Gifts our 10 kids loved: The 2022 MONSTER LIST

For the last eight years, I’ve been sharing a list of gifts my family actually purchased and enjoyed. We have ten kids and we buy a lot of presents, so I have a lot of recommendations.  This year: MONSTER LIST. I’m consolidating all the old lists into one, organized by category, and adding a bunch of new products. I made a feeble attempt to organize the categories by agel, but the formatting always defeats me in the end. 

Note: I am an Amazon Associate again, yay! So I get a commission when you buy things through my links. (Not everything on this list is from Amazon, but most of it is.)

This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

This year, I’m listing most products as Amazon ad links, which look like this:

Oh yes, ADVENT CANDLES.  Just in case you forgot.  Advent Begins Sun., Nov. 27.

This is important! If you have an ad blocker on, you may not be able to see the list! If nothing is showing up for you, please turn off your ad blocker.

Also please note: The display ads often show a higher price than the actual price when you click through. I have no idea why, but it’s worth clicking through just to see. 

Here is a sort of table of contents of categories. I am going to attempt to figure out how to insert code so you can jump to the different sections, but I’m pretty dumb, so it may not work. 

Little guys’ toys (besides dolls)
Games and puzzles
Building and tactile toys
Kitchen
Sciencey stuff
Electronics 
Art and journaling supplies
Jewelry, pins, accessories (+makeup, sunglasses)
Music and musical instruments 
Crafts, kits, knitting, sewing
Dolls and stuffies
Outdoor and active toys
Weaponry and knives
Costumes
Hats and hair accessories
Bags and wallets
Miscellaneous

I didn’t do a great job noting what age these products are for, but I have found that the manufacturers have almost always done great research and can be depended on.

One final note: There are no books in this list, except for a few cook books. I’ll do a separate list of books that would make good presents! 

Here we go! Happy shopping! 

LITTLE GUYS’ TOYS (besides dolls)

B. Toys baby car keys Babies are not supposed to suck on your real car keys because of the toxins or something, but car key toys are usually made out of plastic, which is no fun for babies. So these are made out of safe metal (with flat edges, so they can’t cut their gums), they are heavy and they rattle, and the keychain has different buttons that make various car noises — but it’s muffled, so not terribly intrusive. (We like a lot of the toys from the B. company. They hold up well and are designed with actual kids in mind.) 

 

Beloved bedtime elephant that projects stars and plays little tunes. We bought this for a kid several years ago when she was a toddler, and then it finally broke and we replaced it when she was a liiiiiiiiittle too old for it, because she still loves it. It also plays a heartbeat sound and we all think that’s kind of weird. 

Silicone teething cookie duo Corrie got one of these 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.

Baby smartphone B. Toys 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. 

Classic Baby Beads by Manhattan Toy
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. 

 Melissa and Doug animal magnets in a wooden box. Bright and pleasant. Magnets have stayed on the wood, animals have not peeled off, despite occasionally getting wet.

Tomy fountain rocket bath toy A simple but very cool toy. Fill it up by holding it under the water, then hold it aloft, and it empties itself in a shining dome of water. Fascinating for the little guys. We’ve found that TOMY toys hold up very, very well to hard use, and don’t get moldy, either.

Mother mermaid and triplet babies. We’ve had some of these bath toy sets of frogs and ducks and such, but look how cute this is! Three chubby little mermaid sisters and their happy mama. They float separately or together.

Tomy bath dolphins  All my kids played with this bath toy set. So clever. A rainbow of rings that float individually or linked, and each one has a matching dolphin. Tap the dolphin on the head as it floats and it makes a little musical fluting sound! You can also blow into the dolphin’s tail like a whistle. Line them up and it plays a whole octave. Rugged toys, mold resistant. 

Mickey Mouse RC Cars for toddlers. The older I get, the more I appreciate Mickey Mouse. That guy is always smiling, and I appreciate that. Here he is, tooling around in his little red convertible. Okay, his head fell off, but that did not slow him down. Easy for little guys to control.  

Little Tykes shopping cart. Many different styles of toy shopping cart, but we chose this one because it had a seat for a companion, which was important for shopping games. This model did get years and years of service, and the older kids would take it apart and put it back together again constantly.

Also see “outdoor and active toys” 

GAMES and PUZZLES

Build a Robot Spinner Game. Spin the spinner to collect pieces and be the first to build a complete custom robot that fits together like a puzzle. We have several of these eeBoo games and they’re wonderful. The illustrations are funny and appealing to kids, the spinners work well every time, the pieces are durable, and the games are generally short and not tedious. The best games for young children I’ve ever found. Good for pre-literate kids, but not too boring for young kids who can read. 

Fairytale Spinner Game. Suitable for pre-readers. You spin the spinner to collect different elements of a story (a scene, a hero, a magical helper, a rival, a magical object, transportation, and a treasure), and the first one who collects them all gets to tell a story using them all. It’s adorable. The pieces are very stout and durable cardboard, and they are just lovely. Of all the games they want me to play, I’m least unwilling to play this one. 2-4 players 

Lunch Basket Spinner Game. Yes, another eeBoo spinner game! This one is a picnic, and you spread a tablecloth and begin collecting various foods to complete your meal. I can’t explain to you why these games are fun and pleasant and not tedious and all the same. I just like them, and really don’t mind playing them. They tap into something really good, and we all like them.  

Wow, looks like we also have The Cupcake Game. This one actually teaches kids a bit about baking, because you have to collect the various necessary components to make cupcakes, just as in a real recipe. 

Also notable about eeBoo games: The storage boxes are sturdy and don’t collapse after you use them a few times. They’re really designed for actual kids to use. 

Okay, moving on! 

 

It’s just Chutes and Ladders, but with princesses. I was really surprised at how much more my kid (who got it for her tenth birthday) enjoys this than she does regular chutes and ladders. She always marvels at how pretty it is. 

(and Sack of Replacement Marbles for Chinese Checkers)
There are cheaper boards, but this one is very big and sturdy, and the marbles stay in place. Popular with kids of all ages. And for goodness’ sake, buy the replacement marbles now. You will need them.
 

 

Snake Oil is hilarious family improv game, also good for parties. You get a bunch of word cards and become salesmen who must use those words to invent a product and make a sales pitch that the customer will fall for. Great for a mix of ages, lots of laughing.  Blogged about it here.

I Got This! game. 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. 


Good old Bananagrams. I’ve bought this game many, many times and I never mind playing a round or two of this free-form word-building game. Pleasant and portable, easily adaptable to people of various skill levels and to solitaire play. 

 Exploding Kittens card game. 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. 

 
Chess set with large pieces, roll-out vinyl board, storage tote, and instruction book. We were SO pleased with this tournament chess set. It is HUGE, the board is very tough, and the pieces are big and heavy. Great product for the price, and portable.

Isle of Lewis Chess set (From Etsy)

Polystone reproduction of 12th-century walrus ivory chess pieces unearthed on a Scottish Island. The opposing pieces are a deep oxblood color. Wonderfully detailed and lovingly packed. These are just the pieces; there is no board included. 

 

King of Tokyo is a great family game. Super competitive, very lively and frenetic, sometimes over really quickly. Young players (age 6 or so) can be included with some help. 

 
 
 
Munchkin fantasy card game. Howls and screams of laughter, just enough squabbling to keep it interesting — that’s what I hear when Munchkin is out. I haven’t played this game myself, but my kids love it, and it’s works well with kids of different ages playing together. It includes a few borderline inapwo-pwo elements (a little crass or gross, as I recall) but they seem fleeting, not central to the game. For ages 10 and up.
 
 

Werewolf game Good for ages reasonably-alert-10 to adult. 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. Then everyone has to vote on whom to lynch. Players are eliminated one at a time, and it becomes more and more evident who is killing everyone, who is being framed, and who is lying through their teeth (and, in my case, who forgot the rules and accidentally blabbed too much information).

Pandemic board game. Lots of strategy and cooperative play, or you all die. My teenagers played it with the younger kids (age 7 and up). Suspenseful and lots of pressure. Full disclosure, we haven’t played it since before the, you know, actual pandemic, so I don’t know how it would hit now!

 

Ransom Notes word magnet game. Simple concept: Someone reads a prompt from a card, and everyone (including the reader) has to pick words from their collection of word magnets to express what is on the card. Then everyone reads their entry aloud, and the judge picks the best one. Ranges from amusing to outlandishly hilarious. Can be a little naughty. I reviewed this game here

Mysterium board game. 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.) 

Betrayal At House on the Hill, a cooperative strategy game, unpredictable and spooky. Kind of like Scooby Doo with better graphics. You gradually build the map of the house as you explore it, but can you really trust everyone? (NO.) Doesn’t drag on too, too long. Good party game.

Skulk game. Full disclosure, I have no idea if this game is any good. We got it because it looks cool. The description says age 10 and up. It says “social bluffing combined with light strategy.” And it looks cool!

Kill Doctor Lucky game. Only a few rules, but the experience changes with every game and is always a lot of fun. Some strategy involved.  

 

We got this 40″air hockey table 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. 
 
 
Inflatable puzzle saver. 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. 
 
 
Pretty bird puzzle, 1000 pieces 
 
 
 
 
 

BUILDING and TACTILE TOYS

Build-a-bouquet flower construction set. Maybe it’s just late November talking, but I had a desperate need to see my little ones sitting in a beam of sunshine on the living room rug and building some flowers. These are sturdy and easy to use, and the older kids enjoyed putting different combinations together, too. 

 

The right kid will find these simple Melissa and Doug wooden pattern blocks endlessly fascinating. There are many versions. This Melissa and Doug set comes with a sturdy wooden box and several patterns to try to reproduce, or you can build your own designs. Smooth and pleasant to touch. 

These wooden castle building blocks were a huge hit with the kindergartener with a mania for building. This is a pretty good-sized kit (75 blocks) for the price, and includes a nice variety of shapes for lots of possibilities. You could easily paint or decorate these if you wanted to. The older kids like them, too. 

I’d seen these Connectagons in catalogs for years and years and years, and finally ordered a set. They are slick and cheerful, easy to use, almost impossible to break, and the set is huge. I can see why they are so popular. They come in many different styles (butterfly, glow-in-the-dark, etc.)

A lot of weird tactile molding materials came and went in the last decade, but kinetic sand is king. This stuff is awesome. You can squeeze it and shape it, or you can let it dribble out of your hands like . . . wet sand lace foam, or something. You can buy kits with molding toys, but cups and butter knives work fine. Comes in many colors and varieties. Does not smell weird or leave stains. 

 

K’NEX are great! This set is motorized and has 529 pieces. My six-year-old went straight to work building things, but they would be fun for a much older kid or even an adult. This set comes with a motor and you can make all kinds of vehicles and machines. Popular for a reason. 

 Snap Circuits! 60+ parts. I can’t believe how long it took us to finally start buying Snap Circuits. They are just as interesting and exciting as everyone promised. Hours of fascination putting together all kinds of elecronic projects that really work, without welding. For ages 8 and up. We’ve also gotten Snap Circuits Illuminations, which has walls as well as a base

 

Adorable li’l mini Lego-compatible sushi cart kit, lots of nice detail. Note, this is a mini kit.

