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It is no secret I’ve been a huge fan of my Canon camera, which I bought a few years ago. Naturally I’m so intrigued by the latest model of my camera (a Canon EOS Rebel T3i), which is the Canon EOS Rebel T5i. I’ve slowly added lenses to my collection and I know they would all be amazing when attached to the latest camera body.
Good news for camera shoppers: you can now save $150 on the Canon EOS Rebel T5i at Best Buy. Visit Best Buy to learn more. Unlike online shopping at Best Buy you’ll have the opportunity to manipulate the camera yourself, to take lenses on and off and see how it fits in your hands. (Hint: it would fit quite well in mine!)
The latest version features a continuous autofocus (awesome) and full HD for video. It has a a DIGIC 5 image processor = amazing!
The reviewer has been compensated in the form of a Best Buy Gift Card and/or received the product/service at a reduced price or for free. Daisy disclaimer: just a gift card yo. Not that I would love a camera, SANTA.
Ahhh Cyber Monday. Here we are, filling up our carts to fill up our stockings/trees/menorahs. After extensive research (read: Google and other Mom-friends) here is what I’m going with for Gracie and my almost-six year old nephew……Amazon links are affiliate but you should shop wherever you want, duh. (Shopping for a different age? Check out my Christmas/birthday ideas for 10 month olds and one year olds here)
Stockings will be filled, for the most part, with a plethora of Target dollar bin items (think Sesame Street and Frozen) and small art supplies like crayons and bath paint. I think I’m also going to grab a bottle of “bath drops” to color the bath water – definitely a good bribe to get kids in the tub.
In the same “small stocking stuffer” though process I think my nephew would really love one of these magnetic storyboards, perfect for car trips and waiting rooms/restaurants.
I think books are a part of any great Christmas. I love Adam Rubin/Daniel Salmieri books so my nephew definitely needs Super Secret Pizza Party while I think Gracie is ready for Dragons Love Tacos. I’m well under way collecting Christmas books for Gracie and I think this year she will be getting How Do Dinosaurs Say Merry Christmas which fits well with her current dino-love.
The Big (and Littler) Stuff
This year I really wanted to get Gracie something big – either a Learning Tower (which is on an amazing Cyber Monday deal, holy smokes) or a wooden kitchen set- but we are traveling to Utah and the logistics of a physically big gift seemed daunting and/or cost prohibitive.
We did a mini Christmas with B’s parents this weekend and they got her a pretty awesome baby pram (the Costco one, recommend highly, but it is only sold in stores not online) so her “something large” needs are fulfilled.
For Christmas morning we’ve decided on a few Santa items that we know she will love, namely a kids Dyson vacuum and a toddler sized Ergo babydoll carrier. She is all about acting like a grownup (helping to clean up, taking care of her animals and babies) so why not let her?
Based on recommendations from friends, we are also getting Gracie the Thinfun Roll & Play game. It comes with a suggested age of 18 months and up, where kids can roll a die and pick up a card with simple instructions. I think this will be a lot of fun this winter when we need indoor things to do!
No Christmas is complete with out Little People, this year we opted for a dump truck that she can fill with all her treasures and push around.
And finally, I’d like to get her the Aden and Anais muslin dream blanket which is 4 layers of muslin and seems very cozy for winter…in fact I really, really want the adult sized one for myself, but neither here nor there I suppose.
For my nephew we decided to go big with Magformers, the magnetic tiles you can build with. After comparing them to the popular Magnatiles we decided the Magformers were more up his alley because they have gears and “moving part” kits you can add on to them. We are getting him a 37 piece kit with some gears, I think Gracie will be ready for a non-gear set sooner rather than later. I have it on good authority other family members will be supplementing his set.
And for things that are more experience based, we bought a family membership to the nature museum (we can park at the zoo and walk over!) that definitely counts towards the Christmas haul.
And with that, I think we are done. It is so easy to go overboard (kids items are so inexpensive when compared to the adults on the list!) and I like to think we’ve struck a nice balance of special but not totally spoiled.
