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Monday, November 30, 2009

Holiday Gift Ideas: 7-10 years



By Jen P., Charlotte Smarty Pants

Christmas is my Smarty F-A-V-O-R-I-T-E time of year and gift-giving is the best part of it. I would so much rather give a gift then to receive one. There is nothing better than to see the pure joy when someone opens a gift that you hand-picked. I wish I had a million dollars so I could buy everybody I know fabulous gifts!

Age 7+, entering the new "tween" age, puts you at a new level of gifts and often times, a higher price tag. We have always stuck with one or two Santa gifts plus stocking gifts. This will definitely pay out as we enter the age of electronics and accessories with the higher prices.

Girls:

-Luggage - Peep this presh duffle or you can start a Vera Bradley collection. Both can be monogrammed and are collectible over the years. They are great for camp, car travel, and sleep-overs and these can even make it to college!

-Mono'd fleece blankets


-Zebra Cupcake Kit - Such a great gift for the fashionista chef, kit comes with delish cupcakes and all the fixings all wrapped up in a groovy zebra lunchbox.

-Mono'd bracelet and ring - So cute!

-Polka dot Chuck Taylors - the hippest shoes at our school, girls and boys alike. Although you may have to pick a more masculine flavor for boys than dots;)

-Karaoke Machine - This may be a better gift for mom, but only if we could download the 80's tunes!

-Perfume - I pick flavors that I like since I'm the one smelling it the most, Lilly Pulitzer is top of our list. Nothing worse than when she enters the car after a 3-scent blend!

-Girls Day Out with mani/pedis - My girls love these. Add lunch and it's a special treat!

Boys:

Northface Jacket - Nothing screams C-O-O-L like a Northface jacket. Northface is the coveted brand of jackets this season.

Gamefly.com - Video Game Rentals delivered to your door. What could be better than this?!

Street-Surfing Whiplash Scooter - Very hip new twist on the 'ole scooter your boys will be sure to love.

Electric Razor Scooter
- Get your OrthoCarolina number handy and ready, these bad-boys are crazy fast! This was the HOTTEST item at our school fundraiser last month, they had to pull it out of the silent auction and into the live auction!


Both:

Nintendo DSi: This is the best purchase I have ever made. My kids are very outdoorsy so I don’t risk creating a couch potato! Just remember, you can control the amount of time your kids play with video games. I would definitely recommend getting the “i” version. This has a camera and texting capabilities and is just super cool. Great family gifts b/c you can always use a new game. My girls’ favorite game is Kirby. It’s highly addicting!

Wii gaming systems: Great family gift, has games for all ages to enjoy. I’m actually putting Guitar Hero 5 top of MY Christmas list: new tunes include Duran Duran, Tom Petty, Elton John, Coldplay, need I say more!

iPod Nano w/Speaker – It’s time to throw out the old cd player and get with the times! The Nano is the ticket for your tweens , comes in all colors. If you buy a speaker, it can replace your old stereo system. We often hijack the girls’ portable speakers whenever we go out of town – great to bring your entire music library on the go.


Nikon Coolpix
- It will be nice to finally get your child a cam of his own. I'm so tired of saying "be careful, don't drop that!" when I really mean is "get your hands off my camera!"

Netbook - Again, wish I had a million bucks here because I would actually invest in a new iMac for the fam. However, times are tight and this Netbook looks like the ticket with it's $329 price tag and free shipping. Again, so tired of fighting over my stuff - they totally need their own computer to work on at this age. Make sure you set up parental security settings right out of the box. Once they learn how to spell "naked", you better supervise every second of internet surf time!

The TSP girls recommend Images Books from Hearthsong – Rachel ordered these for her niece, who is 10. She had the books open and was hard at work coloring with her colored pencils in no time! You can get books similar to these in other stores, but this specific brand is my favorite because you use the patterns to create your own design instead of the design already being designated for you.

Activities - We've mentioned this in previous gift posts and they work for all ages. Send hints to grandparents about the YMCA dance program, soccer, gymnastics, etc. Also consider your dance studio of choice, gymnastics studio of choice, tae kwon do, etc. Everybody sells gift cards and this will be $ well spent.

Happy shopping, Smarties and share your ideas too! We'd love to hear what your all-time fave gifts are!


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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Holiday Gift Ideas: Ages 5-7 Years


By Jenny D., Charlotte Smarty Pants

Ok, so here are the Smarty reco's for 5 to 7 year olds.


Boys:
Quadrilla marble sets. This thing is awesome, check it out.

Legos Legos and more Legos! Tracy's Jake loves the little kits where he can follow the directions and put them together on his own.

StarWars action figures, or anything StarWars for that matter are a hit! Superheroes as well.

Girls:
It's time to get the real deal American Girl doll whether it's
Kitt Kitredge or Chrissa, Girl of the Year. We got the bitty baby a couple of years ago, and Zoe is now ready for the doll. We plan to have some fun with accessories for the American Girl. Check out ebay or etsy for handcrafted things first, usually cheaper and more unique.

We love arts and crafts gift. Consider gifts from Alex such as the sewing machine, knitting scarves, decorate flip flops, etc. Another hit are the mosaic crafts - make your own tiara or fairies...

Both:
Playmobil also had great stuff for both boys and girls – there are tons of themes including pirates.

Nintendo DSi - definitely a good age to invest in this gaming system.

Vsmile motion- it sort of like an educational wii for kids. And it comes in boy and girl colors.

Bean Bag – PotterybarnKids has them. This is a great gift when kids get too big for the floor chair. The Company Store has themed ones as well and you can get them personalized with his or her name on it at both places.

Puzzles – the 100 or even 200 piece are good.

Educational toys are also hit for both. Check out our previous article for some fun games. Also consider Pears in Pairs.

