Picture of an example shipment from Storytime - the best children's book subscription service that provides access to unlimited books, 4 at a time. Storytime sends books based on topics parents choose - from soft skills to hard skills and everything in between.
Affordable Luxury, Life Hack

Storytime: A Children’s Book Subscription that Delivers Powerful Children’s Books to Your Doorstep

Full disclosure on this post: We founded this company. With that said, if we didn’t truly believe in the value that Storytime brings to parents and their children, we would’ve never started the company!

Storytime is an unlimited children’s book subscription service. After you join, Storytime sends four books to your doorstep that you can read and enjoy for as long as you’re a member. When you’re ready for new ones, send one or more books back, and Storytime will send more your way. Repeat as often as you’d like. It costs $39 per month and that covers all of the books and shipping. It’s basically a Rent the Runway, but for your kids’ books!

We truly believe Storytime is the best children’s book subscription service on the market. Here’s why we think Storytime is different (and better 😉) than other children’s book subscriptions out there.

Storytime lets parents pick topics that matter to them and their child

Life is complex and comes at your children fast. Children’s books are a great way to talk to your kids about tough issues and to help instill values that matter to you and your child. When you sign up for a Storytime subscription, you select the topics that are meaningful at that time in your child’s life:

  • First trip to the dentist? Storytime sends a children’s book to explain what a dentist visit is all about.
  • Have a loved one with memory loss? Storytime sends a book that introduces memory loss in a simple and understandable way.
  • Want to instill a since of Grit? Storytime sends books showing characters that continue to push through hard times.
  • Want just fun books to spur imagination and creativity? Yep, Storytime has books for that, too.

You have four slots to fill. You can select the same topic for all of them, a different topic for each, or just let Storytime pick for you! Storytime then sends you a highly-curated, high-quality book for each topic

Storytime’s list of topics is constantly growing and spans soft skills to hard skills and everything in between. Topics are currently organized by Values (e.g. kindness), Life Events (e.g. going to the dentist), Growing up (e.g. sharing), and Hard Skills (e.g. Counting). More to come!

A Storytime subscription provides excellent books about topics that are just-in-time for what’s happening in your child’s life.

Storytime is your infinite library that delivers to your doorstep

We love books, and we think it’s incredibly important that every child has a full bookshelf. We don’t, however, think every book needs to be kept forever. Sometimes you just need a book to get a particular point across or address a specific issue at that time. Storytime lets you keep books as long as you have an active membership, and you send them back whenever you’re ready for more.

Storytime is basically a ‘Rent-the-Runway’ for children’s books! You pick the topics, and Storytime delivers the best books for each topic directly to your door. Ship one or more back when you’re ready for more!

Does your child absolutely love one of the books and want to read it every night for the next two months? Totally fine, and we love that! Keep that one, send the other three back to Storytime to get three new books. You have four slots to fill and exchange as often or as little as you want. Not only does this offer flexibility and access to tons of books, it also keeps your shelves a little more tidy! 

Storytime searches far and wide to find the best children’s books

It’s so important to find stories with characters a child can connect with. It makes the message so much more meaningful and is something you can refer to for weeks to come when reinforcing topics with your child.

We’ve heard stories from parents about how they will sit in a bookstore for an entire afternoon, searching for good books to bring home. Or, they’ll scour blog site after blog site for hours on end. Storytime has reviewed (and is still reviewing!) thousands of books to find the best ones. You can feel confident that the best of the best books are being sent to your doorstep.

Give the gift of an infinite bookshelf

Storytime makes an incredible non-toy gift option. They will send a gift certificate to you or directly to the recipient at a time of your choosing.

Storytime offers -1, -3, -6, or -12 month gift memberships. Simply send an email to support@getstorytime.com to request a gift membership!

Try it out!

We hope you or someone you know could benefit from Storytime! If you’re interested, you can sign up for a membership on Storytime’s homepage

We think you’ll agree that Storytime is the best children’s book subscription out there!

Have questions? Storytime would love to hear from you! Send your questions, feedback, or even a favorite book recommendation to support@getstorytime.com!

Puppy surrounded by toys
Affordable Luxury

Barkbox: Exciting Dog Toys and Treats to Your Doorstep

It’s been a minute since our last post. Sorry about that. It’s been a crazy few months with COVID, and we’re just getting back into the groove. We hope all of you are staying healthy and safe during this time. 

We have a fun line-up of posts, so stay tuned over the next few weeks. We promise these products and services will make quarantining 24-7 a little more tolerable.

Today, let’s talk about how we can keep our pups more entertained. We live in a dense condo community. After going into lockdown mode, we only leave the condo to take the pups out for quick potty breaks. Once they’re done with their business, we immediately go back inside. No more walks or dog parks. Let’s just say life got boring for them real fast. 

Thankfully, Barkbox brought a lot of excitement back into the house. As you may know, Barkbox is a monthly subscription box that sends dog toys and treats to your doorstep. We’re not sure why we waited so long to sign up, but we’re so glad we finally did. We’re excited to finally write our Barkbox review. Here’s what we love about it.

High-quality, interesting toys

We’ve been really impressed with the quality of the toys. First, they are durable. We have a 1-year old pup, and let’s just say that she can destroy a typical toy in less than a minute. We’ve found that the Barkbox toys last a lot longer, even after some intense tug-of-war between the 1-year old and our 10-year old. Second, the toys are unique. One was a ‘toy within a toy,’ with the outside being a durable fabric, and as the pups chewed through the fabric, a ball was stuffed inside. When our youngest pup found this unexpected, extra toy, her eyes lit up and they began parading it through the house. We’ve also found many layered toys, held together by velcro that the pups really enjoy pulling apart. It’s clear that the Barkbox team takes toy design seriously and takes pride in delivering exciting toys that will bring your dog joy.

