While we worked hard to put a series of Gift Guides for you together this year, I thought I’d share a short list of some of my favorite things for 2014. What you should know about me: I’m not a huge fan of stuff for the sake of stuff. I’ve been known to mull over purchases for a long time (sometimes months!) before making them. I rarely splurge on completely frivolous items.
Given my shopping preferences, I figure I’m a good person to give a list of favorite things. Because these are the things that I not only made the leap to buy after careful consideration – these are the things that I don’t regret having bought! These items range in purpose and price point, so maybe you’ll find something for that hard-to-buy person on your list today.
Item #1: My Pet Octopus Necklace ($17.99; Modcloth)
When I found this quirky and cool necklace on Modcloth, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I just loved it so much and could see how it would be an awesome conversation piece. I wear it frequently now with plain colored tops and even dresses. While I’ve seen knock-offs on other online retailers, this one is quality and has rave reviews on Modcloth. While I purchased silver, it also comes in gold.
Item #2: I love your Dress in Plum ($49.99; Modcloth)
This is another item I kept coming to on Modcloth. I mean – what dress gets an average 5-star rating after nearly 500 customer reviews? AND, women of all shapes and sizes saying it fits them perfect and is flattering? That was a bandwagon I wanted to get on. I absolutely LOVE this dress. Not only does it look amazing on, it’s comfortable. My favorite way to wear it is with leggings and a turtleneck underneath. I should also mention that the sizes on the color I own (Plum) frequently sell out, but you can be ask to be notified when it comes back in stock (it seems to come back frequently). The dress is also available in cranberry, black, and olive in sizes S – 4X.
Item #3: Garmin Forerunner 15 ($139.99; Amazon)
I hemmed and hawed about this purchase for a looooonnnggg time, mainly due to the cost. My only regret is that I didn’t purchase this GPS running watch sooner. I don’t say this lightly, but it has really made a big impact on my running improvement. Not only does it track my time, it tracks my pace and distance. This means I can just head out the door and run for 5 miles without having to plot it out ahead of time. The pacing feature has been super helpful for speed work and kept me on track to PR for my last race (I did a 5K in 26:24, folks!).
Bonus: the Forerunner 15 also tracks your daily steps and sleep, so there’s no need to have this and a FitBit.
It’s also worth mentioning that this watch retails for $169.99 and it’s at its lowest price on Amazon right now of $139.99. This would make an amazing gift for a runner.
Item #4: Cilio Porcelain Pour-Over Coffee Filter ($18.95; Amazon)
When my Mr Coffee single serve coffee maker kicked the bucket last year, I decided it was good time to reflect on my coffee drinking. I’m the only one in my family that wants to have a cup of coffee daily, and most days, I only drink a single cup – first thing in the morning. Given that, it’s always felt wasteful to me to brew an entire pot of coffee (plus, I have a hard time keeping the coffeemaker clean!). I also decided I didn’t want to spend a lot of money replacing a single serve machine. After some research, I opted to try the pour-over coffee method. This was well over a year ago, and it’s how I make my daily cup. (In fact, I did it again just this morning!) I recently had the opportunity to buy a Keurig, but I’ve learned I really don’t need or want one. I love my ritual of making pour-over coffee. I feel it’s also been a smart choice for saving money as I can just use regular old coffee grounds (not K-cups). As I only need a few teaspoon of grounds per cup, a bag of coffee easily lasts me a couple weeks or more now.
Gift idea – pair with Lavazza Crema e Gusto Italian Ground Coffee. It’s highly rated and delicious! (You’ll also save by choosing Subscribe and Save.) For more information on this topic, read my post last year about making coffee without a coffee maker.
Item #5: The Laundress All Purpose Cleaning Concentrate-247 Home Scent, 16-Ounce ($15; Amazon)
I know what you’re thinking, “Angela! You spent $15 on a bottle of cleaner? What gives?” But the truth is, I’ve gone to buying cleaning concentrates like this one for a few years now because it’s actually a less expensive way to clean! All I do is add a couple cap-fulls to an empty spray bottle and fill with water. In this way, a bottle this size will easily last me 6 months or more.
While I’ve tried (and loved!) other brands, this one has such a wonderful scent. It makes my home feel like a upscale hotel or something. Even better, it’s non-toxic, allergen-free, and biodegradable, so I can feel good using it around my kids and pets.
