I do get a lot of questions about the products I like, toys I prefer for my kids, books I’m reading. I don’t believe we need to buy ALL THE THINGS, I am a proponent of less is more. But I still get use out of and enjoyment from STUFF, specifically stuff that makes my life better.
This list will focus on things that are low/zero waste, things that make my life simpler and things that I wish I would have bought sooner.
So I want to share with you the things I have been happy to invest in, and things that make my life better/easier.
Please do know that the links here will send you to Amazon, I am an Amazon affiliate and when you purchase through these links I receive a small commission at no cost to you.
These are cards with question prompts on them. I found them at the thrift store, but I think they are simple investment because they have transformed our dinner conversation from the typical round table (what was great, what was hard) to something that generates a bit more response and interaction. The kids call them ‘family questions’ and actually pull the box out and ask for them during dinner.
This is a game we played when we were first married (there is a two-player version) and then we upgraded a couple of years ago so the kids could play too. It is a strategy game that is simple enough for the kids to play (my five-year-old plays) but very interesting enough that adults can play it too.
Line a Day
There is something special about documenting a bit of your daily life. This line a day book spans 5 years and lets you make a couple sentences about that day. I love to read back on it and see what we were doing years ago – it takes me back to remembering the details of the daily life with toddlers and babies.
Q+A a day
We recently completed the line a day book and my sister in law gave me this one. A question a day. Now that the kids are older this is a really fun way to get a snapshot of who they are and what is on their mind on a daily basis – and watch how it changes. Again, something they love and ask for because I’m raising tiny nerds.
I played this years ago with my brother and his family and then bought it for myself to play with my friends. The premise is that you have nine tiles laid out full of photos. Then you flip a card over and find the matching picture on the tiles. There are ways you can make it simpler or more complicated. Now we pull it out and play it with our kids. It is so simple to play that most ages can play it, our youngest was 4 when we started playing it as a family.
This was a game I loved as a kid and this past year it was a Christmas present for the kids. It is simple, timeless and generates conversation about what we notice in others.
An adventure pack
As the kids are getting older we like to head out for adventures into the forest, along river banks, through grasslands. I was using their school backpacks for our snacks and my stash of bird and plant books then decided to buy myself a petite and durable pack I could keep filled and ready to go. They come in great colours, great sizes and a great price
I paid the money for these and I don’t regret it. As a longstanding member of the #coldfeetclub I have spent a lot of money on fuzzy socks and slippers and still, my toes feel the chill. So, I thought I would just try heated socks and turns out they are on my feet almost every night from October to April (#Canada). I think my husband is most excited about these because I don’t shove my iced toes under his body with the constant expectation he’ll solve my cold feet problems with his body heat.
(I even wear them when we go out snowshoeing, sledding or anytime I’ll have to stand outside in the cold for a while)
The Finnish Way
This book explains some of the cultural practices in Finland, where they experience true winter. It really made me reframe how I viewed resiliency, how it can be something we grow on a daily basis through how we interact with nature and how we believe in our abilities to do harder things. Also, this book has encouraged me to get outside every day, no matter the weather
The Book of Hygge
If you have been around the blog or podcast you have probably heard me talk about hygge – the danish word that means connected, cozy and content. I have read a few books on it and really love this one because it also explores the socio-economic foundations on which hygge is grown from.
I have tried countless brands of coffee and this one is a house fave. It is the one we save for special times, it is the one we try to keep in stock all the time. It is creamy and rich without being acidic.
Getting serious about warm feet
In addition to the heated socks, I also own this hardwired version to keep my feet warm. (That cold feet struggle is legit friends!). These are designed to be used for wax pedicures, but they are durable, crazy affordable and effective.
I know these aren’t the most Instagram-worthy items. Nobody is making an overhead shot of me cozily eating nuts while in sweats and these flamingo pink elf slippers. But that doesn’t take away from how much I enjoy the EXPERIENCE of that exact scenario, on the regular!
(I like clothes and makeup, etc. Here are some of my go-to items)
Waterproof boots, but cute
I bought these Emelie boots by Sorel this past Fall and love how they are a Chelsea boot, but with a bit of a flare to it with the panel over the toes and the wood insert in the heel. I wear them most colder days that don’t require snowboots (because #canada)
My Fave Dry Shampoo
A lot of us think that dry shampoo ‘doesn’t work’ for our hair. This is because we need to date around in the Dry Shampoo world. It takes some work to find the right match.
