I bought some plates

They’re the Lenox butterfly plates* I said I wasn’t going to get until my children were out of the house.

What changed?

Well… my MIL bought some before Christmas.  She got the kind that are made specially for Macy’s, so they’re blue.  I made sure to use them at every opportunity and got little sparks of joy while doing so.  They’re thicker than they used to be and the image isn’t printed on quite as nicely as they used to be.  Them not being quite as nice is likely related to the fact that the price has gone WAY DOWN since I wrote that post saying I wasn’t going to get them.  On top of that, the holiday sale that my MIL bought her plates from was still going on, so a set of 6 dinner/salad/cups in my preferred design was only $99 instead of nearly $400.    At that price, I can handle the predicted amount of breakage without tears.  It’s more than the white Corelle we’ve been getting (and slowly breaking into a zillion tiny fragments), but not *that* much more.

Next holiday sale, I think I might get the hydrangea pattern which will come with bowls instead of cups.

Now… we’re not actually *using* the plates right now.  The Corelle stuff (along with the four of our original floral Target at Home plates that haven’t broken) is on top of the Lenox in the cupboard and we haven’t really had time to entertain at all since we bought them.  But I’m happy to know that we have them and they didn’t cost too much.  As we continue to shatter the Corelle we will eventually start using them as daily plates rather than replacing the Corelle.

So… part of being willing to buy nice things is the price of said things dropping!

Are there things you would love to buy if they weren’t so darned expensive?  Do you keep your eye on things in case the price drops?  When the price does drop, do you buy?  For your specific wanted item, is it about not being able to afford it, or about feeling crappy if something goes wrong with the purchase?

*(Yes, I know this is a very grandma set of plates– I don’t care!  The heart wants what it wants.)


Stuff we’ve really enjoyed having this year

(besides books, though KJ Charles rocks!)

I love this teapot I got for my Birthday last year.  It is so easy to use and to clean, and it makes the right amount of tea for when you want, you know, a pot instead of just a mug.

Although you should probably not gift this to anyone, this home laser hair removal thing  has been fantastic.  I barely need to pluck my chin anymore at all (with the exception of a few white hairs that laser won’t get) and it’s been a few weeks since I’ve done even a touch-up with the laser.

I still really like my moleskin weekly planner, even though everyone else has switched to Google Calendar.

This Solo travel bag I got myself has been perfect for overnight travel without having to take a roller-bag.  For those who cannot part with the roller-bag, one of my colleagues swears by these packing cubes and will be getting them for almost everyone on her list this year.

This amazing lamp was everything I wanted and more!

DH loves this little pocket pen.  It is pretty clever.

Our in-laws love this ice cream scoop we got them, although it is not dishwasher safe.

#2 enjoys watching her DH play the latest Assassin’s Creed game.

Here’s a previous post on little things that just work.  I still get a lot of pleasure from using a high quality pencil sharpener.

What stuff has been “sparking joy” for you over the past year?

September Mortgage Update and Furnishing an Empty Apartment for a Year

This month (August):
Years left: 1.583333333
P =$1,125.48, I =$88.93, Escrow =$809.48

This month (September):
Years left: 1.5
P =$1,129.93, I =$84.47, Escrow =$809.48

One month’s prepayment savings: $0

In the end we decided to move out here with next to nothing– we filled up the car, sent a few boxes, and DC2 and I each checked a bag and did a carry-on on the plane.

And now our 1200 sq ft 2br apartment is mostly furnished.

How did we get here from there?

1.  We bought a couch, dining room table and chairs, large ottoman, bunk beds (and mattresses), king-size bed (and mattress), kid’s bike, shelves, and a few sundries (plates and bowls, cooler, toaster oven, microwave) from some people who were moving out for 1K.  I’m pretty sure we could have bargained her down given how last minute she was about everything, but 1K was less than we would have spent at IKEA on much cheaper versions of the same stuff, so we’re good.  Even though she was a PITA to deal with and kept going on and on about how she didn’t want to sell us things because they were dented.

2.  IKEA has a lot of very inexpensive stuff.  We bought three small tables (one for the living room, two to use as nightstands), a set of odd silverware (that cost less than the same partial sets of silverware at goodwill– our goodwill sucks), and a few skirt hangers.

3.  The apartment has some built-in shelves and cabinets.

4.  We have some friends who were happy to give us the crappy stuff they bought back in 2000 that they have since replaced with much nicer stuff but hadn’t gotten rid of the crappy stuff even though they never use it.  Yay generous packrat friends who were saving this stuff for just such an opportunity!  Here we got some not great quality pots, pans, bakeware, measuring spoons and cups (the kind where you have to guess the size because they’re so well-loved), and so on.  They have dibs if they want it back at the end of the year, but they’re hoping they won’t.

5.  The same friends are letting us borrow some shelves and a card table they were keeping in their garage because they want to clear out the garage to organize it.  Also they’ll want them back at the end of the year.

6.  We got a card table and chairs at Walmart for $55 that we’re using in the dog-run for outdoor dining.  DH also got a bike for himself at Walmart.