Item #6 – Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand ($9.60; Amazon)
Do you ever read a book SO good you just won’t/can’t/refuse to shut up about it? That is exactly how I felt when I finished reading Unbroken. This is the amazing true story of a Louis Zamperini, an Olympic athlete turned WWII airman. When his bomber crashes over the South Pacific, a series of remarkable events follow. This is a story not only of survival, but redemption and forgiveness. In the 7+ years of our book club, this is the book I say has been my favorite (and we’ve read probably read 50-60 books now!).
Bonus: this book has been adapted for film and will be in theaters starting Christmas Day. Pair it with a Fandango Gift Card to see the movie for a wonderful gift.
Item #7: Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast ($16.95; Amazon)
One hobby I’ve grown increasingly fond of is foraging. After spending a LOT of time reviewing books to help support this hobby, I’ve decided that the Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast is hands-down my favorite. Not only is it comprehensive, the photos and tips for properly ID’ing the plants are very clear. The book is laid out in an easy-to-use fashion. I also love how it includes information on how many of the plants were used by Native peoples, too.
I should note – that this book is most useful for identifying plants. Please always make sure to take extra care when eating wild plants. (Just trying to cover the bases here!). Not into foraging? This book would also be a fun educational tool. I sometimes bring it with my kids and I and head to the forest and see how many plants we can identify and learn about. It would also be a great gift for the avid hiker or naturalist.
Item #8: Acer Chromebook ($199+; Amazon)
In January, I was headed to Las Vegas for an affiliate marketing summit. I knew given the amount of time I was going to be gone, that I’d need to work. However, I didn’t want to lug my clunker of a laptop with me. My good pal Mara of Kosher on a Budget recommended I look into a Chromebook, and I’m so glad I took her recommendation!
For right around $200 you end up with a lightweight laptop perfect for travel. It’s Google-based, so it’s easy to sync with your Chrome settings, Google Docs, and more. I found my Chromebook was up and running out of the box. It holds a charge for hours, too. Ours gets used for watching movies, catching up on social media, and basic web-searches.
I would recommend a Chromebook for the person that just wants an extra, inexpensive computer for basic functions (email, web), as a travel computer (for taking on airplanes, to coffee shops, etc), or as an extra family computer for watching movies and the like.
Item #9: Emjoi Micro-Pedi Nano Callus Remover ($14.95 + shipping; Amazon)
Truth be told, I didn’t purchase this *exact* callus remover, but I did buy one strikingly similar at Costco a few months back (and it cost more!). Given the very high reviews and the fact that this is a best seller on Amazon – I think it’s safe to say it’s comparable.
As a runner, I have HORRIBLE feet. Horrible. You’ll almost always see me in socks, they are that bad! I’ve tried pumice stones and creams, but nothing could get rid of the thick calluses! After purchasing a remover similar to this one, I finally found a good solution. If you suffer from thick, cracked, callus-y feet (gross, I know!), this would be a great gift for yourself. If you can tactfully buy it for a friend who also suffers this ailment, I’m sure they will appreciate it too.
Item #10: Kind Bars – Dark Chocolate Nuts with Sea Salt ($14.14 Amazon)
Kind Bars have become my go-to snack this year in my journey to losing weight. They definitely soothe my sweet tooth, but are LOW in sugar! These Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt bars only contain 5 grams of sugar per bar. You’d be hard pressed to find that in another snack or protein bar. I also like these because they contain real ingredients. I personally cannot stand that horrible chalky “protein bar” taste. Other awesome qualities about them – they are gluten-free, contain no hydrogenated oils or trans fat, and are also high in fiber.
I love enjoying these with a cup of tea in the afternoon, packed on a plane for a healthy snack, or sometimes I’ll have one for breakfast. The best price you’ll usually see these for in the grocery stores is $1.25 on sale, so I prefer to buy them on Subscribe & Save on Amazon. (Currently, a 12-pack works out to $1.17 per bar on Amazon – even less if you have 5 subscriptions in a month.)
What items did you discover in 2014? What would make your “Favorite Things List?”
PS for more targeted ideas, please see our comprehensive list of Gift Guides. Whether you’ve still got a hard-to-buy-for-man, tween boy, or fitness freak on your list – we’ve got you covered.