Welcome to the Grandma's Briefs Holiday Guide.
Starting with Festive Fun, ending with Holiday Recipes, and featuring nearly 50 Gift Ideas in between, there's something for everyone to make the season merry and bright.
DECEMBER 20th UPDATE: Find some last-minute fun (free holiday game apps, Santa tracking!) and food (delicious goodies from Taste of Home!) and more right HERE.
Seasonal delights you'll want to share before the big day.
(Click product photos for more info and websites.)
Kick off the season with the new interactive greetings from Hallmark Cards that help kids get (even more) excited about Christmas. Recordable Wish List: Children can record their wish lists directly into this card to let Santa know what they'd like to receive for Christmas. Fun for all ages, the Recordable Wish List card is especially perfect for little ones who aren't yet able to write a wish list for Santa. It’s also a great keepsake for family members to capture a child's voice and personality at that moment in time. Countdown Cards: With the help of Mickey Mouse or one of Santa's friendly elves, these cards double as a holiday greeting and a functioning countdown clock. Display the card and watch the days and hours tick away, bringing you closer to the excitement of Christmas Day. $14.99-$29.99. GIVEAWAY: One lucky reader will win a gift card pack from Hallmark, including an Interactive Recordable Greeting, an Interactive Countdown Greeting, and an assortment of additional boxed and Signature Collection greetings. Get all the details and enter here. (Hurry: Entries accepted only until midnight MST December 3.)
Save your holiday photos from the horrid results when using a pop-up flash for those special indoor moments. The Lightscoop attaches to most DSLR cameras to redirect light, resulting in more natural-looking photos. Here's how it works:
The Lightscoop ($29.95) comes in two versions—standard and warming.
Mrs. Claus as she saves the day in A Bit of Applause for Mrs. Claus by Susie Schick-Pierce, Jeannie Schick-Jacobowitz and Muffin Drake-Policastro ($15.99 hardcover, ages 4+). Readers will be on the edge of their seats when they join Mrs. Claus as she hustles and bustles to save Christmas day. From wrapping the last presents to trimming the trees, Mrs. Claus, does it all, just in the nick of time. GIVEAWAY: One lucky reader will win a copy of A Bit of Applause for Mrs. Claus. Get all the details and enter here. (Hurry: Entries accepted only until midnight MST December 3.)
Have the kids make their own ornament this year with the Wikki Stix Ornament Kit ($6). Wikki Stix are strands of hand-knitting yarn enhanced with a food-grade, non-toxic wax and do not contain latex, gluten, nor peanut or other nut oils or byproducts. Just press them down and they adhere to almost any smooth surface, but can be easily repositioned for creative fun. Bright red flat resin ornament comes with 12 Wikki Stix in gold, green, red and blue, and a red ribbon hanger.
Add traditional holiday favorites to your music collection with A Very Merry Golden Records Christmas ($9.99). The album is packed with 20 classic songs and stories that combine the beautifully orchestrated original recordings with the talent of today’s biggest and brightest stars. Children and parents alike will love Golden renditions of "Twas The Night Before Christmas," "A Christmas Carol," "Frosty The Snowman," "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer," "Winter Wonderland," and many more. GIVEAWAY: One lucky reader will win a Very Merry Golden Records Christmas CD. Get all the details and enter here. (Hurry: Entries accepted only until midnight MST December 3.)
Kids can bring Santa to their hometown and watch him explore their favorite landmarks in the Santa is Coming series by Steve Smallman and illustrated by Robert Dunn ($9.99, ages 4+). Santa navigates his way from the North Pole to a city, state or region near your favorite child. Children are introduced to important places of local interest as jolly old St. Nick flies over and sometimes lands on noteworthy locations such as monuments, capitals, museums, and other attractions on his way to their house. The series includes Santa is Coming to My House, plus: Arizona, Boston, California, Chicago, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New England, New York, Ohio, Philadelphia, Portland, San Francisco, Texas, the Carolinas, the Rockies, Toronto, Vancouver, Washington, Wisconsin. GIVEAWAY: One lucky reader will win a book from the Santa is Coming series. Get all the details and enter here. (Hurry: Entries accepted only until midnight MST December 3.)
