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Here we go!

I bet I’m getting fifty commercial emails a day, from everybody I’ve ever bought so much as a paperclip from. Mostly from the States, so they are — how you say? — out of luck sneaking a hand in my pocket this Christmas.

I dread this season. I’m a lousy gift shopper, Uncle B is incredibly hard to buy for and his birthday is too close to Xmas. If something’s big, I can’t afford it. If it’s small, he’s already bought it. If it’s weird, he’s probably not going to like it.

What I usually do is open up Amazon, close my eyes, think of him and poke stream-of-consciousness into the search box. For, like, a week, until I reach my money limit.

The thing above is one of my stranger successes. It’s a temperature-controlled butter dish. See, Brits use butter instead of mayo as a sandwich lubricant. And, on untoasted bread, the butter is either tear-it-up hard or sloppy soft, depending on the season and how long it’s been left out. This thing has a thermostat, a dial and a computer fan in the bottom, so the butter is always the perfect spreading temperature.

No, really, it was a hit.

What are some of your stranger Christmas successes? Seriously, I’m asking. Begging, even. I am allllll out of ideas this year.


Comment from Feynmangroupie
Time: December 2, 2013, 11:37 pm

I haven’t stopped pining for that butter-keeper since the last time you mentioned it. I do believe it was last year.

All I want for Christmas is expensive socks and Armageddon.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: December 2, 2013, 11:42 pm

Oh! Well, there’s an old-fashioned, non-electric alternative, FG. It works a treat, too. It’s just slightly more labor-intensive.

Comment from LesterIII
Time: December 3, 2013, 12:05 am

Work up your gumption and learn to cook a steak-n-kidney dish and eat it with him.

Christmas Miracles and all that sorta stuff…

Comment from Stark Dickflüssig
Time: December 3, 2013, 12:09 am

Expensive socks are worth it. Oh, man, I wish I’d known about expensive socks 20 years ago.

Comment from Janna
Time: December 3, 2013, 12:10 am

Best I ever got was a bulb auger from my brother. Looks like a huge drill bit,(it’s three inches wide!) but you put it in a power drill, and you can plant tulips, daffodils any bulb super fast.
It piles the dirt around the hole, you pop in the bulb, scoop the dirt on top and you’re done.
I planted about two hundred bulbs in an afternoon without killing myself. Yay!

Comment from Christopher Taylor
Time: December 3, 2013, 12:43 am

If you came from the north plains, you use butter AND mayo. The bread dries out so fast in Wyoming that you have to prep it before making a sandwich. Fast. Or you end up with zweibeck. And you close the loaf instantly after getting a slice out.

Comment from Armybrat
Time: December 3, 2013, 12:46 am

I bought my husband a pata negra Spanish jamon several years ago…cause what the Heck do you get a chef with every knife known to mankind? This year I got him a trip to Iceland at the end of Feb in the hopes of seeing the northern lights- I’m going with

Comment from QuasiModo
Time: December 3, 2013, 12:57 am

How about a soldering station?…does he like electronics?

Comment from bds
Time: December 3, 2013, 2:39 am

The best gifts are like Armybrat’s: get ‘him’ a gift you can ‘share.’

Comment from catnip
Time: December 3, 2013, 3:02 am

If he’s a reader, get him “Tents and Tent Stability” written by fellow Brit, Chris Lown. I’ve sent this book in paperback to two different men in the past month, and both of them thoroughly enjoyed it.

Comment from Uncle Al
Time: December 3, 2013, 3:24 am

For those who appreciate good socks, I heartily recomment Thorlo, especially if you are in the U.S.

One of the most appreciated gifts is time. I have a few friends who buy themselves whatever they want whenever they want it but have a hard time finding the right people to do personal services. Two successes in this area: call and ask to drop by for a visit and bring along a bucket of cleaning supplies and scrub their laundry room and machines.

Similarly, if they have ceiling fans, bring a drop cloth and fan blade brush and have at ’em.

And for old folks who have multiple needs, hand-print up a booklet of handyman/errand-boy coupons, each good for an hour.

And finally, for the politicians in your life, there’s always 8×10 color glossies of Goatse.


Comment from BJM
Time: December 3, 2013, 6:19 am

I have the same problem so I make up I.O.U.s that can be redeemed at any time upon request.

He loves them.

Some are get-out-of-jail-free/small sin forgiveness cards and others are for favors…a fav meal or snack…back rubs, pedicures and other personal *services*. With your mad graphic skillz they could be very entertaining.