If you have finer hair like me, then look for dry shampoos that focus on volume! This one from Batiste has been my go-to for years. And the key is the volume, I’ve tried other Batiste types of dry shampoo and they left me looking wet and oily still.
I was hesitant to buy this eyeshadow palette because it is a big investment. But, I bought it five years ago and wear it almost daily and I’m still not done with it yet! A little bit goes a long way. And this palette is so flattering on almost all skin types. If this palette feels too large, they also make smaller basic ones.
I had a close friend teach me the underrated benefits of retinol for your skin health and I haven’t looked back since! This serum is a nice introduction to get your skin climatized to the benefits of this powerful vitamin A serum. And the price point is oh so good!
Some women have naturally bombshell-sheen to their hair. I just have all the baby flyaways that haven’t stopped sprouting even though my youngest is 5. I also have fine hair so products weigh it down really easily. This oil is so light and smells delicious and makes my hair feel like silk. It is a splurge I treat myself to, but again, a little goes such a long way.
When I was up all night thinking about toothbrushes in the landfill I noticed that I thought my pillowcase was scratchy and loud. I know it sounds like something someone who stresses about toothbrushes would also get fixated on. BUT, then I was talking about pillowcases with a girlfriend and she said the same thing! So we challenged ourselves to find some silk or satin pillowcases to see if it made a difference. And I LOVE it. I know that many people choose it to avoid messing up their hair (especially curly hair) and leaving fine lines on their face – but I mostly love how it feels and how quiet it is.
Most prefer silk because it is a natural fibre – though it’s more expensive. I have been happy with the satin.
boar bristle hairbrush
About 16 years ago my mom bought be a wooden Goody boar bristle hairbrush. I thought it was so random. But over the past years, I have started to use it almost every night and now I see why people love them. The boar bristles carry your hair’s natural oils from your roots down your hair shaft. These oils condition your hair and make your hair shiny and sleek. It helps your hair go a bit longer between washing. (If you do use one, make sure to pull up sections of hair and brush the bottom layers then work your way up, you want to get all the hair on your head, not just the surface of it).
Years ago my MIL made me a spa basket for Christmas, it was so practical but also indulgent! She added in some exfoliation gloves and they have been in my shower ever since. I love the feeling of having a good scrub down and use them at least once a week. They say this kind of scrub down is so good for detoxing, circulation and revealing all that smooth skin underneath the dead layers. Every so often I throw them through the wash and they have lasted me a long time.
clear purse bag
This is the bag you put IN your bag. I keep a clear bag in my purse and it is full of all the random things: bandaids, pens, lipstick (all the lipsticks), tampons, headphones, medicine, a pack of the electrolytes I shared above, my cheque book, etc. You know, lady things!
I love having a clear place to just grab things as I need them. I don’t have to dog through my purse and lose caps to lipstick or have a pen leak through my purse, or goodness forbid take to long searching for that rogue bandaid!
It comes in handy all the time, except when my kids pull out my purse contents at church for the whole row to see. Good thing I often sit beside other moms with kids wild like mine.
We get our kid soap from lush. They make fun soaps like this snow fairy one and another favourite we have is the rainbow one. They smell great, make bubbles and can be used as a shampoo.
Bonus is my kids love them and there is no argument about washing up when they have this soap.
Always, for everyone, the end. My kids have been playing with legos every single day since we brought the out about five years ago. My oldest was 3 and he took right to them. They are a staple for every birthday and Christmas. They also line my kitchen table. But I don’t mind, they get right into playing with them and it keeps them occupied for hours.
When my oldest was born my MIL bought me this little timer. You click the button each time you change a diaper, feed, sleep. And you can toggle a switch to remember which side you just nursed on. I used these with each of the three kids and it took such a load of my mind for tracking all these things.
Grad class shirts
Years ago I saw a friend take a picture of her kindergarteners in these big oversized shirts that read their graduating year. I have since been buying one for each of my kids as they started kindergarten and I take a picture of them in it on their last day of school each year. I am sure this makes up for my lack of ever buying their posed school photos.
We love Usborne activity books, you really can’t go wrong with anything from Usborne. I recommend buying from someone local if you know anyone who sells them in your community
My youngest son has a Hidden Pictures book. Every night at bedtime, him and I sit side by side and work on a page together. This is our ‘cuddle time’ and I really love the simple activity we can do together while chatting about the day.
