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The latest news from Life

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    The Insider Picks team writes about stuff we think you'll like. Business Insider has affiliate partnerships so we get a share of the revenue from your purchase.

    phone stand

    It seems that each year, the holiday season starts earlier and earlier. Whether you'd take every excuse to start decorating early or you'd prefer to wait until after Thanksgiving to start the celebrations, there's no denying that getting a head start on figuring out the right gifts for her (no matter if it's your mom, partner, sister, daughter, or otherwise) will take at least some of the stress out of the preparation process.  

    We like to think of ourselves as professional gift givers, so you can bet we've been bookmarking all the best holiday gift ideas we've come across over the past year. We put together a list of over 50 clever gifts that we think she'll absolutely love.

    Most of these items are available with expedited shipping, and some should arrive within a few days' time, so don't stress too hard about your last-minute shopping — just remember that the sooner you order, the better your chances of a timely arrival.

    Still shopping for more gifts? Check out all of Insider Picks' holiday gift guides for 2018 here.


    SEE ALSO: 51 hilarious White Elephant gifts under $50 that are guaranteed to get a good laugh

    DON'T MISS: 30 clever gifts for coworkers that they'll actually be happy to receive

    A clever attachment that holds her AirPods

    Elago AirPods Wrist Fit Adapter, available on Amazon, $6.99

    The frustrating thing about using AirPods is figuring out where to store them. This small attachment goes around any watch's wristband and features two grippy holes that hold he



    A perfume subscription

    Scentbird subscription, three months for $44

    If she loves to switch up her scents, Scentbird is an affordable service that lets her choose a month’s supply of perfume from thousands of well-known and new fragrances. With a three-month subscription, she can switch it up each month or stick to the ones she knows and loves.



    A Kindle case that looks like her favorite book

    KleverCase Kindle Paperwhite Case, available on Amazon, $24.95

    You’ll find many classic book covers cleverly printed onto Kindle cases, along with one that looks like an unmarked leather-bound book. All she has to do is pop it on her e-reader.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    birchbox 3833

    • Birchbox, the beauty company known for its monthly subscription boxes, is moving into Walgreens
    • Birchbox opened pop-up stores in 11 Walgreens and Duane Reade drugstores as a pilot test this month. 
    • The stores will give Birchbox more exposure and help Walgreens be seen as more of a destination for beauty products.
    • We visited a Birchbox store that opened in a Duane Reade location in Manhattan. Here's what it was like. 

    Birchbox is moving into Walgreens. 

    The two companies announced in October that Birchbox, the beauty company best known for its monthly subscription boxes, will be opening up shop in 11 different Walgreens and Duane Reade locations this month. 

    The new retail spaces range from 400 to 1,000 square feet and look like mini-Birchbox stores. They carry brands that Birchbox has incorporated into its subscription boxes and that the company has found to be customer favorites based on positive reviews. Birchbox currently has 2.5 million active subscribers, according to Fast Company. 

    The spaces feature warm lighting, bright colors, framed Birchboxes, and several makeup stations throughout. Each Birchbox store has company-trained beauty consultants and a separate register. When we visited the space, it felt completely separate from the rest of the Duane Reade, and nothing like shopping at a typical drugstore. 

    For Walgreens, the Birchbox stores will help it be seen as more of a beauty destination. The company has been investing more heavily in beauty since 2016, when it started carrying brands such as NYX and No7. It also introduced a beauty loyalty program and began adding beauty consultants to some stores that same year.

    "We've been working on elevating and differentiating our beauty experience," Lauren Brindley, group vice president of beauty and personal care at Walgreens, told Fast Company in October. "We're trying to give our customers a reason to shop beauty more often."

    We visited a Birchbox store that recently opened inside a Duane Reade in Manhattan. Here's what it was like:

    SEE ALSO: We shopped at Old Navy and Gap and saw why one brand is thriving as the other struggles

    Birchbox opened in a Duane Reade store in the Financial District.



    The store had a large beauty department that carried traditional drugstore brands like Maybelline, Covergirl, and NYX.



    Birchbox was next to the beauty department, in its own separate corner of the store.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Affordable Care Act Obamacare Protesters

    • Sign ups for Obamacare health insurance plans through the Healthcare.gov marketplace fell 4% for 2019.
    • While this is the second straight year that enrollment declined, the final tally is much better than earlier numbers suggested.
    • The drop was due to a slew of reasons ranging from the repeal of the individual mandate in the GOP tax law to Virginia's expansion of Medicaid.

    Obamacare enrollment declined for the second straight year, but the number of people enrolling in health insurance plans for 2019 remained relatively resilient following a year of uncertainty fueled by President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress.

    Enrollment in Affordable Care Act health plans through the federally-managed Healthcare.gov platform totaled about 8.5 million during this year's open enrollment period, down 4% from last year, according to preliminary data released Wednesday by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

    34 of the 39 states that use Healthcare.gov reported enrollment declines compared to the same period in 2017 with just Wyoming, Hawaii, Florida, Mississippi, and Oklahoma showing enrollment increases. Others states, such as New York and California, run their own sign-up systems and have different deadlines.

    Read more: Here's how much Obamacare premiums will increase in every state

    The numbers come as a substantial rebound for enrollment. Previous weekly updates from CMS showed enrollment on track to fall as much as 12% year-over-year. A lot of people usually sign up for health plans right around the deadline, which was December 15.

    These enrollment numbers are preliminary, 2017's total fell slightly between the end of open enrollment and CMS's final evaluation.

    Obamacare faced a lot of challenges during this sign-up season

    There were a slew of challenges facing Obamacare during the sixth open enrollment period, with everything from the elimination of the individual mandate to the expansion of Medicaid in Virginia contributing to the slowdown in sign-ups.

    Seema Verma, the chief of CMS, told reporters that the overall sign-up numbers were "steady as compared to previous years" and proved that the Trump administration had stabilized the marketplaces. Verma also pointed to the strong economy as a key reason for the enrollment decline.

