Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Opening Christmas Presents

One of Zach's Favorites = Cookie Monster Letter Lunch Play Doh

Uncle Hugh's girlfriend, Isabel, helped with the Play Doh

This is the Little Tikes Workbench and will take some assembly

Friday, December 23, 2011

Wishing You Joy, Courage and Vision

Dear Friends,

I wish all of you a joyous holiday season and a blessed New Year. This holiday letter is being posted both at Marion Conway – Nonprofit Consultant and The Grandma Chronicles.

Especially as I am getting older, Christmas is a time of reflection for me.  It is a time to be thankful for all our blessings, for appreciating family and friends, and for sharing with others.  It all brings joy.  I have turned down the lights in my office, lit candles in the window and am playing Christmas Chant. It is my routine for writing this Holiday message.  I can feel the peace of Christmas as I let go of the busyiness of the day filled with grocery shopping and cooking for Christmas Eve and Day.

This year has again been filled with the joy of grandparenting.  Our grandson is now 2 1/2 years old and he brings new energy to our lives every day.  I enjoy writing about him at The Grandma Chronicles and “shouting out with joy” about all of our adventures together.  This year Zach helped bake Christmas cookies for the first time and he is already a pro – enjoying all the tasks from slicing cherries, breaking eggs, using the electric mixer and spooning cookies on the baking sheet.  My husband had the courage to let him use a knife with supervision and Zach had the courage to use the electric mixer by himself. These pictures show how he approached this all with thoughtfulness. I had a vision of him enjoying baking cookies with Grandma and experienced total joy at the way he jumped in.  In less than two weeks Zach begins pre-school and both he and my daughter Fran, will have to show some courage as they let go of each other.

This past year has been another difficult one for the nonprofit community. Funding continues to be a challenge while demand is strong.  2012 may be the time for nonprofits to take a serious look at their vision and how they can get where they want to be.  I have seen in the last few months a new interest in strategic planning.  I wish you success with your planning – keep it focused on your mission and realistic and also have the courage to try new things.  How nonprofits deliver services, how they build relationships with all their constituents, how they fundraise – it is all changing.  Just as families and businesses are changing how they deal with a changed economic climate, it is time for nonprofits to think beyond a “make it through” mentality and look at fundamental changes that may be in order. 

This year my consulting work expanded to include quite a bit of speaking and I found that I really enjoy it.  Need a speaker in 2012?  Let’s talk.  I worked at blogging at three blogs and hope to blog more often in 2012. I have lots of other goals for 2012 but I’ll write about that at a later date.

Last year I wished you all joy, pride and a spirit of action.  This year, I wish you joy, courage and vision.  It is time to look beyond the coming year and visualize your path to the future.  Have the courage to take some big steps.    

Grandparents, parents, nonprofit friends and the nonprofits you work for will be in my prayers as I attend services on Christmas Eve.

May You Have a Blessed and Joyous Holiday,


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Enjoying the Holiday Season with Grandchildren

Grandparents - Will you be babysitting during this holiday season?  Make the time something special for both you and your grandchildren.  Here are some ideas.

Holiday Craft Project
Christmas ornament featuring a picture of your grandchild.  If one of you is a photography buff and you print out your own picutres of various sizes this is super easy to do.  My husband has put two 2x3 pictures back to back in laminate.  A whole at top with a ribbon and we have beautiful tree ornaments.  You can also cutout felt shapes with a cutout for a picture.

Bake Cookies
I had a wonderful time baking Christmas cookies with my grandson.  Why not bake up a batch of cookies, put them in a holiday tin with a ribbon for you grandchild to give to parents on Christmas morning.

Holiday Performances, Music, Special Events
Whether it is a holiday sing along, a living nativity, the Nutcracker or the Radio City Music Hall Show there is nothing like attending something musical or "spectacular" to put both young and old in the holiday mood.  In our area the Turlte Back Zoo is featuring a "Holiday Lights Spectacular" with free admission every night until New Year's Eve.  Many museums have special children's programs and holiday exhibits.  The Newark Museum has special activities next week for families and the Ballantine House is decked out in traditional Holiday splendor.

Reading Holiday Books
There are wonderful Christmas books for children at various ages.  Reading about Christmas with a grandchild is an excellent way for them to grow to understand its true meaning and to share traditions across generations.

