Shopping guide: The well-dressed dorm


For a first care package to your college-age child, here are some items to turn a dorm room into something special. Items like these can help turn their room into a quirky-cool haven.

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Cool cover-ups: Modest workout clothes for the gym and beyond


Whether you want modest workout clothes for religious reasons or are simply self-conscious about wearing skin-baring tops and itty-bitty shorts, it can be difficult to find attractive and flattering options. These sporty staples — for in the gym or out — can help you focus on your health without worrying about a wardrobe malfunction.

​Keep your head covered and the sun out of your eyes when you go for a jog with the TRIBAL PRINTED CAP ($15) from American Apparel. The fitted hat is adorned with a breezy royal blue-and-white pinwheel stripe design. ” target=”_blank”>marseamodest.com

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Keep your skin safe from the sun with the MARMOT CYNTHIA T-SHIRT ($55), which offers UPF 20 sun protection. This elbow-length tee with quick-drying synthetic fabric keeps you covered without feeling frumpy. ” target=”_blank”>runningskirts.com

Shopping: Tap into your youth


Sixty may be the new 40, but many boomers may feel even younger. Good thing there’s an array of DIY projects, crafts and tech toys that will take adults back to the pursuits of their youth — now that they have the time to fully enjoy them. 

Forget about the cheap stuff you drank when you were in college. Make your own quality beer with the WEST COAST STYLE IPA BEER BREWING KIT ($45). The kit comes with everything needed to make one gallon of beer. The finished product should be hoppy (bitter), citrusy and floral. ” target=”_blank”>etsy.com

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Wardrobe change!


What Jewish girl wouldn’t want to mark her transition from childhood to adulthood in style? Make that two styles — the trend now is for young women to opt for the wedding treatment and have two dresses for the bat mitzvah: one for the ceremony and one for the party.

Luckily, there’s no need to blow your budget on two designer dresses. Instead, use a rental service such as Rent the Runway, co-founded by Jennifer Fleiss and Jennifer Hyman — both Jewish — through which you can rent an extra-special designer dress (or two) for your daughter at less than $75 per frock. Now it’s time to count your blessings — and your savings. Mazel tov!

1. For the ceremony, try something like the ICE BLUE MEREDITH DRESS ($60/retails for $395) from Shoshanna, a line of clothing by L.A.-educated fashion designer Shoshanna Gruss. This knee-length sheath dress has cap sleeves, a light-blue lace overlay and a slight V-neck with scalloped edge — delicate, feminine, flattering and modest. ” target=”_blank”>renttherunway.com

3. Top off the look with a piece of stare-worthy statement jewelry such as the COLOR WHEEL PENDANT ($34) from UncommonGoods. Made in the California-based Yellow Owl Workshop by artist Christine Schmidt, the 1-inch enamel pendant dangles from a 22-karat gold chain. ” target=”_blank”>americanapparel.net

Dress to impress on your next interview


You applied for your dream job and scored an interview. Congrats! Now it’s time to show your future employer that you mean business. While it may be tempting to wear something quirky or unique, keep it professional with these vestments and accessories by Jewish designers and let your personality shine instead. Now go get ’em!

GENTS:

The hand-silkscreened microfiber LOOSE SCREW TIE ($40) from UncommonGoods (above), a company founded by David Bolotsky, pulls together your look and elevates it with a subtle yet playful design. ” target=”_blank”>rag-bone.com

Tip: Make sure it’s ironed — details matter when an interviewer has to make quick judgments. 

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Tip: When buying dress pants, make sure the pant legs break at the top of your shoes. 

LADIES:

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Tip: If you do carry a smartphone, turn it off during your interview. 

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Tip: When buying a blouse, make sure it doesn’t gap at the bust and the buttons don’t pull. Be mindful of anything that exposes more than your collarbone. 

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Tip: Pencil skirts (and similar styles) should hit the knee or 1 to 2 inches above. 

Cool Kiddush cups


One type of wine glass is intentionally, and dramatically, broken during a Jewish wedding. But there is another — the Kiddush Cup — that is meant to be reused and treasured for years. After drinking from a Kiddush Cup during the matrimonial ceremony, couples often use the same cup for Shabbat and festive occasions throughout their married life. Here are some unique designs to inspire you.

For those who imbue even the most important moments in life with humor, there is the T-WINEOSAURUS REX DINOSAUR WINE CUP ($85) by The Vanilla Studio (above). Each cup is made to order from repurposed plastic dinosaur toys and a stainless steel chalice.” target=”_blank”>traditionsjewishgifts.com

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The top 7 perks of being Jewish in December


Growing up, ours was the only house on the block with a menorah glowing in the window. This should have put me on the fast track to Christmas envy, but it didn’t. I respected Christmas but was never jealous of those who celebrated. In fact, watching my neighbors actually gave me a deeper appreciation for the simpler joys of Chanukah. Here’s why:

Early-bird shopping 

Celebrating Chanukah means I usually have an earlier gift-buying deadline to meet than my counterparts. I have to get myself in gear way before Christmas shopping madness descends on the rest of the world. By Thanksgiving, I’m usually done. I spend most Black Fridays sipping spiced cider and recovering from a turkey-induced coma. Being Jewish means never having to freeze my tuchis off in a parking lot waiting for a “Midnight Door Buster” sale.

Decorating ease

The town where I spent my childhood could probably be seen from space. Every year, on the day after Thanksgiving, the neighborhood dads would hang Christmas decorations. They could all be found precariously perched on their roofs, stringing lights across the rain gutters. Plastic Santas and their reindeer would be dragged two stories into the air and then somehow fastened to shingles. I watched the scene, year after year, relieved we didn’t have to do the same. My dad + wires + heights = certain doom. The expectations for Chanukah decor are less labor-intensive. We plug in an electric menorah and park it on the windowsill. Done.

Time for fun

My non-Jewish friends have to find time for their kids, spouses, siblings, parents, cousins, in-laws and their great-aunt Shirley who flies in from Nebraska once a year, all within 24 hours. I get eight days to fill with lots of family togetherness. Eight. Long. Days.

The food 

Chanukah is the holiday of deep-fried everything. And chocolate gelt. 

’Nuf said.

No tall tales 

I am grateful that I don’t have to remember to hide an “Elf on the Shelf” in a new spot each day. And I don’t have to make up stories to tell my daughters about how a jolly fellow actually gets around the world in one night, or explain how a reindeer’s nose can glow in the dark. Instead, I get to teach them the dreidel game while we snack on latkes.

The music 

Only kidding. This is a category where I can’t honestly come up with a perk for the Jews; there just isn’t as much Chanukah music. Let’s see, we’ve got “I Have a Little Dreidel” and, um, what else? Seriously, what did suburban Jewish kids listen to before Adam Sandler’s “Chanukah Song”?