Blank comic pages
My daughter loves to create stories and as her older brother reads more comics, she is loving that format.
I just got these for my kids – they are at the stage where they are creating more stories and these are a fun way to add some framework and inspiration to it.
My son got one of these from his Grandma and it is so fun. You can change the tail position to make the plane glide or fly in big loops. We all play with it together out on the road some nights after dinner
The beloved outdoor craft for kids of all ages (even some parents too!)
I have been listening to a lot of podcasts on functional medicine and one common denominator is hydration. I know I don’t drink enough water so I wanted to try electrolytes. I tried a few kinds but found them so sweet, in a fake and grainy way. This is one brand I have loved the taste of the most and I drink it almost daily. The bonus is that it is loaded with Vitamin B & C, so I also give some to the kids when illnesses are going around.
One great thing I have noticed is that I have fewer headaches, especially when travelling if I start my day with electrolytes.
This is a stool that sits at the base of your toilet and you put your feet on it to create a squatting position – which makes the whole process a lot easier on the body. Yes….I’m talking about poop. I am not ashamed to care about my colon health, I care about yours too, this is why I want to tell you about this.
Questions that keep me up at night: ‘What happens to a toothbrush in the landfill?’ My kids go through a few toothbrushes a year and I hated that we just throw them out. So I switched us to bamboo (somehow the kids all still have plastic ones again from the dentist and school loot bags). Either way, I really love the bamboo ones. I really don’t notice a difference between bamboo and plastic in terms of brushing my teeth – but I do love how the handle feels in my hand.
a fit bit
Over a year ago I bought myself a fit bit with a birthday gift card I had. I had wanted one for a while because I was very interested in what my heart rate was doing (related to my thyroid condition) and I wanted to monitor how active I was during the day. Having this data has been so helpful to see the actual amount of activity I am doing in a day. And it doesn’t ever feel defeating when I’m not on target, it feels encouraging that I can see where I can take control of my progress and make changes.
I have especially loved the ‘reminders to move’, the group challenges (my sister always beats me with more steps!) and the sleep tracking information. This past year I wanted to improve my sleep and the info from the fit bit has helped me figure that out.
This handy little tool has saved me many items of clothing that were worn with use, or attacked by toilet paper shrapnel in the wash. I use it almost weekly to freshen up my sweaters and shirts. The bonus is that it is safe for the kids to use and they think it is a game instead of a chore.
I decided to invest in organizing my kitchen this year. I’m usually so cheap so I put this off as long as I could. But, once I made these purchases I was wondering why I didn’t do it sooner.
I recently told Conor that this pan rack and the lid rack have just made our kitchen like a 100X better, and he smiled and said ‘and our marriage’. Yup, nobody can relay passive-aggressive messages through messily stacked dishes anymore!
I had this picturesque idea that I could have lids on all my pots, and line them up on the shelf in a pretty row. But it turned into a free for all mixer and I had to get down on my knees to find matches for lids and pots.
Lesson learned: there is magic in the art of tidying up!
Ceramic French Press
I have had this french press for three years now. Which has broken a household record of how long we have gone without having to replace a french press. We always had glass french presses and they broke often. This press is heavy-duty ceramic, dishwasher safe and it comes in so many adorable colours.
I bought these three years ago and have one for each of the kids’ rooms, and one for Conor to hang on our door for all his work clothes. I appreciate how you can make better use of your space from hanging this behind a door in place of having a hamper around.
I invested in these about ten years ago and I haven’t gone back to big plastic or wires ones since. They hold the clothes in place, they save space, and they are pleasant to look at. I don’t have doors on my closet so this visual consistency helps bring more simplicity to my closet.
We have been using cloth napkins since before it was cool to use cloth napkins. Not really a brag, more of a statement on how weathered and worn our current napkin supply was. I had been slowly gathering replacements from the thrift store or other sales, but then I saw this set at such a good price that I went for it. Conor was very excited because I never splurge on upgrading our towels, let alone buying a whole matching set. It feels very adult to share these around the table when we have people over.
wooden dish brush
My kitchen experience was transformed when I bought my first dish brush. I was using plastic ones and would wear them out until they looked like I had run over them with a lawnmower. I didn’t feel good about throwing them out into the garbage (I mean, toothbrushes have kept me up at night!).
This summer I found a wooden one – you can get replacement heads for them! We can all do our part saving the planet right? One dish brush at a time!