Board games are also great. You can start a new family tradition with game night and play games such as Sorry!, Blokus, Go Fish, memory game, and Zingo.

Any product from lit'l Desi9s
We love the long sleeve waffle tees, note cards, super duper soft bamboo pillowcases, and duffel bags! 8x10 framed prints are also gifts that last a lifetime!

Another fun game is Bull’s-eye Ball SUPER fun game – kind of like miniature skee-ball.

Oh – and this is really cool too – a live Butterfly Garden. You get the kit and then there is a certificate enclosed to send away for your live caterpillars (so you can plan for when you’ll be home to witness the full cycle). When they arrive, you feed them and watch them get fat, then they for their cocoons and emerge as butterflies!! WAY cool for the whole family! Tracy S. got this for Jake and they actually let a couple of the butterflies out so they could fly around Jake’s room.

High Five magazine subscription - its the younger version of Highlights - GREAT magazine for this age! Short stories, fun little activities, some education things, Hidden Picture page!! LOVE it! And it's totally geared toward the younger crew.

My First Weather Station – Rachel keeps this in her son’s room and when he wakes up in the mornings he not only sees the outside and inside temperature, but there is a picture to show him how he should dress! In the winter the little boy has on a scarf and hat and on hot days he will just be wearing his swimtrunks. It is so fun for her son and also helpful to mom when you are getting your children dressed in the mornings!

Hens and Chicks – This was called Mikado, but it has changed its name. This is a simple, fun family game. Rachel just played it the other night with her fam, and somehow her six year old beat everyone! It is similar to the game “Perfection” we played when we were younger.

Zhu Zhu
Apparently, the hottest toy this 2009 holiday season is the Zhu Zhu faux hamster and all the accessories that go with it. For those of you not familiar, Zhu Zhu Pets are interactive, plush, and artificially intelligent hamsters that talk and move around in their own playsets. Zhu Zhu Pets include two play modes: nurturing mode where the hamsters coo and purr, and adventure mode where the hamsters explore their habitat with intelligent audio and mechanical responses to various habitat stimuli. Over a dozen add-ons can be purchased to build an ever-evolving hamsterworld for your hamsters to play in and explore. Click here to read Jen P's blog about this toy.

And for that ultimate holiday gift, you should consider an outdoor playset designed by Triad-based Perfect Playspaces. You may remember our blog about them, and how Perfect Playspaces will custom build your child’s dream castle, playset or fantasy treehouse to match your child’s favorite storybook, movie or toy. All you have to do is dream it, and they will build it!

Whew, that's enough to wear this elf out, but I am sure you smarties have other thoughts so please share!


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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Smarty Mom: Karin Head



By Rachel H

We are thrilled to introduce you to Karin Head, this weekend’s Smarty Mom. Karin, her husband Darryl, and her children Reed (8) and Hayden (5) have lived in the Triad the past 3 ½ years. They previously lived in Raleigh and have had job offers to move back to Raleigh or Nashville but decided this is where they want their children to grow up. Karin says that the Triad is such a hidden jewel with the most incredible people!

Karin has been a full-time Realtor with Leonard Ryden Burr since February. She retired from The Tennessean newspaper in 2001 to stay home with her children. After moving to Raleigh she started a concierge stationery and gift business, which she still owns today. She volunteers at Jefferson Elementary by serving as a PTA Board Member and Fundraising Chair. She also enjoys spending a lot of time in both of her kids’ classes. Karin is a member of First Presbyterian Church and is a Children’s Choir organizer, Sunday School Teacher, and VBS hospitality volunteer. She is also a volunteer for the YMCA, serves on the board of Greystone Place HOA, and makes meals for Ronald McDonald House.

This Smarty Mom has some great stories to share with us today, so keep on reading …

You and your husband are both involved with the YMCA. Tell us more about this.
I started volunteering with the YMCA when I first met my future husband in Nashville, Tennessee in 1995. At the time, I was working for USA TODAY in marketing and that was a very quiet, very corporate world. Darryl was an aquatics director for a new YMCA in Murfreesboro. My first experience volunteering at the Y was at a large “family night” with children playing, running, swimming and going wild. He had to keep moving me to different areas of the Y because the noise was giving me a headache. When I watched him dive into the deep end of the pool to rescue a child, I promptly vomited. Needless to say he eased me into volunteering a little more gently thereafter.

Many people do not know what the Ronald McDonald House is all about and how they help families with loved ones in the hospital. Share with us how you help contribute through them.
My favorite volunteer project each year is making dinner for the clients at the Ronald McDonald House on Christmas Day. The incredible volunteers and staff of the RMH serve families who have a loved one at the hospital; usually it’s a child or a parent. Sometimes families stay in at the Ronald McDonald House for weeks while they await a miracle. The family members can stay at RMH for as little as $5 a day and have a nice room and meals. When we moved to Winston-Salem, my neighbor and good friend, Lois Miller said that RMH needed help with Christmas Day meals. So now it’s a new family tradition. Serving others reminds me of what’s really important, especially on Christmas!

Tell us more about working for Leonard Ryden Burr.
I love working in real estate. It’s super fun and ever-changing with each client, market and business environment. My favorite part of each relationship is having a new friend in or out of the community! My newest real estate project is a brand new development called The Coves. My partner, Julie Coleman, and I were involved from the beginning. We visited homes and communities on Lake Norman with the developer, builder and architectural designer to create the concept and now we’ve just started the sales process. It’s challenging and rewarding with interesting hours! My balance is that I try not to work from 3-7 each weekday. That’s the time my kids need me!

