Parenting Tales, Points to Ponder

Toy Gifts That Are Worth Buying

If you are in the midst of Christmas shopping for any little people in your life, then hopefully this post is for you!

Since I have been parenting for well over a decade now, you can imagine that I’ve seen my share of toys. Toys have come and (thankfully) toys have gone. I am not a big fan of having oodles of toys lying around and cluttering up my house. Truthfully, I think that sends kids into overload and they don’t even appreciate what they do have.

On that note, I compiled a  little list of toys that our family has either bought or received and have truly been played with for a long time. This is solely based on our experience. I’m sure your family would have a different list.

Melissa and Doug magnetic dress-up dolls. These are great and even come in their own little wooden box and stand for the doll. We have several of these and they have had lots of mileage.

Luckily they sell boy ones too! My little guys like changing their boy from fireman to superhero to knight, or mixing and matching him to look silly.

In all honesty, I have enjoyed all the Melissa and Doug brand toys we have had over the years. Most of them are worth it.

My best friend gave my boys this book from Klutz several years ago. It shows very detailed illustrations of how to make various paper airplane designs. My Andrew in particular still spends hours making these planes. There’s a lot of other great products that the Klutz brand makes as well.

Of course, with names like Kamikaze, Swashbuckler, and The Professional, it makes them that much cooler:)

Legos, Legos, Legos! We love our Legos here. I don’t love stepping on Legos, but they have been a great toy for all my kids. I completely lucked out at a yard sale a couple years back and scored a huge box of mixed pieces for 10 bucks. I have to mention that we do NOT love the Lego kits, just the basic pieces for kids to make their own ideas. Many hours have been spent designing things out of those $10 Legos.

Bristle Blocks. We’ve had ours for ?? years and they still love them.

A Play Kitchen. When my oldest was a toddler I bought him a mini toy kitchen, then years later found a large one at a yard sale. Lots of pretend meals were made on that thing!

Our metal Tonka dump truck has gotten lots and lots of mileage over the years. It has hauled everything from sand, dirt, leaves, and stones to little brothers and sisters. I would recommend this for any boy out there!

In the same vein, we used to have a wooden excavator/backhoe that the kids could sit on and maneuver to dig, scoop, and dump sand or dirt. Eventually we had to get rid of it only because it was worn out from use. That thing was worth every penny!

Toy instruments. One of the other best toys we’ve gotten was 2 toy ukuleles from my Mom for Christmas. My twins played with these for years, making up their own little songs.

A book is always a good gift for people in my household. One of our favorites is The Dangerous Book for Boys. It has all kinds of info and how-to’s that little boys (and big boys) dig.

With all the toy options out there, you still can’t beat giving a kid a good old flashlight.

Or a box!!

Craft/DIY Ideas

Handmade Christmas Series: Red Hot Wreath

Yes, I am doing another repeat post from last year. I have a love/hate relationship with looking back at old postings. (I’m sure some of you fellow bloggers can commiserate!) Some of my old posts make me cringe and wish I could delete them, and others just plain make me smile. This is one that makes me smile. I loved this wreath!


If you’re not into bold colors or prints, I apologize now. The wreath I just made is definitely not for the faint of heart.

See what I mean? A bold red and white print coupled with bright red felt roses. How’d I make it? Let me show you…

I started out with a plain straw wreath form (14″). A foam wreath form would work too.

Taking some vintage fabric, I cut long lengths of it, @5-6″ wide. Folding one edge in as I went, I wrapped it around the wreath form until it was completely covered. I hot glued the ends to hold in place.

Using the same method for making felt roses I used here, I made 9 large red blooms and adhered them to one side of my wreath. That’s it! The results? Well, you’ll either like it or hate it. I’m hoping for like it, but we’ll see.

One thing’s for sure though–any front door with this hanging on it would be impossible to miss!

Craft/DIY Ideas

Handmade Christmas Series: Book Page Wreath

You know I enjoy a good wreath project. This one is a style I have not tried to date, but I LOVE how it turned out!

This did take a little bit of time to make, but it’s all easy stuff. Oh, and you don’t need many supplies either. It’s actually a pretty cheap thing to make, whether it’s for your own door or wall OR as a gift for someone else.

I’ll start by explaining how I did the middle portion. I took a canning lid and band, cut a circle of burlap slightly larger than the band, and enclosed the burlap so it’s nice and snug in between the lid and band. I hot glued the inner ring of the band to hold everything nice and tight. I then took a sheet of poster board and cut a nice sized circle out, then glued this burlap/canning lid center in the middle. (You could use another fabric as well.)

Now for the outer part of the wreath—you can use old book pages, or in this case, old hymnal pages or sheet music. I cut my pages in half, then rolled each one in a loose cone shape. Hot glue the more pointy end to secure. After you have a bunch of these cone shapes rolled and ready, glue them down around that middle portion. I did one complete layer, then filled in the gaps with additional cones. You may need 2-3 layers to make this look really full.