    "People are now getting jobs and those jobs are providing health insurance, so those individuals may not need to come to the exchange to get health coverage," Verma said.

    In addition to the strong economy, some of the factors that makes the enrollment numbers even more impressive are:

    • The elimination of the individual mandate, the financial penalty for not having insurance. The penalty was decreased to $0 as part of the GOP tax law, making it possible for people to decline coverage without facing a financial hit.
    • The Trump administration's drastic cuts to Obamacare's advertising and outreach budget which fell to $10 million from $100 million during the Obama administration. Verma disputed the notion that the advertising cuts made a difference in enrollment. "We see no correlation between what we’re spending on advertising and effectuated enrollments," she said.
    • The expansion of short-term, limited-duration plans by the Trump administration. The plans offer a cheaper alternative for younger and healthier consumers, but carry increased risk since the plans offer less coverage.
    • The expansion of Medicaid in Virginia. The state saw the largest drop in enrollees this year, and Verma said about 100,000 people who previously bought exchange plans were now eligible for Medicaid coverage.
    • Uncertainty over the future of the law, likely exacerbated by a judge's ruling on Friday— the day before the final day of enrollment — that the entire Affordable Care Act (Obamacare's official name) is unconstitutional.

    obama smile

    Add up all of those factors and you've got the recipe for the enrollment decrease.

    West Virginia saw the biggest decline in enrollment compared to last year.

    Rusty Harvilla has been helping people in West Virginia sign up for ACA health plans since 2013. He said he thinks two big changes are responsible for the decline: the end of Obamacare's requirement that everybody buy insurance, and a big reduction in advertising and enrollment support from the Trump administration.

    Harvilla said he often got phone calls from people asking if they still had to buy health insurance this year. He said he'd answer that they didn't have to buy it, but he'd also tell them it was a good idea to be covered.

    "I had that question a lot this time around,'' he said. "And I would be honest with them and say no, you don’t have to buy it."

    Harvilla said Obamacare has never been popular.

    "It's toxic," Harvilla, a certified application counselor at Clay-Battelle Health Services, said by phone. "If they bring it up, we try to steer them toward ACA, the marketplace, those kind of terminologies."

    Still, he said, people are usually grateful for the coverage.

    Here's a breakdown of state-by-state changes in enrollment, compared to enrollment through December 15, 2017, from largest drop to smallest:

    • West Virginia -18.74%
    • Virginia -17.11%
    • Louisiana -16.22%
    • Indiana -11.00%
    • New Hampshire -10.63%
    • New Mexico -10.50%
    • Ohio -10.34%
    • Missouri -9.35%
    • Wisconsin -9.05%
    • Delaware -8.86%
    • Kansas -8.82%
    • Nevada -8.04%
    • New Jersey -7.96%
    • Iowa -7.79%
    • Michigan -7.69%
    • Illinois -7.35%
    • Pennsylvania -6.75%
    • Maine -6.41%
    • Oregon -5.75%
    • Montana -5.61%
    • Kentucky -5.38%
    • Georgia -4.71%
    • North Dakota -4.54%
    • North Carolina -4.11%
    • Texas -3.62%
    • Arizona -3.43%
    • Tennessee -3.11%
    • Alaska -2.89%
    • South Dakota -2.67%
    • Arkansas -1.75%
    • Alabama -1.73%
    • South Carolina -0.71%
    • Nebraska -0.56%
    • Utah -0.16%
    • Wyoming 0.19%
    • Hawaii 1.15%
    • Florida 3.20%
    • Mississippi 5.56%
    • Oklahoma 6.60%

    SEE ALSO: Experts think the ruling that declared Obamacare unconstitutional is 'insanity in print' and will likely be overturned

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Anthony Scaramucci claims Trump isn't a nationalist: 'He likes saying that because it irks these intellectual elitists'


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    Robert Mueller

    • Washington is abuzz over a mystery case involving the special counsel Robert Mueller and an unnamed witness over a grand-jury subpoena.
    • The case has been shrouded in secrecy since it was first mounted in August, and few details have trickled out since.
    • This week, we learned that the unidentified witness in the case is not an individual, but a corporation from a foreign country.
    • On Tuesday, the Washington, DC, Circuit Court of Appeals handed prosecutors a victory when it determined that the unnamed corporation has to comply with the grand-jury subpoena.
    • "At the end of the day, these items will become known to a grand jury" and, potentially, the American public as well, said one DOJ veteran who's been following the case.

    Fervent observers of the special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election have been captivated over the last few months by a protracted court battle between Mueller and an unknown party over a grand jury subpoena.

    The case has been shrouded in secrecy since at least September, and few details have trickled out about it since.

    • Mueller's office appears to have mounted the case — which is referred to in court documents as "Sealed v. Sealed" — on August 16.
    • CNN spotted several lawyers from Mueller's office entering a courtroom at a Washington, DC, federal courthouse in September.
    • They were arguing against an unknown defense team before Chief Judge Beryl Howell of the DC district court, who oversees federal grand-jury related cases.
    • Politico also confirmed a link between the case and Mueller's team when a reporter working for the outlet overheard a man request a document in the case from Mueller's office. Politico reported that the man declined to identify himself when approached by the reporter.
    • On September 19, a little over a month after the case was initially brought, Howell issued a ruling.
    • Five days later, one of the parties in the case appealed Howell's ruling to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.

    Read more: A former federal prosecutor thinks Mueller's quiet period before the midterms may not have been so quiet after all

    Nelson Cunningham, a former federal prosecutor and Senate and White House aide, wrote in Politico that the quick nature with which the case and the appeal was handled is noteworthy.

    Not only did the unidentified witness appeal the lower court's ruling almost immediately, but the appeals court also responded quickly. The court set an accelerated briefing schedule, and all the judges involved moved quickly to amend a procedural flaw in just under a week. That typically would have taken "weeks or months" to resolve, Cunningham wrote.

