I love these gifts!

I was doing a little catalogue shopping, and thought, “before I order this stuff, let me see if any of it is on Amazon, and a bit cheaper.”

Turns out, quite a few things I was looking to buy were sold through Amazon, and in every case cheaper than the catalogue prices.

This, I fell in love with: a clever bit of the auld sod for an Irish-mad friend who -like me- is married to a Man of Italy.

It is all “official” Irish dirt, with shamrocks you raise in a Belleek china bowl. My husband, who is constantly amused at how we Irish can get excited over dirt, rocks and peat, rolled his eyes and said of our friends, “I admit, it’s perfect for her. Get him some whiskey so he can deal with it.”

I of course huffed, “as though we Irish are so difficult to live with…” but the, I realized he had a point.

One of my pre-teen nieces, who needs to explore new avenues, is getting
this beading kit; I remember liking such a thing when I was about 12, and the colors are nice, although the monochromatic-themed ones are pretty, too.

Another niece, who is very smart but needs help to sit quietly, sometimes, will enjoy making this little quilt. It doesn’t look like much as shown, but I’ve seen another little girl knotting it and it was really very nice, and soft.

Another niece, who doesn’t think she can do this, will -I hope- learn that she can.

And my “big girl” niece, whom you might call Auntie Lillie’s namesake gets these adorable Lilypad Earrings, which I like so much I almost want them for myself.

They all get books, too, and there I find myself running into some trouble. The “Wiz of Oz” obsessed 4-year old is getting ruby slippers and this great pop-up book, and I know she’ll go nuts for them both. The Lilypad is going to be introduced to the most hilarious of the Georgette Heyer books, but I’m at a loss to know what books to select for 8 & 12 year-old girls with some reading disabilities. Any suggestions, out there? I could really use them!

I do have nephews, but they all want car-cleaning stuff (it’s an especially good gift for volunteer firefighters) or folding knives or camping gear and other boy things, like that. Not as much fun to shop for, in my book.

We actually have that emergency radio, btw, and it’s pretty good. It is the only radio that actually Limbaugh into the house, when I really want to listen.

For my nieces and nephs who commute to school,
I’m also adding Mystic Monk Travel Mugs, and everyone gets the soaps, cremes & lipbalms from the Summit Nuns, and they all get mad if I forget them. The Lilypad was not terribly amused when I recently gave her a copy of their book, Fast-Knit to Christ along with her Confirmation gift.

“Auntie, are you trying to get me to become a nun?” she asked in a deeply suspicious voice.

“Child, you wound me with your accusations,” I answered. “Why would I do that? I just thought you might be interested in seeing a life that is utterly different from yours.”

I am pretty sure I heard a snorting sound when I turned my back, but she’s been thumbing threw it, I know.


In case you’re wondering, none of my siblings or their kids knows about my blog, nor would they care enough to check it out, if they did know. My Irish friend is computer-phobic, but even if she were not, she wouldn’t be interested in the blog. Actually none of my friends or family read me. I think Elder Son’s Sweet Girlfriend peeks in once in a while, but she works full-time and goes to school full-time, straddles two states doing it, and is the busiest person I know, so I doubt she has time to check in, right now. And none of these gifts are for her, so there you go!

I’d be interested in hearing in book ideas for my nieces (Sherry has some interesting suggestions here) and in what you folks are choosing as gifts this year. Monastic consumables, (the coffee, the candies and cheese I wrote about here) will still be making up the bulk of our gift-giving, particularly with adults, hosts & hostesses and co-workers, but you know kids and teenagers, they want both the monastic candy and real presents, too!

UPDATE: I’ve been listening to my Pandora station while shopping; it’s mostly set tonight for Vince Guaraldi, Bill Evans, Duke Ellington and Miss Ella, but they slipped in a recording that -at first- sounded to me like a young Frank Sinatra, singing “All of Me.” Instead it turns out to be that young red-headed kid from a few seasons back, on American Idol – the one who sang swing and songs from the American songbook – John Stevens. Turns out he put up an album when he was 17, and it ain’t half bad for a kid that age. Give that voice -which sounds like bourbon on ice- a few years, and who knows?

