Best Kids Stuff from 2011

These book clubs, products and party ideas made parents' lives a little easier in 2011.

Best "Mini Me" Trend
Book Groups for Children

For Seattle’s subadult set, 2011 was the year of the Across the city, kids are huddling in circles to discuss everything from Hunger Games to graphic novels to Daisy Dawson stories. Best of all: Mockingbird Books' free book group, complete with free pizza, just for tween boys the third Friday of every month. (Green Lake, 7220 Woodlawn Ave. NE; 206.518.5886; Another notable page turner: At Secret Garden Books (Ballard, 2214 NW Market St.; 206.789.5006;, teens nosh on Snoose Junction pizza while discussing the hottest YA titles (free; last Wednesday of the month); a young readers’ club is also in the works.

Best Nesting Assist
SwaddleDesigns’ Angry Bird Blankets

For years, we’ve loved Seattle’s SwaddleDesigns for its big, soft, square swaddling blankets with step-by-step baby-enchilada instructions sewn right onto the blanket. Now, blankies meet birdies with a flock of new designs featuring critters from the obsession-inducing smartphone game Angry Birds. Put a bird on your blanket ($28), burpie ($20), baby sack ($38), lovie ($20) and other items to honor those nesting instincts. Tukwila, 480 Andover Park East; 206.525.0400;

Best Plush Lovie
Friends of Socktopus Wiener Dogs

Face it: Wiener dogs are funny. But in the hands of Clarity Miller, owner of Anacortes-based Friends of Socktopus, they go from silly to stylish. Handsewn in scads of fashion-forward cotton fabric options, these 16–inch-long doggies are about 5 inches tall, thus preserving the correct height/length ratio for optimum wiener-dog cuteness. $26;, search “wiener dog paisley”


Best Birthday Party Idea

Moonie Icy Tunes’ Ice Cream Truck

Ice cream season is long past, but that won’t put the brakes on this truck, which delivers ice cream treats, old-school ice cream truck style, to screaming fans at parties. Beloved by summertime birthday party planners (and goers) citywide (book now for next summer!), Moonie Icy Tunes is trying something new this year: staying open for business all winter, too. “We’re already getting bookings well into December,” says Sharon Crosetto, a Redmond mom who runs the business with her daughter Melissa. Besides the iconic Good Humor bars, Moonie rolls out high-end treats, such as profiteroles and a limoncello dessert served in a glass flute, from her refurbished postal Jeep. “The novelty of it brings back something pleasant for people,” says Crosetto, like sweet memories of summer in the dead of winter. 425.223.1890;

The Best Local Socks to Buy Now

The Best Local Socks to Buy Now

This city has a thing for socks. From top toe protection to no-slip all-stars, we’ve found the best bets for restocking your sock drawer

(From left to right)

1.  Sock It to Me
This Portland-based company has the corner on the whimsical-sock market. Go for the women’s Shakespeare-themed “Taming of the Shoe” or the men’s Multi Player gaming sock for a silly but sophisticated fashion statement. $11.50–$12,

2.  Darn Tough
The name says it all. Based in Vermont and manufactured exclusively in the U.S., these mid-calf, micro crew hike/trek socks are sure to keep your tootsies dry and happy on a hike. The fun colors will make you even happier to take off your boots at the end of the day. $20, available at

3.  Peony and Moss
Founded by Seattle local Eva Spitzer, Peony and Moss brings the pretty with these high-quality cotton socks. We like the Scandinavian pattern knee high, but the thigh high works well with the high-booted crowd. $30–$32,

4.  Mod Socks
Bellingham’s Mod Socks pays serious homage to its Northwest roots with its “Bigfoot Loves Washington,” a women’s knee sock, and the “Bear Necessities” crew sock for men. $10,

5.  Strideline
This Seattle-based company took the city by storm with its skyline lacrosse sock. Now it has come up with a new digital ink technology that brings photo-realism and hometown pride to your feet. Get the new skyline, Husky Stadium or the Sounders sock just in time for soccer season. $16–$18,

6.  Balega
The unique left/right construction and deeper heel pocket of these crew socks make them a favorite in local specialty running shops, such as Super Jock ’n Jill. Balega’s ultralight quarter sock, $13, has been called the sheerest, lightest sock on the market and has garnered lots of hard-core running fans. Available at Fleet Feet Sports Seattle, Capitol Hill, 911 E Pine St.; 206.329.1466;