My new favorite things

by Mémé

These are a few of my (newly acquired) favorite things….

In addition to posts on a specific consumer topic, rarely a day goes by that someone in hijack form does not describe a new acquisition or activity, or ask for advice on how to do something or on a purchase,.    I noticed that this year I had come across a number of small items that have improved my day-to-day life.  So I will list my modest household acquisitions from 2015 in no particular order, and invite you all to do the same.

  1. Free programs to change the hue and intensity on all electronic devices with time of day. Read, work, or play games closer to bedtime without blue screen stimulation.   I use f.lux on my laptop,  Twilight on my android phone,  still trying out the somewhat limited offerings on the Kindle Fire.
  2. “No Cry” kitchen gloves. This is something I read about on the Totebag.  The various graters and the mandoline have been retrieved from the back of the cabinet and are in daily use.
  3. Teak shower stool. When the shower was constructed during the master bath reno 6 years ago, I made sure that there were grab bars and enough space for a stool, but never purchased one.  I finally did after DH got home from the hospital.   I can’t recall anymore how I washed my feet or shaved my legs without it.
  4. Apple peeler/corer/slicer – simple hand-operated machine that attaches to kitchen counter with suction. DIL has one.   Lots of apple desserts for the winter.
  5. Nonstick Egg/pancake rings. I saw them at my daughter’s house and make perfectly sized pancakes or uniformly cooked whites on fried eggs on my griddle.
  6. Wireless charging pad for the Samsung Galaxy.    The charging port was going to give out far before I was ready to trade in the phone
  7. PVC woven placemats – I use attractive gray ones matching my kitchen color scheme on top of my need-ironing midcentury table cloths. Apparently they are okay right on wood as well

Duds –  Fitbit, TV-advertised headlight wipe cloths.

2015 also saw the acquisition of many 50s vintage decorative items and pricey kitchen machines that give me great pleasure and use, but it is the little handy things that sometimes cause me to slap my head and say, why didn’t I get that before?

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122 thoughts on “My new favorite things

  1. What a great topic!

    My most recent purchase that has changed my life is a shoe organization system for my laundry room cabinet from Container Store. Expensive, but worth it. Now, everyone can see all of their shoes and can easily put back their shoes in the right space.

    I also enjoy my new reading night light (Amazon purchase).

    Meme–Why was the fit bit a dud? I ask, because I’m thinking about purchasing one for my DS for Christmas.

  2. why didn’t I get that before?

    Like me and TSA-Pre. I waited because the lines were never long when I usually traveled so I just never got around to making an appointment. Well, let me tell you, it’s the best thing ever! It’s a whole different world now.

  3. As I am starting to think about Christmas gifts this is a perfect post to glean ideas from.

    Transitioning in the role of caregiver, which is where a lot of energy goes these days, I found some great free apps that are making life easier:
    1. Senior Care Manager – great place to keep my mom’s med list and other information.
    2. Care Zone – companion to #1, but #1 is better if you are managing someone else, this one is better for managing yourself.
    3. Pharmacy’s app – we use walgreens – can see and refill prescriptions electronically.
    4. Weight Calendar – easy way for me to daily record my mom’s weight.
    5. Grocery Store App – let’s me build her shopping list over the week, allows me to scan products she has at home so I buy the same one at the store, tells me where it is in the store, and offers electronic coupons.
    6. Google Drive – created one for my mom that has all her important documents, that way I can access them on the go.

    Cat care – A friend told me she uses doggie poop bags for scooping cat poop out of the box daily. It works well as long as your “scooper” is narrow for bag clearance. We are using less litter and much nicer smell.

    Activity Trackers (dudish) – Misfit Shine (OK, not thrilled); MOOV now (less thrilled) – Still looking for one that can go in the water and basically tracks all daytime activity. Misfit does better about giving you a day-to-day comparison, but does not track cardio on machines well even if you tell it that is what you are doing. MOOV tracks a specific workout well, but not the other daily movement. Both have issues with being secure.

  4. Great post.

    Podcasts are the biggest life changer for me. I drive so much and am not a big music listener, so some really great podcasts that have come out in the couple of years have been life changing. Seriel, Start Up, America’s Test Kitchen, Freakonomics, Inside Carolina – all of these make the day to day run around so much more enjoyable.

    I also did not like my fitbit. It kept falling off my wrist and I didn’t like having to look at my phone to see the data. The boys gave me a Garmin Forerunner 15 watch for Mother’s day and I love it. GPS based, has running functions but also just tracks your steps.

  5. I found the fitbit useful for a month. I learned just how many steps I generated in my daily life, and what my baseline weekly caloric outflow is with several normal exercise periods added. I also tracked my food intake religiously, learned what my baseline calorie intake is, and identified a few food culprits. I confirmed what DH has always told me, that I sleep like a log and fall asleep instantaneously. I could have saved the 100 dollars, but since that is about the price of an unsatisfactory meal out at a restaurant one has always wanted to try, I don’t begrudge it. I just didn’t see any value to wearing it after the informational phase.

  6. I like this topic!

    Best thing I bought lately is The Keeper – feminine hygiene product. Maybe TMI for this, but seriously for $30 it is one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. Wish I would have gotten it when I was 20.

  7. Lets see, what did I buy this year…

    We finally got a new household iMac. The previous one dated from 2007, and was very very very slow. We also got a new fast router. We now have a connection that is fast enough that I can watch Netflix TV shows while I am cooking (computer is in the kitchen)

    I bought an Amazon Firestick, which lets me override the sad TV offerings in hotels by connecting to the wifi and streaming from Netflix or Amazon. It is tiny, and works really well. No longer are we stuck watching crap on Discovery Channel when we stay in hotels.

    After my wonderful Ipod Classic died from a fall onto concrete, I bought a Nano so I can listen to podcasts. I detest that Nano. Apple, in my opinion, has really gone downhill in the area of mobile devices.

    Our shed collapsed from snow during the winter, and we now are finally building a new one. That is a purchase of sorts, right?