Especially if you have older grandchildren, this is an excellent tradition to begin.  Volunteer activities can be delivering presents collected for needy children, visiting elderly people in nursing homes and more.

Be Physical
If you're up to it how about ice skating or skiing or even taking a winter hike to enjoy nature at Christmas.

If you will have time alone with your grandchildren this season,  celebrate and find something special to do together.  It doesn't have to be costly but it may just become a new tradition.



Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas Cookie Baking Day – This Year with Zach

Yesterday was the annual Christmas Cookie Baking Day at our house and it was the first time that my grandson has participated. I really don’t bake much, but once a year I do bake cookies for Christmas. I make toll house cookies with a secret ingredient – maraschino cherries and its juice. This is  a recipe from my father’s family and I think of him and his family whenever I make these cookies. When my kids were small I also made sugar cut out cookies that we decorated and of, course, they were on the baking plan this year.  I had bought Christmas tree and star cookie cutters because I thought Zach would like both of them.  Fran dug out our old angel and snowman cookie cutters because they were her favorites.

Cookie baking day was always something that my kids loved and participated in. I still have the aprons I bought for them and Zach wore one of them when he helped yesterday. He is so cute that I can’t hold myself back from gushing about him.  Zach is 2 ½ and you can never be really sure if a 2 ½ year old will be as interested in something as you are, but he loved baking and in fact, he wanted to do all the jobs.

We have been talking about baking cookies for a month. When he got Elmo’s Merry Christmas book - it has a flap with cookie monster and cookies (duh) and I told him that he would bake cookies with me for Christmas. Since then, if you asked him what he and Grandma would do for Christmas he would tell you “Bake Cookies.”

My husband was the official recorder of the event, and except for this one that he is in, he took most of the pictures. Here is Zach hard at work in a variety of jobs.

One of Zach’s favorite activities is playing with play doh and cutting it with a plastic knife. When he arrived on Wednesday morning, the preparation work was already underway and he got to choose what he wanted to help with. First up – helping Pop chop cherries. I posted this picture on facebook yesterday and got some comments about the knife. Rest assured that my husband is super safety conscious and watched attentively during this task.

Next Zach was ready to help Grandma.  And I was more than ready to have his help.  He already knew how to break an egg like an expert because he does this when he helps Mommy make blueberry pancakes:

Zach wasn’t content to watch Grandma with the mixer, so first we held it together and then he mixed on his own.

Zach got to empty the bag of chocolate chips into the cookie mix:

Zach and Mommy (Fran) enjoyed putting the cookie dough on the baking trays together:

No pictures but Zach also helped Grandma cut out the sugar cookies and hand them over to Mommy to put on the baking tray.  He liked all four of the choices but I think the star was his favorite.  At this point he wanted to see Bob the Builder and the adults finished up the baking at an accelerated pace.

Cooking and baking are wonderful activities to do with a grandchild. And even very young ones will enjoy and learn from it. You learn about measuring and counting, using knives and an electric mixer carefully and safely. And you get to sample the cookies just minutes after they come out of the oven. Nothing beats that.

More than gifts, I really enjoy our holiday traditions. We have lots of them. As my children are adults and I have to share them with other families some of our traditions are being modified. I am glad that cookie baking with a child is a tradition being revived rather than modified.

Do you bake or cook with children? Please leave a comment and tell us about it.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Cookie Baking day

I'll post the fuill story - maybe tomorrow - but I could not wait to post these pictures of Zach on Cookie Baking Day.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Elmo’s Merry Christmas – A Flap Book for Young Children

I don’t remember my kids having flap books thirty years ago, but today they are very popular. My grandson, Zach, is two and a half and I’d say for about “half his life” flap books have been his favorites. They were a key way he learned his early words. Elmo’s Merry Christmas is a wonderful Christmas season flap book for young children. And the flaps demonstrate “actions” and not just things. Zach and I had quite a conversation as we went through the book.

The day it arrived, I opened the package when Zach was here not knowing what was in the package. As soon as he saw Elmo on the cover, he was immersed in it. It has over 60 flaps – sized from very large to very small. Each flap has a Sesame Street character involved in a winter or Christmas activity. Some of my and Zach’s favorites include: Murray putting the Christmas tree on top of the car, Abby and Big Bird ice skating, Bert with a birdhouse and bird, Mr. Hooper bringing hot chocolate out to carolers, the star going on the tree-----and our favorite – Cookie monster with a plate of cookies. Wednesday is cookie baking day at our house and Zach is looking forward to being part of that for the first time. I have his Christmas apron all ready – used by his Mom, Fran and Uncle Hugh many years ago. If you ask him what Grandma and he will do together for Christmas, he says “Bake cookies.”

