My Favorite Purchases of 2019

‘Tis the season of mass consumption and year-end best-of lists! I enjoyed rounding up my favorite purchases in 2015, so I thought I’d do it again.

I’ve sorted the list by purchase price in descending order. I linked to where I purchased each item myself. Mostly Amazon, but if you’re anti-Amazon (understandable), you can surely find them elsewhere. Note: none of these links are sponsored or referral.

#10. Rejuvenation Hood Pendant Light

Price: $439 / Link. I thoroughly documented our staircase renovation on Instagram (everything is saved in my stories highlight), but I know not all blog readers are on IG (hi, Dad). I owe you full recap! In the meantime, here’s a peek. Installing this Rejuvenation light fixture was the crowning glory of finishing the renovation. I didn’t let myself install it until I finished all of the less appealing tasks on my to-do list (hi, baseboard painting).


Ordering custom-made light fixtures is daunting because you can’t return them: I stressed a little over the length – thanks to Jarrod for helping me visualize it!


I wound up ordering the Hood fixture in the Aged Brass finish, 32″ length, with the 14″ Opal Globe Shade. It’s lovely.

#9. Ryobi 40-Volt Cordless Mower

Price: $279 / Link. When we bought our house in 2015, our former landlords sold the apartment building we had been living in. The landlords used to pay me to mow the lawn of that property, and they didn’t need their plug-in mower anymore, so they gave it to me. I kept hoping it would die so I would have an excuse to buy a cordless one. It never did, so this year I finally decided to pass it on to a coworker-friend who had purchased her first house (hi, Katie!) and treated myself to a new one.

All that to say: I love this mower. It uses the same 40-volt Ryobi battery as our string trimmer. It easily mows our front and back yard on a single charge, and it’s so nice to not be tethered to a power outlet or to worry about mowing over an extension cord.


#8. Eley Garden Hose Reel

Price: $189 / Link. Speaking of treating myself: this hose reel is luxurious. It’s one of the sturdiest things I’ve ever purchased. Five stars.


I took a “before” photo but failed to take a photo after I installed the reel, and I can’t take one now because we put it away for winter. You’ll just have to trust me.


Please ignore the tuckpointing cracks in our front stoop’s wing wall – that’s what I do everyday. It’s fine. It’s probably fine.

#7. Foresake Patch Hiking Boots

Price: $140 / Link. We went to Ireland in April to visit my younger brother, who was shooting a movie there (Green Knight). I bought these boots for the trip.


Very comfortable for hiking and they look cool/streamlined enough to wear in the city, too.


Jarrod bought these Danner boots, by the way, which are also very nice. If you don’t wear brand new hiking boots in Ireland, how will they know you’re American?


#6. Bunkerwall Parking Guides

Price: $48 / Link. We used to have a hanging tennis ball as a guide for backing into our garage, but it kept getting pulled down when we’d shut our Subaru Forester’s back hatch. I bought these parking guides after the forever-accident-prone Jarrod closed the garage door onto the front of our car… twice.


When we back in, we bump into these things – they’re heavy enough to stay in place without being affixed to the floor. Now we always park perfectly: staying clear of the garage door while maximizing space in the back.

#5. Sloggers Clogs

Price: $28 / Link. Ashley at The Gold Hive recommended these outdoor clogs on in this blog post. I always keep them at the back door in our mudroom. They’re easy enough to slip on that they’ve stopped me from going outside in my socks or slippers, which is what I used to do anytime I wanted to quickly pop outside – e.g. when I want to take a photo of the parking bumpers in our garage.


#4. Floor Register Grates

Price: $12 / Link. Last month I replaced all of our tan floor grates with these dark oil-rubbed bronze ones. A cheap, super easy upgrade! They look so much nicer.


I spray painted our return grates to match.


True story: I left a grate off while it was drying. Lola, our cat, had been in mudroom all afternoon and I wasn’t thinking of him. He came into the living room and immediately went right into vent. Not a moment’s hesitation – it was like he had been waiting his whole life for the opportunity. Jarrod just happened to be standing there when it happened. He plunged his hand down the vent and pulled Lola out by his tail. Phew!


