What Did I Buy In 2021?
I'm a little behind when it comes to recalling the past year, but hey it's not quite tax day yet, so I can't be that far behind on reflecting on the last year. Once again, I'm taking a good look at every little thing I bought in the prior year. These are purchases that benefit just me in particular, not household items and are, for the most part, not everyday use items or necessity type of purchases. Basically, how did I cater to me in 2021?
All of my 2021 purchases for me:
For a trip to wine country, I wanted a soft, flowy maxi shirtdress. Maxi dresses are so easy. I figured a long sleeve option would be good to add to my wardrobe. Unfortunately, the sleeves are very wide, and it actually has 3/4 length sleeves. The wide and short-ish sleeves were not flattering on me, so I had to roll them up to make it less frumpy. Good thing it comes with a belt, because this dress is huge. There's plenty of these dresses out there, but I gave it a shot and purchased from a site that I had not heard of before. The fit could be better, but it is very affordable (only $20 now), shipped in a timely fashion, and the fabric is not too bad, since rayon agrees with me.
For Tim's birthday, we went to a Warriors game. They were running a promotion, 50% off everything at the stadium for that day, so Tim and I both got jerseys. I decided to get a kids' jersey since it was significantly cheaper. I linked a men's jersey above, since it is the closest one I could find on the site. Even a kids' medium was a bit wide. I got it thinking I'd wear it to more games, but honestly we don't go that often and I don't wear it that often. But I know I'll be prepared with merch for the next game.
I had been wanting to try out shampoo and conditioner in bar form, because I am tired of buying daily use items that come in plastic bottles. I saw so many ads for the Viori haircare products from rice water, so I gave it a try.
First of all, the packaging (as you can see below) is so thoughtful, cute, and completely recyclable, since it's wrapped in all paper. The origami-esque paper wrapping of the shampoo bar is adorable, and printed on it is all the product information you would want to know.
If my memory serves me right, it took me about 4-5 months to use up the shampoo bar. Nowadays, I wash my hair about every other day. Honestly, I didn't notice any difference in my hair. I did like how compact it is in my shower.
It has been nearly a year and I am still using the conditioner. No surprise there since it normally takes me a very long time to get through conditioner. Even though their sulfate-free, rice protein-filled ingredients sound great, I also didn't notice much of a difference on my hair.
These bars are $16.25, or $13 if you get a subscription, so it does cost a bit more than regular shampoo and conditioner, but it's nice to know that some of the proceeds go directly to the Longsheng people. Even with the discount code, it is slightly more expensive than getting bottled shampoo and conditioner. It should probably last you longer than normal shampoo and conditioner though.
I also caved and got the $10 Bamboo Bar Holder, because it is rather adorable, and is a good container to store the bar in the shower. It fits perfectly in my shower caddy.
I had used code TRY$9, which still works, for 40% off the bars. The bamboo bar holder is buy one get one free.
I am now using my normal Garnier Fructis along with the Viori conditioner bar, because Tim found a sale and bought me a lot of shampoo on sale. Once I use up all of that, I will probably try another shampoo bar to continue my journey of minimizing plastic products in my life.
Honestly I had been too lazy to even use these products for months, because I am very lazy when it comes to any extra step. But I still purchased these after seeing so many social media posts about how it does wonders for keratosis pilaris.
I finally used these for the first time yesterday. The glove did a great job removing a lot of dead skin, but I'm not sure the konjac sponge did anything. Sloughing off dead skin, however, did feel like getting a scrub at a spa. I am very skeptical that this can actually get rid of keratosis pilaris, something I have been self conscious of since I was a kid. My family teased me about it so I had tried different creams and scrubs, but nothing ever worked. At my age, I've taught myself to not care what people think if they notice the bumps, an arbitrary physical trait that has been deemed benign but unattractive. But still, the social media targeting got me, so I had to get it. I can imagine myself using it regularly for exfoliation, but I'll give it just a couple more tries before I give up hope that it cures kp.
I upgraded from an iPhone SE (1st generation, yes the 2016 model) to the iPhone 12 mini. Like I always do, I got a music note themed phone case for it. A very small purchase indeed, but considering I switch phones infrequently, getting a new case is a bit special to me. A cell phone case is an opportunity to express yourself.
I am counting the case as a purchase, but not the phone since it was a work related expense.
It was also about time to finally get a new phone, but I had just been reluctant to do so, because they're expensive and upgrading is usually no significant difference. Electronics are practically treated like disposable items the way tech companies encourage everyone to upgrade so frequently. I try to make each device last me as long as possible to reduce unnecessary waste. (To be honest, I actually also had an Android that is not quite as old, since my job needs me to use both iOS and Android devices.) Also, I haven't liked any of the iPhones in a while, but I was glad to finally see a smaller size.
I just realized that this phone case was shipped from Ukraine, which just reminded me how much has changed since then. I feel for the Ukrainians and it seems crazy that just a few months ago I was ordering a cell phone accessory from there like it's no big deal.