We were babysitting last night and I finally took these pictures then. I couldn’t decide which to use so that’s why there is a bunch of them.

When my nephew visited with his family several weeks ago, Elmo’s Merry Christmas was on the coffee table, and one year old, Leela, soon saw it and began to flip through. Like Zach, she enjoyed the flaps and all the familiar characters.

Check back later in the week for my Cookie Baking Day report. I am so excited about it!

Be sure to look for this book when shopping – it will be a favorite with so many flaps and familiar characters or order today at Amazon – just a click away below.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Today Only - Melissa and Doug at 50% off at Amazon

This is Holiday Flurry Deals Week at and there is a  "Gold Box Deal of the Day" offer every day this week. Today the deal is 50% off selected Melissa and Doug toys.  There are some great buys and I've already taken advantage of this offer. Check it out.  There are many items included - many of their food items which are particulary popular.  I am getting the pizza one for my grandson and the birthday one as a gift.

**Special Amazon Toys GoldBox Daily Deals Leak** - Up to 50 Off Select Melissa and Doug Toys

Shop Amazon's Toys - Holiday Flurry Deals Week

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day

Today is Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day and many bookstores - especially small local ones - are featuring special events.  Of course, there will be storytelling but many more creative activities are planned.  The Watchung Booksellers, in Montclair, NJ near where I live will also be featuring a cookie decorating demonstration from Little Daisy Bake Shop and giveaways.

Visit the Take Your Child to a Bookstore website and find a participating one near you.

Here are a  few of my favorites that you might want to check out while you are there.

Of Thee I Sing - A Letter to my Daughters by Barack Obama features profiles of thirteen great Americans.  This is a beautiful book that should be in every middle age child's home library.  See my full review here.

Elmo's Merry Christmas - For younger children this holiday book is lots of fun.  It features over 60 flaps with Sesame Street characters involved in ice skating, a snowball fight, and trimming the tree.  My grandson loves it.

One Hen - How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference by Katie Smith Milway, illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes(a favorite of mine) - This beautifully illustrated book inspired by true events tells the story of Kojo a small boy from Ghana who turns a small loan into a thriving farm for many and is able to return to school. This book is perfect for this time of year - inspire a child with the spirit of giving.

Enjoy the day and if you don't find these in your local bookstores, check them out here by clicking onto Amazon below.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

In This Season of Thanksgiving Sesame Street Introduces Lily and Modern Family’s Nolan Gould discusses The Heart of a True Volunteer

Sesame Street does not only teach kids about letters and numbers. It has always been about helping children learn about life and being a good person.

There is always something new joining the familiar and this keeps it both enduring and fresh – capturing our hearts and imagination.

Now Sesame Street has a new initiative, Growing Hope Against Hunger, and has introduced a new character – Lily – a child whose family is insecure about food. This can be a difficult subject to introduce to young children but Sesame Street has done this in a very sensitive way. And just as children of different cultural backgrounds should see themselves when watching TV so should children whose family may live with financial insecurity every day. Lily was introduced in a PBS prime time special this Fall and you can see the hour long special here. The special, hosted by Brad Paisley and Kimberly Williams Paisley, is an excellent introduction for young children to the larger world around them.

Last week Nolan Gould who plays Luke Dunphy (the cute kid) on Modern Family joined the muppet, Murray, at the Los Angeles Food Bank and learns what it means to be a “volunteer.” It is never too SOON to learn about volunteering.

Click here to watch this very short video with Nolan and Murray volunteering.

My grandson is only two and a half but he enjoys watching short videos with his grandmother. We watched this one together this afternoon and he was very intent as he wanted to see it several times. I explained that the word volunteer means to help others and that's what Murray and Nolan were doing. And as he gets older we’ll expand that understanding.

