By Cassie Johnston
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Throughout the year, I make a lot of notes about stuff to post here on Wholefully. I have notes about recipe ideas. I have notes with post suggestions from you guys. But the longest running Wholefully note is the one I have going year ’round for my annual gift guide. Throughout the year, whenever I stumble onto a product I just love and adore, I make a note of it so I can remember to share it with you when the holiday season comes around.
There are a lot of gift guides out there, and that’s wonderful (I’ve gotten plenty of good gift ideas from them), but mine functions a bit differently. All these products below are items that I (A) own, use, and love and (B) paid for with my own mooh-lah (no brand can buy their way onto this list).
All the links below are affiliate links, meaning that if you click through my link and choose to buy from that company, I get a small kickback for referring you—at no extra cost to you. Okay, let’s dig into my favorite things of 2017.
(A) : Instant Pot Electric Pressure Cooker—Hi, my name is Cass, and I was a total Instant Pot skeptic. I thought it was so silly that yet ANOTHER kitchen appliance was so popular. I mean, I have a slow cooker and stove, do I really need more? And then I bought one for one reason—fast chicken broth. Well, fast forward to three months later, and my Instant Pot has a coveted spot on my kitchen countertop (no other appliance has that accolade!). I use it to make perfect coconut yogurt every time. Super fast soups and stews. Speedy steamed veggies (sweet potatoes in three minutes, BOOM). And, of course, the best broth I’ve ever had. My only regret is that I didn’t get with the trend back in 2015.
(B) Target Threshold Apron—Target has the CUTEST aprons lately! The one I’m wearing in this pic is actually from their Fall collection, but they keep updating them every few months with new seasonal designs. They wash really well, and have a belt that is long enough for those of us with larger bodies.
(C) KitchenAid Hand Mixer—Can I confess something to you? I can’t tell you the last time I used my KitchenAid Stand Mixer (I have a red one and I got her for my 21st birthday). Instead, I use the hand mixer version ALL THE TIME. It’s so much more convenient than lugging out the big, crazy heavy stand mixer. I don’t do a ton of baking, so the hand mixer does basically everything I need. Love.
(D) Thrive Market Membership—Here is another thing I was really skeptical about: Thrive Market. If you don’t know what it is, it’s like if Costco and Whole Foods had an online-only baby. Basically, you pay a membership fee just like at Costco (full disclosure: Thrive Market gave me a free membership to try out, but I pay for all my orders), and then you get access to all the natural and organic products you love to get from Whole Foods, but at discount store prices. I finally put my first order in through Thrive a few months back, and I am now IN LOVE. We live out in the middle of nowhere, so accessing natural and organic products can be really tricky (they actually just took out the organic food section of our small town grocery store and replaced it with beer and wine—whomp). Thrive ships those products directly to my door, so I don’t have to drive the 90 minute round trip to Whole Foods. If you’re looking for a good gift idea for the health nut in your life, a Thrive Market gift card is IT.
(E) Duralex Glass Mixing Bowls—These are the BEST mixing bowls. They are sturdy, but not too heavy, they nest perfectly, they come in a wide range of sizes (from teeeeeny tiny to HUGE). We got ours at Costco, but I haven’t seen them there in a few months. Amazon has a great price though!
(A) Knock Knock Pads—I know some people are planner people (and I was at one point in time), but now, I’m much more of a list-maker/notepad user, and I LOVE these notepads from Knock Knock. I have probably 10 different ones that I use for different reasons. My favorites: What to Eat and This Week, I also use this smaller, sticky back one for my daily to-do lists. I love that it doesn’t give me more spaces than what I can accomplish in a day.
(B) The Book of Joy—This book changed my life. Back when I was really sick, I was really struggling emotionally. There was a lot of self-pity, depression, and anxiety about my life and my condition. And I checked this book out from the library hoping for just something. And I got it. It was incredibly inspiring without being pushy or guilt-inducing. It was just exactly what I needed, at the exact time I needed it. I immediately bought my own copy, and now I recommend it to everyone.
(C) Harney & Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice Tea—This is the one thing on this list I didn’t buy myself. One of the (amazing) people who help me with the Wholefully Pinterest account bought me this tea as a gift back when I had to give up coffee earlier this year. She said it helped her feel like she had something cozy and comforting when she had to give up coffee. My gosh, if this isn’t the BEST DARN TEA I’ve ever drank. I’ve turned multiple people onto it now. It’s somehow magically sweet without any added sweetener or stevia. And it tastes like Christmas. There is both a black tea version and an herbal tea version and both are excellent.