Holiday spirit 

Whether families are making Christmas cookies or sufganiyot, the whole month of December is dusted with powdered sugar and scented with vanilla. Everyone’s mood seems to lift. People are kinder and more forgiving. It’s easier to believe that miracles can — and do — happen. This holiday season, I wish everyone peace, joy and magic.

Chag sameach!

Chanukah gift guide 2015


Marmol Radziner Architects, one of the city’s leading architecture firms in both new construction and historic restorations, also creates furniture, home accessories and jewelry. Marmol Radziner’s Menorah ($140) channels a streamlined, modern sensibility into this ritual object made in L.A. out of walnut wood and brass. marmolradzinerjewelry.com

Bring some elegant warmth into your home for the holiday with Menorah Matches from Hudson Grace. The blue-tipped matches are 4 inches, and come in a 4 1/2-inch square, screen-printed box made in England ($12). hudsongracesf.com

Ben Medansky, part of L.A.’s ceramics renaissance, makes distinctive utilitarian objects in his downtown L.A. workshop. His Blue Band Cup ($48) is the perfect texture and size for cradling a hot beverage during the winter months. benmedansky.com

Liza Shtromberg’s Western Wall Jewelry celebrates Jewish life and Israel, and many are emblazoned with Hebrew symbols and phrases. Since 2000, Shtromberg has maintained a retail shop on Hillhurst Avenue in Los Feliz; her Beverly Hills boutique is open by appointment only. jewishjewelrylizashtromberg.com

Jaffa Dolls embody an ideal do-good-while-shopping effort. The eco-friendly, machine-washable creations are handmade by Jewish and Arab artisans as part of the Arous el-Bahar (Bride of the Sea) Association for Women in Jaffa. These colorful, compact dolls ($34) — each emblazoned with a heart — promise endless cuddles and hope. jaffadolls.com

From abstract motifs to company logos, architect Gregory Roth of Burbank-based Modern Bite baking company applies show-stopping designs to kosher-certified shortbread cookies. Come Chanukah, the Modern Bite Festival of Lights Cookie Gift Box ($30) is a sure bet for anyone who enjoys a beautiful and sweet treat. modernbite.com

Your foodie friends will be thrilled to receive kosher La Fenêtre Wines. Under his Santa Maria-based label, winemaker Joshua Klapper offers three kosher options: pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, as well as a kosher blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and petit verdot that evokes a classic Bordeaux ($40 per bottle, plus shipping). lafenetrewines.com

Israeli-born chef Tal Ronnen has been attracting kosher-style eaters at Crossroads restaurant on Melrose Avenue not because of any strict adherence to kashrut, but as a result of his wildly inventive haute vegan dishes. Now his recipes, techniques and plant-food-centric insights are available in a cookbook, “Crossroads: Extraordinary Recipes From the Restaurant That Is Reinventing Vegan Cuisine” (Artisan, $35). crossroadskitchen.com

Cool clothes for chilly weather


Class has been in session for a while now, but that doesn’t mean your back-to-school shopping is over. Outfit your daughter for fall with some of these snuggly suggestions. Just remember, moms: Sweater sets are so passé. 

Your child will look fierce in the handmade felt LUXE LION COAT ($170) with a removable lion’s mane hood and sassy tail. Lined with cotton sherpa, this classic toggle coat is fun and functional. ” target=”_blank”>dkny.com

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Slim your waistline, not your wallet


No need to spend money on a pricey gym membership or state-of-the-art home equipment — you can get a full-body workout for less than $35. With free online workout videos and reimagined childhood toys like Hula-Hoops and Frisbees, fitness can be affordable, portable and fun.

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Chanukah shopping: Let there be gifts!


From gingerbread menorahs for the kids to dreidels with a decidedly adult twist, here are eight Chanukah gifts that everyone on your list will love.


 If you’re looking for a new twist on holiday traditions, try building your own edible decor with the GINGERBREAD MENORAH KIT ($29.95). The kosher parve set comes with chocolate gingerbread menorah pieces, ready-to-use icing, decorating candies galore and special molds to make candy candles. ” target=”_blank”>mrsprindables.com

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Gifts for the wedding party


Show your appreciation for members of the wedding party by giving them a token of your love and friendship. Whether it’s matching ties for all the groomsmen or rhinestone rings for the bridesmaids, small gifts are the perfect reminder of how they helped you celebrate your special day.

For bridesmaids:

Let your bridesmaids know your love for them is unending with the INFINITY RING ($35). Made of sterling silver and cubic zirconia, these modern rings are stylish to infinity … and beyond. ” target=”_blank”>modcloth.com

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For groomsmen:

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Gifts for a retiring boomer


For many baby boomers, retirement is just around the corner. Why not celebrate their hard work and this golden milestone with a retirement gift? Whether they plan to spend the next phase of life jet-setting or pursuing more domestic interests, they deserve something special to mark the occasion.

1. After years of subpar office coffee, your boomer buddy can now enjoy a rich cup of homemade Joe every morning with the COFFEE COLD BREW GIFT SET ($36). The set comes with a 60-ounce mason jar, a hand-sewn cloth filter, and flavorful Brazilian and Guatemalan coffee beans. ” target=”_blank”>etsy.com

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Special gifts for that special day


Finding the perfect gift for a 13-year-old can be difficult. You can always give a new bar or bat mitzvah money — in the traditional multiples of $18  — but if you’d rather give a more personal or meaningful gift, make it something they’ll remember.

1. Recently considered dinosaurs of the camera world, POLAROIDS ($69.99) are making their way back. Why? Because everyone loves instant gratification. Holding a tangible, one-of-a-kind retro photo is a lot more fun than looking at a digital version on a screen. Your teen and all her friends will love the novelty of snapping insta-pics at the party. radioshack.com

Chanukah shopping: Revisiting some classics


Take time this holiday season to slow down and catch up on your pleasure reading. We’ve gathered a list of classic books to suit everyone’s taste  — from spine-chilling science fiction to classic modern novels. Whether you’re looking for a humorous Sunday afternoon read, an enchanting novel or the perfect bedtime story for your kids, these selections should offer ideas for your Chanukah gift-giving needs.


1.”STORIES FROM THE TWILIGHT ZONE” by Rod Serling ($8.99)

Genre: Short fiction

Summary: This is a collection of stories adapted from scripts of the successful sci-fi television series “The Twilight Zone.”

Best-suited for: Anyone who can quote Serling’s speech from “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street.”

Shopping: Gelty pleasures


Make sure your Chanukah accoutrements are up to snuff this year. We’ve got fair-trade gelt, dreidels for a cause, and ultra-modern menorahs for your 2013 festival of lights. So sit back, enjoy the latkes, drink some wine, and light the candles. L’chaim!

