Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Diamond in the Snow

Maria: I've always called Gary my "diamond in the snow."  We met when we were a bit older than usual, and we consider ourselves very lucky that I found him!  We love celebrating our wedding anniversary, and early on we got in the habit of using the "traditional gifts" for each year as a guideline.  It's fun and it makes us stretch a bit outside the box to come up with ideas.  This year was our 10th anniversay.  Guess what we got to find for each other!  Aluminum, tin and - drum roll - diamonds!

Gary: Diamonds, believe it or not, were the easiest gift for me to work with. We don't like to break the bank for our anniversary present, but there are a lot of jewelery choices with modest prices. I went with basic quarter carat diamond stud earrings for Maria, something like these:

Maria:  My earrings are beautiful and I am wearing them right now!  Well, diamonds might have been easy for Gary, but they were the hardest one for me!  Gary's not really a jewelry type of guy - his gold band wedding ring, the watch his dad gave him years ago, and an occasional tie clip on the rare occasions he wears a tie.  That about does it.  So, I tried to expand the idea of "diamond."  We love baseball, so something related to a baseball diamond? No, that didn't quite work.  A cute picture book called Diamond in the SnowChildren's Mammal Books)?   I liked that idea, but I read the book and it was not quite right.  I would have loved to write Gary a poem because he has composed so many songs and poems for me.  But the creative juices just wouldn't flow.  What to do, what to do?  Time was ticking away.

Gary: Yes, yes, I can't bear the suspense....

Maria:  I had started looking early, but was running out of time.  I finally just decided to go with an actual diamond, but I was hoping to find something somewhat subdued.  My first thought was a tie clip with a simple diamond on it. I found a nice one on Etsy, but I had not allowed enough time for it to come all the way from Israel!  Sigh.  Oh well, I thought.  I'll hit the jewelry stores.  It will be better to see it in person anyway.  Well, surprise, surprise.  Not one of the seven or eight shops I visited carried any tie clips with diamonds.  A nice sales person suggested a watch with diamonds.  Hmm.  I had never considered a watch because Gary is still quite happy to wear the handsome watch his dad gave him some years before he passed away.  However, I thought, maybe that would work.  A nice dressy watch for special occasions.  In the end that's what I chose, but not without some angst.  I wanted diamonds, but not showy diamonds.  I wanted the fewest possible diamond so it wouldn't look too bling-y.  And, of course, it couldn't break the bank!  I finally found one that I thought was almost just right.  It's a Bulova with a stainless steel band, black face and three diamonds (at 3, 9 and 12 o'clock).

 I was still unsure, and worried that Gary would think it was "too much" in the sense of "too out there."  But I do believe he liked it!

Gary: No, Sweetheart, I don't like it - I love it! And I love you, my best anniversary present :-).

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Saturday, June 4, 2011

Life in a Vacuum

Maria:  We started thinking about vacuum cleaners (again!) sometime around the holidays last year.  Our trusty 3-year-old vacuum suddenly started shutting down after 10 minutes or so of cleaning.  There was also that funny smell.  So, we decided to start doing some research on vacuums.  In the meantime, a trip to the local vacuum shop solved some of the problems.  We replaced one filter, and then Gary found another one we hadn't even known existed.  Once we got that one cleaned up the problem was solved!  Not that all that research was going to waste, because in the meantime the vacuum at Gary's mom's house was on its last legs.

Gary: My mom's house is about 1300 square feet. Large enough to indicate an upright, but with enough nooks and crannies to justify a canister. To my parents, $100 was a lot to spend on a vacuum cleaner, but since I do the vacuuming for my mom these days, and since Maria and I were buying the beastie this time around we were willing to spend more to get something that fulfilled all our needs. After looking at the field, we eventually decided on the Bissell Cleanview Helix Upright Bagless Vacuum Cleaner.

And as you can see, we held true to my parents' frugality as this unit sells for less than $100! But it also has impressive suction, a hose that is long enough and flexible enough to reach under furniture and beds or up to the ceiling, a Hepa filter and it is relatively light for an upright. It also comes with a turbo brush, crevice tool and upholstery brush that fit neatly on the unit. I didn't see anything in the mid-range price of vacuum cleaners that fit our needs any better in this case so this really seemed to be the best value, not just the lowest price.

Maria:  We did consider a few other models, but none were quite right.  We had our carpet cleaned a few months ago, and the carpet-cleaning guy recommended one that we almost went with - the Hoover Platinum upright with cannister Hoover Platinum Lightweight Upright Vacuum with Canister, Bagged, UH30010COMUpright Vacuums)There was a lot we liked about it; it's lightweight, has a kind of cool, retro look and comes with a little cannister.  But, in the end, that's why we decided against it.  It turned out that the cannister was the only way to get into those pesky nooks and crannies since the main vacuum has no hose.  It just seemed better to have one machine that could do both.  We were also intrigued by the little baby Dyson cannister Dyson City DC26 Multi floor Canister Vacuum Cleaner, but not enough to pay four times as much as the Bissell.  We didn't even consider the much higher end models I came up with when we were doing the research for our own place.  It would really have been too much for my mother-in-law's sensibilities, no matter who was paying for it!  I'll describe those in a minute.

Gary: The Dyson City Canister that Maria mentions is an interesting unit - light enough that even my mom would still be able to use it and yet with surprisingly good suction when I tried it. It seemed head and shoulders above the other cordless models on the market. But like all cordless vacuum cleaners apparently only runs for 10 to 15 minutes before needing to be recharged.

Maria:  It is still tempting!  Definitely passes the "Maria Cuteness Test"!  Ok, so when doing the research to replace our poor mistreated vacuum, which turned out to not be broken at all, but merely abused by us, I was pulled in by the siren-song of the high end models.  And now that I've seen them I can't get them out of my head.  However, neither Gary nor I are ones to replace things that still have life in them.  Our trusty cars are in the ten-year old range, and we have our own frugal tendencies as well.  However, when the time comes, these are the two brands I would like to consider - Miele for a canister that works on carpet Miele Libra Canister Vacuum Cleaner, S5281 Libra S5 - Mango RedCanister Vacuums) and Sebo for an upright SEBO 9559AM Automatic X4 EXTRA Upright Vacuum , RedUpright Vacuums)They are considerably more expensive than your regular vacuum cleaner, but I love the quality, features and dust-trapping abilities of them.  So, someday when we actually need a new vacuum we'll see if we decide to spend the big bucks!

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