Kids Gift Guide: Toys We Have and Love

I always love to see what sort of toys my friends recommend and in turn what their kids really love to play with. So fellow toy enthusiasts, Meta and Stephanie and I agreed that we needed to swap recommendations, and of course, in turn, share them all with you!

So here's our tried and true list of toys we own and quite simply, love.

a. Charlie and Lola's An Extremely Wintery Winter Activity Kit. This is one of those toys that you purchase for the holidays on a whim but don't expect it to be the super big hit that it ends up being. I mean my boys LOVE this game. Little O asks me to get this out I'd say possibly 2-3 times a week. Winter or summer they love to get this out and the spin the spinner to see who dresses their character up in winter gear first. Oh and the book and snowflake stencils are also lots of fun. Tip: draw in the clothing items with permanent marker to corresponding numbers on the spinner for easy identification. Your kids will be entertained without your help for at least 20-30 min!  b. Brio Anti-Virus train set. I admit that it's harder to find items for this train set these days but let me tell you, if you are a train enthusiast, this set is soo great, and worth the hunt. This hub is a great place to start. Everything also corresponds to all Brio train sets (and really most any train set) so you don't have to purchase everything to start having fun with it. My boys have loved putting it together and collecting all the virus characters and the electronic "emails" that get transported around the track which then make fun silly noises when placed into the slots. Loads of fun. You can see little O playing with our set here in this old post. c. Charlie and Lola dvds. OK, more Charlie and Lola fun. Can you tell we are enthusiasts? The boys love it and I'm a fan of how sweet, funny and educational it is. And the best part? It's a show that can play in the background without grating on my nerves. A dream for road trips to grandmas house. d. Push and Learn Alphabet Bus. This has been such a great find for learning the alphabet. The boys have loved placing the little animals into their corresponding puzzle slots and the wheeling them around in the bus. And I've love that it still looks good when strew across the floor. e. Montessori Pink Tower. OK so I'm sure you know that we are Montessori enthusiasts. But whether or not you want to delve into the educational philosophy, I still highly recommend their pink tower. It's educational for many different learning levels. And I love that it's one of those toys that you can leave out on you living room shelve and it still looks good.  f. Domorino. We love getting out this bamboo tile take on the popular domino game. It's both fun and simple enough to play over and over again.  g. Voltron Robot Print. My good friend, and talented graphic designer, Brooke Daines just started the company, South and Summer, where she offers these really great prints of vintage toys. We are just over the moon about this Voltron print (which takes me back to some great childhood memories). h. Mudpuppy Finger Puppets. OK, so admittedly I'm biased about this toy (as I illustrated them) but my boys, no lie, love to get these out and play with them. I love how they fit nicely into your purse and can be pulled out when you need to stand in line at the post office for longer than anticipated. I also love their monster versions and have plans to add these to either the advent or their stockings this year. i. String Along Lacing Kit. Not your average lacing activity, this is hand down a favorite. It can keep A entertained for at least a good hour. I kid you not. Need I say more?  j. Centimeter Cubes. These are great for teaching simple to complex math concepts. Or just set out a bucket of cubes on the table and see what your littles create with it. So fun!  k. Mudpuppy Flip Draw Books. Again I'm biased but I will say this. My boys are not really into ballerinas but when I brought this home they couldn't wait to color in the different pages and were especially fond of the blank pages in the back where they could create their own versions. I'm thinking St. Nick. needs to bring them the monster or robot one.

Take a look at One More Mushroom and Simply Radiant's tried and true gift guides here and here!


Kids Gift Guide: For the boys

This week I'm teaming up with good friends, and fellow toy enthusiasts!, Meta, of One More Mushroom and Stephanie, of Simply Radiant, to share with you some fun gift guides. Earlier we shared our girls wish list/gift guide with you, (you can view Meta's here - so adorable! drooling over that dear doll), and today we're sharing what we are dreaming up for our boys (although a number of these items are gender neutral). 

