Spanish-English Dictionary Recommendations

One of the best parts of having a blog, I think, is that if I get stuck on almost ANY topic, there is SOMEONE who will know the answer.

William is taking Spanish 1 this year, and he likes it. He just added “Spanish-English Dictionary” to his wish list, probably not realizing that’s the sort of thing I would have bought him for free. Ha ha, sucker.

What I am wondering is if anyone can recommend a good one. I emailed his Spanish teacher and she recommended the Merriam Webster dictionary. I tried reading the reviews, and it got exhausting: everything from “THIS IS THE ONLY DICTIONARY YOU WILL EVER NEED” to “THIS IS THE WORST POSSIBLE CHOICE,” all on the same book.

William added three clarifying remarks to his request; he wants the dictionary to have:

(1) direct translation
(2) synonyms/antonyms
(3) sample sentences

I don’t know if those are reasonable requests or not. Ack, so last-minute.

Salt Winner

Okay, I can at LEAST choose a salt winner: it’s BegoƱa, whose comment was:

International shipping prices are a real bummer! I live in Scotland but have a friend in the U.S. who is going to spend Christmas with her cat and a limited budget for food and I am so very sure she would love these. Fingers Crossed!!

I will email you!

Pre-Post-Christmas Blues

I have so many things to say.

FIRST, on the post about what to do with leftover cards, velocibadgergirl commented that she and a friend SWAPPED their leftovers, so then they both had new cards to send! Isn’t that a great idea??

SECOND, I am feeling my annual Mood Swings Before Christmas. Yesterday morning I was so high I wondered if I should perhaps be concerned. I think it was happiness after spending time with some of my favorite people this past weekend, combined with exhilaration over a couple of gift decisions and the ordering of them, combined with satisfaction about being on schedule but ALSO the slight stress of having more to do. Anyway, I felt GREAT.

And then yesterday evening, the inevitable crash. I was working on Christmas cards, and I just…deflated. I felt like the house was falling apart while I tried to keep up with rituals that suddenly seemed pointless; I felt in advance the post-Christmas blues where suddenly nothing is special anymore AND there’s a backlog of chores. I felt like as usual I was doing EVERYTHING and Paul was doing NOTHING, AND as if that were my own fault for (1) not asking him to and (2) not really actually wanting him to, because I am happier if I feel low-level resentment, and this made me feel like I am a hard person to live with and it’s so frustrating to be halfway through life but to have made so little progress on Personal Growth. I felt responsible for the impossible task of making the children’s Christmas a happy one. I felt like no one ever listens to me and I have to constantly tell people to do even the most basic things such as taking their OWN clothes out of the bathroom after a shower, or picking up something if they knock it to the floor. I felt like I couldn’t sit at my dining room table and work on cards ON BEHALF OF THE WHOLE FAMILY without that same whole family bothering/interrupting me every 5 seconds. I felt like I was failing at doing Christmas activities with them, AND failing to keep up with the baby name blog, AND failing to do all the gift idea posts I’d intended to do on this blog. (If you click the “gift ideas” category, which I now can’t find in the margin, SIGH ANOTHER FAILURE, you can at least get PREVIOUS years’ ideas, but not sorted or anything, you’ll just have to slog through pages of them.) Also I still haven’t chosen a salt winner OR updated on the red mixer and AAAAAAAAAAAAAGH.

Well. It was not good. But I think this happens every year, because I feel like I recognize these complaints and exhilarations. Going to sleep helped a little bit last night, and this morning I have eggnog in my coffee. (The trick is to use quite a bit—like, 1/5th of the mug should be eggnog. And heat it up a little in the microwave first, so that it doesn’t cool the coffee too much.)

What Do You Do with the Leftover Cards?

HERE IS MY QUESTION: What do you do with your leftover holiday cards? I mean, not if you get them custom printed with photos and the year right on it. In that case, presumably you save them forever because they are useless and yet also too good to throw out. What I mean is if you use boxed cards, where you bought 5 boxes of 10 cards but you needed 47 cards, or you bought 5 boxes of 20 cards but you needed 91 cards, or you bought one box of 16 cards but you needed 12 cards. Here is what I do with the extra cards from previous years:

1. Use them to save me when I accidentally have too FEW cards (bought 5 boxes of 10 cards but needed 53 cards)

2. Use them for teachers, mail carriers

3. Theoretically but not actually: use them for new additions to the card list

4. Actually: save them year after year in the Christmas card box, getting increasingly weird about not wanting to “use them up”

I was thinking what I OUGHT to do is periodically have a Leftover Cards Year when I send out NOTHING BUT LEFTOVERS. Most recipients would end up with cards they’d received in previous years, but (1) would they notice? and (2) would they care? If I got the same card two years in a row, I think I’d think vaguely, “Oh, that card looks familiar—I wonder if I got it from someone else?” It would have to be Quite Distinctive for me to notice. (The third year, I might notice.) And if I DID notice, I think I’d think, “Ah: the leftover card issue.”

