7 small gifts that will be BIG hits this holiday season

I'm bored Jar

Landfill Toy – Land*fill*toi (n) - a small  plastic toy with a play lifespan under 30 minutes, guaranteed to be tossed aside and ultimately embedded in the foot of an unsuspecting adult (like you). Commonly used to supplement the big Christmas / 8th night of Hanukkah gifts.

Can we all agree that landfill toys will be banned from our 2013 holiday celebrations? I don’t know about you but I dread that feeling when I purge all the discarded junk in my house on Jan 2. I get plenty of guilt from my mom (Catholic) and my MIL (Jewish). Nor do I need to experience the familiar shooting pain when I accidentally step on one.

This year join me as I eliminate guilt and pain related to the common stocking stuffer / early Hanukkah filler with small but spectacular gifts. Because small toys can be winners – not only do they keep kids busy during the holidays, they  travel well. Which means they’ll be lifesavers at the airport, on the tarmac, in a traffic jam on the way to grandma’s house – or any other time you can’t stomach bored, shrill voices screeching “HOW MUCH LONGER??????????”.

Without further ado, here are 7 gifts to keep  your spirits and sanity intact:

1. Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty – Age 3 and up: Crazy Aaron’s thinking Putty is upgraded Putty – it comes packed in a neat little tin that doesn’t leak, never dries out, and comes in many radical styles including magnetic, iridescent, glow in the dark, etc. Kids can do a variety of experiments with the putty and if they need ideas, Crazy Aaron (he’s real) has posted a bunch of videos on YouTube.

Squigs

2. Squigz – Age 3 and up –  fun, innovative building toys. They adhere to each other (or anything, really) with suction, making for are endless possibilities. You can build up, sideways, down, diagonal, etc. Just launched this year, they’ve already won numerous awards – you will look extremely on top of your game with these.

 

 

3. Tegu – Age 3 – 103 (seriously): Beautiful building blocks with a conscience – eco friendly, easy to use (the ends of each piece contains magnets so again – endless building possibilities). Best of all, the company gives back to the region of Tegucigalpa where the wood is sustainably farmed. I recommend the car kits.

Tenzi

Tenzi

4. Tenzi -Age 4 and up: A thrilling dice game that will hook you and your kids from the first roll. Only child? No problem – it can be played alone! More than one child? Up to four players can duel it out using the basic rules or one of the 10 different variations.

 

 

 

 

5. Klutz Kits – Age 6 and up: These kits are interesting, easy to follow along, and addictive. For younger kids, I love Cat’s Cradle, which is a lost art that girls (and boys) can do on their own.

Nano Terrier

6. Nanoblocks – Age 7 and up: If you could shrink Legos you would Nanoblocks. These kits come in small, resealable pouches with several pieces (60 and up), to build the dandiest little creatures. Alpaca anyone? Parrot? Polar Bear? Tree Frog? I’ve tried my hand at building one and due to the number of pieces and the size it definitely takes a good 45 minutes of intense concentration – not counting the playtime once they’re constructed. Challenge two kids to a contest to see who can build them the fastest.

 

Spirograph

7. Spirograph!!! YES THE TOY WE ALL GREW UP WITH!! If you remember Spirograph as a kid, it’s back and it’s fantastic. This is definitely a gift for the older child – age 8-14 although a 7 year old can manipulate it with intense concentration (i.e quiet time for you!!!). It comes a bunch of spirograph wheels, putty (to hold the spirograph in place), writing instruments, a full color Designers Guide, including fundamentals of drawing with Spirograph and for the novices,  step-by-step instructions for creating your own designs

In fact, don’t worry about the kids. Get this at least toy for yourself. Once your kids see how much fun you’re having they may realize it’s time to play with their toys – either way, mission accomplished.

Happy almost holidays!

Cristina Sierra_14

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hi there! I’m the founder of NeverMissGift.com, a site for well-intentioned but busy people who are tired of forgetting their nieces’, nephews’, godchildren or any other kids’ birthdays and holidays. Feel free to connect via Twitter @nevermissgift or Facebook (www.facebook.com/nevermissgift) for gift ideas and a little dry humor….

Finally: a game for kids that you deserve

Hot Picture

Join me on a 5 minute journey and I’ll prove to you the dice game Tenzi, while positioned as a game for kids, is really made for you.

It was a typical hot day in August here in Texas. You know what August days are like in Texas? Hot. Not Africa hot, not Vegas hot, but a unique version of hot that can best be expressed thusly:

H.O.T.

The kind of hot that evokes words like “blazing”, “humid” and “unbearable”. It was August, the end of summer, and the ennui (fancy word for boredom) set in – along with TV Ads for school clothes, supplies, shoes, and whatever else could plausibly be tagged as a “back to school” item.

But I digress – the natives (a 10, 9, and 7 year old) peered out at the pool contemplating how long it would take to layer enough sunblock to avoid spontaneous combustion in the 104 degree heat.

Then, out of the blue, mom walked in with a spring in her step. What was up her sleeve? (they wondered).

