Last year I got the opportunity to evaluate and review a bunch of different products. They ranged from baby items and kitchen gadgets to tech gear and art stuff. This list is the result of that experiment… 56 random things you may find useful — either as gifts, or for yourself.
I’m sharing this in the hopes that you find it helpful as you brainstorm gift ideas — I know that we have relatives who are always tricky to shop for — and a random list like this is just the thing that helps get my brain churning out ideas!
Note: I received one or more of these products gratis in exchange for an honest evaluation; opinions expressed are 100% my own. #afflinks are included below where relevant — no additional charge to you, but I earn a small % on the sale.
Hango Lunch Bags – We’ve been using this nice set of two lunch bags for our car picnics (as shown above), and the smaller lunch bag accompanied us on the plane flight to Florida. I originally received the pink set, which for some reason smelled very much of plastic (off-gassing). The company kindly sent us the black set to try instead, and I was pleased to discover the black Hango lunch bags did not smell (so we could use them!). Toby promptly claimed the little lunch bag as his own.
Acrylic Paint Set (Ander Blake) – I love any chance to get creative. And getting to try out these acyrlic paint sets did just that. I’ll be doing a full out blog post with an activity where we used these soon, so keep an eye out!
50 oz Glass French Coffee Press – I was really excited to try out this French coffee press. But not for coffee — I’m a fan of loose leaf tea. And it seems like we never brew enough with one teapot when we’re having company. So the capacity on this French press is fantastic. What’s even nicer? No plastic comes in contact with the tea while it’s steeping, so if you’re one to worry about that sort of thing, this would be the perfect French press for you. Although it’s dishwasher safe, I’ve just been handwashing it (very easy to clean). It’s amazing how much more often I want to make tea now that we have this to steep it in!
Fractionated Coconut Oil – I was excited to use this as a carrier oil for my essential oils! It’s been really nice to have a liquid form of coconut oil for that purpose. I also enjoy using it as a moisturizer in our foaming soap dispenser (with Dr. Bronner’s castile soap).
Texting Gloves – now that it’s getting warmer I almost don’t need to wear these anymore, but I have stowed them in my coat pockets for “just in case.” With smartphones it is so annoying to wear gloves (unless you have “smart” gloves like these.
Liquid Chalk Markers – I’m planning to use these to decorate our windows for springtime, it will be a fun activity for me and Toby (and easy to clean up when we need to take it down).
Buddha Board – “master the art of letting go”
We tried out two different teething necklaces. First, the Silicone Teething Necklace with 5 silicone beads. It has a slim profile, aside from the beads, which are the perfect size for Zack to grab onto and chew furiously. I found that the cording got a little slimy at times from slobber, but aside from that, it was fantastic. Next, we tested the Beabies Teething Necklace and Bracelet set. I was really pleased with how these pieces looked, and Zack loved chomping on the silicone beads too. Both necklaces have safety clasps, understandably, and the bracelet is elasticized for easy on/off (maybe a “which side you nursed on last” reminder?).
Organic Dandelion Root Tea – This tea has been a go-to for me the past week or so. I’ve enjoyed brewing a quart of it, drinking a portion as hot tea in the morning, and then transferring the remainder to a glass water bottle for hydration as iced tea throughout the rest of the day while on the go. It’s actually gotten me to drink more water, so I’m thrilled about that. There are some purported health benefits too.
LED Emergency Flashlight – I had to guard this well, as my toddler absolutely loves flashlights. This LED flashlight, after testing, was immediately put into my car for emergency use only. It takes 3 AAAs, has three light modes (normal flashlight, white light panel, and red flashing panel). There are a few comfort features like a rubber grip, a wrist strap. And, after reading the directions, I discovered that the base is magnetic so you can stick it on your car if needed. How cool!
Supernova Orion Ultimate Survival Rechargeable LED Lantern and Power Bank – Continuing the flashlight theme, this camping lantern is fantastic. It has a powerbank built into the base, so in addition to lighting your campground (or house, if the power is out), you can plug your electronics in and get recharged. There are a number of light settings (high, medium, red, flashing red) that the lantern cycles through at the press of a button. The whole thing turns on/off when you expand/collapse the lantern, which is really neat. And then the lantern has two metal handles that fold down for compact storage. While I hope we don’t have another power outage soon, this time I’ll be prepared!
ABX Yoga Towel – While I like the cushion that a yoga mat provides, I’m not a big fan of how the plastic feels against my skin – either sticky or slippery, depending the intensity of a workout. With this yoga towel, that issue is eliminated! The towel has non-slip grippy dots on the backside, a little pocket in the corner for stowing a tissue, and even has a mesh stow bag.
