Have you ever been the first in line for the latest gadget or fashion craze? I’ve never stood in line outside the Apple store, but some “must haves” tempt me to give into the shopping urge. Choose your philosophy, but mine is if you can afford it and can’t stop thinking about it, buy it! Since the season of gift giving is here, take a look at some of the year’s top buys that drew in the shoppers, me included.

Apple iPad 2

The new version launched in March 2011, sending droves of Chicagoans to the Michigan Ave. store. The iPad 2 is an exciting new piece of technology. I picked up a friend’s and couldn’t put it down. There are so many apps, games and more available to surf the web, check e-mail, watch movies, and read books. The new design is thinner and lighter, and with other features like HD video recording, 10-hour battery life, and a camera, users can do pretty much everything with it.

(credit: EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)

Amazon Kindle

Here’s another little device that’s gained a huge following. The Kindle revolutionized the reading experience. Book lovers snatched up this e-reader for downloading, storing, and reading e-books. It’s as thin as a magazine and holds up to 3,500 books, magazines, stories and documents. And the new Pearl e-ink makes the Kindle screen almost identical to a printed page! Other features: no-glare 6-inch screen, seamless page turns, battery life of up to two months, and built-in Wi-Fi. You can also download books in less than 60 seconds.

Tom’s, Sperry’s, and Frye’s

For foot fanatics, cheers to a year of three stylish shoes. Tom’s, Sperry’s, and Frye’s paved Chicago’s streets. Tom’s slip-ons top my all-time comfort list thanks to an elastic inset on top, a padded footbed, and cushioning rubber outsole. Glitter, gray, and corduroy are three great options. Sperry’s Top Sider Bluefish 2 Eye are another shoe that hit big with women, me included. The boat shoe followed the year’s nautical trend. It’s versatile (can go with 90% of outfits) and the soft leather requires no breaking in period. And the best for last—Frye’s Harness 12R is a classic. Buy them for the durable leather, treads for traction, distressing, antiqued hardware; then pair them with skinny jeans or tights! And a little history – Frye boots were worn by soldiers for both sides of America’s Civil War.


I love a good deal, and Groupon sure delivers. The deal-of-the-day website blew up in 2011. I eagerly scrolled my e-mails to peek at the day’s offering. Probably the biggest draw is simply the percentage off (50% to 90%) of goods received. Tempting customers with 75%-of fondue, come on. Sign up to buy certificates at local restaurants, getaways, spas, activities, etc. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, Groupon is “projecting that the company is on pace to make $1 billion in sales faster than any other business, ever.” This holiday season be on the lookout for great deals to buy all your loved ones the best gifts at huge discounts.

(credit: Garmincdn.com)

Garmin Forerunner 405

The Garmin Forerunner 405 is helping Chicago’s Lakefront Trail runners rack up the miles. Whether it’s long runs, tempo runs, or speed work, I’ve seen men and women sporting the watch all along the path. The GPS-enabled watch tracks your training and wirelessly sends data to your computer, making it easy to capture miles logged. A scroll function lets you change the display on the run. Monitor your time, distance, pace, calories, and heart rate (when paired with heart rate monitor).

Jenny Schooley is a Chicago-based writer and editor. She currently works in publishing for an academic organization.