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Friday, November 28, 2014

chicken pot pie recipes

So I know we just devoured turkeys yesterday, most of us anyhow with Thanksgiving... but I'm onto chicken now! A few weeks ago I posted about how I made chicken pot pie with alfredo sauce - a new twist a friend told me about and I had to try. A few moms were curious about the best chicken pot pie recipes... so here you go!

I have three recipes now that I love and each are slightly different. I'll put them in order of my MOST favorite to the last favorite. They're all great, each having a slightly different use and time to cook.


#1 Emerill's Chicken Pot Pie
ALL-TIME MOST DELICIOUS CHICKEN POT PIE EVER! I've been making this for more than 10 years. It's definitely a favorite of my family.

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) of unsalted butter
1 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup chopped celery
salt and pepper to taste (I do it up with lots of pepper)
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup half and half
2 cups peeled and diced potatoes, cooked in boiling water until tender, 6 to 8 minutes
2 cups frozen mixed veggies (peas, carrots, green beans, corn)
2 cups cooked chicken, shredded from crock pot or cut up into cubes
2 tablespoons parsley
Piecrust

  1. Preheat the over to 400 degrees. Grease a baking pan.
  2. Boil the potatoes.
  3. Cook the chicken.
  4. Heat the butter in large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and celery, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring 2 minutes.
  5. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring for 3 to 4 minutes, to make a blond roux.
  6. Stir in the chicken stock and bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the sauce begins to thicken, 4 to 6 minutes.
  7. Stir in the half and half, and continue to cook another 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  8. Stir in the potatoes, chicken, veggies, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Mix well. 
  9. Pour into the pie crust.
  10. On the top pie crust I melt a tablespoon or so of butter and brush it over the crust edges and top, then put fork marks in the top of the crust so it's better tasting and doesn't get dark when cooking.
  11. Bake until golden brown 25 to 30 minutes. 
DELICIOUS! I've made this a lot for new moms who just had babies. I serve it with cranberry sauce and bread. 

Images from Google.com

#2 Easy Chicken Pot Pie from my Awesome SIL
This one is easier with fewer ingredients, and SO yummy. My SIL gave me this recipe for my bridal shower. She also made these for us after we had our son, individual pies, we loved having a few of them to take out for lunches or whatnot instead of a huge pie for a meal for a week. 

1 can cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup milk
cooked chicken
bag of mixed frozen veggies
pillsbury pie dough
pepper and basil to taste

Mix all together. Put into individual casserole dishes (or make as a regular pie) and just cover with crust.
Bake 375 degrees for 45-60 minutes 


#3 Alfredo Chicken Pot Pie
My co-worker Jeanne gave me this recipe at work. She said it's just a little different and much easier to make than a whole drawn out pot pie. I like the new twist on an old favorite. 

chicken cooked in the crockpot all day, so shredded
mixed veggies
jar of alfredo sauce (or if you're awesome-r than I am, make your own!)
pepper and parsley to taste
pie crust

I mixed it all together, put into the pie crust. Cooked 350 for about 30 minutes. 

It was pretty yummy, but definitely not your regular chicken pot pie taste. I would not serve it with cranberry sauce, but rather some rice or salad or something. 

****************

And just because it's fresh in my mind from Thanksgiving... here is the BEST stuffing recipe I've ever had in my life. Rachael Ray of course... LOVE her! It's SO easy, takes like 10 minutes and is delicious. I usually double this recipe.

Cranberry Orange Stuffing

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 ribs of celery, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper
2 cranberry orange muffins (I always put in more, buy them at the bakery section of a store)
2 tablespoons thyme
1 cup chicken stock (if you put in more than 2 muffins, add a half cup of stock for each muffin you add)
  1. Heat the oil and butter in a pan.
  2. When butter melts, add celery, onion, bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Crumble the muffins into the pan and combine with the vegetables.
  4. Add thyme and chicken stock.
  5. Cook stuffing five minutes, stirring occasionally, then remove from heat and let stand in warm pan.
YUMmmmmmmy. You will love not only how easy that recipe is for stuffing, but also the different orange cranberry taste! 



shop & support moms - North Berwick Bundle Children's Boutique

I am super excited to feature this dynamic, caring, hardest working momma around, Aryn Wintle, owner of North Berwick Bundle Children's Boutique! As an avid thrifty shopper, I adore consignment shops - and Aryn's is AMAZING! She is 100% dedicated to what she does here - helping others in need, providing a place for moms to easily and comfortably shop while they're kids are entertained, and giving a place for moms to drop off their things they no longer need but could be of use to someone else. 