    The unnamed witness in the subpoena case also took the unusual step of requesting a hearing before all 10 of the DC circuit court judges.

    Gregory Katsas, one of the judges on the panel, recused himself from the matter. Katsas was appointed to the court by President Donald Trump. Prior to joining the panel, he worked in the White House counsel's office as deputy counsel to the president.

    donald trump melania trump

    An entire floor of a federal courthouse went into lockdown mode

    The circuit court initially declined to hear the case, sending it back down to Howell, who oversaw another sealed hearing on October 5. CNN reported that Michael Dreeben, a veteran attorney working for Mueller's office who specializes in trial law, was in the hearing room when arguments took place.

    The appellate court eventually decided to take up the case and set an argument date for December 14 before a three-judge panel.

    • On December 14, as reporters milled around the hearing room on the fifth floor of the appeals courthouse where arguments were due to take place, building security put the floor on lockdown.
    • CNN reported that security officers cleared the entire floor, including the courtroom — with the exception of a few law clerks who assist judges — the hallway, the vestibule, the stairwells, and the elevator banks.
    • Officers reportedly also checked a coat closet on the floor to make sure no belongings had been left behind. At one point, the elevator didn't even open up to the fifth floor.

    Over an hour passed with no sign of any attorneys entering or leaving the hearing room or the building, CNN reported. Then, about 10 minutes after activity at the courthouse appeared to wrap up for the day, reporters spotted a black car carrying Mueller team attorneys arrive back at the special counsel's office.

    The unknown witness isn't a person — it's a foreign company

    Robert Mueller

    The mystery case took another interesting twist on Tuesday, when the appeals court issued a ruling which revealed the unnamed witness in the case isn't an individual, but a foreign corporation, described in documents as a company "owned by Country A."

    The ruling indicates that the company has been fighting a subpoena from Mueller's office to hand over information to the grand jury on the grounds that doing so would violate the law in "Country A."

    The document says the court rejected the company's claim that complying with Mueller's subpoena would break the law in the foreign country and ordered it to hand over the information prosecutors had demanded. It also revealed that the DC federal court is fining the corporation for every day that it doesn't comply with the special counsel's subpoena.

    Read more: The 20 biggest Trump-Russia bombshells of 2018

    Jeffrey Cramer, a longtime former federal prosecutor who spent 12 years at the Justice Department, told INSIDER the drip-drip nature of the case raises "many more questions" than answers.

    A few things, however, can be gleaned from the case so far.

    First, the foreign company has materials Mueller wants. Those could be in the form of emails or documents. The company also likely has a US presence, Cramer said, and the ability to garner support in "Country A."

    "Prosecutors normally gain documents from a foreign entity via a Mutual Lateral Assistance Treaty request," he added. "That could have been requested here and resulted in a court fight. If there was no US presence, the foreign country could have simply denied the request."

    Moreover, it's unusual that a government regulator from "Country A" supported the corporation's legal argument, as indicated in the appellate court's ruling. Regardless, the ruling indicates that the company will now have to comply with Mueller's subpoena.

    "At the end of the day, these items will become known to a grand jury," and, potentially, the American public, depending on how they're used, Cramer said.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Anthony Scaramucci claims Trump isn't a nationalist: 'He likes saying that because it irks these intellectual elitists'


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    halsey lane hamptons

    • The Hamptons are a playground for the rich, where everyone from celebrities to CEOs own a vacation home.
    • The current median asking price for a home in the Hamptons is $2.19 million, according to Out East.
    • But that's nothing compared to the 10 most expensive homes in the Hamptons sold during 2018, which range from $17 million to $40 million.

    Home to the most expensive zip code in New York, extravagant Fourth of July parties, and multi-million dollar real estate, The Hamptons have quite the affluent reputation. 

    A central summer destination, it's a playground for the rich — anyone who's anyone, from Beyoncé to Calvin Klein, has a vacation home there. And it looks like the cost to buy one is getting even more expensive.

    The current median asking price for a home in the Hamptons is $2.19 million, a 4.7% increase compared to last year, a spokesperson from Out East, a Hamptons real-estate website, told Business Insider. But that has nothing on the most expensive homes sold in the Hamptons during 2018.

    Of the top 10, the cheapest home sold for more than $17 million. But the most expensive? That one went for a whopping $40 million.

    See which Hamptons homes sold for the highest price this year, according to Out East.

    SEE ALSO: 14 of the best waterfront homes in the Hamptons you can buy for under $10 million

    DON'T MISS: Here's what it's like to spend July 4th in the most expensive vacation town in America

    10) 19 Chauncey Close, East Hampton — $17.28 million

    From a 400-foot pond to the Atlantic Ocean, this Georgica home takes waterfront to a whole new level. At 6,100 square feet, it also includes a pool and three fireplaces.

    View the listing »



    9) 4.5-acre Mecox Bayfront, Water Mill — $18.75 million

    Facing Mecox Bay, this luxury home has a dream landscape, including a tennis court, gardens, groundskeeper cottage, expansive lawns, and a gazebo.

    View the listing »



    8) 79 Surfside Drive, Bridgehampton — $18.8 million

    This 2,000 square-foot oceanfront home has a contemporary design and comes with a heated pool and cabana bath.

    View the listing »



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    The Insider Picks team writes about stuff we think you'll like. Business Insider has affiliate partnerships, so we get a share of the revenue from your purchase.

    REI

    REI is home to literally everything you need for an enjoyable adventure outdoors. With the holiday season just days away, REI is having a huge holiday sale that's worth taking advantage of while completing your gift list — or even shopping for yourself.

    Now through December 24, you can get up to 50% off items including outdoor apparel, gear, footwear, and accessories. 

    To make sure you get the items you need in time for the holidays, REI is guaranteeing delivery before Christmas on all orders placed before December 20 at 9 a.m. PST. Another option is to buy online and pick up in-store.

