50+ Gifts our ten kids loved: The 2018 list

It’s fina-lully here! My Christmas gift suggestion list for 2018. These are all (with a few exceptions, which are noted) gifts our own kids received and enjoyed. They are in no particular order, and they are almost all from Amazon. Hoping to get an Etsy/handmade list up soon.

I’ll add links to lists from previous years as soon as I can. I have to remove a bunch of defunct links, boo.

Okay, here we go!

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!

Metallic paint markers

Satisfyin’. Paint markers draw on just about any surface, including shell, rock, glass, ceramic, and metal. These are bright and shiny and would be great for making ornaments or personalizing gifts.

Tales from Grimm book

Every household should have a copy. Wanda Ga’g’s storytelling and illustrations together are the fairy tales everyone should know. Includes a few head scratchers and all the classics.

Lightweight Brother sewing machine

A real sewing machine, not a toy, but lightweight and compact. Nice and simple for beginners. I’m a complete moron and I can use this machine.

Dragon wall decals

The instructions are kind of baffling, so we couldn’t figure out how to make them three-dimensional like in the picture, but they’re pretty neat as plain silhouettes. They stick well.

Animal print hoodies

If you are thirteen, this hoodie will give your life meaning. It’s a lightweight nylon, so not thick or warm, but look at that fricken lion!

Body board

A good board for the price. Lots more patterns available.

Galaxy skater dress

We’ve bought many CowCow dresses in the past, and this one may be the coolest. It flares wonderfully, and the colors hold up after years of washing. CowCow dresses come in a bewildering number of patterns, some of them truly bizarre. The material is a thick, stretchy synthetic fabric, almost like swim suit material.

Totoro crossbody coin/phone  purse

Just plain cute, and pretty sturdy. My kid uses it as a change purse. It has a good long strap.

Turntable with software for recording, editing and converting your vinyl Audio in MP3 format

Decent turntable for the price. Doesn’t need constant rekajiggering like some.

Flower headbands

More of a party favor than a present, but if you have a lot of daughters, won’t you please buy a set of these headbands and have them wear them to Christmas Mass? Do it for the little old ladies.

Spinner ring

An excellent ring for a fidgeter. The gold part spins noiselessly around the silver part. Sturdy!

Thor Ragnarok standup

Look, I dunno. Sometimes we just buy what’s on the wish list. It is life-sized, hooray!

Bricky blocks hat

I think this was on previous lists. We’ve bought more than one. Take your Legos with you!

cardboard screws for building

I bought a bag of these on a whim over the summer, but my kids did not actually end up using them, to my surprise. They are plastic screws designed for attaching cardboard together, so you can build all kinds of awesome things, with moving parts if you like. If you have a kid who’s always building stuff and getting frustrated with the limitations of tape, this could be awesome.

Sandart moving picture

Note “Wonderful Homelife” book in the background, 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.

Hellboy

I guess we’re going to just keep buying these on request.  The art is fab and the story is good and weird. Hellboy seems to be Catholic, by the way.

King of Tokyo board game

Again, we haven’t gotten around to playing this yet, but I bought it because it was recommended by so many friends. It’s supposed to be easy to learn, suitable for people who aren’t super into gaming and fun for all ages, even little guys. We’ll crack it open over vacation and report back!

Archangel metal keepsake box

Good and heavy. This makes a nice First Communion present, too.

Animal Crossing

Cute, kinda weird. Easy enough for my six-year-old to play. You don’t absolutely have to know how to read, but it helps. Not terribly noisy, but the creatures make strange twittering noises instead of talking.

The Art of Spirited Away

Purty!

Lightning earrings

As advertised! Girls just wanna have pink lightening earrings.

Walkie talkies

Okay, we have bought a lot of walkie talkie sets in our day. A lot. 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 machine

*sigh* 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.

Godzilla t-shirt

SKREEEONK!

The Art of Over the Garden Wall

I feel REALLY OKAY about my kids being into Over the Garden Wall. One of the better additions to our family culture. And it is the prettiest damn thing I have ever seen on a TV screen.

Doodling tablet

This is not razzle dazzle, but for the price, it’s a fine little digital sketch pad. Press the button and the lines disappear in a wink, which is satisfying. Good for car trips, waiting rooms, etc. It feels very flimsy but is surprisingly long-lived.

Stuffed anteater

One of our kids got in an anteater groove, or whatever you’d call it, for a while. So we know our plush anteaters. This one is a fine specimen. Very plushy and huggable.

Crocheted mermaid tail blanket

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.

Sacred Heart painted tin wall ornament

This is actually mine. I got it with my birfday money. It’s way bigger than I was expecting. It always makes me think of the Flannery O’Connor line: “she could see by their shocked and altered faces that even their virtues were being burned away.”

Chronograph watch

A solid and handsome watch. Lights up.