She is so passionate about the work she does and really trying hard to make this the best little boutique you've ever shopped at. I really believe she's well on her way to reaching her goals! You HAVE to check out this adorable store! I've found awesome things here - including a H&M snow jacket that was literally like brand new for my niece for $6, and tons of Gymboree, Gap and Ralph Lauren items. 

Thank you, Aryn, for your dedication to your community, and more so - for the GREAT deals! 

Scroll down to the end to see the awesome discount she's offering Mommy Stories readers this month!


Images from Aryn Wintle

You will love shopping at this store! I've been there multiple times this fall, tons of great clothing for all sizes!


Above: Just a few of the GREAT bargains I've personally scored at the North Berwick Bundle Children's Boutique! Above: A Gymboree fall jacket that would easily be at least $40-50 at the store.... for $6!!! Also, three leotards for dance.... a few bucks each!

Below: Three of these shirts below are NEW with tags on them... for a few dollars each! And yet it was all FREE to me after store credit from things I dropped off.

LOVE being a #thriftymama!


1. How did you start your business? Why did you want your own business? When did you start your business? 
I actually bought the store from the original owner. After managing it for a month or so, I fell in love with the concept and my customers. Unfortunately, the owner wasn’t going to be able to sustain this location so I offered to buy her out of it. I really came into this looking for summer work until my son went off to preschool in the fall- I never dreamed it would become my life! The location was started in April, I came in as a manager in May, and owned it by July!
2. Why was this business a perfect situation for you and your family? 

Originally, this “job” was great for my family because it allowed me to start getting back into the work force, but I was able to have a flexible schedule and still be there for my family. Now that I’ve taken it over, it's become a family project. 

My teens are learning customer service and retail, as well as how to keep the books, how to price inventory and overall run a business. My husband is so helpful, he loves helping with procurement, reviews all my financials (He’s in finance) helps me figure out how best to manage inventory and grow at a steady but sustainable rate. Our 4 year old is in R & D, as well as quality control (He plays with all the toys and makes sure they are fun and work) When I come home, every one wants to know how the day was, how the week is going, etc (as we are still just starting out, it can be nerve-racking to have a slow day!). Having the shop has been a great project for us to do as a family (oh, and my kids love having first dibs on great clothing that comes in)
3. What does your business specialize in? What's your favorite product you sell? 
We are a children’s consignment/thrift store specializing in excellent and new condition clothing for children newborn through Juniors. 

My tag line is “Re-Sell. Re-Use. Re-Imagine” which sums up my favorite product- Anything I can re-home, re utilize and give new life to. 

(ok, and socks. I love to sell socks because they are SOOOO expensive new and babies don’t really wear them! (we sell them for $.25))!!
4. What do you love best about working this business? 
My customers. I have the BEST customers EVER! They are always looking to help each other out - case in point, had a mom looking for a booster seat for her child- which I don’t sell- and another mom instantly spoke up and offered her one her child had grown out of. It was here the very next day, and is being enjoyed instead of sitting in a basement. 

The whole concept of getting something for your outgrown items, then passing them on as a great deal to someone else, who got something for their outgrown items, which went home with someone else for the items they could no longer use… It's very rewarding when you can help this many people have a little “win” in their lives every day.


5. When do you work in the day/evening? What is your goal with this business? 
I work 6 days a week (and Nanny the day and a half I’m not at the shop, but that’s another blog!) I work 10-4:00 Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, Tuesday Evenings, Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons. Oh, and I do intake at night, as well as managing the Facebook page and responding to inquiries, and balancing the books, sorting and tracking inventory… I work all the time, LOL.
My goal at this point is A) stay in business! B) moving into our new space in November is a huge risk, but after talking to many of my customers I think it will be a good change. The new space is about 3xs what I had, which will allow me not only to spread out a little, but also to create a play space. 

