Christmas Gift Giving Ideas 2014


This is a list of games and unisex toys:

1. Connect 4 :: Finn loves Connect 4! This is a favorite from my childhood that I love playing with Finn.

2. Hungry Hungry Hippo :: Finn has started playing this with his best friend Ryder when he comes over which is hilarious to watch. It’s a fun, quick game for kids to play without adults.

3. Elf on the Shelf :: If you don’t have an Elf, it really is a treat!  My mom bought the kids one a few years ago and Chippy (as he’s been named) is one of the highlights of the season.

4. Candyland :: This game does require an adult and some help for younger kids (Finn is 5), but it’s a great game for kids. (We also have Chutes and Ladders… same review.)

5. Dominos :: I bought Finn some Dominos for Christmas this year as I thought it would be great for 2 uses.  One, to help with number, matching and counting, and two, to build tracks and watch them fall over!

6. Cashflow for Kids :: Justin bought this for the kids as he’s very passionate about teaching both kids about money early on. We haven’t played, but I’m looking forward to seeing this game in our house for many years.

7. Toy Guitar :: Finn received this many years ago and still loves it! Evie plays with it now, as well. His friends have rock band shows often.

8. Toy Piano :: My cousin’s family bought Finn this piano a few years ago. Evie is now starting to love it. As with the guitar, some great (loud) songs and rock band shows have been had with these toys!


1. Kindle Kids :: Finn always steals my iPad in the afternoon and I always get a bit nervous. I’ve heard far too many tales about what kids get into and see when their parents are cooking dinner while the kids have screen time. I’m hoping for a Black Friday deal, Amazon! The FreeTime app really is the selling point on the Kindle device for the age of our kids (5 and 2 1/2). While this will predominately be Finn’s toy, Evie will have her own profile and be able to use it while Finn is at school next year.

2. Sleeping Bag :: We are looking forward to some movie nights in the family room now that the kids are a bit older. Sleeping bags are a must, so Santa just might have this in his sleigh!

3. Tinker Toys :: I loved Tinker Toys growing up, although I had the real wood toys. Tinker Toys are a great way to let creativity take over. Finn loves creating and bending and designing.

4. Legos :: Lego sets are fantastic, but the general pieces are a gold mine.  This is where Finn really gets the chance to use his imagination and freely build his own creations.

5. Slippers :: We love slippers in our house and Finn’s Mickey slippers from last Christmas now have 4 holes. Needless to say, Santa has big plans for his toes this Christmas!


1. Elsa Barbie :: Evie has this Elsa doll and LOVES her! She’s just started getting into dolls and babies (she’s 2 1/2), so any Barbie doll is a treat for her right now.

2. Slippers :: Like Finn, Evie will be in the market for new slippers in the next few months. Santa has that covered.

3. Sleeping Bag :: We are looking forward to some movie nights in the family room now that the kids are a bit older. Sleeping bags are a must, so Santa just might have this in his sleigh!

4. Minnie Mouse Kitchen :: We debated on a bigger kitchen and landed on this one after talking to several friends who shared the length of time their daughters were interested in their kitchen sets. That and they take up SO.MUCH.SPACE.  This one seems to be a happy medium. Evie is going to BEAM!

5. Toddler Elsa :: All things Frozen are still pretty much amazing to Evie, so the toddler doll, more of a “play doll” than the Barbie, has been a draw for her every time we pass it in the stores.


These are Justin’s top picks for Christmas:

1. Nike Fuelband :: He received this awhile back and still wears it. Although not perfect (is there a perfect fitness tracking tool?), it’s a great way for him to track day to day differences and gauge his workouts and activity.

2. Field Notes :: If you’ve met Justin, you’ve probably seen these Field Notes being used. His thoughts, business ideas, notes, etc. are all trapped in these mini pocket-sized books. His favorite are the dot grid books.

3. Rich Dad Poor Dad :: As Justin says, “if you’re serious about investing and finances, this book is key.” It’s a great place to start if you’d like to look outside the standard “work-hard-save-your-money” mantra.