    I am not sure I can think of any other purchases aside from the usual books and clothing.

  8. My new favorite thing is rather expensive, a litter robot air. I have large cats and I hate emptying and changing litter. The blue light blinks when the drawer is full, I open the drawer, change the bag and the chore is done . No special bags are required, I use white kitchen trash can liners in the litter box and much less litter.

  9. fun post!

    I started to use my new radiant heat bathroom floor this week because bathroom is finally done, and it is sort of cold here. LOVE.

    I used my heated steering wheel for the first time this week because I bought the car in the Spring. I never had one before and it is great for the early drives to train or school.

    “Office” prescription glasses. I can still read without glasses, but it was getting tougher on the subway/dark restaurants. I have prescription glasses for distance, and I built the reading into the very bottom with progressives. I didn’t like because it was so tiny. My new glasses are really for looking at my computer screen and reading text. There is a spot in each frame that works for those activites based on my eyes.

  10. I’m always cold in the winter, and my preferred daily uniform is either fleece or cashmere. I just discovered nice looking, fine-fleece turtle neck heattech t-shirts from Uniqlo, where I’ve had good luck with other clothing purchases. They’re only $14.90 now, and free shipping with no minimum. They’re a definite step up from most fleece tops.
    http://www.uniqlo.com/us/product/women/heattech/tops/turtlenecks/women-heattech-fleece-turtleneck-long-sleeve-t-shirt-151425.html#09-004

    Plus, Uniqlo has Star Wars umbrellas on sale.
    http://www.uniqlo.com/us/product/men/accessories/umbrellas/umbrellas/star-wars-compact-umbrella-162027.html#08

  11. MM, thanks for that description of Amazon Firestick, which I believe you’ve mentioned before. I’ll mention it to my H who might like it for traveling.

    Someone in my family received a Fitbit as a gift, but didn’t find it useful and now it sits in a drawer. The gift giver is a Fitbit fanatic, and it’s kind of awkward explaining that the gift was not appreciated.

  12. I like my Fitbit. I have an extremely sedentary job, and my non work activities are also very sedentary, so the Fitbit keeps me honest about getting some exercise. I’m not sure the Fitbit I have is the greatest, but it works for me.
    We bought DS a new car–a Jeep Patriot–that has been a good purchase. Suits his needs exactly.
    We also bought a new dryer. Based on discussions here, we bought a very basic Kenmore on the thought that since dryers don’t last anyway, no point in buying an expensive one. It dries the clothes, and that’s all I ask it to do.
    No real duds, but we are low-acquisition types, so not a lot of chances for duds.

  13. My iron levels are marginal and I’ve asked for this for Christmas. It’s an iron fish that releases the proper amount of nutritional iron when boiled in water for 10 minutes. The form of iron in traditional supplements isn’t ideal for me.
    http://www.luckyironfish.com

  14. I like my Fitbit. I’m trying to be less sedentary, and actually knowing how many steps I’ve taken is really helpful. And, when I was recovering from a broken leg earlier this year, I found that I really needed to take a goldielocks levels of steps each day. Too many and the next day’s was really rough, not enough and I wouldn’t make make progress in getting better. I also really like my wool socks I got from Costco. Having warm feet in the winter is wonderful.

  15. Mémé’s Fitbit experience suggests it’s not a total dud, and one Fitbit could be shared amongst family members to establish baselines, and perhaps periodically compare/activity to those baselines and/or reestablish new baselines.

  16. I bought this vest this year. I was very hesitant, as it’s pricier than I normally spend on casual clothes. It is wonderful. I wear it all the time, and bought a second one while we were in NYC. Goes with everything from running clothes to a (casual) dress with tights. It would make a great gift:

    http://athleta.gap.com/browse/product.do?pid=138659072&vid=1&locale=en_US&kwid=1&sem=false&sdkw=upside-vest-P138659&brandCvoSid=SC4BNMD3373Z&sdReferer=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.athleta.com%2Fproducts%2Fvests-for-women.jsp

    It washed well (on ‘delicate’ cycle, then hung to dry).

  17. My worst purchase this year was the Vitamix. I don’t know what I was thinking. It was an unjustifiable indulgence, really wasn’t any better than my previous much less expensive blender, and when it broke I was so mad. Ugh.

  18. After I submitted the post my old toaster bit the dust and I splurged on a Magimix toaster – Rhett would love this. It has glass sides and you can see exactly how brown the toast is. I needed to replace a long skinny 2-slice single slot toaster to sit parallel to the back wall of my limited counter space. I did have a discount coupon that brought the price down closer to the only other viable option, a Cuisinart.

    http://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/3776515/?catalogId=92&sku=3776515&cm_ven=Google_PLA&cm_cat=Shopping&cm_pla=default&cm_ite=default&gclid=COng6_XIn8kCFVA6gQod8gAGIA&kwid=productads-plaid%5E82946570743-sku%5E3776515-adType%5EPLA-device%5Ec-adid%5E45527545423

  19. Although I haven’t yet learned to play it as I’d planned (other than memorizing Ode to Joy), the used Yamaha upright player piano that Meme spotted for me on eBay from a dealer in New London has been very enjoyable and fun. It’s playing right now here in the same room.

    I can’t think of anything else we’ve bought this year.

  20. Lark, I like Athleta but I hate the way all the models stand like their hip is displaced.

    For me it is really the small things. LOVE LOVE LOVE this inexpensive dog harness. Has turned my crazy puller into a tolerable creature to walk with. http://www.chewy.com/dog/petsafe-easy-walk-black-silver-dog/dp/48924?utm_source=google-product&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=hg&utm_content=PetSafe&utm_term=&gclid=CIbxppvIn8kCFUQ2gQodzYcAXw

    AND I adore my iPhone vent clip holder. So simple, so easy, so effective! http://www.amazon.com/Kenu-Airframe-Portable-Smartphone-Phablets/dp/B00D901B4W/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1448042592&sr=8-3&keywords=phone+vent+clip

  21. WCE – I think that is really neat. I hope it works. I used to take ferrous fumarate when it was not over the counter. I worked better than ferrous sulfate, but no medical solution helped for my iron deficiency

  22. @Lark – I have always been tempted, but skeptical about the Vitamix. I feel that I would buy it, use if for a week, and then get angry that I spent that kind of $$ on a blender. I would probably get more use out of the sous vide machine for the price.

