Ladies and gentlemen, do you suffer from . . . . PRESENT MADNESS?
Present madness is when you find yourself choosing, paying for, and possibly even being ecstatic about a gift, even though it is stupid and insane and nobody wants it. You do it because you’ve been caught up in the panic and hysteria of Christmas shopping, and after a certain point, your brain takes one look at your emotional state and decides it wanted no part of this, and leaves. So you end up paying too much money for something that is objectively garbage, but it presents itself to you as if it’s not only a good present, but the thing without which Christmas simply will not happen.
If this has never happened to you, then please consider the following essay my gift to you, so that you may be happy in the life you have chosen. If what follows is familiar, then this is also your gift: The gift of knowing it’s not just you.
It happened to me back when I was single and had time to wander around a mall unimpeded, and yet somehow I ended up buying my younger brother a rubber steering wheel cover decorated with red and yellow flames. (My brother did not own a car.)
It happened to me last year, when I came within microns of pressing “order” for a pair of Harlem Globe Trotter Heelys for a child who not only never expressed an interest in Heelys, but doesn’t know who the Harlem Globe Trotters are and may not even know what basketball is.
And it came very close to happening this year, when we went to GameStop (ptui, ptui) a week before Christmas in search of a very specific item.
Before you judge us for what I’m about to relate, please remember that we had “finished shopping” weeks ago, and were smugly resting on our materialistic laurels, quietly sneering at those inferior parents who had squandered their Advent praying or serving the poor or whatever. We, being wise and prudent, had Christmas literally in the bag. We had ordered almost everything online, and let the goodies come to us, and honestly, most of the gifts were wholesome, thoughtful, and occasionally delightful. But, about a week before Christmas, we locked ourselves into our bedroom to make sure everything on our list was actually in our possession.
Oh dear. It turned out two items we had ordered were still in transit, and expected Thursday (Christmas eve). One item had quietly changed its expected arrival date to March 25. One apparently hadn’t realized it was coming all the way from China, and in a panic, sent us a rather hostile email saying that there’s no way it would make it on time unless we coughed up an extra $40 in shipping, and we had to say yes or no two weeks ago, and it went to spam. And one was still meekly sitting in an Etsy cart, hoping and praying I’d actually order it.
The lo, the twinkly world of Christmas joy became dark in our eyes. And so we succumbed to Present Madness.
We shouted something vague at the kids about being back soon, and we went to, uh, seven stores, looking to just pick up a few things to fill in the gaps in our carefully calibrated present list.
And we found nothing. Walmart, Target, Michael’s, the local toy store, the local comic store, even the retail wasteland known as TJ Maxx, but NOTHING.
To GameStop then we came, burning burning burning.
If you’re not familiar with GameStop, it’s a sort of geeky gehenna that sells video games, used video games, and a horrifying array of spectacularly useless game-related merch. The rug smells funny, the air is bad, the employees are all shriveled monsters, and whoever sets the prices should go to prison. Last time I went to GameStop, many moons ago, I went to advocate for my gangly, curly-haired teenage son, who had somehow gotten himself embroiled in a complicated situation involving a box of special edition Sonic the Hedgehog breakfast cereal. I don’t ever want to talk about that. But the line was moving turrribly slowly, and I soon saw that the delay was being caused by a middle-aged woman with stooped shoulders and baggy eyes, who was passionately arguing for justice on behalf of her gangly, curly-headed teenage son. Something about reward points and the collectable My Hero Academia shoelaces he had ordered.
And I says to myself, I says, if I wanted to look in a mirror, I could do that in the comfort of my own home, and at least I could sit down. So I never went back, until last weekend, when we had nowhere else to turn and GameStop knew it.
My feet hurt so much, they were audibly whimpering. My nose was running behind my mask, and I had to go to the bathroom. We hadn’t made a dent on our list at all, except that we had bought one thing that took care of one kid, but which shifted the balance of presents so that now a kid who had formerly been done suddenly needed a little extra present to even things up. Yes, I said “needed!” Don’t question me! I’ll cut you!