Lego compatible hat. Bring your Legos with you! Put your Legos on your head! What a time to be alive!

KITCHEN

 

Klutz Kids Cooking Book. Klutz books are generally good, but this one was a huge hit. The directions are nice and clear, and the recipes are things people actually want to eat. Comes with a cute rainbow whisk. My just-turned-eight-year-old started using it right away with only a little help, and it’s really helped her get comfortable with basic cooking and baking.  If you’re looking for a first cookbook, I recommend this one. 

Here’s a little baking set we put together:

A set of three silicone heart-shaped cake pans to make a fancy layer cake. These are unusually deep pans. Plus: 

Cat paw oven mitts. We got these just because they were cute, but they’re actually really good oven mitts, much better than the ones I got for myself for everyday use. 

Plus, the best part:

Personalized chef’s hat and apron. This is just adorable, and quite nice quality for the price. (Only the hat is personalized, not the apron.) The hat stands up nicely and is sturdy. 

My girls adored this spiral bound Fairie’s Cookbook. The recipes aren’t too complicated or exotic to try, but they are out of the ordinary. I know you can find millions of ideas on Pinterest, but there’s something about having a book to leaf through. Best for kids with some basic kitchen competence.

 

Just a decent little hand mixer for an aspiring chef. All the attachments fit nicely into the storage case, which provides room for . . . 

 

a ‘Potions Master’ sticker designed to go on a mixer. (This is a Harry Potter-themed one, but there are others.) Lots of kids go from making potions in the kitchen to actual cooking and baking, so here’s a cute sticker to illustrate the transition.

Mini waffle maker. A surprisingly popular gift. Always makin’ mini waffles, and this continues to get use several years later. Some kids really like having their own personal appliances. Comes in several colors and patterns.

An Unexpected Cookbook. For more accomplished cooks and bakers, this is the best collection of Hobbitish recipes I’ve seen, meticulously researched (it’s based on recipes from rural Victorian England), and written in a cozy, engaging, humorous style by someone who clearly loves The Hobbit and loves eating. I could live off the stuffed, braided mushroom, onion, and cheese bread for the rest of my life. It also includes variations for people on special diets, and makes suggestions about how to use leftovers. Nicely done all around. 

Embossing rolling pin A small-sized rolling pin, makes pretty repeating designs in cookie or pie dough, as shown. Click through for other designs.

 

SCIENCEY STUFF 

 

Lighted pocket microscope. Great, great little tool for the money. We’ve bought several of these over the years. Kids can learn to use them easily (my six-year-old took to it right away) and take a close, lit-up peek at anything they like, and they’re not so expensive that it’s a catastrophe if they get left outside or stepped on. That said, they’re pretty rugged.  They come with a few slides, but they mostly get used for looking at stuff on the go. 


 
Motorized robot hand kit Build a robot hand and program its fingers to tap out different patterns. My 11-year-old daughter really enjoyed taking it apart and putting it together repeatedly.
About $18

 

 

Celestron portable telescope A decent starter telescope, designed to be portable, so you can carry it easily on your back to a dark field or a mountaintop. Has an adapter so you can take photos with your smartphone. 

Celestron beginner astronomy binoculars. These binoculars are designed specifically for night viewing. 7X magnification, easy to use. Paired with:

 

National Geographic Backyard Guide to the Night Sky. User-friendly, packed with information. A small sized book, so it’s portable (but the print is therefore small and a little hard to read if you’re old!).

Field binoculars, compact and good for hunting or hiking. 

ELECTRONICS

 

LITE BRITE IS FUN. WE LIKE IT. YES THEY LOSE ALL THE PEGS RIGHT AWAY. BUT IT IS FUN WHILE IT LASTS.

 

Mini Simon Says game. Two game modes. Works well for parties, or you can play solo. Just like you remember: Very bright and very loud, so caveat emptor. 

 

Motorola Walkie Talkies. we have bought a lot of walkie talkie sets in our day. These have held up the best. They are on the small side, but they are not toys. They’re easy to use, stand up to a lot of abuse, and don’t gobble batteries. We haven’t tested the limits of the range, but the reviews say 16 miles.
 
 

Mini Arcade game. This is not a good toy. It’s a bad toy. But oh, do they love it. It has dozens, maybe hundreds of terrible, pointless little games with squalid little graphics and meandering, senseless tunes. THEY LOVE IT.  And it’s reasonably cheap, so when they leave it at a rest stop on a field trip and are heartbroken, you can buy another one. 

Fujifilm instant camera with case, film, and album. Take little instant photos just for fun. A rugged little device. 

 

Huion drawing tablet. A good basic drawing tablet, a better value (according to local art school students) than the new entry level Wacom tablets. 
 
 
 
Good wired earphones, loud and comfortable. They have held up for a few years and counting. 
 
 

Headphones with light-up stars.  For a kid looking for something a little flashier, these light up and pulse to the rhythm of the music. They plug in and also work with Bluetooth, and they are foldable. Reasonably sturdy. 
 
 

Pink ergonomic gaming chair. Very comfortable for gaming (and art). Comes in other colors. 

 
 
 
 
A little bit dorky, but very useful, especially for people who share a room and don’t go to sleep at the same time. It wraps around the back of your neck and you can adjust the direction and brightness of both lights. 
 
 
 

A megaphone! This one amplifies your voice, plays siren sounds, and also can be used as a speaker for music, etc. A real megaphone, not a toy. Why did we buy this for our child? Because we trusted her not to abuse it. And for some reason, it worked. The worst thing she did with it was take it to Walmart and tell people to put their masks on in the middle of the pandemic, and I was okay with that. 

 
 
Turntable with software for recording, editing and converting your vinyl Audio in MP3 format. Decent turntable for cheap. Doesn’t need constant rekajiggering like some.

 

Decent set of wireless earbuds. They come in several colors. 

Bluetooth cat ear headphones. Decent sound and they light up in different colors and pulse along with the rhythm of the music, which is just cool. We’ve bought several of these for various kids over the years. 

 

BTS Soul Map Light Stick Okay, a light stick is just a flash light. It’s just a really expensive flash light. But I guess you can synchronizes it along with whatever it is that people are experiencing at a BTS concert? I have never been clear about what is so desirable about these items, but BTS has not yet become problematic, so I’m still for it, I guess, and we have bought several varieties of lightstick.

Decent little boombox with CD player and radio that you can as as a bluetooth speaker for your wireless device. Why do kids want to buy CDs again? I have no idea. But this one has held up fine. It does drain batteries fairly quickly. 

Just a lava lamp. I have no idea if there are good lava lamps and bad lava lamps, but this one does what it’s supposed to do! Here’s a replacement bulb

Book-shaped lamp. Closes up and looks like a book; opens up and lights up. Just a pleasant little lamp. Not super sturdy for little kids, but better made than we were expecting. 

PORTABLE SOLAR PANELS and a PORTABLE POWER PACK.

Not toys but incredibly useful. (The power pack is currently 40% off)

Damien works from home, and uses these every day to power his office, which is a refurbished bob house.

He sets up the solar panels to catch a couple of hours of sun, and, depending on how bright it is, that charges the power pack enough for a day or two, and he can run his laptop and phone and a fan.
These two items could be very handy for hunters or campers who who are going off the grid and need a little electricity. Also handy to keep charged up in case of a power outage. 
The solar panels fold up into about the size of a briefcase.
The power pack can also be charged by plugging it into an outlet for a few hours, and it can also be used as a powerful LED flashlight. It is about the size of a small lunchbox. 

ART AND JOURNALING SUPPLIES

 

Garden fairies scratch and sketch activity book Sturdy, spiral-bound (so you can open it up flat to work). Scratch away the black to reveal rainbow swirls and glittery colors underneath. Sweet little poems, pictures to copy if you like, and blank pages for sketching, besides the scratch-off pages. Many themes available, from  outer space to mermaids to Jurassic creatures.

Six nice big bottles of tempera paint! (16 oz each) Smell that kindergarten smell.

Lyra Ferby giant triangular colored pencils. 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.

LCD doodle tablet For the kid who can’t stop doodling, and the mom who is going insane with reams of scribbled paper all over the place. 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. It’s great for car rides, waiting rooms, etc. 

Nose Pencil Sharpener
Who nose when you’ll need it, ho ho ho

10 colors of Sculpey clay Sculpey is always a favorite. Every so often, all through the year, I find another little batch of tiny little octopuses, lollipops, and bowls of miniscule fruit and whatnot baking in the oven.

Pair it with:

11 piece sculpting tool set with 21 tools to make all kinds of details and textures in your clay. Real tools, not toys. 

Sealing wax stamp kit! Each kit is for one letter and comes in an attractive little set shaped like a book. Seal letters and envelopes with your initial. Works as expected, quite fancy.  

10-pack Sakura Micron black pens, the most-requested pens from all my various artist kids. Pair with an 8-pack of vibrant colored pens:

 

For the DIY guy: Make: Props and Costume Armor: Create Realistic Science Fiction & Fantasy Weapons, Armor, and Accessories book and maybe pair it with a gift card to Michael’s, which you can also buy on Amazon because it’s a weird world. 

Mythology notecards Commissioned for the 75th anniversary of Edith Hamilton’s Mythology, set of 20 cards from Greek, Roman, and Norse mythology, blank inside, colored envelopes, comes in a nice box with a magnetic closure

Dover dragon Stained Glass mini Coloring book (and many other mini Dover coloring books). I adore these. Color with marker or crayon and pull them out of the book, and you have nice little stained glass panels to put on your windows. Many to chose from.

Feasts of Our Lord and Our Lady, plus the companion coloring book, A Feast of Saints, by Matthew Alderman. 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.

Official Die Hard coloring book. Sighh. She loved it.  

Wedding Traditions from Around the World coloring book There is a Dover coloring book for every conceivable interest, and they’re all done in that same blandly reassuring style, with tons of carefully-researched detail. Dover is awesome.

Shark float pen (Etsy) 

Just a silly thing, but perfect for someone. Etsy is full of these novelty pens, with everything floating in them, from chickens to donuts to flamingos to possums. 

 

Scheaffer calligraphy set So you say you’d love to let your kids have that magical, sensual experience of writing in pen and ink, but you’re not dumb enough to turn them loose with a bottle of ink? Here is a lovely calligraphy set, with 3 pens, 3 nibs, and a bunch of pre-filled ink cartridges in various colors. Also includes an introductory calligraphy booklet.

Here’s a little metal stamp set I put together: 

Heavy duty number and letter metal stamps for metal, wood, or leather. To go with 30 blank steel pendants

 

plus a little anvil  and a little jewelry-making hammer
I myself thought this was a cool present and I still do! Alas, the child who received this little bundle as a gift thought it was LAME-O. But maybe your kid would like it! I think it would be fun to tap out personalized little pendants on my little anvil up in my room, but what do I know. 