So this knight print - I'm just dying to get it for their room. And I can't even begin to imagine the elaborate things that Little O and A might create with these fun blocks. We are record fanatics around here and I seriously love this player. This logical game is right up A's alley and I'm pretty sure Little O would never leave this teepee (aren't you just crazy about the colors?!). And I can only image the fun that the boys and their papa could have with this. A would be "over the moon" about it I'm sure ;). And are you not dying over this fox scarf? Little O might actually stay warm this winter if he could play with his winter gear.

a. hexagon colored pencils (you can use the entire pencil!)  b. whale grid notebook (we're big fans of grids!)  c. yellow felt lion (i'm a sucker for handmade unique softee's and this one is just the right mix of cute and cool) d. Metroville  e. wooden building slats  f. totem mini mix spider  g. lancelot art print  h. teepee  i. record player  j. fox scarf  k. Spekt-R

You can check out Meta's gift guide for Henrik here (that lumber jack hat just slays me) and Stephanie's for her two boys here (I want a magical crystal growing kit!)! Such great finds ladies!

**and for an update on sweet baby M, well we are still in the hospital (she has RSV) but hope to go home tomorrow as she's doing much much better! Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers.


A Holiday Gift Guide for Baby M

Hi Friends. Happy Cyber Monday. Have you been doing any online shopping?

I typically have a BOGO shop sale today but Baby M and are sitting here in the hospital as she has acquired a bad case of RSV so things have been a little stressful and shop sales are on hold for a bit. In the mean time I thought it might be fun, and a bit theraputic, to share with you a a gift guide that I've been dreaming up for our little darling girl.

It's full of fun finds from some of my favorite artisans and shops. Like this polar bear rug/blanket by my incredibly talented friend, Roxi Marj. I'm kind of obsessed with it and think that baby M has to have it as a tummy time/play mat. And once I discovered I was having a girl I knew that she would have to have a le train fantome Lumi doll as I've wanted one since...oh...like forever. But as this one will need to be a bit more of a keepsake, I think she'll also need a little Ozzie rabbit softee for her to snuggle and nibble on while she's still a wee babe. And of course she'll need a dollhouse and think this modern one will do the trick quite nicely. And I've wanted these geo blocks for like, forever. And well, I'm pretty sure baby M needs them. And I'm not sure whether or not she needs this sleep time hat more or if I do but either way...we both need to catch some zzz's. Here's hoping we're out of the hospital in the next day or so and in the clear...because we've got some holiday preparing to do!

a. sleepy time hat  b. Ozzie the rabbit  c. modern doll house  d. roxi marj bear blanket  e. lumi doll  f. geo blocks

And for more holiday shopping fun check out Meta's gift guide for her daughter here. And for the rest of this week I'll be teaming up with One More Mushroom and Simply Radiant to share some of our wish lists for our kiddos as well as some of our favorite tried and true toys and gifts we own and love. So stay tuned!


A Simple DIY Thanksgiving Place Mat

I love Thanksgiving. Really I do. But I have to confess that I wasn't planning on doing much with it this year as I have been rather overwhelmed with work and the new baby. I actually like how Thanksgiving melts into Christmas as I feel like the spirit of thanks should be felt during the Christmas season so to me they naturally go together. I don't even mind the Christmas decorations everywhere and holiday music playing on the air mid November.

Well this got me thinking. I may feel this way but how are my kids going to appreciate gratitude if I don't do something to foster the spirit of giving thanks? So I decided to come up with this simple last minute place mat designed to give them a way to express their thanks on this special holiday.

You might notice that this resembles my gift to Jon I made a few years back. It's such a fun and simple idea I decided to apply it to the upcoming holiday. To make this I simply stitched together two sheets of brown packing paper. I then cut out a number of white paper flags in varying sizes. These were then straight stitched onto the mat.

And that's it! Give your guests some pens and let them express their thanks while you are finishing up those mashed potatoes and that pumpkin pie!

And you'll get a kick out of seeing what your kids come up with. Mario, among many other things, of course made the list for this little guy.  Love it.

And if you are looking for another last minute Thanksgiving craft, our turkey feather headbands are a great, easy craft to do as well!


Make Your Own Toys this Holiday Season with Mer Mag!: Gift Guide Part 1

Make your own toys this holiday season and get your kids in on the fun! We have just a little obsession with toys over her (and toy making) and thought it would be fun to share a round-up of some of our favorite projects. The Littles even weighed in on some of their top picks!

And don't forget to encourage the spirit of giving with your kids. So many of these would be great for your kids to make for their siblings and friends! Such as this set of paint chip animals. They would be an ideal gift for a grade school amigo. It is a simple and sizable toy for you little one to make and give (and easy on your holiday pocketbook!).

