Category Archives: Carpool Candy gift guide

Carpool Candy Holiday Gift Guide for kids 2015

I don’t know about you, but my kids don’t need squat! I’ve been feeling kind of sick about all the “stuff” they have– most of which they don’t use or appreciate. Every parenting book I’ve ever read says providing children with traditions and enriching experiences creates memories that lead to happy and secure kids.

So this year I’m putting an emphasis on gifts that will provide creative, fun activities– many that don’t even require batteries!

But hey, I’m not Amish. I know people still like to give stuff so there’s plenty of that on the list too. On that note, I give you the Carpool Candy Holiday Gift Guide 2015….

As always, click on the name of the gift for website links to buy or get more info. All different price points included. And please note that I get nada from any of these vendors. You can thank/gift me by sharing this post on the Facebook or the Twitter, and/or by signing up to get my blog weekly in your email inbox,  just click on the right corner of your screen.

Happy Holidays!

knockerball on carpoolcandy.com holiday gift guide

Knocker Ball session–  Have you seen this? Kids and adults get in these ridiculous inflatable plastic ball suits and roll around. You can roll, flip, and knock down your friends or try playing KnockerBall soccer. KnockerBallers describe the sensation as almost defying gravity, without putting any stress on the body.  I think I’d be laughing like a hyena the entire time. There are places to play all over the country for about $35 an hour for six people. If you’re really nuts, you can even buy your own for the back yard. ($250 each)

dinosaur head light on carpoolcandy.com

Light and sound headlamps— This hands-free LED flashlight makes realistic animal sounds that will liven up your bedtime reading routine. Great for independent readers who– lil me– still like the feel of a book in both hands.  Adjustable elasticized band with Velcro® closure. Dinosaur or frog ($25)  If this guy is too intimidating, try these options…

panda light on carpoolcandy.com

Amazon has an adorable panda or lion  ($10)

lego mini headlamps on carpoolcandy.com

Or f your kid is more into superheroes or Star Wars, these lights are cool too. ($28)

Grommet ponytail hat on carpool candy.com holiday gift guide

Cableknit ponytail hat-– Peekaboo hats are designed to let your hair hang out. These adorable knit hats feature two hidden holes (for high and low ponies) in the back for your ponytail to peek right through.  You can keep your head warm and your hair pretty. Machine washable, comes in black and white.  ($40)yogibo beanbags on carpoolcandy.com holiday gift guide

Yogibo giant beanbags–   My kids borrowed a few of these monster beanbags for a recent sleepover and they were a huge hit.  With zillions of beads, they conform to your body’s shape and are super comfy, especially for video game playing. The full-size Yogibo Max functions as a chair — and also as a recliner, sofa, or bed when you want to stretch out from head to toe. ($100 and up)

singalong ipad stand on carpoolcandy.com

iPad Karaoke stand— This is an adjustable microphone stand with an integrated dock and speakers that transform an iPad into a personal soundstage. Crooners simply connect an iPad or any device with a headphone jack to the dock at the top and use the attached microphone to sing along with music saved in their iTunes library. Your melodic voice is transmitted through 2 powerful speakers in the base, and you can adjust the volume, balance, and echo to achieve chart-topping best holiday gift guide for kids 2015, best gifts for boys 8 to 14, best gifts for girls 8 to 14, best holiday gifts for girls 2015, best holiday gifts for boys 2015, cool gifts for boys into space,cool gifts for boys into dinosaurs, best creative gifts for kids, best gifts for kids who have everything, best gifts for teen girls, best gifts for teen boys, best gifts for sporty boys, best drone for kids, best gift for kids who love sneakers, sound. A recipe fro teen fun. ($110)skyviper_video drone on carpoolcandy.com holiday gift guideHD video drone— For future CIA agents….the Sky Viper Video Surveillance Drone takes astounding high-def videos from up to 200 feet away with an onboard SkyProTM 720p HD camera, giving kids and adults a bird’s eye view of the neighborhood or backyard. The camera can even pivot to capture astounding 360-degree panoramic views. Comes complete with a remote control, 4GB memory card that can capture up to 20 minutes of video and replacement propellers and screws. ($80)

Grommet zipbuds on carpoolcandy.com holiday gift guide

Tangle-free Zip Buds–  Zipbuds put an end to tangled headphone cords with a zippy design. The unique zipper-integrated cabling uses military-grade technology to provide strength and performance. Cool choice for music lovers. ($25)

grommet embellished hair ties on carpool candy.com holiday gift guide

Embellished hair ties—  For the gal who wears her ponytail holders around her wrist, some bling to brighten your arm and your hair. I love a gift that’s functional and pretty. (3 for $15)

toothfairy pillow and journal on carpool candy.com holiday gift guide

Toothfairy pillow and journal– For the kid who loves tradition. A little handmade pillow to hold a lost tooth until the tooth fairy arrives, and a matching journal to keep track of lost teeth and loot attained. Journal also includes interesting facts about dental hygiene. (Didn’t know there were any but ok!)  ($30)

uncommon goods claymation kit on carpoolcandy.com holiday gift guide

Stop-motion claymation kit — For the creative kid on your list….Explore the amazing art of DIY animation with this creative claymation kit. Claymation combines the principles of stop-motion animation with the fun flexibility of clay modeling for an easy introduction to movie making. The kit includes creature-creating clay, a miniature stage, interchangeable backdrops, props, detailed guidebook, and a phone stand. Just add your own smartphone with a stop-motion app of your choice, and practice saying “action!” ($20)