1. The BLUE BEL AIR MENORAH ($198), designed by Jonathan Adler, adds a touch of modern style to your Chanukah decor. The light from the candles will sparkle on this menorah, made from sapphire-blue  Lucite and chromed steel. The 11 1/2- inch-long candelabrum was designed with celebration in mind. store.thecjm.org

How to buy the best diamond wedding ring for your buck


When Jeremy Ziskind of Pico-Robertson proposed last year to his then-girlfriend, Allyson Marcus, he had a basic idea of what kind of engagement ring he would give his future wife.

“Allyson told me pretty early on in our relationship that she loved the idea of a heart-shaped ring,” he said. “So I knew that’s what I wanted to get.”

Relying on a tip from a friend, Ziskind searched for rings on

Kenyan police search mall wreckage after militant attack


Bomb disposal experts and investigators searched through the wreckage of a Kenyan shopping mall on Wednesday after a four-day attack by Islamist militants that killed at least 72 people.

President Uhuru Kenyatta declared three days of mourning after troops defeated the al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab group that targeted the upscale shopping center popular with prosperous Kenyans and foreigners.

The militants stormed the mall, known for its Western shops selling iPads and Nike shoes, in a hail of gunfire and grenades on Saturday lunchtime. The attack ended on Tuesday when Kenyan troops set off a series of explosions inside the building.

Kenyatta said five militants and six security personnel were killed and 61 civilians had so far been confirmed dead but an unknown number of corpses are buried under the masonry.

Three floors collapsed after the blasts and a separate fire weakened the structure of the vaulted, marble-tiled building. Officials said the blaze was due to militants lighting mattresses as a decoy.

“Forensic investigators are on the site now,” said a senior official from the National Disaster Operations Centre, speaking near the mall and adding that foreign agents were on the scene. He did not identify the agents.

Al Shabaab, which said it launched the assault to demand Kenya withdraw its troops fighting with African peacekeepers in Somalia, said hostages were killed when Kenyan troops used gas to clear to the mall. Officials dismissed this as “propaganda”.

Kenyatta has said Kenyan forces would not quit Somalia.

“We have ashamed and defeated our attackers,” he said in a televised address on Tuesday.

Israel has sent advisers to help the search, according to an Israeli source. The United States also has Federal Bureau of Investigation personnel on the ground. Others countries including Britain have offered help. Several foreigners have been listed among the dead.

The attack has highlighted the reach of the Somali group and the capabilities of its crack unit believed to be behind the attack, confirming Western and regional fears that as long as Somalia remains in turmoil it will be a recruiting and training ground for militant Islam.

IDENTIFICATION

“The bodies are still lying there in the rubble. We don't know how many exactly,” said the NDOC official.

“The investigators will be looking to see what information they can extract to identify the terrorists and their nationalities, including DNA tests,” he said, after Kenyan officials said the attack was a “multinational” operation.

Eleven people suspected of involvement with the well-planned assault were in custody but he did not say how many, if any, were gunmen taken alive and how many may have been people arrested elsewhere.

A British citizen of Somali origin was detained at Nairobi airport, a Kenyan security source said. A British newspaper said he was a 35-year-old, trying to leave on Turkish Airlines.

It was unclear whether intelligence reports of American or British gunmen would be confirmed. Al Shabaab denied that any women took part, after British sources said the fugitive widow of one of the 2005 London suicide bombers might have some role.

Smoke still rose into the damp air on Wednesday morning above the Israeli-built mall that had been a symbol of Africa's economic rise that has drawn in foreign investors.

Faster growth has also created wider wealth gaps, adding to grievances tapped by several violent Islamist groups from Mali to Algeria and Nigeria to Kenya. All have espoused an anti-Western, anti-Christian creed.

President Barack Obama, whose father was Kenyan, said he believed the country – scene of one of al Qaeda's first big attacks, in 1998, when a bomb devastated the U.S. embassy in Nairobi – would continue to be a regional pillar of stability.

Al Shabaab, which taunted Kenya when militants were battling inside the mall, said action by Kenyan troops using gas were responsible for the “lives of the 137 hostages who were being held by the mujahideen (fighters).”

“After 4 days of exposing the vulnerability of their nation, the Kenyan govt ended the siege in a morally reprehensible manner #Westgate,” the group said on its Twitter account @HSM_PR

MILITANTS

Kenyatta said he could not confirm intelligence reports of British and American militants. One minister denied speculation that women were among the guerrillas, but said some had been dressed as women, a possible ploy to get weapons past the unarmed private security guards who normally checked entrances.

It is unusual, if not unknown, for Islamist militants to use female fighters: “We have an adequate number of young men who are fully committed & we do not employ our sisters in such military operations #Westgate,” al Shabaab said on Twitter.

The group dismissed comments by one Kenyan minister that two or three of the militants were young Somali or Arab Americans.

A British security source said it was possible Samantha Lewthwaite, widow of one of the London suicide bombers of July 7 2005, was involved in the Nairobi siege. “It is a possibility. But nothing definitive or conclusive yet,” the source said.

Lewthwaite is wanted in connection with an alleged plot to attack expensive hotels and restaurants in Kenya.

Kenyatta thanked other leaders, including Obama, for their support and used his address to praise the response of the Kenyan people and call for national unity, six months after his election was marked by ethnic tensions.

“Kenya has stared down evil and triumphed,” he said.

Many Kenyans agree that the bloodshed has helped foster a greater sense of national unity.

“We are all talking about it. The one good thing is that the whole of Kenya has become one, except for al Shabaab,” said Vipool Shah, who helped pull bodies out of the mall.

Kenyatta's focus on Kenya's troubles, and of his role in a global campaign against terrorism, was a reminder that he faces trial at The Hague in a few weeks time for crimes against humanity over violence that followed a 2007 election.

The International Criminal Court adjourned the trial of his vice president this week because of the Westgate attack.

Kenyatta and his government have urged the ICC to drop the case and warm words for the Kenyan leadership from Western allies during the siege may have boosted their hopes that the court might be pressed to shelve proceedings in the interests of shoring up an important partner in the fight against al Qaeda.

Al Shabaab had threatened revenge since Kenyan troops joined the war against Islamists in its northern neighbor two years ago. The group created funding, recruiting and training networks in Kenya.

Reporting by James Macharia, Duncan Miriri, Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Pascal Fletcher in Nairobi; Writing by Edmund Blair; editing by Anna Willard

Top toys for baby boomers


The kids have finally moved out, and retirement is on the horizon — it’s time you spoiled yourself with a few must-have toys. Whether your idea of luxury is never having to mow the lawn again or being able to pursue your favorite hobby, technology has ushered in a new era of gadgets and goodies just for you.

