Category: Products to Know About

hand blender

Hand BlenderOK, look out: here comes a post about housewares. With the autumn chill in the air, we’ve recently revisited our love for our hand blenders and decided to mention in case there was anyone out there who still doesn’t yet own one of these fabulous little gadgets. I once blew the top off of my blender and sprayed hot kelly green all over a depressingly large portion of my kitchen during the “blend” step of making spinach soup. My mother-in-law was the one who saved me soon afterward with the gift of the hand blender. For the many years since, I’ve plunged that thing into pots of soup and sauce, and let it whirr with gratitude, to say nothing of relative safety. Even for someone (like me) who likes to keep the kitchen relatively simple and old-school, this plug in is a favorite.–t

For anyone still with great gift ideas to share, click here for the annual give-and-get survey. Results to posted in this blog soon!

most used toys by readers’ kids

rodysWe asked, you answered! Here’s what our readers’ kids have been playing with this year. We’ve organized this “most played with” list by age, and where it made sense, by gender.

We’ll let the data speak for itself, but true to our list-y origins, here are three things we noticed as we compiled the results:

1. Rainbow Loom appeared across many age groups.

2. Lego continues to be a time tested “most played with” toy.

3. Not surprising, technology in many forms (devices, gaming consoles and apps) made the list in quite a few spots.


** Connotes items with multiple mentions

3 and Under  (Boys & Girls)


Baby Dolls

Bruder Fire Truck

Superheros Costumes


Melissa and Doug Velcro Pizza**

Melissa and Doug Velcro Ice Cream

4 and 5 Year Old Boys

64 Crayola Crayons

Lego** (City Series, Duplo)

Star Wars Mini Figures

Toy Kitchen

4 and 5 Year Old Girls

American Girl Doll

Marble Run (plastic)

Memory Matching Game



6 and 7 Year Old Girls

Rainbow Loom**


Markers Pens Paper, etc

Scratch Programming

Sewing Machine (Brothers Project Runway)

Knee Hockey Set


American Girl Accessories

American Girl Doll


6 and 7 Year Old Boys

Nerf Guns


Boogie Board writing tablet

Star Wars Mini Figures

8 and 9 Year Old Girls


Little Pet Shops

Rainbow Loom**

Stuffed Animals

8 and 9 Year Old Boys

Baseball Hitaway

Bey Blades

Fastrack Game


Knee Hockey Set

Lego**  (Regular, Architecture Series)


Rainbow Loom**

Settlers of Catan

Street Hockey Set

Stuffed Buffalo

xbox Kinect

10 and 11 Year Old Girls

Crazy Loom


Soccer Ball

10 and 11 Year Old Boys

Electric Lincoln Train

FIFA 14 soccer app

iPad / iPad Mini**

Magic The Gathering Cards


Museum of Science Membership

Over the door bball hoop


Rainbow Loom**

Scratch Programming

xbox Kinect

12 and 13 Year Olds (Boys & Girls)

Let’s Create Pottery App



14 + (Boys & Girls)



Magic Cards



a list of great family movies

bend it like beckham

Family Movies with Compelling Characters and Inspiring Stories  (that we all watched and loved!)

They are noted with a target age according to Common Sense Media.

1. Duma (8) – a boy raises a cheetah as a pet and has to return him to the wild. Beautifully filmed in South Africa, a coming of age story that highlights the power and importance of family.

2. Secretariat (8) – true story, follow your dreams message about horse racing.

3. Rudy (9) – true story, follow your dreams message about football and the underdog.

4. Whale Rider (11) – filmed in New Zealand, a Maori girl wants to become chief of her tribe though the role has been solely reserved for men. Great positive message for girls.

5. Bend it Like Beckham (13) – follow your dreams message, romantic, cultural and generational tensions. Great positive message for girls.

the start of “the talk”

a great book to launch discussions about sexuality with kidsRecently, I got the chance to hear Deborah Roffman, a very wise and funny sexuality educator speak about the role parents play in educating children about sex. I headed to the talk feeling pretty dang good about myself and the fact that I’d had “The Talk” with all of my kids by the time they were in 1st grade.

