Category Archives: gift ideas

More Christmas Gift Ideas

I have two kids home sick from school, but they only had one barfing session each (one kid last night, the other kid this morning), and since then they have been absolutely well enough to play video games, so I am hoping hoping hoping that they just had too much dinner last night or something.

Every year at Christmas I re-read This Year It Will Be Different. This time I’m deliberately reading one story each night, after it’s dark enough outside for the Christmas lights to look peak beautiful. This has been a very pleasant way to do it, as it turns out.

Certain Christmas carols bug me; I won’t list them all, because one person’s teeth-clenching irritant is another’s sentimental favorite, but I did want to mention a little issue with Do You Hear What I Hear. That’s the one where the night wind tells the lamb about a special star, and then the lamb tells the shepherd boy about a special song, and then the shepherd boy tells the king about a special baby, and then the king tells his people about the special baby too. But in the actual Bible story, what the king actually does upon hearing the news of a special baby is order the execution of all boys two years and younger. I can see how that wasn’t as nice a verse for the song, but what if the shepherd boy had instead continued the game of Telephone with a grown-up shepherd or a magi or something? Then we could have had another good verse without the story veering.

We are right at that point where “There is PLENTY of time to prepare for Christmas” has the potential to turn into wild panic about how little time there is left. Rather than trying to make idea lists around a certain type of person, I am going to just show you what I’ve been buying and trust you to figure out which person on your list it might work for, if any.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Pokémon wallet for my six-year-old nephew who just started getting an allowance. I had Paul and the three youngest kids all weigh on the decision, because there were several pretty good ones; this one was the winner, but not by a lot. The runner up was this one. Arguments for the one we got: it’s cuter; it’s a more attractive design overall; you can act like you’re putting your money into a Pokéball. Argument for the runner-up: more Pokémons is better.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Pokémon Throw ‘N’ Pop Charmander and Great Ball, also for the six-year-old nephew. I thought this looked really cute and fun. The hardest part was picking which Pokémon/ball combination.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Pusheen 12″ plush for my eight-year-old niece. I hope I made the right call on this. Elizabeth thinks the ones eating things (cookie, cupcake, sushi, doughnut, pizza, ice cream, chips) are cuter, but I thought a more basic edition would have more long-term cuteness/appeal. (By the way, there is a 41″ version too if you are of the go-big-or-go-home temperament.)

I also bought the Pusheen stamp set, which by the way is TINY—tinier than I was imagining, because I failed to read the perfectly clear description. It’s a nice stocking item, though. And if you’re thinking of buying some Pusheen stuff, I definitely recommend the Pusheen book. All my kids love it.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Nerf Dart refill, for ten-year-old Henry. When we are old and moving into a nursing home, they will clean out our house and, one assumes, find thousands of Nerf darts, because where do they all go?

 

(image from Amazon.com)

OPI in Madame President. For me. I had a bottle already, but Elizabeth uses up a lot of nail polish and so when the price dipped I bought another bottle to set aside and not let her use. I’ll have Paul put it in my stocking.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Pizzacraft dough docker, for Paul. He likes trying new kitchen toys, even if they don’t end up being useful.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

LEGO Space Shuttle Explorer / Moon Station / Space Rover. For Paul, who recently said he was in the mood to build with LEGOs again. I like that you can make three different projects with the same set.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Portal the board game, for either Edward or Henry, depending on who has fewer presents. The video games Portal and Portal 2 have been extremely and persistently popular at our house, so even if the board game ends up being terrible it’ll be fun to open. I’m also buying this little LEGO Portal set; probably I’ll give it to Paul because he can be relied on to share graciously.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Dixit, for 16-year-old William. I am picky about games, and I do like this one. I like that it’s low-pressure, and everyone plays for themselves so you don’t have to worry about letting teammates down, and it’s relaxed and creative, and it allows time to pause and chat for awhile mid-game-play. I was explaining the game to William (I played it at someone else’s house) and he really liked the sound of it so I’m getting it for him.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Chicago Cutlery Fusion II 5-inch utility knife and 7-3/4-inch chef knife. We have the 3-inch paring knife and Paul commented recently that it’s one of his top favorites and he wishes he had a second one so he didn’t have to keep washing it. So I’m buying him a second one, and also these two different knives from the same line so he can see if he likes those too. I see they say hand-wash only, but we have been putting the paring knife through the dishwasher daily.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Hedgehog journal, for niece who loves hedgehogs. Also hedgehog stickers.

 

Melissa and Doug Giant Deer. For me, and as a friend for my giraffe. I can’t fully explain myself, except that I saw him in a store and his nose was perfectly off-center and he was looking at me like this:

 

You should have seen all the adoring looks he got as I wheeled him around in the cart. Everyone who saw him wished they’d seen him first! Everyone! I have him standing next to the Christmas tree with Christmas lights draped over his antlers, and I have no regrets.

NO REGRETS.

Turkey-Vegetable-Egg Scramble Recipe and Gift Ideas from Swistle’s House

I was going to tell you about one of my favorite ways to use leftover turkey, but then I realized it also uses up an atypical Thanksgiving side dish so let’s start with that. It’s an easy vegetable dish that I started making as a thing to go with salmon and rice. I’m afraid this is one of those recipes without good measurements; if I’d realized I was going to tell it to you, I would have measured as I made it last time. But I will try to at least give you an IDEA of the measurements, unlike my late mother-in-law who gave me her treasured cinnamon roll recipe that tells me to combine “cinnamon, butter, and sugar”—no measurements at all.

