Stuff It Real Good

Stockings!

I love the tiny treasures that stockings hold, but it is a challenge to fill them each year.  I try to find a balance of fun stuff (that isn’t complete junk) and useful stuff (like socks and floss).  Here are a few things my kids will find in their stockings this year.  All of the links are to Amazon, but I didn’t buy all of my goodies there.  You should be able to find most of this stuff in a store near you.

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  1. Slinky!  These are endlessly entertaining to my kids. And I’m glad they’re cheap, because they inevitably get bent and/or tangled in about 27 minutes.
  2. Little Brown Bat stuffed animal – My three kids each get little stuffed animals peeking out of their stockings most years.  This year I went for the non-traditional: a bat, a llama and a raccoon.
  3. Body Doodlers – Nontoxic bath crayons made for doodling on skin.  My kids love any type of bath-time art, so I expect these will be a hit.  Fingers crossed they wash off as easily as they are supposed to!
  4. See Thru Music Box – This one plays Plum’s favorite, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and it is less than $5! Win!
  5.  Hexbug Nano Cat Toy – Because our cat Elsie needs a present or two, too.  These little Hexbugs skitter around the house like cockroaches. (I’ve actually never seen a cockroach, but I’m assuming they skitter similarly.)
  6. Flossers for Kids – Every stocking needs floss and socks.  It is the law.
  7. Edible Bubbles – We like to try to eat regular bubbles, so I’m guessing that ones that don’t taste like soap will be a big hit.  I also found some touchable bubbles that harden after you blow them, and can then be gently touched or stacked.  I’m kind of excited to try those myself!
  8. Cow Popper – Pistachio, my youngest, loves cows. And I imagine he will also love using these to shoot the balls at his sister.  I’m predicting that all of the balls will be lost by 12/27.
  9. Hair Paste – My 6-year-old loves looking stylish, and his hair IS pretty amazing.  So styling products have begun to appear in his stocking each year.
  10. Butterfly Hair Clips – We’re in the process of letting Plum’s hair grow back into a cute bob from a pixie.  She has specifically requested some “pretties” for her hair. Added bonus these are GOLDEN.

As for me, I’m hoping to get some scratch tickets, a whisk, post-it notes, and of course, FLOSS! Happy shopping!

Books for Christmas

It is a Christmas tradition – the nieces and nephews each get a book from me for Christmas.  (Yes, they get a toy or two, as well.)  So what are we putting under the tree this year?  I tried to focus on stories that feature characters being brave, persevering, and learning gratitude.  And I tried to find some books that feature characters, locations and traditions that might be different from ours.  I have linked these images to Amazon so you can learn more about them, but – as always – I’d encourage you to support your local independent bookstore and buy there!  Here’s our list:

A mouse musters up the courage to ask a lion to teach him how to roar. By Rachel Bright, Illustrated by Jim Field Ages 3-5

A mouse musters up the courage to ask a lion to teach him how to roar.
By Rachel Bright, Illustrated by Jim Field
Ages 3-5

A tale about the power of stories and storytelling set in Morocco. By Evan Turk Ages 4-8

A tale about the power of stories and storytelling set in Morocco.
By Evan Turk
Ages 4-8

Winner of many awards, a book about thankfulness. By Matt de la Pena, Illustrated by Christian Robinson Ages 3-5

Winner of many awards, a book about thankfulness. Features people of all shapes, colors and abilities!
By Matt de la Pena, Illustrated by Christian Robinson
Ages 3-5

Bedtime poem by Inuit throat-singer and author describes the gifts given to a new baby by Arctic animals. By Celina Kalluk Illustrated by Alexandria Neonakis Ages 2-3

Bedtime poem by Inuit throat-singer and author describes the gifts given to a new baby by Arctic animals.
By Celina Kalluk, Illustrated by Alexandria Neonakis
Ages 2-3

A clever and lovely seek-and-find book By B.B. Cronin Ages 3-7

A clever and lovely (and detailed!) seek-and-find book
By B.B. Cronin
Ages 3-7

A book about imagination, frustration and problem solving. By Ashley Spires Ages 3-7

A book about imagination, frustration and problem solving.
By Ashley Spires
Ages 3-7

A silly, funny book in which a penguin tells the readers what his life is really like. By Jory John, Illustrated by Lane Smith Preschool - Grade 2

A silly, funny book in which a penguin tells readers what his life is really like.
By Jory John, Illustrated by Lane Smith
Ages 3-7

A beautiful, poetic story about a boy who sets off alone with only a few belongings to find a new homeland. By Rebecca Young Illustrated by Matt Ottley Ages 4-8

A beautiful, poetic story about a boy who sets off alone with only a few belongings to find a new homeland.
By Rebecca Young, Illustrated by Matt Ottley
Ages 4-8

A story about a bear who finds a piano in the woods and learns to play. By David Litchfield Preschool - Grade 2

A story about a bear who finds a piano in the woods and learns to play.
By David Litchfield
Ages 4-7

Happy shopping and reading!

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.

FOR THREE MONTHS.

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

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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

tegu

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

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?