And here’s another set that I thought would be sure-fire, but the kid didn’t like it! Maybe your kid will. A resin pouring set:

Resin, hardener, cups, stirrers, and instructions….

18 colors of resin dye . . . 

and 30 pendant resin molds. Someone could have fun preserving flowers, coins, insects, or whatever in resin and making sun catchers, earrings, or necklace pendants!  

Moving on. 

 24,000 multicolored glass seed beads. Just what you wanted! 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 beware!  If you open one, you open all.

 

Buddha Board Art Set You use the brush to paint elegant shapes with water, and it slowly evaporates. Soothing and pleasant, comes with a little easel and water pot. This also comes in a mini version for cheaper.

 

The Peter Pauper journals are varied an exquisite and very reasonably priced. Nice quality paper, gorgeous covers. 

And just because I don’t know where else to put this:

Nixon decal: “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 $4.28 you ever spent. 

JEWELRY, PINS, ACCESSORIES

  

 
Handmade Celtic brooch or scarf or hair pin 
Large and stunning. My daughter wears this with her woolen Irish cloak, or sometimes in her hair, and it’s just gorgeous. 
 

 

Golden wheat earrings
Damien got these for me and I absolutely love them, and always get compliments on them. They are extremely bright and not heavy, despite their large size. I corresponded with the maker, because I was having an issue with them slipping off, so I do recommend what she suggested if you buy them: Just clip the backs to be shorter with a strong pair of scissors, and maybe use some rubber earring backs.

Silver spinner fidget ring. An excellent ring for a fidgeter. The gold part spins noiselessly around the silver part. Really solid and sturdy.

 

Pearl and carnelian earrings
Also a gift from Damien. These are even nicer in person. They go well with dressy or casual outfits. I adore the combination of carnelian, silver, and freshwater pearl, and I wear these several times a week. 

 

Be excellent to someone and buy this Bill and Ted Wyld Stallyns pin

Heart-shaped rose gold plated locket. Okay, I did a LOT of research on this before I bought it. I wanted a locket that kid with separation anxiety could use to bring Mama and Daddy photos to school with her, and I did NOT want it to break, because augh. There were much more expensive lockets to be had, but someone recommended this one for sturdiness, and they were right. She has used it for years and it’s still in one piece. It’s a little tacky, but a little kid wants tacky sometimes. It’s also pretty big, which makes it easier to find a photo that fits. (We used a Polaroid photo trimmed down.) 

 

More BTS! These are nice little silver studs, shiny but understated.

Weeping Angel earrings. Don’t blink or the price will go up! 

Flower-shaped makeup set. For a kid interested in exploring make-up, this is a fun set. You twist the top layer and the petals glide open and reveal the pallets and brushes and things inside, and there’s a little mirror in the top. Comes in a few different colors. Does not include liquid eyeliner, which is pretty popular, so you may want to buy that separately

“Deal With It” pixilated glasses. Some of you still haven’t dealt with it, and it shows. 

 Heart diffraction glasses. A big hit. Put these magical glasses on and wherever you look, light sources turn into heart shapes, so the world is swimming in multicolored hearts. The more lights, the more hearts, hooray! The glasses themselves are quite sturdy, and are large enough for an adult to wear. They look like sunglasses in the picture, but in real life the glass is clear like reading glasses. (They also make diffraction glasses with other images, stars and whatnot.) 

MUSIC and MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS

Boomwhackers! Bright plastic tubes in graduated sizes that you whack to make different booming tones. You can arrange them in different orders 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. Very sturdy. These have been stepped on and mangled without any ill effects. 

Ukulele bundle. The whole ukulele thing was one hipster fad I fully endorsed. 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.  

The Daily Ukulele: 365 Songs for  Better Living book Lots of variety, great for learning. Opens flat (also comes in digital format).

Beginner’s acoustic guitar set. We got two of these, one in black and one in blue. Also comes in red, pink, and other colors. I don’t know anything about guitars, but two of our kids taught themselves how to pick out some songs using this exact set-up, so it definitely comes with everything you need to get started, for a very reasonable price. 

For someone who already plays guitar:

Beatles chord songbook, in regular and spiral bound. If you’re not learning how to play Beatles songs, then what are you even doing with a guitar? Also:

 Bob Dylan: Easy Guitar book Basic arrangements of Dylan’s most popular songs. 

 

Beatles tin of guitar picks
As advertised. Hooray for songs with only four chords! Hooray for things that come in tins!


 
Working on a Song: The Lyrics of Hadestown by Anais Mitchell For the obsessive Hadestown fan, this book has excerpts from the studio and other albums versions, and full lyrics from Broadway version, plus commentary. Can’t get enough of that tragical stuff! 

A distortion thingy! If I say anything else about it, it will become abundantly clear I have no idea what any of this is. My daughter likes it. 

OTAMATONE 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. It’s a little bit fragile, so not appropriate for young or careless kids.  There’s a video if you click through. 

 

A kalimba, also known as a “thumb piano,” is a sweet little portable instrument for picking out quiet tunes or accompanying singers. Click through for a little video to hear how it sounds. 

Casio keyboard A very serviceable electric keyboard for people learning to play. Comes with a stand and headset, so you can practice without driving your sister crazy, assuming that’s your goal.

Bluetooth karaoke LED microphone Not gonna lie, this is a terrible product. It works very well, is very loud and bright, and is hard to break. TERRIBLE. It’s a real, heavy microphone, not a toy, with a speaker built into it, and puts on a little light show when the music plays. Links up to your smartphone. It’s just terribly obnoxious. The kids love it. LOVE IT. You can also use it just as a wireless speaker. It has lasted for years, I’m sorry to say. 

 

CRAFTS, KITS, KNITTING, AND SEWING

 

 

Set of two Melissa and Doug wooden hearts and butterflies bead sets Can I just pause a moment and express my delight at the nice little wooden boxes that so many Melissa and Doug sets come in? They really hold up. You can’t depend on anyone, but you can depend on Melissa and Doug wooden boxes. *sniff* Anyway, these are pleasant wooden beads painted carefully with a good gloss for that kid who loves to string beads, and the set of two is great value for the money. 

Klutz Twirled Paper Kit One of the better Klutz products. I’ve always tried to get my kids interested in quilling (winding flat strips of paper into spirals and then shaping them into various designs), but they just gave me the side-eye. The nicely-illustrated instruction book that comes with the quilling paper made it simple and inviting, and my nine-year-old turned out some nice projects. Told you quilling is fun! I told you! 

Klutz Clay Charms kit Such a hit! You can follow the directions (which were clearly tested by actual people, whew) to make the various charms pictured, or you can make up your own stuff. My daughter loves making and baking little figurines, earrings, and pendants for herself and for gifts. 

Creativity for Kids Flower Crown Kit I thought this was just another crummy stick-fake-flowers-together-and-watch-them-fall-apart,-then-wander-around-sadly-with-bits-of-glue-in-your-hair kits, but it’s not! My kids used this kit on a day when we were unexpectedly stuck at home and had a little guest, and they all had fun, did fine without much help, and turned out some really lovely crowns that still haven’t fallen apart. 

The Creativity for Kids line is another new find for us recently, and we’re pretty impressed. Even the paracord wristband kit turned out to be fun for my sons, who usually consider themselves above craft kits.

Enough perler beads (17,000) to subsume your entire household. These melty beads continue to be popular in the 1/2 and 3/4 classrooms at our school. (What you do is carefully arrange plastic beads on a pegboard, put some wax paper over it, and run it over with an iron, and they melt together and form a little flat plastic toy.) Honestly, it’s not so bad. The kids take their Perler beading really, really seriously, and the beads have miraculously not escaped from the jar. The appeal escapes me, but I never got understood why all my friends were doing Shrinky Dinks when I was that age, either. 

We also got this pattern book and this set of pegboards that you can join together to make bigger projects.

Glitter body art kit. Fun little set. My 13-year-old got a lot of use out of it. A generous supply of glitter stuff. The tattoos last for a few days, but are easy to clean off when you’re ready.  

Alex Headband Craft Kit 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. 

Cat and dog beginner felting kit. Not the exact kit we had, but similar. Felting is a good project for a kid who is both domestic and a little stabby. It takes some patience but not a lot of skill, and you can put this project down and pick it up again days later without any harm. Make a bunch of cute little puffy cats and dogs, and get the hang of the technique so you can make more complex projects. 

Melissa and Doug fleece tie blanket kit. Generous size (3.5×5 feet). My then-six-year-old made this almost entirely on her own with no trouble, and found it very satisfying. No sewing or tools required. 

Honey bee beaded embroidery kit (Etsy)
Isn’t this gorgeous? It includes the canvas, patterns, beads, and needle; you must supply the thread, but it doesn’t have to be specialty thread. It is Ukranian but the instructions are in English. Make a dreamlike little work of art. 

Yarn storage and organizer tote. Lots of handy pockets and compartments with a little hole on top to feed the yarn through as you knit, so it doesn’t get tangled. 

Rosewood yarn bowl. A lovely handmade item, decorative and useful. Keep your yarn from getting tangled while you knit. You can feed more than one strand out at a time. 

Other handy knitting notions:

tapestry needles for finishing
and 

stork embroidery scissors. 

SINGER | MX60 Sewing Machine with 57 stitches 

 

Good little workhorse for basic projects. Easy to use, gets the job done. 

 

Brother XM2701 lightweight sewing machine with 27 stitches. Another good choice for a beginner sewing machine. I am not competent to tell you which is better. We have both and they both sew, and I can use both of them and I am an idiot, so that’s all I know. 

If you want to spend somewhat more, we also have this sewing machine, a Brother CS6000i with 60 stitches:

which also does a great job and is easy to use.  

For hand sewing:

A cute little owl-print sewing basket with a bunch of supplies. Has a little removable tray to store the needles, measuring tape, lots of thread and threaded bobbins. We also bought separately a package of multicolored felt, a tomato pin cushion, and a package of 100 sweet flowered buttons, and the kid managed to stuff them all inside the sewing box and latch it. Cute, cute, cute. 

and finally:

 

The Tudor Tailor book by by Ninya Mikhaila and Jane Malcolm-Davies For skilled seamstresses. Full of detailed, authentic patterns for all kinds of garments from Tudor society. 

 

DOLLS AND STUFFIES

 

Barbie Dreamhouse
BAR! BIE! DREAM! HOUSE! We have eight daughters and finally bit the bullet and bought this pink plastic monstrosity, and the two youngest girls have played with it more days than they haven’t. It has a moving, wheelchair-accessible elevator, a disco room with lights and sounds, a toilet with flushing noises, and bunch of other little details the kids love. It took two adults about an hour to put together, not counting sticking all the little stickers on. If you’re a Montessori person, you won’t like this; if you’re a “oh my gosh, there are teeny little plastic cupcakes inside the teeny plastic oven” person, you will love it. 

 

Princess Leia doll with Endor adventure accessories. Solid Barbie-sized doll with a pleasant face and lots of accessories. The Ewok lost its hood and turned up in a basket with my fresh ginger and scared the hell out of me, but I can’t fault the doll for that. 

