15 Practical Last-minute Gifts She Really Does Want

I’ve had beaus who gave me lovely presents. And I’ve had gentleman friends who were not at all good gift-givers. The ones who knew me well got that I didn’t need something big and flashy and expensive, but I do love a token of affection.

Once that gift is purchased (and should be at this point, right?), and a significant other is wracking his brain for another gift for the holiday, I propose that he make a practical choice.

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I like gifts that serve me well — at my desk, in my office, as I prep lunches every day. I appreciate when someone I love notices that I’m missing a convenient gadget or that my toaster really needs to be replaced. I don’t think of those presents as boring, I think of them daily as I go about the business of my life. And often, as I mix up mac and cheese or steam my favorite maxi dress for a date night, I remember the person who gave me that little practical gem and am happy their thoughtfulness impacts tiny moments like those.

I’ve compiled a list of my very favorite practical gifts that you can run out right now and pick up, no problem. But before you do —

HEED THIS WARNING: Do not EVER give a woman a practical gift as her sole gift. Get her something loving, sentimental, high-tech or shiny. THEN and only then can you consider adding on something that clips, cleans, carries or sucks. 

If you do not follow this warning, you will probably end up spending a lot more on her at the next holiday. Or end up using the practical gift in your own apartment, alone. (OK, maybe it is not that dire, but you hear me.)

Here are my favorite 15 practical gifts that I say she really will like and you can run out and grab just as soon as you’re done wrapping her iPad Mini.

This post originally appeared on Babble.com

The Very Best Kid Christmas Gift

I love to give kids books. I love to give adult books. I love to give books. Even if I never read them, or I pretend I will read them and gaze longingly if briefly at them as I pass by an untouched stack on my nightstand or patient row on my bookshelf. I will get to you, I think, and then I buy more books for other people who really will turn the pages before 2020.

It’s a standard gift, a parent favorite and practical choice by child-free friends and family who feel some responsibility to not contribute to the mountain of craplastic toys and $45 tiny, ironic tees made out of organic bamboo something that will fit a kid for approximately 7 minutes.

 Photo source:  Photodune

Photo source: Photodune

Books are such a go-to that we have five copies of Night-Night, Little Pookie, countless Goodnight Moons and Bad Kittys and Percy Jacksons floating around, and probably three full sets of Beverly Clearys and Judy Blumes between our four walls and the smaller four walls of our storage space. We have plenty of Sponge Bob and Star Wars books mom friends have gladly dumped off at our house in a big old donation sigh of relief to never have to read it again (and again and again, to the point of grating memorization).

Something to read is even a mandate for holiday giving from my mother. She was probably the last customer who ever stood in line at a Borders and has reluctantly but resolutely turned to Amazon to be sure every member of the family gets every book from their Christmas list each year. Is nary a book scribbled on your suggestions for Santa? Too damn bad, then you’re getting something with 832 five-star user reviews. And you will read it. Eventually.

So why keep giving books, particularly to kids? Because books create moments, nurture imagination, connect us to lives outside of our own, and best of all, inspire a thousand questions. And if I am willing to answer a bullet-spray of inquiries about Taylor Swift or autopsies or weird poop, then I am certainly happy to engage in a conversation about what a word means or what my favorite part is or what in the world a “pizza pie” or “horse meat dog food” is or why phones used to be “attached to the house” (those are for you, Beverly Cleary).

Last Christmas, Santa delivered 25 books to my son, all wrapped individually and hidden around the house to be unearthed from silly, rhyming scavenger clues. I bought sequels to books he loved, new releases from authors he’s loyal to, and took suggestions from mom friends and teachers on series their kids and students devoured. It was a delight to find just the right reads, to see him scurrying around in his jammies to find each of them, and even more, to watch (and listen to) him enjoy that gift all year long.

He’s at the end of that stack, even with reading many other books given and purchased and dug up from his own nightstand collection in between, and I’d love to repeat this fun and simple gift of words and characters and cuddle time and incessant questions.

While I am at it, researching and ordering and getting giddy to give my boy another big stack of wonder, maybe I should also re-gift all those unread books to myself. Perhaps that’s the best present I could give to me, too—time to travel, absorb, escape, imagine, ask. Possibly. As soon as I click to purchase a few more novels and how-tos and board books for my favorite kids.

P.S. Aside from all these books, I am totally, finally, for sure not going to crazy with kid Christmas gifts this year. I swear. Here’s how

This post originally appeared on alpha mom.

20 Super-important Household Items That Need Aa And Aaa Batteries

I came home from a relaxing, luxurious weekend away at a spa. The house was relatively neat. There were no dishes in the sink or laundry left unfolded. It was warm and cozy and quiet.

