Shot of Brandi Gift Guide - 40 Things for 40 Years

Monday, November 29, 2021

Earlier this year, I celebrated a milestone birthday. The big 4-0. So when thinking about themes for this year’s gift guide, I decided to break down 10 gifts for the last 4 decades of my life. I figure by offering things by year, it could match up to anyone at any age on your list (i.e. gift number 1 would be for a 1-year-old or something I liked at that age - like 21 = booze!).

Let’s get things going with the first 10 years!


0. One of my favorite newborn gifts is a personalized blanket from Pottery Barn Kids. In fact, their personalized towels are a great gift for older kiddos too!

1. Another go-to gift for a baby girl: her first American Girl doll! The Bitty Baby is an awesome option and has some adorable accessories! Lennon received her first Bitty Baby when she was 1 and a half and named her “Baby Suri” and the name stuck to this day! Also, Lennon was still using the jogging stroller today (five years later)!

2. Parents today say the same thing - our kid has too many toys. At two, they won’t remember what you bought them. I suggest you go to Five Below and get some cool crap and then put the rest of the money you’d spent in a card and hand it to the parents. Or, ask if they have an account set up for their child. I recently started an Acorns Early account for Lennon and I’m excited to see her savings grow!

3. My cousin and I would spend HOURS on our battery-powered cars. The options today are unbelievable. From a ride-on carriage to a food truck to a Mercedes-Benz, there is a car for every kid!

4. Four is a good age for a big giant present to surprise your little one. I’m thinking of a dollhouse or car tower.

5. Something that’s been on the Santa list in our house each year is Barbies, which it’s pretty cool to see this toy passed down from generation to generation. This year, I love the astronaut spaceship! Add on the Chelsea rocketship for extra fun!

6. Ahhh the age that I’m doing a lot of shopping for now. The “big” wishlist items are anything but big! Lennon told Santa that she wanted the Got2Glow Fairy Finder (although this product name is a little difficult for all of us to remember).

7. It might be a little late for this or time for an upgrade, but every kid needs a bike. I’m obsessed with the pint-sized beach cruisers. Scooters have become popular too and tend to travel well!

8. Little me would have been so into any craft kit. I mean, old me is also into this and thankfully so is my kid! We are big fans of Kid Made Modern in this house. I can’t tell you how many times the Arts and Crafts Library saved us during the long early days of the pandemic. These small kits make great stocking stuffers, items to bring on long car rides, or to pack into a bag for trips to relatives (that don’t have toys!). OR, you can pick some up for young guests!

9. Growing up, if you would have asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I went through a “talk show host” phase. Could you imagine young me growing up with today’s technology? I probably would have convinced my parents to let me have a YouTube channel. For the younger budding talk show host in your life, this wooden reporter set is just way too cute. I also like the Vtech Kidizoom Creator Cam for actual video recording! I’m also hearing the Fujifilm cameras are popular among the early tween set!

10. I asked my resident expert of 10-year-olds, Amy, for a pro tip on what this age wants. I was anticipating the answer was going to be “gift cards,” but to my surprise, the list is LONG. Clothes (American Eagle, Abercrombie Kids, Forever 21, and Nike - LOTS of Nike). The real thing I discovered here was that this 10-year-old wants some expensive shoes from a website called GOAT. Once I started exploring these super expensive shoes, I started digging these almost $500 Nikes. I guess I need to start saving now for 10-year-old Christmas in 4 years!

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The Positives of the Pandemic: More...

Friday, November 26, 2021

Wow. It’s been awhile. I haven’t forgotten about this thing. Just busy doing life during a global pandemic! Reflecting on the time since I’ve been gone from this blog (sing that in a Kelly Clarkson voice), there have been highs and lows. Real lows. But I’ve decided I need to focus on the positives of this period of life. So let’s dig in on the positives of the pandemic. The things it’s brought more of.

More Time With Lennon - It’s easy to look at the last two years of my six-year-olds life and think about all of the things she might have missed out on, but I’ll likely look back on this time and cherish the amount of time we spent with her. The crafts, the games, the days watching new movies or shows from my childhood. We weren’t running from practices to games to dance to birthday parties. Yeah, there were some, but things just started to pick back up at the start of this school year and I think she will be just fine in the future socialization area. I tried to find small opportunities to teach her how to do things herself - to make her own peanut butter and jelly or clean (which some days she oddly loves). Yes, the days were long, but the last (almost) two years went fast!

More Time At Home - When I think back on the last 21 months, one thing that sticks out is small gatherings at home - either our house or friends. Yes, I miss restaurants. But no, I can’t even fathom the thought of going to a club. I think I was a bit over that before this pandemic, but I’ll take a night at home with good food (made at home or take out) and a fridge full of wine and beer over going out. I’ve found a new love for the New York Times Cooking (worth the subscription fee), Half Baked Harvest, and days watching and attempting cakes thanks to Nailed It. Oh and I was a fan of online grocery shopping before the pandemic and that’s one thing I’ll keep up!

More Screen Time - What!? More screen time!? Is she crazy? I mean, yes, I’m crazy, but bare with me on this one. We’ve had holiday video chats with my family from across the U.S., which has stuck with us! We’ve had happy hours with friends in other states. We’ve watched dance recitals at home vs. sitting through a whole show. The biggest one of them all is that we were able to Google video (through Duo) my grandfather into my cousin’s wedding when he was too weak to travel. I hope the availability to “video into” things stays with us so that we can watch special moments across states.

More Work - A few days after my last post I accepted my dream job - doing public relations for a school district. Yes, this is so random. From a young age, I knew I wanted a career in communications - thanks to that “talks excessively” marks for citizenship on my report cards. In my elementary years, I wanted to be a talk show host, but quickly realized I’m not great on camera during morning announcements. In high school, I thought our public relations specialist had the coolest job, so I decided to pursue PR. Upon graduation from WVU, I actually emailed every PR contact at every school District around Pittsburgh that I could find and asked them for some advice to break into the field. I actually saved a few responses! The next 17 years took me to a global PR firm, boutique PR firm, advertising agency, a media buying company, and some freelance consulting. Then, during a global pandemic my dream job popped up and the rest is history! There have been CHALLENGES, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world right now. So if you’ve been wondering where I’ve been, see this answer.

More Positive Perspective - This isn't a positive of the pandemic, but perhaps keeping a positive perspective on life and the time we spend with loved ones is. One of the biggest changes for my family this past year actually had nothing to do with the pandemic. My dad passed away this past summer (I feel like I need to mention that this was totally not COVID related). But speaking of COVID, thankfully the case counts were low in our county (a positive!) and we were able to celebrate his life with an amazing number of family and friends (another positive!). He passed away suddenly the day after Father's Day, so I was able to spend, what none of us knew would the be, the last day of his life with him. I gave him a hug and said goodbye. Some people aren't that fortunate. I had a close relationship with my dad and made sure he spent a lot of time with Lennon - which I took A LOT of photos of! Looking back, the volume of support that we received after his passing was truly remarkable. Big Joe was a Big Man with a Big Squad! Death is such a weird thing to deal with, but something that we all will face in our lives (in more than one way!). When we lose someone, it’s always confusing on how to offer your support. I might write more on what I appreciated later as it could help one of you!

There are some things I’m looking forward of doing LESS of, but one thing I’d like to do MORE of is share things here again! So next up, I’ll give you some good ole Shot of Brandi gift suggestions!

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