Category Archives: Carpool Candy gift guide

Carpool Candy 2014 Holiday Gift Guide for Ladies

Like your own personal elf, I’ve been gathering gift ideas all year to make you the best damn giver of the season!

I LOVE a reason to shop, and relish the challenge of finding original, fitting gifts for even the pickiest pals.

Click on the name of the gift for website links to buy or get more info. All different price points included. And please note that I get nada from any of these vendors. (Hopefully they’ll be cool with me swiping their photos and we’ll call it even.)

These suggestions are my gift to you, loyal readers. If you want to throw some good will my way, share the link to this list on social media.  The price is right, and no wrapping!

Happy shopping!

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Earrings — Delicate yet sleek, these earrings are handmade from a mold cast from real quills found in nature, but they’re set in brass so the price is nice. ($110)

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Specialty journals— If the kitchen is her domain, she’ll love organizing her recipes and cooking secrets, while checking measurements, conversions and food facts in this cooking journal. If she’s more of a style maven, she can keep track of outfits, convert international sizes, and collect style sheets for wish lists. There are also journals for wedding planning, gardening, music, and even chocolate. ($20)

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Initial soaps— Sometimes the perfect gift is something luxurious that you wouldn’t buy for yourself. These soaps fancy up a guest bathroom and smell great. ($29 for 3)

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Charm necklace— While in LA last month, I discovered Canadian jewelry company Pyhhra, which creates original designs I haven’t seen coming and going. I bought a Talisman necklace, handcrafted to exactly replicate an 19th century wax seal of a lion. They have scores of designs and each has a different inspiring meaning. The lion I chose represents wisdom and courage. In reclaimed silver, gold, and bronze. ($140+)

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Clutch bag— Can a lady ever have too many bags? Most certainly not! This fold-over leather clutch from designer Clare V. comes in scores of colors and textures. Great shape, great quality and will never go out of style. Click around the website and you’ll find several different sizes, including iPad cases and makeup bags. ($220)

little-pig-fruit-basket from shed the eclectic home on carpoolcandy.comFruit basket— I love a statement piece and this pig fruit basket will definitely grab attention. Also comes in rabbit and hen versions. ($145)

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Macaron of the month:
For the woman who has everything, including a sweet tooth. Who wouldn’t love a new box of delectable cookies arriving every month? True bakery connoisseurs will appreciate classic French macarons in flavors like pecan pie, berry cobbler, cookie dough, and peanut butter and jelly. If monthly sweets are too pricey for you, a box of assorted is equally yummy. ($90 for three months)

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Decorative trays —  These classic acrylic trays can house coffee table books or candles in a living room, or jewelry on a dresser. ($34-44)

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If you like more pizzazz, I also like these colorful monogrammed guys.   ($44)

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Bookends— If she still likes the feel of a book in her hand, splurge on a few hardcovers from Amazon and complete the thought with these bookends.  I love these whimsical jacks ($95) but also check out these gold pig ones for only $30.

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Personalized tumbler— We should all be drinking more water. These insulated travel cups can hold 16-24 oz of hot or cold drinks, with a variety of sizes and tops, and you can personalize them with initials in fun colors. (I’m partial to purple sequins!) ($11)

Henri Bendel ponytail holder on carpoolcandy.comHair accessories— If she likes a pony-tail, she’ll love a little tinsel on her tresses. These fancy hair ties are a decadent indulgence that will always fit. Try one in gold ($28) or  tortoiseshell. ($16)

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Personalized wine bottles— Bring these unique wine bottles to holiday parties, give them as hostess gifts, or buy one for your favorite wino. You can etch initials, a full personal message, or choose from holiday and occasion designs. After the spirits are gone, the bottle is a keepsake. ($70) If etching is too pricey, try these personalized stickers. ($1-2 each)

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Log cutting board— How about some cheese to go with that wine? I liked this au natural wood slice so much, I now own one. Serve cheese or cut veggies and bread. (Lumberjack shirt not included) ($33)

jonathan adler phone docking station on carpoolcandy.comSmartphone docking station— I love Jonathan Adler home accessories and this docking station is a fun gift for a gal who likes old school classics with a modern twist. Comes in both black and white. ($30)

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Tennis raquet holder— If you’re buying for a Sporty Spice, how about this monogrammed racquet bag to impress the gals at the club? ($89)

For those who prefer less material possessions, here are two suggestions:

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Animal sponsorship— Check out Heifer International to purchase an animal for a foreign family, which can change their lives. A sheep ($120) can provide wool for clothing and extra income, and manure to improve farmland. Honeybees, a hive, and beekeeping training ($30) can help a community harvest honey and beeswax, creating new income and independence in countries like Uganda and Haiti.