You can see Lola’s claw marks in the dust above. He spent the rest of the day staring insolently at the covered vent, as though he had been denied something rightfully his.

#3. H&M Waffled Hand Towel

Price: $7 / Link. I bought this H&M hand towel for our half-bathroom. I like that the hanging loop is in the middle of the long edge (instead of on the short edge) – that makes it look nice and full when it’s hanging on a hook. The material is pretty yet utilitarian.


That is all I have to say about this hand towel.

#2. Tree Finder: A Manual for Identification of Trees by their Leaves

Price: $6 / Link. Jarrod and I attended the Basic Tree ID class at The Morton Arboretum this fall, which I highly recommend if you’re in Chicagoland. It taught us simple ways to identify trees. Tree Finder was one of the books they recommend. Jarrod likes that it’s small and lightweight – much easier to carry around than most field guides.


#1. Crunchy Cheetos

Price: $2 / Link. When I was reviewing all of my 2019 Home Depot purchases – so many Home Depot purchases – I saw this receipt and laughed. Crunchy Cheetos are amazing, obvs, and the Home Depot purchase history is, too.


If you save your credit/debit card to your online Home Depot account, it automatically pulls in all of your in-store purchases – even ones you made prior to linking your card to your account. It’s super handy if you need a receipt for a warranty, or if you need proof of spending $1.93 on Crunchy Cheetos at 11:39am on September 21.

Bathroom Makeover Plan

When I gave you a tour of the second floor bathroom, I mentioned possibly replacing the sink ahead of a complete bathroom remodel. If you follow me on Instagram, you probably already know that’s exactly what I ended up doing. In my greatest DIY victory to date, I wrestled IKEA plumbing into submission.


Backing up: I don’t love the granite tile, but it’s in great shape and I can live with it for several years. The sink and medicine cabinet, however, downgraded the bathroom from “pretty okay!” to “haaaaate it.” I decided that since I could replace the most glaring offenders and consider this bathroom “done for now,” it was worth the time and money.


I’m still putting the finishing touches on the bathroom, but I wanted to share the product round-up with you now! Here’s what I’m working with – it’s a mix of new things and things I already had:

Bathroom Makeover Big ThingsShower Curtain  /  Light Fixture  /  Mirror /  Faucet  /  Vanity & Sink  /  Rug

Bathroom Makeover Small ThingsDoor Knob  /  Tissue Box  /  Hooks  /  Plants  /  Shower Curtain Rings  /  Cabinet Knob  /  Toilet Paper Holder  /  Hinges  /  Soap Dispenser  /  Basket  /  Pot

The mirror was the biggest splurge. I logged a thousand hours online looking for something less expensive that 1) I liked nearly as much, 2) fit our space requirements, and 3) works with the wall tile that juts out 3/4″ from the drywall. There was nothing else. So, when Rejuvenation had a sale, I jumped. Expenditure approved! I am still pretty giddy about this mirror: it’s so nice to make decorating decisions as a homeowner that I wouldn’t have made as a renter, and to invest in high-quality products that will be in the house for a long time.

My Favorite Purchases of 2015

Tis the season of grotesque consumerism and year-end best-of lists! I thought it’d be fun to combine the two and bring you: My Top 10 Favorite Purchases of 2015. Instead of ranking them, I’ve sorted them by purchase price in descending order.

#10. Our House

Price: $340,000. I’ve experienced only minor amounts of I’ve Made a Huge Mistake since July, and those have been more about the neighborhood than the house. I still think we made a good decision! Whew.


#9. Frye Carson Lace Up Boots

Price: $298 / Link. In my experience, Frye boots are worth the money. These awesome shit-kickers are sturdy and comfortable enough to wear everyday – without treating delicately – but streamlined enough to look good with tights and dresses. (The upturned toe isn’t as pronounced in real life, and it flattens with wear.) If you live in Chicago, the Frye flagship store is heavenly: the staff is super nice, they have ALL of the boots in ALL of the colors, and they do free repairs for life.


(Pictured with a delicious waffle + arugula + bacon concoction I bought from a food cart in Portland, Oregon.)

