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Handmade Gift Idea-Anne Cate

One of my favorite affordable custom gifts, on sale!


Holiday Sale: 20% off $20+

Valid 11/27 - 12/10
Receive 20% off your total purchase of $20 or more. 
Use code: HOLIDAY20 at checkout.
Anne Cate makes the CUTEST mini-purses, clutches, make-up bags, even a onesie, with custom city skylines.  If you don't see your skyline (she has over 60 in stock), you can order a custom for the same price and in time for Christmas through December 3, 2018.

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(This shirt does NOT come with the little guy that's modeling it, I already asked.  How I miss this age!)

Happy shopping!


New Favorite Things Updated for 2018

Usually when I see gift ideas for moms they are way too fashionable for me, or much more than I'd ever spend on myself, or things I just would never use. One of my most favorite things is my new vacuum I bought myself last year for Christmas for my husband to give me.  No kidding. But there HAS to be someone else out there that thinks getting a new vacuum for Christmas is exciting? Maybe?

Here is a list of my favorite things, lame or not with some new things added in (and the hair stuff I haven't used lately:):



These lined leggings with a high waist for cold winter walks are super comfortable and warm enough and only $25.

I love my Kindle-I switch between books and this but it's been nice for those times I wake up at 3 am and don't need a light.


My sister bought these PJ's for me last Christmas and they are SUPER DUPER soft and comfortable.  I still wear them every night.  They don't even look like PJ's so you could sneak out in them to the store late at night to get ice cream if you needed to.


I loved my first Dyson but when it bit the dust (we put that thing through hell) and it came to buy a new one I had sticker shock. Wow, those prices have gone up!  So I took my chances, read some reviews and bought something more budget friendly.  And I love this vacuum, in fact, I really think it has stronger suction that the Dyson (it puts vacuum lines in my Berber!). All the pieces and parts come apart also, in case a small sock or precious Lego gets vacuumed up or stuck. The cord is nice and long and the attachments are useful.  (Still going strong!)

Image result for vitamix two speed blender
This Vitamix 2-speed Blender is not inexpensive, but I bought it only after going through a couple "cheap" blenders that broke.  I LOVE this thing. We use it daily-smoothies, shakes, and my favorite treat ever-banana ice cream, which I eat just about every night.  It has excellent reviews on Amazon.


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Cuisinart Griddler Panini and Sandwich Press
Another kitchen appliance that I adore.  We use this at least two times a week, maybe more. It is easier and quicker than grilled cheese on the stove top.  We make ham and cheese and turkey and cheese mostly.  The kids can use this easily also.


My oldest daughter wanted to buy a pair of these for me for years and years, and frankly I thought they were overpriced and ugly, and made everyone look like they have Big Foot feet, and also that I'm (a tad;) too old to wear them.  And they are expensive and they are sort of ugly and I am too old to wear them, but darn, she was right, I love them. I wear them all winter with everything and don't ever want to take them off.  I am always cold in the winter, but these keep my feet warm inside my drafty old house and outside too, and are so comfortable and easy.  The new gray ones are so cute too.


I was lucky to be gifted with these UGG slippers and when the boys aren't stealing them I wear these ALL the time.


I don't wear perfume because I am sensitive to fragrance, but I found this lotion in Seaside, Florida a couple years ago and it smells wonderful to me-just like the beach.  That is the same bottle I originally bought-I only use a little bit and it's just enough.  You can find it here.

For daytime,  I have sensitive, dry skin and I haven't found anything that works better. It is light enough for under makeup, and strong enough that I use it in the evening too. It doesn't have a strong scent either. I go through about two bottles a year.

ANTI AGING SERUM - 100% natural, anti wrinkle, anti aging skin care with Essential Oils by moisturizing and nourishing skin
My face needs moisture, but it doesn't like all the chemicals in the drug store brands. Everything to me smells like a test tube of acid.  And NONE of it ever could keep up with dry skin. 
I found this brand on Etsy and ADORE this stuff.  I only put it on at night after I wash my face. It's straight oil, but has never made me break out once.  I won't say it took away all my wrinkles, but I will say my wrinkles look a ton better compared to when I was using the really expensive wrinkle creams and acids. (Which I will never use again!)  The $18 bottle lasted me almost a year.

