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Wednesday 12/17/2014
2014 Holiday Gift Guide

The holiday season is certainly a joyous time but it can be stressful when it comes to finding a gift for the special people in your life. Here are some last-minute gift ideas that just might inspire. You may even want to treat yourself!

Electronics and technology have become the marquee items in the world of consumer goods. As is generally the case with electronics, prices have tumbled rapidly. The 52-inch high-definition Sony Bravia television that you paid around $2,500 four years ago is now selling for a quarter of that price at most. High-definition television has advanced to where the new industry standard is LG’s Ultra HD, which gives four times the clarity resolution that the Sony Bravia did.

Laptops have come down in price, but most quality ones will still run you at least $500. A less costly alternative is an Amazon Kindle Fire tablet, which is easy to carry and extremely useful if you simply want internet access away from home. Acer is giving Amazon competition this season with its $150 Iconic TAB 8 Tablet.

Last year Radio Shack poked fun at its dowdy image with a very creative Super Bowl commercial in which it gathered a bunch of Reagan-era pop culture icons who literally destroyed the store, supposedly because the ’80s humorously wanted their store back. These days Radio Shack is clearly up-to-date as it sells both Chromecast and Roku, which allow you to play Internet streams on your television set.

Just as the old computer battle between Microsoft and Apple yielded those famous PC vs. the Mac commercials, smartphones are divided between the Android operating system and the iPhone. Apple users prefer the latter while PC users the former. The Samsung Galaxy S4 has become the most popular Android because of its slightly larger size, which makes it easier to text and yet is still small enough to be easily carried in your pocket. You can even make handwritten notes to yourself and have them saved as Word documents with the Galaxy Note S4.

As a lot of us have learned, high-tech instruments require constant recharging. Ebay is best known as a buy-and-sell auction site, but it has expanded into other areas. This year it is selling portable charging devices for $25 at ebay.com/holidaycollective. Another good source for buying charging devices is iHome.com.

One of the time-honored traditions of the holiday season is mailing out greeting cards to friends and family. If you don’t have the time to buy cards, write messages in them, put on return address labels and stamps, and finally mail them out, an e-commerce company, postable.com, will handle those chores for you.

Sports fans are a fairly easy group to please. Starter, New Era, Nike, Puma and Reebok make plenty of apparel for fans of pro and college teams.

Every pro sports team sells gear with its logo on it. Our New York teams may not be the best on the fields of competition, but when it comes to the world of retail shopping, the Jets, Giants Mets, Yankees Knicks and Nets are champions in having retail presences both in their arenas and at sites away from their athletic venues. Franklin Sports, at franklinsports.com, sells almost any kind of athletic equipment and games for the family recreation room that you can possibly imagine.

Sports Illustrated has a pair of books that make for delightful presents, the “Sports Illustrated 2014 Almanac,” which can quickly settle almost any bar bet, and the coffee table-sized “Baseball’s Greatest,” which looks at the sport’s most memorable games and players. When it comes to autographed athletics memorabilia, no one has more merchandise than Steiner Sports.

Getting in better shape has long been the most popular New Year’s resolution. Radio Shack’s Fitbit line of products tracks activity and calorie-burning wirelessly. Gyms such as the New York Sports Club, Equinox, Crunch, David Barton and the New York Health & Racquet Club generally have good membership deals this time of year.

There is no shortage of quality running shoes to use on the treadmill as Altra, Brooks, Reebok, New Balance, Khombu, Zumba and Ryka — women only for Zumba and Ryka — all have comfortable footwear at a variety of price levels. If you like running outdoors in chilly weather but hate bulky outerwear, the PACT organic cotton hoodie will keep you comfortable

Everlast made a name for itself in the world of boxing equipment but has expanded into the non-fisticuffs world as it manufactures reasonably priced warmup jackets, thermal T-shirts and yoga pants that are sold exclusively at Sears. Zumba, Alala and Athleta also compete in the world of yoga and exercise fashion.

With the beckoning of winter, anything that helps one stay warm will be greatly appreciated. Lands End, Volcom, Columbia Sportswear and Sorel all offer a wide array of winter outerwear ranging from heavy coats to socks and underwear. Khombu is giving Timberland and Sorel competition in the snow boots market.

Speaking of winter, Snow Sugar, at snowsugarshop.com, is a new company that makes head-to-toe ski wear for women who want to look stylish on the slopes.

Long Island City-based Becket Simonon, at becketsimonon.com, makes the kind of high-end men’s dress shoes that you would expect from an Allen Edmonds or Johnston & Murphy but at less than half the price. Steve Madden, renowned for its women’s shoes, is now doing the same, and also makes stylish messenger bags and backpacks for men. It has a showroom in Sunnyside,

Clark’s, whose Desert Boot shoe was used by British soldiers fighting in North Africa during World War II, and Jack Erwin are other quality men’s shoe manufacturers who give terrific bang for the buck.

Spira, which first made its name in running shoes, and Crocs, which is still best known for its beach footwear, have expanded into casual men’s footwear.

Menswear never gets the same media attention that women’s fashions get. At Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, just about the only company that ever has men strutting down the runway is Nautica.

Don’t be fooled by the lack of buzz. There are numerous options for guys, particularly when it comes to shirts. American Eagle and Geoffrey Beene are well-known manes for classics that never go out of style. Less-known brands that make great shirts are Germany’s Haupt, and a new American company, Ace Rivington. They all make shirts that look great for the office or for a date who also make fashionable pullover sweaters. Shirt-and-tie combos from the Esquire Collection and Nick Graham always make great gifts. Nick Graham, at nickgraham.com, also donates a portion of sales to Career Gear, a nonprofit that provides business attire for the financially disadvantaged.

If you like sleek European sports jackets, Carl Gross and Atelier are good choices. You’ll feel as if you are Don Johnson’s Sonny Crockett character from “Miami Vice” or Richard Gere’s Julian Kaye from “American Gigolo” wearing them. And I mean that as a compliment.

Back when they were known as dungarees, jeans were an inexpensive article of clothing. Levi Strauss, the founder of denim, would be shocked to see the sticker price on the product that he created. Nonetheless there are bargains to be had. Denizen and Signature are both made by Strauss’ old company, Levi’s, but retail at around $25. Levi’s chief competitor, Lee, has an inexpensive men’s line of jeans and other clothes, Wrangler, while its Ryder brand offers great value to female consumers. Women who want high-end denim clothing can look to DL 1961 or James Jeans, amongst many others.

If you place value above snobbery, private clothing labels from department stores such as Sears’ Outdoor Life and Route 66, Kohl’s Craft & Barrow, Target’s Cherokee and Macy’s Charter Club are great options. Kohl’s Marc Anthony line of menswear and Jennifer Lopez women’s apparel have been very successful for the Milwaukee-based retailer.

Grooming, whether it be staying clean shaven or neatly maintaining a mustache, beard or even stylish stubble, requires work. Harrys.com offers terrific deals on top-notch manual razors and blades. Philips Norelco Tripleheader is the leader in the electric shaving field. I wish, however, that Norelco would bring back their corded shavers instead of making consumers keep them charged. We have enough electronic devices already taking up our outlets.

It’s hard to watch television without seeing commercials for Zales, Kay and Jared, so you know that the holiday season is crucial in the jewelry business. There is no shortage of websites that sell intriguing and inexpensive jewelry.

Long Island designer Nancy Rosen has created numerous necklaces, earrings and other costume baubles that have been used by cast members of the Bravo Network’s various “Real Housewives” series. In fact her company is called Housewives Jewelry and is at housewivesjewelry.com. Last year she created a bracelet called the Vanderpump cuff in honor of Bravo’s new reality series about attractive and vapid Southern Californians. This year she has created a leather bracelet called “Wrap Me In Pearls,” which is fitting with the baubles that are worn on the wrists of any of the various Bravo divas.

You can find a plethora of inexpensive jewelry ideas at annystern.com, cookielee.com, khalama.com, sandrabianchi.com and suzsomersall.com.

If you are serious about jewelry pieces that start in the four-figure range, see foreverbrilliant.com. Forevermark is a brand favored by many celebrities.

Ash + Ames, at ashandames.com, is a full-service jewelry company that offers accessories in all price points.

Watches are the most popular and functional forms of jewelry and they come in all price points. Long Island City-based Armitron, Dakota Watches, Bertucci Watches, Breil, Anne Klein and the granddaddy of them all, Timex, all make timepieces that look a lot more expensive than they actually are. Forest Hills High School alum Lawrence Leyderman created a company, House of Horology, at hohwatches.com, that sells watches that have the craftsmanship of expensive brands such as Tag Heuer and Movado but at half of the price. HOH has a store in SoHo.

Metallic jewelry runs the risk of tarnishing over time. Colle is a mousse that keeps your valuables looking as if you just bought them. Log onto colleproducts.com.

Contrary to popular belief, sunglasses are just as necessary in the winter as in the summer, if not more so, because the sun’s rays come in at a lower angle and this makes driving particularly difficult in the late afternoon. Safilo’s Carrera division is renowned for its classic aviator styles that make anyone look cool by wearing them. For those on a tighter budget, Polaroid, which is also now owned by Safilo, makes sunglasses with a huge choice of fashionable frames. If you want to look like an athlete who just signed a multimillion dollar contract, pick up a pair of Oakley wraparounds. Zeal Optics, ICU Eyewear, Flutter, Stays On, Extreme Glare and See Saw Seen Eyewear also make affordable and stylish shades with prescription and nonprescription lenses.