 

Luna Lovegood doll. Barbie-sized. There are a bunch of other Harry Potter dolls as well, Nicely detailed, and they didn’t fall into the uncanny valley trying to make the faces resemble to actors too much. 

I may have been more excited about this than the kids: Comfy Clothes Barbies (Anna and Elsa). Familiar princess characters wearing normal clothes, no spike heels or strapless cocktail dresses. (Not that there’s anything wrong with dressing up dolls in impractical clothes! But it’s fun to think of the characters living their everyday lives.) We got a bunch of these for a kid who already has a million Barbies but always wants more.  

Uncle Iroh! He is 5″ tall (not Barbie-sized)

Calico Critters Maple Twin Cats 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. 

Stuffed anteater. Do you have a child who really got into anteaters? We did. So we know our plush anteaters. This one is a fine specimen. Very plushy and huggable. (Our is named “Schlopp-Schleep,” thank you very much.) 

Nice little stuffed pink axolotl. 21 inches long. Has a friendly little face, as an axolotl should. 

 

Shoulder Grogu. This is pretty cute. Sits on your shoulder with the aid of a little magnet on a fabric disk that fits inside your shirt.  

 

These BTS dolls keep turning up on wish lists (and all over the house), and they apparently fulfill some sort of need, whatever that may be, so now you know as much as I do. 

Is it the right time to get your child a gigantic stuffed tiger to lounge around on? MAYBE!  

BIG PLUSH MIKU. A real gift of the magi gift. You know I really suffer a lot when I order stuff like this, but I love my kids, and they’re very good kids, so.  

Groovy Girls are  soft, colorful dolls with cute hair and nice little outfits (the clothes don’t come off). Neither trashy nor simpering.

 

Small wooden doll family  from Melissa and Doug. Oh my gosh, these dolls don’t fall apart. Their arms and legs and heads don’t fall off, their hair doesn’t fall out, their clothes don’t unravel, and they don’t have creepy faces that make you want to hurl them across the room. Great size for doll houses, and they come in a nice little wooden box. They also have Black families, royal families, etc.

Wow, more Melissa and Doug! I guess I’m a fan. We had a kid who loved the idea of paper dolls, but found the little tabs endlessly frustrating. These magnetic wooden dress-up dolls made a nice compromise: you can mix and match the outfits, and they just stick on with magnets. 

Pleasant faces on these soft, poseable ballerina dolls, who are proportioned like little girls, and not like, you know, strippers. We got three of these last Christmas, and no limbs have fallen off, and the dresses have held up for a solid year without ripping, unravelling, or even going limp. 

A sturdy, washable, kissable favorite little 12″ baby doll.  

Funko Pop Eleven from Stranger Things. Aw, wookit the widdle blood coming out of her nose. I guess I don’t really understand Funko Pops.
 

OUTDOOR and ACTIVE TOYS

Little Tikes toddler slide 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.

We got our toddler roller coaster super cheap when a store was going out of business, and used it steadily for the next fifteen years. It’s still in decent shape, and we still pull it out when little nieces and nephews come over. It has survived many winters of being forgotten in the yard under several feet of snow, and never stops being fun fun fun for little guys. Just the right amount of thrill without being really dangerous.

Good old Rody the bouncy horse. Pricey but very, very durable, and cute as heck. Easier to get on and off of than hopper balls. Some of the older kids even watch TV while sitting on them, which may or may not be an endorsement. Anyway, the one we have (in lime green) has stayed inflated for years, no kidding. 

Radio Flyer Cyclone Ride-On 
A SPECTACULAR toy. I had a similar contraption when I was little and it was pure heaven, skimming over the grass, wheeling myself to and fro, spinning and whizzing and rumbling along. We got this Radio Flyer model for our youngest and she loves it, and uses it indoors, too. It’s a large toy but super maneuverable, so it’s not out of the question for small spaces. 

Roller Derby four-square skates. Durable and comfortable. 

 

Adjustable inline skates. Sturdy, smooth, comfortable. 

Gots to have a helmet! This one has plenty of space for stickers, which is important. Comes in a few different colors. 

MOON SHOES!

YAAAASSSSS! YES YES YES! These are just as awesome as I remember from my childhood. Little trampolines for your feet, and very reasonably priced. Everyone loves moon shoes. 


Wall-mounted speed bag set. Pretty good set. I don’t know how this would stand up to someone serious about boxing, but for a kid who just needs to hit stuff from time to time, it’s been doing the job.

 

STILTS. Greatest inspiration I’ve had all year. We now have two sets (they come rated for different weights), and they are adjustable. (We put patterned duct tape on them so they can tell them apart.) 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! 

 

YOU SHOULD HAVE A TRAMPOLINE. NOTHING IS BETTER THAN A TRAMPOLINE. We actually have a slightly different brand, but this one looks similar. Wonderful, wonderful purchase. Every single last person likes being on it. It lifts your mood. It wears you out. It’s funny and makes your hair stand on end. And you can lie down on it and look at the stars without bugs getting in your hair. You can put a sprinkler under it. You can entertain the baby. You can keep party guests occupied. In all the years we’ve had it, no one has broken a bone or a tooth or gotten mangled at all. Get the biggest one you can afford. 

WEAPONRY and KNIVES

 

Cosmic shock phaser light spinner! It has pulsing, multicolored lights and makes space laser noises. Everybody loves this gun, not just the three-year-old. Sometimes we sit around at night and talk about why it’s not more annoying than it is. It’s a space laser mystery!

Schylling toys in general are well-made and seem to tap into that sweet spot of awesome-but-not-infuriating, not sure now. 

Airzooka Air Blaster More low-tech fun. Aim, pull, and release. Shoots a harmless blast of air, enough to make your hair blow back, and makes a satisfying “choonk” noise, too.

Two Bros Bow and Arrows

These are simple, lightweight, and durable, and the arrows come in all kinds of bright, exciting colors and patterns. They have padded ends, not points, so you’d have to try really hard to hurt yourself with this set; but the bows work really well and you can get some good distance. Check out the sales, as they run a little high. 

Exceedingly cool light saber. I mean yes it’s a toy, but it changes colors, has different sound settings, you can change the volume and whether it strobes or flashes or glows, and it makes that lightsaber noise when you swing it around. I am not 100% sure because I don’t have it in front of me, but I think it interacts with being whacked. If you click through, you can see a video to watch it in action. 

 

Medieval(ish) sword and scabbard. Surprisingly sturdy little sword for the price. It would be best for display, costumes, and waving around, and not so much for really heavy chopping or stabbing action; but it’s real (not sharp) steel and real leather, and looks very cool.

Samurai sword with a stand, just the coolest thing in the world. Again, not designed for heavy combat, but you can definitely whack stuff with this sword, and it looks awesome on its stand.

A good little swiss army knife. Cool translucent cover, comes in several colors besides blue. 

 

Decent, heavy pocket knife for the price, with attractive wooden handle

Smith and Wesson 8-inch folding knife. For when they’ve outgrown the little red Swiss Army Knife and are maybe a young woman going to college and you never know who might need stabulatin’. (I jest. These are handy for opening packages and cutting fruit and whatnot, though, and are satisfyingly heavy knives that fold up with a good snap.)

22″ Machete, good for clearing brush, gathering kindling, or just choppa-choppa-choppa. Hey, they have ten fingers, plenty to spare.

October Mountain right hand recurve bow
 A light, slim, powerful bow; shoots well. Damien has this for hunting and target practice. 

COSTUMES

 

 

Greek goddess costume. Flowy and dramatic, ombre cream to purple. Comes with a stretchy gold leaf headband. Reasonably washable.

Ballet shoes with ribbons. Silky and pretty. They have little leather pads on the sole, and you can wind the ribbons around your ankles and tie bows, just like a real ballerina. See also Tinkerbell ballet DVD. 

Wonder Woman costume. Runs a little small. I like the star pants. Makes a kid feel super without sliding into “sexy tot” territory.

 

Flap flap flap! Butterfly wings are always in style. The material is strong, but thin enough that you don’t have to take it off to strap a kid into a car seat, which, whew. 

These are by far the most luxurious rubber Godzilla hands we’ve ever owned.

Not really a costume, but a mermaid tail blanket. Crocheted mermaid tail for lounging about, being a mermaid in. Cozy and super soft. Comes in several colors, and it has a little mermaid charm on a chain as a bonus gift. For that one kid, it’s perfect.

And a general recommendation for costumes:

The Little Dress Up Shop

These are by far the nicest costumes we have ever bought. They are so well-made and comfortable, they can be worn as clothing. Everything we’ve bought has been machine washable, and it doesn’t come out all strangled and mangled. The ones with sparkly parts stay sparkly, and do not shed glitter everywhere, and the ones with tulle don’t tear. Remarkable. They are fancy and extravagant enough to please kids, but the style remains sweet and child-like. Here’s one of my favorites: the Mulan dress. Last I checked, they had free shipping on all U.S. orders, and  excellent, humane customer service. 

CLOTHING

Rainbow Dash Hoodie with ears and mane. Just plain cute, reasonably thick material, and the zipper held up well.  We also have the Pinkie Pie hoodie.

We have several of these. You really cannot imagine how many different kinds of patterns there are on CowCow dresses. My ten-year-old daughter worked to earn her very own ice cream and candy dress, but maybe you’d prefer beetlesconstellations,  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, almost like a swim suit. 

 

You can’t really see from the little picture, but this is a reversible dress. One variety has white feathers on a black background on one side, and Van Gogh’s Starry Night on the other. Very clever. Runs a bit small. A few different choices. 

Just an elegant little dress with realistic birds of various kinds. Thick, soft stretchy knit material, falls gracefully, plenty of fabric in the skirt so it flares prettily when you spin. We bought an adult size small for our nine-year-old and it fit her nicely. 

“Trapped in time, surrounded by evil, low on gas” Army of Darkness t-shirt
Groovy. 

We looked at a lot of mermaid-print leggings, but realized that our kids are more the dragon type. Snarrrrl. These come in a few different colors. 

Hot Pink Doc Martens! For the prom! For everyday wear! For making yourself awesome from the ground up. A million colors, all shiny and rugged and BACK IN STYLE. Aw yiss. 

Irish Donegal Tweed Wool Cloak 
My land, this is a nice piece of work. It’s very soft and drapes wonderfully. I don’t know how warm it is, but it’s awfully pretty, and looks well with dressy or casual clothes. Hood is a good size. Handmade. Ships very quickly from Ireland. Many more beautiful goods at the site on Etsy. 

 

 

LIVE, LAUGH, LURK t-shirt. It’s what Mothman does. 

Dinosaur chompster hoodie. As you can see, this is one of those hoodies where you bend your elbows in front of you and, if you move them right, they become the chomping, slavering jaws of a hungry dinosaur! Amazing! Chomp chomp chomp! Thick nylon material, runs rather large. 

Surfing Bigfoot Hawaiian shirt, for that special weirdo.

I’ll let this magnificent Krakitten garment speak for itself. Comes in a few different colors.

Tree of Gondor shirt! Also comes in other colors, in long-sleeved, etc.  