(D) Eating Well Magazine—I subscribe to a lot of food magazines (research!), and this is my favorite! The content is great, the philosophy is perfect, and the design is ON POINT. Seriously, even my non-foodie husband picks up this magazine each month just to look at the wicked good design.
(A) Duluth Trading Lifetime Leather Messenger Bag—I’ve been eyeing this convertible backpack since I first saw it in the Duluth store two years ago. I finally pulled the plug on it this summer, and I’m SO glad I did. Not to be stereotypical, but it’s an incredibly great mom bag. It’s big enough to fit everything I need, without being so big that stuff gets lost. And it it takes about two seconds to “convert” it from a backpack to a shoulder bag and vice-versa. Mine is the Cognac color. Love.
(B) Zenni Optical Aviator Sunglasses—I’ve been searching for the best pair of aviator sunglasses for the good part of a decade now, and I FOUND THEM. These aviators from Zenni are just flipping perfect. They are on the larger side, so I wouldn’t recommend them for dainty faces, but for my giant noggin? They are perfect. My husband has the exact same pair because they are just the best sunglasses ever. I got mine with the amber gradient tint and rose gold mirror finish. And with my prescription! Gotta love prescription sunglasses.
(C) Zella High-Waist Live In Leggings—I asked Instagram for a suggestion of good, thick leggings, and DOZENS of folks recommended these leggings from Nordstrom. And now, I totally get why! These are, without a doubt, the best leggings I’ve ever owned. They are pricey, but they are thick, warm, and long enough for my 5’9″ legs. They don’t bunch or sag or stretch out. I’m in love! I actually just bought three more pairs at the Nordstorm Black Friday sale.
(D) Ugg Harrington Boots—My feet grew a size during pregnancy, and I kept waiting on them to go back to normal, but alas, I think I’m now stuck with size 12 feet. I’ve been slowly replacing all my size 11 shoes, and a good pair of riding boots was on the docket for this Fall. I saved a year’s worth of StepBet winnings to pay for these suckers (yes, you can win that much on StepBet!). These are SO comfortable and warm (they have the typical Ugg furry lining around the foot). I love that they look like suede, but deal with the elements well.
(A) Jumping Beans Kitty Hoodie—Back at the beginning of Fall, Juni had a growth spurt, and suddenly NONE of her clothes fit. We had to scramble and outfit her with a fall and winter wardrobe that didn’t show her ankles and tummy, and we got a lot of cute clothes, but this kitty cat hoodie is a favorite for everyone! Juni loves that it’s kitties (seriously, slap a kitty on it, and that kid is HERE FOR IT). We love that it’s super cozy—the hood is even lined! We got quite a few pieces of Jumping Beans clothing for her, and were really impressed with the quality for the price.
(B) Highlights High Five Magazine—Juni has been a Highlights subscriber since birth (thanks to her Nana and Grandpa). We started off with Hello, and we still read those all the time! And then last year, she upgraded to High Five, and my gosh, does that kid love these magazines. We love them, too! They are fun to read and work through with Juni, and they do a VERY good job of being inclusive of different cultures, races, and family makeups. Highlights has modernized very well.
(C) Magna-Tiles—My sisters bought these for Juniper last Christmas, and I can, without a doubt, tell you that these are the #1 most played with toy from Christmas 2016. We play Magna-Tiles at least once a day. We build ice palaces for her Elsa doll. We build mazes for her Hexbugs. We build dance floors for dance parties. Everyone loves playing with Magna-Tiles. They are pricey, but so worth it!
(D) The Princess in Black Books—If you would have asked me a year ago if my kid would be into princesses, I would have laughed in your face, but alas, one viewing of Frozen later, and we’ve got a full-on princess phase going on right now. We LOVE The Princess in Black books. The kid gets her princess fix, and we get a kickass heroine who does more than just sit around and wait for her Prince Charming (she actually doesn’t do that at all—she’s a superhero in disguise who fights monsters). Big. Fan. We’ve been rotating these books with Olive and Beatrix and Super Duper Royale Deluxe as bedtime reading—all strong, interesting, independent, complicated female characters.
(A) Smartwool Light Hike Socks—I’ve been slowly building up my collection of Smartwool socks, and these are my favorites yet! My feet tend to run warm, so thicker socks just aren’t my thang, but I love these light wool socks. They keep me warm in the winter, but are thin enough and breathable (hello, wool!) to wear hiking in the summer.
(B) Apple Watch—I’m really in love with my Apple Watch, and I bet you wouldn’t expect the reason: because it helps me disconnect. I tend to leave my phone plugged in on the charger all day, and I just have my watch on me—that way, if someone calls or texts, I know it, but I’m not tethered to my phone (which is honestly a really slippery slope for me).
