Gardening for health

barrow-2770_1280Gardening is something that many people love to do. Not only do you get the satisfaction of having blooming and colorful flowers, and tasty herbs and vegetables to eat, gardening provides seemingly endless benefits both physically and mentally especially for the elderly.

The various tasks involved in gardening such as digging trenches, planting bulbs, pruning, weeding etc. are great for boosting physical health and are good for your mind too. Studies on the effect of gardening reveal that it produces a host of mental benefits for nearly over 85% of people.

Further, it is of therapeutic value too. People are able to connect easily with others and experience reduced isolated feeling. The physical exertion involved helps in increasing mental and physical health too.

And for those suffering from depression bouts, gardening present an opportunity to be outside and reduce the depression. There have been several advances over the years in gardening. The LED lights available at Grow Lights Base, for instance let you grow plants even in minimal sunlight and indoors too. Some of the more effective benefits you get with gardening include

Self-esteem

Gardening helps reduce the cortisol levels in our body. Increased cortisol has been associated with defective immunity, memory and increased risk of various diseases such as heart disease and even obesity. Since gardening involves nurturing a plant from seed stage until it bears flowers and fruits, you are left feeling elated and have more confidence in your abilities.

Reduced disease risk

Gardening helps you achieve the moderate intensity level of exercise needed to reduce risk of heart disease and stroke. Regular gardening helps seniors reduce their stroke risk. For those who are not able to stoop down, raised beds help to comfortably tend to the plants. Since lack of exposure to sunlight leads to osteoporosis and other illnesses, gardening ensures you get the needed exposure per day to boost the vitamin D levels necessary for your body.

Dexterity and hand strength

With aging, the strength and dexterity of our hands diminish. Gardening helps give the activity needed for the muscles and makes them agile. When you do the gardening in a comfortable and ergonomic way you will be able to retain the dexterity and strength for a long time. And for elderly people who find it hardest during the winter months, the growing plants indoors with the aid of special grow lights such as those at http://growlightsbase.com/g8-led-240-watt-led-grow-light-review/help to keep the right balance of their body with the exercise.

Reduce Dementia

A study on adults has revealed that gardening reduced incidence of dementia by about 36 percent. The various critical functions such as learning, dexterity, problem solving, sensory awareness, and endurance are influenced while gardening, causing reduction in dementia risk.

Increased immunity

Working with soil has been found to be beneficial for boosting immunity. A particular bacteria in the soil which is absorbed into our body by inhalation or by eating the vegetables help in alleviating allergies, asthma and psoriasis. The organism has also found to be helpful in getting rid of depression.

Surrounding yourselves with all types of growing plants helps in an enhanced regenerative process of both mind and body leading to better healing, fewer medications, and complications.

Cooking: A Great Way To Teach Kids Valuable Life Lessons

Cooking A Great Way To Teach Kids Valuable Life LessonsChildren are naturally inquisitive and there comes a time during their childhood when cooking or baking seems very interesting. As parents, you can capitalize on this natural curiosity to teach kids great life lessons.

But the sad thing is that not many American adults actually know how to cook. Probably, the only menu on their head is barbecue which you can cook easily using a nice electric smoker (more on this here). A lot of adults lack time to shop or cook. If you are raising a family, preparing home cooked meals can be a great way to keep your kids healthy as well as an avenue for effective parenting.

From infancy to their teens, children have opportunities to learn the routines in the kitchen. During infancy, babies tend to learn by watching the activities in their surroundings. You can introduce them early to foods and even kitchen wares, like spoon, pots, etc. Toddlers can be taught how to mix or pour ingredients. They may not perfect the tasks, but nevertheless, they will find these activities exciting and fun. Preschoolers have better fine motor skills which allow them to measure both dry and wet ingredients. School-aged children can take up more complex tasks like chopping, whisking or even mixing ingredients on a pot. During pre-adolescents, they are expected to be more responsible and adept, especially when they started at the kitchen at a young age. They can now use knife and follow recipe instructions.

