Archive for the ‘Help! I Need a Gift Idea’ Category

Heifer International: A Holiday Gift That Can Save a Life

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

Every year, our family looks forward to getting Heifer International's
catalog in the mail and choosing a gift of shares of a sheep, shares of a pig, etc. that can make a
difference in the lives of families living in poverty around the world. 

But New Jersey-based writer Melody Moser, who blogs over at Journeys Near and Far, did more than just send a check. She visited Heifer Ranch in Arkansas, and learned all about the organization and the cool stuff they're doing.

Check out her post, share it with your kids and then visit Heifer International and make a donation. (You can also learn more by watching this three-minute video.) Is there any better way to celebrate the holidays than by helping those who are truly in need?

Make Your Child The Star Of His Own Bedroom With Larger-Than-Life Prints

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

Hey, all you parents of aspiring ballerinas, black belts and baseball heroes — have I got a cool holiday-gift idea for you.

You know how you take endless photos of your kids in all sorts of action poses? Just think how much fun it will be to decorate their bedroom walls with life-size (or bigger) cutouts of themselves. is an online service that allows talented designers — and everyday customers like you and me — to easily submit their photographs and designs online.

They create the design as a larger-than-life print on their reusable and removable material (up to 7 ft. tall!). Simply upload your image, answer a few quick questions, and your print will be shipped in 72 hours. There are three sizes available starting at $99.

LTLprints can be used in a variety of ways. Take a picture of your child playing sports or an instrument. Create a print showing your child's favorite athlete or celebrity. Family-fun pictures are great, too. How about a photo of your kid playing at the beach, looking over the Grand Canyon or riding her first pony?

The really cool part is that you can reposition or remove the prints without hurting your walls. When your child outgrows a particular print, there's no need to repaint, like you would have to do with a custom-painted wall.

Since you'd probably like to see how easy it is to remove and reposition the prints (and to see how cool they look), company founder Kendall Schoenrock created a short video just for Parent Talk Today readers to demonstrate how it works. Questions? Just give him a call at 800-672-6741.

Here’s a Fabulous (and Personal!) Holiday Gift Idea

Monday, December 1st, 2008

What parent doesn't love the idea of commissioning a painting of their child? Something to enjoy at home, give as a gift to grandparents, and keep forever as a family treasure…

But there's the cost. And in financial times like these, when we're all watching our holiday spending, this sort of gift might seem out of reach. (And those less-expensive, but tacky-looking, digital "paintings" that are available online don't quite cut it.)

But artist Dare Johnson Wenzler of Lincoln Park Studio has created a unique art form that results in a painting that will be adored by you and your loved ones. Take a look at the painting Dare created from a photo of my son, Matt, and our dog, Charlie. It is hanging in our living room and I just love it.

Lincoln Park Studio is Dare (painter) and Mark (photographer)
Wenzler. They are a husband-and-wife team and they live with their young
daughter in Washington D.C.’s historic Capitol Hill neighborhood.

Dare received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Southern Methodist
University and did graduate work in graphic design at Texas
A&M - Commerce. Her work is exhibited at galleries and other venues
throughout the D.C. metro area.

The paintings start with a photograph that she crops and adjusts
and then transfers to stretched canvas. The canvas is then overpainted/overdrawn by hand, in layers.

A variety of media is used, including
digital, acrylic paint, oil stick, oil pastels, dry pastel,
carbon pencil and colored pencil. The finished painting is coated with a
UV-resistant spray varnish.

Pricing depends on painting sizes, which are customized based on
the image a customer sends and are not necessarily standard. To give
you an idea of the cost, an 11 x 14 painting is $110, a 20 x 26 is $210, and a 30 x 40
is $440. Shipping charges are additional.

To get started, the client e-mails one or more images. Dare makes a recommendation regarding which one(s)
would be best to use. She'll explain how she would digitally alter the image. (Usually this just
involves cropp
ing, but she's been known to lighten/darken an
image or to pull objects out of a photo, etc.) She'll give size and
pricing options.
The painting takes about two weeks to complete.