Oops, I forgot the disclaimer: when you acccess Amazon through these links or the Amazon search box in the right-hand sidebar, you generate income for the site, for which I am profoundly grateful. Same for any of the Mystic Monk, but not for the other monastic products, all of which are great.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Peggy Coffey

    I am going to give the Irish dirt and shamrocks to my niece for Christmas. My brothers and I are first generation Americans with family still in Ireland and she lived there for a year doing an internship. She will love it.
    You have given me so many great ideas for family gift giving. Thank you so much.

  • http://www.semicolonblog.com Sherry
  • Rebecca

    My 9 & 11 year old daughters love the Percy Jackson books. The first one is “the Lightning Thief” (soon to be a major motion picture). They are about a boy, Perseus Jackson, who discovers that his presumed deceased father is really Poseidon. They specifically mention that Percy has dyslexia and ADHD, both of which turn out to be symptoms of his immortal heritage. They really are fun, full of Greek mythology, and, the second book esp. – “the Sea of Monsters” – incorporates much of the Odyssey.
    If these seem a bit too difficult reading level-wise, we have also enjoyed the “Princess School” books. I was enchanted when I read that Rapunzel’s last name is Arugula (it’s a lettuce joke, either you get it or you don’t). The books are full of cute touches like that as Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White and Rapunzel all attend Princess School together. The how to tell if a frog is really a prince class was great!
    Good luck and Happy Advent. (Merry Christmas seemed pre-mature. Is “Happy Advent” appropriate? “Prayerful Advent”? How about just Happy Thanksgiving!

    [Great-sounding suggestions, thanks; since these two are struggling with some learning disabilities, including dyslexia, the Percy Jackson books may really please them, and I know one of them will like the Princess books! -admin]

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    Actually none of my friends or family read me.

    Sure we do. So what if we are faceless, pseudonymous, and have never met in person?

  • Pingback: Semicolon » For the nieces and other girls in your life

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  • http://www.semicolonblog.com Sherry

    I linked to the wrong post. Try again here for a LIST of suggestions.

    [These make more sense, thanks -admin]

  • Maggie45

    Just an FYI, Barnes and Noble is having a 50% off sale on Criterion Collection DVDs. I’ve had my eye on several since checking them out from the local library, and knowing that I would love to watch several of them multiple times. However, I just could not justify to myself spending $29.99 or $39.99 for a DVD. Half of that, though, is do-able for me this one time as a special treat.

    I highly recommend “A Canterbury Tale”. It is just delightful, as is “I Know Where I’m Going!”.
    The extras double the enjoyment.

    The sale is online and in-store.

  • dry valleys

    Well, I shan’t be taking part in this “WAR ON CHRISTMAS” that we lefty types are supposedly engaging in.

    I bought 10 bottles of wine in August for people I don’t know well enough to choose personal gifts for :)

    I have got my brother a book called A Cook And His Vegetable Patch, being as he grows vegetables himself, & will get The Pioneer Woman’s book tomorrow. Perhaps Obama could read it if he wants to know of non-rude uses for the produce of his kitchen, eh?

    I figure that he might have already got the former & might not like the latter, so I hope I’ve covered all bases, though it might go hideously wrong.

    Generally personalised gifts all round or wine for lesser beings :) The only problem I have is with my granddad, as he doesn’t really have any interests & people always get him a few things like toffee or slippers, which I don’t think he likes much anyway.

    Also, as a member of the Woodland Trust (uninterruptedly since I was 14), I get various things in their shop. The giant set of cards showing various trees with snow on them that I got a few years ago means I never have to go to the trouble of buying them seperately! Them as appreciate nature will get books on walking in woods, about different kinds of tree, etc.

    I never exchange presents with my friends though- we are all either in rubbish jobs or on welfare, despite having mostly gone to university (it just somehow managed to happen that way- my brother says it is because that is the sort of person I choose to hang round with, though I enjoy their company so no complaints).

    So it doesn’t come up, though I may pass on a second-hand book every now & then.

    About this Irishry. Might I ask what your maiden name was? My mum was born a Ruszkowski because she is half Polish. Apart from that most of the names in my family are local to this particular district.