My vision is that the shop becomes less of a store and more of a Community Center- where kids can come to play with the toys, we can host events like Meet and Greets with local sitters, story hours, music with local musicians, scrapbooking/couponing/baby wrapping etc classes, dress swaps for semi formals… things to bring value to North Berwick and the surrounding areas.
6. Take me through your typical day at work. Picking up the shop and hanging new items (which currently can only really be done when no one is here!). Most of my day is spent working with my customers, catching up on what's going on with them and their kids, helping them find whatever they are looking for, doing intake for consignments, picking up the toy area (I encourage all the kids to play with the toys and make a mess- because the toys want to be played with, and its soooo much more relaxing to shop with an occupied child!)
7. What is your success rate? Why do you think people return to your store? 
I guess I don’t know how to define a success rate. Besides outgrowing this space so soon, I guess the fact that most people who come in, come back says I’m doing something right. 

I love when people ask me if I forgot to ring something up because their total is lower than they thought it would be, or when they happily pick up their check or store credit and are full of “thank you!”s (I feel like, as my inventory suppliers, I should be the one grateful to them!). I hope people are returning because they feel like they got a great value- whether as a buyer, consignor or both!
8. Why do you think people should buy consignment clothing for their children? Why should moms consider selling consignment? 

For me, consignment has several benefits- first, it's cheap. Everything in my shop is in great condition, so instead of spending $30 on a pair of new jeans, you can get a great, almost new pair for $3.50. Second, it reduces waste- items that no longer fit one child still have a lot of life left in them- reusing them reduces the items that go into the landfill. Third, it benefits your community and neighbors. When you consign your unused items, you are giving someone else a chance to snag them at a great price.
9. What are your favorite consignment stores for kids? 
Honestly, all of my policies are based on all the things I have hated at every other consignment store I’ve been to- Like making an appointment to drop off- then having to wait around for an hour or two, or come back within 24 or I forfeit my things, charging more for brand names (they are used at this point!), being sent home with stuff I was trying to get rid of, and hate seeing that stuff get thrown away- we do the exact opposite- no appointments, your check or store credit is good forever, even if you don’t pick it up for a month, brand names and knock offs are all the same price (let's be honest- they are pre-worn. It's about great condition clothing cheap, not who’s name is on the tag!)100% utilization of your drop off (things that can't be sold will still be worth a small amount of store credit, then will be donated out to your community members in need)


10. How does your business allow you to be a great mother? 
Owning my own business means I set my hours, based on what my kiddos need from me. I am able to drive my kids to school in the morning and be there when they get off the bus. If someone is sick, I can be there. It also allows me to continue nannying- something I’ve done for the past 3 years and can’t give up. Being able to work those two jobs, and still be home to make and eat dinner with my family almost every night is pretty special. I can also make time to volunteer at the schools, attend sporting events or other extra curriculars and just be a MOM (my most important job!)
11. What do you think would surprise readers to know about you? 
Hmmm, I don’t know! Anyone that has been into the shop probably knows my life story (and I probably know theirs!) I’m a pretty open book! Maybe that I need at least 3 ice cubes in a cup of hot coffee before I can drink it? 
12. What is the coolest thing you've ever experienced as part of working with this business? 
Donating my slightly imperfect items out. And there have been a couple times when someone has come to me really down on their luck and I’ve been in a position to help them. I do love all of my customers, but there is a special place in my heart for knowing I am making a difference to someone- whether it’s a young mom trying to get through school, and the free clothing means she has to work 3 hours less a week and can study and be with her baby, the blankets for the foster child expecting her first and needing the basics, cash for consignment items that helps someone buy diapers and formula when their husband’s check got messed up, or just helping a local business owner provide her employee with all the necessities - All of those circumstances are times when, without the shop, I might not have known, or been able to help. It really is an amazing feeling to hear that you made a difference to someone.
13. What is one of your favorite gifts to give someone for the holidays? 
For the last 5 years my kids have forgone any “big” Christmas gifts in lieu of a trip. They pick the destination and we go the following year. It saves a LOT on clutter, and gives us memories instead of “stuff” (Our first year we did Disney, then a cruise to Mexico, Then California - and Legoland of course!, and a week long ski vacation) we still do little gifts, and Santa comes of course.
14. How many kids do you have? Give us one word to describe them. 
I technically have 3 of my own- Mackenzie, 15 “caring” (you’ve never met a more helpful or caring kid). Travis, 13, “able” (ie, he can do just about anything he tries to- and generally pretty easily!). Thomas, 4, “Sunny” (he can brighten your day, no matter how bad it is! (he can, also, ruin a good one, but those are few and far between!). I also “have” a 4yo girl (sassy), 2 yo 
I’d like to offer 10% all clothing and shoe purchases for anyone who mentions the Mommy Stories for the entire month of November

