A holiday shopping and safety guide
(MS) - While the holidays can be a joyous time for adults and children alike, they may also bring a smile to the face of criminals. That’s because amid the excitement and confusion of holiday shopping and travel, many people leave themselves susceptible to theft. Willing thieves are waiting in the wings to lighten your holiday shopping load.
To ensure the holidays will be as happy as possible and not spoiled by criminals lurking in the shadows, consider these safety and comfort tips:
Be Alert and Confident
Distraction and the element of surprise are key tactics in any theft scheme. Pickpockets’ favorite places for action are on crowded lines, in elevators, on escalators, and when going through revolving doors. Always be aware of your environment and those around you. Do not shop while talking on a cell phone or while listening to your MP3 player. Keep your eyes and ears open and project a confident and alert posture.Play It Safe
There is safety in numbers, so heading to the shopping center with a group of friends or family and sticking together makes you less of a target. If shopping after dark, always park your car as close to the entry of the store as possible and find a spot that is under a light so the car will be visible and illuminated.
If you are bogged down by tons of packages you may not be able to react in the event of a theft. Therefore, space out shopping and deposit your purchases in your car periodically to keep your hands free as much as possible. Remember to keep gifts in the car out of view, so a trunk is the best place for storage.
Never flash your money conspicuously and keep your wallet or pocketbook close to your body at all times. If you’re paying with cash primarily (keep in mind credit and debit cards are safer), it is wise to spread out the money in different pockets or locations on your person. This way if you are robbed, you won’t be lifted of all of your cash. Always protect your credit and debit cards as well, and be aware of those around you when making withdrawals from ATM machines.Dress Comfortably
Ensure your shopping excursion is as enjoyable as you can make it by dressing in comfortable clothing and shoes. Realize that it may be warm in crowded malls, so wear layers so that you can peel off an outer jacket or sweatshirt if you get warm. Large winter coats can be bulky and cumbersome to carry, so consider leaving them in the car or checking them in if the store offers a coat check.
You’ll be on your feet as you traverse the stores, so comfortable shoes are an absolute must. A shopping trip can be cut considerably short if the person doing the shopping is wearing the wrong shoes.Safeguard Children
In busy stores it is easy for a child to become separated from a parent. Teach your children to go to a store clerk or security guard if they ever get separated from you in a store, and be sure they know their first and last name so they can tell someone who they are.
Toy recalls aren't child's play
(MS) - The toy industry has been reeling this year due to a number of product recalls by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), which pulled everything from dolls to wooden trains off of store shelves.
Roughly 10 million units of toys have been recalled in the United States alone over the past year. Toys decorated with lead-laden paints and products containing tiny magnets that can cause intestinal blockage or perforation were just some of the recall targets. The majority of these recalled toys were manufactured in China.• Seeking Out Safe Toys. Now that the holiday season has arrived and toys are likely at the top of many children’s wish lists, how can you safeguard those you love from dangerous toys?• Beware of used toys. Sure, they may seem like a bargain, but those garage sale finds or toys you purchased from online auction sites may be dangerous. In fact, reports have indicated that many recalled toys find a second life on popular auction sites such as Ebay. These Web sites provide an easy way to liquidate dangerous merchandise. Before you shop, be sure you have the facts about the toys.• Know where to find answers. The CPSC is responsible in the United States for keeping track of the safety of products and will often list current recalls on their Web site: www.cspc.gov. Other sources of recall information include local newspapers/Web sites, "Consumer Reports," which includes recalls in the beginning of each issue, and toy and manufacturer Web sites. You can also phone toy/product manufacturers to check on recalls.• Follow the age guidelines. Most toys are sold with age requirements posted right on the packaging. Therefore, heed the age guidelines and do not allow children to play with items that may be out of their league. Age restrictions may not be restricted to physical hazards from toys. Age suggestions are also based on subjective matters such as intended use (toy weapons) and connotation (sexual innuendo, story content).• Use common sense. If a toy seems dangerous or contains parts that make you nervous, you may want to pass it up for something else. Keep an eye out for small parts, magnets, sharp edges, etc. You may find you’re ahead of the game with a product recall.