Tea set in a basket

Cute and durable. Note: This is not a full-sized tea set. The cloth it’s sitting on is the size of a kerchief. The kid we got this for saw that as a bonus, luckily, because smaller is cuter; just know what you’re getting!

Moon shoes

YAAAASSSSS! YES YES YES! These are just as awesome as I remember from my childhood. Little trampolines for your feet.

Lace-up ballet shoes

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.

Stranger Things Eleven plushie

Wish list is wish list.

Butterfly flower tea set

So, this one is an actual full-sized tea set. It’s plastic, but not flimsy. Melissa and Doug really hits that sweet spot of bright and appealing without shading into, you know, Lisa Frank fever dream.

Celtic knot earrings

Just an attractive pair of earrings. This is from one of Amazon’s handmade shops, which I don’t fully understand, but there it is.

Koala and baby

Take if from parents who looked at an awful lot of plush koalas: this is a nice one. It’s not huge, but it’s soft and reasonably hefty.

Sculpey

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:

sculpting tools

To make all kinds of details and textures in your clay. Real tools, not toys.

Bath fountain rocket

OH THE BABY. Ahem. This is a neat toy. Fill it up and it empties itself in a 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 easily, either.

Oversized tiger plush

The time was finally right. The time for that kid to get a giant tiger to lounge on.

Betrayal at House on the Hill game

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.

Fairytale spinner game

This is the best game for little kids I’ve ever seen. 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. Just lovely. Of all the games they want me to play, I’m least unwilling to play this one. 2-4 players

LOTR Boxed set

Not illustrated or luxurious, but a great price for the set. Nothing like a boxed set.

Wedding Traditions from Around the World coloring book

I hope you know about Dover coloring books. There is one for every conceivable interest, and they’re all done in that same blandly reassuring style, with tons of carefully-researched detail. Dover is awesome.

Hearts and Butterflies wooden beading set (two pack)

Can I just pause a moment and express my delight at the nice little wooden boxes that 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.

Avatar: The Last Airbender DVD set

My cabbages!!!

Sequin backpack

Most popular backpack in the whole school.

Hats By Charlotte

We actually have the Samus one. These are soft and strong and comfortable, and I enjoyed communicating with the knitter.

Be Not Afraid temporary tattoo in JPII’s handwriting

In JP II’s own handwriting. So much better than “mung bean” or whatever it is you planned to tattoo on your unsuspecting dermis, isn’t it?

Wall-mounted speed bag set

Pretty good. 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.

 

And that’s it for this year! Hope you find something good.

Hospitality and Resurrection: Full Hands Boxes and more from Bethany Farm Knits

Imagine you’re a college campus minister, and you’re also the mom of two young kids, both with special needs, who each have “specialists up the wazoo.”

Imagine you live out in the country in New Hampshire, with only your chickens and your vegetable gardens for company as you boil sap for maple syrup and research the ins and outs of farming hops. Your husband is in the military, and you’re waiting to hear if you’ve been accepted to a Ph.D program at the University of Aberdeen. And you have your eye on some goats, and maybe beehives.

What do you do with all your spare time?

If you’re Cindy Cheshire, you open an Etsy store, of course.

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Affiliate disclosure: This interview contains affiliate links, which earn me a commission through sales.
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“I don’t do many things in a casual sort of way,” Cheshire said, stooping down to feed her little flock, “Because I don’t have the time.”

Something to keep your hands full while your heart is healing

Cheshire’s shop, Bethany Farm Knits, offers an assortment of delicate, hand-knit blankets

funky cold weather accessories,

and sweet baby gifts, and also something unusual: Full Hands Boxes.

These are thoughtfully composed knitting kits designed as gifts “for anyone who needs something to keep their hands full while their heart is on the mend.”

Cheshire received a similar gift herself several years ago, after enduring the traumatic birth of her first child in Juneau, Alaska. The newborn was airlifted to another hospital, and Cheshire was too weak to join her for several days. Then followed a time in the NICU that she describes as “brutal, brutal.”

A friend gave her some knitting materials and instructions, with the note: “You need something to keep your hands full until you can hold your baby.”

That idea of full hands remained with her, and now she’s offering it to other people, hoping to share some healing while helping to build connections between people.

People don’t know what to say, so they say nothing

Bethany Farm Knit’s line of Full Hands Boxes are for people surviving deployment, a NICU stay, cancer treatment, an empty nest, and even a bad break-up. There’s also one for simply learning how to knit. Each box includes knitting needles, yarn, instructions, a pattern, notions, and an appropriate “empathy card” that helps the giver express “words you can’t figure out on your own.”

Since Cheshire works with college students, I asked if she thought it was mainly modern people who struggle to come up with appropriate words. She does believe modern people have trouble sharing “deep, authentic communication,” and that pervasive social media can make human interaction superficial; but she’s defensive of millennials. In the past, she said, there was no internet, but people were not necessarily warmer or more connected.

