Toddler Holiday Gift Guide 2018

Aloha, friends! We’re straight up barreling towards Christmas here, which means festive fashion is in full force, Santa has been visited (Penny was very skeptical this year), and I’ve got about, ehhhh, 60% of my Christmas shopping done?

 

Which, I know, doesn’t sound too bad, but normally I’m a Black Friday-loving, early-present-buying kinda gal, so I’m starting to feel just a wee bit anxious over not being even close to done, haha.

But I’m hoping that I’m not the only one who’s not done with their holiday shopping yet, because I’ve also been meaning to do ye ol’ holiday gift guide roundup for several weeks now, but you know, life. Heh. And I know that many of you have probably gotten a lot of your shopping done already, which is great! But for those of you who might still be looking for ideas on what to gift your little ones this holiday season, I’ve put together a list based on the things that Penny’s either really loving right now, or the things that made it onto her (*coughmycough*) wishlist this year!

Some of the following links are affiliate links, which means if you click through and buy something, I may earn a small payment (at no additional cost to you.) 

If you’d like recommendations on items for the first year, either as Christmas gifts, baby shower presents, or just stuff to put on your own registry, feel free to check out my Baby Stuff Recommendations posts: Months 1 – 3, Months 3 – 8, and Months 8 – 12.

Stocking Stuffers

Skip Hop Fork & Spoon and Straw Cup

 

Penny’s getting more and more interested in utensils when eating lately, so Santa’s putting a “real” pair of metal utensils in her stocking. We also already have been using the Unicorn version of the Skip Hop straw cup, so I picked up the Fox version to match. These cups are great to use BUT I will warn you that the print on her unicorn cup totally scratched off. From my sister’s experience, some of the prints stay on perfectly well, and some of them scratch off soooo guess we’ll see if Fox beats Unicorn!

Munchkin Miracle 360 Cups (10 oz) and Lids!

 

We’re also graduating to the handleless Miracle 360 sippy cups, in a larger size! And Munchkin recently came out with lids for these beauties as well, which is great because Penny now prefers these and this way I can toss them in my diaper bag without fearing drips or leaks.

Triangular Crayons & My First Coloring Book

 

Penny has been showing an increased interest in coloring, crayons, markers, and the like. It’s still like, a 50/50 split between her attempting to draw and attempting to eat her drawing utensils (siiiiiigh), but I figured that this means it might be a good time for her first real coloring book! I’m pairing it with these triangular crayons that are supposed to be easier for little-little ones to learn to hold.

Dimpl

Fat Brain’s Dimpl toy has so many 5-star reviews on Amazon, it’s staggering! Parents are just so pleased with how much enjoyment their kiddos get out of it, and how deeply they can focus on playing with it. I picked it up as a stocking stuffer for Penny, but I have a feeling we’ll be busting it out early for her to play with on the 9-hour (!!) car ride to my sister’s for Christmas this year, hehe.

Children’s Headphones

Penny is still getting used to wearing these kiddo headphones, but they ended up working really well for us on our last flight to and from Atlanta to visit my sister. They have a volume limit so little ears won’t get hurt, but were clear enough to be heard over the roar of the plane noise, so a good balance! They plug into your device, so while they don’t have the convenience of being wireless, you also don’t need to charge them or replace any batteries. And they’re very reasonably priced too, and while they fit her at 15 months, they also expand so hopefully she’ll get a lot of future use out of them!

Knee Socks

Penny is basically a real-life doll, and dressing her up is SO FUN. I love these knee socks that I picked up on Amazon a few months back, as the colors compliment so many of her outfits and they’re so much more convenient for diaper changes than tights! They’re actually more like thigh-socks right now, haha, but I guess that just means they’ll be able to grow with her for a while!

Gifts

First Toothbrush Set, Toddler Toilet

Ahhh, the glamorous side of gifting. Penny’s finally got 8 glorious teeth, which means we are (trying) to get into the habit of brushing them. This Dr. Brown’s set comes with a soft bristle toothbrush that looks like an elephant from the top, and baby-friendly toothpaste.

I also put a potty on her Christmas list this year, even though we are probably not anywhere close to starting the potty training process yet, I know it’ll be here before we know it! And at least this Summer Infant one looks just like a teeny tiny grown-up toilet (complete with flushing sounds!) which I think Penny will love.

