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2007 Holiday Gift Guide - Unique Finds from The Lactivist

Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.

Monday, December 03, 2007

I'm a gift shopping junkie. I don't mean in the sense that I like to buy a ton of stuff. I mean it in the sense that I'm obsessed with finding unique and interesting gifts for people. I Christmas shop throughout the year, adding to a pretty sizable bookmark file whenever I find something unique. As I was out hunting for a ideas yesterday, I realized some of you all might be in the same boat I am. Looking for some great gifts that show you hunted a little further than the Target circular. ;) I'm certainly not buying all of these items this year, but they're certainly some of my favorites.

(Disclosure: No one paid to get on this list. I've tried a few of these, received a few as samples and found a few on my own...but no one bought their way onto this list. That said, most of the toys at the bottom are linked to Amazon using my affiliate link. Go buy a bunch of stuff so I can stock up on some books I've been eyeing. :-P)

Gifts for Moms (Yeah, yeah, they're all "being a mom" related...)

Daisy Gear Bags - $48-$85

I know, I know, it seems like a lot to spend on a diaper bag. These things rock though. If you know an on the go mom, this is a perfect choice. From the integrated wipes container (so you can get at your wipes without digging through the bag) to the reversible cover (so dad can have a manly black bag), they're built for moms. They also look nothing like diaper bags, so there's no reason mom can't continue to carry it even when kids are older.

Check out my review of the Daisy Gear Sport Bag from earlier this year or watch a demo on the Daisy Gear site.

Ergo Baby Carrier - $115

I think this is the one product I wouldn't have survived this past year without. Long-time readers will remember the debacle that was me trying to find a sling or wrap for Emmitt. I'm large chested and nothing seemed to fit properly. The Ergo solved that and was a total God-send. From grocery shopping to airport hopping to trekking through New York City, the Ergo helped me take Emmitt places a stroller couldn't. It was also invaluable for those days when Elnora wanted to play outside and Emmitt was too small to be down on his own. Love, love, LOVE this product.

Honorable Mention: Neat Solutions Baby Einstein Eco-Friendly Table Toppers

For Dads

DadGear Diaper Vest - $82

From the same folks who make the Daisy Gear bags, the DadGear diaper vest lets dads carry around everything they need without having to carry a "girly" bag. This thing is pretty cool, though I never could get Greg to try out the one they sent us since it was far too large for him. Still waiting to pass it on to the right friend some day. Extra bonus of the DadGear Diaper vest? When they're not shoving diapers in the pockets, they can fill it with a million other things before heading off to fish, work in the yard, go to the game, etc.

For Your Tree Hugging Friends

Collapsible European Market Tote - $30

I'm a sucker for reusable bags. I've been carrying my Whole Foods canvas bags for more than a year now and am always hunting cool options for toting around groceries and other items. I spotted this tote just last week and all I could think of was how nice it would be for our weekly farmer's market. It's got a much wider base and holds more than my canvas totes, which would give a lot more flexibility for filling it with produce. ($5 more gets you the fancy fabric version.)

SIGG Water Bottles - $15-$25

I've been reading about these bottles for years and finally ordered a few this year to give as gifts. The company has been making these bottles in Switzerland for nearly 100 years and from what I hear, they last for decades. They've got a special coating inside that gives 0.0% leaching (so you don't have to worry about chemicals or a plastic taste in your drink) and they weigh less than naglene bottles. According to SIGG, the internal coating is tough enough to handle fruit juices, energy drinks and even alcohol. I'm really hoping I get one of these for Christmas myself. (ETA: Lactivist regular Rachel sells these at her online store.)

Bamboo Towels and Blankets - $18-$90

When I got an email from a rep for The Company Store asking if I'd like to try out some of their bamboo products, I was pretty skeptical. Bamboo just doesn't strike me as being...well...comfy. Then my sample blanket and my sample towel arrived. Holy smokes folks. These things are awesome. The towel is, no kidding, the softest, fluffiest towel I've ever used. Greg wasn't a fan (he said it felt like he was drying off with a "shammy") but I love it. I've washed it quite a few times and it's still every bit as soft. The blanket is the same way. Super soft, amazingly warm and enough weight to it to feel like you've got covers on. Besides, bamboo is hypoallergenic AND naturally regenerates. Eco-friendly AND cozy.

