I can't believe it's almost December! Thanksgiving was a great break from the hustle and bustle of the world, and now that we're gearing up for school and work tomorrow, it's time to get serious about holiday shopping. There are at least 72 holiday gift guides telling you all about the fantastic gifts you should buy. My favorites include the ones that feature military spouse and veteran owned companies. If you're looking for those, check out these posts on Humans on the Homefront and The Military Wife and Mom.
I'm not going to present you with our wish lists this year, nor the coolest gadgets my children just love. Instead, I'm going to share with you our favorite things from this past year. Practical though some of them may be, we all know that practicality is often overlooked during the holidays. And with no further ado, I present to you, the things the Alwines loved the most in 2017.
Readers make Readers
You may have noticed the inordinate number of photos on my Instagram that involve books. We're pretty voracious readers. I am a big fan of Audible, and tend to listen to all my books in the car or while cooking. My children absolutely love reading, even G, who will repeatedly bring you books and then climb up on the couch to listen. Here are our favorites:
Percy Jackson – Declan, age 9 – "I love Percy Jackson books. They are exciting and challenging. And they are worth a lot of AR points. Everyone should read them."
Owl Diaries – Abi, age 7 - "I can't wait until the next one comes out. I love that it arrives in the mail right away when it is published. These books are so great!"
Goodnight Cowboys – G, 18 months - G doesn't have the words to express his love for this book, but his Gran sent it to him and he brings it to me to read a lot.
The Long Road Home – After watching some clips of the National Geographic miniseries at the conference I attended in October, I knew I had to read this book by Martha Raddatz. Read it, then watch the miniseries, also available via Amazon prime.
Instant Pot Love
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If you don't know that I love my Instant Pot, then we may not be friends, yet. I fell in love with my Instant Pot last year, and this year that love grew. I packed it in my car as we moved across the country and cooked meals in the hotel room with it. Yup, that much love. My favorite Instant Pot accessories include:
Steamer Basket – The Instant Pot came with this great stainless steel trivet, that I love to use for making fish or the pot-in-pot method, but I really wanted something with smaller holes. The silicone steamer basket is great because it prevents things from falling through and it has a great handle to lift it out of the pot.
Silicone Sealing Rings – I love these extra silicone sealing rings as they make cooking smelly dishes better. If I cook tacos one night using the red seal, I can make a dump cake the next day using the blue one and no smell carries over. Plus, G really likes to use them as necklaces.
Mini Mitts – Sometimes you need to take things out of the pot as soon as it's done. Or you need to stir things while it's hot. A regular sized oven mitt is bulky, slippery, and ineffective. These mini mitts are perfect for lifting the pot out or holding it still while stirring. And, they make for really fun puppet shows.
Making a House a Home
Sometimes you get excited about a vacuum. I did, because it meant we had carpet! When we moved into our Florida home early this summer, we needed a few things to make it work. Nothing huge or expensive, since it's a temporary house.
Shark Navigator Lift-Away – Like I said, we now have carpet and we really needed a vacuum. We didn't have one, so I researched for a while on the best one. When it came to price, functionality, and what was available on Amazon, I went with the Shark Navigator Lift-Away. It's lightweight, easy to empty, and the head rotates to get those corners.
Over the door drying rack – My laundry room in this new house is oddly shaped. It has two doors, but one goes to the garage and the other to the kitchen. Since we're still cloth diapering and Abi has plenty of LulaRoe, we needed a place to dry things. This one is perfect and I love that I can pack it up for the next move.
Kitchen Knife Block Set – I love my green pampered chef knives and they've lasted quite a while, but they were starting to wear down and it was time for some new knives. My husband decided that these knives were just perfect, and we really like that they also include a sharpener and steak knives.
Again, none of the things on this list will show up on anyone's "must-have" list, but they are items we use daily and that means a lot!
G's Green Chair – This chair was a gift to G for his birthday from his Tante. It has been the single most useful thing in this year of his life. He sits on the floor and hangs out with us while having a snack. We take it to a friends for use as a high chair. We took it to a baseball game for him to sit in. It folds up nicely and, more important, he loves it!
Nerf Zombie Strike Blaster – We are a pretty legit Nerf family. There are more Nerf guns than people in our family and frequently I'll return from a trip to the gym or grocery store to find Nerf darts everywhere in the house from a "secret" Nerf battle. Amazing fun for everyone.
Crossfit Speed TR 2.0 – Husband and I were both needing new gym shoes. I wanted a pair I could lift in and run short distances in. He bought a pair of these in blue, then I promptly bought a pair in red. The next time we do a workout together, we're going to rock one shoe in each color.
Carter's Doggie Pajamas – G has grown quite a bit this year and needed new pajamas. I really liked this 5-piece set from Carters and they really couldn't look any cuter. Carters has some great quality clothes for affordable prices, and that is what keeps us coming back!
Ticket to Ride – This game has provided endless hours of fun for our family. We play it at least twice a month, and almost every time we have guests or friends over. The kids have learned Canadian and US geography, strategy, and we have fun. We're looking forward to exploring the other Ticket to Ride games in 2018.
Circle with Disney – As a parent, it's hard to admit when you need help. We discovered this year we needed help monitoring the bigs use of electronics. Circle makes this super easy. We can control what they can do, when they can do it, and for how long with this device. A one-time purchase that controls all Wi-Fi devices n the house.
What is your most used and well-loved item from this year?