7.  After trying to work in the eat-in kitchen and being defeated by the heat of the sun, DH decided he really needed a desk, so we got one for $60 off a neighborhood list-serve.

8.  Target filled in more kitchen and bathroom odds-and-ends, as well as things like envelopes and printer paper.

9.  Amazon filled in for some bigger items like a printer, extra ink, a bike for me (after waiting too long to buy one locally so all the students have cleared out anything under $300.  If only I’d bought the first time I looked!  Also, what is going on with Forge bikes not actually having any bikes in stock anywhere?)

10.  I ended up getting a laptop as I didn’t realize work wouldn’t come with a computer and my old laptop is giving up the ghost.

11.  Another friend has a piano lying around that the previous house owners left that she said we could have for the year if we pay for moving.  Paying for moving there and back puts it still at less than the cost of renting or buying a new digital piano.  (We really did want to bring our own piano but just couldn’t fit it in the car and it would have cost more to move than to rent one for the year.)

12.  We got some black-out curtains from Kohls (online, clearance).  The place did come with curtains, but the bedroom curtains didn’t block out any light and the living room curtains only covered about half the window, exposing the world to streaking toddlers who don’t want to get dressed in the morning.

13.  (Update)  Scored another set of shelves and very small chest of drawers that someone in the neighborhood left out with a free sign.  Now DC2 can keep hir shirts and pants in separate drawers and I have a place to put hir winter clothing and too big stuff, which means there’s room in the closet for their toys.

We’re doing a lot of “making do”… like, we don’t really need a casserole if we have the knock-off le creuset for some tasks and a mason jar for other tasks.  We don’t need a pyrex 13×9 if we have a metal one.  And so on.  We’re using long flat bowls instead of small plates for a lot of things (the plates we have are enormous).  But it’ll be fine for a year.  Things that aren’t fine we’ve eventually bought (like an ove glove– way better than the towels system we’d been using).

How much did this all cost, I dunno, something between 2K and 3K?  Closer to 3K if you include the bikes.  How does it compare with shipping?  We’re ahead if we don’t ship stuff back at the end of the year, but we’re about even (since we’d have had to buy bikes anyway) if we do a Pod at the end of the year.

How did you furnish your first place/most recent place?

What did we get for Christmas?

#1 DH got the interior of my car detailed!  It is no longer scuzzy at all [update:  except the tip of the emergency brake– I’ve mostly gotten that clean though] and they tacked the fabric back in the doors.  Yay DH!

I also got a pillow protector, Akata Witch, The very nearly honorable league of pirates #1, The well of ascension, What works for women at work, What If?, and One Lady Two Cats off my wishlist.  Oh, and new sheets and towels (the former of which we really need since one of our two sets literally disintegrated a week before Christmas).  My stupid plan to keep my SIL from getting me the thing marked “lowest” off my Amazon list by not marking anything as “lowest” failed when she got me something not on my wishlist at all.  I’m not actually sure what it is… some kind of housewares thing that looks like one of those trays you serve breakfast in bed with except it specifically says not to use with food.  (Also it’s seriously scratched up on the bottom.)  DC1 drew me a super awesome comic strip with Pokémon putting up a Christmas tree and Pikachu lighting it up with predictable effects (“Does anyone else smell smoke?”).  The last panel says, “Now we sit and wait for presents to appear.”  My sister got DH and me a joint gift from her trip to Italy with small tasting liquors (including pistachio which I have been looking for in the US for AGES) and ancient balsamic vinegar sweet enough to go over vanilla ice cream.  Win!

The kids got a tonne of stuff.  Highlights of the best include a wooden toy tool belt from my sister, The Book with No Pictures, and The Most Magnificent Thing.  I *strongly* recommend the most magnificent thing for any budding engineers (under the age of say, 9 or 10) on your list, or even just budding perfectionists.  Oddly DC1 got catapults from multiple family members this year.  We can do a serious siege on the wooden castle now (we only had one catapult before).

#2’s partner got her a dice bag which is black leather with purple dragon on it.  Inside are purple dice, lavender dice, and steampunk-y dice.  I’ve been borrowing partner’s purple dice for D&D.

I also got lots of books!  I love books!  And amazon gift cards!  That I spent!  On books!  [ed:  If you wonder what books she got, you’ll have to ask her in the comments!]

Did you get anything especially fun or unusual?

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?

The Decluttering Stuff post

Oh man, I’m really bad at this.

But I figure everyone’s got one, so we ought to have a decluttering stuff post too.

#1:  My method of decluttering is to not buy stuff to begin with (except books, but I declutter books by buying bookcases…and sending stuff to the relative who is a reader).  And to move every few years… when I move stuff gets taken to goodwill or tossed.  About once or twice a year I gear up for a big Goodwill trip and allow DH to remove perfectly nice clothing that he looks nice in but just never wears.  He jettisons as much stuff as he can at those points as my natural tendency is pack-rat.  Throughout the year as we get gifts we don’t want and so on, we keep a big former TV cabinet as the goodwill cabinet and stash stuff there.