  • Becbeq

    I have a daughter turning 9 on Saturday. She reads all the time. Megan has really enjoyed the Little House on the Prairie books (9 book set) and the Great Brain series (5 books). The Great Brain was a favorite of mine at that age. If they are a little on the adventurous side My Side of the Mountain and Island of the Blue Dolphins were also hits.

  • Kelly (Scottsdale AZ)

    I gave both my youngest daughters the knot a quilt last year. They really didn’t take that long to do and they are very soft and my daughters still use them.

    BTW my daughters love the Little House on the Prairie series and the Nancy Drew series as well.

    I am also going to be giving that great cookbook you recommended as gifts this year as well.

  • expat

    How about a cookbook for your nieces? I still have the Betty Crocker I got from my aunt when I was 8 and I remember being impressed that it was a grown-up book. If you combine the book with a cooking date where you make something special for the family and they get lots of attention, you will have given her a life-long memory.

  • expat

    Got a little confused on my singulars and plurals. Sorry.

  • Ree

    What was the funny Georgette Heyer book? The link just takes you back to the Wizard of Oz pop-up

    [It's The Convenient Marriage, and thanks for letting me know, I'll fix the link! -admin]

  • Sue from Buffalo

    John Stevens is from my neck of the woods. I didn’t even know he came out with an album. (slaps hand to forehead). Now I have to go check it out. Thanks for the heads up. :)

  • Sue from Buffalo

    By the way, the price for the John Stevens CD is $18.98 but if you have an iTunes account, you can download it in MP3 format for $9.99. A great savings and you can always record it onto a blank CD for your collection.

  • Maggie45

    I’m hoping this doesn’t end up in the spam filter. I followed the instructions to a t at the link that you gave us. (smile) At least I hope I did.

    Instapundit’s Mom has a blog about kids’ books here

    [I didn't know Instapundit's mother ran that site! It's great! -admin]

  • Rosmerta

    That Oz popup book is the BEST. I have a copy and have given it as gifts twice. The cyclone actually WHIRLS AROUND and the Emerald City is gorgeous (and comes with a pair of green sunglasses like Dorothy wore!).

    But I never knew Georgette Heyer wrote it! ;D (check the link! If Anchoress says it, it must be so! L. Frank Baum was a woman, who knew…)

    I love those frog earrings and I’m going to buy them for my sister. Thanks for the idea.

    Books for 9- and 12-year-olds … Terry Pratchett has written some wonderful kids’ books:
    – The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents (at least one teacher I know of keeps class after class spellbound with this story)
    – The Tiffany Aching series (The Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky, and Wintersmith)

    These, like his adult books, are hilarious with a heart – full of fun, wisdom, and terrific characters.

  • JJhompson

    I’m giving my 10-yr old niece the 4th book in the series “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.” She has a little trouble with reading, but is getting better all the time. My sister takes her to the library often. I’m also giving her 3 of “The Borrowers” books. I loved them as a child. I always give the nephews and nieces books for Christmas and birthdays. Not much in Santa’s bag for the adults this year, though; however, I am ordering a gouda cheese for myself!

  • Roz Smith

    You may have a bad link. When I click on the link to the Georgette Heyer book I get the Oz book.

    As a girl I was horse crazy. Back then the books of Marguerite Henry were favorites, especially those illustrated by Wesley Dennis. I also remember those by another great equine illustrator, Sam Savitt, whose spare drawings really captured how horses move at rest, play and work. My neighbor who homeschools likes to read books aloud to the whole family. As her daughter is horse crazy, I recommended Mary O’Hara’s trilogy that begins with My Friend Flicka because I felt that everyone in the family would come away with something. When I read these books in my early teens I skipped over many sections because I found the parts not written in third person horse borrrrring. Then when I reread the books as an adult I found I liked best the parts I’d skipped as a child, the story of a loving family trying to make dreams come true in hard times. My neighbor found her daughter, age 11, was charmed at how each horse, dog and cat in the books has a unique personality. Her teenage son liked that the main character was a boy not unlike himself, one moment lost in daydreams, the next taking a risk to give his mother gray hair. As for the parents, Thunderhead is relevant today as the human part of the story revolves around financial hardship as the sternly proud disciplinarian father wrestles with his his self image when it becomes obvious he can’t support his family as the gentleman horse breeder of his dreams. Green Grass of Wyoming portrays the perverse impact of sustained hardship as the mother becomes mired in premonitions of impending doom even as long postponed dreams of begin to come true

  • Sal

    The “Hank the Cowdog” series appeals to both boys and girls. They are short, easy to read and very funny in a regional way. Erickson, the author, is a working cowboy, as well as a former theology student. We love them!

