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

College graduation gift ideas

Categories: Books, Gifts, Kitchen, Milestones


Vanessa asked if I’d do a post on college graduation gifts. At first I misread the request as high school graduation gifts, so I was all, “Hot pot and a box of Ramen! X-long sheet set! Gift certificate for pizza place near dorms!”

College graduation is a little trickier, because the way people live in college (and their plans for what’s next) can vary so much. It’s similar to buying a wedding gift, where it depends if the couple are leaving their parents’ houses for the first time, or if they’ve been living together for years, or if they’re combining two households. Some college kids live in the dorms the whole time, so they could use “first apartment” gifts. Other kids get an apartment at some point during college and so they pretty much have everything—oh, except the coffee pot belongs to this roommate, and the silverware belongs to that roommate, and the furniture was all found at the curb, and actually they do kind of need new-apartment stuff. Some kids are going to move back in with their parents for awhile; some are launching off next week to a new job in another state.

So my first recommendation is to take the post-college plans into consideration, and see if you can buy something that would be useful for that. Helpful! The old “Hey, how about buying them something they’d like and/or could use!” gift suggestion!
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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


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


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, 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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Favorite craft gifts for kids

Categories: Books, Crafts and activities, Gifts, Toys


What I laughingly call a “craft bin” at our house is in fact a tower of disaster: a bunch of stacking baskets (like these) that we got for free at the dump, filled to a teeter with the litter of a decade’s worth of “Just toss that in the craft bin.” Several half-used packages of card stock. Sheets of felt, partially cut into. Rubber stamps—where is the stamp pad? Stickers that came with charity pleas. A protractor that came in a kit of school supplies. Foam letters spilling out of a bag. Empty Play-Doh containers—what the heck? A package of beads, a package of jingle bells, a package of popsicle sticks. A bunch of craft books we always think someone will want to leaf through for ideas, but no one ever does. Clearly there needs to be a heavy cleaning-out, but this is the sort of area where as soon as I throw something away, a child wants it for a project.

Despite the oppressive nature of our own craft bins (and, as I know from babysitting and nannying, other people’s craft bins), craft supplies remains one of my favorite gifts for children’s parties. They’re the kind of gift that tends to pass parental inspection, even with all the things parents can object to (”girl” vs. “boy” toys, violent toys, toys that perpetuate beauty culture, toys from particular countries, princess toys, a certain brand of toys with an amusement-park tie-in, TV/movie-tie-in toys, “cheap plastic crap,” etc. etc. etc.), and in general they tend to be gifts that work no matter what the particular child is interested in: not every child likes crafts, of course, but statistically-speaking (and if you have to take a certain risk with the gift anyway), more of them like crafts than like, say, Bakugan.

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Gift-wrapping so easy a child can do it

Categories: Crafts and activities, Gifts, Learning activities


We have the kids choose presents for the other parent at birthdays and Christmas, because it’s such good practice in gift-selection techniques: “What would the other person like? Not what would YOU like, but what would THEY like? No, Daddy doesn’t like sour gummy worms, that’s YOU who likes sour gummy worms”—and so on.

Wrapping the gifts is a pain. I am not the “Patient Teacher” personality type, I’m the “Here, I Can Do That Faster and Better and Easier Myself” personality type. I try to overcome this because I know it’s important, but a person can only stretch so far. So Paul came up with what I think is the best idea ever for letting children do their own gift-wrapping without the parent losing his or her mind.
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Non-toy gifts for children

Categories: Gifts, Holiday, House & Home

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There are times, like when I’m trying to kick a path through the playroom, that I feel like we can’t add even one more toy to this household and in fact would be well-advised to jettison fully half of them. This creates a problem five times a year at birthdays, and a problem-times-five at Christmas. I like to find gifts that are fun enough to be gifts, but that don’t have to live on the toy shelf (or floor, whatever).

1. Character (or otherwise special) bed sheets (both images above from Bonus: if the child needs sheets anyway, and you spend $20 on Little Mismatched sheets that would have cost $10 if plain/boring, you’re making some of the money work twice: $10 sheets plus $20 gift = $20. (The Wonder Pets set is probably a better example of the kind of sheets a child would actually be happy with, but I got distracted by the ones _I_ would want for ME, and besides the Wonder Pets ones are more expensive so they don’t make my money-working-twice point as impressively.)
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Reader question: holiday shopping for children

Categories: Gifts, Holiday, Managing stress


Farrell writes:

How DO you do Santa shopping for all of your kids? Online? In store? Coupons? Buy throughout the year? Tips + strategy please; ’tis the season.

Ah! It does vary. When I’m not gift-shopping, just buying normal household stuff (sheets, towels, non-perishable groceries) my general shopping strategy is “Buy it before you need it, when you find it cheap.” I do this for stocking stuffers: little toys or novelty candies (pacifier lollipops and similar) go on clearance all year, and I especially have luck in the party-supplies section where I can sometimes find 4- or 6-packs of party favors on 75% off.

But that’s not going to work as well for presents: a child might like Bakugan in the summer but be totally over it by Christmas.
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Birthday party gift ideas for a 5-year-old

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


Here is the problem: The twins have been invited to the birthday party of a little girl turning five. I need two presents by this weekend. I’m looking for things that cost about ten dollars, although less would be even better. I have a few things I’m considering buying, and I also have some maybes on the gift shelf.

Stomp Rocket Jr Glow Kit (photo from My mom has a stomp rocket and the kids LOVE it. I would prefer to get one WITHOUT the “glow” feature, but the glow one is marked down to $7.83 AND comes in a “junior” version, so…

Crayola Telescoping Pip-Squeaks Marker Tower (photo from About $11.  Maybe it isn’t the same in everyone’s house, but at our house we have an endless need for marker replenishment.
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