BBQ Brush with Scraper – My husband had been needing a new scraper for the grill, so he was happy to give this product a run for its money. The brush handle is molded plastic, and pretty standard, so far as those things go. It works well, and got our grill clean enough to grill dinner on!
Tutti Bimbi Baby Food Freezer Storage Tray – this silicone freezer tray is fantastic. While we’re not really doing baby food, I have been using it to freeze everything from breastmilk to tomato paste. It’s great for making little portions for easy use later… the tray has 9 slots that hold 2.5 oz each, so it’s just perfect for anything you need a little of when cooking (hence the tomato paste).
Firstchefpro Julienne Peeler – This peeler has two blades, one for julienning, the other for normal peeling. It is sturdily constructed, and I have enjoyed using it to add carrots to our salads.
Verilux Cleanwave Portable Sanitizing Wand – This handheld wand is a little bulkier than a foot long ruler, but it travels really well and can be used to sterilize surfaces in a short amount of time. The want has an auto-off feature for the light (so that when it is not turned face down, the light temporarily turns off). The main drawback? You can’t store the batteries in the wand.
Bobee Polka Dot Wall Decals – we were excited to use these decals to decorate Toby’s room — since he moved to his big boy room before Zack was born, we haven’t done much in the way of decorating. I love that the decals are removable and reusable.
Birth Announcement Baseball – forget the old-fashioned way of displaying birth stats on a blanket or pillow — you can have your child’s birth stats laser engraved on a baseball instead! We’ll be doing a follow-up blog post with this cool photo prop, but make sure to check it out in the meantime.
K2R-803 Cell Phone Charger with Flashlight – While powerbanks are numerous these days, this particular powerbank is neat because it includes a flashlight — just in case you need one when you’re on the go. It also has dual USB charging ports; it would be perfect for camping or traveling when you can’t be sure of finding an electrical outlet.
Happy Fingers Gloves – These knife-resistant gloves work well, although the sizing may limit who can use them (my husband can’t fit them on his hands, they fit snugly on mine).
Portable Kettlebell – Toby enjoyed helping me fill this portable kettlebell with some beans so we could make a video review. It worked pretty well! Note that it’s not waterproof, so you can’t fill it with water (I didn’t read the directions and discovered this while filling it with water at the sink. Lesson learned.
Matcha Tea Ceremony Set – if you’re a matcha green tea fan, you’ll likely fall in love with this tea ceremony set. I liked how the whisk made it easy to keep the powdered matcha tea from clumping. This is so much better than trying to make it in an American teacup with a fork!
Camping Folding Shovel Pick With Compass – This is a neat survival tool, it’s about the size of your hand (well, unless you have small hands). The entire thing folds down into a pouch for storage or transport, and if needed you can quickly assemble the tool. The compass is in the handle, and there are two hinged parts – the pick and the shovel blade — you choose which configuration you need for the task at hand. This is definitely going to be a staple in my camping and outdoor pack.
Zim’s Crack Creme – I am loving this natural remedy that, when applied topically, is actually healing the fissures/cracks in my heels and fingers. Deep cracks are painful and take forever to heal, but this stuff has really been impressive. I even found a pack of 4 Zim’s Crack Creme on Amazon — this might be a future gift idea for some people I know.
White Angel New Bone China Tea Set with Cup Hanger – I haven’t decided where this lovely tea set will live in our home yet, but it is very classy and elegant. It almost makes me want to have a little tea party. My toddler loves the teacups and has been asking if he can drink water out of them.
Chew-Choos ‘Sweet pea’ Silicone Teething Necklace – This teething necklace has been a hit. I like the modern style of the square (er, diamond, since they’re on an angle) beads, and the gray color is nice and grown-up. My baby is loving how the silicone beads feel on his sore gums, and my toddler likes testing out the necklace when it’s not in use. I am a big fan of low-maintenance jewelry.
Silicone Oven Mitts – These things are awesome. I have tried silicone mitts and gloves before, but this is the first product that combines the silicone outer layer with an inner lining of padded “traditional” oven mitt material. They grip really well, and hold onto hot things with ease. No heat transfer whatsoever that I’ve noticed. These will probably be my new go-to oven mitts.
Colore 26 Piece Sketch & Drawing Pencils Set – This is a great drawing set for anyone who wants to explore graphite drawing. I have enjoyed using it, but it would be perfect for the beginning artist too. There are numerous pencils in varying hardnesses, graphite sticks, charcoal too. And, of course, no set would be complete without a sharpener. More to come in a future blog post.