  23. Ivy’s slicer reminded me of the ceramic potato peeler I got a few years ago, also made by Kyocera, which is so much better than any potato peeler I’ve ever used. I love that the blade will never rust, but still stays sharp.

  24. I bought these cleaning products and they work so well. You can use it to make various cleaners, hand soap, use it for laundry, basically everything…

    https://branchbasics.com/

    We finally renovated our downstairs bathroom this fall, about two years after my husband started to demo it. It’s done right before all of our Thanksgiving guests start arriving.

    Dh bought this sous vide thingy and we use it all of the time:

    http://anovaculinary.com/anova-precision-cooker/

    We do use our vitamix quite a bit, but bought it a few years ago. Mostly use it for smoothies/soups but it chops things pretty well too.

    Now if only I could find something that would magically organize the play room…

  25. Other random favorites –

    We got DS a backpack case for his guitar. SO much easier than lugging it around in the old school case it came in & he can carry it himself without fighting. Should have done this the second he started lessons.

    And on the silly but great side – I bought some old school 90’s scrunchies for a few $$ at Walgreens. These are just for around the house, but it is so great to be able to pull my hair back while cooking or something & then brush it right out without the hair elastic making a massive crimp in my hair. No pulling either. I forgot how great scrunchies are from a functional perspective.

  26. I have always been tempted, but skeptical about the Vitamix. I feel that I would buy it, use if for a week, and then get angry that I spent that kind of $$ on a blender.

    Folks, it’s $500. It’s not $50,000.** Just get it if you want it. Our Vitamix is almost a teenager. I’m sure the company will replace a relatively new one that broke.

    **This is what my brother said when I was telling him about different boat models and trying to justify the splurge. He cut me off with “you’re spending $40k, not $400k. If you can’t even do that, you’re turning into Grandma.”

  27. Folks, it’s $500. It’s not $50,000.** Just get it if you want it.

    I can’t be quite that casual about that kind of $$. I agonize over a vest that costs $120.

    But because I generally pinch my pennies on these kinds of things, I have the funds to buy things I know I really want, like a plane tickets.

    Vitamix is repairing the blender, at no cost to me (although when I called to tell them about it, the woman told me I was probably blending my smoothies incorrectly and that’s why the front knob broke).

  28. Hmm. First, ditto Rhett — finally getting Global Entry (which comes with Precheck) has been awesome. That and making it back to SW A-list has made travel much less hassle.

    Otherwise, not much. The Lady has been a great add for all of 3 weeks — I have been extremely busy, and it is a nice mental relief not to worry about stuff. Last night I realized I needed to figure out something for Sunday-Tuesday, so I took my iPad up to bed, spent 5 minutes cruising for two recipes, and emailed myself my recipes, grocery list, and weekend prep list. That used to take minimum 30 minutes on a good day, and I’d still have to make my own to-do list for the weekend. Struggling with bland (e.g., I used 2 days worth of teriyaki sauce on last night’s tofu lettuce cups and didn’t add the water to dilute it and DH still thought it was meh), and I’m clearly going to have to cycle in some of the heavier stuff DH likes. But, you know, I can do all that when I am enthused and have plenty of extra time to think about stuff; this is awesome for when I meet neither criterion.

  29. New stuff I like:

    1) Waring commercial blender (mx1000xtx): Was thinking of getting a Vitamix or BlendTec to see if I could puree fruits and vegetables smoothly enough for DS to enjoy despite his strong food aversions. So far I’m making myself a lot of fabulous soups and smoothies, as he is not converted. But the blender is great – they aren’t kidding about the 3 HP engine, and I figure if it is designed for use in a smoothie shop then it will survive my household.

    Probably.

    2) Canon EOS Rebel T3i: Should have switched to a DSLR years ago. Now I just have to learn all the specialized functions, although it takes awesome pictures on the auto setting (by my standards).

    On fitness trackers, I have the Up Move by Jawbone – got it a month ago for $19 and am using it to track steps and sleep. The app has a calorie/nutrition function that syncs with MyFitnessPal, which is what I use to calorie count. It also syncs with a lot of other health and nutrition apps.

    The step function is fine, but the results are sobering.

    The sleep function needs work. It measures sleep time from when I go to bed and switch it to sleep mode to when I start moving in the morning, but doesn’t subtract the time that I am awake at night with the children even though it shows the time as active. So if I go to bed at 10 PM, get up 3 times with the children for a total of 2 hours, and get up for the day at 6, the tracker says I got 8 hours of sleep instead of 6. If you don’t turn on sleep mode, the app will have you manually enter sleep times. It also is not able to distinguish the time I spend very still with a baby on my arm from the time I am asleep.

    The coach on the app offers some helpful reminders, and a lot of advice that is either blindingly obvious – “You haven’t had any vegetables today! Try adding some to your next meal!” or infuriating if you are already sleep-deprived: “Try to go to bed before 10:30 tonight and read a book to fall asleep quickly if you are woken up!” I wish there were a way to customize the coaching to my preferences and reality, which is that I too would rather not get up 3 times at night but must.

    I’m likely to continue using it because I need to shift the last ten pounds somehow, and it is keeping me going on walks when I would otherwise look out the window and decide it is too cold.

  30. I forgot the spiralizing veggie slicer I got off amazon – totally worth $20 because I can now replace all pasta with zucchini and yellow squash, which I saute while the kids’ pasta cooks. Absolutely brilliant.

