Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Last Minute Gift Ideas for Men

Dear Reader,
I'm not a procrastinator. I already have gifts purchased and wrapped for Christmas 2015. Yet here it is February 10th and I haven't given you any of the date or gift ideas for men that I promised. Without further ado let's jump right in.

I've compiled some of my favorite man approved gifts into a list below. Everything is available though Amazon Prime as of the publishing of this article so you still have time to purchase.

Instead of yet another flask for your beverage lovin' man try one of the options below: 

The Rabbit Wine Trek Portable Bottle Cooler is a foam insulator with a freezer insert that not only cools your wine bottle but protects it as well.  If you frequent BYOB events this little baby is super handy. We've taken ours to outdoor concerts, bonfires and picnics and more. You can rest this on the floorboard and it will keep the bottle clean and your hands empty. If you carry it in a tote bag or backpack the surrounding items will not be dampened by condensation.

Hydro Flask makes a variety of water bottles that double as beer growlers meaning your man can use this everyday. He can take water to the gym or on a hike or fill it with beer while he mows the lawn and watches the game. Your regular outdoor or fitness water bottles aren't suitable for beer, but this one can be taken to the brew pub and filled with something special.

If you have a tech guy or a man on the go:

The Anker 5-Port Speed Charger can be plugged into a USB port or a wall and rapidly charges a variety of devices. This means he can charge all (or most of) his devices at once while freeing up space on the desk or nightstand. It's small enough to be kept in a suitcase or laptop bag as well. No more choosing between unplugging the lamp or alarm clock to make room by his bed at home or hotel. (My OnePlus One phone charges in roughly one hour!)
The Amazon Fire Stick "connects your HDTV to a world of online entertainment. With a huge selection of movies and TV episodes, voice search that actually works, and exclusive features like ASAP and Prime Music, Fire TV Stick is an easy way to enjoy Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, low-cost movie rentals, live and on-demand sports, music, photos, games, and more." Plus it can easily be moved between any TVs with HDMI ports. Plus it's itty bitty! This means you can easily take it from home and use it on vacation. Don't get snowed in at the cabin without Netflix!

If you've got a gamer:

King Of Tokoyo may be listed ages 10 and up but it's a rare family appropriate game that is actually fun for adults. Moreover, you can play with as few as 2 people or as many as six.  This fasted paced dice and card game has a nerdy monster-movie vibe and fosters fierce competition. I've played this game with literal brain surgeons and rocket scientists (I have some freakin' cool friends) and no one has disliked it. This top award winner has become easily the most requested table game at our social gatherings. 

If you aren't yet familiar with Cards Against Humanity it's a raunchy best-selling social game that you can't stop after just one round. Luckily, if you play through the whole box in one night expansion packs are available for only $10. 

If video games are more his speed I recommend the Jack Pack from Jackbox Games which is purchased right through his gaming device (PS3, PS4, XBox One, PC and limited Amazon TV access). The Jack Pack offers a variety of games that can be played alone or up to 100 players. With 5 games to choose from you're sure to find several you can agree on. Favorites include the classic You Don't Know Jack and new additions Drawful and Fibbage. 

For more information on any of the games mentioned check out the YouTube Channels "Let's Play" and "BoardGameGeekTV."

I hope this gets you off to a good start. Everything I mentioned is in the $25-50 range. What are you getting your man? Share in the comments below.  

(Side Note: Forgive any errors, this has not been edited.)

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Help Needed with Care Package Ideas for WOMEN Soldiers

Dear Reader,
I need your advice. I have recently adopted a solider to send packages to and I need helpful ideas. All of the suggestions I can find online are for men in the sand. I've adopted a lady on the water. I've sent packages to female warriors before, but never one who had the specific needs of a sailor. Being on an aircraft carrier is much different than being on land. Space is a huge concern so I'm trying to be very strategic with what I send her. If any of my Dear Readers have experience or insight into her needs please share in the comments below. This has proven to be very challenging!


Friday, January 30, 2015

Making Valentine's Plans You'll Both Enjoy

Dear Reader,
The more I ask around the more couples I find who have come to hate and even ignore Valentine's day.  They don't consider it a day to express love to one another, they consider it a pressure loaded marketing ploy by Big Chocolate. Worse they consider it a holiday "for the women." I don't know about you, but I've been looking around at all the red polyester and pink marabou thinking "This is definitely not about me." How did a beautiful celebration of love become the impulse aisle at CVS?

It's time we took back Valentine's Day. Let's celebrate all of those weird and wonderful reasons that you chose one another and take out all the pressure and expectations.

Start thinking about celebrating together rather than getting gifts. Focus should be put on spending special time together.  Gifts can still be part of the plan, but when they become the whole focus of the day fun can end abruptly upon opening. If you plan an activity you will prolong your enjoyment.

Plan together. Many men have already been conditioned to think that Valentine's Day is not about them. If you ask what he wants and he says "Whatever you want," or "I don't care" then come prepared with options. He does actually care, he's just resigned to put up with whatever "Valentine's Day" currently means to him, most likely long waits at crowded restaurants.  Make sure to have some options that consider his interest.