So we made the ultimate sacrifice and went to Game Stop, and we still didn’t find the thing we were looking for, because it’s Game Stop. We circled around and around to make sure the thing was not there, and it was not. But. What is this? What is this amazing thing? It is so amazing! It is, and you’re not going to believe this! It is a Dragonball Z hot air popcorn maker that lights up! So cool! And we knew exactly who would want such a thing: A child who didn’t need any more Christmas presents. But it is on sale! And it is a limited edition! Or maybe it doesn’t light up, but is just orange! Hard to tell from the box! Only six left! And her birthday is in April, so we could pack it away and be ahead of the game! We’d have to be insane NOT to buy it! So we grabbed one and got into line, chortling to ourselves at what a wonderful present we had scored, and how much progress we were making, because look at us, buying something!
Luckily, it was GameStop, which means the line was moving slowly. As we waited, we had time to stop and reflect. And we realized that we were about to spend $30 on absolute garbage that would make zero people happy. So, get this, we put it back, and we left the store without buying anything.
Just this once, we triumphed over Present Madness.
Except then we went to Walmart and bought a Frozen II Karaoke machine and also a rose gold microphone at Aldi, in case we need it. We might need it! I’ll cut you!
Maybe you think this is an essay about how we learned our lesson about excessive materialism, and how, having renounced the Dragonball Z Air Popper and all its empty promises, we vowed to realign our hearts toward the Christchild, who was born in Bethlehem with only swaddling clothes to cover him and only a choir of angels to sing him to sleep, and that was enough. That was enough.
But no. One of my sisters just mentioned on Facebook she’s eyeing a self-stirring mug they just put out at Walmart, and now I need to find my car keys. I honestly think the angels will still be singing when I get back.
Back by popular demand! It’s the 2019 list of Christmas presents our ten kids loved. I’ve been doing these lists every December since 2014. We actually own everything I recommend, so browse around and be inspired or horrified, as the case may be. I’ll include links to previous lists at the end.
Prices are about what we paid, but they may change over time. The list is a bit shorter than usual because we’ve been trying to shop more locally, which means I don’t have a tidy little list of past orders to refer to.
Scratch away the black coating with wooden styluses to reveal colors or shimmering glitter underneath. Kids’ hands get a bit smudgy after using several of these, but they are pretty self-contained otherwise. Sheets come in sturdy little boxes. A big enough supply so you don’t have to stress out that they’re wasting them on scribbles.
For them as has bearded dragons. If you’re thinking of getting a pet, you could do worse than a bearded dragon, by the way. They require a large tank and heating elements and fresh food like crickets, but once you buy the supplies, these guys are pretty cheap and easy to maintain. They are surprisingly charming, and have a lot of personality. Our bearded dragon is much smarter than our cat.
It’s either very comfortable, or just so fabulous you don’t care if it’s uncomfortable, not sure which. Not to be worn at Stations of the Cross, but good for every other last possible waking moment, including *sigh* school picture day.
Clever product for people who can’t leave their jigsaw puzzles lying around. It has an inflatable tube on one end of the felt mat. Roll it up and secure it with rubber bands, and your puzzle is safe from cats, toddlers, etc. I was skeptical, but it really works.
Can you believe this is the first time we have bought Snap Circuits? They are just as much fun as everyone promised. Hours of fascination putting together all kinds of projects that really work, without welding. For ages 8 and up.
Easy to learn, a little weird and crude, lots of laughing. You have to draw cards that say things like “see the future” (so you can look at the top three cards) or “potato cat” (they explained it to me, but I forget) until you choose an exploding kitten card, which has to be defused. Trip up your opponents and prepare yourself for the exploding kitten card. Good party game.
One hipster fad I fully endorse. It turns out a ukulele really is easy to learn to play, and it’s small enough to bring with you. Very pleasant to hear the gentle music wafting through bedroom walls. According to the seller, this “concert” size is the size “recommended for most adults & children age 9 & up.” Comes with case, strap, picks, tuner, and an instructional video.
Just as described! We had a kid who was really into making little beaded lizards for a while, and this kept her busy. Sturdy storage box, but note there is only one lid for all the compartments, so be careful!
Lots of fun, great for tournaments. Brings together characters from all different Nintendo games, and you can also design your own Mii fighter with their own moves and voices and clothes. One of my kids fights with an axe-wielding Abraham Lincoln.
eeBoo games are hands-down the best games for little kids. In this one, you spread a cheery red picnic blanket and start spinning the spinner to collect food. You win when you’ve collected all the elements of a perfect picnic meal. The pieces are bright and sturdy and the spinner works well. My then-three-year-old adored this game, and the older kids didn’t mind playing with her.