 

You know what these knee-high goth boots are? They’re CHEAPER THAN DEMONIAS. And my kid has worn them several times without breaking an ankle, so you tell me. 

 

And these are my boots, which I’ve had for a few years, and they’ve held up quite well. INC International Concept knee high leather boots with a little heel, a wide calf plus a little elastic gusset to make them even more comfy on your calves, and a zipper that comes halfway up so they’re easy to put on. They look stylish with dressy clothes and jeans, and they’re exceedingly comfortable. I put a cushy innersole in to make them even comfier, but the boot itself is nicely made. I have pretty wide feet and corns on one foot, and I wear these all day. The soles are a little slick (they’re not designed for trekking through the snow) but you can add grips if you’re going to be on a lot of slippery ground. 

 
 
 

Yaktrax run traction cleats. Kind of the opposite end of the spectrum from the boots above: These help you grip the ice so you can continue running through the winter like a lunatic. 

 

Little Donkey Andy Men’s Thermal Running Jacket. This is the thermal jacket Damien wears for running through the winter. He says it’s lightweight, warm, easy to layer, and doesn’t get too smelly.

 

These hunting boots are waterproof like whoa. These boots all but get up and walk around by themselves. Damien says they are comfortable, too. 

Oops, another Hawaiian shirt! Tropical tiger shirt (with toucans!). Come on, it’s just a magnificent shirt. There are many other patterns available, but why would you look further than this? It’s a rather silky material.

Fluffy fox slippers. Not super thick, but cozy and fluffy. The bottoms have little rubber grippy dots.  

 Lace-up knee high Chun Li/Dance boots. They come in a few different colors, but if they’re white, they’re CHUN LI BOOTS!

 

Speaking of lounging, THE COMFY is the loungiest. Much-desired, in service all winter long. I may ask for one of these myself. 

Lightweight sleeping bag. Not clothing, but I had to put it somewhere. Honestly, we have so many sleeping bags. They all seem fine. This one is fine. It’s fluffy and good. We don’t actually camp, so I have no idea if it’s good for rugged people. It says it’s good for down to 32F. Lots of colors.

HATS AND HAIR ACCESSORIES

 

 

Just a pretty rose crown/headband for your little flower. Large, luxurious blossoms. Comes in many different colors. 

Princess Leia bun knit hat. Warm and snug. And who might you be?  

The Jimin K-Pop ring hat. Another “I don’t know; I just live here and buy what I’m told” present

Handmade video game Hats By Charlotte on Etsy. Great communication and nice craftsmanship. 

Star Vs. The Forces of Evil horn headband. 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. 

 Leaf hair pins. Surprisingly elegant and detailed for the price. Flexible and bright. 

 
 

Set of six polished wooden hair sticks in different shapes. Smooth and elegant, good for buns, chignons, etc.

These are *sigh* spikes with screw backs so your kid can have spikes on their clothes. It’s just clothes.  

BAGS and wallets

 

 

These sequin-covered goods aren’t everywhere in the stores anymore, but some kids still can’t get enough of that sequin flipping action. This backpack has RAINBOW sequins, with silver on the flip side. A somewhat small backpack, and not super duper sturdy, but about what you’d expect for the price. If you’re looking for a larger, sturdier backpack, here are single-color flip sequin backpacks, which we also have.

Scooby Doo tote bag. Kid says it’s “very durable and holds a lot and gets lots of compliments from middle aged ladies at the library.”

ZELDA HYLIAN SHIELD CHAIN WALLET! Just the thing for the kid who likes Zelda, likes feeling just slightly dangerous with chains and stuff, and also tends to lose wallets.

It’s still not clear to me why the kid wanted this pineapple purse so desperately, but she sure loves it. A smallish purse on a long chain, with an inside section you can remove from the outer, cut-out layer. 

 

Sturdy brown canvas and leather satchel at a great price. Roomy and attractive, and the strap is comfortable. It’s even bigger than it looks in the picture.

Black canvas messenger bag. Comfortable and decent quality, a great blank canvas for pins and patches. 

 

VERY MISCELLANEOUS

 

Set of three nature photo flip books. Flip through the pages with your thumb and watch a hummingbird hover, a caterpillar turn into a butterfly, and a tadpole turn into a frog. Little kids (and bit kids, and adults) are fascinated by these low tech amusements. 

Lovely little blue and green Polish pottery bubble vase with blueberries. I have this vase.  I got it with one of the Amazon gift cards my dad used to send me for my birthday every year. This is a sweet little vase, beautifully proportioned, just the right size for roses or lilacs, or a big bouquet of dandelions and violets. You can’t go wrong with Polish pottery. I don’t think I know anyone who doesn’t like it.

Not the thickest fleece blanket in the world, but definitely the most Dungeons and Dragons die-shaped fleece blanket you will find, very popular with our resident DM. Great for snuggling up in while you’re on a campaign. 

 

“May Godzilla Destroy This Home Last” printed cloth. A little something to hang on your wall and make it your own space. 

Panda surprise mug. Helloooo! (There are also cats, monkeys, ducks, Santas, etc.)

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. 

“Sorry, we’re dead” shop sign.For that one kid to hang on her bedroom door. 

If you’re lucky enough to have a kid who has a bearded dragon, this dragon wings harness might make a nice little gift. 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.  

Silly squishy stretchy rubber dino head puppets. These are silly puppets in a very satisfying kind of rubber to have on your hand. It’s kind of flabby, but in a good way. All the kids got one of these, or else a squishy stretchy flabby unicorn head puppet, in their stockings last year. 

 

Foot massage roller. This is almost too grim to put on a Christmas list, and it’s honestly just something I bought for myself, but I still love it very much. It’s a foot massage roller and it feels so good, it brings actual tears to my eyes. If anyone on your list has sore feet, this really would make a thoughtful stocking stuffer or small gift.

I included this not because I hope your child will ask for a Thor Ragnarok lifesize stand-up cutout for Christmas, but because maybe you’ll see this on the list and get inspired to get a cutout of literally anything else. There are many other choices.  

Note “Wonderful Homelife” book in the background of this liquid sand art thingy, so you know it’s good! Just a pretty thing to play with. Tilt the frame to change the landscape. It’s soothing and pleasant. Choice of several colors.

 

This three-part house-shaped bird feeder looks somewhat different from the bird feeder we ended up getting, but this one looks nice, and you can fill it with three different kinds of food to attract various birds. We really got into bird watching over the pandemic and it’s been a joy. Lovely to have familiar visitors right outside a child’s bedroom window. 

With eight daughters, we’ve tried a number of jewelry boxes. A number. This Lenox one is by far the sturdiest, but with the quilted silver outside, 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 “Für Elise.”

 

Metal Archangel Michael keepsake or rosary box. Good and heavy, nicely detailed, really handsome. 

This bubble motion toy 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 not mind waiting.) 

BABIES movie. 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. 

Tinkerbell learn ballet DVD. 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. 

Magic sequin pillowcase. I have seen these in therapist’s offices, and I can understand why. It’s very soothing to just smoooooooth the sequins up, and then smooooooth them down again. Of course you can also draw little pictures or spell things, but mostly we just smoooooth the sequins up and down.  Comes in several colors. NOTE: This is JUST THE PILLOWCASE. You will need to buy the pillow insert separately

Little kid rocking chair. Very sweet. This isn’t the exact same model we had, but it looks similar and gets decent reviews. Nothing sweeter than a little kid with his own special chair.  

TIN TEA SETS. Why did we not think of this several daughters ago? You do need to dry them off so they don’t rust, but it’s so much better than endlessly gluing broken shards together. Here’s a Schylling one with Forest Friends, cups, saucers, plates, a teapot, and a little tray

Here’s another tin tea set we had, also with woodland animals, kind of a folk art style, and this one comes in a neat little lunch box:

 

Plastic is another great option for tea sets. This pink flower-shaped Melissa and Doug set with butterflies painted on the side hits that sweet spot of bright and appealing without shading into Lisa Frank fever dream. These are full-size tea cups and they are not flimsy. 

And finally: 

I . . . don’t remember buying this Wooly Willy. But it’s in my order history, and I certainly remember playing with these in my life! They are fun! Your Christmas will be better if you have a Wooly Willy, probably. 

AND THAT’S IT! That’s the whole list. That’s how it ends: not with a bang, but with a Wooly Willy. Happy shopping! 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Christmas Gifts our 10 kids loved: The 2021 list

By request, here is the annual Fisher Christmas present gift idea list: 40ish things our family actually bought for each other and actually enjoyed. Our kids are now ages 6, 9, 12, 14, 15, 17, 19, 21, 22, and 23, so Christmas morning is not the toy-a-palooza that it once was (although we did break down and buy some of those insane life-sized stuffed unicorns and dragons from Walmart, and I haven’t seen the bedroom floor since).

If you want present lists geared more toward younger kids, you can check out previous years’ lists at the end of the post, and the further back you go, the younger ages the list will be geared toward. (I’m sorry about that sentence. It has been a week.)

Last year, we bought customized masks as stocking stuffers. If you are looking for excellent, well-crafted, comfortable masks with the most interesting fabrics, I heartily recommend browsing around in Door Number 9 or Stitchcraft Yarns

Okay, here’s the present list! Random as heck, hope you like it. 

Light up wireless karaoke microphone

Not gonna lie, this is a terrible product, in that it works very well, is very loud and bright, and is hard to break. It’s a real, heavy microphone, not a toy, with a speaker built into it, and puts on a little light show when the music plays. Links up to your smartphone. It’s just terribly obnoxious. The kids love it. You can also use it just as a wireless speaker.

Corrie had a mania for “disco parties” for a while, so this was for her,  paired with:

Plug-in disco light:

Casts multi-colored razzle dazzle moving lights all over the room. It’s a small device but does a serviceable job. The cord is not very long but works fine otherwise. 

Stainless steel french press

A pretty, shiny french press, works like it’s supposed to. 

Day 6 K-pop mini posters and stickers

I don’t even know. I think they grew these guys in a lab. 

Beginner’s acoustic guitar set

We got two of these, one in black and one in blue:

Also comes in pink, red, and other shades. 

Gonna be honest, I don’t know anything about guitars, but two of our kids taught themselves how to pick out some songs using this exact set-up, so it definitely comes with everything you need to get started, for a very reasonable price. 

For an older kid, who already plays:

Beatles chord songbook:

This also comes in normal book binding, but the spiral is nice because it opens up flat. If you’re not learning how to play Beatles songs, then what are you even doing with a guitar? 

*

Embossing rolling pin

A small-sized rolling pin, makes pretty repeating designs in cookie or pie dough, as shown. Click through for other designs.

*

Reversible skater dress

Two for one! A thick, somewhat shiny, stretchy material, fully reversible. Cute idea, runs small. Click through for other pattern combinations. 

*

National Geographic Backyard Guide to the Night Sky

paired with:

Celestron beginner astronomy binoculars

These binoculars are designed specifically for night viewing. 7X magnification, easy to use. 

