Holiday Gift Giving Made Easy

Gift giving should be one of the great joys in life. But with the plethora of choices out there, how do you narrow down your list?
Colorado Springs Moms Blog to the rescue!
We have compiled a list of the best gifts we have given or received in recent years – gifts that are sure to be a hit! Rest assured none of us have affiliations with any of the products or ideas we are recommending. We simply endorse them because we love them. Or our kids love them. Or our spouse loves them. Or our parents love them.
Some of the ideas are pricey. Some are virtually free. We want to help everyone in every budget find gifts that will be used rather than stowed away in a guest room closet.
Wi-fi digital photo frames. These are, by far, the best gift we ever have given to our parents (we have one, too). I’m not talking about the kind that you hook up to your computer or a jump drive to transfer photos. I’m talking about a photo frame that grandma and grandpa plop in their living room and photos magically appear from their children and grandchildren each day. Once these are set up, you can invite anyone to send to them. Imagine being on vacation and sending photos of your kids hiking in the mountains directly from your cell phone to your parents’ photo frame IN REAL TIME. It’s truly incredible. Ceiva used to be the only game in town. Others have entered the market in recent years: Nixplay, Pix-Star and Kodak, to name a few. Some require an annual fee to operate; others don’t.
Amazon Echo or Echo Dot. I must be behind on the times because I never even had heard of these little beauties until I was visiting my brother this summer. It went like this: We arrived at his house and he asked “Alexa” to turn the music down. Then, he asked her to play another song that he knew I would love. Later, he had her add some groceries to his shopping list. The next morning, he asked her what the weather would be like that day. He controls his heat and light with this little black cylinder on his kitchen counter – all through voice commands. I mean seriously, this is like Jetsons stuff, people! I ordered one before I left his house and so did my folks – they are that cool. (No kickbacks for my brother, I promise!) Every day, I think of songs I haven’t heard in 20 years and ask Alexa to play them. I giggle as I remember all the words. Our kids ask Alexa each morning what weather to expect as they pick out clothes. Just make sure to turn off the automatic “buy” function if you have kids or you might end up with a pet hamster on your doorstep one day. 😉
Weather Station. Sure, you can look up the weather on your phone or computer or watch the news. But what is it like at YOUR house? These things have dropped considerably in price over the years and the functionality has increased. You can pick up a basic one for $25; fancier ones that measure rain and wind speeds are slightly more.
Vacuums. I know, I know. Not too sexy, right? Oh, you are sooooo wrong! Think lightweight, heavy-suction stick vacuum like one of the Dyson cord-free varieties that my brother-in-law gave us for Christmas last year. It *almost* takes the pain out of cleaning up after two little boys eat dinner. Or, if you have bucks to spend and adore someone, check out a Roomba. My husband and I bought one about a decade ago and we likely will never be without one. They pick up so much stuff that I rarely even use our standard vacuum. My only beef with them is that they have gone UP rather than DOWN in price over the years. Look for promo codes, online coupon stacking, holiday deals and refurbished to grab one more affordably.
Custom photo albums, calendars and gifts. Download your favorite photos to Shutterfly, Snapfish, tinyprints, Minted, Mixbook or other digital photo Web sites, then have fun! Create an annual photo album for each of your kids, a photo blanket for your mom and a mouse pad for your spouse’s desk at work. It’s personal and it’s sure to bring a smile.
Journal with question prompts. Fellow blogger Jenny B gave one to her grandmother. It asked all kinds of questions about her growing up years, memories, wisdom she wanted to pass along, etc.  She filled it up and gave it back to Jenny, who now is pairing the journal writings with pictures for the whole family.
Newspaper Memories. A library-bound book containing front pages of newspapers from a certain day of the year for every year you choose. A friend is getting one for her Dad who has a milestone birthday soon. This is available at
Remember a Special Day. Buy a special frame with a small plaque attached. Frame photos from a special event (World Series game, a concert, etc.), along with the tickets. Have the plaque engraved with the event information. 
Love Jar. Fill a jar with reasons why you love a person or think they are wonderful. If you’re feeling crafty, tie a bow around the top or paint the jar.
Custom Cookbook.  You have favorite recipes, right? So do your kids and your husband and your parents and siblings. Some of them even may have been passed down from your grandparents or great grandparents. Make sure they are never forgotten. Merge your family’s favorite recipes into a cookbook for everyone.  Bonus points for including the spices for the recipes.
Freezer meal(s). Do you have a neighbor who has been sick? A friend who works long hours and doesn’t have much time to cook? A buddy who just had a baby? Cook them up a meal or two, freeze it and deliver it. Who wouldn’t appreciate a home-cooked meal or two, especially something they can pull out around the holidays when things are hectic?
Magazine Subscription. There are hundreds of cooking magazines that cater to every taste. A few: Cooking Light, Cook’s Illustrated, Food & Wine, bon appetite, Cook’s Country. Google the recipient’s cooking interests – chances are, there is a magazine to accommodate. New recipes every month!
Specialty Cookbooks. A friend is buying a new Savory Spices cookbook that gives three recipes for 10 different special blends. For $70, you get the cookbook and spices. She is buying for her mom, who is difficult to shop for, but loves to cook.
Art Supplies. Fellow blogger Kristal K says she loves when her kids get art supplies as gifts! They are consumable, which doesn’t leave her family with a bunch of clutter. And when it’s a gift, she feels a little less frustration when her kids “waste” a whole sheet of stickers or bottle of glitter glue on one corner of a paper! Jenny B suggests simply giving children a whole ream of paper for drawing and gel pens.
Dollar Store. Look, try as you might to make Christmas gifts meaningful, some kids at certain ages simply prefer quantity over quality. If you have one of those children, save yourself some energy and money and head to the Dollar Store. Choose a bunch of small things you know they will like and wrap them all individually.
Costumes. When our friends’ boys were preschoolers, they bought every superhero costume they could find the day after Halloween at a huge discount. They put those 10 or so costumes in a big Rubbermaid container and gave them to the boys for Christmas. “They dressed up every day for years – never knew who was coming to the dinner table!” Dave said.
3D Puzzles. Toys like the Perplexus will occupy kids and adults for hours. These ball-shaped puzzles have dozens of obstacles to overcome in getting to the end. They take concentration and patience – two traits in short supply these days.
Toys. Fat Brain Toys offers a staggering number of ideas for every age, interest and ability.  A few ideas: Melting Snowman, Plasma Car, Hexbug and marble runs.
Who has a lot of “stuff” around the house and hesitates to add more toys, gadgets or clothes to the mix? Think memberships, lessons and tickets – events that build memories, not clutter. Some ideas:
  • Cheyenne Mountain Zoo annual pass  
  • Children’s Museum of Denver annual pass
  • Denver Museum of Nature and Science annual pass
  • Space Foundation Discovery Center annual pass
  • North Pole annual pass
  • Swim lessons
  • Dance lessons
  • Gymnastic lessons
  • Nutcracker tickets
  • Ski lessons or tickets
OK… I had to save some super sentimental ideas from friends for last.
Fellow blogger Tabitha P suggests, “You can never go wrong with a handprint in some clay for an ornament.”
My honorary Aunt Patty says the best gift she has received is one her kids gave her. “We awoke one Christmas morning to find that Santa had brought and filled stockings for Mom and Dad, too.”
Another friend’s son was born on Christmas Day. “Best present ever,” Allene said.

Top that!

Anyone have a great gift idea or Web site to share? Please comment below! We’d love to hear your thoughts.

 COSMB’s Guide to the Holiday Season!