Trendy Mom Reviews
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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Visit iT'Z for Breakfast with Santa on Saturday (December 16, 2017)


Do you know one of the best kept secrets about Santa's schedule this year?  Santa will be at iT'Z on Saturday morning. This is an event that you won't want to miss because it is a great way for your family to spend time together on Saturday morning, plus you can't beat this trendy deal that will create happy childhood memories. For just $9.99/person, you receive:

  • Full Breakfast Buffet
  • $5 Fun Card
  • Meet & Greet with Santa (bring your camera or iPhone to snap pictures for FREE)
  • Holiday Activities and Crafts
We attended last year and had an amazing time.  I think that the organizers of this event must have their own children because they planned everything perfectly.  Let me give a quick recap of our visit from last year:

The food was good for both parents and children.
I appreciated that there was a good variety of food. The pancakes were our favorite!  The buffet also included sodas and coffee for mom and dad to have a caffeine boost. (Thank you iT'Z!)  

They let us take our own photos with Santa.
This is the only place that I know of where you don't have to pay $20 to $50 for a photo with Santa. They let us use our own cameras to take photos. I used my iPhone.  The price of admission was worth it for the Santa photos alone!  Still, there was so much more value as the admission also included food, drinks, crafts, and a game card.

Holiday Activities and Crafts.
The holiday crafts were popular! They set aside a special room for the children to visit and make crafts. The employees were very organized and kind to the children. My son enjoyed making a few different projects.

$5 Fun Card.
The Breakfast with Santa deal includes a $5 Fun Card.  Of course, iT'Z is known for their game area, so this really sweetened the deal.  They have a lot of great games.  They are also generous with the prize tickets which is nice since my children are young and love prizes.

The tickets for Breakfast with Santa are by reservation only and are "while tickets last". Visit iT'Z here to make a reservation.



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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

How to Organize Your Purse: Tips for Working Moms of Toddlers


How to Organize Your Purse: Tips for Working Moms of Toddlers
My baby is now a toddler. He walks, he babbles, and woos me with his sweet little giggles.  At the same time, we all know how important it is to be prepared in case those sweet little babbles and giggles turn to unhappy shrieks.  In today's post, I'll share a peak into my trendy purse that looks stylish and professional for me to take to work, but is also functional to discretely hold everything that I need to keep my toddler happy when I pick him up at the end of the day.



Let's start by talking about my purse and wallet because a good purse design is essential for moms of toddlers. I am in love with the Cindy Tote and All About the Benjamins in Deep Merlot from Thirty-One Gifts



Here is why you will love the Cindy Tote, especially if you have a toddler: it looks professional, is generously sized, makes it easy to organize the contents of your purse, and has side pockets that are easy to access. Here are the exact details:
Why you’ll love it: The Customer-favorite Cindy Tote gets an upgrade in beautiful faux leather for a gorgeous professional look. Named after our founder, this tote is the perfect travel companion with its spacious, zip-close interior and numerous pockets. Take it to the office, school, shopping, or away for the weekend when you need to stay stylishly organized. Two exterior side pockets provide additional storage space for bottles, phones, keys and more. Keep your phone handy in the convenient exterior hidden cell phone pocket. Key features:
  • Charcoal Runway Mini Dot Poly Satin lining
  • 2 exterior side pockets
  • Interior zip pocket and 3 interior flat pockets
  • Exterior hidden cell phone pocket
  • Monogramming and personalization options available
  • Approx. 14”H x 15”L x 5”D
  • 11” handle drop
As a mom of an active toddle, this purse has been amazing. I am able to carry everything that I need for myself and my toddler.  I have ample room for everything from my Mac Air laptop to diapers and snacks. I love the little pouch on the side for my iPhone so that I'm able to access it easily. There are also extra pouches on the inside that help me to stay organized.



The designers of this purse are perfectionists that thought of everything!

In addition, the All About the Benjamins wallet has been a lifesaver because it allows me to organize all of my cards and money.  It's challenging to shop with a toddler, so having a wallet that makes it easy to stay organized is helpful. When I run errands in the evening with my husband, he'll sometimes stay in the car with our toddler if he falls asleep. It's nice to leave my purse in the car for him in case our son wakes up and needs any supplies. I just take my wallet into the store with me.   As a bonus, I love the Merlot Pebble faux leather and the Gems that sparkle on this wallet.  


Here are the exact details:
Why you’ll love it: Get ready for a night out or a holiday or New Year’s Eve party with the gem-studded All About the Benjamins. This spacious wallet is all about convenience and style. Features 12 credit card slots, 2 bill slots and a clear ID window, not to mention an interior zipper pocket and an open compartment. The entire wallet has a zip closure to keep all contents secure and hidden. Turn it into a wristlet easily by adding a wristlet strap. All About the Benjamins pairs beautifully with our Cindy Tote Ltd., Midway Hobo and City Chic Tote. Key features:
  • Faux leather
  • Charcoal Runway Mini Dot poly satin lining
  • Gem detail
  • Zipper closure
  • 12 credit card slots, 2 bill slots and an ID window
  • Interior zipper pocket and an open compartment
  • Approx. 4.25”H x 8”L x 1”D
Here is a sneak peak inside of the wallet.



Once you have the perfect purse and wallet, you'll want a checklist of items that you need for your toddler. Here are some of mine:

  1. Pack foods that won't make a mess in your purse: I keep fruit pouches and a little container of baby puffs in my purse. 
  2. Pack small toys: I keep little toys that have suction cups on them so that I am able to stick them to tables when we go out to eat. My toddler loves playing with toys on the table and the suction cups help them to stay put so that we aren't constantly picking up toys that he drops.  
  3. Pack diapers, travel wipes, and a change of clothing: Of course, the Cindy Tote is perfect since it provides generous space for toddler essentials!
  4. Pack any medications (if needed): My toddler has a food allergy, so I keep his Epipen Jr. in my Cindy Tote where it is easy to access quickly if needed.  That's one thing that I really love about this purse - the design makes it easy to quickly access my phone or his Epipen Jr. I actually know where everything is located in my purse.
In addition to the list of items that I pack, it is also important to acknowledge that the generous size of the Cindy Tote makes it easy for me to shop with my toddler.  If he doesn't want to wear his jacket or kicks his shoes off, I am able to put them in my purse. This makes life easier when you have a toddler!