    The limited-time sale includes discounts on top brands like Patagonia, Columbia, The North Face, PrAna, Smartwool, and more.

    Whether you're loading up on gear for an upcoming cold-weather excursion, shopping for a warm jacket, or looking for a very specific item, you're likely to find it here. We rounded up some of the best deals, but since the sale is so massive, these product categories can help you find exactly what you need.

    Shop the REI Holiday sale now or keep reading for our picks, below:

    Men's Columbia Ramble Interchange 3-in-1 Down Jacket

    $109.83 (Originally $220) [You save 50%]



    Women's REI Co-op Magma 850 Down Hoodie

    $149.93, available in three colors (Originally $219) [You save 31%]



    Men's REI Co-op Flowcore Fleece Jacket

    $49.83 (Originally $99.95) [You save 50%]



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Hershey Kisses

    • Hershey's Kisses are sparking horror as shoppers realize upon unwrapping the candies that the tips have been broken off.
    • Dozens of people are complaining on social media after buying countless Kisses with broken tips. 
    • Hershey said in a statement that the company is looking into the issue. 

    Something is amiss with Hershey's Kisses this holiday season. 

    People are taking to social media to complain that they discovered after unwrapping their holiday-themed Hershey's Kisses that the tops of the candies had already been broken off. 

    "Do this year's kisses look like this for you? Or are the tops broken off?" a member posted in The Wedding Cookie Table Facebook group on December 9, with an accompanying picture of a Hershey's Kiss in its intended, iconic form. 

    The response was overwhelming. While not all tips were broken, dozens of people commented in the group, saying that they had encountered similar issues with their Hershey's Kisses — especially those wrapped in holiday packaging — in recent days. 

    On Twitter, people are posting similar complaints.

    When Business Insider purchased a bag of holiday Hershey's Kisses at a CVS store in New York City on Wednesday, we discovered that every candy we unwrapped had a broken tip. 

    Hershey Kisses

    The exact reason for the broken tips remains a mystery at this point, with the Lebanon Daily News first spotting the social media outrage on Wednesday. 

    “We are looking at the issue now," Jeff Beckman, director of corporate communications for The Hershey Company, told Business Insider. 

    "We understand that bakers' expectations are high for an iconic brand that is more than 100 years old because they are proud of their desserts."

    Hershey Kisses

    Business Insider will update this story if more details become available on the mystery of the broken tips. 

    The Kiss catastrophe comes as issues such as high freight costs are slicing into Hershey's profits.

    In response to rising costs, Hershey announced in July it plans to raise prices. In October, executives said the company planned to do so again in 2019.

    Mary Hanbury contributed reporting on this article. 

    SEE ALSO: Hershey released the first photo of its controversial new Reese's Cup that's 40% thinner, and it's already being forced to defend itself from critics' attacks

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: 7 things you shouldn't buy on Black Friday


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    williams sonoma $19.95

    The Star Wars franchise has captivated and continues to captivate audiences of all ages around the world. Nearly everyone can identify at least one person in their lives who loves the epic space story and has watched each of the movies a dozen times. 

    Thanks to the franchise's long-lasting and universal popularity, there are more than enough Star Wars products to go around, from props and clothing to decor and books. Finding a Star Wars-related gift isn't the hard part — finding one that's creative and unexpected is. 

    You can surprise them this year with one of these 27 Star Wars gifts they don't already have. As you'll see, there is a wide range of ways to incorporate new and interesting galactic fun into their lives. 

    Most of these items are available with expedited shipping, and some should arrive within a few days' time, so don't stress too hard about your last-minute shopping — just remember that the sooner you order, the better your chances of a timely arrival.

    Looking for more gift ideas? Check out all of Insider Picks' holiday gift guides for 2018 here.

    SEE ALSO: 31 cool tech gifts for the home that suit every kind of budget

    DON'T MISS: 34 cool stocking stuffers you can get on Amazon for under $20

    A Darth Vader figurine that's also an alarm clock

    Clic Time LEGO Darth Vader Alarm Clock, $21.74, available at Amazon

    What makes this alarm clock even more fun is that they can move the arms and legs to make Darth Vader sit or stand on their night stand. When they push down on his head to snooze the alarm or check the time, he lights up with a red glow. 



    Super comfortable underwear that also glows in the dark

    Men's Star Wars Boxer Brief, $24, available at MeUndies

    Women's Star Wars Bikini, $18, available at MeUndies

    One of MeUndies' many Adventurous prints is not only a fun group of Star Wars characters, but it also glows in the dark for extra quirkiness. We love its soft and stretchy micromodal underwear so much, we recommend MeUndies as some of the best underwear men and women can buy. 

     



    Mugs shaped like a Stormtrooper and Darth Vader

    Darth Vader and Stormtrooper Ceramic Mugs, $19.99, available at Target

    They'll feel like they can conquer the morning just like Darth Vader and his Stormtroopers after sipping their coffee from these ceramic mugs. 

     



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    The Insider Picks team writes about stuff we think you'll like. Business Insider has affiliate partnerships, so we get a share of the revenue from your purchase.

    product_SG3_05_2560w

    We almost always default to Amazon when we need last-minute, well, anything. Because we love procrastinating, we use it most frantically to buy gifts.

    Once you're on Amazon, you can breathe a little and remind yourself to calm down — it's virtually impossible not to find a good gift that will arrive in time.

    Many of these gifts in our list are available with fast Prime shipping, so don't stress too hard about your last-minute shopping — just remember that the sooner you order, the better your chances of a timely arrival. If you don't already have an Amazon Prime membership, you can sign up for a free 30-day trial to take advantage of free two-day shipping and dozens of other benefits.

    Just remember that the sooner you order, the better your chances of a timely arrival. Amazon's detailed holiday delivery calendar notes that the last day for Prime free two-day shipping is Saturday, December 22. 

