With the New Year around the corner, I thought I would share my favorite products our family found this year. We have become more mindful about what we bring into our home. We currently rent a small 2000 sq ft two story home that is bursting at the seams. 400 sq ft of it is over our garage that we use as a multipurpose school and sewing room. So it really feels like we live in a 1600 sq ft house with a poor layout as the stairs and large living room eat up a lot of space. Our 2000 sq ft single level home in Florida felt much bigger. It’s been a tight space for the five of us but we still feel blessed to have found it in a safe neighborhood we like. We are looking to purchase a home in 2020 and have started weeding through our belongings. We are a one income household so I have to hunt for deals. I also try to find things that are multipurpose or will work both now and later in our future house. I am a natural researcher. (My previous career as a Museum Curator was in Collections and Research). I love researching new things for our family’s lifestyle and home and hearing what works for other families so I don’t waste time and money and SPACE on things that don’t work well! I started to type this up as a gift guide and ran out of time so this post serves two purposes: a recap and a gift guide for next year. 😉
1. Relay Kids Phone Alternative: Even though our home is small our yard is not, and there is lots of kids to play with. It’s the big reason we’ve stayed put instead of renting something bigger. We wanted a way to keep in touch with our children as they run around the neighborhood. We allow them a small space in our hood to free range. We knew we wanted something that was not a screen. This has been perfect! Its sort of like a walkie talkie that they can each talk to each other or to us with. It can also send emergency alerts that hopefully we will never need to use. We use an app on our phones to talk back with the children. You can also see where they are located (and where they’ve been) with the gps map on the app. You can even set a geo fence so it will alert them if they’ve left the boundaries you set. There’s also a way to load music on it for your kids, but we have not tried that yet. It will also translate for you, which is another neat feature. Accessories can be purchased so it can be worn around the neck, arm, or clipped to a belt loop or book bag. It’s been really nice to call them in for meals without having to ring our dinner bell. 😉 Check both Amazon and Target as the prices fluctuate a lot on these. We found it cheaper at target for $25 during black Friday sales. It does require a monthly subscription. Click this link to get your first month free!
2. Pulse Revster 200 Electric Scooter: Our children love to scooter around our street. We live on a quiet street that’s perfect for kids to play. They have wanted an electric scooter for years but I also wanted them to use their legs (and energy) too. So we bought each child a 2 in 1 electric scooter for Christmas. I really wanted one that could be powered by electricity but also used manually after the battery died… and doesn’t break the bank. Many on the market are useless after the battery dies. These were the cheapest ones I could find and they work great! We tried an electric Razor a couple years back and our children all flew off of it causing injuries. This Revster has a much smoother start. Even our 5 year old uses it just fine. (He could already balance on a scooter pretty well) We found these for $59 during black Friday sales. So far I’ve only found them at Walmart. I cringe saying that, as I am not a Walmart fan. Let me know if you find them somewhere else. Make sure to read the small print that they are a 2 in 1.
3. Victrola 8 in 1 Record Player with Bluetooth and USB: I adore this little stereo. I mentioned that I love things that are multi purpose. Probably why I love my instant pot so much. Less things to store away. This little stereo will play the radio, records, cds, tapes, and works with your phone via Bluetooth. Compare prices between Amazon and Bed Bath and Beyond. BBB will let you use their 20% off coupon on this item! I bought mine under $100 earlier this year through them. I have the white one, but it comes in different colors. We use this everyday to play audibles from my phone, books on cd from the library, and my new favorite thing: records! (see next post)
4. Vinyl Records: I’m a romantic at heart. An old soul. I think I may have been born in the wrong time period. Hmmmm….. Anyways. I’ve loved buying vinyl records this year. If you buy them from Amazon, you get a free download of the album for your phone! They also seem to have the lowest prices on records. So it’s a pretty good deal vs just grabbing it on iTunes. I also plan on hunting for some old favorites via garage sales this summer. So far we have purchased The Hunts, Avett Bros., Charlie Brown Christmas, and I’m currently listening to Michael Buble Christmas ! LOVE! They do take up space though. So I don’t buy all our music this way, just a few favorites.
