Little things that just work

Sometimes I like giving Christmas presents that are practical but luxurious.  My grandmother-in-law was kind of weirded out at first when we got her a bath mat for Christmas one year early in our marriage, but it was a really nice really expensive bath mat that just felt like stepping on a little slice of Heaven’s carpet after getting out of the shower or bath.  She remembered that purchase and was appreciative years later, even if it seemed an odd choice at first.  Sure she already had bath-mats, but she didn’t have luxury bath mats.

And it’s amazing how these little luxuries can change one’s quality of life.  Sometimes in ways that you don’t even realize are possible until you’ve experienced them.  I think that makes for the best kind of Christmas present for the person who has everything– something they didn’t know they wanted.

The following things are expensive for what they are, but cheap given the happiness they bring.

Maped metal pencil sharpeners.  Sharpening a pencil has never been so pleasurable.  Pencils perfectly pointed.  After dozens of crappy plastic sharpeners that just gave out after a few sharpens, this little hand-held product is a dream.  Amazon no longer carries the two-pack we got that had the huge number of 5-star ratings, but it carries a two holed version and a one-pack.

furminator– accept no substitutions!  Big Kitty and Garage Cat were both long-hairs.  We’d tried various brushes with Big Kitty and they mostly ended up with all parties being upset.  Then a friend with a long-hair recommended the furminator.  It was expensive so I put it on my Christmas list and got it as a present.  This just works.  It combs through hair without catching.  The cat in question generally enjoys it, and you end up with enough extra fur to build another cat.

tweezerman tweezers — These just work.  You find the hair (or splinter, or what have you), pull, and it’s out.  No wasting tens of minutes trying to get purchase.  You get purchase.  There is a small learning curve where you learn not to take off skin too, but once you realize how good the tweezers are, you figure out you don’t need to grasp at skin like you would with normal tweezers.

We have differing opinions on pens and there are a lot of good pens out there.  One of us is addicted to Pilot G2, especially for grading.

Leifheit jar opener– If you don’t live with the incredible hulk, sometimes you need to open a jar by yourself, and sometimes you’d like to do it in a way that doesn’t damage the lid of the jar.  This expensive jar opener imported from Germany is a wonder.  I feel like I can open anything!  It is true that there are other highly rated jar openers on the market, also expensive and also from Europe, but we haven’t tried them.  This one definitely works.  We love it.

We have a perfect metal spatula, but unfortunately it is unbranded and we’ve been unable to find a second exactly like it.  Maybe you have a metal spatula to recommend?  Good rubber spatulas are also a great thing to have, but they are legion.

This Logitech ipad keyboard is amazing.  Sure, it’s not so little, but it is so nice.  One of my RAs had one and after she showed me all its features I had to have it.  It’s made responding to emails while traveling SO MUCH EASIER.  Note that the different colors have different prices– you can get a discount if you’re willing to go with say, red.

What little things have made your life better?  When has spending extra for quality on some everyday item been worth it?

DC1 on DC2

For my Christmas present from DC1, DH and DC1 made an mp3 that was full of awful awful puns (mostly penned by DH).  For the blog, and to keep you from the pain of all the Gnu Year wildebeast puns, I am transcribing just the part that DC1 wrote all by hirself with no help from DH (the transcription comes directly from the script– I have changed the names).  I think ze captures the essence of DC2’s personality perfectly, and DC1’s reactions to it.  (DC1 also voiced DC2 in the broadcast as DC2 is not actually talking much less reading.)

Gift Ideas for mommy
DH: I don’t now.
DC1: maybe a picture
DH: maybe one with decorations for Christmas
DC2: want want want play
DC1: maybe a decorated box for mommy on Christmas
DH: with fancy decorations
DC1: some food?
DH: I would love some
DC1: lets all eat some while [baby] drinks milk
DC2: milk!! yummy!!!
DC1: theres [baby]
DH: [baby] needs a diper change
DC1: okay Ill play some more,
DH: were done
DC1: its Christmas
Mommy: what do you have for me
DC1: [An mp3]
DH: let’s go!
(And what brilliant thing did DC1 get DH, you ask?  As of Dec 24th, when I’m writing this, I have no idea because I outsourced helping out on that to my sister this year.  Usually DC1 gets candy for DH.)

Merry Christmas!

