Christmas Gifts and Regrets…

When I was about 10, I looked through the huge Sears catalogue and spotted what I thought would be the world’s best Christmas gift – a rock tumbler.  It was an electrical contraption that looked something like your local hardware store’s automatic paint mixer.  You added rocks, grit and water, plugged it in, and in no time you had beautiful polished rocks! And you could make things with those rocks! Like earrings! And necklaces! Oh the creative possibilities! (If you’re wondering, the answer is yes, I was – am? – a bit dorky.)  I put it at the top of my Christmas list.

And OH HOLY NIGHT, Santa came through!  There it was on Christmas morning. I was thrilled!  I opened it up! I read the directions! I put the rocks, grit and water in the tumbler! I plugged it in!

And then I waited.


During those three months two things happened:

  1. We moved the very noisy rock tumbler into the cellar.
  2. I completely lost interest in my slowly polishing rocks.

In the years since, The Rock Tumbler Incident has earned its place in Tartlet Family History and Lore and I regularly suffer good-natured and well-deserved ribbing about it.

Some Christmas gifts are just duds.  Here are a few I have regretted…

The Dyson Vacuum Toy


Honestly, my kids loved this toy.  They played with it all the time.  But they also left it running every time they played with it, and I and my husband would regularly have to go hunt for the cause of that annoying buzz.  They also loved to run it into walls violently.  Unfortunately, this toy recently wandered away from our home. Oh well.

Tegu Blocks


In all fairness, these blocks ARE awesome.  They are wooden, fun to play with and really lovely.  Unfortunately for me (and my wallet – these aren’t cheap!) my kids never played with them.  Ever.  They loved other blocks and building toys (Duplo and Magnatiles especially), but Tegu?  No love.  Bristle blocks faced a similar rejection.

Magnetic Putty


Again, in theory, this stuff sounds awesome.  It is basically magnetic silly putty that comes with a magnet.  You can make it move and grow and climb!  Sort of.  This stuff just isn’t that fun for a 5-year-old who wants it to move more quickly than molasses.  It also isn’t fun for moms googling “how to get magnetic putty out of my carpet” at 11pm on Christmas night.

So, tell me, what Christmas gifts that you were sure would be winners turned out to be duds?



Things I Love Thursdays

The latest installment!  Holiday shopping is upon us, so here are some ideas for great gifts for kids.  As usual, I don’t get any sort of kickback for recommending this stuff.  I just like it. 

Micro Kickboard Mini Micro Classic Scooter – This scooter is awesome for the 3-5 set (my children started using it at 2).  The double wheels in the front makes it easy to balance and steer.  It is lightweight, active and fun.  Speaking of Christmas gifts, my 4.5 year old is probably ready for the next size up (the Maxi Micro). 

Mini Kick Scooter by Micro Kickboard. Image from

Mini Kick Scooter by Micro Kickboard. Image from


Elemenosqueeze Blocks by B. All of my children play with these. They are fun as blocks, but they’re so much more.  They are colorful and chewable.  They are squeezable – and my kids love the little whoosh of air squirted on their faces and hair. They are the complete alphabet with great graphics on each side. Young children can stack and balance them more easily than other blocks because they aren’t slippery. AND they aren’t dangerous – since they aren’t hard, they can be thrown and stepped on without pain (yeah, I’m lookin’ at you, Lego). Bonus? They come in a carrying case. 

Images from Amazon.

Elemenosqueeze Blocks by B. Image from Amazon.


Edison the Petite Lamp by Fatboy – This is a bit of a strange recommendation for a child-friendly “toy”, but hear me out.  I love this little lamp.  We received this as a gift and I was a bit confused about why until I got it home.  This little LED lamp is molded out of plastic, so there are no light bulbs to mess with.  It has three different brightness levels. It is rechargeable and each charge lasts for 6-8 hours (or more, in our experience).  It has replaced nightlights in our house.  Our children can take it to bed to read a book, and we don’t have to worry about burns, or broken glass or plastic.  It is definitely splurgy, but is well-designed and so very useful. The little switch tag is rubber and can break off, so be sure to use it with kids who won’t try to eat small rubber things. 


Edison the Petit by Fatboy. Image from Amazon.

Things I Love Thursdays

And now for your latest installment of TILT!  Just so you know, these aren’t affiliate links, I just like this stuff.

MagnaTiles – These flat, magnetic blocks are awesome. My children play with these just about every day.  We build buildings, make pizza, make rockets, the options are unlimited, and they really encourage creative play. They are even fun for parents.  Downside? Super expensive. 

Image from Click on the image for to go there.

Image from Click on the image to go there.

