L’s Favorite Things: 2011 Edition

As the holiday shopping season has it’s big kick-off next week (although I’ve already started and am halfway done) I thought that I would do a series of posts of our favorite things!

L, my daughter, is a very active 13 month old.  Likes: cheese, cats, long lukewarm baths and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse when she can get it.  Dislikes: getting dressed, vacuum cleaners and weaning off the bottle.  Favorite song: The Itsy Bitsy Spider.

L’s Top 10 Favorite Things

1. The Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn Kitchen.  She received this kitchen last Christmas from her grandparents and she’s played with it almost everyday for the past 6 months.  It does the usual Fisher-Price things: spanish, learning, and music.  She likes to store things in the oven.  This Christmas I plan on making her some felt food to go with her kitchen and getting her some pots and pans from Ikea.

Fisher Price Learn and Laugh Kitchen

2. Melissa and Doug Puzzles.  Recently L started playing with the puzzles when we would go to the library and she seems to favor these awesome Melissa and Doug puzzles.  They keep her entertained for a really long time, she sits still and plays and sings with them.   She also hides the puzzle pieces around the house!  This Christmas I plan on getting the puzzle storage rack as well as a couple more puzzles.

Melissa and Doug Puzzle Rack

3. An old wipes container filled with fabric pieces.  I first saw this idea at A Spotted Pony.   L was always going after the diaper wipes container to yank out wipes by the dozen so I saved one and filled it with cut up decorator fabrics that my mom gave me (she’s an interior decorator and is always giving me her old fabric samples!).

4. Small tape measures.  L loves to pull the tape out and watch it snap back in.

5. The Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn Laptop.  L will repeatedly pull it out and play with this laptop throughout the day.  The only problem is if you leave it on the spanish mode you will get “Hola… that means hello!” stuck in your head.

6. A big plastic bouncy ball.  I can’t find one online but if you go to the ball pit at either Target or Toys R Us (I recommend TRU for a cheaper price) you’ll be able to find one.  Ours cost me $1.25.

7. Ikea Mula Stacking Rings.   As soon as L gets to her room she makes a beeline for this ring stack.   She likes to unstack them, roll them around on the ground, chew on them, pretend they are ice skates, the list goes on and on.

Ikea Mula Stacking Rings

8. Baby Touch and Feel Animal Books.  L and I usually pick out books together once a month and I like to let her (gently) peruse the offerings until she comes away with something that she likes.   Time after time she comes back with the baby touch and feel animal books.  I think we have every kind!

Baby Touch and Feel Animals

9. Her sensory tub.   For those of you not familiar a sensory tub is just a container filled with stuff that encourages your child to explore within the tub.  Most sensory tubs are filled with a base (oatmeal, beans, rice) and then have other objects in them.  L has measuring cups to scoop things out of her tub.   Here are some excellent sensory tub ideas.

10. Melissa and Dough High Seas Symphony.   This one is lots of fun for me too!   I love to break out these instruments and sing with L.   This is also a great set to share with friends.   One afternoon we invited some of our mommy & me friends out to a park and had a jam session.   It was great!

Melissa and Dough High Seas Symphony

As you can see I really like Melissa and Doug toys although I didn’t realize until now how much we love our Fisher Price toys as well.  Of course, the one thing that I did not put on this list but is certainly #1 for L is attention from IbD and I.  Keep in mind that it’s YOU that your kids really want, not all the toys (well, at this age anyways!).

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Grab a Starbucks for a friend!

Starbucks has an awesome offer starting this Thursday and ending on Saturday

Anytime between 2 and 5 PM on November 17-20th, choose between a gingerbread latte, peppermint mocha, and caramel brulee latte and get the 2nd drink FREE!

My mother-in-law’s favorite Starbucks drink is the gingerbread latte so I plan on picking one up for her (and for me too!) when I head over to pick up L on Thursday.  I figure someone taking care of 3 toddlers could really use a pick-me-up in the afternoon!

So I suggest that you surprise someone with some Starbucks this weekend!  I’m certain they’ll appreciate it.

In Between a letter and a card

I’ve always loved receiving other families Christmas letters but have hesitated on writing our own for a couple of reasons.   Reason #1 is that it kind of seems like bragging (we went on a fantastic vacation, IbD got a fantastic promotion, we have a super beautiful child) and Reason #2 is because we don’t have very much to talk about.  There’s only 3 of us and when there was only 2 of us there was REALLY not much to say.

But I’ve still always felt like sharing something more than just a “Happy Holidays from the Ib’s!”.  Just a little glimpse into our life but nothing overwhelming.

