Helloooooooooooooooooo Christians!  Greetings from the OTHER SIDE of the holiday season!  Yup.  Hanukah ended last night and the Mendell household is officially done with the nauseating pace joy of family giving.  The rest of December will be easy street for me.  The biggest buying decision I will need to make in the next 20 days will be shrimp or chicken lo mein on Christmas Day.  Life is good.

Still, it remains the season of giving and I would like to bestow a very special gift to all my non-Jewish friends.  You may have snickered at my insanity this last week as I prepared for an eight day holiday in one 24 hour buying frenzy.  There were moments when I was sure that my hastily purchased gifts were going to go over like a square dreidel. But surprisingly, we hit the nail on the head every night this year, without breaking the bank.  So if you are still at a loss for what to put under the tree or in the stocking for your darling children, here are 10 hits of our season:

1.  The Keurig

For those families who aspire to turn their little ones into coffee addicts before they hit their teens, this appliance takes the cake.  Identified as Noah’s favorite gift, it allows them to make their own hot drinks in the morning – and according to my boys – actually helps them wake up in a better mood.  There are hot chocolate and chai tea cups as well.  And this is a gift that Dave and I can enjoy too.  You can buy these anywhere – even the pet store.

2. Ductigami

OMG – this is the funnest book for kids (and the men who love duct tape) ever.  If your child likes to make origami or paper airplanes or loves the fart sound that the duct tape makes when you unroll large quantities of it, this is the gift for them.  Chase made a kick ass wallet that holds money and credit cards.  Very cool.  Hint:  If you buy this book, please include the duct tape or you will have one sad little person.  I got this at the Museum Tour but I think its available on Amazon.

3. Donut Pan

For the inner Homer Simpson in every child and adult, this simple donut tray makes tasty homemade, uh, donuts.  Simple. Classic. Tasty.  And it totally beats an electric donut maker which takes up too much space and costs too much money.  We have made donuts twice now.  I got this in a temporary kitchen gadget store in the mall but I’m sure Bed Bath and Way Beyond has them as well.  Warning:  Weight Watchers membership not included.

4. NeoCube

Items in the picture are MUCH smaller than they appear.  This lipstick size cluster of magnets offers days hours of fun and it can be molded into many different shapes, strings and forms.  The magnets are surprisingly strong but flexible.   It is also fun to ask you kids to please stop playing with their balls and come to dinner.

5. Rock Star Sneakers

Clothes as gifts usually go over like a lead balloon, unless you are talking about Rock Star clothes.  Noah hasn’t taken off these Eddie Van Halen sneakers since he go them on Sunday.  If you are wary of buying shoes without fitting the child for them, rock star t-shirts also go along way.  We got these at Musiciansfriend.com

6. Spyglasses

The best part about these glasses?  They cost 5 bucks!  The second best thing?  They actually work.  Yes – you put these babies on and you can see behind you!  They are totally nifty but not powerful or practical enough to start an all out war between brothers.  I elected to buy these instead of the $500 night vision goggles.  Seems to be a good call so far… until boys read this post and realize that they could have gotten night vision goggles.  These come from ScientificsOnline. (Lots of cool stuff at this website)

7. Perplexus

At first I was perplexus as to the value of this toy.  But this puzzle kept Chase engaged all night and he has identified it as his favorite gift .  It’s like one of those tiny plastic mazes you played with as a child, with the tiny metal balls — but SUPERSIZED.  I intend to bring this with us on long car rides – and maybe use it as a punishment/time out when the boys get too rowdy.  Rather than go to their rooms, I will make them play with the Perplexus.  They won’t mind and I’ll get a little peace.  Also at scientificsonline.com

8. Chocolate Fountain

Since we didn’t buy the electric donut maker, we had to purchase at least one useless electrical appliance this year.  It wouldn’t be Hanukah if we didn’t add something to our kitchen that took up space and we only used once.  If your going to waste money, you might as well waste it something that melts and oozes chocolate.  We haven’t actually used this yet, as I think both Dave and I are afraid of it.  I’m mostly afraid of cleaning it, but I’m willing to try.  This is from Nostalgia Electronicss, which is funny because I have never felt nostalgic about the chocolate fountain, but maybe my kids will someday.

9. Optical Illusions by Al Seckel

It might just be me but I loved looking at optical illusions as a kid.  This book is very well designed with beautiful pages and of cool illusions.  It is a book that you can read together with a teen and maybe sneak in a snuggle as you view these mind tricks together.  Haven’t done that since Noah was 7 years old.  I also ordered this from Museum Tour.

10. Chocolate Milk Straws

If your husbands kids are like my husband kids I know these won’t last more than a few days, but nothing captures the holiday magic more than turning regular milk into chocolate milk.  I bought these in bulk at a store in RI and gave them to my kids and my little nieces and nephews.  The chocolate was yummy.  I can’t vouch for strawberry and whatever the  ”yellow” flavor is.  I think these are stocking stuffer worthy – but truthfully I never stuffed a stocking so I’ll let you be the judge.  I think I overpaid for these in the fancy Newport boutique.  You can get them online at munchkindesigns.com.

I will be so pleased if any of these gift suggestions gets you out of that brain freeze we all recognize this time of year.  When the umpteenth relative asks you what to get Suzie or Bobby for Christmas, pass along one of these ideas.  And let me know if you need any help eating Christmas cookies because I kinda have nothing to do until 2011.

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