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Elta MD Sunscreen-I started using this WAY too late-like 47 years too late.  I tried so many different brands, but either it was once again too chemical smelling and feeling, or just really greasy. I was given a small sample of this and loved it.  It has a nice dry feeling to it, and this SPF works great for me, even on burning hot soccer fields.  It has excellent reviews on Amazon.

My hairdresser used this once on my hair, and the next time I visited she sold me a bottle.  Sometimes my hair has a tendency to get sort of fuzzy from highlighting and blow drying. I can't use much conditioner in spite of the tangles, or my hair gets limp. I just use a tiny little drop of this every two days, rub it into the ends of my wet hair before blow drying and then I have smooth soft hair that isn't limp or fuzzy or tangled.

Goody Round Brush-I was looking for something to give my hair more body when blow drying (I have fine, thin hair) and this inexpensive brush ($6) does a wonderful job.

My hardcover Little House series. When I opened them for Christmas, I read them all cover to cover over Christmas break...which is about the tenth time I've read them, the last being when I was probably in junior high.  When read as an adult (and as a mom), I gleamed more wisdom than I ever had as a child.


I use this for reading every night.  Reading glasses, headlamp, turtleneck and flannel pajama pants.  That paints a pretty picture doesn't it?  

This is a cheap lens ($120) as far as camera lenses go, and takes beautiful photos, especially portraits.  It is a fixed lens, which means the lens doesn't zoom in and out, the photographer has to move in and out. It's nice and light.  It allows me to take natural light photos in low light-inside-which comes in handy in the winter months.

I love scented candles, and we have a Yankee Candle by our house, so often if I am lucky to find an hour to myself, I hit the bookstore, and then treat myself to a candle. They have great coupons if you sign up on the email list.  When the kids ask me what I want for my birthday or Christmas I send them to pick out a candle.  I love having the house smell nice and not like bacon or wet soccer cleats.

I bought this print from a cute Etsy shop and it sits next to my sink so I see it every morning. She has many beautiful sayings and I love the simple artwork.

I still use a wall calendar (I just can't transition to technology) and I have been buying Susan Branch for years. I can always count on this under the tree and then love spending time filling it out over Christmas break. It seems like I just bought this one yesterday, 2015 went so quickly!

Darn I wish I would have never tried one of these.  And Janey loves them too and says I have to share with her. It's the most I'll spend on chocolate, but they are heavenly, and they are also hidden under the broccoli in the refrigerator.  (This year they are a special Christmas treat since I have been eating healthy!)

Visit the updated versions of the popular posts
Our Favorite Toys, Books and Games where I list our favorite most-played with quality toys from the last twenty-one years of gift giving.

Ordinary Days

First up, a reader asked me how I organize sibling presents.
On Christmas Eve we have a tradition- after 4:00 pm Mass, we eat a nice dinner (we decide every year together what it will be) and then the kids exchange gifts.  This year they chose to pick names (we've done both in the past-little gifts to everyone and picking names).  Jeff and I give one gift that night also to the kids and each other, which is always pj's (or sweatpants for older kids who don't wear pj's.)   Then we all go to bed calmly, and stay in our beds and sleep all night long, and awake to our living transformed because Santa came. :)

When the kids were littler this was a bit more complicated because I had to take the kids out shopping, which added to the busyness.  Now there is the nifty internet, or I'll try to schedule a mom-and-me shopping time with the kid and his own list and his own wallet, or I'll just buy something or have something extra on hand and say "How about this?"

A few weeks ago I was taking a walk and snapped this photo-every color of autumn!   It is now all covered with snow!

I took the kids to the zoo on a day off, even in the cold and rain and we were about the only ones there and all the animals were out (the first snow of the year) and it was such a good time.  We went and ate lunch with Daddy afterwards.