Salt Tasting Book Giveaway

I went to the Yankee Swap, and it went…okay. I think we needed more people. And we needed less niceness. And maybe a different set of gifts/rules? Because I was the fourth one to choose a gift, and NO ONE HAD SWAPPED YET. And then I swapped, because I thought someone NEEDED to swap or else NO ONE was going to swap, and I think it slightly hurt the feelings of the person whose gift I opened, because she felt like that meant I didn’t like what she’d chosen. And then someone else opened her OWN gift, expressing crabby resentment that no one else had so far chosen to open it (what?), and used that method to decide who should have it, by swapping her-own-gift-that-she-unwrapped for someone else’s gift. And then someone expressed unwillingness to take away a gift from someone who had expressed liking for it, and there was a polite argument about it where the person who had the gift tried to express willingness to have it stolen, without acting like she didn’t like the gift and hurting the feelings of the giver. And at the end, three of the eight guests ended up with their own gifts, two of them not by choice and one expressing dissatisfaction/hurt at that situation (“Nobody wanted my ____? Does anyone want it now? You can have it”). ALL RIGHT SO IT DIDN’T GO VERY OKAY. I’m not sure this game is a good idea. We had a nice evening anyway.

The short version of this story is that I ended up with my own salt tasting kit. (For me, this was a happy outcome.) I was thinking I’d just return it to the store, but that doesn’t seem very FESTIVE. Let’s do a giveway instead! This is what it looks like, remember:

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A box of six little jars of flavored salts (truffle, lemon, etc.), the whole thing designed to look like a book: you open the cover and you can see the salts, and the cover says Gourmet Artisan Salts Tasting Book. I found it at HomeGoods, in the Long Corridor of Temptations (i.e., the check-out aisle).

To enter, leave a comment. It doesn’t have to be fancy: you can write “Hi!” if you want. Or when I enter giveaways I like to have a writing prompt to make the whole thing less awkward, so you could instead tell me what day you received your first Christmas/holiday card this year (my first one arrived the day before Thanksgiving), or if you’ve had any doozies yet (super-braggy letters, anything that particularly fails/wins the Christmas Card Scoring System). Or you can tell me if you’d keep the salt yourself, or if you’d give it as a gift (and if so, to whom).

U.S. addresses only, which seems like a huge bummer but THIS is the real bummer:

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$45 to ship a $12.99 package of salt? That’s not worth it for EITHER of us. So U.S. addresses only: I can ship to you, or if you want I’ll ship it to someone else. I’ll even gift-wrap it and put a tag on it from you to them (or from me to them, or from me to you, or from Santa Claus to them, or from Secret Admirer to them, or whatever): it’ll take 5 seconds and I have the gift-wrapping supplies all over the dining room table anyway. I have Obviously Christmas paper but also General Wintery Holiday paper and even Birthday Paper if you want to give it to someone with a birthday in December. I’M FLEXIBLE, IS WHAT I’M SAYING.

I’ll pick a winner sometime on Monday, December 15th, 2014, and I’ll plan to mail it out very soon afterward to get it there before Christmas.

Annual Calendar Post, 2015 Edition! Or Would We Call it 2014 Edition?

This is my favorite post to work on of the WHOLE YEAR.

I buy five wall calendars each year: one for the kitchen (the main one where I write appointments and so forth); one for next to my desk (for all blog/computer-related stuff); and one for each of the three kid rooms.

I’ve bought one calendar already:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Pusheen the Cat calendar. I bought this back in MAY, which is completely atypical (I usually don’t even THINK of ordering anything until I’m working on this post in December), but Pusheen is so huge at our house I KNEW we’d want one and I was worried it might sell out. This might be the kitchen/family/main calendar this year, because I know it’s one we’ll all like, and because I think there might be fighting if I try to choose which kid room gets it.