shop & support moms - True Organics Boutique

Thank you to Viorica Cibotaru, True Organics Boutique and Miessence consultant, for sharing her business with us in this next issue of Shop & Support Moms on the blog this month. She has a great discount for you (see the bottom of the page), and she believes strongly in her work and the products that she sells. Her twins are adorable! I love featuring moms who found something they could help pay the bills with while staying home to raise their kids. Awesome!

Thanks, Viorica!


All images from Viorica Cibotaru


1. How did you start your business? Why did you want your own business? When did you start your business?
   It started with a wonderful product. When I decided I wanted to use only organic skin care (2010) I tried a few brands, but Miessence was the best not only in terms of certified organic ingredients without fillers and truly healthy skin, but also ethical practices, sustainability, authenticity and integrity that you rarely find in a company in our days. A little while after using the products I started recommending them to friends and family and then, I decided that I want to lean more about the business. Advocating healthy life style and healthy products seemed like a mission that suited me very well. 

  Why my own business? I was at home with the twins and I wanted a project on the side. When I started, the first thing that came to  my mind was flexibility. Then it was the convenience to stay home with the babies. Now I want to grow beyond that.

   I'd share my wonderful experience with Miessence since the first month I started using the products and enrolled as a representative, but I took it a little more seriously last year ( fall of 2013),  when I started my small investment in advertising further more the products.

2. Why was working at home a perfect situation for you and your family? 
The twins were the main reason. We made the decision for me not to return to my daily job since I'd pay more for the daycare then I'd make. So taking care of the kids and making some money sounded good.



3. What does your business specialize in? What's your favorite product?
  There are 2 aspects in the process: promoting/selling the products  and  determine if some customers want to join as representatives.

  I love all the products. My favorite from the skin care is the Miessence Rejuvenessence Facial Serum, from the cosmetics is the Translucent Foundation, and from the Superfoods if I had to pick one would be the InLiven Probiotic (that has made a huge difference in my health).

4. What do you love best about working from home?

 I like the flexibility, even though sometimes my kids' high energy limits my ability to finish my projects for the day. I can cook, clean take care of the babies and there is some time left for my little business. :)

5. When working, where do you set up shop in your home? When do you work in the day/evening? What's your process for working? 
  Sometimes I use the desk that my husband and I are sharing, other times I hide in the bedroom with my laptop( usually when the kids cannot go outside and the inside becomes a playground). I also use the dining table as my place to work. I have very little inventory ( I order the products upon request or on-line order, this way the customer gets them as fresh as possible).

  Early in the morning or late at night are the best times for me to work on my web-site and orders.


6. Take me step by step through sending someone's package to them.. what special things do you include in there ? How do you wrap them up? Do you get nervous when you send packages to people?
  My personal on-line store is new, so I haven't had any orders through that one. I did order products for my customers from the manufacturer and I shipped them personally. I usually like to send a little something extra with the order, like a lip balm or a travel size tooth paste. If for some reason that person doesn't do e-mail very often, I'd send brochures. I've wrapped up a few orders using  a very simple  wrapping paper ( Christmas and Birthday usually).  I do get nervous when I send packages. My biggest concern is the customer to get the package in time:)

7. What is your success rate? How many orders so far?
I've had about 15 orders, but processed through the manufacturer's website (www.care4organics.com - here you can find all the products and they ship directly from Australia). 

My small on-line store that I worked on this Summer is www.trueorganicsboutique.com that has a good amount of Miessence products ( with a discount without signing as representative).

8. Why do you think people should buy these products, and why should they support moms who work for these types of companies from home?
  The main reason for purchasing these products is the health one. They are made with fresh, potent and pure certified organic ingredients (USDA and Australian Certified Organic). Most of the products are certified organic (that means at least 95% of the ingredients are certified organic with the exception of the water; only a few of them contain at least 73% certified organic ingredients). The company had always supported  sustainable agriculture that respects, supports and nurtures the complete ecology and energy of our planet. That triggers the prevention of damage to the environment and humans by poisonous chemicals used in conventional agriculture.

