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The gifts begin…

handmade bunny

This time we went minimal and handmade with the now-obligatory birthday party goodie bag

I have a hard and fast rule that states that the Christmas/Holiday season does not start until after Thanksgiving. Hanukkah starting the night before turkey day is messing me up this year, and as my daughter recently had a few girlfriends over for a birthday tea party, we have had gifts on the brain. And goodie bags. And get-the-apartment-together anxiety. In fact, my husband and I stayed up till 3 am the night before, rearranging the furniture, redecorating and sewing together the little cotton ball stuffed bunnies that the birthday girl wanted to give out to her guests but was not quite skilled enough to complete on her own. I’m still tired.

And I must admit that, while sewing away, I did have a few moments of “are these girls even going to appreciate these amazing little pieces of handiwork?” But I pushed those dark thoughts aside. The bunnies were, of course, loved by all. And the birthday gifts that were left behind are a real tribute to how well these little girls know their friend.

They were so great, in fact, that I am going to share them here. Maybe there are some ideas here for the little ones on your list. But please don’t start singing carols till Friday, at least…

hansa stuffed rabbit

Hansa Toy International does not make stuffed animals. They make “portraits of nature.” That just happen to be really cute and soft and the kind of thing you’ll probably keep around long after the imaginary friend phase is over. At Sweet William, of course.


Pengoloo is a memory game made of all wood (yay!) involving penguins sitting on brightly colored eggs, dice rolling, icebergs… what’s not to love? At Mini Jake.

odyssey re told by Gillian Cross

We’ve been reading D’Aulaires Greek and Norse Myths for years, so Gillian Cross’ retelling of the Odyssey is a natural follow up. A contender for the greatest story ever told, with illustrations (by Neil Packer) that are a kind of mashup of greek antiquity-meets-tibetan mushroom trip. It’s on sale right now at Barnes & Noble.

magic science kit

This magic themed science kit is the perfect thing for a little person who is obsessed with science and who just finished reading all 7 Harry Potter books (and watching the movies, too.) You can get this at Target, since you know you go there regularly anyway. Don’t play like you don’t…

sew a dolly kit

This Sew a Dolly craft kit comes with a little stuffed doll and then all the materials you need to sew her dress. Everything is pre cut, and it includes a plastic needle and nice easy to handle thick thread so that the kids can do the whole project themselves! At My Sweet Muffin.

vintage 'gold' necklace

And lastly (but far from least) from my daughter’s oldest pal, this huge vintage ‘gold’ chain necklace. Which goes with the sparlky red Dorothy shoes and the box full of long shiny princess dresses she already has. You’ve got to happen upon a fine second hand treasure like this one, but you can always try browsing Krrb… you never know what you might find there.

Now it’s on to the thank you notes

7 menorahs that don’t suck, including one my husband made in preschool

kid handmade menorah

This is the menorah that we usually use. Over 35 years old (so it’s vintage!) made by my husband when he was around 4. If you can get your hands on one of these, you should use it for sure. Only horrible people with cold hearts don’t like them. Plus it’s probably free. This is Menorah #1.

Last night, when I was putting my daughter to bed, I dropped the bomb that Hanukkah starts next week. NEXT WEEK. In 8 days, to be exact. Her face almost exploded with excitement (presents! candles!) which served as a comforting counterpoint to my interior monologue which runs something like: “Oh my god only 8 days plus we’ve got a belated birthday party in our messy apt this weekend, my office isn’t put back together, we’ve gotten NOTHING for anyone yet, my in-laws are all living on the west coast which means advance gift buying/wrapping/shipping is a must, and my husband, who is the Jewish member of the family by the way, is away on business till this weekend and is, as such, minimally helpful… which some would call useless but I don’t like that label as he is the opposite of useless in so many respects.”

So here we go, trying to get it together on the fly again.

First things first: The equipment. We have a menorah (see photo above) though I have just realized that we are out of candles. I only like the plain, white or natural beeswax candles, which are, for some reason that I do not understand, very difficult to find. Multi colored, striped, sparkly? No prob. Plain? Good luck. Thank god for Amazon. I just ordered mine, but supply is low so you guys better get on it lest you be stuck with whatever they have at the Whole Foods check out.

And then the menorahs. If you don’t have one that your husband (or wife, or girlfriend, or uncle…) made as a kid, there are untold millions of models to choose from. As with anything, one tends to have to scroll through lots of ‘maybe-nots’ to find the ‘that-could-work’ ones. Which I did. Last night. For HOURS.

