Normally I review academic articles and fiction novels, but I was making dinner and realized that I've finally hit a stage in my life where I've finally purchased items that actually make me happy enough to purchase again when I wear them out, instead of getting annoyed at shoddy quality and once more re-entering the dreary treadmill of trying to find high quality items that actually work and/or fit.
Since these things have made me inordinately happy, I wanted to share them. These aren't affiliate links, by the way – just items I liked more than I was expecting.
- The iClever BK03 Portable Keyboard folds, which solves the biggest problem I've always had when traveling and trying to use a tablet in lieu of a laptop; I'm always stressed out when the keys clack around inside of the bag. It does all the normal stuff like support multiple devices, and it actually feels pretty good to type on considering the size – it fits in my purse!
- I'm super picky when it comes to pens, and I've tried a ton. The ones I keep coming back to are the Tombow hard tip brush pen for when I want thick, easy to read lines that even out the vagaries of my handwriting, and the Lamy Safari fountain pen when I'm writing in a notebook that requires a thin nib, like the
Leuchtturm1917 a5 weekly planner & notebook. The Leuchtturm brand is my go-to for analog work and has the best paper of any I've tried, but this particular planner has very thin lines that make my fine-nib fountain pen better than my usual brush pens. I strongly prefer black ink for actual writing, so my Lamy is basic black so I don't confuse myself about the color of the ink, but they come in tons of colors. If you're into fountain pens, by the way, and plan to use bottled ink instead of plastic disposable cartridges, I strongly recommend getting this clear conical insert and a Noodler's 3oz bottle, Monteverde 90ml bottle or Stipula 70ml bottle of ink so you can use this handy trick for refilling cartridges.
- Speaking of pens, this sixteen slot desk organizer has been a godsend. It has held up really well and was surprisingly cheap and easy to assemble, and it actually does manage to hold pretty much all of my stationary equipment.
Cooking & Food
- This one-piece wooden cutting board was shockingly cheap compared to most wooden cutting boards I've seen, so I was worried the quality would suck, or it would warp, or crack easily. But for $30, it's outperformed boards that were way more expensive, and it has awesome features that help it dry quickly. It never slips, the grooves are perfect, and the the built-in ruler has been surprisingly handy without catching any food particles like I half-expected.
- Having a kid has made me more cognizant of what I eat, but I still crave sweets sometimes, and now that my son is old enough to understand Halloween and get gummies from school, it was a losing battle to ban them entirely from our house. But these bite-size fruit leathers are incredibly delicious and their ingredient list is actually for once really "just fruit" (and a bit of salt).
- For $23 this is hands down the best set of cooking utensils I have ever owned. The fact that it's super cute is just a bonus; the pieces are small enough to be useful with reasonable portions and small pans, they hold up really well, and the tongs are surprisingly strong – I can use them to pick up hard-boiled eggs, which would have been disastrous with my previous pair.
- A lot of wool items are heavy and scratchy, so I was worried when I ordered this merino wool blanket after finally losing my temper with down comforters. My worries were for naught: it's so warm, and soft, and lightweight! My husband likes to put a quilt on top to get more weight, but I hate it when my feet feel trapped, so I'm very happy with it.
- This soap holder is self-draining, doesn't fall apart, doesn't get gross (and is easy to clean when necessary, which is almost never), looks cute and is made out of a single, solid piece of natural wood.
- This Thonet Bentwood rocking chair is not the literal one I own (and you can get them for much cheaper at a thrift store), but when my son was really little I was appalled at how difficult it was to find a low-profile rocking chair that was actually comfortable and fit in my kitchen without what felt like yards of excess cloth. I remembered this style of cane wooden chair from my own childhood and bought it, and I regret nothing. It doesn't scratch the floor, it doesn't dig into my back, the rocking motion is smooth, it doesn't hurt my back to sit in for a long time... it's my favorite piece of furniture even if I had to find a specialist to repair it when my son stood on top of it and his weight damaged the seat a bit.
- Normally I buy children's clothes secondhand when I buy them at all. Most of what my son wears has been gifted or passed down from friends and family. But these pajama bottoms with built-in socks have been amazing enough that despite being an eye-popping $25 dollars a piece, we have like seven pairs and he wears them almost every day. My son is very tall and skinny, and has very firm opinions about taking his shoes off in the house... and a very shaky understanding of whether or not socks count as "shoes." These pants are the only way we could keep his feet warm once he got too ambulatory for a sleep sack, and the only ones we've found that actually fit him correctly.
- This 5" model mail truck cost me $8 and was the only thing my son got "from Santa" this Christmas. He loves it, and I love how realistic it is. The doors (side and back) open and it can even do the neat little "pull it backwards and watch it go!" thing.
- These pants are literally the only pants I have worn for the last four years. I wore them throughout the entirety of my first pregnancy and the elastic held up well enough that I could still wear them afterwards 🤯 They have deep pockets, front and back. They are sized in inches instead of meaningless terms like "large," and the height is easily adjustable with a pair of scissors because the hem doesn't run. They're flexible enough to do yoga in, but unlike most "yoga pants," they're thick enough and loose enough to look professional in most settings (although I'd never wear them to court – they aren't slacks and the stitching is more obvious than you'd want to wear on Wall Street).
- These sleeveless shirts are not the only shirts I've worn for the last four years, but I own them in almost every available color pattern. They are also in the category of "flexible enough to do yoga in, but professional enough to go to work in." I wear them year-round (with a cardigan when it's cold) and also while pregnant (and I am not a particularly small woman). They hold up really well in the wash, are really comfortable, and make what feels like loungewear look like I'm middle management instead of someone who works from home and almost never has meetings.
- After many years of wearing cheap (but comfortable) ballet flats that fell apart when you looked at them funny, I tried Rothy's, which everybody on Ask A Manager raves about. I wore them out in the toe super fast, I never liked the way the plasticy fabric felt on my feet, and they didn't fit out of the box because I have funny shaped feet. Allbirds flats, by contrast, were incredible, held up insanely well, come in much more appropriate colors, and fit me so perfectly I actually wound up buying their hiking shoes too. They're the first hiking shoes I've ever worn in my life that don't hurt my feet or feel prohibitively heavy.
- These hair ties come in a bag of 100 (which so far feels like a lifetime supply) and are the only hair ties I've ever worn that actually don't wear out or pull my hair when they get stuck.
📗 If you found this interesting, you may also enjoy this eclectic overview of articles I enjoyed, including some focused on textiles & anthropology.
💚 If you got something useful out of this list consider forwarding it to a friend who might also be interested – and encouraging them to sign up for more honest reviews of random stuff.
👀 Have you bought something in the last couple years that turned out to be way more useful than you were expecting? Please reach out — I'd love to hear about it, either via email or in a comment on the web version where other readers can see. Especially since Mother's & Father's Days are coming up in a couple of months, and my husband and I are both very hard to shop for...
Note: There are a couple of affiliate links & codes scattered around, but these always come from links I was already recommending and usually I share them because they benefit you too (i.e. getting you extra time on trials).
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