I hope that you enjoyed these tips for staying stylish while toting around toddler supplies. Thirty-One Gifts has the trendiest purses and wallets.  Their items make wonderful holiday gifts. Visit Thirty-One Gifts here.
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Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Best Places to Hide Christmas Gifts (Thanks to zulily for the tips!)



Do you have trouble hiding Christmas gifts in a secure location? I came across some fun stats about the holidays from zulily, including the top locations that parents hide gifts. In today's post, I'll share these fun stats and hiding places.

It looks like “Santa,” or should we say mom and dad, might make it on the naughty list next year! From wrapping paper swaps to half-eaten cookies, parents are going to tricky lengths to ensure their kids don’t discover the truth about Santa. Thanks to zulily we've found out more about what those lengths will be:

  • Nearly half of US parents (46 percent) indicated that their children have snooped around searching for gifts to find out what all their presents were going to be for Christmas.
  • Parents are most likely to hide presents from St. Nick:
    • Trunk of their car (32%) 
    • Linen closet being(31%)
    • Garage (23%)
    • Basement (21%) 
    • Friend’s House (20%)
  • Over half of parents (51%) believe that their children would be willing to get their teeth cleaned at the dentist in exchange to finding out what all their presents will be, before Christmas.
  • 47% of parents believe their children would be willing to clean their room daily for a year in exchange to finding out about their presents.
We hope that you enjoyed this peak into holiday tricks and stats that zulily shared.  In particular, I loved the list of places that parents are mostly likely to hide presents.  My hiding spot didn't actually make the list. I am hiding them in suitcases that are in my bedroom closet this year. I'm looking forward to trying some of the hiding spots listed above too!

Happy Holidays and good luck with keeping your gifts in secure hiding places!



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Thursday, November 30, 2017

3 Easy Holiday Travel Tips for Young Children


As a mom of energetic little boys, I am sympathetic to parents that travel with young children. Over the years, I've learned many tips to improve our travel experiences. In today's post, I'll share tips that we personally follow when we travel with our children. I'll also tell you about some of our favorite shows and point you to the trendy Netflix Family Facebook page.

My children seem to be complete opposites. My oldest was a portable and easy going baby that would simply sleep on flights. My youngest is the complete opposite.  He would scream to let the entire plane know about his unhappiness with the flight. They have very different little personalities, so it hasn't always been easy. However, we have converged on tips that seem to make both of them happy when we travel.

1. Plan a snack trip at the airport.
We stop and buy a snack at one of the airport shops. Our children are allowed to pick anything that they want and then eat half in the waiting area and the other half after the plane takes off.  At DFW International Airport, we almost always end up buying pretzels at Auntie Anne's.  The special treat makes them excited and happy.  They enjoy snacking on half at the airport and then are more patient and excited during boarding and takeoff because they are waiting for the other half of their snack. 

2. Download their favorite shows from Netflix before your flight takes off. 
I can't even remember what it was like to travel without Netflix Downloads. (OK, I just like to forget those traumatic memories of traveling with my children before we were able to download Netflix shows!) Netflix makes it really fun and easy to download shows before a flight. You can do this through their app by browsing the "Available for Download" menu. It's a really nice interface that is easy to use.  For instance, my kids recently watched Charlotte's Web and The Secret Life of Pets. My kids loved the experience. Actually, browsing for movies was part of the fun.  These movies were fantastic and resulted in lots of giggles!



3. Reward good behavior.
Our children respond well to rewards.  (Who doesn't?!) If they are on good behavior for the entire flight, we let them pick where we eat dinner.  This is a fun reward for them to look forward to.  They usually succeed in earning this reward, but obviously, the Netflix Downloads helps to set them up for this success by keeping them busy during the flight!

Now that we've shared our three easy holiday travel tips for young children, let me also share some of our favorite shows that are popular on Netflix now.

Our favorite shows for holiday spirit right now are How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Little Prince.

We also love these Netflix family-friendly shows: Project MC2, Dinotrux Supercharged, Spirit Riding Free, Luna Petunia, Stretch Armstrong & The Flex Fighters, and Beat Bugs: All Together Now. Click the links below to check out the trendy shows.  Remember that they are all included with your Netflix account! 



PROJECT MC2                                    PART 6                                                  NOW STREAMING
DINOTRUX SUPERCHARGED           SEASON 1                                            NOW STREAMING
SPIRIT RIDING FREE                          SEASON 3                                            NOVEMBER 17
STRETCH ARMSTRONG & THE FLEX FIGHTERS                                 SEASON 1                                            NOVEMBER 17
LUNA PETUNIA                                  SEASON 3                                            NOVEMBER 17
BEAT BUGS: ALL              TOGETHER NOW                      NOVEMBER 21

Learn More
We hope that you enjoyed our Easy Holiday Travel Tips and insight into our favorite family-friendly releases on Netflix. Stay up to date on the latest from Netflix over the holiday season by following the Netflix Family Facebook page. You'll also enjoy following other Netflix Stream Team members on social media to find out what is on their minds this holiday season. Follow #StreamTeam!  
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Monday, November 20, 2017

Trendy Mom's 2017 Holiday Gift Guide (with Updates)

Welcome to our Holiday Gift Guide!  This is our largest project of the year. We spend months searching for the trendiest holiday gift ideas and try every product to formulate our opinions.  We then select our favorite products and share them in this gift guide.  Please enjoy this glimpse into our home as we share gifts that we personally love for our family, friends, and teachers.

Shared Family Gifts

Family Staycation: We have a special family staycation every year.  This year, we visited the Gaylord Texan for ICE!  This trendy event features 2 million twinkling lights, 15,000 ornaments, 25-foot tall toy soldiers, a 54-foot tall Christmas tree, miniature train sets, and so much more.  Our family enjoyed visiting the ice sculptures that told the story of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. We also enjoyed tubing down the snow hills, sipping on hot chocolate, and decorating gingerbread houses.  The gift of a Winter Staycation is sure to create happy childhood memories. Visit the Gaylord Texan's website here.


