It comes from being a product reviewer by day and night… that there are non-beauty products that I am desperate to recommend because I, personally, find it so difficult to trust online reviews for just about every category. There are so many “best” posts that litter the internet that are just lists of products that the writer has never even tried and they’ll just source random customer reviews and total number of reviews.
With nearly every brand and retailer offering sales this year, here are some of the things that I’ve really been impressed with and/or utilize often (and love) in my life. Wants and not needs!
For Moments of Joy
Breville Oracle Touch Espresso Machine — One of the more expenses things I’ve purchased, but it has cured my Starbucks (and then Nespresso) habits and gives me a consistent, beautifully-made latte every morning. Our first one lasted a solid four years, and we opted not to repair it when it needed a repair and decided to get a new one (Breville offered a very nice discount for replacement when I called in for diagnostics). Pro tip: descale every 1-2 months instead of every quarter to get more longevity out of your machine. We bought ours from Williams Sonoma initially, but a lot of retailers have it like Amazon, Best Buy, etc. Breville goes on sale here and there, and then everybody seems to coalesce around that sales price but you can always keep an eye out for extra incentives at the retailer like a gift card for $X+ purchases or free accessories.
Greeting Cards — I don’t give many cards these days, mostly because hubby and I are not that sentimental, but when I do, I get them from Well-Drawn Cards on Etsy, which has handmade, funny greeting cards. They’re exactly the type of puns I make in real life… like “I Lava You” and having a photo of a volcano on the card front.
Reusable, Wall Decals (Fabric) — In the last year or so, I purchased a ton of peony wall decals to create a mega-mural of peonies running the width of the wall behind my makeup vanity, and I love how it turned out. It has added a pop of color and made it a more interesting expanse of wall. Fabric decals are repositionable and easier to remove and reuse, and they were incredibly easy to apply (just stick them on, basically), reposition, and overlap. I always say it, but I am not good at DIY or design, and I feel like it turned out like the images they used to sell them, lol! I bought mine from Wordy Bird Studios on Etsy, though you can find some other styles and types on Etsy and some retailers.
Percussion Massager — my body is falling apart because sitting at a desk is slowly killing me (that is the result of not moving around enough in general), and massages get expensive, hubby’s hands can’t massage for long because he, too, suffers from carpal tunnel and wrist issues from all of his computer and desk-work, thus the Hypervolt has come in handy. I first came across it during a sports massage, and it was a wild experience, but also felt effective. It was a huge pain-reliever during the first two years of the pandemic when I was no longer able to get massages. Since we bought ours in 2018 (still going strong!), there are lots of similar devices available, and even Hypervolt makes a travel-friendly one (that is probably plenty of power/utility for most) that is significantly less expensive than the original. These definitely go on sale during Black Friday (Best Buy has them on sale currently).
Faux Houseplants — I love real houseplants, but my dedication to watering, trimming, and maintaining them comes in waves, so don’t trust me on keeping any alive. Right now, hubby has graciously taken on the watering duties of my remaining plant survivors. Earlier this year, I wanted to add some interest to the kitchen, and we have a fair amount of space between the top of our upper kitchen cabinets and the ceiling, so I decided to make it plant-tastic. This area doesn’t get much natural light, and I’m not going to get up on a ladder to water them all, so faux plants worked a treat.
Target had an amazing variety of affordable, small and medium-sized plants that came in white planters. They were pretty realistic (lol, I owned most of the types at some point in their real forms). I also stacked some in terracotta pots that I picked up from the local nursery (for about $1 each) to break up the all-white planters, but you could also spray paint/paint if you cover up the faux plant/dirt. I really loved how it turned out because it’s jungle-ish without maintenance, and all the plants look lovely and realistic enough (especially from afar). I was able to purchase all of mine during a flash sale where they were 50% off.
For the Doggos
Just Food for Dogs — We have been feeding JFFD since shortly after Magellan was diagnosed with liver issues, which was in 2018. There are a lot of fresh diets available presently, which I haven’t personally tried, but we are all fans of JFFD in my household. Winston’s been on it since 8 weeks old, and he loves the food and has had good luck on the Fish and Sweet Potato Recipe (which is also what I fed Mellan). It’s SO much easier to get ahold of now that the brand is sold via Petco, because when you have a larger dog, you need a decent amount of freezer space to hold a few weeks’ worth of food. Now, I can at least order locally and have it delivered on the same day.
When Mellan was diagnosed with copper storage disease, we needed to find a food with the least amount of copper in it, which was incredibly difficult and time-consuming for dry kibble (we found one, which we fed for a few months initially). A lot of dog foods don’t even disclose how much copper is in it, and even higher quality brands had tons of copper (there was no recommended min/max when I last researched). However, in food destined for the human food chain, copper is highly regulated and has to be very, very, very small (almost none), so JFFD offering food that was rated for human consumption made it so copper wasn’t an issue. Mellan did well on it, so I wanted to keep Winston on the same quality diet if possible.