Aside from learning cooking skills, cooking at home with your kids presents opportunities to teach them life lessons. Here let’s take a look at some of these life lessons:

  1. Comprehension: Cooking involves a reading and comprehending instructions not just with the recipes but also with operating the kitchen equipment. For instance, before you grill a barbecue, you have to know how to set up and operate the smoker. For moms and dads looking for a smoker that kids can use, this site has some nice reviews.
  2. Math Skills: Cooking entails use of mathematical skills. Kids can get a good grasp of addition, subtraction, division and multiplication, particularly when dealing with recipes. It’s actually an interesting way to teach them basic math.
  3. Self-Confidence: Kids are in need of constant affirmation. With cooking, they get instant feedback which helps build their self-esteem. Cooking allows grade-schoolers to learn new skills that they can be proud of.
  4. Science Concepts: There is a lot of science that actually happens in the kitchen. They get firsthand experience with basic science concepts, such as evaporation, heating and condensation, which they can only read in books.
  5. Communication: Cooking opens the opportunity for you talk with your kids. The kitchen offers a relax atmosphere where you can walk out of your “parent” aura and just be a friend with your children. Communication between parents and children is very important especially in raising a healthy, well-adjusted child.
  6. Life Skills: Cooking is an essential life skill, much like reading or swimming or even driving. This skill is something your kids can bring to their adulthood. Some find a hard time when they move out because they haven’t yet learned how to cook. You can avoid this prepare your kids to adulthood by starting them young.

Last, and most importantly, cooking can be a perfect time for you and your kids to enjoy and have fun! Don’t be too strict, lest you turn these moments into torments for your kids. Just keep it light and enjoy the time! As a bonus, you get to savor healthy, delicious home-made dishes!

Is It Okay to Let Kids Watch Wrestling on TV

Is It Okay to Let Kids Watch Wrestling on TV

One question that is often asked by parents is that whether it is okay for kids to watch wrestling on TV. Although we adults know that this is pure entertainment, would children understand that what they’re watching is just for fun?

Just my personal take on this, I would say that there is no real value or lesson to learn watching wresting. Some would say that it is okay for kids to watch combat sports as long as there is adult supervision, but I don’t agree to this. Perhaps, teens can better comprehend that these are staged shows but four-year-old or even nine-year-old tots cannot distinguish fiction from reality.

Take time to watch a wrestling match on television. Aside from violence, these shows seem to promote themes of sex, racial discrimination, profanity, and even drug use. Are these good examples? Would these themes benefit our kids? Yes there may be fun, excitement and all but the pervading adult themes are something that is hard for kids to digest. It also helps to have viewer discretion warnings but in most cases children are left to watch alone without the supervision of an adult.

Probably combat sports like boxing and MMA are more civil and tame than wresting. These sports adhere to rules and regulations. You also get a peek at the athletes training – practicing on a grappling dummy (such the one on this site) or doing sparring sessions.

Aside from my pure personal views, studies have shown that violence on television does have a negative effect on kids and the way they act and think. And in fact, this is true not only for young children but adults as well. Experts say that children, especially on their formative years, learn from both social learning (role modeling) and experience. Therefore, if children are allowed too much exposure on such themes on television, they will have a difficult time differentiating what is reality and fiction, and would tend to copy what they’re seeing.

In the same vein, I also do not recommend giving our kids action figures of wrestling icons or even paraphernalia as it would reinforce the negative values and lessons that they get watching wrestling. These values are not the ones that you want to instill in your kid’s young mind.

According to some experts, exposing children to too much violence at an early age may promote negative values like resorting to aggressive values in conflict resolution, lack of empathy, bullying, sadistic behavior, poor social relationship and being too argumentative. Child development experts have also noted that those children oriented to violence on television are more reactive than proactive. They seem to have a strong sense of entitlement.

Finally, when children are left to watch endless hours of unreasonable violence, they can become desensitized to violent behavior – either as an observer or a perpetrator of violence. Having said that, it would be wise to take away these unhealthy television shows from your children’s viewing habits.

Some Information about Snake Hill

snake-hillThere’s an enormous park near where we live. The Yarra River runs through the park, winding its way around the bends, flowing under the bridges, past the manufacturing buildings that are all deserted now, cascading over a short waterfall of rocks and then heading off through the city and eventually into the sea. For decades, this park has been a place for families to enjoy a picnic, take beautiful, peaceful walks and to play games like cricket and Frisbee. At certain points on the river the banks were quite sandy and you could swim there in the summer. In one popular picnic spot, an enterprising company had set up a few rowboats that could be hired by the hour for a leisurely paddle up the river and back.