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Lunar calendar. This glows in the dark, which seems especially nice for a kid room—and they don’t write on their calendars, so it doesn’t matter that the background is black. (A reviewer remarked that you CAN write on it with silver Sharpie marker.)

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(image from Amazon.com)

Pocket Pigs calendar. Two strong selling points: the review I THOUGHT said “Good quality pigs” (it actually said “Good quality, lovely pigs”—meaning presumably that the calendar is of good quality, not the pigs) and the words “pocket pigs.”

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Hedgehogs calendar. HEDGEHOGS.

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Hyperbole and a Half calendar. I loved this book so much that when I saw there was a CALENDAR I thought “That’s it: office calendar decided.” But when I looked at the sample pages and considered having each of them up for a full month, I thought maybe I’d rather re-read the book.

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

The Mathematics calendar. I bought this for Paul as usual. It has a math problem on each day. He takes the calendar to work and he and his geek friends work on it.

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Farmer’s Market calendar. I had this one for 2014. A very satisfying calendar. I’m thinking of framing some of the pages.

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

David Olenick calendar. I like it! It has the “I’m not sure I want to experience the same joke for a whole month” issue, but the kids might like that.

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Treehouses of the World calendar. This one tempts me every year.

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)


Wild Bird Woodcuts calendar
. I like this one, maybe for the kitchen or maybe for my office (Elizabeth, looking at the shelf of knickknacks on my desk shelf: “What’s with all your…BIRD stuff?”).

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Art of Andy Warhol calendar.

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Caterpillar calendar. This makes me feel a little sentimental about Toddler Rob, who lovvvvved construction vehicles.

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Zoo Portraits calendar. I love it. This is a finalist for me.

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Animal Portraits calendar. This one too.

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

This is London calendar. This is another I consider every year, along with This is Paris, This is New York, and now This is Australia.

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Lotta Jansdotter calendar. Finalist for next to my desk. The last two years I’ve had a vintage wallpaper calendar, and this seems similar.

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Clueless calendar. TEMPTING.

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Classic Bicycles calendar.

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

World Travel Vintage Poster calendar.

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

American Cities Vintage Posters calendar.

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Things Come Apart calendar. This would be great for one of the kid rooms.

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

The Colors of Fashion calendar. I am not even what I’d call INTERESTED in fashion, and yet I think this would be fun to look at.

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

New Yorker Covers calendar. Finalist for kitchen or desk.

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Rob Ryan calendar. I like the papercuts very much, but the sayings are not my style.

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Flower Recipe calendar. A clever and pleasing concept.

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Tiffany calendar. So pretty.

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Cats in Sweaters calendar. Elizabeth will want this one, I’ll bet.

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Maddie on Things calendar.

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Hieronymus Bosch calendar. WHAT AM I EVEN LOOKING AT.

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

A Fishing Lure Every Day calendar. A fishing lure EVERY DAY.

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Dena calendar. Oh, wow, that is FANCY. It doesn’t have enough writing room to be the kitchen calendar, but definitely a possibility for my desk.

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Fruit Crate Labels calendar. This is the kind of decor I have in the kitchen, so it would go well. On the other hand, because this is the kind of decor I have in the kitchen, it might feel a little boring.

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

1950s Patterns calendar. This is so similar to the wallpaper calendar I’ve had two years in a row, I’m not sure I want to do it—but these are so exactly the kinds of patterns I like, and THIS year’s wallpaper calendar was a bit of a disappointment so I feel this would be an opportunity for a redo.

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Mid-Century Modern Wallpaper calendar. Another option.

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Historic San Francisco calendar. I saw these historic calendars for a BUNCH of places.

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Foxes calendar. I still love foxes.

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Vintage Postcards calendar. I also still love postcards.

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Maisy calendar. Oh, Maisy! I miss Maisy!

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Minecraft calendar. We had one last year and it was popular; if I remember correctly, we had to flip a coin to decide which kid room got to have it. Maybe this year we could do it for another kid room.

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And as always, I am interested to know what calendar YOU are choosing for 2015, if you still use a calendar and get to choose it!

Christmas Earrings

My sister-in-law and my sister-in-law-in-law and I like to go to a Holiday Performance each December: a concert or a musical or a play or the Rockettes or something. Last year I saw my sister-in-law’s great holly-leaf/berry earrings and realized that I needed Christmas earrings, so over the past year I’ve been working on that. First I bought these:

(screen shot from Amazon.com)

(screen shot from Amazon.com)

It’s so hard to tell size from a picture, isn’t it? And then it’s hard to describe it: one person’s “small” earring is another person’s “large.” I consider them small/medium. The tree part (not including French hook) is almost exactly from the tip of my finger to the end of the first knuckle.