Cube Mobile Projector – This projector is, in one word, awesome. It fits in the palm of my hand, and is about the size of a small apple. I love that it connects to my phone or other device, and can play picture slideshows (even has a micro SD card slot). The projection power is pretty impressive too, given the size. I’ll be reviewing this in more detail for Professional Photographer magazine…but was so excited I had to share about it here too.
Pacifier Clip “Ladybird” – It’s so hard to keep track of pacifiers with little ones. Or toys, for that matter. Since neither of our boys really were attached to or needed their pacifiers, our pacifier clips have become toy tethers. I’ll clip a toy onto Zack when we’re out so that it doesn’t fall onto the grimy floor, or simply out of reach. This particular pacifier clip is nice because it features brightly colored wooden beads. The clip itself is entertainment for baby! Overall, it’s well made, and I anticipate this lasting us well through the baby phase for our kids (and maybe then getting passed on to another family).
Remo Recover Windows Media Edition – Have you ever had that sinking feeling where you just know you’ve lost some of your digital pictures? Well, I have, and it’s not pretty. You can read about how my toddler reformatted my phone and I lost several months’ worth of photos (why you should back up your cell phone pictures regularly). This Windows software will recover images from memory cards that have been reformatted, boot drives that won’t boot, and more. There are a number of free options out there, but sometimes you get what you pay for. I wish I’d known about this particular software when trying to recover my phone pictures. But, as it stands, I’ve come to terms with that “loss.”
Masterclass Premium Hardcover Sketchbook – I’m a sucker for art supplies, if you hadn’t figured that out yet. This sketchbook is really nice, and totally on par with most of the sketchbooks I’ve owned. It’s 9×12, and has 100 sheets of 60lb sketch paper. Great for most purposes!
‘+Lifeguard Mini 1 – This portable power bank is about the size of a tube of lipstick. Perfect for stowing away in your purse …or diaper bag. As soon as we got this one, I tried it out (worked great!), then stored it in my diaper bag for “just in case” my phone battery ever quits on me. Because you know how inconvenient that can be, right?
Simplehold Smartphone Car Mount – I love this simple smartphone holder. It clips onto any car vent, can rotate your phone 360, and since it’s spring loaded, you can get the phone in place pretty easily for a secure hold. I use this pretty much daily; it makes navigation instructions much easier to see (and hear)… and when I’m not getting directions, it’s a great place to stow my phone so it doesn’t get lost in the mess of kid stuff that seems to multiply inside my car.
Rainbow Pacifier Clip – This pacifier clip has a rainbow assortment of silicone beads like you will find on teething necklaces. I love it. So does my little one (we’ve been using it as a toy tether though).
Nokhoo Laptop Bag – I got to review this lovely bag from Nokhoo Design. I shared some pictures of it on IG. Gorgeously handcrafted, it makes my laptop fun to carry again. I will be blogging about this in a bit more detail soon, becuase it is that fantastic!
Shower Genius Idea Board – We actually loved this product – but not for the use you might think. Rather than being an idea board for me, it was claimed by my son as a bath toy for the kids’ tub. The board uses an oil-based pencil, so drawings or notes won’t wash off unless you wipe them away with the included microfiber cloth. Suction cups help hold everything on the wall.
Microfiber Hair Drying Towel – This hair towel is specifically shaped to form an easy and lightweight turban on your head. It includes a button and elastic to hold everything in place without adding much extra weight to your head. Very helpful if you have thick hair that needs to stay wrapped up for a while.
Entertainmount – with this non-permanent mount, you can turn your car and smartphone into a movie theater. The innovative design allows for easy rotation of the smartphone between the back seats and front seat (passenger) use if needed. We only wish it came in tablet sizes.
BakeitFun Silicone Kneading Dough Bag – this is the best invention ever. We found a bread-in-a-bag recipe, and used the dough bag instead of a mixing bowl, then sealed it up and kneaded everything together. It worked amazingly! And, equally important, the dough bag was easy to clean. I anticipate this kitchen add-on seeing much use in the future.
Travel Tea Tumbler by Pekoe Tree – This 12 oz tumbler may be my new favorite way to drink tea (aside from a teacup). It is a double-walled glass container with stainless steel diffuser, so you can have hot loose leaf tea on the go. It comes with a neoprene sleeve for further insulation. I often forget to drink my tea for an hour or two — and with this tumbler, it won’t be cold by the time I get around to drinking it.