 

 

The REAL Holiday Card 2015 Edition

Welcome to the yearly edition of “The REAL Holiday Card”.

Forget the lovely professional photos where everyone is clean, looking at the camera, and wearing coordinated (but not matchy-matchy) outfits.  Real life looks more like this:

Card design is "Jovial Holidays" from Tiny Prints.

Card design is “Jovial Greetings” from Tiny Prints.

 

Key to photos:

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Cards from past years are here:

The REAL Holiday Card 2014

The REAL Holiday Card 2013

Here’s hoping your holiday preparations are proceeding as planned!

With love from, The Tartlets

Midweek Morsels

A few little morsels for your Wednesday afternoon…

Laugh

I’ve been listening to The Moth podcast for years, but this story from their pilot episode is still my very favorite.  They replayed it a few weeks ago and I laughed just as hard.  It is the story about Matthew McGough’s first day as a Bat Boy for the New York Yankees.  I’m not going to spoil the story.  Grab a cup of coffee and give it a listen.

moth

 

I Bet You Didn’t Know…

At least once a day, someone I don’t know looks at my feet.  Really.  I’m an inch shy of six feet.  When I walk into a restaurant or store, strangers note my height and then glance at my feet to see if I’m wearing heels or I’m really that tall.  Next time you see a woman who is pushing six feet, I bet you’ll do the same.  (I suppose I should use this as an excuse to buy really amazing shoes.)

Perhaps these? So lovely! So impractical for a NH winter! Or a life spent chasing three small children!

Perhaps these? So lovely! So impractical for a NH winter! Or a life spent chasing three small children!

 

Instagram Favs

History Photographed is just that.  But the photos are interesting, and sometimes surprising.

View this post on Instagram

Early 1900s Lumberjacks.

A post shared by History In Pictures (@historyphotographed) on

View this post on Instagram

The original Addam’s Family set photographed in color.

A post shared by History In Pictures (@historyphotographed) on

Nitch has beautiful and interesting portraits of famous folks – authors, artists, actors – paired with quotes by them.  I look forward to these showing up in my feed.

What NOT to Get People for Christmas

I’m not sure how I stumbled upon this this hysterical, and strange Etsy store?  The Jennifer Mills Store is completely random, mostly tacky and really expensive (everything costs $999.99).  I’m sure it is a joke.  Right? I mean it has to be.  Items for sale include:

Val Kilmer Paper Doll Kit - only $999.99.

Val Kilmer Paper Doll Kit – only $999.99.

 

Whoopee Cushion for Rich People - it is bedazzled!

Whoopee Cushion for Rich People – it is bedazzled!

 

I <3 Email Necklace - CLASSY.

I ❤ Email Necklace – CLASSY!

Happy Wednesday, All!

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 microkickboard.com.

Mini Kick Scooter by Micro Kickboard. Image from microkickboard.com.

 

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. 

fatboy

Edison the Petit by Fatboy. Image from Amazon.

Speaking of rabbits…

Hot Hat

My house is still suffering from the Christmas explosion.

From my seat, I can observe many things, including: bear slippers, Matchbox cars, unmatched socks, stacks of recycling, bags for Goodwill, puzzles, 2 Fireman hats and an elephant that shoots colored balls out of its trunk.  I am trying to be thankful for the joyful season and abundance, and resist the urge to put stacks by the curb with “free” signs.  (If there were no snow banks, I might actually do that…)

But I can’t find my battery charger.

I read a book.

I took a nap.

I took a walk.

I baked.

I had some cocktails and dinner out.

I listened to some great music, turned up too loud.

I went to bed early.

I rocked my daughter to sleep.

I laughed with my son.

I reconnected with old friends.

I stayed up late in the quiet, puttering.

And I still haven’t been able to recharge my batteries. Energy is running low. Where is that dang pink bunny with the drum, anyway?

It was a very long short week.  Tonight, on the drive home, my husband and I were trying to make a plan to divvy up the bedtime duties while Plum wailed exhaustedly, and Pickle muttered and mumbled requests just quietly enough that we couldn’t hear him.

“What is the plan?” Ty asked.

“Well, I plan to pull into the driveway, put the car in park and then run away screaming.” I responded.

“Shoot,” he said, “that was my plan, too.”

At least we can laugh together.

Sure, it was less than a week ago that we had one of the best days ever, but today we’re feeling tired and worn. That’s how this whole parenting thing works, I think.  The good news is that funks don’t last forever, and one day – someday – we will be rested and recharged. I am thankful I can recognize that.

Under those fireman hats – it’s a good place to start looking for that charger.

Fa la la la blah.

I have carved out a little cozy place in my house where I can sit and not see the mess.  The mess is overtaking everything, as Christmas and all of the stuff that comes along with it explodes.  And it is only going to get worse before it gets better.

Tonight, I can’t look at it, and I can’t think about it.  Would it make me feel so much better to just take some time and clear the clutter?  Probably.  But I just don’t have it in me tonight, so I’ll sit and write and clear the clutter in my brain instead.

