Tag Archives: holidays

Stocking stuffer ideas for tweens & teens

When it comes to Christmas, the catalogs and store shelves are filled with fun ideas for the younger crowd. But what about when kids get older? Toys are generally not as exciting, and the gift options become fewer and more expensive. This doesn’t exactly make it easy for Santa’s helpers to know what to put in a teen’s stocking…

In our house, stockings are just as exciting as the bigger gifts – even in the teenage years. But what the kids don’t realize is that I struggle with what to fill them with every year! So this year I enlisted the help of a few Facebook friends, and together we came up with this list of items that teens and tweens might love.

P.S. Feel free to add to this list in the comments!

Stocking stuffer ideas for tweens & teens:
– Silly socks
– nail polish or lip gloss
– candy, gum, mints, etc.
– retro toy from Cost Plus
– magazine
– book
– earrings, bangles, etc.
– pen and journal
– lotions and bath soaps
– travel games
– card games
– cell phone accessories
– earbuds

Gift card ideas
– gas
– coffee
– smoothies
– fast food
– movies
– restaurant
– clothing

IOU ideas
– night out sans siblings
– night with later curfew
– night off from chores
– activity of their choice

50 things for your teenager’s Easter basket

When you think of Easter baskets, you probably think of young toddlers running out to see what the Easter Bunny has left for them. You may have visions of tiny toys and plastic eggs filled with jellybeans. There’s magic in those grass filled baskets, and it’s not wasted on toddlers who will marvel at every single surprise they discover Easter morning.

But what about the teenagers?

When I was growing up, my mom made it a point to never take away the magic we felt at holidays when we were younger. Well into our adult years, we received a stocking full of small gifts at Christmas, a bunch of pink and red covered chocolate treats at Valentine’s Day, and an Easter basket full of trinkets and goodies at Easter. And now in my own house, I am continuing the tradition.

Thing is, however, it is much more difficult to find fun things to give teens at Easter when the majority of seasonal treats are geared towards kids under the age of 10. This year is even harder as we work to steer clear of all things sugary – i.e. anything that is traditional to give at Easter.

So with a little help from other parents and some searching on my own, I have put together my own list of things, edible and not, a teenager might want to discover in their basket Easter morning.

Happy Easter!

1. CDs
2. DVDs
3. Gift cards to their favorite store
4. Nostalgic kid toys (wind-up cars, Lego men, yoyos)
5. Pez dispenser
6. Gum
7. Themed baskets (nail spa, music list, hair, etc)
8. Movie tickets
9. Family coupons (for a later curfew, get out of chores free, etc)
10. Gas card
11. Nail polish
12. Lip gloss
13. Magazine (cars, beauty, or whatever their interest)
14. Poster of their favorite actor/band
15. iTunes gift card
16. Sunglasses
17. Perfume or cologne
18. Toothbrush
19. Water bottle
20. Travel coffee mug
21. Book
22. Phone accessories
23. Ear buds
24. Comic book
25. Disposable camera
26. Hair accessories
27. Flip flops
28. Beach towel
29. Sketch pad
30. Journal
31. Socks
32. Gel pens
33. Smelly pens
34. Glitter glue
35. Sharpies
36. Kite
37. Small package of cookies
38. Snapple
39. Crackers
40. Subway gift card
41. Keychain
42. Hat
43. Chapstick
44. Lotion
45. Flower seeds
46. Video game
47. Jewelry
48. Wallet
49. Purse
50. Dollar coins

What else?

Does the Easter Bunny still visit your teenager? What kind of treats do they give your teen?

Gift ideas for the broke at heart

IOU Santa

About this time every year, I can be found juggling a half-done gift list, trying to figure out how I can finish shopping for everyone on that list from the dwindling funds in my bank account. Regardless of how carefully I plan financially for this time of year, it always seems like it’s never enough.

With Christmas less than two weeks away, this is about the point when I start hyperventilating.

The one thing I have sworn not to do is dread the holidays. I’ve come close, this year probably being the hardest as I face the reality of paying off the bills from our recent wedding while simultaneously preparing for the most expensive holiday of the year.