Yummy Treats

Each box comes with at least 2 bags of treats, and our pups go crazy over them. To be honest, some have looked and smelled so good, we’ve been tempted to try them, but we digress. Flavors have included chicken parmesan bites, succulent pork cuts, and peanut butter cookies with blueberries and vanilla. Tell us that last one doesn’t sound absolutely tempting and delicious.

Fun themes

Each box has a unique theme. So far, we’ve had a Scooby-movie themed box with a stuffed Scooby and Mystery Time Machine; a ‘Frenchies in Paris’ box with a stuffed bottle of ‘Cabernet Slobberon’ and a pull-apart brie cheese; and an Australian Outbark box with a stuffed kangaroo (with a treat pocket!), koala, and crinkly lizard. Of course, each box comes with treats that also match the themes.

Try it out!

Barkbox offers a variety of subscription plans, including 1-, 6-, and 12-month memberships. The longer memberships come with better monthly pricing. A 1-month subscription, for example, costs $35 per box, while a 12-month membership works out to $22 per box.

If you found this review helpful and end up trying a 6-month or 12-month membership, please use our Barkbox referral link, and we’ll get a small perk — plus you’ll be making our sweet dogs even happier :-)!

A Thistle delivery bag delivered to a front door
Affordable Luxury, Post Perks!

Thistle Review and discount code: try a meal delivery service for healthy lunches

If you’ve read our blog, you know we love cooking Blue Apron meals for dinner. If you haven’t, check out our detailed Blue Apron review or our Blue Apron vs. Hello Fresh comparison . While we have dinners all set, we’ve been on the lookout for a great lunchtime meal subscription service until we finally came across “Thistle”.

Thistle is a newer company that delivers to the San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento, Davis, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Orange County. Thistle also ships across California and parts of Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. It seems like they’re expanding, so if they’re not in your area quite yet, keep checking! While we’ve primarily used Thistle for lunches, it also offers breakfast, dinner, and snack options. If you want to give it a try, you can use our Thistle referral code — BRAND601 — on the final checkout page for $50 off your first month of Thistle (and we’ll get $50 off, too!) Here’s what we’ve loved so far:

Healthy!

A delicious and healthy prepared meal from Thistle. A Thistle referral code for $30 off your first order is included in this post.
Carrying a delicious prepared meal from Thistle to work for lunch.

These are nutrient-packed meals. Thistle touts that these healthy meals provide more energy and a sharper mind, and we can’t agree more. Thistle pays attention to macronutrient ratios to deliver high-quality, healthy meals that aren’t high in calories. Breakfasts generally have 250-400 calories; lunches and dinners 400-550 calories; and snacks 300-400 calories. We didn’t start using Thistle for weight loss, but we’re definitely eating less calories at lunch while not feeling deprived.

Filling!

Most Thistle meals we’ve tried are salads, and we’ve been really surprised with how full we are after eating. We don’t know about you, but when we usually eat a salad, we’re hungry within an hour. Now, we stay full for the rest of the day. It’s probably because of their philosophy: “Gluten-free, plant protein – We only use complex, low glycemic index carbs which contain fiber and micronutrients, and take longer to digest — as opposed to glutenous carbs. A day of Thistle’s plant-based plan contains an average of 60 g of plant protein. Plants and legumes can provide all 9 essential amino acids that we need to be healthy and happy human beings.” For those who aren’t quite ready for the all-plant diet, don’t worry, Thistle also has meals with meat protein.

The size of each meal is also pretty substantial, encouraging us to slow down while eating and filling us up even more (which is good because we often stuff our faces because of stress and this makes the experience last longer!).

Flavorful!

The meals have a ton of different flavors. All of the flavors complement each other but are separated in the container, letting us experiment with different combinations of foods and sauces. This also slows us down and helps us really enjoy our lunches, changing the flavor profile over the course of the meal.

Post Perks!

Try Thistle using our referral code — BRAND601 — to get $50 off your first month (enter code on final checkout page), and we’ll get $50 off, too!

Flexible!

Because we’re in the local delivery zone, after picking how many meals we want delivered each week, we can mix and match from any of the breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack options. While we’ve primarily used Thistle for lunch, it’s been nice to have the flexibility to switch things up by occasionally throwing in a breakfast option. They also have interesting add-ons like juices, desserts, or even an egg or avocado to help achieve different dietary goals. For those not in the local delivery zone, there’s a preset plan of 6 meals per week. As with most meal subscription services, we can also pause or cancel at any time.

Environmentally-Friendly!

For those in the local delivery zone, Thistle delivers the meals on ice in reusable bags. We leave the empty bag on the doorstep, and Thistle picks it up when dropping off our next meal. Thistle focuses on limiting waste by providing all by-products from their foods to local farmers for composting.

Try It and get $50 off Thistle!

You can choose anywhere from 2 meals a week to enough meals and snacks to fill all of the meals you’d need for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the entire week. The latter gets quite costly though! The more meals you buy, the lower the cost per meal, of course. For 2 meals per week, it currently costs $14.99/meal for meals with plant protein or $17.24/meal for meals with meat protein to as low as $11.50/meal and $13.75/meal, respectively.

If you’re interested in trying it out, use our Thistle referral code — BRAND601 — you won’t regret it! Simply use our Thistle referral code — BRAND601 — to get $50 off your first month of Thistle (and we get $50 off, too!). It won’t be obvious that the coupon worked by clicking the link as your $50 coupon code BRAND601 can only be applied on the final page of checkout. Enjoy!