Cook Together: We love spending extra time together over the holidays.  One of our favorite hobbies is to cook meals together. Martha & Marley Spoon is a fun family gift because they deliver easy to follow recipes, and all the pre-portioned ingredients to make easy, family weeknight meals. For instance, we recently prepared Steak & Potatoes and Veggie Pho from one of their kits.  Good company and delicious food is always a fabulous gift for families!  Visit Marley Spoon here.   


Enjoy Cheese, Crackers, & More: Nothing is better than sitting next the fireplace with family while staying up late to chat and snack together.  We love Murray's Cheese for the holidays. For instance, we enjoyed The French Connection as shown below.  This trendy gift arrived in Murray's Signature Gift Crate and includes:

In addition to this trendy gift set, we also love that Murray's Cheese also offers monthly subscriptions that you can give as a gift.  If you order now, you'll even score Free Shipping on your subscriptions!  Click here to learn more about their trendy gifts.





Gifts for Mom
The Le Grand Courtâge's Bedazzled Sparkling Wine Bottle is a memorable gift.  As we all struggle to maintain balance in life, we often forget to slow down to appreciate the journey. Le Grand Courtâge is an affordable luxury brand that offers my favorite sparkling wines for $20-25 per bottle.  Even better, they have a limited edition sparkly bottle for the holidays ($60) as shown! Visit Le Grand Courtâge here.



Deutsch Family Wines offer a variety of trendy products that are affordably priced and sure to please. There are four products that we recently tried and enjoyed.  These include: [yellow tail] Bubbles Sparkling Wine, eppa SupraFruta Sangria, Barone Fini Pinot Grigio Valdadige 2016, and Hob Nob Pinot Noir 2014.  The [yellow tail] Bubbles has a soft, creamy fizz with tropical fruit sweetness. The eppa SupraFruta Sangria is America's only sangria that is made with real, organic SuperFruit Juices and organically-grown grapes. The Tasting Panel rated this as 90 points! The Barone Fini Pinot Grigio Valdadige 2016 has aromas of subtle floral notes and lemon mist. We love the crisp finish. The Hob Nob Pinot Noir 2014 is large-bodied with soft tannins to create a smooth, rich texture. Learn more about Deutsch Family wines here.   




Calphalon offers fantastic gifts for moms that love to cook. I am selective about my cookware and have exclusively used Calphalon cookware for years because their designers are perfectionists that pay close attention to detail. In the new Calphalon Premier Space Saving Cookware Set, they merged my love for cooking and a nicely organized kitchen. Their trendy design that stacks nicely to save 30% more space.  As you see below, the pots, pans, and lids stack nicely so that they are easy to organize and store.  These pots and pans are the same great quality as Calphalon's other premier products, but have such an innovative design for storage. Moms (and Dads) will love this good quality cookware and the ease of storing the set.  Visit Calphalon here.




The new CrockPot Express Crock Multi-Cooker is one of the trendiest holiday gifts this year.  I felt lucky to get one now just in case the inventory runs low. Make meal time even easier with the Crock-Pot Express Crock Multi-Cooker, an all-in-one appliance that’s always ready when you are. Whether you're prepping your meal in the morning to let it cook all day, or you need an instant, healthy, home-cooked dish in under an hour—this one-pot pressure cooker does it all!  We make everything from risotto to chicken to yogurt in our Multi-Cooker.  This versatile kitchen appliance is a game changer because it makes it so easy to quickly prepare meals.  It's perfect for foodies who love to try new recipes and want amazingly moist results. It's also perfect for moms that don't like to cook since it simplifies dinner if you use one of the many recipes that allow you to just add ingredients, push a few buttons, and let the Crock-Pot Express Crock Multi-Cooker work its magic! Visit CrockPot here to learn more.




Raw Spice Bar is one of my favorite subscription services. They deliver monthly spice surprises.  My family loves when our monthly package arrives because it often results in me trying new recipes that are amazing.  Raw Spice Bar helps me to break out of my comfort zone by trying new things.   We've found some favorites over the past year. For instance, the Grains of Paradise is our favorite on avocado toast with eggs.  Another thing that we love about Raw Spice Bar is that they sell individual spices and gift sets. If you have a favorite spice like the Grains of Paradise, it's easy to order more. They have a fantastic selection, including classic freshly ground spices and custom spices that are sure to impress.  Visit Raw Spice Bar here.




Thirty-One Gifts is one of my favorite companies because they not only offer trendy products, but they were founded with the simple mission to empower and support women.  They help women to run their own successful businesses which is something that I think many of our "trendy mom" readers want to support.  This year, our top picks include the Cindy Tote Ltd. and All About the Benjamins in Deep Merlot. The Cindy Tote is a customer-favorite with a special touch for the holidays thanks to the beautiful faux leather in Deep Merlot. This generously sized tote looks professional and makes it easy to stay organized. As a mom, I need more organization in my life, so it's nice that this purse has two exterior side pocks, an interior zip pocket, 3 interior flat pockets, and an external hidden cell phone pocket.  In addition, the All About the Benjamins is available in the trendy Deep Merlot Pebble with Gems for the holidays.  This spacious wallet is all about convenience and style. It has 12 credit card slots, 2 bill slots, a clear ID window, an interior zipper pocket, and an open compartment. The zip closure keeps contents secure and hidden.  While I typically keep it in my Cindy Tote, this trendy wallet also converts to a wristlet by adding a wristlet strap.  The Cindy Tote and All About the Benjamins Wallet are trendy gifts for moms this holiday season.  Plus, don't forget about the customizable totes that you may embroider with your gift recipient's name or initials. Visit Thirty-One Gifts here.  




I have raved about Miracle Skin Transformer in the past. I have used this brand for five years. It's rare to see me leave the house without applying my Miracle Skin Transformer Face (with SPF 20).  This is my favorite beauty product for two reasons: (1) it blends well and looks natural to make my skin tone more even and (2) it provides SPF 20 protection which is important here in Texas.  Visit Miracle Skin Transformer here.



Good skincare products always make great gifts for moms.  As a 40-something old mom, I need good quality products that help with aging.  Christie Brinkley has nice skincare products that are part of my routine. In particular, the Ageless Beauty Set is an anti-aging treatment has been wonderful for my 40-something year old skin that has emerging signs of aging.  The 24 Hour Youth Renewal Anti-Agining Kit  is also fantastic for my aging skin.  I've been using these products for several weeks now and am happy that my skin seems smoother and has a more even tone.  Visit Christie Brinkley here. You will also find these products at Kohl's. 