I need to figure out how to enjoy Christmas.  All of it, or at least more of it.  Not just that one magical moment when my children realize that Santa visited, in the twinkly tree light as the sun comes up on Christmas morning.  I need more cuddles, more cozy, more gratitude, more calm.  Come to think of it, I probably need more of those things all year round, but I digress. I also need more hot cocoa – preferably with Baileys in it. Because it’s the most wonderful time of the year, dangitall!

Mad Rudolph

When someone tells you “You will eat your broccoli and you will like it!” it doesn’t actually make you like it.  So telling myself, “You will be cheerful and enjoy the chaos!” doesn’t seem to be working.

Then again, people tell me that the more you exercise, the more you love it.  And while some part of me thinks they’re crazy people trying to sneakily share their exercise-induced misery, I bet on some level that they’re right. So perhaps if I just wrap more, clean more, carol more, decorate more, and bake more, I will love all of those things more.

Probably not.

So instead I’ve developed a plan for bringing back the cheer…

  1. For me, gratitude is is harder when sleep is short.  So that will be step one. Eight hours of sleep. A lofty goal, but Christmas is all about miracles, right?  Mama will settle in for a long winter’s nap, once I find that silly kerchief.* And once I can get the kidlets to bed – a task that is getting more and more difficult by the week.
  2. “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” by Bruce (Springsteen – I figure my regular readers will know who I’m talking about when I refer to him only by his first name).  It isn’t Christmas until I hear it. And I haven’t heard it yet.  Ooh, now that I think about it, perhaps I’ll dig up some “Merry Christmas, Baby”, too.  That one always improves my mood!  Horns make me jolly.
  3. Ask Pickle about all of the people he will get to see in the upcoming week.  Because when I do, he excitedly lists off the names of family members like reindeer. And his pure joy at getting to see aunts, uncles, and cousins is a great reminder of the love and family that we are surrounded by.
  4. Clean up the living room only, and sit with my husband – on the same couch! –  in the quiet of the twinkly tree (with all of the non-toxic, chewable ornaments on the bottom). Maybe we’ll reflect on our year a bit. Maybe we’ll have a glass of wine.  Maybe we won’t do either, and we’ll just be.
  5. Take a few quiet moments during my commute home to send good, loving thoughts to people I know and people I don’t know who are lonely or hurting or sad.  And I’ll try to take an opportunity at some point to do something unexpected and loving for someone I don’t know.  Because I still believe that good will, kindness and love are contagious and more necessary than ever.

I’ll let you know how it all goes.

– Sarky Claus

* I do believe that this is only the second time in my life that I’ve ever typed the word “kerchief.”

I have all of my teeth, so…

Two front teeth? Check!

With that checked off of the list, I’m feeling free to put some other crave-worthy items on my Chrimbo list.  Chrimbo.  That is the abbreviated version of Christmas I heard my friends from Down Under use on several occasions.  Those crazy Aussies (and Kiwis too, to some extent) just love to shorten their words and make ’em cute.  Australian? Aussie. Breakfast? Brekkie.  Presents? Prezzies. Barbecue? Barbie. Christmas? Chrimbo.  I always felt like that last one was a stretch.

Here are a few items that are on my list this year. Nothing crazy and exciting. I’m hoping I’ve been more nice than naughty this year.  I do admit that as I spoke stern words to Pickle the other day (just put yer dang pants on!) he said, “BE NICE, MAMA!”  I’m hoping Santa didn’t hear him.

(Click on the photos for links to the items.)

LL Bean Washable Wool Plaid Blanket in Rustic Purple – Not sure why this speaks to me but it does.  I picture picnics, 4th of July Fireworks, campfires (not that I camp), and passing this down to grand-kids.

LL Bean’s Washable Wool Blanket in Rustic Purple

 

Sonia Kashuk Make Up Brushes – I don’t have any makeup brushes.  Okay, to be honest, I don’t get too far past running a regular brush through my hair most days.  But my sister has lovely makeup brushes, and they make applying makeup so much easier.  I like the curve of these, and the price!

Sonia Kashuk Tools Limited Edition Starter Set

Rubio Balsamic Vinegar – It is Chrimbo! The one time of year when asking for a $32 bottle of vinegar doesn’t seem totally crazy.  I love this stuff. I can make a bottle last (almost) a year.

Rubio Aged Balsamic Vinegar from Salumeria Italiana

Crate and Barrel Parker Nesting Bowls – I have a set and I’m wearing them out!  Time for a new set in some great colors before my first set bites the dust.

Crate and Barrel’s Parker Nesting Bowls

UncommonGoods Felt Birdhouse – I love cute and interesting and useful all rolled into one.  And I love felt.  Something about these cute little bird houses just speaks to me. UncommonGoods is great for a browse on a lunch hour.  Interesting products that you won’t find elsewhere.  It’s like a cool little boutique!

Felt Birdhouse by UncommonGoods

Part of me wants to ask for a good vacuum (we really need one) but I fear if I ask, I might actually get one!  And who wants a new vacuum for Chrimbo?  (She says, sheepishly raising her hand.)  Honorable mentions go to gift certificates of any kind, housekeeping services, a new pepper mill and perhaps a set of mittens with a hat.

What’s on your list?