1. Although a self-mowing lawn has yet to be invented, there is a robot that can do all the work for you. The ROBOMOW RM400 ROBOTIC LAWN MOWER ($1,699.99) is fully programmable: You can schedule your mows at regular intervals, set the height of the lawn, and then let the robot roam. It even comes back to its base when the task is finished. Did we mention it senses rain and waits until the weather is fair to do its job? brookstone.com

2. With the KINDLE DX ($299) by Amazon, your search for a book that adjusts to your eyes is over. The nearly 10-inch tall, glare-free display on this e-reader has eight adjustable text sizes. It also holds up to 3,500 e-books at once, so your entire library can go wherever life takes you. amazon.com

3. If you fondly remember the flickering family films of your childhood, why not try to recreate them with the STOP MOTION CAMERA KIT ($135) from Uncommon Goods? The camera uses 35mm film and a hand crank to speed up or slow down the film as you shoot. And yes, you can always digitize your creations with the accompanying smartphone adapter. uncommongoods.com

4. Sometimes, nothing will quench your thirst quite like an ice-cold soft drink. Impress your family and guests with homemade pop thanks to the GENESIS SELTZER STARTER KIT ($99.95) by Israeli company SodaStream. Turn regular tap water into your favorite sodas while keeping excess waste out of landfills. This kit comes with a soda maker and 12 different soda mixes. sodastreamusa.com

5. Getting older is not an excuse to stop playing. The MICROSOFT XBOX 360 KINECT STARTER BUNDLE ($419.96) is a motion-sensing videogame system that adapts to your movements in a variety of games. From dancing to table tennis, you’ll have everything you need to satisfy your sports streak. The bundle comes with an Xbox 360 game console with Kinect, games “Kinect Sports” and “Dance Central,” and an HDMI audio/video cable to attach to your TV. bestbuy.com

6. Don’t let your boxes of vinyl continue to gather dust. THE LP AND CASSETTE TO CD/DIGITAL CONVERTER ($449.95) from Hammacher Schlemmer not only plays your favorite 33s, 45s and 78s, but it also allows you to digitize your records and cassettes. The player comes with built-in speakers and an AM/FM radio, as well as two RCA inputs to attach to your home sound-system. hammacher.com

eBay’s Israel social center


Online auctioneer eBay’s hot new social commerce platforms aren’t coming from the giant Internet marketplace’s California headquarters. They’re conceptualized and launched by a team of 14 young Israeli geeks (and Marti, their “inspiration dog”) on Tel Aviv’s yuppified Rothschild Boulevard.

Marti is the first to greet visitors to eBay’s Israel Social Center (ISC), opened in July last year. Right on the dog’s four heels comes Ron Gura, the former Israeli air force lieutenant who runs the ISC along with his sister-in-law, Maya Gura, and his Haifa childhood chums Matan Bar and Erez Dickman. (Another partner, Guy Schory, now heads new ventures for eBay Inc.)

In 2009, the friends had cooked up The Gifts Project to facilitate online group gifting. After a successful pilot as eBay Group Gifts during the 2010 holiday shopping season, the enterprise was acquired by eBay and morphed into the ISC — a self-contained, offline innovation development center under the purview of Don Bradford, eBay’s social commerce vice president.

Bradford drops by from San Jose once every quarter, and eBay top banana John Donahoe came in September, declaring that “Israel is one of our industry’s leading hubs for technology innovation and talent.” And eBay owns Netanya-based shopping.com, and its PayPal subsidiary bought Tel Aviv’s Fraud Sciences in 2008.

Although eBay Group Gifts remains ISC’s flagship product, other ideas are finding their way to cyberspace from the whiteboard in the office “thinking room.”

“We tapped into a few other low-hanging fruits on the eBay tree,” Gura said. “Maybe the lowest-hanging fruit was what ended up as Go Together, a new product we launched on StubHub, eBay’s $2 billion ticket vertical.”

The assumption underlying Go Together is that nobody goes alone to sporting events and concerts, yet it’s a hassle to get a group of friends organized and paid up. Go Together facilitates onsite group seat selection and payment. It also streamlines carpooling arrangements, suggests nightspots near the venue and helps nab a premium parking spot.

ISC is also piloting Stuff by eBay. It maps online purchases for up to the past seven years, culling all the info it needs (with permission) from the receipts sitting in the user’s e-mail box. This visual e-commerce shopping profile not only makes it easy to keep tabs on purchases but also makes reselling a breeze because it provides a product photo and prefilled spec fields.

Stuff also generates new product recommendations, alerts about price drops and recalls, and data on payment methods, return policies, warranties, shipping tracking and complementary products.

Trader Joe’s comes up against some tough cookies


Trader Joe’s got slammed last week by a combination of hysteria and hoarding by kosher bakers when word leaked out that its semisweet chocolate chips were going from pareve to dairy.

“It’s just really sad,” said Shana Fishman, a Beverlywood mother of four who stocked up on 20 bags of chocolate chips at the Trader Joe’s in West Hollywood last week. “It means that I’ll have to use bitter chocolate chips in my cookies, and it means that I’ll have to pay more for my chocolate chips.”

Trader Joe’s semisweet chocolate chips were widely valued as the best, most affordable non-dairy chocolate chips on the market. Until now they have borne an “OK pareve” designation, essential for kosher consumers who do not eat meat and dairy products in the same meal. But the supplier for Trader Joe’s has changed its production procedure, and the chips will now be designated as dairy by Brooklyn-based OK-Kosher Certification.

“We are meeting with Trader Joe’s and encouraging them to go back to the old protocol and get those chips back to pareve,” Rabbi Chaim Fogelman, director of public relations at the OK, said on May 21. “So far, there is no movement in that area, but we are working on it.”

Trader Joe’s released a statement last week defending its chocolate chips.

“The ingredients used in our semisweet chocolate chips have not changed, there are no dairy ingredients in the item, and the chips are made on equipment dedicated to non-dairy chocolate,” a company statement said.

But the chips are bagged on machinery that also bags milk chocolate chips, and the supplier recently switched from a wet to a dry cleaning regimen on the bagging machine. “These changes … triggered the need for an FDA regulated, dairy-related allergen statement, and this in turn brought about a change in the Kosher certification for our item — going from ‘Kosher Parve’ to ‘Kosher Dairy,’ ” the statement read.

An officer at OK Kosher Certification said supervising rabbis can no longer guarantee that no errant milk chocolate chips are included in the semisweet bags.

“Currently, the monitoring of the level of separation between pareve and dairy is no longer sufficient to meet the requirements of OK Pareve,” a statement released by the OK read.

As the news leaked out through mournful Facebook posts, kosher bakers — along with vegans and the lactose intolerant — flooded Trader Joe’s with an unprecedented barrage of calls and e-mails. A petition created on change.org had 4,100 signatures as of the middle of this week.

Trader Joe’s locations reported that consumers were buying 20, 80, even 170 bags at a time.

While many so-called “haimish” brands – Jewish companies that make only kosher foods — produce pareve chocolate chips, those chips are generally waxy and flavorless. The silky, rich Trader Joe’s morsels melt to perfect consistency in cookies and taste like actual chocolate. They are good enough to almost make up for the fact that kosher bakers have to forgo real butter in cookies they serve after a Shabbat lunch of grilled chicken, roasted vegetables and quinoa salad.