Jewish families will appreciate Hanukkah In A Box, with everything you need to create a meaningful and memorable holiday. Here's the scoop from the package creator:
For those who don't need the educational elements included in Hanukkah in a Box, there's the Hanukkah games box including the Hanukkah Bingo Game for 4 players (all pieces laminated for years of fun), 8 dreidels with instructions, Menorah cut-and-color activity, and a Design-your-own Hanukkah banner. Find out more Jewish Holidays In A Box. Grandma's Briefs readers get 15% off anything in the store through 12/22/12 when using the discount code GRANDMA.
Top products I've received this year for review & consideration.*
(Click product photos for more info and websites.)
Create with Maisy: A Maisy First Arts-and-Crafts Book by Lucy Cousins ($16.99 hardcover) Children will happily follow the loveable Maisy’s lead in making simple crafts such as painted pebbles, collages, masks and much more. Each of the 17 crafts features photos and step-by-step instructions in this hands-on activity book kids and grown-ups will enjoy together. Ages 4 and up.
Cuddletunes Bear ($59) The softest, cuddliest, most adorable and useful MP3 player for grandparents and parents. Download lullabies from the Cuddletunes website, personalized with the child's name, or any MP3 song. Better yet, download a special message recorded by grandparents and others so family is always nearby when little ones want to cuddle. Here's how CuddleTunes works:
Exact Change ($9.99) Play around with money in this new family game that teaches kids all about counting money. They will learn currencies and how to count money because in this game it is all about making exact change. Ages 5 and up.
LeapFrog Touch Magic Learning Bus ($21.99) Delightful fun that takes little ones on a musical journey. The sturdy toy features an interactive flat surface with vibrant graphics—the alphabet, piano keys and more—that encourage exploration of the 200+ learning and musical responses and more than 40 touch points. Kids stay busy and entertained with the three modes: learning, letter exploration, and music. Ages 2-4.
Green Kid Crafts Gift Subscription (3-month subscription $50 with coupon code HOLIDAY) Delight any child on your list with a monthly delivery of 3 fun and exciting craft kits, that are earth friendly too. Ages 3-8.
Sonny the Seal ($24.99) This electronic, interactive ring-toss game is simple: toss the ring around Sonny's neck, get a fish for each successful toss, the winner is the one and the end of the game with the most fish. It's a bit harder than it sounds, though, as Sonny bobs and weaves erratically so you don't always know exactly how to succeed in tossing. But when you manage to get the rings to land where they should and slide down over Sonny's tail, players are rewarded as Sonny clap his flippers and barks in joy. Ages 3+.
Wikki Stix Birthday Calendar ($9.95) This perpetual calendar for kids allows for creatively changing the picture that accompanies each month. Kids use the 24 included Wikki Stix (strands of hand-knitting yarn enhanced with a food-grade, non-toxic wax and do not contain latex, gluten, nor peanut or other nut oils or byproducts) to adorn the months as they see fit, rearranging the design when the month changes, if they so choose for year round creative expression. Ages 3-103.
Arlo Needs Glasses by Barney Saltzberg ($15.95) This unique picture book lets kids of all ages, glasses wearers or not, know that glasses rock and there's no reason to resist wearing them. The book tells the story of a dog who loves to play catch—until one day, he can’t see the ball anymore. He needs glasses! The delightful book filled with pop-up features and try-on glasses playfully goes through an eye doctor visit with Arlo, allaying the anxiety kids in need of glasses may feel, as well as stressing that glasses will help them become better readers. Ages 3+. Take a look:
Yo Gabba Gabba "Music is Awesome! Vol. 4" CD ($9) The latest from the award-winning live action show features educational tracks from the likes of famous acts such as The Roots, Biz markie, George Clinton, Belle & Sebastian and many more. This off-beat, unconventional collection will please preschoolers, parents and indie music lovers alike. All ages. GIVEAWAY: One lucky reader will win Music is Awesome! Vol. 4. Get all the details and enter here. (Hurry: Entries accepted only until midnight MST December 3.)
