love.  7 Charming Sisters is driven by 7 female co-workers, (work sisters), that have been close colleagues for over 10 years. Each sister has a line based solely on her character and personality and their boutique also offers a general collection that encompasses a variety of additional styles.  With the seamless curation of all founders, the website vows that no sister will be left unadorned. I love this!

We decided to largely take a look at necklaces since we thought they’d make the best “fashion statement” for the holidays. Each piece in the online boutique is carefully selected for the 21st Century fashionista.  They’re going after the “girl next door,” the ultimate “fashionista,” the “social butterfly,” and the “super-mom.” You’re bound to find style inspiration, whether that style is boho chic or classic elegance as you’ll see from the variety we presented here. We really love the uniqueness of the line at reasonable prices, which makes for an ideal holiday buy, or frankly, any time of year.

Below is a shot of me wearing one of their beautiful silver chokers (chunky style which I love) at a recent party gathering. It’s a true standout! More information can be found at http://www.7charmingsisters.com.

Wallaroo Hats

I didn’t expect to love Wallaroo Hats as much as I do largely because so many hat manufacturers are similar. I used to love to wear hats in my twenties and would pick them up from time-to-time when I was traveling and frankly, found that I never wore them.

Then of course, I’d see a fabulous number on someone and wondered why I didn’t wear one of my own fabulous hats. This went on for years of course and every now and then, I’d wear one to an event, but then realized years later that the reason I avoided them was that I love the feeling of sun and wind on my face. No longer in my twenties, I realize that making that choice was a bad decision, not only because it increases the likelihood of skin cancer, but it creates unwanted aging spots that much sooner in life.

Last summer when I was in Japan, I picked up a few hats because they seem to have the best range of hats I’ve ever seen; the prices are incredibly reasonable contrary to what you may have heard. Now, I love hats, particularly ones that exude style and practical use.

Meet Colorado-based Wallaroo, which oddly enough is an Australian name. If you’ve been to Australia, you know that the Aussies know how to take care of their skin and because the sun is so fierce, everyone wears strong block and zinc on their noses when they hit the beach and…they wear hats. The two women ownership team behind Wallaroo used their Australian experience to get the idea for the company and today, their hats can be ordered online and found at many resorts, boutiques, outdoor retailers, gardening stores, and catalogs.

My two favorites from their new collection are the Sydney (below) and the Nola hat, both ideal for the sun. The colors are fabulous — the Sydney comes in a myriad of colors sure to go with any outfit, including denim blue, ivory, white, sea foam, lavender, light blue, lime, red, black, sienna and a variety of different shades of beige and brown.

The Nola hat is sophisticated, elegant and flexible given its very neutral colors, making it a natural choice for any casual outfit — the colors are neutral but sophisticated, making it easy to pair up with whatever happens to be in your suitcase. The Nola comes in brown, latte and black combos and we love the fact that the hats are SPF 50, giving you even further protection from the sun’s harsh rays. An addition bonus is their 4 inch brim.

I also really like the Breton, which is similar to the sun hats we selected, however the Breton comes in two tone colors and frankly, they’re really fun, such as this red number pictured below.  They use contrasting poly-ribbon braids with a natural wooden-beaded leather tie and the 4 inch brim can be worn up or down. This piece also rolls up easily for packing, a godsend for avid travelers.

The Bianca makes for a great visor choice and like the rest of the Wallaroo selection, it’s functional but stylin’ at the same time.  More details at https://www.wallaroohats.com. Given that so many of you are looking for great getaways after the holidays and January and February are popular months to get away from colder winter temperatures, we thought you’d love a few hat choices to bring along with you on your trip. 

Coldwater Creek Active Wear

Unless you’re a millenial, I’d be surprised if you haven’t heard of the clothing line brand Coldwater Creek since they’ve been around for awhile. Known for their high quality clothing, accessories and even shoes, they offer a wide selection of warm active wear for the winter and fun tops and casual gear for other seasons. We love their line of coats this year, which range from fun and artistic such as their Jacquard Tapestri or more conservative and traditional like the brown corduroy number below. While we haven’t tested out any of their coats yet to vouch for quality or warmth, we hope to in the future — they have a wide selection to meet any occasion.