Cut up one red bell pepper, one small/medium summer squash or zucchini (I don’t peel it), and some carrots (I do peel those, or else I use baby carrots). The goal is to have about equal amounts of the three vegetables, all in smaller than bite-sized pieces because I like to have a couple of pieces combined with each bite of whatever else I’m eating; I cut the carrots in not-too-thin slices because I don’t like them to get mushy and cooked-carroty. I put all the cut-up vegetables in a 2-quart casserole dish because that’s the only one I have that has a lid, but they don’t fill it so you could use something smaller. I pour on some bottled lemon juice; my guess is that I put on a tablespoon or two. Then I add a pinch or two of thyme, and some ground pepper, and stir it all up. (You could skip the thyme/pepper or use a different spice.) Then I drop in a blop of butter, probably a tablespoon. I put the lid on, and I put it in the oven for roughly half an hour at roughly 350 degrees F, but really it goes in with whatever I’m cooking—so if I’m cooking at 400 degrees F, it goes in at 400 degrees F and I just take it out sooner. When it’s done, I give it another stir to mix the butter around, and I add some salt.

So! Now for how I use up the leftover turkey: scramble some eggs with cut-up turkey and a good scoop of these vegetables (ideally the right number so that every bite has one piece of egg, one piece of turkey, and one to two pieces of vegetable), plus as much Tostitos Queso Blanco dip as I can heap on a spoon. Just stir it alllll around.

Now. What was it I was going to say after the recipe part? Oh, yes! Today we are doing Gift Ideas from Swistle’s House: I am going to wander through my house finding things I highly recommend buying for other people. This idea seemed so great when I thought of it, but the execution was more challenging than anticipated: one’s own possessions sort of VANISH into the house, so that even though I periodically think, “Oh, I just love this shower radio; I should recommend it!,” I don’t then SEE the shower radio when I’m looking for gift ideas. Well, I did see the shower radio. But there are other things I DIDN’T see, is my guess.

Bloom County Complete Library. Children ruin everything, including one’s cherished paperback Bloom County books. There are five hardcover volumes altogether (I have the first three, because those are my favorite era of Bloom County), and the children are not allowed to touch them.

Texts from Jane Eyre. These are even funnier if you’ve read all the books featuring these characters, I imagine, but I haven’t read Wuthering Heights and still laughed a LOT at Cathy and Heathcliff’s texts:

good that’s so much love

 

Tinted Chapstick in Merlot, for someone’s stocking. It’s $4.99 at Target, sometimes a better price on Amazon. It’s just the right amount of color for not needing to look in the mirror. I tried Hello Bordeaux as well, and it’s pretty good but a little bright on me; the Merlot is my definite favorite.

Burt’s Bees Lip Shimmer in Plum. A more intense color; I need the mirror for it.

 

The promised shower radio. This surprisingly expensive item ($80 as I’m posting) happened because Paul ordered me a much less expensive one that we couldn’t get to work, and he got frustrated and ordered this one to replace it. Anyway, I love it. I use it the whole time I’m getting ready in the morning. If you don’t need Bluetooth, there’s a radio-only version for $60 at time of posting.

 

Drambuie. My friend Miss Grace suggested this when I had a lingering cough that was driving me crazy. I bought it as Very Expensive Cough Syrup (it’s around $30 for the bottle), but now I like to have a bottle on hand for occasional treats: it’s one of the only liquors I like the taste of well enough to sip. It’s sweet and warming, and I guess it tastes like black licorice but I strongly dislike black licorice so I don’t understand why I like it, then. To me it tastes more like honey and spice, not spice like pumpkin spice but more like…well, licorice. But I don’t LIKE licorice! It’s puzzling.

 

Honeywell Circulator Fan. I tend to run hot, and I hate being hot, so I love this fan. It’s just the right size to get a pleasant breeze going, and it tips to various angles. I discovered it because my sister-in-law put one in their guest room and I stayed over and it was perfect.

 

Munchkin Deluxe. I hate this game. But the children love it, and fortunately Paul will play it with them. We also have the Munchkin Apocalypse, which is a complete playable game on its own (but not Deluxe, so it doesn’t have the playing board) but can also be used as an expansion pack with the basic game.

 

Vintage Charm Lidded Bowls. These try very hard to imply that they are Pyrex, but as far as I can tell, they are not. They are INSPIRED by Pyrex. I do love them so much, and they have LIDS. The price goes up and down a lot; I got a pack of three bowls with three lids on a Goldbox deal for $20, but more often they seem to be in the $30s.

 

Melissa and Doug giraffe. Have I…mentioned this giraffe before, or is this a little awkward? I bought it impulsively on clearance at HomeGoods last year and it is one of the joys of my life. The comments/photos on Amazon are funny/entertaining and show that others feel the same about their giraffes. We often dress her in hats and scarves, but I happened to catch her in a contemplative moment right between wearing a small turkey on her head and being draped in Christmas lights and a Santa hat.

 

Anker PowerCore 5000 portable phone charger, or the smaller/lighter Anker PowerCore Mini 3350. My brother bought me one of these for Christmas one year and now I always have one in my purse. We have about five of them total because they help soothe my Disaster/Preparation Anxieties, too.

 

Dishers! I have the Oxo small (2 teaspoons) and the Oxo medium (1.5 tablespoons), both of which are good for cookies, depending on how big you like to make cookies. I also have a Vollrath size 20 (1-5/8ths ounce), which is good for muffins. They are surprisingly expensive, so they make nice gifts. Paul gave me the Vollrath one and I thought it was way too expensive until I tried it, at which point I added “more dishers” to my wish list.

TacoProper Taco Holders. Before we had these, it was impossible to contemplate dishing up plates of tacos for five children. By the way, I don’t have any but have you seen the triceratops taco holders? I love them.

Joie Oink pig spatula. A good spatula AND ALSO VERY CUTE. The mini ones are good for scraping the last bits of peanut butter out of the peanut butter jar and into your mouth.