KIndle Fire HD kids on carpoolcandy.com holiday gift guideKindle Fire HD — This tablet is made especially for kids with a thick protective case and parental controls to limit screen time and content access. Includes a 7-inch IPS display and front and rear cameras. Unlimited, free access to 10,000 kid-friendly books, movies, TV shows, educational apps, and games with 1 year of Amazon FreeTime Unlimited included.  Plus, a 2-year worry-free guarantee: if they break it, return it and Amazon will replace it for free– no questions asked. The gift that keeps on giving!  ($100-150)

Jenga Giant game on carpoolcandy.com holiday gift guide

Giant Jenga XL game— Get bigger crashes with this extra-large version of the classic Jenga game. As you stack the cardboard blocks and pull them out, you get a tower three times higher than the original game. Great for all ages. ($20)

dareway scooter on carpoolcandy.com holiday gift guide

Dareway scooter— I’d be remiss if I didn’t put this guy on the list. It seems every kid wants a hoverboard, but if you don’t want to fork over the $400, try this Feber Dareway 12V standing ride-on scooter. Kids will love driving it, with a foot pedal accelerator to control forward motion and handle-grip buttons to allow turns and 360° spins.  Travels up to 3.7 mph which is about as fast as I want my kids to go. ($200)

pb kids faux fur sleeping bag on carpoolcandy.com

 

Faux fur sleeping bag— Kids ( especially girls) like luxury so spoil them with this supersnuggly sleeping bag, or unzip it for a cozy throw. Teen version in chic animal prints, little kid version in adorable animal shapes. ($169)elephant rattle on carpoolcandy.com holiday gift guideWood baby rattle: I’m a sucker for a baby gift and these handmade hardwood wood rattles are cute and easy on teething tykes.  ($18)

sneakercon on carpool candy.com holiday gift guide

Sneaker Con tickets  — If your kids are obsessed with shoes like mine, Sneaker Con is the mecca of lace ups.  The show travels to several cities every year– including NYC, Washington DC, Chicago, LA, and Miami — offering common ground for sneaker connoisseurs to buy, sell and trade some of the most sought after footwear on the market. If you’re really nice, you’ll get the tickets and a budget to buy. (Tickets are $25 and up)

spinning spgahetti fork on carpoolcandy.com holiday gift guide

Spinning spaghetti fork–  Great stocking stuffer….Eating pasta is now easier and more fun. Twirling is a better way to eat spaghetti but my kids have never been quite able to manage it. This motorized fork makes linguini a luxury again. Dishwasher safe. ($9)

messless chocolate milk mixing mug on carpoolcandy.com

 

Messless chocolate milk mug— Moooooove over fork! While we’re on fun kitchen gadgets, how about this mug that mixes your chocolate milk for you with the touch of a button? Works for hot and cold milk. ($15)

StickerYou Laptop stickers on carpool candy.com holiday gift guide

Laptop stickers–  Custom die-cut vinyl stickers in any size and shape personalize laptops, tablets or liven up our locker. You can use photos for custom stickers or choose from hundreds of designs in various categories including animals, sports, art, music and more.  They’re weather resistant, water-proof, and will stick on most surfaces and materials but can be removed easily, leaving no messy residue behind. ($10 and up)

photo playing cards on carpool candy.com holiday gift guide

Photo playing cards–  Kids never tire of seeing pictures of themselves so why not create a custom deck of playing cards with their shining faces on the back? Choose 1 to 4 photos, and/or add words or initials. They’ll think you’re aces.  ($20)

M and M peace blanket on carpool candy.com holiday gift guide

M&M’s plush blanket —  I’m not sure why my kids love plush, but they do and this cozy blanket combines softness and their affection for candy. Sweet! ($30)

Sticker gum on carpoolcandy.com holiday gift guide

StickerGum—  Speaking of sweet….StickerGum was started by two intrepid Jersey sisters (even before they were tweens!) looking for a kid-friendly way to raise money for charity. Their edible artwork turned fundraising enterprise has now evolved into a grassroots passion project. StickerGum is a collectible novelty bubblegum customized with full-color images, individually packaged with matching glossy stickers. Their signature flavor Be Original™ is made with 100% natural chicle harvested sustainably in the rain forests of Central America and proudly handcrafted in the U.S. It boasts great flavor, “rocks killer bubbles,” and has no artificial flavors or preservatives. Don’t blow it– create your own design or use a photo of your kids. ($2.50 per piece)

laser peg animal set on carpoolcandy.com holiday gift guideLaser Pegs contruction set— Construction toys never get old in my house. My kids still fiddle around with our Magnatiles when they pry themselves away from screentime–  and these light up Laser Peg sets are the next big thing in building. The options are endless– from this 12-in-1 animal set to an Indy race car to helicopters, spaceships, and architectural landmarks. Go back to a time when dinosaurs ruled the world and build your favorites like the Brachiosaur, Stegosaur, T-Rex, Velociraptor, and many more. And after you build them, THEY LIGHT UP!  (from $12-60)