Amazon echo device on a table
Affordable Luxury, Life Hack

Amazon Echo: Top 15 Cool Alexa Tricks, Easter Eggs, and Commands

If you could just speak a question or request into the air and get an immediate response, wouldn’t that be lovely? Meet Alexa, brought to you by Amazon. We bought our first Amazon Echo about 2 years ago, and now we have an an Alexa in every room of the house. For those who haven’t been introduced, the Echo is a smart speaker. Saying “Alexa” triggers the speaker to listen to your question or request and respond. Amazon Echo was one of the first smart speakers. Others, such as Google Home, have since entered the market. We can’t weigh in on the pros and cons of the Amazon Echo compared to other smart speakers (because we don’t have them), but we’ve pulled together the top 15 ways Alexa can change your life, including cool Alexa tricks, Alexa Easter eggs, and Alexa commands that we use almost every day. If you don’t already have an Alexa-enabled device, check out the bottom of the post for a comparison of the top models.

#1: Never lean over to turn off your bedside lamp again

Use this smart plug to turn off your lamp with Alexa

“Alexa, turn off the lamp”

It’s that simple, and our bedside lamp is either on or off. It may seem unnecessary, but trust us, once you start using your voice to command your lamp off, you’ll never want to reach over again. To do this trick, you have to buy a smart indoor outlet to plug the lamp into. We’ve had good luck with this smart plug from Amazon, and it’s great because it doesn’t require an additional hub.

#2: Cool your bedroom without leaving bed

Control your thermostat from bed using an Alexa-compatible thermostat, like this one from Ecobee.

“Alexa, set the house temperature to 72 degrees”

Nothing is worse than getting to bed and realizing it’s too hot or cold. Alexa totally fixes that, and we can adjust the temperature without every getting out from underneath the covers or having to grab our phones. Of course, you’ll need a smart, alexa-compatible thermostat. We’ve had a Nest thermostat for almost 5 years now and absolutely love it, but others like Ecobee, Honeywell Lyric, and Sensi WiFi Programmable are all compatible with Alexa and get great reviews.

#3: Control the outdoors while indoors

“Alexa, turn on the Christmas lights”

Use an outdoor outlet with Alexa to control Christmas lights, fountains, or patio lights

We can control our Christmas lights, outdoor fountain, and patio lights, all through Alexa. Similar to the indoor outlet, you’ll need to purchase an outdoor outlet. We use this one from iDevices (no extra hub required!) We’ve had the iDevices outdoor outlet for a couple years ago and have had really good luck thus far.

#4: Water the lawn on your schedule

“Alexa, turn on the sprinklers for 15 minutes”

Use Alexa to control your outdoor watering system

If you have an outdoor sprinkler system, you’ll love having the Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller. You can command Alexa to run all or some of your sprinklers for a certain duration or to pause your set schedule because of rain, among many other commands. If you get this, check out Rachio’s website for all of the commands you can use with your Alexa.

#5: Set the mood by controlling your lights

“Alexa, turn the lights to light salmon”

Use Alexa with Philips Hue Bulbs to control all the lights in your house (and turn them fun colors!)

Yes, light salmon; it one of the 1600 colors you can choose if you have the Philips Hue lighting system. The Philips Hue bulbs have all sorts of funky colors that are fun for different occasions. We love them! We have custom settings for watching a movie or dinner with friends. This Philips Hue starter kit includes four bulbs and the hub that connects Alexa to the Phillips Hue bulbs.

#6: Get into a morning routine

“Alexa, start my day”

You can set all kinds of routines with Alexa. We pre-loaded a routine in the Alexa app so that once we say the phrase above, Alexa turns on our bedside lamp, says “top of the morning to you,” tells us the weather, and starts to play NPR—all with that phrase. You can create routines for almost anything. Amazon has a good video tutorial to show you how to create routines.

#7: Communicate throughout the house

Alexa, announce dinner is ready”

With that phrase, all of the Echos throughout the house will play, “Dinner is ready.” This command also has fun Easter egg in that it will automatically ring a dinner bell at the beginning of the announcement. The commands “hurry up” and “good night” also have fun Easter egg sounds. In addition to making announcements, we can use the Echos as an intercom between two rooms.

#8: Play music

“Alexa, play pop music”

Alexa comes with access to a ton of songs. We can ask her to play a specific song or a particular genre. Every night before we go to bed we ask her to play music for sleep, and she plays a great collection of slow, soothing songs. Some songs aren’t available unless you have Amazon Unlimited, which has a monthly charge, but we’ve found the selection already included to be great. You can also hook Alexa up with your Spotify or Pandora accounts.

#9: Play games when you’re bored or have people over

“Alexa, play Jeopardy”

Alexa has a ton of fun games we can play either by ourselves or if we have friends over. We can ask her to play games like “Beat the Dealer,” “Price It Right,” “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” “Heads Up!,” “Jeopardy!,” and “Twenty Questions.”

#10: Order an Uber

“Alexa, order an Uber”

We take an Uber a few times a week and love being able to ask Alexa to order it for us as we’re putting on our shoes downstairs. It has our home address stored and automatically directs the Uber to that pick-up spot. Once we get in the car, we just have to add our destination. We had to link our Uber account in our Alexa app, but that’s it! 

#11: Ask random questions

“Alexa, what is the capital of Iceland”

This one is pretty straightforward but definitely a feature to highlight. We ask her all sorts of random questions, and she (generally) responds with the information we’re looking for. Like Siri, there are limitations to what she knows, but Alexa is a handy resource to have in every room of the house when we need to know something.

#12: Get in shape by working out with Alexa

“Alexa, start my 7-minute workout”

You read that right; you can work out with Alexa. She has both 5-minute and 7-minute workouts. It’s hard to argue that we don’t have 7 minutes in our day to devote to a workout. She has access to dozens of exercises that she uses to spice up each workout and to keep us on our toes. It’s surprising how much she can pick up our heart rate in just 7 minutes!