Many moms want fuller hair.  Keranique is a highly rated brand that offers products to help with thinning hair. Personally, my hair thinned a bit after giving birth to my baby.  Postpartum hair thinning may be temporary, but it is still frustrating. I found that this Keranique set helped a lot. I was lucky to find these products so that my hair looks fuller and shinier.  Visit Keranique here. 




FabFitFun offers a quarterly subscription box that is packed with trendy items. The quarterly boxes are $49.99 (with free shipping) and each box contains a minimum of $200 worth of items. For instance, our Winter Box contained Kate Somerville ExfoliKate Intensive Exfoliating Treatment, Pointe Studio Aloe Infused Cozy Socks, AHAVA Mineral Hand Cream, This Works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray, DOUCCE Freematic Eyeshadow Pro Pallette, Nine Lives Choker, BB Dakota Poncho, and a Homemade by Ayesha Curry Ceramic Mug.  The FabFitFun team curates the best boxes and has introduced me to many brands that I love. Given their fabulous taste and the low price point, I think that a FabFitFun subscription is a perfect gift for moms this holiday season. Visit here to give the gift of FabFitFun!




The Rare Hawaiian Honey Company offers gourmet honey products that are raw and organic. Not only do we love their products, but so does Oprah!  They made her list of favorite things this year. Personally, we love their exquisite honey varieties, including the Ponoholo Ranch Clover with Kiawe, Kiawe Honey with Organic Peppermint, and Organic Kiawe Honey with Ginger. It's fun to hibernate during winter with these divine varieties of honey that we add to our tea.  We also love to add them to Greek yogurt for special snacks!  Visit the Rare Hawaiian Honey Company here.




Nielsen-Massey offers trendy gourmet products. Many moms bake special treats throughout the holiday season.  Good quality vanilla and extracts make a big difference.  My favorites include the Nielsen-Masssey Pure Almond Extract, Tahitian Pure Vanilla Extract, and Pure Vanilla Extract.  The Nielsen-Massy Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Sugar is a fun touch for baked goods such as cookies, muffins, and even creme brulee!





Gifts for Dad

Related Garments is my husband's favorite brand for socks and underwear. Indeed, new socks and underwear are a holiday tradition for our family.  Related Garments are trendy for the holidays because they offers underwear with matching socks.  My husband loves their high quality products and the trendy designs. 



As a bonus, our 5-day set came with a garment bag that he uses to make sure that none of his socks get lost.  Visit Related Garments here.




Sweet Maria's is always on our list because they have the best quality green coffee beans. My husband and many of his friends roast their own coffee. This seems to be the latest trend for coffee lovers with high standards.  If you search the web for green coffee beans, you'll notice a shop at the top of the list - Sweet Maria's.  My husband has ordered from this company for a few years because they offer high quality green coffee beans for coffee hobbyists that roast their own coffee.  This year, we ordered the 8-pound Espresso Sampler.  The sampler is nice because the experts at Sweet Maria's surprised us with an amazing variety to sample.  This variety makes the perfect gift! Visit Sweet Maria's here.





My husband loves to play video games after we tuck our children into bed. It's a nice way to relax. The latest games for adults this holiday season include Call of Duty: WWII and Destiny 2. Let me share the details about these trendy games.

Call of Duty returns to its roots with Call of Duty: WWII—a breathtaking experience that redefines World War II for a Image resultnew gaming generation. Land in Normandy on D-Day and battle across Europe through iconic locations in history’s most monumental war. Experience classic Call of Duty combat, the bonds of camaraderie, and the unforgiving nature of war. The campaign features performances from Josh Duhamel and Jonathan Tucker. Call of Duty: WWII’s co-operative mode also unleashes a new and original story, featuring David Tennant, Katheryn Winnick, Elodie Yung and Udo Kier, providing player with a next-level standalone game experience full of unexpected, adrenaline-pumping moments.




Destiny 2 give players the chance to go on an adventure across the solar system and back again, as players wage war against the Red Legion, discover the secrets of our forgotten past, and aid allies in need of a legendary hero. Experience an unprecedented combination of cinematic storytelling, thrilling solo adventures, competitive, and public gameplay – all seamlessly woven into an expansive online world. Rally your friends or venture alone. The choice is yours.

 


BOB Strollers have become iconic thanks to their excellent quality. My husband runs daily to train for marathons, so the BOB Revolution Pro Stroller is perfect for him.  The stroller offers an amazingly smooth ride with air-filled tires on high-impact polymer wheels. It works really well on-road or off-road.  The stroller is highly adjustable for both our baby and the parent or caregiver. The seat adjusts and a generous sized UPF 50+ canopy provides shade. The canopy even has a large viewing window.  My husband runs 1 to 2 hours/day on most days of the week, so it was important to have a stroller that is easy to customize to his specific height. It was also important to have adjustable front wheel tracking for alignment purposes. Of course, the wrist strap and hand-activated rear drum brakes are important, especially for the best downhill control. Finally, we have found it easy to fold/unfold the stroller for convenient transportation and storage.  This stroller is an important part of my son's childhood because my husband takes him on daily runs. Plus, the stroller is easy to adjust so that I am also able to take him on walks and runs.  This BOB Stroller is excellent quality and perfect for parents that want to maintain an active lifestyle with their young children.  Visit BOB Gear here.  



Iconic Maker's Mark Whiskeys are a great gift for dads. We love the traditional Maker's Mark Whiskey that has been one of their iconic products for many years. We also love the Maker's 46 Whiskey as a special holiday gift for dads.  These products are also great for holiday visitors.  Visit Maker's Mark here.



Texas Silver Star is a local company in Fort Worth, TX that offers amazing whiskey. The company was founded in 2011 by U.S. Navy veterans and has quickly become a favorite brand among North Texans.  Something that stands out about this trendy company is that they have an elaborate rain harvesting system and two 13,000 gallon stainless steel storage tanks. All of their products are made using filtered Texas Rainwater!  How cool is that?  We love the Texas Silver Star Whiskey and the Texas Silver Star Texas Honey Whiskey for holiday gifts. The original whiskey has a smooth flavor that makes it popular.  The honey whiskey is great by itself, but my husband also loves to mix is with lemonade for a sweet cocktail. It's always nice to by local products, especially when there is a cool story behind it such as the case here where they harvest Texas rainwater for their products. Visit Texas Silver Star here.