 Now, who wouldn't want to support moms that work from home? I've started to pay more attention to where I shop, who is the manufacturer, who do I support through my purchase and if they give back to the community or take care of our planet.
  
9. What are your favorite homemade or company sellers to buy from?
 My mother sends me a lot of homemade things for the kiddos (quilts, blankets, pillows, hats and more). I lot of products I get from Miessence (personal care, household products, superfoods). I love shopping at Children's Orchard for kids clothing. If I don't make my own detergent, I get it on-line at Honest Company. Local Farmer's Stalls are my favorites to get  produce. Recently I've discovered Etsy.

10. How does your business allow you to be a great mother?
  I have the possibility to get organic products for them and us (the parents). 


11. What do you think would surprise readers to know about you?
I love chocolate (the real one) ! And home made cakes! Yes, I have a sweet tooth, even though I limit sugar for the kids and husband :).
  
12. What is the coolest thing you've ever experienced as part of working with this business?
   Not only I pay more attention to all products we use or consume, I am more aware of the health in general. I've changed a lot of habits since using Miessence. The product formulator (one of the co-founders of the company) Narele Chenery is dedicated to share a lot of useful tips on how to be healthy and stay healthy and I really appreciate that. 

13. What is one of your favorite gifts to give someone for the holidays?
  Miessence products and homemade healthy baking goods!


14. How many kids do you have? Give us one word to describe them.
  I have one beautiful set of twins: Alexa and Gabi! 
Energetic would be one of the words to describe them. 
 
  
The on-line store is at www.trueorganicsboutique.com
 

  If there is a Miessence product that you want but it's not in my store, please let me know and I can most likely get that for you along with the order you're placing.

 If you use 10OFF4MOMS you'll get an additional 10% off and I'll also send samples of skin care products with your order. I currently have all orders of $99 and more ship free.

in the spirit of giving ~ to the strongest family we know

Strong Momma Alert
I am so honored to feature this thriving family on the blog this Thanksgiving weekend. They are the epitome of a strong family in my mind. They exude teamwork, courage, perseverance, and dedication to one another. Even the littlest guy in this family seems to be all about helping his older brother laugh and get through his days with many smiles. 

I've admired Shannon Carter and her beautiful family for several years. I've seen her daily posts and updates on Facebook about how her son's day was - heading to school, standing up, taking steps, smiling on holidays, etc. It's the little things that count in the Carter family - and I think that's a good reminder for all of us during the holiday season. 

Shannon's oldest son has some serious health concerns, which she deals with daily. Still, when you follow what she does with her kids, you can see her out and about taking her children to all kinds of events. Her biggest goal seems to be to help her children feel loved and as though they can do anything any other kids can do. I admire that so much. 


All images shared by Shannon Carter

In the spirit of giving
I asked Shannon to answer some questions for us, to share a little of her life with us so you can feel like you know her a little bit more. I have wanted for the Mommy Stories to adopt a family during the holiday season for a couple of years now, but had not gotten to putting into action. I want to thank Kate Stone and Aryn Wintle for putting the idea in my head this year. 

When I set out thinking of a family who could benefit from a group of moms love, support and kindness, I knew it had to be Shannon's family. If you can help out by even sending one item to this family, please do so! If you can't, but want to send Dakota and Jordan a holiday card (they love getting mail!) please do that. Just email me for their address and I'll get it to you. 

Let's make this hard working mother's holiday season a bit less stressful, filled with heartfelt Mommy Stories kindness. 

(wish list is at the end of this post)



1. What are your boys' names and how old are they? Give us 3-5 words to describe each of them.
Dakota age 7- happy, cuddly, strong 
Jordan age 3- determined, caring, funny


2. When was your son diagnosed with medical concerns, and what exactly does he have? What was that like hearing he would have some struggles along the way?
Dakota was referred to a pediatric neurologist when he was 5 months old after not meeting certain milestones. (These would be his first diagnoses- delayed development, hypotonia, failure to thrive) 

