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Welcome to the 2015 A Family Lives Here Gift Guide.
I’m so excited.
I wanted to share the things that I love, and that help me and my family. This list focuses on gifts that would fit into four categories. Many of us work to focus our families on the real meaning of the holidays. With that in mind we focus our gift giving on something to read, something they need, something to play and something to wear. In that spirit, I’ve tried to curate a list that caters to that. I hope this helps you, as I’m usually notorious for waiting until the last minute to figure out gifts.
Everything on this list is either something we have, and love, or something we have on our own Santa list.
Oh! I almost forgot. (way to bury the lead, Dory brain) My fellow #AsianMomBloggers and I are hosting a $100 giveaway. Yup. Some cash for you to spend this holiday season. Hooray. Keep reading to find out how to enter.
I’m going to start with READ category. I love to read, and I love to read with, and aloud to my kids. Thankfully, my kids enjoy quality books too.
Christmas Tapestry by Patricia Polacco is a children’s picture book, and one of my very favorite Christmas stories. I’ve had this book in our collection for years, and I sob every year when I read it to my girls. Every year. The story follows a Baptist preacher’s family, and their move from Memphis to Detroit. Through a series of what seem like unfortunate events, the family meets a lovely Jewish woman, and eventually, a difficult situation becomes a miracle. The illustrations for Christmas Tapestry set the mood for the winter storm and the family’s trials. They also provide the perfect backdrop for the focus of profound love.
Santa Calls by William Joyce is a fun and sweet children’s picture book. My eyes well up with tears at the end of this one too. Happy tears. This story follows a brother, a sister, and a friend as Santa Claus, also known as S.C., calls them out for an important mission. The adventure restores their faith in Santa, and in each other. This is a great book for siblings who need to rekindle their unity. Santa Calls will warm even the grinchiest of hearts.
Matched Series by Ally Condie is perfect for your Young Adult (YA) dystopian novel lover. My oldest loves The Giver, and The Hunger Games. When she finished the series, she was ready for another. I’d already read Matched, Crossed and Reached series of books many years ago, and was thrilled I could share them with her. What I love about the Matched series is how this particular dystopian future is a very clean, almost antiseptic-like place. The vibe transports you there, and as you watch a society where choice has been eliminated erupt in self-awareness, you feel empowered too.
Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt sounds slightly morbid. The cover might give you gothic horror vibes, however Keturah and Lord Death is a case where you definitely shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. This is one of my favorite YA novels. There are so many layers and symbols in this book, if you care to read carefully. Keturah is a smart, empowered young woman who learns so much about the people in her life, and about herself. When I learned that Leavitt wrote the book with her sister, who died at age 11, in mind, the story became even more weighty.
Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George is a lovely reimagining of the an old fairy tale about the Twelve Dancing Princesses. Full disclosure, George is an incredibly talented friend from my university days. She’s always been very creative, and it’s such a treat to love her work. I absolutely enjoy it when authors take an old story, and rework it brilliantly to breath in new life. I loved reading Princess of the Midnight Ball as an adult, I know my young adult self would’ve loved it too.
Silver In The Blood by Jessica Day George is her newest novel, and this one is on my Santa list. I’m intrigued by the premise of two debutante sisters learning about their Romanian ancestors set in the 1800s. Is there Dracula in the mix? What destinies to the sisters pursue? The entire setting for Silver In The Blood is fascinating to me.
Tuesdays at the Castle series by Jessica Day George is absolutely magical and plucky. It follows Celie and her adventures living in a castle that has a mind of its own. Celie has to save her kingdom and her family. Tuesdays at the Castle is perfect for kids ages 8-12. I love the strong characters George writes for both the girls and boys. Her newest Fridays with the Wizards, the fourth book in the series, drops on February 9, 2016.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: The Illustrated Edition by J.K. Rowling and illustrated by Jim Kay is gorgeous. This book is on our list this year. I was in a Barnes and Noble recently, flipped through its pages, and fell in love. I can’t wait to wrap the illustrated edition up and present it to my girls.
Magyk by Angie Sage is a book my oldest daughter picked up at the library, and it became the book we read together, each night before bed. I read it first, by myself to find out if it was worth reading aloud to them before bedtime, and I spent so much of the book laughing out loud. The writing is clever, and the humor is spot on. It follows a wizard family through an upheaval of magical politics, and it reveals quirky, and lovable characters who aide in solving a mystery, and overcoming dark magic. I really would love to have a spot of tea with Sage just because I enjoyed reading Magyk so much.
