Viewing category ‘Gifts’

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.

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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End-of-year teacher gifts

Categories: Fun stuff for grown-ups, Gifts, Keepsakes, School

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We did end-of-year teacher gifts our first few years of having schoolkids, but now I don’t typically do them. I’m more likely to put all the teacher-gift eggs into the December-gift basket.

But I do sometimes do something for end-of-year, especially if there’s something significant about the particular year/class. For example, last year one of my children’s teachers was retiring, and she’d taught another of my children as well. I had copies of “first day of school” pictures printed from both kids’ first days in her class, and enclosed them with a thank-you letter and a Target gift card and a card wishing her a happy retirement. (Forty years teaching first graders. Can you imagine? No, don’t try.)

Mid-year, I think classroom items can be a nice thing to donate—but at the end of the year, I suspect teachers just want to PACK IT UP. No more pencils, no more books, no more children’s dirty looks! I aim instead for things I think they might be able to enjoy over the summer. A gift card to Panera, for a time of year they might be able to go to lunch. A gift card to a book store, for a little recreational reading. A gift card to the over-priced-but-delicious ice cream store. A gift card to a place that sells iced coffees (photo from Starbucks.com), for keeping them cool in August when they’re reassembling their non-air-conditioned classrooms.
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Gift ideas for guys

Categories: Books, Clothes, Food, Fun stuff for grown-ups, Gifts, Guys, House & Home, Kitchen

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Gift ideas for guys seem to fall into the same category as gift ideas for teenagers: with so few ideas, sharing what little we have can only improve matters. So here are some of the things I’ve given Paul recently, in case they’d work for your guy too:

Cooking for Geeks (photo from Amazon.com). I was irritated but affirmed when I bought this for Paul for an upcoming holiday and then saw he’d checked the same book out of the library.

Paul kept complaining about (and breaking the handles off of) my “sucky” measuring cups, so I did a post asking for advice on a good manly set. To my surprise and dismay, the comments section filled up with suggestions for measuring cups that cost about triple the amount of money I’d had in mind. But I thought about it and got used to the idea that maybe better quality = costs more, and then there was a sale combined with a free shipping deal, and so I bought him a set of the Williams-Sonoma measuring cups and spoons (photo from Williams-Sonoma.com)—and Paul LOVES them. On the next gift occasion, he hinted that he would also like the odd-sizes set, so I got him those too. (He was slightly cheesed that the two sets of measuring cups don’t nest together, but it wasn’t a big deal.)
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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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Gift ideas for a 1-year-old

Categories: Baby gear, Books, Gifts, Toddler gear, Toys

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My nephew recently turned one, which is hard for me to believe but the evidence sits before me. Recently there were requests for gift ideas for a one-year-old, so I took notes at his birthday party.

Pewi YBike Walking Buddy and Riding Toy (photo from Amazon.com). This is a very stylish looking riding toy. And if the child stands facing it, it’s also a sturdy walker.


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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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Gift ideas for a 7-year-old (or two 7-year-olds)

Categories: Baby gear, Books, Fashion, Gifts, Toys

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The twins turned seven, and for me it meant not just “O MY BABIES ARE GROWING UP” but also “O MAN THIS IS A LOT OF PRESENT IDEAS TO COME UP WITH.”

One of the more surprising successes was a calculator (photo from Amazon.com) for Edward. He’d kept stealing mine, so I wondered if he might like to have one of his own—and although his first reaction was not quite the level of THRILL a person might be looking for in a birthday gift reaction, he’s played with it nearly every day since.

My parents bought LittleMissMatched socks (photo from LittleMissMatched.com) for Elizabeth. I had the fun of choosing, so I chose all from the buy-3-sets-get-1-set-free section, to reduce the pain of paying THREE dollars PER sock PLUS shipping. This was a great gift idea for grandparents, because I KNEW Elizabeth really wanted the socks but I was having a hard time getting over the hurdle of the price (and the SUPER annoyance of not being able to use a free shipping code on an order containing buy-3-get-1). My mom: “Pish! They’re perfect! Let’s order them!”
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Gift ideas for a 2-year-old

Categories: Gifts, Toddler gear, Toys

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We were recently invited to a birthday party for a 2-year-old, and you know what I don’t remember? What 2-year-olds like. It’s funny how that was only three years ago and yet I had to go back into my journals to find out even what KIND of toy the kids were playing with at that age.

One idea we considered was musical instruments. Several of our kids were invited, so it seemed like a good way to bring a gift from each child: maybe one could bring this cool percussion toy (photo from Amazon.com), and one could bring bendy bells, and one could bring a harmonica and a kazoo.

Or maybe one kid could bring an instrument and one could bring a set of helping/digging garden tools (photo from Amazon.com).
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Baby gift ideas for a casual acquaintance

Categories: Baby gear, Gifts, Time savers

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Recently I’ve needed to buy baby gifts for two people in the “casual acquaintance” category. This category includes anyone where (1) it seems like it would be a nice thing to buy them a baby gift, but (2) you don’t really know them well enough to know what they’d like/need, and (3) you don’t want to make things awkward by getting something too large for the relationship. In other words, you want a token that shows your general good wishes, but this is not the time for engraved silver baby cups or a $100 baby swing.

I find in these cases I fall back on the same five basic ideas:

Idea #1: A set of board books. (Photo from Amazon.com.) Books with dust jackets and paper pages make good sentimental gifts and are a fun baby shower idea, but many of them can’t be enjoyed by the baby for years; baby board books can be used almost right away, and they’re less sentimental and more practical. I read this particular set to my particular babies one million times, and they were also good for propping in front of a baby suffering enjoying tummy-time. They’re good basic “a picture per page” board books, nice and bright and durable. And they’re $10ish for four! Perfect.

Idea #2: The sleep-and-play. (Photos from Carters.com.) Many new babies wear these around the clock at first, changed not for “daytime” and “bedtime” but instead with every diaper leak and spit-up. Such changes can happen many, many times a day with some babies. I know some parents report getting way too many baby clothes as gifts, but even with handmedowns I was still buying more of these with every baby in the first two sizes (newborn and 3 months). They’re easy, comfy, cute, and no one has to try to match colors on too little sleep.
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