The Royal Wine Corp. is offers gift-ready kosher wines and spirits. They offer more than 300 brands from around the globe. For instance, we have a couple of gift recommendations that are already gift wrapped or in a gift bag. We love their LVOV Vodka. Crafted in the old tradition from potatoes (and thus gluten-free), it is distilled and filtered four times for a hint of mineral taste with a touch of sweetness with a slightly herbal aroma. It's great on the rocks or mixed into a cocktail. LVOV Vodka Gift Boxes are available in a choice of six “expressive” options that are great for the holidays. We also enjoy their Bartenura Sparkling Moscato Rosé. Bartenura is the most popular Italian Moscato in the U.S. market and beyond. Slightly sweet, it’s a festive companion to cheese and dessert at holiday parties. And its “couture fashion” inspired gift bag is a feast for the eyes, too.  Learn more here.  


ShedRain umbrellas are perfect for Dads that travel. My husband travels for work and has to dress up for meetings, so a good quality umbrella is a necessity.  We got him the Vortex Vent and he was able to try it out here in Dallas. He raved about it! Built to withstand hurricane force winds, the new Vortex Vent umbrella features innovative technology and design including the new Anti-Inversion Strut system combined with the highest quality components. The newly patented Anti-Inversion Strut (AIS) system works to reduce umbrella inversion and mechanically support the rib structure. A tip tensioning system uses spring-loaded tips to deliver a strong canopy and wing-like form in high wind situations. The canopy features 360-degree venting designed to release pressure and reduce stress on the frame. Elastic vent straps join the upper and lower canopy to stretch under high pressure forces and allow rapid air release. Energy-absorbing shocks are meant to reduce joint interaction stress. At its core is the shaft made with the highest grade of Aircraft Quality Aluminum. Multiple sizes and colors are available including 58”, 62” and 68” arc in black, blue, grey and neon green.


Bicycles are the ultimate Christmas gift for children.  However, once you add extra bicycles to your garage, you'll need to reorganize the space. If your husband is like mine, he'll appreciate the gift of organization for those new bicycles. We have the 10025 - BUA Aluminum Floor to Ceiling (Black) from Gear Up, Inc. in our garage. It holds my husband's bike on the top and our son's bike on the bottom.  This is a must-have accessory for Dads that are careful with their garage space! 


Gifts for Children
We include a variety of toys in this gift guide, but emphasize STEM toys heavily this year since this is an area that I am passionate. As a Mom and an Engineer, I think that every child should have STEM toys. Technology has become pervasive in our lives. I volunteer at robotics events whenever possible because I am passionate about providing children with opportunities to experience robotics.  Many parents ask for my recommendations of robots that they may buy for their children to play with at home.  We've tried numerous robots and some were fantastic while others were underwhelming. The STEM products that we selected for this gift guide stand out for three reasons: (a) we feel that they are very engaging and fun for children, (b) children practice foundational computational thinking skills, and (c) we feel that these products are user-friendly and easy to use so that most parents will feel confident helping their children.  We wanted to avoid toys that we felt may be confusing and cause frustration to parents who do not have coding backgrounds.  In addition to these criteria, we also divided the cost of the items by the number of hours that our child played with each item to make sure that we felt that there was a good value.  The STEM toys below satisfied our criteria and are our absolute favorites!

Let's start with Dash & Dot robots by Wonder Workshop.  Their robots are robust, easy to use, and grow with children as they get older.  We started with Dash & Dot when my oldest son was 5 years old.  At almost 8 years old, he is still fascinated with Dash & Dot and uses them on a weekly basis. (Yes! You read that correctly - these robots have been used for almost four years straight.)  Let me share a few products from this line that make wonderful holiday gifts for your future tech mogul.


The first is the Dash & Dot Wonder Pack.  If I had to give an estimate, I would say that my son has used the Dash & Dot for approximately 600+ hours over the years. Dash & Dot feel like family members because they have been a big part of our lives! It was only recently that we ordered the new and improved Wonder Pack
, which includes Dash and Dot plus all of the accessories: Building Brick Connectors, Bunny Ears/Tail, Bulldozer Bar, Tow Hook, Xylophone, and Launcher! If we were to go back in time, we would have ordered the Dash & Dot Wonder Pack from the beginning because it is a great value and includes both of the iconic Dash & Dot robots with a ton of fun accessories. For instance, we'll have a separate post soon where we highlight items from this set, including how to program Dash to drive around the Christmas tree, play a holiday song on the xylophone, and launch things on Christmas morning while Dot hangs from tree.  If you are like us and record your children on Christmas morning, this robotics set will be very memorable!  Learn more about the Wonder Pack here.




The next gift idea is a separate kit - the Dot Creativity Kit.  This little set entertained our future tech mogul for many hours. The designers of this set are perfectionists that pay close attention to detail.  They really thought about how to appeal to creative children so that they are able to create fabulous childhood memories with their Dot robot. We also love this set for the holidays because you may hang Dot from your Christmas tree (or any location in your home) and program it to do funny things to surprise your child.  We'll post tips for this in a separate post soon.  


As I mentioned earlier, we like to divide the cost of a toy by the number of hours that our child plays with the toy.  This set came out to less than $1/hour which is awesome since it was also educational. Plus, he'll probably still spend many more hours playing with it in the future!


Learn more about the Dot Creativity Kit here.




Finally, if your little tech mogul wants the latest and greatest technology, consider Cue.  As I mentioned earlier, parents often ask for for advice about how to get their children involved in robotics.  Cue is a robot that I strongly recommend because I think that it is fun and accessible. Even if you don't have a robotics background, my guess is that most parents will find the programming environment intuitive and will be able to help their children. 
Powered by breakthrough Emotive AI, cue is a witty robot with attitude! Share your world with cue as it talks, texts, and laughs with you. Games and challenges make programming your own interactive experiences fun for any skill level. Choose your favorite avatar and explore an amazing depth of personality, expressions, and actions. My son has spent many hours with Cue. It's one of the most engaging toys that we have ever come across. The best part is that this funny little robot challenges our son and makes learning fun! Visit Cue here.