A Sick Day for Amos McGee – I know I’m not alone in my love of this book.  It is a simple (and not too long! Major perk at bedtime – I’m looking at you Mike Mulligan) book about sweet friendship and the illustrations are just lovely.  We have a lot of books, and this one consistently ranks among my favorites.


Image from Amazon.

Max Daniel Security Blanket – Pickle and Plum chose Angel Dear Blankies as their security blankets/lovies. I thought Pistachio would do the same.  But this soft, silky blanket gifted by my sister is his lovey of choice.  I can’t say I blame him.  It is cozy and luxurious, and a nice size.  It is pretty darn expensive for a lovey but it is his favorite. 

Image from Amazon (click on photo to link there).  You can also see these at

Image from Amazon (click on photo to link there). You can also see these at

Things I Like Thursdays

Yes, yes, I know. This is a day late.

And yes, yes, I know.

I owe y’all a real post.  And soon.

I’ve got about 8 in the works. Really I do.

In the meantime…

1) The Most Lovely Building Blocks Ever

I wanted to give blocks to the nieces and nephews – plain ol’ blocks, no batteries, long-lasting, imaginative-play-inspiring, classic fun.  I over-researched this. (Shocking, I know.)  I wanted high quality, hardwood blocks that would last, were beautiful, and were safe (meaning splinter-free, chemical-free, and chewable).  I found them at Smiling Tree Toys via Esty. Not the cheapest blocks out there, but lovely, and personalized.  Read about Smiling Tree – a family business with a fabulous philosophy – you’ll love them, and their toys.

Personalized deluxe 30-piece hardwood block set by Smiling Tree Toys

Personalized deluxe 30-piece hardwood block set by Smiling Tree Toys. Image from their store at Etsy.

2. Sanity-saving, color-changing alarm clock

I only regret I didn’t buy this a year ago.  My son is an early riser.  Some kiddos like to sleep until 7am (or later!), but not mine.  And I like mornings, but I really feel like waking up when the clock reads 5:xx can make for a harder day for me, and for the sleepy little dumplings, who don’t go to bed until much later than they should.  Enter the Onaroo Teach Me Time! Talking Alarm Clock and Night-Light.  This clock can do everything.  In fact, it can do so much, that it is a little confusing.  But there are a few features I am currently loving. 1. It emits a soft yellow glow that replaces a night-light.  2. It has a digital AND regular clock.  3. It announces the time at the press of a button (my son LOVES this!) and 4. It is programmed to turn green when it is okay for my son to creep into my room, and pinch my nose to wake me up. (Yes, he really does this. I thought it was hysterical when he did it to his father. But now? Not so much.)  It works like a charm, and Pickle loves announcing, “It’s GREEN!”  Downside? It IS a bit confusing to use, and is pretty expensive for an alarm clock.  But hey, those minutes between 5:45 and 6:20am?  They’re worth a lot.

Onaroo Teach Me Time! Talking Alarm Clock and Night-Light

Onaroo Teach Me Time! Talking Alarm Clock and Night-Light (Image from, click the image to be linked to their site.)

My Kingdom for a Gift Receipt!

There are some kid gifts that parents love, some they loathe, and some that they have love/hate relationships with.  These include:

LOVE: Gift certificates. The end.

LOVE/HATE: Blocks, Legos or other items with lots of small pieces.  Great toys.  Kids love them.  They are great for imagination, fine motor skills, so many things.  But there are always. pieces. everywhere.  And toddlers especially think one of the best things about blocks is dumping them on the floor (and in the case of Mr. Pickle Pumpkin, yelling “CRAAAAASH!”).  I am forever picking up blocks. And damn, those suckers hurt when you step on them by accident.

LOATHE: Make-up kits.  As a little girl, I would have loved to get one of these.  Now that I know parents of little girls (and have my own little girl!) I can see why this is a street-walker, wall-scrubbing, disaster in the making.

LOVE/HATE: Bathrobes for newborns. Granted, they are ridiculously cute.  But they are entirely impractical.  Newborns don’t want to lounge around in bathrobes, like mini-Hefners.  They want to be cozy and comfy.  And as a parent, my first priority is not putting my newly-cleaned, sweet-smelling bambino in a bathrobe.  My priority is to get that bambino in a diaper before he/she is no longer clean or sweet smelling.

LOATHE: Gum-ball machines. My sugar-sensitive sister got one of these when she was 8.  We still talk about it, 20+ years later.  If you’re thinking of getting a gum-ball machine for the children in your life, print out directions for “gum removal: hair,” “gum removal: upholstery” and “gum removal: carpeting” and include them in the package.