Right out of the box, Deborah put me in my place. “And to those of you who think you can just have The Talk,” she said, “you don’t just have The Talk and feel recused of providing further information! Instead it’s a lifelong conversation we must begin when our kids are little.”

Sitting in a room with other parents and listening to Deborah was engaging and inspiring. Her talk helped me reflect on ways in which my own upbringing, generation, and family culture took on the topics of sexuality, and what hurdles I had to get over to improve and enhance this communication. I began to understand ways in which I could be doing better by my kids, who I want to grow up with a strong sense of themselves and a clear understanding of sexuality in the context of relationships, media, and, of course, procreation.

We all bring complicated emotions and baggage to the topic of sex, and for me, having a way to introduce the topic of sex and “where babies come from” was very helpful. Uncomfortable shooting from the hip on this topic, I found a fantastic conversation starter and anchor in “It’s Not the Stork,” by Robie Harris. For me, it was a perfect beginning of The Talk with my kids…which I now know is only the beginning of talking with my kids. –n

mothers & sons

Kate Lombardi StoneAs parents with sons, who among us does not want for our boys to grow into young men with close, strong friendships, capable of academic focus, self control, and compassion?

And yet so much about our culture pushes boys away from their parents, particularly their mamas, earlier and with greater force and expectation than their sisters. To “be a man” has often been synonymous with being stoic, independent, unemotional, and self-reliant.

No surprise that it is the involved mother who is often the villain of the story, as mothers who keep their boys close are often met with concern in our society, driven by outdated Freudian baggage of the Oedipal complex and ridiculous theories about causes of homosexuality. This cultural pressure for mothers to separate from their boys is what journalist Kate Stone Lombardi took on and what she presents in her new book, The Mama’s Boy Myth: Why Keeping Our Sons Close Makes Them Stronger.  Something that stood out for us was data she shared from Carlos Santos, a professor at Arizona State University, who followed 426 middle-school boys to determine to what extent they bought into traditional masculine roles.  The data showed that boys that were close to their mothers:

1. had a more flexibly definition of masculinity

2. remained more open emotionally

3. had better academic performance and self-control

4. suffered less anxiety and depression

…more from the conference in the weeks ahead,–n&t


wonder by RJ PalacioOnce in a while something comes along that, in such a deep and elegant way, can transport us to places of true revelation and discovery and offer perspectives that truly change the way we see the world. Wonder, by R. J. Palacio, is just such a thing. This book is the story of August, a boy who was born with a facial deformity, who enters a mainstream school for the first time as a 5th grader. Sections of the book are written from the perspectives of various people in the story: August himself, a new friend at school, August’s sister, her boyfriend…

We experience the richness and complexity of each character as they struggle with the conflicting emotions of fierce, unconditional love, the exhaustion of being different, and the desire to fit in; kids parse out the characteristics of true friendship from the shine of ephemeral popularity; everyone finds strength and grace in unsuspecting places. It is hard to come away from this story without a heightened appreciation for the courage of empathy, friendship, and kindness. A great book or read-aloud for kids from 10 years and up. -n&t

slow drain solution

zip itWe get so many messages these days about clean living – having fewer chemicals in our lives, on our food, in our homes. I have switched to natural in many places, but when our shower won’t drain, I’d always gone for the liquid plumr or drano. I’d lean back, look away, pour in the whole bottle (so I wouldn’t have any sitting around), shut the bathroom door, turn on the fan and leave while it did its evil, toxic magic. Last week we had a plumber in, and I guilty confessed, “I use liquid plumr,” then asked, “is it eating away at our drains?” To my surprise, he replied “no, but you don’t need it.” And that’s when I learned about my favorite new D-I-Y home maintenance tool – the Zip It! The Zip It! is a long plastic dip-stick-kind-of-gizmo with barbs on the sides. Warning: using this tool is not for the faint-hearted – you will pull things out of your drain that seem otherworldly. And if you happen to have long, curly hair like me, double that warning. But, in a quick easy trawl, massive amounts of clogging gunk was removed from the drain! Voila! Free flowing drain and no chemicals. The Zip It is available at Home Depot or Amazon for under $3.  -n

math – get the facts!