He had his first MRI at 9 months and a week later started having seizures. (Second diagnoses- uncontrablle epilepsy). He eventually was referred to a genetist at Boston Children's. At 3 years old he was diagnosed with a rare gene mutation(1 out of 12). Along with these, his other diagnoses are GERD, extropia, spastic quadriparesis, muscular dystrophy, and crohns. He is non verbal, non mobile and is g-tube dependent (feeding tube). Dakota sees 12 different doctors along with his PCP. 
It's hard hearing your child will have difficulties throughout their life. As any parent does we had hopes and dreams for our son. Although we didnt know the struggles Dakota would face at the time we knew we would get through it.
3. What is a typical day like for you?
We are all up by 6am, get Dakota hooked up to his feeding and make breakfast for his little brother. Dakota has a home health nurse that is at our house around 7. She helps get him ready for the day. Right now we are trying to toilet train Dakota, so every morning we put him on the toilet. Then he needs his vest treatment (chest pt), inhalers, daily medicine, braces, shoes, brush teeth, we put essential oils on him and he needs to be on the bus by 8. 

I also have to finish packing his school bag. Dad gets little brother ready for the day while I help with Dakota. Dad leaves for work and Jordan has school two days a week. During the day I clean, make never ending phone calls, and spend time with Jordan when he's not in school. There are days that Dakota has appts in Portland or Boston. Those days are long and tiring! 

Dakota is home around 3:30 then we start our night routine- play, dinner, Dakota's feeding, medicine, tubs, books, bed. I make Dakota's special ketogentic formula and we get things ready for the next day.



4. What have you learned from having a boy with medical concerns? What has this experience taught you?

When you have a child with any kind of medical concerns, whether that child can talk or not you learn to be their voice, their advocate. You as the parents are the only ones that know your child well enough to know what's right or wrong, what's working and what's not. This has taught us to live each day to its fullest. Allow Dakota to experience all the things a child his age should be, plus some. 

We thought the beginning of this journey was hard then things seem to be ok then the last two years have just been HARD again! Two years ago Dakota was transferred from York hospital to Maine Med's picu. They told us that he may need a tracheotomy and that eventually his lungs won't be strong enough. Then this past Fathers Day Dakota went into status (constant seizure state). Due to Dakota's uncontrolled seizures we have to constantly worry about this as well as SUDEP (sudden unexpected death in epilepsy).
5. What are you thankful for?

We are thankful for Dakota's health right now. That we haven't had a hospital stay since August.
6. What are some challenges in your life right now? How do you get through those things?
Dakota's seizures and health are always a challenge, we never know when they will land us in the hospital. 

Making sure Jordan doesn't feel left out can be a big challenge. So we try to do one on one things with him. He loves his brother and picks up when there's something wrong. Also having family time can be a challenge. When we consider a trip to Boston for an appt family time we kind of laugh at each other.



7. What is the best part about your life?
The best part of my life is watching the bond between brothers and their daddy grow. It's something that I will never take for granted.
8. How would help this holiday season make your life a little easier, less stressful, filled with more joy? What might you do with a little extra time and money this holiday season if others were to help you a little bit?

Having the whole family together for the holidays would be amazing. Working during the holidays is something that has always been a must in our house. Not exactly on Christmas Day but before and after. Since Dakota was born we have never been together for more then one day around the holidays. Knowing we have help would alleviate the holiday stress on top of our daily stress. It would also give us time together as a family.

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You can follow Dakota on his Facebook page www.facebook.com/dakotasride, or www.dakotasride.com.

Any donations toward Dakota's ride fundraiser can be made at http://anniesangels.net/our-families/dakotas-story/ by choosing "Dakota's ride" as your target donation.


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**CHRISTMAS GIFTS WISH LIST**

To donate to this family please email me at themommystories@gmail.com!
  • DAKOTA
    • Picking things out for Dakota this year has been tough as most of the stuff he needs is expensive. So we have just been telling everyone to give him things that he can go experience for example tickets to the movies, plays, outings. 
    • size 7 for both pants and shirts. 
    • He could really use a new winter jacket that is thin (makes it easier when in his wheelchair), leg warmers, mittens.
    • sneakers (size 1)  
    • an adapted switch (Big Red Twist - Accessible Switch-Set of 4 Colors)
    • Dakota loves music and listening to books on CDs. 
    • He likes the color green, things that spin, pretend play stuff and being outside.