Cuddle + Kind Dolls

 

Penny’s favorite things in this world are her stuffed unicorns from Cuddle + Kind (we have the same one, Zoe, in both the small and large size). These handmade dolls are a bit pricey, but it’s for a good reason, as every purchase helps feed children in need around the world and they’re absolutely beautiful. Cuddle + Kind released a new doll last month — a flamingo somewhat unfairly named “Penelope,” so obviously I couldn’t just pass that up! If you live in North America, it’s not too late to order a doll before Christmas, and they’re offering free shipping right now!

OneKid Road Coat

 

I was complaining on Instagram about how annoying it is to constantly have to put on and take off Penny’s coats when getting her in and out of her carseat, and my friend responded recommending the OneKid Road Coat — a winter coat that is safe to keep on in the carseat! And then another friend of mine reached out and said she had scored an extra one on Facebook Marketplace for half-price, and would I be interested? Heck yes! It’s awesome — there’s two layers to the front: one super thin (like windbreaker-type material) and then the fluffier down layer. You just unzip the outer layer and pull it outside of the straps when buckling into the carseat — that way, you don’t need to loosen the straps to make it fit over the jacket (which is what makes it unsafe) at all! I love it, and now I want to order the unicorn print version in her next size up. 😉

Fisher-Price Little People Disney Princess Klip Klop Horses & Castle

 

Penny finds these little horses so fascinating, and the Disney lover in me loves them because, hello? Princesses! Each little horse comes with a ramp (and feeding trough, heh), and then they also can be used on the larger castle. The castle has been discontinued, but you can still purchase the Klip Klop horses new on Amazon. Even better, scour Facebook Marketplace and you might be able to score the castle AND the horses like I did for an absolute steal! $8 for the entire set!!!

Fisher Price Classics Cash Register

This thing makes me feel nostalgic like whoa — I have so many fond memories of playing with one EXACTLY like it when I was a kid, and I’m so excited that it’s BACK. She’s still a little bit young for it, but she’s really starting to “get” how things work and is just starting to touch on pretend play, so I know that this thing (coupled with a play kitchen, which is definitely something we plan on getting her eventually) will provide tons of imaginative play for years!

Halo Early Walker SleepSack

I’ve dabbled in weaning her off of wearing her sleepsack for all her sleeps, but it hasn’t gone so well. She’s pretty attached to her sleepsack, and that’s fine with me, especially going into these cold winter months since she still has no clue how to use a blanket, lol. However, now that she’s so mobile, she will stand up and try to walk around in her crib, in the sleepsack, which often results in her tripping and falling into the rails. Not so fun. So we’ve started using the Early Walker kind where she can slip her feet out of the holes when she stands up (but still deters her from trying to climb over thankfully!)

Skip Hop Explore & More Kids Chairs

I’m already a huge fan of the Skip Hop Explore & More Activity Table, which Penny has used since she was around 5 or so months old, and these chairs are the perfect accompaniment to it now that we’ve converted it into a real table for her to play on! These chairs were super easy for me to put together and they’re sturdy enough to hold a grown-up’s weight (well, I’ve never tried putting *my* weight on them, but both my mom and sister-in-law have sat in them without issue.)

Nugget Comfort

I’ve been obsessed with the Nugget ever since I stumbled upon them on Instagram, and this foam kid’s couch is at the tippy top of Penny’s wishlist. It’s supposed to be awesome for imaginative play as well as occupational therapy — yes, you can use it like a couch, but you can also can build forts, turn it into a slide, and way more! It also stacks up to save space when not in use. My brother and I already are surprising our sister’s kids with one for Christmas (couldn’t quite be a surprise for my sister & bro-in-law though since it has to be unboxed as soon as it arrives.) They do take some time to ship, so alas, it’s unfortunately too late to get one in time for Christmas Day. But if you’re okay with gifting a belated Christmas present, or just want to keep something in mind for future birthdays or holidays, this is a pretty cool, multipurpose gift!

Books

I could honestly make a list that’s pages and pages and pages of just book recommendations, because I LOVE books, and I hope that Penny develops a lifelong love for them, too! Like, I’m literally counting down the days until I can start reading the Harry Potter Illustrated versions to her. ::starry eyed emoji:: Anyway, these are just some of my current favorites and recommendations:

Emma Dodd Books

These books are sooooo beautiful — honestly, they’re more for me than for Penny right now, since they’re not board books, but the illustrations are gorgeous, and they’re printed on pages with foil detailing and more!! They always have a very simple and sweet storyline to them. I have like 10!