  31. When we got a new blender a year or two ago we went with the (much cheaper) Ninja rather than the Vitamix, and we’ve been happy with that. If I want a pureed soup, a pot and a hand blender still works.

    We got our first Echo this summer, and obviously we liked it since we ended up getting three more so the kids would stop fighting over whose turn it was to have the Echo overnight and I could have my kitchen one back. They use it to listen to audiobooks or music when going to sleep at night, set morning alarms, ask it for weather and news when they wake up, ask it for background music when they’re hanging out or doing homework in their rooms. They also ask it questions and play with the various skills it has (Angry Bard will insult you Shakespeare style, Mirror Mirror will tell you if you’re the fairest in the land, etc.) The kitchen one that I just got back I use to set timers, ask it to play music, hear morning news and weather, control Hue lights, ask about traffic, that sort of thing. It’s nice to have an interface that works when your hands are full/occupied.

    We did a massive two-volume photobook of our summer trip and that’s been quite nice to have since we don’t tend to go back and flip through photos that only exist in digital form.

  32. Pour-over coffee filter that fits over my mug (Busy Bee?) I got hooked on strong pour-over this summer at camp (there is a fancy coffee place there, in the middle of nowhere) and now I can have it all the time instead of just there!

    Professional pictures of us and the kids, even though they were being STINKERS the whole time and cried – she used photoshop to switch the heads and they came out really well.

    Other than that, the best thing we have gotten this year is the start on clearing out the house to sell. It looks so clean and NICE! It also makes me realize what I don’t have (e.g. home office for all the household paperwork, not just DH’s office paperwork).

    Also, Marie Kondo’s book. My sibling summarized it for my DH and he was finally able to throw out all his 90s business books!

  33. HM – your glowing reports of the Echo has prompted me to get that for my kids for Christmas. The hover board is moved to birthday gift status. I have been selecting a few gifts and I keep moving things up and down in the gift rankings. I am taken by the VTech Zoom camera for kids so that’s what some my nephews will get.

  34. Oh man ts fun topic. I am enjoying The vicarious shopping fun. Our budget only allows for clothes.

  35. 1. Amazon Echo, Fire Stick & Kindle Paperwhite
    2. Mighty Mug travel mug that does not tip over (Christmas gift last year)
    3. Thirty-One utility tote bags (with a rim that helps them stand upright on when empty), purchased a few years ago when I was buying thermal insulated bags as gifts and got them for $5. I use them for EVERYTHING.

  36. I’ve been snapping up random assorted led solar lanterns for the yard. They are fabulous, no cords, no on/off. I have no decorative theme, just a ‘oh cool!’ criteria for the lanterns. So far, I have hanging multicolored paper lanterns that hang in trees, a globe stake that changes colors, and a bunch of various table top lanterns. It makes dinner outside fun without needing to use the exterior lights. And it just looks pretty from the house. I smile every time I see them. Worth the 10 bucks a pop, definitely!

  37. Austinmom, re: cat care – I use mini trash bin liners for the same purpose. We have a plastic bag ban, so I used to just reuse those, bit that’s not possible now! The mini bin liners work really well and have wide openings. They are a bit thinner than dog bags, though.

  38. “Also, Marie Kondo’s book. My sibling summarized it for my DH and he was finally able to throw out all his 90s business books!”
    Oh L, was your sibling’s summary too long to share here? If something is out there to convince my DH to throw out his 90s business books, I would be so happy! But does he have to thank the book as he tosses it into the recycling?

  39. L and HM – Went to BSO last night. (Still the best acoustics, especially in 2nd balcony center) I am crazy about our new conductor, Andris Nelson. He is vigorous and presents interesting programs without condescension. Gave a little talk before he started about hope and faith in the face of loss and oppression. (Tricolor illumination of organ pipes, too.) Started with two Bach chorale bits, Komm, Jesu, komm and Es ist genug, no break for applause and straight into Berg’s Violin Concerto, soloist Isabelle Faust, which uses a bit of Es ist genug in its second movement. Terrific. Then his usual high energy presentation of Shostakovich’s 5th – the one he wrote right after Stalin denounced his work.

  40. Apple Watch. Admittedly, half watch/half toy, but I love tracking all my metrics, being able to answer my phone even if it’s in the other room, etc.

    Also, Smart TV, so I can just watch Netflix without having to go through other appliances for which I never know the password.

    On a smaller scale, pre made spinach salad. I buy five every weekend and bring them for lunch every day, as I am inevitably stuck on a conference call with no time to get food. So convenient and prevents me from eating crappy fast food.

  41. favorite new things? hmm my CPAP machine for sleep apnea and the new brace I’m wearing on my left arm for the next 8 weeks…I hope 2016 is a better year

  42. I bought a new purse this year for the first time in several years, and I feel spiffy every time I carry it. There’s also a little local shop that opened up that sells very nice costume jewelry, so I bought myself a couple of beaded “statement” necklaces. The “bold necklace” is a new look for me (I’d always done small pendants, or no necklace at all), but I really like it.

    On the bigger-ticket end, we replaced the shutters on the outside of our house this year, and doing so has made a world of difference as to how our house looks. We actually have some curb appeal now! It makes me happy to come home to a house that doesn’t look like it’s falling apart.

    L– does the clean-out mean that you have indeed decided to move to the country??

    Off topic, just today, I received three holiday cards in the mail from various businesses that I worked with this year in my professional capacity. They were all “Happy Thanksgiving” cards. I’m wondering if sending Thanksgiving cards is going to become a new trend. I can see the appeal. Getting your cards out before Thanksgiving means one less thing to have to do at the height of the holiday season. And saying “Happy Thanksgiving” means you don’t have to navigate your way through the minefield of how to phrase a December greeting (e.g. do you mention “Christmas,” do you mention “Holidays” or do you just use some word like “Peace” or “Joy”).

  43. I’ll try my best. Basic premise is that you should ONLY keep things that “spark joy” when you hold them: “You read them and enjoyed them. That means that you have already gotten good use out of them and they have served their purpose. Will you ever read them again?” (no) “Then does it bring you joy to look at them?” (not really) Out they went!

