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Ok, so today we’re not talking Oprah-style Favorite Things … things like plush slippers, puffy coats, gourmet popcorn and fun candles.

Those are all quite lovely, of course.

But right now my favorite things aren’t pretty, decorative, or big.

No, my favorite things are things that barely get put away before they’re being used once again.  Things that can be put away into a cabinet or drawer.  Yes, those practical things are my favorite kinds of things right now.

Favorite Things - Practical Gift Ideas

Ever since having kids, the amount of STUFF in my house has become overwhelming.  And we don’t even buy into every child rearing gadget and toy made (we like to think of ourselves as fairly moderate).  Despite this, with three young kids in about 2000 square feet, I feel like I’m bursting at the seams.  So instead of an eclectic seasonal tablescape, right now my dining room buffet features a contoured changing pad and baby powder arrangement.  (Hey, space is valuable, and I need to use every bit of it.)

Don’t get me wrong, someday I will want to actually pick beautiful odds and ends to place on empty shelves, and rugs that aren’t chosen for their ability to hide stains.  But for now, these are a few of the things that I covet.

Santa’s Helper

Well, at least that’s what we call this gadget in our house.  It’s a must-have for anyone who has to assemble toys or open one of those impossible-to-get-open clamshell packages.  We gave this to my brother-in-law as a “new dad” rite of passage last year, knowing that he would soon find himself opening lots of impossibly wrapped packages of baby items.  It’s one of those as-seen-on-TV products you’ll see at Bed Bath & Beyond (here) (affiliate link, see GNP’s full disclosures here) and wonder if it’s worth it.  Trust me, it is.

Practical Gift Ideas

Best thing about that gadget is that it fits in a pocket of my junk “door”…

Practical Gift Ideas - Door Storage

Bread Machine

Well, the Real Food movement can be credited for the renaissance of this 1990s appliance that everyone got rid of because it took up too much counter space.  Despite its unwieldy size, I have become a believer.  I cleared out some room in my pantry for it (sort of).

Practical Gift Ideas - Bread Machine |

It is hard to give store bought bread a good shelf life without a plethora of odd sounding ingredients.  So now that I have my machine, I can make (at least some of) my own bread with just a handful of ingredients.  It took me about three practice loaves to get it right.   Stay tuned – I will soon share the recipe that I works best for me.  The only caveat is that I had to get yet another awesome practical thing (a bread keeper) because a gallon ziploc wasn’t big enough to hold the massive bread maker loaves.  So I think I may have inadvertently melded two things into this one “fave”. :)

The Perfect Grater

Ok.  You may think I’m crazy for this, but I wish I had two of these.  Now that we shred and grate our own cheese (instead of paying extra to have someone do it for us, then add a bunch of anti-caking and anti-mold stuff to it), we use this quite often.  I use it to shred my carrots for my favorite Thai-Inspired Kale Salad, too.

Practical Gift Ideas - Cheese Grater |

The little box that attaches is awesome for recipes, you can see how much you have as you are going, then you can store the extra grated cheese in it too!  And it is heavy duty, cleans well, and has a great non-slip base and handle on top.  I got mine at Bed Bath & Beyond (link here).

And wow, you can see a lot of my clutter in that picture.  But I digress.

Remote Control Outlets

From about Halloween (two light up jack-o-lanterns) through Christmas (two trees plus a light up snowman), these are in use.  Best $20ish I ever spent.  I got mine at Walmart.  And I don’t have to pull a Catherine-Zeta-Jones-Entrapment-type-maneuver to bob and weave through the gifts and branches and baby gate obstacle course to switch my tree on and off.

Practical Gift Ideas - Remote Control Outlets |

Booster Seat

Last but not least, if I were to make sure a new parent had just ONE baby item, this would be it.  Ok, maybe first a place for the baby to sleep.  But anyway, this item is WAY up there in terms of practicality after the bare necessities.  We used this countless times over Big Sis’ first three years.  And now that we have twins, I have two of these delights in the trunk of our minivan.

I cannot tell you how many dinners at friends’ houses and restaurants were made possible by these.  A clean, safe spot to buckle in the kids and keep them entertained.  We use one in the house as our second high chair (no extra floor space used up in the kitchen).

Practical Gift Ideas -Booster Seat |

We have learned the hard way that we will not be able to sit and eat dinner with both hands if we go somewhere and forget them.  The good news is they are found pretty much anywhere baby stuff is sold (e.g. here).  And you can throw the tray in the dishwasher.

I am keeping one of these boosters forever for visitors, and gifting just about every first time parent one, regardless of whether they think they need one (because really, they will).

Ok, what are your most favorite things right now?  Anyone else in a practical mood like me?  What gadgets do you use the most?  Anything that you thought would be helpful but just ended up taking up too much space?  I am always looking for gift ideas for my (similarly practical) family.

Laura Sig




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