little passports package on carpoolcandy.com holiday gift guide

LittlePassports subscription—  Here’s a gift that lasts throughout the year and is truly educational and enriching. Travel to international countries or explore the 50 states and learn about their culture, food and geography through activities, games, treasure hunts, puzzles and interactive maps. The first month kids receive a discovery kit and passport and then each month explorers get a themed package including information on landmarks, music, animals, food, art, oceans, natural wonders, world coins, space, science, celebrations, habitats, transportation, insects, and sports. It’s travel without the expense and long TSA lines! ($12 per month with subscription)

 

Didn’t find the right fit on this list? Try my list from 2013 and 2014 for more ideas!

Have a great gift to add to this list? Tell me in the comments. And stay tuned for the CCHGG for women and men coming soon!

 

Author of People I Want to Punch in the Throat makes naughty list for the holidays

If the thought of the fast-arriving, anxiety-inducing holidays is making you want to throw a Xanax into your pumpkin-spice latte, author and blogger Jen Mann has your back.

spending the holidays with people i want to punch in the throat cover on carpoolcandy.com

Ballantine Books/ Random House

In her new book,  “Spending the Holidays With People I Want to Punch in the Throat: Yuletide Yahoos, Ho-Ho-Humblebraggers, and Other Seasonal Scourges,” Mann tells a stocking full of funny stories about how easily the holidays can be spoiled, regardless of good intentions and how many trees you decorate or cookies you bake.

decorating Christmas sugar cookies on carpoolcandy.com

Our holiday traditions include baking and decorating dozens of cookies, but they’re hardly perfect.

While many of the essays focus on Christmas– from Mann’s childhood through the present– she pokes fun at other holidays and our need to keep up with traditions and with the Joneses.

Her mother starts decorating for Christmas as soon as the lights go out on Halloween and has no less than 12 themed trees, 102 nativity scenes, and 150 Santa figures taking over her house.

That’s quite a precedent.

It seems everyone in Mann’s world is just one bad gift, one lost tradition, or one burned cookie away from ruining Christmas. She builds suspense in each harrowing tale of missteps, while commenting on the anxiety the holidays create, especially for moms trying to hold everything together and create the magic of the season.

Two essays — one on an overheard conversation between Overachieving Moms preparing for the holidays and another on humblebrag Christmas letters — give Mann a chance to air her grievances about all the irritating people who tout perfection.

Mann keeps it real in her own witty, self-deprecating letter, which heralds broken bones, her young son’s propensity for nudity and outrageous prices at Disney World.

By poking fun at the insanity of Martha Stewart-worshipping moms, and the cultural pressure to acquire expensive stuff, Mann provides relief — and a voice — for those who feel they can never compete.

You can read my full review in all its glory here.

Author Jen Mann of spending the holidays with people i want to punch in the throat on carpoolcandy.com

Author Jen Mann cracks me up

Mann is a great writer who perpetually portrays herself as the underdog, but is really a heroine and her blog a refuge for moms just trying to keep it together. The best part is that the book is less than 200 pages and a quick read that will make you giggle. You may even recognize some people you know.

Are you stressed yet about the holidays? Tell me in the comments.

Carpool Candy Father’s Day gift guide 2015

Father’s Day is looming kids, but don’t fret… I’ve got some great ideas you can buy right from that warm seat in front of your computer.  Click on the links in the gift guide below and then thank me by signing up to get my blog in the right corner of your screen. Happy shopping!

Gold Standard book cover on carpoolcandy.com

Books are a great gift because a real book is expensive these days and many won’t shell out the bucks for themselves, plus they show you get your guy if you pick the right ones. If he’s into pop culture, how about The Gold Standard: Rules to Rule By, by none other than Entourage super agent Ari Gold. Tongue-in-cheek advice from the self-professed King of Hollywood. Or try The Bro Code or one of its spinoff titles like, The Bro Code for Parents: What to Expect When You’re Awesome, by How I Met Your Mother‘s Barney Stinson, which will surely make any dad laugh and may teach him a thing or two.

Jeter Unfiltered cover on carpoolcandy.com

If your guy is more into sports, these recent book titles got top marks on both sports and literary lists: The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown… You Can’t Make This Up,  by Al Michaels…or for Yankee and autobiography fans, Jeter Unfiltered

polaroid camera on carpoolcandy.comRetro Polaroid instant camera— Remember this guy? This old school camera in bright, fun colors produces instant color photos the size of a business card. Great for camera buffs and fans of instant gratification. ($99)