I also love this year’s winter catelogue for a variety of reason, but what first jumped out was how many color choices they offer across the board. They also have so many cozy velour tops and pants, sweaters, and fabulous coats that it’s hard to know where to begin. For example, who doesn’t want to curl up on the couch with a fire going after a day of skiing in a comfy (but also stylish) track suit? Cotton is nice (and even warm) but it doesn’t coat your skin the way soft velour does and even better when your choices are vibrant and fun. Coldwater Creek offers the set in a rich black, purple and a teal, which you can also order separately if you only want the bottoms or the jacket.

Their deep jewel color tones will add a little contemporary finesse to your wardrobe this winter. The jacket is accented with a metallic topstiched trim and has wide drawstring collar which zips into a funnel neck with side pockets. It is a cotton/polyester blend so fully machine washable, which is a must for frequent travelers.

 They also have a number of easy-to-pack t-shirts, both long and short sleeve as well as sleeveless, which are perfect for that holiday getaway. For example, their Drape Neck Shell (pictured below), which doesn’t appear to wrinkle all that easily comes in 13 vibrant colors, from bright teal and purple to red, ivory, black and everything in between. The other great thing about their line is that they offer such a wide array of sizes that you’re sure to find something that works for you — Misses, Petite and Women’s Plus are all available. More information at http://www.coldwatercreek.com/ including what’s available for this winter season and how to order.

One last mention is a jacket in their existing catelogue that I personally fell in love with but sadly only saw after we made our choices. Yup, I love love love the design in this Autumn Moods Coat which is priced at $160. We don’t have it in to test out so can’t vouch for the quality of the material or stitching, but this fun earth-toned colored coat in faux-suede coat is beautiful. The piece exudes warm fall colors of mix patterns and has a furry-soft lining out to the collar and turn-back cuffs.

K. Bell Socks

 Who doesn’t love to get the old staple of some well-designed socks at the holidays? After all, it’s the kind of thing you rarely purchase for yourself.  We loved the discovery of K. Bell fashionable socks and tights which are all about vibrant colors, designs and fun! Nothing boring about them, they offer socks for women, men and kids, many of which have themes woven into them. Have a look at some of our favorites, the first set being their “Boyfriend Socks,” the most comfy pair in my drawer.
A little more traditional but still with plenty of fun designed colors in mind.
They are known for their novelty socks, which we think are perfect for the holiday season. For example, think sports themes, unique themes like soccer, medical, cats, birds, ducks, the Statue of Liberty, American Flag, Smiley Face, Alligator, Dragon, Zombie, Electric Guitar, Martial Arts (loved these), Beer, and even geographical, like the British Flag and San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, which is fun for all the avid travelers among us. And, the quality is top notch! We’ve become huge fans – more on the line and how to order at http://www.shopkbell.com/.

Clara Kasavina Jewelry

Another new jewelry discovery is Clara Kasavina and I have to say, I’m in love with their elegant and classic line that includes necklaces, cuffs and bracelets and earrings.  These Rosa Tear Drop earrings come in two colors (black and silver) and either one would go with a great holiday dress or an elegant top with jeans. What girl could refuse, especially given their reasonable prices? These tear drop earrings are made from cast metal but embellished by Wsarovski crystals.
Then, there’s a choker necklace that really jumped out for us and no kidding, it’s called the Beyonce Necklace. We favored the silver however the gold is what is featured and likely more popular, however it’s great to know you can get this stunning number sure to turn eyes, in both. The gold necklace is 14K gold layered over metal with a chain enclosure, making it very secure on your neck. I wore the silver option to a party recently and had several people come up to me asking me where I got it. Bravo!

Now, for bracelets and cuffs! How stunning is their Marquis Cuff pictured below? This exquisite piece couldn’t be more perfect for the holidays and is crafted of myriad sparkling Swarovski crystals and centered by a Swarovski faceted marquis stone. We think it makes for a perfect compliment to any cocktail dress! Needless to say, we’re fans of this newly discovered gem. More information including the ability to purchase, can be found at http://www.clarakasavina.com/.

