Viewing category ‘Crafts and activities’

Milk and Cookies

with Kristen

I'm a mother of five, a bargain hunter, a recreational comparison shopper, and always trying to make more time - for me and for you, too. On this blog I'm sharing my favorite tools and finds to help make your work-life juggle a bit easier.

You can find my personal blog at Swistle.com.

Life-improving products, part 3

Categories: Crafts and activities, Electronics, Fashion, Good causes, House & Home, Kitchen, Life balance, Office, Time savers

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(Continued from part 1 and part 2.)

CMS NeoPin Magents (photo from Amazon.com). These are not going to be everyone’s cup of tea: some people hate stuff on the fridge, and some people have non-magnetic fridges, and some people have kids little enough to eat magnets. But if you DO like having stuff on your fridge, AND your fridge cooperates with that, AND your kids are old enough to eat things from the inside of the fridge and not the outside, then these are GREAT: really strong, and also pretty. They claim to be able to hold 16 pages, and I wouldn’t be surprised: Paul recently used one to pin the remains of a pad of paper to the fridge. Because they’re kind of expensive for fridge magnets, they’d make a good gift for someone hard to buy for.


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Shopping ideas for summer fun

Categories: Books, Crafts and activities, Elementary school kids, Managing stress, On the web, Toys, games

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Normally this time of year I’m buying a batch of Summer Survival Gear Treats. I like to buy a new CD for the driving back and forth to lessons and camp; a new outdoor toy or two; a new board game; some craft supplies; maybe a new video game.

This year, we seem to be all set. We’ve bought all the CDs, and/or the kids are too old for them now. (I’d like to get The Book of Mormon soundtrack because they’ve loved the few songs I’ve shown them on YouTube, but the lyrics to a lot of them are…not ones I want them singing absentmindedly next year in school.) We already own a Stomp Rocket and a plasma car and a hula hoop and some jump ropes and a scooter. We’ve got Skip-bo and Wits & Wagers and Scrambled States. Our video game shelf and craft bin overfloweth, and I just got a big bag of kid books from the library book sale.

I did buy one thing:

Webkinz Deluxe Membership (screen shot from GanzEStore.com), which gives access to a bunch of otherwise-locked games and merchandise and so forth on the Webkinz site. The tipping point for me was a sale: normally it’s $45 for a year’s membership, but June 10th-13th it’s on sale for $33.74. (If you want to get the 3-month one so it’s just a summer thing, it’s $11.24.) The year-long one comes with the ability to add other accounts for $5 each, so I got it for myself (*embarrassed cough*) and added the three kids who play Webkinz. It’s hard for me to explain how thrilling this has been for us, and in fact I find I’m reluctant to try to persuade you that this isn’t a very foolish thing to spend money on, and maybe we should just change the subject. But it was Very Exciting for four of us at my house, and the year-long subscription also comes with a free Webkinz pet (online version only, no plush version), a fawn I kept for myself. It also comes with a monthly batch of virtual money, so I am saving up for a Sun Fox. …Okay, NOW I’m too embarrassed to discuss it anymore. (SUN FOX FOR ME!)
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11 Gift ideas for Father’s Day

Categories: Crafts and activities, Electronics, Fashion, Fun stuff for grown-ups, Gifts, Guys, Holiday, Toys

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Last year I suggested we get together a list of what we’d resorted to for Father’s Day presents, so that THIS year we’d have more ideas to consider.

I continue to recommend the Click ‘n’ Dig Wireless Remote Finder (photo from Amazon.com). We’ve had it a year, and Paul still says “Best. gift. ever.” about twice a week. One of the four sensor thingies broke after being dropped one (1) million times, but we still had a spare so we just replaced it. We keep the remote itself nailed to the wall so it can’t get lost. If we broke another of the little sensor thingies, I would buy another set without even thinking about it.