Cosmetics are popular gift ideas for women looking for items for other women.

Sephora has surprisingly only been manufacturing bronzes, eye shadow, brushes, and lipsticks in the United States since 1998. The company started in France in 1970 and quickly became known for its high quality. Well aware of consumer demand for the holiday season, Sephora is selling gift sets of its products through a line called the Sephora Collection.

May Kay Cosmetics is an iconic name in the beauty supplements business and has just celebrated its golden anniversary.

An Australian company, Nvey Eco, has a line of organic makeup. One of its biggest fans is Aussie actress and current New York resident Naomi Watts. Two more moderately priced companies, Wet N Wild and Essence, offer nail polishes and lipsticks in splashy colors aimed towards a younger consumer. For those who like the best in shampoos, try a gift set from Philip B. Botanicals or Black 15 in 1’s travel set.

Women outnumber men when it comes to purchases of skin care products but the difference in market share between the sexes is getting smaller every year as no one wants to look prematurely old, particularly in this still-tight job market. Intelligent Skin Sense’s Cellaction Contour Gel, Shiseido’s Bio Performance Advanced Super Restoring Cream (how Shiseido fits that all on a label is beyond me!), Juice Beauty’s Ageless Radiance, Obagi’s Luxe Hydrate and Wilma Schumann European Skin Care are popular age-fighting moisturizers/skin creams/serums. Clarins and Burt’s Bees were pioneers in creating skin products aimed at the burgeoning male market while Jack Black was one of the first companies to make moisturizers and scrubs just for guys. There are a pair of new competitors in the men’s grooming market: Menaji, at menaji.com, sells tubes of masque and face and body scrub for men, while Columbia Skin Cares makes healing cream to smooth out various dermal wrinkles and cuts.

There are countless items that fall under the beauty/personal care umbrella. A social media website, pamapdour.com, gives public critique to a lot of them. It’s as close to Consumer Reports for the beauty industry as you can find.

Luggage, whether it be for a business trip, a long vacation or a long weekend, is very useful. Briggs & Riley’s Torq line is perfect for those big trips while Beckett Simonon’s Potenza is just right for the quick getaways. LXR & Company, at lxrco.com, must have a relationship with Louis Vuitton because it sells the products of the famous French luggage and handbag company at discounted prices. Indiana’s Vera Bradley is known for its decorative and spacious light totes that can hold a lot of material. Betsy Johnson, the iconic ’70s fashion designer, has now added travel bags to her product portfolio.

Elisabeth Weinstock makes top-of-the line handbags while Olivia & Joy does the same for wristlets and purses.

Targets’s Threshold line of home goods includes useful items such as small jewelry boxes, towels, dinnerware and wine stoppers. Pottery Barn is also a good source for home decorations.

Sleep is very important and it gets tougher to do so as you get older. Castroconvertible.com, ethanallen.com, linenme.com and properpillow.com are all good bedding resources.

You can’t think of the holidays without thinking about food. 1800Flowers, founded by Woodside native Jim McCann, and its chief rival, Teleflora, long expanded out of just floral products and these days sell as many food gift baskets as they do roses. Other companies that sell specialty food gift baskets are Hickory Farms, Stonewall Kitchen and Harry & David’s.

Chocolate aficionados will love any products from Ghirardelli — their caramel squares are a weakness for me! Also check out Godiva, Aloha Superfood, Long Island City-based Gnosis, Francois Payard, Seattle Chocolates, It’ Sugar and Nocciolata. For sweet-baked goods, it’s hard to beat Maine’s Wicked Whoopie pies, at wickedwhoopies.com.

The holiday season is certainly a popular time to imbibe.

At winesofrueda.com, for those who enjoy harder spirits, Johnny Walker Black Label and its more expensive sibling, Johnny Walker Blue Label, along with Highland Park Freya, Macallan, Glenfiddich, Grant’s Blended, Haig Club, The Fat Trout and the Balvenie are the top names in whisky and scotch. For those who like even harder alcohol, Bombay Sapphire East Gin, Smirnoff Vodka which also comes in citrus flavors, Stolichnaya Vodka, Tequila Don Julio 1942, Milagro Tequila, Gran Patron Piedra Tequila, Ty Ku Sake, Old Smoky Moonshine, American Born Moonshine, G’vine Gin, Nolet’s Gin, Hendrick’s Gin and Martini Gran Lusso Vermouth should all get the job done.

There are those who like their booze with a little less pure alcohol taste. Cocktail mixers are crucial. Ripe Bar Juice uses cold-pressed fruits to give cocktails a fresher taste. Powell & Mahoney also makes good chasers.

Aficionados of liqueurs and aperitifs will enjoy Baileys Old Irish Creme — which now comes in a variety of flavors — Baileys Chocolate Cherry Liquer, Godiva Liqueur, Unicum Liqueur, Amarula and Cointreau are all solid choices.

It seems to be generally agreed upon that red wine has medicinal benefits. I have always loved Oregon Pinot Noir from such vintners as Benton-Lane and Willamette Valley. If you like California reds, then try Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon or Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon.

If you know someone who enjoys a good cigar with a glass of wine, then they’ll love a box of Macanados, Dunhills, Cohibas, Partagas, Gurkhas, Romeo & Juliets or Debonair Robustos.

Reference books were always my favorite holiday presents when I was growing up. I eagerly awaited the new World Almanac. Even in this internet world there is something enjoyable about turning the pages to find facts quickly. Unlike most encyclopedia companies, the World Almanac continues to thrive, and the 2015 edition has just hit bookstores. Other fun reference books are “Leonard Maltin’s 2015 Movie Guide” (Plume Books) and “The 2015 Guinness Book of World Records.” Those of us who were born between 1946 and 1964 will enjoy the AARP’s 200-page tribute to the 1950s and ’60s in its 200-page book, “Boomers 101,” which nostalgically looks back at those transformative decades.

Discovering or rediscovering New York City can be a gift in its own right. CityPASS and New York Pass are competing companies that make booklets and cards that allow you to visit a virtually limitless number of museums and other attractions for one low fixed price. The catch is that you have to do it in a number of consecutive days, so you may want to use these passes when the weather warms up.

A great way to discover New York’s spectacular waterways is to take a dinner cruise on either World Yacht or Spirit Cruises. Both have their berths on the Hudson River. World Yacht is located near the end of 42nd Street while Spirit is a mile south at Chelsea Piers.

Theater is an integral part of our city. Audience Rewards, a promotional venture created by the Broadway theater owners, offers a free American Express-branded credit card that gives points good toward redemption for shows on purchases, similar to airline frequent flyer credit cards.

Yes, spa treatments are a form of pampering, but they also are good for one’s health as they’re a way of relieving stress by reducing muscle tension and therefore helping blood circulate better. Oasis Day Spa, Breathe Easy, Red Door Spa and the Marilyn Monroe Spa all sell gift certificates.

If you are still in need more retail reference info, you can always go to such old reliable websites as amazon.com, hsn.com, qvc.com and ideeli.com. Another good resource to utilize is the membership list at accessoriescouncil.org.

Happy holidays to all!

Posted in Queenswide, Blog on Wednesday, December 17, 2014 10:30 am. Updated: 2:28 pm. | Tags: Samsung Galaxy S4 , Android Operating System , Google , Google Play , Samsung , Gpe , Google Nexus , Htc , Iphone , Levi Strauss , Sony , Amazon , Amazon Kindle Fire , Kindle , Super Bowl , Chromecast , Smartphones , Microsoft , Reebok , Ebay , E-commerce , Sports Illustrated , New York Health Racquet Club , David Barton , New York Sports Club , Columbia Sportswear , Timberland , Everlast , Volcom , Sorel , Crocs , Geoffrey Beene Comments (0)

Thursday 11/06/2014
Small biz of the month: Crossbay Bait and Tackle

Crossbay Bait and Tackle in Howard Beach was honored by state Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Rockaway Park) as small business of the month on Oct. 28.

Crossbay Bait and Tackle first opened its doors in 1956. Two brothers, Vincent and John Brando, started the business out of a small garage on the boulevard. At 16 years old they sold hooks, sinkers, clams and worms. In 1965 the store tripled in size, becoming a focal point in the Jamaica Bay fishing area, and a new slogan — “Everything for the fisherman” — was created. In 1991 the old garage was taken down and a larger, new building was constructed.

In 2012, after Hurricane Sandy damaged the bait shop, two new brothers, Vinny and Dr. Carmen Campisi took over ownership. Vinny, a stationary chief engineer at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, and Dr. Carmen Campisi, a chiropractor one year out of retiring, had decided to get involved in a different business venture.

The Campisis, residents of Howard Beach since 1956, both have a passion for fishing and had been visiting the bait shop since they were children. Their dad, Deacon Joe Campisi, would take them on his boat, fish the bay or simply ride their bikes to the shop and fish off the bridge.