Adventure Wear & Gear

Treksta Hiking Shoes

One of the things that annoy me most about top end adventure gear, whether that be coats, jackets, pants or shoes, is that while they’re all functional, durable and likely even waterproof, they’re often not that stylish. You can’t imagine how  many sporty watches and clothing were pitched to us this holiday season that albeit would be great for an active outdoor trip, are often just too plain Jane or ugly to look at. The same goes for sports shoes and boots.  We were introduced to Treksta this fall, a line that makes active footwear for both men and women, and so, we decided to put them to the test. My favorite of the women’s line (although there are so many great choices) are the WN’s Sync MTN GTX. While the model may sound a bit geeky, there’s a good reason why — the technology behind the shoe is significant, so much so that you actually FEEL as if there was a research and development team behind the design. And, guess what? There is!
You’ll end up with a durable hiking shoe that is up for any major trek, with Gortex, Icelock and Hypergrip Soles; there is some serious traction on the bottom of these soles. The other thing I noticed about these shoes when I first put them on is that I felt as if they were strong enough to do the walking for me, as odd as that sounds. It’s as if they’ll carry you away, not the other way around — functionality and style meets strength and durability.  They use a system called NestFIT which cradles your feet, accounting for every contour as it follows the natural flow and design of the foot. Imagine your upper, insole, midsole, and outsole coming together like never before and that’s exactly how it feels – in unison and in alignment, which provides great support for your foot. The upper shoe features GOR-TEX extended comfort with a Illusion Synthetic, a water repellent mesh. The outsole construction features Hypergrip HGL with IceLock. A molded EVA Midsole incorporates TPU Heel Support and the insole is molded EVA with Nano Silver Textile. Sweet!  One of the things we absolutely love about their line is that have successfully combined fabulous design with durability, for both men and women. While some of the men’s choices are brightly colored, they’re tastefully done. We like the design of the Alter Ego with its muted soft blue and orange, enough to stand out without being garish. It’s a super lightweight trail and road runner with a tightly woven upper and a flat sole, which is great for more ground contact. The one we put to the test however is the Edition Leather GTX pictured below, which is priced around $160.

Their Edition leather series combines many of the Treksta technologies and Nestfit anatomical design as I mentioned above, into a solid every day shoe that you could also wear for some of your adventure activities. For avid travelers, what we liked about this model was how adaptable it was — the nice chocolate brown color means that you could wear them while trekking around a city all day or for trail hikes and is still appropriate to wear to dinner. You can wear a conventional shoe lace with it but like the durability of the other Treksta shoes, it is GORE-TEX and has the fabulous IceLock technology on its HyperGrip Soles. That results in about 20% more traction on ice for the winter travelers among you.

The material is a waterproof oily nubuck leather with oily split suede and DM Mesh upper fabrics.  One of the other more sophisticated hiking shoes we liked from the woman’s line is the WN’s Granite. Classic but sophisticated muted colors that will make you stand out on the hiking trails but in a subtle elegant way. These are built for rock solid protection — they use Oily Split Suede with HyperGrip’ Super Sticky Outsole.

Like all of their hiking boots, the HyperGrip’ global leading sole provides extra superior traction with “Super Sticky” special rubber compound which offers extremely good traction and high wear resistance.  It is priced at around $130 and makes a great all around choice for travelers given its subtle color and elegant design, something you could wear to both day and night time activities. More information can be found here: http://www.trekstausa.com.

Osprey Duffels

Who doesn’t need a high quality durable duffel on the road? Osprey does backpacks and bag “gear” well and they’ve been around for years. Their Transporter 130 is a huge panel loading duffel featuring pack style carry, which can store and haul a versatile array of gear for your favorite adventures. It comes in gray, blue and red.

 They also come in different sizes: 40, 65, 95 liters respectfully.Whether your pack was purchased in 1974 or yesterday, Osprey will repair any damage or defect for any reason free of charge. More information and how to order can be found at www.ospreypacks.com.

The Runway Anyone? 

