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Thursday, December 17, 2009


As you know, I am an expert on all things Cheer-related, so I am kicking off my annual Cheer Blogs, in which I help YOU solve your holiday conundrums. Recently, many of you have been asking for help buying gifts—specifically, gifts that don’t cost too much.

I know it's bad to encourage commercialism and of course the MAIN thing you should be buying is BOOKS, preferably from your local independent bookseller. But okay. I know some people don't want books, or you have to get something BESIDES books. So I have assembled this list of things you can buy for $5-30, most of which I own and can vouch for.


These bags are awesome. I first saw them at Scott Westerfeld and Justine Larbalestier’s house. They own a half dozen or so. Now, so do I, and I go nowhere without them. They are super durable and fold up into this awesome little ball you can chuck at people’s heads. You just keep one or two in your bag or suitcase and you won’t need any plastic bags at all! Good for the environment, good for you.

A small family of Flip and Tumble bags, waiting for adoption.


I was amazed to discover one day that I had a drawer full of harmonicas. And when I say “full of harmonicas,” I mean that there were two of them. But that is more harmonicas than I was expecting to find. And they are NICE harmonicas, too. They are “professional quality.” So I pulled out one of the harmonicas and IMMEDIATELY played “Happy Days Are Here Again” on it. Like, literally! I never knew I could play the harmonica! Harmonicas are awesome, and an excellent gift for those times when you first start dating someone and you aren’t sure what you “are” yet and you don’t want to freak them out by giving them a piece of jewelry or a vial of your own blood or something like that that just radiates COMMITMENT. Harmonicas are also great gifts for people who really hate their roommates, or for anyone who has a mustache. I think you will find they are RIGHT in many circumstances.

The little black dress of gifts


I buy a lot of journals. I don’t know why. I don’t usually write that much in them. But I buy them like a maniac and I’ve taken a real shine to this brand, which makes beautiful ones with great bindings and a handy magnetic clasp to keep them closed and tidy. The bonus part of this is that you can sit and flick the clasp closed over and over. It makes this awesome snick, snick, snick noise that will annoy others but somehow really helps you think. Or at least look like you are thinking. And that is what matters.

I own this one. Snick. Snick. Snick.


Everyone should own a fire extinguisher. It’s a gift that says you care. It’s best given with a word of loving caution and a deep, unblinking stare. Say something like, “You never know when a fire could break out.” Or, “You’d be amazed at how many things burn.”

Things burn, you know.


Listen to me, and believe me . . . I am OBSESSED with good holiday candles. Every year I go around to ever shop like some kind of deranged bloodhound, sniffing. I sniff and sniff. And I am not easily satisfied. But let me tell you something . . . this candle smells like a frickin’ tree. I bought five of them, and I’m going to buy more. You probably know someone who wants a frickin’ candle. Get them this frickin’ candle. That is all.

"It smells like a frickin' tree." - Maureen Johnson, author, so-called interesting person on Twitter


There’s a store called Fishs Eddy here in New York that just makes awesome weird stuff. I shop there a lot. If you are in NYC, you should, because they have cool crap like mugs with the least-famous presidents on them, or drinking glasses with striptese dancers on them, or big piles of flatware for cheap, and they also have a large assortment of antique disembodied ceramic arms. I am really taken with these plates, which have all kinds of demotivational messages written around the edges, like, “It’s hard to be around you when you eat like this” and “For the love of god stop eating.” They are good, strudy plates too, so you can really fill them up! (This store also has totally awesome scissors too, if you are into scissors.)


So when I was out the other day at the makeup store (the same day I bought the vibrating makeup that keeps breaking and vibrating in my bathroom sink) the saleslady said to me, “You should buy this stuff.” And I said, “What is it?” And she said it is a POTION that keeps your eye makeup on. Now, if you have ever worn eye makeup, you will know that it can rub off and be annoying, and clearly I was in the mood that day to be convinced so I took it. I don’t know what is in this stuff—magic, or uranium, or glue or something—but it totally works. A good gift for people who wear makeup, and a lot better than a stupid vibrating sponge.

Now with NEW WAND


I own a pair of these in white. They’re nice. I originally bought them because they looked warm and comfy and I thought they would be great to wear on writing days at home. I have discovered their other advantages. Like if you live above a crazy person who sends security after you if you close your windows, or attacks your cable guy while he is installing your Verison FIOS, or calls the apartment complex’s carpet police to say you don’t have enough carpeting even though you totally do and in fact went and bought thousands of dollars worth of deep-pile shag rugs to shut her up but nothing you do will satisfy her, nothing, so you essentially carpet your feet but still that isn’t enough! Anyway, these slipper booties are great for that! Also, you can wear them to walk home from the emergency room at 4am after you have a reaction to medication and you are so ashamed that an ambulance had to drive you ACROSS THE STREET that you go home on foot, which is fine because you are ACROSS THE STREET.



I don’t own one of these yet, but you better believe I mean to. Because . . . mini helicopter. There is nothing a right-thinking person can’t do with one of these babies. Check out this sweet video:

See what I mean? Don’t you just want to cover that thing in post-it notes and fly them into unsuspecting people’s heads? I mean, that is what I am going to do with it, when I eventually get one.