Chocolate manufacturing requires cocoa butter and cocoa, but those are expensive ingredients when not purchased in massive volumes. Small kosher brands know their consumers aren’t willing to pay what it would cost to produce premium chocolate chips, said Rabbi Eliezer Eidlitz, director of the Kosher Information Bureau.

“They often can’t even legally call it chocolate. It’s ‘chocolate flavored,’ ” Eidlitz said.

Whole Foods carries Enjoy Life chocolate chips that are kosher pareve. They run $4.99 a bag, while the Trader Joe’s chips are $2.29 a bag. Kosher brands range between $2 and $4.

Some consumers were hoping the Trader Joe’s chips would be designated as the less restrictive DE, which stands for dairy equipment, signifying that the chips were manufactured on equipment also used for dairy.

But OK said the chips have to be considered actually dairy because milk chocolate chips could end up in the bags. Eidlitz said because the chips are complete units that do not fully dissolve into the other ingredients, the “one-sixtieth rule” that can be used to nullify trace amounts of dairy does not apply.

But Eidlitz is holding out hope. In 2006, Duncan Hines cake mixes went dairy, and consumer blowback brought the pareve label back. Same with Stella D’oro cookies, which in 2003 nixed a plan to switch to dairy after a kosher outcry.

A spokesman at the OK said the story is not over.

“We are working to rectify this issue with the manufacturer, and hopefully we will have good news soon,” the OK officer said.

On May 17, Trader Joe’s issued the following glimmer of hope: “We are evaluating our options and although we cannot guarantee a specific outcome at this time, we realize that for some of our customers this is an important issue.”

In defense of acquiring material things


Every year around Christmas and Chanukah time, writers, commentators, pundits and many rabbis, priests and ministers exhort Americans against spending money on things. We are too materialistic, we are told every year. Happiness, not to mention a meaningful life, depends on our having non-material things, not material things.

Thus, Americans are told to spend little or nothing on holiday gifts. Give your children love and time, we are told, not train sets (are they still given?), dolls or electronic devices.

The problem is, this advice is built on platitudes. And as is always the case with platitudes — or they wouldn’t be platitudes — the words sound nice but mean very little.

Before defending material things, let me make clear where I do agree with the joy-deniers. First, there is no question that no material thing can compete with love, religion, music, reading, health and other precious non-material things. And second, experiences contribute more to happiness than things do. If you only have x amount of money to spend on yourself, traveling to new places is usually more contributive to happiness than a better car. When I had almost no money through my early 30s, I still traveled abroad every year — which meant that I could only afford an inexpensive car. I have now visited a hundred countries, and that has given me more meaning and happiness than a luxury car or any other material thing.

But having said all that, material things matter. They can contribute a great deal to a happier and more meaningful life.

A grandmother once called in to my radio show to tell me that instead of giving her grandchildren Christmas gifts, she wrote each of them a special poem. I respectfully suggested to the obviously sweet woman that I could not imagine any normal child preferring a poem to a material gift.

With all my love of family, of friends, of music and of the life of the mind, I have always loved material things, too. On any happiness scale, it would be difficult to overstate how much joy my stereo equipment has given me since high school. I so love music that I periodically conduct orchestras in Southern California. And I now own a system that is so good that its offerings sound only a bit less real than what I hear from the conductor’s podium. I bless the engineers and others who design stereo products, and it is my joy to help support their noble quest of reproducing great music in people’s homes.

Since high school, too, I have written only with fountain pens. Buying new pens and trying out new inks are among the little joys of life that contribute as much — and sometimes more — to one’s happiness than the “big” things. There is incomparable joy at attending a child’s bar mitzvah or wedding. But those great events last a day. I write with a beloved fountain pen every day, listen to music every day, smoke a pleasure-giving cigar or pipe every day (except Shabbat, for the halachically curious). I love these things. What a colorless world it would be without them. So, too, I love my house. And I love the artwork and furniture and library that help to make it beautiful.

Sure, I could write with a 29-cent Bic. Yes, I could hear great music on a $50 radio. Of course I could give up cigars. Certainly, I didn’t have to buy the 5,000 books and 3,000 classical music CDs I own, and I understand that I don’t need to live in a house when my “needs” could have been met in an apartment a third its size.

But, thank God, most Americans don’t think that way. We like things. And liking things doesn’t mean you love less or read less or appreciate sunsets less. Life isn’t a zero-sum game between free joys and purchased joys. Moreover, the American economy and that of most other nations depend on our buying considerably more than our minimum needs.

Can people overdo purchasing things? Of course they can. People can also overdo taking vitamins, exercising and even reading books or studying Talmud.

So, then, when do we need to control our buying things?
a) When it becomes a compulsion — when one cannot stop buying things because the buying gives more pleasure than the things that are bought.
b) When the primary purpose of the purchase is to impress others with one’s wealth.
c) When one cannot afford what one is buying.

But beyond those caveats, don’t let the killjoys get you down. “Work hard and play hard,” my father always said (and still does at 93). When he bought a new Oldsmobile every few years, the family stepped outside the house to marvel at it — and even as kids we understood this was his reward for working all day and many evenings six days a week.

May your holidays be filled with lovely gift receiving and giving and may your New Year be filled with both wonderful experiences and wonderful things. Both contribute to a fuller and happier life.

Dennis Prager’s nationally syndicated radio talk show is heard in Los Angeles on KRLA (AM 870) 9 a.m. to noon. His latest project
is the Internet-based Prager University (prageru.com).

Shopping malls get in Chanukah spirit


Westfield, the world’s largest shopping mall empire founded by Holocaust survivor Frank Lowy, will welcome in Chanukah on three continents.

Shopping malls in America, the United Kingdom and Australia, where the company is headquartered, will unveil menorahs, a spokesperson for the company said this week.

Individual shopping malls will be working closely with local Chabad-Lubavitch rabbis to bring the Festival of Lights to a wider audience. Rabbi Levi Wolff of Sydney’s Central Synagogue, where the Lowy family is a member, will coordinate the project with other Chabad rabbis.

Wolff said Westfield is bringing awareness to tens of thousands of Jews and raising interest in the non-Jewish community.

The Westfield spokesperson said the final number of malls involved could not yet be confirmed. Westfield has more than 120 shopping centers in Australia, New Zealand, the United States, the United Kingdom and Brazil.

Lowy was born in Czechoslovakia and survived the Holocaust before immigrating to prestate Israel. His father died at Auschwitz.

Splurge-tastic Chanukah gifts


The great gifting season is upon us, so why not treat our loved ones (and ourselves) to something outrageous, something splurge-tastic that will be treasured, and remembered, for years to come. Whether you’re a natural big spender or someone who is looking to make a statement with an unexpectedly lavish gift, we have the luxe Chanukah gift guide to fill your holiday dreams.