Let me also share that Wonder Workshop offers a free Robotics Competition. You just need to buy the robots and then sign up for the free competition. My son is on a team with some of his friends.  They love it! As parents, we enjoy seeing them learn while having fun.  It has been a great experience. Visit Wonder League Robotics Competition here.



In addition to Dash & Dot, we think that a variety of STEM toys are important because they help our son to see the world from different points of view.  We like different programming environments that help to expand his skillset. As an engineer myself, I have used many different programming languages such as assembly, C, C++, Java, PHP, Swift, and more.  Each language has different features and is better suited for different goals.  Being able to code in different languages has been important in my career. Similarly, I believe that it's important for children to use different programming environments that teach different computational thinking skills in different ways. That's why we also recommend some additional STEM toys.


Cubetto is a trendy screen-less programming system.  You may have noticed this little wooden robotics set in publications such as Forbes, Wired, Time,  Toy Insider's 2017 Holiday Gift Guide, and other places. Some people seem surprised when I tell them that it is a screen-less robotics set. They ask how this is possible.  It's simple!  The robot is made of wood with a physical programming console and a set of expandable code blocks. The electronic components are hidden because the point of the design is to make it accessible and fun for kids to learn basic coding skills.  The kids practice conceptual thinking by using the colorful pieces to plan the robot's route, making it turn and move in specific directions. This helps children to understand basic principles of coding in an age-appropriate way. It's recommended for ages 3+. We adore Cubetto! We have spent many hours playing with this set.  Even better, Primo offers several Adventure Packs in order to give them extra problems to solve.  My son loves the Polar Expedition which is a fun set for the holidays.  It was fun to see his enthusiasm for programming.  This is a great set for future tech moguls that will brag that they've been coding since they were a toddler!   If you plan to give your child Cubetto for Christmas, it's easy to add a Santa hat to the robot and program it to drive around the Christmas tree on Christmas morning.  You may even have the robot deliver a candy cane to your child! Click here to learn more about Cubetto. 



Pai Circuit Conductor is a great STEM toy that has also helped my son to fall in love with science and technology.  If you have a future tech mogul on your gift list, I would say that the Pai Circuit Conductor is an important foundational toy. This set helps children to
 learn about current electrical flow in real time.  The set comes with a dozen different electrical function blocks, six specially insulated magnetic wires, and a free app with lesson plans. My son was thrilled to set up his circuits to make a fan spin and watch things light up.  I really enjoy seeing his curiosity and excitement for learning.  The designers of this toy did a fantastic job by creating a set that is engaging, fun, and education.  This game is for ages 4+.  Shop for Pai Circuit Conductor here.





The Piper Computer Kit allows children to build their own computer.  You may have seen this trendy STEM kit mentioned in Forbes, Popular Mechanics, and more. It received many awards and was endorsed by Steve Wozniak. His quote resonated with me because I feel the same way, "I love Piper because it represents what enabled me to do all the great technology things in my life."  This trendy kit addresses a major problem that children have nowadays in relation to technology -- almost everything is "blackbox". They don't have the opportunity to build computers. For instance, I would have a heart attack if my son tried to take apart my Macbook Pro, iPad, or iPhone.  We know that wouldn't end well!  At the same time, one of the things that got me excited about engineering was the ability to build my own computer. I also enjoyed swapping parts out for upgrades.  The hands-on aspect was a lot of fun for me. That's why I was excited to learn about the Piper Computer Kit.  It provides a blueprint and all of the supplies needed to build a trendy little computer.  My son and I sat together and had an amazing time building it! I enjoyed giving him the opportunity to look "behind the scenes." I think that it was a great educational experience. Of course, my son also loved the Minecraft adventure play!   (Similar to many other children, my son loves Minecraft, so this was perfect for him.) One final thing that I want to mention is that they have a great warranty, replacement part policy, and 24 hour support line so that you can buy this for your child without stress about anything going wrong. They really paid close attention to detail when they made this set!  Visit Piper Computer Kit here.   



Finally, our last STEM pick is Osmo.  We use the Osmo Base (for iPad) with the Coding Jam game.  Osmo products are generally highly rated on Amazon.  In particular, at the time that we researched their products, the Coding Jam Game had almost 5-stars with nice comments from other customers. Osmo complements the other STEM toys that I mentioned as it has a different environment for coding and makes it fun for children to practice computational thinking skills. The Coding Jam game is fantastic. It includes magnetic pieces that you arrange in different orders to make the characters play instruments.  My son loves it and we enjoy hearing his compositions.  For instance, he created trendy music that we listened to during breakfast this morning.  The combination of programming, math, and music is great for a well rounded child.



Moving on from STEM toys, let me share some other fun toys and books that my children have tried and loved. 

The holidays are a great time to encourage a love of reading.  Scholastic has the best selection of children's books for the holidays. Let me share a few that my children love.

The first two have a holiday theme. I Love You Snow Much is written by best selling creator Sandra Magsamen. She shares the love in this sweet story with a plush winter red cap and jolly family of snowmen! My toddler loves holding, touching, and reading this merry little board book.

In Top Elf by Caleb Huett, the elves can't be kept on shelves in this hilarious middle-grade debut about what happens when Santa opens a contest to find his successor. But then Santa rocks the North Pole with a surprise announcement! He's decided this is going to be his last year in the Big Red Suit and instead of letting his oldest son, the unfortunately named Klaus Claus, take over, he's opening up the job to any kid who wants to apply - Claus or elf. The Santa Trials have begun!