It just seems like such a waste to be overcome with feelings of negativity when buying presents for others. It defeats the purpose behind the holidays when you get someone a gift out of obligation and dread instead of because you were thinking of them when you happened across the perfect gift.

So this past month I’ve been racking my brain for creative ideas, trying to find items that cost a lot less money but still tell the recipient just how much they mean to me.

One of my favorite ideas was inspired by one of my co-workers. She is digging deep into her treasure trove of recipes and putting together a mini cookbook for her brother. In exchange, her brother promised to build her raised garden beds in her backyard in the spring, utilizing his construction skills to save her time and money with his talents. I love this idea of gifting presents of service, because it can translate to just about anything and is easy for friends to give to one another. Single parents would probably love the gift of free babysitting. Those who know their way around cars can give free oil changes or headlight and windshield wiper replacements. And I don’t know anyone who would turn away a free day of cleaning or the promise of a fully cooked dinner.

People who are ruled by their right brain have a bit of an advantage in this department of creative gift giving. Regardless of how cool all of the season’s expensive gadgets and toys are, nothing holds as much meaning as the gift that was made specifically for the person it’s given to.

If you’re a writer, compose a poem and place it in a pretty frame. Artists can give presents of their artwork. Create collages that have a personal touch, filled with everything from photos to 3-D items like pieces from nature (think fall leaves, a pine cone or acorn), buttons, or fabric. Put together a collection of recipes, like my co-worker did, binding them with a decorative cover.

If you know how to sew, make something everyone can use like potholders or decorative throw pillows. You can even collect a few interesting beads and put together eclectic earrings or a unique bracelet that no one else can buy in a store.

For kids, be clear that just because it’s the holidays doesn’t mean they’re bound to get everything on their list. It’s actually better if they don’t. First off, most kids will receive gifts from their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other family members. Let that take some of the pressure off you. But beyond that, it’s better to set the precedent while they’re young that on Christmas morning they’ll receive only a few of the items they asked for instead of all of them. It’s likely that once all the presents are opened, they’ll be so focused on what they have that they’ll forget about what they didn’t get.

And of course, it’s also important to teach kids the art of giving. It’s never too early to help kids give gifts to other family members, allowing them to feel what it’s like when the other person opens a gift they picked out just for them.

Other gift ideas can be theme related. Give a “Cozy Night In” by stitching an edge on a pretty piece of fleece to create a blanket, and include a favorite book. Offer the gift of a favorite memory by framing a photo of you and the recipient, and then include a note about what why this day was so special. Send the kids on a treasure hunt for their gift by giving them a map that leads to different clues that lead to their present. Or, if a bunch of your friends or family members are in the same financial bind you are, host a gift exchange party where everyone brings one unmarked gift to trade.

Some inexpensive gifts I found:

Life of pi purseLife of Pi Coin Purse:  Cost Plus is doing this massive marketing promotion for the movie of Life of Pi, which I don’t really mind because I just read the book (and LOVED it), and plan on seeing the movie before it leaves theaters.  Plus, it fits into their worldly theme with all of the Indian saris, clothing, jewelry, and other such items.  My favorite is this mirrored coin purse in orange (it comes in fuchsia too) for only $12.99.  I almost bought myself one, before I remembered that I was buying gifts for other people and not for me.  But who knows, maybe Santa will buy this for me…  Also, Cost Plus has deals of the day going on every day, so you’ll want to sign up for their email list or check their site regularly to find some great gifts for a lot less.  www.worldmarket.com

MrsMeyers_OrangeClove_ScentedCandle_webLMrs. Meyers Holiday Candle Tin:  Candles are always a nice touch for stocking stuffers or a gift for a friend.  This particular candle is in a fresh pine scent, or (my favorite) an orange clove scent.  When lit, it fills the room with that fragrance and sets a lovely mood.  The soy-based candle not only smells delicious, it comes in a reusable can.  Plus, it’s part of the Mrs. Meyers line of all natural products, which is always a good thing.  It runs for about $3.99, and can be found at Target or Whole Foods.  More info at www.mrsmeyers.com.