The answer: Tenzi

Tenzi

Tenzi

Tenzi is a dice game. An award winning dice game. But “game” doesn’t do it justice – it’s an all out assault against your opponents. It requires fast reflexes, eagle eyes, and the ability to make decisions – QUICKLY. It can be played with 1 to 4 players who each get 10 dice.

Here’s how it works:

When someone yells “GO!” each player begins rolling furiously trying to be the first to roll all 10 of the same number first at which point the winner can SEIZE VICTORY BY YELLING “TENZI!!!!”.

Can’t you feel the excitement??? Take THAT, ennui. As a bonus, there are 10 variations of Tenzi included in the Tenzi package and more (73 at last count) in a booklet sold separately.

Here’s how our young friends describe the game after playing with it for a few days:

1. “Fun!”, “Cool!”, “Different” – different is key (which is why it’s in bold). No one likes to play the same game repeatedly. Different leads to curiosity, leads to let’s check this out, leads to let’s play another round this time I go first. Leads to mom having ‘me time’. A good result.

2. “Could be used at parties”, “Could be used for stacking”, “Could be used on a trip” – aha! It’s compact and travels well, also versatile (name another toy that can be used for ‘stacking’ in less than 2 minutes – didn’t think so).

3. The best part of the game? “It can be played lots of different ways”, “it’s great for competing against others” – IMPORTANT – Tenzi comes with instructions to play it 10 different variations. Think you’ll get bored of this game? Not bloody likely, my friend. Not until you’ve exhausted all 10 variations and even then all you need to do is add another player and it’s a whole new game.

And what about competition? Healthy competition, I mean. Limit the stealing of diaries, chasing each other in an attempt to beat each other to a pulp, general name calling (somewhat). Open up to competition between reflexes, dexterity, and mental cognition.

To summarize, Tenzi: if you’re not playing it or giving it to your kids to play with, stocking up to have it on hand to give as an awesome birthday gift, you’re stuck with a bunch of whining kids on a hot / rainy / snowy / freezing day or scrambling around for a last minute birthday gift for the umpteenth birthday party of the year.

And don’t you deserve better???

Of course you do. You deserve a calm setting with a bunch of kids having fun while you enjoy a nice glass of crisp Sauvignon Blanc / rich Pinot Noir /  warming Cabernet (based on your preference) and whatever else tickles your fancy.

Want to know more about Tenzi or other shockingly awesome toys for kids age 0-100? Follow me here on Twitter or check out our site’s gift gallery…always happy to share what I’ve found.

PS: IF YOU RELATED OR ENJOYED PLEASE TAKE 1 SEC TO HIT “LIKE” (the Heart) OR  COMMENT (the thought bubble). 

IF YOU NEED HELP WITH THE COMMENT, JUST FILL IN THE BLANK:

“Likes or comments are to a blogger what catnip is to ____”  (a: kangaroos b: aardvarks c: cats d: unicorns) 

Cristina Sierra_14

 

 

 

 

 

Cristina, Founder NeverMissGift

Juice Cleanses : evil and a threat to your sanity

Evil

Don’t let the happy colors fool you: evil looms!

This post can save you roughly $160, intense hunger pangs, a roller coaster of emotions, and possibly your sanity.

Recently I failed miserably tried to do a juice cleanse. Not because I’m overweight, not because I eat badly or felt a burning need to detoxify, but because I’m lacking in self-awareness.

I had no idea how much I loved food or how batsh@# crazy I could become without it. Until July 20th, 2013.

Good news: I am now fully aware of how much I love and appreciate food. Also, being rich doesn’t make you smart, but most of all, food is good and  deprivation can drive you nuts.

As a side note, hunger is an effective means of torture should you need to use it ( I hope you don’t).

Here’s my “day in the life” (well, half day)  of a failed attempt to cleanse; may you avoid my mistakes*.

7:30 AM I woke up hating life because I knew this was the day I was going to give up coffee (and food of course but first, coffee). My heart began to beat wildly, “whose stupid idea WAS this?!?!?” (mine).

Unfortunately, even more than I detest skipping my ONE essential morning cup of coffee (really, is that so bad???) I detest wasting money more. Also, failing at a challenge. The knowledge of the money I’d spent + my pride (I mentioned it on my FB timeline) propelled me forward.

I began drinking water, hating it for not being a comforting, hot, tasty cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee with milk & sugar.

aka rat urine

aka rat urine

8:00 AM I drank my first juice beverage, appropriately called Green Juice. I’d recently seen an episode of Below Deck where  guests asked Ben (the hot chef) to make them Green Juice which led me to conclude, “how bad can it be – people with near limitless financial resources request it.”

After my first sip I realized something: sometimes rich people are f@#$ed up. Seriously, someone is loaded and they choose to drink THAT?

I promise you, the taste was awful – reminiscent of the urine of a rat with a penchant for cucumbers, celery, and kale. Oh, and ginger. Musn’t forget that.

(shuddering at the memory).

8:15 post gag. More water, as directed. Boy ,was I NOT thirsty. I was hungry though!