Here’s a picture, as requested, of the tree DC1 and DH made:

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Here’s what we got for people:

DH:  $350

DC1:  a prism, a cd, a Japanese balance hand game thingy, a gyroscope, some books, candy

DC2:  a few toys ze has never seen before to keep hir occupied in the car on our interminable drive up North.

BIL+SIL 1:  A bunch of Mexican spices from Penzey’s, including fancy dried chilis, and a Mexican cookbook.  (I totally had this awesome idea to do this with my new favorite Indian cookbook and Indian spices, but we called BIL up and asked if they liked Indian food and he said he didn’t know, they’d never had it.  Despite going to college in a town with a great Indian place!  Shame.)

Nephew:  Castle Logix

Niece:  A Melissa and Doug stackable train that B&N recommended (and was highly rated) when we picked out the Castle Logix.

SIL + BIL 2:   A check for $100.  When we wrote it, they were in contract for a house, so this was going to be for unexpected homeownership expenses, but they backed out after failing to be able to negotiate with the owner after a bad inspection.  We decided to send the check anyway.  We’re also bringing a big bag of baby clothing as they are expecting.

Grandma-in-law:  A set of Dominoes inlaid with turquoise.

FIL:  $50 giftcard to Cabela’s

MIL:  $250 plane ticket because she’s helping us out

Father:  A bottle of applejack of the kind he admired when he was here last Christmas.

Mother:  A ticket to a play she wants to see and one for my sister to escort her.

Sister:  A bunch of books on career transitions (she hates her job), including YMoYL.

#2:  A bunch of books on her Amazon wishlist.  This year I went crazy with $4 used books.  ($3.99 s/h baby!)  Shhh, don’t tell her.  Also *she* got the Indian cookbook though not the spice basket.  She has, of course, eaten Indian food.

#2 would like to add:  nom nom nom, and thanks to #1.

SPECIAL PROGRAMMING NOTE:  We’re both out of town partying (#1 says… partying? ha!  Try family and work obligations in the middle of cold snowy nowheres), so we might not comment much until January, but we’ve got posts queued up so you won’t be too lonely without us.  We’re counting on you to make sure the blog doesn’t die a sad miserable death while we’re MIA.  Stay safe, folks!  We’ll be back soon, and we promise we’ll read everything you’ve left us when we get a chance.  :)

Thoughts on in-laws and Christmas presents for the kids

I’ve mentioned before that we don’t buy Christmas presents for our children other than stocking stuffers.  This year is no exception– I still need to buy candy and I picked up some fun smaller items to stick in the stocking, but other than that we’re done with shopping for the children.

Why don’t we buy Christmas presents?  Because my in-laws are insanely generous and they seem to be able to pick out stuff that DC1, at least, loves.  (DC2 hasn’t been around long enough to know how ze feels about the in-laws’ taste.)  They buy tons and tons of presents and if we added more it would be even more overwhelming.

Some people get upset at grandparent generosity.  They resent the buying etc.  I mentioned my in-laws’ habit the other day on a blog and someone said they had the same first-world problem and it made her angry.

It doesn’t make me angry, because the in-laws are getting joy out of picking presents and they live far enough away that we don’t actually have to show them the gifts. And some of the gifts are pretty spectacular– the kinds of things I dreamed of growing up (train sets, a giant wooden castle, a bicycle, a real microscope, a wii, etc.). But some portion of the presents end up unopened in our gift closet for other kids’ birthday parties because there’s only so much space and only so much a child can play with over the course of a year.

It’s weird because they give more to my kids each Christmas than I got from my entire extended family and Santa combined growing up. My own grandma would give one really nice present to each of us (like a porcelain doll) at Christmas when we were kids.

My FIL is stuck in a job he hates where he has to work a lot of unpaid overtime. I can’t help but think that if they were a little less generous with the grandkids, that they would have more financial freedom now. But it isn’t my place to say anything, and if they cut back it would also affect the other grandkids whose families have different values about Christmas and presents.  They are scrupulously fair about these things and each grandkid gets exactly the same dollar amount.

So we make up for it by not doing any Christmas gifts ourselves. Except the stockings.  We save what we would have spent and it will be there in the future should the in-laws need it.  (Though they probably won’t given that they’re in the last generation of generous pensions.)

Did you get a lot of stuff for Christmas as a kid?  Are things different today?

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