What is a fun fact that people would be surprised to find out about you?
After dinner each night, my family sings and dances each night to the golden oldie 80’s music on YouTube. Reed and Hayden can belt it out to some Bon Jovi just as easily as they can Hannah Montana! I belt it out to Chaka Khan. I’m a huge geek. I love to watch the market reports on Fox Business, CNBC and Bloomberg. Sometimes my husband will make fun of me for falling asleep watching C-SPAN.

What is the smartiest way you save money?
I buy my kids clothes at the end of season each year. I get the half off sales at the boutiques, online and am planning to buy Kelly’s Kids at half price in the morning! I have sports jackets for my son already for next year.

What is your favorite family activity?
We love it all…vacations, holidays, dancing together, having friends over for dinner or just for roasting marshmallows.

Favorite “me-time” activity?
I like to do a few things. Every evening I take a super hot, relaxing bath. I try to get monthly pedicures and a real indulgence is to just shut off the phone and take a nap. My favorite is to snuggle Hayden while she takes a nap. Of course, I am asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow.

Favorite place to eat dinner as a family?
Anywhere that I don’t have to cook it or clean it up. Don’t tell my mother!

Favorite date night spot?
Friday nights on our deck with a steak, cocktail, music and the stars. Sometimes we play chess and other times poker.

Favorite book you have read?
I’m always reading something unusual….everything from “Millionaire Real Estate Agent” to “Getting Organized” to “Pride and Prejudice”. Usually I read in the bath tub at night.

Best place to eat lunch with the kids?
In their lunch room at school. And, not in the booth with a friend or two. I sit right in the middle of the table with all of the kids and I buy a lunch from the lunch room.

Favorite place to shop for children’s clothes?
Locally: BenPhil’s and Button’s (they’re the friendliest) Online: Kelly’s Kids, Rags Land, Patsy Aiken, Ralph Lauren and Lacoste. Desperately needed in the Triad: a children’s shoe store that is not in a mall!

What is the best birthday party you have attended?
I love all birthday parties. I really loved seeing my children dig into their first cake! Any chance to celebrate a loved one is a good plan.

What is your favorite mom’s must have item for around the house?
My BlackBerry keeps me organized along with lists, lists, lists. Absolute “must do” sometimes get marked on my arm.

Favorite or most helpful blog you have read on Triad Smarty Pants thus far?
Working Moms, Holiday, Craft and Raising Children.
It’s so important it is to borrow ideas from others.

Best thing about raising a family in the Triad?
The Triad is just filled with great families with exceptional mom’s raising terrific kids. I feel so blessed to be raising my children in Winston-Salem. It’s so easy to live here. No traffic, everything is close and everywhere you go you see someone you know. Love that.

I could not live without my...
Children! They are the reason I breathe, my smile and my heart. My husband’s pretty special too…but I could live without him about 4% of the time!


Thank you so much for your Smarty answers, Karin! We appreciate the time you took to share a little bit about yourself with us. I am so impressed that you watch C-SPAN, too!

Do you know a Smarty Mom? Email us at triadsmartypants@gmail.com to mominate a friend!



* Photo of Karin and her children was taken my Tanya Odom, www.todomphotographics.com.


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Friday, November 27, 2009

Holiday DVR Lineup



By Tracy S, Charlotte Smarty Pants

Alright Smarties! Time to set your DVR. With bellies full and Turkey Day officially behind us, it is time to get into holiday mode for real! And what better way to get into the spirit than with some holiday favorites old and new? Whether you aspire to decorate your house Griswold-style, crack the secret code alongside young Ralphie (drink more Ovaltine), or just cozy up with the classics (I still cry over Frosty the Snowman!), there is something here for everyone. There’s even a little SNL humor thrown in for us moms and dads! Check out TVGuide.com for full details and descriptions of any of these shows.

Tonight
9:00 PM

The Santa Clause (TBS)

Saturday, Nov 28
8:00 PM
Merry Madagascar (NBC) – A must see if you didn’t catch it a couple weeks ago when it aired. When Santa crashes into the island of Madagascar and ends up with amnesia, the animals decide to deliver his presents themselves. But saving Christmas isn't their only motive — they also see the magic sleigh as their ticket back to New York City. This one contains laughs for the whole family!
9:00 PM

Jingle All the Way (TBS)

Week of Nov 29
Sunday
4:00 PM

Holiday Celebration on Ice (NBC)
8:00 PM

The Dog Who Saved Christmas (ABC Family)
11:30 PM

Larry the Cable Guy's Christmas Spectacular (CMT)

Monday
8:00 PM

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (AMC)

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (ABC)
8:30 PM

Shrek the Halls (ABC)

Tuesday
7:00 PM
The Year Without A Santa Claus (ABC Family)
8:00 PM

Charlie Brown Christmas (ABC)

The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (ABC Family)
8:30 PM
Prep & Landing (ABC)

Wednesday
7:00 PM
Christmas In Rockefeller Center (NBC)
8:00 PM
Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer (CBS)
Mr. Christmas (PBS)

Thursday
8:00 PM

A Christmas Carol (TCM)
8:30 PM

The Polar Express (ABC Family)

Friday
7:00 PM
Frosty's Winter Wonderland (ABC Family)
Home Alone (ABC Family)

Saturday
7:00 AM

Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas (ABC Family)
9:00 PM

12 Men of Christmas (Lifetime)

Week of Dec 6
Sunday
4:00 PM

Elmo's Christmas Countdown (ABC)

Monday
7:00 PM

Twas the Night Before Christmas (ABC Family)
8:00 PM

Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town (ABC)
Carrie Underwood: An All-Star Holiday Special (Fox)
10:00 PM

Jack Frost (ABC Family)

Tuesday
7:00 PM
Mickey's Christmas Carol (ABC Family)
7:30 PM

Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too (ABC Family)