Start Santa's workshop here:
a. gradient blocks  b. interlocking play castle  c. milly the mermaid doll  d. paint chip animal friends  e. geometric tile puzzle  f. tea box circus train  g. articulated paper dolls  h. pop-up puppet  i. paper mache puppets  j. animal box mask


Mario in the Middle: A 4-yr-old Birthday Party

October was a busy busy month for us. Not only did we have our third child, but Little O had his fourth birthday and of course there was Halloween. Because I knew this month would be just a little bit crazy I really wanted to make Little O's birthday both very simple and very special.
You see Little O has been thrown into the middle child slot...and he's feeling it. Because we've all been sick he's not been allowed to really interact with the baby much and is constantly being shooed away...and he's over it. I feel for the poor kid.
Which is why I'm glad that I stayed up until the crack of dawn to make this little Mario costume for Little O. And why I'm glad that I threw together this little birthday bash last minute. And why I'm seriously grateful for a gigantic polka-dot "mushroom" balloon that can transform an ordinary day into an extraordinary one.
We kept things simple by having the party at a local park complete with a playground (or "Mario Land") and a covered picnic area.
And we made things special by bringing simple white linens and dishes to dress things up a bit.
And of course we had to have chocolate mustaches. (Like my sister, I've never really gotten into the mustache craze -she has an entire pin board for ridiculous trends that are way overdone, it's pretty funny really- but I felt that this party was the perfect place for it. And I think even she might approve. I know Little O definitely did.)
We brought along some sodas in bottles (a huge treat for the boys as they typically don't get to drink soda in this way), threw together some star cookies (thanks Jon!!!) and bought a simple cake. We also put out some grapes, string cheese and crackers so it wasn't a total sugar fest.
And thanks to the dollar store we were able to outfit each goodie bag with a self-sticking mustache.
We chose the park for the easy already-something-for-the-kids-to-do-so-we-don't-have-to-plan-games aspect but ended up loving it for the the real life Super Mario game play aspect of it. I mean just look at that slide. Doesn't it just scream plumbing tube?
The kids had a great time and really interacted well together. I was so impressed with how they initiated their own game play. Sometimes I think we forget that you don't really need that much structure for a birthday party to go well. Just a decent area for kids to run and play in...and they'll come up with the rest!

And this little Pizano? He was in Super Mario heaven. And well...I'm not sure he's left it since.

Man I love this kid. Here's hoping he stays in this magical make-believe world of four forever.


A Little O Birthday Sneak Peek

We are all still a bit sick around here and so much is going on (including good stuff for Mer Mag and the blog!) so it's been a bit crazy trying to get up the posts I had planned for this week. One such post was a recap of this little man's 4th birthday party. Here's just sneak peak of our little O on his happy day. I bet you can guess what the theme was (and has been every day since!). We'll be sharing the entire reveal with you next week. (I know, you're starting to question me and my promises for Mer Mag posts. Guess you'll just have to check back in next week and see if I follow through!)

Hope your late fall is just as gorgeous as our is (just without all the sick bugs!).



Vote for June

Happy voting day America!

So I realize that I've promised more pics of baby girl and a birth story and such...and rest assured they are coming! But we are currently holed up with icky colds that just won't ever end. I was the last to get it and it's hit me hard. Just hoping that this doesn't turn into one of my brutal sinus infections that last a month. Baby girl is getting better but I'm so nervous she'll get a new strain and end up with RSV (both my boys got it when they were babies so I'm extra paranoid).

Anyway. I also have a slew of illustration work going on this week so I thought I'd share this pic of hard working all-American June with you. Fitting for today. She's actually a paper doll and this is one of her outfits. Way to go June! Thinking of you, my boys, my baby girl and all of America's future little ones today.

Vote well America.


A Little Baty

I couldn't resist dressing up baby M this Halloween alongside her brothers. We decided that she also needed to be a creature of the night like her brothers so I made this simple "bat" costume (she was originally supposed to be a cat but I love hos this capelet looks like bat wings, so I had to go with that). I created the hood from the Oliver & S pattern and like the boys bunny hoods, I modified the ears. She of course slept the entire time her brothers were out trick-or-treating, but I'm happy we put together a costume of sorts none the less.

And now I'm off to see how I can help my east coast friends suffering from the aftermath of Sandy. My friend Mara shares a few ways we can pitch in and help out on her blog here. I'm still processing it all (as I'm sure everyone there is much much more) as I used to live in Red Hook where a lot of flooding occurred. Hope everyone stays safe and gets what they need.

I heart NYC.