Darned Wrist

Mary and Baby Jesus

Dearest Readers-
I miss writing on this blog badly and I miss painting-if I do either-painting or typing, my wrist hurts so badly that I want to chew my arm off.  And never have I felt the urge to do more of those two things, which figures.

So I'm saying early,

MERRY CHRISTMAS to all of you!  I hope you each have wonderful days with your families, and when all is said and done, I hope you find an afternoon to hide in the bedroom or the bath or anywhere, and eat some chocolate and read a really good book quietly.

Because I KNOW you deserve it. 

And besides, I bet you anything, Mary kicked all those men and smelly animals out of the stable eventually, and said "enough is enough, the star, the gifts, the mooing, I get it, but give me some space and some peace and quiet so I can just BE."

Here's to more time to be!

Love, Sarah


Our Favorite Toys By Age

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 & Doug 12" Jenna Doll
Berenguer 15" Baby Doll with Gift Set

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!)


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.)
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.
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!


Our Favorite Building Toys

Here's a list of our favorite, most-played with, delivered-to-your-doorstep, Mom-approved toys.

And here are our favorite games.
Here are some great teen gift ideas.
An abridged list by age/interest.
All updated!

Here are our favorite building toys over the years:

Duplos-We started with a basic set and then added a Thomas the Train set (they just sell a generic train now.) We've had so much fun with these.

Legos-We have more of these than any family should have, but I think Legos are the best-they really teach kids concentration, precision (you can't miss a step!) and how to work through a project till finished-and how to go back and find a mistake and correct it....patience and perseverance!  I can't say enough about them.  We've always been a fan of the kits, but we started out with a big basic box.

Yes, they are expensive (I think if you stay away from the commercial brands (Star Wars, Batman) they aren't too bad), but I always justified it by the fact they ARE so educational.  The kids worked up from little kits to more complicated ones at different rates.  I would suggest starting early (4?) with an easy set and moving up.  Lego Technic is great for those kids who don't just want models but really want to play with them-they don't fall apart at easy.

Lego City was the favorite.  Matt was an expert and had the train set and some of the more specialty Lego like the Eiffel Tower.

Lego Mindstorms is an investment, but will be handed down at this house so it was worth it (and a great substitute for parents who don't want video games or computer games played, but something more educational).  This is so cool and if your child is into robotics and computers AND Legos this is perfect.  Matt received this when he was starting his teens years I believe.

This Wedgit set appeals to ALL ages from toddlers to adults. It comes with little cards to match, but it's fun to just fool around with also.  

Train sets!  This is a collection for sure, added on to slowly over the years and the children, and appeals to boys and girls.  We love Thomas the Train, so the kids have had some videos and books and I have heard many of those stories reenacted on our tracks.  Our collection started slowly with a basic kit, and then we added on which is perfect for gift giving.

Marble runs!  This Hape wooden set above is great, but I would suggest it for older children (it does come with photo of all different ways to assemble the run but it takes patience.)  The plastic one is much easier for younger children.  My kids have loved both of these.

Another marble rail system, but requires more building skill-this one can spread out over a whole room and takes more engineering (more learning!).  The kids really work together with this one.

The boys really loved Snap Circuit set-lots of different ways to make this work, and really fun to experiment.

I have always sung the praises of these Magna Tiles-fom very little ones, to adult, these magnetized blocks are awesome.  They have been used to make sculptures but also homes for plastic animals, and dolls, etc. These will always be out in my living room for the rest of my life I think.

This track is SO fun.  The kids have to learn how these tracks snap together but maybe around four years old, they can do it easily (before that I have helped them build.)  The motorized cars are fun and the batteries last for a long time.

Kapla Blocks are awesome-another one that appeals to all ages and has many different uses (mazes to sculptures to Nerf Gun targets).  It's a perfect indoor winter activity.


My Favorite Easy Holiday Recipes

Easy Pumpkin Rolls 



Lots of recipes HERE.


Encouragement For The Week

Christmas is what we decide it will be and that means there is a need to guard our hearts and homes a little-relatives, the media, the neighbors, friends, stores, your church, etc, will all come into play as an influence so it is right and good to set out in our heads what we want Christmas to look like for our families.

From THIS post.



Favorite Things: Teen and College-Aged Guys

Click here for all of our gift idea posts for different ages-our favorite, most-played with, delivered-to-your-doorstep, Mom-approved toys.

With as few words as possible this is Matt (20) and Andrew's (16) favorite things or wish list items:

Image result for nike nsw club joggers
Nike NSW Joggers
Super soft and comfortable.

Wilson NCAA Final Four Edition Basketball, Official - 29.5"
Wilson Indoor Basketball

Nike Unisex Dri-Fit Crew 6-Pair Pack Black/(White) LG (Men's Shoe 8-12, Women's Shoe 10-13)
Nike Dri Fit Black Socks
Not too long and not too short.

And these:

Old Spice Swagger.
Smells great and actually works.

Nike Men's Sportswear Club Fleece Hoodie 1
Nike Pull Over Hoodie
Super plain soft hoodie that matches everything.

Bluetooth Adaptor
If you have an old car.

Mom's note: This is a wish list item-if these are given the cost will be split.


Fire TV Stick
Easiest and cheapest to watch all the platforms on TV in college.

Hasbro Risk Game
Hasbro Risk Game
It's a strategic fun board game.

Image result for American Challenge Brasilia Soccer Ball
American Brasilia Soccer Ball

Record Player
Because they are still and always will be the best way to listen to music.

Best Charger Cords in a 4-pack of all different lengths

Hubsan Drone-fun and works with good reviews.

Nerf Elite
Cheap and fun. Only $5-buy enough to have a war.  Lasts forever.

Dart Board
Fun for everyone in the family.

Fishing Rod with Accessories
Everything you need to go fishing.