1. Whether you’re heading out to a decadent New Year’s Eve soiree or your best friend’s annual Chanukah latke fest, carry all your essentials in timeless style with the Donna Karan Spazzolato Evening Dowel Frame Clutch ($995). The petite purse, made in Italy, is an elegant moonstone color and is ideal for carrying your smartphone, lipstick and car keys. donnakaran.com

2. Sometimes, the best gift you can give is the gift of relaxation and escape from this hectic world. The Mrs. Godfrey Chair ($1,495) by Jonathan Adler is just what your mother or bubbe needs to curl up with a good book and let the stress melt away. jonathanadler.com

3. Don’t forget to wrap the hand-loomed alpaca Sybil Throw ($595) around her shoulders while she delves into that novel. This plush blue blanket is best used in conjunction with a warm mug of cocoa. jonathanadler.com

4. The weather outside may be dreary, but your honey can stay warm and toasty in the stylish Mangus Sweater ($120) by Civil Society. No one will be able to tell that this handsome herringbone sweater, with three front pockets and a tiny sleeve pocket, didn’t come with a handsome price tag to match. civilsocietyclothing.com

5. Just imagine the glow on your beloved’s face when you present her with the exquisite Graduated Aquamarine Necklace ($750). This unique, handmade necklace features natural gemstones and sterling silver beads, and has a delicate hue that will complement any woman’s skin tone. etsy.com

6. For a modern take on the holiday kippah, go for something sleek, silver and sophisticated with the Gunmetal Yarmulke Crown ($1,285) from haute couture jewelry line young&ng. It’s a dazzling gift for anyone celebrating a major milestone in their life.  youngandng.com

Shop for you, shop for the world


Consumerism is often dubbed the antithesis of all that is good, but that doesn’t have to be so. More and more, businesses are adopting ethical labor practices, Earth-friendly materials and altruistic causes. We found a few ways for you to flex your consumer power — with a conscience.

Photos by Courtney Raney

1. Want to shop at a fabulous New York boutique from the comfort of your Valley home? Jewish-owned retailer Lonnys recently launched lonnys.com, where you can give back while browsing designer brands. Supporting charities is a large part of the company’s mission, and all proceeds from the Lonnys Denim Peace Bag ($20) are donated to Katz Women’s Hospital at Long Island Jewish Medical Center. lonnys.com

2. The local and Jewish-owned boutique, Green Denim Initiative, features products created with both fashion and the environment in mind. Tags, buttons and zippers are recycled, cold-water washing saves energy, natural fibers and vegetable dyes reduce chemical use, and the store partners with like-minded designers such as Alkemie Jewelry, which donates a portion of its online sales to a different charity each month. Handmade in Los Angeles and created with 100 percent reclaimed metal, Green Denim Initiatives’ newest featured item is this stylish Alkemie Six Shark Tooth Necklace ($209). greendeniminitiative.com

3. Who knew that building a miniature bonsai forest in your home could also help green Israel? At ababyatree.com, you can get this bonsai tree kit ($78), or any other gift, and the Jewish National Fund will plant a tree in Israel in honor of someone you love. The kit includes everything you need to maintain a healthy bonsai tree, and even the box and ribbon it’s wrapped in are made of recycled U.S. steel and plastic bottles. ababyatree.com

4. Jewish ceramicist Robert Siegel drew inspiration from his berry bowl-collecting bubbe when he created this limited-edition pink-and-white Baba’s Berry Bowl ($75) for breast cancer awareness. Twenty percent of the proceeds from this bowl will go to The Pink Agenda (thepinkagenda.org), a nonprofit breast cancer research and awareness organization. Available through December 2011, the bowl is hand crafted and made with lead-free porcelain. rshandmade.com

5. “How can we add a little ‘ooh-lah-lah’ to our cars?” asks Jewish entrepreneur and physician Dr. Beth Ricanati, who runs carlahlah.com, a sustainable family business creating car magnets with messages of peace and love. Using only local manufacturers, each magnet purchased ($8.99) will offset 20 miles of carbon emissions from your car. carlahlah.com

6. Famously founded by a German-Jewish immigrant in 1853, Levi Strauss & Co. has recently pioneered a way to produce the same fabulous jeans while conserving water. With Water

levi.com/waterless

The skin under skinny jeans


Those once-coveted outfits in your closet now elicit sighs of “I have nothing to wear” as last year’s trends take their inevitable plunge. While you’re hunting for the hottest fall fashions this month, remember also to invest in what will never go out of style: soft skin, silky hair, well-groomed nails and a radiant face. These products highlight the most gorgeous accessory you’ll ever own: you!

1. If you don’t get your fill of apples and honey during the New Year, add a little to your bath with SpaMitzvah’s Applebaum Bath Drizzle ($48). Soak in the skin-softening honey while the scent of apples and cinnamon lifts you away from the stress of your day. spamitzvah.com

2. Those perfect, non-crunchy curls you envy on models in fashion mags only seemed possible via Photoshop, until the Mixed Chicks strutted onto the scene. The Canoga Park-based line offers a No Frizz Trio of Shampoo, Conditioner and a Leave-In ($39.33) that beautifully defines curls on girls of every cultural background. mixedchicks.net

3. Bring some of fall’s bright hues to your fingertips with OPI nail lacquer in Hot and Spicy (from $2). The pumpkin hue gives a shout-out to the season and is much more fun than your routine clear coat. opi.com and local salons

4. Relaxing skin treatments are all the more soothing when you can feel good about how they’re made. Containing only natural, environmentally friendly ingredients made in Israel and never tested on animals, AVANI’s Mineral Body Scrub ($39.99) exfoliates and moisturizes with Dead Sea minerals, jojoba oil and vitamin E. avani-deadsea.com

5. Want poutier lips without the needles? Micabeauty Cosmetics’ Lip Plumper in bronze ($29.95) uses the organic compound niacin (a B vitamin) to plump your kissers while other all-natural ingredients moisturize and shine. micabeauty.com

6. Everyone from salon pros to frizzy-haired seventh-graders has been buzzing about Moroccanoil hair products — and for good reason! Moroccanoil’s original Oil Treatment ($40) leaves your locks so visibly glossy and touchably soft that you don’t have to explain why you can’t stop running your fingers through your hair. moroccanoilproducts.com

High Hosting by Adler


Renowned Jewish American designer Jonathan Adler has all the right elements for a “happy chic” High Holy Days table. Mix and match bold colors, funky graphics, white glazed accents and a splash of metallic shine for a dinner setting that radiates sweet vibes for a sweet new year. Jonathanadler.com.

Photo by Courtney Raney

1. Enamel serving set. $78

2. Fish bowl medium. $85

3. Jere sputnik sculpture. $1,100

4. Oslo tripod napkin. $12

5. Owl salt & pepper shakers. $48

6. Lantern candlestick. $48

7. Mod dot bowl. $12

8. Greek key dinner plate. $16

9. Medium platinum bird bowl. $125

Just how expensive is it to live in Israel?