5. Echo Show 5: I am not a very techy person. But I LOVE this thing. It is Alexa with a screen. We really only use Alexa for music and spelling. lol My daughter often asks Alexa to spell words for her. Now she can see it spelled out and gets much less frustrated not having to ask her to repeat it. It also shows the lyrics as a song is playing which is a fun feature. We all seem to be visual learners around here, so this has been a nice upgrade from the standard Alexa. We also linked it with our Ring doorbell so the kids can see who is at the door and don’t open it to a stranger. 99% of the time it is one of the friends. But we occasionally get strangers soliciting in the neighborhood. We bought one for my parents for Christmas so we can send pics over of their grandkids. 🙂
6. Brother Sewing Machine: The number ONE thing I get asked, both in person and via social media, is my favorite sewing machine for beginner sewers. I ran a sewing camp this past summer and so many of my students asked for sewing machines for Christmas. My heart could burst! I am a big Brother fan. Avoid the new Singers if possible. Many people I know have issues with them. If you have an old cast iron Singer passed down from grandma, those are AMAZING. But not the modern plastic ones. I’ve had very good luck with my Brother machine. I used an older Brother (without a computer/under $100 machine) all throughout fashion school and my career at the museum. It works. It gets the job done. But I’m wishing I had upgraded and bought the computerized kind much sooner. I think it’s worth spending the extra $25-$50 on a computerized machine. Especially for children who often jam the bobbin underneath. It will save you a headache. It also has a few more features and is easier to make zippers and buttonholes on. You know if its computerized or not if it has a digital screen. Why I love computerized machines so much is because they can be set so the needle always ends up high when you finish sewing (not down in your fabric). If you already own one without a digital screen, just remember to turn the wheel on the right side (turning wheel away from you) until the needle is in the highest position EVERY TIME YOU FINISH SEWING. Otherwise your threads are still crossed underneath. Causing a mess. Most kids just turn it until it clears the fabric, when it needs to go all the way up. If you give it a gentle tug, your fabric should come out easily. If it’s still stuck, turn the wheel and needle up. Another thing to remember is to leave a long tail of thread before you snip it off. If you cut the thread too close to the needle, the machine will suck your thread in when you go to sew next. I taught sewing lessons at Florida State University. I spent half my time rethreading machines until it dawned on me to share these little tips. The cheapest Brother I could find with a computer is this one for $125. But I’ve found refurbished ones for $100 before. Also check Costco!
7. Ruffle Skirt Bedspread: Another great find from Joss and Main that serves two purposes is this ruffle bedspread. It works as a coverlet and a bed skirt. I bought a cream one for our king bed and a white one for my daughter’s queen bed that doubles as a guest room. We both have tall bedframes so we can store linens underneath since we don’t have a linen closet. The ruffled skirt helps hide what’s stored underneath. It also comes with two ruffled pillows! The material is quite delicate so we don’t use it as comforter and more as a coverlet that we fold to the bottom of the bed when sleeping. It has been on my list for YEARS to sew one of these. But after the price dropped below $50, I picked these up. I don’t think I could even get all the yards of fabric I need for that much. I may sew a heavier weight one in the future, but for now this works!
Here it is in our home:
8. Twin over Full Bunk Bed: The boys love their new bunk bed! They had one from Ikea a few years ago but my youngest is hot natured and would get sweaty sleeping on the bottom bunk. This twin over full solves that problem. As he can lay on the edge of the full bed underneath and still feel cool air blowing on him. It also fits all three of our children! So our kids can bunk up when we have visitors. Then my husband and I or our guests use our daughter’s room. There are many similar beds on the market. But I liked that this one has a low profile since my youngest rolls off the bed often and I didn’t want my oldest to hit his head on the ceiling fan.
9. Bookcase: Even though I purchased it a couple years ago, our bookcase continues to be my favorite piece of furniture in our school room. And the price has gone down a lot over time. It holds tall books and even has a spot to label each cubby. We have the scribed oak pictured below (which is a more natural brown wood color). The salted oak is more of grey weathered look. Both are nice. I think there’s even a darker wood color option now. It’s not a solid wood but still pretty heavy and does the job until we can make built ins.
10. Brandt Rug: I mentioned we currently rent our home but hope to buy this summer. It’s hard making a rental home feel home-y sometimes. I started looking for a good deal (under $100) on a rug to cozy up our living room. We found this one in beige. I love all the colors it comes in and plan to buy more of them in the future. I love that one corner is more white and the other corner has more color so you can flip the rug and get a completely different look. I also love that it hides dirt really well. I found it on Joss and Main, one of my favorite online décor stores.
11. Tufted cocktail ottoman: I wanted to add some additional seating to our living room that the kids could pile on when there are more adults over. I also wanted it to hold a lot of storage beneath since it would be replacing our old ikea coffee table. I found this one on Joss and Main as well. Keep an eye on the price, it often drops down below $400.
Here is the ottoman and rug in our home. We have the white end of the rug showing:
I’ll add some more as I think of them. What has been a favorite find in your family?!