Compromise. One sure fire way for both of you to get what you want is to compromise.  Consider what you each like and dislike about the holiday and practice some give and take. You can do something for each of you and you can do something for both of you.

Be direct.  "The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry." He doesn't want to disappoint you, and he'll appreciate not having to guess what you want. However, just because you ask does not mean you shall receive. It is best to discuss your expectations beforehand so that both parties can plan accordingly.  

By taking both of your interests and concerns into account and being upfront about your expectations and desires you can take back Valentine's Day in the name of love. 

For Example, last year I suggest that we could skip going out and buying separate gifts if we instead spent the money on new steak knives and made a special steak dinner at home. Hubby was so relieved that he gave me an entire block of high end cutlery. Not only did we spend special time together planning and cooking the meal, but also we shared the accomplishment of learning to make our favorite dishes. No one had to dress up, wait in line or over pay and everyone got what they wanted.

Have you celebrated Valentine's Day in a non-traditional way? Have interesting plans? Share in the comments below.  Join us later when I'll share tips on how to buy gift for men, gift ideas and creative dates.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Reqiured Reading: The Secrets of Good Gift Giving

Dear Reader,
"It's the thought that counts." Most people use the adage to shame ungrateful gift recipients, but it's the thought that counts in giving to. We've all been on the receiving end of a bad gift.  It's perplexing. On one hand you are flattered to be remembered and that someone went through the effort. On the other you are disappointed and confused maybe even offended. Then come the gifts of guilt and shame.  

No one really wants to be a bad gift giver (at least no decent person does). Giving to others is a skill. Luckily, good gift giving is one of my strongest unemployable traits and I'll share my tips with you.

The 4 Traits of A Good Gift

For one, a good gift should be practical. Anything that will end up thrown in a drawer or shoved in the back of a closet is not a good gift for anyone.  Also, too much of a good thing becomes annoying no matter what. Just ask any teacher how many mugs they have received from students. There aren't enough cabinets in all the kitchens in all the world. Look how many mugs are at Goodwill. 

A good gift shows that you pay attention. Practice recognizing cues and clues in other people's conversation. This means you have to listen when they talk. (You'll also be a better friend in the long run.) What is a problem they keep having? Where is a place they always talk about? Chances are the stuff you've started to tune out is a goldmine. When they start to go into detail start taking mental notes. Write it down if you have to, just do it privately. You don't want to seem creepy.  

Jake: loves beer, hates wheat beer, loves coffee stout
Emily: crafter, keeps burning herself on glue gun

A simple Google search of "Hot Glue Gun Burn" brought up lots of ideas. I'd get Emily a hot glue gun helper kit and a tin of salve. 

A good gift does not impose on the recipient. Have you ever gotten something and your first thought is "Where am I going to put this?" Even something really thoughtful and valuable can fall into this category.  (In fact that makes it worse.) Before you put your heart and soul into a painting or recreating a restoration hardware coffee table out of barnwood make sure it is the recipient's taste and that they have space for it.  It'll save you both a lot of tension and hurt feelings. 

A good gift should be a treat, but not necessarily expensive.  Treat: an event or item that is out of the ordinary and gives great pleasure. I was once given soda as a gift. However, this was no Coke. It was a regional Birch Beer that isn't available anywhere near where I live. It was not only out of the ordinary, but also gave great pleasure. It has been many years and I still think about it from time to time.  Food is not the only treat. If something takes time or is hard to find it can be a treat. If something is affordable, but expensive for what it is, it can be a treat. 

Proof of concept: Is $6 a lot of money? No. Is it a lot for a candy bar? Yes. This constitutes something that is affordable yet expensive for what it is. That is why a Toberlone is a treat.

In summary, the perfect gift is a treat that fulfills a purpose according to the specific needs or desires of, yet does not create a problem for, your recipient. Simple right? No. How about check any two of those boxes? Using the examples above Emily's glue gun helper might not be luxurious, but it checks the other 3 boxes.  

I have plenty of tips on buying for men, the elderly, people who have everything and all the special snowflakes on your list.   But for now, this word count is getting a little high.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Deep Thoughts with the Real Practical Housewife

I just wanted to share this photo with you, Dear Reader.  I realized I hadn't updated with photos of the new floor and paint. I tried instagram for about 20 minutes and hated everything about it. Maybe one day I'll feel like putting Lauren Conrad quality effort into documentation, but I bet the next day I'd lose interest again...  Hope you like.  

Thursday, December 11, 2014

3 Frugal Ways to Upgrade your Christmas Ornaments

Dear Reader,
What do last year's Christmas tree and Peter Pan Live's Christopher Walken have in common? A bland hook.

There are 2 things I hate about your standard ornament hook. First is the shabby way it looks and second is how it always ends up on the floor.  Today I'm going to share a minimum of 3 alternatives to that ugly and unreliable piece of metal filament.