“I know some 65-year-olds who don’t know how to relate,” Cheshire said. “Very often, people don’t know what to say, so they don’t say anything. The tragedy is, that happens when their friend really needs them to say something.”

A beautiful experience

Each element of the Busy Hands Boxes is chosen with care.
“Anyone can go to Michael’s and get cheap yarn,” Cheshire said. “I wanted it to be something that had heart at every level. Something sourced from a company that cares, something aesthetically pleasing, and beautiful to open. I wanted it to be a whole experience, to make you feel good even if you’re not knitting yet.”

The hand-painted knitting needles are made from New England maple and Russian birch.

Like the needles, the wool yarn Cheshire chose is locally sourced from Peace Fleece, a New England fiber company that “works to support pastoral communities that have been historically in conflict with the U.S.”

They are currently blending domestic wool and mohair with Navajo Rambouillet, which has been purchased at fair market prices from families living on the reservation.

Then there’s the slightly cheeky “empathy cards” from Emily McDowell , which bear messages like “I promise never to refer to your illness as a ‘journey’ unless someone takes you on a cruise” and “Please let me be the first to punch the next person who tells you everything happens for a reason.” One Full Hands box includes a foil card featuring a medal that simply reads, “KEPT GOING.”

Cheshire heads out to the barn
Value in particularity

For Cheshire, a natural introvert who spends much of her day in pastoral work, knitting is often how she keeps going. “I need alone time, or I go crazy,” she said.

One of Cindy’s cats also enjoys solitude – photo courtesy Cindy Cheshire

After a series of stressful meetings at work, she’ll often find a quiet corner and knit for five or ten minutes. “Knitting gives me something to do in that space, to clear my head.”

She also knitted her way through a batch of nervous energy while she waited for a response to her dissertation research proposal. The topic? Identity Formation in Pauline Communities.

Cheshire says she wants to use the baptismal formula used in Galatians, Colossians, and Corinthians “as a case study to see how those communities might have understood identity, on a community and on a corporate level.”

She says, “When we read there is ‘no slave, no male, no female,’ we mostly use it as a kind of whitewashing. It doesn’t matter, we’re all one in Jesus! Everyone’s one!

But this kind of thinking, she said, can make it easy to ignore how identity categories are actually hurting people in the congregation.

“It just perpetuates power cycles,” she says. “People in charge continue to be in charge, and they don’t have to look at other people’s experiences. But everyone has value in their own particularity.”

What do you want to do with your time?

I asked Cheshire if focusing on that particularity isn’t something of a burden for her, an already extremely busy introvert whose mission it is to foster personal, intimate connections in her work on campus.

She thought for a while, then listed all the many responsibilities she juggles. She noted that when people ask her how she does it all, she tells them she’s not doing as good a job as they think she is.

Cheshire’s daughter, wanting to join in the interview, writes up a marketing blurb for her mom’s shop

But also, she said, “God has made this situation into something good. He’s forced me and my husband to figure out something about ourselves.  What’s non-negotiable? What do you really want to be doing with your time? Because you don’t have that much of it.”

Although she and her husband have no background in farming, they’re slowly learning.

“It’s a little difficult to really engage in care for creation when you’re surrounded by concrete.” she said.  She’d rather work the land than support industries that exploit workers and contaminate the soil.
Some of the fruits of Bethany Farm – photo courtesy Cindy Cheshire
Their first harvests have been small, but encouraging, and they’re hoping to add berry bushes and fruit trees in the future. Of their harvests, the Cheshires save some, sell some, and give some to the food pantry. Cheshire was recently overjoyed to hear that, after she donated fresh eggs, one client was able to make brownies for the first time in ages.

“In my career,” Cheshire said, “I’ve gotten very comfortable with the fact that I rarely see the harvest. My entire job is to plant seeds and let God grow them, and maybe a few years down the line I’ll get a text message or an email from a former student saying how much their time at Newman meant to them.”

But establishing a farm gives her “something very solid to hold onto.”

Eggs from Bethany Farm chickens – photo courtesy Cindy Cheshire
Spiritual health is a real thing

One professional project she’s chosen is to reignite an interest in the spiritual life among apathetic college students. Very few students feel any kind of religious affiliation, she said, and the ones who consider themselves Catholic aren’t much interested in community; so she’s working on reformulating her approach.

“You can’t convince people to enrich their Catholic identity if they don’t see the value of spirituality to begin with,” she said. She had been warned that the campus was an anti-religious place, but is proud of the connections she’s made. She collaborates often with other groups, and sponsors “crafternoons” where students can work off some nervous energy of their own, making and building together.

“We’re trying to encourage the campus community to tend to their spiritual health, to realize that’s a real thing, just like their physical and emotional health.”

Cheshire is currently working her way through the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius, which, she said, are about “finding the dignity of everything, finding God in everything.”

One of the Cheshire flock – photo courtesy Cindy Cheshire

I asked whether even knitting was part of that.

