HSM’s Ultimate Mother’s Day Gift Guide

Mother’s day is around the corner, y’all! I am ashamed to admit prior to having Amelia I never thought much into Mother’s Day. I know, I know, I’m a terrible daughter. I mean, I love and appreciate my mother every day, but now having a child myself, I am way, way, way into Mother’s Day. Not so much because I love presents and cards and flowers (well, I mean, I do), but because I am into showing my love and appreciation to the mothers in my life way more now that I too am a mother.

I know gift giving can be difficult, and because of that, I have put together a neat little gift guide. Fellas, if you are looking for ideas, chances are something on this list will work (I am into almost everything on the planet at least a little, and I am very much a typical “girl”, so chances are something on this list will work for your leading lady). Mamas, feel free to forward this to your man, use it for ideas for your mom or MIL (or important mother figure in your life), or even buy yourself a little something. You deserve it!

Almost everything on this list is less than $50, because I know I am not the only person that needs to pinch their pennies, but everything is lovely and thoughtful, and a lot of it is even useful. A lot of it is also frivolous because sometimes gifts should be.  Don’t say I never did anything for you.

For the Coffee Lover

Adorable coffee cups (Like these, these, or these)

A French Press. I LOVE COFFEE. I seriously have two coffee makers on my counter, but I don’t have one of these, and the more I read about them the more I want one.

For the Tea Drinker

Ridiculously cute, vintage tea cups (use these, these, or these for inspiration)

A tea kettle. I always made my tea in the microwave (all the hard core tea drinkers are gasping in horror right now), until John got me a tea kettle for Christmas. I won’t say it changed the way I drink tea, but it is adorable and nice to have.

Loose leaf tea/infuser (I love this robot infuser and want him for myself!)

Tea brewing system. John got me this Tea Forte tea brewing system for Christmas, and I love it. It’s a really convenient way to make loose leaf tea!

For the Wine Aficionado 

Wine glass charms (How stinking cute are these? I am seriously in love with them.)

Stainless steel wine glasses. Summer is upon us after all, and summer is the season for picnics, outdoor concerts, and camping. While I am not above drinking wine out of a Dixie cup, every now and then it’s nice to look cool and classy, no?

In-bottle aerator. You know, if you care about things like “letting wine breathe” instead of just immediately chugging it out of the bottle. Oh, is that just me? Never-mind then.

For the Foodie

Spiral Vegetable Slicer. Making your veggies look like pasta is ALL THE RAGE on Pinterest right now, y’all.

My Family Cookbook. Better than a box of recipe cards.

For the Stylish Mama

Fun jewelry! Not necessarily even nice jewelry, just something fun, like a cool statement necklace or chunky bracelet.

Birthstone earrings. Especially good if she already has a pendant or ring with your kid’s or your birthstone.

A cute clutch (pair it with an invitation for a fun night out if this is given to your wife, hint hint)

A subscription to Stitch Fix (I haven used this for myself, but I really want to, and I have heard great things about it. You could also do BirchBox or Ipsy if makeup is more her bag).

For the Artsy-Fartsy Mama

Fun, original artwork. Etsy is a great place to go for stuff like this! I myself am partial to this, this, and this.

DIY something with your kids. Pinterest is filled with easy crafts to do.

For the music lovin’ mama:

CDs. Does anyone actually buy CDs anymore? If she has a band she buys all the singles on iTunes for, get her a few of their CDs, especially if they have older stuff she doesn’t know. Or rebuy some of her favorite CDs from high school or college, especially if it’s band you both loved and the songs have significance.

Cool old vinyl

Make a mix tape! Fill it with songs that mean things to her, to you, to you both, and to your kids.

For the Nerdy Mama (I told you I would have something for everyone)

Harry Potter nerds: This, this, or this, all awesome.

Doctor Who nerd. I never was able to get into Doctor Who, but even I still find this, this, and this cool.

Supernatural nerds. If you can’t get Jensen or Jared to make a personal appearance at her house, this or this is a good consolation prize.

Random things from around the Internet that I think are cool

Because who doesn’t love cheeky embroidery. I would want any of these in my house.

Personalize your voice sound wave. This is just plain awesome.

I feel like even a brown thumb like me could handle the moss in this adorable, recycled wine bottle terrarium.

Beach lover? Then she needs this!

If you are willing to spend the big bucks, this “A History of Existing Life” framed print is awesome.

These engraved, stackable rings are beautiful, but again, cost a lot of money.

My favorite online places for gifts: Etsy, Amazon, and Uncommon Goods. Sale sites like Zulily, One Kings Lane, and Rue La La are also great, but products often have short shelf lives and long shipping times, thus requires forethought.

