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Best of 2009 : My Favorite Things of the Year!

  • Oct 30, 2009
  • by
tazo refresh tea
I've never met a mint tea I didn't like, and this one is among the best (though, in truth there's a convenience factor as well, since it's what starbucks carries). In the past year my cup of refresh tea (actually an herbal blend, not a true tea) has become a daily addiction. It does wonders to settle the stomach - whether from stress or other stomach upset, and tastes great without any sweetener. Plus it's caffeine free which is a necessity for me. Tip - if you get the Venti size at sbux, get two bags.
Wahoos logo
This has become a weekly haunt for my family. With the brown rice and tofu additions to the menu, plus the very fresh and tasty fish, we can get a great meal that pleases the whole family, relatively quickly, and still eat healthy. They are super kid friendly, and even though it's a chain there's an awesome mom & pop neighborhood feel that keeps us coming back every week! Value is reasonably good as well. Plus, you can sticker the place wall to wall ... as I've done to my local shop with Lunch.com stickers : )
Gotta give huge props to my husband for this GENIOUS idea. It's the best addition we've ever made to our home entertainment options. Not the cheapest thing... but worth every cent! The quality is fantastic, and the screen he got to go with it is HUGE!! (i.e. the entire wall). It also rolls up nicely to disappear (revealing our flatscreen which actually winds up looking smallish after you start at the huge wall-sized screen for a while). It's seriously like being in a movie theater. We also take it outside for backyard screenings in the summer. Too fun... drive in at your own house?! With the price of babysitters, and box office tickets, we recouped the cost of this baby in no time. Tip: toggling between projecting from your cable/DVR, DVD/playstation, and/or computer requires some relatively good knowledge of home electronics and a good "switcher" (or that's what I think I've heard my husband call it ; )
I'd imagine there are a plethora of products this service would come in handy for -- personally, it's something I couldn't live without for having diapers and wipes shipped to our house. Not having to run out for late night diaper runs is priceless, and they really have thought of everything. Free shipping plus a discount put the service right over the top for efficiency and benefits. They make it incredibly easy to change the ship dates - make it sooner, or push it back, or skip one, all with no charge and just one click. Fantastic idea and awesome for busy families on the go.
See the full review, "Great service for bargains AND convenience, plus current special! 30% off Diapers & Wipes".
Etsy Home Page
Oh, how I love Etsy. Need to do a full review for sure. How cool to get fantastic quality, handmade, totally original products -- AND be supporting small independent craftsmen and women?!? It just doesn't get any better. They have everything under the sun, but my obsession is the baby / kids clothing. SO CUTE!! We get so many compliments it's borderline ridiculous. And shockingly, few people recognize the site when I tell them that's where we got whichever fun frock they're commenting on. They have killer jewelry too, among many other things. Tip: If you make anything handmade, you should look into being a seller for sure.
visual voicemail
I think even the most avid mac lover has somewhat of a love-hate relationship with their iPhone. It's so genious in so many ways, and also so flawed in several others. One feature that's beautifully executed though, is the visual voicemail. I only wish it offered a tally of the number of hours saved from not wasting time skipping through messages, replaying for missed phone numbers, backing out to then dial the call back number... the list goes on. Voicemail is notoriously inefficient, and this idea has seriously revolutionized that issue. Tip: Even once you've deleted a message, you can still access it by going into the deleted messages screen.
crocs for kids
Gotta admit, I was very cynical when this seeming yuppie craze hit the scene. They're rather strange looking after all. I've now come to LOVE them.. for my toddler that is. Not sure you'd catch me in a pair however. For kids though, they're super functional and versatile. They take a true beating, which most kids shoes can't claim.. not matter how pricey they are. Washing off everything from paint to mud, and dog poop to potty-training accidents is a total breeze. Well worth the price, and they also don't seem to get outgrown as quickly as other shoes. Tip: I've heard from several sources these aren't great for developing feet in early walkers. They do sell them in sizes for 1 year olds, but I'd hold off until at least 2yrs old - and even then they shouldn't be used for primary footwear all day long or on the playground, where secure sneakers are still best.
english mastiff
Ok, caveat: I'm a big dog kinda girl. We had a St Bernard for 14 years (I know, amazing for a large breed, right?!) - and I'm a huge fan of the "gentle giant" breed. The Saint's aren't cut out for warm weather though, so we tried a Mastiff for our next dog... and he is AWESOME. He has no idea how big he is (currently 115lbs @ 9 mos), so that can be a little much w/ them barreling around. BUT he's so docile and laid back, great with our toddler (incredibly tolerant and patient with kids!), super loyal, not overly barky (only when needed ; ), and very well behaved (with exception of some typical puppy chewing). Love Love Love.
nissan murano
When my lease ended this year, I shopped around and came to the conclusion that I already owned the perfect vehicle for my needs and lifestyle. With under 20K miles on it, buying out my lease made total sense, and my fantastically reliable, comfy, super-luxurious-for-the-$$ car is mine for keeps. If they'd just make a hybrid already!