LeapFrog Touch Magic Rockin' Guitar ($21.99) Encourage creative musical exploration with this durable toy (that grownups will have a hard time resisting, I guarantee). It features LeapFrog's Touch Magic technology, allows kids to choose to play solo without a backup or to play along with a band, selecting rom the electric or acoustic guitar to play 10 built-in songs. The experience can be customized by adding guitar riffs, silly sounds, and drums—more than 100 possible musical combinations. There's even an applause option that claps along or encourages encores. Ages 3+.
Lullabies by Page CXVI CD ($6.99 digital download; $9.99 CD+digital) Page CXVI is a project started with the idea of making hymns accessible again. The name comes from a reference to page 116 in The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis, a passage where Aslan begins to sing Narnia into creation out of a black void. The seven lullabies on this calming CD—which comes in a blue or pink cover—includes Peace Like a River, Near To The Heart of God, Jesus Loves Me, The Lord's Prayer, and more. All ages. GIVEAWAY: One lucky reader will win Lullabies by Page CXVI. Get all the details and enter here. (Hurry: Entries accepted only until midnight MST December 3.)
Bounce-A-Round Inflatable Jumper ($109.95) Kids will jump for hours on this soft, sturdy bouncer with extra-stable walls, an easy-access porthole, and simple set-up. Use it indoors (in a large open space, because it's big) or outdoors with a mat or blanket to discourage pokes and holes. Transparent walls permit at-a-glance supervision. Supports 2 kids, up to 120 pounds total. Inflates in 5 minutes with Electric Pump (sold separately) or 15 minutes with included double-action hand pump. When the bouncing is done, throw a blanket over the top to create a super-cool fort. Ages 2+.
"Storytime with Spot" and "Spot and his Grandparents Go to the Carnival" DVDs ($8.98 each) The beloved dog Spot start in two new DVDs for little ones. First, Storytime focuses on books and reading. Five new adventures plus two bonus tales in all. The other DVD is Spot's delightful grandparent special in full, plus two four-minute bonus stories. Each DVD runs 30-40 minutes. Ages 2-5.
Little Ones Can Do Big Things Too! ($7.79) This offering from the VeggieTales gang is a collection of stories about big things performed by little ones.
The Penniless Princess ($8.99) Fans of A Little Princess, the book or movie version, will find plenty to love here as it's based on that beloved classic by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
The Adventures of Little Nutbrown Hare by Sam McBratney ($16.99 hardcover) Little Nutbrown Hare likes to explore! No matter where he ventures to out in the world—or even when he goes nowhere at all and spends his days at home—Big Nutbrown Hare is always there to cheer him on. Children and the parents who love them will appreciate and relate to these four heartwarming new stories from the author of Guess How Much I Love You. Ages 3+.
Charley's First Night by Amy Hest, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury ($15.99 hardcover) Henry introduces his new puppy all the special places in the house, telling the pup, "This is home, Charley." He says that a lot so that Charley will know that he is home. Mom and Dad make it clear Charley’s place to sleep is in the kitchen, but it’s awful hard for Henry to stick to the rule when he hears Charley crying in the night. Helen Oxenbury’s illustrations complement Amy Hest’s tale of the immediate love between a boy and his puppy. Ages 3-6.
Orb Factory Sticky Mosaics Craft Kit ($9.99) This complete craft kit has four different rescue vehicles to decorate with the 600+ included pre-cut sticky foam pieces and jewels. It’s just one of the many craft kits available from Orb Factory designed to help kids of all ages master hand-eye coordination, pattern recognition and more. Ages 3+
Hug-E-Gram ($29.99) What grandchild isn't up for hugs from grandma, no matter how far away she lives? Make your hugs available 24/7 with the soft and cozy arms that wrap around loved ones and include a personalized recorded message to be played again and again. Ages 2+
3-2-1 Penguins!—Complete Season One ($8.99) This two-disc set includes all 13 episodes from the first season of the top-rated series that aired on NBC. Young fans and their families will get giggles and grins from the adventures of Space Penguin Pals Zidgel, Fidgel, Midgel and Kevin as they engage their young friends Michelle and Jason to help them solve intergalactic crises with faith and fun.