 

Next I bought these:

(screen shot from Amazon.com)

(screen shot from Amazon.com)

At first I thought I only wanted ONE pair of decorated-Christmas-tree earrings, but (1) it turns out I don’t like many other types (so far I haven’t seen any stockings, snowmen, or Santas I want), and (2) these are quite different in style, and (3) I JUST WANTED THEM OKAY. The first pair is foil/glitter/jewel/gold; this pair is silver/enamel. They’re a little smaller than the first pair: the tree part of the earring goes from the tip of my finger to the top of the first knuckle.

 

 

After a lot of waffling, I bought these:

(screen shot from Amazon.com)

(screen shot from Amazon.com)

I’m still not even sure they’re my style. But they went on a good sale, and they DID keep catching my eye again and again, and I DID want more than just Christmas-tree-shaped earrings, so finally I bought them. They’re a little shorter than the first pair of tree earrings, but because they’re twice as wide they seem medium-sized to me rather than small/medium.

 

Then on a shopping trip with my sister-in-law and sister-in-law’s sister, I bought these:

(screen shot from Amazon.com)

(screen shot from Amazon.com)

They’re by Sienna Sky, and I hope they come back into stock soon because these are the ones I MOST wanted to recommend. I’d thought my plan was to wear Christmas earrings the whole month of December, but it turns out I still feel a little funny wearing the tree/wreath ones (not WRONG, just NOT INCLINED). But the car bringing home a Christmas tree is EXACTLY what part of the year it is now! PRE-Christmas! Christmas PREP! These are the smallest of the earrings: the tree and car together are only as big as my thumbnail. And they’re made of a very light material, if heavy earrings bother your ears: it’s like they’re laser-carved out of…curved…I don’t know. But they’re very light. Sleigh with tree are pretty cute, too. Or cardinals sitting in wreaths. Or mittens. Or Christmas moose. Or snowboarding polar bears. Or candy canes. Or Rudolph. Or, okay, I guess I DO like these snowman earrings. But I think the car/tree ones were the BEST.

 

But nothing I’d bought seemed to have the over-the-top glitz and glamor I wanted for a Christmas SHOW. I have a gold sequined tank top I’m going to see if I can make work (my money is on “no”), and not a single pair of these earrings can stand up to GOLD SEQUINS. So this weekend I tried Claire’s, and THAT is what I am talking about: I bought one set of six pairs of dangle earrings that look like big Christmas lights, and for Elizabeth one set of stud earrings that look like little shiny holiday bows:

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They were supposed to be $10.50 per 6-pack, but they were having a “nothing over $5″ sale so I got all 12 pairs for a total of $10 and was very very pleased. I looked for them online so I could link to them, but they weren’t on the site. Elizabeth can wear the little bows if they don’t bother her ears, and I am looking forward to mixing and matching the bulbs.

Yankee Swap Gift Ideas, Post 2

Those were GREAT ideas on the first Yankee Swap Gift Ideas post! I love when we end up making a reference section!

My mom and I went out shopping, and I found more ideas too, enough for a second post on the topic. And I chose one of the ideas, and I’m very happy with it.

 

(screen shot from Amazon.com)

(screen shot from Amazon.com)

(screen shot from Amazon.com)

(screen shot from Amazon.com)

1. Turbie Twists and a Wet Brush. This would be too expensive for the $10-15 range, but at HomeGoods I found a single Turbie Twist for $5, so then I could have combined that with the $8-10 Wet Brush for a perfect set.

 

2. Chocolate ornaments. We found these for $12.99 for a package of 45. They’re hollow chocolate, wrapped in foil that makes them look like ornaments, with little string loops for hanging them on a tree, and I thought that was something I’d never buy for myself but I’d LOVE to win: I’d hang them on the tree and the children would think that was pretty much the best thing ever.

 

(screen shot from Amazon.com)

(screen shot from Amazon.com)

3. Coloring books for grown-ups. I have a paisley one I bought thinking it might be right for Elizabeth, but actually it was perfect for me. I saw several similar things while out, including books that looked like they were good for adults who didn’t know yet if they liked to color or not: sort of guided coloring, with little assignments. A couple coloring books plus the 50-pack of Crayola colored pencils would be perfect and fun.