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate was a 2013 Newbury Award winner, and a #1 New York Times Bestseller. Usually those things together mean it’ll come home with me. What sold me, was the unique way in which the story is shared. My daughter loved it. It’s told from the perspective of Ivan, a captive Gorilla. It is sweet, and poignant, and the simplicity of universal truths is done in such an effortless manner, that humans with hearts of all ages, can appreciate The One and Only Ivan.
The Princess in Black series by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham is a new take on princess stories. I’m a fan of turning cliches into something new and wonderful. I have yet to own The Princess in Black series, but they are on my list, mostly because I’m a huge fan of Pham as a person, and as an artist. She’s brilliant.
Big Sister, Little Sister written and illustrated by LeUyen Pham is one of our favorite books. I have four copies. Three of them are signed. We love it because, it is the first book we’ve ever found that features girls that look like and act like my daughters. Big Sister, Little Sister is about a sisterly relationship told from the perspective of the little sister, in this case Pham is the little sister. It is sweet, funny, and memorable.
The Mistress of Spices by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni was a gift a thoughtful friend gave me. If ever a reader could be spellbound by a book, this is the one. The story follows Tilo, a woman trained in the mystical art of spices. Tilo is a steward of a spice shop in Oakland, California. She’s able to heal those that seek her care, and discovers who she is in the process. The Mistress of Spices is filled with meaning, phrases, and ideas meant to be savored, pondered, and shared. This most recent read of mine, has burrowed into my heart forever.
Humans of New York by Brandon Stanton is a lovely choice for a coffee table book that you’ll enjoy browsing. If you follow him on Facebook you’ll already be familiar with Stanton who travels the world over taking a photo of a person and learning profound truth, humor, and even changing lives with his ability to get strangers to open up to him, and share their humanity with the world. Humans of New York restores our faith in the beauty of our neighbors.
The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick is on my list for my husband and let’s be honest, me too. After binging on the Amazon Prime produced series of the same name, I can’t wait to devour this book. The Man in the High Castle provides an alternate reality, asking the question, what if the Allies lost WWII to the Nazis and the Japanese. If you like history, dystopia, and I’m guessing there’s some science fiction as well, you’ll likely dig this novel.
I consider the following items, in the NEED category. I believe we need to take care of ourselves. When we are healthy we are happier, and more able to help others. This list seeks to find ways to help as we do our best to take care of ourselves and our families.
Clarisonic facial cleansing system is fabulous. I finally started using the system this summer, and I’m hooked. I love how much deeper it cleans my skin. Having skin that is properly cleaned improves the efficacy of the facial products I use. I have my daughters use my Clarisonic from time-to-time, because it’s never too early to start a good skin regimen.
Waterpik Water Flosser For Kids works well for my girls. My mother instilled in me a passion for good dental hygiene, and I’m doing it to my kids too. I encourage my daughters to floss with dental floss, and also use the Waterpik. They enjoy how easy it is to use, and know that they only have to floss the teeth they want to keep. So far, looks like my girls would like to keep each tooth.
Barefoot Contessa at Home is one of my favorite Ina Garten cook books. Every dish I make from any Garten recipe, comes out fabulous. So if you know someone who might want to start cooking, or is even slightly interested in food creation, Garten’s Barefoot Contessa at Home is a great start. If you can somehow get me invited over to Garten’s home for a meal, or more, I will gladly owe you big time.
Chatbooks are fabulous little books that come in soft or hardcovers. They’re simple to make, and the quality and the price are hard to beat. They’ve been exclusively for Instagram users, but have opened up the capability to use photos from Facebook and your camera roll. This new update is wonderful, so we don’t have to overgram our lives for our Chatbooks. I love photo books, but I don’t have the time to sit down and create digital books anymore. Chatbooks makes it easy to post the photos I already share. In my case, I have 69 volumes in my home. I love them all. Gift memories to your loved one or yourself. Use code UYCCKLKY to get your first book free! (A quick note, I had ordered all my books over the summer, that’s more than 3000 photos, when Instagram changed some technical thing on their end and Chatbooks had to deal with their own updates, so when my order for all my books arrived, there were blank pages. I contacted customer service, and Chatbooks took care of it. It took a while, as I had to re-do my books, by editing captions and making sure I only included the photos I wanted in the books, but I’m glad they stuck with me, with a friendly attitude the entire time.)
PlanetBox lunch boxes are our favorites. I love that they are eco-friendly, dishwasher safe, and help me create healthy, beautiful lunches for my daughters. We’ve been using our PlanetBox lunch boxes for years now, and are huge fans.
Journals of a Lifetime has a selection of journals that you can gift to those you want to learn more about. As I get older the more I want to learn about my family history. Most parents don’t share much about themselves, which is why I try to share stories of myself growing up, and my experiences when I spend time talking to my daughters. These books seem like such a sweet way of documenting, preserving our histories. I should get these Journals of a Lifetime for my own parents.