#13: Ask for a joke to lift your spirits

“Alexa, tell me a joke”

Sometimes Alexa will personally tell you a joke, or she’ll ask a comedian like Jimmy Fallon to tell a joke. The jokes are PG and corny, but we can always count on them for a chuckle.

#14: Check the weather

“Alexa, what’s the weather in Los Angeles this weekend”

We love being able to ask Alexa about the weather while standing in our closet picking out our clothes. She will tell us the weather for today, this week, or this weekend and for any location on earth—all we have to to is ask!

#15: Set daily alarms or timers

“Alexa, wake me up at 7am”

This is another routine command that’s easy to forget how much we appreciate it. Alexa has replaced our alarm clock.

She also does wonders in the kitchen when cooking dinner. We set multiple timers by just specifying what the timer is for, such as, “Alexa, set a 20-minute timer for the cookies,” or “Alexa, set a 30-minute timer for the sweet potatoes.” She will let you know which timer is going off when, so you don’t burn the cookies!

Don’t have an Alexa yet, and now you want one? Don’t worry, there are several models to choose from for any budget.

Sonos One has amazing sound and has Alexa built-in

Sonos One with Built-In Alexa

While this is the most expensive model, the sound in the Sonos One is superior to any others, which you’d expect from a company like Sonos. We have one for our downstairs kitchen and dining room area, and it fills the room with quality sound. This is by far our favorite model, and we’d have one in every room if money didn’t matter. 😉 

Amazon Echo is great for playing music

Amazon Echo

The Amazon Echo was the first Alexa we purchased. While the Sonos One model definitely produces higher quality sound, this one still produces solid sound, especially in light of the price difference. We have this model in our bedroom and love it. 

Amazon Echo Dot fits in every room of the house to fully connect your smart home

Amazon Echo Dot

We have an Echo Dot in all of our other rooms. The speaker doesn’t measure up at all against the Sonos One or the Echo, so we primarily use these for commands like turning on lights, communicating throughout the house, and asking Alexa for information. The price is pretty incredible for getting all of the Alexa features.


Use these outlet covers to create a small shelf to hold your Alexa-enabled devices

Don’t forget some accessories!

If you’ve bought all these devices, but are running out of counter space to put them, consider these outlet wall covers that include a small shelf for your echo devices. Perfect for bathrooms and other tight areas. Once you get an Alexa-enabled device, you’ll want one in every room!

A newlywed couple cooking in their kitchen
Affordable Luxury

Must-Have Kitchen Gifts for Newlyweds

Wedding season is just around the corner. If you’re like us, you’re frantically skimming registries in search of the best gift. We like to buy practical wedding gifts newlyweds will actually use. Since we believe some of the best memories for married couples are made while cooking in the kitchen, we put together a list of newlywed-kitchen essentials! Then again, these kitchen gifts are great for anyone who enjoys spending time in the kitchen. If you’re like us and you waited until the last minute, most of these are available via Amazon and can get to you in a couple of days. Here are our top picks for kitchen gifts for any budget.

Best Kitchen Gift ideas, Over $100

Espresso Machine – Breville Barista Express

We need a latte before 9 in the morning—daily. If we don’t have one by then, the worst caffeine headache sets in. The problem is that lattes cost money. Over the course of a month, we were spending hundreds of dollars. Just do the basic math of 2 lattes from an independent coffee shop a day: $5 per latte, $10 per day, 30 days, $300. We wanted to stop spending so much, but we didn’t want to sacrifice the quality of our coffee. 

Enter the Breville Barista Express. After considerable research, we chose the Breville for several reasons: 

  1. It grinds fresh coffee beans. Latte snobs like us know that pre-ground beans sacrifice the quality and yummy goodness of the coffee bean. Contamination, oxygen, and moisture, just to name a few, take over once beans are ground. Waiting to grind the beans until right before extraction preserves all of the taste and aroma in the beans. 
  2. It has a grinder, espresso extraction, and steam wand, all in one unit. In many other units we reviewed, we had to purchase the grinder separately from the unit with the espresso extraction and steam wand. There’s nothing wrong with them being separate; we just didn’t want to take up extra real estate on our limited counter space.
  3. We can adjust the settings to make it basically a foolproof, espresso-for-dummies machine, or we can put it manual settings to improve our espresso-making prowess. Making a perfect latte is definitely a skill that must be learned, but the foolproof option ensures we always have a delicious cup.

We love our Breville Latte Machine for the reasons above but have also been amazed with its quality. We’ve had it almost 7 years and use it practically every day (usually for multiple lattes). Aside from running vinegar through it for a quick cleaning every 6 months or so, we haven’t had to do any other maintenance or run into any issues with it. I wish someone would have bought this for our wedding as it would have been the best wedding gift ever! If you have a coffee-loving friend in need of a gift—and you’re looking to splurge a little—this may be the best gift you can buy.

Automatic Tea Maker – Breville One-Touch Tea Maker

We always wanted to be fancy, loose-leaf tea drinkers, but it seemed to require too much work. Depending on the type of tea, we had to heat the water to a certain temperature and steep the tea for different amounts of time. Way too much thought and work for us. We saw the Breville One-Touch Tea Maker while walking through a Teavana one day, and it appeared to be the answer to our tea-making woes.

The Breville Tea Maker has a tea basket at the top of the jug that automatically lowers when the water reaches the perfect temperature for your type of tea and then lifts after steeping for the right amount of time. We can also set it to automatically make tea at a specific time of the day. It also has a ‘keep warm’ feature where it does just that—keep the tea warm for 60 minutes after it steeps. If the newlywed couple you’re shopping for loves tea, the Breville One-Touch Tea Maker is the perfect gift!