Vineyard Vines NFL ties on carpoolcandy.com

Festive ties— I know, I know, ties are traditionally as exciting as a Mitch McConnell press conference, but Vineyard Vines has taken tie style to new levels with crazy cravats featuring everything from his favorite dog, to sports team, cocktail, and college. Click on the photos to see designs close-up. ($85)

small-whiskey-rocks on carpoolcandy.com

Whiskey stones— Reusable soapstone cubes keep liquor perfectly chilled without diluting the flavor. Also can be heated to keep drinks warm. Hot toddy anyone? ($20)

golf ball stamp on carpoolcandy.com

Golf ball stamp— This handy gadget allows your pro to label his golf balls to keep track of the ones that got away. ($30)

silicone keyboard protector on carpoolcandy.com

Keyboard protector-– Much cooler and more efficient than a pocket protector, this light silicone cover keeps your keyboard pristine and hugs the keys perfectly so you won’t miss a letter. ($24)

everlane mens weekender bag on carpoolcandy.com

Weekender bag — For a romantic getaway, quick business trip, or weekend with the boys, does he have a nice bag to pack? I know Wilson could use a grown up bag that doesn’t look like a worn out knapsack. This cotton twill and leather one is a good size and looks smart. ($95)

mario bedescu mens grooming kit on carpoolcandy.comMen’s Grooming Kit— For the man who likes to pamper himself, or perhaps needs to up his hygiene game a bit. These products aren’t frufru– they contain natural ingredients and vitamins, and don’t smell girly, just clean. Cleansing gel, pre-shave conditioner, shaving cream, face scrub and shaving lotion included. ($63)

salami of the month olympic provisions on carpoolcandy.com

Taste of the month-– For food connoisseurs, Oregon’s Olympic Provisions crafts 12 different salamis from northwest pork using “old-world technique,” whatever that is. ($145) If cured meat isn’t his craving, how about testing his manhood with a hot sauce of the month, with names like Arrogant Bastard Ale Jalapeño Hot Sauce, to measure his mettle. ($40 for gift pack, $118 for 12 months.)

gameofthrones_tshirt on carpoolcandy.com
Pop culture t-shirts-– If your guy is into TV and movies, there are tons of sites offering different styles from show logos to famous movie or TV lines, to more subtle ones like this family crest from Game of Thrones. ($19)

breaking bad tshirt on carpoolcandy.com

If you don’t find what you need on this site, go to the shop section of network sites or Amazon’s t-shirts where I found this subtle but cool shirt from Walter White’s drug lord’s restaurant from Breaking Bad. ($17)

driftwood recharger on carpoolcandy.com

Driftwood charging dock-– I love how this idea is simple and ridiculous all at once. Artisans in Maine find actual driftwood made soft and shiny by nature, and craft it to fit the contours of your cord and smart phone. Modern technology snuggled into a timeless gift from the good earth, like a piece of functional art. ($72)

iphone case candy gift guide

Custom smartphone/tablet case – Wilson loves his University of Michigan case, but you can pick from many schools, classic colors, or a custom design with a photo or monogram. If you can’t decide, how about a gift card? ($15 and up)

Williams Sonoma steak brand and carving board on carpoolcandy.com

Steak brand and carving board— If your guy takes pride in his grilling skills (I know mine does) he’ll love this customized branding tool to put his mark on every steak he serves. Personalized carving board seals the deal. ($70)

Adonit Jot Script Evernote stylus on carpoolcandy.com

Touch screen stylus— This new precision stylus, is great for high-tech note taking. The Jot Script Evernote allows your handwriting to flow as freely as your thoughts. ($75)

beer tote

Beer tote:–This sturdy, wood carrier is great for the guy who likes variety and needs a safe way to transport his cold ones. ($40)

What’s your favorite Dad’s Day goodie? Tell me in the comments.

Carpool Candy Mother’s Day gift guide

Mother’s Day is May 10th people. Have you bought your mom, wife, sister, aunt, grandma a gift yet?

I thought I’d republish some of my favorites from the holiday gift guide, with a couple spring additions. Click on the name of the gift for website links to buy or get more info. All different price points included. (And please note that I get nada from any of these vendors.)

Happy shopping!

High Camp Supply gardenias on carpoolcandy.com

Last week, my friend Julie sent me the most amazing surprise for my birthday. She knows I love flowers, but instead of a classic arrangement, she sent a box of vine gardenias. They smelled divine and felt extremely decadent to a flower buff like me. They remind me of my mother’s perfume or walking through a botanical garden. Elegant, luxurious, nostalgic. A perfect gift! Like anything special worth having, gardenias are extremely fragile so they’re expensive to grow and ship. But if you care to indulge, check out the gift boxes from High Camp Supply.

kller-collection-brass-quill-earrings abc carpet on carpoolcandy.comEarrings — Delicate yet sleek, these earrings are handmade from a mold cast from real quills found in nature, but they’re set in brass so the price is nice. ($110)

Moleskin passion journals on carpoolcandy.com

Specialty journals-– If the kitchen is her domain, she’ll love organizing her recipes and cooking secrets, while checking measurements, conversions and food facts in this cooking journal. If she’s more of a style maven, she can keep track of outfits, convert international sizes, and collect style sheets for wish lists. There are also journals for wedding planning, gardening, music, and even chocolate. ($20)

markandgraham initial soaps on carpoolcandy.com

Initial soaps— Sometimes the perfect gift is something luxurious that you wouldn’t buy for yourself. These soaps fancy up a guest bathroom and smell great. ($29 for 3)