Thursday
9:00 PM

Michael McDonald: This Christmas; A Soundstage Special Event (PBS)

Friday
8:00 PM
The Santa Clause 2 (ABC Family) 

Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa (NBC)
Yes, Virginia (CBS)

Saturday
4:00 PM

The Christmas Shoes (Lifetime Movie Network)
6:00 PM
The Christmas Blessing (Lifetime Movie Network)
8:00 PM

The Christmas Hope (Lifetime Movie Network)
It's A Wonderful Life (NBC)

Week of Dec 13
Sunday
8:00 AM

I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus (ABC Family)
6:00 PM

Santa Baby (ABC Family)
8:00 PM
Santa Baby 2: Christmas Maybe (ABC Family)

Monday
5:00 PM

Eloise at Christmastime (ABC Family)
8:00 PM

Jennifer Hudson: I’ll Be Home For Christmas (ABC)

Thursday
8:00 PM

Saturday Night Live Christmas 2009 (NBC)
10:00 PM

Jingle All the Way (ABC Family)

Friday
8:00 PM

Frosty the Snowman (CBS)
8:30 PM

Frosty Returns (CBS)

Week of Dec 20
Monday
7:00 PM

Chasing Christmas (ABC Family)
8:00 PM
I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown (ABC)

Wednesday
7:30 PM
Miracle on 34th Street (ABC Family) – This is the 1994 remake in case you were hoping for the classic.
8:00 PM
A Home for the Holidays with Faith Hill (CBS)

Christmas Eve
8:00 PM

It's A Wonderful Life (NBC)

Christmas Day
24-hour Marathon

A Christmas Story (TBS) - Ahhh … a true Christmas classic! Don’t shoot your eye out!
12:00 PM (12-hour Marathon)

Dirty Dancing (TV Guide Network) - Not sure why this showed up on the Holiday Guide, but definitely worth an honorable mention! I’ve been wanting to rent this movie for a little Patrick Swayze tribute so I’m super excited to see the 12-hour marathon on Christmas Day! Might have to wait until the kids are napping though to turn it on ;-)
10:00 AM
Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade (ABC)

Week of Dec 27 … Get ready to say good-by to 2009 and ring in the New Year!
Wednesday
8:00 PM
Happy New Year, Charlie Brown (ABC)
8:30 PM

Rudolph's Shiny New Year (ABC)

New Year’s Eve
10:00 PM
Dick Clark's Primetime New Year's Rockin' Eve with Ryan Seacrest 2010 (ABC)
11:00 PM
Billboard's New Year's Eve Live (Fox)



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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Holiday Gift Ideas: Ages 2-4 years








By Ashley H, Charlotte Smarty Pants

Happy Thanksgiving! And today's topic is such a F-U-N age to buy for, little people with an insatiable curiosity about the world around them. Jenny & Jen (from Charlotte Smarty Pants) have both covered this age group in years past and have suggested gifts that you can add to over the years to come. I incorporated some of those ideas along with some top gift ideas for this year and others that work well in our own girl/boy twin home. I hope you find these helpful. Please weigh in with your own recommendations, we pull those into these lists so we have comprehensive resource each year. TIA! Keep in mind with any of these gift ideas, it's best to look around for the best price. I find my best buys on Smart E-Place, Craigslist, eBay, Amazon and buy from friends.


Girls
Dollhouses- A Smarty girlie gift favorite each year! Some top picks include Pottery Barn Kids WestPort House, the PBK Townhouse, PBK School and others. Jen loves Ryan's Room, Home Again, Home Again A-Frame for around $100 and the Melissa & Doug Deluxe Dollhouse for $80-ish or a smaller version (Melissa & Doug Deluxe Wooden Fold & Go for $50-ish). Melissa & Doug also sells cool rooms and dolls separately. Be sure to search eBay and other sources, you can often find nearly identical items for a fraction of the price. Also consider asking family members to buy room pieces for the houses and those can also be found on eBay for less.

Dress-up clothes are always a hit for girls. Target usually has a hat box set that is filled with shoes, tutus and all kinds of clothes to build the perfect dress up outfit. Toys & Co has beautiful gowns and Disney princess versions.

Bitty Babies from American Girl are great for girls 3-5. Other relatives can buy clothes or accessories. A great idea is matching nightgowns for your daughter/doll.

Groovy Girls- mermaids are new to the collection this year and splashy sassy! You can buy outfits for these dolls, a horse, beds, etc. Jen's girls LOVE these!
Stable and Pasture Pals- we love both of these from Melissa & Doug and this is perfect for the horsey gal (like myself)!

Both
*I don’t have a girly-girl daughter so we have more luck in our family with many of the toys listed under “both” since these are more of the toys my girl/boy twins both enjoy.

Books, books and more books- you can never have enough of these for any child. See Tracy's post from earlier this year for ideas on Smarty book pics from her and you Smarties on some great titles for your little ones!


Sippy cups Smarty style - you can't ever have enough personalized sippies and check this super cute MudPie sippy/snack holder combo all wrapped up with a presh mono, available at our Smarty fave, Alphabet Soup in Morrocroft.


Fropper- a new gift for 2009 and looks so super Smarty! Kids bounce with foot power or simply glide along. Caster wheels make for easy steering and 2-level seat means it grows with your child. Folds to fraction of size and great for inside or out!

Melissa & Doug Standing Easel Melissa & Doug's easel is great because it is very sturdy, made of durable wood construction, folds up easily for storage and adjustable height for your growing child. A beautiful gift for your budding artist!

Battery Powered ATVs A favorite in our twin household, we own one each for my daughter & son and they have nearly ridden the wheels off! Attracts kids from all over the neighborhood for a ride, so you can’t go wrong with this gift! The John Deere Tractor is great for your down home boy or girl (Smarty tip: Check out Wal-Mart, they offer site-to-store with free shipping if they don't have in stock which is sanity during the holiday madness).