High-Quality, Affordable Kitchen Knife Set – Global 7-Piece Ikasu Knife Block Set

After getting married, we moved into our first home with the knife set we had from college. It was a 14-piece knife set that we bought for about $25. The perfect set for college students who never actually cook and only used knives to open pre-packaged food. When we actually started to cook real food, we realized our knives struggled to even cut apples. We were absolutely floored with how much knives cost and the wide range of prices.

After much research, we bought the Global 7-Piece Ikasu Knife Block Set. It has seven knives that cover the basics of any cutting, slicing, or peeling we need to do in the kitchen, including a paring knife, prep knife, chef’s knife, and bread knife. The bamboo knife block is modern and looks nice in our kitchen, and the knives hang directly down, which avoids unnecessary dulling of the knives by resting the blades on the block. This is the perfect knife set for transitioning a newlywed couple into adult cooking and is a kitchen essential everyone should own. 

Best Kitchen Gift Ideas, Under $100

Meal Subscription – Blue Apron

You already know we love the Blue Apron meal delivery service (read more about our Blue Apron experience and our Blue Apron v. Hello Fresh comparison). Getting a newlywed couple a subscription to Blue Apron will start them off with making great memories in the kitchen. After a long day at work, it’ll be a gift that encourages them to be together and present with each other—and they’ll be thinking of you while they make great memories! If you give this gift, consider adding a few of the items below as perfect supplements to make their cooking experience that much easier! 

Leakproof Storage Containers – OXO Good Grips Smart Seal Leakproof Plastic Food Storage Container Set

Storage containers are often an after thought when it comes to the kitchen. Growing up, our parents used various Cool Whip or take-out containers as substitutes for real storage containers. After several spills and leaks in the kitchen and a fridge full of mis-matched, ugly containers, we decided that these weren’t a long-term solution for us. We purchased this OXO set because we’ve always been impressed with the quality of the OXO brand and the range of sizes in the set. It hasn’t disappointed us. Oddly enough, of all the things in our kitchen, these containers are one of the most complimented, and we absolutely love having nice storage containers. We’ve had ours for many years and they still look great and keep the air out of our leftovers better than anything else we’ve tried. These containers are an unexpected essential for every kitchen.

Flexible Cutting Boards – Olivivi Colored Mats

We love these cutting boards for a number of reasons. (1) They are flexible. After cutting up vegetables, we can easily funnel them into a pot of water or pan. (2) They are slim, making it easy to stack all of them in a thin drawer. They also have a handle we can use to hang all of them. (3) They are different colors and have different food-item icons, like meat and vegetables, so we can keep track of what we’ve cut on each board. It makes it so easy to remember which board has had raw meat on it and shouldn’t have anything else on it! These are a great, affordable addition to the kitchen.

Best Prep Bowls – Luminarc 10-Piece Set Stackable Bowl Set

After cooking hundreds of Blue Apron recipes and cramming each chopped vegetable into its respective corner of the cutting board (only to have them mix as the cutting board gets too full), we wish we had bought these bowls sooner. These bowls make it so easy to stay organized by separating each vegetable as we prepare them. They are also handy bowls for dips and other snacks we may want to set out for a party.

Space-Saving Strainers – 3-Piece Collapsible Kitchen Colander/Strainer Set

Blue Apron recipes often have us strain or drain multiple ingredients per recipe. This colander/strainer set is perfect because it comes with multiple strainers that are different sizes. Since the strainer is collapsible, we can easily store these in a drawer or other tight space. The perfect gift for couples with a small kitchen. The price is also very reasonable for the quality!

Affordable Luxury, Life Hack

Washos: Get your car detailed without leaving the house

We love having a clean car but hate wasting time at the car wash. Sure, we could run our car through a quick, automatic wash in 5 minutes, but there’s the risk of damaged rims from the tracks, scratched paint from the brushes, and water spots. To get a truly clean car, we need someone to physically clean the car. After wasting hours at the car wash, we found Washos, a company that sends detailers to our home to clean our car (and the cars of many others in the Los Angeles and Orange County areas!). The detailers arrive with all of the equipment they need. All we have to do is open our garage door to let them in. Here’s what we love:

Full menu of car washes (plus more!) at reasonable prices

Two things really impressed us about Washos: (1) Pretty much any wash we could want is available. (2) The pricing is very reasonable. Washo’s menu of car wash options ranges from a basic exterior wash with interior vacuum and wipe down all the way to a show car-level wash with wash, wax, and clay bar treatment. There are also a number of add-on services, such as removing pet hair, cleaning baby car seats, and restoring headlights. Washos has both an eco-friendly, waterless option, allowing them to wash the car anywhere, or a water-based option if you provide them with access to a water supply. 

We were really sold on Washos when we saw the price. The basic wash with interior vacuum and wipe down is $33. That’s comparable to what we would pay if we drove the car to a car wash and waited waited for an hour. So, we are paying basically the same price but getting to stay in the comfort of our home. 

Easy to schedule a wash in the app

It’s easy to set up an account and schedule a wash in the Washos app (available in iOS and Google play). Simply put in your address and some basic information about your car, and you’re ready to book your first wash. After choosing the type of wash, select a preferred day and time (they often have same-day appointments available!). Washos confirms your appointment and tells you when your detailer will arrive.

Book your favorite detailer

Finding someone to wash our car is kind of like finding some one to cut our hair. Once we find that person, we never want to let him or her go. Washos lets us book our favorite detailer over and over again, so once we feel comfortable with someone, we can continue to have him or her clean our car.

Give it a try

Post Perks! 

Here’s the big caveat: Washos currently only serves the Los Angeles and Orange County areas. If you live in these areas and want try it, use our Washos referral code to get $5 off, and we’ll get a credit towards our next wash! 