 

garland

4. A piece of fancy garland. We saw a bunch of these at places like HomeGoods: a six-foot length of greens and/or ornaments and/or other stuff for $12.99-19.99—more for putting over a door or around a railing than for putting on the tree, I think.

 

(screen shot from Amazon.com)

(screen shot from Amazon.com)

5. Grow-Your-Own Christmas Tree. I was telling my mom how my college dorm floor did a White Elephant Swap (where you bring something used or silly), and how I got very het up over a grow-your-own-Christmas-tree, and how I DID win it. Very exciting. However, that particular swap was RUINED by people “being nice”: “Oh, no, don’t steal it, she really wants it!,” etc. Swaps have to be RUTHLESS or else they are NO GOOD.

 

(screen shot from Amazon.com)

(screen shot from Amazon.com)

6. Nice little cutting board. We saw some with pretty stripes of different types of wood, or ones shaped like various things (fruit, dog heads) (dog heads? yes, dog heads).

 

7. Glitzy candles. I saw TONS of nice candles, the kind where the outside is covered in sequins or glitter or little tiny beads.

 

(screen shot from Amazon.com)

(screen shot from Amazon.com)

8. Twig pencils. I’d get one bundle of colored leads and one of regular.

 

(screen shot from Amazon.com)

(screen shot from Amazon.com)

9. Turkish bath towel. My mom and I stood looking at one of these at Marshalls, just totally uncertain what we were looking at. It was packaged like a luxury item, and it said it was a towel, but it looked and felt like a tablecloth. Finally I said, “I don’t know if this could possibly be any good, but it makes me want to try it.”

 

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10. I felt like we had a lot of really good options and I’d have been happy with almost any of them—but then we were in the checkout lane at HomeGoods and I saw a SALT TASTING BOOK: six little jars of fancy salt, in a package that looks like a book. I bought it RIGHT UP. It’s fun, it’s interesting, it’s useful. I might end up fighting for my own gift. They had similar books for jam (yawn) and honey (intriguing, but I liked the salt better).

 

What’s funny is, I realized afterward that the last time I shopped HomeGoods/Marshalls looking for a gift anyone might like when I didn’t know who “anyone” would be, I ALSO CAME HOME WITH SALT: Swistle must really love salt.

Candy Apple Red KitchenAid Mixer

I am wondering if any of you are in possession of a KitchenAid mixer in Candy Apple Red. Not Empire Red, but Candy Apple Red. My parents are considering buying one, but they can’t see it in person anywhere, and my mother’s feelings about the color red remind me of when Jess Loolu said her florist said she’d never met anyone with such a narrow definition of purple. (“Hm,” said my mom disapprovingly, looking at a picture of the mixer, “It looks like it might be more CHERRY.”)

Adding to the problem is this sort of thing:

(screen shot from Amazon.com)

(screen shot from Amazon.com)

Notice that three of those are supposedly Empire Red and one is supposedly Candy Apple Red, but I see four different shades of red.

So I have come up with an idea, and it is an idea that will be a huge pain in the butt for someone. I think someone who has a Candy Apple Red KitchenAid mixer should go to a store that has paint chips, get all the red ones from several different major brands of paint, bring them home, hold them up to the mixer, and tell us WHICH paint colors from WHICH brands are closest to representing the color. In fact, maybe EVERYONE with a colored KitchenAid mixer should do this, and we can build a whole DIRECTORY of KitchenAid mixers compared to ALL the different brands and shades of paint! …Well, for now maybe just the Candy Apple Red.

Update: My mom found the comments very helpful, enough to make her willing to risk ordering one. So SWISTLE will do the paint-chip task, for the benefit of future shoppers!

Yankee Swap Gift Ideas

The wine-and-appetizers group I meet with every month or so is doing a Yankee Swap. I’m not sure how widely-known that term is, so I will briefly describe the set of rules I’m familiar with. Everyone brings an unlabeled wrapped gift (usually there is a set price range, or sometimes it will be specified that the gift should be something from your house you don’t need anymore). Gift-opening order is set randomly, such as by drawing slips of paper. The first person picks any gift and unwraps it. The second person picks any gift, unwraps it, and can either hang onto it or swap it with the first person’s gift. The third person picks any gift, unwraps it, and can either hang onto it or swap with either of the other two opened gifts. And so on. At the end, the first person can then swap with anyone. The whole thing is very unfair. I have enjoyed Yankee Swaps MUCH more since I learned to go into them expecting NOTHING BUT HEARTBREAK. My mantra is “If I really want that item, I can go buy it for myself.” Then I can just enjoy the hijinks, without getting EMOTIONALLY INVESTED.

