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    Emily Malone

    culinary arts grad. nutrition facts lover. vegetarian chef. marathon runner. country music maniac. failed dog trainer. barre fanatic. loving mama.

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    A Look Back.



Holiday Gift Guide for Kids (Ages 3 and 5!).

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!  We don’t have our tree up just yet (still recovering from Thanksgiving travel!), but I’m hoping to have the house all decorated and twinkling soon.  I’m trying to be a bit more ahead of things when planning for gifts this year, which means taking advantage of all the early deals happening now!

I’ve written gift guides for kids the past two years – for kids three and under, and a sibling edition for toys to share.  And I laughed at the intro text on both posts that basically said the same thing – “I don’t like to have lots of toys and clutter!”  And the same thing rings true this year.  In fact now more than ever I feel like I’m in the “less is more” phase of life.  My kids and husband live in constant fear that I will sell or donate whatever they set down!

I’ve utilized our Buy Nothing and local parent swap groups on Facebook to pare down on the tiny trinket toys and things they have outgrown, and to organize what we have into small collections of things they actually use and enjoy.  I recently did a playroom overhaul, and worked all of our toys into two Ikea Trofast storage units.  Maybe I’ll do a full playroom post after the holidays, but for now – here’s what it looks like these days! (Ignore the off-centered picture frames that haven’t been replaced yet)

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Okay back to gifts!  So speaking of the playroom, like I said – trying to really build on what we have instead of introducing a ton of new little things that are easily lost or broken.  We are doing very little in the way of toys this year, but here are a few of our favorite things for the boys in their current ages (three and five!).  This is not all stuff they are getting THIS year, but just includes our favorite things we have collected or are interested in for the future!

Rainy Day Play

Kinetic Sand – Cullen played with this at a playdate a few weeks ago, and I personally loved it because it was all the fun of sand with almost no mess.  I’m sending these sets to my nephews for Xmas this year too (spoiler alert!).  There are fun sets with dinosaur digs and construction sites too!

chess

Chess Set – Casey taught Cullen to play chess a few weeks ago, and he is literally obsessed.  He sets it up first thing every morning and begs Casey to play at breakfast.  We got this really basic chess board and kids’ book, and it’s nice because the pieces aren’t super small. 

Board Games – Board games are one of the few things my kids will sit and do for hours and hours, sometimes even all by themselves (hallelujah!).  Favorites in our house are Candy Land, Chutes & Ladders, Perfection, and Dinosaur Escape.  This year they are getting the Sneaky  Snacky Squirrel Game, and the old school Simon memory game. 

Legos – Now that Cullen is into legos, Graham doesn’t want anything to do with the Duplos anymore (sigh). So it looks like we are just doing small Legos from here on out.  Cullen got a lot of Legos for his birthday, so not doing much more for Xmas, although I’m tempted by the holiday sets. We really like the Classic Creator boxes for imaginative building!  My kids also discovered there are additional instructions for building even more items on the Lego website – pretty cool!  I love the Lego Holiday Train – maybe next year!

magnatiles

Magnatiles – We have had these for two years now, and they are still a hit.  We have the 100-piece set, as well as the DX add-on set.  These are a little pricey, so we had the grandparents get them as the big gift.  The kids love building houses and towers, and putting things like their matchbox cars or animal figurines inside.  I got Graham this 2-pack of magnetic car bases for this year, so he can make full trains!

mondo

Mondo Bloxx – My mom got these for the boys last year, and they are still a huge hit.  We have the brown wood version, so they look a lot nicer than the primary blocks (in my opinion).  The kids love making tall towers or laying them out as roads and tracks.  The blocks have held up really well over a year, and are still played with all the time. 

Go Outside

Despite living in a city most famously known for it’s dreary weather, we actually spend a LOT of time outside!  Seattle kids are tough and don’t seem to mind a bit of drizzle.  And while we have more rain and less light, we also have pretty mild temps, which means that unless it’s pouring we can usually play outside year-round. 

Now that the kids are getting older, they are able to spend a lot of time in the backyard.  They seem to like being at home and having friends over more now than they do being schlepped off to playgrounds.  So I’ve spent a lot of time trying to make our backyard a magical space that we all love!

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The BIG gift this year (that is coming from Casey’s parents) is this Geometric Climber.  I had one of these growing up and played it on for many years.  Graham is a ninja climber, so I expect him to be at the top of it in no time.  Casey is going to set it up on Christmas Eve and surprise them with it out back on Xmas Day!

Tree Swing – We don’t actually have one yet, as I’m still trying to find the perfect tree branch, but I’d love to get a fun swing for the kids out back.  Cullen spent an entire three hour birthday party doing nothing but swinging back and forth one one of these disc swings at a friend’s school.  And if we ever move somewhere with more land and giant trees, one of these net swings is the first things I’ll buy.  I think they are SO fun!