She said, “I love watching the process of turning a pile of string into something beautiful. It’s something that’s real, and something that’s very elemental. It’s the absolute opposite of digital, and it connects you to all these generations of people who have done this before.”

Cheshire said knitting forces her to notice and intentionally relax the tension she holds in her hands. She was recently contemplating the hidden years of Christ, before He began His public ministry. The takeaway, she said, was Christ saying, “Remember, I was an artisan, too.”

Hospitality and resurrection

Cheshire deliberately keeps the price of her goods as low as possible. She recalls wishing she could live Catholic social teaching by supporting small businesses, but she just couldn’t afford it. “If it’s a gift, it has to be affordable,” she said.

chalkboard wall in the Cheshire kitchen – photo courtesy Cindy Cheshire

Why the name, “Bethany Farm Knits?” Her shop, and her five-acre farm, are named after Bethlehem Farm in West Virginia. It’s a family of intentional Catholic communities, where Cheshire has led mission trips with the students from the Newman Center. The farms are named after Biblical towns, and the Cheshires chose “Bethany” for theirs.

She said ,”It’s where Jesus experienced friendship and hospitality” with His friends Mary and Martha — and also resurrection, when He raised their brother Lazarus from the dead.

“Those things are very much a theme in our family life,” Cheshire said: “Hospitality and resurrection.”

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on Facebook facebook.com/bfarmknits/
on Instagram instagram.com/bfarmknits/
on Etsy

 

 

 

 

 

Handmade Gift Guide for Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day! Work it out, people! And really, you need to get it done by the 13th, not the 14th, because ashes and chocolates just don’t mix.

If you’re in the market for a gift for the one you love (or the friend you like), here are some lovely choices — all handmade.

Affiliate disclosure: Most of the links below are affiliate links, which means I earn a small commission of sales made through these links. 

And now for the gifts!

Handcrafted luxury yarn from Threads and Tales

Does your true love knit? How about a few skeins of luxuriously soft, ethically sourced yarns, some hand-spun (“on a spinning wheel like a legit pilgrim”), all hand dyed with safe, edible dyes? Em Ro and her family (including kids ages five and two, who help choose color pairings) have deliberately priced their goods much lower than similar yard of this quality. Here are a few that caught my eye:

100% Merino wool in “Little Red Riding Hood:”

Deep scarlet reds with cayenne pepper and paprika with very slight tones throughout, offering the beauty of tonal without a rainbow of colors.

Here’s a hand-spun and hand dyed selection in subtle, evocative tones, called “Moby Dick:”

Gorgeous. Threads and Tales also offers sturdy little handmade stitch markers in cute designs, including the Wonder Woman logo.

Door Number 9 puts the Saint back in St. Valentine’s Day

My love for Elisa Low’s work is legendary, and she’s always coming up with something new and quirky. This year, she has a valentine for everyone, with these moving and heartfelt Song of Solomon Valentines:

How can you possibly go wrong expressing your love with direct quotations from the Bible? How??

Set of eight valentines (with envelopes) with quotes from the Song of Songs.

More of Elisa’s antic humor: This St. Valentine Icon Magnet helps us remember the real reason for the season: Gory martyrdom.

Wie romantisch!

Elisa also offers a wide array of unusual, geeky handmade goods, from medieval bestiary tea wallets, to her very popular “Heretical nonsense: For research purposes only” stamp for the reader who knows better, to the replica of the Hamiltons’ interlocking wedding ring.

 Molded leather cigar cases from Lavish Expressions

Ooh, aren’t these swanky? Almost enough to make me want to smoke a cigar.  These handmade molded cigar cases can be monogrammed for free.

Molded full grain leather three finger cigar case, 3.75″ X 7.5.” Made of premium full grained vegetable tanned leather and stitched with bonded nylon thread.

Handmade in Arkansas by Tanya and Gerrod Desselle of Lavish Expressions. Order soon; they take a few weeks to make. Also many other sumptuous leather handmade goods, including iPad covers, messenger bags, journal cases, and more.

Dark chocolate whiskey truffles  from Sweet Addict

Well, chocolate, of course. Here are a dozen handmade truffles for a very reasonable price, guaranteed fresh upon arrival, filled with a dark chocolate ganache infused with Jameson Whiskey.

Many other truffles and fancy pants handmade treats available, including Red Velvet Truffles, S’Mores Valentine Gift Sets, and an assortment of fabulous caramel sauces.

Chain mail jewelry from Iron Lace Design

Spend $30 at IronLaceDesign and get 30% off your order!

So popular, and for good reason: feast your eyes on this opulent steel and green jasper chain mail choker.

I have a version of this magnificent necklace, and when I put it on, it makes me feel like the empress of the universe. It’s heavy, sleek, strong.

Or take a look at this sweet, bright little bracelet, silver plated chain mail with a fiery crystal nestled inside:

Many more styles at Iron Lace Designs, including heirloom-quality rosaries, plunge necklaces, pendants, earrings, and steampunk jewelry made of intricate watch findings.