Last year, Alicia mentioned getting a travel coffee press/mug (photo from Amazon.com) with fancy coffee, for good coffee at the office or on business trips.
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Non-candy Valentine’s Day gifts for kids

Categories: Crafts and activities, Elementary school kids, Food, Gifts, Holiday, Toys, games

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I hope that this post will not give you the impression that I disapprove of candy at Valentine’s Day, or that I avoid it. FAR FROM IT. I give my own kids a candy gift, and I like that they come home with a little assortment of treats from school, too: it’s nice to have a candy holiday in between Christmas and Easter, just to keep the spirits up in the cold sad part of winter.

But I know enough from seeing/hearing OTHER people discuss it that not everyone is of the same mind. For those who are trying to avoid candy for various reasons but still would like to celebrate Valentine’s Day with a gift for the kids, here are a few ideas:

Sticky Mosaics heart box (photo from Amazon.com). I have mentioned Sticky Mosaics often enough that you already know we’re fans at my house. This heart box is a fun project we’ve also given as birthday-party gifts.

Hide ‘n’ Peek Chocolates game (photo from Amazon.com). If you look at the reviews, you’ll see that a lot of people thought this was a good Valentine’s Day gift for a child, and that unfortunately there is one main problem with it: the lid doesn’t fit on right. So it kind of depends on how important that feature is for the game to be a success. If you’re going to store it in a bin anyway (if you’re like me and wouldn’t want to assemble the toy every time you put it away, for example), it won’t matter—but it might be disappointing anyway.
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Games we can bear to play with children

Categories: Crafts and activities, Gifts, Keepsakes, Learning activities, Toddler gear

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I am breathing carefully and calmly through my nose as I think of playing board games with children: Monopoly, which goes on forever and makes children cry; CandyLand, which seems like it’s about to end and then someone gets sent back to the beginning.

I do have a few, a very select few, that I am willing to play. I look for a game that is fun for me as well as for the kids, and that doesn’t require me to hold way back in order to avoid trouncing my opponents.

Wits & Wagers Family (photo from Amazon.com). I prefer the grown-up version, which I first encountered at my brother and sister-in-law’s house, but the kid-friendly game is nearly as good. I am timid and suspicious of games, but this one won me over: it’s like Trivial Pursuit except you’re NOT SUPPOSED TO know the answers. The idea is that everyone will be guessing. The guesses are laid out in a row, and then everyone can bet on the likelihood that the guesses are correct; in this way, you can win points even if you didn’t know the population of Vatican City, or how many points an athlete scored in his best game. It ends up being a lot of fun and a lot of laughing, and as soon as I got home from that game night I ordered the family version to play with the kids.

Set (photo from Amazon.com). This game was recommended to us by one of the kids’ teachers, who had the kids make their own small decks to practice with. The point of the game is to find three cards that make up a “set”: the three cards can be different colors but the same shapes, or different shapes but the same colors, or all different colors/shapes. It took me a little while to catch on, but after that it was simple and addictive.
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Birthday party gift ideas for a 14-year-old

Categories: Books, Crafts and activities, Gifts

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My teenager was invited to a birthday party last week. This was new ground. It was the first party without a paper invitation, the first party where I’ve wondered if there would be chaperones and whether I might like to call the parents to see if our philosophies match on topics such as liquor and supervision.

The gift was its own problem. Littler kids like a lot of things, and there are a lot of other things they’d enjoy trying even if they didn’t end up liking them. If I’m in doubt, I feel like I can always fall back on a Melissa and Doug coloring/sticker bundle and fancy coloring implements.

The older kids at my house are definitely harder to buy for, and SOMEONE ELSE’S older kid seems almost impossible. And what if presents aren’t really COOL anymore, or the wrapping paper is stupid, or the gift is embarrassingly too young (”Here, sonny, I got you this jigsaw puzzle of puppies!”). *fret fret fret* But eventually I thought I would just try to do what I would do for my own 13-year-old and not worry too much about it—and if I made some sort of Grievous Error, Rob could just roll his eyes and say “MOTHERS!” and the other boys would make scoffy noises and say “I know, right?”