    Looking for more last-minute gift ideas? Check out all of Insider Picks' holiday gift guides for 2018 here.

    SEE ALSO: 55 creative last-minute gifts for her that are all under $50

    DON'T MISS: 50 clever and practical last-minute gifts for dad under $50

    A powerful portable speaker

    Soundcore Flare Wireless Speaker, available at Amazon, $49.99

    About the size of a soda can, the Soundcore Flare is a powerful and very portable speaker that puts on a cool LED light show.



    An Instant Pot for easy weeknight meals

    Instant Pot DUO80, $89.95

    The Instant Pot is one of the most versatile appliances you can add to your kitchen for under $100. Help him make delicious home-cooked meals a cinch, even when he has to work late.



    A recipe book for Instant Pot meal inspiration

    The Instant Pot Electric Pressure Cooker Cookbook, $11.99

    For meal inspiration, you may want to consider gifting the Instant Pot along with an Instant Pot-specific cookbook. This one is a #1 best seller on Amazon.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    bryant park holiday market

    • I visited an iconic New York City holiday market to see if it lived up to the hype.
    • The Bank of America Winter Village is at Bryant Park in Midtown Manhattan, a short walk from Times Square.
    • I expected it to be overcrowded with tourists, filled with cheesy souvenir shops, and completely overrated. 
    • But it was actually a lovely NYC holiday experience and I think everyone should visit.

     

    I had low expectations going to the Bryant Park Winter Village, a holiday market in New York City.

    It's in Midtown Manhattan, a short walk from Times Square, and it's on top of five subway lines, so I was sure it would be packed with people.

    The market, which opened on October 27 this year, includes more than 170 holiday pop-up shops, an ice skating rink, and a heated lodge with food and a cocktail bar. There are also various eateries mixed in with the boutiques.

    Read more: Disappointing photos show what iconic New York City attractions really look like during the holidays

    To my surprise, the market was actually far from overcrowded. Even when it got busier as the evening wore on, I could always walk freely and I never felt like I was being surrounded by too many people. The atmosphere was calm yet festive, the shops sold artisanal wares from all over the world rather than just cheap tourist souvenirs, and everybody just genuinely seemed to be having a lovely time.

    Here's what the market is actually like, and why I suggest any New York City local or visitor should give it a visit.

    SEE ALSO: I went to a Veuve Clicquot holiday pop-up where you can drink $16 cocktails inside a rooftop 'snow globe,' and it seemed to be 100% made for Instagram

    DON'T MISS: A private jet company is letting rich people celebrate New Year's Eve twice by flying them around the world in a Gulfstream G550 for $250,000

    Bryant Park is in Midtown Manhattan, a short walk from Times Square.



    I got there a little after 4 p.m. on a weekday in mid-December, just as it was starting to get dark.



    The sidewalks surrounding the park were busy with wandering tourists and with locals leaving work. You can access five subway lines at the park, so the area always gets busy around rush hour.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    homesick, $29.95

    I live in New York, but given that I'm from Connecticut, I'm not a New Yorker. State pride is serious business — no matter where you live, you'll always have a unique connection to where you're from. Showing your state pride can manifest in many different ways. Maybe you're a committed fan of all of your states sports teams. Maybe you fervently hold that your hometown pizzeria has the best slice in the country — and you're willing to fight for that one. 

    Wherever they live, whatever way they choose to show their state pride, anyone will appreciate a state-inspired present this holiday season. It's a thoughtful, nostalgic gift that's sure to make them smile.

    If you haven't done your holiday shopping yet, a state-inspired gift still has a personal feel — so they won't feel let down with a generic last-minute gift. We found plenty of great options, plus they're all from Amazon so you can get them under the tree in time for Christmas. 

    Most of these items are available with two-day shipping, so don't stress too hard about your last-minute shopping — just remember that the sooner you order, the better your chances of a timely arrival.

    Keep scrolling for 19 great state-inspired gifts they'll love:

    A more simple state cutting board

    Totally Bamboo State Shaped Serving and Cutting Board, $19.95

    A beautiful bamboo cutting board is just what they need for cheese platters and charcuterie. The sleek state shape is a definite conversation piece, sure to up the ante for their next dinner party.

    Note: Some states may arrive after Christmas



    A candle that smells like home

    Homesick Candles, $29.95

    We've all had that feeling when we get a whiff of salty air or sweet cinnamon rolls and, suddenly, it's like we're immediately transported home. Homesick did plenty of research and crowdsourcing to capture the scents of every state and turn those into candles. With choices ranging from states, cities, and even experiences, lighting one of these is sure to conjure up lots of great memories. 



    A state-shaped cutting and serving board

    Totally Bamboo Engraved Serving and Cutting Board, $30

    If you think the plain bamboo is too simple, go for this board that's actually engraved with the state name, plenty of locations, icons, and important figures. If they're not the cheese platter type, they can still enjoy this board and hang it up as an interesting piece of wall decor. 

    Note: Some states may arrive after Christmas



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    sfl amazon prime free two hour delivery miami baltimore 20150319

    Everything seems to get more chaotic around the holidays — there's a rush at work and your calendar continues to fill up with events and parties to attend. Suddenly, it's the week before Christmas and you realize you forgot to find a gift. The good news is, you're not alone — plenty of us fall victim to last-minute gifting. You can still find thoughtful gifts that they'll appreciate, even just a few days before the holidays — we even have a list if you need some inspiration

    So you don't need to worry about finding the right gift, but you do need to worry about making sure that gift ends up under the tree. Luckily, if you like to shop online, many retailers have "buy by" dates that let you know when you need to purchase a product to guarantee it arrives by December 25. 

    Amazon is one of the major retailers that's released a detailed holiday delivery calendar.

