Shh. I know Halloween isn't tomorrow. And you all know I hate rushing my seasons one on top of the other. But I got the coolest package in the mail from Hallmark, and I couldn't wait to share it anymore. I love Christmas, and when I was in New York in August and saw all the awesomeness that Hallmark had in store this year, I drooled. Possibly literally. I swear there is something for everyone - and quite a few things for me!
Hallmark is known for their collectible ornaments, and they have not disappointed with the ornaments they're featuring this year. Every year, we purchase one ornament that is the "family" ornament for the year as a memory and keepsake. Looking at the trees Hallmark had decorated, it was hard to decide what type of ornament best fit us this year. Was it the Merida ornament from the movie Brave that we all watched together and loved? Was it the Imperial Storm Trooper Lego ornament - so up Mister Man's alley? Or the Scooby-Doo or Avengers or Spider-Man? After all, Little Miss is dressing as Spider-Man for Halloween tomorrow! There are even Twilight and NFL ornaments (except I'm still waiting for my Minnesota Vikings AP ornament), as well as Peanuts and an ornament with space for a photo and recordable message that was oh so cool.
My personal favorite (and don't tell anyone, but it almost "fell" off the tree into my purse that day), however, was the countdown clock. It is shaped like an old-fashioned radio and the knob turns to count down the days to Christmas beginning on December 1. The coolest part though is that it is "reindeer radio" and has little updates on what's going on. I can't wait to break this out come December 1, and I know it will be a favorite of the wee ones, too. It does require 3 AAA batteries, but I have plenty of those around the house. For $24.95, I'm one happy camper.
Hallmark has also created a whole line of recordable storybooks, and they've continued to expand not just the books but the creativity surrounding how they're marketed. We also do one Christmas book a year for each of the wee ones that we will save forever and send with them when they grow up and move out. I still have all of the books from when I was growing up that Santa left me, and the memories sparked each time I pick them up to read them give me a warm glow.
This year, the recordable storybooks come in even more flavors. I received the new version Santa Claus Is Coming to Town that features music in addition to the audio story. I love that you can listen to the pre-recorded voice or record the story yourself so that your children can hear you read it to them anytime you want. The storybooks range from $19.95-$29.95. This one is a $29.95 version.
I love the creative drawings and new text that is part of the stories. The pages are nice and thick, and the book is built to last - including the ability to change out the batteries when your child has listened to it too many times! This is a children's book, but I am confident that my seven year old Little Miss will love listening to it and reading it.
As I said, the storybook collection has expanded from what it originally was. There were other types of recordable storybooks that I fell in love with that I wasn't sent, and I have to tell you about them, too. There are two fascinating new concepts - well, new to me at least. The first is the Interactive Story Buddies. They are stuffed animals - a bunny, bear, dog, etc., even Scooby-Doo! - who are activated when certain phrases from the book are read aloud. They will bark or sing or talk in a way that makes sense with the book. It is incredibly cool. These books also come with a read-along CD and more for $34.95. There are seven Interactive Buddies available now (my favorite is Bell the Husky Pup).
Brand new is the Be a Part of the Story, which allows children to chat with the main character of the story as they read the books. They can have conversations and answer questions that the child has to answer for the story to continue moving. This is such a novel and neat way to get children interested in reading and understanding the magic of books. Each of these is $24.95, with three titles available this year. When we saw them, they were just in prototype still, but A Day at Fairy Grandmother's was very very cool. I may have to go out and buy this one myself!
And of course Hallmark has cards for every occasion. While I tend to do primarily photo cards now, there are still some cards that I send or make for Christmas that I want to personalize and hand write long messages. I'm such a fan of receiving and sending "real" mail - and my friends get such a kick out of it when they receive something from me. It's a great tradition to maintain. (And yes, Hallmark now does photo cards, too, from magnetic cards to ornament cards to more traditional cards - did you know that?) There are also fun cards from the Santa's Secret 'Stache card to an origami star that turns into an ornament, as well as cards that are interactive, just like the storybooks. I love the recordable wish list card, although I'm glad the wee ones haven't seen that one yet. I can only imagine how many times they'd change what they recorded there! And yes, Justin Bieber fans, there are more Justin Bieber Christmas cards than I could possibly count. I love the handmade cards, especially since I used to make my own Christmas cards (yes, this was long before children), and I appreciate all the time and talent that goes into designing and creating them. Hallmark's cards range from $1.99 to $7.99, depending on the card and what it does.
So what are your plans to create Christmas memories?
In the interest of full disclosure, I received the products shown above from Hallmark for review purposes. I was not provided with any additional compensation. As always, all opinions expressed remain my own.