I’ve wanted to write this post for a while. Here’s a list of some of my absolute favorite things we have around the Maxwell house. Some are more useful than others, but I think all are worth putting here. Let me know if you’ve had experience with any of these too!

  • Open Office – This not so little piece of software is an awesome alternative to the Microsoft Office Suite. The mac version is titled Neo Office. Both are absolutely free, and updates occur often. Unless you’re doing frequent presentations, I think you’ll find that this freeware is just as useful as its expensive counterpart.
  • Grapefruit Spoons – Our diets have contained a lot more fruit ever since this little invention made its way into our cupboard. We never used to buy grapefruit because of all the work required to scrape out a few meager scraps of citrus. Now, we enjoy a grapefruit every day. Locally, you can find them at All I Saw Cookware, or at several online stores.
  • Walmart 88 cent toy section – located in the toy section, this little space is a real gem. Here you can find everything from sunglasses to plastic animals to jumping jacks. This is a favorite stop for me while stocking up on entertainment items in preparation for an upcoming flight.
  • Click-N-Ship – Actually going to the Post Office is SO 2008. Visiting USPS’s online site is way cooler. Here you can buy stamps and have them delivered to your mailbox (it’s an extra buck for a sheet of stamps, but it’s worth it for me). My favorite section of this site is where you can use Click-N-Ship to send packages anywhere right from your house (your postal carrier will pick them up). You just fill out some info, charge the postage to your credit card, and print off a label. What? You don’t have any boxes with which to package your goodies? Request more straight from USPS.com and your mail carrier will deliver them to you (they’re free!) Don’t know how much a box weighs? Just cram as much as you can into a flat-rate box and you’re charged a straight amount regardless of how heavy the box is. We just climbed back on the ebaying bandwagon so I love using this service for all of my outgoing packages.
  • Net10 Prepaid Phone & Service – This is a great option for those of us who want a cell phone but don’t need a ton of minutes each month. After hours of research, we purchased this phone for me at the local Walmart, and ported my number over. This prepaid service charges a flat 10 cents per minute for local/long distance/roaming calls. Minutes can be purchased in blocks of 300 (or greater), which adds 60 days of service, for $30. I’ll do the math: that’s 150 minutes per month, at $15 bucks. This is about the same price we paid to have me on Kevin’s ACS plan (we’re saving a couple of bucks), but now we have the benefit of not loosing these minutes each month (they rollover) and we can also use this phone when we’re calling out of state, or when we’re in a roaming area. With the amount of minutes I use (around 50 per month) we should be banking plenty of airtime for future use.
  • Yogurt Maker – If you eat a lot of yogurt, or would like to start, this is a great appliance to have around. It’s not absolutely essential for the process (you can incubate yogurt in other ways), but it’s a great idea if you don’t want to have to babysit your yogurt. These usually come in quart size, so the cost of your yogurt ends up being pretty much just the cost of milk. $3.50 a gallon for yogurt is a great price, plus you control the fat and sugar. The process is simple: you heat up milk until just before boiling (we use whole milk), let it cool to room temp and then add yogurt starter (either freeze-dried, or just plain yogurt from a previous batch). Then you incubate, and 8-10 hrs. later, toss it into the fridge and eat! It’s easy to add some sugar and flavoring, although you have to be careful when you add it to the process. I won’t go into that here, there are plenty of great sites that explain how to get the best results. Here’s an article from the Dollar Stretcher that explains the process, although there are many variations.