Dear Zoo

Without a doubt, this is Penny’s favorite book in the world, and because it also only has like 100 words total in addition to the flaps for her to lift, it’s also the only book I’m ever able to actually finish reading to her before she gets bored. I bring it up constantly because she’s just obsessed!

A Unicorn Named Sparkle and Uni the Unicorn

And these are the books I’m obsessed with on her behalf, hahaha. I mean, hello! Unicorns!! These books are both super sweet and come in either board book or regular book form, depending on what’s more appropriate for your kiddo. Sparkle is a little more tongue-in-cheek/goofy, and Uni has kind of a meta/self-awareness angle to it. They’re both really fun!

Never Touch A… Series

  

More touchy-feely books that are a lot of fun for toddlers! They’re very similar to the Usborne “That’s Not My…” series of books, but with a little more texture on the pages and a goofier vibe.

Gaston & Antoinette

The sweetest books about how family is about more than looks, genetics, and fitting in! They’re real story books, so Penny is still a little bit young to be able to fully enjoy, but I love reading the story to her and can’t wait until she starts to really appreciate it on her own.

Holiday Books: Dear SantaSanta’s Workshop Lift-a-Flap, Construction Site on Christmas Night

 

In case you’re in the market for any holiday-specific books, these ones are keepers! The first two are both lift-the-flap board books, which are Penny’s favorite, and “Dear Santa” is by the same author as “Dear Zoo”, and we have another book by the same author as “Santa’s Workshop” that she adores (another good one called “Babies in the Forest“). Sean works in the construction industry, so we are already fans of the “Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site” books, and so this Christmas-themed sequel had to make the list!

And okay, that’s all I can come up with for now! If you have any other recommendations on things that your littles loved at this age and up (15 months+), drop ’em in the comments! And I hope you’re all having an awesome holiday season so far!

Thanksgiving Recap & Christmas Ahoy!

Happy December, everyone!

I hope you all had an awesome Thanksgiving holiday (though I know I’m already like, 2 weeks late on the well-wishes for that… it’s been busy around here!). Sean, Penny, my parents, and I all joined Sean’s family for Thanksgiving this year, and it was epic. Penny enjoyed turkey but really went wild for the homemade mac ‘n’ cheese that I contributed to dinner, which made me swell with pride.

We also had a mini-second-Thanksgiving dinner at my parents’ house with Ben, Taylor, and Marnie (who spent actual Turkey Day with Tay’s family) and because of course my mom randomly happened to have an entire second turkey that she needed to cook. Oh well, any excuse for more tryptophan-induced food comas is A-OK by me!

Going back to my parents’ house this week also gave us the opportunity to help my dad pull out some holiday decorations, and had me tripping down memory lane when I found an old photo album filled with baby pictures of yours truly! Which confirmed what lots of strangers stop to tell me anytime I’m out with Penny, which is that she really is my mini!!

 

Well, my strawberry-blonde, blue-eyed mini. 😉

And actually, turns out I got quite a bit of extra time in with my parents over Thanksgiving week, since the weekend after I went with them to the Kennedy Center to see the National Symphony Orchestra’s Decade of Disney concert.

 

Sadly, my Thanksgiving weekend did not end on a tremendously high note, as Sunday I came down with some kind of crazy stomach bug / food poisoning / some kinda something that had me hugging the porcelain throne all night long. UGH. Not sure what happened there, but it had me pretty much out of commission for most of Sunday and Monday. Blech.

I’m feeling much better now, but between getting sick after returning from Atlanta, Thanksgiving, and then that lovely ’bout of illness, it had been a seriously hot minute since I’d been to the gym or worked out at all. I also made the potentially grave error of agreeing to a Christmas Eve 5K with my sister and some friends, however, so I knew that I needed to get back on the horse soon.

I felt better on Tuesday, so I managed to drag myself to the gym and put in a half-hearted workout. Not great, but it was something. And then on Wednesday and Friday, I managed to do some real running and real lifting. Training-wise, even on the mend from being sick, I managed to make it to 1.6 miles, so hopefully by the time 12/24 rolls around I’ll actually be able to do the full 5K.