10:00 AM second beverage, carrot-ginger juice. The cleanse guideline I’d been given cheerfully noted, “carrots are a natural diuretic and will act to remove excess fluids from your body.”

Loose translation: you will spend what little energy you have making continuous trips to the bathroom to pee. Awesome.

Drank more water, wishing it were solid and tasted like something.

12 noon third beverage, beet juice. According to my handy cleanse guide, beets help detoxify the blood and flush out floating body fats!

Right; except I googled “floating body fats” and there were NO results. Think about the last time you got no hits on Google. Never, right? All that appeared were articles on floating and the benefit of body fat. Which made me further regret being on this path to hell: the next time I jumped into a pool I would sink that much faster.

Drank more water – the hunger headache started kicking in nicely.

Along with questions:

  1. Why do those strawberries sitting next to my juices in the refrigerator look so good? Have they always looked that good?
  2. Is eating the toast crumbs off my daughter’s breakfast plate really cheating?
  3. Isn’t it ethically wrong to starve myself when there are so many hungry people in the world?

These thoughts were interrupted by yawns. I felt like one of the lethargarians from The Phantom Tollbooth (acknowledged: my thoughts got pretty random). I was  going to be killing time until this cleanse was over, in 3 days. A depressing thought.

2:00 PM fourth beverage, spicy lemonade.

This one almost put me over the edge. I can only describe this as “peppery bile” or possibly “bile with a dash of pepper” or “a drink strong enough to put hair on your 6 year old niece’s chest”. It contained 2 ingredients – pure lemon juice and cayenne pepper. Pure juiced evil.

Which explains why it evoked this emotion: rage.

My friends and family know I have a temper to start with – no one willingly pokes at me when I’m in a pissy mood but this juice didn’t give a shit. As I drank, it poked away at the empty feeling in my gut, burning nicely as it went down. It was like drinking fumes. It was the equivalent of an attack by an army of Texas fire ants– annoying, burning, lingering, yet ephemeral.

And yes, I know that “lingering” and “ephemeral” are contradictory but so is “spicy” and “lemonade” so deal with that.

The thought of 2 and a half more days seemed like pure torture.

And all that anger and hunger made me so tired I lay down and took a nap.

4:00 PM I woke up hungrier and with more head pain and a new emotion, despair. Despair at what I had gotten myself into, what I’d gotten my husband into, sadness that I couldn’t eat with my daughter and all the opportunities in life that I’d squandered.

Why didn’t I go to my friend’s wedding in Madrid in 2000? Why did I pass  on spending the summer  after sophomore year in college with friends on The Cape? Why didn’t I major in computer science so I could hit the e-commerce lottery just a few years after graduation?

I wept alone as I contemplated the sadness of life. I wasn’t sure I had the will to go on. I missed food…it had once given me so much joy.

4:10 PM Fifth beverage, green juice again. And this is where it got a little scary.

My mind started spinning from the arguments fighting to make themselves heard – oh, did I forget to mention the voices in my head?

Voice 1: All your life as a swimmer, you were told to eat a healthy variety of foods. What the f@#$ is this? Where are the carbs?

Voice 2: Why are you doing this? How much can you really detox /improve in 3 days?

Voice 3: Is your pride and a few bucks really worth it?

Voice 4: You know this is probably less than what a baby eats?

Voice 5: Isn’t all that food in the refrigerator in danger of going bad if you don’t eat for 3 days?

Voice 6: WE’RE HUNGRY!!!!!

Voices 1-5 – YEAH -WHAT VOICE #6 SAID!!! FEED US!!!!

MeanwhileI looked at my computer screen and saw I had mindlessly filled up a page with this…

This is when it gets raw

This is when it gets raw

 

 

 

 

 

No, that didn’t really happen – where would I get the energy to type?

But all kidding aside, that stuff wasn’t what finally made me cave. It was preparing dinner for my daughter an hour later (still  hungry, tried, and listless). As I served  our family favorite meal: turkey pesto meatballs with healthy whole-wheat pasta  while hearing my stomach growl, I knew I was missing more than food. I was missing the pleasure and ritual of a meal with my family. And I wasn’t really insane, I was just hungry and tired. Well, maybe a little nutty. But aren’t we all?

I could end this suffering by following the best course of action for me.

Turkey Pesto Meatballs, aka nectar of the Gods

I turned to my husband – “You want to ditch this cleanse?”

He nodded, “absolutely”. (Which caused me to thank my stars for marrying such a great guy).

We served ourselves and sat down to eat together. And you know what? They were the best-damned meatballs I’ve ever had in my life.

Post a comment below if you want the recipe. Or, let me know if you’ve tried a cleanse and how it went. I have friends who swear by it so I’m sure it can work. But I suspect it wasn’t as easy?

In the meantime, Mangia!

Cristina Sierra_14

 

 

 

 

 

*ps the owners of the place where I bought the cleanse could not have been nicer upon hearing about my failure – they let me use the remaining days as a credit and I am enjoying fruit based frozen yogurt smoothies, accompanied by plenty of solid food   :-)