A few of the kids have their signature cookie and I thought it was about time Patrick had his.  We invented one called "Patrick's Hot Cocoa Cookies".  And they are really really delicious.  I will post the recipe soon.  


Looking through old albums I found this photo of my older sister and I after a Cleveland snow storm.

And the little house we grew up in (which later expanded to hold all seven of us.) .
Little House In The Big Woods.  My parents still live there today and and have always worked so hard to keep it nice.  I have really good memories of cold snowy winters spent sledding and ice skating, and summers exploring the woods and spring's that couldn't come fast enough and autumns when the leaves were beautiful.

Janey and I attacked the Christmas books last weekend.  I could tell she needed some quiet time after a busy Thanksgiving weekend and we went up to the attic and brought down the Christmas bins and read every Christmas book we have.
The book above is the I Spy Christmas book, that is so worn out and we have practically memorized it but from first to last kid, this is a favorite. 

Abbey's boyfriend's dog comes and visits sometimes and she is so so sweet and I don't even like dogs so that is saying something.  Her roommates cried when Sasha moved back home, so she took Sasha back to stand guard for a couple weeks-which makes me feel better too.  Sasha has a bad hip just like me, so we get along, limping and stretching our way through life, eating scraps from the table and barking when boys chase or wrestle too wildly.

My sweetest nephew ever, Walter, who also happens to have the best parents ever.  He's so squishy.  His cheeks droop when he is tired.   Anyone have an extra baby I can have?

Pre-cancer never would I have a fake Christmas tree.  Post cancer-I saw one all assembled with a free sign in front of someone's house and Janey and I threw it in the back of my van, and I love it.  LOVE it.  I might have a couple older children not happy with me but I don't care.  I love you, fake Christmas tree, with no watering demands, or shedding.

Gift Ideas Galore

For the little girl who loves babies:
These books are Janey's favorites:
Little Mommy
The New Baby
Baby Listens
This is a good little baby doll for very little girls (I bought this for Janey when she was two) as it is small:
Corolle Calin Baby Doll

Bigger girls:
I can't resist the packaging and quality...
...but I don't really think a little girl gives a hoot what "brand" a doll is, there are many affordable options like these for under $35.
Melissa and Doug 12" Jenna Doll
Berenguer 15" Baby Doll with Gift Set


Accessories:
Set of four flannel receiving blankets (only $8)  Janey uses these all the time for her babies.
A front pack carrier.
A stroller: Patrick and Janey both loved to push a little stroller for our walks.

For the little girl or boy who loves crafts:

Play dough recipe found here (can be packaged up cute in air tight containers.)
A large bucket of cookie cutters.
Real rolling pin.
Pink Roses / Flowers - Childs / Kids / Mini -  PVC / Oilcloth Apron - Wipe clean - Childs apron - waterproof apron

A child size apron (these oil cloth Etsy ones are so cute!)

ALSO:

For basic art supplies we use:
Pip-Squeek Markers
Colored Pencils
Drawing Books-  (These are great-Usborne Drawing Books.)
Paper Cutter: This is a favorite item for all kids-obviously be careful as the blade is super sharp but covered-I started letting my kids play with this around 3 when I knew they would be careful.
Construction Paper
Tracing Paper  (So good for learning to draw and hand/eye coordination.)
Clipboard for tracing paper. (Don't forget to show them how to tape down tracing paper so it doesn't slip, or if tracing from a book use clips.)
Watercolors.
Washable paints.
Set of real brushes. (they need decent brushes!)

Activity books:
Usborne sticker books are very nice.
Melissa and Doug sticker books are big hits here, particularly this one and this one.

A homework box is a great idea! Some of the art supplies above, with a notebook and paper in a clear box.  Also these stencils are used here often, (these stencils are super neat for kids!) and envelopes and stickers from the dollar store for notes.

Crafts for older kids:
We loved Shrinky Dinks jewelry, or this kit. 
And this paper fashion set-Abbey LOVED this.
A super cute clay charms kit.
String art for boys or girls-someone is getting this, this year.
Friendship bracelet kit-a classic.
The boys LOVED their rubber band kits.

