Teen Gift Ideas

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For me, August is the month of Birthdays. Throw in some Back to School and end of Summer stuff and it’s just pure insanity! So, in honor of having my first official teenager this year, I put together a fun gift guide for my Girl.


Skincare is super important for every teen girl. And what better way to kick off her teen beauty routine than with these awesome natural, vegan, cruelty-free, eco-friendly products from Soo’AE!

The face wash, face cream, and face masks are gentle and made with clean & green ingredients. So, they’re good for my daughter’s skin and good for the environment as well. I especially love that the masks are 95% natural!

We had a fun at home spa night with the masks and enjoyed hanging out with each other for a little while.

Spooky America

My kids LOVE ghost stories! Just as much as they love s’mores around a campfire.  And while I have no issues with them hearing / reading ghost stories, I do my best to make sure that these stories are age appropriate for them.

My daughter doesn’t know yet that there are 32 of these books and not just 2 – as soon as she figures that out, her Christmas list will be 30 books long…

My girls actually swiped these the minute they arrived and I had to go hunt them down just to photograph them (while the girls supervised so I didn’t “loose” any in my bedroom).

They told me that the stories aren’t really scary, but they’re very fun. And they want more of them. They’re also unwilling to let me borrow their books because they’re afraid I’ll keep them for myself!

These are definitely on my “need to buy the whole series” list!

Hogwarts Cookbook for Kids

I may or may not have been more excited about this cookbook than my daughter was. Though, my kids have been all about Harry Potter this summer! They had a friend at summer camp ask them about it and they all realized that they’ve never seen it.

So, our Summer family movie nights were all about Harry Potter. She was super excited about her new cookbook and has handed me a grocery shopping list a mile long!

So far, we’ve tried one of the sandwich recipes and everyone was thrilled with it.



My daughter was given an Amazon gift card for her birthday and guess what she rushed to buy? Fidgets! I had not idea that these things could come in this many different shapes, but there really is a lot of variety here.

And these days, when in doubt, a fidget for someone’s Birthday is the way to go!

Why Does Every Child Get a Prize?

Have you ever wondered, why is it at children’s Birthday parties, the Birthday child gives away goody bags? I’ve definitely wondered. Those bags and everything in them can end up costing as much as all the food at a party! They didn’t do this when I was a kid.

It’s like we’re compelled to give everyone something (other than food and a fun party) just for attending. I just don’t get it.

Now, before you panic, I’ve thrown my share of kid’s parties and we always give away goody bags. Though, for one summer water party, I gave away pool balls and a little plastic pool toy, each child got to pick their own. I had a few parents confused. Where are the bags?

And then it hit me, my 6yr old was reading me a story the other day. It’s an old Abeka 1st grade reader that I read when I was a kid, so I remembered the story the minute she started reading. It’s called “The Best Loser”. It’s about this little girl at a birthday party, who keeps losing every game. She’s told that at the end of the party there’s a prize for the best loser. She’s upset every time she loses, she loses at musical chairs, pin the tail on the donkey, and a guess what’s in the bag game. At the end of the party she expects the prize but it’s given to another child who had a good attitude about losing.

That’s how I remember parties, there would be 3 games, usually there’s a specially marked plate (which is totally NOT fair because picking the right plate is just chance there’s no skill required) and then two other party games like musical chairs or pin the tail on the donkey. The winning child for each game would receive a prize – most likely a bottle of bubbles or a jumprope from the dollar store. At the end of the party, 3 children went home with a prize and everyone else went home with nothing. No one thought this was odd or unfair. And the host parents didn’t spend a fortune on trinkets to send home with the guests.

Sometime between my childhood and having kids someone thought, “wow, this is unfair, my child is unhappy that they didn’t get a prize, at our party we’re going to give a prize to every child”. So, they gave out goody bags to every child who came. Other parents thought this was a great idea, and now it’s expected. Just try throwing a party and don’t have any goody bags to hand out at the end, and see what happens.

The strange thing is, it’s not the Birthday child handing these bags out saying “I’m so glad you came” and giving something meaningful to express their appreciation, it’s the child’s parents handing these bags out to every child at the party because it’s expected. Basically, at the end of the party all the kids go, “where are the goody bags, we’re ready to leave”. And these bags are filled with things that you, the parent, discard as soon as possible – tiny bubble bottles, stickers, pencils, tattoos, candy, etc.

When we get home my kids dig through their bags, discuss what they got, and scatter everything around the house. I have to ask a lot of questions to get a description of the party from them.

I think this is just another symptom of overprotecting our kids, we don’t want to let our kids lose or be disappointed because let me tell you, not getting the right plate so you can have a prize is just soul crushing.

I won’t be denying kids their goody bags at parties any time soon (let’s just say I would be considered a bad hostess), but I do think it’s worth considering that just maybe we’re not teaching kids to value disappointment and friendly competition. But we are teaching them to value all the junk that we get to bring home and throw away. Which one is actually going to help them in life?

Birthday Party Woes

So, I went to my daughter’s friend’s 6th Birthday party the other day and I find myself puzzled as to why we as parents continually put ourselves through this. Not that I hate birthday parties, but they all seem to operate the same way, and I can’t figure out why we all do it this way. I’ve been to over a dozen such birthday parties – children’s museum, bounce houses, pool party, splash pad, princess party, gym party, pizza party, and I’m sure a few more I can’t remember at the moment.

They all go the same way, a group of parents (usually just the moms and a few dads), most of whom do not know each other, all arrive at the designated party location. Every child present at the party knows the birthday child and usually knows a few of the other children so there’s a general mobbing/following of the birthday child as she plays because every child wants to play with her and they don’t know most of the other children.