    I did have to briefly convince him that the in thing to do in your office is no longer to have a giant shelf full of books, but to have glass everywhere and as few things as possible. “But how will I convince people that I know what I’m talking about?” “You’re 40; you don’t need to do that any more.” (Okay!) :)

    NoB – we are clearing out the house so that we can try to put it on the market for the ‘spring market’ (really late winter). The country house just went off the market for the winter, so we have some breathing space/time. :)

    Meme – I have been wondering how the new conductor is – great to hear that his programming is so good. Now to convince DH or one of my friends to go with me!

  44. TSA- Pre and Global entry are awesome. Rhett – I can’t believe you waited this long.

    I think I have been living under a rock because I didn’t know about the Echo until today. It looks fun, and useful – BUT – can a non techie make it work? Do you think I will be able to figure out how to use this without asking DD for help all of the time?

  45. OK, so the one best thing I have bought this year is a fairly inexpensive purse for DW. I am not a souvenir guy, and I am not a shopper, but I saw this one when I was in Rome on my trip with my parents and it’s PERFECT. Apparently DW had just told her sister that she needed (wanted) a new black purse and voila!

  46. Allie – we have a bag ban here too. The small trash can bags were the same price as the bags I got. And, yes I agree the poop bags are thicker.

    I forgot that I bought new cordless headphones – soundpeats. I like them alot better than my prior version. Also, decided to keep my birchbox subscription for another year.

  47. All of my 2015 purchases have been baby related… so probably nothing exciting

    The best things I bought myself were a bagallini wallet and totebag. Holy Moly saving my life. The wallet moves between my work bag and the diaper bag easily and keeps everything I need in one place (plus it has a strap, so it can be a clutch). The totebag started out as my pump bag (if I was going to pump at work, I was going to like the bag, dammit!). Now it’s my official carry-on bag. The amount of stuff I crammed in there last week was utterly amazing – change of clothes for me and DS, 3 toys, 1 book for me, 4 for him, his sippy cup, my wallet/sunglasses case, my DSLR and external flash (with extra batteries and one charger), and extra room to shove my structured carrier in if I needed to (which I did on the flight out). And it never felt heavy when I carried it.

    The life-saving purchase for DS was an automatic bouncer. Got us through colic and naps until last month. I’m sad to see that broken down and stored in the basement.

    The only other new purchase was a dishwasher – Kenmore Elite. AND I LOVE IT! It’s silent, and it doesn’t make a god-awful noise when it switches cycles. It cleans things so well compared to the old dishwasher.

    Oh and a big thank you to the Totebag! Carrying DS in a structured carrier and using the stroller as a trolley was amazing. I purchased two travel bags (one for the car seat and one for the stroller) and they kept our stuff clean and scuff free during the gate-check process. One bag needs repair, but totally worth the $30. Our next flight is in the spring, and I’m hoping to bring even less baby crap… but as long as DS is still under the weight limit (for my carrier), I’m totally carrying him again.

  48. Wine mama, I think costco has a similar vest on sale now! Dh wants an apple watch, but cannot justify the purchase. I might get the instant pot if it goes on sale again. Come on am@zon!

  49. Thanks L. The comment about how will they know that I know what I’m talking about resonated with me! I think both DH and I struggle with getting rid of books because of the idea that our zillion books say something about us. And it is very possible that we think they makes us look smart, when they very well may make us look disorganized and unfocused.

  50. Yoga pants- I mistakenly thought they wouldn’t work with my relatively stocky and short legs, but the right pair is actually very flattering, and extremely comfortable. They are my go-to casual wear now.

    Bubble bath- I had forgotten how relaxing and luxurious a nice bath can be.

    Wasp Freeze- instantly destroyed a nest with no swarming or stings, and saved us a couple hundred $ on hiring a professional.

  51. Dell – Best Buy had $50 off Apple Watch going on now, and starting Thanksgiving day Target is giving a $100 gift card with purchase.

  52. Lauren — I would say that using the basic features is very intuitive. You turn it one, you download the app to your phone or tablet so that you can enter your wifi info and set your preferences (locality, where your commute is to for traffic, account info for Pandora etc., what news you want in your briefing). Then you just talk to it — you don’t need to use phone/tablet app for day to day use, just when you want to change something in the settings. “Amazon, set a timer for 15 minutes. Amazon, play my Hawaiian station on Pandora. Amazon, read Fablehaven book 4. Amazon, wikipedia electron shell.” And so on. It’s sort of like having Siri in a Pringles can in your kitchen/living room.

  53. This is a small thing, but it has made me very happy. I have a Fitbit, and I love knowing how I am doing, stepwise, but I got sick of the rubber bracelet. I found a shop on Etsy that basically cuts off the straps of the plastic band (leaving just enough to house the fitbit) and then makes bracelets that attach. I wear what looks like a pearl bracelet on the outside of my wrist, but the fitbit part is on the inside.

  54. I just realized that babies Rhode and WCE will be turning one year old soon. A year has gone past already !

  55. “I also bought a nice road bike and have really liked riding it.”

    I want to hear as much about this as you are willing to post, so I can vicariously enjoy the bike too.

  56. DW got this, or something very similar to it:

    http://www.t-falusa.com/Cooking-appliances/ActiFry/Actifry-black/p/1500635571

    She really likes it– she uses it to cook french fries with almost no oil, and they come out quite good. DD now uses it more than DW. Part of why it’s so good is the easy cleanup– just throw the parts into the dishwasher.

    We once found some frozen sweet potato fries and bought a bag, and they came out great. I just wish we could find those consistently.

  57. “I can’t be quite that casual about that kind of $$. I agonize over a vest that costs $120.”

    We’ve discussed middle class values before, and this is an example of that, just like RMS and the Benz.

  58. frozen sweet potato fries

    Costco and Sam’s used to carry these — have they stopped? Failing that, you can get them from Y Hata on Sand Island.