*

Several of our kids got into knitting over the pandemic, so there were a lot of miscellaneous knitting notions and supplies:

tapestry needles

for finishing up the ends, I guess? I don’t know, I don’t knit. 

rainbow stork scissors

Rosewood yarn bowl

A lovely handmade item, decorative and useful. Keep your yarn from getting tangled while you knit. You can feed more than one strand out at a time. 

Yarn tote and organizer

lots of handy pockets and compartments with a drawstring closure on top and a little hole to feed the yarn through, similar to the yarn bowl above. 

*

For the film buff:

Fast, Cheap, and Under Control: Lessons Learned from the Greatest Low-Budget Movies of All Time by John Gaspard

paired with a subscription to The Criterion Channel.

*

I think this was actually a birthday present: Tweed handmade Irish wool wrap 

Amazingly soft, subtle, and adaptable to dress up or down. Lots of colors and varieties at the site, but this one has little bits of different colors in it, so it goes with anything.  For Christmas, we paired it with:

this copper scarf/cloak/hair pin

Even nicer in person, very generously sized, very bright and cleverly made. A lovely piece that can be worn many ways. 

*

For the DIY guy:

Make: Props and Costume Armor: Create Realistic Science Fiction & Fantasy Weapons, Armor, and Accessories

paired with a Michael’s gift card, which you can also buy on Amazon because it’s a weird world.

*

Nice little stuffed pink axolotl 

21 inches. Has a friendly little face, as an axolotl should.

*

Swiss army knife

I wonder how many of these we’ve bought over the years? The red ones are the best ones. 

*

Clear plastic BTS tote bag

If someone in your household wants one of these, you don’t need an explanation. If no one wants one, there can be no explanation. 

*

A little baking set we put together:

Set of three silicone heart-shaped cake pans to make a fancy layer cake

These are unusually deep cake pans.

Cat paws oven mitts

Super thick and protective, very cute. Big enough for an adult to wear. And now for the star attraction:

Personalized chef’s hat and apron

A huge hit. They will personalize it however you like, and it’s a sturdy, well-made, authentic-looking chef’s hat that stands up nicely on the head. Adorable. Comes with a plain apron. 

*

Gazebo bird feeder

A very large bird feeder. Easy to fill, easy to hang on a sturdy wire loop. 

*

J-Hope BTS doll

This is a representative sample. We bought so many of these stupid dolls over the course of the year. It’s fine. BTS is fine. These are detailed little guys who will sit on your shelf and not make any trouble. 

*

Working On a Song: The Lyrics of Hadestown

Hadestown! Can’t get enough of that tragical stuff!

*

Kalimba (thumb piano)

a sweet little portable instrument for picking out quiet tunes or accompanying singers. Click through for a little video to hear how it sounds. 

*

Book-shaped book lamp

Closes up and looks like a real book; opens up and lights up. Just a pleasant little lamp. Not super sturdy for little kids, but better made than we were expecting. 

*

Fannie Farmer Cookbook

For our first kid who moved out. This is a great cookbook to launch you with all kinds of basic recipes, as well as general information about how to select, prep, and store food. Marion Cunningham has a reassuring, no-nonsense style that’s great for young people learning how to cook and bake. Includes recipes I’ve been using for thirty years or more. 

*

Heart diffraction glasses

A big hit. Put these magical glasses on and wherever you look, light sources turn into heart shapes, so the world is swimming in multicolored hearts. The more lights, the more hearts, hooray! The glasses themselves are quite sturdy, and are large enough for an adult to wear. They look like sunglasses in the picture, but in real life the glass is clear like reading glasses. 

*

Dino chompster hoodie

As you can see, this is one of those hoodies where you bend your elbows in front of you and, if you move them right, they become the chomping, slavering jaws of a hungry dinosaur! Amazing! Chomp chomp chomp! Thick nylon material, runs rather large. 

*

Surfing Bigfoot Hawaiian shirt

For that special weirdo. 

*

Fit and flare bird print dress

Just an elegant little dress with realistic birds of various kinds. Thick, soft stretchy knit material, falls gracefully, plenty of fabric in the skirt so it flares prettily when you spin. We bought an adult size small for our nine-year-old and it fit her nicely. 

*

K-pop “I love you” hat

As advertised. Click through for a number of color choices. Thick, warm hat, runs a bit small. 

*

Smith and Wesson 8-inch folding knife

For when they’ve outgrown the little red Swiss Army Knife, above, and are maybe a young woman going to college and you never know who might need stabulatin’. (I jest. These are handy for opening packages and cutting fruit and whatnot, though, and are satisfyingly heavy knives that fold up with a good snap.)

*

Ballerina jewelry box

Not a deluxe model, but it plays the requisite tune from “Swan Lake” and the little ballerina spins around. The other thing every little girl should have, besides a Smith and Wesson folding knife. 

*

plush Darkwing Duck

For that one kid who has, for reasons unknown, latched on to this rather mediocre show and loves it. This is actually a heavy, well-made plushie. 

***

And there it is! Hope you found something that might work for your family that is not a life-sized stuffed unicorn. 

Here are my lists from previous years:

The 2020 list (25 presents)

The 2019 list (25 presents)

The 2018 list (50 presents)
 
The 2017 list (50 presents)
 
The 2016 list (50 presents)
 
The 2015 list (25 presents under $50)
 
The 2014 list (50 presents)

Good luck! 

One awkward final note: I used make a little commission every time someone bought something using my links, and boy, would I clean up! Heating oil all winter long, let me tell you! Tragically, I fell out of Amazon’s good graces, and don’t earn commissions anymore. So if you do happen to go through this list and think, “Dang, Simcha really saved my bacon this year with that idea about the kalimba!” you could always drop a tip in . . . honest to goodness, I thought I had a tip jar on this site. Well, my PayPal address is simchafisher@gmail.com, my Venmo is @Simcha-Fisher, and it’s gauche as heck, but I’m definitely accepting tips, if the spirit moves you. And of course if you want to become a regular patron of the site, that’s excellent

Present madness

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. 

Present madness happened to me when, as a newlywed, I ended up buying my new husband a heating pad from a drug store for Christmas, and was devastated when he very understandably didn’t like it, because it was a heating pad from a drug store

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. 

25+ gifts our 10 kids loved! The 2019 Christmas list

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. 

I’m not an Amazon Associate anymore, but if you’re ordering through Amazon, please consider going through this link and supporting my kids’ charter school through the Amazon Smiles program

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.

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An attractive little set. Seal letters and envelopes with your initial. Works as expected. 
 
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.
 

3. Harry Potter Gryffindor Robe, about $40

For those kids who are still, still, still into Harry Potter. A comfy robe, very Harry Potter, holds up with lots of wear. Other houses available, of course.

4. Sorry We’re Dead Retail Store Sign, about $8

For that one kid to hang on her bedroom door. 

5. Lizard leash with wings, $8.99

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. 

6. Multi-tool Swiss Army pocket knife, about $20

A good little knife. Cool translucent cover, comes in several colors besides this blue. 

7. Naruto Uzumaki Jacket

Quite snazzy. We have some rabid Naruto fans. This is not a costume, but a real jacket, albeit not the warmest one in the world. 

 

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. 
 
 
 
 
It’s still not clear to me why the kid wanted this so desperately, but she sure loves it. A smallish purse on a long chain, with an inside section you can remove from the outer, cut-out layer. 
 
 
 
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. 
 
11. A few nice puzzles:
 
 
 
 
 
 
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. 
 
 
 
Two game modes. Works well for parties, or you can play solo. Just like you remember: Very bright and very loud. Caveat emptor. 
 
 
 

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. 

15. Ukulele bundle, about $85

 
 
 
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. 
 
 
 
 

Lots of variety, great for learning. Opens flat (also comes in digital format).

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!
 
 
 
 
Fun little set. My 13-year-old got a lot of use out of it. A generous supply of glitter stuff. The tattoos last for a few days, but are easy to clean off when you’re ready. 
 
 
Generous size (3.5×5 feet). My then-six-year-old made this almost entirely on her own with no trouble, and found it very satisfying. 
 
 
 
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. 
 
 
You need two, so they can fight with each other! Or help each other down off horses, or hand each other grapes. Great present for an aspiring artist. 
 
 
 
This is what my daughter, THE PUBLISHED ILLUSTRATOR, recommends as a good starter set. 
 
 
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.
 
 
 
Just a pretty headband for your little flower. Comes in many different colors. 
 
 
 

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. 

If you want to spend less (or more!), you really can’t go wrong with Brother.

 
***
 
And that’s it! Happy shopping. Here are my lists from previous years. I haven’t checked through to make sure all the links work, but at least you can find some ideas. 
 
The 2018 list (50 presents)
 
The 2017 list (50 presents)
 
The 2016 list (50 presents)
 
The 2015 list (25 presents under $50)
 
The 2014 list (50 presents)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sold by: Amazon.com Services, Inc
 
 
 
 

2019 Catholic fine art and handmade gift guide!

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. 

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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. “

Sarah’s picks:
 

 

and my favorite:

 
***
 
 

RACHEL SCHMITZ of SOUTHFARTHING STUDIO

Digital portraits of families and pets, as well as a handful of Tolkien themed goods. “Custom artwork, created by a hobbit at heart.”

An example of a wedding portrait made from a photo:

and a rather cheeky Lord of the Rings-themed vinyl sticker:

Watch the store for painted ornaments, coming soon!

The shop: Southfarthing Studio

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ELIESE CALLAHAN of VIANNEY BEADS

“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.”

 
The Shop:Vianney Beads
 

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REBECCA GÓRZYŃSKA of DELPHINA ROSE ART

“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.”

Our Lady of Perpetual Help print:

 

Marian Coloring Book PDF:

One of my favorites: Mystical Rose print:
 
 
 
***
 

NICHOLE LANTHIER

Art for Prayer. Prints of charcoal, pastel, and oil paint original works. 
 

Our Lady in Prayer:

Mary Undoer of Knots:

 
 
 
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GINNY AND SAJE CATHOLIC DESIGNS

 

“We create original designs inspired by our Catholic faith that are laser cut in wood and leather for unique pieces of jewelry.”

Our Lady Star of the Sea dog tag with prayer:

 

St. Patrick Rose Window earrings:

 
 

The shop: Ginny and Saje  

***

 

MARIE HEIMANN of FAWNLY

 
“fine art prints, mugs, blankets, pillows, and other home and paper goods with original hand painted and hand lettered art”
 
Hand painted Christmas ornament:
 
 

“It’s okay to feel your feelings” mug

 
The shop: www.fawnly.com

 

***

WILLIAM FERRY 

“Capturing everyday miracles”

Gorgeous landscapes and scenery still catch my eye but it’s the spiritual more than the temporal that has my focus. They also overlap, as you’ll see in the portfolio.

“First Frost” print:

“Psalm 24:10:

“Our Lady of the Petroglyphs”

***
 

THERESA BARGER of APPLE AND AZALEA

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.”

“Defend us in battle”

“First Things First”

 
***
 

CARA JOHNSON of STITCHCRAFT YARNS

“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. 
 

