For stockings—and most nights of Hanukkah—I think most of us want small presents that seem useful or fun or (in the best of all possible worlds) both. These gifts fit the bill, from quirky Totoro socks and sushi erasers to laser measures and packable backpacks that smush down to the size of an iPhone. If you’re looking for that “one more little thing,” these are some fun options.
After a couple of fun but way-too-busy weekends, I am looking forward to a completely lazy couple of days off this weekend. I'm enjoying getting (literally) back on my feet, but I need a recharge.
around the web
Obviously I am going to get excited if J.K. Rowling decides to reveal details about other wizarding world schools. (I’m sure my letter just got lost in the owl post.)
Now I really want a custom library tailored to my own weirdly specific interests, don’t you?
I can never get enough of weird Edgar Allan Poe theories.(This time: time-traveling!)
This reimagining of the Doctors Who as American actresses of the same time isn’t new, but it’s new to me—and it’s awesome. (And now I want a Tina Fey Doctor SO BAD.)
in the magazine: We’re so excited about our fall class line-up! (And we’re taking class proposals.)
on the blog: Everything you need to prepare for the Great Backyard Bird Count this weekend.
on pinterest: I’d love to recreate this adorable fox sweater for my daughter.
Like practically everyone else in the reading world, I couldn’t resist picking up Frances Hardinge’s The Lie Tree, a story about a 19th century English girl who gets caught up in the era’s intellectual battle between evolutionary theory and traditional faith when she sets out to solve the murder of her priest/amateur archaeologist father. I had some nits to pick, particularly with the resolution, but this one’s totally worth reading.
I am completely obsessed with Plotted: A Literary Atlas. Get on the list for it at your library now if you haven't already—it’s gorgeous!
My son and I have been reading Sees Behind Trees as part of our Native American study, and it’s one of the first books that he’s gotten completely caught up in. I love that he wants “one more chapter” every time.
I have a strange love of housekeeping books (strange because I do not have a love for actual housekeeping), and Erica Strauss’s The Hands-On Home: A Seasonal Guide to Cooking, Preserving & Natural Homekeeping is my new favorite. (My old favorite is the great Home Comforts, in case you wondered.)
My daughter is so inspired by these anime-ed Harry Potter characters that she’s been anime-ing versions of all her favorite literary characters, from Daphne Grimm to Heidi. (They are pretty adorable, though, aren’t they?)
I’ve been recycling some of our old art projects into notepads with the good scissors and some padding compound, and I’m kind of addicted. I think I’m going to make my daughter’s lab sheets into a pad so that she can just tear them off, and I’ve already turned my weekly menu-planning printouts into a pad, too.(If you haven't used padding compound, which is basically the glue that sticks pages together to form a pad, you should try it—it is one of the easiest ways I know to feel productive and industrious without having to be productive or industrious.)
Now that I can hobble around, I am looking forward to (finally) seeing the Iris van Herpen exhibition at our local art museum.
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’Tis the season of giving, so we’ve rounded up
a wishlist of gifts for your homeschooling pleasure,
Some nerdy, some bookish, some just for the geeks—
Unwrap them in haste and enjoy at leisure.
7 Book Lovers' Editions
Who can resist a good book, especially when it’s a great book dressed up in a fancy new cover?
1 :: Virago Modern Classics have covers created by British textile designers like Cath Kidston.
2 :: The sleek, graphic covers of White’s Books Fine Editions add a modern edge to library shelves.
3 :: Illustrator Jessica Hische designed the dramatic capital letters for the covers of Penguin's Drop Caps editions.
4 :: Melville House’s Novella series reimagines some lesser-known literature with bold fonts and Pantone colors.
5 :: Dover Books’ Calla editions are based on classic novels’ original cover designs.
6 :: Penguin Classics Deluxe Editions feature gorgeously illustrated covers.
7 :: Penguin Clothbound Classics look like they belong on old-fashioned library shelves,
4 Journals for Making Memories
What better way to ensure you never forget those backyard volcanoes and home theater productions?
1 :: Bare Books are an ideal way to show off your best stories and poems.
2 :: The perfect antidote to a no good, very bad day, FU: The Journal to Destroy, Rant and Vent Without the Police Becoming Involved makes a handy vent space.
3 :: Poppin’s Soft-Cover Notebooks come in a wide range of colors, so it’s easy to find everybody’s favorite.
4 :: Every Day: A Five Year Memory Book is the perfect way to keep a record of your homeschool life without all the pressure of a serious journal.
5 Cool Building Sets
Think beyond the Lego with these nifty construction sets that will bring out your child's inner architect.
1 :: Uncle Goose's Periodic Table Building Blocks are a silly science addition to the building blocks box.
2 :: Kapla Construction planks look deceptively simple, but once you start building, the construction options are endless.
3 :: Brio Builder Activity Kits come with the usual building blocks, plus wrenches, pliers, and other tools to put them together.
4 :: You don't need to steal a TARDIS when you can build one. Doctor Who fans will appreciate this Character Building Tardis Console, complete with tiny Eleven, Amy, River, and Rory.)