Pyrrha lion necklace on carpoolcandy.com

Charm necklace— On a recent trip to LA, I discovered Canadian jewelry company Pyhhra, which creates original designs I haven’t seen coming and going. I bought a Talisman necklace, handcrafted to exactly replicate an 19th century wax seal of a lion. They have scores of designs and each has a different inspirational meaning. The lion I chose represents wisdom and courage. In reclaimed silver, gold, and bronze. ($140+)

Claire V clutch bag on carpoolcandy.com

Clutch bag— Can a lady ever have too many bags? Most certainly not! This fold-over leather clutch from designer Clare V. comes in scores of colors and textures. Great shape, great quality and will never go out of style. Click around the website and you’ll find several different sizes, including iPad cases and makeup bags. ($220)

danas bakery macarons on carpoolcandy.com

Macaron of the month (or just one variety box!):
For the woman who has everything, including a sweet tooth. Who wouldn’t love a new box of delectable cookies arriving every month? True bakery connoisseurs will appreciate classic French macarons in flavors like pecan pie, berry cobbler, cookie dough, and peanut butter and jelly. If monthly sweets are too pricey for you, a box of assorted is equally yummy. ($90 for three months, $30 for variety box)

Malamine trays on carpoolcandy.com

Decorative trays — These colorful malamine trays are great for entertaining or to house jewelry or candles on a bedroom dresser. ($34-44)

Stylish Bookends from Etsy on carpoolcandy.com

Bookends— If she still likes the feel of a book in her hand, splurge on a few hardcovers from Amazon (I highly recommend All the Light We Cannot See, which just won the Pulitzer, or Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? )….and complete the thought with these simple wood bookends from Etsy. ($39)

tervis tumbler purple on carpoolcandy.com

Personalized tumbler— We should all be drinking more water. These insulated travel cups can hold 16-24 oz of hot or cold drinks, with a variety of sizes and tops, and you can personalize them with initials in fun colors. How about an M for mom? (I’m partial to purple sequins!) ($11)

Henri Bendel ponytail holder on carpoolcandy.com

Hair accessories-– If she likes a pony-tail, she’ll love a little tinsel on her tresses. These fancy hair ties are a decadent indulgence that will always fit. Try one in gold ($28) or tortoiseshell. ($16)

personalized etched wine bottles on carpoolcandy.com

Personalized wine bottles-– Bring these unique wine bottles to holiday parties, give them as hostess gifts, or buy one for your favorite wino. You can etch initials, a full personal message, or choose from holiday and occasion designs. After the spirits are gone, the bottle is a keepsake. ($70) If etching is too pricey, try these personalized stickers. ($1-2 each)

henri bendel cosmetic bag on carpoolcandy.comCosmetic bag–Ladies always welcome a new cosmetic bag and this classic from Henri Bendel is cleanable and wears well. ($48)

are we there yet luggage tag on carpoolcandy.comAre We There Yet luggage tag-– What says ” I’m a MOM” more than this whimsical suitcase tag from Jonathan Adler. ($38)

tennis raquet holder on carpoolcandy.com

Tennis raquet holder-– If you’re buying for a Sporty Spice, how about this monogrammed racquet bag to impress the gals at the club? ($89)

neat closet

Closet organizing– Time for spring cleaning!  Treat the mom in your life to two hours with a closet organizer. She gets an orderly closet and a new wardrobe without spending a dime! In NJ, Betsy Ames of Mindful Style will come to your house and go through every article in your closet to determine what stays and what goes. Then she’ll help you recycle your out pile, put together outfits with keepers, and suggest classic pieces to supplement. For those outside the tri-state, Google “closet organizers” for a closet fairy near you. ($150 for 2 hours)

Hope you found something for the special moms in your life. If all else fails, you can never go wrong with homemade cards and chocolate!

I hate gift cards, and other holiday complaints

On the subject of gift giving, I’ve been as ornery as the Abominable Snowman this month. As you may have guessed from my last three posts—holiday gift guides for men, women, and kids—I love shopping for presents. I like thinking about the person’s passions and choosing a gift that not only says, “I appreciate you,” but also “ I get you.”

It’s not always easy to do, especially when you have a lot of people on your list. But when I think of holidays, I remember– from toddler to teen years– my parents making the holidays chock full of special surprises. As I wrote last year, I celebrated both Christmas and Hannukah growing up.

Our tradition—which started when we were young and believed in Santa—was to wake up Christmas morning with most of our gifts displayed, unwrapped around that delicious-smelling, glittering Spruce tree.

Christmas 1977 on carpoolcandy.com

That year I got a Shaun Cassidy album and poster, a dollhouse, and a Snoopy bank.

We’d squeal in delight as we rushed from one gift to another as our exhausted parents (up all night putting together toys and drinking eggnog) smiled with satisfaction.

I’ll never forget the dollhouse my parents decorated and rehabbed (as if it was for sale)– with individually glued parquet floors, accessories (including lamps with shades made of toothpaste covers,) and electricity.

Christmas 1977 on carpoolcandy.com

Christmas 1977

 

As we got older, the wonder didn’t stop. One year, after begging for my own phone line for months, my parents told me unequivocally no…and then wrapped up a box filled with business cards that read “Brooke E. Schon/Kid” with a phone number. When I dialed the number, I heard a phone ringing behind the couch and ran to it like it was a long-lost lover.