Our family had grown up in this area and during the milder seasons of Autumn and Spring, it was a great place to visit. The picnics were sometimes with just immediate family while at other times it might be an enormous extended gathering of all the relatives. They were always a lot of fun. I remember many times swimming in the river during summer, usually with a group of my friends. The river never looked clean, it always seemed to be carrying a lot of mud and silt which gave it a brown look. People used to refer to it as the river that ‘flowed upside down’!

In one part of the park where the main road was on a much higher level, there was a turn off that took you down to the picnic and rowboat hire area. On the weekends, the carpark at the bottom was always well and truly full by midday, particularly if the weather was sunny and mild. This entry road was about a 1.5 km (1 mile) in length as it wound its way down to the parking area. As kids, we were always up to the challenge to take on gravity and career down the road with whatever way we could find. We called this death defying road “Snake Hill”.

The risk of severe injury was quite high and when some of the most adventurous kids started turning up at the top of the hill with awesome longboards, we were taking the risk a notch or two higher. We had coasted down Snake Hill on roller blades, roller skates, bicycles, skateboards and billy carts and many of these downward trips had resulted in minor injuries.

The longboards caused a bit of interest and pretty soon we were all getting to the point where our desire to try these new speed demons had us looking at just how much these awesome speed machines would cost. Top of the range boards were a little over our personal budgets but there were some rather good longboards you could buy for under $100. It wasn’t the speed you attained going down the hill it was how well you could corner and how quickly you could stop that were the real challenges.

Tips on safe and entertaining teenage fun

Teenagers lose interest in things fast and look to new and exciting ways for spending their free time. While their studies and extracurricular activities do keep them occupied most of the day, they still find the time left boring enough.  But there are several interesting things to do for both teen boys and girls. Being of an impressionable age, getting involved in good and fun filled activities is necessary for their overall development. Here are some fun and inexpensive ways that are sure to keep teenagers happy and entertained.

Creating a fun filled atmosphere

Teens can ask permission from their parents for inviting friends over frequently, so a fun filled ambience can be created at home. There are several things to do at home in groups such as having a karaoke singalong. With a proper karaoke device, this will be great fun to do in the evenings and on weekends too. This way, teenagers will have a comfortable hang out place after school and during weekends. Parents should accept the commotion and noise that is inevitable when the kids get together.

Reducing stress for parents

Since home is the safest hang out place especially for girls, this request should be considered seriously by parents. Using a room like the basement or even the den will work best as the hangout area. You can play music, watch your favorite TV shows and other such things without impinging on your parent’s privacy and at the same time have privacy of your won too. Some sort of compromise on the parents’ part and that of the teens will help in making this work. Teens for instance, can clean up the mess they had made, and for snacks and refreshments, using monthly allowance will reduce the burden on the parents.

Room redesign

To make the fun and relaxed atmosphere more enhanced, teens need to focus on redesigning their room. The room should facilitate chatting, listening to music and general hanging out. Since music is liked by most teens, they can ensure that the room has a proper set of music player with speakers or just a speaker set for iPod or iPhone. For karaoke, a good device such as the ones found at KaraokeIsle is a good choice.

Seating space should be created. Beanbags or foldable chairs take up very little space when not in use.  An old couch that is no longer in use can also be cleaned up and placed in the room. Since the snacks and other refreshments may cause staining or other damage to the furniture, it is best to choose easily cleanable ones.  Having bright posters, wall art, and other such decorations alone can make a room look vibrant. A trip to the local thrift store or art store will help in choosing the right décor.

To make any occasion fun filled it is necessary for teens to be up to date on the current activities and events that teens do. When a teen has lots of activities and plans in her kitty, it is easy to keep friends occupied and have a great time.

Father and Son Bonding Moments

Father and Son Bonding MomentsI’ve always believed that the kind of man a young boy grows to be depends on what he learns from his father. While mothers are very influential in the development of children, young boys look up to their father. Nothing can replace that.

It is important to give our kids ample father and son boding moments which are a perfect way for young boys to learn positive principles, values and virtues, as well as life skills. Every lesson is a priceless – something that the child brings with him as he grows and matures, and even becomes an integral part of his personality.

As mothers, we are in the position to help foster father-son activities that will build a better bond. Here are some manly activities that dads and sons will enjoy.