The cuteness of the pig spatulas reminds me of my Happy Spoons (not shown—they’re in a utensil jar on the counter).

 

LG microwave. Speaking of expensive. But maybe you and a house-sharing adult like to buy each other household appliances for holidays. The price varies a bit; I bought it for about $150, but I’ve mostly seen it higher than that. It is not a compact microwave, by the way, and I hadn’t realized there was a difference, so that was a bit of a surprise (our old microwave was compact). I was like, “Look how it fits EXACTLY on the microwave cart! …..Ohhhhhhhhhh!”

 

Denim 24/7 Bootcut Jeans. I really like these. (Don’t buy anything on the Roaman’s site for full price: they are the kind of site that has constant sales.) I have them in a few different shades of denim (I particularly like Stonewash Sanded), and recently got bold and ordered them in Red Ochre, which reminds me of the red-orange Crayola crayon. I wish I’d been a little bolder and gotten the Golden Amber instead, which I wanted more than the red-orange but was also more nervous about wearing; I saw them on someone else and they were fabulous. Well. I’ll add them to the next order.

 

Wet Brush. I bought this because Kelly told me to (which is also why I have Daisy razors instead of the crummy ones I used to have). You don’t have to use it on wet hair. It’s the best brush I’ve ever owned, and Elizabeth and I now own four of them between us. For a gift, I recommend combining it with a Turbie Twist hair towel.

 

Duluth Fire Hose pants. If you are buying for a gentleman who prefers pants to be cargo and sturdy, I can tell you that Paul says these are the best pants he has ever owned. They have pockets upon pockets within pockets, and they seem beautifully stitched. Furthermore, his barber took one look and said “Great pants. Duluth?” Also, as the one who does the laundry, I can add that they don’t get all wrinkly in the dryer if you don’t take them out right away. They are kind of expensive; sign up for the email list first, because they have constant sales of the “25% off plus free shipping” type. If you need something to bring the total up a bit to meet a free-shipping requirement, Paul also likes their Big Ass Bricks of Soap.

Reader Question: Gift Ideas for Retirees and Other Adults Who’d Like Something To Do

Hi Swistle :) I am mulling a Christmas gift for my impossible to buy for mother and suddenly realized that you/your readers would have the BEST ideas. I hope you might be willing to share my post and get their ideas. I can’t post on my own blog because my mom reads it.

Here’s the situation. My 70ish year old mom is retiring this December. Everyone is a little worried as she is very prone to boredom and doesn’t have many hobbies. I would love to get her a box of “hobby starters” that she can try out and hopefully find some new hobbies for retirement. But it’s tough!

A bit about my mom:
• She is a preschool teacher with the creativity and (short) attention span that you’d imagine a good preschool teacher would have.
• She lives in Northern California
• She is in good health and goes to the gym pretty regularly and walks with a friend
• She is extroverted but doesn’t like to drive far or travel without my dad (who is introverted)
• Her fourth, and last, grandchild is due in December and will live about an hour away so he and his sister will take up at least one day/week.

Hobbies she does enjoy:
• Garage saleing (her top hobby, she finds amazing bargains, but what does one do with all the purchased stuff? Could she garage sale for a local cause?)
• Scrapbooking (but she’s not into the kits and products that are for sale, she just makes albums for the kids using garage sale-found materials)
• Card making/paper crafts (she’s recently taken this up with a friend who buys the kits)
• Volunteering (she’s on a board at a non profit preschool in town and volunteers at events regularly)
• Reading (novels, newspaper, very limited magazines)

Hobbies that might seem logical but probably won’t work:
• She is not very computer savvy so blogging/eBay/anything web based is pretty much out
• Wine or coffee tasting/appreciation (she doesn’t drink any wine or coffee)
• Gardening, bicycling, hiking, photography: those are my dad’s hobbies and it doesn’t seem like her adopting his hobbies would work very well
• Cooking: She stopped cooking when us kids moved out. My dad has mostly taken it up. But maybe she could get into baking since she likes sweets?
• Sewing: she doesn’t like it. Dad and I sew, not her. I have a feeling this distaste would go to other fiber crafts like knitting, crochet, embroidery and weaving but I might try one of them in a gift box.

Ideas I have so far:
• Birding (buy her a bird identification book). Something she and dad could do sort of together. Him hiking, her walking more leisurely and looking for birds
• Puzzles: Not sure about her attention span/interest in non productive activities
• Postcard Crossing–she regularly sends letters and mail so this is fun but not a very substantial Christmas gift
• A pet (I can’t get her a cat or dog but maybe a fish?)
• Book of the Month club (the online mailorder thing that is all over blogs)

What am I missing? What hobbies do the retirees out there enjoy?

Thanks so much!
Melissa

 

Is she musical at all? My mom has taken up the ukulele in her retirement and really enjoys it. That’s a pretty expensive gift, but a recorder (this is the one my kids’ elementary school asks them to acquire for lessons, and it has a remarkably pleasing sound for being so cheap) and instruction book wouldn’t be.