There are many things that I look forward to doing with Zach. Volunteering is on my list. It has been an important part of my life and I hope it will be for him too.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Grandma Marion’s Easy Thanksgiving Recipes - Sides Featuring Fresh Ingredients

Still deciding about your Thanksgiving menu or planning a festive meal over the weekend? I’m taking a break from cooking and thought that I would share these two recipes with you. Both are great vegetarian dishes and share some of the same ingredients and so preparation can be done at the same time. Both dishes are old fashioned homade holiday favorites – but they are healthy with my easy updated recipes. The pictures were taken this morning before baking so they are not the final dishes.

Green Bean Casserole
What is Thanksgiving without a green bean casserole. This is one with all fresh ingredients – no soup – that is festive in color and flavor.

2 lbs. green beans
1 large onion
1 large green pepper
2 medium slicing tomatoes
Italian bread crumbs
2 tbs butter
Cut off ends of green beans and if long cut in half. Dice the onion and green pepper. The the tomato in half and prepare very thin slices of tomato. Although you can dice or cut the tomato in smaller pieces, these thin sliced tomatoes add to the luxury of this dish. Steam the green beans for about 4 minutes. They should still have their rich green color and be partially cooked.

Butter your casserole pan – bottom and sides. I use this oval corning ware. It’s a go to casserole dish if there ever was one. Put a layer of beans on bottom of pan. Add a layer of the thin sliced tomatoes across the top of the beans. Sprinkle a layer of diced onions and diced peppers. Sprinkle with a thin layer of Italian bread crumbs. Drizzle with some melted butter.

Repeat with one or two layers. You can make this up to this point ahead and refrigerate if you have other things to prepare.

Bake covered in a 350 oven – 20 minutes covered and then 10 minutes uncovered.

This is a healthy dish made with fresh ingredients. It is simple to make but looks and tastes right for the holidays.

This gets made separate from the turkey and so you can make it with a ham or whatever roast you want. It also is completely vegetarian and features fresh ingredients. it will be on everyone’s plate – for seconds and take home portions too.

I package Pepperidge Farm cubed Country Style stuffing
2 large onions
1 large green pepper
3 stalks of celery
1 lb mushrooms
6 tbs butter
2 cups water

Dice the onions, green pepper celery and mushrooms. Melt butter in large frying pan. Saute onions and green pepper but do not brown. Add celery half way through. Add mush rooms and complete sauté. Add the stuffing and mix well. Add the water – icup right away and then gradually until well mixed – well but not drenched or soggy.

Arrange in a sauté pan or casserole dish. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

These are two good dishes to make at the same time. You can dice and slice the fresh ingredients the day before – my husband did all of that yesterday – wow he is wonderful - and preparation on the day of cooking does not take that long. They also can be put in the oven at the same time – after the turkey is taken out and cooling.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving and let us kow if you tried these recipes or have your own favorites to share.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Playskool Transformers Rescue Bots for Preschoolers - A Winner

When my son was elementary school age transformers were very popular and we had our share of them. It really was a cool idea for a toy and boys loved them. My grandson, Zach, is two years old so I thought I would have to wait 4-5 years before transformers were popular and suitable. But now Playskool has adapted them for preschoolers with its PLAYSKOOL HEROES product line and they can experience the adventure of big kid action figures. Based on favorite characters from the TRANSFORMERS, MARVEL and STAR WARS™ universes, the figures, vehicles and playsets are sized right and contain simple features that are easy for preschoolers to master.

I keep the toys that I have for product reviews on a counter in my home office, and Zach has learned that there can be some pretty interesting treasures there. He is too small to reach the counter but he will ask to be held so that he can look over the cache. I had two of these Transformer Rescue Bots for review and they caught his eye and then--- the request --- or is it a command --- “open.” I don’t always acquiesce to these “requests” but Zach seemed to be intrigued and so the Playskool Rescue Bot version of Optimus Prime was opened. 
Zach was intrigued by the way the figure “transformed” from a rescue hero to a vehicle and I enjoyed watching his motor skills at work as he mastered changing it back and forth. He decided by himself that it was meant to be a fireman and took out this small fire truck to play with it. Later when his father visited – he was a BIG Transformer fan - he realized right away that it was Optimus Prime – and he seemed to enjoy playing with it too.

So what’s the story here?  If you have a preschooler with a Dad who loved Transformers – this will be something that they both enjoy playing with together. They are reasonably priced at $11.99 each and they are available everywhere Playskool toys are sold.

