It’s December, and that means we’re fast approaching peak “buying stuff for people” time. I’ve spent the last few days doing just that, knocking off the present buying for the family for the year. (I don’t have it in me to wait very long to get the present purchasing out of the way. Knowing that it’s there waiting to be done is just way too disturbing.)
Of course, the problem with presents is that sometimes you end up buying something in the heat of the moment that, in hindsight, wasn’t really worth it. Presents that see use for a few days or even a month, and then get tossed in a drawer or closet, never to see the light of day again until you give them to goodwill or sell them in a garage sale. No one likes to have those sort of present buying experiences, right?
I’m here to help.
Here’s a list of the best presents I’ve bought and received, along with links to the present in question, when possible. (Amazon links do earn me a small commission through the blog, but none of these recommendations are sponsored in any way.) And if you have any recommendations of gifts that have done really well for you. I’m all eyes.
Ready? Here we go.
Blendtec Blender: My family uses this high-end blender at least three or four times a day. There’s a counter on it that tracks how many uses it’s had, and ours just passed 3,000. It makes smoothies, hummus, milk shakes, and more. It doesn’t have sharp blades, so you don’t have to worry about cutting yourself, and the end results are smooth and wonderful. When this breaks, I’ll replace it in a heartbeat.
Boot/Glove Dryer: If your family is outdoors in the snow a lot, this is a must. For my family of skiers, this gets used constantly in the winter. It lets you properly dry out boots and gloves without having to remove linings or wait for hours. Denisa frequently talks about how handy it is. Score!
Nintendo Switch: It’s gone with us to Europe. It sees constant use in the house by my kids. It’s family-friendly and easy to use. Games that are favorites are Animal Crossing, Breath of the Wild, Pokemon. MarioKart, Smash, Mario Odyssey. But man, the prices for the Switch on Amazon right now are through the roof. A new one should only cost you $300, in case you were wondering what a fair price is. The Switch Lite is also a good alternative, but think of that one as strictly portable. (At least the prices aren’t bloated for those right now.) The Pro controllers were also great gifts for it (I can only vouch for the official Nintendo ones), as was the carrying case and screen protector.
Oculus Quest 2: The Rift I got for the kids three years ago was well loved, though it was hard for me to wholeheartedly recommend one, just because you needed a high end computer to go with it. Well, now Oculus has the Quest 2, which is totally stand alone. No cords. No sensors to set up in the room. Just pure VR action. You can even hook it up to a nice computer to play more robust VR games, but from what I’ve seen, it provides a great VR experience even without that. I would get the one with bigger storage, even though it’s more money.
Board games are big at my house, but not all board games end up being played. Ones that have been played many times by my family in the last few years include Kingdomino, Splendor, Ticket to Ride Europe, Seven Wonders, Sushi Go, Hanabi, Azul, Kingdom Builder, Seven Wonders Duel, and Codenames. Terraforming Mars is a new one I’ve really enjoyed. If you’re looking for something more strategy based, Gloomhaven just came out with a simpler version that’s supposed to be much more easy for dabblers to catch onto: Jaws of the Lion. It’s a standalone prequel to the original game.
Amazon Echo and Dot: These home assistants (or the Google or Apple variety) are pretty ubiquitous at this point. Yes, it’s still a bit creepy to think that those things are always listening, but then again, so are our phones, so . . . . Embrace our robot overlords? We’ve got them hooked up to work as an intercom system in our house as well, which is really useful. MC uses them to tell her how to spell just about anything, and they’re very handy as kitchen tools (timer, conversions, music, etc.)
Stove Fan: It runs even when there’s no power, and it does a great job distributing the heat more evenly throughout the room and house. I got the higher end one, and I’m glad I did. I would recommend these to anyone who uses a wood stove.
Snow Blower: For that matter, I have no idea what I’d do without a snow blower. (Actually, I do. I remember the first year in Maine without one. It wasn’t pretty.) If you live in a place with a lot of snow, and you don’t want to pay or rely on someone to plow your driveway, a high quality snow blower is a must. My Honda has been dependable and a life saver, year after year. 11 years and counting now! (For that matter, don’t forget a roof rake, either.)
High-end Rechargeable Batteries: I love my Eneloops. I bought a few to see if I’d like them and they were reliable. I’ve bought a ton more. These are so much better than the old style that you never could rely on to actually be charged. The Amazon Basics brand of them work very well too, and they’re much cheaper.
Home Theater Projector: It’s been a bit since I got mine, so I’m not sure what the latest and greatest is these days, but getting a projector (and an actual screen) has been so much easier than I thought it would be, and I love mine.
Apple TV: Who needs cable when you’ve got Apple TV? I especially love how it feeds in my pictures for a screen saver, so we can see all our favorite pics from over the years whenever there’s a lull in using the TV.
Kindle Paperwhites are a favorite for the whole fam. Easy to use, and great for reading at night. They’ve also been a boon to helping us fall asleep easier. I got some for Tomas and Daniela, as well. Having them have iPads or phones in their room at night can lead to some pretty bleary-eyed kids in the morning. Paperwhites remove all the distractions and just let you read, which I’m fully in favor of.
Rainbow Loom has been a hit with all of my kids when they were around 8 years old. Go figure. Cheap, and hours of entertainment. A good combination.
My favorite remote control of all time is easily the Harmony Smart Control. Operates tons of devices easily and effectively. And you no longer have to point the remote at the device you’re trying to control. I’ve set up 4 of these puppies, and they all just keep working. (Though it looks like they’re in short supply on Amazon right now. A normal price for one would be around $150. A good price would be $100. Anything lower than that is a steal.)
Our family started a handmade Christmas present challenge a few years ago, and that continues to do well. We exchange names, and the one requirement is that whatever you give the other person has to be handmade. Great way to make things less money, and have it be more about love than stuff.
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