Bocce’s Bakery Treats — Winston’s been getting his Bs (they’re all shaped as the letter B for Bocce) daily for over a year now. We tend to give these when he goes into crate or before bed time (hubby always give him one treat solely for existing each day). I like the Soft & Chewy ones because they are easy to break in half if desired. They also have seasonal treats, which are always fun to give to make Winnie feel like he’s included in a holiday! I get mine from Amazon or Petco, depending on when I need them.
Cucumbers — Winston LOVES cucumbers, and I love that he loves them. It smells like a trip to the spa after he’s had one! I always add a few of them into grocery cart.
Best Friends by Sheri Donut Bed — If you have a dog that doesn’t get hot easily, they’ll probably love this bed. I’ve only tried this brand’s, but there are a lot of options for similar-looking ones for less available at local pet stores or online. Winston adores this bed so much, and every foster puppy we’ve had gravitates towards it. The only dog who has loathed it was Mellan, and he seemed like he’d get over-heated in it very quickly, which I’m guessing is part of it. He, on the other hand, loved his Orvis beds (Winston uses them, too, but we’re pretty convinced he prefers the fluffy donut bed instead). I’ve purchased from Amazon and Chewy in the past.
Bow Tie Collars — Both Mellan and Winston pretty much live exclusively in CrewLaLa bow-tie collars. I get the Belle bow-tie collar as I like the way it looks more than the regular bow-tie. I try to wait for a 20% off sale or shop their sale section since we have quite a few at this point! Winston uses Mellan’s old ones, but Winston is a good bit smaller than Mellan and while the collar length fits around his neck, I have found that the bow-tie size is a little larger than ideal for him, so we always size down for the bow-tie part.
Perfect Puppy Treats — Wellness Soft Puppy Bites have become a favorite for giving to the wee foster puppies (and also something I take with me when I volunteer at the rescue onsite) because they are soft. They’re easy to break into smaller pieces, depending on how big the puppy is, and because they are soft and chewy, puppies can get through them a lot better than most small training treats. This is especially useful for smaller puppies or very young puppies!
For training larger puppies and/or adult dogs, my favorite training treat are the Fruitables Skinny Minis (I always use Pumpkin & Berry) because they’re a great size, low calorie (critical for training treats!!!), and come in a larger bag size (more economical for training). For lil’ puppies, they may be too large and/or firm. If your dog is on dry kibble, you can use that for training treats to help balance calories.
If you have a dog that needs something more enticing, Tricky Trainers has worked well, but my big complaint is that they are prone to drying out so are only good for those who will get through them fairly quickly. I used the salmon variety with Winston, and they are a nice size, have quite the aroma (not my favorite to keep in my pocket, as a result, haha), and quick to eat since they are smaller and chewy. They are also only 3 calories each, so they can be given more freely.
For Clothing the Body
Yoga pants with pockets — look, pockets are a must, it’s upsetting when you find a nice pair of yoga pants only to find out they lack more than a pocket for a thimble. For a more sustainable clothing brand, I really love Beyond Yoga — the material is wickedly smooth and soft, the pants stay up, and they fit well on my bigger frame. Their more famous product–leggings–tend to be size-inclusive up to 4X but a lot of their other items only go up to XL. I picked up two pairs of leggings with pockets during their sale this year.
I try to avoid fast fashion overall because I have the ability to do so financially, but for those looking for a more affordable option, I love and wear the HLTPRO Leggings with Pockets that I found on Amazon. I picked these up for volunteering with the puppies, who are not particularly kind to pants as they nip, bite, claw, and jump all over them, so I didn’t want to spend a lot on leggings I knew were likely to get holes sooner rather than later.
Modal for boxers/briefs — hubby is a long-time and devoted wearer of Saxx boxers/briefs. Modal is a fabric type, and it has been one of my favorites for a long time (give me modal everything, please), so I had him try this brand. They are not affordable normally, but they have a lot of styles at 30-50% off during Black Friday (sales during the year tend to be more like 20-25% off but sometimes seasonal styles are further discounted).
Men’s workout shirts — hubby has been doing a lot of working out in the home gym over the last few months, so we were on a quest to find the best workout shirt for him. Perhaps, that is more honestly put as I was on a quest for the best workout shirt for him. For him, his torso is longer than average (or slightly longer than proportional), so finding a workout shirt that is effective but also has enough length tends to be the struggle. GO FIGURE that the winner of the race would actually be Lululemon Training Short Sleeves (Textured or Drysense). I had him try shirts from Adidas, Aero, New Balance, Nike, Rhone, Smartwool, and Ten Thousand… none were winners.
Extra soft, lightweight, stretchy joggers — I’ve never been one of those people who dresses really nicely or stylishly, and the older I get, the more I just like to be comfortable, so things like joggers for lounging becoming popular has been a real treat for me. My current favorites (for the last two years, I’d say) are Tommy John’s Lounge Joggers, which come in assortment of colors but isn’t the most size inclusive (only goes to XXL), but they do have men’s lounge joggers, which may accommodate for larger size needs to some degree. I also have a lot of their lounge shorts, which are short short but great for anyone who sleeps hot or lives in a warmer climate. The brand runs enough sales throughout the year (around 20% off) that I usually wait for a sale if I need to purchase.