Friday, November 19, 2010

Holiday Gift Guide

I can't believe it's already almost time to start thinking about Christmas and Hanukkah. I say "almost" because in my world, we have to fully celebrate Thanksgiving before we really start doing up Christmas. However, that doesn't mean that I don't need to start thinking about what I'll be doing. I've already planned out my Christmas cards, although I won't be sending them until after Thanksgiving. I've also started compiling my list of gifts for family members, wee ones, teachers, and the like.

Lucky for me, a few companies have helped me make things a little easier, which brings me to my first ever Holiday Gift Guide. I love being able to showcase some of the things that I love from various brands - and who I'd be buying them for!

The wee ones are easy. The big winner at our house right now is action figures. Little Miss has a Batman figurine that has been her favorite for awhile now - he even went to Grandma's for an overnight and snuck into her leotard for a gymnastics class. The Spiderman action figure is a new favorite of Little Miss. It is one of the many Marvel superheroes available for imaginative play. With both villains such as the Hobgoblin and Doc Ock, as well as every variation of Spiderman you can imagine from the battle glider black to arctic attack to mega arms, these $6.99 toys are great for stocking stuffers!

Mister Man prefers Star Wars, and we are working on adding to his collection whenever we get a chance. He is a huge fan of the Clone Wars figures and plays with his Han Solo and Princess Leia and other characters all the time. He especially loves that many of the figures come with firing weapons that launch with a spring. He hasn't yet gotten into the galactic battle game - each figure comes with a battle game card - but we've saved the cards knowing that soon he'll be begging to play. At just 7, he's on the cusp of figuring out those games. I've noticed that every time we go to the store, we see new characters that we hadn't before. It is beginning to make for a great adventure story for Mister Man. At $6.99 per figure, you can bet that Santa will be leaving a few of these in stockings!

Another favorite for the wee ones is movies. As we do a Movie Night with Mommy about once a month, they are a Big Deal. I select a movie for them, and we pop popcorn on the stove before sitting down together to watch it. Their first "big kid" movie was Ramona and Beezus - still rated G, mind you - a movie based on a book series I loved as a kid. It doesn't follow the books exactly, but it is still sweet and innocent and something that I feel good about giving the wee ones or other children their age. I was a little nervous at first that the movie would be too mature for them, but after checking out reviews, I felt more comfortable - and I was right. Mix in some popcorn, and we're set! This movie is available on both DVD and Blu-Ray for a suggested $29.98 and $39.99, respectively (although you know you can always find DVDs on sale!).

Speaking of popcorn, it is always important to me to find gifts for the support staff at the wee ones' schools. They do so much for the students and are so often forgotten by families. Being married to a teacher, I know that food is always a winner. A two gallon tin of popcorn from The Popcorn Factory? That is perfect, as it has three different flavors (butter, caramel, and cheese) so everyone always gets their favorite. At $24.99 for this poinsettia tin, it's a gift that looks good and goes over well for the people you need to thank this year. And if you have people who want more flavors, there is also a four flavor tin (adding white cheddar - yum!) for the same price. Larger tins are also available if you have more people to include - the 3 1/2 gallon tin is $29.99 and the 6 1/2 gallon tin is $39.99. Each tin also includes a personalized gift message so you can express yourself perfectly.

I like providing food for teachers, as well. Knowing how many Barnes & Noble gift certificates my husband receives each year, I try to be a little more ... creative, but not to the point of the hand painted ornaments he received one year. Cheryl's Cookies are a great compromise, as the individually wrapped cookies mean the teachers can share or save their treats. I tried out the buttercream frosted cookies, and they were delicious! I would recommend finding a cookie that doesn't have any sprinkles on it, as the majority of mine had fallen off by the time they arrived at my house, but that didn't affect the taste any! There are also cookies that are snowflake shaped or simply circlees to be less Christmas-y as well as trees and wreaths. The cookies range from $22.99 to $34.99, giving you a wide range of ... how much you like the recipient!

My other favorite food to give is Fannie May. This is a Chicago company, and my Gram adored them. The mint meltaways were a fixture at every family gathering - and dI do mean every family gathering. They still remind me of her, and now that Fannie May is back again - for a time the company had gone bankrupt and they weren't made anymore - these are the ideal gift for my mother who has everything but would never indulge in purchasing chocolates for herself. The Holiday Mint Meltaways are $22.99, which means I obviously need to keep searching for something else for her, but this makes a good start.

This year, we won't be spending Christmas with my in-laws, as we trade holidays with them and my parents. Although we go down near Christmas and celebrate with them, on the years we aren't with them on Christmas itself, I try to remember to send them something special. A gift basket always works nicely, and I love the ones from They provide a variety of treats that can be shared amongst those who are there and has a great presentation that always brings a smile to the face of those who receive it. There are plenty of options from $19.99 to $199.99 depending on who you're buying for and your budget.

The other option for my in-laws is a plant from Flowers don't last, but I love the idea of a plant that they can keep around for a period of time. Frosty the Snowplant is a great example of this, and oh so cute. I appreciate that after the holidays, you can simply change the pot it's in, and it will still be appropriately seasonal. I will say that the plant I received was much smaller and thinner than the one shown in the picture. It will take some time to grow into the pot, but it is still cute - and something I know my mother-in-law would love. As these are created and shipped from local florists, they will vary somewhat. It was also somewhat daunting to put together. I had to hunt for the top of Frosty and assemble that. Had I not been looking for it, I might have missed it. Going forward, I might choose a different plant, but I do like the plant idea - and for $29.99, it's a cute and reusable gift.

I feel pretty good about having made a dent in my Christmas shopping with it not having even made it to Thanksgiving yet. Starting next week, I need to get serious about placing my orders for my family and friends - and teachers and support staff. The items I discovered for my gift guide definitely gave me inspiration, and I hope they did for you, too!

In the interest of full disclosure, I received one each of the Star Wars and Spiderman figures, a DVD of Ramona and Beezus, a 2 gallon tin of popcorn, a sample of Cheryl's frosted cookies, a box of Fannie May mint meltaways, a Comfort and Joy Sweet Treats gift baskets, and a Frosty the Snowplant for review purposes. I was not compensated in any way, and all opinions expressed are my own.

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