If you’re not located in Los Angeles or Orange County, there are likely local options available to you. We highly encourage you to check them out and enjoy the convenience and time-saving of getting your car washed at home. Feel free to add the names of those businesses and the areas they serve to our comments section. The other readers will appreciate it!

Affordable Luxury, Life Hack, Post Perks!

The 4 Best Online Clothing Services and Products for People who Hate the Mall

If you’ve read our Trunk Club review, you know we don’t like shopping at stores. Over the years, we’ve found some high-quality products and services that help keep our closet fresh without stepping foot in a store.

Trunk Club: Hand-Picked Clothes Delivered to Your Door

Post Perks!

Use our referral code to get a $50 Trunk Club credit for your first trunk (and we’ll get a credit for our next trunk, too!)

We still love Trunk Club. If you haven’t already, please check out our full Trunk Club review. Trunk Club makes it easy to request a trunk of clothes, give feedback to our stylist before the trunk is sent, and return anything we don’t like. Although there’s a $25 styling fee, it’s credited to anything purchased from the trunk, and we’ve always bought at least one piece of clothing. Trunk Club is also one of the few clothing services with options for both men and women, which is awesome.

Living in Southern California, we have the added bonus of being able to go into the local Trunk Club clubhouse to meet with our stylist in person and try on clothes, all while sipping on a glass of wine or beer. Trunk Club offers petite and plus sizes, so it’s helpful to go into the clubhouse to make sure your stylist really understands which clothes fit you best.

While the clothes may be on the pricey side, Trunk Club matches Nordstrom’s pricing, so we feel comfortable knowing there’s no added cost for the benefits we get through the Trunk Club service. We’ve tried cheaper online stylists options, such as Stitch Fix, but we found that the quality and service weren’t nearly as good as Trunk Club and the Stitch Fix stylists didn’t seem to personalize your selections. With Trunk Club, we know we have a real person making high-quality selections just for us.

Rent the Runway: Borrow Luxury, Designer Clothing for Any Occasion

Rent the Runway is another great option for refreshing our closet (at least for Randi!). Gone are the days of buying a $300 dress to wear only one time! For years, Randi used this service for renting luxury, designer dresses for special occasions such as weddings and galas. Over the past year, however, she’s taken advantage of the $159/month RTR unlimited service that allows her to rent any four pieces of clothing and borrow them as long as she’d like.

If you’d like to try Rent the Runway, you can use Randi’s referral code to get $30 off your first Rent the Runway rental or purchase (she’ll get $30, too!). We don’t believe this works for RTR’s unlimited service, but it should help you get a discount on your one-time rental!

Rent the Runway offers clothes for any occasion: work, weekend, vacation, date night, or elegant. Rent the Runway also offers a wide selection of clothes for any size, including petite, plus, and maternity. An added bonus is that if Randi loves a particular piece of clothing, she’s able to buy it at a huge discount! Depending on how many times it’s been rented, she’s seen discounts of up to 50% off the retail price of the clothing. And, since she gets to wear the piece before she buys it, she knows she’ll love wearing it and it won’t sit in the closet with the tags on.

Post Perks!

Try Rent the Runway and get $30 off using this RTR discount code (Randi will get $30, too!)

Randi was originally worried about the options available as many weren’t her style; however, she says the Rent the Runway app has learned her style and now recommends clothing she loves. She can also find pictures and reviews from other renters to see how the clothes look on ‘real’ women. The app sorts reviews by people with similar body dimensions, which has been super helpful.

In our view, Rent the Runway has the edge over some of its competitors because you can keep items for as long as you’d like and ship items back individually for replacement. Some similar services, like Le Tote, require you to ship all of the items back at the same time. Shipping is incredibly easy by the way. The clothes show up on our doorstep within 2 days of picking them, and we just drop them in at UPS box whenever she’s ready to send them back.

Rothy’s: Eco-Friendly, Washable Shoes

Sorry, gentlemen, one more ladies-only recommendation. Rothy’s offers high-quality, washable shoes that are made from recycled plastic—but are actually comfortable! The shoes are a bit on the expensive side ($125 for flats), and Rothy’s generally does not offer promotions, with the exception of Rothy’s referral codes from other members and teacher discounts on certain styles. With that said, the expense is worth it because these shoes are made to last. They are durable because they are made from recycled plastic, which also means that you can wash them whenever they get dirty. It’s like having a brand-new pair of shoes after each wash!

Post Perks!

Use Randi’s Rothy’s referral code to get $20 off your first pair of Rothy’s and she’ll get $20 towards her next pair, too.

A word of caution – Rothy’s shoes (especially the pointed ones) tend to run VERY small in Randi’s experience. Be sure to size up a full size (not a half size) if you want them to be comfortable. If you get the wrong size, though, don’t worry, Rothy’s has some of the best customer service we’ve ever seen. When Randi’s first pair were too small, Rothy’s sent her a new size before she had even sent the original pair back! Incredible.

TOMS: Shoes, Sunglasses, Apparel, and Accessories with a Mission

Post Perks!

Get $20 off your Tom’s purchase of $75+ (and we’ll get $20, too!)

TOMS has been around for quite some time, but we still love their mission. One for one. Meaning with every purchase, TOMS helps someone in need. With every purchase of shoes, TOMS provides a pair of shoes to someone in need. With every pair of sunglasses, TOMS helps give sight to someone in need. It’s an inspiring mission, and on top of that, the shoes are comfortable, and the sunglasses, apparel, and accessories are trendy. Over the years, TOMS has greatly expanded its line of shoes to include almost any type of shoe, including casual, dress, and waterproof work boots. I guess the only type of shoe we haven’t seen are tuxedo shoes! If you haven’t yet tried TOMS, you should definitely give them a shot!

