What are we getting people for Christmas this year?

This year all sets of in-laws have provided updated and lengthy Amazon wishlists (note:  all amazon links in our posts are sponsored).  Yay DH’s family!!  Amazon wishlists decrease DH’s holiday-related stress so much.

MIL:  Last time we were at the in-laws, we made a cake for a child’s birthday and discovered that MIL has sub-par dry cup measures.  We are rectifying that this year.  From hir amazon wishlist, we bought a cell phone holder that goes in a cup holder, an onion chopper, a Grandma I love you book that we will encourage the grandkids to fill out on Christmas morning, a doormat with her favorite football team’s logo, and a keychain that says grandma.

The kids are making a lighthouse (not sponsored) and a mini-helmet for her favorite football team using DH’s new 3D printer.

FIL:  A gift certificate to Cabela’s

BIL1:  Divinity Original Sin 2 and some other cooperative games from steam games.

SIL1: Arkham Horror the Card Game, The Circle Undone Expansion

Nephew 1:  Apparently nephew 1 is really into Shiba Inu dogs this year?  So, this bathmat and this backpack.

Niece 1:  We again renewed her subscription to the Braille of the Month book club.  Even though she’s older now, she’s still really been enjoying it.  (The nonprofit provides the books at less than cost, so we also gave them a donation– what a great program.)

SIL2:  SIL is a teacher and fills her list with things for her classroom, so it’s really a pleasure to shop her wishlist– it feels a lot like donating to education!  Someone swooped in and got the stuff our kids have tested out in the past (except 1 thing), but there was still plenty of you know, cardstock.  We also got paint brushes, magnetic letters, and these phonics rods that DC1 loved as a toddler.

BIL2:  We never know what to get for him, so we generally just give an amazon gift card.  This year is no exception.

Nephew 2:  I was so excited when I saw his wishlist this year because it was full of books that DC2 loved… but then someone swooped in and got them all (except 1) before Thanksgiving.  But there were still interesting things on there.  Apparently the book of facts we got last year was a hit because there were several more books of facts on hir list, including 5000 Awesome facts 3 and the big book of why (that both our kids loved).  We also got the National Geographic Animal Encyclopedia and a crystal growing kit.

Niece 2:  The pre-Thanksgiving swooper left a bunch of cool stuff so we got Llama llama jingle bells, If you give a cat a cupcake, some highly rated super cute socks, and a toy doctors kit.

My mom:  Barnes and Noble gift card.  The B&N in her town went out of business, followed by the local bookstore, but there’s a B&N in a 30 min drive.

My sister:  She’s started cooking more on a somewhat regular basis, particularly for her subordinates (she got promoted after an impressive feat of engineering and is now managing a group and has decided to lean in a bit to the understanding maternal boss stereotype–I don’t cook for my students, but I think we both have iron fist/velvet glove management styles modeled after some of the nuns at the high school our mom went to).  Anyway, as she’s been doing this cooking it’s become abundantly clear that she is missing tools.  So we got her a set of nice Pyrex measuring cups , a tube cake pan, and some pyrex 6oz custard cups.  One of the cats we foisted on her has a peeing problem that multiple trips to the vet hasn’t fixed (also she can’t get Prozac into him via pill or gel or hidden treat), so some Angry Orange that was the only thing that has been able to get out the smell from when his sister peed on our couch 3+ years ago.  The Angry Orange is a bonus.

The kids are making her a couple of small ballet tchotchkes with DH’s new 3D printer.

DC1:  That lockpick training kit set I linked to earlier (technically this will be a birthday present).  A theremin arduino kit (including separately purchased arduino, because obviously two raspberry pis are not enough).  We opted to wait on a unicycle or new bike until zie has grown a bit more.  Currently zie is my height and using my bike when kicked out of the house to exercise.

DC2:  DC2 had a long list of small not-that-expensive items (Calpurnia Tate books, Gotham Academy books, Garfield comics, rain jacket, swimsuit).  The swooper (who I suspect is my MIL given the amount purchased, but it could be multiple people working separately) made a really large dent in that list.  I added some calligraphy pens as that’s an art area zie doesn’t have any supplies for (yet).  Zie will be getting a full-sized bookcase from us to replace the overfull half-size which will return to a hallway, but we’ll also need to get something for hir stocking.  I suppose we could always get a second arduino so DC1’s doesn’t feel outnumbered by pis!  (Kidding!)

 

Are you getting anything interesting for folks this year?

Things we’ve loved this past year

The best purchase we have been enjoying has been TSA Pre.  I didn’t appreciate how much I would appreciate it.   Similarly, I continue to be delighted to take toll-roads with a toll tag for the city nearest us.

Having a battery that can fuel a phone or laptop during travel has been really great.  I’ve also been able to occasionally help out fellow travelers.  We have bought several Anker products (amazon link) and have been very happy with all of them.

This kit to make a music box (not sponsored) is probably the coolest kid’s present this year.  Even after the music box has been created, it provides hours of fun choosing different songs.

DH wants to give a shoutout to this guy who organizes boxes of electronic components (I guess the actual organization is done in China, according to the box, also, not sponsored).  DH is in love with a box of resistors.  It brilliantly stores resistors on labeled sheets of paper in little plastic bags in a little box.  If DH hadn’t stumbled on it online, he would have done what all of his former labs have done and bought a fishing tackle box or cabinet and sorted them that way.  This is much more compact and it’s much faster to find things.