“We took an already successful business and made it better,” Dr. Campisi said. Crossbay Bait and Tackle continues to be one of the favorite bait shops in the New York City area.

It’s also one of the oldest businesses on Crossbay Boulevard, where it’s an icon. The shop continues to hand tie most of its own hooks and rigs on-site and has developed its own brand, “Captain Joe’s Custom Tackle,” out of respect for the Campisis’ dad. The shop has a wide variety of tackle and bait for every fish in season, and a large selection of frozen and live bait arrives on a daily basis. The shop is located at 164-30 Crossbay Blvd. and can be found at crossbayfishing.com or on Facebook under “crossbayfishing.”

Posted in South, Blog on Thursday, November 6, 2014 10:30 am. | Tags: Crossbay Bait And Tackle , Campisi Comments (0)

Thursday 10/16/2014
Both tricks and treats can be found at Rubies

The first “person” you see when you walk into Rubies Costume Company at 120-08 Jamaica Ave. in Richmond Hill isn’t a store employee ready to assist you in your search for the perfect Halloween costume.

Not only is he not a sales associate, he’s not even human.

Walk in at the right time, and a 10-foot-tall giant, hungry ogre will awake from his slumber, stand up and welcome you to the shop, filled with similar lifelike props and thousands of costumes.

Just don’t accept his cryptic invitation to dinner.

“This is the first year we’ve had props like him,” Rubies Executive Assistant Francine Robinson said. “People have been coming in from all over to see them.”

The giant isn’t the only terrifying prop gracing the Rubies location, which opened its sprawling showroom floor, four times the size of its previous space, in September.

Walk past the section modeled after a castle filled with princess costumes and you’ll come across a more haunted area of the store, with a shirtless man strapped into an electric chair serving as the room’s centerpiece.

Every 15 minutes, an alarm sounds and the fake inmate is violently jolted around in the chair as steam rises to the ceiling, reminiscent of the famous failed execution scene in the film “The Green Mile.”

Led by owner Marc Beige, Rubies, one of the world’s leading costume retailers, has been in business since 1951.

However, it transitioned this summer from a full-service store, where customers request what costume they want and an employee brings it to the register, to a self-service shop, allowing people to pick out their own ghoulish or girly outfits.

The new 12,000-square-foot space holds more than 20,000 costumes, according to Robinson, some of which are sewn in the building’s basement.

“We’re very close knit, as far as employees go,” she said. “It’s been Marc and his siblings that have kept Queens vital. When people are moving out, he’s building up.”

Despite many of the costumes being made in-house, some of this year’s most popular selections, like the character Elsa from the 2013 hit children’s movie “Frozen,” have been flying off the shelves at high rates.

Robinson and assistant store manager Lisa Tanico, an 18-year employee of Rubies, expects the store to only get busier as the calender creeps closer to Oct. 31.

“It’s like controlled chaos,” Tanico said. “But it’s an exciting kind of crazy.”

“We have to have crowd control,” Robinson added. “Even in a bad economy, Halloween survives.”

One of the recent keys to the success of Rubies has been the acquisition of a exclusive license to create and sell a line of Marvel costumes in North America, as well as costume orders from retail giant Walmart.

Speaking of giant, the massive ogre, like every costume in the store, is for sale.

For $16,500, you can purchase the prop.

Just don’t let him into the kitchen with the oven on.

Posted in Queenswide, South, Eastern, Central, North, Western, Blog on Thursday, October 16, 2014 10:30 am. Updated: 12:11 pm. Comments (0)

Thursday 10/09/2014
Rotate and Donate for breast cancer

Frank Vigna, owner of Frank’s Tire, Auto and Truck Repair in Flushing, will participate in National Breast Cancer Awareness month this month by donating all the money he collects from rotating tires to the Susan G. Komen organization.

Vigna said people always ask if he has had a friend or family member diagnosed with breast cancer, but the answer is no. Instead, he noticed a few years ago while his three children were still in high school that some of their school activities involved raising money for charity.

One October, Susan G. Komen was a beneficiary of the school’s efforts, and Rotate and Donate was born.

Breast cancer is the most common cause of cancer in women regardless of ethnicity, not counting skin cancer, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While women are by far more affected than men, breast cancer still affects significant numbers of men. The most recent CDC statistics show that in 2011, 220,097 women and 2,078 men were diagnosed with breast cancer, and that 40,932 women and 443 men died from the disease that year.

Vigna’s copyrighted slogan for the event, Rotate and Donate, is one part a charity fundraiser, one part a car safety and maintenance reminder for drivers, and one part goodwill marketing for his business.

At $15 for tire rotation, Vigna says he has only donated an amount “in the hundreds” each of the past four years and probably spent more on advertising than he has sent to the foundation. A few customers kick in a few extra dollars when they hear that he’ll be donating the entire fee.

“It would be a bigger donation if I just donated the ad money,” Vigna said. “My dream would be to donate, like, $15,000. That’s why I went to some of the guys this year.”

“The guys” are Vigna’s friends and competitors at other area auto garages. They have chipped in to him to pay for ads in the Queens Chronicle and another newspaper to advertise Rotate and Donate.

Vigna is keeping it simple. He won’t be collecting the money from the other mechanics. Instead, he encourages participating garages to make an extra copy of tire-rotation bills during October and add up the total at the end of the month.

Even if drivers won’t be participating in the program this year, Vigna wants people to know that they should be rotating their tires on a regular basis.

“When you’re driving around and you’re turning left and right, the front tires wear down much faster than the back,” he said.

Evenly-worn tires are much safer, especially on wet roads.

“You want to keep them all with the same traction,” Vigna added.

Garages participating in Rotate and Donate are:

• Frank’s Tire, Auto and Truck Repair, 162-42 Pidgeon Meadow Road, Flushing, (718) 321-7503;

• Barney’s Service Center, 200-05 Horace Harding Expressway, Bayside, (718) 225-8989;

• Gregg’s Tire and Auto, 259-16 Union Turnpike, Floral Park, (718) 343-5530;

• Auburndale Tire, 193-12 Northern Blvd., Flushing, (718) 357-4560; and

• Brendan’s Service Station, 76-36 164 St., Flushing, (718) 380-0944.

Posted in North, Blog on Thursday, October 9, 2014 10:30 am. Comments (0)

Thursday 09/18/2014
Speaking your language on designer eyewear

The eyes have it!

In keeping with the ethnic diversity of the neighborhood, GVS/Lens Lab Express, located at 163-34 Jamaica Ave., offers, among other amenities, a staff that speaks multiple languages, including an on-site doctor who alone speaks English, Spanish and Creole.

Representing such countries as Columbia, Haiti, Jamaica and Puerto Rico, the employees are ready and willing to make members of the community feel right at home as they make their eyeglass selections.

And what a selection they have to pick from!

Prices on new frames start at $30, and, according to the store’s long-time operator, Roseanna, the more popular designer names include Cazal, Versace, Ray Ban and Gucci.

Also available are Tom Ford, Dolce & Gabana, Marc Jacobs and others.

One of the store’s most alluring services is the availability, seven days a week, of an eye doctor.

“That’s very important,” Roseanna pointed out. “We understand that most people work and need to be able to see the doctor at their convenience.”

The doctor sees patients Monday through Saturday between 10:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. and on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

According to Roseanna, the store offers a comprehensive exam, “close to [that in] an ophthalmologist’s office.”

Such thorough exams, she said, are invaluable, as they can detect diseases in the eyes.

And, yes, walk-ins are welcome.

“We are very personalized,” Roseanna said. And, she added, “We offer one-hour service in most cases.”

A typical customer, she said, first sees the doctor.

Then lenses and frames are selected. Options include progressive lenses, or no-line bifocals; transition lenses, which adapt to changing light conditions outdoors to help reduce eye fatigue; and lenses with anti-reflective coating, which is applied to the surface of the lenses to reduce reflection.

Of course, contact lenses are also available.

“We’re always having sales,” Roseanna said. “We match most competitors’ coupons.”

The store offers buy one/get one free specials on complete pairs of glasses, or $100 off on a complete pair of glasses, and a free set of contacts with the purchase of a complete pair of glasses. Family specials are also available.

According to Roseanna, the store accepts all union insurance and Medicaid, all major credit cards, Care Credit, Citi Card, BeneFLEX, and Flex Spending, as well as most other insurance plans.

Store hours are Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For further information, or to make an appointment, call 526-2332.

Posted in Eastern, Blog on Thursday, September 18, 2014 10:30 am. Updated: 11:16 am. Comments (0)

Monday 09/15/2014
Dorm life/bachelor pad 101

Going out on your own is never easy, whether it be as a freshman in your first dorm, or leaving your folks’ home for your first apartment. There are a number of consumer goods out there to make your life a bit easier.

We are supposed to spend eight hours a day getting sleep in order to be at our healthiest. Ikea and Crate & Barrel specialize in beds that are designed for close quarters. Some of their models have drawers under the mattress so that you can store clothing and other items. Castro Convertibles, a store name familiar to nearly every baby boomer, has relaunched with new ownership and is once again making couches that open up at night into beds.

Vera Bradley, the Indiana company best known for its handbags has quietly been increasing its product line over the past few years. The company has just started manufacturing comforter sets. Lands End also makes high quality and reasonably priced bedding.