ANYWAY. Our group has set the limit at $10-15. I’m inclined to browse HomeGoods or Marshalls and let something jump out at me: the real fun of a Yankee Swap, as far as I’m concerned, is getting to buy one of those things that seems like it would make a great gift for SOMEONE but it doesn’t seem right for anyone on my list, or else it seems like kind of an odd present (“Here, have a rainbow bouquet of spatulas!”).

It occurs to me that that although I prefer to get gift cards for teachers, some of these gifts would work well for teachers too: they meet the same “buying a gift for someone whose tastes are completely unknown” standards. But with a Yankee Swap, I think there is an additional level of Winning that involves “causing a sensation” and/or “bringing the gift people fight over.” So that enters into it too.

Here are some of my ideas so far:

1. Bottle of wine plus something else. Since we are a wine-drinking group and we are always making jokes about wine, I was thinking I’d get a bottle in the $10 range and then a $5 something: little box of nice chocolates, probably.

 

(screen shot from Amazon.com)

(screen shot from Amazon.com)

2. Christmas earrings. I bought these for myself this year. I’m not sure this particular pair would arrive in time, but I’m sure I could find something in a store. Downside: so small, I don’t think people would be able to see them well enough to know if they wanted to compete for them.

 

(screen shot from Amazon.com)

(screen shot from Amazon.com)

3. Cute holiday labels. These are only $5, so maybe I’d get a few sets of them, or maybe the labels plus the perpetual calendar, or maybe get an assortment of labels at a store, or maybe get labels plus some nice gift bags and the super fancy bows that are like $2-3 each. I would compete for gift-wrapping supplies this time of year. But perhaps the idea is too much practical and too little fun.

4. Coffee mug, bag of coffee. But I think many people in the group get drive-through coffee, or have a Keurig. A similar idea would be $15 coffee-shop gift card. We have a new coffee shop in town, so that might be a fun place to get it from.

5. Nice bath product. This isn’t one of the ideas I’m going to use, because I think in my particular group the general spending level is higher than mine—so what I think of as “nice” (Aussie 3-minute Miracle) the others are likely to think of as “cheap drugstore.”

6. Something DELIBERATELY awful. I’m not sure any Yankee Swap is complete without the white elephant item—ideally something that can be brought back year after year. Heavily-jeweled letter-opener. Largish decorative animal figurine.

7. Fancy eats. I’ve been shopping for similar things for Paul’s sister’s Christmas box. I found some fancy teabags that come in little pyramid boxes, and a tin of Starbucks hot cocoa, and thin Swedish ginger cookies, and the little Lindt Santa-and-reindeer set that’s about 1 ounce of chocolate for $3, and so on.

 

(screen shot from Amazon.com)

(screen shot from Amazon.com)

8. The Good Mother Myth: Redefining Motherhood to Fit Reality. I have this on my own wish list this year, and all of us are mothers, and this sort of topic has come up before in our group. But I think I want something more FUN for the Yankee Swap: I don’t picture tipsy women fighting over this book.

 

(screen shot from Amazon.com)

(screen shot from Amazon.com)

9. Something wine-themed, such as these silly insulated wine glasses, or this glass with different levels marked for good day, bad day, or “don’t even ask,” or this collapsible wine flask, or the “Wine: How Classy People Get Wasted” retro metal sign. You would think we were a bunch of utter lushes by the number of wine-themed jokes we send each other on Facebook. I think playing into that theme would lead to an increase in fun.

10. Christmas nail polish set—something with sparkles and/or art pens. Most of us have at least one daughter, too.

11. Mrs. Meyer’s Iowa-Pine-scented stuff. They have this at Target. I could get a bottle of hand soap, a bottle of countertop spray, a candle.

12. A little live holiday plant. Our grocery store has a couple kinds of pine trees and also a little holly bush.

 

(screen shot from Amazon.com)

(screen shot from Amazon.com)

13. Page-a-day calendar. I’ve had this Metropolitan Museum of Art one for the past two years and have been very happy with it. But again, not something I’d think of as a HOT TICKET item.

 

 

That’s my preliminary list, before going shopping. I was wondering if any of you had Yankee Swap experience and could recommend Hot Ticket items.

[Also see Yankee Swap Gift Ideas, Post 2.]