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This article shared 614 times since Wed Dec 6, 2017
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Heir to the 'Thrones'

There are so many binge-worthy TV shows out there, it's almost ridiculous. However, three shows that are definitely worth your couch time are Game of Thrones, Big Little Lies and Insecure ( from HBO Home Entertainment )—and, if you know someone who hasn't started on "Thrones," the holidays are the perfect time to get that person started.

Straw material

The West is known for many things, and the ice-cream chain Salt & Straw ( ) should be added to gift-givers' lists. There are several intriguing ( and, thankfully, delicious ) flavors, including Apple Brandy & Pecan Pie and Gingerbread Cookie Dough ( my favorite ).

Made in the shades

Can you really go wrong with John Varvatos sunglasses ( )? The stylish brand introduces two new sun styles this season, Windsor and Stardust, that, respectively, pay homage to Detroit's vintage cars and steel-clad architecture as well as the 1970s British rock scene.

It's in your DNA

Want to know the truth about your ancestry? Well, take a chance with 23andMe's at-home DNA kit ( ), which allows you to learn more about their heritage, where they are from or discover family members they never knew—for better or worse. ( For those who are skeptical, a recent Today show investigation showed that this kit had 100-percent accuracy rate involving female triplets. )

Sage of innocence

Two singers are among the many with holiday-themed works out this season. Rachael Sage is debuting her first holiday EP, Joy! (with five songs like "Joy to the World" and "Tchatchkes & Latkes"), while Jackie Evancho has Someday at Christmas, in which she collaborates with various stars such as the Italian vocal trio Il Volo while singing such tines as "O Holy Night" and the title track.

Sound advice

Practically everyone knows that Dolby ( is associated with sound (witness almost any movie theater)—but people may not know the variety of products the company has to offer. There are the Ultimate Dolby home theater and sound bars, but there are also items such as Xbox One X with Dolby Atmos as well as stocking stuffers such as the movie Spider-Man: Homecoming on 4K UHD Blu-ray disc and even Dolby Cinema at AMC Gift Card (so someone can recline while enjoying the 58th film in the Fast and the Furious franchise).

A saucy attitude

Longtime Chicago restaurant Italian Vilage ( is selling its signature pasta sauces so your favorite cook can appreciate them. Items include marinara, sun-dried tomato and pesto cream sauces, providing at least some of the tools to win over the family—or that date.

Major league

The League of Chicago Theatres (, which serves a membership of more than 200 theaters, is offering play money—its own take on gift certificates. Moreover, Play Money (sold in $25 denominations and available at the 72 E. Randolph St. Hot Tix location or over the phone at 312-554-9800) is valid for a full year after purchase.

Dare to 'Dream'

Ever since he won his season of Project Runway, Christian Siriano has impressed the world with his dresses and accessories. Well, people can now moon over the book Dresses to Dream About (, in which he guides readers through his creative process.


Everyone knows that one person who loves showing his/her/their prowess on the grill. (By the way, I'm not that person.) Coyote Outdoor Living's new Electric Grill and The Asado Cooker ( offer innovative ways of grilling that steak or asparagus. Both are versatile, with the Asado having properties more like that of a slow cooker.

Losing my religion

Orthodox Calendar ( makes jaws drop every year with its calendar full of muscular models in Catholic/religious situations. However, there's something different this time: a celebration album/coffee-table set that includes framable pictures, a unique 13-months A5 wall calendar, six postcards and even an astrological chart.

Bring me some water

For consumers interested in brands that give back, water-filtration company LifeStraw has introduced LifeStraw Play (, the brand's first water-filtration product for children. LifeStraw Universal is an adapter kit that turns consumers' favorite bottles into an instant filter when hydrating anywhere—and there's a two-stage filtration system that removes bacteria, chemicals and (very importantly) bad taste.

Works of art

Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art ( always has innovative items that will impress almost any gift recipient. Among the tempting items this year are an iridescent cobalt eco-friendly tote as well as the Mike Series: Heat of The Bull T-Shirt (created by Chicago artist Hebru Brantley).

The wine starts here

With the movie being shown soon in Chicago, it's extremely timely (and pro-LGBT) to purchase Tom of Finland wine ( Tom of Finland Wines is a new label created in tribute to the legacy and artwork of Tom of Finland (Finnish artist Toukso Lasksonen, 1920-1991). It's a a blend of zinfandel, merlot, cabernet sauvignon and petite syrah that's sure to please almost any oenophile.

The JFine-r things

If you or your favorite person likes sparkle, maybe JFine Diamonds ( has something that catches your eye. This company that specializes in pink diamonds has items such as a double-halo bezel necklace with pink and white variations of the stones—yep, that'd work for a lot of people.

Fanning out

The Brookstone clock or message fan ( provides an innovative way of dissipating heat. (This may not seem palatable now, but you or your gift recipient will appreciate this during the summer.) Not only do the fans provide nice breezes, but they provide messages that are customizable. How cool! (Sorry—I couldn't resist.)

The Aera up there

The Aera diffuser set ( takes making your home smell good to the next level. Aera diffuses fragrance droplets to perfectly scent large areas, and is controllable/programmable via a smartphone app as well as by Alexa. Check it out!

Power move

In pitching Power Plate ( to Windy City Times, a saleswoman said, "You can't put a price on health." Even though that's business-speak for "it's an investment piece," the benefits of this machine far outweigh the cost, as it helps to increase strength and flexibility thanks to PrecisionWave technology—and, even better, you can enjoy a complete workout in 15 minutes. That's only half an episode of Modern Family.

Power move

In pitching Power Plate ( to Windy City Times, a saleswoman said, "You can't put a price on health." Even though that's business-speak for "it's an investment piece," the benefits of this machine far outweigh the cost, as it helps to increase strength and flexibility thanks to PrecisionWave technology—and, even better, you can enjoy a complete workout in 15 minutes. That's only half an episode of Modern Family.

In tune

Your favorite music aficionado might appreciate a couple of books on WCT's holiday list. David Bowie Made Me Gay (from Overlook Press) goes beyond the titular musician to trace the evolution of LGBT music. In addition, We Were Going to Change the World (Santa Monica Press) captures the stories of women who were active in the punk-rock scene in Southern California during the 1970s and '80s.

To tell the 'Truth'

Long Road to Hard Truth (Proud Legacy Publishing), perfect for any history buff, chronicles the journey toward the creation of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. Among other things, the book looks at the early history, when staunch advocates sought to create a monument for Black soldiers 50 years after the end of the Civil War and in response to the pervasive indignities of the time.

City life

It's interesting how little people (including myself) can know about their own cities. In This Used to Be Chicago (, Joni Hirsch Blackman examines Chicago's architectural past by uncovering the history of 90 buildings in the Windy City. Did you know of the circus school that used to be a church? See what I mean?

'Word' up

"Deep thoughts take time to surface" and "Leading the simple life can be very complicated" are just two of the aphorisms in Wisdom & Wordplay (Filament Publishing)—a book that could turn you into a modern-day Oscar Wilde. Here's one more item that might be appropriate for these times: "Having the world at your feet can go to your head."

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