5 :: You have to take shape and weight into account when building cities with Blockitecture's architecturally inspired building blocks.
4 Cool Subscriptions
Subscription boxes are the gifts that keep giving, delivering a regular infusion of fun to your mailbox long after the tinsel's been put away.
1 :: Kiwi Crate‘s monthly project boxes are ideal for younger creators.
2 :: Teens and crafty kids will appreciate the monthly project-making kits from For the Makers.
3 :: Art Snacks delivers shiny new art supplies, plus detailed instructions on how to use them.
4 :: Loot Crate brings you nerdy, geeky goodies inspired by video games and pop culture.
6 Science Stars
You don't have to be planning a career as a scientist to appreciate the creative fun of these science-minded activities.
1 :: With the Bigshot Camera Kit, kids can build their own hand-crank digital cameras.
2 :: Grow your own insect-eating plants with the Carnivorous Creatures LED Light Cube.
3 :: The Periodic Quest board game is as nerdy as it sounds—but it’s also delightfully fun to play.
4 :: A 3-D printer definitely isn’t cheap, but if you’re planning a big splurge, consider this idea-to-reality generator an investment in creative fun.
5 :: Hook the Prank Star Quick-Attach Microscope to your smartphone or tablet, and you've got an instant microscope ready for impromptu science studies.
6 :: The coolest thing about the Roominate build-it-yourself dollhouse construction kit is that it's totally wired—build it right, and all the switches and appliances will actually work.
5 Crafty Ideas
Give a kid a toy, and he's entertained for a day. Give him a project, and he just might discover a lifelong passion.
1 :: Instant Iron-Ons by Julia Rothschild makes it easy to customize your favorite clothes and accessories.
2 :: A Stop-Motion Animation Kit will inspire young filmmakers.
3 :: A Stitch the Stars calendar lets you review your constellations, practice your embroidery, and keep up with what day it is.
4 :: Remember how much fun you used to have making designs with your Spirograph set? Give your kids the same artistic inspiration with a set of their own.
5 :: Small-scale projects like this cute Mermaid Sew Kit by the Beansters are easy for kids (and newbie parents) to finish successfully.
4 Playful Decks
Never underestimate the fun potential of a deck of playing cards.
1 :: Marshall McLuhan’s Distant Early Warning playing cards shuffle the perfect mix of stinging satire and witty pop culture jokes.
2 :: MOMA’s Tim Burton playing cards are as delightfully whimsical as you’d expect.
3 :: The rules in EcoFlux change depending on what cards you’re holding and how many you have.
4: $1 from every purchase of these quirky, Theory-designed Animal Kingdom playing cards goes to the World Wildlife Fund, so you can feel like a do-gooder next time you deal a hand of gin rummy.
Instead of just talking about books, I thought I'd do a little round-up of all the things we've been loving in our homeschool life this past month. (Feel free to share yours in the comments!)
1 :: Cold weather makes me want to knit, and I've been churning out new hats for the whole family. We all have a new Ripley to keep our heads warm. (I love patterns like this, that are utterly simple but have a little twist that makes them seem more complicated than they are.)
3 :: This fall, my best friend and I both celebrated milestone birthdays, and we've been cheering each other up by making mixtapes with Dar Williams' "You're Aging Well" on them. Because, darn it, we are.
4 :: Much reading, of course, is happening. We read The Beasts of Clawstone Castle as our not-at-all-scary Halloween readaloud, and we're still working our way through The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn together. I'm putting together a creative nonfiction class for our homeschool group, so I've been reading a lot about writing, including Several Short Sentences About Writing, which I picked up when Patricia recommended it a few years ago and am just getting around to reading. We've also had a lot of fun putting together the skeletons from Excavate! Dinosaurs: Paper Toy Paleontology.
5 :: Do you know about DIY Scouts? We are kind of obsessed with it.
7 :: I've been stocking the freezer with heat-and-heat meals for the upcoming holiday crunch. (I actually like cooking, but some days, the prospect of making dinner makes me want to hide in the basement.) So we've been having easy-ish dinners, like quinoa-stuffed sweet potatoes (I often add bacon because, well, bacon) and baked avocado and egg with miso butter.
8 :: I am officially a rabid fan of bullet journals. I have never been able to find a calendar/planner that really worked for me, but I have been using the bullet journal method (with this little Moleskine because I buy them in bulk, but you could really use any notebook) for six months and can't believe how well it works with my life.
9 :: We are really enjoying using The Nature Connection: An Outdoor Workbook for Kids, Families, and Classrooms by Clare Walker Leslie. I am not a naturally outdoorsy kind of person, and the whole nature study thing sometimes feels overwhelming to me. I like the simple, practical suggestions this book has for studying nature with your kids, and I love that it's helped us make our nature journals a daily habit.
10 :: Of all the holiday gift-making I'm working on right now, I think this little cold-weather outfit by the fabulous Alicia Paulson is my favorite. So much cute!