Honorable Mentions: Ilumina Organics Body and Baby Care, Membership to a CSA

For Those Far Away

Dancing Deer Bakery Yummies - $20 and up

If there's one thing I know, it's good brownies. I don't have a sweet tooth, I have a sweet mouth. (also a smart mouth and a loud mouth...but that's another story.) I first stumbled across Dancing Deer Bakery a few years back and I've since had a chance to try several of their cookies and brownies. This stuff is amazing. They are far and away the best brownies I have ever eaten in my life and the cookies rank up there pretty highly as well. They ship all over the U.S., so if you want to top the standard "ship a book from Amazon" distance gift, this is one way to do it.

Biggs and Featherbelle - $15 and up

Now I'm not generally a "girly" type, (As if you haven't already figured that out) but I'm a sucker for good bath products. I've never had a chance to try the stuff from Biggs and Featherbelle, but I've sent it as gifts a few times and the folks on the receiving end say they loved the stuff. They've got a great little holiday gift pack for $15 that includes three different products, or you can put together your own set. (Spend $20 by December 19th and get free shipping!)

For Random Gift Exchanges with People You Hardly Know (a.k.a. co-workers)

Write-on Coffee Mugs - $13

Coffee mugs are boring. Everyone knows it. But...these ones do carry some entertainment value. Tic-tac-toe? Hangman? Things to do list? Now you can use that caffeine boost to get something productive done. Besides, these are 18oz mugs, which is way bigger than the standard "empty before you get back to your desk" variety of coffee mugs.

Kikkerland Bobbler Opener - $5

If ever I've seen a random gift that has entertainment value, is practical and can be given to just about anyone, this is it. And hey, if you know the person well enough to live in the same house as them, just tuck one in their stocking. These bottle openers are sort of like the grown-up version of Weebles. Plus, something tells me that if you use them to open beer, they'll just get funnier and funnier with each and every bottle....

Honorable Mention: Jewel bud vases (set of six, split them up), 50 Jobs Worse Than Yours

For Kids

Pottery Barn Dolls - $40

I've been hunting for a doll for Elnora for a few months now. She's been loving anything to do with babies and is constantly putting her stuffed animals down for naps or trying to feed them. She's just not old enough to take care of a Lee Middleton or American Girl doll yet, but I wanted to get her something "special." Then I spotted these cloth dolls at Pottery Barn Kids. We're going to hit the store this weekend to let her look at them to see if she's interested. If we get a "me take home please" out of it, there will likely be one under our Christmas tree.

My First Brio Train Set - $35

I adore wooden toys. There's just something about a simple toy that seems to open up so much more room for the imagination to come into play. So while I see the attraction of Geotrax, I think we're more of a Brio family. I'd already been planning on making a Brio train set Emmitt's "big" gift next Christmas, then I spotted the My First Brio Train Set at Toys R Us. It's a pretty simple little set. Just some track, one train and a "stuffed" tunnel. It all fits together with other Brio sets though, so I think we're going to get him this set this year and just build off of it next year.

Melissa and Doug Magnetic Dress up Doll - $9

Again with the wooden toys. (I'm a total Melissa and Doug junkie...love their stuff!) This one is a modern take on paper dolls. The Melissa and Doug Magnetic Dress up Doll (there are a couple different ones) feature magnetic shoes, hats, pants, shirts, dresses and so on that little hands can mix and match and place on "Maggie Leigh." Paper dolls would get shredded within a day in this house. This set stands a chance of surviving.