Family Time album cover
Probably my favorite kid's music discover of the year, by far.
See the full review, "Fantastic music I'd listen to even if I didn't have a kid!".
This may be obvious.. but it's changed my life dramatically in the past year, so I had to include it. It's simply not scaleable to keep in touch with nearly as many people in my life without this killer communication tool. I keep my network intentionally as small as possible, which makes it work best for me. For all the reasons I didn't understand the glory of texting before I tried it, Facebook had the similar effect. There's just something fantastic about communicating with everyone you know without them having to be available at the same given time.
Barack Obama
Perfect? No. Inspiration beyond belief and a presence unlike any we've seen in politics in decades? Sorry, just can't argue that one. Personally, he's given me more thought provoking moments and also moments of joy than any politician in my lifetime.
As a working mom, and a bi-racial woman, Michelle resonates with me on so many levels I've lost count. Much like I feel about her husband, I'm so grateful to have a figure like this to experience first hand.
Who knew that a "bar board" would be my favorite kitchen tool of the year?! It's just an ultra-mini cutting board, but if you use the cutting board constantly, as I do, it's awesomely convenient. Cooking for a young child means lots of small portions, for snack time or fixing lunches etc. - and this is perfect for those situations. Without bothering to pull out the big full size board, you can just whip this little guy out and also wash in seconds. Mine rarely makes it back into the cupboard, and just sort of lives in the dish drain - I use it that often. Tip: buy a couple, because they do get groove marks from the knives after a lot of use.
art zone
This place is just pure genious. It's the most creative place I've ever seen for kids to do every possible type of art you can imagine. Super free form, yet structured enough, wonderfully creative atmosphere with paint splattered everywhere, and every toddler's dream... a MUD ROOM! The staff is excellent, and you can host b'day parties there as well. Every neighborhood should have one of these on the corner (for now though, it's just a tiny, independent little treasure).
Illustrated representaiton of the Doula concept
There really are no words for how passionately I feel about the benefits of having a great doula involved in your pregnancy and birth. I had the chance this year to witness the hugely positive impact for some friends and family... and the total opposite for some who chose to pass on the idea. In the end, it was a reminder of all they have to offer and encouraged me to help however I can to get doula's integrated into the standard care all moms to be receive.
See the full review, "A Doula : The MUST HAVE for Expecting Parents".
A must-have compliment to the aforementioned home projector ; ) For parents who don't get out to the theater much ... or just movie fans in general, this has become like having a cell phone and internet for me... just gotta have it. They make it so easy, so convenient, and so affordable - what is possibly not to love?!
Trader Joe's
Just plain couldn't live with out TJ's. I'm there at least once a week, if not a few times, and am totally addicted to getting convenient, healthy, and super affordable fare for my family. The disappointing downward spiral of the produce hasn't even been enough to break my habit (instead I'm now also addicted to farmer's markets!). The staff is a huge draw for me too, as well as the community feel.
See the full review, "I Heart Trader Joes".
Sweet Potato Fries
I love french fries. Always have, always will. Also love any combo of salty & sweet. Feeling like I'm making a healthy-ish twist on a junk food is brilliant, plain and simple. Since these have become standard fare on many more menus, I'm even more addicted. Plus, trusty Trader Joes has a frozen variety you cook in the oven.
Probably not an exaggeration to say my experience with Lunch has been life changing (both working for and using the site ; ) The way I look at self expression, social media, and being open minded have all been really impacted, not to mention the TON of new things I've learned from the contributions on the site. And we've barely scratched the surface of Lunch's potential!
I know it's not newsbreaking, but nonetheless, Target just freaking rules. They've not lost their knack for providing stylish, affordable, and innovative products across all categories. Score of the year ... ruby red sparkling slippers for my daughter's 11th hour Dorothy costume on Dress Like Your Favorite Literary Character Day at school. Who carries toddler sized ruby red slippers year round?! Score for Tar-jay!
One of my favorite songs of the year... totally sappy and luvvy dovey, but super sweet. It even made the soundtrack for some of our families home movies... a guaranteed tearjerker in that context ; )
I've had a funny progression with this restaurant. From staying as far away as I could, with perceptions of it being too dark and too pricey, to frequenting multiple times a week. Crazy? No, what's crazy is the quality of the food - it'll darn near ruin you for all other restaurants. Impeccable servers as well. Must haves: Mexico City Soup, Tortilla Soup, seasonal veggie sides, ceasar salad w/ chicken (and the best croutons you've had in your life!). Delish.
tiny prints home page
In the interest of disclosure, you should know that I LOVE paper. Yes, just paper in general. Particularly, contemporary, well designed, cool stationary and cards. I'll easily pay $7 or $8 for an embellished, ultra creative, original card. To that end... meet Tiny Prints! Great web site that offers customized photo cards (and the whole slew of invites, etc) with cool, modern design. Excellent customer service, great, easy interface w/ ability to save drafts. Been doing holiday cards there for a few years running now.