    In the process of ordering coffee, wreaths and bath products- looking forward to checking out the new gift links.

  • http://theornithophobe.blogspot.com/ Missi

    Re: gifts for the 8-12 year old girls. I just finished rereading some of my favorite “young adult” books. The great ones hold up over time. Have you ever read any of the Blossom Culp books by Richard Peck? I just checked amazon and they’re still in print. I’d recommend “The Ghost Belonged to Me” and “Ghosts I have Been” to start with. Here’s a quote to give you some idea what the books are like. “”There are girls in this town who pass their time up on their porches doing fancywork on embroidery hoops…They’re all as alike as gingerbread figures in skirts. I was never one of them. My name is Blossom Culp, and I’ve always lived by my wits.”

    I loved all of Richard Peck’s books growing up, but Blossom Culp still holds a special place in my heart.

  • Diane

    I second the DVD suggestion of “I Know Where I’m Going.” Delightful movie.

    For nieces: If they haven’t read them already, Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (book not the DVD) and A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle. Those are the ones both my kids and I remember best and most fondly.

  • http://sandpapers.wordpress.com sandpapers

    It’s hard (for me) to make specific book recommendations without knowing personalities and reading levels, but here are several that might be worth checking out for your nieces:

    For a Christmas book gift, the Lizbeth Zwerger– illustrated “Gift of the Magi” (O. Henry) is beautiful. Both the story and the watercolours are sweet and touching.

    “Anne of Green Gables” is a wonderful read-aloud–such a spirited and imaginative heroine– and the Megan Fallows (as Anne) film, for after the reading, is a joy.

    The twelve-year old might like Sammy Keyes mysteries (series) and the reading level is probably not too reachy. Kind of zany. If she is more of a romantic, “The Secret of the Ruby Ring”(MacGrory) comes to mind because it is set in Ireland (time travel, castles, and contrasts of life styles past and present), if she is on the Irish side of your family, but I think it is out of print. Maybe they have it in Ireland or in a little book shop somewhere!

    Animal lovers might like “Black Beauty” (Sewell), “Lad: A Dog” (Terhune), or one of the James Herriot story collections (and BBC television series based on his stories).

    I second Little House and Ramona books for eight year old girls–it’s nice to have a series when you fall in love with characters. There is also a beautiful Laura Ingalls Wilder Scrapbook in hardcover for hardcore “Little House on the Prairie” fans.

  • Isabelle

    My eldest daughter is dyslexic and her first comment was make sure the books you choose have large text. (Not large print editions, exactly, but definitely not tiny type either.) I turned her into a voracious reader by starting with audio books. That helped us sidestep the problem of high intelligence/high interest with low reading level. Now she’s never without a few books on her iPod (I don’t think it’s ever had music on it) and at least one at her side. She’s 14 now and recommends Michael Buckley’s Sisters Grimm series, Nancy Springer’s books about Robin Hood’s daughter (Rowan Hood) or Sherlock Holmes little sister (Enola Holmes), and Half-Magic by Edward Eager. My 9 year old says those are okay recommendations and adds Beverly Cleary books for the younger niece, too.

    (And I have to say, The Talisman Ring gives Convenient Marriage a run for funniest Heyer.)

    [Thank you all for some really excellent book ideas for my nieces - I am truly grateful! -admin. (and yes, Talisman is pretty funny!) ]

  • Mimsy

    My daughter loved all the Edward Eager books, too. I highly recommend the Betsy-Tacy series, which you can examine here. I read them out loud to her when she was young; then she read them again and again when she was older. I’ve even reread them because they are so dear. Also, the daughter loved The Dancing Shoes by Noel Streatfeild and several others of his Shoe books. And don’t forget about the Five Little Peppers.