This is just cute as all get out. The color is somewhat brighter than it looks in this picture. Glossy and solid, sturdy enough to hold up under some living room rodeo action. Kids love having their own special chairs. (It also comes in brown, pink, blue, and white.) Very well made for the price. You do have to assemble it, but it wasn’t difficult.
This is just an awesome, basic sewing machine that makes sewing as easy as it can possibly be. It has dozens and dozens of cool stitches, it’s easy to thread (with instructions printed right on the machine), and it takes a beating and keeps on sewing. Comes with hard case and many accessories. I showed my teenagers how to use this machine in about 15 minutes, and away they went.
Off we go! Lots of lovely stuff this year, some Catholic, not all. I could only feature a few items from each store, but many of these artists make a wide variety of goods, so do follow the links and shop around. If you’re ordering for Christmas, be sure to check shipping dates, especially if you’re requesting custom work.
SARAH BREISCH of RABBIT DOG FINE ARTS
Delighted to see my friend Sarah offering her lovely, lively designs on these hand-painted cards.
“Located in Claremont, New Hampshire, Sarah spends her days with her husband, 8 children, two dogs, one cat, and working in her community. In the moments between, she creates ink and watercolor images inspired by her love of nature and literature. A lifelong artist, Sarah began selling her work in earnest a year ago. Currently, she offers individually hand-painted greeting cards. “
“I make sacrifice beads in a variety of styles, featuring different saints. I have several ready-to-ship options in my Etsy store, and I am delighted to take custom orders. As a form of reparations/penance especially given the recent sexual abuse crisis, I always give a portion of my sales to charity. Recent charities have included a pregnancy center and food bank. This month and in December I am giving to a couple families, for their basic needs and also to help provide Christmas presents for their kids.”
“I sell religious fine art prints and printable Catholic coloring pages to spark interest in the saints and an appreciation for classical art. Currently I’m illustrating a Marian Consecration for Children, coming out next summer, which is why 95% of my pictures are of Our Lady, haha. My new prints are being released November 28.”
I love these Morse Code necklaces by my friend Theresa. They look like elegant necklaces but hold a secret meaning spelled out in beads. Customizable.
“Theresa makes all kinds of beaded jewelry. Her shop started years ago with wrap around rosary bracelets, but her biggest seller now is her beaded Morse Code necklaces. You can even request customized phrases or colors – just make sure to reach out before Dec. 10 for custom orders. Standard orders need to be placed by Dec. 15.”
“I work in many different fiber arts– pattern design, knitting, crochet, sewing, embroidery, dyeing, and more. In my shop you’ll find one-of-a-kind embroideries, hand dyed yarn, saintly and geeky crochet dolls (and their patterns), felted art pieces, and whatever else I happen to be making!”
Our Lady of Guadalupe DOLL or PATTERN
Persephone from Hadestown:
And then there’s this:
Also pouches, patterns, and hand-dyed yarn, plus a teeny tiny Fred Rogers.
“a variety of products with my digital illustrations: portraits, apparel, and prints for the home. My most recent creation is a series of plush prayer dolls featuring Catholic saints and/or prominent figures on the front, with a prayer on the back.” Illustrations will be rendered as cloth dolls, on the site soon:
Impressionist art, encaustic, watercolor, and more. Many small pieces available for sale.
“All around me, I see the world blossoming. Flowers are blooming, fruit is ripening, children are growing, and colors are exploding. In my art, I love to explore the lusciousness of the natural world. Through painting the moving and growing world, it can be captured and exaggerated to show the pleasure of viewing our stunning surroundings.”
Many, but not all of these are from Amazon. I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.
This . . . is a little hard to explain. The stem is a touch-sensitive electronic music-maker, so if you press or slide your finger along it, you can make different tones. Then, with your other hand, you squeeze the flexible sides of the mouth to open or close it, to change the volume, to make the sound staccato or give it vibrato, etc. It. Is. Hilarious. It looks like the little guy is singing. It’s the cheesiest imaginable synthesizer sound.
The library editions are compilations of the comic books bound in heavy, oversized hardcover. My son rather heatedly explains: “Hellboy is Catholic. He fights monsters. He helps save babies. He gets help from priests a lot. It’s mythology based. The art is pretty gory, appropriate for age 13 and up.” And that is a direct quote.