Brilliant sacred art from Brightly Hude Studio

Here’s an arresting and luminous card, “Keep Us Near to Thee,” from Brightly Hude Studio by Adalee Hude: two hearts joined by the Sacred Heart:

Blank inside, and I think it’s framable.

Also check out the many other brilliant prints and original artwork, some with 23K gilding. I like this cheerful  giclée image of John Paul II.

Hammered tin Sacred Heart wall ornament from Mexico

Okay, yes, this is a Day of the Dead wall ornament. But it has a heart. The Sacred Heart. And flying skeletons! Are you going to argue with that?

Hand-hammered tin, hand painted in Mexico. I bought one of these with my birthday money last year, and it’s now in my kitchen. It makes me think of that line from Flannery O’Connor’s story “Revelation:” Yet she could see by their shocked and altered faces that even their virtues were being burned away.

It was bigger than I expected, almost nineteen inches from tip to tip. I love it. Also see this unpainted tin Sacred Heart Milagro.

Bright flower jewelry in February from Smile With Flower

Ah, I love this resin jewelry made with real flowers, so your love can bring a bit of summer with her wherever she goes.

 
Many more designs, including very cute coffee bean earrings , and also bracelets, globe and terrarium pendants, stud and petal earrings, and

“You Are My Sunshine” card by Timothy Hodge

 

I admire the intensity in this solar flare card!

The message laconically notes, “You are my sunshine.”  Available through Zazzle; computer image by Timothy Hodge, Customizable size
Leather wrap beaded boho bracelets from Long Lane Jewelry

Isn’t this wrap bracelet lovely? Fresh, subtle shades of agate with silver and leather.

It’s playful but not juvenile. Frosted Agate Beads, Natural Antique Brown Genuine Leather, Handmade Sterling Silver Infinity Charm, Charm of your Choice. A heart, say!
Many more funky, fetching bracelets, many unisex, at Long Lane Jewelry.
 Stunning skyscapes by The Crain Wife Art
Anna Crain sent me images of her flower paintings as possible Valentine’s gifts. They’re beautiful, but her skyscapes knocked my socks off. Here’s “Morning By Morning:”

part of the “Faithfulness Collection.”

Here’s another splendid one: “Bright Hope.”

The Crain Wife Art is fairly new as a professional artist. One to watch!

Custom fashion portraits by Samia Lynn

Here’s a thoughtful and romantic gesture: transform your photo into a hand-drawn portrait. Here’s a sample of one fashion illustration Samantha made for a bride and groom:

 

Samantha also does portraits for graduations, engagements, family portraits, anniversaries, and more.

Morse code secret message necklaces from Apple and Azalea
I love this: spell out a word or message in Morse code, and go ahead and wear it.  Here’s an attractive, unisex “Totus Tuus” necklace:

Theresa takes custom orders, but they need to be placed by Tuesday 2/6 for delivery by Valentine’s Day. 

 

Copper jewelry from Cherokee Copper

Simple, classic designs by a Cherokee artist (and Catholic deacon!).

Original art prints by Kabuki Girl

. . . also known as (stifles screams of pride with some difficulty) my daughter, Lena Fisher. Here are my two recent favorites:

Warrior

From her RedBubble store, you can order this image as a print, as a journal, as a phone case, and more.

and here’s Mary:

***
And there it is! Happy Valentime.

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.

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

screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-11-02-31-pm

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

etsy-cherokee-copper

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

screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-10-35-50-pm

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

etsy-pink-salt-riot-bracelet

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

screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-8-47-40-pm

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

etsy-mary-wolf-bracelet

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

screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-10-22-57-pm

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

screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-11-27-25-pm

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

etsy-when-beauty-met-truth

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

etsy-cosmic-christ

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

screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-11-38-47-pm

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.

screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-11-43-13-pm

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+

screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-9-09-11-pm

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

etsy-saints-project-holy-family

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

etsy-sue-dow

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

screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-11-58-02-pm

 

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

screen-shot-2016-11-25-at-5-16-17-pm

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plumeria, pomegranate, sandalwood rose . . .

My dear friend Robin, owner of Robin’s Soap Shoppe, has put several of her beautiful, lush, spirit-lifting soaps on sale for five days.

Here are a couple of the soaps I have my eye on — each discounted to only $5 for a generous-sized bar which lasts about four to five times as long as a typical store-bought bar (I’m not making that up. The delicate, moisturizing goat milk soap bar that we opened around Christmas is still chugging along!):

 

PLUMERIA

soap plumeria

Is this not the prettiest thing you’ve ever seen? Here is Robin’s description:

This is a tropical flower scent that bring a little bit of spring into your home on those cold winter days. The smell makes you want to wander onto the nearest plane and go island hopping. It’s a sweet ambrosial nectar that is sure to please the most discerning nose.