I first spied a set of spiral hooks several years ago. At the time they cost more than they ought to, came in very small quantities and were not widely available. But I was pining for them. Luckily they can now be purchased at places like Big Lots and Kroger for reasonable prices. I was fortunate enough to snag some on clearance after Christmas 2013 (apparently I was not the only person waiting for mark downs because the hooks went fast). I tucked them away with the decorations and promptly forgot about them until I unpacked the ornaments last week. This is what qualifies as exciting these days... Not only do they look great, but also they hold very well and are made of sturdier material. I was thrilled. Literally.

If you have a hard time finding specialty hooks, ribbon and twine make very affordable options that look super luxe. Even an expensive, high-end ribbon will go a long way as you only need a few inches per ornament. My current favorite is a dark green velvet.  I've also used metallics for strictly silver and gold trees and jute for a rustic Americana theme.

Last, two years ago we upgraded our main tree [we go faux] and moved our shabby early-marriage tree to a room that gets little use but has a window facing the street. It's really only there for from-the-road ambiance. I didn't want to put the same effort into that tree as I put into the "good" one, but leaving it bare was shabby looking. I went out on a limb and attached shatter proof ornaments all over the branches with floral wire. Hubby was skeptical when I told him we were boxing up the tree with ornaments attached but after 2 unboxings they are still holding strong.

I may do this to a couple of the nice trees.  We now put up 5 trees of varying sizes and even though I spend my days in a thermostat controlled winter-wonder-woodland it's a lot of work to put up and take down. Our main tree takes over 2 hours just to decorate. That doesn't even count putting it together and fluffing the branches. But I digress. If I make semi-attached shatterproof ornaments a regular thing you know I'll update the blog... eventually.

Feliz Navidad
Happy Hanukkah
and a Merry Festivus to the rest of us

Monday, June 16, 2014

What To Do When Your Toilet Overflows

Dear Reader,
I was having a jolly-good morning about to meet Whitney at the pool when the dogs discovered an inch of standing water in the guest bath and adjoining hallway. Luckily it was just a toilet overflow, not a burst pipe.

I did what any practical woman would do. I cussed and stomped and got out the shop-vac. After vacuuming up a good portion of the water I turned to find that my shop-vac has a large crack in the wheel base and that the putrid water had combine with whatever filth was in the bottom of said vac to leak all over my kitchen.

After toweling up that mess I attempted to unclog the toilet and plunger split.

After that I poured the good wine.

So if everything is going wrong at once, or you find yourself otherwise unprepared here is where to start when your toilet stops.

On to the tips

DISCLAIMER: Our little spill was not "unsanitary." If you have a flood of contaminated water (like, a fecal matter clog or a sewer back up for example) call a professional. 

You may need:

  • Plunger
  • Bellows Plunger
  • Toilet Auger
  • Wet/Dry Vac
  • Air Mover/ Carpet Blower
  • Cleaning Supplies

Shut off the water to the toilet. There is usually a knob behind the unit. If there isn't you may need to shut off the main supply.
Courtesy HomeTips.com
Unclog the toilet. Don't flush. Remember, even though you turned the water off there is still fluid in the tank. If you flush that water will spill out, too.

If your ordinary plunger won't do the job try a bellows plunger. I bought the BrassCraft (below) for about $6 from Home Depot. Click here for a video demonstration of different plunger types.

If that doesn't work try a toilet auger. If you aren't familiar with a toilet auger (why would you be) the video below is really informative. He recommends Rigid brand ($50). I purchased a BrassCraft because it was under $10.  For good measure here is a video by BrassCraft.

Remove surface water with a wet/dry vac. First remove everything from the floor. The bath tub makes a good temporary home for drenched items. If your linen closet is in the bathroom don't forget water probably went in there, too. Once the floor is cleared use a wet/dry vac to extract as much water as possible. If you don't own a wet/dry vac get one. With the equipment you might be buying and renting this clean up may not be cheap, but your best investment will be the wet/dry vac. There are cheaper lighter versions if you can't go all in. Our $20 vac lasted 5 years before it bit the dust. 

Here is a great article on drying wet carpet. (It says "basement" carpet, but we don't discriminate at RPH.) 

Sterilize. Once the toilet is set right and the hard floors are dry you need to sterilize anything that could be contaminated.  Start with the items you placed in the bathtub. A garbage bag can be used to transport items without dripping. 

Any soft items (towels, blankets, etc.) that can be washed should be washed as hot as possible with oxyclean or bleach. 

By now you know about my OCD. I sprayed the hard floors with bleach. Then I went over it twice with Swiffer Wet pads. When that was dry I steam mopped. You probably don't have to do all that, but I would at least mop with bleach. Also, wipe down the baseboards, cabinets, and anywhere that may have been splashed. Don't forget that you contaminated the tub. 

It has been about 10 days since our flood. At this point it is fairly safe to assume we won't have mold or mildew. If you smell something stale or foul after 72 hours you will probably need to replace your carpet padding. Sometimes the carpet can be cleaned, lifted and reused to save some cash. Or you could convince your husband it's time for new carpet...