If you have a bigger budget, there is the Transformers Rescue Bots Fire Station Prime Playset where the fire station turns into Optimus Prime’s face with a full featured firehouse and then can fold into a carrying case for the playset and transformers. Perfect for carrying to your grandparent’s house to play with them.

This is the best toy that I have seen directed at the pre-school boy market. It fosters healthy, imaginative play, learning about how things work and motor skill development. It’s a winner. Check it out at Amazon at a link provided below.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Our Multi-Generational Family Get Together – What a Treat!

Last week my husband’s sister and her husband, Eileen and Ed, visited New Jersey from Florida to celebrate the first birthday of their twin granddaughters. Jay and Sean are the proud – and busy – parents of Ava and Leela. On Thursday they all piled into their SUV and drove an hour to our house. My daughter, Fran came to visit also with my 2 ½ year old grandson. Rounding out the crowd was my husband’s other sister, Clare. It isn’t even Thanksgiving yet and we had a large family get together.

It was the first time that the young cousins were meeting each other and they hit it off right away. Because our grandson lives nearby and visits often we are very set up for young children. It was a nice day so we started the visit outdoors.

Zach had been here awhile so he had already taken a bunch of outdoor toys out of the garage. What was so wonderful about this visit was that the kids really enjoyed themselves and Zach was so gracious sharing with his younger cousins.

The clincher is that these two big Little Tikes toys were hand me downs from Clare’s daughter, Clare’s twin boys – John and Michael. It was such a pleasure to see the youngest generation begin to bond as a family.

Here are all three kids enjoying the Little Tikes Classic Alligator Teeter Totter and Zach was happy to show off his power wheels truck to Ava. We haven’t “powered this up” yet as Zach is too young for that but we push it out of the garage and he enjoys sitting in it, hitting the horn and putting things in the back – whether it is an empty box or a bag of grass seed he picked up in the garage.
Ava enjoyed the swing

Zach was very gracious sharing his Little Tikes Cozy Coupe with Leela and Ava.

Finally we headed inside for snacks and more play in the living room. Leela had a great time with the Fisher price Little People garage and the Thomas Early Engineers railroad. She clearly will be interested in a wide range of toys and not just traditional toys for girls. Leela then recognized Elmo in the Elmo’s Christmas Flap Book that I’ll be reviewing soon. Like Zach – she loved the flaps.

A visit to our house is never complete without a duet - or quartet on the piano.

We were 8 adults and 3 young children –  from 3 generations - and we all had a great time.Young children have a way of making that weave happen in such a joyful way. As we approach Thanksgiving I am so grateful for family and this year I am particularly grateful for our family’s newest generation.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Halloween – Zach Sports a Squirrel Costume

Halloween was delayed in our area because of the freak snowstorm two days earlier. Since the trees were still full of leaves and we had a foot of wet snow, trees and power lines were downed everywhere. The towns in our area as a group decided to move celebrating Halloween to Friday because it just wasn’t safe on Monday for children to be out walking around.

Kids seemed to fine with this plan - trick or treating with vigor on Friday. Our neighborhood always gets lots of trick or treaters and this year we again had a big crowd.

Zach looked adorable in this squirrel costume. This is a home made creation thought up and made by my daughter, Fran, and my husband, Hugh. The starting base was a plain gray sweat suit which can now be worn all winter. Fran and I went to the craft store, Michael’s, and she bought this cotton mesh and my husband painted it with a blend of white and brown tempura paint. He applied several coats in streaks until he was satisfied that it had the proper squirrel look. He sewed grey felt ears to a grey sock cap and Fran topped off the costume with face painting the whiskers and nose. Zach was the cutest squirrel I ever saw!  And yes, he loves nuts!

Zach is only two years old but he got to trick or treat in three neighborhoods. First, he visited neighbors at the condo complex where he lives. They don’t get many trick or treaters but they were prepared for Zach and everyone he visited had a treat for him. Next he visited his other grandparents to show off his costume and delight their neighbors. By the time he got to our neighborhood he was an old pro at trick or treating and had a full plastic pumpkin with his treats.  But he had his last round visiting our neighbors.  What fun!

I snapped these pictures at the end of all this. For the next hour Zach played and went with me or his Mom to greet the Trick or Treaters.  He really enjoyed having so many kids come to the house in costume. I always offer small containers of play doh to young children and this is a super hit. The kids always leave my porch holding it up to show parents saying “I got play doh.” Parents love it too – something that isn’t candy.  Zach also likes these litte containers of play doh - I highly recommend them for Halloween.