***

POMEGRANATE AND BLACK CURRANT

soap pomegranate black currant

The only issue I have with Robin’s soaps is that they all look and smell so delicious,but we’re not allowed to eat them. Not fair! Check this one out:

Pomegranate and Black Currant. This idea for this soap is based on a delicious juice that is found at many health food stores. This blend has tart Pomegranate notes, enlivened by citrus zest and intertwined with juicy Black Currant notes with just some light hints of soft florals and leafy greens to give the fragrance depth. It is a surprisingly sweet blend, almost as if the Pomegranates and Black Currants were sugared prior to blending.

***

Here’s one I haven’t tried yet, but just the name makes me weep for summer:

SANDALWOOD ROSE

soap sandalwood rose

Sandalwood Rose. Relax and unwind. Sandalwood Essential Oil relaxes and soothes the mind. Rose Essential Oil calms to bring balance and harmony. Beautifully adorned with Lavender Flowers, Rosemary, Red Rose Petals, and Yarrow Flowers

Robin has a wide selection —  over forty items — of soaps and salves, all handmade with great care from the best ingredients – and, as I mentioned, many on sale for five days only. Many are molded into decorate shapes, all are lovely. Every purchase you make will be tremendously helpful and uplifting to Robin, who is a single mom and an Army vet, who struggles mightily to support herself against odds that most of us only face in nightmares.

If you need a small present for someone, or if you’re just in the market for something to help you through winter’s dreary slog, do check out this shop! I’m not a partner or anything; I just love Robin and her soaps, and I think you will, too.

Gift-Giving is so Catholic!

WIN_20141218_102222

 

We don’t want to convey to our kids that love can be bought on Amazon; but we also shouldn’t try to persuade them that love is some kind of nebulous, moonshiny, spiritual quality that has very little to do with their everyday experiences. Rather than turning Christmas into a story about God vs. Happiness, the trick is to turn love and giving into part of one seamless idea.

Read the rest at the Register. 

Today only: 15% discount on magazines from Cricket

To get the discount, use Promo Code NF12-002 at checkout.

cricket magazine

We have had subscriptions to lots of different  magazines from this publisher, including Cricket, Muse, Cobblestone, and Ladybug, and we have never been disappointed. The artwork is top notch, and the content is very well pegged for the various age groups designated, without being pandering, and does a good job of making the reader feel like he’s part of a club, with lots of in-jokes and extra featrures. Good stuff, and a nice present for a kid who has enough plastic crapola. These magazines are worth saving and reading over and over.

(In the past, I tried to save money by ordering magazines from third parties, but you may want to beware! I once never got the magazine and never got my money back –  just a pure scam.)

I’m not making any money off subscriptions! Just passing along something our family has enjoyed.

Fifty Christmas presents our kids loved

We sure do buy a lot of presents around here. Today seems like a good time to talk about the ones that turned out to be good purchases — the ones our kids actually played with, and that didn’t fall apart right away, and that seemed worth the price.

All the links lead to products on Amazon. I’ve mentioned many a time, I get a small percentage of each sale made using one of the Amazon links on my page. These little bits of sales really add up, and help our family out tremendously!

We get a percentage of any sale made through Amazon, as long as you got to Amazon through using one of my links. So, for instance, if I say, “Hey, this nose pencil sharpener really turned my life around!” and you click on that link, you hate the nose pencil sharpener, you keep shopping, and you eventually order a diamond nose studinstead, I will get a percentage of the sale of the diamond nose stud. I will then use my Amazon credits to buy many more nose pencil sharpeners, because duh.

Here is our list, organized according to price, from “Stocking Stuffer” to “No Complaints Out Of You; We Got You Rotten Kids a Trampoline, Didn’t We?”  No remarks about our little Doctor Who problem. The pediatrician says it’s within the normal range and does not technically qualify as a disorder yet.

Note: a few of the prices may have changed in the few days it took me to put this list together! Everything is more or less the same, though.