  59. Ad block on Chrome and the extension that shows a Totebaggy piece of art everytime you open a new tab. Also, I got an Iphone 6s with 64 gigs of storage. The phone is marginally faster but the extra storage is awesome. We lease the phone with T-mobile and unlimited numbers of new phones upgrades.

  60. HM, I think we got the sweet potato fries from Sam’s. IIRC, we’d bought them before DW bought the cooker, but still had some in the freezer. We’ve been looking for them ever since, but haven’t seen them.

    I guess I could just buy some sweet potatoes, cut them, and freeze them, but I would much rather outsource that.

  61. I don’t know if there are any other Fresh Off the Boat fans here, but this week’s episode featured an appearance by an NPR totebag.

  62. I love this topic!

    Just a few off the top of my head – I am sure there are more meaningful/whimsical things:
    -flonase – I am in the epoch of life where the immune systems turns on itself and my allergies spiraled out of control (yes, I am that persons that you say, “bless you” to for the 7th time because you don’t really feel like you can stop). Anyway, I resisted shooting stuff up my nose for way too long.
    -a dress from Gudrun Sjoden – a Swedish designer, with billowy, loud clothes. A splurge but has worn so well and always earns compliments.
    -magnetic knife racks – convenient, not too cluttered appearing, and keeps them out of small hands.

  63. Finn – I got a Trek Silque. My husband has always been in to cycling and finally convinced me that I needed to join him. I was going to just get a mountain bike, but both my husband and the salesperson told me that would never work and I would never be able to ride with him if I did that. So, I spent way more $ than what I was planning and I still can’t really keep up, but we usually ride 15-20 miles and then he continues on his way while I stop. Overall, it has been really fun and I like it much more than I thought I would. I thought it would be terrible to do in the summer here, but it is actually quite tolerable since you get a nice breeze while riding. Now that it is getting cold, I will probably stop until spring.

  64. We’ve discussed middle class values before, and this is an example of that, just like RMS and the Benz.

    Middle class value like believing that suburban public schools are good enough for your kids. I’m always surprised that private school passed your middle class values test.

  65. Cat, you made the right decision to buy the road bike, especially if your DH rides one. About the only other option that would better help you keep up would be to get a tandem.

    Did you test ride a bunch of bikes? Were you able to pick out the differences?

    Your experience sounds like DW’s. We ended up spending more than she had initially wanted to spend, because an incremental increase got her a bike that was noticeably better. The test rides convinced her that she’d enjoy riding a lot more on the better bike.

  66. “I’m always surprised that private school passed your middle class values test.”

    I wasn’t too crazy about it at first. But around here, it’s consistent with middle class values that if your kid can get into one of the better privates and you can afford it, you do it, often making sacrifices to do so, like taking second jobs (for us, we’ve done far less traveling than we would’ve). Keep in mind, something like 20% of kids here go to privates, and most of those are MC and above, so that’s not uncommon at all among the MC.

    As we approach the end of that, at least for DS, I understand why that is so. The experience he’s had is, IMO, so much better than he would’ve had in public, although admittedly, my basis for comparison is rather thin.

    I think people here would be more surprised that HM’s kids go to public schools than that my kids go to private school.

  67. He has a road bike. I think the best combo would be for him to be on a mountain bike and me on a road bike. But, it is working pretty well as is.

    I did test ride a bunch. I narrowed it down to a Specialized bike and the one I purchased. Then I got the less expensive of the two. I could tell a difference between the cheaper bikes and what I got, but I there wasn’t much difference to me between the one I got and the ones that were a few thousand more. The last bike I had purchased prior to this one was in college and I think it was $200. The whole world of cycling is so crazy now!

  68. Holy crap is that bike expensive! And supposedly it’s not one of the pricier ones? I had no idea these bikes were so expensive! And you still have to pedal!

  69. But around here, it’s consistent with middle class values that if your kid can get into one of the better privates and you can afford it

    According to Google less that 20% of kids in Hawaii go to private school. It’s seem more a rich/upper middle class thing than middle class thing. Truely middle class kids in HI don’t go to private school… as a rule.

    It’s certainly fine that they go, I’m just struck by your spending such huge sums on something while still considering it middle class.

  70. LfB – do you watch the show? It’s like the character’s personality seems to match perfectly.

    Finn – I had the same thoughts as Rhett, but just didn’t want to sound like a broken record (any more than I already do). But I understand what you’re saying. When I was on my submarine summer cruise, between sophomore and junior year, I was on a Pearl boat, and I remember one of the department heads telling me that “everyone does private school in Hawaii, you just plan to spend your nuke bonus on it [$25,000 at the time] and you never miss it.” I didn’t give it any further thought at the time.

    I was about two weeks away from picking up a copy of “The Millionaire Next Door” at a Barnes and Noble in Victoria, B.C. I hadn’t yet been saved.

    I bought my Vitamix a few years later in a total impulse purchase at the Navy NEX. I’m still a bit of a sucker for a great sales demonstration of a quirky product. When you start talking about blenders in terms of horsepower, and boiling water by friction, my ears perk up. Vitamin was still relatively unknown at the time; I think it would be a couple years yet before they showed up at Williams Sonoma (and inspired competitors).

    For most other products, I was thinking recently how much I’ve shifted toward seeing everything as a commodity to be optimized on a per-gallon, per-meal, per-pound, per-year, per-mile, per-kilowatt*hour basis. I drove over 100 miles yesterday going nowhere special, not even to work. When I read criticisms of car interiors as too utilitarian, I’m thinking cheap miles.

  71. We go to a bike store around here, so we are just used to seeing the pricier bikes. The kids both got Specialized bikes and if anything went wrong with them, we could take it back to the store for free repair for upto two years or something like that. In fact, DD was ready for a new bike and I have a bike that I wasn’t riding. We thought DD would need an intermediate bike but the bike store adjusted and cleaned up my bike and she now rides it. We just got used to this dedicated bike store, where you can try out the various models of different prices and the salesmen are pretty good at giving advise to their customers. In the discussion of MC values, we would have scoffed at going to a store of this kind but it is one of things that you like but can’t really explain.