Briggs & Riley Luggage

We are loving our Briggs & Riley bags, a boutique brand that is elegant in design with high quality wheels. I fell in love with a red commuter bag in their Transcend line; it had four double swivel wheels for effortless 360° navigation too.

It was the Transcend Line that made the biggest impression, at least initially, because, hey, I’m a fan of vibrant but tasteful colors in my products. I had been wanting to test out a few carry on roller bags since my earlier reviews primarily focused on large and small accompanied checked bags. Alas, Transcend offered a carry-on wheeler bag in RED, but the carry-on didn’t have those easy-to-navigate swivel wheels. It’s a beauty regardless….

They also offer Rolling Cabin Bags, one is in an elegant soft olive green, perfect for a woman who loves clean streamlined design, sophisticated colors and functionality. Fashionista luxury travel gals are sure to love their bags.  For male travelers, the blue and black color choices make great options for hard spinner options and Briggs & Riley has plenty of options with a variety of bold colors and if you’re not as courageous as us fashionistas, you can always get a more neutral color or in black from nearly any collection they have. More information about styles and availability can be found at http://www.briggs-riley.com.

Myllow Travel Pillow

This customized travel pillow jumped out at us because like you, I’ve had bad luck with getting comfortable with the standard travel pillows on the market and I’ve tried several. Truth be told, there haven’t been a lot of options when it comes to travel pillows and they take up space, unless you can inflate and deflate them of course. The one I’ve had for years began to lose air after a month or so, and so I began to resort to rolling up my jacket for long flights.

The most common complaint by travelers is Neck Strain and btw, that’s not just on airplanes, but trains and for me, in front of the computer when I’ m away from my ergonomic set up at home.  The Myllow is different than so many others in that it fits around the neck to help avoid neck strain while providing head support during resting or sleeping in a sitting position.

Created by John Bonawitz who has worked in the fashion industry for more than a decade for various men’s fashion brands (most recently Ralph Lauren and Nordstrom), he applied his design knowledge to a useful and practical travel pillow.  The Myllow Travel Pillow started from the basic need to travel in comfort. It’s the first and only fully adjustable travel pillow. You simply pull the draw cords and stoppers in opposite directions and you have full customizable support. There’s full head and neck support with its customizable sides.

What else is cool is that the pillow converts into a square pillow for your lower back or if you’re a tray table sleeper on the airplane. We LOVE this! It also includes an extra pocket to store your travel accessories, such as an eye mask, earplugs, headphones, or smart phone. Apparently they’re working on other complimenting accessories such as a microfiber travel blanket and eye mask. They did a Kickstarter campaign earlier in the year but you can find them now on Amazon and priced around $30. More on the Myllow can be found here.

Beauty My Beauty 

Trilipiderm Skincare

I hadn’t heard of Trilipiderm before a few months ago so we thought we’d put them to the test since we’re adding a Beauty Section starting in 2016 and anti-aging products are clearly going to be a major category we monitor, especially given how often avid travelers spend time in the sun and wind.  This company offers a line of moisture retention skincare, which includes sun blocking products up to 30 SPF. Based out of Wyoming (one of my favorite states), their team did extensive research to come up with their line of high quality products.

Their claim to fame is that they’ve come up with a breakthrough formulation of ingredients which are actually enhanced by their interaction. They combine three natural oils, Meadowfoam, Abyssinian and Jojoba, along with Olive squalene and plant-derived betasitosterol to accelerate the absorption and how well the cream can moisturize your skin to cure dryness and prevent its return. This is particularly useful if you spend a lot of time outdoors during harsher seasons — skiing in winter comes to mind. Below, their All Body Moisture Retention Cream.

The natural active ingredients in Trilipiderm mimic components of human skin structure to repair damaged skin, forming a natural boundary to seal in moisture and reduce transepidermal water loss (TEWL). Its aim is to improve the tone, texture, elasticity and appearance of the skin, relieve irritation, encourage the production of new collagen, to reverse some of the affects of aging skin,  replace lost sebum in the skin to help waterproof tissue, help to remove wrinkles over time. It is non-comedogenic, rich in Omega-3 and Omega-6 Essential Fatty Acids as well as Vitamin E, which we all know is great for the skin.