4. Cashflow 101 :: Justin’s been paying the Cashflow app on his phone like a mad man. He recently bought this so we could play together.

5. Beats Pill :: I bought this for Justin’s birthday this year and he uses it daily. If you have a music loving guy, this is a great gift!

6. Chemex :: I bought this for Justin last Christmas and he still says it’s the best gift he’s ever received. Winning! Justin is a self-admitted coffee snob. Once he started brewing his beans the way our grandparents likely did (less fancy gadget, I’m sure!), he says he’ll never go back to a pot or Keurig.

Her1. Cuddle Duds :: Last year I received my first Cuddle Duds and I wondered why I’d waited to long. They are the perfect extra layer for the winter months.

2. Beaba BabyCook :: I loved making the kids baby food. Although there are a variety of gadgets out there, I loved this guy. This would be a great gift for an expecting mom who plans to make her own baby food.

3. Earring Tree :: I recently bought a similar tree from World Market as I have accumulated so many dangly earrings (I love them) that I couldn’t see them in my jewelry box. A hanging option is necessary for dangly earring girls. Also consider gift cards or fun pieces from Francesca’s or Stella & Dot.

4. Clarisonic :: My parents bought me a Clarisonic years ago and I still swear by it.  There was a season I was “out of habit” and recently jumped back on the bandwagon. It really does make a difference. Plus, it’s a great treat for your special girl as most ladies don’t buy these fun things for themselves!

So there you have it! 28 Christmas ideas for all the members in your family. Now that I’ve shared my secrets, I’m dying to know yours!

What are you eyeing on Black Friday or Cyber Monday? What are your kids favorite toys? What can’t you or your significant other live without?

Grocery Shopping Staples: Trader Joe’s

Hands in the air if you’ve heard Garth Brooks new song, “Mom.” If you haven’t, the song starts around 2:25 in the video below.

I think in the addition to the lyrics, the reactions of the women watching is just the best! Just sheer weeping! :)

Garth Brooks holds a dear place in my heart for so many reasons. One reason is one of my favorite memories from high school.  A group of my 6 best girl friends and 4 best guy friends all road tripped to Lincoln our senior year to see Garth Brooks on his farewell tour. We had nose bleed seats until (long story short), some old, strange man came up behind us, started chit-chatting and offered the girls FRONT ROW SEATS. (Sorry, dudes!)

Can I just say this was the concert of concerts?!?!  We were all hoarse by the time we drove back to Omaha and on cloud 9 for months after. Heck, I’m still on cloud 9! (Sweet corduroy overalls, right? I’ll just say it for you!)


Anyway, I was reminded of that story as I heard 2 gals talking at Trader Joe’s the other day about going to one of Garth’s shows up in Minnesota recently. One of my favorite 17-year-old memories!

I used to shop more regularly at Trader Joe’s, but now probably only go once every 6-8 weeks. It seemed when I was going on a regular basis, they were ALWAYS out of something I needed and I ended up having to make a trip to another store… the whole issue I’d been trying to avoid.

So, I have my TJ’s staples and usually buy 3-5 of each when I go there so we are well stocked until I return.

Ezekiel Bread: While I normally buy this at Hy-Vee, this is $1 cheaper at Trader Joe’s, so I always buy a loaf or 2 while I’m there for the freezer.


Buns: There is a whole wheat hamburger and hot dog bun at Trader Joe’s that have far better ingredients than those at Hy-Vee (and that the kids will eat). I usually buy a few bags and throw them in the freezer, especially in the summer.


Shrimp: Wild caught shrimp is insanely expensive, but I refuse to buy the farm raised Thailand crap that seems to be everywhere. (This is basically fish from the sewer.) This shrimp has gone up $3 in the last year. Trader Joe’s used to carry wild caught scallops that we loved, but they have been out for at least 9 months. Augh. (Beware of that seafood blend in the image. I think those are farm raised. Much of the cooked shrimp is also farm raised.)


Animal Crackers: Finn loves these animal crackers like it’s no one’s business! Again, certainly not the most healthy option, but not filled with high fructose corn syrup and strange additives.