  1. Dover Stained Glass Coloring Books
    dover stained glass
     $1.39 and up.
    Oh, so nice, and available in every imaginable theme for boys and girls. I love hanging these up in the windows, especially when it gets dark and bleak outside. Tip: color on both sides of the page, to make the colors more brilliant.
  2. Spock Ears
    spock ears
    $3.50
    These Spock Ears are Spock Ears that go on your regular ears.
  3. Strongbad decal
    strongbad decal
    $3.89
    You will need this for your car window or laptop or locker door if you ever break your . . . clavicus . . . majoris.
  4. Beatles Tin of Guitar Picks
    beatles tin
    $7.99
    As advertised. Hooray for songs with only four chords! Hooray for things that come in tins!
  5. 20-40X Lighted Pocket Microscope
    pocket microscope
    $9.89
    Portable and easy to use, runs on batteries so you can bring it outside and check out bugs and whatnot.
  6. Shake ‘n’ Go Racers
    shake and go car
    $12.98
    These go really fast — and they are powered by shaking, not batteries. The harder you shake them, the faster they zoom away when you put them down. Ingenious, tons of fun, and very durable.
  7. Car Keysbaby keys
    $13.15
    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.)
  8. Set of 20 Multicolored Sky Lanterns
    sky lanterns
    $13.30
    Fine, we haven’t actually used these yet. BUT I CAN’T WAIT. Maybe if you have aTangled fan in the house, this would be an exciting present.
  9. Greek Coin Replicas
    greek coin replicas
    $14.90
    I dunno, maybe your kids would want these. We have a kid who really likes owls, so he got something similar to these, a drachma coin made into a pendant from Etsy. Neat, unexpected little present.
  10. Groovy Girls dolls
    groovy girl
    $10.00-$15.00
    Smaller, soft, colorful dolls with cute hair and nice little outfits (the clothes don’t come off). Neither trashy nor simpering.
  11. Bananagrams
    bananagrams
    $10.95
    Sort of like free-form Scrabble, you race to build up a group of intersecting words, and whoever uses up their tiles first wins.  You can vary the rules to make it a quick or a long game, and you can easily introduce handicaps so adults can play with younger kids. I never mind playing a round or two of this game.
  12. Zoetrope Animation Toy
    zoetrope
    $12.90
    For the doodler of the house. Make a simple animated picture on a strip of paper, fit it inside the wheel, peek through the slots, and watch it move. A very old toy, simple and cool.
  13. Totoro lunch bag
    totoro lunch bag
    $12.99
    For the person in your house who really, really wants a Totoro lunch bag. This one is sturdy and made of soft, water-resistant fabric.
  14. Weeping Angel Earrings
    weeping angel earrings
    $11.99
    Don’t blink. Blink and they’ll be $12.01.
  15. TARDIS pendanttardis pendant
    $14.98
    Surprisingly heavy little piece of jewelry. A lot of the TARDIS pendants we looked at were half-TARDISes, which are only half as big on the inside. No fun at all.
  16. LEGO Wii games
    batman lego wii
    around $15.00
    We have Batman, Batman 2, LOTR, Star Wars Complete Sage and Clone Wars, Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones, both Harry Potters, and I forget what else. Everyone agrees that Batman 2 is the best. Tons of fun, not too too loud, and they are filled with cute little weird jokes and sight gags.  They involve fighting, but the people just fall apart into Lego pieces, so no gore.
  17. Butterfly Wings
    butterfly wings
    $15.29
    All of our girls want wings, but nothing is more tragic than when the metal bends and the wings flop. These wings don’t have frames. Instead, they have shoulder straps and finger loops, so you can flap nicely with your arms outstretched. Durable and pretty. They come in purple, pink, and orange, and are responsible for melting the hearts of many a playground mom.
  18. Wooden Pattern Blocks
    pattern blocks
    $15.99
    The right kid will find these 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.
  19. Snake Oil game
    snake oil
    $16.61
    A hilarious family game, also good for parties. Blogged about it here.
  20. Tournament Chess Set with Roll-Up Board
    chess set
    $16.99
    We were SO pleased with this set. It is HUGE, the board is very tough, and the pieces are big and heavy. Great product for the price, and portable.
  21. Kinetic Sand
    kinetic sand
    $17.69
    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.
  22. Wooden Family Doll Set
    wooden doll family
    $18.21
    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 African American families, royal families, etc.
  23. Magnetic Dress-Up Dolls
    magnetic dress up dolls
    $18.44
    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 made a nice compromise: you can mix and match the outfits, and they just stick on with magnets.
  24. Schaeffer Calligraphy Set
    calligraphy set
    $18.69
    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 set, with 3 pens, 3 nibs, and a bunch of pre-filled ink cartridges in various colors. Also includes an introductory calligraphy booklet.
  25. Fairy Design Kit
    fairy design kit
    $19.98
    Years and years later, the girls still love these. We had a friend who had the Barbie version of these — you remember! You lay the paper over it and rub over it, and the faces, bodies, and clothes magically appear. Then kids can color it in, add details, etc. Pretty fairy vignettes.
  26. LED rope lights
    LED rope lights
    $19.99
    Makes rooms awesome the LED way. 16 feet of awesomeness that doesn’t overheat if your wiener kids leave them on all night.
  27. Curious George Tin Tea Set
    curious george tea set
    $19.99
    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.