That was the gift precedent sent in my house: imaginative, personal, and full of surprise.

Modern holidays for my kids are a far cry from those days of yore. We’re raising our kids Jewish so we celebrate Hannukah, which creates pressure to spread the wonder out over eight nights.

Ninety percent of the items on my kids’ wish lists were gift cards—for Nike.com, local restaurants, and sports stores—which are about as thrilling as reindeer poop.

I usually ignore most of the lists and try to come up with things I think they’ll like. I keep notes in my phone every time they say they want something during the year, and I dig around on the internet for original ideas that will appeal.

But the lists are the word of God, as far as the grandparents are concerned.

They are all lovely, caring, generous people, don’t get me wrong. But when it comes to buying gifts, they seem singularly obsessed with getting the kids EXACTLY what they want.

I’m not sure what the fear is here. Are they worried what will happen if the kids are disappointed? Perhaps it’s fear they’ll be dropped from the boys’ texting favorites list or shut out completely?!

As a result, they email and call me mercilessly until they nail down a gift they KNOW the kids will like. When I offer off-list suggestions, (or write a gift guide for kids!) they can’t quite commit.

This year, after I didn’t answer my mother’s inquiries quickly enough, she starting texting Jacob directly about what size NFL jersey she should get for each boy. He actually asked his brothers for details and sizes, so he blew the surprise for them too.

When I called her on it, she felt badly but I’m not positive she won’t do it again!

“Remember the time I got them that air hockey table you suggested that was stuck in the basement corner and they only played with it a few times?” she asked accusingly. (a. not true, they played with it plenty b. where else would it go but a corner in the basement?! c. at least it was a fun idea they were not expecting!)

Where’s the whimsy? Where’s the mystery and joy of the holiday?

Hannukah present on carpoolcandy.com

Our front hall bench houses all the presents during Hannukah week. The boys shake the boxes and manhandle the gift bags, wondering aloud if this is the video game Uncle Jon said he was getting, or the jersey Nan promised to buy. It’s not whether they’ll get these things, but which box they are in.

Ggrrrrr.

Many of the relatives settled on gift cards. Gift cards are not fun to wrap or open, and most get spent and forgotten instantly. They turn the delight of giving into a business transaction.

I refuse to grant Jacob the gift cards on his list at the bagel and Chinese places in town. Two Taylor ham and egg sandwiches and sesame chicken just don’t scream stocking stuffer to me.

I know it’s difficult to come up with fresh ideas as the kids get older but there are other options. What about experiences? Time in the batting cages, tickets to a basketball game, or go-cart racing? Google “gifts for kids who like animals,” and get a bunch of options.

It’s a risk to guess at what the kids might like, I get that. But when the risk pays off, it’s sweet.

 

eli pillow

I found a plush battery-powered pillow for Eli on Amazon that lights up and changes colors. It was random and inexpensive, but soft and fun in the dark when he has trouble falling asleep. He loved it.

I’ll get down from my soap box now, and hope I don’t sound ungrateful for relatives who want to spend money to make my kids happy at this time of year.

I’d just love my kids to look back on their childhood holidays with nostalgia– as I do–  and look forward to every year, knowing it will be filled with unexpected bounty.

Are your holidays full of surprises? Tell me in the comments!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carpool Candy 2014 Holiday Gift Guide for Kids

Here’s the third and final installment of gift guides! Hope you found something good in the gift guides for ladies and gentlemen. Holiday goodies continue with kids stuff!

While putting this list together, I planned to separate boys and girls for easier shopping, but realized I didn’t want to perpetuate gender stereotypes. I bet there are boys who’d love a cooking kit and girls who’d want a basketball mug, so I mixed it up. There’s also something for all ages– from 4 year olds to fussy teens.

Click on the name of the gift for website links to buy or get more info. All different price points included. And please note that I get nada from any of these vendors. (Hopefully they’ll be cool with me swiping their photos and we’ll call it even.)

These suggestions are my gift to you, loyal readers. If you want to throw some good will my way, share the link to this list on social media. The price is right, and no wrapping!

Happy shopping!

Purl Soho kniting starter kit on carpoolcandy.com

Knitting starter kit — If your gal is crafty, this kit could inspire a new passion, or add to her yarn collection. It includes enough soft Merino wool to knit a scarf, plus birch needles and an instruction book. ($62)

constructive plate set on carpoolcandy.com

Construction plate & utensils— For the kid who loves trucks and/or needs a push to clean his/her plate. ($18)

Uncommon Goods Mr Food Face on carpoolcandy.com

For older kids (and maybe some adults!) how fun is Mr. Food Face? There’s a Mrs. Food Face to accessorize too. ($12)

Lululemon bag on carpoolcandy.com
LuLu Lemon bag— Lulu Lemon has became a coveted brand for young girls. This nylon cross-body bag is a great size, has an adjustable strap, and features special pockets for her cell phone and sunglasses. ($68)