The shop: Stitchcraft Yarns

***
 

ELZABETH SIEGER of SIEGER DESIGN CO.

“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:

 
 

A sample of a finished doll:

Many military designs available.The shop: Sieger Design Co.

 
***
 

TURBO TUTOR Teaching Resources

Lesson plans, learning games and teacher aids. Joanne has a few Christmas items listed now, good for activities for Christmas vacation. 

Christmas Trivia Cards: A secular Christmas trivia game for grade 7 and up, drawing on history, literature, modern statistics, geography, and various holiday traditions in December.

 

Christmas Bingo, grades 6 and up: Out -of-the-ordinary call questions based on the Biblical Christmas story

 
***
 

ELISA LOW of DOOR NUMBER NINE

It’s always way too hard to pick just a few of Elisa’s creations to feature. Here are a few new items:
 

Illuminated manuscript medieval animal ornaments:

 
 

Sacred Heart and Immaculate Heart resin pendant or necklace:

 

Jousting Snails infinity scarf with hidden pocket!

 

And so much more.

The shop: Door Number 9

***

MELISSA WILLETT

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.”

Available for commission. 
The gallery: melissawillett.com
 
 
 
***
 

NANCI KEATLEY of PICCOLO DI LUCE

“Shining a little light” 

Customizable pocket Oratories, Rosary Cases, Prayer Blankets and other items.
 
A customizable linen and wool felt “portable altar” pocket oratory designed for toddlers:
 
 
Customizable family-sized pocket oratory:
 
 
 
The shop: Piccolo Di Luce
 
 
***
 

KYRA MATSUI of IRONLACE DESIGN

 

My readers are by now familiar with Kyra’s stunning, shining jewelry. Here’s something new: tree ornaments made of crystal and steel:

 

Also available in steel chainmail:

 

Many new necklaces and earrings, and some gorgeous new rosaries and fidget rosaries:

 
 
***

If you have handmade goods to sell, feel free to leave a link to your shop in the comments. 

Support the artists and craftsmen, save the world! 
 

50+ gifts our ten kids loved: The 2017 list

It’s the fourth annual Fisher family Christmas gift recommendation list! These are all products our family owns and has enjoyed. You can find my 2014 list here, my 2015 list here, and my 2016 list here.

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.

And now for the presents:

1.Turn table with built in speakers

Good little machine for the price, and has held up well.

2. Acoustic Yamaha guitar with case and accessories

 

 

3. Squier by Fender “Mini” Strat Beginner Electric Guitar with Rosewood Fingerboard

Great starter electric guitar. It’s . . . so loud.

4. Distortion pedal bundle

This, my daughter notes, is the same one Curt Cobain had. Ha cha cha!

5. Machete

Good for clearing brush, gathering kindling, or just choppa-choppa-choppa. Hey, they have ten fingers, plenty to spare.

6. Prismacolor double-ended manga markers

A nice set for sketching, drawing comics, etc. Good, rich colors.

7. Light saber screwdriver set

These are on the small side, so they are not for heavy duty jobs, but they are real screw drivers, and solid.

8. Fox hat with ear flaps

As advertised. Cute! Runs a tiny bit small, so not for kids with tons of hair or giant heads.

9. OceanPetal Art Studio flower jewelry (Etsy)

So many gorgeous designs. Flora in resin, bracelets, pendants, and more. We have a lovely flat pendant with yellow flowers.

10. Otamatone

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.

11. Princess Leia Bun Hat

Warm and snug. And who might you be?

12. Hellboy Library Editions

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.

13. Jewelry and rosaries from IronLace Design

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.

14. Samsung Chromebook 3, 11.6″, 4GB RAM, 16GB eMMC

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.

15. Canvas Messenger Bag 

Amazingly sturdy at a great price. Nice and roomy and attractive, and the strap is comfortable. It’s bigger than it looks in the picture, believe it or not.

16. Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett

A good introduction to Terry Pratchett and Discworld. Sergeant Vimes is the best. This one has a lot of dragons in it.

17. 10 x 50 Binoculars 

Good and heavy, smooth and easy to use. Comes with decent case, strap, cloth, and lens caps. Birds! The moon! Neighbors!

18. Pandemic Board Game

Lots of strategy and cooperative play, or you all die. My teenagers play it with the younger kids (age 7 and up). Suspenseful and lots of pressure.

19. 5th Element Panther XT Inline Skates

Son skates around town after school every day. These took some breaking in, but now he loves them, and says they are comfortable and easy to maneuver.

20. Mysterium Board Game

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.)

21. Funko Pop Eleven

Aw, wookit the widdle blood coming out of her nose. I don’t really understand Funko Pops.

22. Panda surprise mug

Helloooo! (There are also cats, monkeys, ducks, Santas, etc.)

23. Cow Cow Dresses

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.

24. Die Hard: The Authorized Coloring and Activity Book

Sighhh. She loved it.

25. “Fools! I’ll destroy you all” Button

For that one kid.

***
Now we’ll move on to some gifts for kids in middle school. These are not hard and fast lines, as you will see.

26. Magic sequin pillowcase

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!

27. Mighty Jack and the Goblin King

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.

28. Minecraft stop motion animation set

This is the set that got my son started on stop-motion animation. It comes with a little stage, backgrounds, many props, a little stand for your camera, and an app to animate the photos and share.

My son has branched off on his own and now uses the free version of the app called Stop Motion Studio by CATEATER, but he says this set gave him the confidence to get going.

29. Godzilla 7″ Vinyl Figure from Destroy All Monsters

One of the many Godzillas my son uses for his stop motion videos. Nicely detailed and sturdy.

30. “Deal With It” Glasses

It’s possible my son is the only one in the world who wants these, but he sure does like them. I can’t explain it more than that.

31. Bricky Blocks Black Snapback

Bring your Legos with you! Put your Legos on your head! What a time to be alive!

32. Air hockey table

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.

33. Pikachu hoodie

Please tell me my kids aren’t the last ones in the world who like Pokemon. Good fit. Rather charming.

34. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up the Marvel Universe

Works as a standalone for kids who are not yet familiar with Squirrel Girl.

35. LCD Writing Tablet

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.

***

And gifts for younger kids and toddlers:

36. Crocodile Toddler RC Car with Music and Lights

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.

37. Mama Kangaroo and Joey Plush, 13″

Sweet and sturdy. Good for the kid who likes to make sure the baby is always where he belongs. Stands up by itself.

38. I Got This! Game

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.

39. Tempera Paints Set, 16 oz, Pack of 6 .

Great price for this much paint.

40. Rubie’s Wonder Woman Costume

Runs a little small. I like the star pants. Makes a kid feel super without sliding into “sexy tot” territory.

41. Lots of things from Door Number 9. Here’s the wonderful St. Michael prayer Pillow, featuring a prayer very obviously written by a real kid:

So much geeky fun here, some of it Catholic, much of it for adults or older kids. We have several of Elisa’s lovingly handmade products and we adore them.

42. LYRA Ferby Triangular Colored Pencils

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.

43. Fleece lined koala hat

Cute and goofy, and very warm. Holds up great. My daughter wears this nine months out of the year.

44. Boomwhackers Whack Pack

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.

45. Chicken Soup with Rice Board Book: A Book of Months

Possibly the greatest poem ever written. I’m always happy to read this one. This is a sturdy board book. Here’s to you, Mrs. Ida Perles!

46. Miracle Man: The Story of Jesus by John Hendrix

A fresh and exhilarating style that incorporates the words of the text into the illustrations. Quite powerful.

47. Little Tikes Shopping Cart

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.

48. My Little Pony Monopoly Board Game

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.

49. Melissa & Doug 20 Animal Magnets in a Box

Bright and pleasant. Magnets have stayed on, animals have not peeled off, despite occasionally getting wet.

50. Dreamy Dress-Up Butterfly Wings

We keep buying these. Found some lovely bright ones this time. The material is strong, but thin enough that you don’t have to take it off to strap your little butterfly into its car seat.

51. Color Paddles, Set of 18

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.

51. Tinkerbell’s Learn Ballet Step by Step DVD

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.

52. Kitty Cat Riding A Unicorn T-Shirt

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.

50 Gifts our 10 kids loved, the 2016 list!

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.

Here is my Amazon Affiliate link:

 

Simcha’s Amazon Link!

Please consider bookmarking it and using it every time you buy from Amazon! Thanks a million.

Here’s the first list of fifty from a few years ago, and here’s a list of twenty-five more the next year. And here are this years gift ideas:

1. Orthodox icon suncatchers and nightlights, $3.50 – $6

You can see a few in the window of my dining room here:

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Jesus’ beard is sparkly! They are plastic and vividly colored. I want them in every window of the house.

2.Stretchy tattoo choker necklace, $3.99

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Apparently these are back in style? My daughter wore one to the senior prom, along with hot pink Doc Martens (see below). (I wore my grandmother’s pearls to my prom, if anyone’s wondering.)

3.Nixon decal, $4

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“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.

4.The Mysterious Benedict Society, about $5.

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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.

5.Betsy-Tacy collection, $5.99

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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.

6.Hanging glass egg vase, $6.99

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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!

7.Bubble motion tumbler, $7.50
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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.)

8.Feasts of Our Lord and Our Lady coloring book, and A Feast of Saints coloring book, $7.95

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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.

9.Oreo teether, $7.97

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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.

10.Babies DVD, about $9
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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.

11.Mighty Jack, about $9

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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.

12.The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists, about $10

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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.

13.Slingshot rocket, about $10

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Light foam, low-tech, lots of fun until the three rockets get lost. The feral 8-year-old daughter had a blast with it.

14.Garden fairies scratch book, about $10

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Sturdy, spiral-bound (so you can open it up flat to work). Scratch away the black to reveal rainbow swirls and glittery colors underneath. Sweet little poems, pictures to copy if you like, and blank pages for sketching, besides the scratch-off pages. Many themes available, from  outer space to mermaids to Jurassic creatures.

15.Galaxy infinity scarf, $11.95

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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.

16.Baby smartphone, $12.65

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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.

17.Little Dalek action figure, about $12.95

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Shiny and detailed. Perpetuate the Doctor Who obsession for another year. PER-PET-U-ATE!!!!

18.Wooden ball rattle, $12.99

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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.

19.Dragon scale leggings, $12.99

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We looked at a lot of mermaid-print leggings, but realized that our kids are more the dragon type. Snarrrrl. These come in a few different colors.

20.Krakitten T-shirt, $13

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I’ll let this magnificent garment speak for itself. Comes in a few different colors.

21.TARDIS hat, $14.88

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Aized about as expected, even on the inside. The pom pom on top is generously poofy.

22.Calico Critters Triplets, $14.99; Triple bunk bed, about $10

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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.

23.Headband kit, $14.85

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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.

24.One Potato, Two Potato, about $15

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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.

25.CowCow dresses, about $18 Something for everyone!

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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.

26.Butterfly wings, about $18

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Flap flap flap! Always in style.

27.Hanging glow lamp, $18.99

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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.

28.Melissa and Doug 12″ baby doll, about $19

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A sturdy favorite. Here is Corrie on her first birthday, getting to know her new baby.