They offer a great Night Cream as well which is worth testing out as well as a Broad-Spectrum SPF 30 with Vitamin D cream, which is really a great option for active adventure travelers who spend a lot of time in both winter and summer, whether that be participating in more vigorous sporting activities or going on a simple hike. It helps with both UVA and UVB radiation so it protects against the drying, damaging and aging effects of the sun on skin, while it continues to keep skin soft and supple.  More information including how and where to order at http://www.trilipiderm.com/.

 

Chella for Perfect Eyebrows

Call me naive or perhaps I don’t browse beauty catelogues or websites enough, but a brow and eye kit was a new concept for me. What we really love about Chella is how expansive their line is around everything to do with eyebrows and lashes. They offer a Perfect Brow Eyebrow Treatment Kit, which comes with a full-fillment eyebrow treatment, four brow stencils and an instructional DVD — wish they had those available when I was 21. This kit will help you create that perfect brow and you can even choose which look you want — alluring, sassy, confident or timeless. They also have an eyelash treatment kit and anti-fatigue eye mask kits, none of which we tried but would love to in the near future.

Their Luscious Light Brown Eyebrow Color Kit (pictured below) contains an elegant European mechanical precision eyebrow color pencil in Luscious Light Brown, a Lace Highlighter Pencil, the essential Eyebrow Defining Gel and a Dual Size Pencil Sharpener (you can never get enough of these) along with detailed, easy-to-follow instructions which acts as a skilled companion in creating a fabulous eyebrow. I tried the Light Brown Eyebrow Color Kit, which has been designed to enhance Light Brunette eyebrows although they have the kits in other color options as well depending on your skin tone and hair color.

The Chella Brow & Eye Collection takes care of all aspects of brow, lash and eye enhancement from color kits to conditioners, heated curlers to highlighters, masks to mascaras, and tweezers to treatments. Why we love their combo sets? We aren’t often told this as women, but as we age, our eyebrows and eyelashes become thinner, sparser, weaker and in some cases, disappear altogether. I have a few girlfriends who have suffered from this and it started in their mid-thirties. Their products help you not only define and highlight your eyes but you can also enhance and augment what you have through their conditioning products and something they refer to as an Eyebrow Defining Gel.

You can use this clear brow gel (pictured below) to lift and hold the eyebrow hairs and groom them into place. You can also apply it over eyebrow color, and the gel will lock in a longer lasting look.  More details at www.chella.com.

 

Useful Technology 

JBL Everest Elite 700

Let’s start with the fun tech — HEADPHONES. Who doesn’t love a high quality set of headphones that give you non-distorted crystal clear sound? Meet the new JBL headphones, the pinnacle of wireless audio. They have taken their legendary sound and combined it with a fabulous design (we love the design and they’re OH so comfortable), to create the Everest Series, a line of five wireless headphones, including around-ear, on-ear, and in-ear styles. We are eager to test out the in-ear styles at a later date, but let’s start with the Everest Elite 700, which is new to the market and available in both black and white.

At a modest $300, you get a whole lotta sound and customization for the price. They incorporate the exclusive NXTGen Active Noise Cancelling with TruNote Auto Sound Callibration, a great ergonomic design, a built in microphone and a cool headphones app. They also offer the JBL Everest Elite 300 at $250 however we only tested out the Elite 700 which we love, both for its high quality performance and its design.

The NXTGen Active Noise Cancelling Technology combines the immersive experience of noise-cancelling with the ability to control the amount of outside noise to let in, giving you the power to balance awareness of your surroundings with your listening experience. Also, the sculpted ear cushions are super comfy and there’s a 15-hour rechargable battery. What also makes these headphones unique is the mobile phone app so you can do further customization with the click of a button or a slide of the hand.

The app allows you to personalize your sound. Through your mobile device, you can create custom EQ settings, and access all other headphone settings and features. You can also manually adjust the level of ambient noise to your liking, controlling your music to be louder or softer from both sides of your headphones, giving you complete control of your listening experience. I LOVE this feature!  And, the UI is very simple and efficient to use, so there’s no learning curve to get up and running quickly.