This backpack from Tom Bihn (not sponsored) has made traveling much easier.  I’ve stopped taking my own bag and use DH’s backpack instead.

Last year I suggested that DH buy me some bras, figuring he’d get something to his taste (Sorry!  The TMI was only in my brain though :/.).  Instead he went to a department store and got boring but very supportive bras in my size that cost quite a bit more than the kind I used to pick up for myself at Target.  Things I would think of as Grandma-style or for women with larger busts than what I have.  And… it turns out that’s what people (my shopping buddy, my sister… though to be fair, I WENT bra shopping with my shopping buddy and did not get this kind even with the lady at the bra store measuring me and hard selling) have been meaning when they’ve been telling me I need better bras for my clothing to fit better.  So… lesson learned.  Pay more for better bras and better bras aren’t ones that look fancier, but ones that have more coverage.  And how is it that DH is better at buying women’s underwear than I am?

While we’re on the subject of women’s clothing, I got some amazing tights from Target online.  The brand is A New Day (not sponsored) and all of the tights I got from them have been crazy amazing, from the plain black, to the patterned, to the super soft super warm fleece lined tights that are warmer than a lot of pants.  No tears yet! 100% recommend (and we don’t get any kickbacks from Target!)

What things have you loved this past year? What purchases have made your life easier or better?

List of things I need to do to take care of myself

  1.  Get a haircut.  It has been 2 years.  Update:  I tried to do a walk-in at the place next to DC2’s newish Saturday morning activity, but they were full-up.  When traveling dies down, if I haven’t gotten a haircut in a conference city, I will make an appointment for during DC2’s activity one of these weeks.
  2.  Get an eye-exam and new glasses.  I think it has been over a decade and my driving glasses have scratches.  I am also intrigued by the idea of computer glasses.  Update:  got the eye exam while at a conference at the Lenscrafters in [conference city] (everything is aok, though I’ve gotten slightly nearsighted in addition to my astigmatism; doctor says I can still use my glasses for just driving).  Will pick the glasses up at another conference in the same place later this month.  (Oddly, I think I’ve gotten all my glasses since 200X from the lenscrafters in this mall, and a good number of my haircuts.  I have several conference buddies who refresh their wardrobes periodically from the Ann Taylor there, though I don’t because there’s never anything in my size on sale.  I get my shoes in a completely different conference city.)  I also used my prescription to order an extra pair from (not sponsored!) zennioptical, which is where my DH gets his actual glasses.  Update:  have both pairs of glasses, and both make my vision really crisp.  I definitely needed an updated prescription!
  3.  Get a mammogram.  I filled out the online form for an appointment a couple weeks after my birthday but haven’t heard back.  I should call.  Update: scheduled for May 2nd.
  4.  Get tested for diabetes/insulin resistance or just get a metformin prescription.  I have PCOS.  Over the holidays plus during job candidate season I overindulged and didn’t listen to my hunger and gained weight eating all sorts of refined carbs.  Since then I’ve gone back to my regular mostly diabetes-friendly diet, but my weight has stayed the same instead of dropping like it usually does when I listen to my hunger, my periods have stopped (this could be menopause in action) but I keep feeling like I’m about to have my period, I’m tired and fatigued a lot, I’ve been drinking water a lot more, and I’ve been getting headaches (but maybe my hair is just too long).  Also I occasionally wake up with tingly fingers or toes.  In response I am going completely no-refined-carb (goodbye wheat thins, the cookie in cracker form), but I really ought to also just see a doctor for testing or medication.  Update:  diet change seems to help a lot, and when I do accidentally eat something with lots of sugar I feel cruddy and brain-foggy within an hour or so.  Still no period.  My current plan is to go back to the rule from my late 20s when I was first diagnosed:  3 months no period => go see the doctor.  That puts me at the start of summer to make an appointment.  Update 2:  diet change helped with that too… so I think I’m going to need to decide if I want to continue with the diabetes diet vs. go on metformin.  It is just hard to be careful about added sugar and refined flours (and I *like* refined flours), but metformin is unpleasant and can also interfere with B12 absorption which is something I occasionally have a problem with.  So I dunno.  After doing some youtube watching, it sounds like if you’re good about your diet over a 3 week period, diabetes won’t show up in the initial blood screen because you’re not getting the bad symptoms that show up in the bloodwork.  The fasting icky drink the awful orange drink tests should still show up positive though.
  5. Eat more vegetables.
  6. Get my skin checked out.  The problem with this is that the dermatologist office in town has a reputation for removing all moles, not just the ones likely to be cancerous, and he has a “non-disparagement” clause thing you have to sign, so nobody is allowed to leave a negative review on Yelp.  So I would have to find a dermatologist elsewhere and get to them.
  7. Get new brown dress shoes.  My current Pikolino’s half boots (3-4 years old) are getting worn down in the heel.

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):
Balance:$21,340.08
Years left: 1.583333333
P =$1,125.48, I =$88.93, Escrow =$809.48

This month (September):
Balance:$20,210.15
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?