Be warned that he will spring them on you at the most inopportune time (I hate it when he plops one down in the middle of a righteous snit *G*) but that’s part of the fun of it.

Comment from oldowan
Time: December 3, 2013, 8:15 am

I bought this for myself last year, and, sad-but-true, it’s become my dearest and best friend:


Comment from Bob Mulroy
Time: December 3, 2013, 10:36 am

Does he fish? Perhaps it’s time to start?

Comment from Deborah
Time: December 3, 2013, 1:56 pm

It’s hard to surprise Husband. But when he wore a younger man’s clothes, I gave him a pilot’s log book and flying lessons (I made an especially good salary at the time), and that left him speechless. He took to flying like a duck to water. It was a rip-roaring success and I’ve never topped it.

On the more prosaic side, he loves long-sleeved tee shirts with a CHEST POCKET. Husband is not especially tall, but he’s taller than regular sizes, so I have to search for tall, pocketed Tees. L.L. Bean makes the best and they last a long time; he’s getting some more this year. http://www.llbean.com/llb/shop/49348?feat=long%20sleeve%20tees-SR1&page=carefree-unshrinkable-tee-traditional-fit-long-sleeve-with-pocket

He also loveslovesloves luxury shaving creams. That was originally a gift from his daughter-in-law, and now he buys it for himself. It’s a small bit of pampering, and he no longer hates shaving.

Last year I gave my son the double-thick hooded sweatshirt from Arborwear. He lived in it all winter, and now he wants more! http://www.arborwear.com/products/sweatshirts/double-thick-pullover-sweatshirt

Aside from all that—I think everyone, no matter your age, sex, or where you live—should read the Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. And the best time to read the Journals is in the long dark winter, when you are warm and cozy by the fire. It makes you appreciate what they did all the more.

Comment from Pupster
Time: December 3, 2013, 1:56 pm

Oldowan…I’m trying to think of a situation where I would pay 400-600 dollars for a blanket, and short of a Swedish Bikini Team member underneath I’m not coming up with a likely scenario.

Comment from John
Time: December 3, 2013, 2:09 pm

Does he like hats? One of those Aussie Outback jobs is perfect for days when it’s raining a bit or cool…Most guys cannot help but look little bit more cool in one of those (I do)

Comment from Deborah
Time: December 3, 2013, 4:37 pm

Does Uncle Badger like to play cards? My parents played cribbage every day after lunch, so I gave my them a battery-powered card shuffler, and it was a riot. They loved it, and then we all wanted one. Inexpensive, just a little noisy (the best toys always are), and fun. You could teach Mad Jack to push the little pedal to make it shuffle!

Comment from J.S.Bridges
Time: December 3, 2013, 5:37 pm


Well – I don’t know what shipping time or cost would be like – might well be exhorbitant – but…when stumped for what to get someone, I generally fall back on Spoon Foods:


Some of their ad copy is, upon occasion, a bit over-much – but they’re the best I’ve ever found at the stuff they make, and I’ve yet to find anyone (even the “rather-hard-to-please”) who rejects it out-of-hand…

Would go well on some of that perfect-temp-butter-spread bread/biscuit/toast, etc., perhaps…

By the bye, Pupster, those Hudson’s Bay Point blankets are family heirlooms-in-the-making in many parts of the Western world (perhaps in some Eastern parts as well, who knows?…) – they are very high durability, were once legendarily made over into outerwear coats for Far North usage, and their 100%-wool content makes them a virtual guarantee of warmth. I once made a sleeping-bag (removable) liner out of an elderly, slightly-tattered one that I rescued from a Michigan Salvation Army store that was Dy.No.Mite – in addition to already owning another (newer) one, bought from Gander Mountain mailorder, which I used for around 25 years whilst living in MI, then gifted to a friend (thinking I would no longer need it, poor fool that I was…) upon my moving to NC. People have been known to pass such blankets down through 2 – 3 generations, they are that durable. That tenure of usage tends to diminish the initial cost considerably, does it not?

Come to think of it – maybe it’s time I acquired a new family heirloom meself, ‘specially one I can sleep under –

Comment from J.S.Bridges
Time: December 3, 2013, 5:54 pm

Update: Just on the off chance, I did a search on Amazon.uk for “American Spoon Preserves” ( they do list on the U.S. Amazon site, thought perhaps on the U.K. one as well…no luck though), but the closest I came was:

“The Wooden Spoon Boozy Preserves Christmas Gift Set 3 x 113g”

– which isn’t, perhaps, a total strikeout, though it seems a bit pricey to me (nearly seven pounds for three fairly small jars?) – plus, you’d need to like a bit of “likker” in your jams, of course…

Ah, well, as they say, it’s the thought that counts, right?