I feel most comfortable with a few papers or books lying around where they don’t belong.  It reminds me of home.  When I was growing up, I sorted things by strata– newer stuff was on top, older stuff closer to the carpet.

#2:  I sometimes read stuff like Unclutterer, not that it really helps, but at least it makes me keep thinking about decluttering and keep that in mind.  I too have a particular place where I store stuff to go to Goodwill, and take it over there on a regular basis.  (Infrequent, but it happens.)   Clothes are the thing I turn over most, because of my changing size and/or taste and/or context of life.  You can find some excellent name-brand items to buy at Goodwill.  I am working on a better way to store them, too.  For books, I try to use Bookins, which my MIL also loves.  If a book sits around for a while and it’s not moving on Bookins, I might throw it in the Goodwill bag.  I cull books rarely but also regularly.


organized baby bats


organized baby bats

(images from Things Organized Neatly)


Is this the ending of Indiana Jones? No, but it's not my garage, either.

For some things, often including paper and other types of mementos, I have what I call “the emotional statute of limitations”.  If I feel like something has emotional value to me and I would miss it, I stick it in a box or file cabinet and keep it.  Example: Some of the writing I did in high school.  Every once in a while I go through these areas looking for things I no longer need or want.  (Example: Some of the writing I did in high school.)  For a long time I kept Playbills from shows I saw downtown with my family.  They made me feel sophisticated and cultured when I was young, and they brought back good memories.  I recently went through several dozen of them and recycled almost all of them.  I still have the memories and I no longer need the items.


swiss abbey library

Full of things and beautiful (from The Great Geek Manual; click picture for source)

On the other hand, there is something to be said for clutter.  I keep things in front of me to remind me they’re there.  My desk at work is cluttered and I use it all the time; the “clutter” is usually made of things I am working on at the time or need to work on soon.  My home desk is like this too, but less organized.  I sort of like un-organized stuff, as long as you know where it is, but I don’t want to have so much of things that they overwhelm me.  Let’s not hate on clutter.  Clutter is not the same as disorganized.  I find uncluttered places (especially minimalist ones!) to be a little restricting and sterile.  They make me feel uncomfortable.

Ok, blog readers, it’s question time.  Clutter: do you or don’t you?

So… many… toys…

#1:  we still need to do a bunch of stuff before the party tomorrow… like get plates and cups and forks and make cupcakes… and candles
DH is like… can’t we just reuse the ones from hir real birthday? (They came in a pack of 4)
Um.  NO.

Oh lord, we’re going to get so many gifts… argle.  DC doesn’t need any more toys.  I understand why parents love the books

#2:  keep a running list of who gives what and regift to anyone except that kid!

#1 : yes
so much effort though.  If only Toys for Tots was sooner!  There’s always the Goodwill closet.

#2:   YES.  And who knows, maybe someone will move to your neighborhood or department with kids that need toys.

#1:  there are a lot of kids, but I don’t think anybody needs toys.  I think we all have too many (in terms of the neighborhood and department) (not in general)

#2:  maybe you can make a blog post calling for an end to the madness in children’s gift giving.

Next year: Convince DC (s)he wants a book-themed party.  Then probably (s)he’ll get a lot of books.

#1:  we have all the books ever written

#2:  if teen relatives get pregnant, send them the extra kids’ books.

#1: we’re good at regifting books
but you can’t do “no gifts” because most people bring gifts anyway, and then the few people who don’t bring gifts feel like crap (speaking from experience as a rules follower) (we did bring a food item)
and you can have a book exchange or something but that’s pressure on the parents to buy a specific thing that may not be easy for them to obtain on short notice

#2:  try some sort of wording like “DC is really into art supplies so please bring a related gift and help hir use them all at the party!”  Then they take the art projects HOME with them afterward.

#1:  yeah, the problem with that kind of thing (miss manners doesn’t approve) is that folks can’t use their own regift closets, they have to go to a store etc.
We decided no restrictions was the most polite thing.

#2:  “DC is really into helping in the kitchen.  For your gift, please bring your favorite recipe for hir to make later and a story about why you love it.”

#1:  that doesn’t work because they bring a recipe AND something (AND it’s a lot of work for the parents).  Except the people who just bring recipes– they then feel like crap.

#2:  I suck at this game.  People suck.

#1: I sucked too.  You have to experience these alternatives to understand why they don’t work first hand.

#2:  sigh.  sometimes I hate this culture.

#1: yes. I don’t think IBTP for this one though.  I blame mass consumerism or something.  And it isn’t like we don’t like gifts.  We love gifts.  But there’s just so much stuff, it’s overwhelming.  If the in-laws weren’t so generous this wouldn’t be so much of a problem.  This is such an upper middle class problem to have.  I hope that DC is super generous and gives unopened things away when (s)he’s older to people who don’t have so much stuff.

#2:  Yeah.

#1:  UPDATE:  The Toys are AWESOME.  (S)He is going to get to keep them all because I want to play with them!

Gentle readers:  Do your children get inundated with presents?  Have you figured out a polite non-intrusive way to stop the madness without hurting anyone’s feelings?  Or do you just give in and play with the cool stuff yourself?