Zach had two pieces of candy and wanted another treat from his loot but his Mom was worried about sugar overload. His neighbor, Linda had given him two bananas and so his Mom offered him a banana from his pumpkin. Good news. A banana satisfied the squirrel’s desire for one of his treats.

Although I always have plenty of Hershey chocolate bars, I have found that lollipops are the favorite treat for many kids. That’s right – lollipops. I offer the good ones – Charms, tootsie roll and blow pops and they disappeared as quickly as I could add them to the basket.  Lollipops provide some variety to the most common chocolate candy. As Zach studied what kids were choosing, he, of course, wanted a lollipop and so the last candy treat of the night was a lollipop from Grandma.

I must say that my daughter and husband make a great Halloween costume team.  Last year's "pile of Leaves" costume was a major hit.  I can’t wait to see what they come up with next year.  Here's the link to last year's Halloween report.

How "A Pile of Leaves" Had a Happy Halloween and Reminds Me of a "Fairy Godmother"


Monday, November 7, 2011

Cabbage Patch Dolls and National Adoption Awareness Month Working Together

November is National Adoption Awareness month and JAKKS Pacific - maker of the Cabbage Patch dolls - is sponsoring a 10-day online auction on eBay of celebrity lookalike Cabbage Patch Kids.

Celebrities including Steven Tyler, Al Roker, Katherine Heigl, Kristin Chenoweth and Raven Symone are recreated as unique, one-of-a kind Cabbage Patch Kids that will be auctioned on eBay with proceeds benefitting Children’s Action Network (CAN), a national adoption awareness organization dedicated to finding homes for children in the U.S. who are in foster care.

Distinctive features of the Celebrity ‘Kids include Steven Tyler’s rocker inspired outfit and mic stand; Al Roker’s signature glasses and tailored suit; Katherine Heigl’s favorite red carpet couture; Kristin Chenoweth’s royal blue ball gown; and Raven-Symoné’s trendy romper and blinged out platform heels. JAKKS Pacific worked closely with each celebrity to make sure their one-of-a-kind ‘Kid embodied their individual look and personality. Each Celebrity ‘Kid, will also come with its own autographed birth certificate.

If you are a fan of any of these celebrities and Cabbage Patch Kids this is a great opportunity to add a unique doll to your collection that you will love showing off – autograph and all. Visit and place your bid. The auction is open November 7-17. That’s 10 days only – so don’t delay.

All proceeds of the Steven Tyler, Al Roker, and Raven Symone Celebrity ‘Kids will benefit Children’s Action Network, while Kristin Chenoweth and Katherine Heigl are donating 50 percent of funds to CAN and the other 50 percent to Maddie’s Corner and the Jason Debus Heigl Foundation, respectively.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Hey Grandparents – Smart Shopping for the Holidays

When my kids were little we went to ToysRUs and carted home everything we bought for them. Sometimes it was a challenge to get it in the back of the Reliant station wagon, but we always did. Well, I don’t have a station wagon anymore and I don’t have a SUV – I have a Ford Focus. I also am not as willing to cart home big bulky containers – whether or not they weigh a lot. My grandson, Zach, is 2 ½ years old so he is at the peak of things that come in big packages. But I have the modern day solution – shop online and have it delivered!

Many of the name brands have specials on sale with very good prices. Little Tikes has been having Friday four hour specials and I bought the tool workbench for Zach at a great price with this deal. If you plan to purchase something from a wish list – either your child’s idea of what your grandchild should have or what he/she wants, don’t go crazy trying to figure out how ToysRUs is organized today. That’s a project in itself. Go to, enter the name – even something close and 99.9% of the time it comes up. If you want to be an extra smart shopper, check out the price at and  because who has the best price can vary quite a bit. Don’t forget to make sure you know what the shipping charge will be because that can change the bottom line best price. Amazon and ToysRUs also have product reviews. If you click on the reviews you’ll see what people who have bought the product have to say – this can help you choose a toy wisely.  I use this feature all the time..

My favorite place to shop online is It is not just for books anymore. I guess I was used to buying books there first, but I have bought everything at this site including a special hairbrush, a new rechargeable battery for my computer and a camera. So I guess it was natural to check it out for toys too.  And I'm glad I did.