  28. 14″ Bride, Ballerina, and Princess Dolls
    ballerina doll
    $21.99
    Pleasant faces on these 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.
  29. Bushnell Falcon 7×35 Binoculars
    binoculars
    $23.99
    Heavy and easy to use, with a nice carrying case. Good price for the quality.
  30. TARDIS beach towel
    TARDIS towel
    $24.07
    Big and bright — works well as a wall hanging or door cover, too.
  31. Whirl and Twirl Swingwhirl and twirl swing
    $25.20
    For little miss or mister Upside-Downer. Exactly as advertized. She whirls, she twirls, she hangs from her knees, I can’t watch.
  32. Wooden Chinese Checkers
    chinese checkersand pouch of marbles$30.56
    (and Sack of Replacement Marbles for Chinese Checkers $5.01)
    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.
  33. Pet Vet Center
    pet vet center
    $29.99
    Strikes the right balance between adorable and interesting, for kids who really want to play vet, not just play puppy. The stuffed puppy has articulated joints and is posable and durable. Lots of nice details, like the X-rays and the velcro bandage, and the storage case works well.
  34. Jedi Fleece Bathrobejedi bathrobe
    $30.54
    If you saw my ten-year-old son in this, you would die. You would just die.
  35. Gromit Microwaveable Plush
    gromit plush
    $30.95
    I KNOW, this is a really expensive stuffed animal! But Wallace and Gromit toys are hard to find. This one, you can put in the microwave and it heats up and smells like lavender or something, I dunno. She likes it.
  36. Dragon Sword
    dragon sword
    $32.95
    Only to be purchased by people who want to be the best parents ever. It’s not terribly sharp, but it’s not a toy, either — more of a stage or cosplay prop. Reasonably heavy and sturdy, satisfyingly long and bright, with nice details on the dragon. The chain broke pretty quickly, but we just bought some jewelry fasteners and put it back together.
  37. Doctor Who 11-piece Micro Action Figure Set
    doctor who set of 11
    $33.00
    As advertised. The first eleven Doctors in the palm of your sweaty little hand. A handy gift for people whose birthday is coming up right after Christmas, so you can set them up to expect one more Doctor . . .
  38. Buddha Board
    buddha board
    $33.99
    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.
  39. Make Clay Charms Book and Kit
    clay charms set
    $34.95
    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.
  40. Roller Derby Adjustable Roller Skates for girls
    roller skates girls
    $34.99
    The best skates we’ve found for the price, comfortable and durable.
  41. Chicago Adjustable Roller Skates for boys
    chicago skates boys
    $34.99
    Same review as above.
  42. Set of 9 Tempera Paints
    tempra paints
    $24.49
    Gotta have big bottles of paints, if only for that wonderful nostalgic smell.
  43. Doctor Who David Tenant Dress
    doctor who dress
    $39.20
    This really barely qualifies as a dress and not a costume, and doesn’t have much structure; but on the other hand, SHE LOVES IT. And it looks great on her.
  44. Twilight Turtle
    twilight turtle
    $39.95
    I shuddered at the price, but when you have four little girls sleeping in one room, and some of them can’t sleep with the light on and some of them can’t sleep with the light off, this is a godsend. It projects your choice of three colors of stars onto the ceiling, and it turns off automatically after the kid has a chance to fall asleep. Much beloved. This also calmed the whole family down during a recent power outage.
  45. Rody Inflatable Ride-On Horse
    rody horse
    $49.95
    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.
  46. Steel Toe Combat Boots
    combat boots
    $59.99
    Really tough, and just as attractive as Doc Martens, in my mompinion. We looked at a lot (A LOT) of boots, even buying and returning more than one pair, before we found these, which are the best and sturdiest ones we’ve ever seen, for a really good price. My teenage daughter is really happy with hers, and they have held up well.
  47. Tribot Remote Control Robot
    tribot
    Listing this here even though I would not recommend paying the list price of $285 for it! If you can find it on Ebay or somewhere, though, snap it up. Durable, funny, easy to use, surprising, and entertaining. It is quite a noisy toy, and fairly obnoxious, but somehow endearing, and it has tons and tons of features. Its eyebrows wiggle up and down.
  48. Roller Coaster
    roller coaster
    $95.80
    Again, not sure if I would pay full price for this — unless maybe a grandparent gave me a gift card and said to buy a group gift for a bunch of little kids. We got ours super cheap when a store was going out of business, and we’ve been using it steadily for something like ten years. It has survived many winters of being forgotten in the yard under several feet of snow, and never stops being fun for little guys.
  49. iPod Nano

    pictured: Generation 5 (discontinued, but still available)

    pictured: Generation 5 (discontinued, but still available)

    (price varies) Our kids have refurbished iPod Nanos, which we found after some hunting (they sell used and refurbished items on Amazon, don’t forget; or you could check eBay, etc.)  They can play music, they can watch videos, they cannot go online. Bingo.

  50. 13-foot Trampoline
    trampoline
    with net and ladder, $279.99
    IT’S SO GOOD. YOU SHOULD HAVE A TRAMPOLINE. NOTHING IS BETTER THAN A TRAMPOLINE. We actually have a slightly different brand, but this one looks similar. We (shh) don’t have a net, and we used a stepladder for a ladder, so ours was closer to $200. 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. Get the biggest one you can afford.