We don’t have this particular piece ($45), but we have several necklaces, bracelets, and a rosary from Kyra Matsui’s studio, and they are all fantastic. Beautiful, original, strong, and striking. Chainmail and vintage watch parts.
COUPON! Get 30% off storewide with coupon code: NARKNON Good until Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017.
We have two of these (one for a college kid, one for a reporter). A good option for all-purpose computering, fine for movies and streaming. We used to buy refurbished, but now we get cheaper new machines so we can get the warranty. You have to get used to storing everything on Google Drive or saving it on a disk, rather than on your machine. A solid choice that doesn’t cost a million dollars.
Help a dead murder victim remember details about his grisly demise, using clues from arty and deliberately confusing “vision cards.” Lavish and complex cooperative game. Comes with an app to play spooky music to add to the atmosphere. (Full review here.)
These come in hundreds and hundreds of amazing, unexpected, sometimes inexplicable patterns. The material is clingy but not thin, and has a bit of a sheen and stretch, like a bathing suit. Gathers fall nicely, and flares way out when you spin. On the short side, as you can see.
Every single person in my household loves these pillows. (NOTE: The link above is just the pillowcase! You have to buy the pillow insert separately.) We have a blue-green-purple/black one and a few silver/gold ones, but there are many color combos. Draw with your finger to flip the sequins over, and reveal another color. Endlessly fascinating and soothing to play with, and they have held up remarkably well. Remarkably!
The much-anticipated sequel to Hatke’s graphic novel Mighty Jack, which follows a boy who has to spend his summer helping his single mom care for his sister, who has autism, and who doesn’t speak — until she does. Good stuff, with an exciting twist at the end for fans of Hatke’s other work.
We got this with great reluctance, thinking it would be flimsy for the price, and that the kids would get tired of it soon. Nope! They use it a lot and have a lot of fun. It’s great for parties, and fun for the little kids to play with their big brothers. Kinda loud, but it’s air hockey. They just stand it up on its end to keep it out of the way.
For the kid who can’t stop doodling. Also great for car rides. Write with the stylus on the black screen, press the button to erase. That’s it. Surprisingly durable for the price. We have a couple of these in different colors.
Toddlers really can control this simple RC croc. It does play manically cheerful music, flash lights, and chomp its mouth while it runs, but darn it, this thing does not break. It’s been in constant use for a year and is still going strong. Lots of fun to watch the little guys use it and baffle the cat with it. Good battery life, too.
Exciting, frustrating, some teamwork required, but lots of competition. Very entertaining to watch. Kids have to decide if they should push themselves a little further to do more and more challenging, silly tasks.
Our beloved kindergarten teacher introduced us to these lovely colored pencils. I balked at the price at first, but they are quite good. Vivid colors, nice and smooth, and easy to grip, even for lefties, and the tips don’t snap off.
Bright plastic tubes you whack to make different booming tones. You can arrange them in different orders on the mat and hit them with sticks, hit them with each other, or use them to hit other things. Music and hitting things! Sounds like a happy childhood. Longest tube is about two feet. These have been stepped on and mangled without any ill effects.
We looked at many, many shopping carts, and settled on this one because it has a little seat for your little friend to ride along. Irresistible. This gets constant use. The bigger kids have managed to take it apart, and then put it back together again, with no ill effects.
Uhhm, check the price on this one. The price currently listed is insane, but it seems to fluctuate. The game itself is nice for MLP fans and gets lots of play. Pony game pieces are heavy and well made, not flimsy.
A slightly odd present, but I knew my five-year-old would love it. These are just transparent colored paddles to play with, mix together, and look through. Despite they way they are arranged in the photo, they are not attached together. I strung six of them on a chain and put the rest away so I could replace them as needed. Kids love peering through them and seeing Purpleworld or Everythingisgreenville. It’s just cool! Good for car trips. There are also slightly raised different patterns on each.
I previewed tons of ballet videos, and this one is by far the best. It teaches the girls actual ballet positions, but is simple and easy to follow and has pleasant piano music. The teacher is cheerful and seems to enjoy children. It’s not manic or cutesy and has no unsettling mascots or animated characters (“Tinkerbell” appears to be some generic name; there’s no Disney fairy involved). Kids can use a chair back as a barre.
For the child who, for reasons of her own, is slowly building a collection of strange, oversized cat shirts. This is actually a men’s size, but that’s just not right, so I’m putting it in the kid present section.