  • JORDAN
    • size 3 for both pants and shirts. 
    • Boots-size 10 snow/rain
    • sled
    • Jordan is into Legos, cars, paw patrol, pretend play, sports, books, educational things. (really anything)
  • PARENTS 
    • For us any place to dine out is always a nice treat, gas cards, dunkin or Starbucks, Target/walmart, grocery cards
  • FOR ALL 
    • new sheets and comforters (twin sizes and a King)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

a few of my favorite things - gifts for the littles!

I know so many of you are always seeking out great toy ideas for your children, as well as other unique gift ideas. Pinterest has a ton of ideas, as do craft fairs and other store sales. I hope you've found some good ideas too for gifts through our November series on the blog, Shop & Support Moms. 

I believe wholeheartedly in supporting local business owners during holiday seasons as best you can. That being said, Amazon.com is my go-to shopping location for other types of gifts like toys when you can't think ahead and buy at a craft fair. 

Think outside the toy store
Toy stores are the best. Love them. But it's also fun sometimes to consider giving something different... 

I also am a big fan of giving experiences versus stuff. I think kids these days have too much stuff. I know mine do! Our house is overflowing with gifts, toys, blocks, cars, trucks, dolls, etc. I'm grateful they have these things, they love it! We go through the items periodically to make room for more and give things away to other kids. Still, I believe experiences are the way to go. Think of gifts like giving a shopping day with a little girl, or going ice skating or bowling, or even a movie theater package of taking them out for popcorn and movies and video games. Ideas like painting pottery, going to a Michaels craft store for art session or Home Depot or Lowes for their weekend project days. Kids love your time most. Think about Children's Museum gift cards or swim lessons or something that they can enjoy over and over.

I'm also an educator at heart so I often give a book or five to my children, nieces and nephews. I think reading is fun, a calming thing, brings people together, and of course teaches our kids another world out there instead of just toys. Books are easy and meaningful. 

Clothes are also a great idea for holiday gifts. I know kids aren't always into them, but I know parents always appreciate receiving clothes for the kids. 

For birthdays I always give a couple of my nieces and nephews college money for their savings account. It's nice to get coloring books and dump trucks, but honestly what better gift is there than helping contribute to a child's future?

Think unique also... one of my favorite gifts we've received was two paintings of a lighthouse in our hometown with a lobster boat on it that has my kid's names on the boat. My father is a lobsterman, we love the ocean and lighthouse. These are special gifts! You can find great things like this at craft fairs, summer shops, or even Etsy.com. LOVE ETSY! I'm giving one of my nephews a handcrafted and hand-painted wooden tool box with his name on it! I'm giving another nephew this year a Fort in a Bag that is covered in a superhero cape, found on Etsy, amazing! Try to think of something different this year.


TOYS....
Yes, of course toys are AWESOME gifts for Christmas and other holidays. With so many toys around the house though, it's nice to be thoughtful about what you're bringing into the home. Here are a few of our favorite things from my children - ages 2 1/2 and 4 1/2. 

BABIES & TODDLERS - FIRST TOYS
I absolutely LOVE this toy still all these years later. My kids still randomly play with this mailbox. My mom got it at a consignment store for a few dollars and it's still holding up strong!

Fisher Price Laugh and Learn Mailbox  - sings songs, plays ABCs, etc.


All images from Amazon.com

This Fisher Price dog with a pull chain is still another favorite of our kids that's held up a long time. It was one of their first gifts!


Apparently I love Fisher Price, because the first few toys I'm choosing are from there! We LOVED this walker for our kids. I don't think it really matters which brand or style you get, but you must have a walker toy like this for 9 months old + so they can learn to push it to walk. Our kids loved it. The smiles on their faces when using these things was priceless!




This one is a must-have if you have an infant/toddler taking your real remote control! 


Other baby toys that we love are Sophie the Giraffe, rattles, and board books. We also liked balls and anything where they can do shape sorting.

We LOVE Little People toys also!
Everything Little People is awesome, especially for that 1-3 years old span. My daughter is obsessed still a year later at 2 1/2.



We received tons of Melissa and Doug puzzles also for my son's first birthday and Christmas and we still use them. They are so much fun and well-made. EVERYTHING Melissa and Doug is the best!