The parents stand (or sit, if there happen to be seats) at the edges of the room and watch the kids play, if you’re lucky, you know one of the parents (other than the birthday child’s parents) at the party and you have someone to talk to, but over half of the room doesn’t know any one else at the party so you say hi to the person you happen to be standing next to, carry on a short awkward conversation about where your kid goes to school (I homeschool so my conversation usually ends with the other parent saying something about having a cousin or other distant relative that homeschools). Then you wait for an hour to an hour and a half while the kids play.

After playing the kids enter the party room and are served cake, icecream, and juiceboxes. Sometimes they even get pizza, chicken nuggets, or other snacks. Really nice hosts have over prepared and have enough food for the parents as well (which only half of the parents will eat because you feel awkward eating at a kids party). But, at most parties, the parents just sit (or stand) and watch as their kids eat.

Next, the birthday child opens presents – which are generally all toys, with lots of admonitions from parents telling their kids to back up and give the birthday child space. Your child receives a goody bag (full of candy and other small objects that will soon be lost or destroyed) and you go home.

Now, what I can’t figure out is why we do this to ourselves multiple times a year. First of all, why do we all stand by bored as can be and watch our kids play for over an hour? You’d think someone would have something for the parents to do. Second, why is there never any food for the parents – we’ve been there just as long as the kids and I’m always hungry come cake time. Usually if the host family provides the food there is food for the parents but if the food is catered by the party place then there is only food for the kids, you’d think they would provide something for the parents as well.  Third, why do we always purchase toys for other children – I dread all the toys my children receive on their birthdays, I never have room to fit them all, and yet I always buy toys (and so does everyone else).

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good party, but it just seems like there must be a better way to do kids parties instead of putting ourselves through this over and over.

Oreo Birthday Cake

For my Birthday I made my own cake. Now, before you say you’re sorry I had to make my own cake, you have to know, it was between making my own cake and letting my husband make my cake. I’ve never seen him bake so I probably would not get a cake in the end and it would be much more work for me to walk him through the cake making process.

It was a delicious cake with a fun topper. I love Indiana Jones!

And, I had fun taking pictures of my cake…

I got the recipe from a blog called My Baking Addiction. It was delicious! The icing really tasted just like the oreo filling and what’s not to like about an entire box of oreos on the cake!

Oreo Cake


For the Cake

1 (18.25 ounce) package devil’s food cake mix {with or without pudding}
1 (5.9 ounce) package instant chocolate pudding mix
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1/2 cup warm water
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

For the Oreo Buttercream

1 stick salted butter – room temperature
1 stick unsalted butter – room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 pounds confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar, 10x)
3-4 tablespoons very cold milk
25 Oreo cookies chopped


For the Cake

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottoms of (2) 9 inch round cake pans with parchment and grease pans thoroughly.

2. In a large bowl, mix together the cake and pudding mix, salt vanilla, sour cream, oil, beaten eggs and water. Stir in the chocolate chips and divide batter into the prepared pans.

3. Bake for 25-35 minutes, rotating pans half way through baking the baking time. Bake until the top is springy to the touch and a wooden toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool cake for at least 30 minutes before inverting. Allow cake to cool completely on wire rack.

For the Oreo Buttercream

1. Cream the butters in the bowl of an electric or stand mixer. Add the vanilla extract and combine well.

2. Begin adding in the sugar and mixing thoroughly after each addition. After all of the sugar has been added and mixed thoroughly, begin adding the very cold milk… one tablespoon at a time, combining well after each addition until you reach the desired consistency.

3. Fold in chopped Oreo Cookies and frost your cooled cake layers.

Raspberry Lemonade Cake

I got this recipe off the Betty Crocker website. I made it for my 3 year old’s birthday this past summer and everyone loved it! The cake does get a tad soggy if it sits overnight so this is something you will want to make the morning of the party and not the night before.
Raspberry Lemonade Cake
1 cup very hot water
1 box (4-serving size) raspberry-flavored gelatin
1 box Betty Crocker® SuperMoist® white cake mix
1/2 cup frozen (thawed) lemonade concentrate
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
4 egg whites
1 container Betty Crocker® Whipped vanilla frosting
1 cup frozen (thawed) whipped topping
1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries, if desired
Lemon peel strips, if desired
  1. Heat oven to 350°F (325°F for dark or nonstick pan). Spray bottom only of 13×9-inch pan with baking spray with flour. In small bowl, mix hot water and gelatin until gelatin is completely dissolved; cool slightly.
  2. In large bowl, beat cake mix, 1/4 cup of the gelatin mixture, 1/4 cup of the lemonade concentrate, the water, oil and egg whites with electric mixer on low speed 30 seconds, then on medium speed 2 minutes. Pour into pan. Reserve remaining gelatin mixture and lemonade concentrate.
  3. Bake 25 to 31 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Poke warm cake every inch with fork tines. Remove 1 tablespoon of the reserved gelatin mixture to microwavable custard cup or small bowl. In another small bowl, mix remaining gelatin mixture and remaining 1/4 cup lemonade concentrate; pour slowly over cake. Cool completely, about 1 hour.
  4. In medium bowl, fold together frosting and whipped topping; frost cake. Microwave 1 tablespoon gelatin mixture uncovered on High 10 seconds to liquefy. Using 1/4 teaspoon measuring spoon, place small drops of gelatin mixture over frosting; with spoon or toothpick, swirl gelatin into frosting. Garnish each piece with raspberries and lemon peel strips. Store covered in refrigerator.
Makes 12 servings