Snap Circuits Jr. SC-100 Electronics Discovery Kit

Toyland Tuesday

Snap Circuits Jr. SC-100 Electronics Discovery Kit

My kids have this kit and it is wonderful on so many levels. It encourages creativity. It teaches the basics of electronics. It’s safe and fun.

The kit comes with a variety of snap on pieces that form the circuit necessary to create each project. A colorful instructional manual spells out exactly which pieces to use in order to create a number of different devices with flashing lights, a siren and a rotor. This toy is safe for kids as young as 7 and creates a fun space where young children can build their STEM skills.

This kit requires two AA batteries that are not provided, but if your household is like mine you’ve already got a cookie jar full of batteries on the shelf somewhere.

I can’t recommend this product strongly enough. My children enjoy playing with this electronics set and I’m sure yours would too.

How Christmas Parties Can Help You Win The Game Of Thrones

game-of-thrones-doll

How Christmas Parties Can Help You Win The Game Of Thrones

Christmas parties are festive occasions for family, friends and co-workers. Who you invite and who you don’t can be a matter of practicality or it can be a calculated snub. Some people play power politics on the job and at home. Such people might invite the folks they want to impress. Some can be as calculating as a Lannister.

Truth is, big Christmas parties used to be the domain of royalty. Aristocrats put on lavish affairs to demonstrate their status and show up their peers. They were as boisterous and outlandish as anything George R. R. Martin envisioned in the lands of Westeros. In 1213, King John of England ordered 10,000 salt eels from the Sheriff of Canterbury! Another of the king’s orders listed 1,000 hens, 200 head of pork, 100 lbs of almonds, 50 lbs of pepper, 24 hogshead of wine, 2 lbs of saffron and other supplies.

In the time of the Tudors, the twelve days from Christmas to Epiphany were a time of wild revelry, jousting, card playing and visiting relatives. All work ceased and even women’s spinning was set aside. The idle spinning wheels were decorated with flowers. The Tudors also beat us to the punch on the Turducken. A Tudor Christmas Pie consisted of a pigeon stuffed in a partridge stuffed in a chicken stuffed in a goose stuffed in a turkey surrounded by a stew of rabbit and game birds baked in a crust that was aptly called a coffin.

christmas-partyChristmas was driven underground during the Puritan rule of England, but it began to grow in popularity again once the monarchy was restored. As Christmas was popularized for the middle class, holiday parties became a chance to jockey for influence. In olden times, it was a formal arrangement to declare the Lord of Misrule to serve as king for a day. Of late, it seems to be the wag who drinks too much and thinks too little of the damage to be done to his or her career. However, with the changing centuries, what was old is new again. The decadent romps of the Middle Ages are echoed in the halls of power today. Whether that is financial or political power, you’re likely to find the Machiavellian ladder climbers schmoozing their patrons and the less forward thinking participants photocopying their posteriors.

So be wary, gentle reader. If you are invited to a Christmas party, it might just be egg nog and cookies. But then again, it might be a doorway to your next step on the ladder to power. Play your cards right and you might just survive the Game of Thrones!

Epiphany and Shortbread Day

Epiphany and Shortbread Day

Like the wise men of old, we have finally arrived at our destination. Here we are at the official end of the holiday season. I hope you enjoyed the ride!

Epiphany

Epiphany It’s generally held that the magi didn’t arrive until Jesus was about two, but that would make for a really long holiday season (fine by me). We’d also have to wait another thirty years or so for Easter to come around, so it’s nice to be able to condense it down to meaningful liturgical seasons.

Another thing that I’m pretty adamant about (given that I created a site on the topic) is keeping the season in the season. I’ve seen a number of things over the years that try to drag the symbolism of Easter into the season of Christmas.

STOP IT!

There’s a reason why the seasons are separate. If you want foreshadowing, you only need to look at the lyrics of We Three Kings.

I guess I’m one of those guys who likes to keep his carrots from touching his mashed potatoes on the plate, but fair’s fair. Let Christmas be Christmas and let Easter be Easter.

National Shortbread Day

Is there anything more tasty than a rich Scottish shortbread? You can get so many variations of this classic treat online and from the stores, but you can go old school and make it yourself:

  1. 1 part white sugar
  2. 2 parts butter
  3. 3 parts flour

That’s the simple formula for a tremendous holiday treat that you can enjoy anytime.

Shortbread Day

Fruitcake Toss Day and Buffet Day

Fruitcake Toss Day and Buffet Day

We’re tripping happily along through the Christmas season and today we’ve got a very silly holiday to celebrate. Tossing fruitcakes is a hungry business, so it’s best to follow it up with a trip to your favorite buffet establishment.