It is hard to be at your best if you continually toss and turn. Pillo1 makes high-end foam pillows that relax your head, neck and shoulder muscles while helping you maintain your posture as you catch 40 winks.

The hardest adjustment for a lot of us is finding ways of keeping our new habitat clean. Bissell makes inexpensive durable vacuum cleaners that don’t require you to be an MIT grad in order to be able to remove debris. Bissell’s Spotbot gets out the toughest carpet stains while its Lift Off Floors is a lightweight upright that effortlessly picks up dust. Unger’s neatHOME line of dusters, scrubbers, and yes, squeegees are good for the cleaning jobs where you don’t have to plug in an appliance.

Both Ecos and Ecover make chemical-free cleaners for the kitchen and bathroom as well as “green” laundry detergents. Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Surface Wipes will also help keep your abode germ-free.

Keeping the air in your apartment clean is just as important as cleaning the surfaces of it. The Venta Airwasher is a compact humidifier that keeps the air in your room from getting dry and stale, thus making it easier to breathe, particularly in the winter when many apartments get too hot from radiator steam. Air fresheners such as the ones made by Yankee Candle and Little Trees are a good idea for your closets and obviously your bathroom.

Even the least handy of us has to occasionally drive a nail into the wall. Black & Decker’s well-named “Fat Max” oversized hammer makes it easier to hang a picture on a dense wall. Stanley also makes a full line of hammers, pliers, screwdrivers, and of course power tools.

Black & Decker also manufactures the George Foreman Indoor Grill, which claims to eliminate at least 40 percent of the fat in hamburgers. Hamilton Beach, a company best known for its blenders and popcorn makers, also makes a low-price-point indoor grill as well.

Opening cardboard boxes can be time-consuming and risky. Irwin Tools’ Folding Utility Knives are as safe a blade as you will find.

It is getting harder to find banks to offer safe deposit boxes to store one’s valuables. Sentry makes small safes that you can put in any closet.

With identity theft being rampant it is crucial not just to half-heartedly tear up documents that have account numbers, or even more problematic, your Social Security number on them. It’s imperative to have a durable shredder such as the ones manufactured by Fellowes, which you can find at Staples, or ones made by Royal that are sold at Radio Shack.

Just as Kleenex is synonymous with tissues themselves, and “Jell-o” is used by most people when they mean gelatin, so is Thermos identified with any bottle that can keep hot beverages hot and cold beverages cold for long periods of time. The company is expanding from liquids into solid foods as it’s now offering food jars that will keep lunch items at their desired temperatures even if you are away from an oven or refrigerator for a number of hours. The same can be said for Thermos’ longtime rival, Aladdin, which seems to match them product for product.

Microwave ovens are certainly great for frozen dinners and reheating pizza but if you enjoy cooking your own food then you should consider the Philips Airfryer, which was featured recently on Fox’s “Master Chef” program, starring Gordon Ramsay, is around the same size of most microwaves but allows you to grill, bake or fry foods from scratch in far less time than a conventional oven.

Tableware and utensils are easy to overlook until you want to have guests over. Stonewall Kitchen out of Maine (stonewallkitchen.com) is a terrific one-stop shop for plates, bowls, and glasses as well as for soaps and gift baskets.

Vitamins are important at any age and you can’t always get the ones you need from your daily diet. Quality of Life, Nature’s Bounty, New Chapter, Herbtheory and Nature Made all produce a wide array of vitamins from a daily multi to Vitamin C to CoQ10.

The cost of laptop computers has dropped dramatically over the last couple of years. Sony, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Toshiba, Lenovo and Acer all make durable computers that come loaded with popular software for under $600. H-P also makes several lines of ergonomically correct keyboards for under $50. Apple’s iPad has quickly become the biggest-selling device in portable computing but both Samsung and Motorola have launched their own tablet devices, which are less expensive than the Apple version. The Acer Aspire is a laptop that detaches so that it can be used as a tablet.

Now more than ever, it is crucial to protect your computer from viruses and spyware. Norton and Kaspersky both make premium software to stop even the most sophisticated of viruses, while Malware Malbytes prevents malicious tracking “cookies” from slowing your computer down. Even if no one was trying to harm your computer, just visiting the Internet and downloading programs and documents, can reduce the efficiency of your PC. System Mechanic 12 will keep your machine running quickly by reducing the needless clutter that accumulates in all computers.

Sitting by your desktop, and particularly your laptop, can cause back strain. Staples has many comfortable and ergonomically designed desk chairs.

Not having proper lighting will often lead to headaches and possible vision problems. Reliable’s Uberlight 9000 C Task Light does not take a lot of space on the desk, throws off a lot of light and rarely requires a bulb change. Philips also manufactures a wide array of desk lamps.

The iPad’s smaller sibling, the iPhone, has become one of the most popular cellular devices. The problem is that it is easy to drop and very costly to replace. Ribbz, Trident and Otter Box make snug rubber cases that should protect most devices. Lifeproof may do them one better by guaranteeing that its case will protect your smartphone even if you toss it in the water.

Tablets have become quite popular because of their portability as well as being far less cumbersome than laptops. Amazon’s Kindle Fire is a small tablet that came out a couple of years ago. It has a list price of under $200 and its latest version has a high definition screen. The Kindle allows you to easily surf the web and check your email. It does offer fewer apps than Apple’s iPad but that should change with time. If you are a bit of technophobe, the Kindle Fire is a great way to get you into the 21st century.

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4 and S5 Android smartphones are quickly rivaling Apple’s iPhone in terms of market share and are preferred by many who use PCs instead of Macs.

Taking your devices outside of your home or office frequently means that you are away from electric outlets. Battery packs from MyCharge significantly extend the time you can use your iPad, iPod, iPhone, tablet and Android a lot longer without having to worry about plugging them into a socket. When you are in your abode iHome has a number of docking stations that will charge your devices and some of them have alarm clocks and radios to boot. Duracell’s Powermat lets you charge a number of devices with one plug.

As much we take it for granted that we are living in a high-tech world, Hurricane Sandy reminded us that there is very much a place for old-school products such as Radio Shack pocket radios, VTech corded landline telephones, and of course, Eveready flashlights and lanterns.

The fall is traditionally the most popular time of the year for guys to spruce up their wardrobes.

Schuyler 4, American Eagle, Armani Exchange and Lands End all make great-looking shirts, pants and jackets that are ideal for socializing, business meetings and job interviews.

Levi’s have always been considered the Mercedes-Benz of jeans. Like a Benz, however, they have been far more expensive than their competitors. In response to the tough economy Levi Strauss has recently created a pair of budget lines called Denizen and Signature, which provide quality at affordable prices. The company has introduced a new line of denim trucker and commuter jackets.

Sears’ various private label lines, Carhatt, Outdoor Life and Structure, make a wide array of quality and stylish coats, jackets, shirts, and pants at prices that fit into practically every budget.

Ties have made a comeback in recent years but styles have changed from the neckwear that our dads wore to work. Ties.com is a clearinghouse for neckwear in all colors, designs, and widths.

Crocs is the Colorado-based shoe company that is best known for its ubiquitous beach clogs. Entering its second decade Crocs is expanding into everyday footwear and its suede moccasin is a comfortable and stylish shoe. Steve Madden, who has a factory and showroom in Long Island City, has been synonymous with women’s shoes but in the last few years has expanded into men’s dress shoes as well as messenger tote bags for guys. Potenza is a new shoe company whose footwear reminds you of Allen Edmonds but is sold at a third of the price because of low overhead and the fact that its leather comes from Poland instead of more expensive places as Italy.

You can’t think about shoes without thinking of socks. PACT socks have lively styles and are made from organic cotton.

Being well-groomed is important for both career and social purposes. Panasonic’s Arc 5 is an electric razor with five motorized cutters that will give you a comfortable barber-close shave. Norelco, which invented the Tripleheader, which quickly became the most popular electric razor on the market nearly 40 years ago, continues to refine it with the Series 9000. My only complaint is that Norelco is that the company should start making corded razors again instead of making one charge it ahead of time. With cellphones and tablets, we have enough devices that we have to charge and limited space and electric outlets to do it.

Moving away from where you’ve grown up is often the first time that you need to buy luggage. Transpack’s Butterfly Cargo and Ful’s Double Time are lightweight compact rolling suitcases. Both companies also have backpacks for toting books and laptops. If you need heavy-duty luggage, Briggs & Riley makes suitcases that will last several lifetimes. For weekend getaways, the Helly Hansen 50L Duffel Bag is highly recommended.

Go out and get “As” if you are a student or land that job or promotion if you are now in “the real world.”

Posted in Queenswide, Blog, Back to school fall guide, Central, Eastern, North, South, Western on Monday, September 15, 2014 10:40 am. Updated: 11:12 am. | Tags: Ipad , Apple Inc. , Iphone , Vera Bradley , Black Decker , Staples , George Foreman , Hamilton Beach , Philips , Irwin Tools , Hewlett-packard , Samsung , Ties.com , Gordon Ramsay , Toshiba , Sony , Tablet Devices , Portable Computing , Motorola , Norton , Cellular Devices , Smartphone , Amazon Kindle , Amazon , Kindle Fire , Android , Smartphones , Ipod , High-tech World , Levi Strauss , Denim Trucker , Crocs , Steve Madden , Potenza , Panasonic , Radio Shack , Bissell , Black & Decker Comments (0)

Monday 06/09/2014
Father’s Day gift and travel guide

It is impossible to truly thank the people who most shaped your life, but Father’s Day is certainly an occasion to express appreciation for one of them, dad.