This will make my list perennially.. and I've concluded this year that there is almost nothing that it doesn't compliment. I've even started adding it to meatball sandwiches!!! Don't scoff until you try it, seriously.
Yo Gabba Gabba
Very fun find, and a must see if you have young children. Crazy as it is, you won't find something much more original!
See the full review, "Don't Miss This Toddler TV Treat".
A fantastic find for contact lens wearers! Totally not irritating to the eyes- I've used these religiously for years now. I'd say they do a pretty great job of removing mascara - though sometimes it takes a couple to get the job done. Mainly love the convenience of the packaging and that they don't have too strong of a scent (very mild). A great staple for your make up kit!
True Blood Logo
Well, really just Season 1 of True Blood... Season 2 was awful. Nonetheless, if you didn't catch the first set, get them on DVD. Very creative and well done in that initial season.
See the full review, "Compelling & Oh-So-Smart: Fangs as Civil Rights Issue".
Yum and Yum. Got onto these while prego and searching for something fizzy and caffeine free. The are delicious, it's just that simple. Plus cute packaging and a ton of flavors.
I sort of have a love hate relationship with these pills ; ) Sadly, I've had a surge of frequent migraines (boo!), and after experimenting w/ the suggested 2 pill dose, wound up discovering that ONE pill does the trick. The full dose will really jack you up... especially if you're not used to taking caffeine in large quantities. Not cool to trade a headache for a stomach ache and jitters ; ) BUT great to have a non prescription option that actually works... when used in moderation.
I'm so very into the pomegranate flavor, however while updating the wiki just now I saw that this soda contains Splenda. Blech! How could I not have noticed that. Buzzkill -- but other than that these taste great and actually don't have that typical Splenda aftertaste. Plus caffeine free is always a win for me.

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November 05, 2009
Yes! I'm psyched to finally see this list - it's so all-encompassing! Glad to see the Refresh tea made the top the list - it certainly is delicious! I'm really interested in checking out Tiny Prints..it sounds awesome as I too LOVE paper (I'm sort of a pack-rat too, which doesn't help...) I'd love to know if you recommend any great paper stores in the Los Angeles area, too! :)
November 05, 2009
omg, the paper stores here have gotten me into MUCH trouble. my mom-guilt now prevents me from blowing quite as much $ as I used to on stationary and cards.. but i'd love to live vicariously through you! check out Card De A in redondo, very cute, as well as Pulp on la brea, and Soolip over near robertson. also, Christie in manhattan beach is awesome and there's Wrapsody is in marina del rey... oh there are just so many good ones! the recently put a Papyrus in MB too - that one's a chain and has a web site as well. another fun find is to track down the boutiques from places like chicago, and see which have online stores as well. have fun!
November 06, 2009
Uh uh...looks like my bank account is about to be in jeopardy :) I can't resist cute cards and paper keepsakes (knick knacks?) Thanks for the tips!
October 31, 2009
Could you PLEASE talk to @babymama about the benefits of the Sharp Projector?? I feel like that's the last missing piece in putting together my ultimate home theater! I especially like the part about how it saves money on babysitters. "We're losing money by not having one of these things!"
October 31, 2009
I could do a full testimonial, to be sure... in fact, next time you guys pay a sitter why don't you just come over to our living room for a movie instead! That'll sell her for sure ; ) Totally not kidding either - that's a legit offer!
October 31, 2009
Great list... this could actually be Oprah's list. But Lunch barely beat the excedrin migrane pills which you have complained have made you sick?? come on!!
October 31, 2009
I honestly fizzled out on the rankings after the first few... I'm not as stack-rank-minded as you are ; ) That said, I started playing with the ranks a bit just now, since you had a valid point there.
October 31, 2009
Great list, Melissa! There's a lot of goodies on here, some of them I've become slightly addicted to because of you (Etsy) but, you didn't have Glee on here which is the other addiction that I have because of you ;p
October 31, 2009
thx! Glee is falling a bit off it's mark for me as the season wears on. It's still a fun ride, for sure... but couldn't quite make the faves of the year cut ; )
October 30, 2009
Whoa, Melissa, you've got such a diverse and in-depth list!  I love most of the stuff on this list, too!  I agree that Crocs look adorable on toddlers, not sure about adults though :P  And that's cute how Lucky is the soundtrack to your home videos!
October 31, 2009
thx! it was a fun excercise ... I'd love to see one of these lists from pretty much everyone I know. great way to get to know your friends and fam!
October 31, 2009
Totally! I can't wait to see more of these :)
About the list creator
Melissa ()
Ranked #73
Really loyal, a little more lippy than I'd wish, love love love the beach and all things tropical, sneeze freakishly loud, love the F word, came of age in the Midwest during the 80's, get a lot … more
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