For the finishing touches I glued on one of these glittery Christmas words I happened upon at Wal Mart. (They were 3 for $2 I think.)

I definitely liked using these as they add a little extra color and glitz to the wreath.


Cranberry Relish

Hey there everyone! I have a great Thanksgiving recipe for you to check out. This one is a family recipe, made faithfully by my Granny for many holiday functions. This is a repeat post from last holiday season, but I think it’s definitely worth a second glance. Enjoy!


This cranberry relish is yummy, pretty to look at, and easy to make as well. So, if you’re looking for a new recipe for your repertoire, this is a good one!

1 bag cranberries

4 C apples

2 C crushed pineapple

3/4 C sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1 package Cranberry jello

1 C boiling water

Chop cranberries and apples. Add pineapple, sugar, and salt. Mix thoroughly. Dissolve the Jello in boiling water. Allow to cool, then add to mixture. Chill thoroughly. Keeps for many days.

Thanks Granny!

Craft/DIY Ideas

Handmade Christmas Series: Hymnal Page Flower Ornaments

As I was looking through my Pinterest boards the other day, I found a very do-able idea for ornaments on my Christmas board. The idea used old book pages, but I utilized old hymnal pages instead. Here’s the results of my copycat efforts:

It was pretty simple to pull off. As in my previous post, I used canning lids as the base for the ornament.

Then I proceeded to cut out circles of a couple different sizes.

As you can see in the picture below, I used a bamboo skewer to roll the stacks of circles so the edges curl up.

Then, using hot glue, I adhered them around the edge of the lid, starting with the biggest circles and going smaller as I came near the center.

To put the finishing touches on these, I added a little glitter around the edges and glued a glass gem to the center of the flower. Oh, and I also put a little wire hanger on the back as well.

Cute and easy. I did several with a red glass gem in the middle just for fun.

Craft/DIY Ideas

Book Page Lid Ornaments

This is a project from my archives from last year. I loved these and am planning on making more for this holiday season.


What do old hymnal pages and canning lids have in common? These holiday ornaments, of course!

How did I make them? If you’re a crafty soul like me, I’m sure you can figure it out just by looking at my pictures. However, I’ll give you all a quick tutorial just in case.

Start out with a canning lid and a page out of an old hymnal or old sheet music. I’ve gotten old hymnals from used book sales for super cheap and used them for a different project in previous years. Using the lid as a template, trace and cut out a circle from the music page. I also went around my edges with scalloped-edged scissors just for extra embellishment.

Using Mod Podge and a paintbrush, I lightly covered one side of the lid and pressed the page onto it. You could use either side of the lid–mine are reddish around the edges, so I wanted that to show a little. As some of the pictures show, I also did a couple with the gold showing from the flipside.

I left a couple of ornaments just plain, but added a rolled fabric flower and a button to some as well. In order to hang it, I also hot glued a loop of thin wire to the back. Ribbon would certainly look pretty cute too.

I’m sure there are lots of other ways to embellish these. I plan on making more, so feel free to leave a comment with any suggestions you may have.

Craft/DIY Ideas

Handmade Christmas Series: Knit Dishcloths

Last Christmas one of my favorite gifts was from my very best friend. She gave me several dishcloths that she crocheted in some of my favorite colors and included a bottle of dish soap with the gift. How’s that for practical, eh?

Well, I don’t crochet (not yet–maybe she can teach me) but I do know some basic knitting. Nothing too fancy, mind you, but enough to get by. I came across some fun knitting patterns for dish cloths on Little House in the Suburbs and thought I’d try some.

Can you guess what I did while the hurricane was blowing outside? Ha ha–yep, that’s when I worked on these. Thankfully we were spared any damage and other than a few flickers, never lost power! My heart aches for those who got hit hard by Sandy and lost their homes. I really just can’t imagine what they are going through right now.

I tried out three different patterns and like them all. The beauty of these is that it’s a quick project, easily completed in an evening. Here’s a sampling of the designs I tried.

This one is named the Andalutheean.

The link to the pattern for this one is here.

This is an extreme close up of the Very Seedy Dishcloth pattern. The chocolate brown one in the group pic is the same design. Check out the specifics at this link.

This little blue number has taken a little longer, but I have to admit that I tried it just because I liked the name. It’s called the Ramen Noodle dishcloth.

Yes, I realize my knitting skills have much room for improvement, but hey, I’m still learning.

The instructions for the Ramen Noodle one are right here. She has a number of other great patterns as well.

Just another quick idea for handmade Christmas gifts. Oh, and there’s just under two months left, so plenty of time to whip up a bunch of these.