I’m not sure if she still does it, but Oprah used to do a thing where she picked all of her favorite things for the year and then did a show about them. I was thinking of doing the same thing, except instead of things that millionaires love, it would just be things that make me happy that I spent an extra few dollars on. Mostly because every time I use these things I think “Holy shit, I’m so glad I have this and I wish I could give this stuff to everyone in the world.” I can’t though, but what I can do is tell you the stuff that I’ve been happiest about finding and you can do the same thing in the comments and then we can all find awesome cheap or free stuff that we love. Also, this post isn’t funny. Sorry if you were coming here for that. But to make it up to you I’m giving away a gift certificate with enough on it to buy pretty much everything I’m going to talk about. (As long as you live in America. If you live somewhere that doesn’t have Amazon I’ll just paypal you the amount.) Also, I’ve been given absolutely no compensation to write this and the people and products I’m writing about have no idea I’m doing this and some might actually be sad for having been linked back to such an irreverent band of misfits, but they can just suck it because I love them anyway. The bastards.
So, things I love that are worth spending money on or that are totally free anyway:
Allie Brosh. Her blog is fantastic and free and she has a book coming out in a few months which is wonderific. She sent me a copy and I literally shot juice out of the hole in my stomach from laughing so hard. I also told her she could use that as a blurb. Because I’m a giver.
J. R. Watkins Coconut Sugar and Shea Body Scrub. I have super dry skin and this exfoliates with sugar and then the shea butter stays on your skin. It’s the only thing that doesn’t disappear immediately on me. (You can usually get it way cheaper at Target.)
A bath sheet. It’s like a towel, but bigger, and when I dry off I feel like I’m at a fancy hotel drying off using the duvet (until laundry day when my two bath sheets are in the wash and I have to use a beach towel.) I’ll know that I’ve finally “made it” when I can afford a whole set.
Neuro Sleep. I have no idea what’s really in it but it makes me sleep better than rum, and that’s saying a lot. I have one every few nights and my insomnia has gotten slightly less horrific.
TARDIS Beach Towel. I know. Two towels in one list? Who needs that many towels? Me and Douglas Adams. That’s who. (You can sometimes get this cheaper on ThinkGeek.) The awesome things about this is that when you’re at the pool you can tell all the cool, slightly nerdy people who will be fun to sit by because they all go “OHMYGOD, I WANT THAT.” The other people look at you like you’re a total dork. It’s okay to pee in the pool if you’re standing near those people.
Little Snowie Shaved Ice Machine. It’s pricey at a little over $200 but we’ve used ours almost every day for years and years. We don’t buy the syrup because it’s expensive but we eat them plain, or with fruit juice, or with booze drizzled over the top. My favorite is Amaretto and Chamboard when we’re flush, or Strawberry Hill when money is tight. Also, when it’s really hot you can make a laundry basket full of shaved ice, put on your bathing suit, and have snowball fights in the yard. Our neighbors hate us.
Neil Gaiman. I’m a voracious reader and could probably write a million paragraphs on all the books you should read, but I’m most grateful for the day (a million years ago) I went into the comic shop and was disappointed to find the latest issue of Strangers in Paradise hadn’t arrived yet. The guy behind the counter looked at me as if to size up my worthiness and after a few seconds came out to introduce me to Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. He had me start on book 4 (Season of Mists) and I devoured it and reread it 20 times until I could save up enough to start from the beginning and collect them all. Sandman is my Catcher in the Rye and it saved me from a dark place by showing me I wasn’t alone. I owe that guy behind the comic counter more than he’ll ever know.
The Suicide Hotline. I realize this is a weird one, but I struggle with mental illness and one day I had urges that I was really afraid of. My shrink wasn’t answering and I was afraid I was really going to hurt myself. The girl on the other end of the line listened and gave me actual pointers on how to avoid the self-harms issues I was struggling with. I still use those coping mechanisms she gave me. It saved me from myself, and it was free.
Jenny Lewis in all her incarnations. People are rediscovering her now and that’s awesome. My ideal party would be me, her, Amanda Palmer, Regina Spektor and Miranda Lambert all in my bathroom with a karaoke machine and a bartender and some illegal fireworks. Rabbit Fur Coat is one of those CD’s I buy over and over because I always lend it out to people when they’re struggling. This song as well is rather healing for me.
Stephen Parolini ~ His blog is Counting on Rain and he’s one of my favorite writers ever. He writes amazing, dark, beautiful short stories for free. He doesn’t post often, but when he does it’s always something incredible.
Levar Burton explaining how not to get shot by the police. Yeah. This one isn’t a happy one, but I used this dozens of times this week to help people explain that just because you don’t see racism doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. There were lots of other great commentaries out there this month, but there’s something about the guy who raised us on Reading Rainbow talking about his fear for his life that makes most people at least pause and think a bit about the world as it is, and as we want it to be. And that’s a good thing.
Independent book stores ~ It’s ironic that I’m linking to Amazon here for everything, because Indie book stores are my kryptonite. Not only do they have awesome, weird stuff that you won’t find in mainstream stores, but they also are amazing resources for readers who need suggestions. You can sometimes make friends with your local book-monger and ask them to compile a reading list for you based on your likes. Their books are sometimes a bit pricier, but it’s worth the extra few dollars and if it weren’t for Indie Book Sellers my book wouldn’t have nearly as loud of a voice.
What Should I Read Next. You know when you read an amazing book and you wish you could find another similar to it but you can’t? Well, now you can. Type in the book you like and “What Should I Read Next” will give you a list of books similar to that one.
Doctor Who. You either hate it, or it changes your whole life and you spend nights waiting for David Tennant to tell you that you’re the key to saving all the kittens in the universe. It’s ridiculous and silly and requires an enormous willing-suspension-of-disbelief, but some of the most beautiful moments on TV come from Doctor Who. You can watch it for free on Netflix. Start with the 2005 reboot. Watch through episode 10. If you don’t like it you can at least say that you tried and now you can spend your free time looking for the soul that you seem to have lost.
Microwave slippers. I have arthritis so my feet hurt a lot. I pop these in the microwave and slip them on in bed to sleep in when I’m having a super rough day. I feel ancient just typing this but I can’t live without them during the winter.
Okay, your turn. What have you discovered that you now can’t live without? Just leave it in the comment section and at the end of the week I’ll pick one random person to get a $350 amazon gift card so you can buy everything on this list. Except Neil Gaiman. You can’t buy a person. That’s illegal, you guys.
UPDATED: Alright, it’s the end of the week and I usually just send an email to the person who wins or announce it on twitter, but when I read the comment selected by my random number generator I really felt I needed to share it.
From Dangerous Lilly: I don’t think I have a shot at winning it, but if I did I wouldn’t keep the gift card. I’d give it to my best friend. Because she’s amazing, and life handed her a big bag of suck lately, so she’s always on the brink of poor but can’t do a thing about it til after her transplant and her kids drive her nuts half the time. So yeah. I’d like to give her something awesome but she won’t let me if it’s from my own pocket. I have things that make me happy, that I can’t live without, and most of them cost money so…. I’d rather share the love.
I seriously adore you people. DangerousLilly, check your email.