The Great Fruitcake Toss

Fruitcake Toss Some people just don’t appreciate a tasty treat. For those who are on the hater trail, they’ve made a holiday out of throwing your fruitcake away. Far away. As far as you can physically throw the thing.

Some people suffice to just toss it in the trash after the guests have gone home, but the people of Manitou Springs, Colorado, decided to make a full fledged sporting event of it. In years past, they had catapults and pneumatic cannons, but recently they’ve gone back to the basics. The Manitou Springs event inspired others nationwide. If there’s not a fruitcake toss event near you and you’re not inclined to eat it, you can always start one in your town.

Buffet Day

At this point, you’ve been cooking for weeks. You might want to consider treating yourself to a night off. Let someone else do the dishes.

But where to go? Someplace where everybody has their choice of what to eat. Let the salad eaters have their greens and the beef and potatoes types can get get rough and rustic.

Buffet

It’s the Ninth Day of Christmas and we’ve actually got nine ladies dancing today!
 

Nine Ladies Dancing

Boxing Day, Again

Boxing Day, Again

As we said back on the Feast of Stephen, Boxing Day is stated as the first weekday after Christmas. So, while Boxing Day is typically the day after Christmas, this year Christmas fell on a Friday so properly traditional Boxing Day would be the following Monday. Hey, that’s today!

Some more about Boxing Day

Boxing Day, Again Boxing Day used to be a day in which servants and tradesmen got their gifts. In earlier times, it was also a time for alms-giving and charitable deeds.

In more recent times, it’s a time for sales. Rather like Black Friday in the United States, Boxing Day is a huge shopping day in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

The Fourth Day of Christmas calls for Four Calling Birds, awww, sweet.
 

Four Calling Birds

Ugly Christmas Sweater Day and National Roast Suckling Pig Day and Bake Cookies Day

Ugly Christmas Sweater Day and National Roast Suckling Pig Day and Bake Cookies Day

As we close in on Christmas day, the celebrations get more and more awesome. Ugly sweaters, suckling pigs and cookies are on the docket today. It’s the Friday before Christmas, so kick off a wonderful weekend with some classic holiday treats!

Ugly Christmas Sweater Day


Admit it. You know you want one.
National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day is celebrated on the third Friday of December each year to add some lighthearted fun to an already awesome holiday season.

What’s involved in celebrating this zany holiday? Just buy yourself the ugliest Christmas sweater you can find and wear it all day. Don’t forget to dare your friends to try to top you. It’s not a party if you’re the only one wearing one!

Want to add some meaning to the fun? Make a donation to Save the Children and their Make The World Better With A Sweater campaign.

Make The World Better With A Sweater

National Roast Suckling Pig Day

National Suckling Pig Day is a chance to have a super-retro medieval holiday dinner. A suckling pig is technically one that hasn’t been weaned from its mother’s milk, causing the meat to be extremely tender. Not everybody has the right kitchen or even the time and patience to prepare such a sumptuous meal, but some people are all about the BBQ pit. If you’ve got the time and the tools, this is a feast not to be missed. If you’d like to know how, ask Julia Child. National Suckling Pig Day

Bake Cookies Day

Sure, this is technically cheating, but boy do these look tasty!!! I’ve always wondered why if you bake cookies, you don’t call them bakies. Well, it turns out that the word cookie comes from the Dutch word koekje which means “little cake”.

It turns out that Dutch bakers used to check the temperature of their ovens by dropping a little cake batter in rather than risk losing the whole cake on an oven that wasn’t hot enough. Waste not, want not.

There are so many kinds of cookies and ways to make them. Since Christmas is next Friday, it’s time to get those batches cooking. Whether you make them from scratch with old family recipes or whether you just buy logs of pre-made dough at the store, baking cookies is a great family activity and makes a wonderful homemade gift for friends and relatives.

Make A Gift Day

Make A Gift Day

It’s December 3rd, so you still have enough time to make some personalized gifts. In fact, prior to the turn of the 20th Century, most gifts were personally made rather than store bought. Christmas wasn’t the big commercial event that it has become.

Harken back to the olden days and make gifts for your friends and loved ones. I’ve tracked down over 250 ideas for gifts that you can make yourself.

Some of my favorite homemade gifts are the cookie kits in a mason jar. It’s fun because you make it look like sand art and it’s practical because they can just dump out the contents and bake themselves a bit of holiday fun courtesy of you!

The absolutely best thing about making personal gifts for your loved ones is that you’re genuinely giving them a bit of yourself. Even if you’re not the handiest or craftiest person, the fact that you’ve taken the effort to make something special will make the gift that much more treasured. To this day, I still remember the presents that my Nana made for us all. When you make a gift yourself, you’re making memories that will last a lifetime.

Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday

I think it’s fitting that this year, December begins with Giving Tuesday. In contrast to the mad commercialism of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday is a chance for all of us to switch from consuming to giving.

The idea was proposed by the 92nd Street Young Men’s and Young Women’s Hebrew Association and promoted by Mashable, Skype and Cisco. Over the last few years, it has been developing into a worldwide movement towards Effective Altruism.

Frankly, no matter how you go about it, Giving Tuesday is a great idea. It really puts us in the right frame of mind to start off the holiday season. Some things you can give are money for charity, canned or boxed goods to your local food pantry, your time as a volunteer or just random acts of kindness throughout the day. It is definitely more blessed to give than to receive.

Classic Christmas Toys Available Today

Toyland Tuesday

Classic Christmas Toys Available Today

Oh, sure, you can go into mounds of debt to pay for the holiday extravaganza of buying the latest electronic gizmos only to see them strewn about the house while the kids are yelling about how bored they are.  Isn’t that a fun family tradition?  Well, once upon a time children had imaginations and toys that helped to fire that creativity. Here are some great suggestions to return to those simpler days.

Board games are classic crowd pleasers. Favorites include MonopolyMonopoly, Hi Ho Cherry-OHi Ho Cherry-O, LifeLife, Trivial PursuitTrivial Pursuit, ChessChess or CheckersCheckers. There are also great card games like Old Maid, Go Fish, Crazy 8’s, Matching, Slap Jack, MemoryOld Maid, Go Fish, Crazy 8's, Matching, Slap Jack, Memory or UnoUno.

Puzzles are great for developing minds and hand-eye coordination.  You can find puzzles that are made from many different materials: wood, cardboard, or plastic. They can also be flat, round, square or 3 dimensional. My son really enjoys the Perplexus maze ball.

Train sets are a real treat for the whole family.  They come in all sizes and for any age group. You can find a set to fit any budget.

Wooden toys are great because they are kid powered by muscle and imagination.  In the same vein, imagination driven toys also fall into the categories of dress up, play kitchens and playhouses, puppets, and books.

Get $10 Off Orders of $50+ at Magic Cabin when you use Code: LSMCTENOFF

Get $10 Off Orders of $50+ at Magic Cabin when you use Code: LSMCTENOFF

If you have older kids, crafts are always a big hit. There are some wonderful craft clubs where your gift will be appreciated all year. You can also make up your own kits by looking through craft magazines or books, copying down the instructions, making a list of the materials needed and then go shopping for what you need. Make up 12 crafts and then put each one in its own separate box. Wrap each box and put the name of a month on each box. Put all the boxes in one huge wrapped box and Tada! A perfect Christmas gift that will last all year.

Here’s a list of places to find Safe Toys for your family’s needs:

Magic Cabin, Childhood’s Purest Treasures
This is a wonderland of classic toys and activities that will fire your child’s imagination.  You can save $10 off orders of $50 or more when you use code: LSMCTENOFF

Babesta, for trendsetting tots
You will find all kinds of gift ideas besides toys here.  You can also find clothes, accessories, crib decorations, books, CDs, DVDs and gift sets.

e-Beanstalk, Expert-Selected Toys Matched to a Child’s Development
They have developmental toys categorized by age. These educational and learning toys are hand picked by child development experts following both American and European safety standards.

Heirloom Wooden Toys
You can find toys here that are top quality and safe for kids. They also have games, furniture and kids decor. You can also search specifically for toys made here in the USA.

Focalprice.com

I also wanted to give you some tips for buying toys on a budget:

Explore auction sites like eBay for great buys (used and new). You can check out the Daily Deals for gift ideas for the whole family.

You can also search on Google using the key words “wholesale toys“, or “closeout toys” or “discount toys“. You will find a variety of companies that do not require a minimum order.

Another way to save on Christmas shopping is to hit the stores right after the holidays to take advantage of clearance sales.  Doing this will make it easier for the following Christmas, but if it’s later in the year you may wish to check the outlets and thrift stores for savings on your gifts.

Only 200 Shopping Days Until Christmas 2014!!!

carolers5

Only 200 Shopping Days Until Christmas 2014!!!

There are only 200 shopping days remaining until Christmas this year. We’re almost halfway through the year at this point and Summer is coming very soon.

Have you thought about how to make the holidays the best they’ve ever been?

Here are some quick tips on how to keep Christmas in your heart even though it’s sunny and warm out:

  • Sing Jingle Bells while you jog
  • Use Egg Nog as creamer for your coffee
  • Watch your favorite holiday specials at random intervals throughout the year
  • Have some punch flavored candy canes as a summer picnic treat
  • Keep an attitude of gratitude for all the good things in life and be mindful of now, that’s why it’s called the present.

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