Also a good idea: Hire a photographer for a family session, and whip up a cool gift certificate (this is pretty easy in almost any desktop publishing software, and there are plenty of free templates online). Most moms wish they had more pictures of them with their kids. I for one am always saying we need to do a family portrait session, but never seem to get around to doing it. Bonus: Everyone knows at least one budding photographer that needs material for a portfolio, so you can even do it on the cheap.

And don’t discount the power behind homemade cards and breakfast in bed, either!

Guilty pleasures

Everyone has those “things” in their life they desperately love, that make them happy and giddy. But for whatever reason, you don’t make these little favorites known for fear of embarrassment.

Yep, I’m talking guilty pleasures. One of the little things that just make life worth it. You have ’em, I have ’em, and now I’m going to admit mine to all of you, and fear public criticism and condemnation.

If you’re having a rough week like I am, hopefully this will make you feel a little better.

Reality TV: I don’t watch a lot of television, but if I do watch it, it’s probably a reality/competition show. I can’t help it, they draw me in like moths to a flame. American Idol, The Biggest Loser, America’s Next Top Model…I love them all, but my long time favorite is the Bachelor/Bachelorette. I can’t help myself. In spite of knowing how fake it is, and reading the spoilers each season on Reality Steve, I cannot stop watching the train wreck. I love the canned drama and the vapid girls/guys they always seem to cast. This season the bachelor is a total space cadet who has no idea what’s going on. It’s awesome.

Military homecoming videos on YouTube: If I’m having a bad day, or need a good cry, these can fix both circumstances, almost instantly. I find the longest compilation and just blubber. I literally cannot resist these videos. If they are linked anywhere, I must watch.

Shopping the clearance racks at Target (also the dollar spot): I literally cannot resist the call of the red stickers at Target. Do I need four v-neck tshirts in varying shades of neutrals? No, but they’re only $4! Same goes for The Dollar Spot. Ooooh, every random thing under the sun for a buck? Don’t mind if I do.

Filling up my cart in stores (or online) then slowly emptying it: I cannot be the only one who does this, right? I just like the idea of maybe buying these things, imagining what it would be like to have said things, then just abandoning that dream because I don’t want to spend the money.

Really, really, REALLY bad music: Most people would be ashamed to admit to the kind of music I like. I too am ashamed. Some people say there is no such thing as bad music. I say that’s a lie, it does exist, and I most definitely listen to it.

Pinning recipes I’ll never cook and crafts I’ll never craft on Pinterest: Like so many other modern moms, I too fall victim to the pretty photoshopped food porn and crafts on Pinterest. I pin them knowing full well if there is more than five ingredients and/or steps, they are never, never, never happening.

What are some of your guilty pleasures?

My favorite apps for toddlers/kids

I was at lunch with a couple girlfriends from work yesterday, and A had to tag along because John is out of town. She is normally relatively good at restaurants, but because she is a toddler, she got bored with what I brought to entertain her. To keep her from grabbing at everything on the table she shouldn’t have, I did what any parent of the 21st century would do.

I pulled out my iPhone, loaded up one of her apps, and handed it over. And she happily played for 20 more minutes.

It’s amazing to me how my one year old can operate my phone and iPad.  She knows how to press the home button and unlock the screen. She understands that hitting the screen makes things change. She gets cause and effect, basically: She knows that when she does A on my phone or iPad, B happens and it makes her happy.

I don’t normally just fork over my electronics to her, but when we’re at a restaurant, waiting in the doctor’s office, on a plane, or anywhere else where it is generally frowned upon to run around like a crazy person (which she would prefer to do) or scream because she is being held against her will (which would happen without some distraction), having the capability to pull out my phone and keep her occupied for a while is a godsend.

There’s a lot of these lists floating around on the Internet, and my major problem with most of them is they are filled with apps that cost money. I hate hate HATE spending money on apps. It annoys me. And it seems more and more apps are becoming more expensive (does anyone remember when most apps were free or $0.99 at most?).

What I like about these apps is most of them are free. The only ones I paid for were Elmo Calls ($0.99) and Peekaboo Sesame Street ($0.99 for now, will go up shortly though!). The great thing about apps is you can change them out a lot, so your toddler has different games to play, which will keep them occupied longer, and keep everyone happy.

amelia's apps

1. Any Fisher Price app (Free): Fisher Price has a ton of FREE apps. Are they a wealth of education and game play? No, but they are basic fun, and great for older infants and young toddlers learning cause and effect.

2. Phone4Kids (Free with in app purchases): This basically makes your iPhone into a toy iPhone. The “screen” is loaded with different “apps” like weather, texting, a number pad to make “calls”, a doodle pad, etc.

3. PBS Kids (Free): We haven’t introduced A to much TV, but this app let’s A enjoy short videos from PBS shows, like her favorite, Sesame Street.