    It outlines what shipping options are available, and until when, to ensure delivery before Christmas. If you have Amazon Prime, you'll have a longer window for delivery. Even if you aren't a Prime member, you can sign up for a 30-day free trial of the service now, so you can take advantage of the holiday shipping options. The following dates only apply to the contiguous US, and of course, it's a good idea to double check the delivery dates in your cart at checkout to be sure you'll get your gifts in time.

    • Wednesday, December 19: Last day for standard shipping (Free for Prime members on qualifying orders. Learn more).
    • Saturday, December 22: Last day for Prime free two-day shipping (No minimum purchase. Learn more).
    • Sunday, December 23: Last day for Prime free one-day shipping (In select areas, on qualifying orders over $35. Learn more).
    • Monday, December 24: Last day for Prime free same-day delivery (In select areas, on qualifying orders over $35; items ordered before noon will arrive by 9 p.m. Learn more). Also the last day for free two-hour delivery with Prime Now (In select areas. Learn more).

    Happy shopping!

    Still shopping for gifts? Browse all of Insider Picks' 2018 holiday gift guides here, or scan this quick list:

    Join the conversation about this story »


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    unicorn ornament

    Buying gifts for the artsy-fartsy souls in our lives can be a mystifying experience. They're impossible to buy clothes for, and the run of the mill gift card or Kindle is far too pedestrian.

    But thank goodness, The Metropolitan Museum of Art is, as always, at your service and to the rescue. And, until 1 p.m. EST on December 20th, The Met is offering an upgrade to two-business-day shipping for just $1, guaranteeing (as best they can) that Kris Kringle has just enough time to shoot down the chimney and slide these gifts under the tree. If you're anything like me, that should come as a tremendous relief.

    We've rounded up gifts for all age groups, tastes, and interests, so rest easy, my Philistine (and otherwise lost) friends, we (and The Met) are here for you.

    Below, you'll find 15 of the best gifts you can buy from The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

    Looking for more gift ideas? Check out all of Insider Picks' holiday gift guides for 2018 here.

    A unicorn ornament from The Unicorn Tapestries

    Unicorn Ornament, $28 (member price: $25.20)

    This ornament features The Unicorn in Captivity from the famous medieval Unicorn Tapestries hanging at The Met Cloisters.



    A coffee table book of David Hockney's delightful works

    David Hockney, $40 (member price: $36)

    David Hockney has graced us with decades of delightful illustrations. It's about time we all have a book of them.



    A tea-infusing mug littered with Steinlen cats

    Steinlen Cats Covered Mug with Tea Infuser, $20 (Member price: $18)

    Understated yet elegant, and a very safe bet. Plus, there are cats! All art lovers and artistes alike love cats, right?



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    Screen Shot 2018 10 29 at 4.15.19 PM

    At least once a year, you get to thank your best friend for being your own personal saint for the other 364 days of the year.

    They're the ones you rely upon, confide in, and plague with everything from menu choices to whether or not you should move across the country for this new job. So when the holidays roll around, it can be difficult to find something adequately thoughtful to give to that most important person — especially within the relatively affordable under-$100 range.

    To make things easier for you, we put together a list of 40 unique, thoughtful gifts that your best friend will actually love to get — all for less than $100.

    Most of these items are available with expedited shipping, and some should arrive within a few days' time, so don't stress too hard about your last-minute shopping — just remember that the sooner you order, the better your chances of a timely arrival.

    Looking for more gift ideas? Check out all of Insider Picks' holiday gift guides for 2018 here.

    A high-tech towel that's better for their hair

    Aquis Lisse Luxe Long Hair Towel, available on Sephora and Amazon, $35

    Aquis' cult-favorite hair towels have inspired a slew of rave reviews online, including one from our own team of reviewers.

    The towels are made from a proprietary fabric called Aquitex that's composed of ultra-fine fibers (finer than silk) that work to reduce the amount of friction the hair experiences while in its weakest state. It also prevents hygral fatigue — the stretching and swelling of wet hair that makes it vulnerable to frizz and damage — by cutting the hair's drying time by 50%.

    Note: Currently unavailable on Amazon



    A small but powerful Bluetooth Bose speaker

    Bose SoundLink Micro Bluetooth Speaker, available on Amazon, $79 (Originally $99) [You save $20]

    The term "small but mighty" gets thrown around a lot, but this small Bose speaker is only a little larger than the phone used to control the music — and has a much bigger sound. It comes in three colors and has a six-hour battery life. 



    A hilarious collection of Tinder exchanges that, altogether, become one modern horror story

    Tinder Nightmares, available on Amazon, $9.89

    "Tinder Nightmares" is a modern horror story of Tinder exchanges organized by theme, with chapters such as Bad English, Broetry, Strange Requests, Sneak Attacks, and more. The Instagram account of the same name has nearly 2 million followers. But beware — like Tinder, this book is not for the faint of heart. 



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    Christmas is less than a week away. If you haven't finished all of your shopping by now, we won't sugarcoat it — you're running out of time. But you shouldn't panic just yet.

    Walmart has a massive selection of giftable items that are guaranteed to arrive before the holiday. Orders placed by December 20 at 2 p.m. local time will arrive by Christmas Eve with free two-day shipping. Alternatively, some items are eligible for in-store pickup.

    To save you some much needed time, we rounded up some of the best deals and gift ideas at Walmart.

    Shop all two-day delivery deals at Walmart now.

    Still shopping for more gifts? Check out all of Insider Picks' holiday gift guides for 2018 here.


    A premium electric wet and dry shaver

    Braun Series 7 Electric Shaver, $169.95 (Originally $229.94) [You save $59.99]



    An iPad

    Apple iPad (Latest Model) 32GB Wi-Fi, $229 (Originally $329.99) [You save $100.99]

     



    An air fryer

    Farberware 3.2-Quart Oil-Less Multi-Functional Fryer, $59.88 (Originally $99) [You save $39.12]



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    prison gate

    • Senators on Tuesday voted 87 to 12 to approve the First Step Act, a bill reforming certain parts of the federal criminal-justice system.
    • But even its supporters have criticized it for not going far enough — urging Americans to recognize that the bill needs to be followed up with stronger reforms.
    • Some critics on the right, including Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, also assailed the bill as "misguided and dangerous," saying it would release violent criminals.