Whew, that’s all for this year! Hope you find something good.
We have ten kids, ages eighteen to almost two. We buy . . . . a lot . . . .of gifts. Here’s a list of fifty that our kids tried and liked this past year. They’re mostly under $50, and are in order from cheapest to most expensive, so it’s a little book-heavy in the beginning.
I’d also like to apologize for the graphic.
Most of these items are from Amazon. I’m an Amazon Affiliate, and all of the Amazon links in this post have my code embedded, so I earn a small percentage of the sale price, which is how we buy more presents for ten kids next year, and on and on it goes.
“I’m meeting you halfway, you stupid hippies!” Possibly specific to the needs of my family. For the right person, it could be the best $4 you ever spent. When people ask how my kids deal with being one of the few Catholics in a giant public school, this sums it up pretty well.
This book came highly recommended by trusted friends for kids grade four and up, and it lived up to the hype. Original, exciting, and the author actually wrote it with care and wit, rather than just assembling a plot with the right keywords. Kids and I both enjoyed it. It’s part one of a series of four.
Another book my friends have been lauding forever. My first-grader just adores this series, which has ten books total. I admit I haven’t read it yet, but my daughter doesn’t put up with a lot of nonsense, so I respect her opinion.
This is the one of two items on this list that I haven’t actually bought yet, but it’s on my list — in this case, on my wish list. If someone gets it for me, I plan to grow ivy in it. Ivy will grow easily in water. I need green in the house to tide me over until spring!
This was a gift for the six-year-old, but everyone loves it, from the baby on up. Those orderly little drops, marching up and down the steps, hurrying or strolling, as you choose. Endlessly fascinating, miraculously never mixing. (There are any number of liquid motion toys to choose from. Great for babies, older kids who need calming down, or adults who need calming down. I once spotted a few of these toys in the waiting room at the washing machine repair shop, and I’ll be darned if I didn’t mind waiting.)
Matthew Alderman’s new offerings this year. Alderman’s style is so fresh and inviting, reminiscent of Trina Schart Hyman, who drew heavily on heraldry and illuminated manuscripts, nodded at the pre-raphaelites, and then opened the window to let some air in. Great stuff. Kids (and others) soak in knowledge as they color.
Corrie got this last Christmas, when she was teething hard, so it became known as the Corrie-o. The little ridges are perfect for sore gums. It’s bigger than a real Oreo, so not a choking hazard. Super cute, still a favorite after a year of gnawing.
How I adore this movie. It shows, without comment, everyday scenes from the lives of four babies, from just before they’re born until they’re learning how to stand. The families live in San Francisco, Tokyo, the Mongolian steppe, and Namibia, and their lives vary widely, but some things are always the same. Sweetness and a little melancholy, but mostly sweetness. I always feel restored after watching this short, gentle, agenda-free movie, and the kids love it.
Ben Hatke’s first installment in a new graphic novel series. It’s a reimagining of Jack and the Beanstalk, and it’s wonderful. You care about the main character right away; Hatke is generous with understated details that tell you what you need to know about the world they live in; and I have no idea what is going to happen next. Some serious themes — serious money troubles, danger, a younger sister who is autistic, and a difficult friendship — but suitable for kids age 7 and up, if they’re not highly sensitive.
We loved The Pirates! Band of Misfits movie so much (made by the same folks who make the excellent Wallace and Gromit and Shaun the Sheep), and recently discovered that it was based on a series of books that are even odder and nuttier than the movie. These books do include some bawdy jokes and some violent details, but I feel that the most inapwo-pwo stuff goes over the little kids’ heads, and it’s just edgy enough to give the older kids a little thrill, without crossing any lines.
My fashion-minded ten-year old would wear this every day if we let her (which we do). Pair it with the TARDIS hat (which she does) and and maybe the TARDIS dress, and you have a themed ensemble. The scarf is a stretchy rayon, machine washable.
This toy distracts the baby from your actual smartphone for maybe ten minutes. Worth every second. I like B. Toys because they make sounds, but they are intentionally soft; and they have an off switch. This one has held up well, and doesn’t gobble batteries too badly. Also records your voice, so the older kids are always pranking each other.
The large wooden balls are linked with elastic, so you can wear it like a bracelet, or you can roll and twist them to make all kinds of lovely clusters of color. Each ball is painted a slightly different shade, it’s pleasantly heavy, and it makes a soft clacking sound. Fine, I bought it for myself, and sometimes I let the baby play with it. We’ve had good luck with this brand, Manhattan Toy.