The noise-cancelling feature allows you to control the amount of outside noise to let in, giving you the power to balance awareness of your surroundings with your listening experience, an other innovative add-on that makes this headset worth the purchase. We think it makes a great holiday gift for both adults and kids. Two thumbs up for JBL’s latest model!

Cruz Cell Phone Cases

You might be somewhat aware of EMF issues emitting from your phones, but may not have all the details. People hate talking about it — after all, who wants to talk about the negative effect of cell phones when you know yourself that you just spent the last 5, 10, 15, 20, maybe 25 years using one, all without protective measures? Let’s face it — “it’s not a fun conversation.”

The scariest part of ignoring this conversation however is that for those who ignore the topic themselves, they may be ignoring it for their children too who may be getting on cell phones as early as 7 or 8 years old – imagine the compound interest effect of EMF from regular cell phone use by the time they’re only 30?  Meet the Cruz Cell Phone Case I discovered on the Less EMF website, which also has a boat load of other products that help protect you from EMF pollution in addition to Cruz cases.

While the style may not be all that attractive, its functional and is trying to reduce the EMF levels that hit your head, especially when the phone is placed close to your ear.  The case is also fairly durable with 360 dent resistant protection, display screen protection since it has a lid, a text privacy guard (also useful) and a credit card holder on the left hand inside flap of the case.

There’s also a dust cover which helps to keep the screen clean and a patent pending cover guard. The version I tested is black and an older model, although their team says that color options will be out soon – my hope is that they come out with sophisticated color options without the large logo on the front.

Their newer version has an ultra slim design so it’s much lighter and thinner than the previous case.  The cool thing about how they’ve designed it is that the case blocks the cell signals aimed at your head without you changing the way you use your smart phone. You obviously need to open the case to take the call, but once you have answered it, simply close the case and begin talking through into the open area to your microphone.

It reflects back the powerful radio signals directed to head and body and yet there is apparently no interference with cell tower signals.  The other great thing is that because you have a case on both sides of the phone, its added protection when its sitting in your pocket, which men tend to do often, sometimes in their shirt pocket which is bad news! Here’s a short video showing you how to use it and why you should care.  The cases support iPhone 5, iPhone 6 and the Samsung S5 and are only priced at $40, an inexpensive investment if you truly value your health. Be sure to also read my round-up on other useful products that can help protect you.

Note: I do not make any claims that this case will protect you from EMF and am not a doctor or a technologist. I merely care about the growing issues and proliferation of EMF and therefore am sharing products I’m learning about which are trying to add protection to the human body.

 

Renee Blodgett
Founder
Renee Blodgett is the founder of We Blog the World. The site combines the magic of an online culture and travel magazine with a global blog network and has contributors from every continent in the world. Having lived in 10 countries and explored nearly 80, she is an avid traveler, and a lover, observer and participant in cultural diversity.

She is also the CEO and founder of Magic Sauce Media, a new media services consultancy focused on viral marketing, social media, branding, events and PR. For over 20 years, she has helped companies from 12 countries get traction in the market. Known for her global and organic approach to product and corporate launches, Renee practices what she pitches and as an active user of social media, she helps clients navigate digital waters from around the world. Renee has been blogging for over 16 years and regularly writes on her personal blog Down the Avenue, Huffington Post, BlogHer, We Blog the World and other sites. She was ranked #12 Social Media Influencer by Forbes Magazine and is listed as a new media influencer and game changer on various sites and books on the new media revolution. In 2013, she was listed as the 6th most influential woman in social media by Forbes Magazine on a Top 20 List.

Her passion for art, storytelling and photography led to the launch of Magic Sauce Photography, which is a visual extension of her writing, the result of which has led to producing six photo books: Galapagos Islands, London, South Africa, Rome, Urbanization and Ecuador.

Renee is also the co-founder of Traveling Geeks, an initiative that brings entrepreneurs, thought leaders, bloggers, creators, curators and influencers to other countries to share and learn from peers, governments, corporations, and the general public in order to educate, share, evaluate, and promote innovative technologies.
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