The next books are highly recommended by my 8-year old. Harry Potter: A Journey Through a History of Magic by J.K. Rowling is truly amazing. Ahead of the 20th anniversary celebration of the release of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in the US, Scholastic will publish Harry Potter: A Journey through a History of Magic, a companion title to the British Library exhibit. Readers are invited to take an enchanting look at the Hogwarts curriculum, from Care of Magical Creatures and Herbology to Defense against the Dark Arts and more in this book uncovering thousands of years of magical history. Prepare to be amazed by artifacts released from the archives of the British Library, unseen sketches and manuscript pages from J.K. Rowling, and incredible illustrations from artist Jim Kay, Discover the truth behind the origins of the Philosopher?s Stone, monstrous dragons, and troublesome trolls; examine real-life wands and find out what actually makes a mandrake scream; pore over remarkable pages from da Vinci?s notebook; and discover the oldest atlas of the night sky. Carefully curated by the British Library and full of extraordinary treasures from all over the world, this is an unforgettable journey exploring the history of the magic at the heart of the Harry Potter stories.



The iconic Goosebumps: 25th Anniversary Retro Set by R.L. Stine is a trendy gift. Celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Goosebumps with five of the all-time bestselling books including Monster Blood, Why I'm Afraid of Bees, A Night in Terror Tower, The Beast from the East, and Legend of the Lost Legend. Each with their original cover in an exclusive retro collector?s tin!  Visit Scholastic here.  



American Plastic Toys Inc. offers trendy toys that have been manufactured in the U.S. since 1962.  In addition to their trendy designs, I really like that the colorant molded in all of their products is purchased domestically and FDA approved for use in food packaging. None of their products are painted or include phthalates.   Let me share two trendy toys that I have for my own children - the My Very Own Ice Cream Cart (ages 2+) and the Deluxe Workbench (ages 3+).

My Very Own Ice Cream Cart is a winner of the 2017 National Parenting Product Awards. Order up! Now kids can play the role of their favorite ice cream server when they get behind the counter of this colorful ice cream cart. Included in this 24-piece set are scoops of ice cream, cones, bowls, scoopers, serving spoons, coins, and a credit card to ring up the orders. For even more role-play fun, kids can pretend to serve their friends with the stackable scoops of ice cream flavors. With two big anchoring wheels, it’s easy to move the cart indoors or out.




The Deluxe Workbench is also a fantastic toy. It’s tool time! This impressive and sturdy Deluxe Workbench features classic role play fun for the youngest woodworker. The jam-packed 38-piece set comes complete with everything a workshop needs for hours of imaginative engagement including a reversible drill with two drill bits, a hammer, wrench and screwdriver, four nails, six bolts, six nuts, five interlocking gears, five connector brackets, a cell phone and a ruler. The two-drawer bench also includes a pegboard and three hooks to hang tools after a long day of “work” and play.



The Picasso Tiles Company provides fun building sets with magnetic tiles that allow children to have fun using their creativity and imagination. My boys have been building Christmas Villages under our tree with trains, houses, gifts, and gems.  This is a fun set that has provided many hours of entertainment. Visit Picasso Tiles here.



Picasso Tiles also offers Bristle Shape 3D Build Block sets.  The set below is their trendy Farm Set. My boys have also spent many hours with this set. They never stop surprising me with their fun designs and imaginative stories that they create.  They use the set as shown in the photos on the box, but then extend the examples with their own imaginations. It's fun to see their creativity. This set has resulted in many giggles and happy memories. Visit Picasso Tiles here.




There are so many wonderful educational apps for children. However, we all know that the sound effects are often more fun for them than parents.  We love the trendy Buddy Phones by onandoff. The best thing about these headphones is that they have a feature to limit the sound level.  This safeguard is helpful since my son often adjusts things without me noticing.  In addition, these trendy headphones have a cute design that folds up and is easy to store in a pouch for transportation to/from school.  Children will enjoy customizing these headphones with the selection of stickers that come with the set.  Visit onandoff here.




The Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy is an enhanced and remastered version of three original games. It lets players spin, jump, wump and repeat as they take on the epic challenges and adventures from the three games that started it all: Crash Bandicoot™ Crash Bandicoot™ 2: Cortex Strikes Back and Crash Bandicoot™ 3: Warped. Now fans can experience the beloved ‘90s video game icon like never before in this remastered game collection. In this new trilogy, Crash fanatics can relive all their favorite moments in fully-remastered HD graphical glory and put some UMPH in their WUMP! We've been playing this on our PS4 and love it. If you ask my husband and son, the holidays wouldn't be complete without trendy video games.  The Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy is perfect for our entire family!  Learn more here.





Crayola offers many trendy products that are perfect for holiday gifts. Personally, as a mom of two energetic boys, I love the Crayola Color Wonder products that allow my little artists to have fun without staining their clothing, carpet, or furniture. The Crayola Color Wonder Magic Light Brush enables mess-free painting by encouraging toddlers to create colorful, imaginative art without the mess. The brush magically lights up to match the chosen color of Color Wonder paint, which only appears on special paper and won’t color on skin, carpet or furniture. Another trendy product that we love is the Crayola Magic Scene Creator. This trendy toy features a new, proprietary animation technology, enabling kids to create animated scenes that help bring their imaginations to life. The animation cards simulate motion and can move fast or slow, providing an engaging and magically creative experience for younger. My children have been having a blast with both of these sets without making messes. I love the nice clean fun!



Prime Time Toys offers fun shooting toys for kids. My kids enjoy putting on their protective goggles and then playing with the Adventure Force and Ballistix Ops. The Adventure ForceLight Command Motorized Light-Up Blaster features a 20-dart belt that fires the entire belt under 20 seconds projecting darts up to 80 feet, leaving opponents running for cover.   



The Dart Zone Ballistix Ops PowerBall Ball Blaster fires Power Strike foam rounds up to 100 FPS (feet per second) just like the competition. The Powerball’s Quick-Load Hopper holds eight foam rounds. Just like Dart Zone Super Darts and Blasters, Ballistix Ops is fully compatible with the leading brand’s rounds and magazines.  This is my oldest son's favorite toy that he runs for when it is time to play outside!  (PS - Target has a Black Friday sale on November 23 - 26 where these trendy toys are 50% off.)





mooshu TRAINERS are perfect for trendy toddlers.  Not only do they have adorable designs that you will appreciate in photos, but they have a fun feature that they squeak when your toddler walks. (You may also remove the squeakers whenever you want.) These shoes have given us many baby giggles! Of course, I should also add that the shoes are great quality that seem to hold up to my super energetic toddler!