Prismacolor Manga Colored Pencil Set (photo from Amazon.com).
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Road trip supplies for older kids

Categories: Books, Crafts and activities, Fashion, Learning activities, Travel

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Paul has started a new annual tradition of taking the two older kids on a road trip each summer. Here are some of the supplies I bought for them this year, when they were ages 11 and 13:

The Hunger Games trilogy (photo from Amazon.com). Both kids read the first book, but we’ve spent the rest of the summer on the library waiting list for the second one. This was the perfect moment to finally give in and buy the set. And there was no fighting over it, because one kid wanted to re-read the first book before reading the second one, and the other kid didn’t.

Brain Quest for the Car (photo from Amazon.com). We’ve loved these Brain Quest cards for littler kids; I hadn’t realized they had sets for older kids. I first considered the set for 7th graders (one child is going into 6th, the other into 8th), but this car-trip set seemed more fun. I worried it might be too young for them (it’s marked ages 7-12), and probably would have gotten the America set (ages 9 and up) if it hadn’t had a predicted shipping delay.
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Gift ideas for pretty much absolutely anyone

Categories: Books, Crafts and activities, Food, Gifts, Good causes, Holiday, House & Home, Kitchen, Office

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Every year, EVERY YEAR, I feel like it is wayyyy too early to discuss gift ideas / holiday china / holiday cards and so everyone will be annoyed because DEAR HEAVENS SWISTLE IT’S ONLY HALLOWEEN—and then every year I am sitting here with only two Wednesdays left before Christmas, thinking, “There’s no tiiiiiiiiiime! There’s no tiiiiiiiiiiime!!” Still on my post list: gifts that have to work for an unknown recipient, food gifts, holiday cards, holiday china patterns, a holiday craft a child can make as a gift and it’s something a non-related-to-the-child person might even WANT, gift-idea books for children, gift-idea books for adults, good general DVD gift sets, puzzle brand comparison, teacher gift ideas, stocking stuffers, gift ideas for 4/6/10/12-year-olds. We can pick two of those. And by “we” I mean “me,” because by the time you read the first of the two posts (this one), I’ll already be working on the second one. So. Next year don’t be surprised if I start the discussion in October.
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Supplies for a sick day

Categories: Books, Crafts and activities, Gifts, Health and Safety, Life balance, Managing stress, Toys

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This week a little virus sped through our household: sore throats and 103-degree fevers for everyone except me. If I ever wondered if I might have been a good and kind and angelic nurse in, say, an army tent with rows of patients, the answer is “Probably not.” Six people asking for more juice, more water, a blanket, the remote, maybe another piece of toast, was pretty much all I could handle pleasantly, and probably the adverb “pleasantly” is pushing it a bit, even in much nicer conditions and with much less upsetting illness/injuries than would be in an army tent.

There are certain things I keep in the house always, so I have them on hand when illness visits us and don’t have to add “running to the store” to my toast-fetching list:
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Birthday party gift ideas for a 10-year-old girl

Categories: Crafts and activities, Fashion, Gifts, Learning activities, Toys

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William, Robert, and Elizabeth have all been invited to a birthday party this weekend, so I need to come up with three presents for a 10-year-old girl. I could use a hand, if you have a minute—and then we’ll have this later as a reference for the next time we need it!

She likes cats, and she likes anything cute or fuzzy. She likes Phineas & Ferb, and SpongeBob Squarepants. She likes crafts. She plays soccer. She’s William’s age and grade and is mostly William’s friend, but she plays with everyone when she’s here.

Normally I aim for about $10 for a party gift (in this case, from each of the three children), but I’d be willing to go a little higher.

First candidate: Aurora Plush Fluffee Fluffy Tails (photo from Amazon.com), about $9.00. Most households already have more stuffed animals than they can handle—and yet, the sight of this cat reduced our household to “OHHHHhhhhhhhhhh!!!”s of cuteness.
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