(image from Amazon.com)

 

(image from Amazon.com)

I wonder if she’d like doing something with clay. A pottery class is probably more than you have in mind, but maybe some air-dry clay (this Crayola bucket has more clay for less money, but looks less…grown-up) and some tools.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Paul is a revolving-hobbies type of guy, and for awhile he was interested in learning to draw. He liked the book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, which is also the book recommended by a drawing class I took long ago. (There is a newer edition, but the reviews convinced me it would be better to link to the older edition; this is the same edition Paul liked and that I had for the art class.) I’d add a basic set of pencils with a kneaded eraser.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

I saw the book Learn to Paint People Quickly at our library and thought it looked interesting. If I were giving it as a gift, I’d look inside and see if there were recommendations for paints and brushes, and get some of those too.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

To continue with the book/art theme perhaps too long, I like the look of this “all set to get started” book, Paint This Book: Watercolor for the Artistically Undiscovered. I had an earlier version of this book a long time ago, and although I didn’t stick with it, it was a good way to do it a little bit without getting too invested.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

When I was going out of my mind with boredom, I found it fun to do a mini Jane Austen study, using annotated books. I started with The Annotated Sense and Sensibility, and since I love the Emma Thompson version of the movie, I’d also recommend including The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay and Diaries. But if your mom isn’t a Jane Austen fan particularly, there are tons of other annotated books: Paul likes The Annotated Alice, and I’ve been meaning to try (or something nags at the back of my mind that perhaps I already did try?) The Annotated Little Women. Annotations are slow, studious reading—but it means doing a little each day and having it last a nice long time, meanwhile feeling as if you’re accomplishing something / doing something good for your brain.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

I wonder if she’d like guided journaling? It might take some research to find a non-annoying book: I picked The Book of Myself from the search results because I liked the look of it, but I would look into it a bit more before buying to make sure the prompts were appealing. A lot of them are geared toward someone writing down a lot of family history or other facts about themselves that their descendants might later value.

Assorted Gift Ideas

We have people working in the yard today (they are clearing out a small wilderness of overgrown and uninvited shrubbery), and I cannot settle. It’s not as bad as when there are people working in the house, but it’s a similar feeling. I keep worrying they’ll ring the doorbell when I’m in the bathroom or something. And soon comes the awkward time of writing a check.

Wouldn’t this be a perfect time to clean the dining room for Thanksgiving, or work on Thanksgiving plans, or make a Thanksgiving shopping list? But here I sit, too unsettled to do anything productive. I am the princess, and the pea is working in the yard.

Shall we discuss some gift ideas? I will show you some of the things sitting in my shopping cart:

(image from Amazon.com)

Hexbug Nano Launchpad, plus I’m considering extra hexbugs and replacement batteries. This is for my six-year-old nephew. My kids had a lonnnnnnnng Hexbug Nana stage; each time we considered getting rid of the stuff, there’d be a fresh interest in playing with them.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Song of the Lioness box set, by Tamora Pierce. There was a discussion on Twitter about this author that made me immediately want to see if Elizabeth would like the books. I normally just buy them ONE book for Christmas, so maybe I’ll get just the first book instead.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

The Mountain Catzilla vs. Robot shirt. We have a bunch of these shirts by The Mountain, and they’re so thick and nice and cottony. This is one I’m thinking of getting for Paul. He already has Krakitten and Lincoln the Emancipator in heavy rotation, but says he’d like one more.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Oggi 25-ounce insulated bottle. Paul has tried many different ways of transporting his iced coffee to work, and this is by far his favorite so I’m getting him a second one.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Eight-pack of clip-on bow ties. Henry is very fond of snazzy clothing.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Planet Plates. I don’t have anyone on my list to buy these for, but I leave them in my cart because it seems like one day the perfect recipient will come along.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Magpie Jay Cosmos Big Mug. Same with this mug: no recipient in mind, but it’s so retro and cute!

 

(image from Target.com)

Ava & Viv olive anorak. For me! It’s even cuter than in the picture, I think, with a cute hood.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

KitchenAid immersion blender. For Paul’s sister. She wanted an immersion blender, and this is the one Paul uses and likes, so I figure it’s a safe bet. Because liking things is on the DNA.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

The Little World of Liz Climo page-a-day calendar. For the household. Page-a-day calendars are persistently popular with the kids (and I like to put the best pages in care packages to Rob), so every year we get one cat-related one plus one other. Last year I waited too long on the Liz Climo one and it sold out, so this year I’m ordering earlier.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Plague, Inc., the board game. Edward and Henry both want this, so it’ll go to the one we have fewer other good gift ideas for.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

This is the book written by someone I know and love, and also it is a really good book and my kids really liked it and so did Paul and I, and so I plan to keep recommending it until it eventually goes out of print.

Reader Question: Gift Ideas for a 13-Year-Old Girl

Hi Swistle, I’m hoping you and/or your readers can help. My daughter turns 13 this month and I am at a TOTAL loss as to what to get her.

This is a hard age I feel like. My mom wanted to get her an iPhone and I told her NO. I’m trying to hold out as long as possible, because once you cross that line, there is no going back. Besides, Sophie is not really home alone (I pick her up from school every day and continue my work day at home), and she literally only has one friend and so…it’d be pointless. Not to mention that we have – let me count – SEVEN digital devices already in the home for TWO people.

Sophie doesn’t like to travel. Or Shop. Or do scary things. Or do adventurous things. Or have any desire to get her ears pierced. Or her nails done. We just moved in here in May, so she just redid her room. She’s not really into American Girl Dolls anymore; she doesn’t really play. I’m at a complete and total loss, and so is she as far as giving ideas. HELP??!!?

Let me know,

Much appreciation,

Farrell

 

I love cool coincidences, and this email came in THE DAY AFTER I CHOSE A GIFT FOR A 13-YEAR-OLD GIRL. Also, I’ve been working on ideas for Christmas, because the three eldest kids are getting really hard to buy for, and one of those eldest kids is a girl of approximately this age. So I would love to collect some ideas.