  1. Watch sports. Spending time enjoying sports, such as a basketball game or an archery match, provide lots of father-and-son bonding moments. Dads and sons who love basketball can buy two courtside tickets for a home-court match. For those who love archery, they might find com a good site to visit for their archery needs.
  2. Fishing weekend. Another good father-son bonding is a weekend fishing escapade. Men simply love the adventures that the outdoor offers – and there’s so much to learn in the outdoors. Aside from teaching them life skills like how to rig a line, fathers can teach values such as patience and focus. Sharing the excitement over every catch is a memorable experience that both father and son will cherish for their lifetime.
  3. Visit a car show. Men love wheels. Fathers can connect with their young sons by musing over brand new sport cars, SUVs, 4×4’s, motorcycles and trucks. While checking the latest car models, the young boy can learn the value of hard work and industry so that they too can one day own their dream car. Share with your young kids how you worked hard to buy your first car.
  4. Play sports. Playing a sport that the both of you enjoy can give you a shared experience to treasure. Teach your young kids how to play and enjoy sports. Of course you choose sport that is appropriate for their age. Obviously, a 10-year old can’t handle a large recurve bow for archery. You can perhaps play basketball or Frisbee.
  5. Enjoy a road trip. Hop onto your car and go on an out-of-town road trip. What could be more liberating than leaving your nagging mother at your home and going to somewhere you haven’t been before. Drive across town and stop for breaks at little joints. Throughout these father-son moments, the two men can talk about anything under the sun. It’s the best opportunity to share experiences and learn from each other. You see, it’s not just the kid who learns from the father. In fact, it can be the other way around.

For young boys, spending time with their fathers makes these activities more special. Every second of these moments prove to be special in the hearts and minds of young kids.

 

The best ways to relax

sitting meerkatParenting is a big responsibility that is exciting, rewarding, frustrating, and at times overwhelming. No wonder parents feel themselves at wit’s end often when dealing with their kids. Learning to reduce the stress will prevent many of the issues that crop up.

Granted parenting is a thankless and infuriating 24/7 job, but with some smart planning you can take away much of the stress associated with parenting and lower your disease risk. From headaches and high blood pressure to heart disease and diabetes, you can combat many illnesses.

While as a new mom you may think that the baby comes first always, which is inevitable with the endless diaper changes, feedings and sleepless nights, you can and must spend some time of the day when you think of yourself and your needs, even if it is just a relaxing cup of coffee.

Here are some routine things, which can relieve you from the mental stress of parenting. The solution for getting rid of your stress can lie anywhere. It can be as simple as taking a trip to the local shopping mall to an exciting hunting trip with friends. Hunting is one sport I enjoy a great deal. Having the necessary and superior quality hunting gear is important, if you want to have a good time.

Teamwork pays off

Raising a child is not a simple task. Finding someone to share the burden will reduce the stressed out and harassed feeling. Plan on fixed play dates, so your child can be with children of your neighbor’s or the child’s classmates or your friends. This will help in improving the social life of your kid and give a small break from the continuous responsibilities. Additionally it could also bring on new friendships. And as parents, you can provide moral support mutually by sharing the stress factors and issues that arise.

Busy as a bee

Enroll your child in some extracurricular activity. This will give a temporary break for you. Choose school programs, camps on weekends and other similar fun activities that your kids can enjoy safely. Find out about visiting times for the local zoo, parks, library, and museum that keep your child occupied in a good way. Summer activities advertised in the local newspapers and magazines too, help in enrolling.

Smart vacation

festival-of-lights-472873_960_720Many holiday packages are tailor-made to accommodate kids and teens. Make sure you choose such packages, so your kids are occupied fully. I leave my kids with their grandparents or at their aunt’s place when I go on trips such as hunting.

From golf, hiking, camping and trekking to whitewater rafting, skiing and mountain climbing there are several ways to spend your time off which are relaxing and keep you rejuvenated and energetic. I prefer hunting, as I have a special group of friends to go with and have been doing so regularly for the past few years. Appropriate boots and tools such as knives like those at EDGEHUNTING help to make the experience more exciting and satisfying.

Eat healthy

Although snacks and fast foods may seem heavenly after struggling with your kids, they can compound your stress further, if you are not careful. Try taking a balanced diet to keep your energy levels sustained and for getting better sleep at nighttime. Complex carbs, good fats, and calcium should feature importantly in your diet.