  

Anyway, that pretty much catches us up to today! And as today is, y’know, December, this officially means we are BRINGING ON THE CHRISTMAS CHEER!!

You can find me (and Penny… and the dogs…) dressed festively for the next 22 days and I’m not even a little bit sorry.

 

On the work-front, I’ve got my regional summit the first half of this upcoming week, so I’ll be camping out at Yelp’s DC office pretty much nonstop for the next couple of days. We all had dinner together last night, and it was great — I love getting to see so many of my coworkers (we all work remotely, so it’s one of the few opportunities each year for all of us to get together), but as I’m sure anyone who’s ever had a work conference derail your daily duties a bit, it’s also for sure going to make for a bit of a crazy week.

And even though I so treasure this time spent with my regional team, it is a teeeeny bit bittersweet. I mean, it’s really only because I’m so spoiled, but even though Penny goes to daycare twice a week, I’ve never had to worry about stuff like traffic and commuting during rush hour — this morning will be my first taste of that. So I’m dropping her off extra early and will just have make peace with the fact that the 20 minutes I spent with her first thing in the morning is the only time I’m gonna get with my girl over the next couple of days (since I’ll be getting home loooooong after she’s gone to bed.) I know, I know, this is the daily reality for tons of parents so I should probably just shut my face. It’s just not my daily reality, so it makes me a little wistful. Also, she hardly eeeeeever naps at daycare so, you know, pray for Sean.

Anyway, on that optimistic note, I’ll bid you adieu for now! Hope everyone has a super fun, festive week as we really start getting into the holiday spirit, and Happy Hanukkah to my friends who are celebrating!

 

POPs

Before I get into my little weekend recap post, I just wanted to take a second to pay homage to the tragedy that occurred last week in Newtown, CT. I would feel like an a-hole if I said absolutely nothing, but, of course, there’s really nothing I can say. It’s a horrific tragedy, and I just… there are simply no words. Anyway, I’m not trying to be a downer, I just think that a tragedy of this magnitude deserves acknowledgement and, of course, remembrance. Not for the monster that did this, but to commemorate and celebrate the lives that were taken.

Okay. So. Now to pluck myself out of the doldrums again, very awkwardly and non sequitur…ly. Eeeeyeah.

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Thanks to my book release as well as the birth of one pretty neat older brother, this weekend was full of little celebrations. Friday night, my boyfriend Sean took me on a date to my beloved Sweetwater Tavern to celebrate the book, then Saturday we had a birthday potluck in honor of Ben’s 29th birthday at the house! Sadly, I took absolutely zero photos of either event. Womp womp fail.

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What I *did* take photos of was Sunday’s excursion. Also, many vain outfit shots. Heh. My whole family gathered together to go see the National Symphony Orchestra’s Holiday POPs concert at the Kennedy Center! Naturally, I found this the perfect excuse to bust out one of my Oh-em-gee-this-dress-is-only-$9-but-when-am-I-ever-going-to-wear-it purchases from when I decimated the Leesburg Outlets with my friend Holly back in October.

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I love a good reason to get dressed up! We had dinner at the Terrace Restaurant in the Kennedy Center before the show, which was delicious and extravagant.

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I started with a salad that had bibb lettuce, blue cheese, candied cashews, apples, and an apple vinaigrette (and helped myself to not a small amount of Sean’s seafood chowder, hahaha). I got the mussels & frites for my entree, which was actually listed as an appetizer so I got an OBSCENE amount of mussels. Not that I’m complaining. But yeah, literally, I had a cauldron full of mussels. Om nom nom.

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Then it was time for the show! The concert itself was wonderful. It was a lot more jazzy than I expected — the NSO collaborated with an a cappella quartet called “New York Voices” and the result was a lot of complex harmonies and jazz interpretations of our favorite traditional holiday tunes.

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Okay, fine, it was mostly Christmas tunes (they even had Santa come out at the end, haha), but they DID play one non-Christmas song (O, Chanukah) so I guess that’s what makes it a “Holiday” concert, hahaha. Either way, it was super enjoyable, very impressive, and really got my holiday gears cranking (’cause… you know… I have such a difficult time getting excited for Christmas… lololol). GUYS. THIS IS THE LAST WEEK BEFORE CHRISTMAS WEEK. AAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!