Here is what I bought for someone else’s 13-year-old girl, on the advice of her friend Elizabeth:

(image from Amazon.com)

An OPI mini nailpolishes set. It was not a Hello Kitty one, but similar, with six different colors. I found it at Marshalls for $6 on a post-Christmas clearance last year and bought two, one for Elizabeth and one to set aside for a future birthday party she might attend, and finally the birthday party presented itself. This might not work for Sophie, since she’s not into having her nails done, but I list it anyway in case it might help with someone else’s 13-year-old girl.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Paint-by-Sticker book. I am a little concerned about giving a potentially frustrating craft to someone entering the peak door-slamming years, but on the other hand it will happen at someone else’s house, so. Also, the easier ones are marked “for kids!,” which I suspect would be displeasing to a 13-year-old. I do recommend having someone TELL the 13-year-old girl that there are grown adult women who found the craft so hard they wanted to cry, because that seems to set expectations at the right level.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Would she like Thinking Putty? There are a ton of kinds to choose from: iridescent, heat-sensitive, magnetic, metallic. But I recommend this only for a Very Careful child. One of my children got some into one of his dresser drawers and onto one of the recliners, and this stuff is TERRIBLE with fabric.

 

Duct tape crafts are still pretty popular at my kids’ middle school. Can anyone recommend a particular book of duct tape crafts that their child used/liked? If so, I can add a link here later.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Does she like puzzles? Elizabeth has this Ravensburger Happy Animal Buddies one. For her, it’s difficult enough that she needs to work on it with a grown-up or else she gets discouraged—but puzzles are one of the things I like to do with her, so that’s okay. If she wants to do one on her own, she does a 100-piece one; I looked for the ones we have and like, but I’m not seeing them. We have a bunch of Crocodile Creek 100-piece puzzles, but I’m not seeing many of those at all; it looks like they’ve switched mostly to smaller numbers of pieces. Ravensburger is a brand we liked, and Mudpuppy, and Springbok. If I were buying her one now, I’d get her this Mudpuppy Forest Friends one.

 

Here are a few of the things I’m considering getting for Elizabeth for Christmas:

(image from Amazon.com)

Clip-in colored hair streaks. She keeps mentioning wanting a colored streak in her hair, but she’s indecisive, and the last time we had color put in her hair (teal ends) they washed out so quickly. This seems like a fun way to avoid those issues.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Pusheen plush. I think I’ve mentioned this one before. We still haven’t bought it for her, because it is my feeling that we have already reached Maximum Stuffed Animal.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Nerf Rebelle gun and darts. Elizabeth and I are of one mind on this issue: (1) We are offended by this marketing. Oh, we’re girls so we have to be appealed to with PASTELS and PRETTY PATTERNS? We’re girls so “rebel” has to be spelled “rebelle,” because a word always means boys by default, and has to be changed if it’s going to refer to girls instead?? (2) Sheepishly, we both suddenly want this Nerf gun and these Nerf darts. (It is the same for me with “women’s” tool kits.)

I have mixed feelings about toy guns to begin with, but Henry is SO KEEN on them that I made some decisions I would completely understand if you came down on the other side of. I don’t think Elizabeth wants this toy enough for me to make that same decision—but on the other hand, I don’t like the idea of being like “yes for boys, no for girls,” even though that’s NOT what I’m saying. Also, I want an excuse to buy the pretty darts. Also, I already floated the idea with Henry and he’s very keen to help me choose WHICH of the Rebelle guns I should buy, and he has many opinions about what makes each one good/bad and knows all about which non-Rebelle Nerf gun each Rebelle Nerf gun is based on, and it appeals to me to call in his expertise on this. I don’t know. We’ll see when we get closer to Christmas.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Tiny Hats on Cats book. This I purchased within 30 seconds of learning of its existence. Then I told Paul NOT to get it from the library if he sees it there. Every year, EVERY year, I buy a new and interesting book for each child; and every year, EVERY year, Paul sees one or more of those books at the library in the week or two before Christmas and brings it home.

 

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Rad Women Worldwide. This isn’t something she added to her wish list, but it’s something I’d like her to have.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

More nail polishes. We both like the OPI brand, and I can find them for about $4 each at Marshalls and TJMaxx, so I’m planning to buy some and put them aside. My favorite would be to buy her Christmas-y ones—but then she receives them too late to use them that year.

 

(image from childrensplace.com)

Footless sleeper. She is 5’4″ and getting perilously close to being too tall for these, but still fits into the biggest size.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

I’ve been thinking about a coloring book; she still has and uses these glitter pens (she has a set of warm and a set of cool). I’m not sure about this book in particular, but it’s the sort of thing I’m looking for; I’d love to get more recommendations. I’m also looking for recommendations for coloring implements. I use colored pencils but I’ve heard about…is it gel pens? Is that what people use for coloring books? If so, I’d like to get her a nice big set of those. The glitter pens are really fun but there are only ten colors, and they’re all glittery. I’ll come back and add some links here if some favorites emerge in the comments.

 

We’re also considering getting older-model Android phones for both twins. Paul handles this completely so I have no link. It’s gotten to the point where them NOT having phones is causing ME inconvenience and stress (they both do assorted after-school activities, and Elizabeth recently went to a sleepover and then I had a concern that could have been alleviated by a text but was not worth a phone call to the other girl’s mother), which was our deciding factor when considering phones for the older boys. So we could relieve a fair amount of our Christmas stress by getting them each one of those plus a Google Play card to buy apps and app-related merchandise.

The problem would be that we’ve set up a precedent for A Big 13-Year-Old Birthday Gift, and if we give them phones for Christmas we need to come up with something else for the birthdays. So maybe we should just hang on awhile longer.

********

That’s what I’ve got so far. She might want another outfit for her cat, but she hasn’t put any clothes on him in ages so that might be over. I am hoping some of you with children this age can give us more ideas.