Pratisphere Ice Sphere Molds – These molds are really cool – you can easily make 2.5″ diameter spherical ice cubes. Perfect for an after dinner drink, or for adding to a child’s drink to make things more fun. My husband is enjoying these with his scotch, my toddler likes to have an ice ball with his water.
Pop Chart Lab Poster – we ordered one of these posters for Toby’s room. The one we selected has graphics of all the baseball jerseys — present designs and historical ones too. There are a number of other poster design options – some I liked? Visuals of different camera models, golf courses, cars, and kitchen utensils.
Bluetooth Talk n’ Walk Headphones – these headphones were great for listening to music (with no wires!) …I was a little sad that the phone mic feature didn’t work well for me. It sounded really muffled. I’m wondering if it was just my particular phone or something. Anyways, if you want to just listen to music, these headphones are great (they even have control buttons on the headphones so you don’t have to dig out your phone while you’re walking.
4 Baby Bandana Drool Bibs + Pacifier Clip – These bibs are adorable. Seriously. And they don’t look like bibs. I ended up putting them on my little guy to use as booger wipes for a particularly snotty day… worked pretty well. My only caveat? They aren’t meant to be dried in the dryer. Other than that, they’re super soft on the underside, fashionable on the front side, and easy to put on or take off (metal snaps).
‘My Little Big Pillow’ by Snugg Organic Pillows – This pillow is so comfortable that I almost want to claim it for myself. But, it’s for Toby, since it’s toddler-sized. I love that it’s hypoallergenic; it’s so soft and luxurious… and is bound to help bring sweet dreams.
FSL Decimate Ear Protection – These earmuffs are very comfortable, and block out sounds well. A must if you’re mowing the lawn and want to save your ears! Also, they’re useful if you decide to use the leaf blower to blow leftover mulch bits out of the grass into a big pile.
Kids Safe n Sound Ear Defenders – Toby loved getting to pick out his favorite color for these earmuffs. He chose purple. And when they arrived, it was perfect timing to help Daddy mow the lawn. Usually pretty timid about loud noises, Toby wore these earmuffs outside without flinching or complaining about the noise at all. A win in our book! Another bonus is that these are adjustable to fit both kids and adults.
Loose Leaf Tea Infuser Set – If you haven’t figured it out, I’m a tea fan. Loose leaf, to be exact. So I was really excited to try out these tea infusers. The silicone “leaf” design is whimsical, but the infusers are practical and easy to use. My only caveat? They trap a bit of an air bubble so that it floats on top of your water to steep unless you “help” it sink. These also come with little drip saucers, so you can steep a second cup of tea later.
Loctek Dual Arm Full Motion Monitor Mount – I recently converted my desk to a standing desk, and needed to raise my monitors. This mount has been the perfect solution — with the added bonus of easily adjustable monitors so that they can be lowered in seconds for seated use too. It comes with options to mount to your desk via clamp or bolt — I used the clamp and it is working like a charm. Fantastic product, and really great for freeing up my desktop surface …as well as providing multiple options for using the monitors!
Chilled Glory Whiskey Stones – These ice-cube sized stones are meant to be stored in the freezer until you’re ready to enjoy your whiskey, neat. My husband enjoyed trying these but wished they would have chilled the drink a bit more quickly. That being said, they definitely succeeded at not diluting the whiskey!
Quicklids Silicone Suction Lids + Food Covers – I’ve never been a fan of transferring food from a serving bowl to a storage container — mainly because it makes more clean up. So we often skip the serving dish. But with these nice silicone lids, I don’t have any qualms about using my serving dishes. I also discovered the lids make a nice cover to keep food hot while you’re waiting to serve dinner.
Nu Sheep Wool Dryer Balls – An eco-friendly asset for your dryer, these dryer balls help shorten drying time, saving you electricity. I’ve made my own, but these ones are more visually appealing, I have to admit.
Mega Mesh Premium Magnetic Screen Door – We installed this on our sliding door to the porch. It’s been really nice to be able to walk in and out without worrying about getting the ill-fitting sliding screen in place. The magnetic door panels attach with velcro to the edge of your door frame. It was easy to install, and my toddler could figure out how to use it, but the cats have not (yet).
“Mommy’s Time Out” – a bottle of wine with a fun name! It was a decent wine and would be great light-hearted gift for a mom’s baby sprinkle (given the right company, of course). In case you’re wondering about that term, “sprinkle” is a small gathering and celebration for moms who’ve already had one kid. Since you only really have baby showers for the first child.