When I do product reviews I frequently put a link to – but not if the price is too high. Sometimes I come back later and add the link – I did that with the cabbage patch kids when the price came down. I have also added the link to the Amazon Holiday Toy List and Countdown to Black Friday in the sidebar of this blog - you may want to check those out if you don’t get a list to work from and you are left up to your own devices to figure out what to give for holiday gifts.

In my family we have a tradition. On Thanksgiving weekend, everyone has their list of books, CDs and DVDs that they want for Christmas. We gather round the computer and check them out and I do a good bit of my holiday shopping right there. Often, there are specials on these items and so it is a good time to buy. Its convenient and everyone get what they really want instead of my idea of what they would like.

Anyway, if you haven’t shopped ofr grandkids this way, consider it. It really works for me.  Cehck to sidebar or below  for the link to Amazon's holiday toys list.

Leave a comment and let us know your favorite way to do holiday shopping.


Shop Amazon's Holiday Toy List

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Trash Pack Collectibles and Giveaway – This Is SOOOO Much Fun

Something for the boys and a giveaway too. One of my favorite new toys this season is Trash Pack. That’s right – Trash Pack. Last week I wrote about the new Cabbage Patch Kids dolls and that prompted many of you to share your memories about them. I like to write about toys that grandparents remember and are new again. But this week I’m mixing it up with something that is completely new – and mainly for the boys. The girls will enjoy this one too.

A few weeks ago I featured Trash Pack in my A Time to Play Showcase roundup and now here is my full product review and giveaway. One of the trends I noticed for this year is that lots of collectibles are being featured. Kids have always loved collecting things - playing with them, showing them off and trading with friends. In my generation it was baseball cards and my son had cases full of ninga turtles.

At  A Time to Play one display that everyone stopped at, picked up stuff to look at, took pictures of and smiled at was Trash Pack. The children who were there - boys and girls - were all interested in playing with the trashies – they are sooo cute. Trash Pack is eye catching and keeps your attention with the big variety of little trashies. The trashies are squishy and stretchable and fun to play with.

The Trash Can is a collectible case with layers of little compartments that hold a single small trash can with a little “trashie” in each one. There are over a hundred different trashies each with a name more gross than the next. There are Mucky Maggot, Rankenstein, Smelly Sock, and Stinky Cheese to name a few. I know it sounds awful but they are actually very cute. The playsets are under $20 and you can buy a small two pack for $2.99. I haven’t seen another toy with these price points anywhere near as much fun as this one.

Like any good collectible item, trashies have different degrees of rarity. There are five different types – common, rare, ultra rare, glow in the dark and limited edition. I guess the limited edition would be like getting a Yankee team card in your bubble gum pack that you paid a nickel for in 1956. Someone would have to have a Yogi Berra, Roger Maris, Elston Howard or Mickey Mantle to trade to let go of that one – (I had all of them.)
I like the idea of collectible sets for grandparents who like to bring a small gift when they visit or their grandchildren visit them. A child can bring their collection to show off or play with when they visit and you can always have the perfect, low cost, and appreciated small gift for them. The two pack of trashies will make great stocking stuffers – for any age. And woo hoo – this is a quiet toy! No electronics and no noise!

Trash Pack items are available in stores exclusively at ToyRUs. They are also available at Amazon and you can click below to go directly to Amazon.

My grandson, Zach, is two years old. I have had my sample to review on the counter in my office and he reaches up for it and then holds it in both hands up to me and says to me “Garbage can - Open it up.” But it is labeled 5 and up so Mommy said no for right now. He really doesn’t put things in his mouth and Grandma thinks he will enjoy the trashies but for now I will have to put it out of the way. He’ll be getting something else from Grandma’s pile -  a Transformer Rescue Bot.  Mommy said he could have that - Check back for that review soon.

Giveaway Details

You can have two chances to win:
1. Leave a comment here on my blog. You can send me your email address when you enter – or leave it in your post. .

2. Follow The Grandma Chronicles on Facebook

Deadline to enter: October 25, 2011 at midnight. The winner will be selected using

Update:  Congratulations Susan on winning The Trash Pack.  I'm sure that your family will have a great time with this oh so cool set.

Full Disclosure: I received a sample Trash Pack. This review is completely my own opinion.

I'll be writing product reviews over the next couple of months, so check back for more opportunities and ideas for great holiday gifts.