Gifts for Teachers 

Yankee Candle is one of my favorite brands for teacher gifts.  Their high quality candles come in amazing scents that make gift recipients feel special.  This holiday season is no exception.  Yankee Candle has amazing  scents such as Balsam & Clove, Aromatic Orange & Evergreen, Cascading Snowberry, and Spiced Pepperberry & Spruce.  They are all fantastic, but my personal favorite is the Aromatic Orange & Evergreen. My husband and son also have a favorite - Cascading Snowberry.  There are a variety of products that incorporate these trendy scents. For instance, we like the  Owl w/ LED and Timer Scenterpiece Wax Warmer with the trendy holiday scented Wax Melts for our son's main teacher.  



My son has a dozen other teachers, coaches, and tutors that we like to thank with thoughtful gifts.We love the large Tumbler Candles in the holiday scents for his other teachers, coaches, and tutors. Yankee Candle is an iconic brand for the gift-giving season and they make it easy to order all of your teacher gifts from one location.  Visit Yankee Candle here




Stocking Stuffers

Bombas offers trendy socks for the entire family.  We love Bombas because they are an extremely family-friendly brand that pays close attention to detail. Let's talk about the quality of their socks and then the Bombas Growth Guarantee that parents will love. I have two energetic boys and a husband who runs marathons, so my family seems to accidentally stress test their clothing and socks.  Bombas has us covered as their socks are excellent quality to hold up to my energetic boys. This is a company that also knows how hard it can be to keep up with growing kids! Luckily, you’re covered under the Bombas Growth Guarantee. Within a year of your purchase, they will happily replace any of their Toddler or Youth socks with the next size up---All on the house, of course.  How cool is that?  It seems like my children grow every time that I blink, so this is a fantastic offer. The photo below shows toddler and youth socks.  (If you keep reading to our section of "Gifts for Social Causes", we'll also tell you about how Bombas donates socks to those in need when you order your socks.)  



Stockings are not complete without special snacks. We love healthy snacks such as the Slammers fruit pouches. My children are hooked on these little pouches and can't get enough of them.  I'm glad that they enjoy them because they are packed with super foods and good nutrition. They even offer Slammers with higher protein content.  This is a special stocking stuff that my children love and I feel good about too.  We buy them at Kroger or Tom Thumb, but they are available at many stores nationwide.  Use their store locator here.



Yankee Candle's Charming Scents make wonderful stocking stuffers.  Your gift recipient will appreciate the beautiful scent every time that they get into their car. The Balsam & Cedar is a great choice for the holiday season!




Schleich's Assorted Farm World Animals are great stocking stuffers for children ages 3+.  This set contains five farm animals: a Fleckvieh calf, a cat, a border collie, a goose, and a Mustang foal.  This set was perfect for my son's big imagination. Similar to most other children, he is fascinated by animals and enjoys pretend play with animal figures.   Plus, let me share a fun fact from the brand website - 
Border Collies are regarded as the most intelligent of all dogs – even ahead of German Shepherds and Poodles. Visit Schleich to learn more.




LEGO Duplos are fun for gifts and stocking stuffers. My children are huge LEGO fans and can't get enough of them. LEGOs are a big part of their childhood since they have occupied them for many hours. They've visited LEGOLAND in both Texas and Florida.  We've even attended LEGO KidsFest.  This year, we recommend the LEGO DUPLO My First Cakes set as a stocking stuffer for toddlers. Find it here.





SodaStream provides the opportunity for you to make your own sparkling drinks and sodas at home. We've been using a SodaStream for 8 years now. We love the convenience of making our own drinks at home. In particular, we prefer low calorie drinks, so we love the new Fruit Drop Mixes and the Zeros line of mixes.  Our favorite Fruit Drop mixes are the Mango Fruit Drops and Raspberry Fruit Drops. They are unsweetened and contain natural essence. The Zeros are also great options if you want sugar-free drinks. The Pink Grapefruit variety is our favorite, but we love all of the flavors! These are great for holiday parties or stocking stuffers.  Visit SodaStream here to browse their trendy products.  


J.R. Watkins offers aromatic stocking stuffers that we love.  They have it all! Some of our favorites are shown below. The Castile Soap is nice for those of us here in Texas that suffer from dry winter skin since it is a gentle formula.  They also have candles and room sprays in holiday scents that are very nice. Of course, they also have a variety of gourmet extracts that moms will love for holiday baking.  Visit J.R. Watkins here.



Gifts for Social Causes

Helping others in someone's name or memory is always a trendy gift.  If you plan to make donations, we like to use Charity Navigator to find out how much of our donation goes to helping causes and the ratio that goes for administration.  We also love to purchase from companies that support social causes. For instance, the first company that we are featuring provides new socks to people in need.  The next two that stood out because they support women who are making changes to better their lives and those of their families.

The first company that we love is Bombas which gives socks to people in need. For every pair of socks that they sell, they give one away to someone in need. All of their donations happen throughout the U.S. For instance, they recently handed out socks to homeless people in NYC.  Imagine the difference that it makes to homeless people. Clean socks are something that we take for granted.  It's a win-win to order socks for your family and know that Bombas will donate a pair of socks to help others for each pair that you order.  Isn't this perfect for the holiday season? The socks below are our socks for "mom and dad."  Click here to visit Bombas.



The second is Bright Endeavors which helps young moms. Every mother wants to provide a safe home for her child filled with love and opportunity. But for a young mom living in poverty, that home can seem out of reach. Bright Endeavors transforms the lives of young moms by teaching these strong women to craft premium soy candles in a supportive, professional environment. Made in Chicago with soy wax, 100% of candle proceeds support the young mom who made the candle. 



The third is the Women'sBean Project - a social enterprise on a mission to break the cycle of chronic unemployment and poverty by putting women to work learning transferable skills producing a line of gourmet foods - places 100% of their graduates in entry-level jobs. While this amazing enterprise all started with $500 worth of beans used to create the first gourmet beansoup offering, Toni's 10 bean, WBP now has over 50 gourmet food skus and jewelry offerings. Stuff stockings with biscuits & jam or chilli and cornbread, or gift an array of gift bundles.




We hope that you enjoyed this glimpse into our favorite gift ideas for the holidays.  Enjoy the holiday season with your family!

Please check back soon as we will update this post with a few more items during the coming week and holiday season!
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