Scooters – The boys got their Micro Maxi Scooters last year, and still ride them in the driveway almost every single day.  Well worth the price (and the upgrade from the smaller Micro Mini Scooter!). Also heads up – these scooters are on mega-sale on Amazon today!!

Sports Equipment Organizer – Okay I realize this is not a real toy, but I LOVE ours.  It holds all bats, balls, helmets, gloves, and so much more.  And now with everything in once place, the kids can easily find their things any time they want to play catch.  Sports equipment also makes great gifts.  If your kid is going to do t-ball, soccer, or something else anyway, you will need the gear eventually – might as well wrap it up!

snow

Winter Play – We need new snow gear for the kids most years as they outgrow things. Since the holidays fall right in the snowy season, winter accessories can make for fun gifts!  We love the Artix Snow Bibs and N’Ice Caps Kids Snow Mittens for playing out in the snow.  We got our sled at Coscto this year, but I might also get an inner tube for our weekend in the mountains!

Odds N Ends

Outside of the “toy” categories, there are also lots of other gifts that are both fun and practical.  My kids love anything new and exciting, whether it’s a water bottle or a new train.  Simple and easy!

Books – You can’t go wrong with books, right?  I love getting new holiday books every year and adding to our collection.  Both kids are really into Where’s Waldo this year, and now that they come in paperback, I’ll probably grab a few more of those!  They also love the Lego City Search & Find and Sticker books.  Cullen also loves the Magic Treehouse chapter books, and I’m tempted to get him the box set!

umbrella

Rain Gear – Rain boots are a must-have for any Seattle kid.  After trying many different brands and styles, we have settled on the Bogs Rain Boot with Handles – great quality and fit!  We don’t need super warm snow boots here, so these work year-round.  This kids umbrella is also a bit hit with both boys.

Sleeping Bags – We don’t have sleeping bags for the kids yet, but I know we will need them for camping next summer (it’s happening!) and for sleepovers and travel.  We will probably skip the characters and cartoons and just do something simple like this that is warm and will last for a long time!

Luggage – We got new hard-sided luggage for ourselves, and the kids were obsessed.  I also realized they are at the age where they can definitely pull their own travel bags full of plane activities, books, blankets, etc.  Since backpacks get heavy quickly (and are then passed off to me!) I figured rolling luggage was best.  I really wanted something hard sided and not covered in cartoons, and I found these really nice ones at Pottery Barn Kids.  My mom got these for them on Black Friday with a steep discount!  I think they will love them. 

Experiences – Last but certainly not least, this is always our favorite gift.  This year we are doing the Mt Rainier Polar Express Train as a big holiday treat!  And Casey’s parents got the kids a subscription to the Seattle Children’s Theater shows for their birthdays, so we will see a holiday play too.  Not to mention all the free trains, Santas, and holiday fun all around the city.  Toys are outgrown and broken, but family memories sure do last forever!

That’s it for me today.  I’ll do another gift guide for moms soon .  I hope you all had an amazing Thanksgiving holiday, and are having a wonderful week!



Friendsgiving 2016 (& Thanksgiving Recipes!).

We are in Atlanta this week for the Thanksgiving holiday!  There are about 25 of us here celebrating together, so it’s going to be a really fun week.  I’m helping with a bit of cooking on Thursday, but not too much.

And just like we did last year, we held our annual vegetarian Friendsgiving over the weekend in order to also celebrate with friends and make some of our favorite recipes!

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For the first time in forever, I actually prepped and planned really well so that it wasn’t total chaos in the kitchen the day of the big meal.  I shopped on Wednesday, did a ton of prep on Thursday, and then put it all together and did the last minute details on Friday.  And if I do say so myself, I think it was one of our best holiday meals yet!

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I’m not nearly as good at it, but I definitely got the entertaining gene from my mom.  I LOVE to have people over and pull out our fancy (Target, haha) dinnerware.  I like to think I get a little better at it each year. 

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Since we were doing an all-veggie menu (which ended up actually being all vegan!), we invited our closest vegetarian friends over for the festivities.  We had seven adults and five kids, and it was chaotic but fun.  For the first time ever, the kids were finally old enough that we put them in the kitchen by themselves at the eat-in table, and the adults all got to enjoy a bit of peace in the dining room. 

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On our menu, we had the following:

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It was an awesome spread of food, and I filled my plate twice.

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And now I’m looking forward to Thanksgiving dinner down south with family, and lots of new food and recipes to try.  It’s one of my favorite holidays because you can take all your traditions with you wherever you go. 

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I hope you all have a wonderful and delicious holiday this week.  I am grateful for you guys and this awesome community!

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Happy Thanksgiving!

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