- Socks – Everybody loves nice socks. Cute socks for little kids and teens are a great option. They are inexpensive and will get used. You could get their favorite character or warm, fuzzy ones to help them stay warm. Slipper socks are also a fun option.
- Make-up and Nail Polish – These are great options for the older girls on your list. Little girls also like getting fake make-up so they can emulate their older siblings and moms.
- Gloves – It’s that time of the year. If you live some place warm, skip this one and don’t brag. I’m already jealous.
- Bubble Bath – Kids love bubble bath! Bonus points if it’s their favorite character or smell.
- Lotion – Nice smelling hand or body lotion is a favorite of tween/teen girls.
- Snacks – Fruit snacks, fruit, dried fruit, or cookies are good options. Anything that your child considers a treat that you can package. You could make homemade cookies and package them.
- Cute Stationary Supplies – My oldest daughter loves this kind of stuff. Think post-its, pens, and notepads with fun designs.
- Books – Do you have a bookworm on your list? Books are definitely the answer. Chapter books are the perfect size to slide into a stocking. Board books are a great option for babies and toddlers.
- Earbuds – People are always in need of a new pair of earbuds. They get lost or broken so easily.
- Playdough – Kids love this stuff! It’s cheap and hours of fun. There are small fun-size options that are sold in large packages if you want to give a multiple colors to each kid.
- Gift Cards – These are a great option for older kids. They can pick out what they want. You can do small denominations for craft stores, target, book stores, or restaurants. They get to have the extra fun of the trip to spend their money.
- Small Toys – Figurines, stuffed animals, and baby/toddler toys are the perfect size to stuff in a stocking.
- Stickers – Kids love stickers!
- Crayons and/or a small coloring book – Crayons are nice if you have coloring books already under the tree. I found a small coloring kit last year that our daughter enjoyed a couple of days later when she was starting to get bored on winter break.
- Craft Items – Paint, markers, stamps, small craft kits, etc.
- Chopsticks – These are a favorite around here. You could also go with cute silverware for small kids and babies.
- Jewelry – Inexpensive fashion jewelry is a fun gift idea for kids and teens. I ordered a bunch of these online for next to nothing and picked up the rest on clearance or at discount stores. They love to have new earrings and necklaces to wear without any worries of them losing something expensive.
- Hair accessories and Styling Products – This is a great idea for teenagers. Trail sizes so they can try something new. Accessories are fun for young girls too. Isabella, 7 years old, loves headbands and hair bows.
- Cute Toothbrushes – I gave my two older daughters cute electric toothbrushes one year. It was a huge hit.
- Money – Everybody likes cash. Everybody.
We took our next step toward minimalism this week. We decided it was time to clean out and off our entertainment center. It has 2 shelves and 2 cabinets with a shelf inside each one. The large top was covered! Not only was our television there but so were many things that didn’t really belong. We had a video game console and set of small speakers on top that simply needed to go onto one of the shelves. We had set them there because we didn’t want to run the cords then. They have been there for a year because once they were there we stopped thinking about it. There were also DVD and game cases that weren’t put away because the cabinets were so full of stuff that they were hard to put away. Papers that had been left there over time. We really had become clutter blind.
I started by cleaning off the top of the stand. Going through every item to decide if we still needed/wanted it. If the answer was yes, then I had to decide if it belongs in this area or elsewhere. I assigned four categories: Keep in this area, Keep in another area, Donate/Sell, and Trash. Next, I cleared off the shelves and set up our most used/loved electronics. The top shelf now holds a PlayStation, a camera docking station, and a set of 2 small speakers that I connect to my phone while cleaning. The bottom shelf now holds our cable/DVR box and a Wii.
The cabinets were stuffed full of DVDs, video games, cords, controllers, CDs, and random junk. I was a little surprised by how much stuff I pulled out! Here’s a picture taken during the process.
I really wish I would have taken a before shot but I forgot. The top shelf of the left cabinet is home to a DVD storage binder that holds kids/family movies and another full of CDs that my husband is not ready to part with. I am currently debating on buying another of these to hold the remainder of the DVDs, games, and CDs that we want to keep. On one hand they take up less space than the individual cases but I think that they allow us to feel it is acceptable to keep more because it takes up less space. I also decided to keep our daughter’s memory books on this shelf. I have been trying to find a place to keep these that they will be safe but that we have easy access to them. I will do a separate post about these books sometime soon. They are amazing! The bottom shelf of the left cabinet houses my daughter’s headphones and the cords that we needed to keep that are not in daily use. The top shelf of the right cabinet now contains DVD’s and a couple of video games. The bottom shelf is home to video games and controllers.
This area is so much easier for us to use now. We got rid of 2 boxes of stuff not including trash. A ton of this was DVDs and TV series that we no longer watch. It looks so much nicer! It gives me the boost to start working on decluttering and minimizing other areas of our home.
Here’s the finished product:
The night was interesting. The window in our room was above the ice and vending area. People were out there late partying and a couple got in a loud argument. Unsurprisingly, my kids slept through most of it. We got up early and hit the road to drive to Sweetwater, TN. We were happy to leave those accommodations behinds. We stopped for donuts and juice for breakfast. We chose to eat in the car so we could get there faster. We had heard that finding a parking spot was going to be difficult. We had a bit of a drive so we didn’t want to waste anytime.