29.Tinkerbell learn ballet DVD, about $20.

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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.

30.Hooded cloak, about $20

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Exactly what the kid was hoping for. It’s not real velvet, obviously, but it’s held up well. Comes in many colors.

31.Werewolf Deluxe game, about $20. Good for ages reasonably-alert-10 to adult.

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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.

Then everyone has to vote on whom to lynch. Players are eliminated one at a time, and it becomes more and more evident who is killing everyone, who is being framed, and who is lying through their teeth (and, in my case, who forgot the rules and accidentally blabbed too much information).
32.Airzooka air gun, about $20  

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More low-tech fun. Aim, pull, and release. Shoots a harmless blast of air, enough to make your hair blow back, and makes a satisfying “choonk” noise, too. 

33.Twirled Paper book and kit by Klutz, $20; Refill of  Quilling paper, 720 strips, about $10

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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.

34.Parachute hammock, about $24

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An excellent hammock for the price. I wish I had had a hammock the last ten times I was pregnant! Heavenly. These sturdy, easy-to-use hammock straps, about $16, were a good investment, too.

35.Lenox ballerina jewelry box, $25.

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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.”

36.Godzilla hands, about $25

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I don’t know what to say about this. We have these. They are by far the most luxurious Godzilla hands we’ve ever owned.

37.Ramona complete collection, $27.50

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A much-desired gift. For the right kid, a boxed set of every single one of their favorite character’s stories is a wonderful prize. Ramona really holds up all these decades later.

38.Blowfish tea set, about $30

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Quirky but elegant!  A very good product for the price. This is a full-sized, functional tea set for two, not a toy.

39.Toddler slide, $31

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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.

40.Legend of Zelda stained glass backpack, about $34

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Just a light nylon backpack, but it was what the kid wanted. It’s a little roomier than it appears, and the pattern is actually more vibrant than the picture shows.

41.Long Ballerina Tutu, $36

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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

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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.

43.White bird mobile, about $38

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Marketed as a baby mobile, but it’s a real work of art, and very large. A cloud of white birds in constant, gentle motion. We got this for our fourteen-year-old, and it really transforms a space.

44.Darth Vader Skechers, about $40

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These are adult sized, in case your kids grow out of kid’s shoes before their brains grow out of a love for Star Wars, which of course could never happen.

45.Punk tartan purse, $41

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Sturdy and awesome, lots of zippers, buckles, and studs, perfect for that one punk kid who needs a place to keep all her black lipstick. Has an adjustable shoulder strap and shiny black insides.

46.Dark Prince sword, $43

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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.

47.Stilts, about $45 a pair

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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!

48.Hot pink Doc Martens, $75

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For the prom! For everyday wear! For making yourself awesome from the ground up. A million colors, all shiny and rugged and BACK IN STYLE. Aw yiss.

49.Casio Keyboard, $129.95

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A very serviceable electric keyboard for people learning to play. Comes with a stand and headset, so you can practice without driving your sister crazy, assuming that’s your goal.

50.15-foot Trampoline and enclosure with basketball hoop, $329

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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.

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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.)

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Okay! That’s it for this year. Happy shopping! Thanks again for using my link when you shop on Amazon.

Catholics on Etsy, Part 2! Christmas and Advent Gifts for 2016

Yesterday, I shared part one of this year’s  list of Catholic-made, handmade goods — jewelry, art, and prints of various kinds. Today, part two: unusual rosaries, knit and fabric goods, and my favorite category of all, miscellaneous.

A few of the sellers have set up a special discount code or deal just for this post, so take note!

UNUSUAL ROSARIES and ROSARY ACCESSORIES

There are ever so many gorgeous rosaries on Etsy. I featured several of them on my Easter gift guide last yaer, including Iron Lace chain mail rosaries; a huge variety of styles from Rosaries by Allison; heirloom-quality rosaries from Athey Rosaries; sweet, affordable chaplets from ChapletsNSuch; a nice variety for various occasions from Snowshoe Rosaries; gemstone rosaries on flexwire from Prayer and Sparkle; and heavy, elegant rosaries from Et Corde.

Today, I thought I’d feature a few rosaries and accessories that are a little off the beaten path:

Two Hearted Ranch: Catholic and custom gifts and jewelry, rosary cases, keychains, including customized floating lockets
Featured item: Monstrance glass-topped steel-plated tin rosary case
, $9.95.

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You can also add a stamped tin disc to the bottom of the inside to commemorate a sacrament. Many other designs, bold and eye-catching. Keep those rosaries untangled!


Roses for Mary by Becky Arganbright
Featured item: Clay Rose garden three Hail Marys, $7

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.



KNIT and FABRIC GOODS

The Knot Haus – many fresh and whimsical knitted gifts, including some CUTE cute cute baby hats.
Featured item: Green Celtic knot bracelet, $25

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Neat, eh? This knit knot bracelet is made with silver-plated ribbon clamps and a lobster clasp. Say that sentence three times fast!


Blue Ridge Purl Hand-knit hats, scarves, cowls, and gloves by a pair of homeschooling Catholic moms
Featured item: Hand-knit fox hood, $40

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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

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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


S. Lochet Designs by Stephanie Lochet: Period and Vintage Inspired Creations
Featured item: Set of three tissue holders (tissues included!), $8

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I don’t even carry tissues with me, but I want these. So cheery! Many more styles and patterns on the site, as well as retro aprons and more.


Faith and Fabric Design – 
Reversible Advent and Christmas Table Runner
, $38

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I love table runners. Such an easy way to change the look of a room. This one is reversible: When Advent is through, flip it over and see a pretty Christmas design.

I also like this peg doll flower, $12. Keep your peg dolls snug and sorted.



MISCELLANEOUS!

Pottery From Your Roots by Faith Connor
Featured item: Chicory Mortar and Pestle, $40

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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.

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Elisa also offers a wide variety of unusual handmade goods, from saint wine charms to portable oratories to Cyberman tea wallets.


Sweet Soft Skin Handmade Soaps by Margaret Grimm
Featured item: Limited edition “Gifts of the Magi” soaps scented with frankincense and myrrh, $4.50

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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!

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Eh? Eh? You can almost smell the outdoors calling.


Ashcraft Creative hand-tooled leather by Mark and Christina Ashcraft
Featured item: Stained glass leather wallet, $65

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Not gonna lie: this is probably my favorite item this year. Just stunning. Many more splendid, original, hand-tooled leather items on the site.


Art 4 the Soul – devotional art and retabolos
Featured item: Sacred Heart Leather keychain/bag tag, personalized, $25+

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Sacred Heart, you come with me! I love this. Many more original designs and combos on the site, great for bag tags, key chains, or zipper pulls.


Saong Jai – an assortment of Catholic and vintage goods
Featured item: Set of 3 vintage Catholic ornaments, $25

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Yes! Catholic up your Christmas tree. Aren’t these spectacular?



Don’t forget to check out part one of the Advent and Christmas Catholic Etsy list. That’s it for handmade gifts this year. I’ll be doing my annual “gift ideas for kids” post in the next week.

Are you a Catholic who sells handmade or hand-designed goods? Feel free to leave a link to your shop in the comments.

Catholics on Etsy! Christmas and Advent gifts for 2016

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:


 

JEWELRY

Mazzoni Mosaics: Handcut Glass Mosaics and Jewelry
Featured item: Red Millefiori Mosaic Pendant, $40

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So arresting! I love it. Like a poinsettia made of living stone. Millefiori is wonderful. Many more original and eye-catching designs in the store.


Cherokee Copper Greg Stice, a deacon who works for the Cherokee Nation, makes the jewelry that he and his wife, Lisa, design.
Featured item: Rain texture copper cross bracelet, $40

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Oh, copper. Spectacular. You could wear this cuff with jeans and a t-shirt, or with an evening gown.


IronLace Design by Kyra Busbridge
Featured item: Silver Lace necklace with deep red beads, $60

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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.


Pink Salt Riot by Jill Simons
Featured item: Amen cuff bracelet, $16

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So light and pretty! Many of the goods in this store are made from books that schools and churches were about to throw out. 


Janalyn offers handmade fiber goods, and also milagros and Day of the Dead jewelry, jewelry made of sewing notions, and some really neat bookmarks and Loteria fabric art.

Featured item:Hand-felted indigo earrings, $8

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Boy, it was hard to choose just one, because the goods in this story are so varied. Really interesting, quirky stuff.


Ornamentation by Mary
Featured item: Leather wrap cross boho bracelet with semiprecious stones, $119.99

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I may have gasped out loud. Do check out the rest of the stock at this store. She has the rare skill of making artfulness look casual and careless. Gorgeous.



 

ART, PRINTS, and CARDS and CALLIGRAPHY

Wood Pigeon – oils and watercolors by Kristina Closs
Featured item: Crow watercolor, $100

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Check it out! This crow is about to launch himself off the page, as soon as  he’s done cooling off in this breeze. Many more vivid and arresting paintings of birds, bees, and landscapes on the site.


Brain Cheeks by Rochelle
Featured item: Set of eight Mother and Child watercolor print cards, $15

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Oh, sweetness. She never gets tired of looking at Him.


When Beauty Met Truth by Lauren Santos: watercolors, prints, and hand lettering
Featured item: “Wherever the art of medicine is loved” print, $15

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Eek, a heart! I love it, and your favorite doctor will, too.


Herons Gate Arts by Sarah Pierzchala
Featured item: framed print of her original painting of a cosmic Sacred Heart, $40

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Sarah also offers an array of fantasy dolls, wings, and hair jewels. Clay, twigs, beads, loveliness.


Santa Clara Design, paper prints and instant digital downloads
Featured item: Padre Pio Print, $10

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Etsy is flooded with bland inspirational digital downloads, but there’s real artistry in Santa Clara’s graphic designs. Many designs and styles, digital downloads as well as physical prints.


Hatch Prints.

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.

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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.


Rakstar Designs
Featured item:“Jesus, Coffee, Naps” sign, $25+

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Made me laugh! It’s as good a motto as any, although most days, I’ll settle for two out of three.


Kristyn Brown Photo

Featured item: Holy Family 2, $35, one in a series called “The Saints Project” which uses Catholic photographic models

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Neat project! I’m looking forward to seeing more.


A few WOODEN FIGURES and STATUES

In the Loft by Sue Dow
Featured item: Mary Holding Jesus wood figurine, $40

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There’s a very appealing quietness in these gentle painted figures. Also various nativity figurines, saints, animals, and a few nativity backdrops for your home.


Brushes2Haloes
Our Lady of Guadalupe, $95

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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.


Honeychild Forest
Offer it up, Buttercup” print, $15

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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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Etsy and handmade open thread! List your goods for sale here.

I do love handmade gifts. I’ve featured Robin’s handmade soaps many times, and yesterday’s post featured Theresa Barger’s Apple and Azalea shop, where you can buy handmade rosary bracelets and other items with free shipping.

The "Be Bold" rosary bracelet from Apple and Azalea

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.

Okay, go!

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!