(C) Phaiser Bluetooth Earbuds—I’m one of those people who has a newer iPhone, and curses the fact that there is no headphone jack at least daily. I was too cheap to buy wireless earbuds, because, HELLO, I have a dozen perfectly good sets of earbuds kicking around my house. What finally made me make the jump? I found out that with Bluetooth earbuds, I can stream music directly from my Apple Watch—which means I don’t need to take my phone with me while I’m working out. Totally worth the $40 just for that! And now, I’m loving having wireless earbuds for everything.
(D) Headspace—Back in the summer, my therapist gave me one important goal—make meditation a regular part of my life. And I do that through the Headspace app. I’ve been doing meditations through Headspace every day for two months now, and I really feel like it (and therapy) has helped me understand my anxiety in a way I never did before.
(E) Heathyoga Eco-Friendly Yoga Mat—I have an amazing, huge, thick Extra Long Manduka Pro yoga mat that was generously gifted to me for a birthday a few years back, but a 10 pound yoga mat (literally, it’s 9 1/2 pounds) is NOT the yoga mat you want to roll up and carry to a yoga class with you. So I keep my Manduka at home, and I use this Heathyoga mat for classes and travel. It’s remarkably good for a budget mat. It’s thick enough that I don’t feel like my knees need a blanket under them, and it’s a little bit sticky (cheap mats can be so slippery sometimes).
(F) Zafu Crescent Meditation Pillow—I bought this pillow for exactly what it’s marketed for: meditation, and I definitely use it for that, but I also use it for so many other things! It’s the perfect seat for sitting next to the tub when Juni is splashing around in the bath. I sit on it next to the fire to get warm. We call it “the bean” in our house because it looks like a giant kidney bean.
[ Scarf (similar) | Long Sleeve Tee (THESE ARE THE BEST TEES EVER) | Jeans | Coat ]
So there you have it, my favorite things from the past year! I hope you found some ideas for gifts for your loved ones (and for yourself). If you have any questions about any of the products I recommended, I’d be happy to answer them! Just leave a comment below or shoot me an email. Happy shopping!
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Just ordered the coat in your bottom pic! Too good of a deal today to pass up. $31!!
I love this post every year. Thanks for taking the time to put together! And SUCH cute pics!!
Happy Holidays, Cass! Glad you are feeling better!
WHOA. That is like half of what I paid! Total score.
Ahh, I love this post! I’ve added “The Book of Joy” to my Goodreads To-Read List, the wireless earbuds and set of glass mixing bowls are on my Amazon WishList as is another colorway of that scarf (because I already have one from Modcloth that’s nearly identical to yours!), and I’ve asked for the Thrive Market annual fee to be paid for as a gift.
Thanks for this post. You supplied me with many helpful ideas for my foodie friends and a couple iof items for my gift list too.
This is a gorgeous gift guide. ? Swoon. Thank you for putting it together!
Ooh, i’ve been looking forward to this guide. Thanks for the fun holiday read – i’m at a coffee roastery cafe on the North Island of New Zealand and I even had to order a second coffee and read last year’s guide too. Fun!
I’m planning to get the Australian version of an instapot for myself/from my husband for Christmas and I can’t wait :D
My kid is OBSESSED with Magnatiles. It’s become our go-to gift for kids!
I’ve ordered the coat and the sunglasses! Thanks for the post. Hugs to you and the family.
I totally agree with you about the Cinnamon tea. It is the best tea I’ve ever had. I’m totally addicted to it. I carry at least one tea bag with me at all times – just in case I have a tea emergency.
I also have the Duluth bag and absolutely love it. I use it as my work bag. It also fits my MacAir. It’s so great that you can use it as a messenger bag or backpack. I’ve also used it when travelling.
Just so I understand completely how this works. If I click on the items that I want to purchase from this list you gave us you will automatically receive a small amount of money. I want to be sure that you get the credit for these great suggestions. Hope you can answer soon cause I’m anxious to shop.
Yes, if you click on these links and purchase something, Cassie will receive a small portion of your purchase at no extra cost to you.
I love your gift guides. They are thoughtful and practical and quality stuff.
Wanted to say – I have been needing some long sleeve tees, so I bought a couple of the Target tees you linked to. They got here today and I tried one on and promptly got online to order two more. They’re so good! And! They’ve got promos going on and I paid $11 total for the two. So I’m pretty darn pleased. :D
Thanks! Have a marvelous Monday!
Great list! Do you have a recipe for instant pot coconut yogurt that you like? I’ve been looking for a good one.
I don’t yet, but I’m working on it for January! :)
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