If you have an elementary school student, you may, like us, be trying to support your child in learning their math facts.  Many schools approach math conceptually these days, so straightforward memorization can run contrary to the way our kids have been taught and be met with some resistance.

As we compared approaches to nailing the math facts in our families, we realized how differently our kids were approaching the same task. The timer that motivated at one house would have resulted at the other in a whimpering child in a puddle on the floor, quite simply unable to go on! Different kids, different ways of learning, different ways to motivate.

Our message here is simple: figure out which strategy works best for your child, and be open to the fact that what worked for you (flashcards!) might not work best for your child.  We generally know that people learn in different ways, so helping your child figure out how they learn is really useful insight for school (and life!).

Here are a handful of strategies to get you started:

    • Flashcards – yes, the deck of flashcards still work for those who just take the task of memorization head on.
    • Writing Out – creating muscle memory and relating a physical gesture with a fact. For example, write 7 x 8 = 56, 7 x 8 = 56 like 5 times.
    • Worksheets – good ones at
    • Repeating Out Loud – for kids who take in and retain information best when they hear it (can be used in conjunction with one of the aforementioned).
    • Repeating Out Loud While Moving – walking, simply moving around the room…I’ve heard of jumping rope!
    • Get an App – for kids who are motivated by technology and gadgets, one example is Math Fact Master
      icon (TicTapTech LLC)

…and perhaps a layer of incentive:

    • Timing – some kids can find their best focus in a “race against time”
    • Rewards – to get a reluctant student over a little hump or just to divert or diffuse some anxiety, We’re never beyond a little well-timed bribe!

apples to crisp

chopperIf you live in the northeast, the time is ripe for apple picking.  Apparently with all of the heat from the summer, the apple-picking season is well underway with many varieties available.  In our house, we always get carried away and return home with way too many apples. A great kid-involved project for post picking: crisp!  And three kid-specific tools to make this really fun: corer, peeler, & chopper.   All available at the small hands web site fairly inexpensively.

This apple crisp recipe is super simple and gets gobbled down in no time:

About 12 apples peeled, cored and chopped.  Sprinkle with juice from ½ lemon and cinnamon.

Mix 1 C flour, 1 C sugar & 1 stick soft butter.

Combine ¾ of mixture with apples, put in casserole, sprinkle remaining mixture on top.  Bake at 350 for 1 hour.

gotta go!

When my sons were little we turned a few old water bottles – the wide-mouthed ones – into “tinkle bottles”.  These fit neatly in car cup holders and have saved us many times on the road.  When my daughter was potty trained, we were faced with a dilemma, how to make things equally easy for her “to go” on the go.  Here we share two solutions with you.

Nina’s solution (the hi-tech version):  I consulted a mom-friend with girls and she introduced me to Travel Johns, personal disposable urinals.  Sounds totally unappealing, I know, but we love these.  In fact we often choose a trip to our car to use a Travel John over a gross port-a-potty at an outdoor event.  This is a genius product, no spill and very easy to use.  For those embarking on long road trips, I highly recommend them.

Tara’s Solution (the low-tech version): We keep a large (think McD’s large) paper cup or big empty yogurt container for just such situations.  Easy to toss when it doesn’t make sense to wash ‘em, and pretty simple for all ages and both genders to hit. Grab a container or two from your recycle bin before you hit the road.

Happy (& safe) travels,
– n&t
Oh, and the answer from last week’s post:  East Timor and The Solomon Islands.

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