Listen, I know. I see the calendar, the turkey has yet to come and go. But I’m also working on Christmas. I like to start slow, buy stocking stuffers so they are tucked away and purchased saving me the “Oh, hmm, gotta fill that up don’t I?” panic on December 20th, when Amazon Prime shipping is the only option, but of course what you want is available for Prime. Always.
(Amazon links affiliate, all items I love or want for my own self, nothing is sponsored)
Anyway, if you too are in charge of filling a stocking or five, and you are looking for ideas beyond the typical “chocolate orange for the toe, socks for the mid section” and need a few more nifty things, look no further.
Portable battery charger. In today’s device filled world someone is always looking for a plug, a car charger, a something, please, get my phone over 20% battery. These suckers are awesome for traveling (you can watch a movie and your iPad isn’t dead when you land) or for the car/office when you are away from an outlet. They are also really nice to have during bad weather so you know that if you lose power for awhile, you can recharge your phone and stay in touch with loved ones or on top of the weather reports.
All Clad measuring devices. They are definitely more than the average person is going to spend on something for their own kitchen, but I think that is what makes them an awesome stocking stuffer. I have a set of these and I *love* them so much- worth the investment. They are so much better than the cheap ones from Target or Bed Bath and Beyond. There are measuring spoons and measuring cups in evens and odds.
Nielsen Massey vanilla items. If you are shopping for someone who loves to bake, all of the vanilla products by NM are amazing. I’m partial to the paste, which gives pale items (like cheesecake or ice cream) pale vanilla bean flecks within.
Gear Ties. These things come in a million sizes and colors and are awesome for anyone who likes to stay organized. These heavy duty reusable twisty ties are perfect for bundling up headphone cords, charging cords, cords behind a desk, closing a bag, etc. Awesome (again) for people who travel to keep your suitcase from looking like cord/bomb central in the x-ray machines.
Infrared thermometer. If you’ve ever watched an episode of Good Eats, you know that Alton Brown is always checking on the surface temperature of his pans/grill/etc with one of these things. My husband long admired it and it was an easy way to fulfill his inner gadget geek on Christmas morning. Warning: you will have an infrared beam pointed at every surface in your house for a few days. Once the initial glee wore off we do use it pretty frequently, particularly when cooking and grilling.
Fit Bit. Ok, I know, this is a little pricier than your typically $20-and-under stocking stuffer, but man if it wouldn’t fit nicely in a stocking. Fitness trackers are taking the world by storm (I suppose time will tell if they stick around) and I want the new FitBit something fierce. If you can’t wait for the pre-order, check out the old faithful model, the FitBit Flex.
Microplane. I think I recommend one of these every year, but honestly, they are just that amazing for anyone who likes to cook. The fine ones are awesome for zest, spices and hard cheese, the larger ones are perfect for a block of cheese.
Quirky Cordies. This is something on my list- I want one for my bedside table and my desk. Perfect for anyone who loves gadgets and has a lot to charge.
Ice molds. A few years ago everyone was all about whiskey stones (still very cool, B loves his) but now the new way to drink your sipping whiskey is with a huge ice cube the size and shape of a pool cue. Last year we gave a lot of these to friends in small gift exchanges and I realized around December 20th that B didn’t have any of his own so I ordered a pair for his stocking. We’ve used them all year and find them easy to fill/work with. They also make a great boo-boo ice cube for bumps and bruises.
Tie travel case. I know, another item for traveling. Truthfully though, when B travels for business or for a wedding he was always trying to figure out how to pack his nice ties without them getting rumpled. This inexpensive solution is just what he needs to pack them in his suitcase.
Gas gauge. Two summers ago it seemed like we ran out of gas for our barbecue at the most inconvenient times; always when dinner was halfway cooked and both of us were grumpy with the two solutions: finish it inside on the stove or run to the hardware store. I bought B a little gas gauge to help us know when we were running out. It isn’t 100% accurate (mostly near the end, you never know if you have enough for one more thing or if you’ll run out in 5 minutes) but we always know when we are running low and make sure our second tank is full and ready to be swapped out. B thought it was very cool when he opened it up on Christmas morning.