Legos- A steadfast classic that most every child loves. A great way to foster creative manipulation skills in your child. I like the bigger legos for small children, no choking hazards and less mess.


Play kitchens - Got a lil Top Chef in training?! Play kitchens are perfect for little helpers that love to cook, brew tea, stack dishes and wash plates. I just bought a great used play kitchen set for my twins this Christmas and can’t wait to unleash their culinary curiosity this holiday! Consider a presh kids apron to accompany this gift idea.

CD Players- perfect for the little Smarty groover! Consider one with microphones so your child can live the rockstar in themselves. Now Santa can stuff their stockings with CD's and they are living the dream! Jen's Santa makes a special cd mix customized just for her kids – a huge hit each year!

Vtech Digital Camera- Just right for small hands, a kid-smart digital camera with fun movies and games, 1.8" color screen, double viewer or LCD screen. Includes connector cables for TV or PC connections to a personal computer with printer and TV for photo and video playback. SD card slot for memory (16MB internal memory).

Leapster is another gift that Jen mentioned in years past, and everyone can pitch in to buy a game. Comes in pink for girls and there is green for boys.

Leap Frog Tag is a great gift for kids learning to read. Children read aloud by dragging a pen over words. Additional books are sold separately which make nice gifts from others.

Fisher Price Smart Cycle -No matter what the weather outside your child can still exercise inside while having fun. The Fisher Price Smart Cycle combines the fun indoor activity of video game playing with the physical activity the great outdoors will give you. Designed for kids ages three to six, the Smart Cycle "physical learning arcade system" is an all-in-one stationary bike, video game console, and educational tool.

Games and puzzles- Candy Land, Memory, Perfection, Sorry Jr., Rush Hour, Boggle, Zingo, Hiss, kids Cranium, Hullabaloo and Pre-school Uno are some Smarty favs. We love Melissa and Doug puzzles for kids this age.

Hasbro Playskool Busy Ball Popper - An award winning top toy recommendation for 2009. Drop balls on track and watch them pop out of top, roll down and pop out again. Air-mazing action is accompanied by silly sound effects and groovy eight tunes. Encourages repetitive play and stimulated motor development skills.

Trikes- My family rolls with the Kettler Trikes (with pushbar). I saved by purchasing a used Kettler, just be sure that you get a push bar with purchase, for toddlers just learning to peddle it’s a must for neighborhood walks! The Kettler Kettrike Air-Navigator Tricycle includes a parental control steering system that locks handlebars for more control when using the optional pushbar. The auto-freewheel component on this trike allows your child a place to rest feet when you steer with pushbar.

Some other great options here include John Deere tricycle (extra Smarty cool cause you can get a cart to go with it), the Radio Flyer Classic Tricycle (and oldie but goodie, siblings love to ride on the back ledge), and Tracy loves the Radio Flyer Twist Trike (it serves as a tricycle when younger and then you can turn the handle bars & front wheel around and this converts to a big wheel when a little older).

Lastly, my all-time-fav in this category is the Skuut (pronounced "scoot"). My girlfriend's child, Teri (who is our Smarty mom Saturday so stay tuned for more), child owns this and let me tell you, it's the b-o-m-b. It's a two-wheeled wooden balance bike where children ages 2-5 learn balance, steering & coordination while straddling the Skuut and without training wheels! It's makes for a faster transition to a regular bike than using one with training wheels. Teri found hers at REI.

Scooters- Three-year-olds are also ready for their first 3-wheeler scooter. You can find a bunch of them on Amazon. For girls, there is a cheap princess one or you can order a Kettler version in primary colors. 4-year-olds can get their first Razor scooter with helmet and elbow/knee pads. And 3-year-olds may be ready for their first 10" bike and 4-year-olds would need a 16" bike.

Penguin Race- This is a retro toy that Rachel had when she was little and is a great recommendation from her for this age group. Last Christmas, Rachel’s 3 & 5-yr-old kids absolutely loved this sweet little toy, as well as many of their friends who came over to play.

Moon In My Room- Another great Rachel recommendation! Her family loves this. It serves as a night light as kids fall asleep, but they also learn the phases of the moon. It has a remote, too, so kids can change the moon phases themselves.

Zhu Zhu
Apparently, the hottest toy this 2009 holiday season is the Zhu Zhu faux hamster and all the accessories that go with it. For those of you not familiar, Zhu Zhu Pets are interactive, plush, and artificially intelligent hamsters that talk and move around in their own playsets. Zhu Zhu Pets include two play modes: nurturing mode where the hamsters coo and purr, and adventure mode where the hamsters explore their habitat with intelligent audio and mechanical responses to various habitat stimuli. Over a dozen add-ons can be purchased to build an ever-evolving hamsterworld for your hamsters to play in and explore. Click here to read Jen P's blog about this toy.

And for that ultimate holiday gift, you should consider an outdoor playset designed by Triad-based Perfect Playspaces. You may remember our blog about them, and how Perfect Playspaces will custom build your child’s dream castle, playset or fantasy treehouse to match your child’s favorite storybook, movie or toy. All you have to do is dream it, and they will build it!

Boys
Trains- As a mom of a son that is train obsessed (Thomas particularly) this is high on our list this Christmas. Thomas or Brio wooden trains are great. Melissa and Doug also make wooden track that you can buy for $1-$3 a piece and build your own track. Train tables are great and keep boys occupied for hours on end. Another Smarty recommendation is GeoTrax, they are easy for kids to assemble, offer endless layouts and a great gift idea for grandparents to add on to! Check out your mom's club or Craigslist for used train tables, it's such a waste to buy this new.