Zara terez leggings gumballs on carpoolcandy.com

Zara terez pink leggings on carpoolcandy.com

Crazy leggings— I don’t have girls but the hippest little gals I know are wearing funky leggings from designer Zara Terez. Some look like blown-up photographs of candy and cereal, others are cartoonish, vintage, or psychedelic. They seem to know no age limit! ($48)

selfie wand on carpoolcandy.com

Selfie wand-– Selfies aren’t going away. Kids– especially teens– love capturing their every move. This magic wand makes it easier to get cool backdrops and more people involved. ($25)

Pedi sox assortment on carpoolcandy.com

Pedi-socks — If you have a girl who likes to pamper herself, pamper her further with these adorable socks that keep your tootsies warm while preserving your pedicure. Available in many patterns and colors, they may also appeal to girls who like to wear flip-flops all year long. ($12)

Whoozizit charger stickers on carpoolcandy.com

iPhone recharger stickers — If your house is like mine, there’s a lot of fighting over who took the recharger. These clever sticker sets make identifying chargers a cinch. ($13 for 4)

Restoration Hardware faux fur slippers on carpoolcandy.com

Faux fur slippers— This furry footwear evokes fireside at the ski lodge. They’re a bit more sophisticated than UGGs at a much cozier price. ($19)

drivers license kit on carpoolcandy.com

 

New License kit— Older teens are hard to buy for but this kit is a nod to their new maturity and responsibility, and who wouldn’t love fuzzy dice? ($25)

Pull apart Olaf on carpoolcandy.com

Talking Olaf— If your kids’ Frozen obsession hash’t cooled off, this Olaf doll can be pulled apart and put back together AND will sleigh you with jokes. ($23)

pottery barn gold star glitter pillows on carpoolcandy.com

Gold star glitter pillows— Show her she shines bright in your eyes with these fun pillows for a chair or bed. She’ll probably think the sparkly cat is also adorbs. ($36)

pottery barn flower pillows on carpoolcandy.com

If she’s more preppie than glitzy, try these monogrammed pillows. ($22-30)

KidStir TacoTruckBox on carpoolcandy.com

Cooking kits-– Foodies can choose from baking yummy treats, or cooking sweet breakfasts or gourmet tacos. The taco kit comes with 3 Mexican recipes, fun food facts, menu suggestions, cooking tools, and all the ingredients.  ($25 for single kit or $60 for 3 months)

RH voice changer on carpoolcandy.com

Voice changer – Answer the phone like a robot or record a voicemail like a spaceman. Kids will love the 9 different voice-disguising effects. You’ll like the big fun for a small price. ($12)

hoop mug on carpoolcandy.comHoop mug–Ceramic mug is perfect for shooting marshmallows into hot chocolate or crackers into soup. ($24)

receiver gloves on carpoolcandy.com

 

Football receiver gloves — My sports-obsessed boys don’t play on a football team but love to toss the pigskin around in the park or backyard. They say these gloves are the coolest new thing because when you put your hands together to receive the ball, they create a design or spell out a logo. ($35)
cubebot on carpoolcandy.com

Wooden robot — How’s this for a mix of old and new? A puzzle and toy, this beautifully carved wooden robot turns into a cube. ($20)

grommet zipline kit on carpoolcandy.com

Zipline kit — We want the kids to back away from the screens and play outside more, yes? Here’s a great motivator. This kit will help you (or your handyman) set up a zipline in your backyard. And check out the light-up version for night zipping. ($120)

uncommon goods smartphone projector on carpoolcandy.comSmart phone projector— Kids can see their favorite YouTube videos and Instagram pix blown up on any wall with this simple box. Great for parties too. ($27)

grommet bracelet maker on carpoolcandy.comFriendship bracelet tool— — Maybe she’s graduated from the Rainbow Loom but still needs to get her craft on. This handy gadget was invented by a mom who saw her daughter struggling to make more intricate bracelet styles. The tool spins, and you create colorful designs, loops, zigzags and more. ($35)

thirty-one bags on carpoolcandy.comMonogrammed tote bag — Thirty-one makes sturdy, fun bags of virtually any size and shape– from lunch bags to totes to cinch-sacks– in tons of patterns.

thirty-one cinch sack on carpoolcandy.com

The cinch sack can be monogrammed  for a personal touch. Perfect for sleepovers and the price is nice. ($20)

grommet inroad tape on carpoolcandy.com
Portable road tape— I love this idea for little kids, especially when traveling or visiting relatives. Keep some Matchbox cars in a bag, put the tape down on any floor or table and you have an instant playground that stimulates imagination. The tape won’t damage surfaces or leave a sticky residue. You can even use it for decorating. ($13)

Japanese marbling kit on carpoolcandy.com

Marbling paint kit— For the kid into art, this kit teaches Japanese marbling technique. ($16)

Hammacher Darth Vader toaster on carpoolcandy.comKitschy toasters-– If your kids are into certain pop culture icons, this may help you get them out of the bed in the morning. The Star Wars logo as Darth Vader transforms innocent slices of bread into sinister breakfast tokens of evil. ($50)

Hello Kitty toaster on carpoolcandy.com

If Hello Kitty is more your style, she comes on toast too.