Getting a tie may be a cliche but it doesn’t have to be that way now thanks to the Esquire line available at Men’s Wearhouse as well as the limitless choices that can be found at ties.com.

You can’t go wrong with shirts from such well-known makers as Armani Exchange, American Eagle and J. Crew. Sears’ Outdoor Life brand makes shirts and pants that are very comfortable and durable at a fraction of the price of the aforementioned. Luchiano Visconti makes shirts for guys who aren’t afraid to wear bright colors and attention-grabbing designs as evidenced by their paisleys and stripes.

Lands End, Target, JC Penney, Burlington and Kohl’s (especially their Marc Anthony brand) sell coats and jackets in all sizes and weights for nearly every budget. If you can spend a bit more, the Mackage.com offers almost every leather jacket you can think of. The Danish designer Iris Von Arnim has a huge collection of cashmere sweaters and jackets.

Luxor Linens’ Egyptian cotton bathrobes are a great way to relax around the house after a bath or shower.

Men’s shoes have far more styles today than when I was growing up. Designer Steve Madden, who has long had a showroom and small factory in Sunnyside that made women’s footwear, has now entered the men’s footwear market. Dr. Scholl’s, which is synonymous for shoe inserts, is now making dress shoes for guys. Even Crocs, which is still best known for its plastic beach clog, has expanded into the leisure dress shoe industry. If you are looking for a stylish work shoe, Beckett-Simonon has the quality of Allen Edmunds but at a price roughly a third of the well-known New York retailer because their shoes are made in Poland and are sold only online.

Sunglasses are as much for fashion as to protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. Carrera and Ray-Ban are still the two big names in the industry with both Maui Jim and SHAUNS California rapidly gaining on them. You can’t go wrong with either Foster Grant or Polaroid if you are on a tighter budget.

Watches are the most popular form of jewelry for men and they run the gamut in price. These days men treat timepieces as fashion accessories as much as women do. The funny thing is that an inexpensive watch doesn’t look all that different from its pricier counterpart and tells the same time. A good case in point are watches made by Long Island City’s own Armitron and the Bedlam and Agent watch lines from House of Horology, which were created by Forest Hills High School alum Lawrence Leyderman. Dakota, Fossil, Paul Frank, and of course, Timex have plenty of attractive timepieces for well under $100.

If dad is a sports fan New Era will certainly have a T-shirt, jacket and cap of his favorite team. The hip T-shirt company Sportiqe makes terrific NBA apparel including a number of retro logos and styles. Old Navy and Sears are good places to go if you want to get a good deal on Major League Baseball apparel. Aeropostale does not have licensing agreements with any of the professional leagues but it does have one in place with the NCAA so it’s a good place to buy apparel that features the name of your father’s alma mater.

Athletic Recon doesn’t have licensing deals in place with the big sports leagues but it does make T-shirts, pants and windbreakers for those who are serious about working out.

Sports memorabilia has a special place in the hearts of many men. Steiner Sports is the undisputed leader in autographed collectibles from nearly every sport imaginable, while a smaller rival, Brigandi Coins & Collectibles, has a strong collection of New York Mets memorabilia.

Levi Strauss is to jeans what Kleenex is to tissues, a brand so dominant that it is almost synonymous with the product that they make. Levi’s, as they are better known, may make the most comfortable and durable jeans but the company has faced significant competition over the years. Taking on rivals along with a still tough economy has encouraged the San Francisco-based corporation to create budget lines as Signature and Denizen, which offer Levi’s quality but at Wrangler and Lee prices, and their lighter weight makes them a good summer purchase.

Staying fit is important for everyone but it’s particularly vital as one ages. Bicycle riding through Flushing Meadows Park is great exercise especially in warm weather as Schwinn, Cannondale, Xtracycyle and Mongoose all make high-quality bikes for all levels of cyclists.

Your father may not be in training for the New York City Marathon but a good brisk walk can do wonders for both one’s physical and mental health. Brooks Running, Asics, Avia, Reebok and Nike all make footwear that are lighter than the traditional sneaker making it easier to go longer distances. Spira Footwear’s Stinger II has metal springs in its heels which reduce the pressure on your foot when it strikes the ground.

My favorite summer exercise is walking on the beach. It is refreshing when the surf goes over your feet and the upper calf muscles get a good workout in the process. Crocs, Havaianas and Oka-B make footwear specifically for the beach.

Speaking of health, vitamins are a good Father’s Day “stocking stuffer.” Nearly everyone can benefit from a good multivitamin. If your father needs a little help in lowering his cholesterol Quality of Life’s CardioChol, Nature Made’s Cholest Off and CoQ10, as well as New Chapter’s Garlic Force all purport to help lower bad cholesterol.

Women’s products have long dominated the fragrance and skin care industries but men have chipped away at the market share. Contrary to popular belief, Mary Kay, Amway, Shiseido, Turo, ReVive, Organic Doctor and Avon now all make colognes, aftershaves, cleansers, and yes, anti-aging serums for men while Menaji, Jack Black and Anthony Logistics have always made products exclusively for guys. Another good choice is Dossage 8 for Men from former Jackson Heights resident Tara Durkin who set up her company in LA.

All men worry about their hair regardless of age and certainly more so as they get older. Paul Brown Hawaii, Baxter of California, Austin Kyle, Tigi B, Paul Mitchell and Recitals are salon-caliber shampoos. Grande Hair is a spray that purports to stimulate the follicles to give hair a fuller, thicker appearance. Grande also make a high- quality shampoo.

Managing facial hair is another thing guys obsess over. Gillette’s Fusion ProGlide with FlexBall Technology is that company’s start-of-the-art manual razor. If you want to see other high-tech shaving instruments from Gillette and other companies then log onto harrys.com.

Gadgets are always popular gifts. Hewlett-Packard’s ENVYx2 is a notebook that has a screen that can separate and become a tablet. Last year H-P introduced the Pocket Playlist, a whopping 32 GB flashdrive that can hold a countless amount of movies, other video and music. Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3 is a popular smartphone that can also double as a tablet. Amazon’s Kindle is still the most popular 7” tablet while the very budget-friendly Acer has recently developed the Iconia A1-830 8” Android tablet.

Of course you always need to keep your devices charged. Radio Shack has a small and flat rectangular charger that the company calls the Portable Power Bank. The Fort Worth-based company, which presented a very costly and humorous ad during the 2014 Super Bowl poking fun at its dated image, has come into the 21st century in another way by creating numerous HDMI cables that link laptop computers with flat screen televisions so that you can load Netflix and Amazon Prime offerings on your device and watch it as if you would a network television program.

The popularity of the chefs on Food Network and the Cooking Channel have made more men want to prepare their own meals. Kohl’s is selling a line of Bobby Flay woks, carving boards and skillets as well as a number of George Foreman indoor grills. For those who have outdoor space, Char-broil manufactures numerous portable, electric and charcoal grills.

While on the topic of food, let’s get to the world of spirits. A number of medical surveys have indicated that red wine is beneficial for cardiac health. I am partial to pinot noir that is produced in the Pacific Northwest from wineries as Benton-Lane and Willamette Valley. Argentina’s Terrazas de los Andes’ malbec and cabernet sauvignon are also full-bodied wines that are easy to sip since they do not have a bitter aftertaste.

Just as there are no shortage of good red wines, the selection of harder liquors is plentiful as well. Johnnie Walker is still the household name in whisky Macallan, Canadian Club, Glenfiddich, Balvenie, The Fat Trout and Grant’s Family Reserve are worthy competitors. Japan, which has long been known for great sake (TY KU is the leading brand here) is home to fine whisky brands as Yamazaki and Hamishu. And of course, let’s not sell America short. Jack Daniel’s is iconic but Russell’s Reserve Bourbon and American Alibi Whisky show that the USA can produce quality hard booze as well.

Rums and vodka are a little easier on the palate. Bacardi, Jose Cuervo, Don Julio, Herradura, Partida, and Milagro are the best known rums while Stolichnaya, Smirnoff, Ketel One, Georgi and Reyka are their vodka counterparts.

Aperitifs are the candy of the alcohol world. Baileys Irish Cream, Kahlua, Godiva Liquer, LeSutra Sparkling Liquer and Solerno Blood Orange Liquer are some of the popular choices.

Getting moving in the morning doesn’t get easier as you get older. If dad likes his coffee when the day starts, Black & Decker has a number of inexpensive coffee makers. If he likes his java with a little more pizzazz get him the De Longhi Lattisma Pro. Both Starbucks and Caffebene sell break-resistant coffee mugs.

While it’s not wise to encourage smoking, there is little harm if pop enjoys a cigar for special occasions. Macanudo, CAO, Cohiba and La Gloria Cubana (all made in the Dominican Republic) are top-notch brands.

