Tag Archives: shopping

Tales from My Christmas List

I hate buying gifts just to buy them.

I like when gifts have a meaning and a purpose.  I like when they fit the personality of the receiver.  I love when their potential impact is so much more than a casual glance on Christmas morning during the rush of wrapping paper ripping.

Dear Hubby and I braved the mall on Saturday and found some good deals on clothes for the kids on our list.  But my real shopping success came on Sunday when I found the neatest site EVER online.


I officially swear by it for finding unique gifts.  It’s like having your own personal shopper pointing you in all the right directions.  And much to my delight, many of the shops practice green giving with tons of recycled and handmade gifts that are as beautiful as they are functional.

So what did I get?

My Top 2011 Picks

  • Through Heifer International, my kids will learn that not all gifts are created equally.  If you have expendable cash–even a teeny bit–or your annual gift giving has hit a wall and you find yourself buying simply to buy, please consider this fabulous organization which strives to educate, not just donate.  The money we would typically spend on my extended family will go toward the purchase of animals.  Thanks, Mom, for this great idea.
  • National Geographic Magazine.  Whether you are an itty bitty or a moldy oldy, you can appreciate the beautiful pictures and the enlightening stories found within the covers of a variety of National Geographic choices.  And it’s cheap.  Seriously.  A year subscription to one of the most gorgeous and educational magazines out there is $15.   And you can order online. 
  • Step Into Reading books for beginners.  These amazing books cater to any literary taste and reading ability.  Nonfic is hugely popular with boys (sharks, bugs, whales, dinos) while the classic Biscuit books and Amelia Bedelia are great choices for girls.  And the best thing?  When you shop at Barnes and Noble, you can quickly add a Step Into Reading book to your purchase which then gets donated to local children in need.  How cool is that?  During the buying frenzy, you won’t even notice the missing $3.00, yet the child receiving a brand new book of their own will be eternally thankful for your generosity.
  • Teen Pics are a bit trickier, but I’ll share my purchases with you.  Both my big kids are rounding out trilogies this season or starting new ones based on beloved authors.  Dear Daughter: Beautiful Chaos by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, as well as Silence by Becca Fitzpatrick.  Eldest: The Dragon Heir by Cinda Williams Chima.  Next up for him, the first novel in the Seven Realms series, also by Chima.
  • And if I haven’t mentioned it enough, Want to Go Private by Sarah Darer Littman is the must have book for teens this season.  If you’ve never heard of it, check out my #WTGV tab for reviews and your chance to win a free copy.  Think it’s only for girls?  Think again.  I’ve had several boy readers tell me this was a great book and that everyone should read it.  “Everyone,” was the recommendation from a non-reader who just got snookered into it because I bug him so much about reading.  He finished it in three days.
  • Discovery Channel dot com is AWESOME for educational toys that challenge little brains while keeping them so busy they don’t realize they are learning.  Lots o’ great gifts were found there for the nieces and nephews.   Additionally, puzzles are known for their role in honing fine motor manipulation and practicing preliteracy skills.  Melissa and Doug (brand of nicely crafted wooden toys) make fabulous puzzles for tiny fingers while places like Discovery Channel and National Geographic have amazing educational puzzles for expanding minds.
  • Lastly, JC Penney’s online turned out to be a rockin’ place for finding unheard of deals.  For the little Rembrandt in the family, we found a fully loaded art desk for a fraction of the price.

Another online site I found, I liked, but didn’t buy from was Build A Dream Playhouse.  This ground floor business (started by a daddy and his posse of tiny testers) provides unique cardboard creations for hours of imaginative play.  Castles, snack shops, vehicles and more are all a click away.

All in all, I’m much more satisfied this year with our Christmas purchases than I usually am.

How goes your Christmas battle?  Are you finished or just getting started with your shopping?    Please share any fun, unique sites with the rest of us, as well as any gift buying tips you may have for those less jolly about commercialized Christmas giving.


Shopping for Agents Online

I’ve been purchasing a few needed items for my preschool.  In the process, I discovered the beauty of online shopping.  I know, everyone else has been doing it for years.  But I’m always a little late to the technological game.  Anyway…

Price check on website three, please.

It’s super easy to shop around for a great deal.  When DH and I purchased patio furniture three summers ago, we drove to seven different stores to compare product and price.  Gas+time=frustration.  Times SEVEN.

E-pinions and product reviews are dandy.  I love getting this feedback from other consumers.  Short of asking everyone in the store if they have bought a Tiny Tot Tinker Trike and what they think about it, I have no way of knowing how good the Tinker Trike might be.  Enter online reviews and you know instantly that seven out of ten people hated the Tinker Trike.  In which case, I would buy the five-star TuffStuff Trike-o-rama

The experience is instantly gratifying.  I like.  I click.  I pay.  Then I move on to the next item on my list.  Like painting.  If I were on the road, chasing down good deals, I wouldn’t be painting the inside of kitchen cupboards and sewing puppet theater curtains.  I would be wasting time and gas and gaining a new level of frustration.

Online shopping is easy–for playground equipment and agents.

While I have only really entered the online age about two years ago, I have learned a few things along the way. 

What did I learn?

  1. The internet is a great place to do comparison shopping.  By the time books on the writing biz come out, they are outdated.  Agents and editors have swapped companies, started their own business or dropped out of the game altogether.  Relying solely on printed info is a bit like traveling to seven different stores and can keep you one step behind the competition.  Websites and blogs are amazing places to glean info about your potential victims and their tastes. 
  2.  Be sure to check out the epinions of your future agent or editor.  This can safeguard you from inadvertently purchasing the Tinker Trike instead of the Trik-o-rama.  Preditors and Editors is a great resource, as are blogs and articles found during an engine search.  It’s a bit voyeuristic, but if done well, it can help you pinpoint agents and editors with similar literary tastes, ethics and personalities.
  3. Online querying is more instant than microwave oatmeal.  We write.  We click send.  I could no longer use the excuse of not having stamps or the fact that our post office was never open when I was ready.  Write and click.  This method forces us to find new excuses for our procrastination habit while freeing up oodles of time to actually write and edit our manuscripts.  Double bonus.

In a nutshell, we write in a time of relative ease.  Free information is at our fingertips and should make targeted queries the rule, rather than the exception.  E-querying is less time-consuming and should allow us more time to hone our craft.  Our quality and quantity of writing should increase. 

But there is a downside to shopping in our jammies with bed head.  The casualness of this process can become so comfortable we forget to put our best foot forward.  And that’s a mistake we can ill-afford to make.

How has online shopping changed your writing life?  Have you ever encountered an agent/editor you loved on paper, only to discover the blogosphere is not as pleased with him/her as you would like?  Do you feel that online information can help target an agent/editor with similar tastes or is the info still too broad to make a better match than a blanket submission approach?