If you don’t find everything you need on these lists, check out the 2012 gift guides for kids here and 2013’s here.

Carpool Candy 2014 Holiday Gift Guide for Men

Hope you found something good in the gift guide for ladies. Now onto my list for gentlemen.

Click on the name of the gift for website links to buy or get more info. All different price points included. And please note that I get nada from any of these vendors. (Hopefully they’ll be cool with me swiping their photos and we’ll call it even.)

These suggestions are my gift to you, loyal readers. If you want to throw some good will my way, share the link to this list on social media. The price is right, and no wrapping!

Happy shopping!

polaroid camra on carpoolcandy.comRetro Polaroid instant camera.— Remember this guy? This old school camera in bright, fun colors produces instant color photos the size of a business card. Great for camera buffs and fans of instant gratification. ($99)

Vineyard Vines tie on carpoolcandy.com

Vineyard Vines NFL ties on carpoolcandy.com

Festive ties-– I know, I know, ties are traditionally as exciting as a lump of coal, but Vineyard Vines has taken tie style to new levels with crazy cravats featuring everything from his favorite dog, to sports team, cocktail, and college. Click on the photos to see designs close-up. ($85)small-whiskey-rocks on carpoolcandy.com

Whiskey stones— Reusable soapstone cubes keep liquor perfectly chilled without diluting the flavor. Also can be heated to keep drinks warm. Hot toddy anyone? ($20)

golf ball stamp on carpoolcandy.com

Golf ball stamp— This handy gadget allows your pro to label his golf balls to keep track of the ones that got away. ($30)

grommet vewdo balance board on carpoolcandy.comBalance board— If you’re man likes to stay in shape, he’ll love this balance board for indoors and outdoors, that works muscles whether he boards on snow or water. You rock it like a see-saw, which engages the core and increases balance– good skills for any sport. ($135)

everlane cashmere men hoodie on carpoolcandy.com

Cashmere hoodie –The eco-friendly company Everlane is completely transparent about how they make and sell their high-quality products, so their prices are reasonable and you can feel good about buying. This hoodie comes in several colors of thick cashmere ($140) but there’s also a cotton cashmere version ($75.)

silicone keyboard protector on carpoolcandy.com

Keyboard protector— Much cooler and more efficient than a pocket protector, this light silicone cover keeps your keyboard pristine and hugs the keys perfectly so you won’t miss a letter. ($24)

Ballparks book on carpoolcandy.com

Sports photo books— Beautiful photos and history for sports buffs in these hardcover books. Perfect for planning a bucket list. ($15)

golf courses of the world book on carpoolcandy.com

If baseball aint his thang,  this one on best golf courses in the world..

everlane mens weekender bag on carpoolcandy.com

Weekender bag — If he decides to take that dream trip to a famous ballpark or golf course, will he have a nice bag to pack in? I know Wilson could use a grown up bag for weekend getaways that doesn’t look like a worn out knapsack.  This cotton twill and leather one is a good size and looks smart.  ($95)

mario bedescu mens grooming kit on carpoolcandy.com

Men’s grooming basics:  For the man who likes to pamper himself, or perhaps needs to up his hygiene game a bit. These products aren’t frufru– they contain natural ingredients and vitamins, and don’t smell girly, just clean. Cleansing gel, pre-shave conditioner, shaving cream, face scrub and shaving lotion included. ($63)

salami of the month olympic provisions on carpoolcandy.com

Taste of the month— For food connoisseurs, Oregon’s Olympic Provisions crafts 12 different salamis from northwest pork using “old-world technique,” whatever that is.  ($145) If cured meat isn’t his craving, how about testing his manhood with a hot sauce of the month, with names like Arrogant Bastard Ale Jalapeño Hot Sauce, to measure his mettle. ($40 for gift pack, $118 for 12 months)

gameofthrones_tshirt on carpoolcandy.comPop culture t-shirts— If your guy is into TV and movies, there are tons of sites offering different styles from show logos to famous movie or TV lines, to more subtle ones like this family crest from Game of Thrones. ($19)

breaking bad tshirt on carpoolcandy.com

If you don’t find what you need on this site, go to the shop section of network sites or Amazon where I found this subtle but cool shirt from Walter White’s drug lord’s restaurant from Breaking Bad. ($17)

driftwood recharger on carpoolcandy.com

Driftwood charging dock— I love how this idea is simple and ridiculous all at once. Artisans in Maine find actual driftwood made soft and shiny by nature, and craft it to fit the contours of your cord and smart phone. Modern technology snuggled into a timeless gift from the good earth,  like a piece of functional art. ($72)

Larry David show on carpoolcandy.com

A night with Larry David— I love to give an experience, rather than stuff. If you know a fan of the curmudgeon, he’ll probably love tickets to David’s Broadway debut, A Fish in the Dark. He wrote and stars in the comedy, and it’s only playing for a few weeks, starting in February. This link should get you discount tickets if you act fast. (ticket prices start at $66 and go up to $187)

If you don’t find everything you need on these lists, check out the 2012 gift guide for men here and 2013’s here.

I still haven’t decided on a gift for Wilson. What are you getting the men in your life? Tell me in the comments.