flashlightsFinger flashlights:  I came across these in a pricey catalog, and was instantly enthralled with them.  But I couldn’t fathom spending as much money as they were asking on these tiny gadgets.  So I did a little sleuthing and found a box of them over at Amazon.com for less than $8.  The kids will love having light wars with each other, sneaking in a little bit of midnight reading, and just being cool with a bunch of flashlights strapped to their fingers.

hand tattooHand tattoos:  A picture is worth a thousand words.  And these are pictures ON YOUR HAND!  These are awesome!  They come in either 2 sets of 8 animal or monster tattoos each (!), and can be found at UncommonGoods.com for only $12

Oriental Trading Company:  This website was a godsend when it came to planning a wedding.  And for parents with young kids, it can be a godsend for you too.  They have so many arts & crafts ideas, as well as perfect little gifts for the stocking, it’s ridiculous.  Peruse their website and you’ll see what I mean.  www.orientaltrading.com.

st jude bearGive back to charity:  There are countless charities that need our help all year long, but especially at Christmas when giving is in the front of people’s minds.  One of these charities is through Kmart, who is collecting funds for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital through December 29.  They’re making it easy to donate by giving an option at checkout to add $1, $5, or $10 to your bill at checkout, funds that will go directly to St. Jude’s.  Further giving can be accomplished by purchasing a St. Jude bear ornament for $5 each, of which Kmart will donate $1 for each ornament sold.  kmart.com

What are some of your gift shortcuts when times are tight?

Holiday Letter 2011

Dear friends and family,

This has been a whirlwind of a year, and I can’t believe we’ve actually reached the end! So much has happened in 2011, making this one of my favorite years yet.

Earlier this year, DQ became a girl. It’s true. She traded in her tomboy looks for more feminine clothing and a bit of make-up. But not to worry, the skater shoes will never leave my pretty daughter’s feet. And I had a bit of a girl revolution myself, making a new step to nurture my female friendships instead of focusing solely on being a mom.

I also had to come to grips with the fact that my daughter is changing as she grows older – and that’s not such a bad thing.  While we’ve always been close, and I suspect we always will, this year I finally had to accept that some walls are ok to be in place between a mother and her teenage daughter.

As for the Taz, we actually survived the dreaded 4th grade Mission Project.  Ever have to do one of those?  Let’s just say I never thought I’d have a need to paint cardboard with sand-infused white paint, or ever have to unstick myself from so much hot glue.  Wait, whose project was it?

This year, the Taz also got to spend a ton more time on the pitcher’s mound.  It was incredible to see my son show his true talent and maturity in baseball, even if it still meant his forgetful nature never truly left…

Having done the single mom thing for so long, I learned the importance of asking for help. Of course, that single mom adventure came to a close when Mr. W asked our little family to move in with him in the spring, transforming us from a family of three to a family of five. The sudden changes, however, caused a little bit of strife – particularly with DQ. Middle school was already tough enough, as middle school usually is. However, a lesson from my own childhood taught me that a cup of coffee can go a really long ways.

This year I became friends with my thighs, finding beauty in my imperfections. I also discovered that imperfection could be beautiful in love as Mr. W and I got used to moving around each other in our newly blended home.

In October, all of our lives changed with one tiny question….. Mr. W asked me to marry him! We were on cloud nine….until we had to break it to the kids. Needless to say, they just didn’t take it that well. Fortunately, a family vacation gave us a chance to get used to the idea while also working at blending as a family. It’s been an uphill battle ever since, including a family adventure of picking out our first tree together as a family.

2011 holds so many wonderful memories, and 2012 has much to look forward to. Thank you for coming along with me on our adventures as they unfold.  Your comments, advice, and friendship have meant more than I can tell you!

Here’s to another New Year!

Crissi and family

Happy holidays!

This time of year brings about tons of emotions and levels of feeling in what is supposed to be a joyous time of year. For some of us, we’re scrambling just to get it all done. For others, we’re sitting back comfortably and enjoying the holidays. Some of you are enjoying your first exciting holiday with a tiny new member of your family, and some of you are just trying to survive your first dreaded holiday with an empty nest.