Edited to add: People in the comments section are talking about what they wanted/got at that age, and that is such a fun idea. When I was around 13, I got a desk blotter set I really, really wanted (pink, with multicolored hearts, and pink paper, and a pink pen holder that held a pink pen); a pink backrest; pink Reebok sneakers; a pink electric blanket (what, do you think, was Young Swistle’s favorite color?); a boom box (BOOM BOX) that had TWO cassette players (CASSETTES) so you could record from one cassette to the other (MIX TAPES); a little starter make-up set geared toward adolescent girls; a jewelry box; a music box; a purse; pretty stationery; a 110 camera; Bloom County stuff (calendar, books, Opus plushes).

Big hits were ANYTHING chosen by my aunt, because she had a daughter four years older than me, so she gave me things that thrilled my early-teen soul: perfume, a thin gold bracelet, a hot-turquoise button-down shirt, a tapestry vest, a plastic double-strand pearl bead necklace—all stuff my older cousin was interested in and that I was a little too young for but recognized immediately as COOL TEENAGER STUFF.

Gift Ideas for 12-Year-Olds

The twins are turning twelve. I still haven’t figured out how to make it easier to find the gift-idea posts.

My parents are giving them both pogo sticks:

(image from Amazon.com)

The fun thing is that my parents gave Henry a pogo stick for his birthday last month, and the twins have been sneaking turns on it when he’s not around.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Qixels. I expect these to result in a brief period of frenzied play, followed by total lack of interest and little weird cubes scattered all over the house. But Edward pines for these every time he sees them at the store, so FINE.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Martha Stewart glitter markers, one box each of warm tones and cool tones. Elizabeth’s aunt and uncle gave her these for Christmas, and they’re GREAT, and she uses them all the time, and so some of the colors have run out of ink.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Circuit Maze. Edward saw this demonstrated by one of the YouTubers he follows. I think of anything by ThinkFun as a pretty good bet.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Paint by Sticker. Elizabeth wanted this, but now I’m worried I should have gotten her the one for kids. She can get a little door-slammy when frustrated. [Update: Thanks to Kate for mentioning that the non-kids one was a little door-slammy for grown-ups, too. I gave Elizabeth a kids one instead and it was JUST RIGHT. It might be too easy for a 12-year-old who was chiller about things going wrong.]

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Water balloon pump. We got this for Edward last year, too, but the balloon-tying part finally broke off, so we’re replacing it; he can use the broken one as a back-up water supply. I also got him a pack of something weird I found at Target: a clump of water balloons that attach all at once to the hose, and they self-seal—so you can fill a whole bunch very quickly.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

A dinosaur costume for Elizabeth’s cat.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Hexbug remote-controlled fish. I made Edward look at all the “It broke in a week!” reviews with me, but he still wanted it, so he’s getting one.

 

(image from Zazzle.com)

Zazzle has custom earrings now, so when they were having a 50%-off sale I made two pairs for Elizabeth. We have three cats, and one of them is her favorite, so I made one earring of each cat’s face, and then I used a different view of her favorite cat’s face for the fourth earring. I did the stud earrings because she doesn’t wear dangly ones yet and because they were cheaper, but the images are Very Small; if I were doing a pair for myself, I’d go with the larger, dangly ones.

Gift Ideas for 9-Year-Old and 11-Year-Old Boys

I may never find a good way of titling these posts. I want to make them easy to find so you don’t have to sort through two hundred posts all titled “Gift Ideas” to find a gift for one particular age group, but I DON’T want to imply that the gift ideas are, for example, “boy toys” and not for girls, or that they are “girl toys” and not for boys, or that something is right for ANY 11-year-old when some 11-year-olds might be too young or too old for it. WELL WHATEVER. This is a post about what my 9-year-old boy (Henry) and 11-year-old boy (Edward) want and/or what they are getting.

(image from Amazon.com)

Pokémon Deluxe Essential Handbook. I wonder what vast number of children are receiving this for the holidays this year? At our house, it’s going to Edward, but others of us will also be interested in perusing it. I hope this is the newest version; I notice with concern that it was published in summer of 2015. There may be a hotter, more-recent version that I am unaware of.

We’re also getting him a Google Play card so he can buy a whole bunch of Pokéballs on the old Android phone that no longer works as a phone so the kids play games on it.

Do you already have Munchkin? I HATE this game, but Paul and the kids LOVE it. The house is FULL of shouting and laughing when they’re playing it. Anyway, Henry loves it more than anyone and will pitifully play it against himself if no one else can play it right then, so his aunt and uncle are buying him Munchkin Apocalypse, a stand-alone game that can also serve as an expansion pack for the original:

(image from Amazon.com)

 

Edward saw this “I may be nerdy but only periodically” shirt, and loves it with all of his little nerd heart:

(image from Amazon.com)

 

He also wants this SmartLab Toys programmable rover:

(image from Amazon.com)

 

Henry loves toy weapons, camouflage gear, soldier/knight costumes, etc. This is a category I have zero interest in discussing the pros/cons/whys/why-nots of, except to say that it is going to blow his mind that I finally let him having something camo:

(image from Target.com)

It’s thermal underwear, but the kids wear them as pajamas. He can also wear them while firing the Nerf guns my parents are getting him:

(image from Amazon.com)

Nerf N-Strike Modulus Blaster

(image from Amazon.com)

Nerf N-Strike Elite Rough Cut 2×4 Blaster

I am sorry to see those are both only available from third-party sellers, for considerably higher prices; I wonder if Target has them in stock? Or I would just search “Nerf gun” on Amazon and see what else pops up: they all look pretty much the same to me.