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Closet organizing— Another green option is treating a gal to two hours with a closet organizer. She gets an orderly closet and a new wardrobe without spending a dime!  In NJ, Betsy Ames of Mindful Style will come to your house and go through every article in your closet to determine what stays and what goes. Then she’ll help you recycle your out pile, put together outfits with keepers, and suggest classic pieces to supplement. For those outside the tri-state, Google “closet organizers” for a closet fairy near you. ($150 for 2 hours)

If you’re looking for more inspiration, check out the 2012 gift guide here and 2013’s picks here. Some of those are still my favs.

And keep an eye out for the gift guides for guys and kids coming soon!

Best sports accessories for bleacher parents

My dugout devotees are at it again. All three of my boys (ages 8, 11, and 14) are playing rec and summer travel baseball this year, and Wilson is coaching several of their teams.

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Right now, we’re juggling practices and games for six teams. Don’t get me wrong. I really like watching my kids play baseball and I don’t mind being outside for hours in the spring and summer. But you know what they say about too much of a good thing, right? Variety is the spice of life?

Too much baseball can make me cranky.

But all four of my boys love it, so I’ve joined ’em and found ways to make so many games enjoyable. Making friends with fellow fans is number 1. We look forward to spending time with many baseball families every summer.

Another way is to be prepared. Last year, I wrote a post about the Top 7 best baseball accessories. I’ve updated the items and most of the list works for any sporty family.

It’s quite possible my guys will play as many as 60 games this summer. But I’ll be ready. Read this and you will too!

Cooler for drinks/snacks— Usually peanuts and Cracker Jack don’t cut it. I would not be caught dead without cold drinks and snacks, especially for away games. You never know how long you could be stuck on a field somewhere. I did some research and I like this E-bags Crew Cooler because it’s soft so less heavy, holds a lot, and has several extra compartments for dry snacks and other necessities.

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Tent – It took years of burning in the bleachers before I finally wised up and purchased a tent for shade. After polling mom experts, I chose this Quik Shade tent because it’s easy to put up and transport. I also try to always have sunscreen in the car. If only there were somewhere to plug-in a fan….

quick shade tent on carpoolcandy.comWater bottles-– I’m a big fan of Contigo vacuum-insulated stainless steel water bottles. My friend, fellow baseball mom, and stuff expert, Judy, gave me the heads up on them and they did not disappoint. They keep drinks icy cold for up to 8 hours, even sitting in the hot sun.

Contigo metal water bottle on carpoolcandy.comCooling towel-– I don’t understand how these bright-colored rubbery things work but they do. You wet the Frogg Toggs Chilly Pad in cold water and it miraculously becomes considerably cooler than the outside air, but somehow feels dry. It provides cold relief to players and fans on a hot day and lasts a few hours. When it stops cooling, you can rewet it and use it again. And it’s machine washable– a home run!

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Stadium chair— I have lower back issues so sitting in the bleachers or even on a folding chair for hours is a killer. This stadium chair is pretty light and clamps onto most bleacher types. It was very useful until we somehow lost the back piece in the bowels of our minivan trunk.

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Eye black— For my kids, it’s all about the baseball fashion accessories. My oldest son, Jacob found these personalized eye black stickers, made to block out the sun. But the fact that my kids wear them on cloudy days convinces me they’re just for show. He has some with his jersey number, and some with his team name, but you can create any message you want on the website. They only cost $1 per pair so they make a great gift for sluggers.

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Aden’s eyeblack stickers say “Cougars.” He also has ones with his number.

Evo shields  —  And while we’re talking unnecessary accessories, my boys love these neoprene compression sleeves called Evo shields. They are for any athlete who has a weakened area, like the wrist– and needs extra protection from injury. They also have sleeves that cover almost an entire child’s arm. The website says the tight-fitting sleeve provides enhanced circulation and muscle support to reduce fatigue and improve muscle recovery. But my kids wear them because they think they look cool.

