Friday, November 25, 2011

A Few of My Favorite Things

Black Friday is one of Fritz's favorite American Holidays. We celebrate it by making fun of the newspapers and television news reports, with their predictable Shopping-Was-Crazy! Reports. And we (thankfully!) stay the heck home.

Like Jenna at Clueless but Hopeful Mama, I am not a good shopper. I'm easily overwhelmed by large stores and large crowds. And, STRANGELY, stores never have the items that I designed IN MY HEAD and DREW on a paper napkin. I like the internet much better where I can enter my criteria like: "38 inch round walnut veneer exposed edge coffee table 15 inch hairpin legs." A google image search is almost as good as a paper napkin.

Unfortunately, this kind of specificity does me no good at the beginning stages of gift buying. You know the stage where you just need an idea? So, let me give you some ideas from our house. These are things that I find so brilliant, I'm pretty sure I'd never draw them up on a napkin by myself, in spite of seven years in the university honing my designing, critiquing and editing abilities. (Yeah, the working as an architect part? Totally unhelpful.) Also, we already own them, love them and use them regularly: unlike this year's gift lists, which are still undecided in terms of their success.

Finally, I'm not paid or affiliated or whatever various versions of compensation are out there. Links are to manufacturers, although most of the stuff is available through The Major Online Retailer. You know who it is and it knows who we are, because apparently, it owns the internet. (Credit Wired Magazine for that insight this month.)

Leifheit Cherry Pitter about $15
Fritz bought this while we were living in Germany. It doubles as an olive pitter, but the great thing about this model and brand, particularly for cherries, is the slot-in-the-cup part. That slot is for the cherry stem. (Cherries are out of season, so I used a threaded bead in the photo above.) It saves you the hassle of threading the stem through a hole, thus making it better than, say, Oxo's version of this same tool. AND if the stem is already in the correct location, the pit and the stem are removed in one nice, neat, CLEAN press. Not really recommended as a toy, despite my toddler model above.

Oxo Jar Opener about $10
I've had bad luck with the rubber grabby mats when it comes to opening jars. But this device? Hello, torque; thank you, lever! Never fails me. I wish I owned it back in the day when I lived alone. We inherited a similar version from Fritz's grandmother, which I lost in the transcontinental move and replaced with this one. They were/are equally good. Key here is: Lever –> Torque –> Open jar lid. Throw the stupid germ-attracting, rubber thing-a-majigs away.

Bosch Multi X $100+
This is the perfect gift for someone who is a little handy and interested in home repairs. How to describe? Essentially, this is a saw: a saw that is especially capable of cutting in difficult and hard to reach places. Or, just use it for cutting anything can't be cut with a scissors or knife. We use ours ALL THE TIME. This year: I've use it to cut dowels and sun shades, to cut off stripped screws, and to cut little nothes in landscape timbers. The soapstone counter installers (very UNprofessionally) used it to cut a bit of soapstone. Fritz has used it to remove the back splashes in our original kitchen, to cut some pieces on Noah's desk, and to cut the irrigation lines in the garden. It cuts anything, almost anywhere with very minimal fuss. It's a newer tool, most people don't own one yet - but they should! It's battery operated, which is also a plus for ease of use. Before owning it, we said, "Why do we need that?" After three months we said, "How did we ever live without it?" Admittedly, we're wanna-be handy-type, fix-it-ourselves-folks. (We might need some new blades soon. Hint, hint.)

Plan Toys Sorting Cone and Plan Toys Balancing Cactus about $20 each
I love beautiful toys. Plan Toys is my favorite beautiful toy company. Expensive, but high quality. These are two of my favorites, because they are not just beautiful, they are clever re-interpretations of classic toys. The Sorting Cone is geared towards younger children, less than 3 years old. Hollow cylinders stack inside each other; tapered rings stack atop one another; the whole thing interlocks in a 3D jigsaw puzzle. Or make a tower like I did above. The Balancing Cactus is more game-like for those above 3 years as it easily unbalances and topples over while you add pieces. I leave it on the coffee table (that I hope to replace) as an interactive sculptural piece for all ages (I mean, for above 3 years. Okay, fine: 12 months. Confession: I don't really sweat the choking hazard warning).

Fabric Balloon Cover about $7-$10
Finally, fabric balloon covers are a great gift for younger kids. We got our first one as a gift in Germany, when Noah was about one, and we are still playing with it. It's a simple idea, really: cover a balloon in fabric and it's more durable and 'safer' but still maintains many balloon-like qualities. (As you can see in the photo, my boys are kicking it around indoors. I'm okay with this on particularly bad winter days - but it's a borderline activity - even if it is a slow, soft ball....) It's perfect for traveling or moving, because you can pop the balloon for flat storage of the cover and inflate a new balloon at your destination. Ours is made by Der Lutzmatz in Germany. But I like that this is a gift you can also find on Etsy. I've no connection to the above-linked seller, but I do think her black and white version looks great.

Now, go read Jenna's list here for some more ideas. And please share: what items do you have in your house that you love?


Swistle said...

Oooo, I'm adding the cactus to my list of gift ideas for my niece!

Anonymous said...

A good kitchen knife, for example by WMF - I use mine several times a day and even started taking it on longer vacation trips when I was not sure how the other kitchen was equipped. But - there is a down side to this: some people believe that giving a knife might 'cut the friendship' - so you have to get it yourself...

Ann Wyse said...

Oh man, it's true - good knives are wonderful!

Somebody (fortunately) gave us really good kitchen knives when we got married - and I am still very thankful (that they didn't believe in that silly superstition).

twisterfish said...

LOVE the balloon cover! Perfect for my little guy.... I must go get one right now!

clueless but hopeful mama said...

A balloon cover?? I've never seen such a thing!! How cool is that?!?! Must get one now!

Awesome post! I'm also mulling the cactus and the jar opener and the....

Anonymous said...

fabric balloon covers - balloon balls are a great product 'Simple As 123' brand available in NZ on trade-me or facebook

Anonymous said...

I purchased a cool one form Papakura Education