Organic Pops: The kids LOVE suckers, but I always cringe when I see the long list of crazy colors added to them. This version doesn’t have that, so the kids don’t bounce off the walls and lose their mind after a sucker. It’s a treat I actually enjoy giving them. (By the way, the kids equate the bank with suckers, so I keep a stash of these in the car for when we hit the drive-thru.)


Crackers: I don’t really understand why these are “reduced guilt.” Usually anything like that (low-fat/no-fat), I’m suspicious of  because they’ve normally replaced the real flavor (real fat) with fake flavor (fake fat). Maybe I’m missing something on these? They also say 50% less fat than their original woven crackers, which I’ve never seen. Do you have the original in your store?


Crackers: The kids aren’t fans of these crackers, but I love them!


Chips: Totally calling my husband out, he DEVOURED these recently with avocado and salsa and then declared, “these are the best chips ever.” Maybe he was just super hungry?


Banana Chips: Every once in awhile Evie and I love to snack on banana chips in the morning while Finn is at school. Sweet and crunch all rolled into one.


Olives: My obsession with black olives continues…


Spaghetti Sauce: I always have a few jars on hand of this clean sauce for an “oh crap, what’s for dinner” night. It’s great with noodles or a sauce for chicken. The mushrooms are tiny, so if you’re anti (like my kids), you won’t even know they are there. Win win!


Black Beans: Awhile back I started soaking beans overnight for dinners. Of course there are plenty of times I’ve forgot to soak them, so I always have a few cans on hand for last minute additions to dinners.


Soup: While this soup is not dairy-free and OK for the kids, it’s a staple for me in the winter months especially when Justin is away or for quick weekend meals for the adults. It’s not chunky, just incredibly smooth and rich in flavor.


Mustard: Lots of mustards have weird ingredients and colors. This is a better option.


Ketchup: Like mustard, so many ketchups are filled with lots of sugars and high fructose corn syrup. This is a better option. (Note: beware of “sugar-free” ketchups as most store bought sugar-free ketchups are replaced with another corn product that is likely GMO and what I would consider the cousin of HFCS.)


Pickles: Like olives, I love me some pickles! So do the kids. Most pickles are filled with crazy colors to give that bright, neon green color. These are not.


Almond Butter: While we’ve started making our own almond butter (“super butter”), there are times we are in a pinch and need to have a pre-made jar on hand. I always have a few for those moments. The Trader Joe’s brand is far less expensive than any almond butter at Hy-Vee.


KerryGold: I love KerryGold! Not only does it come from my motherland (fun fact: I was named after County Kerry, Ireland), the cows are grass-fed and the cheese is delicious. We love the Dubliner. (If you belong to Costco, this is also available cheap.) Although I try and limit my dairy intake, I do like some cheese every now and again. This cheese with the woven crackers and some apples slices – heaven!


Oatmeal: The kids are on an oatmeal kick. Nearly every morning when I ask what they’d like, the answer is “OATMEAL!” This is my go-to oatmeal (it’s also gluten-free for those who need a GF option). The kids favorite additions are chia seeds, coconut flakes, almond butter and local honey. Every so often I make an extra serving for myself!


Whole Foods staples to come.

What are your Trader Joe’s staples?

My Mommy Mind

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  • It SNOWED this weekend which means the kids think Christmas is happening TODAY. Finn literally flopped to the ground and wept when I took out his Spiderman calendar and prepared him him for the wait. How did we talk him off the ledge? Hanging Christmas stockings :) #sorryimnotsorry #ineverusehasthtags #idontgetthem #hashtagthathashtag
  • Finn went with his best friend Saturday afternoon to Big Hero 6. He came home so jacked! Apparently it’s a fantastic movie, so if you need a great family movie – that’s it!
  • Speaking of which, I always get excited when I find the holiday TV show schedule. It’s been found! (Sometimes you have to click the link a few times.)

What is your favorite family-friendly holiday show?  I used to LOVE the Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer in claymation. Do you remember that? The kids are loving the Cat in the Hat Christmas special found on Hulu Plus right now. What about your family?