Except for the sound that makes me cringe several times a year — the BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! of the smoke alarm in my hall. Or was it the one in the stairwell? Or the carbon monoxide detector outside my bedroom door? Who could tell? I couldn’t catch the sound quick enough to decipher which alarm it was and with ceilings far higher than my sole step-ladder can raise me up, I couldn’t pull them down myself to investigate.

What does a single mama do when a smoke alarm beeping crisis occurs? She calls her dad. Mine came to the rescue with a pocket full of batteries in various sizes and stood patiently beneath each alarm in the house until we were satisfied, safe and beepless.

“I knew you wouldn’t have the right battery,” my dad winked at me. He is right. It was a C-battery, and although I am stocked for the Armageddon with AA and AAA batteries, I do not have the arsenal of Cs and Ds that I should.

I’ve added those sizes to the ongoing shopping list on my phone (it’s own mysterious battery included). But just to assure myself of why I am over-prepared with batteries in tiny sizes, I did a quick inventory of what my son and I use regularly that require AA and AAA juice.

This list is long, but not exhaustive. With a little more digging, I am quite sure this single mama and her son can find more items that need battery power. If only batteries could re-set me back into work mode like a bucket of coffee can.

20 Super-Important* Things Powered by AA or AAA Batteries in Our Home


1. Wireless doorbell – My doorbell is one temperamental old lady. So to be sure I catch the UPS guy, I installed one of those fantastically handy wireless doorbells from the hardware store. Even better than the fact that the ding-dong chirps from a cute little plastic bird perched by my desk? It’s ridiculously simple to install — just place battery, adhese, ready cash for the pizza delivery.

2. Remotes – Drained from all of the clicking over from “iCarly” to “Phinneas and Ferb,” I am quite sure. And somewhere, a third one has been hiding for seven months — lucky dog.

3. Digital camera – Remember those? Me either. But when I pull mine out for a refresher in non-phone photographer, it better be ready with batteries.

4. Kid’s digital camera – My son thinks this item is used for spying on adults and for playing the strange app-like game embedded in the giant unbreakable thing. Regardless of what the real purpose is, the kiddie camera takes 67 eensy batteries.

5. Lego clock – Critical since it keeps my kid from calling out to me at 6:15 on a Saturday if he can get out of bed yet.

6. Star Wars game controller – The Wii is safely housed at my son’s dad’s place, so we go old school with a Star Wars game that plugs right into the TV. If we go though scads of batteries on that retro baby, I can only imagine how many are being used up at the Wii HQ a few miles away.

7. Face scrubber – My very favorite way to try to scrub away the stress and seven layers of makeup is a whirly-brush device that is heaven, powered on seven batteries. Maybe four. Could be 12. Who cares?

8. Cordless phones – Another near-obsolete item that I keep around specifically for my kid’s calls with his dad. I just don’t get why a phone that sits on a charger all day, every day also needs batteries. Alas, they do.

9. Clocks – Kitchen wall variety. Something has to keep it tick-tick-ticking loudly enough to be heard 300 feet away.

10. Flashlights – For freak power outages and Lego guy hunting under car seats and in heating vent crevices.

11. Spinning toothbrushes – Times two, minus thousands in cavity fillings.

12. Digital bank – How else would my son track all those dimes he nicks out of the cup holder in my car?

13. Talking United States map – This educational toy was kind of a bust until my son figured out he could make the state announcements sound like rap music by placing the state puzzle pieces in the appropriate place and quickly pulling them out over and over and over again. Hilarious. And semi-educational.

14. Remote-control cars – We have a long, hardwood floor hallway that I knew the first time I walked in this place would be perfect for racing cars. I was right. Many miles have been logged with the mini-Hummer and big, hauling recycling truck and smaller, cheaper race cars — all courtesy of a Costco of batteries.

15. Coffee bean grinder – This may be the only one in existence that doesn’t plug in. But it’s right there, on the counter.

16. Travel alarm clock – I have one tucked among the jars of cotton swabs and fancy-lady soaps on my counter even though I always have my phone handy for checking the time. But it is pink. And so cute. How could I not keep it ticking?

17. Trimmer – Lady-style. You know what I’m saying.

18. Outdoor holiday lights – Battery-powered so I don’t have to allow the elements and all of God’s creatures into my home by leaving the porch door even slightly open to accomodate an indoor/outdoor power cord.

19. The Christmas village – You know the kind with little tidy houses with twinkling lights and ice-skating kids and old-timey cars carrying trees? The kind of place none of us will ever live? I light that pretend town up every year thanks to a few well-placed batteries.

20. The dancing Frosty the Snowman – Inducing giggles in the kid and Scotch-drinking in the grandfather since 2005.

A big thanks to Energizer for sponsoring this campaign.

What are AAs and AAAs powering in your house?

*obviously relative to age and level of procrastination.  

This post originally appeared on Babble.com