I use various products on a regular basis, so I thought I’d put together some recommendations for some of the things I’ve been using recently.
I won’t be reviewing any of these items, but simply letting you know some of the reasons why I recommend them, as well as providing links for additional information and pricing.
When I’m on the go
Bicycle Playing cards: Since one of my hobbies is close-up magic with playing cards, I like to have several decks of cards on hand at all times. I keep a lot of brand new decks at home and also like to have one in my car, my work bag, at work, and anywhere else I think I might want to stash one. Whether I’m playing cards or practicing sleight-of-hand, these cards are classics and some of the best.
Nalgene Wide Mouth Water Bottles: I used to drink bottled water all the time, until I realized how many plastic bottles I was using from week to week, so I decided to get a water filter for my tap and invest in a couple of good reusable water bottles. These come in two styles, a narrow mouth and a wide mouth. The narrow mouth ones are the first ones I tried, but realized that they would take days to dry after washing them because the mouth was so small. I decided to go with the wide mouth version and get the Humangear Wide Mouth Replacement Caps, which basically convert the wide mouth into a narrow mouth. Aside from drying quicker, the wide mouth allows for much easier washing.
RayBan New Wayfarer sunglasses: As a kid growing up in the 80’s, I always loved the Wayfarer style and had a couple of pairs in high school. I actually prefer the updated look of the “New Wayfarer” style, which gives you that classic look, but with a more refined feel. Plus, you now have the option of getting polarized lenses and a much wider assortment of colors. These are the only style of sunglass that I ever felt comfortable wearing, so it’s probably what I’ll always wear. The previous link is for the matte black ones I’m going to get next, but I currently have these in a tortoise color with polarized green lenses.
When I’m at home
IKEA Floor Lamp: I have two of these lamps and they allow for some great diffused lighting in a very minimalistic style. They look great with regular white bulbs, but look even better with the colored smart bulbs I recommended in my previous tech-related recommendations post. They stretch vertically almost 4 feet, but also pack really small since the paper shade is collapsable.
Instant Pot: As someone who likes to watch cooking shows and then pretend I know what I’m doing in the kitchen, I decided to see what the Instant Pot hype was all about. I’ve used slow cookers in the past, but this thing promised to be a slow cooker, fast cooker, rice cooker, and so much more. I bought one and decided to test it out by making a pot of pinto beans. If you’ve ever made pinto beans in the past, it usually involves pre-soaking the beans over night and then slow cooking them all day, which takes so long. This is what sold me on the Instant Pot—I was able to make a pot of beans, without pre-soaking the beans, from start to finish in just over an hour. Take a look at my simple pinto beans recipe if you decide to pick one of these up. I’ve also made pot roast, chili, and even filet mignon in it. I definitely see what all the hype was about and this is must have for the kitchen.
Oster Thick Belgian Flip Waffle Maker: I like pancakes, but I actually prefer waffles because, even when they’re drenched in butter and syrup, they stay crispy. This particular waffle maker makes 1.5 inch thick waffles and is really simple to operate and clean. Because the waffle maker flips, you get evenly cooked perfect waffles every time.
Swing Arm Desk Lamp: I had wanted a Pixar-style lamp for years before finding this great lamp. It has a very modern brushed nickel finish and can be positioned in just about any way you might need it. There’s also just something kind of charming about these lamps that gives them a more playful personality.
When I’m learning to play guitar
Fender Standard Stratocaster Plus Top guitar: I had actually purchased 4 other guitars before finally settling on this one, and so far it offers everything I think I’ll ever need. There are basically three groups of Fender guitars—the made in China one, which are actually branded as Squire—the made in Mexico ones, which are branded as Fender—and the made in US ones, which are considered the top of the line ones. This guitar is a made in Mexico one, which costs less than the US ones, but look and feel pretty much the same. Some of the components are different, but since I’m still in the learning phase, it works and looks just as great as far as I can tell. Plus, they’re customizable with any Fender Strat compatible components.
Fender locking tuners: It’s hard to explain why I prefer locking tuners over regular ones unless you know about the way tuners work. Basically these tuners lock the strings into place so there’s less shifting and stretching of the strings compared to strings that are wound on to a traditional tuner. If you want to be able to change strings faster and easier, and have them stay in tune better, then these are a must have.
Ernie Ball Regular Slinky guitar strings: Every guitar player has their string preference and, since they are the first one’s I ever tried, these are my favorite. I don’t know what else to say about these other than they feel right to me, are very reasonably priced, and sound great.
On Stage guitar stand: I looked at several different styles of guitar stands before choosing this. It’s a very simple, light-weight stand that looks and works great. The base swivels to balance your guitar just right and has an adjustable neck rest for just the right fit.
Fender Mustang I v2 amplifier: What I like about his amp is that it’s small enough to be able to use quietly, but also gets pretty loud when you crank it up. It’s also a “modeling” amp, which means you can adjust it to sound like many different styles of amps—plus there’s even software that lets you connect your computer to the amp to add additional simulated amps and pedals. You can search for a song or artist that you’re interested in and download the settings that will make the amp sound like that. Aside from that, you have built in presets that give you anything from super clean tones, all the way up to heavy metal sounding crunchy tones. It has knobs that can help fine tune the bass, treble, and volume, as well as adding delays and reverb. Oh, and as if all of that weren’t enough, it even has a built-in tuner!
That’s all I have for this random assortment of recommendations, but like I mentioned in my tech-related recommendations, I will likely continue to update these lists over time also, so check back from time to time to see what’s new.