#8. Bosch RS7 11 Amp Reciprocating Saw

Price: $79 / Link. This saw is a beast. I bought it for basement demo (more on that soon, I promise!), and it cut through wood and metal with remarkable ease. Despite the power, I feel really safe using it – it’s heavy, but easy to hold and operate. Here’s me caressing it lovingly, wearing glasses on glasses and a college boyfriend’s band t-shirt.


Side note: I love for Amazon price tracking. You simply copy and paste the Amazon URL and it shows you the item’s price history. This saw, for example, fluctuated $40 in December 2015.


I always check here before buying bigger ticket items on Amazon. If it reveals that the current price is higher than average, I set up a price alert so that I’m notified when the price falls below whatever amount I specify. You don’t even have to create an account; just enter your email address.

#7. Nest Learning Thermostat – 2nd Generation

Price: $75 / Link. I was always diligent about setting our previous apartments’ programmable thermostats on an energy-efficient schedule, so the Nest’s auto-learning function wasn’t actually a huge sell for me. The three things did sell me on the Nest were:

  • Auto-Away: If we’re not at home, the Nest disregards the schedule and automatically adjusts the temperature to save energy.
  • Remote control: When we’ve been out of town, it’s super nice to be able to heat up the house before we arrive home.
  • ComEd Rebate: ComEd currently offers a $100 rebate for smart thermostats.


When the 3rd generation Nest came out, the 2nd generation model dropped in price. I didn’t want or need the 3rd generation’s bigger screen or higher resolution (I’m not watching Netflix on it), so I snagged the 2nd generation for $175 and the rebate brought it down to $75.

#6. Ryobi 90-Piece Drilling and Driving Accessory Kit

Price: $27 / Link. I bought this kit based on The Sweethome’s recommendation and it’s been great. It’s had everything that I’ve needed over the past few months with the exception of drilling into granite. Turns out those bits are literally made of diamonds.


#5. Duralex Picardie Tumbler Set

Price: $20-$30, depending on size / Link. Buying new glasses was something I had been looking forward to with home ownership. Jarrod is comically clumsy, and our glass collection dwindled as he broke them, but I didn’t want to buy new ones until we moved. I am now very happy to own these. It’s another Sweethome recommendation. They’re purportedly nearly impossible to break; I’m excited to test that with Jarrod. So far so good!


They come in a range of sizes. 5-3/4 oz is pretty small: we’ll use them for wine, or when we have kids visiting. 10-1/2 oz is great for Manhattans. 16-3/4 oz is perfect for water. They stack, which is nice because we don’t have a lot of upper cabinet space. They don’t nest as closely as pictured on Amazon, though – that’s some Photoshop wizardry. Just a heads up!

#4. How Your House Works: A Visual Guide to Understanding and Maintaining Your Home

$18 / Link. Super helpful guide! I wish I had read it before we did our home inspection – I would have had a much better understanding of what our inspector was pointing out about our plumbing, electrical system, etc.


#3. Hot Shot Men’s Knit Hat, Blaze Orange

$5 / Link. One of the weirder events of my life happened in September. Some friends and I had gathered after work to have a drink on our friend Katie’s rooftop deck. While we were up there, a barely-pantsed resident stormed up, wielding a knife, warning of an intruder with a gun. He was truly terrified. He wore a bright orange cap and black leather sex cuffs, and no shirt or shoes. He claimed his pursuer was in the stairwell. He was clearly on a bad trip and we didn’t really believe the gun story, but also didn’t want to test that.

So, we were trapped on the roof with him, 20 floors up. We called 911, calmed him down, learned his name was Nick, took away his knife, helped him “barricade” the door (half-heartedly, with a deck chair), and waited 25 minutes for the police to arrive. Meanwhile, he called his mom. It was kinda adorable.


The cops finally showed up and confirmed that there was no armed intruder in the stairs or Nick’s apartment. We were free to go. End of weird story. It was scary at the time, but is now funny.


That night I bought everyone matching Bad Trip Nick hats to commemorate the experience.