Gift ideas for the family handy man
(MS) - Each holiday season, it seems as though it gets harder and harder to find that perfect gift for a loved one. Fortunately, finding that gift doesn’t need to be so hard, as the recent boom in do-it-yourself home improvements has created a wealth of new ideas.• Provide a truly helping hand. If your loved is mechanically inclined but you’re not, chances are offering a helping hand on the next home improvement project might not be as helpful as you think. If your helping hand tends to do more harm than good, consider giving the BENCH DOG Push-Loc. Designed to work with a table saw’s guards in place, the Push-Loc features a thin cross section and offset handle that keeps hands out of harms way, while improving the line of sight to the blade and providing more clearance for hands to pass the blade guard. The Push-Loc also includes a handy docking station, perfect for holding a tape measure and pencils.• Make the math a little easier. Nearly every do-it-yourselfer runs into problems stemming from incorrect calculations when cutting angles. A Starrett® Pro Site Protractor takes those errors out of the equation. With two scales, a red scale and arrow that show the angle for a miter joint, and a black scale and arrows that provide the angle to fit a single workpiece to an angle, making miter cut calculations has never been easier. You can even choose from two models, the full-sized 12-inch or compact 7-inch, both of which boast machined aluminum legs with an adjustable friction pivot.• For the multi-tasker. For the jack of all trades do-it-yourself, finding the right gift can be a major hassle. The new Fein MultiMaster could be just the thing. Because no two DIY projects are the same, the MultiMaster uses a broad assortment of accessory blades to handle sanding, scraping and hundreds of previously "manual" tasks. Gone are the days of sanding tight spaces with paper, as the MultiMaster’s profiled sanding pads make the job far less "hands-on."
Shrek the halls with a train this holiday
(MS) - Trains will forever be linked with holiday fun. What can be more enjoyable than pairing the timeless excitement of a holiday train set with one of the most lovable ogres of all time? The HO scale Shrek Holiday Train Set by Bachmann Trains will deliver the holiday spirit for many years to come.
Bachmann has partnered with DreamWorks Animation to create the first ever train set for the Shrek brand, featuring some of the beloved characters recently seen in the blockbuster hit Shrek the Third and next appearing in the holiday TV special Shrek the Halls this fall on ABC.
This complete and ready-to-run train includes a smooth-running Shrek and Donkey locomotive with all-wheel drive and operating headlight, Puss in Boots® and Donkey box car, Gingy® flat car, and Shrek® caboose. Also featured are a 36-inch circle of E-Z Track® (including 11-piece curved track and one-piece curved plug-in terminal rerailer) wall pack and speed controller, and illustrated instruction manual.
To delight those of all ages this season, visit your local hobby retailer or go to www.bachmanntrains.com for more information.
Give the right dolls for every age
(MS) - Since the discovery of play, treasured dolls have been easily found locked in the loving arms of little girls. Centuries later, with so many dolls to choose from, it can be a difficult treasure hunt to discover the "just right" doll to be cradled by your little girl. Here are some helpful tips from the experts at Corolle:
The size of the doll should be proportionate to a child’s size and strength. When she cradles the doll in her forearm, she should be able to hold the doll’s bottom in her hand, and its head should nestle in the crook of her elbow - exactly the way a baby would be held by an adult. The weight of the doll should also be proportionate to that of the child, which makes the doll easy to manage.
Here are some other tips specific to your child’s level of development:
0 +: As a baby begins to investigate her new world of shapes and textures and develops essential skills, she needs a snuggly security companion. Select a plush and washable
doll that is lightweight and between 10- and 12-inches tall, perfectly sized for tiny hands to hold and hug.
18 months: As baby transitions to the toddler years, she begins to care for and nurture her doll, imitating her parents. Select a doll that will make an ideal playmate: Look for a doll that is about 14 inches that is soft, lightweight, and easy to dress and undress.
3 years +: Little girls at this age begin to act out many real-life situations with their dolls. They may become big sister, mother or babysitter. Baby dolls encourage creativity and inspire pretend play memories young girls will cherish forever. For the added fun of hair play, choose a doll with well-rooted hair that can be combed.
5 years +: Girls begin to project themselves into their world and start to develop and value friendships. In turn, they are looking for playmates. Select dolls that have a variety of wardrobe, hair design and accessory choices.