Affordable Luxury

Our Favorite Dog Products to Pamper your Pup

We’ve written a lot about products and services that you can spoil yourself with. Let’s take a break with this post and indulge your pet. We’ve had our well-spoiled pup for 9 years and several dogs before him, including assistance dogs that require specialized attention and intense training. If you want to treat your dog well, here are our personal reviews of some of the highest-quality brands and best dog products we’ve found for our dogs over the years.

Dog Brain Toys and Games – Busy Buddy and Nina Ottosson

Our Weimaraner has so much energy. We can run 10 miles with him and he still wants to play afterwards! However, brain games, where he has to figure out how to get to treats out of a toy or game, absolutely wear him out. There are two brands we love when it comes to toys or games that challenge him: Busy Buddy and Nina Ottosson.

Busy Buddy’s Squirrel Dude helps calm dogs with separation anxiety

Busy Buddy offers toys you stuff with your dog’s food and make him work to get it out. When we leave for work, we put his breakfast in one of these toys so he’ll not focus on our leaving, exert a lot of energy, and need to nap during the day. Check out all of the options Busy Buddy has to offer. We’ve used the Squirrel Dude, Kibble Nibble, Tug-a-Jug, Twist ’n Treat, and Magic Mushroom, and loved all of them. Not only does it take a long time for our pup to get all of the food out, but the quality of these toys is impressive. He really beats them up trying to get the food out, but he’s never been able to break one.

Nina Ottosson Dog Puzzles mentally exhaust your dog

Nina Ottosson takes it up a notch when it comes to brain games to challenge our pup. Her games have tons of different compartments that we can hide treats in. We’ll put some treats in one right before starting to cook dinner, and he’ll spend 15 minutes getting all of the treats out. He definitely has a love-hate relationship with the games! Nina Ottosson has three different levels, so as games become easier, we can buy a higher level to still challenge him. Check out all of the games Nina Ottosson has available. Unlike the Busy Budy toys, we never leave our pup alone with the Nina Ottosson puzzles as they require human supervision. 

Long-Lasting and Comfortable Dog Bed – Orvis

We bought a memory foam dog bed from Orvis over 5 years ago. Of all the purchases for our pup, this is easily in the top 10 of our favorite dog products. He absolutely loves sleeping on it. Despite scratching at it nightly to fluff it up, it doesn’t look worn at all. We wash the cover every month, and it looks brand new every time it comes out of the washer. Check out the beds on the Orvis website. We bought the Tempur-pedic memory foam bed that is no longer offered. However, we’ve always been impressed with Orvis’s products and customer service, so you can’t go wrong. It’s expensive but worth it. And, Orivs has a 100% satisfaction guarantee, so you’re not really taking a risk. Don’t forget to personalize your bed with your pup’s name!

One word of caution: These beds aren’t cheap, so don’t make this the first bed you buy for your 8-week old teething puppy. You may want to go through a few cheap ones before investing in one of these. While it’s durable, we haven’t found anything yet that can withstand the tenacity of a teething and untrained puppy!

Nutritious Dog Food – Orijen

Your dog’s nutritional needs depend in large part on their breed and age. The AKC provides a nice nutrition guide if you want to do your own research. Since our dog was a puppy, we’ve used the Orijen dog food brand. The brand uses high-quality, human-grade ingredients that offer a balanced diet for our pup. He had a lot of food allergies early on and Orijen was the first brand of food that worked well for him. His coat glows and he’s always nice and trim. Learn more about Orijen and see if it’s the right food for your dog. Consulting your veterinarian is always good, too, but remember that sometimes they receive incentives to promote certain brands.

Best Dog Leash – Ruffwear

Ruffwear leash easily converts to a running leash and clips around poles/chairs

The Ruffwear Flat-Out Leash is high quality and practical. It has a couple of features we really love. First, the handle is adjustable, so we can either hold it with our hand like a normal leash or adjust its size to click around our waist when running. You can also use the handle’s buckle to quickly secure the leash around a pole or table without having to unclip your pup’s collar — super helpful if you eat at outdoor cafes together. The other feature we love is that it has an extra handle towards the bottom of the leash. If we need to pull our dog back from something or pull him closer to us because we’re walking near traffic, we can quickly reach down to grab the handle. Although we’re huge fans of the leash, we also love pretty much everything from Ruffwear which offers practical and high quality dog products for active people.

Best Dog Collar – Dublin Dog

We’ve bought our pup two types of collars from Dublin Dog. The first is a no-stink, waterproof dog collar. We put this one on him for days we head out to the dog park, go on a hike, or take a jog. It never smells, dries immediately, and is super easy to clean. The other Dublin Dog collar we love is the Ecolucks Fabric version. It’s made from 100% recycled materials. We also love the different patterns they have, ranging from everyday preppy to holiday-themed ones. Our pup even has a few adorable Christmas collars.

Dog Shampoo – RELIQ Mineral Spa

This dog shampoo smells great and works on even the most sensitive skin

We’ve considered using the RELIQ Mineral Spa dog shampoo on ourselves because it smells so good. The website touts that it mixes a mineral from volcanos and nanotechnology to produce a shampoo that cleans the dog’s skin and promotes a healthy coat. We can’t speak to the science behind these claims, but we can tell you that our pup smells amazing after a bath with this shampoo, and his coat really shines. Our pup has sensitive skin, but he’s never had issues with this brand. We’ve only used the Green Tea fragrance and love it too much to try any others. It almost smells like a spa when we bathe him. The other fragrances are probably just as good. Lean more from the RELIQ Mineral Spa shampoo website.  

Fresh vegetables laid out on a wooden table ready to be cooked for either Hello Fresh or Blue Apron meal services.
Affordable Luxury, Life Hack

Hello Fresh vs. Blue Apron

A kind reader hooked us up with a free week of Hello Fresh (thanks, Alex!). We tried it out last week, and here’s what we thought. To keep our comparison apples to apples, we selected the option with 3 meals for 2 people, the same as we do with Blue Apron (you should also check out our experience with Blue Apron as we often have free meal kit codes available).