What began in Israel in June as a Facebook-driven rebellion against the rising cost of cottage cheese, then morphed in July into tent encampments protesting soaring real estate costs, has since turned into a full-scale Israeli social movement against the high cost of living in the Jewish state.

From Tel Aviv’s tent-filled Rothschild Boulevard to marches in Beersheva, hundreds of thousands of Israelis have participated in one protest or another. The movement’s targets have expanded from housing and cheese prices to everything from the costs of child care and gas—not to mention salaries.

All this begs the question: Just how expensive is it to live in Israel?

A close examination of some key metrics show that compared to the United States and Europe, Israeli costs of living are a mixed bag. Salaries are lower, but so are health care costs. Consumer goods and services costs are nearly double those in the United States, and owning a car can run about six times as much relative to one’s salary.

So how do Israelis make it? Israeli retailers and banks offer easy credit on everything from big-ticket items like summer vacations to everyday purchases like groceries; all can be paid in monthly installments. The result is that many Israelis are perennially in debt and are increasingly frustrated by their inability to cover costs with their monthly paychecks.

Here’s a closer look at some of the costs of living in Israel.

Housing

The most expensive and desirable places to live in Israel are in the center of the country, where the vast majority of the population resides and works.

According to figures from the real estate company RE/MAX Israel, apartment prices in central Tel Aviv run $5,714 to $7,142 per square meter. In Jerusalem, the peripheral neighborhoods of East Talpiot and Kiryat Hayovel offer housing from $4,285 to $5,714 per square meter, while prices in the tonier neighborhoods of Baka, the German Colony and Rechavia range from $7,000 to $8,571 per square meter.

That means that in Baka or the German Colony, a typical two-bedroom apartment starts at $428,571, according to Alyssa Friedland, a broker for RE/MAX.  In the peripheral neighborhoods, some of which are built on territory captured from Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War, a two-bedroom apartment runs for about $343,000. According to RE/MAX figures, two-bedroom apartments in Beersheva, Haifa, Hadera and Afula cost between $143,000 and $286,000.

Mortgage rates are about 4.5 percent, according to Friedland, but the required down payment is usually about 40 percent.

“Young couples are getting the money from their parents because they don’t typically have savings like that,” she said.

As the economist Daniel Doron noted recently in The Wall Street Journal, “A small apartment can cost the average Israeli worker 12 years in annual salary.”

Salaries

In Israel, the average salary is about $2,572 per month, and the average income for a tfamily with two wage earners is approximately $3,428 per month, according to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics.

Teachers and nurses earn abound $1,666 a month, making Israeli teachers’ salaries among the lowest in the world, according to a recent report by the international Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Business managers, computer engineers and lawyers have some of the highest median salaries in Israel. A lawyer with five years’ experience can make $5,500 to $6,500 per month, and top associates earn about $8,571 per month, according to Dudi Zalmanovitsh, who runs the Tel Aviv law consulting firm GlawBAL. Technology professionals are some of the highest paid in Israel, with technical writers and software engineers earning between $2,500 and $3,500 a month, and managers making upward of $10,000 a month.

Doctors, most of whom work at clinics and hospitals, earn $6,000 to $7,000 a month, unless they also have a private practice.

Transportation

With a tax rate of 78 percent on new cars, a lack of competition in the import market and high auto insurance costs—not to mention the price of gas—owning a car can be one of the most expensive things for an Israeli.

A Honda Civic, which has a sticker price of approximately $16,000 in the United States, costs $33,000 in Israel. Gas costs more than $8 per gallon.

As most Israelis earn about one-third of their American counterparts, Israelis may spend more than six times as much of their monthly salaries on car ownership as the average American.

The alternative—public transportation—is cheap by comparison in Israel, though the network of mass transit is much less developed here than in America or Europe.

A small but growing number of Israelis commute by train, but most need to take a bus to complete their commute. Buses are subsidized and therefore relatively cheap. Within cities, bus fare costs about $1.51 per ride or $65 for a monthly pass.

Health care

Israel’s socialized health care system is considered among the world’s best, and taxes pay the lion’s share of costs. Based on figures from the National Insurance Institute, the health care costs deducted from the average paycheck are between 3 percent and 5.5 percent, estimates Dr. Michael Cohen, who runs an HMO in the coastal city of Netanya.

With a system of universal health care run by private corporations, all citizens are entitled to the same uniform package. Whether self-employed or employed by a company, every citizen pays a basic health insurance rate to one of the four HMOs, which are heavily regulated by the government and subsidized.

For Israelis who need to visit the doctor, require fertility treatment or visit the emergency room, the extra costs are minimal. Medications are cheaper in Israel than in the United States because they are subsidized by the HMOs.

Many Israelis choose to expand their coverage with private health insurance that offers more access to private care or more comprehensive coverage. Private insurance costs a fraction of what it costs in the States.

“The working poor are much better off here because if someone gets sick, they still get full hospital treatment for what would be very expensive in the U.S.,” Cohen said.

Taxes

Israel is more like Europe than America on taxes. The top rate of income tax is 45 percent (it was 50 percent until 2003). The value added tax, or VAT, which amounts to a sales tax, is 16 percent. That’s considered regressive because rich and poor pay the same rate.

The average Israeli pays an income tax rate of 20.5 percent. The top 1 percent of salaried workers, who earn an average of $19,000 per month, pay a 40 percent income tax rate. The top 1 percent of the self-employed—the super-rich who gross an average of $121,000 per month—pay 26 percent in income tax.

Education

Education is one area in which Israelis pay considerably less than Americans.

Tuition at Israel’s renowned public universities is about $2,714 per year, thanks in large part to government subsidies. At Israel’s lesser-known private colleges, tuition costs about $8,571 each year. Compared with other developed countries, Israel ranks eighth out of the OECD’s 26 countries for tuition rates.

Those paying tuition for Jewish day school in America would save a bundle in Israel. Public schools—whether secular, Modern Orthodox or haredi Orthodox—are free. However, parents must pay service fees for field trips and special events, are responsible for busing costs and must pay for books.

The growing number of semi-private schools that offer special pluralistic, democratic or religious curricula charge annual tuitions ranging from $800 to $1,600, and boarding schools charge $3,000 to $5,000 per year.

Because the traditional Israeli primary school day is short, often ending before 2 p.m., many parents shell out money for afternoon childcare programs or afterschool activities.

The most expensive part of child rearing may be day care for the under-3 set. Some day care centers cost $630 a month for private toddler day care. Once children turn 3, they can take advantage of the public school system and day care centers that charge as little as $257 a month for a six-day, six-hour program.

Food

Israel’s social protest movement began with an investigative report by the Globes business daily on food prices. Globes found that prices for basic food products were two to three times higher in Israeli stores than in other Western countries.