 

Henry wants this Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual, but I don’t think we’re going to get it for him:

(image from Amazon.com)

I like to get each kid a book at Christmas, but $30 is more than I like to spend on the book gift, and our library has this one. On the other hand, he has way fewer ideas on his wish list than Edward does, and he likes to use the Monster Manual to come up with ideas for stories and games, so maybe that could count as one book gift + one toy gift.

Paul suggests getting him Coding Games in Scratch, but really Edward and Elizabeth are the ones who use Scratch. Maybe this would get Henry interested too.

(image from Amazon.com)

 

And of course if we did not already own it, I would be buying them my friend’s book, which is perfect for this age group:

(image from Amazon.com)

(There, that is like six mentions out of a total planned ten thousand, so we are getting there!)

 

Edward wants a remote-controlled helicopter:

(image from Amazon.com)

My parents bought these a few years ago for Rob and William, and they were a huge success. You have to go into it assuming a limited life span: they are more durable than they seem like they could be, but they do eventually break if you keep crashing them into things, and you will inevitably keep crashing them into things. I considered the amount of play we got out of them before they broke to be well worth the price.

 

Edward also wants this Circuit Maze game:

(image from Amazon.com)

We will probably get it for him. I think of ThinkFun as a near-guaranteed-success brand.

 

And now a list of the video games Edward wants. Rob has recently allowed his old 3DS to be used by younger siblings, and so Edward wants a bunch of 3DS games:

(image from Amazon.com)

Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon

(image from Amazon.com)

Pokémon Omega Ruby

(image from Amazon.com)

Pokémon Sun

(image from Amazon.com)

MarioKart 7

 

I am getting each boy the same radio alarm clock I got for Elizabeth, but theirs are black instead of white like hers:

(image from Amazon.com)

 

Ever since getting one of those Origami Yoda books from a free-book fair at school, Edward has been patiently folding paper, so I got him this Money Origami kit and I hope it’s good:

I did not spend $15 on it; I found it at Marshalls for something like $7.99.

Gift Ideas for a Tween Girl

Kristin H has asked if we can talk about gift ideas for pre-teen girls, and I have a pre-teen girl at my house, so I am very keen on getting ideas too. I will tell you what is on Elizabeth’s wish list:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Nail Stamper. Apparently it is used to stamp images onto fingernails. There were a ton of choices and I couldn’t find any that had really good reviews, so I asked Twitter and this is what the most people said to get. I’m also getting this one and this one, because she wants clear but the clear ones have worse reviews, but they’re cheap and I’m hoping to give her choices in case she has trouble with it.

With those she is getting these stamping plates…I think. And these stamping polishes…I think:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

MoYou Stamping Plates, Princess Collection

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

BMC Stamping Polishes, Brights

I feel really uncertain. I haven’t ordered them yet, so I’d love input such as “No, no, these polishes/plates are WAY BETTER!”

She also wanted Simply Peel, an extremely expensive item that looks like white glue; you put it around your fingernails so that any nail polish mistakes or deliberate overruns around the edges can be peeled off:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

My parents are getting that for her, and also some nail art pens:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

and some face/body glitter gel (it was a big thing at the middle school dance):

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Elizabeth also requested clothing for her cat. Listen, I don’t know, but I will say that her cat is surprisingly willing to wear outfits, and in fact purrs and seems very cozy in his pink bunny suit. This time I got him a fleece-lined jacket thing. I got it at HomeGoods and it looks sort of like this, but a different color:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

The one I found is made by The Humane Society, and it’s deep blue with cream fleece lining, and it’s meant for a small dog but I think it will fit the cat. And the lining is super soft and JUST LIKE his favorite blankie, so I think it will be a hit.

This next item may need some further explanation, even after you know Elizabeth is a girl who likes to dress her cat in clothes:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Music for Cats. Apparently some guy figured out that cats like certain sounds? And he put them on a CD? Also apparently it is not very pleasant for the human ear, so it is for when your cat is home but you are not. Elizabeth’s cat is a nervous cat, and she worries about him when she’s not home to reassure him, and if he enjoys this music I think she will find that pleasing and also funny.

Speaking of pleasing and funny, this plush Pusheen:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

There are cookie, cupcake, ice cream, and doughnut versions; Elizabeth and Edward both think the cookie is cutest. We already have the book (super cute/funny humor book for kids/teens/adults), but if you don’t, it would make a nice combination gift with the plushie.

I share most of my earrings with Elizabeth and I already have these, but if I didn’t and I didn’t, I might buy these ear-piercing studs for her, in silver or gold:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

She hasn’t asked for this but I’m planning to get it for her:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Taylor Swift Recorder Songbook. Our school system has the kids learn recorder in later elementary school, and she’s the only kid of ours who kept playing it.

She wants a Sony Dream Machine radio alarm clock like mine (which I love with feelings that border on maternal), but it’s been discontinued (I can still find it on Amazon, but for nearly $100, which is silly). This looks like the updated version, or at least it has the radio alarm and the adjustable brightness like mine does:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

If you are doing the “something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read” jingle for gift-planning, here’s a book Elizabeth really liked:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

TTYL, by Lauren Myracle.

Or may I remind you of my friend’s excellent book recommended for grades 3-6?

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Horus and the Curse of Everlasting Regret. A girl and a boy team up to solve a mystery together, and there is a lot of adventure and a little magic, and there is a cute (not scary) mummy and a cute (and super-smart) pet bat, and I recommend it for alllllll your children and nieces and nephews and grandchildren. And I will CONTINUE to recommend it, so just settle in for the long haul on that one.

I have been thinking of getting her a diary, but I’m not sure about STYLE. It seems like it has to be the right style. Not too little-girlish, not too mommish. Maybe something like this:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Owl Forest Journal

Emergency Preparedness, Gift Ideas Edition! Rain Barrel, Gasoline Camp Stove and Lantern, Assorted Stocking Stuffers

If you are normally big on environmental stuff anyway and have (perhaps recently) added a side interest in emergency preparedness, may I suggest a rain barrel as your new love? It’s not as cheap as canned beans and clothesline, but the holidays are coming up!

