With fewer and fewer days left to get your holiday shopping wrapped up, and if you are feeling challenged in your search for the perfect toys, our knowledgeable personal shoppers are ready and waiting to help you find something for everyone on your list. Plus, good news: there is FREE gift wrapping on most toys. Bring the kiddos in for a test and play session  in our playful toy area where they will be entertained with many of our unique educational toys while you shop.

Today Annette shares a couple of her toy picks.

Annette’s Staff Picks:

Of all the toys my children played with repeatedly over the years, the play food items were the toys that never got lost in the bottom of the toy box.  For that reason, my  pick for a toy that’s universally popular with toddlers, preschoolers and even school-age children would be any of the Melissa and Doug play food sets.  Specific favorites are the Pizza Party, Birthday Cake and the Slice and Bake Cookie set.  All will provide hours of role playing fun for kids.  Who doesn’t like to reenact their birthday over and over again or pretend to bake cookies?  These toys are not only popular with a variety of age groups but also are appealing to both boys and girls.   Priced at $19.95 they’re very affordable, too.

Annette

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My son John loves the Vertigo Sky Shark. This toy is a lot of fun! In between take offs, the dual rotors made learning to fly it easy and he really likes the fact that he can walk from to room while the helicopter hovers above the ground.  A simple push of the right and left trim buttons controls the direction the helicopter flies and it also has an 2-in-1 infrared remote control/charger.  Flight time is about 4 minutes and the package even doubles as a helipad (which he thinks is really cool!)

This is a good choice for any remote-control vehicle fan aged 8 and up.

Annette

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These easy to make Reindeer Cookies may not be the ones to leave out for Santa on Christmas Eve? They look a little too much like Rudolph, don’t you think? We rate them high on the easy to make scale. Easy enough for little ones to help decorate and then make them  disappear. Java Mom holds the tricks for their creation.

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I heard you have been naughty not nice,
And Santa even checked his list twice.
So all the way from the cold North Pole
all you’re getting is a bag of coal.

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Lump of Coal Candy
by Tami Rose
Do you know someone who has been naughty this year? Fill their stocking with these lumps of candy coal! This also makes a great gag gift!

What You Need:

2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 tsp. black paste food color
1/2 cup water
1 tsp. anise extract

What You Do

Line an 8-inch square baking pan with foil, extending edges over the sides of pan. Lightly grease foil with butter or baking spray.

Combine sugar, corn syrup and water in a heavy, non-stick, 2-quart saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until sugar is dissolved and mixture comes to a boil. Cook about 15 minutes, without stirring, until a candy thermometer registers 290 degrees F.

Immediately remove from heat. Stir in anise extract and food coloring. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Cool completely.

Lift candy out of pan using foil. Place candy between 2 layers of heavy-duty foil. Using a hammer or mallet, break candy into pieces the size of a lump of coal.

Fill a cellophane bag with a few pieces of coal and attach the poem from above with red yarn or ribbon.