Since I learned about bullet journaling, I have been loving the paper planner way of life. I have tried many of them and this is my current favourite. Each page feels fun. There are little notes and challenges throughout it. There is a weekly layout, monthly layouts, and lots of room/flexibility for me to write whatever I want to keep track of. Plus there is a fun little ‘currently’ list to do at the end of each month.
My fave SIMPLE planner
I like to try out new planners and this is a simple one I go back to on years where I just want the basics. The front pages contain monthly calendars. The rest is laid out with a weekly plan on the left side of the page and a blank lined space on the right side of the page. It is a great place to keep track of notes and thoughts throughout the week without getting constrained by timetables and detailed agendas.
A vertical mouse
I have been looking into ways to make my workspace more ergonomically friendly and heard about these vertical mouses (mice?). I spend a lot of time at the computer and thought wrist pain and arm pain would be part of running the trackpad for hours in a day. I started out with a cheap vertical mouse and noticed a big difference in two days – so I returned it and upgraded it to this one by Logitech. The best part is, you can set up hotkeys on the mouse to do things like moving forward or backwards on the page – or a click to reveal your whole desktop.
Adults like felts too!
I love to write things out and track things in my planner – and when you write a lot you, you appreciate the value of a great pen that doesn’t bleed through the pages.
I think I have a soft spot for stationery and I’m not ashamed to call myself a Pen Snob. Really, we should all be Pen Snobs, the world deserves better pens that those ballpoint dried-up disasters abandoned in our desk drawers. I’ve always loved Pilot pens, their tips are so fine and the liquid ink ones make me feel like a calligrapher.
Blue Light Blocking Glasses
I don’t need to wear glasses but my eyes often my eyes get tired from being on the computer. It feels like they almost get a little blurry and grainy. I have seen a lot of people talking about using blue light blockers to reduce this fatigue and strain and thought I would give it a try.
The first time I used these I could see a difference. At the end of my workday, my eyes still felt fresh instead of dry and tired. Also, fewer headaches too! I recommend them to anyone who is on a computer or staring at a screen often.
Also, this particular set comes with a little card and blue light to test the efficacy of the glasses – which became a fun little science experiment the kids appreciated.
I can’t tell you how much I rolled my eyes at my husband when he used our credit card points to get a set of wireless ear buds. After all, the ones I bought from the grocery store for $20 were meeting our needs! But now, I can’t go back. I have one in almost all the time, they sync so easy, let you skip tracks, and will stop whatever podcast/music you are listening to when you remove one from your ear. I love to use them on calls (video and phone).
BOOKS I HAVE LOVED
(There are a few more books listed in the cozy section and the kids section t00)
Tame Your Anxiety
By Loretta Breuning, PhD
This is one of the first great books I read about neurotransmitters (dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, cortisol, endorphins). I found this book transformative in helping me see how these neurotransmitters inform so much of our habits and actions. It is written in language I found approachable, which is rare for a book on this topic. One of my all-time faves for helping me understand the science of what my anxious brain is doing and how to work with it.
Habits of a Happy Brain
By Loretta Breuning, PhD
Obviously one of my preferred authours on the subject. This book is on my kindle and has highlights on most pages. Again, it is a dive into the science of the major neurotransmitters. There is great information on the ‘vicious cycle of happiness’, how your brain wires itself, and how you can develop healthy habits by understanding the science and role of these major neurotransmitters.
Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child
by John Gottman, PhD
This book changed my parenting. You can read about it all here. If you are going to pick one book to read about raising kids, emotions, emotional intelligence and emotion coaching your kids – this is it.
by Jo Marchant
This book is written by a science writer who has interviewed physicians, researchers and patients to hear the latest science on how our minds can impact our bodies. This whole body of science is called psychoneuroimmunology, I talked about it a bit in this episode.
Many people who are interested in this field might also like Heal Your Body by Louise L Hay. It is a reference guide of ailments and their likely related emotional conditions that contribute to it. I know it sounds like pseudo-science, but every time I refer to it, it has been true for me.
Buddha in the Attic
by Julie Otsuka
Not many books on are my re-read list, but this one is of them. It is written like poetry and tells a story that keeps a pace where you aren’t explained every little detail but you have the opportunity to infer it. It opened my eyes to the experience of immigrants over the years and then how their children experience holding their native culture and their neighbourhood culture.