JAN BROGAN - My tennis friends throw an annual party in January, at which you must bring a present that is something you already own and are re-gifting. I only went once, but it was a riot. The more outlandish the gift the better. There was a Yankee swap and after a few glasses of wine, it was amusing to see the great lengths we would all go to in order to unload the re-gifts we had just been gifted. It was more fun getting gifts we didn't want than it would have been getting gifts we could use.
But this made me think about the many commercial items that we've either wanted or accrued over the years that are now sitting on our basement shelves or up in our attics. Which of these gifts makes you laugh or cry the most?
I'll start: JUICER.
Impressed with and maybe even a little high from a beet/carrot juice concoction I drank at a party in Somerville, I asked for and got a JUICER. This thing didn't just squeeze oranges, it could extract liquid out of turnips. For a while we made orange/banana/pineapple drinks for dessert and tried our own carrot/beet juice just for excitement. This went on for about a month until I realized that it took nearly a half hour to clean all the fiber out of the juicer's grates. And as time went by, we noticed that after we drank certain juices we sometimes writhed in pain from serious gastrointestinal distress. I have not yet thrown the juicer away, but every time I open the closet in the basement and get a look at it, I roll my eyes. Then I sort of cramp up before I close the door.
HALLIE EPHRON: I lusted after a LAWN EDGER. One of those gizmos that you use to neaten the edges of the lawn that the mower can't reach. I can't imagine what I was smoking that day, because I am the world's most casual gardener. Maybe Martha Stewart was on TV that morning.
I have it. I never use it. And it's too big to stuff in with a bag of clothes for Good Will.
Oh, and a copy of the "The Essential New York Times Cookbook" -- the doorstop-sized volume with supposedly everyone's favorite recipes from the paper and the books. I tried to read it in bed and ended up giving myself a concussion
ROSEMARY HARRIS: For some reason I thought I wanted a PORTABLE DVD PLAYER- never been used. The cappuccino maker? Gave it away.. The slow cooker? Used twice to make spiced nuts. Most embarrassing one for me to admit to? The rain barrel. I was going to be so green. All it does it sit there and grow mosquitoes.
I'll swap you one slow cooker for a lawn edger...
RHYS BOWEN: My husband John is the gadget king of our house. Juicer, bread machine, slow cooker, sausage maker... we have them all in the closet of dead appliances. I have never, ever asked for a household appliance for a present. Presents have to be for me! So I'm trying to think what gifts I would willingly trade and the only thing that comes to mind is a SOAP DISH (or candy dish) IN THE SHAPE OF A SWAN and it closes its silver wings over the soap (or candy). Oh, I didfor a bike once... and used it once. Now I'd like one of those folding bikes and realize I'd use that one once too.
JAN: RHYS, I'll take the soap dish. I'm trying to think of what I can trade you for since already have the juicer....
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Oh, does the BREAD MAKER count? I did make bread, a couple of times and it smelled wonderful. But now it's gathering dust in the basement. (The machine, not the bread.) With the Cuisinart, I know, it's awful, and I used to adore it but it's big and clunky and generally doesn't seem worth it.
And oh, a very cool sweater dryer, mesh and pvc plastic. So silly! Why would I wash a sweater?
It's kind of fascinating to see the time-saving gadget theme emerging here.
LUCY BURDETTE: I'm dying for a bread machine...could I trade you for a barely used MONITOR that I had to have but could never get to work?
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: And I do wash my own sweaters, so I'd use a dryer. But only if it didn't take up too much room. That's the problem with most "gadgets" - they just take up too much space compared to their utility. Like juicers. Easier to store a couple of bottles of Odwalla in the frig.
DEBORAH CROMBIE: What is it with the juicer thing? I've never had a heavy-duty juicer, but a few years ago I bought a CUISINART CITRUS JUICER. Totally useless. It has a tiny little lip, and there's no way you can make a container to catch the juice stay under it! But it's still sitting in my cabinet... (When are we having this party?)
Rhys, I LOVE the Closet of Dead Appliances!
When we remodeled our kitchen four (gosh, almost five) years ago, I got rid of all of the old things (remember the Corningware crockpot with the little blue flowers?), but I kept the twenty-year-old bread machine, which I do occasionally use. And my, um, THIRTY-year-old Cuisinart. It is big and heavy and clunky and it would be nice to have a new one, but it still works. Just don't ask me how often I used my much-coveted Kitchen Aid mixer...
JULIA: I got Ross a gleaming KITCHEN AID MIXER because he likes to bake. It languishes on the floor of the pantry while he stirs batters with a $2.99 stainless steel whip.
Most of my regifted kitchen appliances came from my late father-in-law, who was a darling man but was apparently under the delusion that I was the Homemaking Queen of the Kitchen. He noticed Ross and I cooked a lot of pasta (i.e., dinner in seven minutes,) so he got us a machine to make and cut pasta. By hand. We would pick up a rotisserie chicken and a bag o' salad from the supermarket - so he bought us a rotisserie and a salad spinner. The former was the size of a mini Cooper and required one to start the chicken two hours before dinnertime. The latter was the clunky basin of whirling plastic. The kids (then very small) liked to pull out of the cupboard and throw small blocks, Legos, etc. into it. One or two good cranks and they could scatter toys across the entire kitchen floor. It was, for them, a real labor-saving device.
JAN: Your father-in-laws misinterpretation is a riot, Julia. Although I have say, I do love my Kitchen Aid Mixer. Debs, I say we start the party right now. I've got my eye on Rhys soap dish in the shape of a swan. Who wants my juicer?
And who else out there wants to join in on our regifting party, and what dead appliance or ridiculous knick knack do you have to offer?