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Paul found me one on Freecycle.org, slightly broken on the top but still works, just doesn’t keep out the bugs as well as one might prefer. Already the thing is FULL of water. The water is not quite absolutely clear, but for washing or flushing it would be TOP-NOTCH. And we have a bottle of bleach and a bunch of old t-shirts in our emergency-preparedness supplies, for filtering and disinfecting the water if necessary.

Anyway, the rain barrel. In non-emergency situations, the water it collects is excellent for righteously watering things outside. The main downside: if you live in an area where the temperature gets below freezing, the rain barrel is useless during that time—and you MUST remember to empty it before the temperature drops, or else you get a giant rain-barrel-shaped ice cube sitting among the shards of a rain barrel, ask me how I know. This is non-ideal if some of the emergencies you like to prepare for are ICE STORMS and BLIZZARDS.

Another good gift idea is this camp stove that runs on gasoline:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Keeping the cars pretty full of gas is a good “doesn’t cost any more than NOT doing it” emergency-preparedness idea anyway, and it’s even more satisfying if you think of your cars as giant expensive camp-stove-fuel storage devices. (Or you can get a gas can, I GUESS.) The stove comes with a filtering funnel, so don’t get tricked by Amazon suggesting that you may want to add that to your order. You could, however, add a couple bottles of liquid fuel, in case you’d like to start with a short-term solution that doesn’t involve trying to suck gasoline out of your car as the tornado swirls overhead.

There’s a gasoline-powered lantern, too:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

And here is a Paul-approved solar cell-phone charger, for when one of your wife’s biggest concerns about an emergency situation is that she will not be able to check on her Neko Atsume cats:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

 

Stocking stuffers!

Fire starter, for those of us who never learned to start one with two sticks and are not really clear on how to do it with a couple of pieces of metal?/stone?/whatever either:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

A nice bulk pack of inexpensive emergency blankets, inexplicably marketed “for men” (ladies, in a pinch I think we can still use them):

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Can opener, because this is no time to be hacking with a screwdriver at a tin of fruit cocktail:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Waterproof matches:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Rubber bands, which are the sort of thing that turn out to be useful in a thousand situations (these super-size ones are fun too):

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Hair elastics, because I am NOT getting caught in ANY situation without ample hair elastics (you may think I am kidding, but I for real added these to our emergency kit):

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

This reflective nylon rope is in festive green! And look: you could use it as a wreath!

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Water purification tablets, if you’re not so sure about the life choices of the bugs in the rain barrel:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Life Straw personal water filtering device:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

$20 is beyond what I like to spend on an individual item for a stocking, but this would FIT so nicely. It’s like one of those plastic candy-cane-shaped containers that come with Hershey Kisses or M&Ms inside! …Perhaps not quite as festive.

COLORFUL AND HAPPY AND FUN

Are you in the mood for something FUN and COLORFUL? So was I.

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

My Betsey Johnson suitcase, purchased for this recent trip when I realized my suitcases were all too small. I did not pay the $200 it is listed for on Amazon; I bought it for $69.99 at TJ Maxx, plus I had a $10-off coupon. Of course after just ONE trip through the airport luggage system the white background is SCUFFED AS HECK. But whatever: I knew going in that that would happen, and I had/have made my peace with it. Elizabeth helped me pick it out, and we both felt it was Worth It.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

K. Bell Sneaker Socks. I take off my Converse sneakers, and I am still wearing Converse sneakers! …Sort of.

 

Screen Shot 2016-08-14 at 7.23.17 PM

Eyelike Stickers: Colors. I DO like stickers. I really did buy these for no reason other than COLOR. They are sitting in my bill-paying pile, waiting for me to figure out what to do with them. I’ve stuck a few on bills.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Craft Tape Dispenser. There is approximately zero chance of me paying nearly FORTY DOLLARS for ten rolls of colored tape. But isn’t it pretty to look at? A++ marketing.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Rainbow Curlie Spinner. I am ON BOARD with curlie spinners. I have this one in two sizes.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Parakeet Sticky Notes. In my cart since 2011. (I hardly USE sticky notes. If I had EXTRA-SPECIAL ones, I’d end up hoarding them.)

 

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Page-marking Post-It notes. I put these in high-school-kid Christmas stockings.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Natural Histories: Postcards of 60 Rare Book Illustrations. I ABSOLUTELY have enough postcards. I still bought these when they dipped under $11.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Happy Pencil Cases. I saw them; I bought them; I can’t really explain myself further.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

TeeHee Striped Crew Socks. My mom wanted socks for her birthday. She likes stripes. I got her these.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Felines in the Garden Puzzle. In addition to striped socks, my mom likes cats, and 300-piece puzzles. I got her this 300-piece cat puzzle for Mother’s Day.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

French Bull spreader knives. I really have no use for little spreader knives. But if I DID have a use for them, these are the ones I would buy.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Pop Beads. I had forgotten ALL ABOUT Pop Beads! I’m getting these for Elizabeth for Christmas.

 

(image from Target.com)

(image from Target.com)

French Bull Yoga Bag. On my wish list. I’m not using it for yoga, though.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Sharpie Assorted Markers. You BET I have a set of these. It bugged me that they didn’t put the purple in rainbow order, but WHATEVER, you can take them out of the package as soon as they arrive.

 

(image from USPS.com)

(image from USPS.com)

Forever Pet Stamps. I bought four books of them. Gotta pick JUST the right envelope for the snake stamps.