They say that money can’t buy happiness, and they’re right, but there is a certain amount of joy in finding a product or service that provides you with happiness and utility far beyond the purchase price. These can be inexpensive doo-dads or expensive gew-gaws, the key to making our list is that the product give us smiles that far exceed the pain of parting with the precious pesos.
Here’s the list:
Oxo Good Grips Magnetic Clips (large and small): We have dozens of these little guys all over our refrigerator, both the large and small versions. The big ones work great as chip clips and for larger clipping jobs, and the small ones, which actually have stronger magnets, do great at holding pictures/papers/doodads to the fridge, and also for smaller clipping jobs.
Perfect Tear Chrome Paper Towel Holder: In my lifetime I’ve bolted at least a dozen crappy paper towel dispensers to various walls and cabinets, and they all sucked. Either the roll would fall out, or it would be so tight that it wouldn’t rotate causing the towels to tear, or it would be so loose that a quick rip would unspool paper towels like a magician pulling a string of handkerchiefs from his sleeve. The Perfect Tear solves ALL of these problems, plus it’s cheap and it looks great. The trick is that the rolling mechanism has a ratchet-like feel to it as you turn the roll, putting just enough pressure to be both a) loose enough to allow for easy dispensing and b) tight enough to allow towels to be torn off with a wrist-flick without the danger of a runaway unspooling disaster. This is the only paper towel dispenser I will EVER buy.
Dogs: Our dogs, Weagle, Biscuit, and Ruckus (plus our cat, Bouncie). The amount of joy we get from our pets far, far, FAR exceeds any expenses.
SimpleHuman Dish Rack: Our little country cottage doesn’t have a dishwasher, so we do dishes the old fashioned way – in the sink, then drying on the rack before (theoretically) putting them away. This little dish rack works EXACTLY like we need it to, and has taken years of use and abuse in stride.
2000 Ford Expedition: We have a 2000 Ford Expedition Eddie Bauer 4WD with about 120,000 miles on it, and we LOVE it. Yes, it’s getting a little squidgy around the edges, but it still runs like a top, it’s comfortable as hell, and it holds us, our family, our dogs, and all the crap we regularly haul in it, from groceries to electronics to furniture to gardening supplies to lumber. Plus, Mynagirl LOVES the seat heaters and EngineerBoy LOVES the cold AC!
Emerilware 12″ Frying Pan: We bought this frying pan as an add-on to the 10-piece set, which we also love, but we use the frying pan 4-7 times a week and it’s fantastic. Solid design, nice heavy bottom with a copper disk, easy clean up, and cooks eggs without sticking (even though it’s not non-stick)! The entire Emerilware line seems like a bargain, with the performance of the esoteric, high-end stuff, but a much lower price than All-Clad (which is who produces the Emerilware line). And the stainless steel cleans up like a dream with Bar Keeper’s Friend and a scrubbie.
Deco Breeze Fans: Our little cottage doesn’t have central air-conditioning, so we depend on window unit AC to get us through the hellish Texas summers. One key to effective cooling is the use of fans to circulate the air through the house, but most fans are ugly and even the best-looking ones are mostly utilitarian in design, and certainly don’t complement one’s decor. However, Deco Breeze makes interesting-looking fans in a variety of designs, and the two we have both work and look great.
DeWalt Cordless Drill: If you do ANY kind of home repairs or construction, get one of these. Seriously, don’t even think twice, go get a DeWalt’s cordless drill and you’ll NEVER regret it. They are tough, reliable, well-designed, and just seem to last forever. We have two of them (his and hers) so that we don’t have to share. The cheaper ones don’t compare, and nobody makes one better. Still don’t have one? What are you waiting for?!? Go! NOW!!!! Sheesh.
TiVo: Our TiVo is kind of like our DeWalt – even though it’s not cheap, we never question the expense. TiVo will change your relationship with television, in a good, positive way. First of all, although it may not seem possible, TiVo frees you from your television. Actually, it frees you from program schedules. We don’t really know when the shows we watch come on, exactly. We track the day that certain shows are on (e.g. House is on Tuesday), but mostly our TiVo spends its day quietly and reliably recording the shows that we might want to watch, so that if and when we get a few minutes to veg out, there’s (almost) always something on that we want to see. Our TiVo’s also let us move shows from room to room to watch wherever we happen to be, and we can also copy “keepers” off the TiVo and onto one of our home servers (we’re computer geeks) to watch/rewatch/burn to DVD as we see fit.
Books: Is every book we purchase a winner? No, but every dollar we spend on books is well worth it. There is always the chance for a clunker, but that risk pales in comparison with the ability of books to impart information, expand imagination, enlighten, explain, and entertain.
Doggie Dooley: We have three dogs, each bigger than the next, and a relatively small back yard, so we started to get a problem with flies, which are attracted to…well…dog poop. We feed our pups high-quality food, so they have a low poop-per-puppy-pound ratio, but the three of them still manage to mine the yard pretty thoroughly. However, the Doggie Dooley has allowed us to develop a routine of going out back with them each day and moving all the poop-bombs to a contained area, where enzymes and bacteria break them down and leach them out like a septic system. The Dooley comes with a primitive poop-rake, but we prefer this one. We still get the occasional fly, but our backyard is usable again.
WordPress Blog Software: That’s the software running this site right now. It’s flexible, fun, fast, functional, and FREE. There’s an entire subculture of people who develop and extend the WordPress environment, virtually all of it available at no charge.
Indoor/Outdoor Thermometer + Atomic Clock: If you don’t have one you might think that they’re just for weather geeks, but they are infinitely useful. We have three of them (bathroom, living room table, kitchen) and we find we refer to them multiple times a day. It’s nice when getting ready in the morning to see the temp outside and also know the exact time. Yes, one could flip over to the Weather channel or look it up on the web, but once you get used to getting accurate outside temp and time with just a glance you can’t go back to not knowing the accurate time and temp.
Tori Richards Cotton Lawn Shirts: Tori Richards makes Hawaiian-esque shirts, and I particularly like the ones made of cotton lawn fabric. It’s thin and breathable, but the shirts can go from the washer to the dryer to the hanger to the shoulders without any special care (no ironing, no dry cleaning, etc), they wear like iron, they hang like silk, and they look fantastic (if I do say so myself).
FARK.com: FARK.com is a strange website that aggregates not-news stories, and endlessly mocks and derides…well…just about everyone and everything. The specific focus of this paragraph, though, is Total Fark, which is the $5/month membership site, which provides access to even more distracting derangement.
Amazon Prime: You may have noticed that a lot of the product links in this article go to Amazon.com. FYI, I’m not a shill for Amazon in any way, however, as a former big-city-dweller who now lives in a small town I can tell you that our lifeline to good products is Amazon. We buy a LOT of stuff from them, and to facilitate our consumerism we belong to Amazon Prime, for which you pay a yearly fee, but then all your Amazon purchases are shipped 2nd day air at no extra charge, and overnight shipping is a flat $3.99 per item, regardless of size and weight. Amazon Prime is limited to items shipped and sold directly by Amazon, so partner products aren’t eligible. For us out here in the sticks, with only a super Wal-Mart, it is a wonderful lifeline to wonderfully wide selection of actual quality products.
Godaddy.com: Simply put, we use Godaddy for all our domain registration and hosting needs. They aren’t perfect, but they provide a terrific value for the dollar and give us a one-stop-shop for all our domain/hosting needs.