For this year, it was the set of two silicone baking mats that I bought in the spring. They are brilliant and I use them several times a week. Whether I’m roasting vegetables, making biscuits or meringues, or open-freezing something, they can either line a dish or sit on a baking tray and nothing ever sticks, they save the dish from baked-on food residue and they clean with a squirt of washing-up liquid and a sponge. They’re dishwasher proof but I’ve never bothered to put them in, they’re so easy to wash. And, with a splendid finishing touch, it’s suggested that you store them, rolled up, in a kitchen paper tube. We use the roll that’s in use, so they don’t actually take up any space at all. Simply excellent. When the family was over a couple of weeks ago, I promised to buy each of my children a set – which is the only present (times three) that I’ve bought yet, though that’ll have to change soon.
These things soon become part of normal life, of course, and one forgets how jolly pleased one was with them and the difference they made, but I’ve been trying to think back for other things that might come under the same category. The unexpected benefit is an advantage, but not a requirement. For example, when we moved here thirty years ago and bought our first dishwasher, I knew just how much I wanted it but that’s often not the case. The satnav I bought eight years ago to drive to the London flat, where Weeza and Phil then lived – it proved its worth at once as I knew it would, having once got lost on a rainy November night when I drove down (I have no idea now why I drove rather than going by train, but there must have been a good reason). But, whilst I’d certainly be able to navigate across the country without it, driving on my own through unfamiliar towns to a specific address is where it’s best of all.
Then there are the little electronic kitchen scales I bought three years ago for the purpose of tortoise weighing. So, so convenient and I use them almost daily – they change at the touch of a button between grams, milligrams, ounces and fluid ounces. I never use my old scales any more.
Top buy of all time remains, of course, my first iPhone. I’m on my third, now four years old and it’s still a daily joy – incredibly useful and a pleasure to use too.