My Favorite Gifts This Year


This year I upgraded my phone (Thanks Mom and Dad), which necessitated a whole bunch of other purchases. Technology has reached that stage where upgrading is not an unmitigated good, and despite the fact that my new phone is way better, I kept being annoyed by small things.

The phone loads google maps in less than 40 seconds, but doesn’t have a windows button (which I adapted to in a week). The volume buttons are on the correct side, but auto-adjusting brightness wasn’t enabled by default (which took 60 seconds to fix). The new phone was USB-C instead of micro-USB, so all my old chargers were useless for it but still had to be kept around for all my other devices. And my existing bluetooth headphones didn’t work with the phone (and have never worked with my laptop) so I had to buy new ones (and by “I”, I mean “they were also gifts from my parents”).

The headphones themselves not Pareto improvements over the old ones. Their lowest minimum volume is not too loud, but the sound quality isn’t as good (which I stopped noticing after a week). The controls are better, but at first I misread the instructions and thought they were worse.

My aunt got me Hamilton tickets for Christmas, which was incredibly generous and thoughtful, but the new Aaron Burr wasn’t as good as Leslie Odom, Jr. in ways that weakened his performance of my favorite song.

My point is, I am surrounded by generous people giving me expensive, useful things, but none of them gave me that feeling of sheer delight gifts gave me when I was a child. The small flaws loomed too large.

There were four exceptions, which I believe escaped this trap by only being expected to do at most two things.

Gifts That Succeeded At One Thing

Links are affiliate links when possible

Sleep-compatible headphones ($20)

I sometimes like to fall asleep to podcasts. Despite being critical to my process, my boyfriend objected to playing Welcome to Night Vale loud enough for me to hear over the fan and ear plugs I also consider critical.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

I solved this with a pair of headphones designed to be worn during sleep. You do have to fiddle with them sometimes and I wouldn’t want to sleep in the exact same position for hours with them in the wrong spot, but they get the job done, and the audio is astonishingly high quality for $20. You get exactly what you paid for with the mic, to the point I wish they hadn’t included it, but that is fine because I didn’t get these to take phone calls on. The top volume is pretty quiet, as I discovered when I tried to use them on an airplane, but again, $20. These have succeeded far beyond what I thought was possible at letting me fall asleep to podcasts while sharing a bed.

I’ve had this since August and am still delighted with it.

Dual Charger/Battery  ($35)

As mentioned above I now need to keep both micro-USB and USB-C charger on hand. I also managed to lose my two tiny portable chargers, not that they would have helped because they only had micro-USB and iPhone out.

Enter the Dual PowerCore Fusion 5000, which:

  1. Has USB ports instead of built in cords, so I can change the output
  2. Has multiple ports, so I can charge multiple thing at once.
  3. Can charge itself and devices at the same time, removing the need to juggle.
  4. By combining two devices gives me one less thing to lose track of.

I’ve only had this one for a month, so it’s still possible it will catch fire or otherwise turn out to be inadequate, but I’m very pleased right now.

Bombas Classic Marl Socks ($12)

To be fair, I am made unusually happy by well thick, fitting socks. My previous favorite was Smartwool Saturnsphere, on which I have spent low-hundreds of dollars, but after two years my old ones can no longer meet my standards and the model is no longer produced in acceptable colors. I got a pair of these Bombas (affiliate link) socks for Christmas and was delighted: they’re incredibly…what’s a word that means “tight” but has only positive connotation? Like having your feet hugged all day, without being restrictive. I’m only waiting to see how they age before ordering a dozen and tossing my old socks.

UPDATE 2020-06-16: These socks developed a hole in the heel either 6 or 3 months in (I have two identical pairs bought at different times). From the hole, it looks like I stepped on something sharp, rather than the fabric wore out. Bombas replaced them immediately for free. I just had to answer some questions and send in a photograph.

Super Comfy Sweater ($40)

This had two jobs: be comfy, and don’t show cat hair. It succeeds at both admirably, except that sometimes it is so comfy I can’t take it off when I leave the house and thus leave the house covered in cat hair, when the whole point of having indoor sweaters is to not do that.

I suspect this level softness won’t survive the first washing, but I’m enjoying the hell out of it right now.


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