Sunday, January 13, 2019

Best Things I Bought in 2018

Not gonna lie: I’ve had a lot of buyer’s remorse in my life.  Like my first car, and the piano that cost more than my wedding, to name two, and all the high heels I’ve ever bought.  But every now and then, I buy something and think, Good move, Joy. 

Like this past weekend... it was warmer!  After a month of freezing or below temperatures, it was the low 40’s Fahrenheit.  Buuuut, Korea is experiencing its unfortunately all-to-frequent bad air quality days.  The current Air Quality Index (AQI) was over 180 today last I checked, so the kids have been indoors.  I think we might all be kind of losing our minds at the moment, except for Christmas we gave the kids something that I think is pretty ingenious.  (See below!)  And that got me to thinking about the things I got this year that were actually great buys.  

Please understand, I’m definitely not advocating thoughtless consumerism or filling your house with more clutter — that’s not what this blog is about.  These are just things that have made my life/ sanity/ health/ the environment better — in other words, brought me joy.  I wanted to tell you about them in case you have maybe have some extra Christmas money or gift cards to spend, or are just looking for some darn good ideas.

1 — Reusable produce bags.  It’s been growing inside of me, this sort of mix of panic and disgust at the amount of plastic in our lives.  I’ve read about how little of it is actually recycled and how plastic is showing up in everything — yep, everything.  When I went to Haedong Yongungsa, the Temple by the Sea in Busan, I was so disheartened to see an enormous table completely covered with plastic cups and straws from cafés very near the entrance.  There was a garbage can right beside it — which is a rare sight in Korea — but it was overflowing with the same.  It was such a jarring picture, something so ugly next to something so beautiful, and especially given the proximity to the ocean and knowing the dangers of plastic to marine life.  But moreover, it was just the excess of plastic and the awareness that this was just the tiniest fraction of what is used worldwide.  So at that moment, I decided to start doing more to curb my own plastic consumption, a decision I referenced in my last post.  One step I took was purchasing these reusable produce bags.  I was already using reusable shopping bags, but still stuck my produce in those filmy plastic ones that come off the roller in the store.  These are great — very sturdy and easy to see through.  I thought the cashiers would say something about them, but so far, no one has batted an eyelash.  I love them!  I plan to buy more soon.   

2 — Cloth handkerchiefs.  So along these lines, I also thought I would get myself some cloth handkerchiefs.  My parents’ colleagues during my childhood were almost all British and Australians, and they used cloth hankies.  So this seemed like an obvious, easy choice to me.  I was surprised by some of the comments I got, though, about them: “Gross.”  “So, like, you just keep using those all day?  How is that sanitary?” It’s really no less sanitary than a Kleenex if you think about it, though.  I think the real problem is that we’ve come to think of disposable as cleaner (I got the same kind of comments when I cloth-diapered).  The only slight problem I have with them is that they are definitely bulkier than Kleenex, but I think that’s something I’m okay with.

3 — These reusable shopping bags.  I almost forgot to mention these, but then I was using them yesterday and two people asked about them.  I have bigger bags that I typically use for groceries, but sometimes I forget to grab them from the car.  These fit in my purse — okay, fine, mom bag — and I use them all the time and love them so much.  

4 — Tea Tree Shampoo from Maple Holistics.  I have a really sensitive, problematic scalp.  I used wash it every day with regular shampoo (i.e. the kind with sulfates and parabens and everything scary), but got red painful bumps, almost like it was breaking out.  When I switched to a sulfate-free shampoo, it was better but never great, becoming greasy when I didn’t wash every day.  Enter these shampoos from Maple Holistics.  I’ve tried the Sage and the Degreaser and also like them a lot, but this is my favorite.  I can easily go 2-3 days between washes using them, which is supposed to be better for your hair and scalp.  I use it on my kids too. Our hair is soft and healthy, and I’m so glad I found these.

5 — Manuka honey bandaids.  When Lilly cut her foot this past summer, I followed the doctor’s orders to a tee, but it just looked like it wasn’t healing right.  Every time I changed the dressing we were that much closer to returning to Korea, and my stress level about the possibility of complications while traveling was going up.  We were staying at my sister’s house, and she told me about how my brother-in-law had used manuka honey bandaids after an impressive spill on his bike earlier in the summer, and how they’d made such a difference.  I kept saying that no, I’d stick to what the doctor gave me, thank you.  But finally, I was desperate enough to give her idea a try.  I am not exaggerating in the least when I say that the next time I changed the dressing there was a noticeable improvement.  By the following day, it looked completely different.  I keep a stock of these now because I cannot believe how much they helped, and I cannot recommend them enough.

6 — Atlas Obscura: Explorers Guide for the World’s Most Adventurous Kid.  Wyatt is obsessed with geography, and I have acquired a few great atlases this year as I homeschool him.  But I thought this would be a fun bonus for him, and I gave it to him for his birthday.  It was one of his favorite gifts, and honestly, the whole family — my parents included — enjoys reading it!  If you or someone you know is a geography nut, don’t miss this book!

7 — These “bean” bags

Lilly gets the credit for this discovery.  She was trying to figure out a good place to store her stuffed animals when she came across these.  Hanging things on walls is not a great option in Korea (concrete covered in really delicate wallpaper!), so those toy hammocks wouldn’t work.  Plus we always seem to need more seating anyway.  She asked if we could get one and after reading about them, I bought three.  We have stuffies we can’t part with, plus beloved baby blankets, plus sleeping bags and spare pillows, and only so much storage space.  These were the perfect solution.  Everything is easily accessible for sleepovers and movies nights, but also tucked away and providing bonus seating when we need to flop over and read.  As I write this, I think we actually need one more!

8 — This indoor gym.  This thing is saving our collective sanity this weekend!  I came across it when I was looking for homeschool supplies last fall, and I told Matt, “I think we need this.”  He took one look and said, “BUY IT!!!  NOW!!!”  It comes with a rope ladder, a swing, a trapeze bar, and a gymnastics rings that can be changed out, and you can install it or take it down in a flash.One caveat: the only door it fits in our whole house is in one bathroom because Korea.  I think in most stateside houses it would be fine.  Due to this issue, we almost returned it.  But now, a few weeks later, I’m so glad we kept it.  It’s kept the kids busy getting their wiggles out, given them “vestibular stimulation” (which my OT mom and sister tell me is muy importante for all kids), and has caused plenty of fights about whose turn it is to use.  Sure they’re swinging by the toilet, but it’s things like that that keep life interesting, right?


So there you have it, the 8 best things I bought in 2018!  How about you?  Did you find something that was a total game-changer?  I’d love to hear!

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