Whenever my kids put Calico Critters on the list, I grumble and complain about how stupid and pointless and expensive they are; and then I start shopping, and then I go, “AWWWWWWW.” They really are adorable. These are very small toys, so not great for kids who lose stuff; but they are sturdy and sweet, and come in dozens of different species. We also have the pool and sandbox set.
I actually resisted buying this kit, because it seemed dumb (ALEX toys are hit or miss) but one kid desired it greatly. It turned out to be quite good. The headbands haven’t broken after a year of use, which is almost a miracle; and she had a surprising amount of fun making different combinations.
My current favorite read-aloud. This book has an unusual focus for a children’s book: a very old couple, so poor they have to share everything, including a chair, a blanket, and the one last potato in the garden — or so they think. A simple and hilarious story of unexplained magic, but so much to unpack about what you really need in life. The illustrations are understated but extraordinary.
My ten-year-old daughter worked to earn her very own ice cream and candy dress, but maybe you’d prefer beetles, constellations, or cute ghosties. More varieties, some of them truly bizarre, than you can shake a stick at. These dresses are on the short side for adults of average height, but work fine for shorter folks. They come with or without sleeves, and are made of a stretchy rayon material.
Oh, I lied, this is another thing I haven’t bought yet, but friends say it’s lovely. I’m a sucker for little worlds under a dome, and I love how this comes with a hanging hook. Friends say it’s brighter than you might expect. We recently redid the little girls’ room with two sets of bunk beds, so we may be investing in individual lighting for individual preferences.These come in three different colors, and you can get either the rabbit thing, or a plump little bird.
By far the nicest instructional ballet video I’ve ever seen. The music is pleasant, there are no bizarre mascots or intrusive animation, the teacher seems to actually like kids, and you will learn some true, basic ballet. We put a broomstick between two chair backs to make the required barre.
The premise is that, when night falls in the village, a werewolf comes out and kills someone; and everyone else has to figure out who the werewolf is and what to do about it. Everyone closes his eyes, and the leader instructs one person at a time to wake up, take a look at the card that reveals his role (werewolf, bodyguard, witch, villager, etc.), and then go back to sleep. There are several rounds of play, in which the players anonymously decide to kill, save, protect, or silence each other.
Quilling is making a comeback! A lovely, old-fashioned craft where you roll up thin strips of paper, loosely or tightly, then pinch them into various shapes. No end of possibilities here. You can make free-standing 3-D ornaments, glue the paper to eggs, make cards, or even jewelry. A very pleasant way to spend time. My nine-year-old needed a little help to get started, but she caught on fast.
With eight daughters, we’ve tried a number of jewelry boxes. A number. This one is by far the sturdiest, but it still looks delicate and dainty. The ballerina still pops up, the music still plays, the hinges still function, and the box is still a box. Pretty, silver-satin quilted design. Plays “Fur Elise.”
Probably the most-used piece of furniture in our entire house. This lived in our living room for at least five months, and saved my sanity while Miss Insano clambered up and threw herself down hundreds and hundreds of times. Folds for storage.
This is the absolute last untested item on this list! We’ve bought many items from The Little Dress-Up Shop, and have always been completely delighted, so I’m confident that this sweet, poofy ballerina skirt with rosebuds will be well-received.
42.Portable Bluetooth speaker, about $37
Exactly what we needed. It works with my kid’s phones, and lets them blast music while slaving away in the dirty dish mines or cleaning up the yard after the last raccoon garbage party. Easy to use, and a good value for the price.
It wouldn’t be Christmas without at least one sword. This one is long, shiny and seriously heavy. Not sharp, but you definitely could kill someone if you tried. Not meant for heavy fighting, but good for stage or costumes or just swaggering around with a big-ass sword.
Greatest inspiration I’ve had all year. We now have two sets (they come rated for different weights), and they are adjustable. First kid went from zero skill to wobbling across the floor in a few minutes, and now she can jump, run backwards, spin, and do all kinds of terrifying stunts. Good exercise, good for improving balance, and great for building confidence. Excelsior!