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Umbrella– As they say in Bull Durham, “Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains….” and a wet fan is an unhappy fan. We always have a golf umbrella in the trunk just in case. It fits nicely in the cup holder of your chair so your hands are free to clap!

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Sunflower seeds-– Food is usually frowned upon in the dugout but there are certain holy snacks permitted and sunflower seeds is probably the most popular. There’s something about spitting and baseball…and nothing eases the strikeout sting like a big bag of seeds. Kids get extra excited about the flavored ones like BBQ, ranch, salsa, nacho cheese, and dill.

David's sunflower seeds on carpoolcandy.comWine tote-– When you’re sick of complaints about the umpire, or need inspiration for extra innings, a little sip can be helpful. This wine tote keeps your bottle from breaking when it knocks up against the batting helmets in the car and keeps your vino at the right temperature. (For non-drivers only.) Also has glasses and a corkscrew and looks discreet, so no one needs to know.  Bleacher boozing is probably against the rules so you didn’t hear this one from me.

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Do you have any favorite sports accessories? Please share in the comments.


Carpool Candy holiday gift guide for kids 2013

If they’re over 5, kids can be so jaded these days when it comes to gifts. They get so much– if not from parents, then from grandparents and extended family– and as they get older it’s difficult to find presents that wow.

I’ve compiled some possibilities here that are mostly gender-neutral and appeal to a wide age range. Each gift has a link for easy online purchasing. In case you’re wondering, I have no affiliation with any of these products. I’m just here to serve your shopping needs. Hope you find something great for the little people in your lives.  Happy shopping!

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Wrapped headphones:    Not only do they look cool, but when these earphones are wrapped in bright yarns, they won’t tangle… and you can always recognize right and left buds.  Made to order in a ton of colors. Who says I’m not hip?! ($28)

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Wool animal hat and mittens:    These animal hats will be a big hit with kids. If sharks aren’t their thang, there are dozens of other animals from pigs to owls to zebras. ($35)

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Pair the hat with these unbearably cute mittens! ($40)

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Hello Kitty! boom box:    I’m a sucker for Hello Kitty because she reminds me of childhood. Girls of any age probably couldn’t resist this kitschy HK music maker. It’s the purrrrfect gift. ($35)

Electronic drum on carpoolcandy.comElectronic drum:   Do you know a wannabe rock star? I do, and all he wants is one of these.  This set features play-along songs, plus the ability to input an MP3 to jam along with your favorite tunes. Also includes headphones for mom’s sanity. ($52)

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Super hero shirt:  For little avengers, this Batman caped t-shirt is adorable. Comes in Superman too. ($13)

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Easybake Ultimate Oven:   For girls, boys, college kids, even nostalgic moms, check out this updated version of the classic. Now it comes in less gender-specific blue and black, and you can buy accessories and special bake mixes for aspiring cake bosses. ($40)

Photo puzzles for kids on carpoolcandy.comPhoto puzzle:    Most kids love puzzles and themselves, so this is a win-win. Pick your favorite and/or funniest picture and turn it into a puzzle on Shutterfly. May also be a good project for those long days over winter break! ($20)

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Sport helmet accessory:   These goofy add-ons to bike, skate, or ski helmets by Fohawx are unisex and fun for attention-seeking, outdoorsy types.  ($17)

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Bike lights:   How cool are these? These LED lights digitally display colorful designs with every turn of your wheel. 48 different themes of brilliant Technicolor patterns from stripes to hearts to stars shine bright as you ride. They’re so fun to look at, your kids won’t even realize they also make riding in the dark more safe. ($40-60)

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Sports Illustrated  Kids book:   If you have a sports fan (and I have a few) on your list, Sports Illustrated Kids’ Top 10 of Everything in Sports has cool action photos and more stats than they ever needed to know. ($15)

toothbrush holder timer on carpoolcandy.comToothbrush holder/timer:  For the kid who likes to do everything right and have it just so.  This is a toothbrush holder that doubles as a timer. You set it for 2 minutes to make sure the kids are brushing long enough. Clever! ($17)

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Fatheads:  These wall decals stick without ruining your walls and can turn a boring bedroom into a kid’s clubhouse. They have everything from sports figures to Disney princesses to views from space.  (Prices range from $25- 100, depending on size.)