As you browse the next selection of gifts, please know that I believe in taking time to PLAY. I believe in finding things worth our time, to play with.
Compose Yourself by ThinkFun Toys is incredible. This game comes with 60 music cards which you can arrange into your own compositions. You can compose it all online by entering the cards you selected, then listen to your original arrangement right away. You even get to chose to hear your arrangement played by a single musician or a full-on symphony orchestra. You also have the option to share your Compose Yourself composition as well. I love opportunities for kids to become creators of media, not mere consumers of media. I have a lot of fun playing with this on my own. I pretend I’m a real composer.
Rush Hour also by ThinkFun Toys is a tactile logic game that is so satisfying. Yes, I’m sure there are apps out there for you to play on your iPad or iPhone, but there’s something about actually touching, and moving objects in real life that reinforces the logic puzzles for our brains. We’ve had Rush Hour for a few years now, and still love it.
Settlers of Catan is a game my brother introduced to my family. We love it. It’s a game where strategy comes into play. Players learn to be clever, cunning, and try their hand at a bit of luck as they work to build the strongest development. If you haven’t played Settlers of Catan with family or friends, it makes for a really good time, especially if you’re the winner.
The Man in the High Castle, an Amazon Original Series is a show I totally binged on and am officially hooked, and dying to hear when the second series is released. Based on the same name novel by Philip Dick it imagines what life would be like had the Allies lost WWII and the Nazis and Japanese carve up the United States. Frightening. Go binge it now, and let’s discuss.
JBL Charge 2+ Splashproof Portable Bluetooth Speaker wasn’t something I thought we’d use very often when my husband brought it home. Boy, was I wrong. We use it all the time. It’s been great to take to parties, camping trips, and use at home to amp up the volume when I play music from my iPhone. It’s even been great for my husband who likes to stay up late and watch TV. He connects the TV wirelessly to the JBL speaker so only he can hear the sound from the TV, and doesn’t keep the rest of us up at night blasting the volume out of the TV. Plus, look at the colorful choices you have. I love color.
Pley is a subscription service full of toys to rent. The toys are building toys, from LEGOS to robotics. If you want to save your sanity and budget, Pley is a great subscription to gift from grandparents, uncles, aunts, parents, friends.
I don’t know about you, but I love getting something cozy to WEAR for the Holidays. Our family always gets new pajamas, but there are some other fun things too.
White House Black Market Patchwork Poncho is my favorite sweater right now. I wear it all the time, or as often as I can get away with. It’s like wearing a warm throw blanket, that looks totally chic. I love it. You deserve it. We can wear our matching Patchwork Ponchos together.
American Eagle Outfitters Hi-Rise Photo Real Leggings are one of my daughter’s favorite kinds of leggings. They are well-made, soft, and comfortable. Plus, they look, really good. My girls dig leggings, and AEO has great leggings.
Tile, the key, phone, item finder for my husband. He needs this. I swear, in every marriage relationship there’s one person who always misplaces things. In our family, it’s my husband. Tile is what he needs to get in his stocking this year.
Simply Gum is a company dedicated to making sure that the ingredients that go into your gum is all natural, and delicious. I didn’t think I would like the ginger gum, as much as I did, and of course mint and cinnamon you can’t go wrong. Do your mouth and body good,
chews choose Simply Gum.
Heilala Vanilla for the foodie in your life. Heilala is based in New Zealand. Their vanilla beans come from Tonga, and the company began as an aid project in 2002. They’ve since grown to a company that specializes on pure, quality vanilla, chosen by chefs with a discerning taste. Our family prefers Heilala Vanilla syrup on our pancakes, and whenever I use Heilala Vanilla paste, extract, etc in my baking, it always tastes better.
I hope this list has given you some ideas, or helped you finish your Christmas shopping. While it did take a lot of time and thought, I wanted to make sure each item on this list was something I would recommend, based on my own experience. Thank you for being a part of my world.
While there are some affiliate links, all gifts listed here are things we own, use or are on our Santa list.
Bring on the holidays! Our November blog carnival features gift guides from carefully curated products. Get unique gift ideas from my fellow #AsianMomBloggers and enjoy your holiday!
- Maria at Bicultural Mama: Chinese Themed Gifts for Kids
- Grace from HapaMama: The Mindful Mama Gift Guide
- Thien-Kim at I’m Not the Nanny: Gifts For Home Chefs Big & Small
- Phyllis of Napkin Hoarder: The Napkin Hoarder’s Favorite Things 2015 Plus Giveaway
- Stephanie from A Family Lives Here: 2015 A Family Lives Here Gift Guide