What we liked about Hello Fresh

Hello Fresh has more menu options than Blue Apron. For our free week, we could choose from 15 options; Blue Apron only had 8 options. We also liked that Hello Fresh will send up to 4 meals for a week. There are many times when we feel like 3 meals—the max Blue Apron sends for 2 people—isn’t quite enough for a week and requires us to go out or order in on a day we would have loved to cook at home.

Hello Fresh’s packaging was better. When we opened the box, the 3 recipe cards were sitting nicely on the top and each recipe was in an individual paper bag. All we had to do was take the bags out and place them in our refrigerator. When we were ready to cook, it was super easy to just grab the right bag. Blue Apron packages the smaller ingredients (e.g., garlic and cheese) in individual plastic bags for each recipe, but larger ingredients (e.g., broccoli and corn) remain separate in the box. It takes more time to put up the food and to grab all of the right ingredients when we are ready to cook. In a couple of cases, we missed an ingredient at the bottom of a Blue Apron box when we were emptying it and accidentally threw the ingredient away (not fun).

What we didn’t like (as much) about Hello Fresh

The portions were a little small. In a way, we almost saw this as a positive for Hello Fresh because sometimes the number of calories per serving for Blue Apron can be a bit high (like 800 calories). However, for 1 recipe we received from Hello Fresh, we were supposed to be able to make 3 chicken tacos per serving, but the amount of chicken we cooked could barely fill 2 tacos. Many of Blue Apron’s meals are large enough that we can divide them into 3 servings and save 1 for lunch the next day.

We needed more ingredients in the pantry. For the 3 meals we cooked that week, Hello Fresh expected us to already have olive oil, sugar, butter, salt, and pepper. Blue Apron only requires olive oil, salt, and pepper. We recognize that may sound petty to some, but we don’t keep things like butter stocked in the house. We have almost nothing but what comes in our meal kits each week. Hopefully we never have to live through an apocalypse…

We (almost) wasted an ingredient. For 1 recipe, it called for us to use only 2/3 of the bag of kale. Wasting food is a pet peeve for us, and one of the things we love most about Blue Apron is that it has little to no food waste. (The problem with food waste is real as we discussed in our Blue Apron review and as reported by the National Resources Defense Council.) Blue Apron even stepped up its game recently by packaging the exact number of garlic cloves we need for each meal, rather than sending a full head of garlic. 

The Verdict

We have to give the edge to Blue Apron (then again, we’re clearly in love with Blue Apron). Hello Fresh is a solid option though, and the meals we received that week were tasty. It’s definitely worth checking out Hello Fresh’s website to see what they have to offer. Unfortunately, we didn’t sign up for the service, so we have no free codes to give. But if you know someone who uses it, reach out and see if they have a free week to share with you!

Thanks again to our readers for this suggestion and for the generous free week! If you have any other ideas for products or services you’d like us to check out, drop us an e-mail or a comment. 

Try the winner at a discount!

Blue Apron recently provided us with a coupon for our readers. You can get $60 off your first three Blue Apron Boxes and we’ll get a small credit, too! We hope you love it as much as we do!

Underwear from Me-Undies
Affordable Luxury, Post Perks!

Me Undies: Unicorns on my bum

We’ve only just met, but let’s talk about underwear. We introduced ourselves to MeUndies about a year ago and haven’t bought a different brand of underwear since. At the most basic level, MeUndies sells underwear. Super. Comfortable. Underwear. They also have memberships where you can receive one pair of underwear every month at a discounted price. They also sell loungewear and socks, though we’ve only purchased MeUndies underwear. The cost is slightly less than what you would pay for higher-end brands of underwear, but it’s an affordable splurge item. A men’s pair (trunk, brief, boxer brief, or boxer) costs $20 (if you buy a membership, you save 33%). A women’s pair, depending on the type, costs between $16-$20 (a membership saves you 22%).

Post Perks!

Ready to try out MeUndies for yourself? Use our referral code to get  20% off your first order and we’ll get a small discount on our next order, too!

Comfort is by far our favorite part. But there’s still so much more for us to love:

Endless, fun patterns

MeUndies sells three different styles of underwear: classic, bold, and adventurous. Classic has five or so basic colors to choose from, like black, grey, and blue. Bold has quite a few more colors that are more vibrant than the classic, including pink champagne and just peachy. Adventurous has a ton of unique patterns that are constantly changing. They’ve had space-, polar bear-, and avocado- (yes, avocado) themed underwear. New patterns are constantly coming out and often coincide with different holidays throughout the year. We typically go for adventurous since we can get plain underwear anywhere. Now we sport hearts, unicorns, and (our latest favorite) sloths doing yoga. You read that right.

Matching sets for you and your partner

MeUndies allows you to purchase matching sets for you and your partner. You can probably do this with any other brand by just picking the same type and color of underwear, but it’s particularly fun with MeUndies given the variety of unique colors and patterns. For example, we’re really into science, so buying matching pairs of space-themed underwear was a blast. For Valentine’s Day, MeUndies ran a special where you could purchase matching pairs, and they sent them in a nice box with Sugarfina champagne and rose gummy bears.

So soft. So Comfy.

We’re not sure what material MeUndies uses, but it’s extremely soft and comfortable. The waistband also seems to sit at the perfect height on our waists. This may be too much information, but the material also seems less prone to riding up our thighs or butt. Let’s just say it’s a sad day when we open our drawer, and we only have other brands.

Ready to be adventurous and try a pair?

If you’d like to try MeUndies, you can MeUndies! We hope you love wearing them as much as we do!