Laura’s Favorite Things for 2018

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Did you catch Angela’s 10 Favorite Things for 2018? (If not, go check it out! I’ll wait.) Once again, Angela asked me (Laura) to name my top picks for 2018. If you’re interested, you can go back and check out my picks for 2017, 2016, and 2014.

I l-o-v-e reading product recommendations from other people! It’s fun to get some unique, off-the-beaten-path ideas for great gifts for other people as well as read about how products work in actual people’s lives.

I always check for reviews, customer experiences, etc. before purchasing because the last thing I want to do is waste my and my husband’s hard-earned money on something that’s just going to end up sitting on a shelf somewhere. All of the items listed here are truly my favorites – products I return to again and again! Again, 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: Sanuk Yoga Sling Sandals (Amazon Link)

I am soooooo not a fashionista, but I do like to look cute and reasonably put together when I’m out and about. However, I’m also big on comfort, and these sandals definitely fit the bill! They’re called yoga sandals because the footbed is made of the same materials as a yoga mat. There are lots of different colors to choose from – the pattern pictured above is what I got. I purchased mine on sale at REI, but you can also find them on Amazon.

Item #2: Personalized Christmas Ornaments (Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland)

I feel like I’m giving something away here, but one of my favorite wedding gifts to give is a personalized Christmas ornament, no matter when the couple in question is getting married. These are always well received! I usually pair it with another gift from their registry or a nice bottle of champagne.

I order mine from Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland (located in Frankenmuth, Michigan…a delightful town to visit if you’ve never been there), but you can no doubt find other customized ornaments on Etsy.

Item #3: Babyganics Natural Wool Laundry Dryer Balls (Amazon)

My kids all have sensitive skin; some more than others. Last winter my youngest (then 2-3 months old) had pretty bad eczema that lasted for several months. We couldn’t figure out a solution that seemed to last…it just appeared to clear up on its own once she got a little older and the weather warmed up.

This past summer I found these dryer balls on Amazon at a great price, so I bought them to use once I used up our stash of dryer sheets as I had read that dryer sheets can really affect skin irritation. I’m happy to report that these dryer balls are a success, at least for me! I haven’t noticed a difference in the softness of our clothes as compared to the dryer sheets I used to use, and these dryer balls don’t shed.

Item #4: Canvas Crossbody Shoulder Bag (Amazon)

I’m not picky about many things, but I am extremely picky about my purse. Once my beloved Thirty-One crossbody bag bit the dust, I decided to switch things up and look for a cheaper alternative. I wanted something that wasn’t too big, but was big enough to hold the essentials. I also wanted something that was sturdy with lots of pockets and was definitely crossbody so I could have my hands free for other things.

After perusing a ton of reviews, I landed on this one and I am so pleased with it! (Side note: If you attend an NFL game, be sure you check the bag guidelines at security so you don’t have to leave your purse behind and carry all of your stuff in your hands…and then order the exact same bag the minute you get home. Not speaking from personal experience, of course….)

Item #5: OtterBox Commuter Series Case for iPhone 8 (Amazon)

It’s been a long time since I purchased a brand new phone, but when my husband’s new employer offered to buy him a new phone and we found a buy one, get one free deal, it was hard to pass up. 🙂

I love my new iPhone 8 (my husband got an 8 Plus), but it’s a slippery thing. We purchased these OtterBox Commuter Series cases for our iPhones and have been very happy with them. They’re great for everyday use, but keep in mind that if you want a screen protector, you’ll need to order that separately.

Item #6: Pillowfort Kids’ Bowls, Tumblers, and Plates (Target)

I have five children that don’t always get along perfectly. My husband got tired of my kids demanding certain colors of cups, bowls, and plates, so he asked me to find some that were all one color. I asked some friends for ideas and they pointed me to the Pillowfort line at Target.

I stocked up and got ten different cups, bowls, and plates – all in GREEN. So no more fighting over the color, kids! These plates are basic and inexpensive but have held up very well. I really appreciate the lack of fighting, too…at least about this, anyway. 🙂

Item #7: Chatbooks

I don’t do well with baby books, photo books, etc. It’s not that I don’t want to do them, it’s just that it’s very difficult for me to find the time to put them together. For the past few years, I’ve used Chatbooks to automate the process of archiving our photos and memories. You can set up a photo book series that links to your social media accounts (mine works with Instagram), and then once you reach 60 photos, you’ll get a book sent to you for as low as $10, including shipping.

Don’t worry – you’re given advance warning before your book ships so you can go in and remove any pictures you don’t want printed, choose a cover, edit captions, etc.

My kids love looking through these photo books and since they’re so inexpensive and can be reordered, I really don’t mind them paging through and looking at pictures of what we’ve all been up to. It’s a fantastic solution for people like me who aren’t exactly crafty/scrapbook-minded and are short on time. Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order.

Item #8: The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed by Jessica Lahey (Amazon)

This past fall I joined a parenting book club through the early childhood and family education service provided through my school district. We are currently discussing this book and it has been absolutely eye-opening. Most parents want their children to succeed, right? So we do everything we can to help them along. We bring them their gym shoes when they forget them at home. We pack their lunches. We talk to the teacher when our child brings home an unsatisfactory grade.

The author of this book goes against that way of thinking by saying that disappointment and frustration is actually good for kids so that they can grow up to be successful, resilient, and self-reliant adults. Our overprotectiveness may actually be harming our kids by not allowing them to learn and grow from their mistakes and solve their own problems. I highly recommend this book!

Item #9: JBU Women’s Triumph Boots (Amazon Link)

This past winter I got tired of wearing my tall riding boots. I still liked them, but it was a little tedious to get in and out of them. I wanted something short that I could wear with leggings, tights, or skinny jeans. I found these super cute booties and bought them in black and brown. I wear them ALL the time now that it’s cooler outside! I like the low heel, and they’re pretty comfortable but still cute. I got mine at Walmart, but you can also find them at Amazon or check out similar styles at

Item #10: Amy Knapp’s Big Grid Family Organizer Wall Calendar (Amazon)

I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned this one before! I’ve been using this particular wall calendar for years to keep my family organized. I love that it uses the top and the bottom of each page to give you space for the month. The calendar is lined, and it comes with lots of stickers to help you highlight certain events.

Each month includes tips for things to focus on around the house and in your family’s lives as well as space for extra projects. There’s even a spot to write in your meal plan for each day! I just love it and will continue to buy it as long as our family needs a calendar. 🙂

That’s all from me this year. Don’t forget to read all about Angela’s Favorite Things for 2018, and feel free to leave a comment if any of these items are your favorites, too!