Ok, cookware is actually a household purchase, but I wanted to include it anyway, since I'm the one who uses these the most. Tim and I had been talking about getting better quality cookware for a while, but were slow to get around to it, because I kept thinking I could use our cheap, crappy cookware until they were completely destroyed. I could have probably tried to stretch out the lifespan of two worn down pans and one pot longer, but they weren't worth salvaging since they were starting to get warped on the bottom, and there was hardly any coating left. When we had bought them, we were in very transient parts of our lives, so we just bought whatever cheap pans we could find and ended up using them for about five years. It was time for a replacement. This is the first time I had ever attempted to buy quality cookware, and also the first time I spent more than $30 or so on pots and pans. (However, I did recently inherit a small Le Creuset too.) Feels like such an adult purchase.
I bought the set directly off of the Caraway site, but now they're available from other store's sites, including Bed Bath & Beyond. I like dark blue, so I chose the navy set.
They arrived in a massive box. Most of it was cardboard to protect the pans from rubbing against each other.
After washing them, I gave it a test. I figured frying eggs would be a good first test of how slick the pans are. I actually cooked these two eggs onto a dry pan. That's right, no oil or butter was applied. I always poke up the albumen so that all of the egg whites cook more evenly. After a couple of minutes, I took the eggs off, and they did almost slide right off.
The pan itself looks clean. My first experience was a good one, so that reassured us that we made a good purchase decision. I knew that the real test was longevity, because all coating eventually wears away. Nothing lasts forever.
It has now been almost a year and I have used the set very frequently.
I use the 10.5" fry pan most frequently for a lot of my daily cooking needs.
The 4.5 qt sauté pan gets less use because I don't always need a big pan, but it is great for making risottos, stir fries, fried rice, or larger portions in general.
The 3 qt. sauce pan I more so use for cooking noodles, some soup, or just to heat up water.
I probably use the 6.5 qt. Dutch oven the least, but I have used it for stews, soups, larger portions of pasta, etc.
One thing I have not tried is using these in the oven, even though it says they're oven safe up to 550°F / 288°C. I have a feeling that oven use would shorten the lifespan and make them lose their coating quicker. I wonder what other people's experience of oven use has been like. However, I don't really need to do oven transfers these days. I find that the Dutch oven gets me the same effect if I just leave it on the burner with the lid on. I also have a 2.5 qt. Le Creuset Dutch oven that is great for putting bread in the oven. After thoroughly using the entire set, I will say I am happy with the quality -
Food still usually does not stick or stain the pans.
Pans hold heat very well and very evenly.
They are easy to clean (more on care in a bit).
I know other reviews have claimed that the pans do not brown meat very well, but I just browned two bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs and got a nice char on them. I don't recommend browning meat on these pans though. I think that is what contributes to wearing away the coating. If you can avoid it, browning meat on cast iron is better.
I have, however, experienced some drawbacks.
They're heavy. My wrist gets a little tired if I have a lot of food to scoop out of the pans. However, this isn't really a drawback. It actually says more about its quality, with the weight of the ceramic and aluminum. I'm pretty sure all quality cookware pieces have significant weight to them. Luckily cooking with these pans has helped me strengthen my wrists.
The stainless steel handles get really hot if whatever you are cooking needs to be on the burner for longer than a few minutes.
Don't worry. I put one of the Caraway coasters under the sauce pan before I took this photo.
As for proper care and use, I have followed all of Caraway's recommendations exactly. I am pretty sure that the way that I've taken care of these pans has helped them stay this good for so long and hopefully will keep it in good condition for many years to come.
I do not exceed medium heat. The care instructions say that high heat will cause the coating to wear away sooner. I noticed that once the heat warms up, it retains heat very well and gets very hot, so I have not needed to crank up the burners to high heat.
I let the pans cool down completely once I'm done cooking. Running it under water immediately might cause cracking or some type of damage.
I clean them with a light rinse to wash away any food residue, and apply only a soft scrub with the soft side of a sponge. Using the rough side could scrub away the coating. Also, this is the most I ever need to do to clean them.
I dry immediately with a kitchen towel that is solely dedicated to drying dishes. I leave it on the counter to make sure they are completely air dried, just for good measure, and store them back in the magnetic racks right away.
I have never put them in the dishwasher. They recommend hand washing, probably because dishwashers are more abrasive. Plus I prefer hand washing. I don't mind being careful with the cookware. I believe that taking care of things is part of buying quality things. You get what you put into it.
Here is all the cookware I currently own.
The other benefit of getting the set is that it comes with the storage pieces and the large cork coasters. I don't really need the coasters for the pans, but I do use the coasters to place underneath plates of food. The magnetic racks are great for standing the pans up, so they don't get scratched on other things. The canvas lid holder is a good idea. The only drawback is the cabinet door, which I hang it on now, does not close all the way. I got some over the door hooks that fit the grommet holes and the width of the cabinet doors, because I didn't want to drill into my cabinet doors.
Apparently, the set is valued at $545, but it always says 'on sale' for $395. I got10% off for the first purchase. You can also get $25 off if you pay with Paypal, or get cashback from other stores (e.g. Bed Bath & Beyond, Nordstrom, Target, etc.) via Rakuten. If you're not already using Rakuten, you can join via my referral link.
These 6 things are everything I purchased for myself last year, including one very detailed cookware review. Or maybe it is 11 things if I count each thing individually. Taking inventory of everything I buy and everything I have has been very helpful and encourages me to limit my spending to mostly thoughtful and deliberate purchases, especially when I am fortunate enough to have what I need.