Rainbow loom guide book on carpoolcandy.comRainbow loom accessories:     By now your kids must have a loom, but how about accessories for the all-consuming pastime? A new book gives directions on many methods and looks, and this case has 10 dividers to customize and keep up to 5000 bands organized.  (Book $17, case $15)

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Chalkboard t-shirt:   It’s a shirt, an activity, and a fashion statement all in one! These fun t-shirts come in several colors and chalkboard shapes, for boys and girls. Each has a tiny pocket to hold your chalk so you can express yourself over and over again. ($27)

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Temporary tattoo earrings:  If you know a girl who’s ready for earrings but mom is not, these are a cute and stylish alternative, or accessory for those already pierced.  Made of food-grade vegetable dye, they are safe for any age. ($24)

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Goldie Blox building set and book:   I love this gift because it’s aimed at inspiring girls’ interest in building and problem-solving. Studies show more than 80% of engineers in the US are male so this company has created a character who appears in a series of books and companion building sets. ($30)

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Lego architecture series:    Perfect for kids who like to build and collect, it’s a series of replicas of real-world architectural landmarks, from the Empire State Building to the White House to the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Taj Mahal. Each set comes with instructions and details on design and history. The blocks don’t look like Legos so they’re for an older, industrious kid. ($15 and up)

If you’re still on the hunt, try last year’s gift guide for more ideas here.

What are you giving this year? Share any ideas in the comments.   And if all this consumerism isn’t your bag, there’s always a charity gift card option, where kids can choose a cause to which they’d like to donate.

Happy Holidays!

Carpool Candy holiday gift guide for men 2013

There are so many gift possibilities for women– we love clothes,  jewelry, accessories, home goods, beauty products… I could go on and on. But men, not so much. Guys either think they don’t need anything, or can be picky and ambivalent.

Here are some suggestions that might earn you a smooch under the mistletoe.

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Steak brand and carving board:  If your guy takes pride in his grilling skills (I know mine does) he’ll love this customized branding tool to put his mark on every steak he serves. Personalized carving board seals the deal. ($70)

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Three-in-one BBQ tool:   While we’re in the backyard, this guy gadget serves many purposes and is perfect for those who like being first to have the new thing.  This baby functions as a spatula, fork and tongs all at once.  ($38)

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Leather iPad case:  Sometimes you just want to feel like a grown up. ($79)  

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Cord organizer:  And while he’s feeling mature, how about untangling his affairs with this leather cord organizer. So simple, yet so handy. ($40)

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Touch screen stylus:   Let’s round out the tech section with this new precision stylus, specifically for note taking. The Jot Script Evernote allows your handwriting to flow as freely as your thoughts. ($75)

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The Complete Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook:   This important tome offers advice on challenges as varied as wrestling an alligator to calming a crying child, to extinguishing a barbecue. Gag gift or a lifesaver? Quite possibly both. ($17)

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Weird beard hat:   I don’t know if any man you’re buying for would want to wear this but it was too hilarious to exclude. It does look warm…. ($30)

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Superduper tiny tool kit:    Smaller than a credit card, this gadget has 11 functioning tools, including a screwdriver, wrench, and bottle opener in a minute stainless steel package. It’s also a steel –see what I did there?– at $5.  

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Beer tote:  This sturdy, wood carrier is great for the guy who likes variety and needs a safe way to transport his cold ones.  ($40)

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Bathroom Guestbook:  I guess I’m putting this on the men’s list because all males find anything remotely related to bodily functions hilarious. Guests can scribble their deep thoughts or criticisms of your loo’s décor or amenities in this cheeky john journal. ($13)

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Photo phone case:   Keep your favorite people close at hand with this personalized phone case. This is exactly the kind of gift Wilson would never buy for himself but would be happy to have. ($28- 56)

Gary Poppions gourmet popcorn on carpoolcandy.comGourmet popcorn:     If you have a foodie in your life, this variety pack of Gary Poppins popcorn is a high-end treat. Samplers include standards like caramel and cheddar, but also kick it up a notch with white cheddar jalapeno, cheddar bacon ranch, creamy dill, chocolate peanut butter, and chocolate Oreo. Yum! ($28-56)

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Smartphone glove tips:     In my exhaustive research I found this cool website with products invented by regular peops like you and me. Digits are fingertip-sized pins that attach to the gloves you already own, and enable you to use your smart phone and stay warm.  ($12)

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Flag cufflinks:   You can’t go wrong with patriotism and style, right? ($50)

If you didn’t find a match on this list, try last year’s here.