We made good time and got there early. We drove around a little bit and decided to park in a field next to a hardware store that was away from the big festival that was going on in downtown. We were there to see the eclipse and spend the day together. We were not there to spend the day surrounded by tons of people at a big festival. They parked us at the very edge because they were thinking that there were going to be a lot more people coming. A few other people did park there but not many. It turned out to be an amazingly intimate moment with a handful of like-minded strangers.
We explored our little area to help pass the time. There was an A&W within easy walking distance. The little girls had never been to A&W and Ivy doesn’t remember going when she was little. Octavia enjoyed sharing her first root beer float with Ivy. We checked out the hardware store we were next to. They had some really cute suckers. The big girls each got one.
We went back to the field by our car. The kids played around outside in the grass for a while. We went for another walk. They had horseback rides in the hardware store parking lot. Isabella rode the horse. We decided to have lunch at Sonic before heading back to our car. We shared a large order of chicken tenders and cheese sticks. It was miserably hot so we each got large slush to go, except Octavia who got an ice water to fill up her sippy cup.
We met the nicest people who happened to be parked next to us. They were from Connecticut. We waited for the eclipse with them. We were not able to find enough glasses and they graciously gifted us with a couple extra pairs that they had. They also shared some experiments with my girls. This is one of the reasons I travel with my children. I want to show them that there are some really good people out there in the world.
I have no photographs of the eclipse but I do have a memory that I will cherish forever. Sitting there with my girls as the day became night was a treasure. Isabella’s awe of the moment as what we had been telling her all finally made sense. It was well worth the drive. Road trips are some of my favorite times. This one was so different because Michael couldn’t make it. We made some amazing memories and had some hilarious conversations that you can only have while there are miles of road ahead of you. There is pure magic in road tripping with kids. You suddenly have time for all those conversations that you simply don’t have time to properly engage in at home when everything needs to get done. I’m not talking about the big important talks but that sometimes happens too. I’m talking about hearing about favorite new games, the last book they read, what their school friends are like, and their favorite thing about their new teachers. In the end, all these little things are all that really matter. These little things are shaping our children into the people they will be.
The trip back home was none eventful. There was loads of traffic which we all expected considering how many people came to watch the eclipse. It started to clear out eventually as we got farther away from Sweetwater. I’m going to leave you with this final photograph taken somewhere on the road out of my dirty windshield. It’s beautiful but a little messy which is just like taking a road trip alone with three kids.
We were lucky enough to be less than 8 hours from viewing a total solar eclipse. I managed to get a couple days off work and the big girls were able to take a day off school. Michael was unable to get a day off so we ended up making it a girls trip. I looked into our options and we decided to view the eclipse from Sweetwater, TN. The only issue was that I only got the day off on a last minute trade and finding a hotel in the vicinity was not going to happen. It was too far to drive the day of the eclipse so I had to find a place closer than where we are. I finally found a place outside of Chattanooga, TN and booked it online.
We packed our overnight bag the night before. We got up early to have a quick, healthy breakfast at home before hitting the road. The goal was to make it as far as possible before having to stop. The little girls did amazing and we didn’t have to stop until lunch time. We found a McDonald’s with a play center. The girls had a chance to get out of the car to play and eat for 45 minutes. After lunch, we stopped at a Walmart and picked up some snacks to get us through the rest of the trip to Chattanooga. I filled up the gas tank before getting back on the road.
We made decent time and got to our hotel just before dinner time. We checked in, picked up our key, and found our room before heading to dinner. Remember me saying that hotels were in high demand and I took what I could find. This was not a nice place to stay. It was questionable. It was a non-smoking room but there were burns on the blankets and furniture. There was black hair in the bottom of the bathtub. It did seem safe enough and there were no bugs. Every trip can’t be fancy. I’m not complaining. I’m just stating the truth. Sometimes it’s enough to not have to sleep in the car.
We drove into downtown Chattanooga and ate at City Café Diner. This is our favorite diner and we were so excited to be able to eat here! This is the cutest little place with amazing food and great service! I would eat there again and again. We stop there every time we drive through Chattanooga or near enough that we can easily detour.
Ivy and I got gyros and fries. The little girls got mac and cheese. We have never had a bad meal here. The dessert really is the star of the show at this place. They have huge cases of cakes, cheesecakes, and other desserts at the front. They all looked amazing! It was hard to decide. We each picked something different.
I had the cheesecake in the bottom right photo. It was truly delicious. Their desserts are huge and incredibly well priced. Isabella couldn’t finish her chocolate cake and decided to take it with her. We left the restaurant and went back to our hotel to sleep for the night.
This salad is one of our favorites in the summer. It is very easy to make and the kids love it. The thing I love the most about it is that you can make the chicken ahead the night before so you don’t have to cook two nights in a row. We just grill an extra pound of chicken the night before. Summer should be all about simple, fresh dinners.
- 1 pound grilled chicken
- 3 pounds of heirloom tomatoes
- 2 avocados
- Juice from 1 lime
- 3 tablespoons of chopped fresh cilantro
- 1/2 cup Olive oil
- Salt to taste
Cut chicken, tomatoes, and avocado into bite-size pieces. Mix in a large serving bowl. Stir together lime juice, cilantro, and oil in a separate bowl or cup. Pour over salad. Mix. Let stand for at least 10 minutes. Add salt as desired.
I told you it was simple and it is delicious. The perfect dinner for a hot summer day.