I’m guessing that there are many other consumers out there with the same thoughts because this year I saw several photo card companies introduce the story card.  And the great thing, for me, about some story cards is that they come in a list format.   I am much more comfortable with list format then free form text most of the time.   I image it’s because I’ve spent the last 9 years compiling bullet lists and powerpoint presentations!

Some of my favorites are:

Top Ten Cards from Shutterfly.

Yearline Photo Cards from Minted.

Type in “Story photo card” on Etsy and you’ll get some great choices.  Depending on how many cards you need this could be a money saver because most of the time you pay for a digital file then order the photos from your favorite printing source (possibly taking advantage of all the photo coupons floating around this time of year!).   I really like this one from ZaZaZoo.

I’m debating whether to choose a card offered from the sources above or try to design my own in Photoshop.  I’m leaning towards ordering a pre-made card, not sure if I want to add one more thing to my Christmas To Do list!

Cruise Tips for Traveling with a Toddler

We just returned from a fantastic 4-day Bahamian cruise! IbD and I have taken 4 cruises together but man was it different with L in tow. I’m comprising a list of tips for other families that plan on taking a cruise with a toddler. Hopefully they will help you avoid some painful moments.

1. Bring Benedryl. This was a tip from my wonderful pediatrician. Both IbD and I have to take dramamine and I was worried about L getting seasick. Although children tend not to get seasick if they do Benedryl will help. According to my pharmacist the drowsiness removes the nauseous feeling. This is also why dramamine makes you drowsy (I do recommend the less drowsy formula for adults).

2. If your toddler is still drinking lots of milk, grab a couple of cartons from the breakfast buffet to keep in your room refrigerator. Otherwise you might be stuck waiting forever to get a cup of milk from the dispenser next to the coffee machine!

3. Visit the nursery (usually available for an hourly fee throughout the cruise) during it’s open house hours on your first cruise day. We decided not to put L in the nursery but the open house was a good opportunity to get her comfortable with the surroundings. She also had a great time playing with all the new toys!

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4. The ships adult lounges and clubs are sometimes “closed” for the day but are in open spaces around the ship. We took L to several lounges and let her run around, climb the plushy chairs, and inspect the flashy walls.

5. If you try to take in a show, sit in the back. From the cruises we’ve been on there’s no bad seat in the theatre. We took L to one of the shows and I’m so happy we did. She only lasted for the first half but she loved what she was able to sit through. And I did too!

6. If your toddler is teething grab some ice cream cones from the ships ice cream station (there’s one on almost every cruise!) and take them to dinner with you. We broke L’s into pieces and let her nom away and we could usually get through a dining room dinner.

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7. The muster drill is kind of scary for little ones with its loud noises and lots of people crammed into a small place. Our cruise dismissed our family early (right after we checked in) because L was terrified of the muster drill so this may be an option for you. No one wants to be around a screaming toddler!

8. Free room service (but please tip) can be your best friend but don’t forget you can run up to the lunch buffet and bring plates to your room as well. L starts her naps at noon so IbD and I took turns running up to the buffet while she napped.

9. Some cruises have a “toy check out” option at their nurseries where you can check out a bag of toys for the duration of your cruise. If your cruise line does not offer that option consider bringing some new toys to occupy your toddler. L’s birthday was a month prior to our cruise so I held back some gifts for her to open on the ship. Her puzzle and “camera” were enough to capture her attention for 4 days.

10. Bring a tripod or exchange picture taking duties with another family to capture some great family pictures. I was shocked at the price of the cruise pictures. $20 for 1 print or $200 for a photo cd for a 4 day cruise!

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Entertaining and the In-Between Household

Entertaining is on my mind frequently.   Possibly because of my addiction to Pinterest and entertaining blogs.  But like everything else, our house is between opinions when it comes to entertaining.

I like to have people over.   I like to plan a get together, sometimes with a theme, and throw in cute little touches here and there.  I loved planning our wedding (the implementation, not so much).

In-Between Dad likes to have people over possibly once a month.   And by people I mean 2.  IbD’s limit?   4 people.  For his birthday I invited over 5.   Luckily one of the couples had a prior commitment.

Reality check time: IbD’s way is probably better.   Less to stress out about and my budget goes a lot further this way.  For Elle’s birthday I had planned 30 people and we ended up with 18 (including ourselves) after IbD narrowed down the list.  It was a really nice amount of people and this way I barely went over budget.

Having over a smaller amount of people also allows you to spend more time with your guests.  And it allows you to put in some really special touches that you may not have time for if you had to do 16 items instead of 4.

What I really would like to start though is a Supper Club.  A very simple Supper Club, similar to the one that Cake Likes a Party belongs to.  I think I’ll invite my partner in crime Maggie over and see if she can help me convince her to start one with me!