An 8-ounce container of cottage cheese costs $1.68; a pound of hummus costs $4.54; 2 liters of orange juice—in a country that exports oranges—costs $6.54; 2 pounds of rice costs $1.94; and a 13-ounce container of Israeli Osem soup nuts costs $4.54—more than it costs in American stores that import the soup nuts from Israel. A 6-ounce can of Israeli-made sunscreen spray can cost approximately $40.

“Prices have gone above what the middle class and weaker classes can afford,” said Rami Levy, who owns 22 supermarkets nationwide. He attributed the rise to Israeli supermarket chains that collude to set prices.

“I started my business with the goal of selling to my customers at wholesale prices,” said Levy, who started with a stall in Jerusalem’s open-air Machane Yehudah market. “I wanted them to be able to buy what they needed and still have money left at the end of the month.”

A fast last getaway


We all head excitedly into the first days of summer with visions of epic beach days and star-worthy bronzed skin. Yet after weeks of long office hours and errand-filled weekends, the end of summer is already in sight. Before the flurry of back-to-school and the High Holy Days, grab all the fun getaway items below, and get outta town!

1. Are you more the book-by-the-beach than the scuba-diving type? No problem — you can bring a splash of aquatic life to your spot on the sand. The Ralph Lauren Sea Horse Print Beach Towel ($13.99), with its plush terry cotton, is just as much fun to look at as it is to lie on. ralphlauren.com

2. Be it sand or chlorinated pool water, you’ll need some resistant material between the elements and your outdoor essentials. The Kenneth Cole Go Go Logo Tote ($49.98) will keep your stuff looking cute — and dry. kennethcole.com

3. Hasbro’s Soaker Wars Shot Blast Super Soaker ($19.99) should keep the kids — the ones with the Energizer Bunny-like stamina — busy and away from a napping mom and dad. hasbro.com

4. DKNY’s printed triangle bikini top ($38.99) and string tie bottom ($37.99) pay perfect homage to the bright colors of the sea, and the ultra-feminine cut leaves your bare skin free to soak up just enough rays to get glowing. dkny.com

5. These funky Calvin Klein Luxe Reversible Board Shorts ($49.99) will attract some attention poolside — not just for the cool patterns, but also for how well they flatter that beach body of yours. calvinklein.com

6. Hopping on a jet for a quick overnighter? Pack light and pretty with this compact, sleek Samsonite Silhouette 12 Softside Boarding Bag ($89.99). There’s even a bottom compartment for your shoes! csnstores.com

7. Even the hottest bikini loses its appeal when it’s hidden under a ratty T-shirt, so spice it up with the bright coral Zuza Cover-Up from Diane Von Furstenberg ($136.50). The deep V-neck is perfect for showing off that gorgeous suit. dvf.com

Northern Israel’s boutique mystique


When Lisa Edelstein, Omar Epps, Jesse Spencer and Amber Tamblyn paid a visit to Northern Israel with “House” creator David Shore as part of a weeklong trip sponsored by America’s Voices in Israel, the stars of the hit Fox series admired the tranquil beauty of the Galilee region.

“It was just so much fun to be able to relax and get away from it all, even if it was only for a day,” Tamblyn said. “It’s just so peaceful and beautiful up here.”

That serenity is the selling point for a number of posh Galilean boutique hotels located around the mountainous town of Safed and along the banks of Lake Kinneret in the city of Tiberias.

“The pastoral beauty, fresh air and unique historical mystique of Safed and the Galilee region is the perfect place for tourists who wish to get away from the big city and just relax,” said Nadav Brada, general manager of the Ruth Rimonim Safed Hotel.

In Safed, tourists can walk through the narrow alleyways of the Old City and pray in one of the spectacular ancient synagogues. The popular “Lecha Dodi” (Come My Beloved) Friday night sing-along prayer was actually composed in one of the town’s ancient synagogues by 16th century Safed kabbalist Rabbi Shlomo Halevi Alkabetz.

The Prima Galil Hotel. English.prima.co.il>

The adjacent artists’ colony, where Tamblyn purchased some beautiful rings and bracelets, boasts some of Israel’s most unique jewelry and art galleries. Just bring cash and a willingness to bargain with the locals, who are only too happy to partake in a bit of Middle East marketing.

For tourists who enjoy culinary adventures, the Galilee and Golan Heights boast some of Israel’s top wineries. Hotel concierges can easily arrange daylong treks to any number of wineries in the area.

At the Ruth Rimonim Safed Hotel, a unique boutique facility, part of the structure dates back more than 300 years, when the Ottoman Empire ruled over the region.

“Of the 77 rooms in the hotel, 36 are located in the ancient part,” Brada said. “Every one of the rooms in the hotel is designed in a different manner, which is what makes it so unique.”

The Ruth Rimonim Safed also features a spa, a swimming pool that faces Mount Meron and a fully stocked wine cellar, which is also a destination for nightly entertainment.

As you wind your way down from Safed to Tiberias (about 15 minutes away), Lake Kinneret and the adjacent Golan Heights are frequently abuzz with outdoor activities.

“This is a place where families and kids can enjoy so many types of water sports, including kayaking, motor-boating and jet-skiing, as well as horseback riding, jeeping and even rappelling across the Golan Heights,” said Omar Assle, manager of the Rimonim Galei Kinneret Hotel.

The 120-room Rimonim Galei Kinneret, which bills itself as a classic, boutique destination, features a pool, spa and private beach. In the evenings, guests can enjoy a show on the terrace opposite the pool.

The Hacienda Forestview Hotel. www.c-hotels.co.il>

“We are not one of those big, crowded hotels,” Assle said.

The Prima Galil prides itself on its various indoor and outdoor experiences. Guests are encouraged to create their own ways of exploring the region via a checklist of recommended activities: sports, bicycling, jeep trips and visits to local wineries. The hotel’s Galilean evenings (Mondays and Thursdays) entice guests to sample culinary delicacies while listening to live music performed by local musicians.

One of the best-kept vacation secrets in the region can be found between Ma’alot and Kfar Veradim in the Western Galilee. The Hacienda Forestview Hotel, which has been built like a Spanish homestead, sits amid 20 acres of natural green forest. It is renowned for catering to body, soul and palate.

Part of the C-Hotels chain, the Hacienda offers three different themed spa options: C and Enjoy, including mud treatments and body peeling for couples; C and Relax, featuring a Turkish steam bath, Jacuzzi and baths for reflexology treatments; and C and Feel Fit, which showcases the hotel’s exercise room.

“When you are feeling relaxed, you are more than ready to enjoy an incredible culinary experience,” a C-Hotels spokeswoman said.

The Hacienda offers a colorful and healthy array of breakfast options. However, it’s the South American-style barbecue evenings, featuring prime cuts of beef and other delectable dishes prepared by Chef Itzik Marciano, that accentuate a real gastronomic extravaganza. Recognizing that kids shouldn’t be left out of the culinary equation, the Hacienda also highlights a delicious buffet for kids right down to the toasted marshmallows and melodic outdoor kumsitz (sing-along).