Wilson is trying to establish a “no-gift” policy between us this year but I’m going to buy him something anyway. Which do you think he’ll like best? Tell me in the comments…  and let me know what you’re getting the guy (s) in your life. I promise not to tell!

Carpool Candy Holiday gift guide for ladies 2013

Buying the right gifts for people I love is one of my favorite things to do. But I know that’s not true for everyone so I’m sharing all the good stuff I’ve found in my search for personal, eclectic, and/or fun presents. And you don’t even have to leave the house.

All items have links for easy purchasing, so just click on the name of the item and it will take you right to the website. Happy shopping!

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Whimsical serving dishes:     One of my favorite local stores, Shed,  just started a website with amazing home goods. It was hard to pick just a few things to list. But how can you resist a happy face snack bowl ($75) or this inspired serving “peace” ($75)?

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Candle votives:  If you know me, you know I love a candle. These mercury glass votives are rustic and refined all at once, and give off nice light because they’re a bit distressed. Plus, I like that they’re all different and not matchy-matchy. This set of 5 for $35 will light up your life.

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Light up letter:   This is fun for adults and kids, for a bedroom or living area.  I’m going to get one for my 8-year-old son, Eli, who would love to see his name in lights. ($210).  (If that price tag is too steep, you can still be a star with this light up star for $159.

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Stylish readers:   If you hate to admit you’re getting old but your eyes are failing you, give in and treat yourself to a pair of these ($75.)  Anthropologie also has a less expensive but equally chic selection: $38.

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Fun sweater:   For the gal who likes a little oomph in her style, these sweaters are fun and great colors. I love the bird, and the heart speaks to me. ($118)

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Personalized Coasters:   These linen coasters are great for that impossible person on your list who can (and usually does) buy whatever she wants for herself.  Smart looking, useful, and available in a variety of colors. ($35 for 6)

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Jewelry tree:   Keep your favorite necklaces, bracelets, and even earrings from weaving a tangled web with this nature-inspired jewelry stand. ($40)

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Steel, politically correct bracelet:   For the activist on your list, these steel bracelets are made from guns taken off the streets by Newark, NJ Police. Each carries a serial number that corresponds with the gun from which it came. 20% of the profits go to future gun buyback programs.  Prices range from $150 for steel cuff to $350 for steel bangle with diamonds.

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Handwarmers:  Almost every glove I’ve seen featured this year has some way of combining warmth with texting ease.  God forbid we have to put down the phone for a sec while outside! These crafty handwarmers have no fingers so can’t even be called gloves. But I love the cozy fleece lining, crocheted flowers, and the many colors from which to choose.

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Faux fur earmuffs:   For the chic gal who wants to be warm, but doesn’t want to mess up her coiff.  ($78)

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Message pillow:  Ok, maybe I’m channeling my inner hippie here but I LOVE this pillow. It can serve as a reminder to always find JOY. C’mon, give PEACE a chance people! ($40)

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Dry erase chore chart:   This decal sticks (and resticks like a Fathead) to any wall and comes with a dry-erase marker to check off tasks. Personalize it with photos and your name. Great tool for busy moms. Maybe some people wouldn’t think this present-worthy but it’s what I asked Wilson to give me this year. Order it, fill it out, and get kids to comply. Now that’s a gift.

If none of these ideas are quite right, try last year’s suggestions here.

What’s on your list? Tell me in the comments!

Summer of the rainbow loom

In July I had lunch with some friends who were talking about what gifts to bring their daughters for visiting day at sleep away camp. I was only half-listening– because I have sons who don’t go to sleep away camp– but they mentioned something about a Rainbow Loom.