Dolls are important to children at each stage of development, providing comfort, security, and "an available friend," says Joanne Oppenheim, co-founder of Toyportfolio.com
One manufacturer that specializes in play dolls is Corolle. For more information on how to pick the right doll for your child visit www.corolle.com, or call (800) 668-4846.
Top 10 gift ideas to please every person on your list
(MS) -"To give is to receive," as the saying goes. During the holiday season, finding the perfect gift for each person on your list can be both the most rewarding, as well as the most exhausting experience each and every year. You spend countless hours trying to top last year’s gifts and find the one "perfect" thing that you know will bring joy and delight to your loved ones. And though you might not admit it, you feel a sense of accomplishment and joy when your gift is the one that they gush about.
Well, you are not alone. According to a recent holiday survey conducted by PersonalShopper.com, the premier time-saving and one-stop online personal shopping service, 36 percent of participants surveyed said they focus their holiday shopping on trying to pick gifts based on each person’s unique interests or personality that will surprise or thrill them. It just takes time.
One smart, stress-free approach to finding gifts this holiday season that will please every person on your shopping list is to rely on an online shopping service, such as PersonalShopper.com. This innovative free service can provide tailored gift ideas based on the personality and interests of everyone on your list. You’ll find everything from the hottest toys to the rare and hard-to-find gift for your husband, and even your boss.
The majority of survey participants indicated they were most likely to purchase learning toys, dolls, action figures, fragrances and video games for their young children and teens.
Here are the top 10 personality based gift ideas for this holiday season that will be sure to satisfy most everyone on your shopping list:
1. For the girl who loves dolls
• The Amazing McKayla
• KidKraft Fashion doll house
2. For the little race car driver
• Power Wheels Nascar Racecar Dale Earnhardt Jr.
• Guidecraft Tilt and Steer Racer
3. For the young gadgeteer
• Fisher Price Easy Link Internet Launch Pad
• V-Tech Kidizoom Camera
4. For the avid fan of the latest tween show
• High School Musical 2 DVD
• "That’s So Suite Life of Hannah Montana" Mixed up, Mashed up Edition DVD
5. For the video gamer
• Halo 3
• Nintendo Wii
6. For the future fashionista
• "L" a L.A.M.B. fragrance by Gwen Stefani
• A soft fedora or newsboy cap from Roxy
7. For the music lover and movie buff
• New Apple iPod
• Altec Lansing inMotion iM5 Portable Audio System for iPod
8. For the sports fanatic
• EA Sports’ Madden ‘08
• The Cleveland Hi-bore driver and irons
9. For the fashion trendsetter
• The ultimate "it" handbag by Maxx New York
• A sassy coat from designers mac & jac or Adrienne Landau
10. For the tech-savvy wizard
• Canon SD1000 digital camera
• Garmin nüvi GPS navigation system
Jewelry gifts for every budget
(MS) - It’s fun to give jewelry - one of the season’s hot holiday gifts - but not if it puts you in the red. Sure you want to shoot for the stars, but throwing caution to the wind isn’t always so friendly to the wallet.
For those who have to reign in the budget just a bit, jewelry purchases can still top your list of beautiful picks in holiday gifts, provided you follow these suggestions for making the most of your money.
Explore alternative metals
While gold and platinum are certainly favorites, there are other choices if you have champagne taste but not the budget. For the look of gold without a high price tag, think about gold-plated jewelry. And always consider sterling silver, a versatile and affordable metal that can be crafted into looks for dressing up ... or down.
If you don’t know what sort of jewelry to give that special person in your life, than you can’t go wrong with a whimsical artistic piece. Jewelry doesn’t have to be uber-expensive to make a statement and be noticed. Consider interesting pieces that will spark conversation, like those offered by RedStart. RedStart was founded by three West-Coast women: Amanda Knox, Sara Shaughnessy and Kim Hoffmann. The designers’ engineering backgrounds have provided the foundation for an innovative and successful jewelry-making business to produce jewelry that’s modern and fun.
Now that it’s time to celebrate, what better way to express festivity than with RedStart’s sterling silver Bubbles Collection, which includes earrings, pendants and pins? These pieces reflect light off of the many round surfaces and add just the right touch of spirit this time of year - or all year long. Learn more by visiting www.redstartdesign.com, or call 1-877-822-7RED.