Stuff With Heart: Best of 2016

Rather than joining in the chorus of voices saying good riddance to 2016, I am instead choosing to look back and remember all of the good things that happened last year! Here are some of my favorite products and experiences from 2016.

Beauty 

Mahalo's Rare Indigo Beauty Balm - I received this balm in a Beauty Heroes subscription box in May In fact, this product was the reason I purchased a subscription in the first place. I was already enamored with Mahalo's packaging and ethos, and lusted over their balm products. When I saw that this was going to be a featured product I jumped at the chance to acquire it at such a great price. I've been using it ever since and will gladly pay full price when I run out. The color and smell of the balm are both intoxicating and the experience of using it feels totally indulgent and luxurious. That's what I look for in skincare products: a luxury experience in addition to efficacy. The rare indigo has both, as my skin has never felt better. 

GloryBoonFoundation

Glory Boon Foundation Stick - I tried out a few foundations last year as I transitioned my small makeup collection to all cruelty-free, eco products. I found two that I really love. The first is the Sappho liquid foundation, but they've since changed their formula and I've not yet tried the new one, so I can't comment on the product. I purchased the Glory Boon stick foundation to have a portable product to take with me on my honeymoon this summer. I had a tan at the time, and the first foundation I received was the wrong shade for me. Glory Boon let me exchange it for a darker shade, even though I'd already used the product! Now that my tan has faded to a pale shade of winter, I wish I'd hung onto the lighter shade. I still use the shade I have in combination with my Sappho foundation, which is a bit lighter. The formula is lovely and not as thick or sticky as I expected a stick formula to be. Glory Boon is wonderful, cruelty-free brand, offering great products made from clean ingredients, with excellent ethos and customer service. 

Ilia Lipstick - Lipstick is the one makeup product I never really got into until this year. I wanted to find the perfect lip color for my wedding day, so I started trying out a few different products. I purchased an Ilia tinted lip conditioner from a small local boutique and loved it. Even though it wasn't what I ultimately wore on the big day, I wore that lipstick all summer long. So when the weather got colder, I went back and purchased an Ilia lipstick in darker shade (Femme Fatale) which I've been wearing all season. Ilia products are cruelty-free, and formulated with organic, bio-active botanicals.

Wardrobe

GoodAndFair

Good & Fair underwear - I mentioned this underwear in my Guide to Ethical Underwear, and again in my April 2016 Stuff with Heart post. It is still my absolute favorite thing in my underwear drawer. I find myself doing laundry more often just to wear these again. They are still made in the USA out of ethically harvested certified organic cotton. I can't say enough about how comfy they are. I will definitely be adding more pairs to my drawer in 2017. 

Everlane Turtleneck - This company has been on my radar for a while now but I only recently purchased my first item from them. I'm sorry I waited so long. Everlane sells wardrobe basics like tees, sweaters, tanks, and button-downs. The prices are surprisingly low, considering how transparent the company is about their sourcing and manufacturing process. The turtleneck became an instant staple in my wardrobe and I will be purchasing more from them this year. (If you are considering trying out a capsule wardrobe, they are a great choice!)

GirlfriendCollective

Girlfriend Leggings - I kept seeing the "Free Leggings - Just Pay Shipping" ads and posts all over the internet in 2016, and for the longest time I assumed it was a gimmick, or there was a catch. I am pleased to report that Girlfriend Collective leggings are THE REAL DEAL! I decided to give them a go despite my skepticism and, though I'm not a huge legging junkie, I am so into these. I can not emphasize enough how truly comfortable these are. The fabric is thick and durable, and they come up high enough to prevent rolling or bunching, so they stay put. I've been wearing these to yoga and around the house, and they are nice enough to wear in public with a nice tunic or long shirt. The fabric is made out of recycled water bottles in Fairtrade-certified facilities, and even their packaging is recycled. (Read more about their ethics & manufacturing here.) Now that they've had a successful launch, I don't know how long the free leggings promo will last, so order them while you can still get them for just the cost of shipping! ($19.95 - worth every penny.)

SsekoBucketBag

Sseko Bucket Bag - I first wrote about this in my April Favorites post and have literally used this bag every day since. It is absolute perfection. It holds everything I need every day, and it is absolutely stunning. I continue to get compliments on it whereever I go. I purchased one as a thank you gift for my maid of honor, and she gets compliments on her too. It's a great bag, made by an incredible group of women! Get $15 off any Sseko purchase of $50 or more. 

Kitchen

Le Creuset French Oven - This was possibly the one item I was most excited to put on my wedding registry. I spend most of my time at home in the kitchen because I adore cooking. Until now, my cookware collection was piecemealed together from hand-me-downs and discount stores, but I've longed for a Le Creuset French Oven for what seems like forever. They are, to me, the gold standard of cookware. I've already used mine for everything from stews and curries, to risottos and pasta dishes. It's so very versatile, and of course totally gorgeous. What I especially love about this pot is that, if treated well, it can last a lifetime, and never need replacing. A well-made French oven can be passed down for generations instead of winding up in a landfill. (Technically, mine is a "Sauteuse" which has sloped sides and a smaller capacity than the original French oven. It's the perfect size for us.)