#2. Cree Soft White LED 60w Replacement

Price: $4 / Link. I replaced all of the light bulbs in our house with these LED bulbs. The light quality is very nice: warm without being yellow. Thanks to a ComEd subsidy, you can buy them in Chicago for only $4 each, which is a steal when you consider the estimated yearly energy cost is $1.20 with a life expectancy of 27 years (based on 3 hours/day).


#1. Scanner Pro App

Price: $2.99 / Link. Currently only $0.99! This app was great throughout the home buying process, which required a lot of signed and scanned documents. It’s especially handy for sensitive information you may not want to run through your workplace scanner and network. I manage our lives in Google Drive, and I use this to immediately scan and upload documents; e.g. an auto mechanic invoice to our Superoo folder, or a fencing quote to our Hauslermo folder.


Happy New Year!

Yard Sale Finds and DIY Cocktails

(Sorry for the delayed bathroom update! I had to finish making the shower curtain, and then we were out of town, and then there was a SNAFU with some hinges… The cursing has subsided and I expect things to finally come together this weekend. I’ll return soon with bathroom photos because, trust me, we’re all in need of some closure there. Literally. I need a bathroom door that closes.)

A few weeks ago our neighborhood hosted a community yard sale. I invited some friends over to have afternoon snacks and drinks before wandering the alleys of the Greater Rockwell area. Two problems with this plan:

1) The cocktail I wanted to make called for fancy little champagne coupe-style glasses.

2) My competitive deal-hunting nature is at odds with leisurely, social yard salin’.

Conveniently, the need for #1 gave me an excuse for #2. I had to get up early and do a quick survey of the sales in order to find glasses for the cocktails I would make later that afternoon. And if I happened to stumble upon a find in pursuit of getting my friends day-drunk, who could blame me?


I saw these prints leaning up against a chain-link fence. They were priced at $20 each. I thought “Those are either somewhat cool or really ugly.” Then I thought “If nothing else, that’s a good price for a large, professional frame.” I asked how much for the pair, she said $30, I said done.


Then I asked if she knew anything about the artist – she didn’t, but said that the law firm where her father had worked dissolved and unloaded their art collection. That’s when I started to get excited – some law firms own Real Art.


Got home, did some signature deciphering, did some Googling. Oh, hey, what’s up? A real museum owns them:

Tate Museum

Allan D’Arcangelo Constellation I and IV. My friend Jenni manages a gallery in New York, so I roped her in to search for comparables (thanks, Jenni!), and then I had a friendly exchange with Sotheby’s Print Department (I can’t believe they even responded): “I have determined that the value of your prints regrettably falls below Sotheby’s minimum consignment level of $5,000 for a single lot. Most prints by D’Arcangelo sell for several hundred dollars at auction, but not more than $1,000 each.” Oh, drat. Not a windfall, but still a solid return on investment for a Saturday morning’s work.

I also found an awesome vintage cocktail set (though not the coupes I set out in search of) that I put to use that afternoon. I made a modified version of this maple concord recipe and sawed some BBQ skewers to hold the garnish because everything is better if I get to use tools.

Cocktail Saw


The cocktails were delicious and fueled wise, necessary acquisitions of dresses, (more) glasses and toddler Timberlands.

Yard Sale Finds

I hope your weekend is full of cocktails, yard sale victories, or – even better – a combination of both.

Plant Baskets & Jewelry Storage

A reader asked about the basket that holds our bedroom plant:

Plant Basket

It’s from Jo-Ann (which I always want to spell “Joanne’s”). The baskets come in three sizes and they’re really good quality: tightly woven with metal ribbing and plastic lining. They range from $39 to $89 at full price, but who pays full price at Jo-Ann? Only fools!

Jo-Ann Plant Baskets

I’m also happy with these stacking jewelry trays from The Container Store:

Container Store Jewelry Trays

The jewelry box I’ve used for years was much bigger than I needed and it took up valuable dresser top space. I reorganized my collection while catching up on Nashville, shouting “DO IT!” at Rayna and Deacon.

Jewelry Box

And now you know where all my precious jewels are located.

Container Store Jewelry Trays