    After the US Senate overwhelmingly voted on Tuesday to reform certain parts of the criminal-justice system, a move lauded as a remarkable bipartisan victory under the Trump administration, even its supporters are saying that the legislation will ultimately be toothless if it's not followed up with stronger reforms.

    The passage of the bill, known as the First Step Act, marked the first major legislative win in decades to address mass incarceration at the federal level.

    The bill overhauls certain federal sentencing laws, reducing mandatory minimum sentences for drug felonies and expanding early-release programs. In a major win for prison-reform groups, the bill also makes retroactive a 2010 federal sentencing law reducing the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine offenses.

    The bill also aims to lower recidivism by offering more rehabilitation and job-training opportunities, and it includes provisions intended to treat prisoners humanely — banning the shackling of pregnant inmates, halting the use of solitary confinement for most juvenile inmates, and mandating that prisoners be placed in facilities within 500 miles from their families.

    But even the advocates and lawmakers who pushed the bill forward are urging caution in celebrating too soon. Sen. Kamala Harris, a California Democrat, tweeted at length about the shortcomings of the bill on Monday before saying she ultimately decided to vote for it.

    Read more: Prison reform legislation is moving through Congress with the help of an unlikely alliance: Trump and the ACLU. Here's what it would do.

    Kamala Harris

    She criticized the legislation for not applying all of the sentencing reforms retroactively, not going far enough in applying earned good-time credits, failing to crack down on the private-prison industry, and not reining in the use of electronic monitoring.

    "To be clear, the FIRST STEP Act is very much just that — a first step," she said. "It is a compromise of a compromise, and we ultimately need to make far greater reforms if we are to right the wrongs that exist in our criminal justice system."

    And though most of the major criminal-justice-reform advocacy groups supported the bill — including the American Civil Liberties Union — some shied away entirely.

    The National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, an organization representing dozens of Protestant denominations, criticized the bill for relying too heavily on electronic monitoring to surveil released prisoners and for failing to make its mandatory minimum sentencing reforms retroactive, a key provision that law-enforcement groups had demanded before pledging their support.

    "Despite current bipartisan enthusiasm for any move toward criminal justice reform, the First Step Act is insufficient toward that end," Rev. Steven Martin said in a statement. "While compromise is a necessary part of consensus-building around legislation, this bill will have harmful consequences, which will be more difficult to correct later."

    'Misguided and dangerous'

    tom cotton

    Meanwhile among conservatives, the strongest opposition from the right came from Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, who assailed the bill as "misguided and dangerous" in a recent National Review op-ed and criticized his conservative colleagues in the Senate for their support.

    "The First Step Act provides hundreds of new rights and privileges to federal prisoners. More phone time, reduced sentences, 'compassionate release,' and early release credits," he tweeted. "There is not a single benefit in the bill for the victims of these criminals."

    Cotton and Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana proposed three major amendments that were widely criticized for exempting broad swaths of prisoners from the bill's early-release provisions, effectively defanging much of the bill's benefits for prisoners.

    Liberal groups criticized the amendments; #cut50, an initiative to reduce the prison population, called the amendments "attempts to derail a bill that prioritizes public safety and rehabilitation." All three amendments were resoundingly struck down.

    "The bipartisan coalition stuck together and won. Tom Cotton's scare tactics were a resounding failure," Jessica Jackson Sloan, national director of #cut50, said in a statement. "The overwhelming rejection of his amendments shows a clear mandate for federal criminal justice reforms."

    The bill is expected to pass the House of Representatives and move on to the White House, where President Donald Trump has vowed to sign it.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Anthony Scaramucci claims Trump isn't a nationalist: 'He likes saying that because it irks these intellectual elitists'


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    limited edition gifts 22

    Finding a unique gift isn't easy. That's why we dig through the internet's vast offerings to suggest cool gift ideas you haven't already thought of, like thoughtful personalized gifts and gifts from a site with "uncommon" right in its name

    Another way to guarantee the special feel of a gift is to find limited-edition products. Since only a certain number is made and they're often done in collaboration with other brands, they possess a cool factor that regular gifts can't replicate. Given their exclusivity, it's less likely that everyone is going to emerge in 2019 wearing the same pair of shoes or backpack. 

    These 21 gifts aren't going to stick around long, and once they're gone, they're gone forever, so if you really want to impress your recipient this year, don't hesitate to pick up one of these limited-edition products. 

    Most of these items are available with expedited shipping, and some should arrive within a few days' time, so don't stress too hard about your last-minute shopping — just remember that the sooner you order, the better your chances of a timely arrival.

    Looking for more gift ideas? Check out all of Insider Picks' holiday gift guides for 2018 here.

    SEE ALSO: All of Insider Picks' holiday gift guides, in one place

    Made In x Banza cookware and pasta

    Made In x Banza Kit, $79-$289, available at Made In

    Brighten up their stove with a red frying pan from one of our favorite kitchen startups, then fill their stomachs with healthy but delicious pasta from Banza. The full kit also throws in a five-quart stockpot and two-quart saucepan. 



    Mejuri Holiday Kit jewelry

    The Minimalist Kit, $100, available at Mejuri

    Mejuri's holiday kits pair some of its best sellers into curated sets that take the headache out of gifting. The pretty gold pieces are wrapped up in special packaging for the holidays. 



    Sugarfina x Hello Kitty candy

    Hello Kitty Bow 2pc Candy Bento Box, $22, available at Sugarfina

    This playful collection of gummy candy and tiny cookies lets adults become kids again this Christmas. The sweet collaboration includes apple pie and strawberry gummies. 