Beating the Holiday Cash Crunch

Beating the Holiday Cash CrunchPerhaps this post is already going to be too late to help anyone this year. That’s fine. I’ve still realized a few things this last holiday season – things I feel like I should share with anyone else who struggles to beat the crunch for cash which comes up around this time every year. It might be too late in 2015, but I have a handful of tips for anyone hoping to beat the holiday cash crunch, regardless of what holidays you might be celebrating or where you might live. It’s just general advice, stuff you’ve probably heard before already, but you won’t know until you see for yourself, will you?

The first and best piece of advice I can give is to eat out less. That means fewer trips to restaurants, eateries, bars, clubs and luncheonettes. That means doing a lot more of your own cooking, and if you don’t have many skills when it comes to the kitchen, that means learning how to cook in the first place. That means spending hours preparing big meals, or learning how to cook smaller ones that are just as filling and take far less time to make. It’s a big commitment, but if you often order out, then it’s also a great way to cut back throughout the year.

Who hasn’t heard about cooking at home more and eating out less as a way to save money though? The odds are good that if you’re already trying to save money, you probably aren’t eating out much to begin with, so let me be a little more practical with this next tip. Now I want you to think long and hard about this next question: Do you really need to drive around as much as you do now? Many automobile owners could actually save a lot of time and money by combining trips, or simply taking fewer trips throughout the day. This is practical since most people drive whether or not they hope to save money.

Take a moment to consider some of the things you pay other people to do for you; things you could do just as well, or about as well, for yourself. If you really think your family is worth it, you could probably stand to do without a couple of salon trips throughout the year – not all of them, but a couple of them. Have you seen what some nail technicians make? You can find more information here on that topic. You won’t make that much doing your own nails, but you could save plenty of money and put it away for your holiday later in the year.

There is plenty of potential to save money by buying goods for your home in bulk as well. Rather than making several grocery trips throughout the month, you could actually get more food in aggregate from a huge shopping trip once in the month, while paying less for it all since you buy it all together in one transaction. There are actually some stores which exist just for this purpose. Trips like these aren’t convenient, but they do save money, and 12 such trips throughout the year would leave you with a nice purse of cash come Christmas time.

Good Hobbies for Young Minds

Good Hobbies for Young MindsThere are a number of hobbies which are generally good for young minds. And when I’m talking about young minds, I actually mean young minds – children, like between the ages of 4 and 7 years. It’s during these formative years that the human brain is the most elastic, the most ready to just suck up any information from the world around it, without any of the bias we all use in viewing things once we get a little older and a little more keen to the way the world works. That’s not to say I’m for promoting ignorance in the young though.

Instead of constantly warning children against all the people, things and even places that might go against them or harm them as they grow up, it is the job of parents to show their children just how much fun and engrossing the world can be too. Vigilance is good, and teaching your children to be vigilant is also good. It is crossing the line into hyper-vigilance which is the bad thing. By equipping your children with sound bodies and minds, you can prepare them to make good decisions during those crucial moments in their lives.

For the body, any physical hobby will prove to be a good choice. You could be promoting physical fitness by teaching a son or daughter how to play football, but you both get much more out of it than just the exercise which comes with kicking around a ball. It’s a time for bonding and teaching your child useful life skills like running, jumping, sliding, ducking, twisting and perhaps most important of all, how to fall without breaking a limb or busting their head. This isn’t like playing a premium digital piano, though instrumental training can be rewarding in some of the same ways as physical training.

It’s still time the two of you spend together for starters. Learning how to play an instrument like a piano, especially at a young age, is a lot like learning a foreign language. And like learning another language at a young age, the brain is much more ready to soak up new information and use what it learns to create a mindset for dealing with the world later in life. There are few hobbies which are better for young minds than picking up a musical instrument. With that in mind, you can find a handful at Piano Report, though the instrument you choose could be anything at all – a bass guitar, trombone or drums, for instance.

Whatever hobbies you try to turn your son or daughter onto, remember that it’s ultimately the child who has to deal with learning the hobby and living with it as a part of their life. You should look for something they already enjoy doing and have a natural talent for, then give them the encouragement they need to keep up with that, rather than forcing something strange and unfamiliar upon them. This can be a frustrating prospect for many parents, but your children will ultimately thank you for catering to them, rather than trying to force things to be the other way around.

