HarvardHomemaker

By HarvardHomemaker

I'm a Harvard graduate and homemaker who blogs about living (and loving!) the domestic life with my husband and four young daughters. My blog now permanently resides at www.harvardhomemaker.com. Please visit me there!

Harvard Homemaker's Favorite Things of 2013

Over the past year, I have shared various gift ideas or products that I swear by.  It's not uncommon for me to receive emails saying, "I remember you mentioning ______, but now I can't find it again!  Help!"  So I thought I would put a post together highlighting some favorites from the past year to get all those great things in one place for your reference!  Kind of like my version of "Oprah's Favorite Things."  :)

I have ranked what I consider to be the Top 10 "must-haves" or gift ideas from 2013 based on pins on Pinterest (find my Pinterest page here), likes on Facebook (find my Facebook page here), pages viewed, and general interest via emails from you or otherwise.  

Let me know if you have any questions!  With the exception of the two photo collages from Minted (which I plan to order myself once I get my act together!), I have everything here in this list.  Love it all!!  I hope you find a new favorite, too!

Happy 2014, my friends!

10.  BABY'S FIRST YEAR PHOTO BOOK

Create a book highlighting your baby's first year... a perfect first birthday keepsake from Mom and Dad!  Our daughter loves to read "Lila's book", and she pulls it from her book shelf all the time so she can see herself.  (And if she ultimately trashes the book from so much use?  I can always order another copy one day if needed!  It's also easy to create one book and order multiples copies for grandparents or other family members to give as gifts.)

Read more about how I created the book below in this post.  I created this particular book at Blurb, but I have also used Shutterfly over the years when designing photo books (we even created a family cookbook as shown here).  I've had great experiences with both websites.

 

9.  A YEAR IN MY LIFE WALL ART

It's no secret that I am quite possibly Minted's #1 fan for Christmas cards (as I indicate in this post with 15 Great Sites to Get Your Holiday Photo Cards), but I have also recently discovered their wall art!  This A Year in My Life Photo Collage is one of my favorites!

You could hang several special years together as a collection, or even have one made each year and display them along your hallway or down your stairs.  I am planning to have four made myself, but I will replace the year with the words winter, spring, summer, and autumn.  You could also use a last name or a vacation destination/place in the text box.  Lots of options to personalize this just how you want it!  I love how you can feature so many photos, yet the finished product feels "neat."

8.  PUZZLE STOOL WITH ENGRAVING AVAILABLE UNDERNEATH

We got our youngest daughter this personalized stool for her first birthday (as shown in this post with all her first birthday party details), and it is so cute in person.  Perhaps my favorite part about it is that you can engrave the underside with a special note.  This is a practical gift that gives her a boost when needed (and helps her learn to spell her name!), but it also makes a nice keepsake.  Maybe her own children will use it one day, and when they turn it over to see the inscription, they'll know that it was something their mom received from her family on her very first birthday!  :)

7.  ROLLING LAUNDRY SORTER

This laundry sorter has changed my life!!!  If you don't pre-sort your laundry, I'm telling you... you need to start!!  Trust me, my friends.  Holy moly, will the laundry suddenly seem less overwhelming!  (Find more ways to keep your laundry from making you crazy in this post.)  

I can't even begin to tell you how much time you will save if you use a pre-sorter like this instead of hampers in each bedroom where everything is mixed up.  We actually removed the hampers from our kids' bedrooms, and they are expected to toss their laundry into the correct bin down the hallway in the laundry room each night.  (I added some color-coded labels to help them do this; find the ones I made here for easy printing.)  As a result, their bedrooms are so much neater, too!  Now I am no longer going room-to-room to collect all the laundry.  When a bin is full, I simply toss that load in... so efficient!

Definitely get a laundry sorter that's well-made!  It's worth the extra money, especially if you will be rolling it down the hallway.  I used to have a cheap one, and it would literally bend at 45 degrees while I would push it along the carpet.  I had to hold it together with my hands so it wouldn't fall apart.  I swear by the one I have now (find it here); it's so solid!  I can also get replacement bags one day if needed (mine are holding up well), so it should last me a long, long time!

If you do decide to give this laundry sorter a whirl, please know that the site that carries it offers my readers 10% off with the code HH6359 (as shown in the clickable ad below).  Thank you, Organize-It!

Organize-It Laundry Storage and Organization Products

6.  THE ORANGE SHOES BY TRINKA HAKES NOBLE

I think The Orange Shoes is quite possibly the most wonderful children's book ever written!  The end.

Seriously, I love this book so much... we all do in our house!  It's written and illustrated so beautifully, and it's filled with many important life lessons.  I especially love how it makes a distinction between needs and wants; this line is often blurred for our children (as I mention here in this post with 10 Thoughts on How to Raise Grateful Children.)  My husband and I both find our voices catch when we read this to our girls.  It's so moving, and your children will love it, too! 

I have mentioned this book many times, including in this post with 100 Book Recommendations for All Ages... a great post to bookmark or pin for future reference!

 

5.  PHOTO CANVAS - SHOWN HERE AS A WALL GALLERY

I have always wanted to have a wall gallery of canvases created from family pictures.  And I finally got around to it!  I love how it turned out, and this seems to be a favorite among all of you as well, judging by pins, page views, and emails I've received.  You can see more pictures of this gallery here, including my handy way of hanging everything correctly the first time around!  I ordered our canvases from Canvas on Demand, and the quality is outstanding.  I will definitely order from them again.  

(By the way, I often get emails asking me about the paint color of our walls.  It's Waynesboro Taupe from Sherwin-Williams, a color match to Benjamin Moore #1544.  I spent about a month with 5 different swatches up on the wall, and I finally settled on this one!  It's a great color in person.  I'm really happy with it.)