Jack Rudy fixings. If you have a cocktail lover on your hand, consider one of Jack Rudy’s accessories- tonic syrup, grenadine syrup, or bourbon cocktail cherries. These are specialty small batch items for making really delicious, high quality cocktails.
Focusing on happier times, lets take a look at last weekend.
As Chicago geared up for an arctic plunge (refuse to use the p-v-phrase, the one that rhymes with molar cortex) we spent the past weekend out and about without wearing hats, as one should do before the temperatures plunge and everything becomes frozen. Friday evening was spent just enjoying doing nothing other than recalculating our grocery budget after Gracie ate three breakfasts, two lunches, a hearty snack and two dinners, but otherwise uneventful. I made these beef/blue cheese/au jous/crispy shallot sandwiches in the crockpot and both adults in the house declared them a huge success (we paired them with roasted brussels sprouts/Gracie had her own separate dinner before the sandwiches were done, opting for two huge portions of smoked salmon + sides) for a chilly night, and we sat around in the living room watching television and being lazy sloths. Saturday morning, after a delightful breakfast (two full size waffles and a piece of bacon for Gracie, which she paired with a large cup of milk and another of water) we bundled up in our finest maize and blue and drove up to Evanston for some football.
This was Gracie’s first college football game, and while we had a great time, general consensus is: not again, until she is old enough to sit in her seat for more than 32 seconds. We picked up my cousin (attending Northwestern), parked, and hit up a tailgate where Gracie ate her weight in pretzels and tried her very first Doritos (big fan). Then we loaded her up in the Tula and went into the stadium where she was happy and content to do anything except sit in our seats. We gave up only 7 minutes into the game and instead spent the half wandering the concourse, yelling “Go Blue”, trying out some of the stadium fare (pretty delicious/upscale) and watching Michigan return to the locker room for half time. Although we didn’t watch much of the game, we did have a lot of fun and even got Gracie a certificate commemorating her first college football game (thanks Northwestern)! At this point we had a no-napper on our hands and we decided to beat the crowds and cold, pick up barbecue from Hecky’s and head on home. Gracie had a stick that she carried around all day (found while tailgating), jumped in leaves, watched the crowds and was pretty enthralled by it all. B wore his Michigan “themed” Loudmouth golf pants (his very favorite pants ever) and I got to tailgate, which is one of my very favorite hobbies (if one can call it that). All in all: November Saturday success, especially after we came home to see Tulane win and Notre Dame lose (not, uh, in the same game obviously). We even found time to watch Good Morning Vietnam, a Robin Williams movie I hadn’t seen but wanted to. It was worth staying up for!
On Sunday morning we got our grocery shopping out of the way so we could hit up the “Fall French Market” at the French International school in Chicago. I wasn’t sure what to expect but they promised kid activities and crepes, so we decided to check it out. Unfortunately the kid area was for those who were potty trained, so we meandered as much as Gracie could stand (a lot of no-touching booths), sampled some crepes and cookies, and bought some raffle tickets (the school is fundraising as they move to their new campus/oh wait schools are always fundraising, ha ha ha), and prevented Gracie from stealing decorations from the walls/lockers. Sometimes in a big city (with no family roots) it can be hard to find a sense of community, and attending something like a school market makes you feel like the city is just a little bit smaller. Despite not meeting pre-conceived expectations we had a good time and made it home in time for Gracie to eat a huge bowl of yogurt, with a side of salmon, before she took a (much needed) afternoon nap. I made a practice pie for Thanksgiving (man, pie skills….not my thing…) and B and I read with football on in the background. After a family supper (grilled flank steak, asparagus, mashed potatoes) we put Gracie down and spent the evening reading while keeping one eye on the shellacking of the Chicago Bears. It was one of those nice weekends with lots to do but plenty of downtime. Here is hoping for another one this weekend (and maybe Gracie’s eye will open up a little?)