Knotwüd Blocks - $15

Yes, I love wood toys, but the reality is that sometimes they get tossed around the room. The sharp corners of wooden blocks hurt. (I speak from experience.) So, if you want the same concept in a much gentler form, check out the various products from Knotwüd. Amazon sells the Knotwüd, but you can find quite a few other products in the educational section of your Toys R Us. We saw puzzles, ABC blocks, even train sets. All made out of this strange foamy type material. Pretty cool stuff.

Honorable Mention: The Dangerous Book for Boys, The Daring Book for Girls, Crayola Color Wonder Products, Anything Melissa and Doug, Dado Cubes, Gorilla Blocks


  1. Blogger Crystal R. | 4:09 PM |  

    I second the Ergo, but it could be for mom or dad. My husband and I bought could not have survived without that thing! I have never been able to comfortably wear a sling (perhaps because I am a tiny thing and my son is HUGE) and this is one of the only backpack type carriers that goes up to 40 lbs and can also be used from birth. AND it doesn't hurt our backs like the Baby Bjorn and the Snugli.

  2. Blogger Rebecca | 6:21 PM |  

    I just brought up the subject of "DOLLS" with my DH.

    Only thing now is that we have a 16-month old son.

    I want to get my son a doll. Now many would think this is weird but so would I before I had my son.

    We give our babes toys to model their play......my son has golf toys, baseball toys, and building blocks. Why wouldn't I give him a toy with which to model nurturing, empathy, and kindness???

    Hubby is against it but won't *stop* me from getting one.


  3. Anonymous yogamom | 6:21 PM |  

    I was just thinking about the Siggs, but couldn't remember what they were called. Thanks for the reminder! I sooo wish I'd have known about the Ergo back "in the day". While my DS is only 13 mos, my husband would never allow yet another carrier. I seem to like to collect them! ;-)

  4. Blogger Rachel | 7:02 PM |  

    I hope it's ok to promote myself a little here: I sell SIGGs on my website. They most definitely are cute, eco-friendly gifts. If you want to support a nursing friendly mama (other than Jen), please consider buying from me - http://www.bayinghound.com/sialbo.html I am offering free shipping until December 10 - just use the code freemaxship at checkout.

  5. Blogger Jennifer Laycock | 7:12 PM |  

    Hey Rachel! I didn't realize that. I'll edit the post to include a direct link to your site.

    (Rachel's cool guys. You should totally buy a Sigg from her if you're going to buy one.)

    Wish I'd known that before I ordered mine from Amazon!

  6. Blogger Elizabeth Childers | 7:47 PM |  

    I've never commented before, but I've been reading for a while...

    Becky, my younger brother had a boy doll when we were growing up. We used to play pioneers and settlers and pretend games like that, and the doll would be his son. I definitely wouldn't say he modeled nurturing, empathy, etc. with his doll, but I think he just liked to get a reaction out of me with his rough play.

  7. Anonymous Jessica (LazyK77) | 7:17 AM |  

    Jenn, I've got to put in my 2c on Daisy Gear. You pointed me in that direction last year when I was getting frusterated with trying to find a diaperbag that had everything I was looking for - a back pack with plenty of room, plenty of pockets for keeping little stuff put, comfy straps, durable fabric, zippers that won't bust, and something the hubby won't mind carrying.

    $92.00 plus shipping is a lot to spend on a diaper bag, but the two girls in my office got it for me for a shower gift. I LOVE it. It has a 'diaper hammock' at the top so diapers are always easy to get to and the built in wipes holder on the front makes quick changes easy.

    I LOVE this bag. It is HUGE enough for me to pack everything my 3yo and 9mo need for a whole weekend at the grandparents into it, but then I can also use it for everyday going to daycare and it is not too big.

    The only thing I would change about it is the two HUGE (These things will hold a 1 liter water bottle with room to spare) zippered bottle pockets on each side are not insulated and I think they should be.

  8. Blogger Eilat | 8:04 AM |  

    By all means get your son a doll if you think it would be a good toy for him. Just don't be surprised/disappointed if he doesn't show any interest to play with it.
    My son has a handful of stuffed animals as well as other toys. Its as if they aren't there. He totally ignores them. As for his dinosaur action figures? They are fed and bathed and "nurtured" in many ways... Then they fight and eat each other :-)
    I heard about all of this boy/girl stuff before I had kids and always thought it was cultural. Man were all those predictions confirmed when I had my son! Boys are (generally) just not that into dolls.