WearEver Pure Living Cookware ($24.99-$79.99) The kitchen favorite since 1903 now offers a pure, toxin-free, and eco-friendly way of cooking food without sacrificing quality. Pure Living’s ceramic coating is the safe alternative to non-stick/Teflon. It’s toxin-free, chemical-free, PFOA/PTFE-free, and recyclable. Pure Living comes in red and champagne available as a 12” fry pan, 2-piece fry pan set, 5-piece set and 10-piece Set.
Taste of Home Best-Loved Recipes ($24.99) The 1,485 recipes included in the massive tome are indeed some of the best. The 900+ pages are divided into 26 chapters, everything from Appetizers to Soups. In between are chapters on tips and timesavers all cooks—from beginning baker to accomplished chef—will appreciate. With chapters such as Cooking for One or Two, Mom Made It Best and Mealtime Express, it’s one of the most complete cookbooks you’ll find.
Taste of Home Cooking School Cookbook ($19.95) Another super offering from Taste of Home. Every one of the more than 400 recipes are accompanied by a colorful photo, with step-by-step photos and directions for many. Plus, there are nutrition facts for all recipes, and tips, entertaining ideas and more from cooking experts sprinkled throughout the 320 pages.
Baby Brezza One-Step Baby Food Maker ($99) Baby food making is this small appliance's primary function, and it does that with flying colors, thanks to the ability to steam and blend food. Or just steam. Or just blend. But it also works well—fantastic, in fact—for creating foods for older kids and adults. It steams, purees, and more. An ideal (and award-winning) gadget for every kitchen.
Flirty Aprons — for women and men ($29.95 and up) Add style and flair to one's time in the kitchen—or at the grill—with the fun and sometimes frilly apron offerings from Flirty Aprons. The 50+ styles run the gamut from sexy vintage replicas for classy, sassy cooks to bib-style cover-ups with comical sayings for those who man the grill.
Kitchenability 101:The College Student's Guide to Easy, Healthy, and Delicious Food ($17.95) Those with an empty nest will appreciate this gem from Chef Nisa Burns, a 21-year-old culinary grad. In it, she teaches young adults to cook for themselves, showing them healthy, accessible alternatives to the usual college fare. Newbie cooks gain cooking confidence—kitchenability—from the shopping plans, supply lists, budgeting tips, skills and recipes for cooking in college spaces (including dorms). QR codes link readers to Nisa's online video demos. GIVEAWAY: One lucky reader will win a copy of Kitchenability. Get all the details and enter here. (Hurry: Entries accepted only until midnight MST December 3.)
For Healthy Living
Mirabai Holland Moving Free Longevity Ease-in 4 DVD set ($49.95) For those who don't like to exercise, as well as baby boomers and seniors who may be a tad less flexible, this series focuses on four areas: ease-in intro to fitness, easy cardio, easy strength and easy flexibility exercises. Here's a sample:
Yoga for Every Room in Your House by Jinjer Stanton ($14.95) As important as it is to stay in shape, we often find it hard to fit in the time. This book featuring photos of everyday folk (no models here) will encourage you to squeeze in a beneficial stretches and moves, no matter your space or busy schedule. Bear Hug, Carnival, Plank and more, made just for those who may not be yoga aficionados but would happily give it a try for the sake of better health. GIVEAWAY: One lucky reader will win a copy of Yoga for Every Room in Your House. Get all the details and enter here. (Hurry: Entries accepted only until midnight MST December 3.) A sample page:
Spenco Footwear and Footcare products Nothing beats happy feet and Spenco products make tootsies oh so happy (I can attest to that!). The runner on your list will appreciate the Spenco® PolySorb® FLOW™ Warm Insoles ($34.99) with foot warming technologies that work with body heat to stabilize temperature into a micro-climate that stays a comfortable temperature. Plus, Aegis Antimicrobial reduces odor. Even non-runners will love Spenco's Cold Snap Footware ($80) which features a stylish lining and extra support for the cold months. The fashionable shoe features full contact support to create one of the most comfortable shoes on the market. Available for men in charcoal with plaid lining and women in camel with a felt/houndstooth lining (and I love mine!).
Exergen Temporal Scanner ($99) This high-tech thermometer is the home version of those used in hospitals and doctors' offices. It gauges body temperature by capturing the heat emitted from skin over the temporal artery, which runs across the forehead and is directly connected to the heart via the carotid artery. Named one of the smartest products of the decade by Inc. Magazine, it's a great gadget for every household to have on hand, as it works not only on children, but adults, too.