Comment from Pupster
Time: December 3, 2013, 6:07 pm

I dunno J.S. I’m pretty tough on blankets.


Comment from mojo
Time: December 3, 2013, 6:18 pm

I’m giving you THE RECIPE

Use it wisely. People have died for this secret.

Others have simply PLOTZED!

Mom’s Chicken Salad


3 pounds skinned and boned chicken breasts
1 (49 1/2-ounce) can chicken broth
1 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup finely chopped water chestnuts, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup finely chopped yellow bell pepper
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
3 cups mayonnaise (or Miracle Whip, if prefered)
1 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper


Place chicken breasts in a large skillet; add chicken broth. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium low, and simmer, covered, 30 minutes or until chicken is done. Remove chicken from skillet, and let stand 15 minutes or until cool to touch. Shred chicken.

Combine shredded chicken, celery, water chestnuts, and next 3 ingredients in a large bowl.
Stir together mayonnaise, ground red pepper, salt, and white pepper until well blended; spoon over shredded chicken mixture, stirring to coat. Cover and chill at least 4 hours.

Shrimp Salad: Substitute 3 pounds chopped cooked shrimp for chicken breasts and broth. Do not cook. Reduce mayonnaise to 2 cups and salt to 1/4 teaspoon. Proceed with recipe as directed.

Comment from Stephen Falken
Time: December 3, 2013, 7:56 pm

My nephew has everything and is hard to buy for so I’ve been getting him T-shirts from my favorite television shows. Last year he got a Duck Dynasty shirt, this year he gets Fast N’ Loud Gas Monkey shirt. Next year he might get a Gone Squatchin’ cap. If you want clothing, however, you can’t go wrong with anything made by Under Armour.

Comment from eirik
Time: December 3, 2013, 8:59 pm

I’ve had good luck getting my father and brother calenders from Despair Inc. They both like the slightly subversive captions on the artwork.

For my wife, she just found out that I bought her a USMC KaBar knife. She grew up in Beirut during the civil war there and always feels more comfortable when shes got a blade handy. The uglier and deadlier the better.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: December 3, 2013, 9:10 pm

eirik, your wife and I are sisters.

Well, not the Beirut thing, but the knife thing. I have at least one knife for every place I sit.

Comment from Scubafreak
Time: December 3, 2013, 10:22 pm

Having no idea what he likes, I recommend a gift certificate to his favorite shop..

Comment from Nina
Time: December 4, 2013, 1:11 am

I made aprons for everyone on my list last year. 🙂

Comment from
Time: December 4, 2013, 3:46 pm

No true Britisher should look at the setting sun without a reassuring grip on the warm walnut of Lee Enfield Mk. 4. Was fondling a 1953 model at Billings Cabelas yesterday, $699. Incredibly smooth bolt glide, that rear lock is.
With Lee Enfield, he can pick and choose any blanket, gather materials for patas Negras, haggis, mutton ribs or foxtail hat. He could jog around the hamlet with Enoch Powell speeches on iPod. And yes, bayonets at the belt make an understated fashion statement.
The biggest problem with Lee Enfield Mk. 4 ownership is that it is essentially an internal combustion engine so the forms detailing the quantity of grammes of CO2 released may prove to be a mite cumbersome. The odds of Solyndra coming up with a model powered by lithium battery are not great.
Hard to buy for a rare non poofter Brit. Maybe mid octane petroleum in 12 ounce can six pack, for automobiles?
And there is always that tried and proven standby, a bottle of rum and rumpy-pumpy combo.

And what sort of insensitive, tone deaf motard mentions chicken breasts on S. Weasel blog?! Them chooks are sacred beings, living in retirement from hatchday.

Comment from Poindexter
Time: December 4, 2013, 9:14 pm

I ordered three of these some weeks back (still waiting for them): one for my wife, one for my oldest sister, and one for my youngest daughter:


I like the butter dish. Here in Colorado, it takes real effort to steer the butter between molten (in the summer) and hard as paraffin (in the winter). ..pointy..

Comment from ama
Time: December 6, 2013, 3:27 am

Damn you, Uncle Al! I clicked before I saw the warning. Cannot undo that…arggghhh!

Comment from lauraw
Time: December 9, 2013, 9:40 pm

Home-cured bacon. So easy. So better. Family still talking about the bacon they got last Christmas. Going to get the pork bellies this week for next big holiday batch.

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