     



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    uncommongoods gifts 24

    Shopping is time-consuming and stressful, so it's no wonder many of us often default to buying generic, unmemorable gifts just to get the whole process over with. We've all been guilty of it, and part of the reason is the dearth of unique options that live in one, easily shoppable place. 

    UncommonGoods, the online shop inspired by the founder's experiences roaming craft fairs and trade shows, highlights the best of independent makers from around the world. Selling thousands of unique products, it's one of the few places we know we'll always find something cool for our loved ones, whether they're hungry home cooks, die-hard sports fans, or classic old souls. 

    If you see a lot of gifts from the site that you like, or you think you'll shop UncommonGoods beyond the holidays for other gifting occasions, sign up for its Uncommon Perks shipping program. Shipping prices ordinarily start at $4.95 and depend on your order value and desired shipping speed, but this $19 annual membership will get you free standard shipping on all US orders, regardless of order value. 

    Most of these items are available with expedited shipping (for an extra cost), and some should arrive within a few days' time, so don't stress too hard about your last-minute shopping — just remember that the sooner you order, the better your chances of a timely arrival.

    Before you dive into the treasure trove that is UncommonGoods, check out our 30 top picks from the site first. These gifts are far from ordinary. 

    Looking for more gift ideas? Check out all of Insider Picks' holiday gift guides for 2018 here.

    SEE ALSO: All of Insider Picks' holiday gift guides, in one place

    A beautiful and unconventional puzzle

    Geode Puzzle, $65, available at UncommonGoods

    If regular puzzles just aren't challenging enough for them, these nature-inspired ones exercise their brain in new and exciting ways. 

     



    A pair of lamps made for long-distance relationships

    Long Distance Friendship Lamp, $85-$170, available at UncommonGoods

    Everyone is busy these days, and it's not as easy to keep up with loved ones as we all wish. A set of paired lamps, one of which lights up when the other is touched, lets them know you're still thinking of them even when you don't have time to talk. Our editor uses them to keep in touch with her parents.



    A cheese board shaped like their home state

    USA and State Serving Board, $48, available at UncommonGoods

    State pride and an excellent cheese and charcuterie spread go hand in hand with these beautiful bamboo boards. 

     



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    Taco Bell Founder House21

    • Late Taco Bell founder Glen Bell's Rancho Santa Fe, California, home is on the market for $5.9 million.
    • The listing includes two homes, which can be purchased together for $5.9 million or separately for $4 million and $2.6 million.
    • Together, the homes offer more than six acres of land. The main residence has five bedrooms, seven bathrooms, two pools, and a chef's kitchen. 

    The lavish California home of late Taco Bell founder Glen Bell is on the market for the first time since 2015.

    Bell died in 2010 at 86. He was a pioneer of Mexican fast food, opening chains including Taco-Tia and El Taco in the 1950s. It wasn't until 1962 that he founded Taco Bell, which PepsiCo acquired for $125 million in 1978.

    Bell's massive Rancho Santa Fe, California, home is now listed at $5.9 million. The listing actually includes two homes: a nearly 8,000-square-foot house with two swimming pools and a chef's kitchen, and a 4,527-square-foot house with an outdoor entertainment space and tennis court. The homes can be purchased together or separately. 

    The main residence has five bedrooms and seven baths. Each of the two master suites has a fireplace and a private garden, and the spacious living room has floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the backyard. 

    Take a look inside the extravagant home: 

    SEE ALSO: This major beauty subscription-box company is opening its own stores inside Walgreens. Here's what it's like to shop there.

    The late Taco Bell founder Glen Bell's house is located in Rancho Santa Fe, California.



    The home is listed for $5.9 million, and its grounds span a total of 6.75 acres. There are two residences included.



    The main house is nearly 8,000 square feet, and it has five bedrooms and seven bathrooms. It's listed for $4 million if purchased alone.



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    sodastream

    The best part of moving in to your first apartment or home is getting to create a space that's all yours. Finding the perfect decor and picking out furniture is the exciting part, but after that comes all the expenses no recent grad or young professional wants to bare. A laundry hamper, pots and pans, bedding — these are just some of the distinctly un-fun, adult purchases they'll reluctantly need to make.

    Though you might be tempted to buy them some new decor for the walls, we recommend getting them some combination of the necessities they wish they didn't have to spend their own money on, and the little luxuries that can make life infinitely better. Read on to see our picks for what they'll really want this holiday season.

    Most of these items are available with expedited shipping, and some should arrive within a few days' time, so don't stress too hard about your last-minute shopping — just remember that the sooner you order, the better your chances of a timely arrival.

    Looking for more gift ideas? Check out all of Insider Picks' holiday gift guides for 2018 here.

    SEE ALSO: 25 tactful gifts for your in-laws that'll make a great impression during the holidays

    DON'T MISS: 34 cool stocking stuffers you can get on Amazon for under $20

    A gift card to buy the best set of sheets they’ve ever slept on

    Brooklinen Gift Card, from $50

    Our senior editor calls Brooklinen's sheets one of the best purchases she's ever made, and many of us at Insider Picks feel the same way. They'll be able to choose from quite a few weaves/materials as well as a huge selection of fun prints and colors. A basic full set costs around $130, for reference.



    A personalized trinket tray for all their odds and ends

    McLaughlin Glazeware Initial Tray, available at Nordstrom, $39

    Catch-all trays are the kind of gift that may seem underwhelming until they realize how useful they are. That was certainly the case when I was gifted one after college. Now I have a few of them around my apartment — one for keys and sunglasses by the door, one for my rings and jewelry by the bed, and another in the living room for lip balm, candle matches, and other small items. 



    A robot vacuum that makes quick work of chores

    Eufy RoboVac 11S, available on Amazon, $219

     

    Vacuuming is one of the great time-sucks in life — literally. Give them back their Sunday afternoons with the gift of a robot vacuum that'll take the work out of cleaning the house. On a personal note, I can't recommend this one enough. You can read a more thorough review of it here.

     



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