Yes, this is the second trampoline we’ve bought. We finally destroyed the mat of the first one, and after several unsuccesful attempts to replace it (we kept buying the wrong size, the wrong spring size, etc. etc.) we just threw in the towel and bought a new one, upgrading to fifteen feet. I know all about the horrible stories of mangled faces and splintered tibias, but we are still a trampoline family all the way.
Baby loves it. Kids love playing with the baby on it. It’s instant entertainment at birthday parties, with or without water balloons and a sprinkler or Easter dresses.
Grouchy or sullen teens discover that life is worth living after taking out their troubles on the trampoline. And it’s a perfect spot for stargazing or sunbathing or lying down while the kids run around you, blissfully under the illusion that you are playing with them.
You really need a trampoline. (And if you happen to have a spare trampoline frame, you can wrap some chicken wire around it and make a garden fence, or maybe a chicken coop.)
Okay! That’s it for this year. Happy shopping! Thanks again for using my link when you shop on Amazon.
If you only have time for three Hail Marys, these rose counters are sweet and nostalgic-looking.
The Wallet Rosary, $12.50 Made of string, light, brushed stainless steel, and slim as a credit card, it fits right in your wallet.
Neat idea! Grab it when you need it.
Use coupon code “SimchaChristmas” for free U.S. Shipping on orders of 2+ rosaries through 12/15.
Chews Life – an assortment of rosaries, chaplets, and bracelets and necklaces designed to divert and delight nursing, teething, twiddling babies
Featured item: Chews life decade rosary, $18
Gracefully bow to the inevitable and carry a rosary designed to be gnawed on. Love it.
Apple and Azalea by Theresa Barger – Memory wire rosary bracelets and other elegant jewelry and accessories
I always admired my friend Theresa’s style and elegance when we were in college together, and her original wrap-around rosaries ($24-$28) are exquisite and varied. I had a hard time picking just one to feature, so I picked three.
My own wrap-around bracelet, a southwestern-style one, has held its shape through years of abuse at the hands and mouths of various babies.
Imagine glancing out the kitchen window to see a flock of little foxes prancing by, and knowing that for once, their ears are necks are warm. (Foxes do so come in flocks.) Completely adorable, and so cozy.
Three Jolly Owls by Katie McGinley: Handcrafted Goods and Gifts for the Liturgical Year: peg doll saints, Jesse tree ornaments, and more.
Featured item: Handmade felt Jesse Tree ornaments, $54
Perfect! Simple, bright, and meaningful, and an easy tradition to follow every year. The ornaments have ribbons loops for hanging.
SPECIAL OFFER: Use coupon code PANTS10 to get 10% off! – valid until 12/31
Ooh, I like the looks of these. Spare and elegant with a soupçon of strangeness. Many more pieces on the site.
Door Number 9 by Elisa Low Featured item: Hamilton Gimmel Rings, $25. You remember Elisa from when we chatted about holy cards as fan art, and the intersection of faith and geekdom. Well, those interlocking Alexander and Elizabeth Hamilton wedding rings she was working on are on their way! The first run sold out immediately, but you can pre-order, $25.
So luxe! I love how the natural shape of the soap is incorporated into the design, like a little landscape. Get several as little gifts or stocking stuffers, or keep them for yourself and enjoy that once-a- year scent.
Wild Things Adventures by Sarah Antonio
Featured item: Adventure bags, $85 Handmade leather satchels stocked with a hand stitched, leather bound journal with 24 watercolor pages, a Prang watercolor set with small water jar (not pictured), branch pencil, compass, binoculars, and a folding magnifying glass!
Eh? Eh? You can almost smell the outdoors calling.
Catholics on Etsy! Mostly! Here is a selection of handmade goods by Catholics, so we can all support each other when we shop for Advent and Christmas. Some these goods are religious, some are not. Some of the stores sell all kinds of items, and the featured one is just the tip of the iceberg. It was painful to narrow down this list to a manageable size!
Today, I’m showcasing jewelry, because I like jewelry, and art and prints, because I like art and prints. Here we go:
I think everyone knows by now how much I adore Kyra’s chain mail jewelry. It makes your neck feel strong, cool, and beautiful. Elegant and powerful designs, including earrings and chainmail rosaries, too.
This isn’t an Etsy site, but Katrina Harrington was kind enough to send me one of her “Offer It Up” mugs, and I’ll be damned if it doesn’t actually work. It makes morning better when I get that reminder. It is a nice mug, too, large and sturdy.