Have CHEER-related questions.? Hit me. I am here, ready to help.

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Blogger Tina Lynn said...

Must link to this!

8:37 AM  
Anonymous Julie Polk said...

When I was in Hong Kong a couple of years ago I got my nieces and nephews mini-helicopters. They LOVED them (they weren't as nice as these, though -- for starters, they only had one rotor). That is a spectacular gift idea.

Also, the music for that clip totally sounds like an action sequence from MAGNUM, P.I.

8:55 AM  
Anonymous Karen Mathu said...

Nice list from a most interesting twitterer. And the added beauty of a low-price gift guide: you can have fun pairing your gift with a BOOK. Way thoughtful way to gift.

9:01 AM  
Blogger Lubby said...

I've been looking for a good set of reusable grocery bags to give to my parents! Plus despite losing the house to a fire a couple years ago they haven't bought a fire extinguisher. MIZZZ JOHNSON YOU ARE A GENIUS THANK YOU.

PS: the "word" blogspot gave me to verify I'm human is alarmingly similar to "goatse". What's up with that.

9:04 AM  
Blogger theoriginaledi said...

"Also, you can wear them to walk home from the emergency room at 4am after you have a reaction to medication and you are so ashamed that an ambulance had to drive you ACROSS THE STREET that you go home on foot, which is fine because you are ACROSS THE STREET."

I WONDERED how you got home so fast!

(http://twitter.com/maureenjohnson/status/6525594142 --> http://twitter.com/maureenjohnson/status/6525827482 exactly 15 min later [/stalker])

9:07 AM  
Anonymous Victoria said...

Maureen, you are a life saver you is.

9:09 AM  
Blogger Mandi said...

My uncle has one of those helicopters! They're a bit hard to get the hang of, but they're really fun (a bit dangerous to fly around people's heads, though).

9:10 AM  
Blogger Kari said...

I love those bags! I already had them on MY Christmas list!

9:59 AM  
Blogger Jodie said...

I ahve totally just asked someone for the Urban Decay thing for my birthday in January because you say it works - no more blindly rubbing at the crease marks on my eyelids half way through the day!

12:26 PM  
Anonymous Emily said...

I have that eyeshadow potion. It's awesome.

3:35 PM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

The music in that helicopter video is exactly what it should be.

4:54 PM  
Blogger Julie said...

What could I get for my 22 year old brother!?! I am stumped.

7:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the plates may be better left for people to buy for themselves- if someone gave me something that suggests fat people shouldn't eat, I'd be upset and angry.

8:45 PM  
Blogger joanne said...

those flip and tumble bags are adorbale! I just ordered a few. thanks!

12:09 AM  
Blogger Jeni said...

You know ... Sometimes you can buy an Air Hog mini-helicopter on sale for $10 or $15 on sale, and they work really well. Just saying. I have tried them, and they are awesome. Jeni

12:25 AM  
Anonymous Alison said...

There's only 8 days left until Christsmas and our family still doesn't know what we're doing for christmas lunch (none of us can cook really).Ideas?

4:05 AM  
Anonymous blissfullydazed said...

Hey - I just ordered a gift for my friend, thanks to you! Alice In Wonderland coasters from Fishs Eddy (awesome store!). So I had to say, thank you! And good post.

Hope your holiday season is going well...and is full of dancing weasels...


4:19 AM  
Blogger Summer said...

that Urban Decay Primer potion is one of my favorite things in the WHOLE damn world. It's amazing. as are you, Maureen. Kind of.

4:44 AM  
Anonymous Emanuel said...

PERFECT timing. I have a Christmas party later this week in which there are some Secret Santa-esque shenanigans taking place (white elephant gift exchange?!?!? Wikipedia says it's an American thing) and I had no idea what to get... that was, until I read your post.

Let's just say that SOMEBODY will be getting a harmonica very soon ;)

4:52 AM  
Blogger Snottlebie said...

*scribbles on a piece of paper* MUST GET POST IT NOTES - so that I can scribble on the post it notes instead...

12:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your apartment complex’s carpet police? Do you mean The Fuzz?

9:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I haven't read any of your books. I just read your name for the first time today. And I have officially fallen in love with your personality. What a hilarious post! I think I shall go check out some of your books now...

1:32 PM  
Blogger kira902k said...

CHEER-related question:
What do I do when I have relatives from Sweden at my house who are staying for Christmas and are extremely DULL, making all of our dinners boring and awkward?

7:37 AM  
Blogger Michelle said...

"it smells like a frickin' tree"


8:32 AM  
Blogger Hoi polloi said...

I love the Urban Decay Eye Potion!! It really is a miracle.

8:45 PM  
Blogger Bibliopinions said...

After reading your blog, I asked for some of those Flip and Tumble bags from family. Got them on Xmas morning and I am SO excited to use them! Thanks for the suggestion -- they're great!

2:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hahaha maureen I love you

Also, my mum must have read this because I got the urban decay potion, AND the Gap slippers for xmas!!

5:28 PM  

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