White Cloud Electronic Cigarettes and accessories (varies) With the new year right around the corner, chances are you have someone on your list who plans to resolve to quit smoking. Lend a hand with an electronic cigarette with a re-chargeable battery and a disposable atomizer cartridge. The atomizer cartridge contains liquid nicotine (optional and in varying strengths to taper the habit), propylene glycol (an FDA approved food additive) and optional flavoring. It contains no tobacco, additives, cancer-causing agents, tar or smoke. (Do note that unless using the nicotine-free cartridges, there is nicotine in the electronic cigarettes.) Here's how it works:
For the Home
BUNN My Cafe Single Cup Multi-Use Brewer ($169.99) Beats the single-serve hot beverage competition hands down. Four-in-one machine does it all: K-Cups, pods and tea bags, instant hot water, and ground coffee for serving sizes from 4 to 14 ounces—in under one minute. All that plus pulse-brew for bolder beverages and a two-year warranty.
Colin's Creatures handcrafted porcelain collectibles (prices vary) It’s impossible to resist this collection of handmade animals, primarily sheep, brimming with personality and charm, lovingly made by artist Colin Richmond. His handcrafted sheep, llamas, alpacas, donkeys, pigs, goats, chicks, dogs, and nativity crèches grace the homes of enthusiasts across the globe. Here, a glimpse of the heart, soul, and attention Colin puts into his work.
VegiBee Garden Pollinator ($49.99) Increase the bounty for the home gardeners on your list. The VegiBee garden pollinator is a hand-held electric plant pollinator that uses sonic vibrations to shake the pollen out of the flower to improve the productivity of the home garden, and can be used on all tomatoes, peppers, peas, beans and eggplant. GIVEAWAY: One lucky reader will win VegiBee Garden Pollinator. Get all the details and enter here. (Hurry: Entries accepted only until midnight MST December 3.)
Cat Caller Remote Control Pet Finder ($19.95-$39.95) With nearly a third of US households owning at least one cat, there’s a good chance you have a cat lover on your list. This one’s for him or her. And it’s ideal for any small animal that wears a collar, not just cats. Can’t find kitty, just call, like this:
Epson Expression Premium XP-800 Small-in-One Printer ($279.99) Wish family members would share more photos with you? They'll be more than happy to when printing and sharing is as easy as shown in the following video. (Better yet, maybe pick up one for yourself.) A similar but even snazzier option is the Epson MegaPlex MG-850HD ($799.99).
For Listening, Reading, Watching
Daily Decadence: The Art of Sensual Living by Sherri Dobay ($15 paperback) Life gets crazy sometimes. Well, most times. Through stories, recipes, wine selections, and original art by the author, readers are encouraged to stop the crazy, to open their eyes and themselves to touch-taste-feel and celebrate something luxuriant each day. One part journal, one part travelogue, one part cookbook, and so much more, the author shares her thoughts on love, life, art, food and wine.
Q2 Wi-Fi Internet Radio ($99) I love this thing. Rather than try to explain how awesome this gadget is, how much I love it and tell you that I've used it every single day since receiving one for review, I'll simply share the following video that says it all. (Did I mention how much I love this thing?)
Frozen Planet Complete Series Collection ($39.98 DVD, $54.98 Blu-ray) This beautifully filmed and endlessly informative and entertaining series is one all ages will enjoy again and again, as it's packed with so much information and extraordinary imagery that I can't imagine ever tiring of watching. Filmed at the North and South Poles, teams of photographers captured footage of seasonal changes that continually astonished. Many of the features focus on the land and sea and all the changes between ice forming and melting in both regions, as well. The spectacular seven-part series—from the makers of Planet Earth—is narrated by the legendary and brilliant Sir David Attenborough. The trailer:
Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing by Sally Lloyd-Jones ($16.99 hardcover) This 224-page inspirational book provides all ages with easy-to-understand truths from the Bible, all whimsically illustrated by Jago. It does, indeed, make this reader's heart sing. Take a look:
Lilla Rose hair accessories from Independent Consultant Cynthia Meents (price varies) From the clever Flexi Hair Clip to hair bands, bobby pins, hair sticks, O rings and more (including badge holders), all the Lilla Rose hair products are functional, fashionable, and inexpensive. The unique patented flexible clip comes in hundreds of styles and six sizes to accommodate hair type and style. Visit Independent Consultant Cynthia Meents' Lilla Rose webpage to view stylish offerings that make perfect stocking stuffers.