Along with mugs, Hatch Prints also has watercolor and hand-lettered art prints and tote bags inspired by the saints.
SPECIAL OFFER FOR MY READERS: Use discount code LOSINGMYMIND15 for 15% off purchases of $20 or more.
Breathtaking. Look at her beautiful face. This is just a detail; the full work includes the entire image of Our Lady of Guadalupe supported by an angel, painted on rough wood with a laquer finish. Lots of variety in this store, including matrioshka dolls, beeswax goods, and very cozy tea cozies.
HA. This is kind of perfect. Heather says, “Because sometimes I need to just gather up my fragile little buttercup feelings and OFFER IT UP, nah mean?” For when your prayer life isn’t all thees and thous and “vouchusafe unto us” this and that. Sometimes you just need to offer it up, buttercup.
That’s all for today! Tomorrow: Rosaries and rosary accessories; knitted and crocheted and fabric items; and a bunch of wonderful goods I couldn’t categorize but couldn’t stand to leave out. See you then!
The “Be Bold” rosary bracelet from Apple and Azalea
Who else has an Etsy shop, or other online store for homemade goods? Leave a link and a short description in the comments.
Please note, in your comment or at least in your shop, the last day you can accept orders with guaranteed Christmas delivery! Many’s the time I’ve wanted to order something nice from some crafter, but I can’t tell if it will get here in time. Let your customers know!
Also, no light-up pasties, please. You know who you are.
PLEASE NOTE! You are welcome to leave links and descriptions on Facebook, butplease also leave them in the comments of this post! Facebook comments are transitory, but comments here will be up for viewing indefinitely, and you will get many more views that way. Thanks!
My dear friend Theresa Barger makes elegant rosary bracelets and other jewelry.
She’s offering free shipping for my readers on orders of $10 or more through 12/20! (Free shipping orders are guaranteed to arrive by Christmas if you order by 12/17. For Christmas orders placed after the 17th, you may upgrade the shipping.) Use the coupon code ThanksSimcha (eeee! My first coupon code!) when you order.
Theresa also takes special orders, so if you have a specific color or stone in mind, let her know. If she has the materials on hand, she may be able to fill your special order in time for Christmas.
Here are just a few of the items Theresa is currently offering:
This bracelet has an old world, vintage look to it, with faceted, garnet-colored glass beads, and freshwater pearl nuggets for Our Father beads. There are matte gray seed beads separating the others, and the rosary begins with a black bead that has a cross stamped on it. This rosary has a full five decades.
It is strung on 2 1/4″ memory wire, which is comfortable and flexible, but retains its shape. It can be stretched to fit different size wrists.
I punch the picks out of various recycled items – shampoo bottles, laundry detergent bottles, castoff school binders- and pair the color and texture with charms or beads that I have on hand. I think they are really fun and a perfect gift for a young (or young at heart) musician this year.
My favorite way to use up extra beads, however, is to make
I start with a strand of waxed linen, a material traditionally used for bookmaking. Leaving about 12″ in the middle to lay between the pages of your book, I bead the ends that hang over the edges. Some are fun and playful, some are classic and sophisticated. Some are even for men! Each bookmark is truly individual and built around the beads I have at the time. These are a great gift to have on hand for teachers or for thank-you or get well gifts.
Theresa also offers other handmade items and accessories at Apple and Azalea. Remember to use coupon code ThanksSimcha for free shipping! For guaranteed delivery by Christmas with the free shipping, you must order by the 17th. If you order after then, you may select an optional upgrade to priority mail, to ensure delivery before Christmas.
Theresa, here with three of her six kids, makes all her merchandise by hand in Webster, NH.
Tomorrow, I’ll post an open thread for sharing Etsy stores and other homemade merchandise.
We have had subscriptions to lots of different magazines from this publisher, including Cricket, Muse, Cobblestone, and Ladybug, and we have never been disappointed. The artwork is top notch, and the content is very well pegged for the various age groups designated, without being pandering, and does a good job of making the reader feel like he’s part of a club, with lots of in-jokes and extra featrures. Good stuff, and a nice present for a kid who has enough plastic crapola. These magazines are worth saving and reading over and over.
(In the past, I tried to save money by ordering magazines from third parties, but you may want to beware! I once never got the magazine and never got my money back – just a pure scam.)
I’m not making any money off subscriptions! Just passing along something our family has enjoyed.