Of course for dad to truly enjoy a good meal and/or occasional drink without guilt it is important that he get exercise. Local gyms such as the New York Sports Club, Crunch, New York Health & Racquet Club, and Equinox generally have Father’s Day membership promotions.

Golf is a great way to get exercise and fresh air although it can be a very frustrating game. Callaway Golf makes terrific clubs for the novice and for those on the PGA Tour. If dad has some old irons get him a jar of Colle (colleproducts.com) to restore their luster and prevent further tarnishing. If it has been awhile since dad worked on his game then send him out to the driving range at Alley Pond Park and the Pitch & Putt at Flushing Meadows Park.

Hitting the links after a lengthy layoff (after the miserable winter we endured that means nearly all golfers who weren’t in Florida or Arizona the first quarter of the year) may cause strain on a variety of muscles. A massage at the various spas around town such as the Red Door, the Marilyn Monroe Spa in the Times Square Grand Hyatt and Truman’s is a great way to improve blood circulation. A warning though. The old saying of “No pain, no gain” was probably derived from a masseuse. Log onto the spaweek.com website to learn about various discounts and promotions from spas in our area.

Amazon.com got its start selling books online and now you can buy almost anything on it. If dad is handy, Amazon sells both Stanley and DeWalt hand and power tools at discount prices.

There are millions of books out there but I bet that the family dictionary has probably seen better days with wrinkled pages and binding that is falling apart. Dad would probably appreciate a brand new dictionary from Merriam-Webster.

A lot of men are automobile enthusiasts. While only a select few in the world can afford to even think about buying a Rolls-Royce, the company used its display area at the recent New York International Auto Show to promote its leather tote bags with the Rolls symbol on them. An art-related gift idea would be to purchase framed covers of past issues of Car & Driver which is available on that magazine’s website.

If you need even more gift ideas there are a number of full-service and cable shopping websites such as amazon.com, ideeli.com, thefind.com, luvocracy.com, redenvelope.com, hsn.com and qvc.com.

A lot of dads are sports fans and it is always a lot of fun to see your favorite team on the road. San Diego is always a beautiful place to visit particularly in August when its balmy breezes are a welcome contrast from the New York heat and humidity.

The Mets will be visiting San Diego right after the All-Star Game break to play the Padres in one of the nicest ballparks you’ll ever set foot in, Petco Park. Queens’ own JetBlue has two flights a day between JFK and San Diego’s Lindbergh Airport.

There is no shortage of reasonably priced lodging in the San Diego area. The historic Grande Colonial, located in La Jolla Village, just celebrated its centennial. The hotel is located a block from the Pacific Ocean. The sunsets at La Jolla Cove are spectacular.

The Grand Hyatt La Jolla is located a couple of miles east of the Grande Colonial Hotel in the University Town Center section of San Diego which is reminiscent of Queens in many ways because of its neighborhood feel, numerous stores and restaurants and public transportation. The Grand Hyatt La Jolla has an Olympic-sized outdoor swimming pool and large Jacuzzi that certainly capture the spirit of Southern California.

The West Inn & Suites is a boutique hotel located just north of San Diego in the town of Carlsbad. The West Inn provides a lot of amenities including a complimentary local shuttle bus, hot buffet breakfast, and even milk and cookies before bedtime (ah, the kid in all of us!) for a very reasonable rate.

If you are looking to go just a little off the tourist beaten path in Southern California try the Lake Arrowhead Resort in the San Bernardino Mountains, which is renowned for some of the region’s best fishing.

Las Vegas has no shortage of hotels and that competition is great for travelers. The Cosmopolitan is one of the town’s hipper and more offbeat lodging properties while the Cromwell is Sin City’s first boutique hotel.

Summer is understandably the off-season in South Florida and the ritzy Turnberry Isle Resort located just north of Miami Beach in the town of Aventura offers heavily discounted packages that include lodging, food, and of course, a round of golf on its championship course. Two great golf resorts just up the road from Aventura on 1-95 in Palm Beach County are the PGA Resort in Palm Beach Gardens and the Seagate Resort in Delray Beach.

Miami may be hot and humid in the summer but there were times last July and August where it was more bearable there than here. One thing that is not in dispute is that it is off-season for some of the town’s toniest hotels such as the legendary Fontainebleau and South Beach properties as the Mayfair, Bentley, Gale and Sanctuary. Ask for a package that includes a spa treatment.

It wasn’t that long ago that downtown Miami was a scary and deserted place after 5 p.m. These days it is as modern and exciting as South Beach across Biscayne Bay. The Conrad Miami, a Hilton property, is offering a summer $100 rate promotion. The nearby Epic Hotel also has some great rates as well.

This is also the quiet season for Caribbean resorts and there are also bargains to be had. It should be noted that the sea breezes keep a lot of the islands from getting unbearably hot or overly humid.

The Sandals Resort in Jamaica has one of the best golf courses in the Caribbean and it is a lot easier getting a tee time now than in December.

Don’t worry if dad doesn’t hit the links. He can still enjoy the beaches and spas of the Sugar Beach Resort in St. Lucia, the Atlantis and Paradise Island Resort in Nassau, Bahamas, the Westin St. John Resort & Villas in the US Virgin Islands, or the Hyatt Regency Aruba.

You get a great bang for the buck in the Dominican Republic and the city of Punta Cana has become one of the world’s most popular resorts because of the number of terrific all inclusive resorts such as the Grand Palladium, Dreams and Secrets where nearly everything is included in your room rate.

It should be noted that JetBlue has service throughout the Caribbean.

The success of the Resorts World Casino at Aqueduct has forced nearby gaming casinos to be more competitive. The Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut gets in the biggest names in entertainment to perform in its arena and it has top-notch restaurants, a world-class spa and even professional sports, as it’s the home of the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun.

If you do go to Mohegan Sun try to set a day or two aside in nearby and beautiful Newport, Rhode Island, where you can see historic mansions, the first synagogue in the United States and the Tennis Hall of Fame. The Castle Hill Inn offers “learn to sail” packages in honor of Newport’s rich maritime history. The America’s Cup used to be held here every three years.

Atlantic City is synonymous with gambling but it has plenty of other activities to keep one busy. Walking its world-famous five-mile boardwalk is great exercise. Its newest hotel, the billion-dollar Revel, is located on the north end of the boardwalk and is meant to be a competitor to the chic Borgata located a mile away on the bay. My suggestion is to visit the Revel and enjoy a meal there but stay a couple of blocks south on the AC boardwalk at the Taj Mahal, where you’ll get far better value and feel more at home.

New York State’s Finger Lakes region can rival California’s Napa and Sonoma valleys when it comes to both quality wines and the number of wineries one can visit. The annual Finger Lakes Wine Festival will take place July 11-13 at one of the most famous motor sports racetracks in the world, Watkins Glen International.

There is of course plenty for pop to do here in New York City. With summer upon us a dinner cruise on either World Yacht or Spirit Cruises is a very enjoyable way to spend an evening. The warmer weather is also a great time to see the Big Apple’s various attractions. CityPASS and New York Pass allow you to see a lot of sites for one price but there are time restrictions.

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads!

Posted in Central, Eastern, North, Queenswide, South, Western, Blog on Monday, June 9, 2014 12:28 pm. Updated: 12:37 pm. | Tags: Levi Strauss , New York Mets , Crocs , Solerno Blood Orange Liquer , American Eagle , Armani Exchange , J. Crew , Kohl , Iris Von Arnim , Scholl , Steve Madden , Allen Edmunds , Polaroid , La Gloria Cubana , Paul Frank , Lawrence Leyderman , Nba , National Basketball Association , Major League Baseball , Old Navy , Aeropostale , The Ncaa , Brigandi Coins , Brooks Running , Amazon , Forest Hills High School , Reebok , Nike , Stinger , Avon , Mary Kay , Shiseido , Jack Black , Tara Durkin , Paul Mitchell , Austin Kyle , Paul Brown Hawaii , Gillette , Hewlett-packard , Smartphone , Android Tablet , Kindle , Android , Dominican Republic , Caribbean , Radio Shack , The 2014 Super Bowl , Netflix , Fort Worth , Hdmi , Cooking Channel , George Foreman , Willamette Valley , Andes , Los Andes , Argentina , Canadian Club , Japan , Jack Daniel , Jose Cuervo , Don Julio , Lesutra Sparkling Liquer , Godiva Liquer , Black Decker , Java , Starbucks , Cohiba , Macanudo , Crunch New York Health Racquet Club , New York Sports Club , Pga Tour , Callaway Golf , The Pga Tour , Marilyn Monroe Spa , Spaweek.com , Power Tools , Rolls-royce , Lindbergh Airport , Palm Beach , Grande Colonial Hotel , University Town Center , West Inn Suites , Carlsbad , Boutique Hotel , Levi , San Bernardino Mountains , Las Vegas , Miami Beach , Palm Beach County , Delray Beach , South Beach , Biscayne Bay , Epic Hotel , Bahamas , Us Virgin Islands , Punta Cana , Newport , Connecticut Sun , Castle Hill Inn , Atlantic City , Taj Mahal , Napa Valley , Sonoma Valley , Finger Lakes Comments (0)

Thursday 05/15/2014
Forest Hills vet is now in the ‘loop’

Dr. Greg Nelson, a veterinarian at Boulevard Animal Clinic in Forest Hills, recently received a portable countertop hearing loop on May 9, donated by Dr. Carol Letzter, director and owner of Harmony Hearing & Speech Center, located in Howard Beach. Letzter donated the hearing loop to the animal clinic as part of her participation in the Help Loop America Campaign.