“The paintings are like the photograph they are based
off of in that they capture a moment in time," says Dare. "But the
they're warmer, hazier,
lovelier and somehow more 'real' than the photo. The paintings are more
like how you might have experienced the moment if you'd been there. and
they are also more like the way you might remember the moment

These portraits are "an opportunity for 'regular' people to
commission a painted portrait without spending a fortune," says Dare. "The portraits
are normally large, 2' x 3' and up, and make quite showstopping
paintings for just a few hundred dollars.”

If you'd like to commission a painting for the holidays, the deadline is Dec. 8. For Valentine's Day, the deadline is Jan. 26.

And here's a special offer for Parent Talk Today readers only: Mention that you saw this post, and you'll receive a 10% discount on your portrait.

For more information and to contact Dare, visit Lincoln Park Studio.


Get Creative When Giving Teens Gift Money

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

Piggy bank from German bank HASPA, around 1970.Denise Witmer, over at Teens, has some terrific advice for parents and relatives who want to give a teen money for the holidays. (And what teen doesn't love the idea of receiving a little mad money?)

Here are a few of Witmer's suggestions:

  • Put the money in a new wallet and wrap the wallet.
  • Stick the money in a festive envelope and place it in a book on learning about money.
  • Disperse the money into gift cards to your teen’s favorite
    stores. Add a card that sets a date to go shopping and spend some time

For more creative and fun ideas, visit Teens.

Parents Magazine Wants Your Family’s “Giving-Back” Ideas

Thursday, July 24th, 2008

I love Parents magazine’s wonderful blog, GoodyBlog. (Their fun tag line is “Must see. Must Do. Must Have. Right Now,” and they cover parenting news, hot new baby and kid products and much more.

One warning: The site is addictive, so don’t get too engrossed right before it’s time to go pick up the kids from a play date! They even have a cool GoodyBlog Facebook group that you can join for more news and tips.

Today’s post is especially fun. The editors are looking for families who
give back during the holidays (yes, they know it’s July, but magazine editors have to think far ahead), whether it’s making a cookie
plate for your local nursing home or making and decorating your own
canned goods for a homeless shelter.

If you’ve done a project (big or small; simple is fine) with your
kids to help those in need during the holidays, head over to GoodyBlog and share your idea in the comments section. Your idea and story could be featured in Parents this holiday season!

All Hail The Anti-Princess Reading List!

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

For little girls, Cinderella and Snow White may be the ultimate storybook characters. And these princesses certainly have their place in a child’s world — up to a point.

For parents who want their daughters to grow up looking for a bit more from life than a prince to rescue them, there’s the "Anti-Princess Reading List" (click on it under "browse by category") over at a wonderful website I just discovered:

Just looking at the titles brought me back to some of the heroines I loved as a girl: Nancy Drew, Pippi Longstocking, Harriet the Spy. These gals solve crimes, wear what they please (and it rarely includes taffeta), and have marvelous adventures.

I’m not suggesting an all-or-nothing approach here. After all, who says a kid can’t wear her Princess Jasmine costume while reading a story about a girl taking first place at the school science fair?

NEW! Get Your Parent Talk Today Gear at Cafe Press

Wednesday, February 6th, 2008

I’m excited about partnering with Cafe Press to offer readers top-quality Parent Talk Today t-shirts, hats, mugs and more — at family-friendly prices. Click on the "Cafe Press" box at right to check out the goodies, and have fun sharing the news about this fun, informative parenting blog.

These Wacky Note Cards Make Saying “Thank You” Fun

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

Last month we talked about how to make thank-you notes more fun for kids to write. Well, I just came across a website that has the most adorable personalized stationery I’ve seen in a long time.

The cards aren’t cheap: $35 for 25 notes plus envelopes. But they’re darned cute for thank-you notes to grandparents and other special people. was advertised in Blueprint magazine, which is part of Martha Stewart’s empire. Not being a big Martha fan myself, I had never picked up the magazine before. But when you’re bored in the doctor’s-office waiting room…

I was surprised by how many articles caught my eye. And the ads aren’t all for matching shrimp forks! Check out these cute notecards. It’s not too late to write those holiday thank you notes!

Sick of Video Games? Get the Kids Hooked on Something Better

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

"Mom, can I do PlayStation?" It’s a phrase I hear all too often, even though we limit "screen time" at our house. Of course, I don’t completely despise video games (although they do seem to suck the brain cells from my 11-year-old son’s skull, right before my eyes). That black box comes in handy when Mom and Dad are in need of a privilege to take away when a certain kid crosses the line.