Stomp Rockets- Kids can get rid of some excess energy with this air-powered outdoor rocket toy. No battery or fuel is needed to get the rockets airborne--just some old-fashioned stomping power. Set up the simple launch stand in a clear outdoor area, connect the 38-inch-long vinyl air hose and blast pad, load one of the 9-inch yellow foam rockets--and watch out.

Playskool Tonka Bounce Back Racer - A wireless controller sends this car forward or backward. Soft, squishy body and oversized rubber tires on this car means no damage to walls & floors. Car flips over obstacles to reveal different colored racer underneath!


Automoblox- a great green gift for your boy! It comes with a stylish wooden body and allows for kids to add wheels, windows and unique customizing details.

Bruder Trucks- so unique and S-m-a-r-t-y! Check out Marshalls, Jen has seen these here for half of regular price but of course it's hit or miss.

Whew, that was a doozy! Share your Smarty faves!


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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Breastfeeding Classes


By Rachel H

Breastfeeding: Keeping it Simple
Sign up now for classes beginning in 2010 at Lyndhurst Gynecological Associates.

The class is taught by Lauri Cox,FNP, IBCLC. It is designed to help you achieve breastfeeding success. You will learn the basics of breastfeeding, answers to common questions, and solutions to common problems...

Classes are as follows:
February 6th, 9 a.m. – 12 noon
April 10th, 9 a.m. - 12 noon
May 1st, 9 a.m. – 12 noon
June 12th, 9 a.m. - 12 noon
July 10th, 9 a.m. - 12 noon
September 11th, 9 a.m. - 12 noon
October 23rd, 9 a.m. - 12 noon
December 4th, 9 a.m. – 12 noon

Location:
Lyndhurst Gynecological Associates
2927 Lyndhurst Avenue
Winston-Salem, NC

Cost: $ 25

Please call Lauri Cox for registration details @ 336-462-2986 or email lcox@lyndhurstgyn.com. Space is limited.


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Smarty Scoop on Weekend Events




By Katie M

Happy day before Thanksgiving, Smarties! We know you’ll be busy with friends and family, but try and take a break from all the cooking and eating to enjoy some of these great events - and shopping sales - happening around our towns. Plus, watch for our newsletter tomorrow (be sure you are a subscriber) - we have some great holiday shopping codes to share with you for Black Friday. Living in the Triad is definitely something to be thankful for! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Pink Friday
Friday, November 27 from 10 am to 5:30 pm
Paper Sassy, 113 W. Mountain Street, Kernersville
A brighter alternative to Black Friday: All monogrammed items in the store will be 50% off. Buy one Clip and Doodle and get matching note cards for 50% off. Buy one set of note cards and get matching address labels for 10% off. Take 10% off all Stephen Joseph Children collection. Take 10% off ALL baby gifts. Dry-erasable magnetic bulletin boards known as Magulletins are 25% off. All holiday photo cards = 25%. All stampers = 25%. And if this wasn’t enough, every item in its “Going, Going, Gone” section is marked down 65%! Plus, there will be cider, cookies, and much more!

Craftsmen's Christmas Classic Arts & Crafts Festival
Friday 9 a.m.-7 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
Greensboro Coliseum Complex, Special Events Center, 1921 W. Lee St., GSO
Original creations from more than 450 artists and craftspeople from across the US. Adults, $7; ages 6-12, $1; under 6, free.

Christmas Candlelight Tour of 18th Century Salem
Friday, November 27. Tours will meet at the Winkler Bakery at 6:30 p.m., 7 p.m., 7:30p.m. and 8 p.m.
Old Salem, 900 Old Salem Road, W-S
Guided tour by candlelight through Historic Old Salem. Includes music, games, food and drink and interacting with staff to create your own special memories. Advance reservations recommended. Adults, $18; children, $12.

Perfectly Pleasing Presents for Parents
Friday, November 27 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Greensboro Children's Museum, 220 N. Church St., GSO.
A great place for your children to get a head-start on their Christmas shopping. They'll find a variety of crafty gifts created at the Greensboro Children’s Museum for just $5 per present while supplies last.

Christmas at K├Ârner’s Folly: "Christmas Home"
Thursday 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Friday and Saturday 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sunday 1-6 p.m.Korners Folly, 413 S. Main St., Kernersville
Experience the beauty of Christmas from Korners Folly in 22 beautifully decorated rooms in the historic home. Adults, $10; ages 6-18, $6, ages 6 and under, free.

“Beautiful Star: An Appalachian Nativity”
Fridays and Saturdays 8 p.m.; Thursdays and Sundays 7 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays 2 p.m.
Triad Stage at The Pyrle Theater, 232 S. Elm St., GSO
In it's fourth year,Reverend Ledbetter and the Open Heart Community Fellowship come together again for their rendition of the Christmas story. $16.

If you have other events to share, please add below!



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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Smarty Alert: Big Savings at Button's Boutique Starting Tomorrow!


By Katie M

'Tis the season - let the joy of savings begin! Button's Boutique in Winston-Salem (on Country Club Road near Peace Haven intersection) is having an exclusive Thanksgiving Sale!

Button's Boutique ("Exceptional Clothing for Exceptional Children") is offering an extra day of savings this year....the BIG sale starts tomorrow, November 25. Shop at Button's and enjoy 25% off all Fall apparel and 10% off all Holiday and Winter themed apparel. Button's will close on Thanksgiving Day but will reopen on Black Friday at 10 am.

WAIT there is more...

First 10 customers on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday get a $10.00 gift card for future use when their purchase exceeds $60.00!

And when you go, please tell them Triad Smarty Pants sent you!