I think this is SO cute, I remember making these as a kid:
Pom pom pets.

For pretend play around the house:
This grocery cart.
Janey loves this cash register.
This kitchen. (warning: lots of pieces to put together!!! but so cute and sturdy when finished)
We have this food and kitchen set: Hape - Playfully Delicious - Gourmet Kitchen Starter Play Set
We love this cute tea set.
Cutting food and the sandwich maker are a favorite also.
I also found that the reusable kid's gift bags are great pretend grocery bags.

She also might need a purse and a wallet, the more pockets the better!

Janey sets up a "store" all over the family room and I sit at the register, she shops and I ring and put in the bag and repeat, repeat, repeat.

This Fisher Price dollhouse has been a HUGE HUGE hit for Janey this year.  This dollhouse and so many accessories were borrowed from some cousins who have outgrown them and she has played, and played, and played hours with this set.  

For the boy who loves football and soccer and every other sport:
This basketball hoop is a huge hit and takes your living room decor to the next level (a trade off for burned off boy energy, so worth it!  And ours is still going strong with teenage boys playing on it.)
These gloves.
This football.
Kicking tee.
This play white board.
These football guys (or soccer guys and baseball guys and hockey guys).

Favorite sports magazine and books:
Sports Illustrated for Kids. (my boys love the cards that come with every issue.)
Big Book of Who All-Stars.
Sports Illustrated What Are The Chances?
Childhood of Famous Americans Sports Guys books,

For the builder:
All Lego building sets.  My boys have loved anything Lego, especially Lego City building sets. If you start with a big basic box, I would suggest this Lego idea book and one or two base plates.

For little guys the Duplos are great.  We have a huge basic set, than a Thomas Train set, which is discontinued, but they do still have a "generic" train set and track.
Also for little guys, the Build A Road has been a favorite.
Kapla blocks are awesome for ALL ages. 


For the mom who loves outside toys:)
All time favorite is a basic scooter. (Ours has gone through so many boys and jumps and crashes and still is as good as new.)  This three wheel scooter is super fun and is used often.
These rip riders are huge hits and still are played with consistently-they have been crashed into, and once I ran one over that was left in the driveway-miraculously they survive.
For littler guys this plasma car is great.


For the reader:
A headlamp for reading at night.
I agonized over getting this Kindle for Andrew when he was in 5th grade but I love it-he uses it a lot (but still reads "real" books also.  It allowed him to keep up the pace of his ferocious book appetite without driving me mad with library visits-we've never paid for a book either-all rented downloads through the library.)
All of our favorite books are in the sidebar.
Have you read Where the Red Fern Grows to your children?  Or they can read it if old enough, it's our favorite.
Also there is a new Diary of a Wimpy Kid out they've been begging me to get.

For the teenage boy who offers up no gift suggestions ever:
A long board.
Jansport back packs have a lifetime guarantee (I know this because I sent one back and they reimbursed me!)
Gym bags.
Quadcopter.
These head phones work as well as the expensive ones, or so I've heard.
These maze puzzles appeal to all ages, and are irresistible for bored kids (and adults)...we have four of them!

For the teenage girl who loves makeup:
This eye shadow.
Or even more eyeshadow.
Brush set.
Remember caboodles?  If you were a teen in the 80's you do.  We couldn't find them but this art organizer works just as well. (Abbey bought this for college.)
This nail polish.

College kids:
Coffee cups (Anthro always has cute ones, but Janey and I found one just as cute at the Dollar Store. :) or travel cup.
A phone sticker that holds cards.
I love this Mary necklace-I have one and Abbey will also.
A super soft blanket (this one comes in tons of colors) for their dorm.
Nice warm socks (boy and girls).
A soft fluffy robe for girls.  (Aerie also has good ones but wait for a sale!)
Slippers for guys.  (Isaac wore these as shoes in college-also Land's End has great sales.)

Let me know if you have questions or if I missed an age group and you need help.


Tons more ideas all updated this year and for all ages here.
21 Years of Our Best-Loved, Most-Used Quality Toys!