I wish each and every one of you a wonderful holiday season filled with love, and remembrance as to what this season is all about. When everything is said and done, it’s not about the presents or how much money you’ve spent. It’s about the people you call friends and family, and a time to focus on all there is to be grateful for. Friends, we are all truly blessed.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Season’s Greetings, and love to you all!

Crissi Dillon

Money saving tips for gift giving

On the SantaRosaMom.com forums, a question was asked regarding what the normal amount is for gift giving at the holidays.  Is it $50 per child?  Is it $500?  More?  The answer varies for each family.

I feel so fortunate that we are able to afford gifts this year for the kids to open on Christmas morning.  But there’ve been some years when I saved all year long and still had barely enough to make Christmas special.  Or so I thought.  It seems some of our poorest years were actually our most special as more meaning was put behind family and all we are blessed with rather than what we received off our Christmas lists.

With the economy the way it is, I know there are plenty of families in tight spots as the holidays loom.  It can make the season of giving seem pretty unfriendly.  But there are ways to get around this. Here are six ideas to help you save a few dollars and ensure a very merry holiday season.

1. Go small
My sisters and I would usually tear through the larger gifts at Christmas, but truly savor the ones placed in our stockings.  These were gifts that we never asked for, but took the most thought because our parents picked them out just for us.  Years later, we still look forward to our stocking gifts most of all.  I’ll never forget our very loud reaction the one year my mother insinuated we might be too old for this tradition.  As a result, I’m in my 30’s and still receive a stocking full of fun trinkets that include everything from decorative socks to wind-up toys.  My suggestion is to buy one big gift, or even just rely on relatives for the big gifts, and focus on the stocking.

2. Utilize Craigslist
One of the moms on the forums suggested this avenue as a way to save money, and what she has done herself in years when pennies needed to be pinched.  Some of those larger items your child wants can actually be bought in good second-hand condition without having to pay full retail price.  I’ve seen Power Wheels for $150 or less, toys for under $20, videos and DVDs, bikes, play kitchens, games, and more.  You can even find some quality clothes online from kids who have outgrown them faster than they can wear them out.  Why pay tons of money on something that is still new to them?

3. Skip the baby gifts
Truth be told, babies have no idea what day it is or even what they want for the holidays.  They aren’t even old enough to unwrap presents.  So why spend a fortune on gifts for them on a retail-driven holiday?  Use this time to purchase anything you actually need for your baby – like onesies, clothes, bottles, baby food or even just diapers – and let the relatives spoil your child rotten.  Trust me, it does not make you a bad parent, it makes you a smart one.

4. Toy swap
I’m sure it wouldn’t be hard to find other families who are looking to save a few pennies this season.  So why not trade toys?  Have your child gather up all their toys they don’t need anymore and host a toy swap party with a few of your mom friends.  You’ll rid yourself of all those toys you’re tired of looking at, and gain some new-to-your-child presents that cost nothing more than a little effort.

5. Make your gifts
Show off your baking skills and save a few dollars by baking cookies, bread, or something else equally delicious for your friends and family this year.  Need some ideas?  Check out some of these submissions for BiteClub’s Cookie Contest with some delicious tried and true recipes by locals all over Sonoma County.  Or get crafty and create a unique one-of-a-kind gift for those you love.  They won’t have anything like it, and they’ll appreciate the thought and care you took to create something just for them.

6. Holiday Service
Just this morning, my son and I sat at the stoplight on our way to school.  On the sidewalk was the old homeless man and his dog we see almost every single day.  Outside, it was colder than freezing.  Judging by the early hour they were standing there, they’d probably spent the night in this cold.  “Should we give him something?” my son asked, and I nodded as I handed him a couple dollars.  We pulled up to him and opened the window, and my son handed him the money.  “Happy holidays,” the man said.  “Rusty and I thank you.”  As we drove away, my son told me how warm he felt inside from this small gesture.  Imagine how wonderful a gift that would be for your child – to feel what it’s like to give to someone less fortunate than them.  Give them the gift of a warm heart by adopting someone from the Giving Tree, offering time serving food at a shelter, donating food or clothing, or even just visiting some forgotten souls at the convalescent hospital.  Trust me, this may just end up being their favorite gift of the season.