Sure, Matt spends plenty of time doing homework, hanging with friends and playing sports, too. But what I’ve been wanting, this holiday season, is a gift that will replace video games when Matt wants to noodle around with something electronic around the house. Something educational and also fun. (That will be just between us. Dare I use the words "educational" and "fun" in the same sentence? Not around Matt, who’€™s sure he gets enough education at school.)


Finally, I’ve found the answer: Creating and recording music on our home computer. Specifically, using GarageBand (approx. $99 as part of the iLife ’08 Family Pack), which we have installed on our Mac. You can also find similar software for Windows, such as Cakewalk Sonar Home Studio (approx. $100) M-Audio Pro Tools (approx. $249), Sony ACID Pro (approx. $40), etc.

Matt has been taking piano lessons since first grade, but he was never able to combine his love of music with his love of pushing buttons and messing with games and all things digital. Until now.

Chris "Sharpie" Sharp, 37, of Midland, Texas, knows just a little bit about this whole digital-music thing — on a somewhat grander scale. As the monitor engineer for Rob Thomas on his recent solo tour and for the upcoming Matchbox Twenty tour this January through March (he’s also worked with Nickelback, Usher, Evanescence and others), this guy understands music and the digital world. (If, like me, you need a definition of what a monitor engineer does, Sharp is the guy off to the side of the stage who mixes the sound that the band hears in their earpieces while they’re playing.) I couldn’t think of a better-qualified person to ask about all this electronic stuff because he is not only musically and technically savvy — he’s also a devoted dad.


Sharp and his wife, Rinda, 32, have two kids, 15-year-old daughter Destinie and 15-year-old son C.J., so he knows all about the allure of video games. But he thinks my husband and I might be onto something by deciding to get Matt a MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) controller to use with GarageBand. 

This keyboard-like device (prices start at around $200) doesn’€™t record sound waves like a tape recorder does. It digitally encodes the start of a note, its pitch, length, volume and musical attributes, such as vibrato. As a result, MIDI music files take up a lot less space than digitized sound files. (So there might actually be some room left on the computer for Matt’s book reports…) Soon Matt will be able to write and record his own songs and send MP3 files to his friends.

Using a MIDI controller with computer software like GarageBand can open up a whole new world of creativity for a kid, Sharp says. And today’s digital technology means that you don’t need an entire board, like the monster board he uses on tour, to record your own music. A kid can do it at home. Pretty cool.


While he agrees that many parents can barely tolerate the video games that their kids crave, music is something where we can meet our kids halfway, Sharp notes. "Music speaks to each person," he says, adding that he tries to share in the types of music that interest his kids while also subtly sharing his favorite music with them. (And in his line of work, he’s definitely on the "hip-dad" side of things, which helps.) "It’s sort of like fishing. You can’t force your kids to be interested in a certain thing, but you can try different types of bait." So you’ll hear hip hop, rock, Tejano and other types of music around the Sharp home.

Sounds like good advice. And while my husband and I love to share our favorite music with Matt, and we love to learn about what he likes, we’re looking forward to hearing him make and record some fun music of his own very soon. Because with today’s technology, a kid’s desire to play with electronic stuff and push buttons can be satisfied while he’s also learning about computers, music and all things digital.

Take that, Dragon Ball Z!

Enough With the Baby Advice Already!

Thursday, December 6th, 2007

When I was pregnant, I was sometimes floored by the nerve of the strangers who offered unsolicited advice. I was told how to do everything "correctly" from breastfeeding to Lamaze to epidurals. Seems everyone knew the best way to do everything and insisted on sharing it with me — while standing in line at Target.

I mean, really, do I need to hear about what to do about sore nipples when I’m minding my own business, buying laundry detergent?

Apparently I’m not alone in thinking "hey, butt out!" Now pregnant women can express how they feel with a new line of hip maternity t-shirts called Mommy Trends. The stretchy t-shirts ($36) sport lines such as "Big &
Beautiful," but the best seller is a shirt that says "No Unsolocited Baby Advice."