Button's Boutique is located at 5075 Country Club Road in Winston Salem. Phone:(336) 774-9188

Happy Shopping, Smarties!



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Holiday Gift Ideas: 0-2 Years


By Tracy S, Charlotte Smarty Pants

Holy Cow! Where has this year gone?? Thanksgiving is in a few days and we are attempting to get a Smarty head-start to all our holiday shopping. So whether you’ve been naughty or nice this year, be sure to check out our blogs these next two weeks for toy suggestions broken out by age … and maybe even a great deal thrown in for good measure!

Before I launch into our picks for the wee-ones, I thought I’d share a super Smarty tip that has helped me get ahead of the game each year and take some of the stress out of holiday shopping. For the past few years, my husband and I pick a day (usually a Friday) in early November and both play hooky from work while the kids are in school. We compile a detailed list of who we need to buy for, a budget for each person, and some initial ideas. Then we map out our route and hit the stores! Being that it’s a weekday in early November, we always have a great selection of toys, and not nearly the crowds you tend to find in December. Of course if you shop online, you can avoid the crowds as well, but I’m a browse-the-aisles, touch-and-feel kind of gal, so this works great for us! AND … you get most of your shopping done EARLY so you can relax and enjoy the hustle bustle of the holidays. It’s an exhausting day, but feel so great to check all that off your list :)

Now for our Smarty Favs for Toddlers (0-2 years)

Some Basics:
Books - by the age of one, I think all toddlers love books. Ryanne has her 2 or 3 favorites that we read over and over and over … Small board books are the best because they are really hard on them at this age. We also really like books with flaps, but if it’s one you don’t want to get ripped, you might want to keep it out of reach when you’re not enjoying it with your child! (yes, I’ve learned from experience!)

Simple stacking rings

Anything with lights and sounds

Shape sorting toys

Fisher-Price Little People Toys - many an hour has been spent enjoying the pirate ship, the farm complete with tractor and animals, and the garage with little cars. Fisher Price even has a Little People Nativity Scene which is GREAT for little ones who want to touch, play and learn about the origin of Christmas. We were lucky to receive one a few years ago and its one of our favorite things to pull out every year!

Baby dolls

Character stuffed animals (Elmo, Big Bird, Mickey Mouse Barney, Snoopy … all HUGE hits when Jake was this age!)

Blocks - Rachel from Triad Smarty Pants loves the HappyVille Blocks – “My son got these as a gift when he was born and six years later they still come in handy! These blocks are so colorful and cute. My daughter loves to build houses for her dolls. We always pull these blocks out for younger kids when they come to visit. They are also great to teach sorting and matching!”

Simple wooden puzzles - Melissa & Doug make some great ones or check out this cool puzzle chest

Leap Frog Fridge Farm

Playskool Busy Ball Popper

Leap Frog Learn & Groove music table


Trains:
Now is an excellent time to start building your child’s train collection. We got our first set of GeoTrax when Jake was 18 months and that quickly became a favorite gift idea going forward such that now we have a set that can stretch all the way around our house! These are easy to put together and provides hours of creative fun for both child and parent.

Another favorite are the Thomas trains, wooden only


Push or Ride Toys:
This are MUST HAVES! Toddlers love to push & ride things. Here’s a sampling of some of our favorites:
Radio Flyer Pathfinder Wagon - I can’t believe we have a 5-year old and still don’t have one of this in our garage! I’m thinking there might definitely be one under the tree this year.
Jen and Ashley both love the Radio Flyer push wagon. Jen’s almost 4-year old boys still play with theirs - so definitely worth the investment.

Radio Flyer Classic Trike

Kettler tricycle

Step2 Push Buggy - but get ready to log some serious miles on this thing! I don’t know a single toddler who doesn’t love it. In fact, Ryanne tried to hijack one outside of California Pizza Kitchen a couple weeks ago … which then led to one of our very first little girl temper tantrums! Smarty tip - Check out the Whisper Ride - it’s about $20 more, but may be worth it (the XL Silent Ride Tires have quieted the travel in this ride).

Little Tikes Cozy Coupe - many versions and styles to choose from!


Doll strollers for girls

Supermarket Shopping Cart is on our list this year. We grew up with one as kids & I think literally ran the wheels off of it.

And Ashley reminds us of an oldie but goodie … the classic Corn Popper. “Mine love it and something we all remember growing up with so we know it's a proven well loved classic! Great gift for $12!”


Extra Special Gifts:

Table & Chairs set - Little toddlers are so anxious to start acting like "big people" and what better way than to belly up to your own tike-size table? Pottery Barn has a great set that will last forever! Or check out Ikea's version for a less expensive option.

Foam Floor Chair - Wonderful gift for little ones that love to climb on & off for fun, to read, watch cartoons, etc. We prefer the monogrammed Pottery Barn Anywhere Chair (currently on sale too!), but other less expensive versions are available such as the Jr Club Chair at Toys R Us.

Wooden Growth Chart - One of my favorite things is tracking my children's growth over the years and its fun to start now! My Bambino has super cute wooden growth charts that you can personalize with name and select from tons of cute hand-painted designs.

Personalized Step Stool - My Bambino also offers some cute options for stools as well or for those adorable name puzzle stools, check out mystepstool.com

And for the little girls - Bow Holders. This is awesome for little 1-2 year olds as their hair starts getting long enough to sport those cute little hairbows - Every girl needs one! And get this Smarties ... Alphabet Soup in Morrocroft, is offering a 10% discount to CSP readers for all orders placed on this item prior to Dec 1.

Whew! That's a lot of great ideas!! But we know there are many more ... share your top picks and best finds for kids 0-2. Happy Shopping!