  72. There are bike stores everywhere here. We buy our starter bikes at Dicks and then usually buy the next round at the specialty store that refurbishes and donates bikes. That said, my bike is 15 years old and a hand me down from my Dad.

  73. May I have your opinions on a couple of questions?

    Would you purchase an extended warranty on a new car that 1) extends the soup to nuts coverage from 3 years to 10 years and, and 2) works out to $330/year for years 4 through 10. Normally I don’t buy extended warranties, but this seems like a good value. OTOH, I tend to self-insure for most stuff. The main point I got from the sales pitch was that my neighborhood mechanic would not be able to fix most of the stuff that could break down so I would probably have to take it to the dealer for service even without a warranty. I suspect this is correct since much of this stuff is so sophisticated. This car has a sterling reputation for reliability, but things happen. I plan to keep my car for at least 10 years.

    How do vacation days, specifically from European companies, usually accrue for new employees? I’m flabbergasted that a new 20-something hire is being offered 24 vacation days starting his first year of employment by a UK-based firm. It sounds too good to be true. Have any of you worked for European firms that offered such generous vacation right off the bat?

  74. I’ve worked for a couple of European banks that had generous vacation policies for their staff in Europe and the UK. The same generous vacation benefits were not extended to their American staff in the US. It is just part of the culture, and competing with other offers. There was sometimes a 90 day start period with no vacation accrual and then time would start to accrue. If someone received 15 or 20 days, it would be as simple as 15/12 or 20/12, and the employee would days as each month passed. the laws about retention of unused vacation varied by country if vacation wasn’t all used in a calendar year. Also, some employers got smarter about how days were classified. For example, pooling all vacation and sick time into paid time off (PTO) instead of endless sick days and fixed vacation. I can’t remember exactly, but there were definitely different rules in the UK vs certain countries in Europe about time off for sick leave.

  75. Would you purchase an extended warranty on a new car

    Is it a factory extended warranty? If so, I’d feel comfortable with you buying it at that price. You aren’t buying a Prius or Camry hybrid are you?

    As for vacation time in Europe, I think in Germany when you start a new job, on day one you start with 6 weeks in your vacation bank. But, I’m not certain.

  76. My new favorite things are Spotify and my Intelligentea tea mug from Adagio tea that makes loose tea as easy as tea bags. No strainer or tea ball needed.
    And the $15 long sleeved cotton/modal T-shirts from Uniqlo. Soft and lightweight and so far have not shrunk.

  77. My brother works for a German company. He is based in the US. He has your typical US vacation policy – start at 15 days, then increased to 20, 25 based on years. His German counterparts have a much more generous policy. And when they take their month holiday in August they are out of touch completely. When my brother takes 5 days off, he is still working.

  78. Ingenuitea. I use this item every day but can never remember the name, even though it’s clearly imprinted on the side.

  79. Total Totebag moment today: lunch after bar mitzvah, we have a plate of cookies on the table, I try to break off part of one without touching the other part, DD starts in on me (mom, what are you doing, just take the darn cookie, etc). And I hear myself saying: “I don’t *want* a whole cookie. I want a *half* a cookie.”

    Luckily, I caught myself. Ate the whole thing, just on general principles (well, and it was yummy).

  80. “I just realized that babies Rhode and WCE will be turning one year old soon. A year has gone past already !”

    Louise – this thought has been swimming around my head at the speed of light.

    I also did our Xmas cards this week (thank you Vistaprint!), including his first pic, and a pic of him on the Skyledge in Chicago. If you didn’t know about our year, you’d never expect that the punk on the Skyledge is the same peanut who made quite a dramatic entrance into the world. Hell, I don’t believe it.

    Scarlett – Ingenuitea… do you need a separate mug? I would love to be able to use loose tea at work without having to clean things all the time.

  81. Milo, Rhett, Finn is correct in saying that I’m the one who stands out as an exception, at least if we’re talking about professional-class (upper middle class) rather than true middle class. Just yesterday I had another one of those conversations where, when I say where my kids are at school (zoned public), the response is either “GOOD for you!” or “Reeeally? And how do they like that?” Every year Honolulu Magazine, our local version of the [Your City] Magazine every place seems to have, has an annual public schools edition with a concern-trolly cover news story on some variation of “Are Our Public Schools Failing?” and then a few months later, a private schools edition with no actual news coverage, just a massive advertorial section with little items on “When to Apply” and “How to Choose the Right School for Your Child” and a shit-ton of ads for all the different schools.

    There was a good book that came out a few years ago discussing how the public/private divide is presented in the media and in people’s conversations — you can read a summary here http://archives.starbulletin.com/content/20090719_Going_public .

  82. Whoever suggested popcorn cauliflower, I’ve now made it three times (with frozen cauliflower) and we like it. Thanks!

  83. Rhode,
    Yes you need a separate mug. You put the loose tea in the Ingeuitea mug, pour the water in and let it steep, then place that mug atop the drinking mug. The tea automatically drains into your mug, leaving the dregs behind. It works best if you have access to a sink with a disposal.

  84. OMG! DH has finally said we can get a small house/condo in Half Moon Bay to live in part time and rent out part time! I’m so excited! Has anyone done this? Any tips? And Bay Area people, why are there reasonable-looking properties in Half Moon Bay for less than a million? What don’t I know? Remember I grew up going there for day trips and I’ve been there several times in the last few years, so I know it isn’t actually a sewer or something. This cancels out everything else. If DH agrees to this I will drive my car til it falls apart on the road, I’d sell the family silver if I could get any real money for it (sterling is *cheap*), I’ll sell my bike, I’ll do anything.