Stainless Steel Straws - After seeing a video of a sea turtle with a plastic straw caught in his nose, I became determined to eliminate disposable straws from my home. I use straws in my smoothies almost daily and I hate to imagine how many I threw away before making the switch. I picked up a pack at a local shop I had credit at, but I wish they'd come with a cleaning brush. I had to find and purchase one separately. There are also glass straws available, but since I often throw one in my purse, I would be worried about it breaking. Steel work perfectly for me, and I find it easier to use a straw with a slight bend at the top, but you can find straight ones as well.

Crio Bru - I love coffee, but in college I learned the hard way that it does not love me back. It does less than pleasant things to my body so, unfortunately, I have to avoid coffee altogether. I've long felt like I was missing out on something that so many people love, and bond over. It's not just a drink, but an experience. Making coffee in the morning seems like this really important ritual that people start their day with, and I didn't have that. Enter: Crio Bru - the brewing cocoa. Brewing cocoa is ground roasted cocoa beans that can be brewed like coffee. They even have different roast blends with varying flavor profiles. I brew it in a french press and finally feel like part of the cool kids' club; now I have a morning drink ritual, too.

Lifestyle

BuffaloLibCard

Library Card - Your local library can be an awesome resource for you, even if you never step foot in it, especially if you like FREE STUFF! If you think libraries are becoming obsolete - think again. Using only your library card, you can access millions of current ebooks and even music, for free. You don't even need to purchase a special e-reader or device to access the free content. The Overdrive app allows you to access your library loan content on your own tablet, or smartphone (you can even have the files sent to your Kindle.) Again, this is all totally FREE. I have checked dozens of books off my reading list in 2016 through eLoans. Do not take this resource for granted! Put your local tax dollars to good use and read all the books you want. (Not sure what books to start with? Check out my January pick for Revolutionary Readers!)

HapticLabsGreatLakes

Great Lakes Quilt from Haptic Labs - Can we just address how stunning this thing is? When I think of a quilt, I think of an arts-and-crafts blanket sewn together by grandmas in a farmhouse. (Or Winona Ryder. Love that movie.) But that is SO not what Haptic Labs' creations are. They are gorgeous works of art. Their quilts and throws feature maps of various cities or bodies of water, and the Great Lakes quilt has a little star over Buffalo. You can even ask to have custom details added to your map quilt, to denote a location that's special to you. Trey and I received this as a wedding gift and we absolutely LOVE it. I snuggled up with it on the couch a few times before I decided that I really wanted this to be displayed on my wall as a true work of art. 

A Year of No Sugar by Eve Schaub - This book was one of the things that really helped me prepare for my wedding day. I dropped some weight, but living without sugar became more than a temporary cleanse diet. Reading this book helped me understand what sugar does to our bodies, and I've been able to maintain a mostly low-sugar lifestyle (and keep the weight off.) I have always had a terrible sweet tooth, so for me to be able to stick with this is a true testament to how well-written, convincing, and approachable this book is. Plus, I've developed an appreciation for banana- and date-based desserts!

AnamitaBotanicula

Games by Amanita Design - I'm no gamer. I refuse to even allow a gaming system into our home. But when I finally upgraded to a new iPhone in the fall, I decided to try out a few games too see what the 7 plus is really capable of. Most of the games I tried, I deleted in a matter of minutes, but the stunning artistry in Machinarium captured my attention. The story drew me in and the game itself challenged me enough to keep me interested. I liked it enough to download a second game by the same design team, Botanicula. If you like games, and even if you don't, you'll appreciate the beautiful imagery and attention to detail in these games, and get caught up in the world they create. Even the soundscape is impressive. I especially enjoy playing around when I need to take a little mental break from the real world. 

Experience

ForagingHike

Foraging Hike with Earth Spirit Educational Services - I have been wanting to go on a guided foraging hike for YEARS. There are only a few organizations I've found to offer such an event and for some reason or another, no matter how I try, I've never been able to attend. I've always had to work on the one weekend it happened to be offered, or underestimated the drive time and couldnt get there in time. So I was absolutely ecstatic to make it on this hike! Earth Spirit is an awesome organization that hosts all kinds of environmental educational programming year round for children and adults. I had an amazing time and learned a lot about the ecosystem in my region. I can't wait to get back out there and forage for some of the wild foods we learned about, and I hope they'll offer a similar program soon.

Leaving the Wrong Job - After ten years in marketing and public relations, I was finally able to admit outloud that I hated it. I had long conversations with friends and family, and my now husband, and ultimately decided to take a leap into the unknown and walk away from the career I had spent a decade building. I'm still not sure what is next for me, but I feel like a completely new person. In one fell swoop I eliminated the thing that was causing most of the negativity in my life, and I can't help but feel hopeful and optimistic about what the future may hold.

Getting Married - Obviously getting married was going to be a favorite 2016 experience for me. It wasn't just the wedding day itself that was a highlight, but the entire year of planning, spending time with the most important people in my life along the way. In 2016, my nearest and dearest showed their true wonderful colors and I was so lucky to have them around me during all of the joyous celebrations. I learned a lot about myself and the kind of life I want to have and share with my husband along the way. And then of course there was the party. A day neither Trey or I will ever forget. The best part is of course the incredible, kind, generous, and sweet husband I get to create a life with. Marriage is not the right choice for everyone, and I'm certainly not trying to imply that everyone should run out and get married, but it was definitely the right choice for me, and the highlight of my year.