What have you done in the past (or are doing now) to save money on holiday gifts?

Best gifts for teens

The most difficult group of people to buy gifts for? Teens. They’ve moved beyond the latest Elmo toys and those cute outfits we love to see them in, and have now developed a taste in style that is as separate from ours as they can get. Needless to say, this makes gift buying for them extremely difficult. Having several teens on my own gift-giving list this year (and knowing firsthand how horrendous the teen gift-buying experience can be), I’ve compiled a smorgasbord of items that your teen may actually crack a smile over….and utter something more than their usual grunt.

1. Video Games
These are a terribly personal gift, and it’s best if you know what titles your teen is asking for before buying, as well as what the games are about if you’re concerned about content. But if you’re looking to surprise your teen, here are a few titles topping the lists this year (with help from our game blogger, Eric Wittmershaus).
“The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” – A massive, open-world role-playing game full of magic, elves and dragons.
“Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3” – Cutthroat mulitplayer that puts players in the role of various manly men fighting World War III against a Russia run by a group of ultranationalist terrorists
“The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword” – The latest, and possibly greatest, chapter of the Zelda series that has Link tormented by dreams, and scouring the dreamy world of Skyloft for his princess Zelda.
“L.A. Noire” – Detective story set in a stunning re-creation of post-World War II Los Angeles.
“FIFA 12” – Sports gamers will appreciate the improvements in this latest version of the soccer game that features improved gameplay, competitive scenarios, and more.
For more video game titles, check out Eric’s blog at gamewit.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.

2. iGifts
The iPad, iPod Touch, and iPhone are topping the lists for technology this year, according to a Nielson survey. And truthfully, you can’t go wrong with these gifts. Not only do the offer tons of uses beyond just listening to music or scouring the internet, they offer plenty of other gift ideas to go with them – accessories, headphones, protective covers, iTunes gift cards… Your whole family will be set on what to get your teen. Thank you Steve Jobs.

3. eReaders
Teens still enjoy a good book, but eReaders give them the ease of being able to dive into a novel without lugging around something bulky and heavy. Those who enjoy reading several titles at once will especially love the ease a good eReader gives them. Topping the charts is the Kindle 3, followed closely by the Nook Simple Touch Reader. The eReader we recommend with the best memory options (though low battery life) would be the Nook Tablet.

4. Clothing
Tread lightly if you plan on buying your teen fashions. Many teens have a very specific (read: picky) sense of style, and will turn their nose up at most of the things you deem “cute”. If you don’t have a specific sense of what your teen likes to wear, it’s best just to take your kid pre-shopping and let them pick out what you’ll be wrapping up in terms of clothing. Or, just keep the receipts for a few inevitable returns.

5. Livescribe Pulse Smartpen
Possibly the coolest thing this self-described geek has ever seen, it’s a way to make note taking easier. The pen records audio and handwritten notes to make studying and organization so much easier. Drool…. Buy it at Amazon

6. Polaroid 300 Instant Camera
Sure, now everything is digital. But what about the retro coolness of the Polaroid camera? Photo buffs will go gaga over the vintage aspect of shaking out their instant photo for a new spin on picture taking. Comes in black and red at HSN.com.

Still strapped for ideas? Here are a few more:

Preppy teens:
Hair accessories
Perfume or cologne
Locker accessories
Leather-bound journal

Sporty teens:
Carrying bags
Team wear
Athletic shoes
Heart monitor
MP3 player
Snow Goggle Camera

Geektastic teens:
Portable speakers
Eclectic alarm clocks
Gaming Chair
Gadget charging station
Laptop messenger bag
Gaming accessories

New Driver:
Personalized license plate
License plate cover
Fun bumper stickers
Antenna characters
Floor mats
Seat covers
Car speakers

Teen Room decor:
Lava lamp
Room fridge
Glow in the dark decals
Random art
Wall clock
Artistic lamp

And more:
Subscription to online streaming site like Hulu, Pandora, Netflix, or Spotify.
Retro style record players
Artist carrying case
Origami kit
Karaoke machine

Teen Stocking stuffers:
Personalized luggage tags
Uniquely styled USB Flash Drives
Room freshener
Fingerless gloves