  85. I really like HMB. We try to take a drive there when we are visiting the peninsula. I just asked two friends that live on the other side of the “hill” for their opinions. They both purchased homes this year after looking for nearly a year in many, many neighborhoods from Palo Alto to Hillsborough. One friend had an office in HMB and commuted from San Mateo area. they think prices are lower due to perception that it is far. It isn’t where younger, newer people want to live unless they have need more house for their money. They don’t think as many tech folks want to live that far because the driving time adds up if you have to ride across, and then go north/south on one of the freeways. Since tech money isn’t as common, the prices haven’t been driven up as much by that group. They said that plenty of people are still buying there because you can get more value for the money. Mentioned that it is easier for people to look there if they’re commuting via 280, but very long commute if office is off the 101.

  86. Congratulations RMS! I know that you have been wanting to come back to the Bay Area for a while.

    My general impression is that Half Moon Bay would be cheaper because of the reason that Lauren mentioned, that it is perceived as far away, but also, the roads in and out are limited. You either have to use Route 1 or 92, and they can get very congested. But, if you are living there and enjoying the town and the beach, that wouldn’t really be an issue.

  87. Interesting, thanks! I agree it would be a nightmare to commute from. But that’s not the plan. Hmm.

  88. If you buy it put us on the rental list. We would love to stay there if you are thinking of renting by the week or (gulp!) the month.

  89. The main point I got from the sales pitch was that my neighborhood mechanic would not be able to fix most of the stuff that could break down so I would probably have to take it to the dealer for service even without a warranty.

    That’s total BS. There are plenty of independent mechanics who will be able to service it just fine.

    Based on my experience with the Toyota extended warranty this summer, go over it with the salesperson in extreme detail as to what is excluded.

  90. My aside to the sports gods apparently appeased them only halfway. SWVA, all I could think about during overtime was all the crow I’d have to eat here if we lost. But then b’ball lost to Northern Iowa, so I got my smackdown.

    RMS that’s very exciting. Enjoy the search process!

  91. Congrats RMS!!

    Can I rent it? I’d love to explore that area of the country.

    Enjoy the search!!

  92. RMS, please keep us updated! I look forward to hearing more as you move forward on this.

    The spiralizer I bought was a dud because it did not work on sweet potatoes. I wanted to spiralize sweet potatoes and then saute them. When I reviewed the product with this info, the company responded and acknowledged that their product did not work very effectively on potatoes. But now I’m going to dig the gadget out of the drawer and try it with zucchini.

    (I feel guilty because I rarely give reviews on good purchases, but I’m more likely to do so with clunker purchases.)

  93. “That’s total BS. There are plenty of independent mechanics who will be able to service it just fine.”

    I agree with that point. The have access to the same software and code readers.

    Personally, I wouldn’t buy the warranty. You made the point about self-insuring, so you understand that they’re selling these because they’re ultimately profitable for them, not you.

  94. “I say where my kids are at school (zoned public), the response is either “GOOD for you!” ”

    LOL!

  95. ^ I think that was for driving a hybrid car, but it can apply to vegans, shoppers who eschew plastic bags, and others, apparently including public school parents.

  96. Thank you everyone for your comments.

    I love my local mechanic, but from my experience I do think a dealer would be able to diagnose and repair more efficiently. However, convenience is a big factor. I’d much rather go to my mechanic, who’s less than a mile away, for a first opinion instead of initially driving 25 minutes to the dealer, which I would feel obligated to do for a warranty issue. So in that sense it would be better to skip the extended warranty, and just pay for repairs if/when they come up. Plus, there’s always wiggle room in how the dealer will treat warranty issues, as DD discovered.

    “The same generous vacation benefits were not extended to their American staff in the US.”

    That’s what’s puzzling about this situation, but I think they offer the same generous benefits to their American staffers because it’s a relatively small company (100-200 employees, I think) with only about 10-15% of their staff located in the US. They seem to transfer people back and forth, so it is less of a headache to keep the benefits uniform across countries.

  97. Rocky I also agree with the notion that HMB prices are relatively low due to the perception of it being far away. Also, except for the pumpkins its cache isn’t the same as other places…thinking santa Cruz.

    Anon if your current mechanic can’t do the work on the new car you should find another independent who can. Skip the warranty.

  98. Congratulations RMS ! I will have to look up HMB and enjoy your vacation house through your descriptions.

  99. Thinking of PTM’s car as I drove around. The most common more expensive sedans I saw were Lexus. There was an older well put together lady, I saw getting out of a Caddilac and that car suited her very well. My kids are afraid my next car will be what they call a “clown car”. Not entirely sure what that means.

  100. @RMS – per my kids a clown car is a too small car in which you are trying to cram too many full sized occupants.

  101. RMS, I agree with everyone else that it’s largely due to the perception that commuting would be a pain.

    But don’t sell your bike, unless you intend to replace it. That would be like the Gift of the Magi. HMB is a great area for biking.

  102. Louise – do they think you are going to get a Mini Cooper or a Fiat? Either of those would be fun to drive around once your carpooling duties tail off!

  103. @ssk – I saw quite a few older ladies in small economy cars. These were not the Mini Cooper or Fiat but more like the Ford Fiesta, Nissan Leaf etc. The guys seem to like the Smart cars to drive around.

  104. After a couple of car detours, back to the topic. One of my favorite things on sale this time of year is Bedhead Pajamas. Very long lasting and comfortable. Actually, I use these more like lounge wear around the house. I can sing their merits when I asked “why, are you in your pajamas ?”.
    https://www.bedheadpjs.com/

  105. Wow, RMS, how exciting! Put us on the rental list, too! You might be able to make up that “lease for half the year” part on the Totebag exclusively!

  106. @Lark, Oddly enough, the home crowd just seemed happy that our team fought back from the deficit to go into OT, and losing in OT didn’t matter. It was a perfect day in every way other than the final score. I’m glad the sports gods found a way to give you your comeuppance anyway though! ;-P

  107. how exciting RMS! add me to the list of people interested in renting. DH and I went to HMB on our san fran honeymoon, stopped at a winery there.

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