Electronic Measuring Tools

It’s no secret that more and more tasks which were once manual have been automated as we’ve made leaps and bounds technologically. Just look to the vehicles which have automated transport, or the light bulbs which have replaced natural lighting and allowed for the 24 hour workday, or the Internet which has dealt such a heavy blow to so many industries – printing being one of the heaviest hit by the advent of digital media over hard, physical copies. Many tasks have been automated, including the measuring of distances and values. Here are a few electronic measuring tools you may not know about, in fact.

But first, one almost everyone person is familiar with: the calculator. We’ve come a long way from calculators which could do simple addition, subtraction, multiplication and division; the most recent models can do algebra, create graphs, do mathematical proofs and even play some simple video games. As an electronic measuring tool, calculators are better at keeping track of numbers than most human minds, and that means they’re better at performing various operations and getting accurate answers than most of the people using them. This is a tool to keep in mind if you regularly make bad measures.

Of course, calculators are just good for doing equations and graphs. You can’t use them to, say, measure the distance between two points. You usually need a ruler for something like that, though I’ve found there is an electronic device which works just as well, if not better. Have you ever heard of rangefinders before? They basically are electronic rulers which measure distances between two points, usually with some infrared sensor, though other types do exist. You can see several examples for yourself at http://rangefinderadvice.com/best-golf-rangefinders/ if you need visuals. I did when I discovered them.

Don’t forget about electronic tools that measure time either – clocks, or more specifically stopwatches in this instance. These are very useful for getting exact times during athletic events, but they’re just as good for timing things while they bake in an oven, or seeing how long it takes you to do anything at all, from climbing a set of stairs to making your morning coffee after waking up and starting the day. If you find yourself trying to shave seconds and minutes off of your day, an electronic measuring tool like this could be exactly what you’ve been wishing for. Go ahead and look those up too if interested.

This last item is really more of a specialized tool, but the people who count on it trust it with their lives, so it seems like it’s earned a place on this list. I’m talking about depth meters – those things divers wear and use to tell them how deep they are while diving. Such tools are indispensable for helping divers to avoid dangerous depths and the oxygen toxicity which can come with diving too deeply on pure oxygen rather than a proper mixture of breathable gases. I’m no diver or anything, but I know this electronic measuring tool is a favorite among them. That’s four useful tools. Do you know of any others?

Useful Christmas Presents

I always love it when either a gift I give ends up being very useful to the person receiving it, or when a gift I receive ends up being very useful to me. It’s one of my favorite parts about the Christmas holiday, and this year I got something very useful that I just have to talk about a bit. You’ll probably never guess what it was, but take a minute and think about it if you want. I’m talking about a sewing machine, or more specifically, a serger. I never knew it before, but I guess there are a few different kinds of sewing machines out there.

Useful Christmas Presents

I’ve owned sewing machines before, but they always ended up breaking down; belts would snap or power supplies would burn out and I had been without a sewing machine for a couple of years before this most recent Christmas. A lot of socks with holes, shorts with split seams and torn pockets managed to pile up during that time too – I kind of lost track of just how much needed to be done. Needless to say, I got busy a few days after getting the present and made quick work of knocking out all those little stitching jobs I’d been ignoring.

I have to admit, I rather like these sergers more than the traditional machines I’m used to using. That’s because they can work with multiple spools at the same time, easily allowing for speedy double and triple stitching without me needing to put the same piece through the machine a second or third time. If you ask me, there are no sewing machines better than the super-efficient sergers which are able to do the work of two, or three, or even more machines, all at the same time and all with a single piece of equipment. Other efficiency-obsessed people like me should take a cue from this and check them out.

Useful Christmas Presents

Now you might be wondering what’s really so useful about a present like a serger; surely I could have darned those socks and stitched up other bits of torn clothing with a needle and thread, by hand, with no machine at all. I could have done that. But my serger has allowed me to sew completely new articles as well, which means I can create custom clothes and accessories for people and gift them as needed. Not only is it a present which is useful to me, but it also allows me to make presents for other people.

There just aren’t that many gifts which give you as much as one of these specialty sewing machines gives you. Gifts like these, which keep giving, even to other people besides the person who actually got the gift in the first place; well they’re pretty great if you ask me. Do any of you have a story about a similar gift which was either really useful for you when you got it, or has proved useful since by letting you make gifts for giving to other people?