TRAINS
Our son got a train table for his second Christmas from his aunt and uncle, he was about 18 months old and LOOOOVED it! It was his favorite toy, still is. He literally plays trains daily all these years later (4 1/2 years old). I'd definitely get a train table early on, as it's a good thing for kids to learn to stand up at. My daughter was much younger than a year and loving her train table. I think we have a KidCraft train table, but not positive. It's a smaller one, square size. I honestly don't think it matters much which one you get, as long as it's not too overwhelming with too many pieces if a younger child, and depending on the size of your room.

Thomas the Trains are the best. They are also expensive. I've found good deals at TJ Maxx, as well as on Facebook sale swap sites. I got tons of trains for much cheaper from moms whose kids had grown out of playing trains. 


We also really liked these Town Blocks from Melissa and Doug to go on our train table. They are really cute - fire station, hospital, school, etc.



BLOCKS
Blocks are a big hit at this stage and beyond. It's good to get them early, a great first Christmas gift is a big dump truck from Duplo or Cat or Lego filled with MegaBlocks! My kids love these still. 

AGES 3-5 - BUSY BODIES & CREATIVITY

GREEN TOYS
These are my favorites mostly because they are realistic and also environmentally conscious. These are great for young infants/toddlers but also heading into the 3-5 age range. The items are made out of old milk jugs!





ALL THINGS JOHN DEERE
OK this is for my outside-working-loving little boy... but honestly we love their stuff. Such great gifts! They are toys to last tough boys.



ART
Kids this age LOVE creating their own things! Getting on their level, letting them get messy and have fun is a great gift idea. Smocks are cute. Getting stamps, stickers, and scissors that they can use is also fun.




DRESS UP
My kids looooove dressing in costumes. We have a huge chest upstairs in the hallway between their rooms that is FULL of old Halloween costumes and other dress up shoes, tutus, beads, etc. They both love it , so boy or girl you have to get some costumes. Melissa and Doug has a great line of costumes. I always go after Halloween to Target to get costumes too on a huge discount, give them as a Christmas gift, and voila we have dress up!

We also really like this Dress Up Joey game by Melissa and Doug... wooden Joey, with all the costumes that the company makes for kids sizes. It's an awesome puzzle type game for boys. I always see these for girls, so was really pleased to see one in a boy style also.





COOKING
I think all kids - girls and boys, young and even a little older - need a play kitchen. They love this! I have a boy and a girl who both are in their kitchen almost daily. We found these pancakes on Amazon.com a couple of years ago, which is awesome because my husband makes pancakes on weekends for us and the kids can "help." Playing food and making cupcakes, etc. is the best!


LOVE Melissa and Doug wooden toy foods and pots and pans set. They are adorable and last a long time. The kids love them. I love giving my kids toys that help them be like little adults... learning to do chores and things that we do. They love copying us, it's cute!



We have a version of this KidCraft wooden kitchen, it's all white with reds, blues and yellow knobs and handles. We love it. It's pretty big, but the kids love it, since we have two kids in the kitchen it's a good size for them.


LOVED receiving these next two items as gifts for our son when he was about 18 months old. These are SUCH good gift ideas! My sister-in-law gave them to us. The ice cream colors have words on them and you are to match them up. It's a learning game by Learning Resources Smart Snacks Rainbow Color Cones. 


Also by Learning Resources, we loved these cupcakes. We have an older version but same idea... the bottoms have matching shapes to the tops. 


And more Melissa and Doug... cookie sheets! My daughter loves these.

DOLLS... 
My daughter is obsessed with babies from a year old on. I don't have a preference on which type of dolls, clothing, accessories. They are all cute! We do have a cute wooden high chair from Melissa and Doug that we love (LOVE their stuff!)

THINK OUTSIDE, TOO...
My son's birthday is in February so typically we don't get summer items for him. It's nice to think ahead to other seasons and plan for things they may enjoy at a different time. It's OK to give a gift of a summer item in the winter, especially when they are young and won't really get that they can't use it just yet... or perhaps it's something they could use inside for a little bit and then more fun when summer hits to use it outside also. 

OUTSIDE IDEAS: 
water table
bubbles
hoola hoop
bikes
tricycles
slides
water hose games and accessories
balls
sand toys
rakes, shovels, garden tools, etc.
strollers
beach towels
swim attire, sandals, etc.


Hope some of these ideas helped you to figure out something great for your little ones this holiday season. Giving them something they love - whether time or a gift - seeing their eyes light up - that's what it's all about! Love it.