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Monday, November 23, 2009

Gift Ideas for Teachers


By Rachel H

Welcome to the first of many blogs to come as part of our Gift Giving Weeks. For the next few weeks you can count on Triad Smarty Pants to be your gift giving guide during this holiday shopping season. We will feature write-ups on great, smarty gift ideas for all age groups, as well as for special groups like teachers and our environmentally-conscious friends and family. It's our hope you'll find plenty of unique ideas, as well as advice and reviews on tried-and-true gifts that never go out of style. And if you have gift recommendations to share, please always add your thoughts in the comments below each blog. Happy Holiday Shopping, Smarties! - TSP team

Teachers might as well be the target of Donna Summer’s song “She Works Hard for the Money.” Teachers put in a full day of work inside the school walls, but also spend hours upon hours planning, grading, and assessing at home as well. We all want to show them our appreciation at the holidays. Even if you are low on money this year, a handmade card or treat from the student is always cherished. I have a few favorite gifts from all price ranges that I received throughout my years of teaching. I hope these ideas are helpful as you make your gift lists this year.

Most classes these days decide to go in on a gift together. This is a wonderful idea. The downfall is the fact that not everyone can afford to contribute the same amount of money. The upside is that when collecting a little bit of money from everyone, the class can surprise the teacher(s) with a wonderful gift...

If your class decides to do a class gift together, gift cards are always a fantabulous way to go. Use your super sleuth ways to find out your teacher’s favorite restaurants, clothing stores, coffee houses, spas, book stores, or gift shops. It is fun to get an assortment of gift cards and present them to the teacher in creative ways. You can attach all the cards around a wreath or put them on sticks that are in a poinsettia, or write a poem to go along with each gift certificate as he/she opens the cards.

Other great ideas for collaborative class gifts:

Put together a scrapbook for the teachers. Each child will have their picture on one page and a letter (or illustration for younger kids) on the facing page. I received this one year from a second grade class and it is always fun to go back and read the letters they wrote to me. The accompanying pictures are perfect reminders of past students.

A VISA gift card is an easy way to let the teacher choose how he/she wants to spend the money. Be aware that there is an additional charge for these cards most of the time.

CASH – one year my swim team asked each child to bring in two one-dollar bills. I had about 125 kids I coached that year and they presented me with a box filled with 250 one-dollar bills. It was so fun to open and even more fun to spend! This is a great idea for a special area, middle school, high school, or resource teacher who sees hundreds of students throughout their day.

Another idea is a homemade project by the students. One year a class parent made a beautiful wooden bench for me. Each student painted a bug or flower on the bench. They all wrote their names on the bottom. This is still on my porch and we use it all the time.

If your class is not doing a group gift, here a few ideas to do on your own:

First and foremost, anything that has an apple or says “A+ Teacher” or “Teachers Have Class” is really sweet, but overdone. I cannot tell you how many magnets, ornaments, mugs and doodads I have accumulated over the years with these phrases. There is one exception – if the student has somehow personalized it, I love it! For example, when pulling out my Christmas ornaments last year, I came across a bunch of “#1 Teacher” ornaments and ended up not hanging any of them on my tree because they really didn’t mean anything. But, when I came across the little chalkboard that said “A+ Teacher” with a picture of the student who gave it to me taped to the back, I hung that baby front and center on the tree! It made me smile to see little Jeremy’s face from 10 years ago and it sparked wonderful memories of those years. So, if you are going to buy a gift along these lines, just add a little something personal from the student and you are good to go!

I don't think teachers can ever have too much stationery, so any type of notepads or cards are terrific. If it is personalized, even better!

Another idea is to take a look at all the notes that have some home asking for class supplies. Gather a basket of these needed items such as copy paper, glue sticks, markers, crayons, etc and wrap it up to look festive. I know you want to give a gift to the teacher, not the class, but most teachers end up spending their own money to buy these essentials anyway, so you have just saved them time and money.

Make it personal - I had a parent one year who knew I was into cheesy top 40 music, so she always gave me a CD at the holidays. If your teacher enjoys music, an iTunes card or a newly released CD is great. If they like going out to eat – get a gift card for a restaurant. If they like sports, buy a memento with their favorite team on it. If they like crafts – an AC Moore gift card would be perfect.

One final idea – food! Some of you mommas can make the best banana breads, cookies and apple cider in the world. Teachers love these! If the teacher does not want the food personally, you know there will be out-of-town visitors that can enjoy them! And speaking of food, I had a parent in my class one year who would surprise me with lunch many times. If you know your teacher loves Chick-fil-A or a local deli, swing by with lunch one day. I am sure the lunch they had planned to buy at the cafeteria, or the yogurt cup sitting in the desk can be saved for another day!

Most of all, enjoy shopping this season! Don’t think of it as a dark cloud hanging over your head. Think of it as a way to make someone feel special and appreciated. If you have some great gift ideas for teachers, please share them below!



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Smarty Find: Crazy 8



By Rachel H

If you haven’t been to Friendly Center in the past few months, here is another reason to go! A friend of mine told me about this store, Crazy 8, and I stopped by last week to check it out. I absolutely love it! This children’s clothing store is part of the Gymboree Corporation. If you like Gymboree’s style of clothing, you will also like Crazy 8, but the best part is that it is a little less expensive. I purchased three shirts for my son, two for my daughter, and an awesome pair of skater shoes for my son all totaling less than $50...

I have included a few photos below so you can get an idea of the type of clothing they carry. Both boys and girls sizes run from 3 months up to size 14. You can also shop online at www.crazy8.com.

Next time you are on the hunt for new clothes for your kiddos, stop by Crazy 8!
Location:
803A Friendly Center Road Greensboro, NC 27408.
Hours: Mon-Fri 10-9, Sat 10-6, Sun 1-6
Phone: 336-851-0332









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