Then one day my 7-year-old came home with a wrist full of rainbow rubber. Some girls on his day camp bus were madly making these bracelets and all he had to do was request a few colors and the next day, another one would appear on his arm.

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I started to spot the loom-lets everywhere. Boys and girls of every age, moms, dads, even some guy sweating in front of me in yoga class.

It’s a bonafide trend.

I always wonder how that happens so quickly. I remember the Silly Bandz craze a few years ago, but the Rainbow Loom takes it a step further because instead of just buying and collecting, kids create them. The small, plastic loom comes in a kit with a crochet hook and hundreds of tiny, colored rubber bands, that you somehow weave into accessories.

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The product is the brainchild of Michigan inventor Choon Ng, who created the Rainbow Loom in his basement as a family project with his two daughters, Teresa, 15, and Michelle, 12, and his wife, Fen Chan.

They started selling it locally about a year ago, but when national giant Michael’s craft store picked it up, the kit took off. The looms and rubber band refills have been bouncing off the shelves, often requiring Michael’s and other toy stores to put customers on waiting lists.

Tutorials have popped up on YouTube to guide loomers to create different patterns like starbursts, fishtails, zigzags, rain drops, and diamonds. Crafty friends say looming is fun and can even be meditative.

Rainbow Looming is apparently crafter’s nirvana.

I love a trend that’s genderless and ageless.  7-year-old Eli has a birthday coming up and he wants his own loom. He’s excited to create bracelets with the colors of all his favorite sports teams.

That’s as close to crafty as we’re gonna get.

Have you or your kids caught the looming bug? Tell me in the comments.

Top 7 baseball accessories

My older sons play summer baseball so when the season starts next week, I’ll be looking at at least 50 games in the next 2 months. My minivan will be overflowing with Gatorade bottles, cleat dirt, and batting gloves and my butt will have permanent bleacher marks.

Top 7 baseball accessories

After 5 years of being part of this traveling circus, I’ve learned a thing or two about what you need to get through games, in spite of remote locations and steamy temperatures. There are certain necessary accessories that keep everyone happy — from Assistant Coach Wilson, to players Aden (10) and Jacob (13), to their brother, Eli (7) who’s become quite the dugout rat.

Cooler for drinks/snacks— Usually peanuts and Cracker Jack don’t cut it. I would not be caught dead without cold drinks and snacks, especially for away games. You never know how long you could be stuck on a field somewhere. This Good Housekeeping list of the best coolers provides a variety of size, styles, colors, and carrying ease.

Tent – It took years of burning in the bleachers before I finally wised up and purchased a tent for shade. After polling mom experts, I chose this Quik Shade tent because it’s easy to put up and transport.  I also try to always have sunscreen in the car. If only there were somewhere to plug-in a fan….

Best  baseball accessories

Water bottles— I haven’t tried them yet, but I’m told these water bottles will keep a drink icy for up to 10 hours, even sitting in the hot sun.  I’m taking a leap and ordering these Contigo vacuum-insulated stainless steel water bottles.

Cooling towel-– This is a new one for me, but moms of athletes swear by the Frogg Togg Chilly Pad.  You wet the towel in cold water and it miraculously becomes considerably cooler than the outside air but somehow feels dry, and can provide cold relief to players and fans on a hot day. It apparently stays cool up to 4 hours and when it stops cooling, you can rewet it and use it again.  And it’s machine washable. Sounds like a home run.

 baseball accessories: frogg togg cooling towel

Stadium chair— I have lower back issues so sitting in the bleachers or even on a folding chair for hours is a killer. This stadium chair is pretty light and clamps onto most bleacher types.

Eye black-– Jacob found these personalized eye black stickers, made to block out the sun, but he only wears them to look cool. He has some with his jersey number, and some with his team name, but you can create any message you want on the website.  They only cost $1 per pair so they make a great gift for sluggers.

baseball accessories: eyeblack

Wine tote— When you’re sick of complaints about the umpire, or need inspiration for extra innings, a little sip can be helpful. This wine tote keeps your bottle from breaking when it knocks up against the batting helmets in the car.  There’s also a 6-pack tote if you prefer brewskies in the stands. (For non-drivers only.)

Do you have any favorite sports accessories? Please share in the comments.