Couture Wipe Clutches from K. Quinn Designs ($20-$22) Great for travel as well as everyday, these smart and sophisticated clutch-style wipe cases offer a fashionable way of toting baby wipes, hand wipes, facial wipes. The cases are BPA-free, leak-free (wipes stay moist!), durable, and convenient. They're ideal for gym bags, travel bags, diaper bags, and, of course, grandma bags. Style collections include various leatherettes, animal prints, colors and patterns.
GlamFans hair accessories (Starting at $10) College sports fans can cheer on their team in style with these vintage-inspired accessories. Choose from clips, headbands and bobby pins embellished with sequins, beads and rhinestones in their favorite team's colors and/or names. Line includes goodies for more than 200 NCAA universities.
ChickBait earrings ($19.95 for most) When Amy Halm left behind her 20 years working for Fortune 500 companies to work on her own, she considered the colorful feathers and sparkles of her dad's tackle box inspired her to create one-of-a-kind, whimsical earrings from colorful fishing flies and lures. They're lightweight, fashionable and, naturally, waterproof. What makes it even better is that Amy partners with Epi-Hab Phoenix, Inc., which offers meaningful employment to physically challenged people, and those hard-working individuals do some assembly and all packaging of ChickBait products.
Limited Edition Obama watches (Starting at $60) The historic nature of this gift ensures it will be a valuable collectible. In fact, watches from the 2008 election are on display at Washington, DC museums. Obama watches have battery powered quartz movement and leather bands, are water resistant and made in the USA.
For Making a Difference
Socially-conscious and eco-friendly gifts dedicated to loved ones (Prices vary) Heifer International offers a variety of impactful options that help end hunger and poverty while caring for the earth and educating children about global poverty and hunger and show them that they can truly a difference in the world. Consider A Flock of Chicks ($20), A Gardener’s Basket ($20 to $170), Honey Bees ($30), A Goat ($120) and more. Gift recipients receive a card describing the benefits of their gift.
Monkeez Makes a Difference educational, charitable program ($2.99-$100) This interactive experience teaches children the importance of helping others through kid-friendly tools including adorable plush characters (more than 90 plush designs in multiple sizes to choose from), online games, real-life Do Good challenges and a special donation on a child’s behalf to one of three nationally renowned charities of his or her choice. Once children receive their plush animal, with an adult’s help, children follow the instructions on the tag and visit www.MonkeezAndFriends.com, enter the animal's code and watch videos about each charity that partners with Monkeez Makes a Difference, including Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, Samaritan’s Purse and Best Friends Animal Society Ages 10+.
529 College Plan Contribution Forego the stuff and contribute to your grandchild's future by adding to their 529 College Plan. Here's how it works:
For Adventure and More
Be sure to enter the Cloud 9 9 Days of Christmas Giveway where you can win an experience to give to a loved one or keep for yourself. For 9 days, from December 16th through the 24th, Cloud9 will draw one daily winner for prizes including tandem skydiving, food tours, spa packages and more, culminating with the Dec. 24 Grand Prize drawing for a Fighter Pilot For A Day experience.
Tasty delights for this special time of year.
HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO YOU & YOURS!
Disclosure: Products and services included in the Grandma's Briefs Holiday Guide were sent to me free of charge with no obligation or compensation for inclusion, except for Epson, Heifer, 529 College Plan, and Wearever which were included based solely on material received from brands. I have received no monetary compensation for this guide or the listings in it.
*Of the myriad items and information I receive for consideration, I've included here only those I think might be of most interest to my readers, and those that received an honest thumbs-up upon review by myself and/or my staff ... meaning my family and friends.
There are no affiliate links in this guide; I make absolutely nothing from you viewing, clicking or purchasing.
Questions or comments? E-mail me.