Here are 6 (in addition to the sentimental one above) that I thought I might choose should the need suddenly arise. Hopefully, if you are actually in need, this post will save you from painful hours of late night scrolling.

menorahokl1 For Menorah #2, One Kings Lane serves up the grown-up version of the one you made in preschool (just in case your mom is like mine and threw everything out the minute you moved out of the house.)


modular wood menorah from etsy

Next up, Few Bits on Etsy is making this modular wooden menorah out of sapele (a wood in the mahogany family) You can place the candles in any configuration (gives the kids something to do and the in-laws something to argue about) and each block is hand carved to order and as such, unique, which is always a plus in my book.

industrial menorah

Out of the woods and into the factory with this industrial menorah made from copper pipes. I think my husband, who is obsessed for some reason with making things out of pipes, is going to love this one.


If money were no object, I might go for this one, by Christoffle.

jewish musclassicmod

Option #6: The Classic Modern Menorah from The Jewish Museum.
Nuff said.


And finally, this Daniel Michali cork menorah is different but still feels true to the spirit of the holiday. Perfect for when you’ve just moved into your new loft apartment in Toronto and forgot to look in the basement for your preschool menorah when you were at your folks house last month.


Oh and while I have you on the horn, these double layered menorah gift tags are nice too.

Feel free to add any suggestions of other nice menorahs in the comments. We need all the help we can get.

Tie em up

hair ties made from cute elastics

Cutest hair ties I’ve seen this summer.

The hair accessories fall fully under the category of things-I-could-totally-do-myself-but-lets-be-honest-I’m-never-actually-going-to-get-around-to-it-so-I-may-as-well-just-buy-it, but there you have it.

I was wandering though a store in San Francisco with my daughter who clocked these immediately and insisted that we buy them. And while I had the above mentioned feeling of why don’t I just make this myself-ness, I came to my senses and bought them. And my kid’s ponytails have been looking festive all summer, as a result.

The ones we bought out west are actually by a company called Calliope, but they don’t seem to have a website (only a facebook page– but then again, I’ve also just been trying to get my daughter to sleep for 3 hours, so I’m not the best web researcher right now)

The ties pictured above are by Mane Message and you can buy them direct from your laptop, which is a good thing for those of us who only have time to shop between 10:15 and 10:45 pm…

Speaking of which… time to order some more multivitamins from Amazon…

Online shopping hits the streets

kate spade window shop

Who needs stores anymore? Kate Spade turns window shopping into actual shopping. The future is now.

So I’m walking down W 18th street and I see this guy standing in front of a bright yellow storefront rubbing the window like it was some kind of oversized iPad or something.

And when I got a bit closer, I realized that was exactly what he was doing. The entire window had been transformed into a giant display with a 5 foot tall framed area where you can swipe your way to a new wardrobe, pay for it, and have it delivered to your (Manhattan, I’m assuming) location in one hour.

Turns out Kate Spade has partnered up with eBay and put their new capsule collection (called Saturday) up for sale at 4 electronic kiosk/pop-up shops around the city. So from now through 7 July, you can drunkenly stumble down Orchard Street, impulse buy some flowered sunglasses you don’t need, and the $$ will be gone from your bank account in the time it takes to wipe your hand across a window.

Great and kind of big brother/horrible at the same time. The technology is really cool and very attractive, but there is something unsettling about the absolute lack of human contact here. Are stores going to be a thing of the past soon? Like the helpful people at ticket windows in the subway are quickly becoming?

for my daughter (holiday gift guide #8)

When the editors at Tadashop.com asked me to come up with some gift ideas in collaboration with my daughter, I jumped at the chance. It was like getting my holiday shopping done before Thanksgiving. (Too bad I’m not anywhere near finished in reality…)

The site’s a great one stop shop for pretty much anything you might want for your kids (or your nephews or godchildren or whomever) culling the best products from huge sites like J Crew and little boutiques like Sweet William in Brooklyn. I probably spent waaaaay too much time on there, but it was so fun to see all of the great products their editors have pulled from the world wide web of children’s merch.

click below for more…

I’m still pretty old school when it comes to shopping– I prefer to actually go to the store, hold the potential gift in my hands, put it in a bag and then hide it in the closet till the big day.

But I’m also a reasonable person and working parent living in 2011 with unlimited access to everything (via the internet), except time. So when I find a good site, I will not hesitate to take advantage. I’m sure we’re all in the same boat.

And who doesn’t want to open a box that arrives at the front door full of sparkly golden princess shoes?