Friday Favorites: What We Loved This Christmas

image1You did it!  You survived the holiday madness once again!  I truly hope that your Christmas was everything that you wanted or needed it to be.  If this year was wonderful for you, I am so happy for you.  I celebrate your happiness with you!  If this year was one for the history books, please trust that next Christmas may look completely different, that it may be much better even if your life has changed, even if you can’t begin to imagine what “better” might look like yet.  Keep on keeping on, and soon you will be an encouragement to someone else who is right where you are now, and what an incredible gift you will be!

Speaking of gifts, every year I tell my kids that Santa will be cutting back at our house, and every year Santa fails to follow through with this plan.  This year was no exception.  When I pointed out to my children that baby Jesus himself received only three gifts, my quick-witted oldest son responded, “Yes, Mom, but one of those was GOLD!!!”  (Seriously, though, my kids aren’t the problem.  The problem is ME!)

I think we can all agree that Christmas has become far too entangled in American commercialism and materialism, but, even so, it’s fair to say that the gifts that we give one another, at Christmas or at any time, do matter.  Yes, we spend too much money and, yes, we spoil our kids with too many presents, but the perfect gift, even if it is very inexpensive, is a powerful way to say I know you and I love you.  And these words are coming from someone whose LEAST appreciated love language is gift giving.

When you give a particularly meaningful gift, it’s not about the gift at all.  It’s about the thought, the time, the generosity of spirit.

There is no way that I could highlight every gift my kids and I got or bought this Christmas, but please know that we thought carefully about each gift that we purchased and truly enjoyed each present we received!  My hope is that by sharing some new ideas with you, maybe this will give you some gifting inspiration for the coming year.  Or for Christmas next year.

Seriously.  It’s only 361 days away!

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Yes, one of my favorite gifts in 2017 was a thermometer . . . Oh, wow.  I’m feeling super old in this moment . . .  I actually received this gift at a favorite things gift exchange hosted by my friend Jennifer, and then I loved it so much that I bought one for my brother and his wife, so I both got it and bought it!  To sum it up, you load the Kinsa app onto your smart phone and then the thermometer pictured above plugs right into your phone.  Here’s what I love: Each person in the family can have a profile on Kinsa where you can record their temperature readings as well as their symptoms.  This way, when the doctor asks questions like, “How long has your child been having these symptoms?” you don’t have to bumble around, looking confused and wondering if you just failed parenting because you can’t remember.  You can buy this on Amazon for around $14.

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This might be my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE gift that I bought this year!  What do you buy for a three-year-old who doesn’t need any toys because he already has all of the ones you bought his older brother for Christmas for the past nine years?  You make him a customized memory game on Shutterfly!  You choose which pictures to load, and you can create a theme if you want.  In our case, I used photos from our family vacation to Florida last summer.  We had fun playing the game AND enjoying the memories at the same time.  Note: The cards are bigger than the other memory games you may have at home.  I also ordered two sets to expand the game.  Shutterfly offers LOTS of discounts and promos, so watch for those before ordering. 

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If your name is Renee and you are my sister-in-law, you need to stop reading right now because your kids have not received this gift yet!  This is another fun, unique gift that I am so excited to share with my niece and my nephew.  You can find these mermaid tail blankets by visiting Blankie Tails, and they come in a variety of sizes and colors.  (Photo from the Blankie Tails website)  They also have different styles, such as a shark and a rocket ship, to appeal to different kids.  I ordered directly from Blankie Tails because they carry toddler sizes. (Seriously, a toddler mermaid.  It’s too much.)  However, you can also find some of their styles on Amazon, and I REALLY love that you can buy them and add the child’s name (if you don’t need toddler sizes – BOO!) at the Personal Creations website.

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Alex and Ani bracelets are trendy and fun, but there are three reasons why I like them more than any other bracelets I own.  First, they are extremely light weight and thin, which means that I can forget that I am wearing them, even when I am working.  Second, they are adjustable, which is very helpful for those of us who have tiny wrists and those of us who don’t.  Finally, each bracelet has a special meaning, so you can gift a loved one in a meaningful way.  My parents gave me this bracelet to add to a few others I already have, and it is lovely!  You can buy these at some jewelry stores, department stores, and boutiques or at Alex and Ani online.  Here is a pro shopper tip: If you live near a Nordstrom Rack, they often carry some of these bracelets at nearly half the usual cost, making them a much more affordable gift!

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My parents don’t really need or want any more things around the house.  There isn’t room for a lot of extras in their small home, and they have everything arranged just the way they like it.  This year, my brother and I bought them these kits to trace their ancestry.  The results will be fascinating for our entire family!  We bought these on Amazon when they were on sale, so look for discounts.  This is a great idea for people who don’t really want any more things, and I expect the results to spark many interesting conversations!

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My boys became somewhat obsessed with the game of croquet last summer, so much so that my brother and sister-in-law bought them this desktop croquet set, kind of as a joke.  It turns out that this little set with each ball about the size of a dime provided hours of holiday fun.  Who would have thought?  You will need a tablecloth to create some friction, but this game is a win!  You can buy it at World Market.