4. Elmo Calls ($0.99): What toddler DOESN’T want to call/facetime with Elmo?

5. Peekaboo Sesame Street ($0.99): Along the same lines of Peekaboo Barn or Peek-a-zoo, but with Sesame Street characters. You can either loop it for endless play or play in story mode, which ends with Elmo and Abby going to bed. This was on “sale” for it’s launch week for $0.99, but will probably be $2-3 or more here shortly. Get it while it’s cheap, people.

6. Xylophone (Free): What’s not to love about banging on something and making a lot of noise? You can either just hit the notes randomly, or it will guide you to play different songs, like Do Rei Mi, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Jingle Bells, Rudolph, etc, etc. You can guess what A prefers to do, I’m sure.

7. Shapes (Free): Games, quizzes, flash cards, and puzzles to help toddlers learn shapes. I really like the flash cards. Basic, fun learning.

8. Reading Rainbow (Free with a subscription option): I used to love Reading Rainbow. For free you can download five books per family, or you can pay a flat rate per month and “subscribe” to get unlimited options. At one, five e-books is plenty. There are different “islands” (genres) to explore with books on them. Also great for older kids. Parents, it records your kid’s reading (how much, what, etc), so you can keep tabs on it.

9. Letter Sounds by Rosetta Stone (Free): This is an app I have to participate it because it involves repeating Spanish words into the microphone on the iPad to make the character do whatever you tell it to (like dance, dance fast, dance to the left, etc). There’s a lot of research that says the earlier you introduce kids to foreign languages the easier they will pick it up. While I don’t think this will make her fluent, it’s a start and it’s fun.

10. Learn with Homer (Free): This is supposed to be for preschool/kindergarten aged kids, but it’s another good parent/toddler app. It has phonics, stories, science lessons, and art and recording tools. Plus it’s just a beautiful app with a lot of colors, which makes it very engaging for her and me both.

11. GazzilliWords (Free with in app purchases): You get three free words, fingerprint, rainbow, and balance (with the option to buy “booster packs” of more words). It reads you a short “story” explaining what the word means, and then has games to help “bring the word to life.” What I really like about this app is that it introduces words that are challenging to little kids, not just “dog, cat, ball” like other word books/games have.

What apps do you have that really hit a home run with your toddlers/kids?

A well balanced meal

Since starting solids with A, I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect balance between convenience and health. It’s harder than you think. Making baby food at home is everyone’s answer for this, but frankly, I didn’t have the time or patience. Also her daycare in Louisiana required all baby food be brought in sealed containers. Starting table foods a few months ago has helped out in this regard tremendously.

In a perfect world, A would just eat whatever John and I eat at mealtimes, but some nights I don’t cook, we eat random snacks or we don’t eat at all.  John is often out of town, too, so that limits how much/often I prepare meals.

So after several months, I’ve finally figured out some baby/toddler friendly foods that marry convenience and well balanced meals. All require minimal prep and are pretty versatile so I can throw them together for her quickly. These are all Baby A/HSM approved:

Frozen waffles–A LOVES waffles, and as far as ease goes, it doesn’t get much easier than this. I get her Van’s All Natural Gluten Free Blueberry Waffles and she gobbles the whole thing up in record time. Daycare provides breakfast during the week, but this is our go to breakfast on weekends.

Low maintenance fruit–I consider low maintenance fruit to be anything with minimal prep. If I have to do anything beyond peel it, I’m  not interested. So, really, this means bananas, blueberries, or quartered grapes. If I’m feeling particularly crazy, I’ll get some cut up cantaloupe or watermelon and put it in her mesh teether.

Shredded cheese–A quick and easy snack option A loves. We’re partial to cheddar.

Frozen veggies–I always keep a bag of frozen peas and carrots in the freezer. Other favorites include broccoli and green beans. You can say whatever you want, but I will never stop loving frozen veggies. For us, they just work. Our local grocery is always running sales on frozen veggies, so not only is this practical but it’s cheap too.

Fruit pouches–I will never stop loving these either. I know you’ve seen them. Motts, DelMont, Go Go fruits, and Plum Organics make them. I always keep a couple different varieties on hand, and one brand or another is always on sale somewhere. A can now suck the fruit straight out of the pouch which is awesome.

Whole grain pasta–I boil a whole box of over the weekend and A and I both eat off of it during the week. I use it for pasta salads for work, and I toss it with parmesan cheese for dinner for A.

Chicken–I’m not a big meat eater, but we do eat a lot of chicken. When I do cook it, I cook an extra breast or two to shred up for A.

I also keep Cheerios and those puff snacks (we prefer Plum Organics Strawberry Beet or Happy Organics Sweet Potato) on hand at all times. I put a handful on her tray while I get meals ready and she stays quiet. And as a special treat, A loves graham crackers.

Granted, this list is not exhaustive, but it’s a good example of some of my staples. Anyway, between all of these and others, I can (usually) get meals together for A quickly with little prep, which makes everyone happy.