So if you tend to "trap" your pictures on your computer like most of us do, maybe it's time you finally free some and get them on your walls!  This wall gallery makes all of us so happy each time we walk past it.  You could print one photo and hang it alone (as I did here), or hang many canvases together.  A canvas would also make a great gift, and you save money on framing, too!  

4.  STAY-PUT PERSONALIZED LABELS

I mentioned how much I love stay-put labels like these in this post with 10 Things to Think About Before Your Child Starts Kindergarten (That Have Nothing to Do with Academics), and that suggestion was a hit!  I first got some labels like these through a preschool fundraiser (find details here) about 8 years ago.  I am still using them!  I put them on absolutely everything I can think of, including:

- sippy cups/water bottles (these labels can even go through the dishwasher and so can these!)

- lunchboxes

- backpacks

- jackets/clothes (these iron-on labels can go through the wash and so can these stick-on labels)

- shoes (find shoe labels here)

- umbrella handles

- soccer balls

- fins for swim team (these labels won't come off in the pool!)

- iPods/electronics

- containers/spoons I use at potlucks

- on the inside of my own sunglasses  

I can't tell you how often our handy labels have helped us get our things back!!  They are so worth it when you factor in the cost of lost items.

I have labels from both Label Your Stuff and Mabel's Labels, and you can't go wrong!  I recently ordered more with just our last name (which is unique for easy return to us) so everyone in the family could share the same labels, but savings packs are also available for multiple names.  I also think this hockey combo pack is awesome for all the sticks, equipment, and gear.  Growing up with two hockey-playing brothers, my mom would have loved this!! 

If you have never used stay-put labels before, I think you'll quickly become a big fan!  They are awesome!

3.  SNAPSHOT MIX PHOTO ART COLLAGE

Similar to the Year in My Life Photo Collage, this Heart Photo Collage is one of my favorite ways to display pictures!!  I have shared it various times (such as in this post with 15 Fun Photo Gifts and in this post where I rave about all things Minted!), and everyone always loves it.  You can have this collage printed from as small as 8x8 to as large as 44x44!  What an amazing piece of art for your home or to give as a gift!  (It would be perfect for wedding pictures, as a grandparent gift, or even for your spouse to show how much you love the life you've built together over the years.)  I have been wanting to order this FOREVER, but I keep stalling on how big I want it to be and where I want to hang it.  When I finally decide (hopefully soon), I will be sure to post the finished product!  :)

2.  BRA-LLELUJAH ("NO BACK-FAT BRA")

Ladies, you need to have this.  You just do.  Aside from sports bras, it's the only bra I will wear because I think it is so slimming.  I have given it to a few friends to let them in on the secret, and we all wish we would have discovered it sooner.  It's not called the Bra-llelujah for nothin'!  My friends and I lovingly refer to this as the "no back-fat bra".  I get emails about this bra all the time because I first mentioned it here in this massive post with 100+ Ideas to Help You Organize Your Home and Your Life, and it can be hard to find the link again since it's virtually buried in the post!

This bra really smooths out your back under even the most fitted shirts, and the straps are comfortable, too.  I have found it be very flattering both from the front and from the back.  I first got this style (the nude color blends well with my skin tone to hide the bra even under white shirts), and I loved it so much that I eventually got the racer-back style as well.  When pregnant and while nursing when my bust was fuller, I got this full-coverage style in a larger size, and I wore it virtually every single day.  (I have never been a fan of nursing bras... I would just wear a sports bra or this bra and push it up to feed the baby.)

Side note:  since these bras can be a bit of an investment (although worth it, in my opinion, because the cost-to-wear ratio comes down in a hurry with the constant use!), you'll want to protect them when they're being laundered.  I am way too impatient to wash my bras by hand, so I swear by the Bra Baby, as I mention in this post with 30 Tips to Help Keep Your Laundry from Making You Crazy.  Just snap your bra in, and toss it in the wash!  Easy!

And my #1 "Favorite Thing" for 2013...

1.  SCHOOL THROUGH THE YEARS KEEPSAKE BOOK

This keepsake school book has been something you have all really loved!  Me, too!  :)  I first shared it here in this post with 10 Things to Think About Before Your Child Starts Kindergarten (That Have Nothing to Do with Academics).  I actually have a book like this back from when I was a little girl, and it's priceless to look at it now.  So I now have these keepsake school books for each of my own daughters to keep the tradition going.  They make a perfect gift for a child turning 5, "graduating" from preschool, or starting kindergarten! 

Some of the book's features:

- A spot for that year's school picture

- Space to fill in things like the teacher's name, your child's height/weight, what they want to be when they grow up, favorite subjects, activities, awards, friends, and there's even a spot for your child to sign his/her name (it's so fun to see their "autograph" change each year!)

- A pocket for each grade to hold report cards, pictures, drawings, etc.

Each day on the first day of school my girls have drawn a picture or written themselves a note of some kind, so each pocket almost serves as its own mini time capsule of sorts!  I've also saved notes I've tucked in their lunchboxes, stories they've written, pictures, awards, and of course, report cards to help mark the stage of life they're in for each grade.  My oldest daughter is now in 5th grade, and it's already pretty amazing to flip through her book to see her change at a glance!  

This keepsake book is pretty easy to keep up with since you just need to fill a few things out on the first day of school and when the year is over.  My girls typically fill everything out on their own, which makes it even better to watch their handwriting/spelling improve!

This is a wonderful tradition to start!  :)

 

I hope you found a few new favorites here in this post!  Cheers to 2014 and all the fun that it brings!

What are some of your favorite things?  Do you have anything here in this list?  I'd love to know what you think!

Happy New Year!

~ HH

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