Tis the season for handy home-improvement gifts

#502 in a series of true experiences in real estate
December 2005, Hills Newspapers

It’s the season for jolly gifting and I’ve got some ideas for good gifts.

Anet and I just gave to ourselves the cutest vacuum cleaner. Eureka Optima is the name. It’s small, works great, and doesn’t seem nearly as loud as other vacuum cleaners, a big plus.

It’s an upright with a hose already attached, no fooling around necessary. The handle shrinks down making it quite compact (about 2 feet high) and it switches from bare floor to rug setting with one button. We bought ours at Costco for $55 after Anet had seen one at her mother’s house. Our excuse? We can use it for listings, it’s so tiny and lightweight. The color is a nice lime green.

We were at Reliance Appliance in Berkeley recently looking for a part for a vintage Wedgewood stove which, by miracle, they happened to have. While we were there we asked about the cost of re-chroming and rebuilding my own chrome-top Wedgewood.

Prices vary of course depending on size but for my 36 inch, 4-burner plus griddle, single oven stove, $1200 would pay for new chrome on the top. To have my stove completely rebuilt and restored, including new valves, oven door springs and such, the cost would be $3500.

This may seem like a lot of money but if you are a fan of old stoves, you should go see what they’ve got for sale at Reliance Appliance. Gorgeous old stoves completely redone, some even with new porcelain in wonderful colors, at prices starting at about $5000 up to $8000.

Black & Decker has a new cordless electric screwdriver out that Anet finds very tempting. I’m surprised she hasn’t bought one for herself yet but maybe that’s because she already has a cordless DeWalt. Still, this new one has some advantages.

It’s small and light, easy to handle, easy to maneuver in tight spaces. Ideal for putting up or taking down drapery rods, switch plates and the like. Plus, because it’s powered by lithium ion batteries, it will hold a charge for 18 months. The name is Smart Screwdriver, it comes with 40 different bits, and it costs $40.

For stuffing stockings, would it be too strange to put in a bottle of dish soap? It wouldn’t be for me. Ajax grapefruit scented dish soap is the one. I love it, the smell is so good and clean, I look forward to using it every morning on knives and other things I don’t put in the dishwasher.

In that same stocking, include at least one Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. I’ve been using magic erasers for lots of things for years. I find them especially excellent for the fronts of my painted kitchen cabinets, refrigerator and dishwasher. Recently I discovered a new use – wiping away black marks on my kitchen sink. After I’ve washed a cookie sheet or my Dutch oven in the sink, it takes about 3 seconds to get the marks off the white porcelain.

There are lots of different types of bird feeders. The one we have is for finches, a cloth bag filled with thistle seed and suspended by a cord from a tree branch. We get lots of finches, sometimes whole flocks, many all-yellow. These pretty little birds hold onto the net bag to eat, often half a dozen at a time, outside our window.

Bird seed from bird feeders I’ve had in the past fell on the ground and sprouted weeds, but thistle seed appears to be sproutless. The squirrels don’t go after it either. I think feeder and seed together would cost about $12, a wonderful gift for any age.

My mom gave us a bird feeder when my son was a baby. We hung it outside the kitchen window near where his high chair was. I can still see him pointing and calling to the birds. In fact, I believe his first word was bird.

Some years ago at Christmastime, Anet and I took my kids to Neiman Marcus in San Francisco for tea. Sitting in the Rotunda in the afternoon and eating little sandwiches and cakes is delightful. We love seeing the enormous Neiman tree and this year a light rain made the view of the Union Square stores and lights especially sparkly.

The petit fours and cucumber and salmon sandwiches were better than ever this year and so was the Jasmine tea that we always choose. We like this tea so much that a couple of years ago we asked where we could buy some for home and now we order it on-line.

Mountain Spring Jasmine is the tea, only one of many that Mighty Leaf Tea Company in San Rafael has available. Not inexpensive at about $40 for 100 tea bags but delicious and aromatic tea. Plus the tea bags are sewn from sheer white cloth, almost like a dance dress.

Happy gift giving.

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