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You know how some people are naturally really good at finding JUST the right gifts?  Yeah.  Those people are my brother and my sister-in-law.  They bought me this print from RunawayPrints on Etsy and then framed it from IKEA.  This gift is so personal and so encouraging!  It doesn’t get better than that!  I love it.

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And . . . they also got me this super soft t-shirt from one of my favorite Etsy shops, Birch Bear Co., which you may remember me blogging about here.  I bought my sister-in-law a Christmas gift from this shop, as well.  There are so many cute options, and the business owner is incredibly kind.  I highly recommend Birch Bear!

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This year, the boys and I spent a little more time visiting with extended family, which was so nice.  We had more time to sit and talk, and we were able to make a couple of extra stops.  When I visited my aunt and uncle, not only was the company enjoyable, but they also let me raid the pantry!  Oh, my goodness, you guys . . . that is homemade apple pie filling.  HOMEMADE APPLE PIE FILLING!!!  And it was lovingly prepared by two people who are very special to me.  Best.  Gifts.  Ever.  Give the gift of your own skills and talents!

All of these are risk-free, no-fail gifts!  We love ornaments at our house because each one represents a special interest, event, or person, so an ornament that has some personal significance is the perfect gift any time of the year.  Don’t forget to look for them when you are on vacation, or consider making them yourself, as my friends Kelli and Jamison did for me!  Retro gifts are becoming more and more appealing to me and friends in my age group (you know, around 29), maybe because they transport us to a time when our greatest worries were how far the telephone cord would stretch and when a favorite song would play on the radio so that we could add it to a mix tape.  Anything that looks like the 80s, if you lived in the 80s, is fun.  Board games are favorites at our house because, really, they are the gift of time with one another; my awesome kiddos bought me Trivial Pursuit this year . . . maybe just a little harder than they thought!  And, of course, CHOCOLATE never fails to please, especially if you know your mom L-O-V-E-S dark chocolate with raspberry filling but thinks it costs too much . . . YUM.

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This last one is a gift that I bought for a dog-loving friend, and I also bought one for myself.  (Yes, that happens . . . )  My mother-in-law had given me a similar dish towel several years ago, and the statement makes me happy.  This is a very inexpensive gift that I found at Home Goods, which is a great place to find steals and deals that can still be meaningful gifts, any time of the year!

I hope that this post gives you some great gifting ideas for the coming year!  Thank you to everyone who so generously gave to my family this Christmas; we appreciated everything, especially all of the love!  Goodbye 2017!

~Mary Ann

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7 thoughts on “Friday Favorites: What We Loved This Christmas

  1. Hello!

    How are you? I miss talking with you and teaching with you! But I do LOVE your blog posts. You truly have a gift and I enjoy your insight and perspective.

    I wanted to let you know the impact your fall/leaves/tree blog had on me and my youngest, Katherine. You may remember, years ago, my middle daughter struggled with migraines. At the time and after, we thought her experience was the worst it could be. We were wrong. Katherine has been battling them for over 2 years. Despite numerous doctors and ridiculous amounts of drugs, she is getting them every other day. On top of this, she was diagnosed with Celiac disease 6 weeks ago. She’s missed over 40 days is school, sporting and club events and many outings with friends. It has not been the start of high school we hoped for. When I read your description of being the tree, it struck such a chord with me. I bought she and I the bracelet below and printed the post for her. Right now, her “tree” is taking a beating (as is mine!). We both wear our bracelet every day and it is such a sweet and powerful reminder that this will pass, we are strong and we are growing every day.

    Thank you for your words, my friend. They resonate and impact so many.

    Happy New Year! Love Kelly

    Kelly Sent from my iPhone

    >

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  2. Pingback: Friday Favorites: What We Loved This Christmas — Still Chasing Fireflies – Kristalin Davis' Musings on the Human Condition

  3. I really needed that thermometer this week for Grant and me! I am ordering that handy little jewel ASAP! Thanks for all of the other fun ideas as well! I love the matching game idea for my nephew! And just an FYI . . . YOUR friendship is one of my favorite gifts!

    Like

  4. I apologize for the slow response! For some reason, pending comments were invisible to me for a few days. Aren’t those bracelets fun? I love giving and getting them as gifts because they have special meaning – a great gift for daughters. Thanks so much for visiting my blog! Yours looks great! Can’t wait to visit again and read more of your posts. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Kelly, what a pleasure to hear from you! I miss you, too! I’m sorry about the slow response . . . There was some kind of a glitch and I did not see a couple of comments right away. I am so sorry that Katherine is suffering. And I am also so sad that you are suffering, because the mom always suffers right along with the child, right? I hope that she can find answers and peace and the best of health soon.

    You have no idea what your comments meant to me today! Today was truly the day that I was supposed to read them. Whenever I feel discouraged, I truly believe that God intervenes and says, “Keep writing.” Today that message came through you! I’m so glad (and still surprised) that anything that I write can encourage people. It feels good but scary at the same time!

    I can’t see the picture of the bracelet, and I really want to! Maybe you can share it with me through FB! Love you, and thank you!

    Like

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