Hearing loops provide a magnetic field in which an audio signal can be picked up by an individual’s hearing aid that contains a T-coil, or telecoil. Even when a person with a hearing loss is using a hearing device such as a hearing aid, the user may still encounter difficulty hearing in noisy environments or where the acoustics are poor, resulting in echoes and reverberation that make speech hard to understand. A hearing loop eliminates all background noise, allowing the person wearing a hearing device such as a hearing aid or cochlear implant to receive a signal that is clear and discrete.

Hearing loops may be portable, such as the one now being used at the animal clinic, or permanent, where an entire room is looped.

Boulevard Animal Clinic is the first veterinary practice in New York to offer individuals who have difficulty hearing a portable, wireless countertop hearing loop.

“It is very important for my clients’ owners to hear important health information about their pets and the hearing loop will ensure that they are hearing information that pertains to their pet’s care,” said Nelson, who is the doctor for Letzter’s cat Tori, the official mascot of Harmony.

“A hearing loop is the only assistive listening device which provides clear transmission of the speaker’s voice directly into the user’s hearing aid or cochlear implant, as long as the device has a T-coil,” Letzter explained. “A T-coil can be installed in a hearing aid very inexpensively or at no charge at all. It is the only simple component that provides universal advantages to any hearing aid regardless of the manufacturer.”

Letzter has donated similar loops to other businesses and institutions, including Cross Bay Diner and Cross Bay Chemists in Howard Beach and St. Helen Church.

Posted in South, Central, Blog on Thursday, May 15, 2014 10:30 am. Updated: 11:57 am. | Tags: Veterinarian Comments (0)

Crystal Windows & Doors: It’s a team

With some 300 employees in its Queens-based headquarters, no fewer than 16 product lines, each containing multiple styles, and $67 million worth of sales revenue in 2013, Crystal Window & Door Systems, Ltd. seems well on its way to living up to its corporate vision: “to become the premier manufacturer of windows, doors and associated products in North America.”

Located in Flushing for the past 24 years, including 14 at its current 215,000-square-foot site off the Whitestone Expressway, in the College Point Corporate Park, Crystal has even cracked Window & Door Magazine’s list of the largest manufacturers in North America, an annual designation based on sales volume.

“We were proud to be one of the top 100. Recently we rose to the top 40. Our eventual goal is to move up,” said Steven Yu, sales andmarketing manager.

According to Yu, the company’s success, even in economically difficult times, may be attributed to the fact that “we are one of the few manufacturers in the industry that offer residential and commercial products. We are very flexible at adapting to market needs and changes.”

Since last year, the company has added several new products, including a high-end aluminum window for upscale projects, which, Yu said, offers great aesthetics and clean sightlines: “The contour around the edge is clean and beautiful.”

The company also recently introduced high energy-efficiency commercial windows, he said.

Yu pointed out that, with the approach of summer, now is the ideal time to consider replacing old, drafty windows and doors in one’s home or business.

“Worn-out windows are the No. 1 source of wasted energy,” Yu said. “A new, air-tight window will keep you cool in summer and warm in winter. Homeowners will be able to save on their utility bills.”

Yu pointed out that new windows also promote better security and increase property value.

“You can redesign your house by incorporating window design,” he said.

The manager estimates that the plant produces close to 2,000 windows each day, offering plenty of job opportunities, most of which, according to Yu, are filled by area residents.

In hiring, the company looks for someone who “has a passion for what he does,” Yu said. “The way we build the company team is we treat everyone as part of our family. We promote team-building activities,” including BBQs in the park, annual banquets and even friendly table tennis competitions.

“Everyone needs to work as a team in order to fabricate a quality product,” he said.

Looking toward the future, Yu said the company is making “a never-ending effort to fulfill the corporate vision. We are continuing to improve our product to have higher energy efficiency and continue to supply a high-quality product to the industry.”

Yu is particularly proud that Crystal is an exclusive sponsor of the popular A&E real estate program, “Flipping Boston.”

In all, the company has four factories. Besides the one in Flushing, it has facilities in St. Louis, Chicago and Los Angeles.

The Queens location serves not only as a manufacturing center but also as a showroom for potential customers. Showroom hours are Monday-Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday, 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Crystal Window & Door Systems is located at 31-10 Whitestone Expressway in Flushing. For further information, visit crystalwindows.com or call (718) 961-7300.

Posted in North, Blog on Thursday, May 15, 2014 10:30 am. Updated: 11:57 am. Comments (0)

Monday 05/05/2014
Mother’s Day gift and travel guide

It is impossible to express one’s love for the woman who raised us and made us who we are today through one day of recognition and a gift. Nonetheless we should all put a little thought into a thank you even though mom will probably say that it’s not necessary.

Woodside native Jim McCann started what has become the most famous name in the floral industry, 1800Flowers, in 1971. Back then the idea of purchasing floral arrangements through a toll-free phone call was revolutionary. Over the years, McCann has expanded his business to include all kinds of gift baskets.

Harry & David’s is known for its sweet confection gift baskets but the company also has a fruit-of-the-month club where you can buy a membership for mom.

Jewelry can run the gamut in price and quality. Long Island jewelry designer Nancy Rosen has been working with Bravo’s “Housewives” franchise for years and her Housewives Jewelry website has numerous offerings. She combines style with a sense of humor with her OC Elegance Statement Necklace that contains Swarovski Crystals. Nancy dubs this admittedly over-the-top look as the perfect present for a mom “who wants to look as if she is dripping in jewelry.”

You can also try reasontobepretty.com for a range of apparel and accessories. Livewordly.com and AutismSpeaks.org enable you to give donations to charitable causes as you shop.

Jennifer Lopez, Kim Kardashian and Kate Young are celebrities who have lent their names and all claim that they were in on the design process to clothing and jewelry lines that are on sale at Kohl’s, Kmart and Target, respectively.

There are more options than ever for buying stylish jewelry pieces without breaking the bank. Matterial Fix (yes, there are 2 t’s), Freida Rothman, Lia Sophia, Forever Brilliant, Lulu Avenue, Jewel Be Mine and Liliro all offer pendants, earrings, and bracelets for every budget. Article 22 has an interesting twist on the old slogan, “Make love, not war” as they use the scrap from old military weapons for their jewelry.

If you are going to buy mom jewelry, be sure to pick up a can of Colle, (colleproducts.com), a cleaning mousse that keeps valuables from getting tarnished by age.

Watches are the most popular form of jewelry and the great news is that companies as Timex, Fossil, Dakota, and Long Island City’s own Armitron produce quality timepieces for under $75 that look as if they cost three times that amount. If you are willing to spend more to get a high-quality timepiece, the House of Horology (hohwatches.com), founded by Forest Hills High School alum Lawrence Leyderman (hohwatches.com), has watches that rival Rolex and Tag Heuer but have a price that is not even half of those respected high-end brands but are every bit as good.

Handbags are always popular. Olivia & Joy and Edie Parker both make fine clutches, satchels and totes. Vera Bradley is known for its lively cloth pocketbooks and weekend duffels. Very few of us can afford a Rolls-Royce but the legendary British company makes a number of accessories including sleek leather travel bags. Famed clothing designers Isaac Mizrachi and Jonathan Adler also make high-end tote bags.

Burlington is best known for selling clothing at discount prices but it also sells handbags and jewelry at reasonable prices.

There is no shortage of perfumes on the market but choosing the right one is not easy. Sephora, the renowned beauty products retailer, has a gift box that the company smartly calls “Favorites” that contains perfumes from Dolce & Gabbana and Versace. Former Jackson Heights resident Tara Durkan started a fragrance company in L.A., Dossage, and Dossage 8 for Her is a tongue-in-cheek tribute to Chanel No. 5. Lavanila and Soap & Paper are two other companies that have a wide array of fragrances.

For those who value celebrity product endorsements, Beyonce, who made the cover of the “TIME Magazine 100 Most Influential People” issue has created a perfume called RISE. Sephora is offering a Dreams Fragrance Sampler.

If you have money to burn on perfume, a 100 ml bottle of Bond No. 9 NYC perfume retails in the $500-$600 range.

There was a time when one might feel self-conscious using any kind of skin care product. Not anymore. These days folks of all ages are using anti-wrinkle cremes and anti-aging serums.

There is no shortage of quality producers of these products and that has led to competitive pricing in a very upscale industry. Avon’s Anew Clinical Infinite Lift Targeting Contouring Serum, Josie Maran Aragon Infinity Lip & Cheeky Creamy Oil, Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum, and Nude Skincare Essential Skin Radiance Kit are mouthfuls to say or write but they all correct a variety of dermatological problems. Dr. Brandt Skin Care products, founded by New York dermatologist Dr. Fredric Brandt, have a wide array of highly regarded moisturizers and facial cleansers.

In a similar vein, Korres White Grape Shower Gel and Espa Soothing Bath Oils help remove dead skin cells when you are showering.