    Funny anecdote: My husband is a middle child. His older sister had lots of toys and when he was born my MIL didn't go nuts with new toys since there were so many already. So my husband would take his sister's baby doll carriage and flip it over and spin the wheels :-)

  9. Blogger Amber | 9:19 AM |  

    I got some bamboo sheets a year and a half ago. My aunt bought them for me and I thought "BAMBOO!?" They are the softest most comfortable sheets ever. I love them. They are thin enough for summer, but don't make me feel chilly in the winter. I would love to try the towels.

  10. Blogger Missy | 7:33 PM |  

    I love this list! It's way better than Oprah's favorite things! :)

    Our daycare provider told me that my son likes to play with dolls at her house when he was about one year old or so, so it inspired me to have one at home, too. I took out one of my cabbage patch kid infant dolls I still had from my childhood and he totally fell in love with it. DH didn't like the fact it was a *girl* doll wearing pink. So I went on the search for a baby cabbage patch kid boy wearing blue. Now DS plays with both of them. I also bought him a kitchen for his birthday. He loves to cook! My DH is very supportive!

    Our little girl will be able to play with my son's trains and trucks and other "male" toys as well.

  11. Blogger Strikethru | 9:06 PM |  

    Great list... wish I had heard about the Ergo sooner.

    If you like wooden toys and dolls, walk, don't run to etsy.com which is a marketplace for independent craftspeople. The cutest dolls in the world are made by Fourpeasinapod and Stumppondtoys makes great old fashioned wooden toys with no toxic finishes. I have already bought from both sellers for Christmas. Reasonable prices too.

  12. Blogger Janya | 6:41 AM |  

    Thank you for this great list and YES to the Ergo! That thing is awesome and fits both me and hubby just perfectly.

    I've been looking for wooden toys, so thank you for the link.

  13. Blogger Bethany | 9:16 AM |  

    Is the Ergo good for newborns? My sister is getting ready to have a baby and is looking for a carrier but thinks slings look too hippy-ish. Does the Ergo give enough head support for a brand new baby?

  14. Blogger Strikethru | 12:10 PM |  

    One more Etsy commentary, there are dolls very much like the Pottery Barn dolls for sale on Etsy-- so beautiful and half the price. Handmade by a grandma in Wisconsin!


    I bought one of her pajama babies for my 1.5 year old.

  15. Blogger Danielle | 5:44 AM |  

    I thought you said you were cheap.

  16. Anonymous www.moodymommy.wordpress.com | 10:36 AM |  

    Check out www.chicagomomsblog.com The entire day (Dec 6th) is devoted to breastfeeding stories (also for all the sister sites, silicon valley, new york, d.c. etc.) I write for them. Also, I have the bamboo towels and I love, love, love them!

  17. Blogger Natalie | 1:34 AM |  

    I like to browse Nova Naturals at www.novanatural.com. Some things are fair trade, some USA made, etc. Many expensive items. I still can't fathom paying over $60 for a doll. But, I've been rethinking my gift purchases and decided that I can stick to my budget of buying less items, but higher quality, fairly made, etc. I mean, do my kids really need 10 presents to unwrap, or three-four super-cool, lasting items I feel good about purchasing and giving...

  18. Blogger Jennifer Laycock | 11:32 AM |  


    I should clarify. I'm extremely cheap for myself. I don't believe in buying things just to buy them and I'm generally happy to have something that isn't fancy or expensive.

    When it comes to shopping for other people, I'm the opposite of cheap. That doesn't mean I spend money to spend money...but I'm willing to spend money to buy something quality. I'd rather get someone one good item than lots of cheaper presents.

    I should note, I only bought about six items on the list myself this year. This is my list of "wow, that's a really cool, unique gift" and not my "this should be your shopping list. ;)

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