What’s your favorite thing about the holiday season? You know, pre-actual Christmas, what’s your favorite thing about this Decemberiffic time? The decorations, the baked goods constantly available, the tacky sweater parties…?

PS: Quick note. Just in case any of you are looking for me on Twitter moving forward, I’ve updated my handle to @gretchenpowell!

5 Favorite Holiday Films

Keeping on with this theme of random lists of 5 things I evidently have going this week, we move onto… HOLIDAY MOVIES!

This is a countdown of all my Christmas-y & holiday-y faves. I absolutely LOVE this time of year, and part of the reason for that is because it’s acceptable for me to watch these movies pretty much nonstop (and back to back). First up…

5.The Nightmare Before Christmas

What with ditties like, “This is Halloween” and all, you might think this is actually a Halloween movie. YOU WOULD BE WRONG. This movie is Christmas through-and-through, and is so much fun to watch year after year. It’s charming, heartwarming, funny, and just so, so good. Oh, claymation. I miss you.

I’m going to assume that everyone who is anyone has seen it already, but if you’re part of the no one group at the moment, I think you know what needs to be done.

4. Holiday Inn

You might not know that “Holiday Inn” wasn’t always a reference to economic hotel stays. In fact, it was first a 1942 movie starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. Yes. Both of them, in one movie. Epic. I’m a sucker for old movies in general (“Singin’ in the Rain” is still my all-time favorite movie!) and this is no exception. This is THE movie where “White Christmas” first originated (well, the song, not the concept), and is such a delight. It’s about an inn that’s only opened on the holidays (go figure), and is chock-full of singing, dancing, and amazing 40s-style writing.

Fair warning, there is an entire part of the movie that centers around the characters wearing blackface (in commemoration of Lincoln’s Birthday). I mean… it was the 40s. So yeah. But that aside, the movie really does hold up!

3. Love, Actually

As if I’d have a holiday movie without “Love, Actually.” I’m sure there aren’t too many of you out there who haven’t seen this delightful Christmas-themed British film of interwoven vignettes. It is THE ORIGINAL (and without fail, the best) of all the subsequent vignette-ridden holiday-themed movies that have come out (Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve, blah blah blah).

If nothing else, the movie is worth it just to see Rick from The Walking Dead pour his adorabe cue-carded heart out to Keira Knightley. I think it’s safe to assume that this film takes place pre-zombie apocalypse.

2. The Holiday

I’m a sucker for the rom coms, it’s true. And I’m a sucker for Jude Law in… just about anything (though I have to admit, the way he’s styled in Anna Karenina doesn’t do much for me, hahaha). And since the first time I saw this movie, I have loved it.

The basic summary is this: Iris (Kate Winslet) and Amanda (Cameron Diaz) are two equally unlucky-in-love women, who trade houses with each other over Christmas in an attempt to shake up/escape their lives. Hilarity, friendship, and romance ensues. OH, and the score is AMAZING. Like, seriously. Hans Zimmer wrote the score (he is also the amazing composer responsible for Pirates of the Caribbean, and other huge blockbuster films) and it is just wonderful. Like, makes you want to fly up out of your seat and go chase after the one you love.

1. ELF!

And yes, to put the cap on this cake of delicious holiday festiveness, we have the piece de resistance: ELF! I don’t care how many people think Will Ferrel is annoying or this movie is over-quoted or whatever. To me, it is perfect. And I will watch and laugh and quote ’til my heart spilleth over!

Plus, it doesn’t hurt that it’s got Zooey Deschenel in it (do you guys watch New Girl? UGH I DIE LAUGHING EVERY WEEK). Of course, she is blonde in Elf, which is kind of weird, but she sings, so it makes up for it. (If you’re looking for Christmas music to get into, by the way, the She & Him Christmas album stars Ms. Deschenel’s sultry tones and is really delightful.)

ANYWAY. SO there you have it! My top 5. And if you are like Sean, and find yourself surprised that A Christmas Story wasn’t on this list, I have some potentially shocking news for you. I… don’t actually like A Christmas Story very much. I mean, I can appreciate it from a cultural perspective, and I’ve seen it enough times to get all the references, of course. But, as a movie, I’m just kinda like, ehhhhh? Don’t hate me!

Favorite holiday film: GO!

PS: Final reminder about the Blue Diamond Almonds giveaway! I’m drawing the winners tomorrow AM, so get your last minute entries in now!