For those who find comfort in the term “organic,” an Australian company, Nvey Eco, makes a full line of cosmetics free of any harmful chemicals.

BMR, Vbeaute, Clarins, Turo, Tilth Beauty, Deremelect, Glo Minerals, RejuveMD, Laura Mercier, Nyakio, ReVive, and Shiseido are also highly regarded companies that make quality dermatological products but they can be pricy.

Mineral Fusion is quietly rivaling Avon, Maybelline, and Estee Lauder as a full-service manufacturer of beauty products as it makes its own line of lipsticks, eye shadow, mascara, moisturizers, body lotions and shampoos — MineralFusion.com, beauty.com and luvocracy.com.

Hair products are a tricky purchase because nearly everyone is particular about what they want to use on or for their scalp. Conair, Drybar, and Rusk make hair dryer and curling irons that make hair look fuller as do shampoos as Grande Hair Nutra Peptide, Austin Kyle and Paul Brown.

Summer is coming and that means so is sandals season. Ocean Minded and Havaianas both make sandals that can be worn as part of everyday fashion as well as on the beach. The same can be said for those durable clogs made by Crocs or the stylish, durable as well as American-made spa shoes produced by Oka-B.

The arrival of warmer days means that the sun is out for more hours and that its rays are quite direct. Coola, Kiss My Face, Coppertone and Dr. Brandt all make sunscreens with high SPF counts that maximize skin protection.

Sunglasses are also a must to prevent damage ocular damage. Mom will surely love fashionable Carrera shades. Newcomers as Flutter, Shauns, ICU, Zeal, and Studio S (a private line for Sears department stores) also make fashionable eyewear at a fraction of the price of the bigger names in the optical industry.

Artwork makes for creative gifts. The MoMa Design Store sells prints, sculptures, and products such as dining ware and decorative clocks that can double as art. A new company called Grillie makes offbeat ornaments that can be attached to the grill of a car. Café Press is a company which can make mom a work of art by putting her likeness on T-shirts, mugs, tote bags, and even a Monopoly game board.

Cooking is a form of art to man y and if your mother loves to be in the kitchen, Sur La Table and Crate & Barrel have every type of cookware imaginable.

Staying in shape is important for everyone. US Polo Association, Everlast, and Ryka all make quality workout attire that is also very fashionable. Ryka is one of the few athletic shoe companies that makes running shoes and other types of sneakers exclusively for women.

Putting on a Luxor Linens Egyptian cotton bathrobe and relaxing after a shower is a perfect way to reward yourself for after a hard day.

If you still need more help in looking for a gift, by all means go to the websites of such online retailers as LXR & Company, Charming Charlie, Amazon, HSN, QVC, and Ideeli.

A lot of older mothers are technophobes and know little or nothing about things that a lot of us take for granted such as the internet and email. If you’re afraid that your mom would be intimidated by a desktop or laptop computer then start her off with an inexpensive tablet such as an Amazon Kindle Fire, Radio Shack Stealth Pro Android, or ones from Acer or Lenovo.

Every mother deserves pampering combined with a change of scenery. There are a number of spa resorts located within a three-hour drive of Queens. Nearby spa resorts are the Spa at Norwich Inn in Connecticut, and for those in a New York State of mind, the Emerson Spa near Woodstock and the Mohonk House in New Paltz.

The Hope Lake Lodge in the Finger Lakes town of Cortland has the Waterfalls Spa and it is located in the heart of New York State’s winery region. Nearly all of the wineries in the area are discounting their vino in May. Then again, if mom is a Jets fan it may pay to wait until late July or early August when the team returns to Cortland for training camp.

The success of the Resorts World Casino at Aqueduct has forced both of Connecticut’s casinos, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, to offer better entertainment, restaurants and spas as well as deals on hotel rooms. The same can be said for Atlantic City. While hipster types will want to flock to the Borgata or the Revel, my guess is that mom will feel more at home at the Trump Taj Mahal. The Taj may not have the bells and whistles of its newer rivals but it’s easier to navigate and has terrific amenities such as a rooftop indoor pool with an outdoor deck to catch rays on a warm day. And yes, it has a spa as well.

If you want to give mom a change of scenery a little farther away from these parts after Mother’s Day here are some ideas.

South Florida hotels are heading into their off-season. The Turnberry Isle in the Aventura section of Miami-Dade County and the nearby Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa in Broward County both offer heavily discounted golf, spa, food and room packages compared with the December through early April peak season.

Of course when you think of South Florida you think about its gorgeous beaches. You couldn’t blame mom if she just wanted to relax on the sands of a luxury property. In the Palm Beach area, you can’t do better than the Eau Palm Beach, which is located in the town of Manalapan and was previously the Ritz-Carlton. If mom is a golfer or wants to learn the game, the PGA Resort in Palm Beach Gardens is the place to be. The PGA Resort is also known for its fine restaurants.

If mom wants to be treated like a queen in the heart of the Miami Beach action, she can choose between the Ritz-Carlton South Beach, the Loews Miami Beach Hotel, and without argument the most famous hotel name in Miami Beach history, the Fontainebleau.

An alternative to staying in the hustle-bustle of Miami Beach, but still having easy access to it, is to try any of the fairly new resorts located five miles north on Collins Avenue in the city of Sunny Isles Beach. Not only is it quieter but it has a neighborhood feel with supermarkets, local stores, restaurants, and public transportation similar to that of Queens. The Aqualina Resort is a top-of-the-line property in Sunny Isles.

Southern California is a great alternative to Florida and it’s generally not anywhere nearly as humid. The Hyatt Regency La Jolla and the 101-year-old Grande Colonial in the village of La Jolla are two of San Diego’s best hotels. The Grande Colonial offers breathtaking views of the sun setting over the Pacific.

Mothers will feel like movie stars if they stay at either of two of the Los Angeles area’s most fabled lodging properties, the Beverly Hills Hotel or the Hotel Bel Air.

You can’t enjoy the beach or pool without having quality swimwear. Jantzen and Nautica are great for basic bathing suits but if you want mom to feel like a celebrity at the resort, Marie France van Dame and Sophia Graydon both sell high-end resort apparel and sleepwear as well.

The tradewinds that grace the United States Virgin Islands serve as a buffer against summer heat and humidity. The Caneel Bay Rosewood Resort, the Rosewood Little Dix Bay Resort and the Westin St. John’s Resort offer pristine sandy beaches and the sparkling blue water of the Caribbean Sea.

If you want to get the best bang for your buck for a vacation for mom, you can’t go wrong the Grand Palladium Resorts in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. All meals and beverages are included in the price as is most of the other amenities. Vacations in the Dominican Republic are about half of the cost of neighboring Caribbean getaways. Just as it does with most warm weather spots in our hemisphere, Queens’ own JetBlue offers frequent service to Punta Cana from JFK.

Of course mom can have a lot of fun just staying in our area. The Spirit of New York which docks at Chelsea Piers may not be the Breakaway but its three-hour dinner cruise and cabaret entertainment has made it a popular venue for celebrations of all kinds. World Yacht, located four blocks west of Times Square at Pier 81, also has brunch and dinner cruises.

The Big Apple has no shortage of spas to help mom unwind. Red Door and Oasis Day Spas offer everything from facials to massages at their various New York area locations. The Waldorf-Astoria Towers has the highly regarded Guerlain Spa while a newcomer to Manhattan, the Hyatt Times Square, is home to the Marilyn Monroe Spa.

The warmer weather makes it easier to get around and enjoy New York’s many attractions such as taking a boat ride around town on the Circle Line, going to the Empire State Building Observatory, and visiting our world famous museums such as the Metropolitan, Modern Art (MoMA), Natural History and the Guggenheim. Both CityPASS and its chief competitor, New York Pass sell booklets/cards that will allow mom and a guest access to all of the aforementioned for a price far less than paying for each attraction individually. The trick is that you have a limited amount of time, anywhere from three to nine days, once you get started.

Happy Mother’s Day to all!

Posted in Queenswide, Blog on Monday, May 5, 2014 4:43 pm. Updated: 4:50 pm. | Tags: Tara Durkan , Nancy Rosen , Kohl , Kmart , Freida Rothman , Jewel Be Mine , Lia Sophia , Lawrence Leyderman , Edie Parker , Vera Bradley , Rolls-royce , Jim Mccann , Isaac Mizrachi , Jonathan Adler , Sephora , Drunk Elephant T.l.c. , Shiseido , Laura Mercier , Estee Lauder , Hair Products , Beauty Products , Paul Brown , Austin Kyle , Ocean Havaianas , Moma Design Store , Us Polo Association , Amazon , Lxr Company , Qvc , Hsn , Charming Charlie , Ideeli , Kindle , Emerson Spa , Norwich Inn , Waterfalls Spa , Hope Lake Lodge , Taj Mahal , Atlantic City , Turnberry Isle , Eau Palm Beach , Miami Beach , Miami-dade County , Ritz-carlton South Beach , Beverly Hills Hotel , Marie France Van Dame , Sophia Graydon , Guerlain Spa , Waldorf-astoria Towers , Marilyn Monroe Spa , Hyatt Times Square , Empire State Building Observatory , Guggenheim , New York Pass Comments (0)

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