The Chronic Consumer

I buy things — all the time!

Personalized Kids Gifts

airplane luggage My nephew will be “graduating” from preschool next month and will be heading to kindergarten soon. I’ve been looking around for a gift for him, and found plenty to choose from on this website. They have backpacks, suitcases, lunch boxes, and more in designs suitable for young kids all the way up to teenagers. The best part is that the gifts can be personalized. I’m definitely doing that if I order something, because let’s face it: kids love seeing their name in print!

Tenyo Magic Flash Dice

flash dice My nephew has been into magic tricks recently, so I got him a few tricks from Tenyo Magic for Christmas. Since the kid is only 8 years old, I was rather limited in what I could get him. Sleight-of-hand tricks are too difficult for that age. After a bit of checking around, one of the tricks I settled on was Flash Dice.

As you can see from the picture, the props consist of a box and six dice. The magician lines the dice up in order from one to six, closes the lid, gives the box a shake, and opens the lid to reveal that the dice have reversed their order. That’s the basic trick. A couple variations are possible, including having all the dice show up as the same number and having the dice add up to a predicted number.

Obviously, there’s no real “magic” involved, as all the tricks depend on setting the dice up in a certain way. But this was easy enough for an 8-year-old to handle, and my nephew has been enjoying the set so far. He understands the basics already. Now he just has to master the hand motions (to make everything look smooth during presentation) and memorize dice placement for each trick.

At $15, I feel this trick was worth the money. Not amazing by any means, but fun for kids or beginners and definitely higher-quality than what you can get at the dollar store.

Holiday toy drives

Do any of you participate in holiday toy drives for underprivileged children? My family usually does, but this year we’re looking for an alternative to the usual “Toys for Tots” kind of program. There’s nothing wrong with that type of thing; we just want to contribute something more substantial than toys.

I’ve heard of a few programs that offer school supplies for children or even flutes for student use at school. I think these sound great, so I’m going to see if there’s anything available for kids in my area.

Dance Lessons

Aw, my little niece has recently expressed an interest in taking dance lessons! I can just imagine her in a cute little ballerina outfit, twirling and spinning around until she gets dizzy and falls to the floor. Isn’t that how all toddler classes end up?!

I hope her parents let her take lessons. Who knows, she could grow up to perform professional ballet in Los Angeles someday. And even if she doesn’t, it’s practically a rite of passage for little girls to dream of being a dancer. I know I went through a similar phase, so I’m more than ready to encourage my niece to do the same!

Organic Baby Bedding

A friend is having a baby shower in a couple of weeks, but since she lives in Texas, I won’t be attending in person. Still, I plan on buying her a gift and have been checking her registry for inspiration.

One of the items she wants is an organic crib mattress, which is something I’d never heard of. But after checking a few mattress stores in austin, I found a place that offers organic baby bedding for very reasonable prices.

In case you’re wondering, organic bedding is made from natural, non-synthetic, chemical-free materials that are supposed to be healthier and more comfortable for babies. Sounds good to me, so I’ll likely end up ordering one and sending it to the shower!

Personalized Rocking Horse Snow Globe

I didn’t buy or make any keepsakes when my son was born, and now that he’s getting older (almost finished with elementary school!) I’m starting to feel nostalgic for those baby days. So after deciding to browse around on red envelope to see what kind of baby gifts they had, I came across this beautiful rocking horse snow globe.

The globe plays Rock-a-Bye-Baby, and comes with a silver plate that can be engraved with the baby’s name and birthday. For some reason, I really want this thing! Would it be weird if I get it now and pretend I bought it just after my son was born? :)

Pirate Puzzles iPad App by Ayars Animation

A short time ago, I received a complimentary copy of the Pirate Puzzles iPad app by Ayars Animation to evaluate and review. Despite the fact that the app was free, I still intend to give you a truthful, unbiased opinion of the product based on actual usage and reactions.

First, here is the description of the product as published at the App Store:

Pirate Puzzles is a fun-filled and engaging app for children ages 3-7 years old. Young buccaneers complete more than 15 puzzles ranging in difficulty. When successful, children unlock the mystery Pirate Songs! They are carried away in an ocean of pirate music, animation, and swashbuckling fun. Watch your child sail the high seas with Pirate Puzzles, the latest interactive application from Ayars Animation!

And a couple of screen shots to give you an idea of what the menu and puzzles look like (you may click to enlarge):

This app contains 18 total puzzles that are divided into two separate sets of 9 puzzles each. The first set comes with bigger pieces and is fairly easy; the second set gets progressively more difficult. Each puzzle is colorful and richly detailed, as you would expect from Ayars, and upon successful completion of a puzzle, the child is rewarded with a short, interactive animation. Completing all 9 puzzles in a set unlocks a longer pirate song (over 3 minutes) with plenty of fun interactions strewn across the screen.

What I like about Pirate Puzzles is that the puzzle pieces are easy to maneuver and place on the grid, and the app was completely bug-free as far as I could tell. Furthermore, since puzzles help children develop better visual perceptual skills, spatial awareness, and coordination, Pirate Puzzles would be a wonderful addition to any list of must-have educational apps for youngsters.

The only thing I would warn against is that the recommended age range of 3-7 seems a bit too wide for the level of difficulty presented. I can’t really imagine many 7-year-olds being challenged by these puzzles, so I would tighten the age range down to maybe 3-6.

Overall, Pirate Puzzles is an entertaining app that younger children are sure to enjoy. The $.99 price tag is just right, too, so visit the App Store right now to download Pirate Puzzles for your little swashbuckler!

Chicago Blackhawks RBK Premier Replica Youth Jerseys

My son is a big Chicago Blackhawks fan, so I recently bought him a couple of Reebok Premier replica jerseys for his birthday. Here are the bullet points, as provided by the manufacturer:

  • 100% polyester two-way stretch pique
  • Polyester interlock knit rib collar
  • Solid mesh inserts provide ventilation
  • NHL Shield patch sewn on the bottom of the front collar fabric insert
  • Engineered and constructed to duplicate the look of on-ice team designs
  • Front crest of the jersey is embroidered just like the authentic jersey
  • Reebok vector embroidered on the sleeve and back neck
  • Woven jock tag with alpha sizing on the lower left front
  • Decorated in the team colors
  • Officially licensed

Since these are not “authentic” jerseys, they do look and feel rather cheap. The bullet points say that the front crest is embroidered, and I guess there is some embroidery on it. But it is certainly not “just like the authentic jersey”. The crest on these jerseys feels like a thin piece of cardboard, and seems like it would fall apart after the first washing.

The first thing I noticed upon receiving these items is that they are made in China. Usually when you see that on a sports jersey, you immediately think “fake,” but I guess Reebok really is making some of their NHL stuff in China now. But even though this is an official Reebok product, the quality is pretty bad. The black and red stripes don’t line up where they meet at the seam, and the NHL shield isn’t even centered. These mistakes are noticeable, and made me come very close to returning the products for a refund. But my son was so excited about the jerseys that I just ended up keeping them.

Overall, I guess I can’t complain about a jersey that cost less than $50. You get what you pay for, right? If I wanted top quality, I could always spend $300 for the real thing — but people who do that are insane, IMO. My son likes these, and that’s what counts. They’re big enough that he’ll get to wear them for a few years while playing roller hockey in the neighborhood, and then he can just throw them out. If they last that long, I’ll be happy.

My advice to you: These are ok if you can live with obvious flaws. If you want perfection, thicker material, and nice embroidery, you’re not going to find it in the RBK Premier Replica line. You need to check out the Edge Authentic stuff instead!